Workbook for Change: Questions and Practice for Learning from the Past

(See here and here for an explanation, below the exercise for guidelines on doing this yourselves.)

Q: Have you already given up an activity, a system or an institution—or actively tried to destroy it—that benefited you, because of how much it hurts other people?

What was it?

What did you lose by giving it up or breaking it down?

What else happened because of this choice?

Is it a choice you have to make over and over?

What did it feel like the first time you made it?

How has that feeling changed?

When will you have to make that choice again?

Or, if you haven’t made it yet, when do think your next chance to choose will be?

*

PRACTICE: This one may vary depending on people’s answers to the above question

If you aren’t yet: Choose something you’re involved in, and that you and other people are harmed by, that you would like to explore giving up, tearing down or letting go. Learn more about its history and about the history of people fighting it. Learn about each other’s, with people in the group, or choose one together. If possible, learn about it with other people who are involved in it as well—if it’s your career, for example, this might mean inviting people at your workplace to learn this history with you, in addition to (or instead of) learning with the people you usually practice with.

GOOD TO DO

  • Choose the questions and/or practices you want to do at least a few days before getting together to do them. This means that people have time to feel their way into them and no one is surprised. The reasons for doing them—outlined above—should also be really clear before you do them.
  • If it’s a short gathering or if you have other things to work on, limit it to one question set or one practice.
  • Whatever ways you have of looking out for each other while you’re together also apply here. If you don’t have ways of doing that on purpose, developing them before you begin would be a good idea.
  • Have snacks around during the practice, and share a meal at the end. Do this even if you’re doing it remotely and can’t literally hand each other food.
  • Remind each other that it’s okay to do the questions or practices in a way that makes sense for you, which might mean changing them a little.
  • Every so often, offer or take the option to say how you’re feeling in your body, without needing to explain why.
  • Take both formal/guided breaks where you move, breathe, or otherwise remind yourselves and each other that you live in your bodies on earth, and regular breaks where people can walk around, go pee, have a cigarette, whatever.
  • Remember that people’s different histories may make these questions and practices difficult for them in different ways and amounts. Choosing a story to share, thinking in a different way, remembering and feeling can all be stressful. Be patient with yourself and others.
  • Try to keep your attention in the room you’re in and with the people you’re with. People may go “in and out” a little bit in their attention if what you’re doing is stressful for them, and that is okay.
  • Wind down at the end by asking people to say something about what they want to leave behind and something they want to carry with them, or something similar to help people return to their day or night.
IMAGE: Three or four baby wild turkeys pecking for food in short grass, in a mix of sunlight and shade. It often seems like turkeys couldn’t possibly learn all that well, but every year, more turkeys are born.

Thank you to the Assembly of Light Choir for testing these questions out with me.

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