• The Story Behind Bridgedale360


    I just had to leave…


    I had been walking aimlessly, as if my body just carried me along, for what seemed like forever. I still didn't know where I was heading or what was propelling me forwards. Except the reverb of that thought - I had to leave - and a name. Bridgedale360. My fist tightened around the scrap of paper on which it was written. I didn't have to open it, again, to see it. By now the name and the X that marked it on the spidery map was already etched into my mind. Instead, I looked up and wondered whether the turn in the road was starting to look - not exactly, but still - like the curve of one of the lines on the map. Like one of the spider´s legs. All roads lead to Bridgedale360? I first heard about it from a friend a few months ago and then later, overheard it in a bar. Just people talking over loud and dull pop - but I heard it for sure - and then I found this map, or it found me. I had to leave, my heart needed to believe, I had to believe.


    I picked up the pace, my heart beating out a rhythm for my legs to follow, and my right side stung. Exhaustion and fear tugged at me, and perhaps it was regret that made me look back every now and again, but this time I wasn't going to let it get the better of me. Not this time. I threw some of what was left over from my bag of dried fruits into my mouth, hoping it would hush my hunger. My feet yelled out in pain; my new boots had still not been broken in. Instead, the boots seemed bent on breaking me in. Blisters and all. My insides screamed at me in revolt.


    Suddenly I heard voices. I got cautious, a bit afraid, but my curiosity brought me closer. My ears twitched like antennae, trying to figure out where the voices came from. I stood still. There. “Bridgedale360”, I heard it. My heart rattled my ribcage. “Over there, not so far anymore.” I had to get to them. “Wait!” I think I said and cut through the row of trees, hesitantly at first, but then found myself pushing and shoving shrubs aside, until I saw them and they saw me. “Hi,” said the woman, smilingly. I gasped and smiled back and my insides kept quiet, for once.


    We were walking for days, mostly quietly. But there was a sense of unity that I had never felt before. We were all following our dreams somehow, but without really knowing what it was. Layla showed me some pictures of her family, and said that she didn’t know any longer where they were, if they were alive. Could we blame the “system crisis”? But I also felt conscience-stricken, because I saw how privileged I was. Yet, I was unhappy. But happiness does not come with abundance, I learnt it the hard way. I could not imagine myself continuing like before. I desperately needed Bridgedale360 to be more than a silly fairy tale…


    Once we started off together, everything fell into step so to speak. We moved as if we were one, people from the west, people from the east, just people...fleeing the old system and searching for that unknown place. Conversations bubbled up here and there, naturally without any haste, but then we would retreat into a silence again, as we mulled over things we had just heard, and I imagined how life was for them before in the countries where they were coming from, and how much it sounded like my own in some ways; while in others, mine was completely foreign to theirs. I remembered the things I used to enjoy, but that was in the past, I told myself, as I shook off an all too familiar sense of heaviness. Excess does that to you, somehow. But, here on this dirt road to Bridgedale360, I was just like them. Bridgedale360 was and will be the great equalizer for us all.   


    Arriving happened by surprise. We came to a stream and a little further up a girl was playing in the water, singing for herself. We came closer and when she saw us she smiled. “Ahoy there, comrades!”, she said. And she smiled and waved at us. I was surprised by the openness with which she was greeting a bunch of strangers. In the middle of nowhere! But it wasn’t in the middle of nowhere, we soon found out. Further up the stream we saw a mill and some mechanism pumping water. And then it all just opened up. Without waiting for us, the girl skipped ahead and we followed, not skipping like her, but feeling a slight hop in our own step. We exchanged glances and before we knew it, buildings and gardens and people working appeared from behind the trees. Everybody stopped to greet if only briefly, and smiled before they got back to doing what they were doing. Cows grazed past us. Even they seemed to smile.


    Our little guide, we could see, had come to a stop before the most impressive of all the buildings that we had passed. A man stood there rubbing his hands and then approached us, as if he couldn´t wait for us to get to where he stood. “Welcome,” he said, while his hands rubbed and patted our weary shoulders, ”first some rest and then I´ll show you around Bridgedale360, ok?”

    • The Fire Circle

      COMMUNICATION AND CONFLICT

      “Man ruins things much more with his words than with his silence."

      -Mahatma Gandhi


      “No one would talk much in society, if he knew how often he misunderstands others.” 

      -Goethe


      “The biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.”

      -George Bernard Shaw



      Introduction

      Muhammed, conflict-resolution specialist


      Come over here, let me tell you the story of how we have been dealing with conflicts. It seemed like we all had good intentions and fought for the same or similar causes, but we couldn’t manage to get it right. To get along! To really understand each other… well, we didn’t know how to communicate... Laura, one of the first inhabitants in Bridgedale360 (she’s no longer with us, but she really made a difference while she was here), came up with an idea: we would all meet regularly here at the fire circle, sit in the circle and and just try to communicate in a non-violent way. Easier said than done, right?


      This is where Laura spoke about her idea; this very fire circle is where it all started. A fairly large group of people were sitting around a huge bonfire. A brave, young woman stood up and started speaking. Everyone was listening, and their eyes were lit up by the fire light.


      “We’ve all had the experience of childhood. Most of us have experienced growing up with a mother and/or a father and one or more siblings. Most of us also have the experience that it’s not always that easy, that it can be tumultuous and sometimes even chaotic. People are going nuts in families! They can’t understand each other, can’t tolerate each other. That’s almost become the norm! That’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of beautiful things in families! Of course there are. But often the challenges can seem overwhelming, especially when the relationships are just too plagued by old grudges, irritations and judgements that it seems solutions are impossible. I remember growing up... Why were some things so difficult? For example, why did I feel such tremendous resistance doing something as simple as filling up the dishwasher while waiting for my dad to come home from work? And why was he always irritated and on the verge of an angry outburst while crossing the porch? Why was my mom always quiet and self contained? And my little brother Ludvig so apathetic, lazy and disengaged? Why did we start seeing the vices in each other without compassion? Why did we start blaming instead of trying to support each other? It’s like we had stopped trying to really communicate with each other. And clearly, communication was what was missing.


      If we’re going to live together in any meaningful way, we need to communicate. A lot. But it isn’t as easy as it might seem to really communicate, to understand each other on a deep level. Right there is where many families and relationships fail. Because to understand others we must first understand ourselves. At the same time, we must allow others to express themselves as they are, without our instant reaction or judgement. And in conflict it gets even harder. Because then we’re usually starting from the vantage point that we are right while the other is wrong, which is a hopeless attitude for resolving anything. So what do we do?


      What if my brother, my mother, my father and I would, for once, sit down at the kitchen table and really talk? And instead of going in with the attitude that someone is right or wrong or that there is a particular problem to be solved, to simply speak and to listen to each other. To listen without judgement, without projection, without trying to come up with a response or to answer anything. To appreciate everyone’s experience as valid. To listen deeply with empathy. Would that change anything? Compared to any of the hundreds of quarrels and arguments about trivial matters we’d experienced in the past? Surely it would...


      I guess that we could say that the kitchen table is a modern equivalent to the fire circle. At least it should be. For thousands of generations humans have been sitting around the fire in the dark, when the activity of the day is over, listening to each other, telling stories, singing, dancing, resolving conflicts within the group or discussing what to do the next day. The circle is a symbol for community, and the fire is what is holding the group together. The fire is connection, compassion, unity and love. For those virtues to blossom, truthful and sincere communication is necessary. If we learn how to really communicate, it will have a transformative effect on our relationships with others and on our relationship with ourselves. For instead of hiding ourselves from each other, we can use others to better see ourselves. And that’s the real fruit! We’ll begin here and now. Let the talking stick go around and let everyone speak. The rest listen, just listen. And when it’s your turn to speak, ask yourself, what is real, what really wants to come out?”


      These days we’re meeting here as often as we can. To ensure everyone shares their feelings/thoughts, we use a talking stick; it is actually really helpful. After a long night here, deeply listening to each other, singing, I feel like new again! We found that listening is one of the keys we had been desperately missing! After all, Laura used to say these brainy quotes..uhmm..what was it again?: “We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say!”


      Learning Outcomes

      • To understand conflict as a gift / evolution / possibility for growth

      • To experience a variety of communication styles

      • To sit in a circle

      • To look at one's shadows

      • To develop tools for relating authentically

    The Town SquareThe Woods