How can I give myself permission to change and grow? And as I change, how do I contribute to the system surrounding me?
Who am I to the social system I struggle to accept? Am I supposed to resist it? If so, how does that influence the mosaic of my nerves, flesh, feelings, aspirations, and day-to-day actions?
These questions hovered at the edges of my mind. But I could not put them into focus.
Instead, I walked around with raw emotions, outraged by the paradoxes of the society I live in. Finding myself shocked and in deep pain when I let myself be pulled into their magnetic field. I thought that awareness would be the answer, but the more I trained myself to see the absurd layers of our society, the more I felt sore, powerless, confused.
I did ask: How do I stay open when my instinct is to shut down?
In 2017, I found a crack into myself. It happened casually, serendipitously, with a group of magical creatures, in a process that is co-created, luminous, fluid, and lush.
This blog is about this process. It is an invitation to peek into it, to see what there might be there for you, if anything at all.
This photo was taken in November. At dawn a group of us docked on Stromboli, a volcanic island tucked away off the north-west coast of Sicily. A place where wind, fire, earth, and water coexist, as I guess they always do, but more in your face.
Landing to this island felt like arriving home. A home with a big sign on the door that says:
“Dear mind, this is not your kingdom, chill out.”
Our gathering in Stromboli was phase-two of an experience we started in June 2017. For a week, six of us locked ourselves up in a cooperative home in Brighton. The intention was to train each other on participatory research methods.
Over the course of the week we… well, we danced, laid on cold grass, cooked, shared stories, sang, and had unhealthy amounts of cookies and tea.
Thinking about it months later I have the impression we shook and rubbed ourselves and instead of a genie, out of our magical lamp came this question:
How do we find our path in a changing system while continually discovering ourselves?
Once the question had surfaced, it guided our way forward. We defined a path to answer it. The plan was: Each month one of us will come up with a series of activities to help us answer a piece of this question – so we can explore it for ourselves.
Sometimes I fantasize about the discovery of chocolate. You’ve got a strange looking green/yellowish pod, you crack it, and you find slimy white seeds. How did they go from that to chocolate? Someone figured out these beans had to ferment, sun-dry, roast, be freed from their outer shell… The ‘chocolate’ is inside. And yet the deliciousness still needs more grinding, refining, and probably some sugar.
This is how our process felt to me. Every month, from June to October 2017, one of us came up with a series of activities for the others to do. We designed exercises to go deep inside, and we paired up with buddies to debrief. At last, we set another date, in Stromboli, where Fia’s family lives.
We took each other on a ride, sharing the workload of designing all the steps. It was a personal, intimate deal – we were the chocolate beans that needed to crack!
My friend Elana recently wrote about the work of the Italian photographer Tina Medotti and this sentence stuck with me:
“It is not a question only of what we do; it is a question of how acutely and fully we can feel in the doing”.
It captures the knowledge I am being caressed with. Over and Over.
Our question might or might not resonate with you. That is not important.
The magic was in how we approached.
We did so sensuously. Fia, one of the chocolate beans, wrote in her notes:
“At moments, we experienced some sort of awakening in witnessing the force of nature with all its elements and explored our deep and holy connection to it. We watched the sun transform into a red balloon diving into the sea. We swam in the cold waters after sunrise when the sea becomes one with the sky – it’s as if you are swimming suspended between earth and sky. We walked on the volcano and looked at the incredible explosions of fiery rocks, awe-inspired under a blanket of stars and we ran from the thunder.”
In Stromboli, we had no agenda. Just an intention to share and discover ourselves. Speaking from the heart and hearing from our bodies. From this place, we met with each other. The mind was invited only to disentangle all of the realities we have unconsciously and consciously constructed.
I am writing this blog entry because we left Stromboli excited. It’s still hard to say exactly how, but we discovered that by cracking and mixing and working with ourselves we are coming up with the know-how to make our own blend of chocolate.
Let me be clear though – We don’t know where we are going with this. Instead, we are sitting on it, writing on it – letting the fruits of our harvest ferment.
We are plotting a monthly blog series, from January to June 2018. We’ll introduce the process then share the activities we have designed. You can join our exploration, at your own rhythm, and, if you wish to, you can do so in conversation with us.
If you are intrigued by our experimenting, leave a comment below: how does this messy experience of ours resonate with you?