Interhelp Newsletter November 2017

Dear Interhelpers and friends,

It’s been a rich Work That Reconnects season in our Interhelp region (northeast U.S.). Twenty-four participants joined Sarah Pirtle and Emily Koester for Mending the Web of Life in Greenfield, MA. Read about the experience below. They will offer this workshop again on February 10.

Kirstin Edelglass, Anne Goodwin and Solomon Botwick-Ries (a member of Earth Leadership Community) led a successful weekend at Rowe. And our thirtieth (or so) annual Interhelp Gathering took place earlier this month.

At Gathering weekend we danced the Elm Dance on both mornings. I’m excited to share the fruits of Carol Harley’s research into both the recorded music from Latvia that we dance to, and the dance itself. Please see below.

Our weekend Gathering journey felt profound, thanks in part to the depth of facilitation skills that members of our community have developed. Sarah Pirtle and Ian Mevorach held the container for Saturday morning, guiding us through stories of the land and first peoples, followed by a cairn of mourning. Aravinda Ananda and Shea Riester helped us “see with fresh eyes” as we played the “systems game” outside and then clustered in Identity Caucuses. Anne Goodwin brought together just the right guides for a deeply refreshing Saturday evening of sound and movement. Kirstin Edelglass skillfully guided our large circle through our closing Council process.

See more Gathering photos on Facebook.

A reunion/retreat of the Earth Leadership community preceded the Gathering, and each of these young people stayed for the weekend. We were happy to all be together.

Our “theme song” for Gathering weekend was “We shall be known by the company we keep” by MaMuse. I am proud to be known by the company I kept at Gathering, and that I keep in all of our Work That Reconnects activities throughout the year! See more music from Gathering at Interhelp’s new “arts” web page.

You are invited to our fourth annual Interhelp Day of Conversation on January 7 in Cambridge. Watch for a complete announcement about this open meeting for our Work That Reconnects community.

Thanks for “keeping company” with us at Interhelp!

Paula Hendrick
Interhelp Editor

Here’s a short telling of the Elm Dance story that I (Paula) shared at Gathering, with a link to a story by Carol Harley:

A few years after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant meltdown, Joanna and Fran Macy visited a city in Russia – Novozybkov – that was the most contaminated city of those that were still inhabited. They were there to listen and learn, and to share what they could. A profound offering was simply the opportunity to step aside from the enormous challenges of coping day to day, and to grieve together.

Joanna and Fran shared the Elm Dance, a simple circle dance, and we have continued to share it often in WTR circles, as a way of remembering the people of Novozybkov. We also remember in a ritual manner so many beings and places, in our midst and faraway, that have been, and are right now, considered disposable.

What do we mean by “disposable”? When clouds filled with radioactivity moved out of the Ukraine toward Moscow, the decision was made to seed the clouds. Radioactivity rained down on Novozybkov and on the surrounding forestland. The citizens were not informed.

As we dance and call out the names of beings and places, we affirm that we do not forget them, and that they will not be forgotten.

Joanna’s complete telling of the Elm Dance story is here.

Carol has diligently researched the people of Latvia who created the music and the “elm dance,” and those who helped deliver it to Novozybkov and to us. Please read “The Elm Dance Revisited” here, and look at the brief and beautiful video she has created. (Hint: “pause” on each frame of the video to take in who these people are, and what has grown out of their collaboration.)

Planning and Leading Mending the Web of Life
Sarah Pirtle and Emily Koester

When we enter into the spiral of the Work That Reconnects, the heartbeat of deep truth-telling brings us into the central questions of living in these times. How do you handle day-to-day life while sending your antenna out to all the crises of Earth and of humanity? How do you stay informed without getting overwhelmed? How do you discern the serious things you are called to do?

For the facilitators as much as for the participants, leading a workshop is a process of deepening and discovery. We met for six weeks to prepare a four-hour workshop, Mending the Web of Life, at Temple Israel in Greenfield, MA. The time spent crafting the title and description, and choosing how we would help people through the spiral in a short period of time, took us into the heart of the work.

Feeling our interconnection in the web of life emerged as a theme. We asked participants to feel themselves leaning into the web, talking into it, contributing to it, greeting each other as part of it. During open sentences on gratitude, our question was, ”How have you, or family or friends, experienced the healing power of community support that is intrinsic to this web of life?” And we offered an activity called “Our Nine Senses*” to help us feel more deeply into our interconnection.

At the end of the workshop, we shared a closing song, but no one moved to leave. We spoke more closing words to give permission to depart; again people stayed riveted. Together all 26 of us had become a bonded net of community.

A participant commented afterwards, “It felt unusual to share deeply with people you just met.” That is the nature of this work – being able to speak to the place within each of us that understands and is making common cause.
We will be repeating this four-hour workshop as part of the Sojourner Truth School of free programs. It will be held in Franklin County (Western MA) and you can register for it at The date is Saturday, February 10, 1:00-5:00. Their website will announce the exact location.

*“Our Nine Senses” created by Sarah Pirtle

Pass out acorns, one for each to hold (and later offer for people to keep them). These acorns will help us discover our inter-being. We can hold our acorn purely as an object and a decoration, so that we feel it as just an isolated acorn. Or, we can see its sacredness and feel it through interconnection.

As we allow our pain for the world to be spoken, dormant senses of interconnection can unfreeze.

Please close your eyes and keep them closed.

1. Begin with your sense of touch. Let your fingers drink in information.

2. Now use your sense of smell to explore what you are holding. 

3. Explore your ability to sense the age and point of origin of this acorn.

4. Sense the story of the transformations it’s been through.

5. Sense its communion with every other part of the Universe.

6. Sense how it is different from every other part of the Universe. Sense the fact that it is unique.

7. Explore your ability to sense that this acorn is not only unique but a subject unto itself. It has its own sovereignty, its own dignity, its own reality. It has its own unfolding.

8. Explore your ability to bond with it.

9. Lastly, open your eyes and use your sense of sight. Greet this acorn with soft eyes.

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