Ongo: Spiritual development and well-being for weary climate warriors
By Pam Shaouy
When you understand the impacts of climate change, it’s easy to feel anxiety and despair. If family or friends don’t share your concerns, you can have additional stress. And if you work to encourage legislators to support a climate solution, you might find yourself in frustrating situations.
As a group leader of Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s North Atlanta chapter, Jeff Joslin knows these stressors all too well. An airline captain with a degree in psychology, Joslin also knows that a spiritual or contemplative practice can help us develop more satisfying self-care, self-empathy and stronger relationships.
“But the challenge with meditation and introspection is that it can be hard to do alone,” Joslin says. “Our efforts are more successful when we’re learning and practicing as part of a supportive community.”
What is Ongo?
When Joslin discovered Ongo, he found a way to consistently make meditation and self-discovery part of his ongoing life. In fact, Ongo is short for ONGOing spiritual practice.
“Ongo is a synthesis of mindfulness meditation and nonviolent, compassionate communication,” Joslin explains. “Ongo focuses on universal human needs and values. Marshall Rosenberg, the founder of nonviolent communication, says there are basically seven universal human needs—connection, physical well-being, honesty, play, peace, autonomy and meaning. When I identify shared needs, my heart opens, unlocking a clearer pathway that deepens relationships and facilitates better outcomes.”
Joslin continues, “Ongo helps me mature as a listener and communicator. I have more integrity in my relationships. It’s a practice that’s consistent with Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) values. I’ve found it really helps me handle most of the difficult situations I encounter as a CCL volunteer.”
CCL’s first Ongo program is a success
When Catherine Cadden and Jesse Wiens brought their program to the public in The Ongo Book: Everyday Non-Violence, Joslin knew he wanted to share the practice with CCL.
Joslin helped organize the first Ongo group of 14 CCL volunteers. They completed a 12-week program of group, buddy and individual practices. The participants were spread across the U.S. and Canada. Many were CCL group leaders. While in-person meetings are preferred, Zoom video conferencing worked well to connect this geographically dispersed group.
The volunteers loved the program and felt the practices are things they can continue to do. One participant reported, “I really like the balance between mindfulness/meditation techniques and nonviolent communication practices. I very much appreciated the daily practices, buddy meet ups, and group meeting. This allowed me to go in-depth with support.”
Ongo helps CCL volunteers work more effectively
Ongo helps Joslin have conversations that connect and deepen understanding rather than end in frustration or disagreements. “When I speak with someone, I usually bring in my history, my patterns, the way I solve problems—there are all kinds of things that influence the conversation. The introspective parts of Ongo help me see the things that tend to trip me up, so I can avoid them and have more meaningful conversations.”
He finds Ongo helpful when speaking to fellow CCL members who’ve had a difficult exchange. “The Ongo approach of just listening—without judgment, advice or commentary—works wonders,” Joslin marvels. “If I do say anything, just guessing at one or two of the volunteers’ unspoken needs provides consolation and insight.”
The Ongo approach helps Joslin with lobbying, too. “When I’m in a Congress member’s office and an aide is saying something I don’t want to hear, I can stay calm and focus on recognizing the aide’s underlying needs. Maybe he simply wants to be heard and listened to with respect. Don’t we all really want to be heard and not judged? I’m better able to do this regardless of our political differences.”
Joslin adds, “I can also better sense if the aide isn’t interested in Carbon Fee and Dividend. Then I can engage with him about his underlying needs. For example, I might say, ‘I’m wondering if our proposal doesn’t fit with your values. Can you tell me more about what’s important to you and how you see it fitting with our proposal?’ When I’m more consciously empathetic, our mutual understanding deepens. And my interactions with others leave me energized rather than anxious.”
At CCL, relationships are a core value. We take the most generous approach to other people as possible—appreciation, gratitude and respect. Ongo is a tool that can help CCL volunteers achieve this goal and ultimately, help solve climate change.
Ready to Ongo?
More than ever before, we all need support as we encourage legislators and community leaders to back carbon fee legislation. Watch CCL member Jeff Joslin’s interview with Ongo co-creator Jesse Wiens to learn more about the program and CCL’s first Ongo class.
Any CCL volunteer can organize an Ongo group. CCL Ongo mentors are ready to help you get a program up and running. Just visit the “Peer Support: Ongo” Action Team page on CCL Community and get started today!