Connecting local responses around the world
Uganda GLF, October 2017.
As part of the “market place”, Belcompetence has chosen to showcase a few tools different facilitators have been experimenting with and which may be relevant to strengthen our practice of SALT/CLCP. One such tool is called the “mandala of our truths”, and it is part of something called “deep ecology”, and specifically Joanna Macy’s the “work that reconnects”.
This is how this particular session was opened: “Who has ever experienced working in a community where at some point, you could sense a tension, something that could, if not attended to, generate a conflict?”
Sitting in a circle we all raise our hand.
“We decided to propose this tool, as it can be an interesting for you to explore such situations of tension”.
In the circle symbolically represented by a few scarves knotted together, we find four symbolic spaces represented by the following elements: leaves, a stone, a piece of wood and an empty bowl. What do these elements represent in the Mandala?
The stone stands for fear;
The piece of wood stands for anger;
The leaves stand for sadness;
The bowl stands for lack/emptiness.
The mandala of our truths is a receptacle of all the tensions and pains we may be experiencing. It is an invitation to feel them fully, share/express them in the group, and finally let go of them by finding the hidden “antidote” of each, the unfulfilled need which once expressed can be acted upon.
Each element represented in the circle is there to help the participant to feel/express the pain he/she is experiencing.
Each participant holds the space and can at any moment come into the circle.
Having chosen to step into the circle means the person wishes to feel and express something, and yet there is no obligation to voice this feeling through talking, as the person may very well decide to just sit in silence, feeling whatever emotion pops up for them, and offering that to the group.
Each person, when they feel called, enters the space, picks up one of the elements and either expresses why they have picked it up, or stays silent in their experience. Once that person has finished, everybody connects to the person and the circle (by physically reaching down to touch the knotted scarves or whatever else is used to symbolically represent the circle) and says “We have heard you”.
Once participants have experienced/expressed what they needed to (one participant may feel the need to go into the circle several times, so this may actually take up to an hour), the facilitator thanks the group. Then, he/she goes over each element again, and sparks a conversation on the “antidotes” of each, the “hidden facet” of each strong emotion, which reveals an unfulfilled need that we can act on.
Here is what came out of this specific situation: if I feel fear then I am also capable of courage, if I feel emptiness I long for abundance and fulfillment, if I feel sadness it is because I am capable of love, my anger springs from passion for justice. Recognizing the painful truths that we carry inside our hearts and honoring them can help us reconnect with these antidotes, fuel our action in the world. It is therefore useful, at the end of such a session, to discuss how these needs, once identified, can turn into practices and actions that will help individuals and the group grow through the tension and into a more harmonious feeling.
Chiang Dao: GST and transition team meeting, February 2018
A few months down the line, another opportunity arose within the Constellation to put this tool to use. We were meeting in Chiang Dao (the City of Stars) Thailand, to discuss shared governance. Prior to the meeting, several events had happened which had set off a lot of emotions for many of us, bringing us to want to reconnect to SALT as our way of working in a way that enabled us to recognize and name the tensions and emotions, and find ways to move through them together.
This is why the very first day of our meeting began with a “mandala of our truths” facilitated by Laurie and myself, whereby each person was invited to share their emotions: fear, anger, lack (or emptiness), sadness or any other emotion that was present (a pillow was used to represent this “other” emotion).
This initial sharing circle led to a lot of emotions, and to a feeling of togetherness in acknowledging/receiving/welcoming these emotions (“we have heard you”) as part of what SALT in “shared governance” is all about.
From there, we were able to acknowledge and honor some of the more “surprising” words in the SALT “alphabet soup”:
Accepting and welcoming everything that is there in order to Appreciate the possibilities opened up by this Authenticity. Through this process we Learned that Tensions were a gift to the group if they were welcomed and dealt with in a Safe space, that creating and nurturing this safe space was essential, and that being a Team required deep Listening to our own internal voice and to the “warning signs” of others (including their silence), and that what made all of that possible was operating from a place of Love (in its 4 qualities!) and genuine care for the wellbeing of ourselves, others and the Constellation.
Our thoughts as we concluded this meeting were that if we are thorough in practicing these “surprising” letters SALT, we may indeed find that we are Transforming :) . All of this is exactly what “creating a culture of appreciation that goes beyond what is going well” (a practice of the GST’s 2018 action plan) is about.
If you feel like this tool may be of use to you, or you wish to find out more, feel free to contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org