Dear Interhelpers and Friends,
This year’s Gathering seemed especially full and wonderful (speaking for myself, and for many who provided feedback to Interhelp Council). Read a bit about it below, along with reflective pieces that grew out of the event. Other contributions below include pieces about the Earth Leadership Cohorts’ reunion, held prior to Gathering, and a follow-up from September’s Community Leadership Cohort. It’s been a rich autumn season!
Save the date: An Interhelp Open Meeting, similar to last winter’s Interhelp Inquiry Day, will take place on Sunday, January 17 at Cambridge Cohousing. More info coming soon.
I am thrilled to announce a five-day workshop near Boston in April, along with weekend workshops; see below. Also, Earth Leadership Cohort 3 is in the works. Info here
May we always be grateful for the gifts in our lives.
Interhelp Open Meeting
Sunday January 17 at Cambridge Cohousing. Details coming soon.
The Great Turning: Becoming Vibrant Elders in Our Emerging World
Kirkridge Retreat Center, Bangor PA, Mar 4 – 6. Details here.
Active Hope: Dancing the Spiral, Woolman Hill Retreat Center, March 11–13. Details here.
At the Crossroads of Environmental and Social Justice
Five days of the Work That Reconnects
Friendly Crossways in Harvard, MA, April 22-27
with Kirstin Edelglass, Aravinda Ananda, Joseph Rotella and Markie Babbott
for more information or to register.
Thirty-five of us convened for a Gathering of the tribe this fall at Woolman Hill. As always, we enjoyed the beauty of the land, singing and dancing together, sharing wonderful food (thank you Haley) and washing lots of dishes … and a program led by a creative facilitation team (Joyce Reeves, Lisa Galinski, Aravinda Ananda and Joseph Rotella).
We traveled the Spiral, using as a framework the concept of a rite of passage. We imagined the current crisis of humanity as an all-enveloping rite of passage, within which unfold our own personal processes of letting go, and reorienting our thinking, our day-to-day lives, and our activism.
Friday evening opened with an offering of gifts. After reflecting on our own gifts and talents, we were handed cards and wrote a key word for each gift on each card. Then we milled, carrying our cards. Each time we paired up with someone, we chose a card from the other’s hand and reflected back to our partner the gift written on their card. Thus the weekend began with an unveiling of the richness in our community, within each of us as individuals and among us as a whole.
A second new-to-us process was based on the Co-Active Leadership: Five Ways to Lead model. We divided into five groups and playfully explored the different aspects of leadership. This gave us an embodied understanding that, though our particular roles, and talents and gifts, may be very different, each is essential to the forward movement of our efforts toward the Great Turning.
Many of us heeded the call of the outdoors, and guided by Ashley Bies, stepped out of our human bubble, and connected and integrated with our surrounding habitat, as members of the natural/more-than-human community. (Please see photo above.)
Next year’s Gathering will take place October 21–23. We hope to see you there!
Earth Leadership Community Reunion 2015
On October 29-30, 2015, the Earth Leadership Cohorts held their first joint reunion at Woolman Hill.
Our time together included an evening game of “In the Manner of the Adverb” (an improv game that brought out both hilarious and obnoxious skits); a collaborative offering of gifts to create a program for the day that was held almost entirely outside; council rounds to share updates and news of our work for the Great Turning; a celebration circle with singing and dancing; a guided meditation to access our wholeness; a group walk with elements of tracking and history of the land; a sharing of grief and honoring our pain for the world followed by an aromatherapy healing; and a closing time with lots of hugs.
Alums of the ELC program are calling ourselves the Earth Leadership Community. Our community is new, growing, and at the early stages of exploring the potential and possibility that lies within and before us.
At the close of this first reunion — with just 24 hours of time together — there was a palpable feeling of the web of life being woven more strongly and brightly amongst us, with those connections extending out to all ELCers, and spreading out further to the parts of the web that we all uniquely touch.
The ELC is made possible by the extremely generous gifts of time, energy and money from the wider WTR community. ELC extends an extra-special thanks to Michael Rice, whose spontaneous and heartfelt fundraising appeals for the ELC at the most recent Interhelp Gathering and the January 2015 Interhelp Inquiry Day have unleashed thousands of dollars of financial pledges and support from Interhelpers and ELC graduates. The next generation of Earth Leaders thanks each of you for your continued support. We feel the love!!
Community Leadership Cohort
I was already registered for the September 2015 program at Rowe with Joanna Macy and Anita Burrows: “The Growing Storm: The Work That Reconnects Accompanied by Rilke’s Poetry” when I read with excitement that a Community Leadership Cohort (CLC) was being established with sessions that would wrap around the September program.
Aravinda Ananda and Joseph Rotella led 20 of us from diverse backgrounds and locales in an exploration of how we might establish or expand local communities of practice.
In a rich several days together, in the context of experiencing the Spiral, we explored how the practices model the Great Turning — how the core of the work is experimental, playful, deeply intentional, and how we don’t always know how it’s going to turn out!
In consulting about facilitating the work with authenticity and integrity, we explored how we might bring our own stories, including our heritage and cultures, into the work. We discussed ways of speaking about the Industrial Growth Society that include anti-oppression language and also bring mindfulness that, for some populations, the Great Unraveling has been occurring for centuries.
We took a look at the forms and models in existing communities of practice, and envisioned ways the work might take shape in our own localities, realizing this is an evolutionary process.
The CLC was instrumental in bringing together people in my region in Pennsylvania who weren’t previously connected. We now have an emerging community of practice that is undertaking various projects and collaborations. We began by sitting around the table together and engaging with these questions:
- How has the WTR been speaking to you since we met at the CLC?
- What are you currently reflecting on and working on?
- What would you like help and support with?
We’ve since shared several meals together and are collaborating on projects including co-facilitating WTR workshops for organizations and the public (we have one coming up in December), showing a video of Joanna Macy, organizing book clubs on Active Hope, and introducing the practices of the Spiral and concepts from Active Hope informally in our daily lives.
The Little Door —A Gathering Reflection
The meeting house at Woolman Hill in Deerfield, Massachusetts, is an ancient historical structure brought to this Quaker Conference Center from its original location in North Dartmouth, where it had served as the Quaker Meeting House for two centuries but had lost its congregants some decades ago. In order to preserve this historical treasure and restore it to use as a place for worship, its trustees gifted the old Meeting House to the conference center, and the pertinent institutions had it jacked up, loaded on a flat-bed trailer, and moved from the Southeastern extremity of Massachusetts to the hill overlooking Deerfield in the west-central part of the state over100 miles away.
I have visited Woolman Hill at least annually for some years and have invariably meditated within this beautiful structure. I was vaguely aware that, originally, women and men used separate entrances, and sat on separate sides, but I’ve forgotten which side served whom. I had even noticed the once movable panels, sliding up and down in vertical slots, presumably to obscure the distracting visages of congregants of the opposite sex. On a recent visit, I took note of a segment of rope at the top of each off the four panels, which I take to have been connected to a mechanism for lowering them, though I doubt that this mechanism is currently functional. More: one of the panels has, at its bottom, a hinged door about 18 inches wide and 26 inches tall. What was the function of that door?
At first I thought that, perhaps, children no taller than two feet could be allowed to shuttle between Father and Mother when the strain of Quaker silence became unbearable. Then, unaccountably, I imagined family dogs might use that passage, though upon reflection, I suspect that pets were not welcome at Quaker Meetings for Worship. Nevertheless, I delighted in thinking of this mysterious opening as the “dog and kiddie” door. But then it became both a metaphor and the germ of a game, “name that door.”
I like to think of myself as a social change activist, seeking a more just and peaceful world with due respect for and connection with the earth, the water, the air — indeed, all the living components of the natural world. I want, in Gandhi’s words, “to become the change I wish to see in the world.” The difficulty in this enterprise is that I stay in my comfort zone: I self-select or self-segregate by sitting with those who share my vision of change. I “speak to the choir.” I get few opportunities to speak with those who have an opposing vision: they shun my presence as I shun theirs; they do not hear my sermons any more than I attend theirs. And it is THAT which that door symbolizes: the space that the comprises the common interest of people sitting in isolation from one another, like the toddlers shared by the Father and the Mother traditionally seated on the two sides of a partition.
The challenge of “Name that Door” is to identify the myriad commonalities between the factions.
Two Days Later — A Gathering Reflection
Two days after the Gathering, I found myself in the Massachusetts State House with a list of legislators to lobby for a bill to divest the state pension fund from fossil fuels, and a response form. Each time I paused to open another big oak door to another legislator’s office, I fought the urge to flee, to trash the literature I was supposed to hand out, to invent the report I was supposed to turn in to the climate action group. I hate approaching strangers. I hate hate hate asking people to do things. What saved me was picturing everyone at the Gathering, the whole crowd gathered around the door, every one of them. With a crowd like that it wasn’t so hard to march in and make my pitch.
That’s one benefit I got from the Gathering — hearing from, learning from, sharing with all those committed, loving people. The aura of love was powerful, because it was grounded in the explicit knowledge of the gravity of what we face. It’s not sentimental; it’s real.
For me, the exercise we did in pairs, sharing what of ourselves we wanted to let die, was especially profound. I know that I want to shut down the “it’s-all-about-me.” It’s hard to stop playing my self-conscious, self-centered little solo, but it’s so much better if I can take a seat in the orchestra and play my heart out there.
I realized, too, that the more I can accept and love myself just as I am, the easier it is for me to stop obsessing on what impression I’m making, on whether someone likes me, on the need for recognition. If I’m fine as I am, if I can really believe that, those obsessions fade.
Of course self-acceptance doesn’t mean letting go of self-examination, of the need to look at whether I’m doing the smartest, most loving thing, but it keeps that examination from becoming an assault on my self.
So, that’s my homework until we all get together again. I tell people that the Gathering is my annual booster shot, and it is. It’s the comradeship; it’s the exercises that give us the chance to share such deep feelings. It’s knowing that together we’re doing the work of reconnecting the world. That’s a real Gathering!