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Issue: What to put into my suitcase?

'''Convenor: LisaHeft

Participants: Jessica, Nuran, Audrey, Lisa, Marei, Alexander


(Summary) Protokoll of the meeting:

from AlexanderSchilling and LisaHeft, notestakers:

Lisa: Just before OSonOS I sent a message to the in-person participants who wanted to join me in an experiment (last year people helped me develop an idea about how to help people map the journey of their lives)- this year I had another thought to try out with - whomever would be interested - a...'transformative' art project - one that might help people define their experience through bringing together visual elements. I asked anyone who wanted to explore this with me to think in advance - before they came to OSonOS. I said:

- - - Think about -- if you had to leave your home,and you never knew when you were coming back, and you only had one suitcase in which to put all your essential belongings/memories/clothing: everything. OR: Think about a transition that is coming for you - what are the elements you see and/or take with you through that transition. What would fit into just that one suitcase. Like the one you might be bringing to OSonOS.

Take some time for reflection, then please draw a picture of the contents of that suitcase, or draw on paper and cut out the shape of each element, or write a poem, or make some art, or make a list of what you would fit into that suitcase. Somehow make a representation of what those things would be. Bring that to OSonOS, and we'll talk about it.

This doesn't have to symbolize/represent a tragic moment - it can also be an imagining of your going on a journey and only having this much room in wwhich to bring the things that matter to you (not just your clothes). Or simply a representation of what in life is important to bring along the (life) road with you.

However, in advance I will say: this is something that may trigger some very real feelings for some of you who have actually had to do this for tragic reasons, as a childor as an adult. You may or may not have had a chance to pack a bag. This may have beenmerely disturbing or hugelylife-changing. I do not ask this because I want to bring you pain - only to see if there is a way that an activity can be created which could help others -share what's important to them -or see if this is indeed useful for survivors of tragedy: sort through their pain, -or if this is for people anxious or joyful abouta coming or currrent transition, define their anxiety or share their joy

...to see if it might be a useful activity for some of the work we do incommunities and organizations. So only do it if you really want to; only do it in a way that you are also taking care of yourself; only do it if you feel you would like to experience the feeling; only do it if you feel safe and comfortable doing it now.

- - -

So here are our proceedings from our session:

Lisa: The question also can be understood in a methaphoric way. You could think of what 'tools' you would need to bring with you to best travel through transition or on your life's journey. Maybe this activity would be something like a 12 week support group for people and it would art, writing in one's journal/diary, sharing dreams, and more. Sometimes people need to tell the stories of the past, and/or carry them with them on the journey - but also sometimes we as facilitators try to help people come into the present - so they can see how to move forward into the future. To get people out of the (as we might say in folk English:) 'woulda-shoulda'coulda (I would have done this, I should have done this, I could have done this) so they can move more fully into the present.

Audrey: One wounderful bit of synergy was that just at the same time Lisa asked this question online a friend shared some information with me for helping people in transition - an upcoming retreat that touched me very deeply - don't misunderstand this as any kind of advertisment - a Project called a-spa-for-the-mind, you can visit it at www.littleblue.ca - this retreat is based on the Hero's Journey - it's done in 7 parts. Well at the same time this person in California shared how he's doing work to help children heal from deaths in the family by doing workshops using wooden flutes carved by a First Nations tribe - everybody plays the flute. And he's doingthe same 7 parts, calling them by the same names as this woman - and they have never talked to each other and they are across the continent from each other. One doing it through conversation and one through music. And then Lisa asks this question - I really think she needs to meet this man in California (Lisa is from California). This took a lot of courage for me to share with you - I didn't want to sound like a commercial - I just felt this was very important to share.

Lisa: I also have worked with people with AIDS for so many years, people with changing disabilities, and I also have a chronic illness that changes my energy day to day - this exercise might be helpful to help people express what it's like to try to do this dance with their high energy self and their other, lower energy self - not to fight it but to meet it and dance with it, define it, perhaps, they might not define their illness as a loss or as 'broken' but as something they journey with.

Jessica: I'm just at the point of a really big transition right now. After 5 years of working a corporate job at Volvo I have quit my job - first I went to Haiti. I wasn't liking myself - so I took some time off, to do voluntary work at a home for formerly street children. I met John Engle and others. It was so transformative for me that I sat down at the computer and I sent a message to say thanks to by boss but I'd had enough; that I was leaving my job. It wasn't really me. So I am right now literally packing a suitcase - I am leaving my home. My collegues didn't understand that decision. How could you leave such a good job? You are running away from life, they said. But in fact we are trained to say 'yes'; we are not trained to say 'no.' They asked if I was in crisis - I said actually, no - this is the first time in a long time that I have felt very happy. In my suitcase I packed: 24 CDs - lots of my favorite salsa music so I can give people lessons and dance; recipes of my favorite foods so I can cook for friends - now I can cook for them and dance with them; dancing shoes, 2 pairs; all kinds of mixable clothes - so I can really feel comfortable and so if I have to get dressed for something nicer I don't look like a trashy packpacker even though I *am* a trashy backpacker; a few photos of my family and of things like snow -- to show people in Haiti what snow is like...(they said yes, we know cold, and I said well it's really really cold where I come from and they say we know we get cold and I said, but I mean we have ice on the lakes and they said ... But why do you put ice on your lakes??? -- so photos are really helpful...); my Visa card (very important); things that I need to feel really clean, like vitamins (when you have nothing, you really want to feel clean); medications (really good stomach pills); my Lonely Planet guidebook; flashlight; perfume (I really love smells!). I don't have a home but I know what I need physically and spiritually.

Lisa: I feel you *do* have a home; that you are at home right now.

Marei: Now an open space journey starts.

Jessica: And one important thing: to know My parents live in Sweden and I can come home every day..

Audrey: I was surprised at what came up for me. My suitcase would contain: my address book and phone numbers, computer (I have started writing about growing up in Newfoundland in the 1950's), books, money, artwork and photos. I was shocked at what I was willing to leave behind: My car and jewelery I would leave. And it's wonderful - because then I am free to go.

Nuran: About 10 years ago, I had to pack a suitcase and just go. I left my parents, never to come back. It had to be a radical step, discussion wouldn't have been possible. When I said goodbye to my family - a young girl of 20 living in a traditional Turkish family - I took not much - I wanted to start a new life. My suitcase contained: clothes, old and actual diaries, jewelery from my childhood, photos from my childhood, and money. Then I started a new life in Bielefeld. And so I went, with the thinking that I would never come back. It was not possible to get in dialog - it was radical - but it was important to do it that way (I didn't talk to them - I just phoned them and didn't come back). After three years I contacted my parents for the first time - it was okay as enough time had passed. So: what would I pack now?? It wouldn't be much different. It is important not to lose the stories - rereading my diaries and seeing my development brings back stories and helps me see my growth.

Jessica: Some people said 'why are you running away?' I said I'm not runny away - I'm running TO something- I'm running to my life. Because this is not my life.

Marei: I've been product manager for Dr. Oetker (food products - pizza, cakes, bakery) for a few years. I decided to leave my job - having others thinking this career change was to get more money (!). But I had no other offers - I just quit. I planned it this way: relax for one month, than to think about my life for one month and then start something new within the next month. Now, of course, I know it is much longer a path, up and down with many twists and turns. This is now two years ago... and I am still in the process of starting something new. Now I am returning to Berlin, where I was born, to work with Michael M Pannwitz for a few months for Open Space. What should I take in my suitcase is a very good question: I thought about clothes but not the things which give me energy. So: music, books (very important for me – even if I don’t read; just to have them with me), letters and postcards from friends of mine, photos that are telling about my growing up in images (at 1.5 years; at 5 years; to tell the story of my being and becoming), a box of ‘jewels’ (remembrances), walkman, Jazz music, my own small pillow, candles.

Alexander: The first thing I realized in This morning: I feel really at home here. Why? Perhaps this depends on the fact of being here with a small suitcase. Concerning my experience, I can say: the less my suitcase (not only physically, but also mentally) has to contain, the easier I can feel at home somewhere. When I moved to Hamburg a few months ago, I spent almost a week, to throw everything away, that I don't need. My small car was my suitcase, it contained: a few books, a selection of music, my bike, computer, sleeping bag, project documentations, documents, contracts and some Ayurvedic recipes. The less I have not only in my real suitcase but in the suitcase ofmy head – the thoughts that can be so heavy…it’s easy to start and very easy to land; to feel at home if you don’t carry too much. I am at home here in this circle. I think carrying the things of the memories can sometimes be a barrier to realizing what’s really happening; like wearing sunglasses with only very small windows to see through. Maybe old memories are bound energy – you have to invest in keeping them. If you release it, you are free to use all that energy in new ways.

Jessica: That sounds like a mental clearing: letting go inside and outside.

Nuran: You are giving me an ‘aha!’ – Now I am living in Berlin for three years. I moved there with all my stuff and I am still not really there – I haven’t really arrived. Maybe it’s time to let a lot of it go…

Audrey: Thinking about how some people keep things -- My father still is keeping my mothers clothes in his attic, and she died 35 years ago. My great grandfather and grandmothers’ clothes are there too.

Lisa: In this instant-this-instant-that world, it can also be good to have things from before – from people before us. Yes; maybe stories can bind your energy –OR- they can give us wais to see our pasts; our stories can be our witnesses, too. Telling our stories and changing how we tell our stories can help us see change / can help us change.

Marei: Sometimes you set things up (organize things) in a certain way that you like – and you don’t want to change it. But sometimes we change things on purpose to change our thinking. Maye Audrey’s father is keeping some things in the same fixed image – but he is also living life (he is also very flexible in his life ); so that things change in his life but his image of his history is fixed, which can also be his source of strength for change.

Nuran: I also think we need rituals: things that don’t change.

Audrey: In Open Space we always talk about letting go, but not as much about holding on. In order to go forward; what are the things/people that I need to keep / hold with me to feel/be grounded; to make that transition?

Marei: To let go of the old, there can also be a moment (and this moment can last a very long time) when you feel you are alone.

Audrey: Bill Bridges, in his book ‘Transitions’ calls this moment: ‘Between trapezes…’ ... without a net. In my experience this can be a very painful process, if you are thrown into this process.

Lisa: I answered my own question of what to pack in my suitcase in a different way than you – and because I move through life kinetically (physically) and graphically (visually) I will show you pictures: For the journey of life, my suitcase would contain (the following things are titles of images Lisa presented): peacefulness, humility, courage, dreams, vision, perspective, faith, love, tools, softness, childlike behaviour, noticing, being fully present, home, family (father and mother, my girlfriend Molly:love), something where the image didn’t come out but I still wanted to pack it: (you don' have to name everything – everything is not clear – that is helpful to know for the journey, also), energy.

Our circle was very different from what I expected it could have been. I will post a sheet of paper in the left edge of the big room saying ‘The Suitcase Project’. Tomorrow if someone likes to continue anything with the suitcase project (to open a new discussion or to set up a visual exhibit of suitcases and what we would pack) s/he is very welcome, if not, it's okay as well. Thank you so much for this wonderful session.


Follow up:


Online Comments:

Here in British Columbia, many communities are suffering great losses right now as forest fires rip through them, destroying homes and businesses and causing lives to be rebuilt. There is a very real thought in the heads of most rural British Columbians that at a moment's notice if a fire were to break out we'd have only enough time to take a suitcase a flee.

For me, that suitcase would contain my Irish flute. And if I had to leave and reconstitute my life from scratch, scratch would be that flute. My diaries and photos and everything else are important, but awfully heavy, and for me they are a past. They are mostly for someone else to read or look at and remember me by. But the flute...everytime I raise it to my lips, I take a breath, literally an inspiration, and in the moment when my lungs are full and no air has yet been poured into the instrument there is the possibility of becoming. Any tune might come out, or I may pause there and just revel in the silence of now.

For me, nothing better expands my personal now than making music. It embodys the breath of the present and it anticipates the breath of the future. And the notes that have been played are gone, floating away, and impossible to capture. -- ChrisCorrigan


Interesting conversation. What touched me more was Lisa's ideia of including in her suitcase "childlike behaviour". Very important! In spite of the fact that I am getting older, each day I support less those people (old people and young people alike), that have and "old mind" and forgot "childlike behaviour". They call themselves Presidents, or Ministers, or Dr's; they feel that some external God showed them, once and forwever, the light and THE WAY, as well as who are the "good ones" and who belongs to "evil". They may have sometimes less than 30 years old but, they seem that they had not a childhood at all and they behave as if they were old since the beginning ot times. Keep your "childlike behaviour", Lisa; that's part of the reason so many people like you (and others probably do not...) ;-) -- ArturSilva

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My dear Artur - At some points in my life I have 'monitored' (suppressed) my childlike behavior (real definition - part of my truest, fullest self) to 'protect' others who were made uncomfortable by it. And then at a certain age, and after a certain serious look at life, I decided that my being my fullest self would never hurt anyone, because it all comes from love. And my expressing love more fully won't kill anyone. So now I just let ... well, I don't 'let it out' -- I just always try to be my fullest, truest self. And that is what I have been taught is one of our responsibilities to give back for the gift of being alive... -- LisaHeft

PS: Nice to hear from you, boys...

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