Wise Men, Wise Women, Wiser World : London December 1/2 2018
Scilla Elworthy & Nicholas Janni
This weekend shifted a lot for me.
Meditating on Westminster Bridge in the sunshine in the shadow of the Houses of Parliament when Extinction Rebellion 'took' five London bridges two weeks ago was a catalyst if ever I needed one. A life-changing moment. Two weeks later, Scilla Elworthy and Nicholas Janni's inspired weekend course was equally revelatory it the way it is opening up new possibilities for many who attended, myself included. It opened up and galvanised a vision for different future.
I came off a wet and busy London street into a warm oasis of tranquility, the St Ethelburga's Centre for Reconciliation and Peace. The centre's website describes it as "a maker of peacemakers". There was a candle burning. There was a yurt out the back. A group of people were sitting in a wide semi-circle.
I had a calling to be here, because of my connection and friendship with Scilla Elworthy. At the Campfire Convention preview event 001.UK she delivered a powerful and game changing keynote speech about peace in the world, the dark forces undermining it and the way we relate to each other. We have kept in touch since and she continues to inspire me and many friends from around that Campfire on a warm August weekend two years ago in the Black Mountains of Wales.
The weekend session was convened by Scilla and Nicholas Janni who I was less familiar with. I was immediately reassured by his calming presence, bringing us into the room, into presence and into truth.
The purpose of the weekend was declared as follow:
Our ambition is to open up our highest potential by uniting men and women through new ways of working together to create change – be it at government, business, the media or grassroots levels.
The aim of this unique, exploratory workshop is to provide a shared space for a mind/body/heart journey through which we will discover and experience a new way of engaging with ourselves and each other.
After a morning which started with meditation and moved into one-to-one and triad sessions, Nicholas got his hand drums out. As a drummer myself, I love the power of drums to tap into the primal, the sense that tribal rhythms are rooted in the earth. Earlier this week I had played my first DJ set in a long time, at a space called Dance Medicine in Glastonbury's Red Brick Building. It was my first experience of a movement called conscious dance - guiding people through a musical journey where they are all giving undivided attention to feeling the music and expressing themselves through it. My own connection to music via my last project, The Big Chill festival revealed so strongly and constantly to me music's power as a universal language, its gift to connect us in movement together, its role in unification, in protest, in consciousness raising, its playfulness and humour, its sense of connection.
I loved that we were invited to walk around the room and without speaking, interlock eyes, souls and spirits with each other. A kind of speed dating (well, almost!) but on a deep spiritual level. I would love to introduce this at Campfire's Campout gathering in August. Who has a name for this practice?
I valued and treasured the spirit of calm, of slowing down suddenly and dramatically in this safe space. In shifting a gear and being able to contextualise, process and feel my true feelings after a roller coaster of a week when so many opportunities and ideas were suddenly revealing themselves.
Feeling and deep listening were two key strands of the day. Bringing the ideas into my belly and really sensing and noticing how my body was responding. Feeling the energies, observing whether they had feminine intelligence, whether they had masculine intelligence, or whether the two could sometimes dance together in a delicious oneness that even transcended these differences and became a universal intelligence. A Universal Unfolding.
What I felt alongside the calm was fire in my belly. Fire of anger about the crash landings ahead - lost squabbling politicians caught up in the their own perfect storm of Brexit chaos, the unswerving certainty of their Trumpian dystopia, the blind punchdrunk sense of cocksure certainty, which like many certainties, are arguably the embodiment of a patriarchy that should have long since left the room, of a neoliberal ideology that has enslaved us all for decades in obsessive growth, competition, consumerism, of that same patriarchy that must surely be about to expire as we reach the fag end of a capitalist era that has left us so dislocated from nature, from compassion, from relationship, from spirituality.
Almost as soon as I had left our safe space yesterday, I had a jolt into the parallel universe when I was sent a Tweet made by Labour MP Richard Burgon who brought it our attention that the government had released what he described as a "dystopian statement on the 'prison market'. The juxtaposition of those two words prison and market screams 'enough' at me. Incarcerating people for profit is morally wrong and it is this is that breaks my heart today. It leaves me angry in the same way watching the film I Daniel Blake left me heart broken and angry. But it leaves me fired up and motivated. One other attendee had earlier broken the spell when he stood up and said that his feelings on the day to that point were to with sadness, anger and frustration. We had less than 24 hours left to seek some solutions.
In our space, I most strongly felt the fire of calling - of doing and of activism. The weekend was perfectly framed by Scilla when she mentioned what I too believe so passionately - that we are entering nothing less than a conscious revolution. That massive shift in consciousness will bring big change, much quicker than most of us would have ever thought possible, but in the process we would all have to deal with huge darkness as we move through this unsettling transformation.
- Emotional crisis enables change.
- It’s the opportunity for change.
- And things have to be excruciating before we change.
- And the only person I can possibly change is [I’m afraid to say] me.
The change starts at home. One of Campfire's mantras. We can feel so strongly now that the flame is truly lit and there are many examples of it, much of it prompted by the intensity of the parallel excruciations have become. The plates are moving. Now is our time. We are the change that is already happening.
Nicholas framed another poignant concept for us. An aeroplane flying over a town and from the window we are able to see the light and dark. The electricity that is lighting some areas and not others. This reoccuring theme around 'electricity' led me to green thinking and what it takes of power the lighting of a town or smallholding. I also thought of how, as a species, we have lit the way through history - by torch, by candle, by campfire. I meditated on the power of the campfire to bring people together on the same level, as recognised by the Kalahari bushmen and many other ancient tribes.
Nicholas' analogy resonated with me so much because of its parallels with my own thinking around my ideas for where we could take the light that has so much potential to emanate from Beacons. These action groups that we are now forming symbolise more than Beacons of hope, they are Beacons of light in the darkness, they are Beacons that have the power to light the way forward through people gathering together to talk, to share new ideas, new perspectives and new language. They are the ecosystems that can raise the consciousness and change the game. They are the collectives, the loose co-operatives, the spontaneous meetings, the scared spaces that can offer an alternative to our outmoded political system which we are told is democratic. They can allow us to be truly human and give of our best selves, potentially much more.
Out of these gatherings will rise a new collectivism, a new sense of priority, a new urgency to honour nature and bring about the sort of change to create safeguards so that our children still have a planet to live on, to play on, to connect on, to dream on for the next generation and beyond.
There is no better example of how fast this quantum shift is occurring than Extinction Rebellion. Who here had heard of it? Maybe only four people out of 40 or so, showing how under the radar this movement is and how much potential is still there after just one month. XR is rooted in truth. It demands that "the Government must tell the truth about the climate and wider ecological emergency, reverse inconsistent policies and work alongside the media to communicate with citizens". I was fortunate to hear about it in its first week and by the second week I was one of six thousand people who came to London for the day and ended up occupying five central London bridges. What we did on those bridges tells a different story - on Westminster Bridge which we held for five hours or so, still encouraging cyclists through but blocked off to motor vehicles, there were two meditation and mindfulness sessions, there was song, dance, poetry, speakers, jugglers, children painting their faces and playing. It reminded me of the spirit of The Big Chill festival.
I made a film of the fun and games on the bridge while the police looked on, allowing us to hold the space, many of their faces alert with curiosity and sympathy. In one short month XR has gained over 50000 members, created 130 groups (or Beacons) all over the world. Like Campfire in many ways, It is a microcosmic example of a new model of community, where very little is set in stone, it is not horizontal or top-down with leaders, it meets without hierarchy. Those who birth the ideas put them out there, pass the torch, others tap into their templates of experience and before you know it, you have an unstoppable movement. I would go so far as to say that this movement could easily be the most powerful we have known in our lifetimes in terms of its potential for enlightenment and ultimately regeneration and realignment.
Its ripples will be felt far and wide, through gender equality, through self sufficiency, new progressive economic theory, through new models of democracy and how we run this country and ultimately the wider world. Its changes will be cataclysmic. The UK has a duty to spread these new ideas and ways of being and to spark fires all around the world. We find ourselves in this privileged position. It was interesting for me, given that I moved to Frome in Somerset a year ago - to notice that many of the people who were on the march and many of the speakers on our bridge were from the south west of the UK, where so much of the new consciousness is sparking. Last weekend in Frome we had our own beautiful and very moving funeral and wake for extinct and endangered species that brought the town to a standstill.
photo : Sam Elfer
I smiled when I heard Scilla's summing up yesterday so brilliantly littered with fire analogy. She mentioned "the spark of longing", she talked about "how we fire off each other", she talked about how "one person's passion can ignite others" and how we can "get that fire burning".
We were all set homework by Scilla - what breaks our heart? What is our skill? What do I long to contribute?
So the gift I would like to offer up to everyone in that room as my contribution is a labour of love, something I have poured my heart and soul into- as well as my life savings and much of my waking time - for the last few years.
I have framed the concept and ideas online in a social network, an ecosystem, this ecosystem - Campfire Convention - but it's also the face to face meetings where the sparks can occur. They feed one another.
Now is the time when social networking is ready to make a quantum leap too - away from mega-corporations that mine our data, sell it back to us as targeted ads and filter our news by algorithms. A radical new model is badly needed and Campfire is hoping you will support it as one alternative.
We can use this dystopian darkness around us, painful as it often is, to light our fires, to spark activism. Let us now advance, torch in hand with with the inspiration from this weekend, new concepts, new metaphors, new frames of reference, new rhythms to our conversations which pay respect with full attention to others as they speak. We can introduce the new consciousness into every conversation, every dinner party, every snippet of idle chat at the bus stop, on the train, at the checkout.
And then come back and meet around Campfires all over the world, discuss our experiences, plot and plan, look into each others eye, play some drums, eat delicious home cooked food, recite poetry, sing, dance, cry, hug each other, and then resolve to go out with an intention - to change hearts and minds, to bring people together, to join the dots while respecting the differences. To find the common ground that we can all plug into.
Many of us have already been building our own fires at home, perhaps without fully realising or recognising the process. We are each becoming conscious in different ways, essentially starting from a stillness within ourselves, starting with listening, starting with awakening and lighting our own fires and ten sharing love and compassion around those fires.
The electricity that Nicholas talked about is the life force. It resonated when he said we should be looking for where the electricity is cut off. Let's keep watching for the Campfires that have been extinguished,being alert to those who need our help and guidance. Doing this alone can make a difference, doing this work together we have the potential of tap into all the latent energies of the fire and to spark something new and magical.
The most highly charged and emotional moment of the weekend was the closing ceremony where all men faced the wall at one end of the room and women likewise. Nicholas then asked us to all individually turn around face the other gender when we were ready. What followed was both transformative and hugely uplifting to experience as tears were shed before we each made our way towards the middle and soon many hugs were taking place and a kind of liberation was experienced, with extraordinary levels of intensity.
A vision was shared in those moments - the groundwork for collaboration had been created and sparks were flying.
As organisers stated their intention as "The immediate vision is of groups of 1000 women and 1000 men coming together to engage this Restoration of the sacred Feminine and the sacred Masculine working together."
We are lighting the flame that leads a trail to a gathering of the clans on August 28th for five day Campout just outside Frome which can harness the combined power and wisdom of the female and the male working in harmony, so maybe we can start to move towards this there?
I would like to offer to pass the torch - each and very one of us can be Firestarters and trailblaze a new consciousness together.
Campfire Convention is looking for funding for Phase 3 of its development. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to help support spreading the word around our upcoming crowd-funding initiative.
We are starting to build a project SCILLA ELWORTHY PEACE RESOURCES which can include articles, links, books, inspiration. We could create something similar for Wise Men, Wise Women, Wiser World?