Singing, Dancing and Merry alternative holiday Ditties

Hello,

It is nearly the end of the year, and we are all having the holiday experience, even if we don’t feel like it!!! It’s here — This is the time of year when I want to take a trip to the moon, but I bet there will be cheesy Christmas music up there already, too! OK, so I’m not into cheesy holiday music — any kind of it. Some of my friends see me as a downer because of this. But, wait. I protest. I just love beautiful holiday music – it’s just that I want to hear new, fresh songs that we can include — like this one… It is beautiful and meaningful… it is about caring for this precious Earth… LISTEN:

Yesterday, I went to lunch with my old boyfriend, Forrest. There was a time when I would have sung this song at the top of my cracking voice, tears dropping in sweet relief for the soul depth that such love brings.  I feel so blessed to love the people I have loved and to have them in my life, still loving them, knowing how much we gave to each other in our brief moments of mutual journeying. Our muses are arrows stinging the heart with sweet song.  LISTEN:

But, the moments, hours, days, weeks, months of pining for a lost love, “the only one I’ll ever have, there will never be another,” end… they really do. The sad thing is when lives are cut short because a young one or someone believes this lie… the soul, some say, is something we grow into — and suddenly, we know, it’s a new day… a new world… a new warmth … and our enthusiasm returns with great gusto. And love springs forth anew. Eric, my dearest – this one is for you… This one you gotta SING:

Everyone who knows me knows that two of my eternal muses are my daughters. There is nothing I have ever done, or could ever do that would amount to a hill of beans next to them. They have brought this very organization and body of love offerings to the world – these workshops, circles, books, gatherings in the name of Daughters Sisters Project (TTC). To them, and to their dad, Tom, my amazingly beautiful, big hearted wusbend, who I honor with all my  heart and soul – I dedicate this holiday lullaby. I sang this to my girls when they were little girls, most likely every night. And of course, we can’t forget the Dylan one either! SING TO YOUR YOUNG ONES:

OK OK OK, ONE Christmas song…just for Lilly and Matt, who are dancing around the office with me, in full feeling as we blast these songs full out…

Have a wonderful holiday season, all friends and family — to you, I leave you with one last ditty: One of my favorite young, enlightened sound vibe makers, Cosmo Sheldrake. This is superb holiday music! My suggestion, forget buying gifts, make compilation CDs for those you love.

Many hugs, linda (and lilly and eric — the singing/dancing office staff!)

LIVE THE LIFE YOU LOVE AND LOVE THE LIFE YOU LIVE!

PS… oh… nearly forgot — soon it will be Spring — and guess what, (we have to shamelessly let you know) we have two $500 off scholarships we can gift for the Yelapa Women’s Retreat (www.womenscircles.net) come dance and sing with us in Mexico – get in touch!)

October Newsletter: End of Year Fundraiser & Free TTC Handbook

“Real human warmth, compassion and connection makes life worth living…”

Awaken

10/8/13
Dear Friends,

For the first time in nearly two decades, we are having a virtual fundraiser this year to keep Teen Talking Circles healthy for the rest of the year. The reason: I’m on 75% Sabbatical this fall and winter, after 19 years as Founder and executive director of Teen Talking Circles. Why 75% and not 100% — because TTC is that important and I simply can not completely let go… I’m too concerned that we won’t be here if I do, and I know how life giving it is, how life saving it is, and I can not let that happen.

For the next six months Lilly Schneider will be helping me take care of TTC. She and Eric will be here in the office each week, making sure everything and everyone gets paid. But, we need your help. We know that we need $10,000 by December 31st. This always comes in for us in November when we hold our fundraising party. But this year, we are reaching out like this.

Please help us reach our goal of $10,000 by December 31st. Do it now, while you are reading this…and then read the rest. Simply, click here and email Lilly to make a pledge, and she will get back in touch with you.

To thank you for your pledge, we’d like to gift you  a free copy of our new, 3rd edition TTC Facilitator’s Handbook. Thanks to our printer, Alpha Graphics, we have 200 to give away! You might know a teacher, parent, counselor, homeless shelter, or other non-profit organization you’d like to gift one to. This makes two gifts!

Thank you for helping us make this end of the year campaign as successful as the year has already been. Thank you for helping us get here and keep going! Thank you for giving young people a way out — out of the pain of feeling separate, unseen, unfelt, confused, and despairing. TTC is love, pure and simple — and we all need it, especially in these teen years. “”The simplicity of circles is just incredible. You only need yourself, and two others, or three others, or however many. It transcends age, and gender. Boy, girl, young, old, it doesn’t matter. You’re all there for each other. And that’s the most important thing.” Claire Widman, Puget Sound Community School.

Love, Linda

ruins tables The Ruins, 2012 Fundraiser
Next year, we will party at the Ruins to celebrate 20 years of TTC
Stay tuned.

PPS — Here’s the skinny about 2013 thus far!

  • Over the past 12 months, our teen circles, programs, handbook, trainings, retreats, fundraisers,Youtube movies, radio interviews, magazine articles, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, TTC Blog, and conference presentations have reached thousands of people. (Included are TEDx Elliott Bay Women, Women Rising Radio, Lilipoh Magazine)
  • 40,000+ people from over 150 countries around the world, as of today, July 31st, 2013 have viewed and shared our Girl’s and Women’s Empowerment film, I Am A Full Woman (https://vimeo.com/35541100) and the comments they share are quite powerful.
  • We’ve provided 32 people from 24 organizations TTC Facilitator Trainings this year. (Included are people from Washington, DC Ethical Society, Tomales Bay Youth Center, Cliffside Malibu Rehabilitation Center, Oaks Christian School, Native American Community Academy, and  Marin Indy High School)
  • We reedited our TTC Handbook, and added new stories and experiences. It is our 4th edition.
  • We were given 200 TTC Handbooks (3rd Edition) to give away, as a donation from our printer. So, get your free copy!!!
  • We produced two fundraisers, which 284 people attended.
  • Our 2 Facebook pages and Twitter feeds have over 800+ people as friends.
  • In an initial search 40+ partnering organizations and important people are presenting TTC on their websites (including, chomsky.info; bainbridgereview.com; seattlechildrens.org; ojaifoundation.org; womenintheworld.org)
  • We have been invited to be consultants to 3 different programs, including my being present at the Generation Waking Up 4 day workshop, as an elder.
  • 13 people are on a list for a worldwide distance training (as soon as we can figure out how!)
  • Countless youth and adults have benefitted from this past year’s ways we have continued to offer TTC into the world. We can’t even keep up with the many ways those who have been touched, trained, or involved with our work is unfurling in the world. We do know that there are currently 2 master theses and 1 PhD thesis that are using TTC as the central focus of their study.
  • September 14th – A Japanese film crew from NHK, the PBS station in Japan hired TTC to run a circle of 13 youth on Bainbridge, which was filmed for a series on cell biology and teen emotions for a National Geographic Special to be shown next year.
  • group shot

Joanna Newsom speaks with us, while Robin Pecknold practices. @ the Moore Theater, Seattle

ImageEric, Viox, Linda, Melanie Curran, Sean Matteson, Corbin, Joanna Newsom, Heather Wolf

Joanna Newsom Interview for Teen Talking Circles 

Well over a year ago, we met as a group with Joanna Newsom, one of the most prominent members of the modern psych-folk movement. Her recording Ys is one of the most beautiful CDs to have come out in the last few years. While we were talking backstage in her dressing room at the Moore Theater, Robin Pecknold, lead singer of the Fleet Foxes was rehearsing on stage. His gorgeous guitar and voice echoed ethereally through the halls and created the perfect background sounds for this interview.

The following conversation with Joanna addresses topics we all feel: The courage to share our authentic voice; pressures to to fit in; staying true to oneself; creative inspiration; insecurity and the songwriting process.  Feel free to forward this to share this with the teens you love and care about. 

Heather Wolf: I’ve been thinking a lot about one’s voice and true expression, particularly the female voice. I facilitate a youth arts camp where I find few young women with any musical practice of their own. I find many young women at the camps have blocks to opening that form of creative expression, because of their discomfort with being heard. I am curious about your experience with this, especially because I witness your own unique voice in your work, and recognize the courage and trust that takes. 

Joanna: I feel like I had a lot of luck and blessing to come of age creatively in an environment that really welcomed my voice — a family and music teacher that welcomed it. I had a music teacher that encouraged improvisation and composition from the very first lesson, from when I was a little child. She always valued the writing voice of her students. 

I did have a very similar experience, not only in terms of hearing someone’s singing voice, but in hearing someone’s writing voice. It was very rare, I felt, for girls to be heard. Growing up in my small town, I knew a lot of young women who were musicians, but almost all of them were classical or folk musicians and none of them wrote. It was one of those towns where all the people who were a few years older than me were in a band; amazing local bands that we were fans of. There was a certain point that I realized they were all guys, all of them, including my big brother, whom I idolized. He was in all of these rock bands and I was kind of the weirdo harpist, you know, writing music. 

For years between about age ten and age nineteen, I didn’t sing at all. I wrote music. I decided in my teens I wanted to pursue composition as a career, but I stopped singing, because I didn’t think I had a pretty voice. Prettiness or a lack of prettiness is often something that’s discussed vis a vis the female voice much more than with the male voice. Even in popular music my examples and the idiosyncratic voices that I admired were men, like Bob Dylan. And then when I was in college I started taking classes that were surveys of American music and starting hearing women’s voices that were very different than those in pop music. 

I started to realize my own voice was something I could consider to be a tool, at my disposal, in the same way that the harp was, and in the way that my compositional voice was. But it took a long time, and I sympathize with any young person, male or female, who’s trying to find their own singing voice, because if you happen to not be exposed to a very wide array of music, I feel like it’s hard to know that there are lots of ways that beauty can reveal itself in music. 

Melanie: This is just the struggle I’m experiencing, getting into the Jell-O of my own creativity. With your work, something that amazes me is the level of authenticity you bring out into the world that you don’t keep within yourself. I’m curious to know what the process of coming out is like. 

Joanna: You mentioned the idea of authenticity, being able to make music that is truly a reflection of yourself on every level, and I think I certainly went through a period in my life of inauthenticity. That happened for me, as I think it does for a lot of young people, from maybe sixth to eighth grade, when I was trying really hard to fit in. I really wanted to like the things that other people liked. The music other people liked, the clothes other people liked. I was trying to locate the appeal in those things desperately, listening to pop music, wanting to be tough—the whole gamut of things people do to be liked and admired by all their peers, and this also coincided with me not being very happy.  

I moved around in schools. To public school, then to a more creative private school,  and scattered years in Waldorf schools. Even when I was in Waldorf school in eighth grade, it wasn’t some perfectly idyllic place where the pressures of wanting to be cool didn’t apply, it just maybe had different standards. I think anywhere you are at that age, most folks struggle with that. 

Honestly, somehow, around my ninth or tenth grade year, I just stopped caring. I just stopped. I started wearing really weird clothes, and having a wide range of friends who didn’t necessarily know each other. What I think it was, actually, was that I was in love with music. 

The key, I believe, for pulling yourself out of the limbo of not knowing who you are or not embracing who you are, is to love something enough to not care. Sometimes it takes us a long time to find it. There are so many things out there, there’s so much nuance to being human beings, it sometimes takes a really long time to locate it. But for me I loved it [music] more than I loved the unattainable goal of being cool. 

I think it’s really important not to wonder too much about the question of whether what you’re doing creatively is brand new, or whether what you’re doing has never been done before. I think the only time that happens is when that’s not the reason you’re making it. The reason you’re making music is because “This brings me joy.” I might have to work through version after version of this song, or this piece of art, until it’s like a bell ringing, where you’re like “Oh wait, that’s me!” 

It is important not to judge yourself or censor yourself along the way with those questions: “Has this been done before?” or “What am I doing right now that makes this worth doing?” You just kind of do it. 

Heather: How do you work through self-criticism? 

Joanna: I work in phases. When I’m sketching out a song, I don’t let myself be too critical of it. I actually love editing my work. I love interacting with the text, transforming it by rearranging it, the syntax, nuance, and all that. There’s a way to approach it where it’s not scary and judgmental towards yourself. There are different phases where different kinds of editing come in, and the phase where I’m allowed to wonder if a song or a record is going to be terrible is when it’s finished. And then sometimes I will throw out a song, or be like “No, this one doesn’t represent what I want this record to sound like.” I make little deals with myself: hold it at bay until the work is done, and then you can tear it apart as much as you want to. 

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Linda: It’s so beautiful to hear Robin Pecknold upstairs, isn’t it? I love his music…
Just a moment ago, Melanie mentioned the word “ritual.” I’m wondering, are you a disciplined person by nature? Do you have any rituals that help you creatively?

Joanna: No. In fact music is the only thing in my life that I’ve ever had any discipline about. Ever!

Linda: So you don’t get up in the morning and ritually do yoga and meditate?

Joanna: I stay up ‘til six in the morning and sleep ‘til two some days and get a coffee and look at silly things on the internet. You know, I would deeply love to get more discipline into my life but there’s the one thing that you really love, and sometimes for people that’s lots of things, but you’re able to summon discipline around that task because it brings you joy. If you’re forcing it, if it’s a chore, you don’t want to do it.

Corbin: I play music, and when I perform it, I always feel I’m giving just a little piece of myself to an audience, and sometimes it’s received and sometimes not. Would you give insight on how that must be on a daily, yearly basis, to be constantly giving, and how you rejuvenate yourself, or when you get off balance, what you do.

Joanna: I don’t know before I go onstage whether or not it’s going to be a performance where I’m totally present, connecting with the band and the audience, or whether it’s going to be a performance where I’m struggling the whole time to get there. In a way I actually love that it’s so possible to have a terrible show, because it reminds me of the lack of control. If you could guarantee that every show you played for the rest of your life was going to be amazing, it would be so boring. There would be no stakes.

I’m still learning how to construct tours, or arrange my day before a show so that that I’m not completely run ragged by the end of a tour. I used to do seven or eight week long tours and now I’m doing three, two-week tours and then taking big breaks between them.

Linda: How do you pronounce “Ys?”

Joanna: “Ees.” It’s the name of a mythical French city on an island in Brittany, and there are various mythical and historical documents that suggest it did exist, that it sunk beneath the ocean. 

Viox: What inspired the Ys album, and what are the mythological implications of that?

Joanna: With that record, I had gone through one of the harder years of my life, in a very unquiet way. I think some years are harder in a way you can’t put your finger on; this one was hard in very notable ways, and a lot of the hard stuff of life happened over the space of basically a single year. The “Ys” idea infiltrated the record from all sides slowly. The album isn’t about that myth, but a theme that runs throughout the entire album is an excess of water, as a metaphor for the way that year felt

 I actually dreamt that the album title needed to have a “y” and an “s” in it, in some permutation of those letters, and it needed to be single syllabic, and a word that didn’t immediately connote anything for most people who picked the album up. Basically the whole album had been constructed as this very delicate and in many ways formalized or stylized projection of very brutal and simple human emotions that I had gone through. I finished it, it was like it was in a snow globe—this little hyper-stylized, detailed world, where I had been so detail-oriented, from the lyrics to the composition to the arrangements to everything, and somehow I wanted the title to feel just like a rock through a window. To have this brutality and instantaneous confrontational energy to it, like, ‘What is this word?’, ‘This is hard to pronounce’, ‘It looks funny’. I was actually reading somewhere a text about Ys, and there was a line in the text that was the exact wording of a line in one of the songs, the wording “It is that damnable bell.” It was really weird. There were all these connections that chose the title for me. 

Linda: So it sounds like you get very inspired by your own emotions and your life, really, and that is what you bring to most of your music?

Joanna: This is a very controversial position of mine, but I personally believe that every fiction that we gravitate towards, reading or writing, is some reflection or projection of our own lives and is our way of working through it. One of the reasons that, say, a novel is successful–in terms of the story that’s being told–is often because it resonates with something that has happened to many of us, an emotional truth.

Eric: I think a lot about voice, and I’ve heard you talk about composition. Were you always a songwriter, were you always writing lyrics?

Joanna: No. For a number of years, I was writing music and I was writing poetry and prose, and I was refusing to connect the two in my mind for a really long time. The missing key was that I didn’t consider myself a singer. I couldn’t write lyrics, because I wasn’t a singer. So I wrote very structurally archaic poetry, because I was drawn towards rhymes, methodical distribution of syllabic emphases, and all these older approaches to poetry that actually are more related to song structure and musicality. And then I would write these very overwrought and embarrassing short stories. I did try writing words for years and years, but not songs, until I was about nineteen or twenty. Before I was about ten years old I wrote lots of songs, before I learned to dislike my voice. [Laughs.]

 Linda: Thankfully for all of us who love music, that phase didn’t last!

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Now for the news: The last TTC Facilitator’s Training, a week ago was off the charts. Here’s a quote from one of the participants:  “Thanks to all of y’all for feeding my soul and bringing me to deep knowings that 15 years and 87,000 therapy modalities could not.” LK, Malibu. The next training is happening in September. Check here: http://ttcsept2013.eventbrite.com

LOTS OF LUV AND HAPPY SUMMER – Linda & Lilly 

April 2013 Newsletter: Rockin’ the training at Point Reyes Station

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Hello friends,

We begin by expressing our sadness and solidarity with the people of Boston, who have experienced another terrorist act of violence. We pray for them, and all of us on the planet, in this time of dire beauty. We dedicate our work to the continued blossoming of compassion worldwide.

In 1993, when Wind and I first conceived what would become the Daughters Sisters Project, our strongest motivating intention was to seed teen talking circles as far and wide as possible, because every teen needs a safe space to tell the truth, experience deep listening, feel out-loud, have each other’s backs, and know they matter.

Last week, I traveled to Point Reyes, Calif. to lead nine adults, mixed gender, between the ages of 20-something and 60 in a three-day TTC Facilitator’s Training. They’d invited me down as a group because it was easier than having them all fly up to one of our trainings on Bainbridge. They were a diverse group of ingenious and heart-centered youth advocates  – some wanted more ideas and tools to deepen their existing circles, some wanted to start teen talking circles for the first time, and some didn’t know why they were drawn to attend. They were teachers, administrators, artists, parents, wilderness education leaders, environmentalists — from the California Global Youth Summit, Marin Independent High School, Tomales Bay Youth Center, Bolinas Stinson Youth Foundation, Lasting Adventures and other youth serving orgs.

group 2

For me the experience was powerful. To be with so many people from the same community, committed to talking circles was such an honor. Plus, having three young men in the training was special enough (not many men do the ttc facilitator’s training), but these young men blew  the doors of my heart wide open! They are the kind of male role models teen teens really need. Everyone shared deep truths about their own teen years, easily accessing their authenticity, compassion, and emotions. I left Marin on Monday knowing that what each one experienced in the training would impact their relationships with teens, I took away with me more to share with the next training group from the wisdom and experience of these amazing people.

Sending blossoms of blessings in this beautiful new Spring, linda

Over the past few days, Lilly and I spoke with a couple participants to hear their reaction to the training. Below, Ariana Aparicio, College Access Advisor at Tomales High School, and Alex Warner, wilderness guide and early childhood teacher filled us in.

ImageAlex & Ariana

Linda Wolf: Hi, Alex. What did you think of the training this past weekend?

Alex: It was powerful. We had a good facilitator. It was super productive,  and the people I would consider stakeholders in the community attended it which made for a good circle, a powerful circle. Having already facilitated a lot of circles, I got more ideas and tools to deepen the circles that I’m already doing. I learned more tools and ideas and ways to be in circle with other adults. I think that the most impactful part was to revisit my teen years, and then to have an opportunity to talk to myself [as a teen] was pretty amazing.I guide wilderness trips for teens in the summers, and I work with second graders during the year doing counsel, and also even younger kids, five, six, seven years old, and we have opportunity to be in circle with them too.

ArianaLilly: Hi Ariana, thanks for talking to me this morning! How was your experience of the training this past weekend?

Ariana: I didn’t know what to expect before I went… Now that I did it, I understand. It was one of the best three days I have spent. I felt truly     privileged to have been part of that group, included in this opportunity…at the end I was like, “Wow, I didn’t realize I needed this” –a comfortable safe space where you were listened to, without judgment. I’d like to provide a circle for the teens in my community.

Lilly: Could you tell me about your community?

Ariana:  My community is a small rural town in west Marin, about 400 people… Half the population is Latino, and half predominantly white. We have a youth center, but nothing where students or teens feel like they can go and just talk. After college, I went back to my old high school, Tomales  High School, to help students prepare for college. I’ll use what I’ve learned in our training in my work with them. There is a need for teen talking circles here.

Lilly: I’m assuming you didn’t have a teen talking circle growing up. Could you describe the need for that, your needs as a teen that weren’t being met?

Ariana: I grew up in a community where I was trying to receive resources from the school, support from certain people that I thought I could rely on because they were also Latino and would understand my situation. When I didn’t receive their support I felt rejected, ignored, and pushed aside. I felt like I wasn’t deserving of their help, and felt humiliated at times because I didn’t understand why I was treated like that. But then I used that negligence from the adults in my life to push forward and seek help from others. I’m still looking back and wondering why, why it had to be like that. But it’s like a blessing, because I learned to be independent. I learned to be my own advocate. I found my voice. I learned to question authority, and learned that I mattered too. I learned that my points of view should be addressed. I learned to empower myself. Now I want to provide that support for teens at the high school level. Leaving the training, I felt truly humbled and honored to have shared this experience with the members in the group, and Linda herself.

For info about our June TTC Facilitator’s Training, check this link: TTC June

Linda Wolf

March 2013 Newsletter: One Girl’s Story

Claire & Lilly

To hear Lilly read this piece, click the photo of Claire and Lily

In honor of our 20th year doing Girl’s Group on Bainbridge Island, each month we will feature a true story. This one is by Lilly Schneider. Lilly was sixteen when she started group. She graduated university, travelled around the world and is back on Bainbridge for the moment and working in the TTC office as my assistant. On her first day, today, I asked her to write about her time as a teen girl in Girl’s Group, for our reedited handbook. But, after reading this through my tears and belly laughs, I had to put it out immediately. What a beautiful writer, gorgeous person and I love Lilly so much. Thank you, Lil.

Here’s Lilly’s story…

I was 16 when my mom died. A month later my friend Claire told me about Group and invited me. She told me who would be there. A girl I was afraid of, this bigmouthed theatre girl I’d heard my friends call a bitch. A girl I thought had weird eyes, I’d heard my friends call her a slut. A pixie blonde so pretty I couldn’t imagine we’d have anything to say to each other, me being so frizzy and fidgety and fat and all. All older.  A younger girl I’d seen in a long tapestry coat in the hallway, and who did she think she was anyway, looking all cool like that? I had fear, jealousy, hate in the hallways for all of them. I thought of myself as a nice person back then, too.

It was a period of extreme stress for me. I kept bashing up against the wall that said my mom was never coming back and I kept looking for a way around that wall like a stupid little fly against a window. I focused much of my stress into planning my college applications, which was the most important thing in the world. My classmates, many of whom I had known—Claire included—since childhood, I now found ridiculous because they hadn’t gone through what I was going through. I had no real respect for anyone my age, suddenly zero patience for the chattering, crush-crazy girls who had been my sleepover set and who had saved me in middle school when I had had no friends; I respected adults, who had sometimes already lost their parents, and who seemed always to have wise things to say. I had barely any fingernails left from gnawing, and the skin around them was tattered and dead. My house was cold always and my father, brother and I, though friends, were all alone, islanded, castaways in the storm of grief, even as we sat over dinner together. Dinner was brought every night that year by people from the community, and dessert too, usually brownies. I’d eat a whole paper plate of them in one standing at the kitchen counter. The families who knew us made our favorite things, dishes we’d all enjoyed together, pesto, salmon, and kid stuff—pasta and chicken nuggets and meatloaf. Families I’d never met before gave us walnutty casseroles and strange vinegary salads. Love was coming to us in food form. Automatically, we swallowed. But the food arrived in the afternoons, was sitting on our cold woodstove when I got home from school, or was delivered quickly by bosomy ladies I didn’t know (they’d explain we’d met when I was five or something) and who hugged me desperately and seemed to want to drop the food and get out of there, back to their own happy homes. I hated that they could just waltz home to their own families. They had an escape from the bad place. They only came to peek in the doorway, and they didn’t bash into the wall all the time, the wall that made school, home and everywhere in between almost intolerable—most waking life intolerable. People said I was strong, but I simply went through the motions of living because the alternative, as I pictured it, was lying facedown in a mud puddle all day.

I remember the first thing that I said in Group: well, hi, my name is Lilly and uh I’m 16, I’m 16 and I’m on the newspaper with Claire and I like reading, writing, collecting big earrings at thrift stores, and uh my mom died so yeah. When? Oh, last month.  Everyone gasped at that. I remember peering out sort of vaguely at their clear shock and horror being totally unable to relate to it. It was as if I’d been slowly turning purple over the eight years my mom was sick and now that I was doomed to be purple permanently I was faced with some people who didn’t even know people came in purple at all. How could they not realize I was purple? They were green, that’s why. Everyone my age was ignorant and green, and also skinnier than me.

The part of Group that changed my life wasn’t the part where I talked. I’ve always been good at talking, communicating, finding people to listen, making people laugh. That year I saw a therapist, who mostly listened to me babble hyperspeed about college deadlines, and I had tea and coffee with my mother’s friends, who made sure to be there for me. The part that changed everything, quickly, for me, was listening to these girls talk.

They had feelings and they had fears. They were scared of other girls too. One who I thought was mean didn’t know anyone was afraid of her. One who I thought was boring was not. One who I thought was obnoxious was hilarious. One who I thought was snotty was down to earth. One who I thought was stupid was sensitive. Claire who I thought was always in one mood was often in a different mood. And everyone was worried about their bodies, and no one would break the circle. It was as simple as that. We had agreed to create a safe space together, and so we did—us, just girls who didn’t even know each other before. As an adult nurtured by Group I am able to create these spaces temporarily but at the time I literally did not believe such an environment was possible. It was absurd to me, and miraculous. I learned every person was a person just like me. Now it seems obvious, but not then: then, this was a revolution. Circle asked for active compassionate listening, and I learned to give it. I had never had the opportunity to practice it before. High school was no place for it—or was it?

EPSON DSC picture            The equality I learned about in Group began to seep into the whole canvas of high school I’d painted for myself. I realized that if I had been so wrong about all these girls, I was probably wrong about everyone. Everyone I saw in school must also have feelings and fears and their own story, their own humanness. During a time when no one demanded anything of poor motherless me, a time when I was spoiled with pity and blessed with whole casserole dishes of compassion, I began to work on respecting other people, a lifelong project. Deep respect for others is essential for peace—world peace, and also personal peace. I’d wasted enough energy fearing, hating, manipulating and being manipulated. There was another way to be. Kind.

Living with active compassion, it turned out, was such a better way to live.  Writing people off cuts their connections to you; respecting them opens the channels. This has been one of the greatest gifts of my life: the gift of other people. I think in high school many people squint out at a crowd which holds only a few desirable or possible companions. For some, most unfortunately, this continues into adulthood. We draw lines to protect or maybe even just amuse ourselves, lines that do not really exist, and then we are unable to cross those lines, and then we suffer from loneliness, from staleness, from pettiness, from not enough pokes in the ribs and rolls in the hay and dances with the devil who’s not no devil really. I’d drawn lines, surface-level ones tied to appearance, reputation, popularity, GPA. The big line I drew was losing my mom, and group smudged it.

Body image was also a big thing. The girls in group suffered insecurity over their noses, thighs, bellies, butts, breasts—so needlessly, it seemed to me, when they were so gorgeous. Over time I began to realize the needlessness of my own suffering, misery that made me so sick with myself some nights that I couldn’t sleep and lay burning in the darkness with a desperate furious wish to wake up twenty pounds lighter. With the beauty of my Circle goddesses in mind I made daily choices to love and respect my body, to feed it healthfully and appreciate the way it let me breathe, express myself and play. I began to see myself as beautiful. I began to allow myself to let boys see me that way too.

Lilly Schneider

Linda and I ran into each other at a burrito place when I was 19 or 20, and she grabbed my hands and inspected them. “You have nails!” she said. “Cuticles! Tips!” When she knew me, I hadn’t had any of that. I’d  been biting into my own skin, hurting myself. I’m 24 now, and my nails are long and strong. My guiding belief, which I’ve come to suspect I share with my mother, is that everyone is as much a person as anyone else, and deserving of equal love and respect. It is my greatest satisfaction to give that love and respect to anyone, everyone, and feel it spinning back to me in endless reams of light. I delight in crossing those lines we draw, in showing other people that it’s possible, even pleasurable, and important; I am attuned to responding to others who can help me cross the lines I draw and I focus on erasing those lines so that, as often in daily life as possible, I can stay on the level we all lived on in Circle.

To know who we really are…

To know who we really are…

To fully know who we truly are as human beings, we must own our own inner wilderness.

So often, we fear the untamed parts of ourselves, or simply avoid peering around in the darkness of as yet unrecognized or rejected aspects of ourselves…Myths and fairy tales reveal this side of ourselves in the person of the “wild man” or the “Wolf woman,” the furred criatura.” Yet, to be a full human being requires that we embrace all of our humanness, including that which is not “civilized,” and heal the split personality to include all of who we are in essence. As much a part of nature as trees, and birds and all Gaia, herself. Ahhh Nature.

In Circle we cultivate and encourage the development of an expanded perception of who we are. We embrace the idea of interconnectedness with all living beings, and each other. We practice taking radical responsibility for our experience, our perceptions and the way our lives unfold. We look for the gifts in all experiences. We reach deep within and expose the raw wilderness of inside ourselves, that which we might otherwise hide from. We bring it to the light and accept it with love – that is the only way people can change what they want to change in themselves. With love.

In this post, in support of our upcoming dinner on November 18th with presentations from 7 of our youth serving partners, we highlight the Wilderness Awareness School, which is one of our favorite organizations.

The Wilderness Awareness School offers young people opportunities to feel the natural world that is so quickly disappearing; the world where our senses are freed to experience life, together with others, in communion with nature. The core values of WAS are peacemaking, vitality, nature mentoring, and community. In a time when more and more young people feel their only connection to others through screens, this is a balm for the soul and a chance to knit together both sides of their humanity, the wild and the disciplined, and be the full human beings they were born to be.

Come learn more about Wilderness Awareness School at the hottest party of the season; go to www.teentalkingcircles.org/awaken and sign up to come.

Good Times and Bald Times

Our Executive Director Linda Wolf and our lead facilitator Genevieve Smeeth led eight Teen Talking Circles this year for Seattle Children’s Hospital. What an amazing experience! These circles were filmed by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Below is the first video, Meet the Circle.  All the videos can be found at the Good Times and Bald Times Youtube channel.

Watch the video, leave a comment, and pass it on to friends and family. This is phenomenal work! And these young adults have a powerful message.