A Volunteer Perspective
This Conference was held last May in Killarney over a six day period The theme was Ecology, Native Wisdom and Spirituality and how they can lead us towards earth community. It was attended by about 1500 people and the central venue was the Great Southern Hotel. The largest functions took place in a large white marquee in the grounds and numbers were such that monitors were installed in the aisles.
A diverse group of presenters shared their discoveries from the world of science ecology and environmental activism, the world of indigenous peoples’ and their traditions, and the world of transpersonal psychologists, philosophers, healers and artists.
As a volunteer I was asked to work 30 hours and was assigned to the information desk – a good vantage point from which to get the feeling of what was going on! As well as the venues for talks and symposia there was a space for the exhibit and sale of a wide variety of books, tapes and videos. crafts and paintings. There were few spaces in which one could sit informally and chat. The constant stream of people to the Bach Flower Remedy stand indicated not only interest but for some people a fairly high stress level.
I found the whole experience invigorating as it helped weave together so many scattered threads. Listening to the Grofs, Roger Walsh and Frances Vaughan gave me an overview of the transpersonal. Psychology was divorced from spirituality for so many years that the ITA is only 25 years old. Jane Middleton Moz, a community healer spoke of the necessity of healing trans-generational trauma and breaking the cycle of violence. She spoke movingly about the responsibility we have as adults to heal ourselves and to reach out to at least one child we do not know and welcome them to planet earth. She spoke of the effects of post traumatic response on communities.
In relation to indigenous people I felt privileged to hear Angeles Arrien speak of her Basque culture. She referred to a fourth world which we need to consider – that of the indigenous peoples. I was overcome by the power of the film about the Corgi people of South America and their message to us. It was disappointing to see so few indigenous people present at the Conference however. I felt jack Kornfield was an inspired teacher of Buddhism and chose to do a workshop with him after the Conference was over. I walked the Laybrinth to the music of Hildegarde of Bingen. It was set out on canvas in the Dome and is a sacred pattern and a universal form – important for the age we live in because of our fragmentation. It was suggested we walk it asking the question, “What are you seeking?” It is a path of Purgation, Illumination and Union and the pattern is so complex that the rational and linear mind gets lost. So it is a spiritual tool helping us realise how we feel in relation to our own path. I did a voice workshop with Jill Purce who made the point that Western culture is the only one which doesn’t sing or chant anymore. Our voice is no longer creative but ossified and the challenge for all of us lies in finding our own voice. She uses overtone chanting in which you work with the whole auric body. It is possible to purify past and future Karma with sound. It was a powerful introduction as a result of which I have booked to do one of her five day workshops.
Although the Conference content was exciting and in the new paradigm, it was too linear in its organisation. One of the central messages was about the need to bring into the world the power and value of the feminine but there was not enough opportunity for circularity. Groups were large and networking arrangements left too much to chance. Many needs came to light via the noticeboard which should have been far larger. The cost, for many Irish people, was prohibitive. A group of Irish delegates and exhibitors made a short and effective impromptu presentation one evening as they felt the Irish aspect of things was not being sufficiently heard or honoured. Another central message of the conference was that positive change in the global community has to start with the personal transformation of each individual or internal disarmament. It was acknowledged that our civilisation was in spiritual emergency but that we have everything we need to establish an earth community built on love and trust.
The next ITA Conference will be held in San Francisco in 1995. Cassette tapes of all the presentations are available from:
Conference Recording Service 1308 Gilman Street, Berkeley, CA 94706, U.S.A.
(With special thanks to Ruth Gill on her way to Drogheda.)