By Brenda Crawford, Facilitator and Council Member
On my way to the Community Building Workshop in Chicago, I was reminded of many wonderful childhood memories and adventures that only required me to believe, to be myself; and to trust that I would be enough. In the past, when I facilitated, I often had anxiety beforehand; but this time I had a strong sense of calm, openness and faith. I'd met the co-facilitators Joe DeMars and Kathy Flipiak previously, and was excited to join together with them to do this work. I was relaxed and expected that together, we would be able to build community with each other, be adequate guides; and hold safe a space for the group to do its work.
In short order, we three began to prepare and ready ourselves by building community with each other. We shared our intentions, fears and gratitude for the experience. We emptied ourselves of blocks to being fully involved. Trust came easily as we took care of the logistics of preparing the room. We hung out together, getting more acquainted, laughing, and even shedding a few tears. Lastly we assigned responsibilities for beginning the workshop. This was our process to build community with each other
Each of us participated in the welcome and introduction of the session. I was asked to read "The Rabbi's Gift" As I read the names, I found myself identifying with each of the old monks -- the reliable one, the crotchety one, the “nobody”, and the Abbot. I had a deep sense of relating personally to each one of them; and for an instant, I did wonder if I could be enough in this experience.
On day one, Kathy, Joe and I sat through periods of pseudo community and silence and struggled not to be pulled into doing the group’s work. On day two, the pseudo community was challenged; when someone in the group criticized the merits of the experience. They labeled the activity superficial. This comment incited prolonged chaos, and anger among some participants. After a while of fixing and healing; silence broke through, and brought with it self-reflection and group reflections. Emptiness ensued as individuals dared to go deeper and allowed themselves to be included, as well, to include others.
Then a very subtle awareness happened to me. I noticed that it was no longer just Joe, Kathy and me holding the safe space – there were others in the group doing the same; and the numbers increased as silence and emptiness allowed, in a spirit of calm, forgiveness and acceptance that wasn’t there before. I was encouraged and reminded as I looked at the faces in the circle, of what it means to “hang in there”, and I discovered again what it means “to stay in the tension”, and “to tolerate the ambiguity”. The softer eyes and ears permitted participants to open their minds and hearts and put down their armor. As I recall, there was no discussion about reaching Community. Instead there seemed to be merely a quiet deference to the moment, and a palpable shared compassion and care between these individuals – for each other; and each for themselves. Without naming it, we seemed to know what we’d done together and that collectively each of us had forged and created this sweetness.
It's been weeks since the workshop ended and the experience still lingers within me. Back in Wyoming I try to remember to hold on to my deep desire and intention to believe, to be myself and to trust that this indeed is enough, and I am enough; and to never forget that the miracle of Community is still possible.
3 March 2014.