Saturday, September 18, 2010

Tryon Life Community Retreat

A while back, everyone from work went on a retreat to TLC Farm, in order to become more familiar with the consensus decision making process, which we've been using for about a year & a half, & to learn about sustainable living from the nice people who live & work at the farm. I'd gone there a couple summers ago for my Ecofeminist Spirituality class, so it was neat to see how the plants had grown & filled out since I'd last been there!

View of the information board, composting toilets (which were the first legal public composting toilets in Portland! Cool!), & cob sauna:

We started out by listening to the founders of our co-op speak about how they got organized & had to learn the ways of the school's bureaucratic bullshittery, in order to start out. It became apparent that we've been slacking on knowing our rights & how to get better deals written into our contracts w/the school.

View from the stage, down towards the main garden & creek area:

The sauna, which they were working on that day:

Then we did an exercise in honest communication, led by our awesome advisor, Shannon, to help curb passive aggressive complaining, which is actually a form of violence, under the consensus model. It divides & taints the group, while solving nothing. What is interesting is that conflict is important & necessary; it's how we handle it that's key. We got a little silly during the activity, but basically learned to use "I statements" to convey how we feel when a co-worker is continuously late, for example. It's also important to deal with the situation at hand, rather than bringing up other issues, which usually gets personal & causes the conversation to spiral out of control. It was super helpful & I can't wait to see how we use this knowledge, once we re-open for the fall term. Cool!

Part of the heated, cob bench. I love the face!

The other end of the bench. It reminds me of a dragon:

After that, we built our pizzas, then handed them off to Matt for baking in the cob oven! We all brought three ingredients, then shared them. So many tasty toppings! Unfortunately, I didn't take any food shots because I was too hungry.

I LOVE the beautiful ceiling above the outdoor kitchen area. It's hypnotizing:

Here's some of the peeps, waiting on the slow eaters:

Matt shows us their consensus model & introduces Brush, who helped us with the nitty-gritty & gave us tips on making the consensus process go more smoothly.

What I loved were Brush's hints on incorporating the voices of those who tend to be more quiet at meetings. One idea was to give each person in the group three stones. These represent the number of times you can speak up. Each time you talk, you throw a stone into the center of the table or whatever. This encourages the chattier folks to weigh the importance of what they want to say, & gives the quieter ones more room to speak up. He calls these techniques "Step Up, Sit Back", I believe. This challenges chattier people to hold back a bit, & urges quieter folks to be brave & "step up." I'm someone who processes things internally & I appreciate a quiet 30 seconds, or so, before I'm ready to share my thoughts. If everyone jumps in immediately, I tend to hang back & space out, honestly. :) Brush said he'd be happy to lead a workshop on facilitation, so I hope we invite him to help us out!

Here are two beautiful sheep. Matt said they are going to be sheared soon. How I would love to have some of the wool! They were total snuggle-bunnies:

Drew couldn't hold back & ran ahead to see the goats:

My parents raised goats when we were growing up, so we grew up drinking goats' milk & Mom even made homemade raspberry yogurt with it! Their names were Ethel & Michelle. This Nubian mama looks a lot like Ethel. She was pretty feisty though, so I stuck to petting her babies.

Cute little horned behbeh. Their eyes are so reptilian:

Hee hee!

Yay for my rain boots! Joey wanted me to take a picture of 'em. I'm usually living in my sandals, even in the rain, but these were necessary for stomping through the muck. And I didn't fall on my butt, even once!

If you live in or around Portland, I encourage you to visit the farm. They offer classes, workshops, work-trade, & have times where you can go in the sauna! It's a really open, spiritual environment, full of happy kids & wonderful people. Thanks, everyone!

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