Saturday, July 08, 2006

BPF Gathering: Open Space Technology

On Saturday afternoon (6/22) we had three hours slated for Open Space Technology. But before that was...lunch. Did I mention that the food was really good even though it was good for you? Funny thing, now I can't remember details, because there were so many other things occupying my brain. I remember a cheesy polenta, fresh salad greens at every lunch and dinner, and a barley dish better than any I've had. (That one bitter green was *not* in the salad until the very last meal....hmmmm.) Whatever it was this hour, I thought I'd wait until after a little side trip to Cold Spring, but I snagged a little just in case I ran out of time.

Chris, the really local local guy, of the Middle Way Meditation Center of Cold Spring, told us all about a little peace demo that happens (once a month? week?) on the main drag of Cold Spring. He himself hadn't had a chance to go to it because his Saturdays are usually otherwise occupied. Five or six of us carpooled just a few minutes away for the half hour vigil. I found myself holding one end of a banner and standing next to a silver-haired Vietnam vet who told me they'd been doing this since the war began, with just a short period of time when it disbanded. At first there was a counter-demo, pro-war, but that dwindled and stopped. Also at first local cops gave them a really hard time, most of them being ex-military, but that too has stopped. I was bubbling over with the idea from Aidan Delgado on sending packages to the troops, as I'd just come from that workshop. He seemed to think it a good idea too. Oh yeah, someone drove by in a pickup blaring one of those schmaltzy patriotic new country songs. I do believe I got a hug before I left. I ended up eating just a little more lunch.

I am so glad we made sure Viki from Seattle made it to the gathering. She introduced and facilitated the open space time. For those who don't know, open space is a way to have meetings that has only four rules and one law:
  1. Whoever comes are the right people
  2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could
  3. Whenever it starts is the right time
  4. Whenever it's over, it's over

The Law of Two Feet

I hadn't experienced it before, but I was the one who suggested we find a way to include it. With only 3 hours, we just had time for two sessions. As far as I know, no one really utilized the "law of two feet." Viki told me she suspected that might happen, that "Buddhists would be too polite." The second sessions were all small, people escaping from the stifling heat to rest, no doubt. We certainly had a packed schedule. Our thematic question, related to the theme of the gathering: What practices for creating peace in difficult times do we hope to learn together? (and to lead to items for action) How will we do this?

We had about 4 or 5 offerings in each session. Each one had notes and action items to come out of them, which will probably also be on the BPF website soon. I offered one based on a long-standing conundrum of mine (of any organizer I suppose) on how to get people involved and stay involved. I came up with a metaphor from physics: if you drop a balloon on a nail sticking up, it will pop, but if you drop a balloon on 10 nails, it will be held up. My topic for discussion was, "How to get more Nails?" Five or six of us talked about what our experiences in our chapters were, including Denis from my 'mentor chapter'. In fact I think that was a possible action item: identify mentor chapters. Also match chapters up with like interests.

A theme from the Fundraising workshop continued here for me: work from our core values rather than focus on numbers. Maybe rather than create stratification with 'steering group' and 'members' and 'friends', simply identify a few core people who can work together to do a few tasks, and not worry about how many members we have. Another plan of action for me, rather than ask the Portland group generally about a need for more help with various tasks, to ask for help with specific tasks. Denis stressed the importance that BPF chapter meetings *not* be about business, but practice and discussion, something that keeps people wanting to come back. Business is taken care of via email and other meetings among the core group. Actually, I just remembered a related conversation with another BPF Chapter Council member, Jeff. (During a break...the very sort of thing that inspired open space technology.) He said we (he and I) find ourselves in the position of being a leader but not trying to be an authority, that we then end up being more of a 'leader-servant'. I've really got to talk to him more about that. (Can you tell I've been over-extending myself?)

I stayed in the same room for Denis' offering, "Right Relationships". (I think he did that on purpose.) There were only 3 of us, or was it 4? Viki said often small is better, and she was right. This almost was a continuation of the previous session. No one had left, and no one wandered in, either time. (darn) Denis was thinking about the relationships between groups, and between chapters and BPF. How do we define our relationships? I took the notes for this one, which helped me see patterns develop in our conversation and zoom in on spots that needed clarifying. We identified core values that our groups would bring to relationships to other groups, and that alone was pretty impressive, I thought. I look forward seeing the write-up, hope it still makes sense. We also got a start on answering the questions, "What responsibility does BPF have to chapters?" and "What responsibility do the chapters have to BPF?" Having been on the chapter council for over a year, and dealt with non-responses from chapter contacts, I found it interesting that Denis was long on responses to the first, but not on the second. (Denis is not a chapter contact.) I got one possible solution for the non-responsiveness later from Viki: get more core member contacts from chapters, and include them in my queries.

Later, during the break, one of our a/v guys set up the pre-recorded video of Aitken Roshi's dharma talk. I wanted to watch, but I also had taken on the task of making the notes legible from both my sessions, so I sat in the room and copied. This time, I was too preoccupied to hear the full quote about getting naked in the streets. Of course I realized he'd just said it when everyone else in the room reacted. Heh. I'm hoping to get a copy anyway, so I could show it here in Portland. I also hope to get a copy of the 11 minute film they showed to us on the very first night, "Being Peace in Time of War." It has footage of peace demos that BPF was involved in, and bits of interviews with Aitken Roshi and Sulak Sivaraksa, two BPF venerables.

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