Thursday, May 16, 2013

Harrison Owen walking the circle

The day before Wosonos2013 starts, Christy Lee-Engel shares a great gift on the Oslist.
Harrison walking the circle, Connecting for Community Day 3, April 2013 from christy lee-engel on Vimeo.

Some days later, Harrison wrote those interesting words about the dance on the OsList:
Christy – You caught me! What did I learn?  (“But, wait - you didn't say: what did you learn??”)
– Well I guess it was more re-learn, or better… remember. It was all about the dance. There is a dance in our opening moments, and I rather suspect it may communicate more than whatever words may be spoken. It is a simple but elegant dance beginning with a full slow sweep of the circle, a cut to the center, followed by random crossings of the circle, and ending at rest somewhere between the center and the edge. Early on, there was no conscious intent on my part to do or create a dance, it just seemed to happen as a natural expression of my relationship to the circle and the people who create it. In truth it took more than a few years before I even realized that it was a dance, repeated at every opening – and even more years until its primal forms and meanings became apparent to me. The interesting thing to me is that as I have watched my friends and colleagues over the years, seems like we all do pretty much the same things, which speaks, I think to the natural and emergent quality. At some level it is without intention. It is simply called forth as an organic expression of the moment, and our (as facilitators) place in that moment.

Interpreting a dance is always a dangerous thing, but in this case the forms are so archetypical and manifest that it seems less about interpretation than a naming of the obvious. Part I (The circle sweep) is perhaps the oldest shamanic act going, which travels under various names, but is often called “bounding the circle.” It is all about defining and claiming a safe space. In West African bush villages the shamans actually bound the whole village with a vine rope that they weave in the night and encircle the village. Nobody sees them, but in the morning the villagers arise to see the village defined. It is always interesting to see what is “inside” and what is excluded – so it is often the case that the school house (a western/modern addition) is often on the “outs.” What is safe, and what is questionable? Who, what, where are WE?

Part II (Cut to the Center) takes a little more explanation. I have always thought of it as a ritual re-enactment of The Hero’s Journey. Joseph Campbell, whose epic works on global mythology re-introduced the power of myth to the modern world, wrote a book of the same name. In the book he argues that all major traditions have a common theme story which he calls, The Hero’s Journey. In it a common man rises up one morning and departs on a far journey through many dangerous places and situations. He is essentially transformed by the experience and his common consciousness is expanded in ways he could never have imagined. But he is not a hero yet – not until he returns to his fellows and shares his expanded insight with his fellows(offers a boon). Think: Jesus in the wilderness, Moses in the desert, etc.  If Campbell is right, and I think he is, this story is part of the tradition and consciousness of virtually all the peoples of the earth. In short it doesn’t have to be told again (but that is always nice) – it is part of who and what we are. Now back to Open Space and The Cut to the Center.
                The physical open space in the center of the circle we create is a dangerous place. Even worse, it is pure Chaos. Nobody goes there willingly. Who knows, there might be dragons! Sounds a little weird and far out, I guess, but the next time you have an opportunity watch how the people (participants) treat that space, particularly if it is a large group, with a large circle, and a LOT of space. People will walk all the way around it rather than crossing. And if they do cross, they often do it in pairs (safety, you know). Watch how they treat the edge of the circle. They will come right up to it, and then back away. No sane person would willingly go to the center of such a circle! You can prove this to yourself just by remembering the first time you ever facilitated an Open Space. OMG!
                So the Cut to the Center is a journey to hell – and guess what? The Facilitator survives! At this point, the circle has been bounded and the space claimed – but the story is not over. The boon (gift) has yet to be given. We come to Part III – Random Crossings.

From the center of the circle, the facilitator moves to the edges in a random pattern, making contact with the people on the edge and then crossing again to make contact with others on the opposite side. Back and forth, back and forth – weaving a pattern of meaning and safety. Trails in the desert wilderness, so to speak.

And then it is over. The facilitator moves to a resting position part way between the center and the edge – and invites the people to come (with their issues). Under usual circumstances (read just about every time) – the people show up with alacrity, “following the trails in the desert.”  And the Hero (facilitator) essentially disappears. The boon has been given and the people have claimed it as their own. Time for a nap!

Oh yes, a few words have been spoken, but I really think the dance says it all.

So that is my story, and doubtless more than you anticipated, Christy. Who knows if it is true, but it works for me. And if it works for you – consider it yours.


"...Getting to watch Harrison Owen open the space on the last day of the Connecting for Community gathering in Cincinnati was a treat, and a kind of master class." Christy Lee-Engel
Dear Open Spaceniks,

On the eve of the lush and delightful-sounding Florida WOsonOs, below is the link to a video I took on my phone of Harrison walking the opening circle of the last day of a different lively gathering, which was called "Connecting for Community" and took place in Cincinnati a few weeks ago. 
"We work together sharpening our tools, learning, challenging and encouraging each other, and in the diversity of our backgrounds, creating our own community. It is inspiring and invigorating work for each and every participant. At Connecting for Community we find our own voice weaving with the experience and grace of other creating a whole fabric of relationships that goes with us out into our own communities to continue our work changing the world."
Here's the link:
Although it's rough, I think it's still fun to watch at least a moment or two of what it looks like to walk that opening circle with more than 25 years of it in your bones.
It is also pretty great to see how people leaped up to write their sessions, as soon as he invited us to!

(please note - I've found that the echo-y sound is best understood if you can listen through earphones ;-))
Sending warm wishes for a rich and deep and surprising time to everyone at the international WOSonOs, and to the rest of us, too!

love from Seattle, Christy

Christy Lee-Engel, ND, EAMP
Bastyr University

Acupuncture and Naturopathic Medicine practice: Core Chiropractic and Wellness

We're all just walking each other home - Ram Dass
May we on a few days get to watch Suzanne Daigle walking the circle on the virtual space of Wosonos2013 in Florida?

(Basque) (Sp.) (En) (radio interviews)

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