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TOPIC: The Unconference

The Unconference 22 Aug 2013 12:01 #14196

Mike made a comment on the Gary Weber thread about the "unconference," which was an ad-hoc meeting for whoever could make it the day after the official BG conference was over. I couldn't make it, not to mention those who were not in Boulder at all last weekend, and so I am calling on all participants to speak as you see fit about what went down. I've already heard a few reports, but wouldn't mind hearing more detail about subjects actually discussed. Mike, you can feel free to clarify the reference you made on the other thread, for example :cheer: .
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The Unconference 22 Aug 2013 13:12 #14203

Much time was spent at the beginning deciding what to talk about, and how to talk about it. Then some conversation was had about "powers" and what they are or might be, which led to a discussion about morality and how to deal with it in the real world as practitioners. Then Luke Nosek (Google that name for info) appeared and we did a circle exercise based on the work Luke and others are doing at the Integral Center in Boulder. We paired up and did what I would call an empathy exercise. It involved looking into the eyes of the other human being and saying something, to which that other person would respond, "Hearing that, ....." and on and on for five minutes. It might be called empathy noting.

Then the meeting sort of broke up into little meetings and went a bit sideways.

Since I left at about 3:30 PM I don't know what happened after that.

Daniel Ingram recorded audio for much of the un-conference and later on at about 2:00 pm he was being filmed as he talked by the guy who was taking pictures during the BG conference. His name was Adam. This was explained as being for some kind of documentary but I thought it was going to be distracting and a conversation killer and I was happy I left not long after that started.
Last Edit: 22 Aug 2013 13:22 by Chris Marti.
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The Unconference 22 Aug 2013 14:33 #14205

This is Adam's project: seekingheartwood.com/
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The Unconference 22 Aug 2013 14:49 #14206


Thank you, Nadav.
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The Unconference 22 Aug 2013 15:28 #14208

No problem! He mentioned that he's in post-production now, with only a few people still left to interview. I'm very much looking forward to the finished product.
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The Unconference 24 Aug 2013 19:12 #14260

Hi Laurel,

So nice to meet you at the conference. I had such a great time time there meeting a good number of people connected to Awake Network. So I will post some more as I am recovering from my absence here in New York and catching up with work. Yesterday, I posted some thoughts on the private Unconference Google page as a response to Daniel Ingram's request relevant to future events. Not too extensive on the content of the discussion but I thought I would still copy the text here.

After listening to inspiring talks over the weekend at the Buddhist Geeks Conference, with hundreds of others, I looked forward to the opportunity of coming together with like-minded people and participate in more intimate and topical, pragmatic dharma discussions.

Bringing voices together in the Unconference format offered a perfect new opportunity to engage and venture into something different. When we consider that for some there can be a certain isolation in one’s practice, I found the creative potential of this event very attractive.

Thank you Daniel, Vince, Emily for organizing and supporting this gathering (and Kenneth who could no longer participate), and thanks to all the other participants. Vince’s lead to identify and list topics and then for the group to work together at organizing the discussion was a great start. I think this significantly contributed to a dynamic setting for sharing and learning during this time together. Some people left throughout the day, new ones joined and Daniel did a terrific job at bringing everyone up to date. There was some inspiring, useful sharing and deeper understanding coming out of the topics covered. All in all I loved the approach and look forward for more events along this line in the future.

Daniel asked for thoughts, and here are a few and in no particular order, some points that could be considered for future events (coming from a teacher’s voice).

– We often speak of how setting up an intention in one’s personal life, one’s meditation practice or with each sit, can be useful. In the same manner, could we consider setting up an intention for the event, personally if we want to, and also as a group?

– Defining the purpose of the event and keeping this purpose in mind throughout the event. What are we here for? What do we want to take away? How can we best ensure this will happen?

– How do we keep this purpose in mind? Perhaps some facilitation, an unbiased moderator would be useful in a variety of ways to support the event and keep it on track. Also someone who can remind us to pause sometimes and evaluate where we are.

– While we would not want to be too rigid, and impose the kind of restraints that would negatively impact on the discussion, would there be some value at establishing more structure, a conversational protocol addressing how we listen and how we speak? We set up the chairs in a round layout but is this enough to ensure a democratic approach to the discussion? While we want to stay flexible with the discussion and the list, can we do more in the area of ensuring the flow of the conversation, ensuring that people are connected and that everyone has the space to talk and be heard? For example, a facilitator could balance the allowance of time for speaking and engage people with follow up questions.

– How do we encourage diversity in the voices heard? In one of her comments that resonated with me, Emily spoke of the need for a feminine voice to be heard. Then Colleen shared a personal experience of a vision of “blue and pink plasticky angels” (that was a great story which across the diversity scale I would not expect everyone to have). And another voice reduced many unusual experiences to some hypnagogic experience, framing them, boxing them, rationalizing them, explaining them away through the language of science. Right there we certainly had diversity. How do we ensure that in this venue all participants can speak and be heard?

– Some may feel they have more insight over others from their many years of practice, their attainments or their established and known authority, while others are less learned, less practiced, etc. How do we balance this in an open conversation? How do we support people to dare be brave, and perhaps open themselves to criticism or make themselves vulnerable through their comments. I know I always learn a great deal from my students, and sometimes I also know better. What skills do we use to share our own views without condemning publicly in an authoritative manner, and potentially harming when being critical and pointing out wrong views in others? How do we ensure that people feel supported and appreciated for their contribution even in the face of disagreement? Of course we are not there just to be nice, but how do we point things out to each other in a way that is still empowering and engaging?

– Can we get sidetracked and fall into our own mental patterns through the conversation? How do we ensure the conversation involves all participants and is not grabbed by the strongest voices –teachers, historians, established leaders in the field, articulate orators, strong personalities? How do we bring back the conversation to the larger circle? How do we ensure the democratic process we ideally aim for, an equal space where all voices are heard and respected, is sustained throughout the event? This in turn also critically contributes to flow, interest, engagement… (and again, the idea of an unbiased facilitator may be relevant).

A few ideas probably in the realms of listening, speaking, understanding, sharing, caring; aspects that can support and enhance the discourse.

I liked what Mike said in response to this post: "I believe we can make a good thing even better." It was good to continue to come together, flesh and bone, beyond the virtual with the Unconference event. The fun, excitement and energy of coming together in a room I think will continue to be special. Mike, Chris, Nadav, Rod, Colleen, were all there sitting with real bodies, and after such a great time at the conference, it was wonderful to reconvene one more time.

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