Notes from Windward: #69


Tool Box for Communication

Camille describes a Love-based Living Circle

     We arrange the kitchen into a circle of chairs. Karen hosts my second Love-based Living Circle and I already feel familiarity with this unconventional act. I used to participate in something called Chats at Christian youth camps of my summers. In both Chats and Love-based Living Circles a moderator asks a question which probes at our deep often hard to understand individual natures. We comfortably sit in silence until someone breaks it a bit abrasively to say what they're thinking. They convey the message that they are about to talk by taking an object from the center of the circle to hold onto like a talking stick. This lets other people know when they need uninterrupted silence to think with and request your compliance. The moderator encourages people to share and move about freely as they need.

     I think these types of conversations allow people to verbalize ideas about existence going on inside them and hence understand them better. The act of putting a feeling into words sometimes helps to illuminate its meaning to the feeling's owner and for others to gain access to understanding it.

     Fostering understanding between people is an important element of functioning communities. In New England during the mid nineteenth century the Oneidans (who lived together in group marriage and prospered financially) maintained solidarity with one another by practicing Mutual Criticism. If someone's conduct harmed the well being of others or impeded cohesive living they were subject to a meeting where people warned them against their behavior. Oneidans stated how they felt refreshed and humbled after a good session of Mutual Criticism. We can deduct that this institution provided a format for community members to voice their concerns by communicating with each other.

     Karen asked us to ponder at this gathering ways in which we have evolved. We sat quietly listening to avant-garde classical music. I closed my eyes so I am not sure what other people were doing except for the people who felt obliged to chuckle and outright belly laugh at the odd sounds we heard. I feel really calm when meditating in group settings more so than when I attempt to on my own, but that depends on the meaning of "attempt to." Sometimes walking in the woods doing every ridiculous thing that comes to one or making up songs about what's going on ("I'm the only person alive for miles…") is healing enough.

     In my experience these settings provoke a specific internal climate in my mind. I am aware of alternative schools of thought which vie for the primacy of speech and hence the opportunity to become real and true-ish. It's like a very critical perspective of my place in the world juxtaposed towards the part of me that desires to understand this side and not feel condemned by it. Part of this part is feeling in awe of all this beauty.

     Is not everyone internally conflicted? I don't know. In the Chats of my youth they seemed to be but not so in intentional community because people here CHOOSE to live in ways that logically balance emotional health by living and loving together which is a very rational way of liberating ourselves from the "pod people" tendency slowly formalizing over this century.

     The youth at Chats were distraught. We all felt such an attachment to this annual activity because of the last half hour of Chats where our friends really started to share how the struggles of the previous year burdened and weighed them down heavy in their souls. They felt hopeless and sinfull and confused, but in the act of "testifying" (in a way) they gave to their brothers and sisters in camping their experience. Their presence at camp was a testament to how they survived it some how and by describing their story and their feelings we communed in their pain in mutual healing.

     I heard the stories of my peers from different places about the death of people they loved, unwanted pregnancies in people they loved, confusing questions about existence and suffering, struggles with addiction, and heavy heavy burdens of distorted self image. Sagas accompanied by tears and cracked voices and tones of despondency.

     So my experience in the circle is: taking a quick recap of where I'm at, finding that I am in many places, putting these ideas into an order logical, and choosing which ones are relevant and comfortable to share. Sitting in Love-based Living Circles makes me busy in my mind. But if I want to be calm practice makes things easier. It builds neuropathways that you find easier and easier to think and feel, like muscle memory, in the way you want. Love Based Living circles bring people closer together so their community can function from a base of understanding and also give people a voice to foster personal relationships with themselves.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 69