First of all, the invitation to Storyfield itself blew my mind. Sent out to visual artists, writers, photographers, filmmakers, videographers, oral storytellers, journalists, executive coaches, non-profit workers, process arts practitioners, teachers, elders, the invitation was wide and consciously went out to a broad range of age and ethnicities. The call was made for us all to consider the larger field of cultural and personal stories that determine our world view, and see what a new story might look like.
Conceived by Tom Atlee of the Co-Intelligence Institute and Peggy Holman, co-editor of The Change Handbook, Storyfield was unlike any other conference I’d ever been to. In truth it was more like a Gathering of the Tribes; the wide and diverse tribes of creative humanity engaged in Re-imagining the World.
The event was held using Open Space Technology, which is a process that holds incredible promise for interaction and open sharing of people’s passions and dreams. It also invites a certain amount of creative chaos and definitely suits extrovert personalities better than introverts. Along with the unexpected treasure that emerged, there were many shy souls that were lost in the mix and couldn’t show up at all. For future gatherings, I’d prefer to see the Open Space format tempered with other more inclusive methods like the World Café or the circle work used in Heartland Circle’s Thought Leader Gatherings.
Still, the gathering was an amazing expression of positive energy and spontaneous community building. One member of the group introduced a formula that was crucial for creating the container strong enough to hold the group together – HSL – which stands for ‘holding, seeing, and loving’ each other. This group definitely HSLed each other into being, and we emerged with a rare and powerful sense of connection and community, poised to take action in a variety of ways.
A lot of effort went into getting a diverse representation of people to attend, but of course there were big gaps – most notably a lack of Hispanic participants – and the numbers of native peoples in attendance broadly reflected the balance of native peoples whose voices are visible in the white-dominated world more generally. There were some necessary crash courses in Racism 101 offered for those of us as yet unaware of the extent of our cultural unconsciousness, and that led to some amazing openings both personally and in the group as a whole. The youth contingent was given particular status; their projects and enthusiasms championed in concrete ways. For example, one morning’s sharing of a story about one youth project that needed support raised over $1300 in $10s & $20s (plus one anonymous $500 donation) from the assembly within a few hours; approx. $300 over the amount needed.
My most memorable moments came from one young teacher whose love for her students was so palpable it made me long for that kind of unconditional care and support to be universally available to developing psyches everywhere. She was so talented and expressive herself that she blew my mind constantly. The first time I noticed there was a powerhouse in the room was when she let out a loud “BaaayOhhh!” during one of the early gatherings, explaining with a shrug and her signature smile – “that’s the sound my soul makes when I open my mouth.” Her contribution to an impromptu talent show after our last night’s feast was some of the most moving performance poetry I’ve ever seen. I would give anything to be her publisher! I hope I’ll have the opportunity to share the video we took of that night’s festivities here at some point.
She also offered one of my favorite ideas for taking the energy we’d created together forward. Her suggestion was simple – to break bread regularly with others in our communities, and afterwards invite folks to share creative expressions – to sing a song, or recite their poetry, or play a musical instrument, or do whatever they are called to do in that moment to unleash the wild heart’s imagination. My love-monkey and I have been promising ourselves to offer regular dinner salons for ages now, a place to gather in community and discuss questions that matter to all of us. Perhaps this will be the catalyst for us to actually do it.
Another powerful joy for me was in seeing a project dear to my heart proposed by a good friend, George Johnson of Entrevis, and have it take off (luckily he’s an extrovert! ☺). The project is Vision for Humanity, and it came from an idea initiated by Australian visionary Malcolm Cohan. George’s current iteration is called TellAVision and he has some fantastic plans for it. Stay tuned for more details.
Finally, but by no means least important, the gathering was held at the Shambhala Mountain Center in northern Colorado, and the land was alive with magic. There is a Tibetan Stupa built on the property that channels positive energy between the heavens and earth, and you could feel the funnel effect activating the whole property.
It felt like we were co-creating a vortex of energy during our time together that will have effects far beyond anything we can currently image. It didn’t hurt that the entire gathering was held within sacred space – marked in the visible world by an Ojibwa pipe ceremony that began the first morning on the steps in front of the Stupa, calling our collective ancestors in to bless our work. It ‘ended’ with the two pieces of the pipe being separated after the final session, where the mantle of conference leadership was passed to a new group who will organize next year’s event.
I suspect many of you will want to be there; I know I will.