Even so, I found it ironic that, in the fifteen or more years that I’ve been carrying dreadlocks, she’s often commented on the many nonlocked ways she likes my hair, and how those more socially acceptable ways show off my abundant curls. I find this ironic because she spent my entire childhood trying to comb out said curls, cut them into a bob, or at least train them into little wetted spirals held overnight with bobbie pins, making different curls than the ones that naturally sprout from my scalp.
I got off easy in the girl-child-of-the-seventies-hair-torture department. My older sister had to sleep in juice can curlers. They weren’t just the size of juice cans, they were actual juice cans with her long, straight hair wrapped around them. My younger sister, also cursed with straight hair, but tender-headed, was subjected to the curling iron.
My straight-haired mom went for perms every three months. The perm process took hours. The chemical smell burned our eyes and left actual burns on the scalp as it burned her hair into whatever curl she wanted. Sometimes she’d dye the gray away, or go for streaks or highlights.
Given what mainstream folks do to their hair regularly, I’m perplexed at the occasional weird reaction to a gentle hair practice that involves no chemicals and is rooted in community, familial interaction and connection to nature. But I realize we’re all coming from culture and what’s familiar.
I’m pensive about the zenophobia that seems to frame the rare brave comment. I was in an elevator in a library in Lexington, Kentucky. A woman asked me about my locks. “They’re different,” She concluded. “To you,” I answered. She thought for a moment. “No, they’re different,” she repeated. Her world was the entire world.
Although such comments are rare, some folks at the York Fair in Pennsylvania really laid it on thick. “You don’t belong here. What country are you from?” My home of nearly twenty years was just twenty minutes from where I was standing, in the country where I’ve lived every day of my life, except for that summer in Spain when I was fifteen and that day my family drove into Canada while visiting Michigan.
As a matter of fact, a few miles from the York Fair at Spoutwood Farm, I used to attend the annual Faerie Festival. That crowd, sometimes reaching ten thousand in a weekend, was the place where I was least different, surrounded by a high percentage of dreadlocked hippie folk.
After the first few years of carrying locks, I was long past concerning myself with the store security guard who followed me around or the eyes that might do double takes when I entered a room. I was busy living my life. If people did have stereotypes, as soon as I would speak, it was clear that I was not stoned and that I had come to conduct serious business. I was never aware of my hair closing any doors that I wanted to enter.
But when I began spending time with my partner, C.T., he had an interesting vantage point, walking into a restaurant after me, or watching me in a parking lot. He would see every double take that I was missing because I was just being myself, and didn’t care. He made a game out of projecting what each onlooker was thinking. It reminded me that with every point of contact, I was adjusting each person’s normal/different continuum.
I like the tradition of working (maintaining) locks as a familial or communal practice. When I started my first set, I threw a party and asked my Heathcote Community mates to start them. I got some feedback that this felt odd or self absorbed. So I established the next set myself. I did teach C.T. to maintain my locks and when they grew so long and heavy that I was having neck pain, he ritually cut them for me, symbolizing also, the end of our time with Occupy Wall Street. Now he’s helping me start a new set.
This is the set of locks I’ll carry as I go gray, as C.T. and I go deeper in our relationship and our teaching of consensus. What new places and people will add their energy to these locks? Our dog will grow old and die. Will we make it to California? Where will we put down roots and establish our consensus institute?
In this time of new beginnings, it is time to begin new dreadlocks.
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Is communication breaking down in your community? Is there widespread frustration and anger because of strong personalities or hidden agendas? Would you like members to have better meeting and listening skills? Do you have important decisions to make but no clear structure or process to know you’re making the best decisions for the whole group? Schedule a conference call with the master facilitators from Fiopa Collective to see if we can help.
We offer the following services:
Groups come together around big ideas. It might be an innovative green building design, creating a Permaculture project, an action for social, economic or environmental justice, or living in community. It’s the vision that draws us together. But we often undervalue the interpersonal dynamics of the group, assuming everyone’s good intentions will make magic. But along with some magic, we bring some old habits into our intended new world. Similarly, we bring our familiar leadership habits and meeting structures with us. But the leadership styles and social architecture that got us into our current messes will not get us out of them. It can be unnerving to set aside old tools when you don’t know how the new ones will feel in your hands. We can get you through it.
With 45 years of community and consulting experience between us, the Process Doctors have seen what works and what doesn’t in intentional community. We are resourceful problem solvers and guides in the shaping of your organizational structure and community culture. We can consult in person and via conference call or Skype.
Would you prefer an outside facilitator for an important meeting or retreat? We can serve your group’s process so you can focus on content. Rather than shepherding your group to any particular outcome, we focus on creating safe space and keeping the group’s agenda contract. We strive to insure all voices are heard.
You might not appreciate it when you’re in one, but we think of conflict as a good thing. It’s how we find out what’s really going on, what people really need or truly believe. It’s core to the consensus process. Even so, it isn’t fun and it’s not where we want to live. If parties to a conflict in your group can’t resolve things themselves, our mediation can help.
To introduce the structures and culture of Value-Based Consensus, we offer our weekend workshop, Consensus: Body and Soul. To learn the practice of Value-Based Consensus, we suggest our Social Technology Toolbox Camp, a ten-day immersion. Currently we’re developing a three-month immersion residential program integrating consensus training, facilitation, mediation, affinity-group structure, and process consulting.
Identifying, Defining & Using Values
Are your group’s decisions based on your commonly held values? Have you articulated them? What does each value, such as “honesty,” mean to each member? Our weekend workshop is designed to get your common values to be alive in the group, with each decision rooted in what’s most important to you!
Agenda Planning & Facilitation
You may think you don’t need help in this very unsexy area. But who controls the agenda controls the meeting. We teach that egalitarianism, in part, means equal access to the agenda. Let us show you how to democratize your planning and build in accountability here.
Value-Based Consensus (VBC)
As C.T. Butler is the author of On Conflict and Consensus, most of our requests are for weekend workshops on how to do consensus decisionmaking. We offer a two-part VBC workshop:
VBC Part I
Consensus: Body and Soul (CBS) outlines the structure and paradigm shifts (culture change) of consensus and clarifies how consensus is different from voting in structure and values.
VBC Part II
Consensus in Action (CIA) is our follow-up to CBS; a practical lab. We will practice using VBC, facilitating, agenda planning, and identify the many changes in meeting culture needed to effectively use VBC.
Social Technology Toolbox Camp
This ten-day intensive “summer camp” is our core training. It includes the CBS & CIA workshops, and workshops on social technology tools such as: ZEGG Forum, triads, JoHari Window, affinity groups, spiral dynamics, enneagram, Non-Violent Communication (NVC), etc.
C.T. Lawrence Butler is co-founder of Food Not Bombs and author of On Conflict and Consensus, Food Not Bombs: How to Feed the Hungry and Build Community, and Consensus for Cities. As an activist, he has participated in over 500 non-violent direct actions. The meetings to organize actions and to form the first Food Not Bombs collective inspired C.T. to teach consensus and to write On Conflict and Consensus, now with over 10,000 copies sold. He is a master facilitator; featured in the Whole Earth Catalog.
Wren Tuatha is an experiential educator who lived at Heathcote Com-munity in Maryland for 17 years. She founded and facilitated Heathcote Open Classroom and taught social technologies at Heathcote’s conference center. Specializing in facilitating “elevator down” modalities, Wren studied ZEGG Forum with American & German trainers. Her facilitation draws on Heart of Now, Theater of the Oppressed, World Work and other sources to help individuals and groups integrate head, heart and gut. Wren is also an award winning poet, screenwriter and blogger. She is founder and administrator of: TRIBE: Choosing Intentional Community.
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Fiopa Consensus Collective
35TH REUNION OF TABLE MOUNTAIN RANCH COMMUNE
I didn’t think I’d go to the communal reunion
with all my illnesses pouncing on my life at once.
and this insomnia ruminating through the depths of night.
I lived there in Albion in a dome and a tepee
beneath the redwoods from 1968 to 75
with 15 or 20 other communards and our children.
Now we are all aging – hair gray, wrinkled
our souls leaning closer to death.
The woman still with the beauty
of reflected, remembered youth.
The men like back country geezers,
wizened with worn bodies and much warmer hearts.
Together they recall the grand experiment
we threw our youth into.
A tepee is set up,
tents like mushrooms
bulging from the meadows.
Pizza is being baked in outdoor
wood fire clay oven.
Laurie speaks of her battles with self-doubt
as she masters hatha yoga
trying to emulate the most difficult postures.
She still, as always, drives herself toward god.
Marshall relates his trip to Egypt
taking acid on sacred mountain near Luxor
and on a boat on the Nile imaging
the cascade of time and cultures
backward and forward and eternal.
Bill fighting the lumber companies
forest by forest gaining more knowledge
with each loss or victory.
Now trying to save thousands of acres
along Salmon Creek forming a group
to buy and maintain and conserve it,
and organizing to defeat a corporation
that wanted to suck and bag the water
in the Albion River to sell to San Diego.
Walter writing a 400 page poem rant
against American corporate dominance
and esoteric books on Ancient Egypt
pre-dynastic and pre-ice age
when Aliens from Sirius colonized
and mated with earthlings – all revealed
in the mythologies that survive.
Vennie who never gave up
on making the land into
a true cooperative.
She is retired and still
tall and beautiful with
the grace of a young Madrone.
Pamela her hair gray and crew cut
her health recovering from
mysterious illness, still
queenly and arrogant
with an intelligence that
cracks the atom of self doubt.
All of us learning to let go of time
and the fear of mortality
as the generations surrounds the future
making their own mark on the everlasting earth.
The children, now young men and women
have become independent and self made
with talents and skills and careers
still living close to the land and forests
with families and their own children.
My insomnia keeps me awake
outlasting the coastal fog bank
moving back out to the Pacific
revealing a sky full of stars.
The Catholic Church taught
that stars were the light of heaven
seeping through holes in a cover
thrown over a fallen planet.
The stars are revealed to me
flinging me into the grand cosmos,
an opera of births and deaths
ascendancies and descents.
I see four meteors flashing
like fireworks through the stars
and I make a wish that
I live to see many more.
This is the goal of all
the gallant insomniacs -
to be alone at four
in the morning
in the cradle of night
witnessing the entire universe
unfold and embrace the earth.
The shadowy outlines
of the giant redwoods
bolting upwards block
parts of the starry night,
eminences of the earth,
and the silence surrounds me.
© Allen Cohen