Friday, August 26, 2016

I want to reprint my Favourite email here - received it after Greenbelt 2010

I want to reprint my Favourite email here.
I received it after Greenbelt 2010
It was inspiring to me
It was helpful to me
It touched me
because it was about humans
themselves - feeling themselves
winding and twisting their
spiritual selves
with their emotional selves.
That is why I loved it
Love it
It is here::

Dear Pip,
I don't often write emails to people I don't know, but I wanted to give you encouragement and a thank you for your L5 session on Monday evening at Greenbelt. 
I think that maybe you don't get to hear the small stories and see all the little things that happen when you do shorter workshops. & maybe you don't get as many thank yous as people intend or get to know how much you & your words are appreciated.

& I get the feeling that you do need a thank you & some encouragement especially after this Greenbelt, so I don't think you'll think I'm crazy for writing to someone I don't know.  
I'm writing this whilst on a night shift in a supported living unit (what I do when not stewarding at Greenbelt). It's 4am so I'm not as awake and coherent as I'd like to be, but I hope you can follow.

I was one of the venues stewards at the workshop, standing on the fire escape at the back of the tent: perfect for people watching (which is also why I love being a venue steward. People are wonderful,and Greenbelt has so many different types of people to watch, to meet.)

Here's what I saw from my fire escape.

I saw a man, so painfully shy that he could not tell me his name or look me in the eye at the start of the session, let alone tell us what made him feel vulnerable (in words, although it was painfully obvious) come out of himself enough to do the group work.
I saw him look a stranger in the eyes, and smile - a true smile from his heart. I had been prepared to move out the way of the door, and let him escape. I didn't plan on sending him out the 'correct' exit when he chose to leave. I had already decided that it would be inhuman to do that.That's how certain I was he'd leave. 
He stayed until the end. 

I saw another man, (in the group that tried to include me as much as possible) go from clearly not wanting to communicate, reserved, resenting the group work and the contact with strangers to sitting listening fully with compassion and concern to the woman who told him of her tough time. At the end they sat and talked, and he put his barriers down to her, to me. He walked out the tent looking somehow lighter.

I saw the woman facing her fear and telling him the thing that maybe she hadn't told anyone yet. They looked the most unlikely pair to communicate well. I saw her relief at his acceptance. She was nervous and talking a lot, to me to the two others in her group. Laughing over the awkward bits, trying to cover up the uncomfortableness. I saw her face and the realisation and new self knowledge that came when you explained why you asked people not to talk, and that laughter was often used as a cover up. She understood.
I think she understood a lot about herself in that moment and the way she communicates. I think she learnt how to be more real, and not to cover over the cracks. She was quieter after that, in a good way. 

I watched another young woman in a group near me go from sitting curled in on herself, one arm in a barrier to talking openly with her group, sitting up straight opening herself up physically during the exercises. She seemed to gain confidence in one hour.

I watched people's reactions to each other change and grow and the expressions as something you said /the exercises taught us new things, showed another way of communicating. The difference between level 3/4 and 5.

I watched as those who seemed too scared to speak into the microphone did, and as they did they told the truth. watched people anxious and clearly dreading speaking before you got to them, open up and tell the truth, and look proud of themselves afterwards for doing it. 
I watched you show people that you understood the unspoken emotions, when you carried on talking but with a hand on someone's shoulder. Simple and oh so powerful. 
I watched the relief and thankfulness on their faces, that you had understood and taken the time to show them empathy. 

I watched the gratefulness on people's faces when you talked about your greenbelt and how this year it was not-so-good for you, and how you had decided to say that instead of the expected clichéd answers.
That Greenbelt itself can be wonderful, but our experience of it, our personal Greenbelts sometimes can not be. If people had speech bubbles, some of them would have said 'now I can be real too.' or 'I am not alone.' 

I watched a group of friends doing the exercises together seem to connect in a deeper way than before, the new way they looked at each other and the way they stayed talking afterwards. Truy present to each other,really listening. I talked to them a little afterwards, they told me they felt that they could go and carry on being honest in that way with each other, when none had the courage to do so before. That they were so glad they came to the workshop.

I watched groups who had been reluctant to speak to each other at the start of the workshop stay talking to each other at the end, unwilling to stop, to leave.

I watched how you took the time to be with people after you finished speaking,and how comfortable they felt approaching you and talking. In some other talks, people approach speakers with a little awkwardness and trepidation- trying to impress or wondering if the speaker will take the time to talk to them. People approached you differently, they had confidence that they were going to be accepted and listened to. That is a true gift.

At the time of your workshop I was not a regular happy shiny venues steward. My cheese had fallen right off my cracker with my two other team mates just before your talk, and I was glad I was on the fire escape - less chance of having to talk to anyone (steward or Greenbelter), less chance of snapping at anyone again. Your workshop was just where I needed to be.
Before I came on shift that evening, a kindred spirit had asked me how I was feeling. He does things like that sometimes, in random places (like half way across the walkway, for no obvious reason.) I had tried to find out how I was feeling, and discovered I didn't really know. He wasn't happy with that, being used to having honest answers from me and being one of those persistent types, and I'd gone on shift wondering why it was such a hard question. I was trying to figure that out, and understand why I was being unreasonable with my team. My friend had left me with another question 'how long have you not known how you feel?' and in your talk I realised that I felt numb and numbness was a sort of feeling. I realised I had felt mainly numb for a long time.
I hadn't understood really how it was affecting me. I went numb all of a sudden, when a good friend (who was also a priest) was murdered. When I was told, my legs gave way, at exactly the same something in my soul did too. I lost the ability to pray, to worship. To write, to play music. I lost the ability to be with people. I thought my faith in God had been shaken, when I realised it hadn't but still couldn't/can't pray, I didn't understand why. If I didn't doubt God, if I still understood his love, why was worship cold, why couldn't I pray, or stand people praying with me? I did have level 4/5 conversations with people – with my very closest friends but it was hard all of a sudden. & I never spoke about the murder or about the things after it, the funeral the media, the anger and unforgiveness in the church, the court case.
&gradually I stopped feeling other things too, until something happened that made me explode or I had too much to drink.

It wasn't until your workshop I understood that I had stopped communicating with myself, and the wall I felt between me and God was a communication problem, I simply went numb and stopped communicating at level 5 most of the time (&all the time with God.) Then I understood why I had been struggling in relationships, in helping people, in feeling more short tempered than ever before.
I understood why I couldn't answer my friend whenever he asked me how I was feeling. I understood why I haven't been able to write (diaries/letters/blogs) and why I can't play music with passion. You can't play the piano and not feel. It's been nearly three years since I felt properly.

&gradually, feeling is coming back. I'm getting a case of spiritual pins and needles (&in working with vulnerable adults and children with behavioural difficulties I need to know how I'm feeling, to be real and not let my cheese fall off my cracker.)

I know you were restless at Greenbelt, and not doing the youth/urban talks you live to do. You had only that one talk this year. I saw on your blog it frustrated you. But perhaps it had to happen that way,so you could be real with some of the people there in the way they needed.
Perhaps you simply needed to slow down this Greenbelt? To have space to think about your restlessness and what to do with it – to feel the restlessness. It's hard sometimes stepping back and not dong so much, especially when it's what you love to do. 

I know an hour didn't seem enough to get it all in, to say all that you could have said,perhaps all you planned to say.
You put your heart and soul into that workshop,we could all see it. It was truly worth five talks.
At the door our team counted over 170 people into that workshop.
That's 170 people who got the chance to face their insecurities and themselves and communicate at level 4/5, and take that away back into their everydayness, and to change their relationships. If those 170 people change the way they communicate with just one person, that's 340 people who are more able to be with each other. 170 people with a taste of what it is like to be more authentic and real. Many who may not have ever done it before, or known about the levels of communication, much less used them well. 170 people who came with stories and frustrations,thinking of situations they needed to go back home to going away with a refreshed and enabled heart. 170 lives that you spoke to, that you may never know the influence you had. Sometimes small, sometimes profound.
That's not low profile. God's work never is.

I hope you have time to recover after Greenbelt. After Greenbelt often feels like a new year to me, post festival blues instead of January blues. &resolutions after the time out and new things I learn. &to recover and process those few days and learn to live in our everyday lives again. Sometimes it's not easy at all. 
I hope you don't mind a very long email, but I wanted you to know some of the things I saw that perhaps you didn't get to see, and how grateful I am for your wisdom in the workshop, to tell you one small story.
There must be many more.  

Thank you.