by Gina Lazenby
I really enjoy attending ConsciousCafe events in London, often held in founder Judy Piatkus’ lovely north London home. Of course it’s just not possible to attend the full programme of events as I no longer live in London. And I’m sure I’m not the only who loves the Conscious Cafe experience of meaningful conversation and heartfelt connection. There are an increasing number of us who want to bring a taste of it to our home towns around the UK. It’s selfish really ….. We don’t now have to travel to London to get our uplifting fix!
And so it was in June this year that ConsciousCafe Skipton was born. Another selfish reason behind me starting it was to find and connect with a tribe of local people who are interested in what I am passionate about … like-minded souls who enjoy thoughtful conversations about how we want to live life, what our values are and what we can do to help create a better world for everyone.
The first meeting of the new ConsciousCafe community in Skipton was held in June 19th at our adopted home of Hettie’s Cafe at the top of the High Street. We opened the evening with a circle where everyone shared who they were and what had inspire them to attend.
Why we all came together for ConsciousCafe here is a summary expressed by the group:
- Find and enjoy a support network of folks with similar views or values
- Curious to learn and open to new ideas
- Connect with interesting people
- Be part of a community, especially for those who have moved to the area recently
- Find a supportive learning community and be able to open up in a way that is not possible when only mixing with clients or children
- Interested in the subject presented that evening
CONNECTION CURIOSITY COMMUNITY COMPANIONSHIP
As this first event was called “Can we afford to care about people and be kind?”, Gina Lazenby opened up the evening with a short slide presentation about Caring Economics, based on the book by lawyer and activist Dr Riane Eisler. Riane has been listed as one of twenty of the world’s great peacemakers (along with Luther King and Ghandi) and her book ‘Caring Economics: The Real Wealth of Nations’ has been an inspiration to Gina and her work in writing about healthy living and also feminine values and leadership. Gina said Riane’s work brought together her two passions of caring for well-being through our homes and the contribution to society by women. Gina says, “The key premise of Riane’s work is that society measures and values the wrong things. It is time for us to put Caring and Care-giving into the spotlight as it underpins everything else in society.”
Riane points out that GDP measures everything except the contribution made by community work and volunteering; stewardship of nature and the natural world; and the daily work of home-making and bringing up children. Without these free, unpaid, undocumented and undervalued activities the world would simply cease functioning. There is such a warped bias in our economic system that GDP actually increases when bad things happen … clearing up after an oil tanker disaster might decimate wildlife which has no economic value on a country’s balance sheet but it creates extra wealth through clean-up costs and legal action. We are simply measuring the wrong things. Anything that is not counted and measured is then not valued.
One of the key premises of Caring Economics is understanding how societies are shaped in one of two ways … either as Hierarchies with each level of an ascending pyramid held in place by fear and control. In this system, patriarchy rules and there is always one gender, ethnicity, nation, sexuality that has priority over another. In this worldview, any contribution provided by a lower value gender … women … is seen as being of less value. That means the caring and care-giving work, undertaken by both men and women, which is seen as being feminine, has a lower economic value and less impact. At the other end of a continuum, collaboration thrives under the Partnership way where power is used to empower and support each other and not to hold people back by having power over someone else. Riane says that organisations, countries and societies are all, in some way, moving along the continuum towards partnership and away from hierarchical control. The whole planet is a work in progress on this score!
So, from this, with the understanding that caring and care-giving are not seen by society as having economic value, we can understand why jobs in this field attract such low pay and low prestige. Our ConsciousCafe community broke out into discussion groups and covered questions around humanity’s self-interest, what younger people are looking for, what’s in the process of changing, who is responsible for change, rewarding kindness in business life, the degree to which people work hard, educating children to think differently ….. in fact a list of questions we could have spent a weekend debating. We created much food for thought!
The subject of the evening ‘caring and valuing care-giving’ attracted quite a few people to attend who actually work in the health and caring industries. We heard about the needs of patients & clients becoming ever greater and more complex in an ageing population. Although it was difficult to find resolutions and come up with answers, many people felt comforted just by being able to share their experience of the caring system and hearing each other’s stories meant that they felt validated. There was a consensus that important conversations needed to be had. By sharing different perspectives and opinions we all wake up and recognise that change will happen through a process and not by one single decision or action.
Summary: Even though the subject is overwhelmingly complex and there was no greater clarity we did feel we had a greater understanding about the future and there was still a sense of hope that things will change, either because we are heading for breakdown and out of that total chaos, radical change will have to emerge … or because, the younger millennial generations prioritise much more compassionate values and so demonstrate that they could be behind the much-needed shift that their older superiors are not able to grasp. This is a summary of some of the points that emerged in a topic that we all agreed was endless and stimulating when the community reconvened for a group sharing.
- Change starts with us. To create the much-needed change in the world, we have to change ourselves in order to get the changes we want to see.
- Self care is critical, putting ourselves last in service of our community, family or employment leads to burn-out and breakdown and ultimately serves nobody.
- The power of leading by example. It might not look like we are making a big impact but everything we do counts and the most important thing we can each do is walk our talk and be conscious of the example we are setting. Change our behaviour, others take note.
- A crisis in social care. Many attendees, men and women, were from the caring professions, at the sharp end of today’s underfunded and crumbling care system. Short term thinking is causing great harm and the system is beyond is fixing requiring systemic change.
- Old Worldviews in charge. As the world changes, new thinking is needed and it was noted how many people in senior positions in the caring industry are older. Not all older people keep up to date and are flexible in their thinking. They lack the answers in this new connected world, one where younger people are much more fluent and comfortable with technology. As much as age carries wisdom which is important, we have to recognise that millennial have a different approach, different aspirations and new ways of thinking. Perhaps they have more answers.
- Millennials’ values are different. The young age group from teens to those in their 20s are open, expressive, compassionate, collaborative … everything the system changes need are ways of being that are more natural to them. They are having an impact. We have great faith in the younger generation.
- Caring – the jobs people don’t want. So much has changed in caring that even though it is a people business, numbers are prioritised. Less time to spend with each client / patient can be distressing for both parties when an encounter is reduced to just a few minutes. Stress levels increase and the desire to be service to the world and care about people is severely diminished when the important work done has so little value and recognition. Many carers end up broken down and burned out. Collateral damage. People leave jobs/industry. Fewer applications to join.
- Size brings anonymity. Globalisation and larger corporations can make interactions more faceless, less personal whereas interacting with smaller companies there is a greater chance they will be linked to smaller communities and be more accountable. The more we can create community, the more we can be self-regulating. Everybody knows you. You can more clearly see the impact of, and the outcome, of what you do ..good and bad.
- Kindness pays off. always.
- New solutions needed. Problems today in our healthcare and social services are so complex and seemingly unsolvable that we have to be prepared to think of the impossible!
- Large companies have influence and resources. Should be encouraged to care and to give more and support community. Can more of their profits be re-invested
- People should use their voices. Do we complain enough? give feedback.. point out what is wrong and unfair?
- Do my best. So much to be done and what can I do in my little corner? I can do my best.
Some individual feedback about the first ConsciousCafe evening in Skipton:
“Great night, I really enjoyed myself.”
“The conversation flowed quickly and even though we did not know each other, it felt easy.”
“I have been suffering from career fatigue but I am feeling invigorated by tonight’s sharing and insights.”
“Really nice to have the opportunity to step back, get away from the detail and get a sense of the big picture.”
“I have been feeling angry but I recognise this can be good if I use it. I want to keep the fight going!”
“These conversations have confirmed that my life changes are putting me on the right path. I am inspired.”
“I feel really nourished by tonight.”
“A great place to have an honest conversation.”
Next event: Monday 25th September. BOOK NOW.
Find out more about the ConsciousCafe movement in the UK.