If you feel passionate about changing the world you live in how about trying a bit of compassion?
I feel compelled to write about the New Story Summit that took place at Findhorn last week. I didn’t get a place to be there physically; there wasn’t room for the many of us who are working with this all over the world, so we set up local Hubs and each watched the live streamed sessions virtually and created our own processes for looking at how the New Story is unfolding.
If you are wondering what New Story is this, the first thing you need to do is take a look back, back to a time several years ago, any time you choose, and then look forward to see what has changed. In a sense there is no New Story, it is simply life unfolding, forever learning about itself as it goes and tweaking here and there, sometimes too far in one direction, sometimes too far in another, and sometimes, after a bit of trial and error, getting something just right, for a little while.
I have a name for those of us who like to work on the tweaking; Edge People. I have been an Edge Person all of my life. I was born into a culture that made no sense to me, on a local, regional, national or international level. I am a middle aged educated white woman who grew up against an industrial north western English backdrop in a lower middle class family. I suppose you could describe my family as striving towards being upwardly mobile so that I was taught to speak without the accent my classmates had, which immediately singled me out as a misfit. I was a misfit in many other ways too; when I walked past the disused factories that formed part of my daily landscape my stomach would clench. When I saw the dirty grey dust that gathered everywhere including on my skin and on the leaves of the trees it felt all wrong, when I attempted to join in games and play that involved someone being “on” and everyone running away from them I felt miserable.
Edge people have been born in what seems to be the wrong place; they have something of more than one worldview about them. Perhaps it’s their class that doesn’t fit the place where they live, maybe it’s their race, sometimes their parents are from very different backgrounds and sometimes their family has moved to somewhere where the values are quite different. Whatever that mismatch is the child feels alienated in some way and this is the makings of an Edge Person.
It can take us a long time to find our place in the world, to realize that the set of circumstances we grew up with were perhaps something of a gift and not the curse we often felt them to be. Edge People are the translators of life, the interpreters; the ones who finally, sometimes painfully, learn how to describe how life is played to one set of rules, to those playing to a different set of rules. They are the ones who eventually realise that to belong, that thing which they have so longed for, they have to step out of all groups, all classifications, and simply belong to Nature, to the one underlying life force that is common to all peoples.
Once there it doesn’t take so very long to realize where things need tweaking. It doesn’t take long to see that we all belong to this one unifying energy that makes trees and plants grow, that allows the miracle of birth and sees to it that the old composts away to make fertile ground for the new, that winds blow in autumn to help remove the dying leaves from the trees and that summer sunshine helps fruit to ripen so we can eat it. Once there it doesn’t take much for us to realize that all the sets of rules we play by are arbitrary and subjective the way Nature simply isn’t.
Once we have seen that the earth is governed by natural laws, based upon the principles of change and abundance, by the constant transformation of the old into the new, we see that when our human made constructs work with these essential truths all is well, and when they don’t, things go badly wrong.
Edge People are born in every generation and always have been. Usually their contributions are not recognised until they are long gone, and the changes they worked tirelessly for are commonplace. Edge People have traditionally had to learn to stand alone, a lone voice of dissent, standing up for what they know to be right regardless of consequences and personal cost. Edge People are often uncomfortable, though when they are not their experience of life is vibrant and joyful.
The New Story Summit called together those Edge People. It called them together, to a place founded by three Edge People in the sixties; Findhorn. It called to those the world over that work at the Edge, the edge between the old and the new, the fertile edge of the hedgerow, where all the fruits and nuts grow and all the small wild animals live, where the rare herbs and flowers shelter, the place that protects our rare species. People came from CAT (the internationally renowned Centre for Alternative Technology, also founded by Edge People, in the early 70s), from members of the Global Village Network from all over the world (centres founded to explore in Western society, the principles never forgotten by Indigenous Peoples), representatives from Indigenous Cultures from all over the globe, and individuals who have made it their life’s work to explore different ways of doing things that honour all life, and those who have been charged with the role of sharing the ancient wisdom that has been passed down to them with all of us, wisdom that reminds us we are all interconnected part of the laws of nature; Change and Abundance.
Amongst that gathering, in the north of Scotland, as well as in the hubs all over the globe, were engineers, lawyers, teachers, authors, storytellers, lecturers, wise women, shamans, psychologists, facilitators, young people and elders, activists and mediators, representatives of victims of war and violence, spiritual leaders, founders of educational institutions, growers, health practitioners, representatives of huge organisations and those of small micro businesses, economists, builders and administrators, those from every continent of the planet, and all of them representatives of people already living the New Story in some way. Over 300 people at Findhorn, representing 50 nationalities, and hundreds more spread out across the world gathered to talk together, about the New Story they were living in and the challenges yet to be faced.
It was a summit like none that has ever been seen before; with the aim of unifying the stories that are working, that work with the laws of Nature, that honour the diversity of life on our planet, and there was commitment to something greater than any one of them could accomplish alone. It happened over a week, a week when all the stories were shared, connections were made, and stronger strands began to emerge, how to work together to honour the principles of change and abundance even more.
The hub I was in was in Totnes. We were small, three of us at the core who had committed to take the week out to dedicate our time to this work, with a spiral of others we joined with when they could, virtually and actually. We learnt an essential truth, that at the heart of any deep change that honours the principles of Nature are individuals. We called these individuals warriors. Not warriors in any sense that we have grown to understand the word; they are not warriors of the literal sword, not destroyers by any act of violence, but warriors in the sense that all ancient traditions have taught.
We found three stories that told of these warriors; the Shambala Warriors of the Eastern Buddhist tradition, the Rainbow Warriors of the Indigenous Americas, and the legend of the Sleeping Warriors of the Celtic tradition who, it is said, will awaken one day when the time is ripe.
A warrior is someone who follows their passion. They do not work for anybody else’s dream; they follow their own, no matter what, though they may well join with others who walk the same way. They are aware of their interconnection with all things and they know that to follow their passion is their purpose in life. A warrior has a sword; that sword is Compassion.
We were, collectively, during the Summit, given opportunities to wield that sword. Though I was not there to witness it there was a dissenter in the gathering who spoke out against the way the process was being structured. I did not see how the situation was resolved. I heard about it from another. It reminded me of another gathering of Edge People I had participated in and another dissenter and of how his wisdom was not honoured for he had not the way with words needed and carried with him residues of old pain that triggered old pain in the one who was in the role of facilitator. Those of us who felt his wisdom should be heard went numb and did not speak and the process continued as before. Compassion would have heard everybody’s story, and not moved on until a natural resolution presented itself.
In the Hub in Totnes we grappled with the word Justice and how it seems to have attached to it the seeds of War. Who will yield the sword of Justice? It took some time to separate Compassion from the role of Rescuer.
The triad of the Oppressor and the Oppressed is made complete by the role of the Rescuer and this the challenge of entering into another’s battle. Compassion, we learnt, is not a personal quality, it is not the act of protecting, or saving, or taking sides. Compassion hears the story of everyone and in so doing releases each from the role they have been playing. No one is only an oppressor or only a victim of oppression – unless they have got stuck. The role of Rescuer in this dynamic perpetuates the roles, for it proportions blame, and assumes right to be on one side. Rescuing scapegoats; if one carries the shadow role, then the rest of us are squeaky clean and do not have to acknowledge our own capacity for inappropriate action.
Compassion takes no sides. Compassion listens until all the stories are told. Compassion enables each person to step out of a role they have been playing and back into their true self. Compassion frees us from the assumptions and fixed ideas and beliefs that are at the root of all discord in a way that weapons of destruction, hate, denial, revenge, retribution, and justice can never do.
On the final day of the Summit the gathering realized they had held their council without inviting all the representatives. It reminds me of the tale of Sleeping Beauty when the king did not invite the 13th fairy to the christening to give her gift to the new child. All the wisdom we will ever need is in these our teaching tales. The one whose gifts are not welcomed, (as in the case of the dissenter) the one who is not even invited, is always the key to the story.
How often is it quoted that the solution is always to be found in the problem yet we through fear continue to try and build our castles in the air without substance. At Findhorn the oversight is recognised at the last minute and people are asked to stand in as representatives of the Petro Chemical Industries, the Pharmaceuticals, the Petroleum Companies, and all the Multi Nationals and to stand in the middle facing outwards. It is a very powerful moment, a moment for all of us present or watching, to make eye contact with these our fellow human beings and to release them of the Oppressor role they have been playing for us.
Compassion reminds us of the other’s humanity. It does not condone inappropriate action but neither does it make assumptions about intent. It listens with unconditional regard, and reconnects us with our fellow humanity. From this place we can work together and work wonders.