At this year’s international Biodynamic conference held from February 6th-February 9th, entitled “Land and Economy” Jean Michel Florin and Rachel Schneider facilitated a 3 day workshop, “Mindfulness as a Quality of Associative Economics.” Here are Rachel’s reflections on the workshop.
Many of us are aware of the importance Rudolf Steiner placed on developing new, “associative” economic forms based on real interest in one another rather than on “self-interest” as the motivating impulse for collaborative action to change our current industrially based food systems. Our workshop was based on the idea that new forms require new inner capacities for listening, for speaking, and for the kind of structured dialogues that can open the doors to truly generative solutions to specific economic challenges. This definition of “mindfulness in action” was the basis of our work together over the three days of the workshop.
Each morning we began with some inner, centering exercises to bring participants into a “held space” in order for our work together to proceed. As facilitators we felt that holding open minded, open hearted “space” for each other is primary to any real associative work. The first thing is to allow that space within each individual to open up and out of that to jointly build a “vessel” or “container” that must be renewed each time a group is brought together for collaborative action. Once the space is built, questions, challenges, concerns, conflicts can be “poured” into the center and held by all in a generative space filled with “intention for the good.”
Our method throughout the three days was to be highly interactive within the group of participants. Small group discussions, one-on-one “dialogue walks” and a structured conversation called a “case clinic” were all used as social technologies to bring members of the group into dialogue.
On the first day of the workshop we had a brief presentation of a project in the Hudson Valley in New York State, USA called the “Rolling Grocer 19”, a rolling grocery store based on a three-tiered pricing system for a city that has been termed a “food desert.” As a case study it demonstrated that when members of a given community, including the most marginalized members of an unjust food system come together in a conscious way, it can be tremendously empowering and as a group they can find solutions to challenges within themselves, rather than adopting ‘“pre-fabricated” solutions being imposed on them from well intentioned players outside of their communities.
With that example in mind, on the second day we gathered a list of challenges being faced by different participants in the room – farmers, store keepers, food processors, agriculture students and others. We then asked 6 individuals to really probe the particular challenges they brought with them and surrounded each person with a small group of 5 people to help them talk through and work through the challenge.
On the third day we “harvested” the results of the case clinic both for content, but just as importantly for reflections on methodology. Generally speaking, we felt that our participants had been able to see the incredible importance of “how” we choose to listen and to speak to one another as being a determinative factor in successful collaborative action to transform our current food economy. Building individual and social “soil” together is key to success.