About

Acknowledgements

I acknowledge that I live and work on the traditional land of the first people of Seattle, specifically the Duwamish, Suquamish, Stillaguamish, and Muckleshoot People. I acknowledge this both out of sincere respect for our living earth and its traditional stewards and also because I understand the practice of land acknowledgement to be an important step toward a more just society. I also make this acknowledgement because I understand it to be a traditional sign of respect for many Native communities, going back centuries. I believe truly doing a land acknowledgement with integrity demands more than only words. It involves learning history, building relationships, and deep sincerity. I continue to make efforts in those areas.

I acknowledge the contemporary and historical unpaid and unseen labor on which the economic, historical, political, and social foundations of my life are unfortunately based. I acknowledge and grieve the immense history of violence that has made this possible. I acknowledge the responsibility to change things that this reality creates for me and our world. And I acknowledge and honor the beautiful souls, immeasurable resilience, and horrific loss of those who bear the immense weight of the machine.

I also acknowledge the great mentors and teachers I’ve had in my life who have made and continue to make my work possible. This includes my parents and grandparents, cousins and siblings, aunts and uncles, and every teacher and mentor throughout my education. It also includes the faculty and my colleagues at the Processwork Institute of Portland, Oregon; my many friends and colleagues throughout Washington State public schools and the Washington Education Association; and the dedicated educators and organizers who worked to produce the Coalition of Essential Schools, the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, the Xicanx Institute for Teaching and Organizing, The Circle Works, the Equity Institute, the Equity in Education Coalition, the Education for Liberation Network, and Teachers 4 Social Justice.

“Deep Democracy is our sense that the world is here to help us to become our entire selves, and that we are here to help the world become whole.” ~ Arnold Mindell

Beliefs and Values

First and foremost, I believe every human community and individual has agency. That agency is defined by three things: 1) the fact that we always have choice, 2) the degree to which we are aware of the various choices available to us, and 3) our ability to choose - that is, to make a decision and commit to a course of action. This third thing always involves an amount of acceptance, of letting go of alternatives that cease to exist once that commitment has been made. Our agency can be ignored, or it can be intentionally practiced and developed. The problem we will face if we choose to ignore it is that others will make our choices for us, which will ultimately lead to our own suffering.

When we do choose to practice and refine our agency with intention, it inevitably leads us to the question of courage and integrity. How do we make choices in alignment with our most prized values (especially when those values seem to contradict the values of our society)? To do this well, I believe we have to 1) invest time into understanding and cultivating our unique purpose and gifts, and 2) invest time into understanding the context and historical moment in which we live, which includes understanding the social position we occupy as a function of our identity. These two investments allow us to practice the balanced, informed, and conscientious use of our two greatest assets: love and power (which are actually two sides of the same coin). Once we embark on the journey of developing our agency, there’s no turning back. We inevitably begin transforming the world as we transform ourselves.

The good news is there’s nothing we have to do to set this process in motion. No amount of willpower that’s required. It’s already trying to happen. What we can do is bring awareness and intention to the process as often as possible. That, in itself, is a lifelong discipline and practice.

The bad news is the dominant culture and systems in which we exist create vast and violent disparities in how safe it is for different communities and individuals to follow this path. These systems have also created massive knots of trauma that create stuckness and barriers to life, joy, and fulfillment. This reality is toxic to everyone, especially marginalized peoples, but also to people with systemic power and privilege.

The work I’m interested in doing attempts to hold and unfold these complex challenges toward healing and regeneration. If our world is to make some desperately needed shifts, we need to recognize the importance of the individual, of relationships, of groups, of culture, and of systems. Those of us who are conscious enough of the situation in which we find ourselves need to practice our agency toward the dismantling of dead systems that fuel unnecessary violence, suffering, and fragmentation. And we need to recognize and reinforce living systems that support reciprocity, relationality, love, and vibrancy for all people and all beings.

It’s far from easy, but it is absolutely possible and absolutely necessary.

“Instead of viewing the world through a thick lens - that is, as analysts of social problems - we must view it as a mirror of ourselves. This involves the practice of self-reflection and exploration of who we are as individuals and how we contribute to the world we wish to create.” ~ Shawn Ginwright

Style and Philosophy

I primarily developed my style of working with people during my time as an educator in violently underfunded public schools - places where trauma, stress, and social toxicity meet extraordinary beauty, community, and creativity. I began my teaching journey with a charge to instill my useful knowledge in others. I left having realized that my true gift is curating and holding space for others to recognize their own knowledge.

One of the most powerful ways into transformative work I’ve found is through establishing the baseline experience of safety and belonging. When in place and accessible as resources, safety and belonging lay the groundwork for creativity, dreaming, principled struggle, and grief; which are all essential for lasting change.

When appropriate, I also tend to emphasize slowness, relationality, and emotionality. These ingredients are often overlooked in our race to predetermined outcomes and usually have everything to do with whether we can actually arrive where we want to go.

While planning is important, I believe strongly in balancing agendas with responding to what’s happening in the moment. We’re much more likely to get where we want to go when we can start where we are.

james

What I Do

I work with individuals, relationships, communities, schools, organizations, business, and government to transform toward a more peaceful and vibrant world. I’ve articulated some of what I do in links to the various realms of my work below. Take the time to browse the things that interest you. If you’re curious to learn more, please reach out and say hello! (This part is currently under development. I hope to have links ready by January 31, 2023.)

Work with Individuals and Relationships

Work with Educators and Schools

Work with Communities and Government

Work with Organizations and Business

About Me

I’m a fourth-generation white American. My ancestors immigrated to the United States in a wave of European immigration in the late nineteenth century. As best my family can tell, they came from France, Germany, Finland, Ireland, and Russia.

I was born in Carlsbad, New Mexico, and I have lived in various other parts of the United States, including Western Washington, East Tennessee, New York City, and Washinton DC.

I am currently studying for a master’s degree in Process-Oriented Facilitation and Conflict Studies (otherwise known as Processwork) at the Processwork Institute in Portland, OR. I also hold a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in social studies education.

For fourteen years, I worked as a high school teacher in public high schools across the United States, earning my National Board teaching certificate in 2014. For most of that time, I served as a union organizer of schools and communities around social justice issues. I also have a background in personal fitness training, bodywork, and nutrition.

In addition to Processwork, my facilitation style is strongly influenced by the principles of Structural Integration, Nonviolent Communication, Circle Work, and various schools of critical theory.

“Conflict, after all, is rooted in difference and people are and always will be different. With the exception of those natural disasters that are not caused by human misdeed, most of the pain, destruction, waste, and neglect towards human life that we create on this planet and beyond, are consequences of our overreaction to difference. This is expressed through our resistance to facing and resolving problems, which is overwhelmingly a refusal to change how we see ourselves in order to be accountable. Therefore how we understand Conflict, how we respond to Conflict, and how we behave as bystanders in the face of other people’s Conflict determines whether or not we have collective justice and peace.” ~ Sarah Schulman

Contact Me

Subscribe to my mailing list or email me directly at james.boutin@mailfence.com

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