Tuesday, 21 September 2010

...Creating Action

Yesterday's workshop, 'Creating Action' - the second of two, for the exploration of personal responses to climate change - gave a dozen of us the chance to journey together through themes of hope, interconnectedness and empowerment.

Our point of departure was a simple, yet profound, exercise. We all stood in the empty room and chose, without indicating who, two other people with whom we would seek to maintain an equal distance between, in the configuration of an even-sided triangle. Those two people also each chose two others - any two people - to keep equidistant within their own 'triangle'.

The only rule to this exercise was that we would all try, as best we could, to maintain even distances between us and our partners, even as everybody else tried to do the same with their own chosen partners. In this way, the entire group formed a constantly shifting, self-regulating 'organism', which naturally moved about the room, fast and slow, never quite reaching stasis.

This game provoked many immediate responses; sometimes laughter, often surprise, occasionally frustration and always a feeling of change. With our focus directed outward into the spaces between our bodies, we relinquished our identity as separate beings and found that we were truly moving as one. Like geese flying in formation, we only needed to remain aware of the geese at our beak and at our tail to know we were in our 'true' place: here and now.

After this, we moved into an exercise that gave voice to our future grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They'd come to meet with us, from the future, to ask how we had found the courage to save our planet at this time of crisis. These humans - free, thanks to our efforts today, from the suffering born from a planet in crisis - gave heartfelt thanks and gratitude for the efforts we'd made in our lifetimes; efforts that secured their future.

Finally, we followed a 7-stage process, starting with the question, 'If you knew you could not fail, what would you be doing for the healing of our world?' The 7th and final question brought us right into the present: 'What can you do in the next 24 hours, no matter how small the step, that will move toward this goal?' Within 30 minutes, we'd all created visions for a future to be possible: all that was required was our 'next step'.

'The peace testimony involves thinking and uttering the unthinkable, in the conviction that this may lead to a fundamental shift in attitudes. What is idealistic in one generation becomes a cherished right or precept in the next.' (The Quaker Testimonies)

These two workshops have hopefully served as kindling for sparks of affirmative, compassionate - collective - action. Sheffield Living Witness Project remains a newly opened door through
which we're all invited to 'take next steps', to 'find our true place' and to 'hear the call' of future people in this time, now.

Watch this and other Quaker spaces for details of our next meeting...


Nadine Wills said...

Thank you for taking the time to post this. Sounds like extremely creative and experiential ways of helping people to think through how they would like to take action. We've been struggling to think of ways to do this in the Exploring Feminine Spirituality Group (sharing experience and group interaction that is not only based on discussion or creative listening). Can I be a bit of a nerd and ask how you planned/came up with these activities? Would like to hear more.

Steven Loader said...

Hi Nadine - I'm glad to be useful!

Most of the exercises from the two workshops were taken from the book, 'Coming Back To Life: Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World', by Deep-Ecologist, Joanna Macy & her colleague, Molly Young Brown.

The blurb on the back cover says, this book is 'An inspiring and practical guide ... welcomed throughout the world by all those concerned with peace, spirit, eco-activism and education.' Which hints at its potential application in many contexts.

I'd be really happy to speak to you about other possible resources that might be useful to you and the Exploring Feminine Spirituality Group.

Other exercises I led in the workshops came from my background in physical theatre. One (F)friend reflected: 'It was wonderful to do something at Meeting that
really connected us with our bodies and feelings. We can be so much in our
heads at Quakers.'

Gordon Ferguson said...

To provide a spefically Quaker framework to any exercises, I can heartily recommend 'Experiment With Light' by Rex Ambler.
The Experiment With Light framework is quite general, so I think it can easily be applied to specific issues, whether ecological or exploring feminine spirituality or whatever. The process is very action orientated, but the method means that the actions come from our hearts, and not out of a sense of duty and/or an attempt to assuage guilt. Which means that they are much more likley to succeed.
An aspect of it that I particularly like is that there are three stages to the meditation process, focusing first on the individual then on the group (community) and then on the world (political). This means that we can focus our actions much more appropriately and in context.

Maurice Bartley said...

I thoroughly enjoyed the 2 evenings spent with Steve - sincere thanks to Steve and all who participated.

I share Gordon's point of view and recommend the 'Experiment with Light' to all who want to deepen their Quaker practice. Why not join our Meditation Group in the Library on Thursday 30th September!