Monday, June 9, 2014

Elegant Solutions – The Wisdom of the Heart

I have been thinking about conflicts among us and how sometimes we get stuck and get discouraged.  Maybe it is good to keep in mind Harvey’s observation that there is always at least one elegant solution to every problem.  And the Dalai Lama’s urging us to "Never give up."  The problem is always in our distresses.  Which are the result of early material that hangs out in us unresolved.  And we know how to deal with that.

Why do we keep forgetting that?  Why do we give up and give in to our distress?  Because the distress has blocked our thinking, clouds and confuses it and makes us forget we always have at least one elegant solution that will show up when we discharge.  We think we are thinking because our brain is functioning, and we are creating arguments and critiques and justifications and denials and judgments.  But they are all tainted with distress, and we cannot realize that at the moment.

We need a circle to sort it all out ("None of us is as smart as all of us").  But sometimes the re-stimulation has hit everyone, discourages the whole circle, and it dissolves without that elegant solution.  Nothing left but confusion and (sigh) disappointment.  I am thinking it could be very useful for our circles to utilize the suggestion of Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea in their book The Circle Way (!) to have one person in the role of what they call the Guardian.  Someone who keeps an ear and eye on the process and when things get sticky and confusing this person rings a little bell and interrupts the process.

Then there is a minute of silence while everyone gets a chance to step back from the mounting entanglement.  The Guardian will then tell why she rang the bell.  For us it is probably a good point to call for mini sessions to clear the feelings, think of a better way to go for that elegant solution.  And anyone in the circle can ask the Guardian to ring the bell at any time to give everyone a chance to quiet the internal ruckus and maybe ask for a mini and discharge.  We used to do this in our Mettanokit Community business meetings, and oh, what a difference it always made!

I can understand how we can all get lost in our old stuff sometimes.  There are times when even now I lose it, not quite so often as I grow older thankfully, but sometimes I get suddenly conflicted, say exactly the wrong thing out of my re-stimulation and make it all worse.  Luckily I usually have an aware observer near – my own Guardian: my partner and best friend Ellika, who without my distress can see through what’s happening and support me to remember what my heart knows but my brain forgot.

Ellika always warns me that perhaps I give too rosy a picture of conflicts, so I hasten to add that they require the best of us, they require our time and energy and attention.  It’s work.  But when we are listening to the wisdom of our hearts it is not painful it is uplifting.  Or as my old friend Wavy Gravy says in one of his songs: “Thank goodness for something to do!”

Harvey’s elegant solution appears to rely on clarity of thought, a matter of brain function, reason logic.  I’m not sure that way of characterizing it is helpful.  Even when our thinking is tainted with emotional distress we think we are thinking well.  What is more helpful for me is to just by-pass the mess in my head, my tangled and tortured reasoning, and go deeper, go straight to the wisdom of the heart.  That is the reminder that my guardian Ellika is usually able to give me.

That wisdom is what we all have in common.  That is the deepest place in all of us, in every human being.  I see it in myself most of the time, I see it in Ellika almost all the time, I feel it in every observation I hear or read from Tim Jackins –whose voice in my head often serves as a Guardian for me, and I see that in every one of us when we are in true counselor mode, the mode of a Supportive Listener.  We are all there when we are being ourselves, our caring, concerned, loving selves, listening with our hearts to the confusions and hurts, the fears and angers and re-stimulations, the awakening of old wounds in our beloved fellow human beings.

Wisdom and compassion taught the Buddha.  The wisdom of the mind, of study and research, of reason and logic, can show us how the problems arose and prescribe solutions, but it is the deeper wisdom of the heart that heals.

When a child does something that triggers a distress in us, we can make the mistake of yelling or lecturing, being sharp and demanding, even punishing, but none of those achieve what we want.  Only by listening, by kindness and understanding can we connect with gentleness and firmness and love to guide the child back on the path of the heart where we all want to be.  If it is true for how we treat children, it must be true for how we treat each other, how we treat adults who have stumbled in the re-stimulation of unresolved childhood hurts.

The land mines of old distress can get stepped on inadvertently in all relationships – in our Circle Way circles, in RC communities, in the sanghas and congregations of any group no matter from what font of wisdom or spirituality they drink.

When a bomb explodes please do not panic.  Take refuge in our goodness, in our love, the wisdom of the heart.  When conflict arises in your circle, rejoice, embrace it – it is an AFGO – "Another F….g Growth Opportunity."  Relax.  Discharge. Listen.  Laugh.

The wisdom of our hearts, our love, comes naturally.  It’s our essence.  We need to ask ourselves "what is the most loving thing I can do or say at this moment?"  The elegant solution is there.

What happens when we get past that stuff that confused us?  We hug.  We cry, we laugh.  We celebrate.  What a relief!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Joy of Caring for Children in the Circle Way

My new book, THE JOY OF CARING FOR CHILDREN IN THE CIRCLE WAY or “It Takes a Child to Raise a Village” is available free for the asking. Just email me and say you want it and I’ll send it directly back for you download and print.

I think it is the most important thing I have done in my life – my legacy to future generations – and I want it to spread as far and wide as possible. I didn’t write it to make money, but if you read it and it is valuable to you I would accept any free will donation and put it to use in further promoting the book. I would also be glad to hear from any readers who benefited from it and I might use any testimonials that people send. As I am glad for any positive reviews that readers make of any of my books for

This new book is also now available for purchase in Italian and soon in German.

Here is the Preface to the book:
This book is rooted in the soil of the traditional ways of caring for children of our First Nations communities in North America, as I have in my travels observed them among parents in various of those communities that have managed to retain these ways more or less uncontaminated by the invading European attitudes that were so disrespectful of children.  That circle way of community caring for children has been little documented in print, and it was a primary interest for me as I travelled in my youth, listening to elders and family members of all ages across the US and Canada.

Out of that soil my wife Ellika and I have for many years cultivated in our family workshops and camps the growth of cooperative caring for children, of parents helping each other to give the best of themselves to their children and each other using the approach and techniques of Re-Evaluation Counseling in a blend we call The Circle Way. A further goal to enlarge the scope of that caring will be found in the final two chapters of the book, namely of Parents Liberation and the creation of new communities that return to our indigenous values of cooperation, sharing, caring for each person from child to elder, together caring for all beings, all life, and for our beloved Mother Earth.



Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Connection As A Spiritual Path

By Manitonquat (Medicine Story)

There are many paths of spirituality, many ways to God, or Ultimate Truth.  The number of paths may be infinite – certainly as many as there are searchers who seek them.  There are similarities and differences to be found in them all, but the essence, of every one, I believe, is connection – the consciousness of the whole, the oneness of all that is.

The way of spirituality is the way of connection.  To be and know that we are one with Creation is to go home again.

To be deeply spiritual the seeker’s perception must be more than intellectual.  Also it must be more than purely emotional – the wanting, the longing, the hoping, the fearing.  It has to be felt physically, viscerally, in the body as well.  Psychotropic drugs can produce such effects but cannot by themselves produce a profound spiritual experience if the mind and heart are not prepared and attuned for it.  They must all be connected.

This connection is a function of another faculty, neither physical, mental nor emotional.  (Let us not get tripped up by semantics here - of course one can say everything is physical and be correct in that sense, also that emotional is part of mental.  It depends on definition.)  For me it is useful to distinguish categories of perception by “body”, “mind”, “heart”, and “spirit”.  That is, sensual perceptions reported to the brain by the nerves and cells of the flesh, ratiocination exercised by the brain, moods and emotions transmitted principally by the limbic system, and a faculty that stands outside of all that, perceiving unity, not only among them, but also with all that exists beyond them – infinity, eternity, all Creation, or however you want to name it.

It appears that this spiritual faculty is encoded in our genes and is something we inherit, and that its strength and presence varies greatly among individuals according to that inheritance.  It is also true, however, that people who possess little of that inclination at birth can develop the faculty through practices such as meditation and study.  The desire may arise through grief, fear of death, or attraction to a spiritual teacher, a lovely soul, or a community expressing its faith through ceremony, beautiful art, and meaningful and joyous music.

It is also true that spiritual experiences and development are good for us as individuals, healing us emotionally and often physically, and satisfying our longing to understand ourselves and our purpose and place in existence.  The spiritual experience is good as well for society.  It enhances relationships and communities and provides common ground for social constructs.

This is where humankind has stumbled badly in its history, however.  Bringing communities together for their survival, spirituality became institutionalized into religions.  The intention may have included wanting to bring people together, but the effect was to create separateness, divisive opinion, arrogance, righteousness, demands for conformity and conversion, The extreme results have been religious wars, crusades, jihad, the Inquisition, execution or ostracism for heresy, witchcraft, sorcery and infidelity.

It is interesting that one of the punishments of the church is called ex-communication when communication is the heart and soul of spirituality.  A spiritual person is one who seeks to be connected, to the earth, the winds and waters, trees and flowers, all that creep and run, swim and fly upon and among them.  A spiritual person seeks to be connected not only to his family and his religious congregation, but, as exemplified by Jesus, to the poor in wealth and spirit, the meek, the halt, the blind, the leper, the foreigner, even one’s enemy.

Connection is the path.

It can begin anywhere.  It starts most often when our consciousness is captured by something outside of ourselves. It might begin early in life, perhaps with admiration and devotion to a parent.  Human beings need to love, and they will often find ways to love even very difficult parents, but where that becomes too difficult a child will find another object for her affections.  A grandparent or sibling, perhaps an animal, a pet kitten or puppy or bunny.  Later it may be a friend, even an imaginary one may absorb all the child’s interest and affection.  In adolescence may come another love, involving deep emotional longing, devotion and powerful new bodily sensations.  The birth of our children can be the strongest spiritual experience of our lives if we are awake and present – it is a deep connection to the mystery of existence.

Attractions in the world beyond the human may capture our delight and wonder at any age.  The ethereal expanse of azure skies, the steady distant beckoning of the myriad stars of night, the first buds and shoots of spring, expanding into new shapes and sweetness every day, the timeless crumbing of ocean waves upon the sands, the graceful soaring of birds upon a wind, the rolling horizon that reveals and then later swallows the sun and the moon.

In our fascination we are pulled out of ourselves for a time.  We may forget our own needs and concerns as our consciousness fills with the wonder of the marvel before us.  This connection we have encountered is only the beginning of the journey.  For spiritual awareness to continue to develop we must follow it further.  The love of a parent, a child, or a friend will take us through many changes, conflicts, struggles, anger, fear, grief, as well as joy.  But if we persevere in our intention to stay and strive to be ever closer, our spiritual consciousness is continually exercised, growing in size and strength, in breadth and depth.  As we bring this love further into the world, encompassing ever more people, it continues to grow.

To gaze long at a newborn baby is to be slowly overtaken by love.  You can’t explain it.  There are no words.  You say, “Aw, look at those tiny fingers,” or those little pink feet, or those soft round cheeks. “Aw,” is all you can say, “aw!  How sweet!”  You look at those wide shining eyes and are pulled into that gaze.  A connection is made.

The baby is looking for the connection.  Some profound communication you can’t express is going on. You want to get closer, to hold and caress the baby.  The baby grasps your  finger and your being is thrilled at a mysterious level.

Connect long enough there and you have fallen in love.  Oh, it’s a very special baby!  Yes, of course.  But do it again with another newborn unrelated to her or you, and it will happen again.  Your heart will open a little more and another little human being will creep in.  Do it again and again as often and with as many babies as you may, and you will wonder at the perfection and the humanity and the sacredness of each.  You will fall in love with every one.

After enough of those experiences it might come to you, “Wait a minute!  If they are all like that, humanity itself must be basically sweet and good and sacred.  And if they are all like that, could I be the only exception?

“Could it be that I am also sacred and perfect?  Surely Creation loves these wonderful beings as I do.  Must not Creation love me just as much?  And must not the intensity of love I cannot help but feel for these little ones be the Creation acting in me?”

This line of speculation may stimulate a new thought.  If I am born with such perfection, if I, like everything else, am a sacred being, if I have in me the love of Creation, then why do I do so many stupid, unloving, hurtful things?  Why does anybody?  And why do I feel so bad about myself?

A fair question.

It’s a world of great complexity we are born to.  We have the faculties we need to navigate it and keep our bodies, minds and hearts nourished and strong.  We don’t need divine intervention, and we don’t need it to be easy.  But, here’s the big thing – we can also make it too hard. Without ever realizing we are doing it.  We make it too hard on each other.

That is why the Buddha taught wisdom and compassion above all else.  If one has the wisdom to see the perfection of Creation there is nothing there to disturb the mind.  As Thich Naht Hahn says, “This is a wonderful moment.”  And if one has understanding, one must then love all beings and be compassionate for all struggles – including one’s own.

That is why Jesus urged love and forgiveness.  Why Confucius said we should not do to others what we would not have done to us.  When we are centered only in ourselves we make it harder for others, and they make it harder for us.  We are strong enough if we are not interfered with.  But living is a struggle that requires our attention, some clarity of mind, some equanimity of emotion.  We are not invulnerable.  We break down under severe strain.

We have seen what extreme fear, grief, or rage can do to the human consciousness.  It breaks out in acts of violence against the self or others, in war, terrorism, and hideous cruelty.  We have seen the results of torture in breaking the mind and spirit.  These are the extreme incidents.  But what about a life lived from the first with only small incidents of coldness, selfishness, blaming, physical and emotional mistreatment?  Just an ordinary childhood in many of our cultures, with little or no redeeming love or comfort, no encouragement or support or appreciation, no teaching or examples of compassion and caring.  No tenderness, no sweetness, no fun, no laughter, and little hope that there ever could be.

The great majority of people in the world today live in abject poverty, with less than adequate shelter, nourishment, or medical care.  In rural areas where people gather in small communities they tend to be more open with one another, more supportive, sharing and kind, and tend to be good humored and laugh a lot.  But the world is becoming urbanized, and where the greatest populations are mashed in on one another, there is where the anger and fear are hidden behind protective masks of aloofness and indifference.  There the isolation is endemic and in that separation and loneliness what is bred is greed and a need for a sense of power or notoriety.  Which further breeds trickery and lies, violence and brutality.  The models before them in the public media are the very few wealthy who own most of the world and cavort in nightclubs or on the sunny beaches of private islands.

It is a tribute to the strength of our humanity that with all this there remains as much sanity, as much kindness, as much hope, as much laughter and devotion as still exists in the world.  If only we can educate ourselves we can restore the promise that lies in the shine of every newborn’s eyes.

The spiritual path then must lead us back to ourselves.  Not ourselves in isolation, struggling alone against the onslaughts of greed and hostility, of blaming and humiliation, of coldness and indifference.  It means seeing ourselves as incredibly wonderful beings, beings of great physical beauty, creative intelligence, warm-heartedness, and indomitable spirit.

You are the Crown of Creation, do you know that?  Has anyone ever told you that?  Has anyone looked at you with awe and wonder for just how splendid you are, in every way?  Have people rejoiced that you have battled your way through all the vicissitudes of your life and kept so much of your humanity intact?  Have they cheered your victory?

If they haven’t it’s only because they are temporarily befuddled by their own battles, and they haven’t gotten all the necessary information yet.  Now that’s the spiritual task that lies before us.  Before all of us who see the human situation as it is.  We must pass on this information as quickly and thoroughly as we can.  There is such a weight .  Millennia of misinformation obscuring the vital needed truth: we must set about to re-educate the world at once.

Here are the important facts.  The universe has everything required to function well under its laws, the Original Instructions of Creation.  Human beings, as necessary parts of Creation, have everything required to function well under those instructions.  Those instructions for human beings include staying very close to other human beings in order to learn about and preserve their humanity.  It is only by being intimate and interacting with others of our kind that we get to know and be completely human.

We must continually teach and reveal to others their humanity.  At every stage of life, from birth, childhood, adolescence, maturity and old age, we must respect and revere them and show them by our love how loveable they truly are.  We must admire their beauty and how they carry it, so they will care for their bodies and shine ever brighter.  We must pay attention and listen and note where their thinking is sound and constructive.  We must open our hearts to as many as we can and engage them in kindness and laughter, affection and appreciation.  We must show our delight that they exist and that they are a great gift to the world and to us.

It’s a tall order, this spiritual task.  But I don’t see any other way around it.  If just a few of us can start really working at this with each other, what a difference it would make in our lives alone! If we can agree with a few friends, with our sweethearts and spouses, with our children, we would get, with practice, stronger and better at it, and it would start to spill out on others, on associates and colleagues and complete strangers.

Imagine a world in which all the children grow up thinking they are completely good and loveable, smart and creative and funny and wonderful to be around.  Where they have not ever been judged or blamed, ignored or abandoned or sent away.  Where they have only been appreciated and all they have seen around them is respect and kindness and warmhearted affection.  Imagine a world in which you could travel anywhere without fear, where people would greet you with openness and curiosity and friendliness.

I think that would be a world in which people would know their worth and that of others.  They would know that being with each other gave infinitely more joy than accumulating toys and gadgets and overpriced luxuries.   I think that would be a world in which people would rather enjoy being with each other, engage in talk, creative activities, games, sport, laughter, touch, dancing, singing, storytelling, than stare at distant strangers performing on little lighted tubes.  I think that would be a world that would get its priorities straight.  The obscenities of disgusting wealth and shameful poverty would be a thing of the past, and every baby born would have a fair share of Earth’s resources for basic human needs.

When I read of some of the spiritual folderol that many people seem to be buying and selling today, I think they have become victims of a selfish and materialistic society.  All kinds of products are offered the spiritual consumer: incense, oils, art, rugs, stools, teas, herbs, exotic lighting, sound equipment, music and spoken recordings, and many machines to massage the body and the mind and guide the seeker into other realms.  The fascination seems to be only with one’s own consciousness.  There is little to suggest or enhance closeness with other human beings (apart from a thriving segment of instructions and goodies for sexual enhancement, which lends readily to a focus again on the self rather than the partner, the communication, and unity.

If you are part of a spiritual group devoted to providing basic human needs to those who have not them, working for peace, for justice, for the environment or the like, you are well along on the spiritual path.  In that outreach you are certainly connecting.   To go further on the path we must only press ourselves to make deeper and wider connections.  We need to ask ourselves how close our relationships are with fellow workers,  - do we share our inner selves, our deeper thoughts, our fears and confusions, our dreams?  Do we strive to know them well, to understand and support them on their separate journeys?  And what about people we tend, feed or shelter, what about prisoners, guards, police, lawyers, politicians, brokers, bankers, teachers, doctors, social workers, everyday people you meet - do we seek to know them more, to show ourselves and extend hands of friendship without an agenda of converting them to our paths?

I realize how difficult all this is when, in my relations with my wife Ellika, the closest person to me, the dearest and best friend I have, I find myself sometimes blaming her for some little thing, with no thought for her, saying things which are most unsupportive.   Oh, I have much work to do!  To follow the spiritual path I know is right.  Again I must profusely and sincerely regret my patterned folly and determine to be more aware of that old trap and avoid it.  By getting closer to her and opening my deeper feelings of ancient betrayals and disappointments.  By giving all my attention to her and to our oneness.

In counseling people I often hear them say they must set limits to other people.  They must find and defend their borders.  At a certain point in their growth this is entirely appropriate.  Connection also means we must be connected to ourselves, to our own integrity.  It means having a sense of who we are as individuals.  I encourage everyone to find his or her special gifts – we are all different, special.  There’s never been anyone like you before in all Creation, and there never will be anyone like you again.  For that we must celebrate and give thanks.

And when we have realized our own value and sacredness in Creation, we must widen our consciousness and see how we are connected to everyone and everything else, to the whole of existence.  When we have discovered who we are and what our gifts are, that is not the end of the spiritual journey.  Our connection to the whole suggests that what we have been given is not to hoard to ourselves alone, it is to be given away.  When we at last know and respect our borders we must begin to break them down.  The next part of the journey requires us to begin to dismantle our walls, remove all our limits, and in all our nakedness and vulnerability seek connection.  What is cosmic consciousness, after all, but coming home?

Connection, that is the spiritual path all right.  Let us help each other out here.  Let’s attack our barriers, our borders and resistances and get closer.  Let us remind each other how good we are, and caringly attend one another.  Let us join hands as together we move out on the rest of the world.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Report on Swedish Circle Camp

From Stephen Hinton, leader in the Swedish Transition movement

Back in July, participants from Sweden and Denmark gathered for the annual Circle Way camp hosted by Manitonquat , a Native American who bases his teachings on traditional tribal ways.

The camp, held at the Mundekulla conference center, has been going for some 11 years now. This year for the first time they were joined by people from the Swedish Transition movement.


There is a lot for transitioners to gain from learning about these traditional ways as I discovered right from the opening ceremonies. Firstly, the whole meaning of forming a tribe and living in a tribe is to create security and safety for all members, and a good environment for the next generations to grow and a way for the elders to pass on their wisdom.

To me it makes a lot of sense; it is about resilience. A group of people who are organised, supportive, open and warm will be able to handle a lot of the challenges thrown at them, far better than each individually, especially if the talents and gifts of each member can be put to good use.

With each individual contributing to their full, the tribe will make good decisions, create a warm and supportive atmosphere, and build a place to grow up and thrive in.

It's all about love and appreciation

Apart from resilience, one thing that struck me is the focus on love and appreciation that lies at the core of the old ways. Manitonquat explained it using the idea of humans as being a unique “mothers and others” creatures. Because of the long time it takes to reach adulthood, and the amount of attention and care needed, human children's needs extend far beyond what two parents can provide. The child needs the tribe to grow up.

And, according to Manitonquat , it is a two way street: for us adults to grow, we need the connection with children, they challenge us to find out hearts and our love, and to open up to continue our own growth. Appreciation, love, compassion, so much a part of the human experience, are all brought out in us by children.

So much of the customs and practices we learned at the camp have to do with personal growth, creating a secure and safe environment, creating a space that invites the peace everyone longs for into their lives, putting everyone's talents and gifts to good use, and securing the community for the next generation.


Standing in the ceremonies and listening to Manitonquat I got the strong feeling that I was experiencing a permaculture approach to creating a healthy and healing culture: you design practices and customs to support that culture, and you take good care of them. Just as the design for food provision gives food security, the design for cohesion brings security to every member from a social point of view. It is easy to brush off traditions and ceremonies as being artifacts from a less developed past that are just, like the appendix, hanging around with no real function. Not so from a North American Indian view: they are the very tools of survival.


So, how do you actually go about bringing people together to form the tribe? Manitonquat says that in all living things there must be some kind of original instructions. And that finding a resonance with these instructions is something that every human being can do. If we just get started, we might let our intuition guide us.

It all starts by standing in a circle and holding hands. Looking around at the people present to see them and having everyone expressing their shared intention and appreciation of that which we resonate with. We did it several times during the camp and it always felt good. It is deceptively simple, but it needs to be done in a sincere way, and with sensitivity to all the people present.

I was reminded how similar it was to the way we start Transition information meetings, where we get people to share their favourite place or food or holiday spot, to remind attendees that we come from a place where we want to preserve the Earth for ourselves to appreciate and enjoy and to hand it on to others.


The practices Manitonquat teach contain a lot of powerful techniques of listening, I would say on par or maybe better than those taught on top leadership and counselling courses. Again, deceptively simple. In the resilient community, when going through tough changes, everyone needs emotional support. With a whole tribe armed with a sincere wish to help and powerful techniques it is just to grab the person of your choice and get going!

Being listened to, unconditionally like that was for me actually a wonderful experience. I have been through a pretty tough past six months and hadn't realised just how much it had been dragging me down until I got the chance to participate in the session where I got heard and listened to, as one of the techniques is called, actively.

Another similar approach they used is called “discharging”. You give the other person 10 minutes (enough to express, not enough to burden the listener) to express the difficult, negative feelings and emotions they are carrying, and then you get to swap roles.

Just the efficacy of this practice is born out by academic research: in one experiment, hospital patients who spent 20 minutes writing about difficult emotional issues healed faster than the control group who did not express in that way.


Let me just explain this bit about the ideal size of a community: our temporary “tribe” was about 70 people including children (who were, by the way always welcome to take part in the common activities). I think the ideal tribe size is larger, I should guess that it needs to be no larger than you can hear everyone's voice when sitting in a circle, and no larger than everyone an make a contribution. But to make it work you need smaller groups too. We divided into clans of 5-6, to not only take on some of the practical tasks needed to be done at the camp but to also create a support group. I guess in native practices one of the clans you belong to is through blood relations. Anyway, our clan was there to be supportive in listening and we had several sessions where we just got the opportunity to talk and be listened to.

It sounds simple, it is, but done with sensitivity I believe a clan approach as a support group could be useful to Transitioners or any community. Being a human in this modern world, in these challenging times is not easy. Having someone to talk to like that is truly valuable, and healing.


Manitonquat was saying how they always had a ceremonial clown. Part of the whole thing is not to take yourself too seriously. In fact, doing a good job of making a bit of a fool of yourself is highly encouraged. One evening we had an “open stage” session where each clan did a skit. Mostly humorous, sometimes profound it reminded me of how much your own home grown entertainment is thousands of times better than that you see manufactured for television!


I had the opportunity together with Pella Thiel to run a session to introduce the Transition movement. We did a few “mapping” exercises where people stand physically in the room relative to where they live. It felt right to talk about the compass directions. As we saw later, traditional native practices are infused with a sense of North, South East West literally and figuratively. Then we talked about the oil, climate, money and social challenges we see and how we are responding at a local level.


As I was talking about oil I felt a sense of being a story teller. Manitonquat has another name: Medicine Story, and he IS a great story teller. In the North American Indian tradition stories are enlightening and healing, they are educational and entertaining. Just as working with a sense of space and direction gives us orientation, stories help orient us in time. Maybe that is why children like to hear the same story over, and maybe why I am still drawn to the drama of the oil story.

That is another thing I take away from the camp: the importance of telling the Transition story in a way that gives an orientation and a sense of time as well as leaving a positive feeling after hearing it.

We got a lot of good feedback from participants who had not yet heard of Transition. They saw a way they could connect with people locally to invite them to circles and for themselves to get involved in the practical side of creating the culture they wanted.


I loved the final parting ceremonies, from singing a “goodbye, see you again” song to dancing in a long line past each other, giving a little “nod” of recognition and thanks for the time together, the circle sharing of what we most appreciated and what we take with us to use in our own community.


Highly recommended are Manitonquat 's books on Amazon (link) and his website if you would like to attend a camp.


I left feeling inspired to see what I can do in my own community, my family and Transition groups to apply the insight and wisdom from the camp. I considered introducing a few activities in a way that suits the group and Swedish culture. The Viking culture had something called a “round” where everyone got the chance to speak, rather like the talking stick of the Native Americans. That works well even when introduced to people new to the idea of community.

I really appreciated the way the camp was outdoors a lot and integrated with the children. The kids had a lot of space to play and run around, they had their parents close by, but it was more than just a camping holiday because of all the activities. Something to build on, at least for the few months the Swedish climate allows it.

A further step might be to introduce the idea of support groups (clans) with active listening for people actively involved in Transition.

Monday, April 21, 2014

There is still time to perserve the woodlands

We are closer to our fundraising goal to save the woods and they have given us more time to raise money.

Here once more are the simple addresses – for donations.
For online donations:
For investment or lending at a rate you choose call Donna 1-603-878-9824 or email
The woods we are trying to save. There is a wonderful variety but the birch where we circle in ceremony are rare and sacred to our people and of course the vanishing forests are the precious home we share with our friends, the animals and birds.
 For a bit of history on the project see the Longer History post from last month.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Supportive Listening - The Circle Way Works By Agreement

Find a partner and agree to the time, equal amount for each, and decide who will go first

Look into each other’s eyes for the good, caring, intelligent, vibrant person hiding there

Listener: get as close as feels safe to the other and give concentrated, delighted attention

Reflecting back your interest, concern, and confidence in the other

What you want to support is the discharge of feelings, both difficult, painful and confused ones and also more positive and joyful feelings.  Often only your caring attention will elicit discharge, as the person may just need a safe place to express them.

Discharge can be lively talking, laughing, weeping, shaking, sweating, yawning, goose flesh.  These are signs that feelings are being released, and you should do nothing to interfere with that, only showing sympathy and understanding and an encouragement that the person is doing the right thing and should continue.  When the discharge stops it can help sometimes to repeat back the thought that started the discharge, it may continue.

Until you learn other ways to contradict the person’s distress it is best to say nothing except such questions as: “How does that feel?” or “What’s that thought?”

Don’t give advice, don’t analyze, don’t judge, be sympathetic but don’t cry louder than the person you’re listening to.

To insure the safety needed to open one’s feelings, it is essential that whatever is said in a session be kept absolutely confidential.  If you wish to refer to something the other said in a session you must ask her/his permission

Like any skill, the art of co-counseling gets better the more you practice it.

The one who is being listened to gets to decide what she/he will work on.  It’s good if you are able to take some time beforehand to think about that and guide your own session.

The listener may then suggest you explore earlier instances of these feelings to discharge on, or may suggest a posture, a facial expression or tone of voice you might try for a contradiction, or may exaggerate or understate the situation for a new perspective

Don’t forget humor – laughter is good discharge and is healing!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Campaign to Protect the Woodlands: Update

Our campaign to protect these natural woodlands is coming down to the wire - and it's close... With our creative fundraising of loans, the 360, TNSF (The Nature School Foundation) private stock and the crowd funding site, we have almost reached our goal so the sellers gave us two weeks with 10 days now to go. So we are all full speed now and I ask everyone to think once more about who might have some savings they would like to use in a good way secured by the great value of this property.

For information on loans email Donna –

For a bit of history on the project see the Longer History post from last month.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Tell Us Is Possible

I awoke this morning just bursting with love. Overflowing, like a fountain. Love for you. Love for our family, our circle. Love for life, for this Earth and all creatures.

I’m looking at my schedule, eagerly planning and thinking of when I may see you again and how we may meet, at least like this, electronically, wherever we are. How I want to hear about your life and understand better how I may help you – help you to make your life more wonderful, more full of love and of joy. How to excite the dreams and the hope in you and in all of us.

Here is my way to do that today. A vision, a dream, a promise of tomorrow.

We have been separated so long we are numbed by the pain of it. But all over the world people are beginning to realize that it is isolation that is the cause of all our suffering, the cause of the fear that smothers our love, the cause of war and violence, of oppression and cruelty, greed and poverty, crime and punishment. Where this is happening, in all the circles where we come together to listen to each other’s loves and fears, we are entering a new age – an Age of Reunion.

“I cannot predict how the Age of Reunion will unfold in linear time. I do know, however, that by the end of our lifetimes, my generation will live in a world unimaginably more beautiful than the one we were born into. And it will be a world that is palpably improving year after year. We will reforest the Greek isles, denuded over two thousand years ago. We will restore the Sahara Desert to the rich grassland it once was. Prisons will no longer exist, and violence will be a rarity. Work will be about, ‘How may I best give of my gifts?’ instead of, ‘How can I make a living?’ Crossing a national border will be an experience of being welcomed, not examined. Mines and quarries will barely exist, as we reuse the vast accumulation of materials from the industrial age. We will live in dwellings that are extensions of ourselves, eat food grown by people who know us, and use articles that are the best that people in the full flow of their talents could make them.  We will live in a richness of intimacy and community that hardly exists today, that we know, because of longing in the heart, must exist. And most of the time, the loudest noises we hear will be the sound of nature and the laughter of children.”

The above words in quotation marks are not mine, although you will recognize me in every thought, and I know you will also recognize yourself there as well, because you all write to me and tell me I am saying just what you are also thinking and feeling. 

This quotation is from a writer named Charles Eisenstein whom I recommend to your immediate attention - visit him at Eisenstein has licensed his writings under what is called a Creative Commons copyright. That means it is free for anyone to reprint with credit to the author, but not for sale or to endorse anything for sale.  It is a model of the Sacred Economics he describes in his book of the same name.

Those words are from the conclusion of that book, “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Tell Us Is Possible,” which is also the title of his latest book. Read that passage again, savor it, talk with your beloveds about it, weep over it, laugh over it, print it and frame it, send it to everyone you know with the thought, This is where we are all going –together.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Brief Updates and Longer History

1. UPDATES: It is still happening! You all have been responding to this great opportunity -  some with whatever donation you could scrape together and some for the chance to earn  6% interest on a loan to realize a beautiful dream. I want to thank everyone of you from my heart for all your prayers as well as your loans and gifts. So many are responding it is keeping us up late. But more is still needed – we have an new extension now until March 31st April 14th, so we still can make it but time is short.

We need to spread the word further now. Ask everyone you know to ask everyone they know to ask everyone they know; put it on Facebook and Twitter. Make circles and brainstorm; make flier as post them in public places; write letters to newspapers. Stir the excitement that people can actually make money and do real good in this world right now. A loan of 1,000 will earn 60 more in a year, of 10,000 will earn 600, of 100,000 will earn 6,000.

For information on loans email Donna –

2. HISTORY: For any of you who may be interested in knowing more, here is the history of this project and our dreams and plans for its future.

In May of 1978 fifty people came together on this land responding to a poster that read “Have You Lost Your Tribe?” In the Great Hall we had hung a banner that read
ON US WE TRUST. They came from all over New England and shared their dreams of a better life and fell in love with each other.

That night I had a dream in my sleep that we really did all live together, that we were a small tribe and the name of the tribe was Mettanokit – “Our Mother Earth.” A group of us did at last come together to live on this land, calling ourselves the Mettanokit Community and became part of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities nationally and the New England Network of Light locally. Mettanokit continued th ework of Another Place, presenting alternative education and healing seminars such as the annual New England Healing Arts Fair and the annual Northeastern Communities Conference, and also created programs in many New England Prisons.

Thirty acres of Another Place land had been sold before we moved in to help pay down the huge debt previously accrued by Another Place. Within a decade our new community was able to pay off the mortgage and the rest of that debt. Later, in the 90s, a great fire, probably from sparks landing from a chimney on the roof, made the Main House uninhabitable. We had not examined the fire insurance we had continued from the prior management, and now found it too small to fund rebuilding.The last of the community was disbanded, but Ellika and I continued living in our small house in the woods, continued the prison programs and to hold circles and gatherings. The Nature School of Massachuetts bought the property and agreed to allow Ellika and me to live out our lives in our little house while we continued to expand our Circle Way teachings in Europe for half of every year.

Then the adjacent property which had been sold became for sale again, now with a fine ecological house and garage a pond, several gardens and fruit trees and natural woodlands that we want to preserve. There we could immediately begin again the work of an educational-healing retreat center. Our plans also include rehabilitation of the Nature School property nearby in Mason, and the growth of an ecovillage to support and carry on the educational and healing activities on both properties.

For thirty-three years I have lived in my little Birch Cottage in the woods, hand build b y our old Mettanokit Community. There our only neighbors are the wild creatures – the raccoons that one year moved into our attic, the porcupines that mad love under our bedroom and made babies that grew and return to have more babies every year, the red squirrels that invade our cabinets, the flying squirrels that lived in our closet, the mice that brought toilet paper to make nests behind the books at the top of our shelves, the wild turkeys that sometimes troupe by our sundeck traversing our hill, the partridge that used to chase my car up the drive away from her babies, the deer we sometimes glimpse at twilight, the moose, the foxes in their hole, the pair of otters that swam through our pond on their way to the beaver pond below our hill, the bobcats we sometimes hear at night, the rabbits only known by their footprints in the new snow, the chorus of the frogs when the streams overflow in spring, and the many birds that visit our feeders on their migrations.

If the woods around us are cut down for commercial development, where will they go, all these friends of ours?

Our plans for this property if we are able to secure it, besides creating the educational-healing retreat center there, are to make a nature trail through the woods for the school, a trail that will be ope to everyone and an attraction to the area. We have dreamed of a museum that will include a collection of native artifacts I inherited from my Wampanoag grandfather, a model native village displaying various types of constructions from diverse tribal areas, and a shop for native and local crafts and artwork.

At the Nature School we plan courses on how to teach about nature and good environmental practices, and to teach the Circle Way of inclusion and mutual support in creating the kind of lives, relationships, communities and society that we want – ones not based on money and financial gain but on love, and joy in each other and in our children, in the wonders of life an the world, in fun and play, in creativity and interesting work and study, a world in which every human being can travel anywhere in freedom and peace and be welcomed with hospitality and pleasure. In ecovillages everywhere we can model the way human beings can live together in harmony, supporting each other and creating a more huma world for and with our children.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Notes from and Elder

One thing about getting old, your perspective broadens. You don’t get so waylaid by all the small daily intrusions as you used to be. You are offered a larger view.

It’s an interesting mix. A lot of the time you are confused, don’t remember what you did or intended a moment ago. Then memories from the distant past burst into your consciousness, which is mostly pleasant but disorienting.

That’s why the conversation of us old geezers can be so exasperating to everyone else. We complain about our aches and new pains, we are always asking, “Where is my…?” “Has anybody seen my…?” or we are nattering on about old times pointlessly.

I see all that in myself, but also I experience periods of great clarity and deeper, broader understanding of the human predicament that includes us all at this moment of history.

I am writing to you and the world from that clarity and understanding as much as I can these days for as long as my energy lasts. It seems a shame how that energy wanes more and more, but I must accept that.

The wisdom mined by others can make great contributions to our understanding and our actions. We would do well to refresh the wisdom handed down from Lao Tse, from the Buddha, or from Jesus to inform our steps at all times. But not all of what is retain from former times is germane and helpful to our present conditions. New thinking is always necessary.

Recent and contemporary figures have given us great examples to guide us – Gandhi’s non-violent resistance to oppression, Tutu’s truth and reconciliation events, the ongoing movements for peace, environmental healing, restorative justice, to eradicate poverty and provide basic needs of health and freedom to all human beings – all these are alive and growing, and we all benefit from our attendance on them.

Compassion, a basic human attribute, languishes in us because of our isolation and anxiety. Children raised with closeness and affection are naturally caring. We need a society where the highest goals offered are not material wealth, notoriety, or power over others, but the rich pleasures of the human heart and mind. An economy based not on getting but on giving, the gifts of Earth’s resources not appropriated for possession but for the pleasures of mutual benefit, of sharing, of helping, of healing.

Emphasizing the traditional wisdom of the Buddha, the Dalai Lama advises our intentions always towards compassion and tells us, “Never give up!” Also from the Buddhist tradition of mindfulness, the teacher Thich Nhat Hanh tell us to listen, listen deeply, listen to each other, listen to ourselves, listen to life.

And in developing the techniques for non -violent communication Marshal Rosenberg offers a marvelous question I urge myself and everyone to ask each other: How can I help you make your life more wonderful?”

Now if everyone who reads these words would only say “Yes!” and put them all to work every moment, the human situation would get better the more people are able to read them, and our job is only to spread the words further.

But reading is not enough. The activities around us that produce anxiety and fear, increase isolation and loneliness, and reduce compassion and closeness must be prevented. These activities, you have perhaps noticed, are enforced by our economic and political systems and the anxiety and fear generated by them.

We have enough history now to affirm clearly that the overthrow of these systems does not create the human society we seek. The fears and greed and lust for power over others continue and corrupt whatever we may try to replace that system with. We need protected breeding grounds for a truly human society. That can happen without threatening or confronting others with hostility.

It is in fact happening, peaceably, more and more. People are gathering to live together in a better relationship to the Earth, to all life, to each other and to themselves. I have been working with such communities, now generally calling themselves ecovillages, for over 40 years. Are they perfect? Of course not. But life there is certainly far better, far happier, freer, more creative and satisfying than any place, any place outside them. More satisfying also than that of the poor, the struggling, the isolated, and also than that of the rich, the one percent in their gated communities.

These ecoovillages are laboratories, experiments in creating a new world, where they are trying to work out all the kinks and make life more wonderful for everyone. I invite you all to look into them more – check out Tamera, ZEGG, Damanhur, Findhorn, The Farm, to name only a few – there are thousands of others.

We have been experimenting on our own, working out techniques for getting the kinks out, the stuff we keep dragging with us from the old systems, stuff that is getting in our way, in the way of our compassion and our joy.

The original basis for our social thinking is that of the successful communities of all our past human history. We have named it The Circle Way and have been exploring it in workshops and camps for 30 years, learning more every time we come together. The major tool we are honing we call Supportive Listening, adapted from co-counseling for use in our circles and in the wider world.

The Circle Way is centered on all of us, not on any teacher or writing, or even on any policy. Centered on us, it can change as we change – and no one knows for sure how we will change and what the effects of that change will be. Writing like this will go into the archives and be noted as part of our history an growth, as we check out the thoughts and times of the Buddha and Jesus, of Gandhi and thousands of others like me experiencing and writing about these changes today, people like Joanna Macy and Starhawk and Jean Houston, like Steven Gaskin and Thich Nhat Hanh and…really thousands, it’s true. But all that writing is just smoke unless people are actively living it, as they are trying to do in the ecovillages.

The Circle Way understands that – as my late friend Pete Seeger put it, “None of us will get there unless we all get there.” And that means we have to be listening to each one. We can’t listen to each one in groups of thousands or even hundreds. We have to be in circles where EACH ONE can be heard by all.

If a circle is too big for everyone to listen to each other in a reasonable period that they can all sit still for, the circle must be broken down into smaller circles. Those are our basic communities, but those circles can connect to cooperate with larger circles to work on mutual interests together. Always we must keep in mind human scale. We can make our circles more efficient by continually taking time out for smaller circles of two people or three, where we can get clear our best communications to the larger circle.

Two signs we can print or just remember:


That last one comes from our certainty we were, like every baby, born good and innocent, eager, curious - loving closeness, play, laughter, creativity, and liking to help, enjoying cooperation and to be welcome, to be accepted, understood and appreciated. Together we can help each other to be who we were born to be.

So you see, I really do know how to change the world. I know how to help you, everyone, make life more wonderful for yourself and for all life. But it’s not something I can do by myself. Not even by writing it all down. Because it can only happen when we actually do it.  That means do it together. None of us can do it alone. We need each other.

That is why I am urging you to get together, make circles, listen to each other. And then bring it to the Earth. Settle, as people always have, together on a piece of land, listen to one another and support one another, trust in your goodness and intelligence and thoughtfulness and use Supportive Listening to help each other clear out all that gets in the way of your love and compassion, your clarity and creativity and joy.

I am urging this for NOW. Because really, you may think you can wait, but I don’t have as much time as you. I want to live with you now and be close and play with our children and grandchildren, and work and sing and dance together, and show the world how it is done.

My late friend Mort Goulder liked the model in my book Changing the World, but asked, “How do we get there from here?”  Fate has placed an immediate possibility in our hands, to buy our neighbor’s property and right away start a seminar/healing/retreat center where a supporting ecovillage can grow.  But we have to act quickly.  We could do it if we got some large loans that would earn a good income for the donors, and/or it could work if we got tens of thousands, maybe a hundred thousand small donations.  I assume you, like me, do not have a large amount to invest, but you do have friends who, like you, could pass on this information to others and ask them to pass it on through the Internet and all the social networks. 

We need a mass movement – It can start here.  Never give up.

TOGETHER THERE IS NOTHING WE CANNOT DO. To all who make a donation we can send a certificate that they are founding members of our Circle Way Retreat Center and will be welcome to visit any time.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Spreading the Word, Preserving the Land

Okay folks - I am going to assume that you are reading this blog because you have intersected with us and The Circle Way at some time and you liked our way of wanting to change the world into something more human, something that helps everyone by us getting closer and all helping one another. If that's not why you are here - well, enjoy and stay close anyway.

If you want to help change the world with us there are a few simple things you can do.

The first is share and/or donate to our crowdfunding campaign to support the Circle Way Ecovillage USA.

The crowdfunding campaign is part of our effort to raise money to purchase the land north and west of us. On this land there is a lovely house and garage, a beautiful pond, a permaculture orchard, organic garden, and landscaped meditation garden. I dread to see it bulldozed for a crowded development of houses and the forest clear-cut and harvested. If we can purchase the land we will be able to immediately begin to hold Circle Way seminars, healing workshops, and to build a community to sustain the land as a teaching-healing retreat and center for all people.

The land and everything on it is worth much more than what is being asked but still Ellika and I do not have the money ourselves to buy it, although we have given all we have as a non-refundable deposit to hold it for now.

Many people have already responded to our call promising help, and many more are beginning to hear about it through Facebook but we have still not reached our goal. Every one of you who can donate and share the page on your Facebook can make a big difference. Every donation helps, no matter how small, and if you can't donate, spread the word.

The second also very simple thing I encourage anyone to do is write a positive review of any of my books on I can attest that those reviews really work - I never buy anything from Amazon without reading them and they definitely influence my decision.

If you want to contribute more in depth there are some some tools for you on the website. Some promotional letters which you can use to contact people, feel free to change any of them as you feel or redo completely in your own words and think of other possibilities.

With deepest affection, Manitonquat

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Farewell to Pete Seeger

Dear Friends,

If you have not yet heard, my friend Pete Seeger passed on to his last journey from this world yesterday.  He was a good friend to all native people (Floyd Westerman also appeared with me telling stories at Pete's Clearwater Revivals) and for nine decades a singer, storyteller, fighter for working people, for equality, justice, peace and a healthy planet. In his song “To my Old Brown Earth”, Pete asked us not to cry, but you and I know that crying is a good and healing thing that allows our feeling our strong and deep emotions. The words of Ecclesiastes that he set to music say that there is a time to mourn, and we may take time for that now.  Sadness is important also to share.

It was not unexpected, of course.  When I visited them last spring Toshi was much reduced and Pete was taking pains to include her in our conversation but it was clear that dear sharp energetic Toshi would not be long with us.  And that would mean, of course, that after 70 years together, their lives being so entwined, neither would care to hang out very much longer without the other half.

The occasion of my visit was to give them my latest book Have You Lost Your Tribe? because of the brief memory of Pete I included at the end of the chapter on “The Rainbow Tribe.”  I left soon, not wishing to take up their time together, and I doubt now if Pete even had the time to check out that part because I failed to mark it.

Now I am realizing that I spend quite a bit of my free musing time in writing letters to them in my head, explaining what I am doing and telling them how their example has helped to fuel the work with people that Ellika and I do.  Not wanting to add to the great volume of correspondence that they would be receiving, I actually sent those thoughts very seldom and visited even less.  And of course after the fine memorial for Toshi at Ethical Culture I have been thinking to check in once more with Pete but this time put it off too long.

My friendship with Pete Seeger began 38 years ago at a one of his concerts (I know the time because my oldest son was in his mother’s womb at that concert and when Pete played the banjo she said Tokeem was dancing!) my old friend David Amram introduced us, and the first thing Pete said to me was how much he loved Indians when he was a boy.  I stayed in touch during my tenure as an editor of Akwesasne Notes and when we formed a community in New Hampshire later our whole community would go to the Clearwater Revivals to do the recycling while I was telling stories at Story Point.

Following my elders advice to go wherever I was invited, my path led me to Europe, where I met Ellika and most of you who are reading this have kept our connection through community building camps and family camps that we have led for 30 years, now in 12 countries.  Most of you have watched as I showed Pete’s story, The Power of Song, and you know what an inspiration he has been to me for maybe 60 years.  You have heard me say that his integrity and unflagging zeal for peace and justice and compassion, for the Earth and all our animal and plant relatives was unequaled by any public person in America.  He did not care to sing solo but always enjoined all present to song together, and his attitude was encapsulated in his remarks that we must change the end of “Over the Rainbow” to remind us that none of us will get to our vision of a world fit for humankind until all of us can go together –“If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the Rainbow, why can’t you and I.”

As you all know, I am just 10 years younger than Pete, and I really hope I have another 10 years in me because our community building is only just really getting started and I have at least another 10 books to write and add to the 10 I have perpetrated already.  I am slower, but I will keep traveling until I have to stop and let you come to me.  Lucky I am to have Ellika to hold me up and keep me in line – as I say in a poem to her, ,”insisting on vegetables and seat-belts.”

So wherever you are now, join in a chorus of Pete’s that we often sing together:

One blue sky above us, one ocean lapping all our shores,
One Earth, so green and round, who could ask for more?
And because we love you, let’s give it one more try
To show our Rainbow Race, it’s too soon to die.

And as we remember Pete, recall his belief that the human race has a 50/50 chance of having a human race here in a hundred years, that the scales are evenly balanced and one grain might tip them in either direction, and that we are, all of us but one grain - we must all be involved and get active in some way.

And listen once more to the farewell of his last song:

Guard well our human chain,
Watch well you keep it strong,
As long as sun shall shine.

And this our home,
Be pure and sweet and green,
For now I’m yours,
And you are also mine.

Be Well – I love you all,
Medicine Story

ps I attach a photo from the last time we visited - a model for us of a couple who showed us all not by teaching but by doing -and that courage is not something we are born with but something we choose, a decision we can continually make.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Learning from indigenous wisdom and knowledge

A summary of this year's Irish camp by R. Teichmann: Learning from indigenous wisdom and knowledge – To change society a cultural revolution in activism is needed.

I recently attended a workshop with an Elder of the Wampanoag Nation, Manitonquat (Medicine Story). This article is my personal “digestion” of that weekend. I dedicate this to all fellow men and women who hold a vision for a better future and are working towards reaching that goal and especially to Manitonquat and his partner Ellika.