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!