EXCITING NEW FEATURE :: This post is available in audio (below), read by the author herself. Feel free to download to listen while you're on the road/go. And let me know what you think of it, I'd love to hear. And never fear, the text is available further below, for your normal reading pleasure!
I’ve been hearing this thing inside of me calling out for more bridging of the individual with the collective. I hear it, and sometimes without thinking my response is “who, me?” and other times I realise “yes, it’s totally talking to me” and other times I feel that it can only be me… in this particular context, at this time, with my experiences. If not me, then who?
An idea conceived in my mind some time in the past couple of years, with a serious gestation since October 2016. At that time I found myself at a permaculture convergence, going from workshop to workshop, absorbing wheelbarrows of insight and information, with quick pressure drops in the tea breaks when I could tune-in with fellow convergence folks about their take on day. At the end of it I felt adrift: What do the elders think of these matters? What do the diverse change-makers converging together think of these matters? What do I think of these matters when I’m thrown into the cauldron of public witnessing when it really matters? With much respect for the sentiment of the event, I realised there was a subtle but vital piece missing; one for which an action was calling out for manifestation through me. That piece was something to the effect of people coming together to discuss their perspectives and views on the matters at hand, something that so often feels way greater than the sum of it’s parts. And, so, the Folk Forum was born.
What does that name even mean? Well, inspired by a friend feeling passionate for folk medicine and people knowing how to use nature’s pharmacy for their own healing, I realised we humans (the folk) continually bring together a whole bunch of ‘medicine’ through our experiences, wisdom, knowledge and curiosity. And through my work in the dynamic whole-system governance approach of Sociocracy, I’ve experienced check-in rounds before starting a meeting to see where each person is at as a status check of each element of the system. Through this I realised circle work is a powerful social technology to be utilised for humans to process life together (the forum). Much like Martin Prechtel talks about in his book The Smell of Rain On Dust, true authentic grief performs a fermentation of our sorrow into a profound sense praise for the life gone, and so it goes that the act of bringing together people as a means to SEE and BE SEEN can be a potent pot of perspective on ourselves through the mirror of the other humans sharing in circle around us.
The Folk Forum has initially emerged in the festival context, an opening piece of intention-setting by the coincidence of programming. With numbers of 5 to 18 people in the first couple of sessions, we strangers came together in the ancient language of circle. Allowing each person to see the other, the circle becomes a self-governing structure, guided in sharing by the talking stick, calling for the holder to be the only one talking at any one time. Each time the circle has been held, we’ve experienced a sudden dropping-in to that space where people know others are listening...intently… to them, and they too are listening intently to others. We’ve had tears. We’ve had laughter. And often we’ve ended feeling like we kinda just got to know each other a little deeper and that we might smile at each other across the dancefloor with a greater sense of being seen over the coming days.
Having the space to know one will be seen is not common in our communities of the modern era. Our most well-known soap box tends to be from our keyboards, blasting out over the social media mycelial networks, away from the in-person electron-combining reality of truly being witnessed. With guidance from the principles of speaking & listening from the heart, being lean of expression & being in spontaneity, we find we tap into ourselves in the presence of others in ways that might feel unfamiliar to our own self talk and awareness. Seeing and being seen is a potent energy to enter into, and most often it’s one that must be consciously engaged to be experienced. It asks us to show up, to hold hands with the others in the human forest we make in that sharing circle moment, seeing us all as a diverse ecology of a greater whole rather than a smattering of individuals trying to not run into each other. ‘Sovereign integral’ is a term used by some of our wise change-makers of today who see we are so much greater than the sum of our parts, but only if our parts turn-up in full power presence.
The Folk Forum feels like it has much life beyond the waves of the festival reality, and it’s potential as a drumbeat for us humans truly connecting, sharing and supporting each other feels real and required. It’s next steps rely on my showing up and doing my part, and I assure you, I will be showing up with the Folk Forum, as an honouring of this Life we’re all blessed to be breathing. So, I’m looking forward to maybe seeing you across the circle one day.
P.S. The first Folk Forum was held at the Regrowth Festival near Muswellbrook, north of Sydney, and reappeared the following weekend at the Rainbow Serpent Festival near Lexton, Victoria in January 2017. A few weeks later, the Folk Forum wrapped up it's 3-piece inaugural tour at the Earth Frequency Festival in February 2017. This was only the beginning!
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