This past Sunday, April 17th, I had the pleasure of guest-facilitating the Conversation Café since Candace and Ben are away on their Heart Warrior Project adventure in Colorado Springs. With three successful Community Conversations already shared by O.N.E.space at the Pony Espresso, I was excited to see what this afternoon would hold. Our theme for the Conversation was the question, “Who is in your driver’s seat?”
Honestly, as this was my first time facilitating a Conversation Café (I usually facilitate interactive creative arts workshops), I was a little bit nervous. I had only attended one Café so far, had the written format outlined in front of me, and I wanted to fill the very capable and creative shoes of Candace and Ben well. Who was in my own driver’s seat? It was a great question for me, being invited to step into this role last minute. I had just read a passage this week in Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book “Big Magic” about being aware of fear showing up on our life roadtrip - acknowledging it openly, yet telling it to stay in the backseat, keep its hands off the radio, and in no circumstance would it be allowed to drive. This was so perfect for me to carry inside myself as I arrived, choosing to let my heart, my curiosity and willingness to share my gifts drive my car and trust that my facilitation offering would be well received. And I needn’t have worried. As each person entered the room and connected with me, I saw the light in their eyes, felt the love in their presence, and knew that I was in the right place.
In order to get out of our heads, drop our social masks and arrive in the moment more embodied, we followed a short introduction with a non-verbal theatre game. The group was willing, curious, and quickly connected playfully. I was excited that the aspect of play was so appreciated and embraced.
We then centered in with a brief silent meditation to focus internally on the question, and see what wanted to arise in that moment for each of us. In the first round of 2-minutes each, people shared readily and openly ideas about who (or what) was in their driver’s seat, while the rest of the group listened to each person attentively. Many layers were revealed in this first sharing, including looking at head versus heart in the driver’s seat, trusting the external road and community to show which path needs to be taken, balancing the individual driving force with the need to listen and be aware of what is needed for balance, surrendering the driver’s seat to Spirit to lead the way, what it looks like when one is literally in their driver’s seat and living out of their car, how to balance the desire of being in one’s own driver’s seat with the needs of those that we care for who may be in our car and/or also driving, and how our deepest values need to drive our cars and lives.
It was so clear, sitting in this format, how valuable it is to be fully witnessed and heard. There was a feeling of trust and openness already, after this first round of sharing. We then dropped in for another brief silent meditation, to allow all that had been said to sit within us and inform what wanted to emerge next.
In the second round, we each shared again for 2 minutes. Themes from the first sharing were interwoven and deepened upon. We spoke more of the need for deep connection and healing, both on a personal and community level, being a driving force for people - how Ashland is a community with so much healing and connection possible and even layered into the history of the area and its land, and yet how so many are still thirsting for it. We spoke more of what surrender and commitment to ideals allows for in our life journeys, including a life that inspires us, unexpected directions that turn out to be exactly what are needed, and even miracles. We spoke of love, and the need to find and follow personal meaning, and how important it is for people to know that they matter in the world. It was so apparent that all present were speaking and connecting from their hearts. I was deeply moved, again and again.
After this second round, we stood up for another playful exercise. The group, by this time, was already feeling very connected, and the movement and play illustrated that well. It was also refreshing to take a break from being verbal for a few moments – to stretch, breathe, laugh, feel into our skins and let all that had come so far move through us.
The second hour of the Café was a time of inspired, interactive conversation. We looked deeply at the need for connection and healing, and how when those needs are met, numbing and negative coping tendencies (such as addictions) are not needed. A theme emerged of the deep thirst that we all feel inside for that spring of Source, of connection, and how we are all healers for each other when we step into that flow and show up heartfully in relationship. From this, we also looked at the struggles of those who feel disconnected and disenfranchised in Ashland, especially the unhoused and “traveler” population.
As questions and ideas were shared about the practical and emotional needs of the homeless in Ashland, I had a deep sense of this group being brought together in exactly the right timing. A few of the group members who were present are part of the Ashland Culture of Peace Commission, whose primary goals include addressing the needs of Ashland’s unhoused folks. Also in the group was a woman who is a helper and an elder among the local homeless, who has made it her mission to spread love and encouragement to all those on the streets, and find out what they need to survive, and thrive. This was an incredibly potent and fortuitous combination, as connections were made and questions explored. We talked of finding solutions that respond to both the housed and unhoused, and aren’t simply bandaid fixes or punative citations that do not truly speak to the humanity and deep needs of folks living on the street. I felt honored and encouraged to witness the building of connections, ideas, and concrete future possibilities for collaboration that arose in this conversation.
At the end of this very heartfelt, connected and inspiring Conversation Café, I left feeling filled with hope and nourished by the deep sense of connection. We had, as a group, tapped into that deep spring that we all thirst for, and I am grateful to have been a part of that journey.
in peace, passion and playfulness,
Next Conversation Cafe: Sunday, May 1, 4-6pm
Guest Host: Carol Hwoschinsky
See you soon!
Dear human race,
We have arrived in Colorado Springs. I have seen more desperately homeless people in these few hours than I have seen since I lived in San Francisco. It is colder here than in San Francisco though. It has been snowing.
The Rockies are beautiful in the distance, the streets are wide because they used to be the routes of a thriving public trolley system. Now there is nothing but cars, trucks and very wide crosswalks. Somehow it still feels like a sleepy old town to me. The downtown area has some quaint old architecture, lots of brick and some art deco and splashes of color with a modern public building here and there - ie. the public library and the Pioneers Museum...
The mountains are calling me, but I am here to connect with the humans, not the hills.
We have a radio interview tomorrow, 4/19/16 at noon.
We are gearing up to do everything we can now that we are here to draw people into our workshops - into the conversation. We are aware of how challenging it can be to do something new, something outside of your comfort zone, something with new people, particularly when it involves talking about something real, something deep.
We know how challenging it can be as a working civilian with a family to care for, or even without, to step out of our busy workaday life to do something that requires us be fully present and to bring our hearts with us, something that asks us to feel, to be affected and possibly be a part of making a change...and, we know how hard it can be, as a veteran dealing with the challenges of integrating into civilian life, just to get out of the house.
So, we already feel honored, blessed and in deep gratitude for any souls who decide to venture out of their normal routine and into our sphere. We dedicate to holding a safe, loving, honest, compassionate, listening and playful environment, where all stages of grief & growth will be honored, as, together, we envision & creatively communicate the life our hearts know is possible.
Tune in to our radio interview tomorrow at noon on the Justice and Peace hour! A broadcast of the community radio station www.kcmj.org by the local Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission.
We are seriously honored to share air time with a local non-profit who is in such deep service, the Springs Rescue Mission, who will also be interviewed on the show.
Earlier today we spoke with a man who used to work with Springs Rescue Mission and who now runs a local community cafe (a non-profit) that does not have prices on its menu and offers a one hour work trade option to people who cannot pay anything.
I then went to the Springs Rescue Mission website to get a sense of who we would be sharing air time with. I watched their video and was moved to tears as I felt my understanding of what it takes to "be in service" deepen.
Check out this video about their work.
I am blessed to be learning in this way. Thank you to all who are in support of this Journey to the Heart Warrior in each of us.
with love, in peace, passion and solidarity,
The second Conversation Café was held March 13th.
“What is Action?” This question presented itself as the focus for the evening’s conversation café. It wasn't so much that the question was asked verbatim, but rather, it was explored through the juxtaposition between, the feeling that not enough is being done and simultaneously that this act of coming together for open compassionate dialogue is a necessary practice, and therefore, is an action in and of itself.
Sitting down with a group of 14 people on a rainy Sunday, a gong rang out to settle us into the evening’s prompt: “How did we get here?”
Each of us was given two minutes to share our name and what moved us to come and participate in this community conversation.
As we went around the room, an appreciation for the space to both listen and share openly was expressed. There is something freeing, something soothing, in honesty, in being listened to, and in truly listening to another, especially someone you don’t know. Shares spanned the range from, full body movement accompanied by words, to moments of silence. What became clear was that a safe space for expressing one’s full spectrum truths and being present with other’s truths is needed, appreciated, and healing.
The conversation shifted to a discussion about the need and want for action. ‘Action’ was never defined, but it was articulated multiple times as being necessary. As the discussion of ‘action’ went around, it was proposed that slowing down to have heart to heart conversation, although by common standards it is not considered as such, is an action - and an important one. This slowing down was identified as a tool for staying present so to not repeat old patterns and thereby, not create the same outcomes. It was described as a way of inviting the new paradigm, a paradigm explored from and guided by the heart.
Near the closing of our discussion a valuable discomfort was brought forth to the group. It was based in a frustration with what was not being said and how, as a whole, we were not talking about specifics.
The comments that brought this discomfort forth had to do with race and white privilege, and how Ashland functions as a utopian bubble. One person asked, “Why does a utopian bubble need to put energy into creating a culture of peace?” and from another, “I am a man of white privilege, I am still benefiting from the slavery employed by my ancestors...and, there are black men still being killed in our society just for being black...”
We host the Conversation Cafe as a reminder that every moment is a call to honesty and bravery, to speak one’s heart, and feel one’s feelings. The power lies in calling in what is not being talked about, being conscious and heartfelt enough to approach discomfort and deep seated emotion so as to empower ourselves and others to transcend our cultural and personal bonds.
There is a beauty in sitting in silence, in listening to others without the need or opportunity to interrupt or promote one’s own agenda. Choosing to give time to heart to heart conversations is taking action, an action that, I believe, is changing our world.
Peace, Love, and Solidarity
*The next Conversation Cafe is this afternoon, April 4 from 4-6pm at Pony Expresso on Main St. We start promptly at 4pm so please show a bit early if you plan to purchase tea, coffee or snacks.
In support of the Heart Warrior Project's current campaign, the theme/prompt for this conversation will be:
The Heart of the Matter...
Hope to see you soon!
O.N.E.space Community Conversations!
Over the past few years, around the dinner and breakfast table with my closer circles of friend-family and community colleagues, I have been hosting heart to heart conversations about community.
This past Sunday, in support of the Ashland Culture of Peace Commission we started a 'twice monthly' community gathering to open the conversations up to wider circles of our fellow community members, with hopes of getting a group of people in the room who might not otherwise be in conversation together in this heart-to-heart kind of way.
We call this gathering Conversation Cafe, and declare it as an invitation: inviting heart to heart conversations about deep, emotionally charged issues in community.
Our Conversation Cafe is based on the model offered at, www.conversationcafe.org and also invites what we call Creative Communication, the full body experiencing and expressing of one's truths with the intention of sharing ALL aspects of our experience, not just those that we think are most appropriate, and not just with words, but with silence, movement, sounds, song, stillness.... This approach and term - Creative Communication - comes from the Self-Exploration Witnessing process.
All O.N.E.space Community Conversations are an invitation to share and hear what is present on the hearts and minds of the collective, to listen and learn about who our fellow community members are and what is happening with us as a collective, to come together around the challenging parts and to celebrate our capacity to do so.
Our first Conversation Cafe happened this past Sunday February 28 from 4:30 - 6pm at the Pony Expresso on Main St. We had a lovely intimate turn-out with some very welcome diversity in the areas of age, gender and socio-economic status.
The theme for the evening was a quote from Cornel West, "...justice is what love looks like in public."
We began the conversation by taking 5 minutes to silently meditate on our personal imaginings of what a culture of peace would feel like and then moved into the theme.
The conversation ranged from, the fact of rising rents and real estate costs in Ashland and what message that delivers as to the kind of city this is and who is welcome to live here; to, the deplorable elements of our society and the possibilities of how to change them that the Michael Moore movie "Where to Invade Next" brings to light.
We spoke of how we can live 'justice' each moment in our life, standing up for each other and not allowing injustices to go on in our presence.
We spoke of 'play' as a tool for change and how little playtime that American adults have the time to partake in.
We spoke of the use of comedy as a platform/tool for opening people to feel and consider the injustices that are going on and to spur important dialogue around them, and we spoke of how, on the other hand, comedy can be used as a way of appeasing, avoiding, making light of and desensitizing us to very important issues in our lives.
We spoke of homelessness and of travelers passing through Ashland and of people with jobs who are sleeping in their cars because they cannot afford the cost of living, but want to be in a safe welcoming, open-minded, loving community environment.
We spoke of personal things which were beautiful gifts, some challenging to receive, and which are to remain confidential, held compassionately in the heart-minds of all those who attended.
It was a sweet evening, a beautiful, auspicious beginning.
If you are interested, please come to the next one: Sunday March 12,
at Pony Expresso on Main St. in Ashland
and Join the Conversation!
in peace, passion and solidarity,
*weaving the Heart Warrior Compassion-Net one heart to heart conversation at a time!
This is a post I made on Facebook back in 2014 as I was preparing to launch deeper into the Heart Warrior Project...all of the bits mentioned, Pema, Ron, the quote, all of it remain guides for me on this journey and I wanted to make sure I share them here on the "Journey to the Heart Warrior" blog:
January 28, 2014, 12:45am
I am reading Pema Chodron again. Thanks to Ronald Ben, a friend and Vietnam Veteran who took my Storytelling and Performance Expression class at the VA Rehab Center in White City, Oregon. I introduced Ron to Pema's writing. I was inspired to quote her from her book, When Things Fall Apart. I have used this quote in every class I've led and I feel that I could continue to use it for a long long while:
"Everyday when things get edgy, we are presented with the opportunity to ask ourselves the question; am I going to practice peace? or am I going to war?"
Ron decided to seek out Pema's books for himself, and just gifted me her book, Taking the Leap- Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears. Ron has been consistent encouragement for me on my journey into the Heart Warrior Project, into the Heart Warrior (in myself and each of us). He has called me an emotional advocate for vets. That is what I desire to be, an invitation to reveal and heal the injured parts, the soft and tender parts, to connect us all to the Heart of the Matter, to fortify the circle, that NO ONE feels outside of it!... And so, I am continuing to deepen myself, fortify myself and go forward on this journey with the Heart Warrior Project, with life...and now, I am reading Pema again - thank you Ron for your bravery in opening your heart, healing your heart and thereby contributing to the healing of your family's heart and community's heart and society's heart and world's heart and ultimately, Mama Earth's heart. I believe in the chain reaction of this healing!
And now I am reading Pema again. And this strengthens me in my personal Peace practice - in my "lived practice of non-violence":
Taking the Leap-
Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears, Page 2:
There was a story that was widely circulated the days after the attacks of September 11, 2001, that illustrates our dilemma. A Native American grandfather was speaking to his grandson about violence and cruelty in the world and how it comes about. He said it was a if two wolves were fighting in his heart. One wolf was vengeful and angry, and the other wolf was understanding and kind. The young man asked his grandfather which wolf would win the fight in his heart. And the grandfather answered, "The one that wins will be the one I choose to feed."
Here's a glimpse into the visit/interview I had yesterday with a young veteran who is using/receiving warm water therapy/watsu to assist himself in his healing journey. Kudos to him! And to the practitioner who offers 8 initial free sessions to military veterans! Aubrey Kelly, with the www.waveacademy.org ... these two are definitely - consciously - on the Heart Warrior journey, through and through. I appreciate them welcoming the Heart Warrior Project into their flow (see video of their water session below!)...There are so many ways to facilitate our own healing - for we are always our own ultimate healer/guide: In this warm water therapy/watsu/water dance, you can just let yourself be - release the tension and constant "alertness", and give your adrenal glands a break! Check out the Wave Academy, eh? ;) Healing ourselves is key to healing our relationships, our families, our communities, our society, our world. One step at a time. Always bringing the finger back to the self. Being the change we want to see in this world...with patience, compassion and acceptance -LOVE in action! You, me, we deserve it. Let's do it! #HWP #HeartWarriorProject #HeartWarrior #ONEspace #Warrior #Healing #Journey #LOVE #WeThePeople
Be a Heart Warrior. A warrior for the HEART OF THE MATTER
It's when I realized....
Human Being, Living Creature, Heart Warrior, M.E.-Mother Earth- M.E.
(it is believed in some cultures that to say "I am..." is a violent form of communication)
I am a...
(inherently in declaring that you are one thing, you exclude the possibility of others, you separate yourself from others and from other parts of yourself.)
I am a heart warrior.
(I am, anything, everything and nothing. I am dedicated. I do. I will. I accept. Life proposed and I said, finally after sifting through much fear, 'Yes.')
My mother passed this duty on to me.
("Don't categorize. Be careful about generalizations. When you use them too easily you begin to go blind. You are, only what you do. What will you do?")
She re-lit a torch and I am to carry it brighter, stronger, so that not only does it light the way of the present and the future, but of the past as well.
("Do what you feel must be done. Do not run from your tears. Let them flow and the thoughts and feelings they uncover, inform you.")
The torch, you see, was nearly extinguished five generations back. Nearly, I say, because it remained, smoldering deep beneath the surface of my great and great and great grandmothers' hearts. And somehow, in my mother's time, it was given enough oxygen to take the form of flame again. And now, through me it grows more fiercely. And I've humbly requested permission from my mother to grow it. To declare it. That the fire of the Heart Warrior will be kept alive. And she, silently with a great surge of power pulsing from her heart and a beautiful pool of water gently swirling in her eyes, declared, "yes. absolutely. though I'm not certain how and you must find the way yourself. finally and thank you."
My mother is my heart. When I grow my love for her, I grow my love for myself and that love grows such deep roots that it connects me to the heart of The Mother. Earth Mother. And I am compelled to protect her. To live by her.
I am a heart warrior because I do what I must to keep my heart connected to Hers. I am a heart warrior because I will not sever my connection to what I feel deep down, and I will not sever my connection to what we are all feeling deep down, because I know that what we each feel deep down, She feels most deeply. And it is my job to respect Her feelings, to allow them to flow - to allow the rivers to flow. To dissolve the dams and free the rivers so that they may all flow
into the sea
ALL of it is M.E. - Mother Earth - It's about more than just me.
And so... I dedicate...
I am on a journey to the Heart Warrior - my own and yours.
As a living creature, heart warrior, child of Grandmother Earth and Grandfather Sky, human being, performance artist, friend, lover, teacher, student, and soon to be documentary filmmaker, I challenge myself to journey into the heart of the matter, to ask questions directly of the heart, to explore my story, our story - I wonder why we still choose war - and then Howard Zinn's statement, "You can't be neutral on a moving train." comes to mind, and I wonder why we don't take good care of the men and women and their families - members of our village -who fight those wars for us. I request that I, that WE, the people, grow stronger - realize, in practice, that we all are not so different, turn and face those returning from war, embrace them -as they are ourselves- and offer them some respite, a retreat, a safe place and an invitation to lighten their load. I wonder what it will take for our heart warrior selves, for your heart warrior self, for my heart warrior self, to lead the way. And how we, the people, you and me, will create a village that is stronger than war.
I have some ideas.
I'd like to hear yours.
What is the story you want to tell about LOVE? about LIFE?
about WAR? about PEACE? about VILLAGE?
Do you feel your Heart Warrior Self?
Please, feel it, dedicate to it, write or sing or draw or dance it and share it - live it, and together, WE The people, will grow and fortify the village.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO KNOW MORE ABOUT SUPPORTING THE HEART WARRIOR PROJECT, contact us.
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