The idea of a Pre-Event around the Calling Question was thrown up in the air sometime in the autumn as our design team – Juha, Jan-Erik, Vilma, Stephanie and myself- started brainstorming the second Learning Village.
There is some background for this story. Last year we got so excited about the location of the Learning Village- Suomenlinna- that that the whole process took off even before we had any clue about a calling question what´s so ever. The topic around which people would gather and the center of the event constantly came a few steps behind. Eventually we needed to stop and do some extra work in order to make it bright and clear.
There had been other kind of discussion about the calling question, too. Maybe the question was not so important because there were other supportive elements built into the process in any case. On the other hand, a good calling question makes the purpose clearer. It calls up personal ownership and more focused engagement. It brings up deeper perspectives, solutions and passion, and gives energy to fruitful cross pollination as it brings in also people that might not otherwise join us.
So this time we decided to dive into the Calling Question well before the event. Our intension was to spend 24 hours at Suomenlinna in the spirit of the Learning Village: to feel, sense and share about themes and elements that were important for all of us, to acknowledge the personal connection and engagement, and witness how the building blocks would slowly make their way into our consciousness and some bigger patterns might be emerging.
As we were looking for a certain commitment for the process, we put the invitation primarily out to the people that had participated the previous Learning Village. We bravely used an old school method: we asked the people to fill in a form where they would share their passion and intension to come and join us. Of course there was the philosophy of Open Space Technology playing in the background. Who ever appeared, would be the right people. And what ever happened would be the only thing that could have taken place. It was not about getting a huge amount of participants or a crystal clear calling question but about having the right kind of people who would feel inspired to do the necessary bridging work- combining their own interests and sensing the world´s needs. And while doing this- we could also get some quality time for ourselves.
Aime, Carmela, Kristiina and Martin (all away from Germany) appeared to the scene. All of them had participated in the previous Learning Village and were familiar with the process.
The elements of the Learning Village were there again but now in a more simplistic way. The magical island, Suomenlinna, was present with its full capacity, but my co-hosts Vilma and Jan-Erik were -despite their efforts- unable to join. The group was small but committed.
We started with lunch at Chapman´s. Funnily- without making a conscious effort- we touched some big themes like life and death, and what is important at the end. It went easily into the essence and back. For those who are wondering whether this is the Finnish version of small talk (it is!), I think this happened mainly because there was a shared intension and trust and openness built in. We kind of jumped into the groove as soon as we sat around the table and easily shared about issues that were present in our lives.
Juha had chosen for us a nice and cozy room with sofas and armchairs at Augusta. We sat in the circle and our intension was in the middle- to explore the elements of the calling question with curiosity and openness. We would go with the flow as much as possible, use the principles of Open Space and Circle Work as our guidelines. With time table we were flexible: I had a rough plan about the beginning and ending times but otherwise we would dance with the flow. We would have dinner and sauna at some point in the evening, and snacks and coffee for breaks. It was all set, and what was most important, there was trust and openness right from the beginning. We had entered into that space without masks or roles, and the circle took us even deeper into our journey.
We started with a little check-in where everyone shared why they had chosen to come to this meeting. It was obvious that everyone had followed their inner urge. According to my rough plan we would do some inner exploration first and then move on to Open Space. I only had one question in mind -recall the last year, what were the most important turning points, insights, breakthroughs and new skills that you experienced in those situations?
We wrote and drew in silence for a while. When we felt ready we started sharing about our own stories. Harvesting happened automatically as we listened to each other: we marked the most meaningful aspects for ourselves on post-it notes. By the end we had a nice collection of themes. It felt like the elements mentioned in our stories shifted our minds and hearts and started to search for their own places in our personal system. We did a little collective mind-mapping, and witnessed the picture emerging in front of us. Somehow it took us deeper into our own journey while it also was reflecting the bigger picture at the same time.
By the end of the day we moved from Augusta to Studio Elias in order to mark an ending for the day´s session. We took some markers and papers with us in order to be ready for “something”- but at the same time I was wondering whether we would ever get into the Open Space after all. It did not exactly feel like calling us, it felt like there was still some power left from those story telling sessions. As if some birthing process was in the middle of its energy cycle.
There was also some movement in the air as the island of Suomenlinna was preparing herself for a little night storm. The nature also seemed to be in sync with our creative process.
There were choices of enjoying an Open Art Studio by a HIAP artist Mark Bislop, going to Sauna, preparing dinner or just resting.
After a delicious dinner made by Stephanie it was time to make a skype call to those who were interested in joining the event on-line. We sat at our dinner table, had a lap top on the table, and Vilma and Rainer joined our circle virtually. (The next day I found out that Maria from Spain had joined us in spirit, too. There had been a technical confusion which had prevented her from joining the virtual session.) We gave a little summary of the day and the discussion went deep again. Polarities, mainstreamers versus the hippy people, how can we build bridges and include everybody, no matter where they come from. What brings trust, how to keep up a welcoming atmosphere. How can one show up in a community and be the best version of herself/himself. After all we are all people, for heaven´s sake!
By the night it was raining outside and our stomachs were full of pasta. We wondered whether we should do a little “pasta walk” to back to Augusta and take a second look at our post-it-collage. But it felt more right to leave it for the morning. So we headed to bed – tired but happy.
The wind was blowing hard, and our mission was getting more crystallized. We had opened the gates for ingredients of the Calling Question to fly in and they were in full action.
We continued with the post-it collage and our inner journeys. We shared thoughts about what the Learning Village could be, based on what we had experienced so far and what we would see as its true value. What were the most meaningful insights for each of us after the previous night´s discussions. We had a circle of the most important insights during our joint 24 hours. Something that could be the building material and corner stones for the next Learning Village. We talked about the power of community, essence of life, meeting the network of practitioners and feeling trust, safety, getting power and support to rise above one´s own comfort zone.
Afterwards I found myself thinking about the issue of trust. We had found it as soon as we sat at our lunch table. How did we manage to do that? The Circle is of course a powerful tool for connecting to our shared purpose. We were open and listened to each other, witnessed as our purpose took a more concrete form. We chose to be in this place together. We held each other. We had experienced that during the last Learning Village when it welcomed us and took us for a collective journey. Probably experienced that in many other situations, too. But isn´t it true that somehow we knew how to choose to be there, we have learned to recognize an inner muscle that reminds of it. And when we have that muscle memory we can keep it up and support the web of community for people who step into that space and help them feel safe. The meaning of a Learning Village- even behind any Calling Question can be that, too. And the responsibility for anybody having that experience is to keep it up for others. A communal mindfulness exercise!
After the Pre-Exploration:
As for my own golden nuggets they were constantly coming back to the multi-dimensional connection between the polarities and the supporting power of a community. Communities can provide support when the forceful power of dualism puts us down. Life vs. death, essence and non-sense, strength and sensitivity, mainstream vs. hippy movement, darkness vs. light. We are part of the mainstream and also the transformers. We are in this journey together no matter where we come from. There are polarities everywhere. Polarities indeed are our dear friends. As recognized they can offer some next level thinking emerging. They will push us and make us rise above dualism, catalyze change, breakthroughs, make us go outside of our comfort zone. They can push us to feel separate in order to make us experience a greater oneness. It is like being in a birth channel. Constantly striving for the next level, in our lives, in our society, within ourselves and from that angle we see much more than our own little window. In order to find the next level and the fast lane in the new paradigm we need the supportive power of communities. Learning Village can act as a catalyzing power that helps us to experience the connection between the polarities and above it, to make way for the new – individually and collectively.
Text: Kirsi Joenpolvi Photos: Kirsi Joenpolvi, Aime Virkkilä-Accorsi, Irmeli Aro