I feel called to ask myself in response to these first two weeks of Eroles residency, what does it mean and require of me, as human, to fully meet another human?
David Whyte says in moments of difficulty the best thing you can do is ask beautiful questions, and for me, this is a beautiful question. What do I need in order to meet others in the way I would most like to?
This was the first question we posed the group in these two weeks, what do they need? Such an important beginning, to establish our basic needs in order to feel free and open to participate fully. Of course the responses were simple; honest and transparent communication, support, time alone, care, being listened to attentively, not interrupted, being referred to respectfully…these seem pretty universal to me. From here, and with a group commitment to adhere as best we could to these needs, we launched into a challenging and exposing few weeks, where we own all of the ways that we don’t meet other humans as equals – all the ways in which we use power and privilege to have power “over” others, to get what we want, even when that inhibits another. Eek, yucky stuff – owning the ways we all do that. And yet, being with a group for a week, and with some for even two, and being able to stay…stay in the yuk…stay as it gets icky and tense…stay as we each take our positions…as we watch others power over and be powered over…stay as we confront and explore this tendency… as we challenge and recede…as we feel the discomfort and breakthrough. Such a privilege to “work live” in this way. In these courses, I think we are really able to hold to our shared belief that the personal is political. Acknowledging that, as activists, we cannot talk about “those out there” creating problems, without acknowledging that those very problems manifest in the microcosm of this group.
Exploring some of the many layers that stop one human relating to another we talked about language and its role in creating narratives, labelling, isolating or uniting people; and we saw it play out in our group too. Those who flow easily with English and those who don’t. Of course these differences are natural – don’t we tend to group according to shared experience or familiarity? But, to ask another beautiful question, what do we do when this grouping leads to a majority and minority and how do we consider the experience of those in the minority? And use our power to re-balance and empower others, to truly care and consider the needs of others?
One of the things I notice in my life is that quite often as I occupy myself with the detail in front of me – convinced I know what I’m doing and where I’m going, there is a subtle but rich story unfolding off-centre, unbeknown to me. The learning from which, creeps up on me, as if from behind and never fails to surprise. These weeks that story line has something to do with unconditional love. I realised that at Eroles I have witnessed many examples of unconditional love and it became a theme of conversation that wasn’t intended, and yet repeated itself.
Unconditional love. It strikes me that this may be one of the key ingredients of what we are, or at least I am here, learning about. Maria asked a question that resonated in me as a clear pluck on a well-tuned guitar, “what if you are repeatedly aware of having “power-over” and you don’t do anything about it?” I went to bed that night this question swimming in my mind.
Goethe is quoted as saying “knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” So I have become interested in what is required to love unconditionally. Willing, how do I do? Looking this up on good old google, I came across an article speaking of the essential premise to love another beyond what you might get from them. Hmm, sounds simple! To listen attentively and with willing to change if it doesn’t compromise your basic boundaries, the article says. Well, ok, but that means you’ve got to know your own boundaries, requiring self-esteem and respect. Next…forgiveness; another tricky one. Embracing differences and clear and open communication. As I read on, I realise this is what, I think, we are partly doing here at Eroles.
Giving the ground for people to forge enough self-confidence to be able to recognise and articulate their boundaries. Living together, each morning sharing how we are in our “check-ins” gives us each a chance to have an insight into another’s inner world, which helps cultivate compassion and understanding for them, when later they inconsiderately eat the last piece of bread…or whatever pet peeve they trigger. We have to forgive and move through those difficult moments. The time that we spend here in the mountain, developing our sense of belonging in a wider ecosophy helps to clear out the dregs and re-orientate to our essence; our shared experience on this Earth as beings, belonging just as the trees, the birds and the spikey plants that litter the ground here do.
I know for me, what stands in the way of being fully myself with another, is typically where I am not able to stand in love. Moments in which, indeed the little voice in my mind is aware that I have “power-over”, and I ignore it, greedily taking what I can. Sadly, I know this makes me unhappy in the longer term. When I love, I feel such joy for just loving’s sake. So, I am here, at least, soaking up those moments of love – where in true community style my beloved friends embrace my crying baby and help him to sleep. I know I need love in order to be with others fully. I hope that we each take the love cultivated here and shine in a world that always could do with more.