Penny Sirota has been living in community for 17 years. She is an educator and a process junkie. Currently she is a student in Laird Schaub‘s two year long facilitation training.
You can contact Penny through Monan’s Rill email: info(at)monansrill(dot)org
During Art of Community Penny will be co-facilitating the following workshop with Mike Bodkin, Renee Sweezey, and Uta Saltzberg:
Gift Group: A Process to Deepen Our Relationships
Monan’s Rill is a 40-year-old community that is entering its 3rd generation of members. We are no longer in the midst of our founders, who were dynamic movers and shakers, bound by their deep conviction and vision of starting and building community. Without them, we have been asking ourselves: Who are we now? What is our purpose? What is the common vision that leads us forward? One of the answers to emerge from this field of inquiry has been to focus on building our relationships with one another. We know wherever we head in the future, we will be more productive and satisfied if we focus on building intimacy and trust with each other.
It began with a few of us, who were especially hungry for a deeper connection.
We started to experiment with formats that could allow us to learn about each other in a rich, authentic way. We were inspired by books such as: “A Hidden Wholeness” by Parker Palmer and “We Need Each Other” by Bill Kauth. Based on these ideas, and the practices of council, we planned a series of meetings and over the course of the year, a meeting format has evolved which has been successful. We have learned how to create a safe space to grow closer to one another.
One of the important elements we have learned to incorporate in these gatherings is the idea of a “third thing”. This comes from Parker Palmer’s work. Palmer eloquently describes the soul as a shy and wild thing that must be carefully coaxed out into the open. The use of a third thing is a way to allow a focus for the inward reflection. It may be a song, a story, a myth, a poem. The shy soul can attend to this story and respond without the harsh light of a directly revealing question. People can quietly share their experiences and truths in response to the “third”. We have experimented with quite a few different forms of “third things” in our sessions and would like to share these ideas.
The gift group has had a powerful and positive effect on many other aspects of community life. Our sense of connection and trust to one another has been reinvigorated. As a result, everything is a bit easier, more meaningful and more fun. We haven’t solved all of our problems, but we find we are much more able to listen to one another with patience and compassion, flexibility and humor. We are less concerned about being heard, and instead, are more focused on listening and encouraging. It feels like we are on to something good and we would like to share it!
Our hope is that others will leave the workshop inspired and empowered to begin similar groups at their own communities.
Share our story with just a bit of history and background to explain why we started gift group.
Setting the structure: Agreements and agendas. How to create a safe space for people to share from the heart. Share sample agendas.
Experience the gift group process – leaders will lead the participants through a shortened version of the gift group agenda so everyone can get a sense of the opening intention, use of the “third thing” and closing (Group may split into two smaller groups for this section)
Questions and Answers about the planning and implementing gift groups.
Resource Sharing: Highlight a few of the best books we have found.