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!