Dear Interhelpers and Friends,
First of all, I want to thank each of you for your work toward a sane and peaceful world. In recognition of the unceasing efforts made by so many, the theme for this year’s Interhelp Gathering will be “Holding Each Other in the Great Turning.” We will offer a space to slow down for a bit, engage in some restorative practices from the Work That Reconnects and other traditions, and draw nourishment from the web we create among ourselves and from the great Web that holds us all. Please join us October 21-23, Woolman Hill, Deerfield, MA. Click here.
Upcoming Events: Reflective Retreat on Decolonizing the Work That Reconnects Sept. 16-17 at Starseed (click here); White Awake Study Group (click here); and Facilitator Deepening in connection with Interhelp Gathering (see below) – deadline to express interest for the latter is August 22.
You’ll want to read this article! In Not Your Typical Train Stop: Doing the Milling at Break Free Northeast, Adin Buchanan takes us to the protests against the “bomb trains” that pass through Albany, NY. Adin is a member of the third Earth Leadership Cohort; many of you will remember him from the five-day workshop held this spring in MA. His article is on page 36 of the second issue Deep Times: A Journal of the Work That Reconnects(download the pdf or purchase print copies here). The journal contents – poetry, artwork and articles – follow the Spiral; it’s a beautiful publication.
See below for a link to a new song by Sarah Pirtle, a report from the Boston area Community of Practice, and “Dunk, Dunk, Brew,” a reflection by Carol Harley on At The Crossroads of Environmental and Social Justice, the five-day immersion in the Work That Reconnects held this spring.
Members of Interhelp Council thank departing Council members Joyce Reeves and Lisa Galinski, and welcome Anne Goodwin. Also, several former Council members have formed an Interhelp Wisdom Circle supporting the work of Interhelp Council and Action Circles. A special thanks to Joyce for the idea of a Wisdom Circle, and for many years of wise and skillful Council participation.
With gratitude to all.
Facilitator Deepening Opportunity
October 20 or 24
Woolman Hill in Deerfield, MA
Would you like to talk with others about facilitation tips and best practices?
The Facilitator Deepening Action Circle members are assessing whether there is sufficient interest to add a Facilitator Deepening day onto the Interhelp Gathering. A group could either convene on Thursday evening October 20 and meet through Friday afternoon before the Gathering begins, or could meet following Gathering on the afternoon of Sunday October 23 through the afternoon of Monday October 24. Please respond to this Doodle poll with your availability by August 22nd if you would like to participate so that we can gauge if there is enough interest to schedule this event.
We Belong Together
Thank you to Sarah Pirtle for sending along this video link to her new song,We Belong Together, written following a local vigil for victims of the Orlando massacre. Sarah was an early facilitator of Despair and Empowerment workshops and one of the founders of Interhelp. (Editor’s note: I participated in a workshop led by Sarah and Joe Havens at Woolman Hill in 1981. I still have the song sheet and still sing the songs.) I recommend Sarah’s website; also see Aravinda’s article, Turtle, Shark, Kangaroo: What Do You Do when Harmful Dynamics Arise in a Group? in the current Deep Times Journal; she draws extensively on Sarah’s work.
Boston area Community of Practice
Growing out of the Communities of Practice Action Circle, the Boston area COP has met monthly since March 2015. Members (in pairs) lead us through the Spiral. Experiencing how different people lead the Work, often in creative ways, keeps it fresh. Our meetings are open to anyone who has experienced the WTR.
This summer we are alternating between an evening potluck with informal discussion, and a daylong experience of the Spiral. This gives us a chance to get together periodically as a support community with less pressure to come up with the practices.
As we introduce more people to the WTR, a Community of Practice gives us a way to plug them in quickly to a support community. The newcomers have opportunities to experience and lead the Spiral. And of course we all benefit from our time together. [Contact Rosalie for meeting times and places.]
Dunk, Dunk, Brew
As I paddle through summer heat and humidity, the freshness of April’s workshop continues to reverberate. I cherish the people who showed up! (see Facebook pictures here) and the work we did together as part of the At The Crossroads of Environmental and Social Justice five-day immersion in the Work That Reconnects. I loved the leadership – both named, and ad-hoc. I smile at the memory of how it felt to be around healthy exuberance and also tears.
Friday night we dipped together into a vat of ritual. I think about this powerful Earth Day Passover Seder – especially the questions posed. These include: How shall integrity face oppression? What does honesty do in the face of deception? What does decency do in the face of insult? [and] How does virtue meet brute force? (from W.E.B. Du Bois). Loud voices in current public discourse prompt me to reflect on these and take action for the highest good. I am grateful that my first-ever Seder experience was a heart-centered portal into an unforgettable five-day journey.
What a journey! About 60 beautiful (and a bit sleep-deprived) hours after the Seder, Monday’s afternoon session – which was led very skillfully – began the crux of our time together.
Two more questions arrived in my life. I had just witnessed a “fishbowl,” in which a question was posed to the several participants: “ How does oppression show up in the Work That Reconnects?” Whoa! This was more like a vat of discomfort than a bowl full of fish. All the non-fishbowl participants (most of our entire group) witnessed silently as the conversation unfolded, and then shared our responses in small groups. What came to me was another question: “How do we address injustice without using labels?” I had seen an example, within my witnessing experience, of how problematic labels can be. No one I spoke with seemed to be holding this question. Perhaps I was on my own?
After the immersion came brewing. In early summer, Paula and I attended a wonderful anti-racism workshop with Kristin Wilson, MSW of Solutionary Apothecary. Wilson defied her racist family of origin and is devoted to dismantling the White Supremacy Structure. She mentored those of us present, role-modeling pieces of the required practice. I was eager to find the book (recommended by a participant) for well-intended white people by Shelly Tochluk called Witnessing Whiteness: The need to talk about race and how to do it. Lo and behold! In Tochluk’s preface she directly addresses the question I have been sitting with since the fishbowl.
In four short pages Tochluk reveals her integrity by describing what she grappled with during her writing process. She confesses, for example, how “nowhere in this book do I treat the complex issues that face biracial and multiracial people.” About labels, she admits: “I find no other way to move forward except to use these imperfect categorizing terms until some new language or approach arises.”
I cried with relief when I came upon these words. Yes, I’ll have to use labels. But I can do it thoughtfully. It will be imperfect. My efforts will be imperfect. But how much better than not making an effort! I am seeking more opportunities to dunk myself into vats of discomfort as I continue to recognize and name white privilege and “unlearn” racism. These vats promote a healing brew. Thank you, Earth Leadership Cohort 3 and all the wise participants of our time together last April!