Day 2: Mary Freer

This coming together each year as a community is something truly inspirational. At the conclusion of our first day I felt my mind and body trying to pull threads of meaning from the experiences of being in the company of so many extraordinary humans.

There were clear themes that continued through into the second day: 

  • The violent impact of capitalism.
  • This more than human world we inhabit.
  • The beauty of bringing our whole selves.
  • The multiple layers of time and intergenerational connection.
  • Intergenerational trauma and resilience.

As the Program Curator I have the special privilege of being the only person in the room who has met (often on numerous zoom calls or in cafes) with every single speaker. I have spent 8 months weaving the program together. Some nights I would dream about a session and then upon waking, I’d send a message to one of our speakers—“You came to me in a dream last night. Can we talk about a session I’d like for you to do?” One speaker told me (in relation to the program) “you could ask me to do anything and I would say yes.” It was from this place of courage and deep trust that we built the conference. I think this was evident.

Nartarsha Bamblett—Queen Acknowledgements

Day Two started with more energy and joy than I thought was possible in one room, thanks to Nartarsha Bamblett (Queen Acknowledgements) a proud First Nations woman living and learning on Naarm Country in Melbourne.  Nartarsha was joined by Ganga and the yidaki. We were invited into a deeply somatic acknowledgement of Country, calling on the energy from the highest source, the earth, the sun and the moon, and the waters, the lands, the mountains, the valleys and the plains. Summoning up the ancestors and the descendants—the room became a collective joyous dance. 

As Nartarsha beckoned the forces to join us she also brought messages from her ancestors to guide us: “what would it take for us to be free?” 

Selma says, “Post traumatic growth is when you bounce  beyond what was before the trauma, not in spite of it, but because of the struggle encountered in the aftermath of the trauma”.

Selma Quist Møller

With our spirits in flight and our hearts beating a little faster from drumming out the beat with our feet on the earth and our arms soaring through the air, we settled into a session with our next speaker, Selma Quist Møller.

Disturbance is a prayer, it’s a crossroad and it’s an invitation to become something different. Bayo Akomolafe

Selma brought a gentle encouragement to us in her thoughtful exploration of post-traumatic growth. We know about the negative and damaging consequences of trauma and crisis but more recently, research is exploring how trauma can disrupt us in such a way that wisdom may be revealed because the crisis or trauma has occurred. An example of trauma was found in Kinsugi (a Japanese practice of repairing pottery by adhering the broken pieces back together by using gold as a means of glue—the object becoming even more beautiful than it was previously before) — a metaphor for embracing your flaws and imperfection. How can a crack (a trauma) reveal insights that we might now realise?

Selma states, “Post traumatic growth is when you bounce beyond what was before the trauma, not in spite of it, but because of the struggle encountered in the aftermath of the trauma”.

Workshop Masterclass with Selma and Sará

Following morning tea, we returned for a Workshop Masterclass with Dr Sará King and Selma Quist Møller. This was the first time they presented together the work they had been developing alongside one another for a number of years. A special moment for us all.

When we talk about trauma we need to keep the powerful words of Resmaa Menaken close to us:

Trauma decontextualised in a person looks like personality.
Trauma decontextualised in a family looks like family traits.
Trauma decontextualised in people looks like culture.

Ways of understanding identity was a strong theme across this 90 minute session. As Sará reminded us, our identity is intergenerational and all of these identities are in conversation all the time. We were invited to think about our ancestors and to imagine for a moment which ancestor—be that human, animal, spirit or plant—we would invite to have with us in the room. Over and over again throughout the two days I was reminded that we live in a multi-dimensional world: a more than human world—a world where time is sloshy and moves back and forth and over and under us. It is a particular colonising system of thought that deems time to be a straight line where there is a past never to be revisited, and a future not yet in existence.

I see the damaging impact of burnout, perfectionism, not-enoughness and scarcity mindset in every Compassion Lab I hold. To hear Sará name this as the fruit of living at the speed of capitalism has really stayed with me. I felt these words imprint into my body.

KA McKercher

Many folks appreciated the call-out to the sole operators in the room , “the ones in the room that were done talking to people about their feelings”—a call to anyone who wanted to be ‘left alone’ for a moment. I loved this. It underscored our expectations of other humans; extroversion and neuronormative is always the first to get a gold star. Big respect here. “It’s okay to need space and to need time to reflect and process. It doesn’t mean we’re not interested or we’re being rude—it just means ‘let me come as I am’”.

“Come as you are!” was the refrain throughout the day. You don’t need to fit in, to shape yourself in any way. No masking or posturing needed in this space. This was a session about Careful (or full of care) Collaboration (aka ‘meetings don’t have to suck’).

Amy Milhinch

Amy, our very own Director of Design for Social Change at Compassion Revolution, gave us a peek into the process and love that accompanies all of the design work across the Compassion Revolution. KA in conversation with Amy helped me ground myself into the process of creation, the making and the shaping of the visual representation of this revolution. Beauty is a guiding value for Amy and it was apparent for all to see, She says, ‘beauty is a demand for attention, and is a gateway to love’.

Claire Wathen

Claire unpacked for us the title of her presentation, Future Leading is Collective and Collaborative, word by word.

Beginning with a moment of touching into this idea of Future. Throughout the previous two days, the harmony was always ‘networks’: neural networks; mycelium networks; tree root system networks; the networks of everyone in the room, including the strong-bonds and weak-ties. The future is not out there, it is already here. Claire recalled a quote that is one I have held close for the last 12 months.

The calling is the echo of the arrival. Thomas Hübl

When we ask ‘What is collectively needed here?’ we begin to open and extend rather than grip and compete. I wondered about the immediate benefits of collectivity in our fractured care systems. 

Claire shared with us the four network principles that have been developed by Jane Wei Skillern:

  • Focus on mission before organisation.
  • Manage through trust, not control.
  • Promote others not yourself.
  • Build constellations not stars.

Kate Bowles and Brigid Russell

Every time, I look forward to anything Kate is involved in. Their wisdom and care is embroidered across every conversation they have brought to all five of our conferences and it was Kate who had brought to Compassion Revolution’s attention #placesforlistening, an initiative of Brigid’s and her co-creator, Charlie Jones. Kate and Brigid had met for the first time in person only a week prior the conference. Brigid had flown in from Scotland and joined Kate on a road trip from Sydney to Melbourne. I imagined them driving, gently unfolding a new understanding of their respective worlds.

The conversation about the rush and the pull of work was felt across the room. We all know it, we all experience it. This was a conversation about listening, and here were two exquisite listeners telling us that it is really difficult to argue for listening as a form of work, in a world and workplace where talk and opinions are seen as currency. Listening is not time off or time out, this is the work that makes our organisations safe and caring. 

In closing

As the day was coming to a close, Shannon Weber, my dear radical friend (a term we’ve borrowed from Sará and Selma) joined me on stage to wrap up the day. We invited participants to take a simple luggage tag and write on it the seed that they were taking away from these two days to plant and care for and grow. We also invited everyone to join us to collectively dismantle the extraordinary two metre high floral display that adorned our stage. Sometimes beautiful things need to come apart and be composted. As our guests left the venue they took a piece of flora and placed it in the compost bin and silently acknowledged what they would like to compost. I’ve carried the contents of those compost containers home with me where they are now slowly breaking down, becoming new rich forms of nutrients. Soon we will take the composted flowers and they will feed a new Compassion Tree that we will plant in Adelaide. The whole cycle will start again.

I’m still metabolising everything I heard and felt and experienced over the two days in Naarm. It’s true that the person who went to Making Work Beautiful isn’t the person who came home. I was made anew and I’m so grateful that it happened with a community so full love and courage.

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