Grounding, trusting, taking shape


Part of my training as a chaplain was in various process group theories, in understanding the components of what both catalyzes insight and change and how that occurs collectively. One of the fathers off group process psychology, Irvin. D Yalom, has shown again and again and from different angles, how sitting people together in a group is the bulk of the battle. When we gather with intention, creative change and the arising of insight becomes very differently possible. 

This understanding forms the basis of my own leaping with the GGGB initiative. It is vulnerable and sometimes strange to start so aspirationally, to launch a vision that centers on actual ground, actual land….without there being land yet. But part of what I am trusting in, is the wisdom of collective inspiration and diverse desires to see our options around death and death care expand. 

I have noticed in all the conversations I have had with friends and strangers over the years of my working in hospice and with home funeral education that people want to explore death. When we actually sit and puncture any initial resistance, which is most often like a very thin membrane, we are all full of longing and thought. We find and make meaning so ongoingly in our life. How is it any different with death? The poet Mary Oliver wrote, that “to pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” Life and death deserve our attention. Attention requires some effort, and some concerted work with any fears or discomfort that arises. That "work" is always a matter of relaxing.  I think we fundamentally want to bring our attention to these things. 

When I was thinking about what kind of work I felt inspired to do in the communities in which I work and live, I kept coming back to the land. I am a think-y person. I love ideas and love to talk with other lovers of ideas for hours. I can certainly over think, whatever that means. I have been involved in many inspired conversations around death care and planning and awareness that bring more hope to my heart but also deepen and expand the open question about actual change and cultural shifting. 

That is where the land part came in. 

I thought, “why not work to make another green burial space and work to build a pyre? Have a physical and tangible reference point for further thought and change and creative reimagining?” Isn’t that the beauty of how our bodily senses dance with our mental faculty, how we imagine and create, how each inspires the other and the next thing we know we have vaccines, or planes, we stop using plastic straws, we have solar panels and well functioning artificial limbs? We are always tossing back and forth idea and form. Where we start might be arbitrary if we hold the view that the shape will find it’s way with our continued patience, dedication, discernment, insight, letting go and opening. 

The founder of deep democracy, Arnie Mindell talked about this kind of tossing and trusting, the walking without a definite sense or fully formed understanding, as a sort of dream walk. You could think of a fog at sea, how shapes of the coast, or small islands appear at first in seeming isolation, a color or shade. You get closer and their context is slowly revealed: the tree line, the tide height. As we see each thing that arises we take it in and slowly a larger picture is revealed. So there is a trusting of the coming into relief and ultimately a trusting of the process altogether, journey and fruition……even as again and again fruitions are proven never to be ends, just shining moments, pivots and launching points within endless change. 

This is the dream walk of GGGB and I feel excited to learn what shapes come of this, what minds gather; what grounds and what grows and also what dissolves. 

I think the effort and leap is worth it, regardless of temporary ideas of what would be best, or of any “shoulds”. I look forward to meeting new friends in this, discovering the yet undiscovereds, encountering and exploring more unknowns, being in the unfolding.