I have just returned from a meeting in Portland, Oregon, ‘The Thermodynamics of Emotion Symposium 2019. It has been running for three years but this is the first time I’ve attended. It was quite a distance to travel but I found it really worthwhile. I was really excited to be meeting with like-minded people.
The first day set the tone for the two to follow, with key-note speakers and workshops. Overall the first speakers painted a picture of how we are all part of one flow system. How we tend the earth today affects what returns to us tomorrow. Our own lives are part of this flow system in time and space. How we are in the world affects those around us, other humans, animals and nature. Different angles and perspectives on saying the same thing. We are all interconnected. How we think and feel is as important as what we do. It all counts.
One memorable quote I took away described our lives as "our experience to make contact to remain intact".
Lots of interesting questions were raised and discussed: How can you apply these concepts meaningfully in the world of business? What does it mean to award personhood to a river? Do you know how trackers can tell the sex of a human from their footprint in the sand (I was intrigued by this!)? How can we connect to others in a meaningful way and still nurture ourselves? Why do our dogs do what they do? You can check out the links to a couple of the keynote speeches below to learn more.
‘Tracking on Mother Earth’ from Willem Larsen, outlining the concept of the whole earth as a connected system and how we can choose how we work with it.
‘I think, I feel’ from Brandt Stickley, dipping into Classical Chinese Medicine, how the whole body as a connected system of mind body spirit and also connected to the bigger picture, the earth.
We were woo'ed with a great range of books on display to support our personal enquiries further. I had some of them already but there were loads that looked really interesting. I thought I'd share this image from the Symposium so you can check them out for yourselves. One book that caught my eyewas What the Robin knows – How Birds Reveal the secrets of the Natural World' by Jon Young. In it Young teaches how our emotions link to the natural world around us and how we can see this when we observe birds. I found one of the biggest bookshops I've ever seen in Portland and bought a copy home with me.
A New Way of Connecting
We were introduced to the concept of the open space event. Based on the understanding that the real gems at conferences are gained in the 'in-between moments', during coffee breaks, over lunch and dinner, or in the toilets, the open space event is designed to harness that energy. (No, we didn't have to meet in the toilets)
In short, the participants set the agenda.
The open space approach made for a much more dynamic, engaged, intimate and energised meeting of minds. Our areas for discussion naturally fell out of the group: Business Thermodynamics; Natural Dog Training Core Exercises; ‘I look for aliens for a living’; Equines; Fascia Energetics; Path-finding and Tracking; Wild tending Food Forests; and Death and Dying. And there were more. The only down side to this approach is that you have to choose which ones to go to, you can't go to all of them.
Connecting with Like-minded People
The other interesting fall-out from this approach was that I was encouraged to speak of my own work with our dogs and our emotions. I had not been expecting this and I felt a bit over-whelmed, although it doesn't take much for me to start gabbling about my life's passion! People were interested in the subject and were keen to share their experiences, how our emotions and our dogs are linked. It was inspiring to know that other people related to the work that I am doing and agreed and understood the importance of it.
I ended up hosting two discussions. Sitting outside around the orange glow of a flickering firepit, with the night closing in around us, sharing stories of our trials and tribulations and how our dogs tune into them,was one of my personal highlights of the conference. I am very grateful for the opportunity that I was given.
The dogs knew
Another memorable moment was in the park when we were working with some of our dogs. Totally unexpectedly, we were joined by a couple of local dogs, passing by with their humans, who wanted to get involved. Their humans stood by watching with amusement. Clearly the energy of connection was strong and the dogs wanted to be part of it!
So in summary a great time, warm and friendly people, inspiring discussions, fun company and we also were well fed! Been there, got the T-shirt!