Monday, October 17, 2011

The Power of the Pause

Randa can move fast when she’s angry…

The 47-year-old single mom was in the kitchen making an omelette when her 11-year-old daughter, Nicole, started mouthing off to her from the living room. In a flash, Randa was face-to-face with Nicole. This kind of heated family drama would usually involve Randa raising her hand, followed by tears and recriminations. Nicole would leave for school with the sting of a slap and a dark cloud hanging over her day.

This day was different. In the 20 seconds it took for Randa to run into the living room, she remembered what she’d learned at the Three Principles-based, “Peaceful Parenting” class she had attended the week before in her neighborhood of Lakewood, in Charlotte North Carolina.

She remembered: Your thoughts create your everyday personal reality; your feelings come from this; you can have a new thought any time.

Looking into her daughter’s eyes, Randa found new words coming out of her mouth. In a quiet tone, Randa said, “Do you realize you are talking to me the way you talk to your friends?” Nicole’s defiant look crumbled. “I’m sorry,” she muttered. Randa continued, “Be mindful that I’m not your friend, and watch your tone when you’re talking to me.”

The moment was over. Randa actually felt surprise that the calm words had come so easily. The best part was, “Nicole didn’t go to school feeling like I hated her,” says Randa.

Randa's twin daughters
Randa’s twin daughters have noticed such a change in their mother that they practically push her out the door on the evenings when the Peaceful Parenting class is held just down the road at a neighborhood church. “Don’t you have class tonight, mama?” the twins say. “Don’t be late now.”

With the change in their mother, their own lives have gotten better…

This is what your donations are making possible.

Randa’s story is an example of how our donors help improve people’s lives in impoverished communities across the country. The Center for Sustainable Change's non-profit National Community Resiliency Project (NCRP), in partnership with local organizations such as the Lakewood Community Development Corporation in Charlotte, provides individuals like Randa with the opportunity to receive Three Principles training through a variety of locally-initiated and locally-designed programs.

Like a stone thrown in a pond, one person’s raised level of consciousness has a ripple effect that extends throughout their family, school and community.

For information about the Center for Sustainable Change and to make a donation, please visit our website: You can email us at

To receive news about the Center for Sustainable Change and updates about our NCRP project sites, please sign up for our e-newsletter on the right side of this page.

By Maureen Latta, Grants Manager, Center for Sustainable Change

CSC corporate training services expanding non-profit possibilities

A Latino woman in a white pin-striped suit stands in front of the classroom asking the group of 25 adults whether they reflected on a video presented during the previous class. “Do you remember anything about the video?” asks Gabriela Maldonado-Montano, whose job is to teach them the Three Principles. This was their homework, to muse on the taped talk given by Sydney Banks.
Gabriela Maldonado-Montano,
CSC trainer and co-director

“I loved it,” a woman in the front row replies.

“What did you love about it?” Gabriela asks.

“The message. That we ultimately know nothing.”

The man next to her says he had a different impression. “I got the impression Sydney Banks was saying he couldn’t teach you because you, yourself, are your own teacher.”

The woman responds, “I guess what I meant is, you don’t know it with your brain. You know it with your soul.”

This exchange wouldn’t be out of place at a Three Principles retreat. What is unusual is that this discussion is happening during a corporate training session for the executive team, upper-level managers and support staff at Center for Employment Training, a California-based economic and community development corporation which makes hands-on job training available to youth and adults.

What follows is a discussion of Sydney Banks, the soft-spoken Scotsman whose realizations about the principles of Mind, Consciousness and Thought were introduced to Center for Employment Training this year by the Center for Sustainable Change (CSC) through a 2-1/2-day Corporate Retreat followed by a brown-bag lunch series. Today is the final class in the series, and CSC trainer Gabriela Maldonado-Montano is encouraging everyone to translate their learning into real-life work situations.

If key employees can understand more deeply 
how their thinking affects their professional lives, 
they can reduce workplace stress, improve 
performance and generate creative solutions 

“What do you do if you get agitated in a meeting?” Gabriela asks them.

A man jokes, “Kill someone!” and the class cracks up with laughter. Gabriela is smiling, obviously delighted at the relaxed atmosphere. There is no pretense here, only a refreshing honesty about the nature of feelings that arise in the heat of the moment. A few months ago, this group of employees were reluctant to open up with each other.

Gabriela clarifies her question. “What do you do in your head?”

Along with the laughter, there is serious intent here. If the key employees in this large organization -- a leader in the employment training sector -- can understand more deeply how their thinking affects their professional and personal lives, they can reduce workplace stress, improve performance, and generate creative solutions to the dilemmas affecting thousands of their clients experiencing cultural, linguistic and socio-economic hurdles in their lives.

Now the staff members are discussing the ways each one tends to react upon receiving an upsetting email from a co-worker. One woman notes that her cheeks get warm, “like a red tomato.”

Gabriela warns the class she is about to say something that might surprise them. “I just want to propose this to you: if we are creating our reactions every moment of our lives, is it really possible to get an upsetting email? Who is making it upsetting?” Gabriela continues. “Could it be that all emails are neutral, and whether they are upsetting or not is something we do with our emails?”

To drive the point home, Gabriela talks about working in the justice system with violent offenders. She understood that, due to their thinking, their actions made sense to them in the moment. That is how the power of Thought works. Our thoughts, and the feelings generated by the thoughts, seem so real -- in the moment. Gabriela says these convicted felons told her, “If they knew then what they know now [about how Thought works], they wouldn’t have done it.”

When the class is over, several people step forward to embrace Gabriela, and there is talk about the need for more exposure to the 3 Principles so that staff can take their understanding to a deeper level.

Finding new, innovative and creative ways 
of funding CSC's non-profit work

CSC is in the process of expanding its reach to corporations, both not-for-profit and for-profit. The development of corporate training is, in part, a means to generate relationships and financial resources that CSC can use to support its own non-profit work. Gabriela, who is also a co-director of CSC, said in an interview, “The purpose of developing the corporate services is to subsidize the tremendous need that we have at CSC. We have a tremendous need to create a model that is sustainable.”

CSC’s non-profit National Community Resiliency Project (NCRP) helps people in impoverished communities, where training in the Principles has been shown to improve the quality of life for families, reduce violent crime rates, improve school attendance and performance, and generate greater trust between residents, local law enforcement and school staff.

“Throughout my career, I have seen that the financial situation of non-profits is always precarious,” Gabriela said. “At CSC, we’re committed to finding new, innovative and creative ways of funding the non-profit work. I think that is essential.”

For more information about CSC’s training services, please contact us at

To read the NCRP Executive Summary or obtain the full report, visit

By Maureen Latta, Grants Manager, Center for Sustainable Change

Friday, October 14, 2011

CSC's legacy and pioneering a "Center without Walls"

While I was in Santa Cruz this fall with the task of going through the archives of articles published about the Three Principles -- Dr. Roger Mills’ legacy -- I came across an article written 17 years ago called, “Miracle on 66th Avenue” about the transformation of two crime-ridden Oakland neighborhoods: Lockwood and Coliseum Gardens.

Journalist Dashka Slater’s incisive interviews and sensitive, colorful observations captured the “tentative, tender unfolding that is social change” so very well. The article acknowledged Roger Mills, whose “health realization” approach influenced developments both there and in the Oakland projects’ prototype, the Modello project in Dade County, Florida.

When Roger Mills died last year, his daughter, Ami Chen Mills, was left with her father’s 30-plus-year legacy consisting of a history of transformational projects in inner city neighborhoods across the country, many boxes of archives, a small non-profit organization called the Center for Sustainable Change, an office in Palo Alto and a shoe-string budget. She was also a skilled 3 Principles teacher, and part of a network of individuals dedicated to raising the level of consciousness in communities across the country.

Ami belongs to a new generation picking up where Roger Mills left off, and the story of social change is evolving as it moves forward into the 21st century.

Six months ago it looked like the 
Center for Sustainable Change 
might just have to close its doors.

Six months ago it looked like the Center for Sustainable Change might just have to close its doors. The board of directors looked at the bottom line -- only $3,000 dollars in the Center’s bank account -- and turned their collective gaze upon Ami, CSC’s co-director. Ami with her characteristic serene smile assured them, “There is no good or bad but thinking makes it so.”

Her father’s daughter, Ami lives and breathes the core tenet of the innate resiliency paradigm. Ami was only a child of seven when Roger Mills had his life-altering meetings with Sydney Banks, which infused Roger’s psychology practise and his life with the belief that it is people’s thoughts, rather than their circumstances, that define their experiences.

The “message” is still what it was in 1995, when the women of Coliseum Gardens met on Wednesday afternoons in a ground-floor apartment that served as a community center to still their minds. Everyone is born with an innate resilience, a healthy inner core, they learned. It is this message, and the certainty borne of experience that there is help for suffering communities, that drives Ami to carry on her father’s legacy and trust that inner wisdom will help find a way.

Giving up the Palo Alto office and creating a “Center without walls” (in the words of CSC co-director, Gabriela Maldonado-Montano), CSC is pioneering a non-profit organizational style that “walks the walk” by trusting in a paradigm that relies more on the power of innate wisdom and less on conventional planning and thinking one’s way out of problems. Ami, and her new virtually-connected team, supervise active project partner sites in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Greenville, Mississippi, funded by a W.K. Kellogg Foundation Grant, as well as innovative programs at Principals’ Center Collaborative high school in San Francisco and budding partnerships with corporate clients -- an experiment in bringing corporate responsibility together with impoverished communities by realizing common human concerns.

The new characters in the “tentative, tender unfolding” include Dave Nichols, a leading light behind the ongoing transformation in the once-notorious neighborhood of Lakewood, in Charlotte, where crime rates dropped significantly in the first two years of applying the Three Principles approach; and Tasha Griffin and Larry Williams in Greenville, who are busy forging a connection with a distressed housing project there in the Mississippi Delta.

With the help of supporters, donors and friends, the next chapter of “Miracle on 66th Avenue” is being written. We welcome your interest, your participation and your donations.

By Maureen Latta, Grants Manager
Center for Sustainable Change