We are thrilled to offer the June issue of the STAR Center e-newsletter! The STAR Center was in New Mexico this month! I was honored and privileged to witness the 2016 Summer Gathering of the Peers of the Land of Enchantment, New Mexico’s Statewide Peer Network, led and facilitated by Larry Lee, Wendy Linebrook-Allison, Beaver Northcloud, Gilberto Romero, Jeff Silago, Shela Silverman and Fidel Talache.
The New Mexico PLE Formation Group gathered a diverse community of advocates from across New Mexico that included historic leadership and representation from Native American and Latino communities. The strong level of engagement and participation from everyone involved had a lot to do with the beautiful way the gathering was kicked off and facilitated - from visible and rotating leadership across communities to room design and the demonstrated commitment to a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere.
The room was set up in a circle of 25 chairs. In the center of the circle were two empty chairs, with their backs to each other. I thought they were left over as we were arranging the room, so just as everyone was seated and ready to begin, I got up to move them away. Gilberto Romero, who was opening the gathering, motioned for me to leave the chairs where they were but gave us no explanation for their purpose. Everyone was immediately curious as he stood and started to talk. Gilberto explained that the two chairs represented the opposing worldviews that often get in the way of community. He picked up the chairs and turned them so they faced each other. He eloquently explained how each chair’s view is different from the other. When seated in one chair, what a person could see was limited to where they were facing and that we needed to find ways to see each other’s perspectives by sharing them. In order to move beyond our limited sight, we would need to see and listen to each other with our hearts.
As he spoke in his soft, slow and sometimes halting voice, I remember wanting to take out my camera and begin recording what he was saying. I didn’t want to lose the chance to capture the consciousness he was raising within me, within us. I wanted to share it with others who weren’t there to hear it. I hesitated, and decided to return to my heart and just be present with everyone else, and with my heart. I wondered how we all seemed to know how to stay with our hearts as he spoke.
Gilberto was holding a heart shaped drum and introduced Steven Toya Sr., medicine man, performer and drum master from the Pueblo of Zia, who played the drum and sang a memorial song to create the healing environment that would sustain us. He also shared some beautiful words that I wish I could share with you. Instead, please get a glimpse of what he offered us through his Youtube clip on the Power of the Drum.
The tone was set for our talking circle as Beaver Northcloud, explained the way of the talking stick. Some members initially struggled with the idea of lack of not having a time limit for sharing, however, eventually resolved to trust each other to share time well, without an arbitrary time limit, and make sure everyone had a chance to speak from the heart.
As you will see from the pictures, the 2016 PLE Summer Gathering was a great success. The incredible diversity of lived experience in New Mexico now has a home for their collective voice and power to emerge together. We are definitely going to continue sharing their community building and organizational development journey so we can all learn and celebrate it together. Enjoy!
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