Learning to relate again - A training by the Decolonial Futures collective
Recently I experienced that a facilitator in a training on sustainability was asked: “what is the best thing to do now that we humans are facing an end to the kind of life we have known for years”? She paused for a long time, and then said that we should work on our relationship to the animals that we eat, to the nature that we destroy with our lifestyle, and to each other.
That was in September in Copenhagen. In August in Gorca, Slovenia I experienced to be trained on my own relationship to the land and to each other as humans.
I participated the 5 days training in Earths’ Care where the collective “Decolonial Futures” took care of the training and our wellbeing. 19 participants and 8 trainers worked together to create stronger relations. The programme for the 5 days was:
We will examine how our current global problems are not related to a lack of knowledge but to an inherently violent modern-colonial way of being. This way of being is difficult to deconstruct because it represents the “normal” way that we inhabit and relate to the world. We will explore the three major constitutive denials that drive this violent, “normal” way of being; denial of systemic violence and complicity in harm, denial of the limits of the planet and the denial of our inevitable entanglement in the whole living metabolism. This training is not meant to be easy to palate candy. This is more like the broccoli seeds that you plant and tend to over time in order to cultivate something of value. We will not offer any quick fixes, but you will leave with a lot to think about and hopefully grow from.
Methods of the Decolonial Futures collective
The collective consists of artists, educators, artist-educators and scholars. Their analysis points to the fact that our world is not habitable for all, our modern way of life is built upon and creates violence for people and the land and that all that are symptoms of an underlying illness: a modern world where we are reduced to knowing beings, profits are more important than people and the nature is treated as an endless resource.
The collective experiments with metaphors regarding life and death and challenge the way knowledge is produced in our modern system. The experiments aim to let us do, be and think beyond our modern world.
The metaphors are presented in the shape of social cartographies. These cartographies use images and comparison tables to invite the audience to different conversations. Through the metaphors new insights may be possible. In the words of the collective:
… they do not intend to take participants from A to B – to change their positions in a directed way. They do aim to shake things up a little by making hidden processes and gaps visible – and leave it up to each person to decide what to do next.
Examples of social cartographies are The Bus and The House of Modernity, that can be seen in pictures below.
Another method of the collective is Radical Tenderness. It is a set of exercises that can help the individual to regain some hidden and forgotten capacities to support wellbeing and to create stronger relations with the nature/land and each other.
Examples of these exercises are To Be Like Water, Touch The Body, Tree, Massage And Discharges.
The training in Gorca
The training in Earths’ Care was a good mixture of exercises, talks and lectures on these themes.
One morning we learned about neurobiology: how dopamine serves as the reward system in our modern life through “likes in Facebook”, how personal achievements and actions are connected to our self-image. However our brain is capable of activating other neurotransmitters in order to feel happiness and rewarded. Serotonin can be activated through the sense of connectedness. Oxytocin is activated through the act of bonding, endorphin is the natural pain relief and happiness booster, and adrenalin is a reaction from the amygdala. It plays a role in the fight-or-flight response and it may produce retrograde enhancement of long-term memory in us. We learned that pain and discomfort is part of our lives but that modern life tries to tell us that it is not.
In Gorca the food was vegetarian and no outside stimulants such as coffee and alcohol were allowed. We were asked to use our mobiles only for a very limited amount of time, and smokers were asked to smoke less than they usually do. The collective was fasting during the day in order to make room for the natural neurotransmitters and to connect more with nature and others. The participants in the training were invited to join the fasting and almost half took the opportunity to experience that part as well.
The exercises could be understood as belonging to three different categories: Relational Justice, Cognitive Recalibrating and Affective Justice. On the last evening we were thinking of all the exercises we had done and located the correct category for each.
Some of the exercises that came under this category were bodily experiments dealing with our relationship to our self, the land and to each other. We did various trust exercises, and some that created a bond between all of us and between us and the nature and the earth. When I am writing this I can read that it may sound strange, but truly, I have a strong connection to a young, slender birch in the valley below Earths’ care. And whenever I pass other trees I nod to them inside of me because we know…
The exercises that came under this category had to do with understanding the Social Cartographies as well as understanding the other exercises. It was all about our knowledge and unknown – and the unknowable, while the other exercises had to do with being and relating.
These exercises dealt with our traumas, fears, attachments and our insecurities. Some of them were to dig deep inside of one self to feel one’s fears or one’s identity. The exercises have to do with our neuro-biological connections and our emotional constipations.
Entanglement and separation
It is the understanding of the collective that our modern life has separated us from the land and from each other. The activities, the atmosphere and the organisation of the training had the aim of creating more entanglement with nature and between us.
Looking back to my experience in Gorca, separation was indeed the major topic, my separation from others and my separation from the land. I got seriously entangled with the other participants and the land again.
In the terms of the collective the world consists of what is unknown and unknowable – a world beyond our words and language. We live in a complex world with oppositions, paradoxes and a multitude of understandings. The training made me feel some of the wonders outside of the language.