We hope you and your loved ones are doing well during these long, hot, summer days.
As might be true for you, we have been deeply inspired recently by the power of words in these most troubling times. U.S. Congressman and longtime civil rights activist John Lewis wrote an important essay to our nation recently, published widely on the day of the Congressman’s funeral last week. Congressman Lewis’ words are a testament to the power of a deeply compelling call to action embedded in meaningful context – the very essence of the power of words. If you have not yet seen it, you can read the full text of the Congressman’s transformational message here.
We know many of you in the TLA Network are finding ways to use your voices to help raise awareness, offer perspective and understanding, and help guide our communities toward healing and hope. What are the words that have inspired you recently, that remind you to be your biggest, boldest, most courageous self, that keep you focused on your vision and your work in these challenging times?
We continue to be dedicated to growing the transformative language arts – empowering each of us to find and use our biggest voices to effect the change we wish to see in the world. As John Lewis so eloquently wrote, “Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life, I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.”
This poem was inspired by specific terrorist attacks, and applies equally to the ongoing, everyday, barrage of violence swirling around us. It was inspired by the magical comfort a mother provided her child. It was inspired by the work we are all here to do, which requires a steady hand, clear vision and a peaceful heart. How shall we center ourselves in this turbulent new year?
Dedicated to the memory of the 51 Muslims murdered in their mosques on March 15, 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Questions, Prompts & Ideas:
I invite you to wander through the words, paying attention to places that entice or thrill or repel or otherwise jump out. The shift may show up in your body, mind, emotions or spirit. Linger there in tender exploration; surround your path with loving kindness. Poems are my questions and my statements of possibility that I share in hopes you will explore your own. Feel free to agree or take issue. Change the words if that suits you. And please invite yourself fully into the poem by changing any pronouns that don’t fit.
Are you a member of a group held in contempt by some folks? Are you a member of multiple groups held in contempt by some folks? Are you at risk simply existing in proximity of hateful people? How does this affect your body? Mind? Emotions? Spirit? Goals? Dreams? Education? Employment? Housing? Health care? Transportation? Food availability? Air and Water quality? Finances? Spirituality? World view? What are the everyday and long term affects of this on your precious life? What cumulative entrenchment, if any, do you experience?
If you are not part of a group held in contempt by some folks, what is the effect on your precious life, of living in an environment where others are vulnerable through no fault of their own? Where do you stumble? How do you find and maintain a centered way forward?
At times, we are all the child in the poem, crying out for comfort. Explore your moments of neediness and surround them in tender love. Search for the bedrock cause; don’t stop until you find it. What wholesome, truthful solutions arise?
Consider contemplation, meditation, self-care, prayer, the varied and infinite ways to cultivate a wide-open love that is both deeply personal, and is universal. Consider taking effective actions in hopes of relieving the suffering of others. Are you called toward inward cultivation or outreach? Is one more important than the other? Is it okay to do the thing you are naturally inclined toward, but not the other? Or do you have a responsibility to do both?
My New Year’s wish is that we hold ourselves steady, rock ourselves, sing to ourselves, plant ourselves even for a moment in a place of peace. Then may we respect all beings, bring true equality to life, and champion justice for all.
The enormous healing power of words compels Judith to write. She strives to clarify, challenge, redirect, own up to and celebrate life. And do damage control.
Poetry’s unique spaciousness invites us to land in surprising places, come face to face with ourselves anew, and discover fresh perspectives. It connects us more deeply to ourselves, and erodes isolation.
“Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on.” Pete Seeger
About Judith Goedeke:
An award-winning poet and retired acupuncturist, Judith’s work appears in anthologies, literary journals and River of Silver Sky, a book of poems. She facilitates Poem as Portal Workshops that foster loving self-awareness, intentional living and compassion.
Doug Lipman, one of the foremost mentors in storytelling and otherwise unearthing our most vital truths, explains of his upcoming class, “Values of the Future,” that “Our current economic, political, and social systems are serving fewer and fewer people, not to mention destroying the environment. I don’t know what a future society will look like, but if it is to meet our human needs better than our current society does, I believe it needs to be formed with certain values in mind.”
His focus in this class is to help us find, amplify, clarify, and share our values for the world through stories, writing, and other arts and also, as he explains, “through the very processes of telling or creating stories….In other words, our artistic processes themselves can give people experiences that open them to values that are necessary for an improved society.”
The six-week class, kicking off Sept. 4, is all online, which means you can do it from anywhere and at anytime, looks toward how to cultivate the kind of world we envision through the process of our stories and storytelling, the power of listening, the importance of relationships and openness, the preciousness of every human point of view, the universality of human potential, and other values that bring us all to the table.
The class is ideal, according to Doug, “for storytellers, fiction writers, narrative poets, songwriters, improvisational singers, dramatists, etc. – all who use language to help people imagine or convey their experience – especially those interested in teaching their art or discipline with an eye toward promoting generative values.”
“Taking a class with Doug Lipman is like sitting down with a trusted friend and mentor, who believes in you with all his heart and guides you to new ways of living.” — Laura Packer, storyteller and writer
Doug found himself becoming a storyteller when he was a struggling teacher of troubled teens, who responded positively to him telling them a story. From there, he has coached hundreds of people on their storytelling, writing, and recordings. He is the author of three books on storytelling (Improving Your Storytelling, The Storytelling Coach, and Storytelling Games), scores of published articles, and over 150 issues of his own email newsletters, including “eTips from the Storytelling Coach (http://StorytellingNewsletters.com).
A professional storyteller since 1976, Doug has performed and led workshops on three continents and led many online courses and webinars. His ongoing search for effective ways to teach the transformative power of storytelling has led to projects such as a new paradigm for coaching storytellers, an exploration of the seldom-noticed Hidden Storytelling Skills, and the pursuit of ways that storytelling and related arts can allow our true humanity to blossom. More about Doug here.
Kiran Singh Sirah is now the president of the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough, TN, a long way and many stories from where his life began as part of a Ugandan Asian refugee family that landed in England after Idi Amin expelled all Ugandan Asians under the threat of execution. In his excellent Tedx Talk Nashville on “Storytelling: A Powerful Peace,” Sirah says,
I was born in England. My mother was born in Kenya. My father was born in India. My brother was born in Uganda. My own family is a mini United Nations, and we’re all storytellers, keeping the old traditions alive, and finding new ones. Stories are always crossing borders. I spent the first part of my career in Scotland, and now I’m here in the U.S.—with my own stories, and the stories I’ve inherited from my family. And there are so many ways to do that, through personal stories, folk tales, pieces of history, and other forms that we haven’t even thought of yet.
Currently in his role with the International Storytelling Center, Sirah organizes events, raises funds, and plans programs to help people around the world “make a difference by discovering, capturing, and sharing their stories.” Learn more about ISC here.