It’s been a long time since I last wrote a newsletter. A lot has happened of course this past year and at multiple levels. I hope you are navigating the stressful times we are going through in ways that leave you sufficiently resourced - finding hope, joy and meaning, at least some of the time.
My way of facing our collective and my individual predicaments has been to stay quite active throughout all this time of lockdown. I have continued to work with the teams and projects I was involved with despite funding drying out, as well done sustained inner work to help me with the pain (including grief work, meditation, studying, ceremony and despite my suffering, nurturing joy, community and pleasurable activities for my body like ‘biodanzing’ in the garden with friends). All of this has been a lifeline.
Unlike many others, I didn’t attempt to offer public events online. The main reason has to do with my physical limitations. The pain is persisting although I am pleased to announce that there’s a new hypothesis on its cause that may lead to healing in the next few months. Nevertheless, and for the time being, I am limited in my capacity to sit at the computer for any length of time, and this also affects my impulse to initiate events, market and facilitate them.
To counteract this, navigating the various aspects of my condition, within of course the wider context of drastic reductions of external activities, has come with an abundance of gifts. One of the most important ones has been to find the support and impetus to start writing a blog. The reason behind this newsletter is to make this known. In other words, this is a launch!
If you read my first piece (Why Write a Blog?), you’ll realise that writing is something I have been itching to do for a long time but have felt very ambiguous about.
I have now written three pieces. It took many months to get there so clearly is still happening at snail pace. However, I am confident that this trajectory will continue. I am feeling excited and grateful about it. I have a support structure in the form of a weekly writing group that encourages me to write every week and keeps the practice alive.
The second and third pieces are on the theme of “Transcending the Habit of Separateness in Times of Fragility”, obviously related to what I’ve been through health-wise and through the specific lens of the support systems that I put in place over the years. If you are curious, read here.
(picture of delight sent to my ‘quarantine whatsapp support group’ on the day my self-isolation period ended after visiting family in France in September)
If you’d like to receive my future posts, and by so doing encourage me to continue to write, please subscribe to my blog list by following the link on the right column on my website. You’re also welcome to leave a comments at the end of one of the pieces.
Lastly, I want to celebrate a few other happenings that have brought joy, meaning and social connection in my life over the past few months. First, my website has been refreshed and updated, thanks to the invaluable support of my webmaster, Anthony ODoibhailein, and my friend Ayesha Drury.
I am also celebrating my ongoing involvement with the Nonviolent Global Liberation (NGL) project and the dynamism and commitment of everyone involved. NGL is a global community, rooted in the body of work created by Miki Kashtan originally and now being expanded by many others through co-creation, experimentation and collaboration. Though all our in-person retreats were cancelled last year, we continued to actively strengthen our organisational container and work through a range of complex dilemmas. A significant and collaborative process led us to update our purpose which now reads as: “To integrate nonviolence into the fabric of human life through ongoing live experiments with truth focused on individual and collective liberation”. There are expanded notes on our webpage on the various concepts that make up this sentence...
We also launched a “Provider Apprenticeship Programme” (equivalent to a training of trainers) which is proving very successful and an exciting live experiment of all we stand for. Sadly, I only have capacity to give occasional input in my role of “NGL provider”, at least at the moment. However, it’s an absolute joy to witness the depth of commitment to personal and collective liberation that our apprentices are displaying. The programme is presently opened to “NGL Friends” and people who have been actively engaging with Miki’s work over the years. If you are curious and would love to know more about the programme, your first step is become an NGL Friend and/or get tuned into Miki’s work.
I also want to celebrate a 7-day Grief and Joy circle that I and my friend Sibongile Pradhan (based in Edinburgh) hosted between Boxing and New Year’s days. 12 people from various locations in the world (thank you Zoom) joined us for a week of daily gatherings, grief ceremonies, grief buddy ‘check-in’s and solo activities to explore the 6 “gates” of grief (inspired by the work of Francis Weller, author of “The Wild Edge of Sorrow” and of Parker Palmer, author of “A Hidden Wholeness”). We also explored how to access authentic joy as a result of this work. (left: picture of my grief altar)
The idea sprang from a conversation Sibongile and I had about her grief practice and my expressing a desire to do more grief work and finding freedom in expressing emotions as part of my healing journey. Grief and gratitude/joy have since then become daily and beloved companions. I got so much from facilitating this retreat that I intend to explore more opportunities in the future - hopefully in partnership with Sibongile.
The collaboration with the Centre for Human Ecology to deliver an introductory course on the legacy of patriarchy is another celebration. We called the course “Digging Deeper for a Better World: Understanding the Mess We are In through the Lens of Patriarchy.” We had the privilege to be able to meet face-to-face in between two lockdowns last September. It was a moving experience and the group’s investigation went as deep as I had hoped. The CHE is exploring how to continue to partner with me to deliver a longer course on this topic, as well as another one on exploring privilege, power and racism in Scotland. If any of you has ideas as to how we could access funding for this initiative, please let me know.
Finally, after years of apprenticing in the work of supporting people to embrace nonviolence and collaboration as core ways of being and working together, I feel ready to contribute more to what is happening in post-Brexit and (about to be) post-Covid Scotland. I am particularly interested in bottom-up change initiatives such as locally-driven projects, land reform, experiments in participatory governance structures and all things anchored in community. My desire is to become more visible on the map of people who have skills and a passion to make Scotland a thriving place for all.
I feel called to end with a quote from Ram Dass, a spiritual teacher whose wisdom has been a constant support since I discovered him several years ago. This is from a beautiful book he and Mirabai Bush wrote on loving and dying called “Walking Each Other Home” and which has been one of the abundant gifts I mentioned earlier. It came at a time, 3 years ago, when I started to enter this particularly challenging time. “Walking Each Other Home” helped me to slowly release my attachment to things being any different to how they were, and therefore to live with the pain with less fear and more acceptance. The work continues.
“Death often comes without warning, but we can begin to understand it by realizing that the opposite of death isn’t life, the opposite of death is birth. The beginning and the end are two sacred events, and in between it is all impermanent. Life is arising and slipping away, each moment, each breath. But within us is awareness. It’s unconditional and eternal.”
May you be well as spring and new hope are emerging from the cold of winter.
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