A couple of posts ago, I mentioned, in a roundabout way, a course that Jennie and I are delivering next year. The Solitary Walker suggested I should plug the course and ‘not be so shy and retiring’, so (allowing my finely-honed marketing reflexes to prevail over my introverted diffidence) here goes…
It’s called ‘The Map is Not the Territory‘ and we’ll be doing two versions in two very different venues. 3-6 Apr 2009 we’ll be at the Othona Community in West Dorset, where what we’ll offer is described thus:
Othona members Jennie Barnsley and Roy Bayfield work with the Quaker ‘Appleseed’ method. This uses a combination of talks, kindergarten-simple arts-based response activities (requiring no previous experience whatsoever!) and creative listening as a stimulus for spiritual and personal discovery. Without coercion or intrusion, this method seems to unlock creativity and insight in a diverse range of people. Over the course of this weekend we explore themes connected with maps as symbols and reality, journeys into interior and exterior landscapes, and explorations of known and unknown territories.
We’ve been going to Othona fairly regularly for a few years now, experiencing temporary community in a beautiful setting. In fact, if I get my skates on next year, I might aim to include Othona in the walk to Brighton, necessitating lengthy but interesting-looking hiking down to the South West and along the coast…
Back to the courses: in August (Friday 28 August 2009 – Monday 31 August) our barnstorming tour comes to Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre in Birmingham.
The title quotation, which reminds us that words are inadequate to describe an underlying reality, gives us the idea of maps and territories as our theme. We will use a variety of sources – poetry, autobiography, journals, photography and, of course, a host of maps – to explore the nature of interior and exterior landscapes, the interplay of symbols and reality, the experiences of moving on and staying behind. In both our personal and cultural stories we will risk venturing off-map into ‘Here Be Dragons’ territory. We will use the Appleseed process of introductory talks, followed by simple arts-based response activities and worship sharing, as a framework for spiritual and personal exploration.
This will be a sort of homecoming as this is where we discovered Appleseed, back in the mid-90s, attending courses run by its originators, Chris Cook and Brenda Clifft Heales (the best women in the world, by any objective standard.) Later we did a programme to become facilitators of the Appleseed method, and we (specially Jennie) have delivered sessions in various settings in recent years.
It’s hard to explain, using writing alone, what ‘the Appleseed process of introductory talks, followed by simple arts-based response activities and worship sharing’ actually is. ‘Gentle, creative self-discovery’ and ‘serious play’ are a couple of islands we could put on the blank map. The ‘talk’ bit gives some input, engaging the rational mind and perhaps the emotions. In many settings this would be followed by discussion, questions, debate – which is fine if further intellectual work is the aim. Instead, in Appleseed, participants respond by doing visual things, kindergarten-simple creation using good quality materials -physical, creative, maybe playful, maybe profound. Painting with one’s eyes shut is one example – no-one could do it well, so it can’t be an attempt to do a ‘proper’ painting, but anyone can experience the feeling of the paint flowing on to paper and see the revelation of marks made. (People who don’t do art, including those who were put off at school, can get a lot out of the art/play practice part of Appleseed.)
The ‘worship sharing/creative listening’ bit is an optional activity where participants (which includes us by the way) can talk about what they have experienced – however they want to express it – still not a discussion but a safe space to share.
Doing Appleseed always surprises and moves me. Although it is about the process not the product, ie we’re not trying to create accomplished artworks, I’ve seen people spend hours creating amazingly beautiful things, and people creating simple but meaningful things in a few minutes; sometimes taking them away, sometimes leaving them behind; sometimes giving them to the fire. Being in a group, in a meditative space, creating images is a potent kind of shared exploration, and it should be great in these settings.
So there you have it. I daresay some aspects of this journey will find their way into the weekends. Perhaps I’ll bring the molten remains of my OS map collection…