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Day 52: Presentation of Learning - 1

I have a lot of notes and reflections on the Presentation of Learning invitation awaiting me/us, for this final retreat. I had some spacious coffee shop time on Saturday morning, before a prayer-bead-workshop, so tended to several of the prompts for reflection.

Perhaps you’ll appreciate these for yourself today…? What would rise for you if you brainstormed within the following phrases: I used to be _____________, and/but now I am _______________. The other prompt is to write yourself a letter, one paragraph to who you used to be, second paragraph to who you are today, and final paragraph to your Self five years from now.

Myself, I had to travel a roundabout way into the prompts, just letting words come at first, independent of any direction. These eventually shaped themselves into the form invited.

One example. “Circle needs a little mess, uncontrolled by external/decided practices, though guided by shared commitment to stay in an ethos of learning and mutual transfiguration. I used to look to defined circle practices for safety within a new community gathering; I now trust myself to tend what I need and offer what I can in new circles that gather, even when we step on one another’s toes at the start. I will feel most connected to those I could not have predicted feeling connection with at all. I now find this more valuable and authentic than previously agenda-‘scripted’ or ‘liturgical practice’ circles, held by a facilitator.”

Sitting with these words from Saturday, I’d shape and nuance a couple things.

I startled with my opening line, “Circle needs a little mess…,” aware in this sitting that what I experience as “a mess” or “unstructured” or even “chaotic” could be simply “active” and “necessary” for the whole. Not unlike my Pentateuch class at Princeton, way back when. The room was over half African-American students, quite distinct from other classes I had had. It was therefore a marvelous introduction to a much more oral, even playfully-combative or assertive speech rhythm-volume than my other very-white Princeton classes had been. It dawned on me several classes in that classmates were not upset with one another, or with me, in the least. A different cultural vernacular was at play, and I could play in it too, as invited.

So today, I’ll say “Circle needs to be archetypally familiar but unstructured, humanly patterned but truly co-created by those who show up.” It needs to have a certain wild abundance, yet groundedness within. Some of us will experience this as “messy” or “too vulnerable” for our preferences; others will obviously only feel welcome when/if they truly co-create the space with everyone else. Wouldn't you? Not only in spoken intentions that all are welcome, but actual willing embodied behavior.

The unforeseen communication I offered, I now know, was that I was good for the ride, even if and when it felt bumpy for me, for others. Pema Chodron had taught me how to stay years ago, and my new companions--some now friends--learned they could trust me to stay.

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