Connection- The Process 1

Mar 17 2017

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: The Lightning Tree Collective

Last night I went to a 2 hour workshop on “connection, culture and community” hosted by The Lightning Tree Collective, a Bristol based collective with backgrounds in psychotherapy, mindfulness, deep ecology and ecopsychology. They offer workshops, trainings and mentoring as a “catalyst for environmental, social and political change, in Bristol and beyond” (from their website).

On the top floor of Hamilton House, an ex-office building now bursting with colourful creative activity, overlooking Stokes Croft where filth meets genius in every combination, a packed room of curious people of all ages took their shoes and socks off and felt the connection with the itchy carpet.

After introducing themselves and their work, The Lightning Collective led us through a series of exercises to explore what connection means to us. They defined ‘connection’ as having 3 areas; 1.) the natural world, 2.) our connection to ourselves and 3.) our connection to other humans. They explained “connection is a human need, in the same way as food and shelter.”

We spoke about disconnect and how it shows up in our lives, someone spoke the experience of disconnect feeling like “I might lose my existence” and being “on the edge of disappearing” someone else spoke of disconnect as “running away from grief and pain” and went on to explain about the “cone of silence;” in any forest you enter into, a cone of silence appears around you, where nature holds it’s breath. As you begin to relax and connect with your surroundings, the cone of silence gradually disappears; “If you sit long enough and quietly enough, the birds come back.” The next speaker talked about their experience as a psychotherapist, noting the vast amount of clients who say the same thing; “I’ve never been listened to, my whole life.” 

I spoke about my experience of shame since the last show, how it jumped out of the feedback forms and pierced my heart, causing disconnect in myself and with others, showing up as a desire to dismember myself and to expose and destroy the people who’d given the feedback. I sat with this last week in the sanctuary of meditation retreat and now feel enormous compassion myself, the ones who gave the feedback and for everyone who finds themselves divided in this way. I believe this is the main function of shame.

Another person spoke about “screen culture world” and how its cut them off from nature. Then another spoke about the gift of disconnect and how they used it as a survival strategy. Their recovery has involved embracing and giving thanks to the disconnect for protecting them. Another person spoke about disconnect as an opportunity to come back into connection in a different way, to discover a new part of yourself or a new point of view, they said they found nature really important as a support for this process. Someone then spoke of the cycle of life and death and life in nature, “from the soil, comes the flowers.” 

Then we sat in silence for 2 minutes to tune into ourselves, before listening to our heartbeats, feeling the connection with everyone else’s heartbeat in the room, in the street, in Bristol and beyond. 

Next we did a group brainstorm about “what makes for good connection”. People shouted out:

patience, gratitude, empathy, love, active listening, non-judgement, spontaneity, body language and eye contact, giving time, safety, meaning, permission, compassion, paying attention, playfulness, curiosity, collaboration, forgiveness, peace, authenticity, long walks, congruency, a willingness to let things go to shit, honouring truth, taking responsibility, not being in control, openness, oneness, healthy boundaries, intimacy, acceptance, self-awareness.

Next, in pairs we spoke for 10 minutes each on:

1.) What does connection mean for you? (5 mins)

2.) How is it to be in connection right now? (5 mins)

I cheated and did this exercise with my boyfriend (we were supposed to work with someone we didn’t know), but it felt right and indeed it was. In my 10 minutes, I discovered connection to be an exquisite, iridescent bird, like a tiny kingfisher. Fleeting and beautiful. I tapped into the grief and fear that underlies connection, a force that has in the past led me to isolate myself, but now with increased curiosity and grounding, I’m able to observe with compassion. Unsurprisingly, this exercise brought me and my boyfriend closer together, through sharing intimately and being present with each other. I would heartily recommend doing this exercise with a loved one.

Next we held eye contact for 4 minutes with a stranger (an exercise that I invited the audience to do during my last show, ’Vulnerability’). I love this exercise and I enjoyed receiving a kaleidoscope of stories from my partners eyes. Wow.

Next we did another group brainstorm of activities that lead us towards connection; hugging, sex, dancing, food, singing, being barefoot, firelighting, drumming, storytelling, tea, grief, mediation, hardship, sharing, eye contact, breathing, chi gong, laughing, play, washing the dishes, senses, trading, kissing, exchanging, shared experiences, distance.

Finally we were given paper and a pen and asked to answer there 4 questions:

1.) When do you feel most connected?

2.) What are the qualities that enable connection for you?

3.) What is your intention around connection in your own life?

4.) How can you bring connection into the lives of others?

This is a great exercise and I’d heartily recommend doing it.

I've devised a survey to collect some more data for the show. If you are interested in sharing your thoughts on connection and disconnect, I would be massively grateful for your time. You'll find the survey here. There are 8 questions about connection. Whatever you offer is gratefully received. I will anonymise your answers so nothing will be traceable to you. Thank you for your time. xxx

Check out The Lightning Tree Collective’s website. They are just about to launch a 3 month course in Personal Resilience for Social Change.

Come and see how all this grows into a show on 2nd April at 7.30 at The Wardrobe Theatre. Pay What you Decide.

Venue info here.

Facebook event here.

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