Sunday 19 February 2012

The people in the room, the people next door, the plant by the river

In the post-Unleashing days of the Heart and Soul, Arts, Culture and Well-being group (yes, we really called it that) in Transition Norwich, a lively group of up to fifteen people would meet once or twice a month and discuss everything from Deep Ecology to mental health and the NHS to Authentic Movement, Dreaming and how a sledgehammer might help us to be resilient.

We came from all walks of life, disciplines, classes, sexualities, ages and incomes, all with our different experiences. Some of us knew each other a lot, some a little, some not at all. We were all drawn by this new thing called Transition. What? Unleash creative genius – together? LET’S DO IT!

In the first months we would start each meeting by speaking about an object we’d brought along which revealed something about our lives. As we each spoke out from a knitted square, a painted tin butterfly, a photograph of a grandparent, a branch of bay leaves or indeed a sledgehammer, a kind of intimacy was created in the room which would have been impossible otherwise in a meeting lasting two and a half hours.

Over a couple of years the group shifted and morphed and ultimately dissolved; people got jobs, left, fell out, started other Transition projects, things changed.

And I wouldn’t normally be thinking about it, but five of the people writing this week* on how our relationships have been/are influenced by Transition, were in that early group. And four of us were in the room together when instead of an object we each brought a relevant night dream we’d had and spoke it out loud to everyone else. We were looking for potential keys and clues as we made our way along the road less travelled of Transition.

I chose a dream from an intense, experiential exploration of the relationship between plants and dreams I'd conducted with Charlotte over several years. This is what I wrote about it for a booklet we produced, Speaking with the Heart – How to Dialogue with Ourselves, Each Other and the Earth. The plant is Hemp Agrimony, an East Anglian native wildflower. And I was being taught about getting on with the people next door.

HEMP AGRIMONY Eupatorium cannabinum
Hemp agrimony is a tall, strong plant which grows by water often in the company of great willowherb and meadowsweet. It blooms in July and August and its flowers are pink and fluffy. Sitting alongside the plant on the riverbank one day, I became aware that it remains rooted and maintains itself, whilst letting things go by. That night I asked hemp agrimony to inform my dreams, although I had no specific question. I dreamt the following:


I am staying in a room somewhere overnight and a group of drunk ‘travellers’ and ‘hippies’ come to stay in the next door room. My attitude is nonchalant and self-amused, and when I talk with my rowdy neighbours I am outspoken and non-judgemental. I was aware of hemp agrimony informing the dream and clearly heard the words: That’s the end of Moral Mark.

I felt this was a poor dream but in dialogue with Charlotte the next morning she remembered a message she'd received when working with hemp agrimony: Go with what you have.
So who or what is or was Moral Mark?
Moral Mark is the opposite of all the things I felt in the dream. He is uptight, indignant and self-righteous, quietly resentful, bitter and very judgemental.
Moral Mark certainly would not enjoy having travellers and hippies come to stay next door, particularly if they were drunk.
Moral Mark says everybody must be clean and well-behaved and most of all quiet. Especially if he is around.
Moral Mark thinks there is him and then there are them, or rather THEM, and THEY are different from him and therefore wrong, or rather WRONG.
Moral Mark does not have a sense of humour, certainly not about himself. Moral Mark does not like the neighbours.
Moral Mark is gravely offended and takes everything personally.
Moral Mark remains in his room thinking negative thoughts about the people in the other rooms. He does not go out and speak to people.

Moral Mark was never a very real character, more a crystallisation of certain collective mindsets and opinions. However this is not to underestimate his power.

When Moral Mark was in the ascendant, my life would become restricted and miserable. These crystallisations dam the flow of energy and with time can take over one’s being. Hemp Agrimony was informing me that Moral Mark had come to his end. That my heart wanted something else. It was time to decrystallise.

All these years later and thanks to Transition (and hemp agrimony) I have decrystallised. I'm no longer stuck in a room next door to the party thinking negative thoughts about others. There are far too many people to meet and projects (and parties) to be getting on with these days.

So this post is dedicated to everyone in those early Transition Norwich meetings; to *Charlotte, Chris, Helen and Kerry; to all the travellers, hippies, reskillers, authentic movers, plant people, nurses and neighbours in that room and the one next door. Without you this decrystallisation would not have happened. And the world is less one negative neighbour. Thank you.

Photo: Purple Loosestrife, Gypsywort and Hemp Agrimony in Oxford 2011 by David Short; Painted Stone in Hand (MW)

No comments:

Post a Comment