Open Letter to Next Steps Team

“Cover Email” for the Open Letter:

On March 4, 2015, we sent the following email and Open Letter to the Next Steps Team: Saniel & Linda, and Max Goler and Michael Grossman:

Dear Saniel, Linda, Max, and Michael,
We at WDCN and CLAIM, have put our heads and hearts together for some months to coalesce our perception of WD community needs and our collective evolution. While there are plenty of details to flesh out in our vision of a path forward together that includes a more formal community “seat at the table,” today we want to bring to your attention specific points that we believe fall into the category of “branding” issues.
Attached you will find a letter presenting these points, as well as a handful of requests we have of you. We will eventually make this an Open Letter, meaning that we will post it on WDCN’s website and CLAIM’s website for the community to see. We wanted to give you plenty of lead time to digest our perspective and consider and respond to our requests.
In sharing this vision with you, our desire is not to add burden to your work or to put you in a bind. Rather, we’re offering ourselves in the spirit of collaboration and the possibility that a little work now could save a lot of work down the road. We recognize that there may not be an ideal time to receive community input in the midst of the legal work you are engaged in, and we ask that you find ways to consider our perspective and address these needs as much as you are able.
We look forward to finding ways to co-steward with you the most auspicious and vibrant unfolding of the Waking Down Way as possible,
With love and respect,
Eric Grace, WDCN
Margit Bantowsky, WDCN
Richard Shapiro, WDCN
Greg Aurand, CLAIM
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Open Letter to the Next Steps Team, from WDCN & CLAIM

March 4, 2015

Dear Saniel, Linda, Max, and Michael,

In the spirit of partnership and support, and with a sense of shared stakeholdership for the future unfolding of Waking Down, the Waking Down Community Network (WDCN) and Communities Living and Inspiring Mutuality (CLAIM) have collaborated to provide some points for your consideration. Our goal is to share with you some key features of what we hope might emerge as common points of agreement as we all move forward together. We also present some specific requests that we would appreciate you responding to, as best you are currently able.

We want to begin by acknowledging the tremendous gift that Saniel has given the world in forging this new path for everyone’s benefit, and appreciate his generous and benevolent caretaking of the Waking Down brand. His efforts, and those of early Waking Down Teachers, have spawned an amazing and skilled cadre of teachers and mentors who generously serve as guides for the embodied awakening process, and who continue to contribute to the ongoing evolution of the work.

In his book, Waking Down, Saniel writes, “The Way of Waking Down is structured to grow by the networking that we find natural… It’s a free, natural, voluntary association, which each one chooses or not as he or she is so moved.”

You have already dedicated an enormous amount of time (and money!) working through the nuances of intellectual property law as it applies to Saniel & Linda and the Waking Down Teachers’ Association (WDTA), so we apologize that this letter comes “a little late in the game,” at least for this stage of it. However, as you continue to negotiate how the terms “Waking Down” and “Waking Down in Mutuality” can and will be used in the future, it’s our desire to insure that the “Business” of Waking Down does not inhibit the “Way” of Waking Down. We write you today on behalf of Waking Down community members who are unrepresented or underrepresented in these ongoing negotiations, yet who will likely be profoundly affected by the outcome of your deliberations.

Community members throughout the world are actively expressing their profound desire to share Waking Down with others, and to cultivate friends and cohorts who share their passion for this work and this Way. Some of us seemingly have no choice, as Waking Down has become intricately woven into the very fabric of our DNA. And although we are not teachers or mentors, we consider ourselves stakeholders in and conveyors of Waking Down and its growth and expression. We want to do this with potency and integrity.

Ideally, there would be some sort of formal, overarching “Waking Down Guiding Council” with representation from different key stakeholders, beginning with Saniel and Linda and the WDTA, and including the community (e.g. via representatives from WDCN and CLAIM). There may be other subgroups that emerge over time, but this initial “Three Legged Stool” (S&L-Teachers-Community) council model could allow for clear communication of the different needs and perspectives in the Waking Down ecosystem, and with better communication there’s more synergy and effectiveness, from which more Life and evolution can emerge. Allowing and leveraging the power of cohesive, distributed leadership and innovation could benefit all of us.

But, we’re not there yet, and until there is a clear path for community leadership to have a formal seat at the table, we are at a loss for how better to make community needs known and acknowledged at this critical juncture. Thus, we send you this letter articulating our needs and desires, while recognizing that the most immediate task is to finalize the legal agreement between the WDTA and Saniel and Linda.

You might already be working on how the community will be allowed to use the terms Waking Down and Waking Down in Mutuality (we don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes right now). So, if you are, thank you for that!  We feel that it would be holistic and in the spirit of this work that your formal agreement, if at all possible at this time, includes considerations for community use of the terms Waking Down and Waking Down in Mutuality.

We also believe that it is unreasonable to require community members to appeal to the WDTA each and every time that there is a new need to use Waking Down or Waking Down in Mutuality. However, with clearly articulated guidelines, community members could be empowered to clarify the alignment of their activities with Waking Down, and the Waking Down Way could thrive as a result. These guidelines would need to address the multiple levels at which the community may want to use Waking Down branding: individual, group, event, service, and organization.

Individuals

In the past, there have been proposals that would insure that community members (including non-teacher community leaders) are in coherence with core Waking Down dharma, and also have a voice in important decision making. Clearly defined levels of participation could be a way of empowering community members to be in alignment, and we feel this model is worthy of serious consideration. Not only would the levels articulate their associated qualifications, responsibilities, and capacities, they would permit a more self-organized pathway for individuals to align with and serve the Heart of Waking Down – meaning potentially less administrative burden to the WDTA, less of a branding “bottleneck,” while maintaining integrity and spreading the work.

Groups & Communities

There are also groups of practitioners that would benefit from using the terms Waking Down and Waking Down in Mutuality. Communities need an identity, and using the Waking Down brand helps them create an identity that binds them to the larger Waking Down collective. It also allows newcomers (aka ‘consumers’) to recognize the brand and know what the community is about.

Of course, guidelines are important here! As an example, the Waking Down Operation Circle’s Mutuality Group Link role recently created an initial set of guidelines to help peer mutuality groups determine whether or not they are “Waking Down-approved.” Guidelines were also created for peer group hosts (i.e. facilitators). We assume that you are aware of these guidelines, and that they do indeed allow peer communities to use the term Waking Down and will continue to do so in the future.

The WDTA has taken some excellent steps recently to deliberately, structurally interface with the community by creating two roles in the WDOC – the Community Liaison and the Mutuality Group Link – and have extended their reach into the community by energizing these roles by community members. We appreciate these two points of interface very much, however, we would like to see even more structure and accountability that ensures community input, from the outset, on important issues and developments, such as the mutuality group guidelines. Toward that end, for its part, the community will be generating input of these kinds and presenting it to relevant roles.

We understand that you have been working on creating a clear articulation of the core dharma as part of your Next Steps work, and we look forward to seeing the final result. The defined dharma, along with appropriate guidelines, will really help communities coalesce and grow with a shared Heartbeat.

However, we feel that guidelines are not enough. Based on painful experience, there are a number of ways that peer-led communities can run into trouble, causing harm not only to their participants, but to the overall perception of Waking Down. To ensure the success of peer-led community groups, WDCN and CLAIM want to supplement the WDTA’s guidelines by developing additional materials, training, and support for peer group facilitators so that safe containers will be developed and sustained.

We also want to create community development materials, trainings, and support for community leaders (these would dovetail with WDTA’s guidelines and support for Waking Down Coordinators). Facilitation is one thing, and it’s very important, but so is growing a community, and doing so in a way that is a positive representation of Waking Down. The skills and capacities are distinct from one another.

Communities of practitioners are a large and vital part of the larger organism that is Waking Down. As such, they are an intrinsic aspect of this organism’s creativity, intelligence, and evolutionary growing-edge. With nurturing and guidance, communities can engage the catalytic magic of mutuality in an empowered, creative, synergistic way. Vibrant communities are natural magnets, attracting new members into the Waking Down work.

Also, there’s a profound reciprocity between teachers and communities of practitioners. Teachers provide catalytic transmission, cultivated discernment, and eldership, as well as critical feedback on unconscious patterns over time. Conversely, healthy, peer-led communities evoke rich opportunities for teacher’s expression and evolution of dharma, and provide important financial support. We believe that this powerful symbiotic relationship must be acknowledged and encouraged to thrive.

Look at your current list of teachers and mentors, and you will see how many have come from areas without a resident teacher.  Peer-led communities are critical to a vibrant of future for Waking Down, and we need to do what we can to help these communities flourish by giving them the support and care they require, and by trusting them (and us) to properly represent the Waking Down brand. In the spirit of cooperation and stewardship, we (WDCN and CLAIM) are willing to share the burden of insuring the “right use” of the Waking Down brand by peer-led community groups by providing oversight and support.

Events

On an event level, we understand that you have been working on defining a Waking Down Event, and Waking Down-Related Event. We expect there may be more discussion about this in the future, and also about more peripheral events, such as the Sacred Summer Celebration. We would like to see community input brought into that conversation.

Organizations & Services

On an organizational and service level, we would like to be able to use Waking Down in identifying the community representation organization, which is, for now, the WDCN. Some of us have begun building a service-related infrastructure, and would like to retain the ability to use Waking Down for the already developed elements: Waking Down Facebook pages, the new Waking Down Community Forum (wakingdowncommunity.com), the Waking Down Community Podcast site (wakingdownpodcast.com), and our current series of Waking Down Community Conference Calls. In addition, numerous local communities either have their own websites (with purchased url’s) or meetup groups, which are using the Waking Down or Waking Down in Mutuality terms.

There are also potential projects in the wings that would benefit from using the Waking Down brand: a community newsletter, webpages showcasing community creative expression (art, music, poetry, essays, videos), articles and essays submitted to other publications, and eventually maybe even a professional, peer-reviewed “Waking Down Journal of Embodied Awakening.”

Most of these entities and services are currently not initiated or overseen by Waking Down Teachers or affiliated with formal Waking Down organizations. Nonetheless, they strongly represent the face and substance of our ever-expanding Waking Down community.  Done consciously and deliberately, the use of the term Waking Down could allow the community to be bolstered by its identity as a Waking Down-centric collective, thus helping maintain a clear relationship with and commitment to the core Waking Down dharma. The issue of branding in these cases needs to be clearly addressed for the benefit of everyone.

Conclusion & Requests

The WDCN and CLAIM are prepared and willing to share the responsibility and workload of serving the Hungry Hearts along with each of you and the WDTA. We are working hard to create value and service to the Waking Down community, and to position ourselves so that we can support our collective evolution with integrity and effectiveness. We have created a non-profit dedicated to supporting peer communities: held regularly scheduled virtual calls for peer facilitators and community leaders; collaborated with the WDTA and conducted a community-wide survey and digested the results for implementation; hosted three well-attended conference calls to serve the community; created a community podcast site and several great podcasts; and built an on-line Forum – a structure that will allow community members (including teachers!) to collaborate on projects together, discuss issues of interest with an eye to creating positive contributions, and to coalesce their needs in such a way that will allow all of us to respond appropriately to them. We are also in the process of creating a more formal entity to represent community interest at “The Table” – the eventual Waking Down ‘Guidance Council.’

Ultimately, we believe that collectively we’re birthing something new and radical: the integration of healthy masculine and healthy feminine. Instead of extreme conformity or extreme individualism, we are evolving a form of organizational mutuality that is built on the principles of “existential equality” and “functional hierarchy.” While the teachers may be the holders, refiners, and articulators of core dharma, there are other forms of leadership that are appropriate for the collective to express. We need a place for mutuality to happen at the highest level – at the council level – where we recognize eldership both within teachers and within mature members and leaders of our community.

In summary, we would like the following:

  1. In the formal legal language, to give community rights to Waking Down branding. This will require all of us to work hard in mutuality together to make sure everyone is getting what they need (S&L, WDTA, community).
  2. Saniel & Linda, and the WDTA to partner with WDCN and CLAIM to provide oversight and support for peer communities.
  3. To hear your agreement that an overarching Waking Down Guiding Council is a necessary evolutionary step, and that community representation is critical in such a council. Also, that you will work with us towards creating such a Council.
  4. Until the community representation entity is formally established, that the WDCN will serve this role in the interim.

Thank you for listening to and considering our perspective and requests, which are offered in the spirit of mutuality and with the desire to join hands with you in serving the Hungry Hearts. We want to join you in keeping their needs in the foreground, while simultaneously maintaining the integrity of the Waking Down Way and allowing for collective innovation and empowered stewardship.

Signed:

Eric Grace

Margit Bantowsky

Richard Shapiro

Greg Aurand

3 thoughts on “Open Letter to Next Steps Team

  1. Lisa Macy

    Thanks, y’all for the obvious hard work and dedication in putting this letter together (and all the blood, sweat and tears to even get to this point). I personally REALLY appreciate all your efforts to keep community issues in mind & heart as WDM moves forward through this legal, organizational, and emotional process.

    A couple points? #1. This letter is difficult to read. It’s difficult to stay with the train of thought. Am I the only one feeling this way? Perhaps it could be edited and made more concise and clear.

    #2. I still sense a teacher-centric approach to WDM. Or the sense that peer-led communities are communities-waiting-for-a-teacher, or less trustworthy than teacher-led-groups, or somehow not quite “official” in the WDM ranks. But that is not my lived experience at all. I find peer-led communities to be the bread and butter of WDM. I’ve often heard from people who live in communities served by near-by teachers that the only real community time is at teacher events. To me, that’s not really community. A strong WDM community is the web that provides friendship, support, fun, conflict, companionship, material assistance, economic help, etc. on a regular basis in each stage of a community member’s life. That CANNOT be achieved if the community only gets together for teacher-related events. I think the teacher-centric approach is so deeply embedded in WDM that it isn’t even noticed. I am NOT devaluing teachers. WDM teachers are essential and wonderful! But for WDM to flourish, there must be strong peer-communities that invite teachers into their community to teach the dharma. NOT groups who are dependent on teachers for a sporadic sense of community. This may sound subtle, but the lived difference is immense. Thank you. Lisa Macy. Atlanta, Georgia

  2. Lisa Macy

    I just re-read my post. I apologize if this came across as a criticism of teacher-led communities in WDM. I don’t mean that at all. I simply want to strongly advocate for peer-led communities to be seen and treated in WDM as the grassroots strength of the organization that I believe they are. If WDM is to continue to grow internationally, greater numbers of our communities will be peer-led. Now is the time to embrace and support this trend. (I recognize that communities with teachers can be peer-led as well.) Thanks for letting me express myself. Lisa Macy. Atlanta, Georgia

  3. Margit Bantowsky

    Hi Lisa,
    thanks so much for taking the time to comment on this topic! I’m very sorry that you found the Open Letter difficult to read – we spent a lot of time honing it down, while making sure to cover all the points we felt were important to make.

    In terms of editing it, I don’t feel that we can really do that now because the letter on this page is a public record of the communication we submitted to the Next Steps Team in March. However, I’m sure there will be plenty opportunity to clarify and modify this vision in the months to come!

    I appreciate your enthusiastic endorsement of peer-based communities. I, too, have personally experienced the profound benefits of a peer-based community – in Olympia. It sounds like Atlanta and Olympia have been blessed by having people with strong leadership and outreach skills, creating safe-enough containers for mutuality to grow, and bringing in new people and sustaining membership. I have also heard people express a longing for more community than just what happens at teacher sittings. You do a beautiful job articulating what’s missing – a web of friendship, support, fun, material assistance, continuity, etc.

    Some communities really struggle with these things, and while I’m totally inspired by what’s possible in a thriving peer-based community, I also think it’s really important to make room for other expressions of community besides those in Atlanta and Olympia. And, I do think it’s really important to recognize the benefits of peer communities (and the challenges too!)

    Your comment about the OpenLetter feeling “teacher-centric” surprised me, especially since there are several paragraphs in the Letter that echo your sentiments almost identically. But I welcome the invitation to re-read the Letter with your point of view in mind! Thank you.

    One question I’m chewing on is – in the areas where there are teachers – how can we support teachers in building more community in their area? For some teachers, community-building is just not their forte. And yet, a robust community could really benefit everyone in the long run….

    Right now, Olympia has 4 mentors. Later this summer, it is likely that Olympia will have its first resident teacher as our first mentor transitions into interning teacher. In a couple years from now, we’ll probably be up to 2-3 resident teachers. It will be very interesting to see how we navigate this big transition, and I’m definitely hoping the peer-community remains intact. But, Being may have other plans for us; we shall see!

    I think one thing that would be really helpful is for you and your peers in Atlanta to take some time to articulate/ outline the specific benefits that you’ve experienced in your peer-based community, and to share that with all of us. You’ve touched on some of the points in your comment, above, but if you could flesh them out and organize them so that they can be shared, that would be fabulous.

    With love and appreciation,
    Margit

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