First Regional PNW Meetup Report

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Danica Swanson

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First Regional PNW Meetup Report
« on: July 13, 2019, 03:16:31 PM »
On June 30, five forum members met at Black Stone Abbey in Portland, OR for the first regional meeting in the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

All of us who were present at the meeting are writers and contributors to the broader polytheist-animist monastic movement. WeepingCrow and I are co-founders of Black Stone Abbey and co-admins of the Polytheist Monastic forum; Syren Nagakyrie is a co-founder and sole organizer of the Alliance of Monastic Polytheist Pagans (aka AMPP, formerly known as LANMIPP); Janet Munin is one of our forum moderators and editor of an upcoming anthology on polytheistic monasticism; and barefootwisdom is an academic, blogger, and prolific contributor to this forum.

Here are some brief glimpses from the many topics we discussed and questions we addressed during the meeting and in its aftermath:

* Alliance of Monastic Polytheist Pagans Outreach: Syren announced expanded outreach plans for AMPP. On the Facebook group for AMPP, she recently announced that a new website with more structured membership information, a membership map, and a blog is forthcoming. (I love the name change. AMPP it up!)

* Future meeting options: For future meetings, do we want to consider options (such as Zoom, Skype, etc.) that don't require travel? Preferences were mixed, so this is still an open question.

* The "wheel-and-spokes" metaphor for monastic life: Syren mentioned a model in which monastic life is both the center hub of the wheel (where the axle connects) and the outer part (the round traction surface). Everything else revolves around this hub, and can be considered as "spokes" of the wheel that supports a spiritual life at the center.

* Monastic structure as a source of freedom: One of the paradoxes of monasticism is that structure can be a source of "freedom from." For example, the ordered structures of monastic life, when they work well, can reduce some of the mental load of everyone having to do a lot of coordination and organizing for daily tasks, prayer times, and liturgy, because decisions about these things are built into the daily routine.

* "De-Calvinizing": In a discussion on decolonization and the importance of monastics taking things slowly instead of rushing, the idea of "de-Calvinizing" our minds was mentioned. While it eventually became clear that "de-Calvinizing our minds" was a linguistic slip and/or misunderstanding of "decolonizing our minds," we latched onto the idea of "de-Calvinizing" our minds (i.e., reducing the theological influence of Calvinism) as a worthy and interrelated quest.

* The Scriptorium: The space at the Abbey previously known as the "office" has now been dubbed the "scriptorium." So the Abbey now has a scriptorium, a chapel, a dormitory (sleeping area), a library, and a refectory (kitchen). Not too bad for a 550-square-foot live/work studio!

* Eremitic living structures: In a discussion about eremitic monasticism, we expressed appreciation for structures called "laura" and "lavra". (Also mentioned was a related type of structure in Ireland, if I recall correctly. Can someone remind me what that was? Somehow I didn't manage to get the name into my meeting notes.)

* Polytheist-animist monasticism is gathering momentum: We all acknowledged our shared sense that there is something "in the air," as it were, that brought us together. (And the soil, and the water, too! And more!) We are perceiving increasing momentum building around polytheist monasticism. Deities from many traditions seem to be increasingly active in calling people to monastic paths of service. The timing seems to be right for something potentially far-reaching.

There were lots of laughs, too…

* "LARP": In a discussion on the way paganism is often glibly dismissed as little more than "LARPing in the backyard" (aka Live Action Role Playing), Janet quipped that we could always adopt the acronym LARP and declare ourselves "Loosely Associated Religious Peculiars." We all cracked up!

* "Brain Frog": In a discussion about "brain fog," someone said "brain frog" instead. We all laughed and liked it, so it stuck. So now we can say we've got "brain frog." Ribbit!

Summing up: To sum up, in Syren's words: "We planted energetic seeds for the growth of polytheist monasticism, discussed the framework of monasticism in our lives, and are in reflection for the best next steps forward to strengthen and energize our alliance."

We hope other forum members will be inspired to start their own regional meetings.

On a more personal note, I appreciate the efforts everyone made to travel to the Abbey so we could meet in person. Thanks, too, for the efforts everyone made to accommodate each other in such a confined meeting space. Two of the attendees left after a few hours, and the remaining three carried on the discussions somewhat less formally over dinner and into the evening. Cozy and intimate is fine for now, but it's clear that if we have more than five attendees for the next meetup, we'll either need to find an alternative location or conduct it online. We're also hoping Black Stone Abbey will find its way to a larger and more appropriate space when the time is right!

I'd love to hear from the rest of the attendees. What were your impressions of the meeting, and what are your thoughts about where we may be headed - as a group, and as part of the growing tide of interest in polythiest-animist monasticism? A few questions I have (not an exhaustive list - feel free to address things I haven't mentioned):

  • What were some of the most memorable take-aways from the meeting for you?
  • What did you appreciate about the meeting?
  • How might we improve things next time around?
  • Do you have any advice for forum members in other locations who might want to start their own regional meetups?
  • Was there anything you hoped we'd cover that we didn't manage to get to?
  • Any other thoughts or impressions you'd like to share?

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Syren Nagakyrie

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Re: First Regional PNW Meetup Report
« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2019, 03:21:32 PM »
Thanks for this report, Danica! It was so good to gather in person at this stage of growth for polytheist monasticism. Thank you for hosting us at the Abbey.

I can't say I have any specific takeaways or impressions to share. But that's not a comment on the meeting itself, just my own brain frogs. I was having some difficulties with focus during the meeting, probably because I so infrequently gather with a group of people these days! I wish I could have stayed longer. I appreciated the shared laughter and sense of being with like-minded people that is hard to find in general pagan spaces.

As I've reflected on the meeting, I continue to feel like this is one of many seeds to be planted, and seeds must be tended, and many must be placed into the earth to ensure a good yield. So I do hope we, and other regions, continue to connect in ways more intimate and intentional than only online text-based discussions.

Perhaps in the future, we could establish a shared practice or prayer to continue nurturing the webs of growth and support.

For suggestions to other groups, I would say that having a scribe was really good. Starting the meeting with a contemplative practice, inviting in supportive beings and setting the intention helped to create a more solid container and focus for the meeting. A good facilitator is always important.

I think that's all for now.


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WeepingCrow

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Re: First Regional PNW Meetup Report
« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2019, 06:51:15 PM »
I definitely agree that the most important aspect of this meetup was simply to be in a place with like-minded folks. I think all of use are eager to forge connections, but I know I have the tendency to forget that part of that is just getting to know people as individuals.

The next time around, I'd like to see maybe more of an opportunity for prayer or ritual, partly to learn from what others do, but also to strengthen that connection. And I definitely want to continue philosophical discussions -- it's so rare to have those face to face.

In advice for others who want to do meetups -- probably the most difficult thing to arrange is the physical space. Our gathering was small,so everything was fine, but it was obviously a possible concern. Making sure everyone has places to sit/eat/sleep is something that can potentially disrupt the "flow". It's those mundane things that make or break a meeting, I'm thinking.