This was written to friends, as a way of describing the World Work conference that takes place every 3 years in different locations. This one was in April 2017 in Greece. I thought i would leave the write up as it is, not quite polished up for blog standards because in its verve, freshness the cadences of the event play out.
Im writing this on a train upto Scotland from London, the green of England rushing past, May’s blooming buds and furrowed fields timelessly continuing.
World work was and is still a powerful experience in my body. In the day since i left Greece i am taking time to settle – not noticing the long delay in the train journey. It was intense, powerful and utterly compelling. I found i could hardly take the time to check emails. When i saw folk checking their phone messages during sessions i couldn’t understand how they could not be drawn continually to the ongoing unfolding of our planet’s issues. “Welcome to Day 28” Alexandra, one of the organisers joked towards the end, and boy/girl did it feel like a we had run a marathon (presumably somewhere close by) of processing.
I wrote before leaving that i felt i was leaving for a ‘mela’ a Sanskrit term of religious festivals often combined with pilgrimage. And it felt like a gathering of pilgrims from every continent. United by a palpable common desire for a better world, willing to explore incredibly difficult topics and really go into them. What a spirit! A meeting of ‘where its at’ in the world. I could not imagine missing a WW ever in the future, this potent desire to meet, dive into issues, bring ourselves out brings something of relief to my soul. And how did i miss the last ones?
It was fun to see all the schools and peoples coming together. There was such a feeling of diversity present, most obviously in the languages needing translation but in cultural ways of being. Amidst many the Spanish with their vibrancy, the dignity of the Afghans, and the power of the South Africans, the hosting Greeks with their generosity stood out for my personally. Some sessions were in native languages and translated into English. English language dominance felt very obvious at these moments to me. This way of giving and being in new ways is a gift. A Greek lady in my small group, movingly shared about an local tradition of offering flowers to the sea to grieve those sailors who have died, which she was now doing for the refugees who die at sea (which i have promised to do up here in the North Sea and let the waves take the prayers all the way to the Med). The Greek’s combination of suffering under austerity and welcome to refugees was so present in the week, and it opened my heart to what are true human values. Relating to humanity was noted as a wealth, that many wealthy people do not have.
i leave with a feeling that my life will never be the same, that the knowledge of such a gathering reaffirms in me the direction i want my life to be oriented towards, that people are genuinely working for a better world is such a relief. In particular to see this aspiration happen with such directness and grappling, trying our best to make the world better in all our struggling imperfections. It’s not that nowhere else doesn’t try, but this form of activism called conflict resolution or open forums, has a power to it that keeps on rippling out long after we close the session. Well i don’t want to paint too rosy a picture, as the facilitators kept reminding us, we were making a small start to huge issues, but it left a legacy of hope, that the seeming intractability of something like climate change denial, ongoing racism, unconscious sexism could begin to be affected by fronting up to these issues, personally and collectively.
It is a light in the dark, or in the words of the conference subtitle – ‘Deep democracy in a world of divides’. That feeling of bringing awareness to usually unspoken sufferings, and understanding better and with precision and specificity how institutional and cultural oppressions happen was a constant companion during the days there.
We worked, listened, opened our hearts and examined our own privileges on many issues, notably for me: Africa and the effects of white oppression, Latin America, LGBTQI+, Greece and the challenges and gifts of who they are. Can this convey the degree of listening to the suffering and fiery determination to fight for their rights? No. But the mix of really being open to the agonies of life and then also hear and see the strength in fighting oppression, my goodness..
Something was stripped away from me, and it was the habit of the unnoticed giving up of hope. Of course it’s still there, but somehow seeing the way people were challenging issues such as white supremacy, sexism or simply unconscious privilege made me aware that change is possible. With hard work yes. It’s not an easy journey, to really notice unconscious rank, and to keep my heart open.
Arny Mindell, presiding spirit, was so sharp, humble and spritely. And his constant ability to dance between hearing unflinchingly – literally in one case when taking on a ghost role with fury directed at him and then repeatedly coming back to noticing the sentient emergence, whether in Gaia, or spirit of quietness, always he brought us back to this level before going right back into the fire of intensely difficult topics. This dance of sentience and agonised pain in the world, is one where energy can flow and not be stuck.
The belly full of human experiences just kept emerging. When we sorted or decided which topics to discuss, there would be 30, 40 or 50 suggestions. Some regulars, white supremacy, male oppression for instance never quite got fully explored and then every region, issue would bubble up and be heard even as a simple suggestion as we sorted out which topics to listen to.
Meanwhile every afternoon and evening there were smaller topics to explore which ranged so widely its hard to convey. Personally i went to talks on open forums in Cape Town, internal oppression presented by the child of both holocaust survivors and a child of Nazi, LGBTQi presentation, a Naomi Klein movie, accountability in Rwanda and Croatia, the rise of fascism in Europe, stage fright, dream body and symptoms, white privilege. Each of these presentations was one out of 5 or so, so you can imagine the richness present.
By day 3 i started fighting off a cold, (i often get them in intensives, due i guess to struggling with intense feelings). I managed to go to everything, but was tired on and off and eventually took some paracetamols simply to function.
My personal biggest learning came from relationship conflicts and bringing up difficult issues whilst wanting to be accountable. And there are still outstanding talks to be had that continue on. i used my sore throat to bring up difficult for me conversations where i had critiques with facilitators and was amazed to be heard.
I learnt to move when i feel caught in feelings or frozen. Rage in particular gets me. so walking around and drawing on large papers was grand, and something i wish we always had. The deep democracy of our bodies and being able to go in and out and move around was fully supported. It is that kind of awareness of subtleties that i appreciate so much in the Process work community.
The small groups which met throughout the sessions were a warm landing space, which helped teach me. On the first day i felt discordant and due to industrial sounds in our room a toning emerging, which took away the discordance into one of greater ease and we then moved outside into the sun. Just by toning together our discordance was eased, going beyond words and checking in as group how we are in a completely different way.
There have been times in my life when i have been in large gathering that have touched my soul and there is nowhere else in the world i would rather be than just there; Findhorn conferences, retreats and now i can add World work. It makes life worth living.
For more information about World Work please go to http://www.iapop.com/