Peace making -- Community Building
Each of our lives is a page in a sacred text
That only exists because each of us adds a page
Community is created from stories and the storytelling function is hardwired in human beings. In giving form and voice to our stories, we transmit personal and collective history. It started with myth: the creation myth, the birth of the world. In our lives it starts with the story of own births -- the birth of our world and our place in the larger scheme of things and extends into the birth of our community and then the birth of our nation. In the US the fourth of July is a celebration of the story of how we came to be. Inside each story are values and expected behaviors. within our stories are the subliminal messages or caution -- what we are to be afraid of, identity – personal, family, tribe and clan -- and in the process of directed writing they reduce or eliminate the damage of toxic stress. Telling our stories is an act of healing and above all, sharing our stories creates community and belonging. We learn that each of our personal stories is basically another human story -- what separates and makes us individuals is our story but it also comes back to connect us to the larger story.
Community Building -- Working for Peace -- Transforming Conflict and Adverse Experience into Art
By exchanging stories, and being fully present to other people’s stories, our community building, peacemaking workshop creates for attendees a rich and textured tapestry that ultimately belongs to the community they become in being together. Isolation and difference is bridged. When people share stories across difference, they feel their story is finally heard by others in a Witnessing process, an important aspect in healing any conflict whether in individuals or communities. In reading the story aloud, the writer also hears their own story with greater emotional impact as well as they get to witness the impact the story has on others. Most people skate across the surface their stories without really allowing themselves to sink into the emotional realities that live at the deeper levels. Because the method we use was developed 30 years ago -- Writing Through the Body -- it has had the time and breadth needed to refine the process and carry people ever more deeply into their story. Also important, is the fact that embedded in this technique is the means for remediation of toxic stress symptoms if they present themselves as they often do. Reading the story aloud in their group is an important aspect of the work but we ask that people not read if they are the slightest bit uncomfortable in sharing.
As part of the community building process, we teach and practice Deep Listening. Deep listening helps the listener to hold the story. The final piece of this community building process is the collaborative phase: asking participants where the people in their communities are most comfortable telling their stories -- how do they do it now, if they do -- or if they know of traditions that have been lost, how might we reclaim aspects that remain relevant? Could they think of a venue that might be appropriate for the sharing of stories?
Some 25 years ago, life stories were offered publicly for the first time. Our executive director in a moment of kicking up heals in exuberance for what was happening, rented a small downtown black box theater and it was suggested that the group invite friends and family to come to the performance of The Word Jazz Theatre. Only people who felt absolutely ready read bits and pieces of their stories riffing off their fellow readers. They practiced the art of dissonance and resonance in terms of their choice of the pieces they would read following another reader. The audience came kicking rocks and muttering --most felt their going was a charitable act but this sense changed quickly as they experienced this riffing readers theater. It was really good! They were surprised as was the executive director who had not done this before. She thought it would be good but not that good. This one place, this one experience led to nearly 18 years of this writing group continuing led by people who had experienced the process. If it stopped for a few months or even a couple of years, someone started it up again. Our policy is to teach a maximum of four classes and then, if the writers want to keep the group going they have to take over as facilitators. We recommend that they rotate this role.
So this is the Story that teaches access, that bridges difference, that builds community that demonstrates that all stories are human stories.
We provide one or two day workshops as well as writing retreats, training and team building for corporate and medical staff.
As a participant you will learn:
•to access the creative source from which Story emerges. (This access provides a richness in experience and develops problem solving skills that carriy into everyday life.)
• the method: Writing Through the Body so that story flows with great ease.
•to process stories of trauma to healing resolution.
•Word Jazz theater -- build a performance piece that integrates the stories gathered at the workshop, yours alone or as part of a group.
•Deep Listening and Presence
•work through conflict
•create a coherent diverse community in which all stories have a place to live.
•create a structure through which the story writing/telling process continues beyond the workshop.
The public offering of story: Attendees sometimes bring their final performance – Word Jazz Theater -- to a public venue, an event that continues to be deeply moving, healing and powerful to participants and audience alike.
People remember these performances – we know, we have been doing this for 30 years.
Resources on community building that expresses our philosophies most closely.
The Power of Positive Deviance by authors, Monique and Jerry Sternin, Richard Pascale
Pathologies of Power by Paul Farmer
To Repair The World, a collection of college graduations talks, by Paul Farmer
Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder -- a biography of Paul Farmer