A tale of three worshops

Spontaneously dancing with my scarf in the Toolangi forest.

Spontaneously dancing with my scarf in the Toolangi forest.

I was really thrilled over the last few months to have had two invitations to do the Work that Reconnects at festivals. The first one was the Waking up the Spirit Skillshare weekend (with the Barkindji people north of the Murray River), the second was for the Toolangi Forest Secrets Festival (in the mountains past Healesville).

Neither event turned out quite the way I expected. I didn’t end up running full ‘Despair and Empowerment’ workshops. Instead I just stayed present and connected with people individually. On both occasions I had planned a variety of processes to share but when I got to the festival it just didn’t feel like the right ‘vibe.’

In between those two events I ran a truth mandala at my home for friends. I had about 8 people come and it was lovely, so beautiful to see people go from strangers to connection in two hours. It was also deeply satisfying to find that I am actually capable of following through on a facilitation commitment!

It feels timely to pause and reflect on these experiences. What does it mean that things didn’t go according to my plan at the festivals?

I really want to criticise myself. The difficult thing is that each time I chose to be present and be guided by what my instincts were telling me. In the moment I was fine with it and happy to accept the other connections I was making but now, in retrospect, I’m disappointed and wondering what the next step is for me. I really want to experiment with larger groups of people but I just don’t seem to be able to make it happen.

I’m not sure if I am not ready to facilitate in those situations or if people are not ready to participate, maybe it’s both. Not everyone sees the value in grief and I am not confident enough to force it on them. I seem destined to enlarge my circle one person at a time. Should I be content with that or am I keeping myself small?

Pondering proliferation

Mushroom in a forest

Groups are proliferating like mushroom caps pushing their way out of the mycelium net
Svasti, Evolver, Deep Ecology Network, Mother Tongue, Sisters for sisters, Wild Mind, Open Communities, 5rhythms, Dancing Freedom,
So many interesting people and things that I want to support
That I want to be supported by
How to find one’s place amongst all this juicy goodness?

In the language of competition, the world of separation, diversity is bad
But in the language of compassion, the world of connection, diversity is good
In time they will come to occupy their own niches
They will serve the needs of a variety of groups
They will ease the transition from the old story to the new.

So gather good people, recognise the universe in each other, honour our mutual beauty
Support it all because who knows what’s needed
Who knows the value of heeding the call of our hearts?
Some things are worth doing even if you fail
Please yourself, but not by halves, go all the way to the bottom of your heart and let those yearnings guide your actions.

As for me, I’m quite happy to wander around, doing what I please
If others begin to do what I do then I shall leave them to it and wander some other way
Or not
After all my expression, my networks, my calling are my own, unique
Who can say what the outcome might be?

Grief and gratitude

I seem to be pulled toward grief and gratitude at the moment. On the face of it, according to common understanding, it seems incongruous like being pulled in different directions. From the inside though the connection is seamless, grief and gratitude entwine each other, the latter is a balm for the former.

Earlier this year my 4 year old moved up to the kinder room and was quite sad about the loss of his beloved child care room. I mentioned this to a colleague at work who responded with enthusiasm. “That’s great, he must have felt really loved where he was.” Her response shifted my thinking and inspired me to tell Mr A “I know you feel sad and that’s okay. That sadness tells us that we loved something so what we can do is be grateful and say thank you. Thank you child care room, thank you toys, thank you carers.”

Some weeks later I cradled Archie, my beloved dog of ten years, as he lay on the threshold of death. I was moved in that moment of letting go to give thanks for the life we had shared and wrote the below poem in his honour.

Poem of gratitude to my dog

At the Wild Mind Gathering I offered a ritual of grief and later a song of gratitude. The song was inspired by the joy of finding community but the grief of separation was just around the corner. I knew everyone would share my pain at leaving such a beautiful space of connection and sharing, so I offered my thanks for what we had created together.

Joanna Macy says that gratitude is a revolutionary act. Gratitude says “I am enough. I have enough.” The danger in grief is that the pain will lead us down the path of fear and scarcity, closing us off to love. Gratitude stops the descent and holds us in grief as a pure expression of love.

Grief is becoming a friend to me. It shows me that I’m alive, that I am capable of love and that I am engaged in the world. I am learning to be grateful for the pain of grief and finding that the more I embrace it, the more it sets me free and the more open I am to embracing the love that comes my way. I am grateful for all the people, things and moments that I have loved and lost for helping me learn this lesson.

March workshop: Our Earth, Our Self

Reigniting hope and sustaining action in the face of crisis, an experiential workshop.

Child in silouhette watching rhinos

Take a day out from the grind of making social change to connect with like minded people and reignite your passion. The work that reconnects gives us space to feel difficult emotions in a supportive environment and allow hope to arise.

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Thy will be done

I am a spiritual being having a human experience.

The path ahead is in shadow, none of my plans work out and instead I am forced into the present. Yes, I’m aware that’s probably a good thing but, oooowhee it’s uncomfortable.

Preparing for the gathering.

Case in point: Thursday night, the gathering of deep ecology/ecospiritual folk. I think it’s fair to say recent life events have brought me to a place of grief and vulnerability. On Wednesday night I went looking for my copy of ‘Coming back to life‘ to refresh my memory of ‘the milling‘ as an ice breaker. I couldn’t find it anywhere. “Okay” I thought “that’s alright, I’ve run it before I can just make it up on the spot. This will teach me to speak from the heart and that’s a good thing, I need to trust in myself.”

Thursday morning was overcast and my small self was hoping for rain. I was still feeling vulnerable (in fact at 9am I was on the phone to my father in tears) and that same small self was desperately uncomfortable. My larger self was unperturbed and gently suggested that vulnerable was a good way to lead a gathering. I consoled myself with the thought that I wouldn’t be on my own, Geoff would be there too and after all it was his idea.

Thursday afternoon the weather turned glorious and my small self had some choice words for the universe. There were 15 people who said they’d come along so it was clear that it was going ahead. I resolved to be present and take it as it comes.

Then I get a text from Geoff saying that he had to go home sick. I could not believe it. He was disappointed so I couldn’t be annoyed with him. He sent me this lovely text about how it was going to be beautiful, “you made me feel better about going with whatever happens last time we spoke.” Uh, did I say that? Yep, I did. All of my deep ecology work has been in the hands of the universe, partly in my control and mostly not.  I had to assume that this was too.

So when I left work I went to Flagstaff Gardens and prepared for the gathering. Not in the usual way, by writing up a timeline and scheduling activities, but by sitting under a tree and inviting the Earth to hold me in my vulnerability. When people started to arrive I greeted them with open arms and an open heart, completely unwedded to the outcome of the evening.

As the gathering unfolded people warmed to the topic that is close to our hearts. I spontaneously spoke of Eisenstein and the story of separation versus the story of interbeing. At times I heard doubt and fear and frustration in people’s voices and idly wondered if another group is really what’s required now. By halfway through it was clear that there is a real hunger to continue connecting and sharing our sacred places with each other.

Near the end of our time together a scottish pipe band began rehearsing ten metres from where we were sitting. We all agreed that we’d be finished soon so rather than move on, we moved in close to one another to be heard over the droning of the pipes.  It was hilarious and joyful. Someone expressed gratitude for the noise in bringing us closer together.

We couldn’t agree on a name and that is quite okay, I’m sure it will emerge in its own time. I hope it reflects the joy of those final moments, huddling together, laughing as we struggled to be heard over the bag pipes.

I feel amazed and humbled and thrilled by how the evening ended up. I find myself shaking my head in wonder. I’ve been a facilitator for 15 years and I never work without a plan. I can’t fathom it, that being open and present is truly all that’s required of me. That I am somehow the right person, in the right place, at the right time, just the way I am. If that’s true for me, then it’s true for you too, welcome to the new world of interbeing.

Belonging (workshop debrief)

I’ve had the most amazing weekend. On Friday I performed at Mother Tongue, a women’s spoken word evening. On Saturday mrA had his last circus class of the year and we hung out with some new friends. Then on Sunday I ran Our Earth Our Self.

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It was a weekend of belonging, of being in community with other people, being held and holding space for meaningful conversation. Listening and being heard. The poem I performed at Mother Tongue was about the feeling of being called, of having a spiritual epiphany and then being overtaken by ‘ordinary’ life. It was also a fairly grand statement of my purpose in life. I was nervous beforehand not in fear of the audience response (it is an incredibly supportive crowd) but of making such a strong statement about myself. It paid off, the audience responded warmly and I had this incredible feeling of liberation.

It felt like that was perfect preparation for Sunday’s workshop, it left me feeling whole and strong and replete. I was able to bring that sense of myself as part of something greater to the workshop and it helped me hold the space. The workshop was small but lovely. It, too, left me feeling connected and alive. Most humbling was the fact that my parents chose to come. I never would have thought they would be interested but they were excellent contributors, whole hearted and authentic.

This time the numbers were touch and go right to the end, it was only my determination (and my parent’s decision to come) that meant it went ahead. A number of people dropped out at the last minute all for very valid reasons but I’m left wondering what more I can do. I’ve asked some questions in the evaluation about how people would describe the workshop and its benefits to see if I can improve the way I’m marketing it. Although the work that reconnects is designed to inspire and sustain action for social change, I can’t help but feel that it could have a much broader appeal. Don’t we all need safe spaces to feel our pain?

Sherbrooke Yatra

Sunday was a big day of protests against our government’s woeful response to climate change. They are actually planning to dismantle measures put in place by the previous government. The loss of the carbon price seems inevitable and yet 60,000 people across the country turned out to protest their intention to repeal it.

I showed my support by participating in a Yatra in Sherbrooke forest above Belgrave. We walked about 7km (the Grants picnic ground loop if you know the area) in silence interspersed with readings and deep ecology exercises from Joanna Macy.
Photographer by a tree

It was a lovely way to do deep ecology, dwarfed by the mountain ash forest and held by it as we walked in silent solidarity.  I was so quickly embraced by the little group although I’d only just met most of them.  I guess you don’t show up for something like that unless you have a particular spiritual bent and it’s a pretty deep place to start from.

It’s reassuring to see the diversity of people who are engaged with deep ecology.  I look forward to the day when Yatras become like 5rhythms and you can be sure there’s one happening somewhere every weekend. We’re building what we need to sustain ourselves not just in environmental activism but in life.