*long, restorative, contemplative sigh*
I’ve just returned home from four days spent at the On Being Gathering held at the pristine campus of 1440 Multiversity. This wholly nourishing event was held among the majestic redwoods and rolling hills of Santa Cruz, CA. So now I sit here, home again, jet lagged and love-weary, overwhelmed with the grace and nourishment that follows me from this experience. With my head in my hands, I lean on my desk and wait for the words to come that will convey the depth of this event.
My brain is overflowing; all of the words are spilling out of my ears onto the floor. I’m going to try to pick up those words, dust them off on my leg, and put them in order. Bear with me.
For those who aren’t familiar with On Being, I’ve pulled this description from their website:
“On Being takes up the big questions of meaning with scientists and theologians, artists and teachers.”
…and about the gathering…
“In large and small groups, we will take up the possibilities of this moment to generatively inhabit the spaces of our lives and renew common life in a fractured world. There will be shared meals and music in the evenings, and plenty of space across the three days for restoration, one on one conversation, and quiet reflection.”
This event was unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of. This organization is dedicated to creating a sustained dialogue of the human experience in a civil way; it’s safe to say that the weekend was utterly filled to the brim of inquisitive minds, safe spaces, and absolute connection.
I shared food, conversation, rest, and song with so many heart-filled people. We heard from so many resounding voices, including but not limited to:
- Soul-soothing poetry from David Whyte, Marilyn Nelson, Naomi Shihab Nye & John Paul Lederach
- Thoughtful discussion with Omid Safi, Parker Palmer, America Ferrera, Courtney Martin, Padraig O’ Tuama, Rami Nashashibi, Lucas Johnson and more
- Seth Godin – On Leading When You’d Rather Hide
- My favorite part – a journey into what’s known as ‘Speaker-Listener Neural Coupling’ with Dr. Lewis Mehl-Madrona, which was of particular interest to me as we discussed compassion, empathy, and how they affect both the listener and the speaker, something I feel so passionately about. I raised my hand to discuss my scars project, The Kintsugi Project, and the implications of the coupling with my subjects. It was nerve-wracking to include myself in the discussion, but I was proud of my brave and was so warmly greeted by supporters at the conclusion of the discussion.
- And finally, Krista Tippet, the voice of On Being. It was remarkable to hear her speak in person and from such an honest space.
Each attendee was given an opportunity to participate and observe on so many levels; we broke into groups of spoken word, discussion, meditation, and movement. Everywhere I turned, I heard all of the words, phrases, philosophies and virtues that I try to nurture in my daily life. It was overwhelming to be in an environment where I absorbed the echo of my own philosophies in every corner of that 75 acres.
The very best part of this experience was the participants! Each attendee applied months ago, and we were all excited to be chosen to participate in this collective discussion. Intergenerational friendships were forged, and we were encouraged not to present ourselves with our ‘labels’ upon introduction, but to enter each new relationship with the heart-forward discussion of our philosophies first. Out.STANDING.
Krista spoke for a few minutes before Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie began weekend shabbat observation on Friday night. In Krista’s introduction, she voiced her desire that we leave this place feeling nourished, emboldened, and accompanied. And that is precisely how we feel.
Thank you to Krista, the entire On Being team, and each presenter for creating that safe space. We will never, EVER forget it.
With love and endless gratitude,
PS: I’d like to share one more thing with you before I go. This is Chris. We spent several hours together over the weekend, and I am so grateful for this new friendship. We shared this moment beside a 1600 year old tree in the cedar cathedral. I invite you to enjoy it, too. It beautifully represents everything good about this experience, for me.