On August 30, fifty-six of us from near and far answered an inner calling and gathered around the Brookfield, Massachusetts hearth to participate in the first Sacred Fire Community-sponsored forum to explore issues of gender, authority and power. The circle of those present gathered around a hearth in the middle of a forest of tall oaks, maple, birch, and pine. Dappled sunlight filtered down and gentle warm winds spoke through the rustling leaves. A diversity of voices from within as well as new to the Sacred Fire Community represented the many others who would have liked to attend. As the fire was consecrated, the energetic container that held us in our earnest work became palpable.
The forum was skillfully led by Gary Reiss, a senior Global Process Institute (GPI) facilitator. Gary travels worldwide to lead community forums on topical and often contentious issues, facilitating conflict resolution and organizational development. Gary is much appreciated and respected by SFC Firekeepers who have since 2007 been guided by GPI faculty in the practice of “Dancing with Emotions”.
As part of setting the stage for the day, Gary told us that for every gathered group, there are four levels of orientation to consider. These include personal, relationship with others, the group itself and the world. There is an interrelationship between these different levels such that work at any level can touch the whole. Similarly, as the group began calling out its concerns and as major themes became clear, Gary noted that it wouldn’t really matter which door we entered; all would lead to the center, to the (transformational) presence of Fire. Of note, Grandfather Fire has called himself both the “original Process Worker” and the actual “founder” of the Sacred Fire Community. (Asheville, NC. 8/23/ 2014). In the language of Process Work, as our group gathered we had become a “landing field” for Fire to help dissolve misunderstandings and projections, provide wisdom and teachings, and help make clear where procedures and approaches might need to be changed. In this way, every individual present, no matter their rank or role and no matter their mode of expression, would be in service to the work of Fire.
The major themes that emerged through the sorting process revolved around the use of authority, gender,communication, trust/safety and a mutual longing for the experience of heart-centered relationships. As the group process began, it was pointed out that a major confusion has resulted because there are several sub-groups (spiritual traditions), which are strongly represented within today’s Sacred Fire Community. Many of the lineage holders of these traditions have been a passionate part of the birth and early growth of the Sacred Fire Community. As the day progressed it became increasingly clear that internal and otherwise private issues within the rigors of various path groups could lead to disruption of relationships to and within the Sacred Fire Community.
Opening statements were quickly followed by a strong emotion of grief within the field, a sense of being “heartbroken” that well-loved and well-respected members of the SFC are no longer communicating with each other or have left the community.
At this point we entered a period of deeper process work. Within this, there were courageous expressions from new and old community members, elders of path groups, and position holders in the SFC organization. There is not a good way to represent the depth of process that was undertaken beyond saying that we heard voices of fear, anger, remorse and grief, and the heart-felt longing to be of service. People made it clear they looked to the SFC to provide a safe space for soul searching and authentic expression to occur, and this was whole-heartedly seconded by all those present, including those in leadership roles. (It could be said this forum was intended to provide exactly that.) Similarly, we heard the longing for deeper connection, respect and value recognition from voices on many “sides” around the circle. There were important moments of resolution, expressions of gratitude and common heart, each a welcome foundation upon which to continue to explore, learn and grow.
During the day a request was made to understand the structure of the organization that we call SFC and to receive clarity about how to give effective feedback. The Firekeepers were named as one of the appropriate conduits for this communication.
The afternoon also saw some personal relationship process work and demonstrated different styles of sensing and communicating in the world, which could be called intellectual, emotional and kinesthetic. Gary led us in a closing integration exercise to help us ground our individual perception of masculine and feminine forces in the world, as well as the balanced expression of both, by using sound, movement and visualization of elements of Nature.
Gratitude was expressed all around and especially to our hosts, Tim Simon and Gwen Broz and to their hamlet members, as well as to the anonymous donors who had underwritten the bulk of the cost for this Forum. Bill Sutton, SFC Executive Director, confirmed that the SFC organization is hearing the longing from the community for such forums, and is working to see how more of these can be planned. He invites our ideas about how to raise funds to make these happen and keep them affordable for all interested participants. Gary pointed out that given the issues we had listed, it would normally take 3-5 days to work through to next step resolutions, and that our group had nevertheless made a rapid and deep dive in search of Common Heart.
Let us hope that TOGETHER we can tend the precious embers of new understandings to successfully grow the Sacred Fire Community. Humanity and all our Relations just might depend on it.