At the PathNorth offices, every Friday afternoon we come together to read an article and reflect on how it applies to both our team and our members. When we discussed the article below, “Read Buber, Not the Polls!” in November, we were inspired to use it as a framework for the coming year.
At a time when there’s plenty of focus on what Brooks describes as I-It relationships, those that are a utilitarian exchange of information, we wanted to focus our 2017 Experiences on fostering I-Thou relationships that are deeper, more personal and meaningful. Brooks explains that I-thou relations occur “when two or more people are totally immersed in their situation, when deep calls to deep” and when “trust and vulnerability are rewarded”.
There are a few ways we’ve attempted to create the right conditions for these kinds of experiences to happen at PathNorth this year.
The first way is a continued focus on vulnerability and connecting through our weaknesses rather than our strengths. Tonight in San Francisco, at our first salon of 2017, Tim Shriver of the Special Olympics will talk about how when we accept and embrace the imperfections in others, we allow them in ourselves and can experience a life that’s far more fulfilling. At our retreat at Holy Cross Abbey, members will be present with each other in complete silence – something that requires a level of trust and intimacy one might not expect. And at our first Annual Gathering in Charleston, we’ll focus on topics like forgiveness and hear the stories of people who’ve chosen love and compassion for others in the most unimaginable of circumstances.
The second way is a new focus on nature and rooting our experiences in something larger than ourselves. In Montana and Sonoma, we’ll spend our time together outdoors – far away from the distractions of our everyday lives and able to sit around the camp fire like our ancestors before us or drink beautiful wine on the grounds of the vineyard where the grapes were grown.
The third way is by walking the centuries old path of the Camino de Santiago in Spain. There is said to be a depth and spirit to the trail that can only be experienced on a pilgrimage that millions have walked before. By taking the trip with others, we are immersing ourselves in a shared journey that bonds and changes us together. As St. Augustine said, “Solvitur ambulando” – It is solved by walking.
With our 2017 Experiences Calendar, our goal is to create a list of placeholders that you as members can choose from and know that you are ensuring you will have time this year to spend in genuine dialogue and open-hearted and open-minded connection. As Brooks explains, “You can’t intentionally command I-Thou moments into being. You can only be open to them and provide fertile soil.”
We hope you’ll use a few PathNorth experiences as your jumping off point this year!