I’m going to write a few posts exploring different aspects of my work, and the first one is about The Meeting.
At the Cabin and the Lodge, the two self-directed and consent-based education settings that I co-run, we start and end the day with a meeting. You could also call this a circle, rather than a meeting, but in the settings we call it a meeting, and in this piece I will move between use of both terms depending on what feels right at the time.
The meeting is a crucial aspect of the healthy functioning of a self-directed, consent-based space. It is what opens and closes the space, it is what helps us establish the culture of the space. It opens and closes our container of being together. It also serves many important practical functions, that are key to the community being able to do what it wants and needs to during the day.
At the Cabin, we have a total community size of 23 people each day, and we meet in two circles. When we were 15 people and under, we met together in one, but we learnt that with more than 15 people you are giving your meeting a better chance to split it in two. Our current community size at the Lodge is 10, so we meet in one circle.
Now, what I am going to share about basic meeting practice for self-directed and consent-based spaces is as applicable to a meeting with 15 people in, or a circle of 1. And I mean that – this ‘way’ is a process that we can use alone, in navigating ourselves and the world around is, in a pair, or in a group. The principles remain the same and are important in creating a culture of self-direction and consensuality.
You start the meeting by choosing a Chair. It is their job to hold the meeting for the rest of the people involved. That is a real responsibility of service and care, and it is an important and honourable role in the community. Ideally, this role is shared amongst the community, with different people taking it on rotation and serving the community in turn. At the Cabin, we have Chairs as young as 5. The community is called on to support and help the chair in their service to them. And in turn, each chair receives this support and help when it is their turn.
In a circle of 1, you are the Chair. It is up to you to hold this process and space for yourself, and to take it seriously.
The Chair is there to hold the process, and guide the community and meeting through it’s stages, that then helps to lay foundations for creating the culture in which the community can thrive. The first step is to make, or remind, of the agreements that bind the community and meeting together. These are the things that the Chair and the rest of the community need, in order for the meeting to work and feel good (consensual) for everyone. Often times they include agreements about how people can participate, and reflect the cultural principles of the community – for the Cabin and the Lodge these are: self-direction, consent, ed positivity, democratic/collaborative decision making and children’s rights.
When practicing agreements as an individual, they look like a person checking in with themselves about what they need in any given process, including a personal decision making process. Again, this should reflect the persons values and guiding principles for the life and culture that they want to live. It might include things like: I will tune in to myself in order to make authentic and honest choices, I will make sure that the decision I make is aligned with my higher self, I will ensure to be open and curious in my considerations, I will ensure to know and protect my own limits, boundaries and needs.
Once the agreements are established, the next part of the meeting can take place. This is the Check In, where everyone in the circle has a chance to share to the rest of the group what is important to them at that point and circumstance. At the Cabin and the Lodge, this might include sharing about a person’s well being and needs that day, or what they hope to do that day, a sense of how they are arriving into the space, or anything else that seems like it is relevant and needs mentioning about themself. No one has to check in – it is a consensual process as you would expect, so if people want to they can pass entirely – knowing of course that if they do have any needs, wants or news, that this will go unknown to the community unless they make the effort to share it at another time. The key point of holding time and space for the Check In, is so that everyone in the meeting experiences that they are a person than matters in the community, who’s voice matters, who has personal power, who deserves their place in the community and will be listened too. It is knowing this that is important, rather than the check in itself (although of course the content of this is important too should they choose to take that time and space to share).
In a circle of one, a check in is still important, that is a check in with oneself. How am I doing right now? What do I need, what do I want, what do I have capacity for, what don’t I want. What is my intention? It’s a chance to connect to who we are and feel grounded and present in ourself and current situation.
After the Agreements and the Check in, comes the Hands and Plans – in other words, where the ‘business’ is done. At the Cabin and the Lodge, this looks like sharing the plans for the day, which are informed by the closing meeting of same day on the previous week. The plans are read out, and everyone has a chance to add or change as needed. It is also a chance for important whole community announcements or news, and a chance to make agreements around new resources, solve problems, for accountability and questions etc. Anything that the whole community’s presence is relevant and needed for, happens in this part of the meeting.
In a meeting of one, this is where you would start to address whatever question, decision, opportunity or problem you are dealing with, that led you to call the meeting with yourself in the first place. Perhaps it’s the time to explore and reflect on something to do with a relationship, a work issue, an issue of personal or relational accountability, a dream/aspiration, something to do with identity, spiritual connection, what ever it is that needs some attention, care and deliberation. You’ve set the ground for it by connecting with the agreements you have with yourself (your values and principles and the life culture you are working to create), you’ve connected with your wants, needs and intention with the check in, and now from that place you can start to consider and navigate the challenge/opportunity on your hands.
Once the business is done, the Chair asks the community: “Is there anything else?” And pause – is there anything left to come? Ask again: “Is there anything else?” Perhaps there are one or two things left in the circle that still need to emerge – it’s important to double check. Once the Chair is satisfied, the meeting can be closed. At the Cabin and the Lodge, we know there will be another meeting at the end of the day, in which we will check out and propose plans for next time.
In a meeting of one, or where you don’t have another meeting with yourself lined up for later in the day as follow up, you might close your meeting with a check out after the ‘business’ is done, which could look like answering the questions: “How do I feel now? What is my next step now that I’ve done my ‘business’? What do I need now?” and using that information as direction for what is to come next in your life after the meeting.
And then the meeting is complete and the circle can close.