Mobilising for COP and beyond, and ultimately towards Vision
I haven’t yet had much capacity or opportunity to re-engage publicly since the pandemic started but life has felt like a continual flow of new encounters, deep learning, and increased strength, inner clarity and appetite for vision. Supporting a number of teams to work more collaboratively has continued. Our work within the NGL project, and particularly the Apprenticeship programme, is flourishing. This summer, I have joined community effort in Govan to restore the wonderful rose garden in Elder Park. Thankfully, my Biodanza group is now back in person. We have found a wonderful outdoor venue in Pollok Park and danced continually there since June. On the health front, a major big step (i.e. surgery) happened in April. It took a few months to recover and pain symptoms subsist but I have hope for the trajectory ahead. Lastly, discernment of what’s mine to do in the world continues in its own quiet way...
A big celebration is to have written and published two blog pieces on my commitment to the path of liberation. It feels particularly
significant to have made public what drives my life purpose so that I can now follow this path with more courage and visibility. My public offerings will hopefully increasingly reflect this.
It’s therefore with delight that I am writing today to let you know about forthcoming workshops and ideas for future offerings. Please read on and forward to anyone who may be interested.
Personal Discernment for Climate and Other Action after COP26
Three workshops with Alastair McIntosh during COP26 followed by monthly gatherings hosted by myself
I and my husband Alastair McIntosh live a mile away from where the world leaders and their delegations will gather for COP26 at the end of next week. It feels like being right at the epicentre of power - at least geographically if not in terms of real influence...
As part of our contribution to the citizens’ mobilisation, Alastair and I will be offering 3 workshops (including one in French) on the topic of “How to Hold a Meeting for Clearness: Personal Spiritual Discernment for Climate Action after COP 26”. Find details and links to register here.
Those practices are only impactful if practiced regularly and co-held in a group. Therefore, following the workshops, and if there is sufficient interest, I will host a monthly space for ongoing practice to nurture stillness in community and deep listening for what’s ours to do in the world. In this space, I will also offer coaching on how to set up a practice group or ‘sangha’ (for those who are familiar with this Buddhist term) based on my experience of creating and co-facilitating such a group since early 2018 with friends.
Our group’s inspiration and guide is a book called “A Hidden Wholeness - A Journey Toward the Undivided Life” by author and activist Parker Palmer whose work I cherish deeply and who adapted Quaker principles and practices to work with a wide range of audiences. As a group, we have also built a container that allows us to function well, with agreements on how to co-hold our practice meetings, make decisions collaboratively, invite new members and say goodbye to those who are leaving, engage with conflict and navigate other challenges familiar to anyone involved in groups with distributed leadership.
I’d like to gauge what level of interest there may be for such a space. Even if you can’t or feel attracted to attend my and Alastair’s events during COP, you’d be welcome to try out this monthly space. Please fill in this short (no more than 1mn) Google formto register your interest.
Please note: one doesn’t need to be a Quaker, experienced Quaker spirituality or have any religious affiliation to participate in the November events or the monthly gatherings. The COP events are offered under Quaker hospices; the monthly gatherings probably won’t. Of course, each participant will be free to bring their own spiritual anchor points.
Nonviolent Communication as a path of Liberation
A series of online and in-person offerings in 2022
As mentioned above, my last 2 blog posts focused on my commitment to liberation. Aside from exploring how my personal life took me there, I try to define what I mean by liberation and what it is we need to liberate ourselves from. I invite you to read themto understand more fully the context of this new offering.
In a nutshell, my definition of liberation entails a life long learning journey to realise and mourn how much our individual and collective socialisation is responsible for the mess we are in (i.e. the paradigm of violence, control and command is embedded in us and sustains our own actions for as long as we stay unaware to this cycle), and join others to actively experiment with individual and collective pathways towards liberation.
Nonviolent Communication (NVC) can a powerful practice of liberation but is often only taught as a tool to improve personal and interpersonal relationships. In partnership with my NGL colleagues, I am stepping in to host spaces to learn and practice NVC, through a systemic lens, and transform our deep inner grooves of scarcity thinking, separation and powerlessness into new habits of choice, togetherness and trust.
The series of classes and workshops will happen online and in person or through blended meetings based in Glasgow. This will allow a global community of NVC learners to join if they wish, as well as an opportunity to grow a Scottish community of practice.
I will need a few months to create these offerings but have spring 2022 in mind as a realistic timeline. I will announce them as soon as possible through this newsletter but if you’d like to register a special interest, or would like friends to know about them, please fill in this short Google form(1min).
Regular online coaching calls and intensive trainings
Convergent Facilitation (CF) is a process that makes it possible for communities, organisations, and even former enemies to reach collaborative decisions that everyone can wholeheartedly embrace. I am part of the international community of CF facilitators who offer weekly online coaching calls, practice groups and occasional intensive training workshops.
If you are curious about this powerful tool for collaborative decision making, I am inviting you to visit our websiteand explore how to join our global community of practice. My next coaching callis on November 20th. The next 2 day introductoryworkshop facilitated by colleagues Roni Wiener and Magda Barańska will be on Nov 13-14th. I highly recommend it if you’d like to learn the basics of CF.
A radio interview and a call for support
I am still not used nor very practiced at being visible in the public eye. I took part in a panel on titled “Post-pandemic: nurturing the green shoots for new ways of being” at the mini-Solas festival last August in Perthshire. I loved it and really found my voice there. I am also occasionally invited on the “Sunday Morning With” programme on BBC Radio Scotland. This 15 min interviewalongside Dr Mona Siddique last March is a good one (with host Connie MacLaughlin). The topic was “struggle and suffering”.
Finally, I am trying to pull together a team of people to support with various tasks such as blog editing, finding images for blog posts and newsletters, events administration and tech support for online and blended events. If you feel inspired by my vision and writings, are interested in or are on the path of liberation and would like to participate in taking this work into the world, please email me.
Finding meaning, joy and healing in lockdown
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.