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!