Friday Dispatch: The Power of Witnessing
...ourselves and each other
“Nothing is more contagious than genuine love and genuine care. Nothing is more exhilarating than authentic awe and wonder. Nothing is more exciting than to witness people having the courage to fight for their highest vision.” ~ Michael Lerner
Last night, the year-long Sound of Real Life Happening group held its quarterly Zoom gathering. Every three months, this group of 11 people comes together in our private Facebook group to write 11 things every day for 11 days. On the 10th evening, we come together on Zoom to write together “in real time,” read our 11s out loud, reflect, and connect.
It’s a practice in writing, and also in trust, the kind of grows slowly, over time, right before your eyes. This trust is a result of a container that holds confidentiality, space to write freely and unapologetically about whatever is arising in the present moment, and a kind of seeing that doesn’t offer advice, praise, pity, or judgment. Just witnessing.
I saw this quote the other day. “No one sees what you see even if they see it too” struck me as so true. And like so many things, it falls into the “simple but not easy” bucket.
As I think about last night’s Zoom and the value of a year-long group like the Sound of Real Life Happening, I realize that part of its power is just that: We get to write and share what we are hearing, seeing, doing, experiencing, integrating, fighting, healing, creating, exploring, releasing – you name it – in a truly spacious way.
I can only hope and believe that in addition to strengthening our writing muscles, this slow, steady community-building helps each of us bring more courage and authenticity to our daily spheres. This may seem like a long way off, but registration is already open for the 2024 Sound of Real Life Happening group! If you want to reserve your spot now, your first payment won’t be processed until 1/11/24.
I thought I’d share a few fragments from the 11s I wrote last night during our group call:
I closed my eyes and stood there and let all the movement from thing to thing slow, like when you’ve been swinging and you stop pumping your legs, but it takes a few minutes to come to a full stop.
Will I really be able to slow down and let down in August? The answer has to be yes.
Where is ease here, now? Even the urgent stuff isn’t urgent, though this makes me think of fires and floods and how very real these are.
Realizing as I sit here in the quiet how little writing I do by hand, in a notebook, just for myself. To think, that used to be the only writing! And then so much changed, little by little. Now, I long for it. The page is the water. I want to walk in here and simply float.
Freedom not to end up somewhere profound. Open the hands, release the weight of the body and the weight of the world, let the bones settle back in their sockets, scan the internal landscape – no horses, no pistols, though I see that I’m clinging to there being good guys and bad guys. That may be the hardest thing to let go of all.
Having spaces like this one in which to practice grounds me, so that when I use my voice out in the world, I feel held. My latest piece, Protecting the wrong people in Amherst, was published today in the Daily Hampshire Gazette and the Amherst Bulletin.
I suppose all activism ever has felt at its core like some version of the David and Goliath story. The individual Goliaths are always embodiments of systemic “norms” and patterns that historically have held power. So when we use words like “patriarchy,” “heteronormativity,” and “Whiteness,” really what we are saying is that these are the fortresses inside of which people in positions of power live, work, and, I would argue, hide.
Now, I do not think throwing pebbles at a fortress is an effective strategy for affecting change, though at times it can feel like that’s what I’m doing.
I hope my words have more power than mere pebbles. I hope they offer readers an opportunity to see not necessarily what I see – which may not be possible – but see through their own eyes perhaps in new ways and perhaps in ways that cut through the distorted messages power will always put out there.
In other words, it takes real effort, in a concerted and ongoing way, to truly see for ourselves, think for ourselves, and act in accordance with what we know to be ethical and just.
I don’t quite know how all of this adds up, but as usual, I’m just going to put it out there, hoping that something here might land for you in a way that offers encouragement and courage.
What I really want to reiterate today is something you’ve heard from me before but that bears repeating: Your practice matters. Your writing matters. Your voice matters. Your perspective matters. Your witnessing matters. Your being matters. Please do what you need to protect your heart and speak truth to power.
Shabbat Shalom and love,
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Trust the Process
This client has been chipping away at a collection of personal essays since we began working together. We’ve met twice a month for about 15 months now. She started out with two very different book projects in the works, fully committed to one of them by spending time on both and getting clear about where her heart was, and has been writing and revising ever since, sometimes steadily, sometimes with the inevitable bumps and interruptions and setbacks that are simply part of being alive.
This week, we got to meet in person for the first time. Neither of us really knew where the afternoon would take us; we only had the shared intention of her coming away with a structure for her book that would feel authentic, compelling, and cohesive. Her desk became the scene of a creative process that unfolded organically and resulted in exactly that.
Afterward, I grabbed lunch and drove home, feeling deeply satisfied with where we ended up, and most of all so happy that she was so happy! I am one lucky writing coach.
“I just had the best session with the most wonderful writing coach on the planet. Jena and I haven’t met in a bit and I was feeling really unorganized and unmotivated. After just an hour-long conversation, I am ready to write again. If you are looking for inspiration, motivation, editing, online classes, Facebook writing groups, or an amazing new offering – a self-paced writing class – Jena Schwartz has what you need!”
~ Stacey Loscalzo
July 20, 2023