M.I.S.S.I.O.N.

After taking Workshop Courage, I vowed to help propagate the workshop—whether by facilitating it, talking about it or by writing about it. This page contains Workshop Courage articles that I have written for MISSION. I was a participant to these workshops, albeit, always observing, listening and scribbling down thoughts, reflections, musings and “aha!” moments.

Part of my initiative in MISSION is to write about it and its work. I am constantly in awe of the work that my colleagues in MISSION do—towards building sustainable communities, in holding powerful conversations and accessing the “imaginality” in us. And I am always in awe of what great work can be done and what change and transformation can happen when people have “real” conversations and think collectively—with one mind, one heart.

MISSION is in service of the Light.

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Discovering Emergency Pedagogy

June 10, 2014

A Cebu Emergency Response Team for Children & Youth was conceived in the sweltering heat of May.

“I know that you are already sweating in your seats,” Lukas Mall, Coordinator of “Freunde” or The Friends of Waldorf Education, remarks as we are about to take a break during the first day. It is hot and humid as the workshop is unfolding, but this does not get in the way of learning, engaging and self-healing—some would confess the following morning when we share reflections. “Releasing our own trauma,” says Edison, one of the participants, “prepares us to help children release their trauma.”

Over the next couple of days, MISSION Cebu and a group of participants to the Emergency Pedagogy workshop held last May 23-25, 2014 are meeting to define who and what CERTCY is. Apart from MISSION networks in Cebu, we have participants from Capiz and Negros Occidental. They are social workers, educators, teachers, counselors, nurses and child development workers of non-government organizations and civil society organizations. The workshop has helped strengthen the ability of our local networks to respond to our children and youth, not only in a post-disaster setting, but in every situation where trauma could develop—in our homes, at schools, or in our communities, in general.

Emergency Pedagogy, Lukas says, is not trauma therapy. It is supporting one’s self-healing forces to overcome traumatic experiences. The focus of the work is within four to eight weeks from the time the traumatic event happened. The primary function of the job is to help prevent the experience from escalating into the next— of the four—stages of trauma development.

Four simultaneous workshops are ongoing: Eurythmy, Art Therapy, Trauma Pedagogy Rhythmical Exercises and Kindergarten Class.

“It’s all about presence,” says Fiona about Eurythmy, Friedhelm’s group. “The future is something we can’t perfectly paint. The past is something we can’t totally wipe as well,” she adds.

During one of the breaks, Dindin tries to recall and to put into writing what she calls as the moving-on exercise. From where she stands, she lifts her right foot, steps it to the right, sidewards, and says “here I walk,” then she lifts her left foot saying “here I am” as she brings it next to her right foot. She then lifts her left foot, steps it to the left, sidewards—going back to her point of origin—and says “here I was,” then she moves it back to the right, and says “here I stand.” It drove her to tears when she did the exercise with her group, she tells me.

During the lecture the following day, Bernd Ruf, managing director of the missions of Freunde and author of the book Educating Traumatized Children, explains— passionately—in German, that the sense of time affects logical thinking. Lukas is doing the translation from German to English. The person who has gone through a traumatic experience, Bernd says, “must be able to differentiate what’s happening now from what has happened in the past.” The sound of the rain falling on the tin roof, for example, could bring back memories of typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) coming, as if it were coming again, to the person who had been traumatized by the disaster.

Most of the activities in the workshop are about cultivating rhythms, whether in movement, in speech, in a song or in art through shapes, symbols and colors. Humans, like nature—Julia, an art therapist, explains in the opening of the art therapy sessions—have rhythms, like the rising and the setting of the sun, or the rising and the falling of the tide. We are made to create circles, and patterns of lying-down eights or lemniscates. We are asked to go back to the circle before making another half-eight or half-lemniscate stroke from every direction.

Traumatic events disrupt our rhythm and sense of balance. And, so, in the workshop, we are made to clap our hands, tap on our laps, and stomp our feet in various rhythmical patterns and speeds. Crossing the arms or the legs also helps restore them.

Our circle of participants tells us what they could bring when they go back to the fields where they work. Alma thinks that integrating the activities from the workshop will make the school experience more enjoyable. Consequently, it will lower down class absenteeism and they would make students feel more welcome. Jazz also shares that they could be applied to children to increase awareness of their bodies, for children to discover themselves as well as increase trust, concentration and focus.

“Laughter is, was and will always be the best medicine,” says Jakki about Minka’s Trauma Pedagogy activities. They are never for competitive play, she shares. They are always being reminded that “it’s just play; it’s just play!” Regarding her experience with Sabine’s Kindergarten class, she emphasizes the importance of being in a heart-to-heart connection and presence with children. As this writer is observing the Kindergarten class, she thinks that the participants really look like they are kindergarten kids, eyes dreamy, bursting with joy and so much laughter.

Melanie asks whether it’s better to have the traumatized child stay in or leave the affected place. Bernd tells us that it is, sometimes, better to leave but that the trauma specialist might bring back the child to the place, because in the end, real healing happens at the place of the trauma—it is when the child can go back to the place without being re-traumatized.

“It’s been six months since Yolanda happened,” Dina says.“What are our guiding points for intervention?” she asks. Bernd says we must continue the process as it would help stabilize the children. The beautiful thing about Emergency Pedagogy is “it can work with all.” Traumatized or not, the child benefits from the process. The weak ones get strengthened and the strong ones get stronger.

At the onset of the workshop, trauma is introduced as a wound of the soul. To this writer, the lecture and the activities are founded on the premise that we are souls in a human body. If a child is sexually-abused, Bernd says, the body cannot be a safe place anymore. And so the workshop teaches us how to build the school as a safe place. Some traumatic experiences, we are told, get written into a person’s biography. The person must be able to correct past experiences and collect new experiences to heal. When he’s able to integrate the traumatic experience into his biography, there is a potential growth—the transformation of the crisis into an opportunity.

MISSION Cebu thanks its partners that co-created and made this workshop happen—Mama Earth Eco Ventures, Inc; Youth for A Livable Cebu; Aktion Deutschland Hilft and Freunde, for, as Teresa says, “opening our eyes, hearts and minds to an essential way to be with children and youth who have been and are in harm’s way.”

This Emergency Pedagogy workshop called “Supporting Self-Healing Forces in Children and Youth to Overcome Traumatic Experience” is one of a series of LIWANAG events that culminates in Cebu in 2015. For more information, please visit http://www.liwanagworldfest.net.

MISSION Sends Off Workshop Courage Soldiers

12 March 2012

Seeing MISSION reach the tipping point in two years’ time does not seem to be an elusive feat with twenty more members committing to propagate MISSION Workshop Courage all over the country and the world. Apart from the workshops that Nicanor “Nick” Perlas himself is conducting to open twenty new nodes in the country before the year ends, the newly-formed global node and the existing Philippine nodes are bound to grow in numbers with more facilitators ready to conduct the workshop in their respective nodal territories.

Nick shares his excitement about the meeting of the different representatives from the different nodes who come from different sectors of society—business, government, civil society, activists, students, teachers, and young professionals—in the Facilitators’ Training. “I can remember exactly how each of you has manifested and continues to manifest your imaginality in so many different inspiring ways,” he said in e-mail sent to the participants a few days before the training.

The participants share not only MWC-related insights but also their knowledge on group dynamics, relationships and conflict resolution manifesting the emergence of a collective intelligence—”the wisdom of the whole.” It is critical for everyone to participate, otherwise, “we won’t have an overview of the different ideas sitting in this room.”

What does it take for a facilitator to be ready? “Clone Nick,” the group offers. The joke proves to hold a rather profound meaning as the discussion goes along. It is evident in the questions, reflections and group interaction that facilitating Workshop Courage is “laden with responsibility” and “a sense of service.” The group resolves that one must have the right inner condition and must be constantly in touch with his imaginality. They coin the phrase “charismatic facilitation of Nick.” The group bursts into laughter. The best way to prepare, somebody says, is to be creative. The group agrees.

Being able to listen and being present in the true sense of the word are two critical points being highlighted in order for a facilitator to connect with the participants and be able to draw out their truths—thoughts, feelings, experiences. Workshop Courage, after all, is about the emerging realities and system of causes that create them as well as tapping into the True Self, sometimes called the Real Self, Higher Self and Creative Self depending on the input from the participants. Writing down what they say and using their language is essential, Nick emphasizes. He also cites some scenarios where the facilitator will have to reinforce the rules or simple agreements made before the workshop has started in order to keep the imaginal mood alive.

The profoundest of the discussions in the training is, probably, on the Journey of the Birthing of the Imaginal Self that is captured in the Lemniscate Process. It captures the same metaphor in the Inverted “U.” In that “gap” between Chaos” and “Enlightenment,” the group falls silent.

“All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by Silence,” wrote Herman Melville. Silence, said Pico Iyer, is “something more than just a pause; it is that enchanted place where space is cleared and time is stayed and the horizon itself expands.” It is in the gap where the self communes with the authentic, with the real, with the creative. It is where the self taps into a Higher Source, a Higher Creativity, a Higher Purpose. It is where we start to feel the oneness—the non-duality of existence. It is where we clarify our intentions.

Questions came after the silence—like, what of people who choose to go on retreat, in the mountains or in any higher place or dimension, to live a meditative life and not come back to the world? One of the participants believes that there are people whose duty is to pray for the world. “If you don’t return, you become irrelevant to the world,” Nick asserts. The I.O.N. in MISSION stands for Initiatives, Organizing and Networking. It is the container of imaginality. It is the image of the creative self.

Workshop Courage facilitation is a sacred task. It is where one realizes that change is possible— that there is a creative power to make it happen. It is a place where one realizes that true purpose has nothing to do with the self and that Providence moves when one commits to it.

The newly-trained facilitators committed to conduct the workshop within a month from the Facilitators’ Training last February 28, 2012 at Brgy. Libongcogon, Zarraga in Iloilo. They are: Corinna Zuckerman, Peter Crowe, Christian Gmelin, Philip Burroughs, Mirka Hurter and Louisa Mittmann of the global node; Asela Delariarte-Pe, Jose Pepito Pe, Jason Gonzales, Sam Prudente, Aurora Hugo, Frances Lacuesta, Joseph Teruel and Atho Dela Cruz of Iloilo; Felcon Rivera, Jude Cabangal and Ritchie Mortillero of Bayawan; Rico Colayco of Manila, Ma. Clara Rowena Ebdani of Cebu and Nerieza Suyom of Koronadal.

As of writing time, Corinna, Peter and Christian have already conducted their first workshop in Alegria, Cebu; Philip, Mirka, Louisa and Rowena in Cebu City and Ritchie and Jude in Bayawan.

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Workshop Courage: Pangandoy Kong Sugbo

17 January 2012

The question is the call.

The movement that was once Stop Cebu Flyovers Movement has every reason to go beyond stopping the construction of flyovers within the heart of the city and grow to have become the strong Movement for a Livable Cebu that it is now. What concerns it most about Cebu is a vicious cycle of living a program that kills the heart of creativity—old patterns, old templates and right answers to the wrong questions. It took only questions for one to realize the “imaginal” spirit within—to see the fire that burns.

The independent-mindedness of Cebu is being threatened. Somebody says he is worried that we are closely following Manila. Another adds that Manila is closely following Los Angeles. The thing with the flyover issue, for example, is that sustainably progressive cities had been tearing their flyovers down because they do not solve the traffic issue and cause more problems than solutions. “They are on their way back and we still want to go there,” one asserts. Do we want a city of cars or a city of people? One group says it cannot allow itself not to participate in the decision-making process—that it is not just for the government to decide.

Something is emerging in Cebu—“opening the fabric of history.” This is the place where Lapu-lapu killed Magellan, remember? “I refuse to accept the status quo,” someone says. “We want a sustainable and livable Cebu,” another says. “What are we willing to do? What are we willing to sacrifice?” he asks.

The Workshop Courage called “Pangandoy Kong Sugbo” that was facilitated by MISSION or the Movement of Imaginals for Sustainable Societies through Initiatives, Organizing and Networking (www.imaginalmission.net) more than a month ago was like a frame that provided a context in which to view the magnanimity of the movement’s dreams (mga pangandoy) for Cebu. Where it is now, MLC has been spreading across every institution—past the young and the old, past the so-called “elite” and the marginalized, past the cool and the uncool, past the artistic and the structured, past every other differences and limitations, with the realization that there are common dreams that are shared between every Cebuano and those who have acquired the Cebuano way of life. If it is of any inspiration and encouragement, one says Cebu is small enough to change but big enough to influence. This is the place where Christianity was born, remember?

Creativity is central to the process. Somebody describes it as marching to the call of creation—marching to the call of God. I think that one of the most beautiful experiences of being at the Workshop Courage is being one with someone who breaks into tears as he articulates what truly makes him happy: answering the call and making a difference to the lives of others. It makes you think what truly makes you happy—what you really care about. The purpose of life, says the great Emerson, is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.

“What is the definition of Cebuano pride?” someone asks. He says we are warlike when our turfs are invaded, but only when our own individual spaces are invaded. Notwithstanding that, a lot of things are inspiring about Cebu. The different groups agree that everything here is “close by”—like the way the city is to the mountains or to the beaches, the way one is to his neighbor and the way Cebu is to its neighboring provinces. It is beautiful how we can laugh at our weaknesses and build on our strengths.

Workshop Courage teaches us that turfing is a sense of separation and that our default consciousness is separation. It lets us see that making change happen is about allowing the diversity to come together and having a deep sense of oneness with others and the society. There is no separation in the journey of the imaginal. No duality.

As I try to relive the spirit of the workshop, what I vividly remember is how each participant was amazed by his “most creative moment.” Someone says he can’t believe that it is him in the creative state therefore thinking that creativity is an entity in itself, dynamic and moving. He says that he had the feeling that God was on his side. Jagat says that we are like a funnel and that the creative ideas are just floating up there, somewhere, in some dimension.

“How do we keep our creative levels high?” somebody asks. It is tempting to remain in the cloud of creativity, see new cells emerge and give birth to a new way of thinking. But, Workshop Courage teaches us that creativity does not complete without action and that the action has to be repeated. The consciousness of the movement says that there is plenty to fix, that the problems are complex and interconnected. Understanding the relationship and the interactions between the self and the society grants us the wisdom that we are bound to re-enter the society while still in the cocoon of creativity—where old cells get killed. “But, as long as the ego is there, it will always come out,” Tressa warns.

The movement has resolved that the day-to-day self is in a tension when in the creative self. The programmed self pulls you to an opposite direction. Some writers call it taking the high road; others, the road less traveled. Workshop Courage teaches us that the heart becomes less-turbulent when we answer the call, when we accept the challenge, when we mobilize our creative self. “When less turbulent, the wisdom of the heart comes in,” Nick assures. It is the role of MISSION to bring courage and creativity, and MLC is a beautiful example of collective creativity.

Nick says that the key central act to civil society is to reframe—that it is not about stopping something but creating something.

I cannot give justice to what MLC and MISSION have been co-creating. It is beyond words. But, perhaps, a movement can be defined as something that keeps moving, with boundless energy, or a fire you can’t seem to put out.

A Farm of Hope

26 July 2011

a farm of hope

Sometimes, it is a little weird; sometimes, a little revolutionary. Gathered around a big pink citronella candle, we string little beads of hope. Somebody says that the candle makes her reflect and think that this place is a light. This farm is a 1.5-hectare piece of land that had once been reduced to almost total infertility with heavy use of chemicals. But it was able to give life again after five long years of tilling the soil with organic fertilizers. I cannot claim to be an expert on how nature regenerates or gets restored. I only know that what used to be a barren land is now a place of convergence of organic farming practices, is a source of living to a small community of ex-prisoners and children who were in conflict with the law and is a microcosm of a sustainable society.

An environmentalist observes that nothing has been removed or destroyed. Pieces of soil that hold seedlings are wrapped in strips of banana leaf. When the seedling gets planted to the ground, the banana leaf goes with it. It is a little revolutionary. Truckloads of biodegradable waste from the city are being used here to make a vermicompost where African Nightcrawlers eat the garbage. It produces organic fertilizer. The said worms actively eat during the night when it is dark so the compost is wrapped in black tarpaulin—as if it is night time. It is not very honest, but it is a little revolutionary.

It could put man’s best friend to shame to see one of the goats approach our host and rub its face on his hands. The goats are very docile—no concept of danger and chaos. They are being fed fruit juice cocktail as we arrive. We are told that everything they eat is natural and that it manifests in their behavior. A nun would tell me later on that she has stopped eating meat since the time she learned about macrobiotics. She believes that the negative energy from the shrill cry of an animal that is being slaughtered manifests in us. Sister tells us that she’s doing her Ph. D., in Preparation for a Happy Death.

A certain parameter had been fenced for free-range chickens to roam and look for food. They don’t run wild all over—no concept of scarcity. I think that this is how it should be in our society—people are free to find a living and they find it because there is opportunity. It is a little weird to find the metaphor in goats and chickens, but it is a little revolutionary.

I find myself scrawling the words indigofera, callandra, citaria, madre de agua, citronella, arabica, stevia and so on. The farm generates roughly 12 million pesos from insect-repellant citronella candles each year. Our host tells us that the initial idea was to provide a livelihood program for ex-prisoners. They grew orchids, and then failed. They had to discover how to teach themselves how to make candles instead. He thinks that the candle is expressive of life—you have to allow yourself to be molded by God. It can be beautiful and useful if one allows himself to be consumed, to be burned. We have to allow ourselves to be the hope, the source of light. I’d like to call it The Parable of the Candle.

The farm also exports stevia, a sugar substitute. Google tells me that it is three hundred times sweeter than sugar but has zero calories. It grows pine trees, different kinds of bamboo and other trees. There is a blaze of flowers in its midst. It breeds peking duck and turkey as well as tilapia among others.

We’d like to find the moral in every story or the virtue in every struggle. A 19-year old articulates that “puwede ra gyud diay,” it can be done. She breaks into tears and laments that she doesn’t understand why man uses his knowledge to destroy nature. Somebody talks of how adults easily lose their way and of the deadening of the spirit. If you put the spotlight on the children, she says, you will see that the spirit is there—it is alive. These children go to school, in classrooms of 69, even on an empty stomach. When children speak, the adults realize that they must continue the resolve—if not for them, at least for the children. We will meet these children in a documentary called “1000 Islands.”

We are told by our environmentalist comrade that the Philippines is the center of the centers of marine biodiversity. “What a glorious heritage,” one exclaims. He tells us that when the underwater biodiversity is rich, it follows that the land is. But somebody states the irony in the Philippine islands: we have the richest of the rich underwater and the poorest of the poor above that. “What do you think is wrong with that?”

We say that the economic growth does not reach the poor. We cannot expect these people to work in call centers. The message of 1000 Islands is that even in the most barren of wastelands, there is a garden to grow.

Somebody says that the farm teaches us that sustainability is not an abstract thing. She affirms that we must continue with what we’ve started—no matter what. Our host has told us that they didn’t really know what they were doing back when they were still excavating the land, contouring it, planting different kinds of plants and grasses, doing different kinds of things to stop the soil from moving. They thought they knew what they were doing only after three months. Weeks ago, he says, he thought he now knows what God has been doing. He acknowledges that by the standards of the world, they lack a lot of things but that the lack in itself is a proof of the source. “I am not the source,” he says.

The role of MISSION as I understand it is in “finding the holy in the common.” It believes that nothing is too small or too ordinary. It might still be baffling to think that the flapping of the wings of a butterfly in the Amazon could create a hurricane in Florida, but it is not baffling to think that stringing little beads of hope, of inspiration, of vision and of courage could help revolutionize our societies. This farm, indeed, confirms our convictions.

We try to find the logic in movements or causes. I believe that they could outlive us. Therefore, I believe that sustainability is not an abstract thing. This is my truth today. Sometimes, it is a little weird; sometimes, a little revolutionary.

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