facilitating & hosting

Building Capacity Through Our Own Eldership

Digging back through books I’ve read and came across this group activity from Joanna Macy’s Coming Back to Life: Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World:

Closing the eyes, they imagine moving forward thirty years in time; from that vantage point and in response to three questions from a child, they look back at the present. Participants, whose age might make another thirty years of life unlikely, are simply asked, for the sake of the exercise, to imagine they’re still around. Brief silence of about a minute follows each of the child’s queries, which focus on: 1) the reality of the dangers we faced “back then” in that time of crisis; 2) how we felt about them; and 3) how we found the strength to respond to them creatively. After returning to the present, participants gather in threes to reflect on their responses to the child, and, when time permits, bring these reflections to the larger group.

It reminds me of an exercise I did in a Process Work workshop that helped us access our own eldership. In Joanna’s activity, I like how it could have a broader context and application. With a group who has been coming together in conversations that matter to discover a new way forward, maybe struggling in that realm of uncertainty and could gain strength by reconnecting to themselves. Using this activity to tap into their inner wisdom and their own eldership. Design improv – here’s a concept to play with:

  • Framing – our pivotal moment and turning points ahead, being in the space of unknowing, pausing to deepen our resilience and capacity for the continuing journey by accessing our own eldership.
  • Circle – round of talking piece check-in.
  • Gather in triads for the eldership activity; one is the role of the child, one is the elder, and one is the witness and space holder.
  • After the eldership questions are finished, allow time for silent reflection and journalling.
  • Invite the ‘children’ to gather together, the ‘elders’ to gather together, and the space holders to gather together to reflect on the responses to the child and what insights sparked for them.
  • Come back into Circle for a round of talking piece council to answer “What seed of wisdom emerged that helps light our way forward?”
  • Graphic harvest capturing the insights.
  • Check-out round – one word describing what they are taking with them from the conversation.

This might work as a conversation evening or multi-day session, held within a larger framework of conversations moving towards wise action. Fun to think about the richness this could bring.

La Vida de mi Abuela Jeyheich via Compfight