Reflections on what to expect during the course of a typical SDN workshop, to provide some preparatory information for those intending to attend their first workshop.
1. How Karla Meyer sees a workshop*
- During the first day, people tend to arrive at different times. They get organized in their rooms and then have time to talk to other participants or go for a walk. After the evening meal, everyone meets to discuss the agenda for the coming days. Each person introduces themselves briefly, and can then outline their particular project/s for the workshop. Such projects can be a sharing of SD issues the person is particularly interested in, of either personal or public concern, and on which they can ask for specific feedback or for the help of the other SDN members. Or the project can be an offer to the group of some group activity.
- Participants are encouraged to nominate and have their own session on any matter they feel is relevant to the group, or important to themselves personally. What one may tend to see as 'only a personal issue' is always of group relevance within the wholeness that is real community. However there is no obligation.
- Timeslots are allocated to these projects, which are recorded on large sheets of butcher's paper. Some timeslots are reserved for bushwalks or other leisure activities, and each January one is allocated for the SDN Annual General Meeting, usually towards the end of the week. Sessions start daily around 9 am, and the last (evening) sessions end around 10 to 10.30 pm. Depending on the venue, meal preparations are shared by all, or catering is supplied. The last evening is devoted to a party. In January, those interested may want to stay on for an extra day of discussions about the Nurturing Evolutionary Development (N.E.D.) Foundation, Ned's will project.
2. Michael Maher's thoughts*
- Constructive and active participation in workshop sessions is part of the SDN ethos. We believe that the presence and input of every participant can make a difference, and therefore that we attend the workshop as much to offer as to receive.
- Participants are encouraged to speak up at the time instead of 'sitting on their feelings'. An atmosphere of respect for individual views and feelings creates a supportive environment for voicing our thoughts, (no matter that these haven't been properly formulated in our mind first).
- Punctuality has become a behaviour trait highly admired during workshops, though not always achieved. We will aim to begin whether you've arrived or not.
- Differing personal attitudes and approaches to situations are always respected and accommodated for, especially wherever the effectiveness of group processes is not thereby jeopardized.
- Sessions have the potential to press emotional or belief 'buttons' among participants, and when this happens the personal crises evoked are always given priority and sensitive attention. Private assistance to help resolve or share these issues can be freely requested from more experienced members.
- It is not mandatory to attend all sessions; however participation is encouraged so that as many approaches to any topic as possible can be considered. It would be appreciated if your intention to be absent were communicated to someone before the session, so that no time is spent waiting, and we can proceed knowing you are OK.
- If there is any particular session you feel uncomfortable about, you are under no obligation to attend, so long as we know.
- We also value the skills of listening and noticing : all participants are asked to notice when others are having difficulty finding the space to speak, especially during the more high energy discussions, and then to actively invite them to offer their input.
- For issues that are felt to be too personal, or too specific to another person for them to be aired within a group session, there is always space provided for unstructured one-to-one interaction, during which you can seek out those with whom you would like to talk with more privacy.
- Cooking, washing up, planning and house-cleaning tasks are shared by all throughout the workshop. We aim to keep costs to a minimum, and nobody is paid. These shared activities help us open ourselves to experiencing the full mutuality that is community.
- Unstructured time is always provided, during which there are usually group excursions on offer, to visit some of the interesting natural attractions in the area of the workshop venue. Such events often provide for some of the most memorable interactions - there's nothing like a good open air walk to get to know the inner feelings of our companions!
- Sessions usually take the following format: approx 1.5 hrs long, 2 of them in the morning, 2 in the afternoon, and 1 after dinner in the evening - all depending on their expected length. Shorter sessions are also allowed for. As we say, 'The Agenda is the participants' issues'.
Freedom of spirit, takes courage and faith. "Start by doing what's necessary, then what's possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible." (St. Francis of Assisi, quoted by Deanna Forster)
* (Ideas from Karla Meyer & Michael Maher, edited and consolidated by Ned Iceton.)