Friday night: Keynote Speaker – The Urban Bliss Shaman (Julie Woods)
I listened to this woman inspire the group through speaking, storytelling, and music. She was unabashedly authentic, and as she spoke about her inspiration and initiatives, scars and struggles, and lessons learned from an incredible life journey, those of us blessed to be present with her exploded with life and energy. I cannot replicate the content of her speech, nor is that my desire.
Being there was beyond inspiring, and I still feel empowered by her presence and the messages she shared with us. What stuck with me the most was her passion for justice and her ceaseless commitment to creating positive momentum and tangible contribution to the needs of others. The primary message that assimilated most powerfully for me is that I am an unstoppable agent of change and transformation so long as I choose; I am free to utilize my abilities for the sake of my passions, and I am free to fail – if there even is such a thing as failure; I am free to have my ass beaten like a dog and continue moving forward; I am free to disbelieve the limits and constraints of societal transformation and BE transforming. Thank you Julie Woods! Thank you for allowing the fire of Spirit burn a hole in the lies that frighten us into illusions of corners. You are a woman of great destiny and your inspiration is our inspiration. In La’kesh Ala k’in!
Saturday: Building Community
On Saturday I volunteered to help set up for vendors, attended one workshop on local currencies, and sat in on a panel discussion about building sustainable communities. Everything about the day was interesting. I learned that building successful, sustainable communities can never be a product of a prepared formula. Community-building is a dynamic process, unique to each community, and involves many factors. A particularly interesting point from the panel discussion was shifting one’s perception of government from that of a higher body in a hierarchical society to being a peer among peers of citizens. Considering government as a peer feels like a more cooperative orientation for citizens to have. I listened to the panel talk about the importance of networks and webs of communication in communities, so that people can share their various inputs and outputs and get what they need from each other to thrive together. In that concept lies an obvious connection to the permaculture principle of energy cycling, where energy, production, and resources created are utilized within the particular designed environment (or community) to fulfill the needs within that environment. This reduces the energy lost from the designed environment and maximizes the energy and products generated locally to help it thrive.
The experiences, conversations, and content covered filled me with inspiration and empowerment. I am a more empowered member of the community than I was before this weekend. I feel like I’ve gained more perspective around the area of community development, but not necessarily answers and solutions. What excites me the most is the unknown aspect of building sustainable community. I don’t believe that any one person or group of people build sustainable communities; everyone in the community is involved in a process of creating sustainable communities. However, individual change-agents can and do play critical roles in their organizing and energizing power, and I left the Ecofair Saturday with an exciting curiosity about how “sustainable” communities will emerge in the coming decades and remainder of the 21st century.
Sunday: More Community Building + Workshops
Sunday emerged with a clear sunrise and a refreshing morning session with Lois Smidt on her organization, “Circles of Support,” based in Ames, IA. Her style was very warm and down-to-earth, inviting the group to come close to the stage and sit with her in a way that allowed us to see each other. She spent the first 15 minutes giving thanks and urging us to feel gratitude for all that has come before to allow us to hold the sacred space of community together; she called out our privileged position as people thinking together for positive solutions to disconnected community life. I felt her authenticity and sincerity, and learned about the way her organization supports the formation of support networks for people of need in the community.