25 Jul Some Reflections from 2022 AGM and Conference – Susan Koppersmith
Some Reflections from 2022 AGM and Conference at Saugeen Academy Hanover, Ontario June 24, 25, 26th
by Susan Koppersmith
The opening Friday night keynote speaker, Christoph Wuerscher (born in Philadelphia but now of Calgary), gave a talk entitled: “So, what does it mean to be human now?” Christoph has a doctorate in Clinical Psychology and has worked extensively with veterans, police officers, young offenders and others from every walk of life. He spoke about the uncomfortable feelings of rage, terror, fear, judgment, etc. and asked, could we learn to show interest in these emotions? “What is in the way, is the way.” He spoke of the situation of veterans who had been traumatized in Vietnam, coming home, not to sympathetic fellow Americans, but as disgraced soldiers guilty of killing civilians, even babies.
All of us have experienced trauma, and many have developed coping mechanisms that have not always been helpful. Christoph said we need to become interested, even “enthusiastic,” about our own suffering. Some make the choice to shut down and isolate themselves. Could we choose, instead, to open-up and connect with others despite strong feelings of helplessness and vulnerability?
Our humanity is not possible without others.
What can help us? Meditating, maintaining a healthy sleep life and connecting with the guidance of the spiritual world are a few examples that can give strength. We can also aid someone in distress by offering simple gestures such as a listening ear or a cup of coffee. Thank you, Christoph, for a presentation which came entirely out of your own experience. This was refreshing!
The next morning, Dorothy LeBaron (ON) and Regine Kurek (ON) led us in a clay workshop on the theme: Can we discover our humanity by connecting with the forces of Ahriman? We broke into 2 groups, each of us working with a partner. One group expressed the contracting forces of Ahriman from the inside and the other worked with experiencing Ahriman from the outside. Then the two groups joined up. Those in my group placed our clay work opposite someone else’s work in the other group. Leaning towards our new partner, our next task was to forge a connection through the clay. For many, this was a joyful, playful experience. Here are some phrases from participants:
“I can form Ahriman instead of having him form me”
“Three words emerged —resistance, surrender, balance”
“Can we let go of intentions? Out of dissolution comes creativity.”
“Something comes from the Spirit when we do art in community”
“We can only be human together”
“We’re not trying to reach towards a goal; we’re just sharing”
St. John’s verse in Eurythmy
Later, under the direction of Eurythmist, Maria Helms, some local members presented the St. John’s Calendar verse, which was warmly received.
A few of the 40 participants of the conference stayed at Glencolton Farm, a 300 acre fully diversified biodynamic farm in nearby Durham which was founded by Michael Schmidt and Elisa Vander Hout. Elisa and her crew served delicious meals in an open courtyard under a blue sky and hot sun. On Saturday afternoon Michael offered participants a wagon tour of the farm, followed by a BBQ. That night, he lit a huge St. John’s fire, which burned with crackling embers that lit up the clear night sky and drew people from miles around. Thanks to Michael and Elisa for their warm hospitality!
The Council members stayed together at the farm in a large house. We were very happy to see one another in person after more than two years of meeting only on Zoom. Each Council member represents a region: Micah Edelstein (NS), Kaitlin Brown (NS), Noèmi Glen (PQ) Catarina Burisch (ON), John Glanzer (AB) and Susan Koppersmith (BC). Bert Chase, our General Secretary (BC) and Claudette Leblanc (QC), our Society Administrator, always join our meetings. Unfortunately, Noèmi and John were not able to be with us at Glencolton due to illness. Joining us for the first time were Sebastian Bilbao from Montreal and Mark McGivern from Victoria. John had let us know recently that he is stepping down as Treasurer. Sebastian will work with our Council over the next few months as an interim Treasurer while we search for a new one. Also, as Jef Saunders had resigned as Communications Administrator, Mark, who is taking over his role, joined us.
The Council thanks John for his calm and always steady presence over these past 6 years as he managed our financial affairs. Jef has been with us for longer. We appreciated making use of his knowledge of all things having to do with rules and regulations. We will miss them both and wish them well in future endeavours.
At our Council retreat, we warmly welcomed Sebastian and Mark. We made decisions on how we could better work together and be more accountable to members. Now at the helm with Communications, Mark suggested we might explore a different format of the eNews. We are looking towards posting a summary of Council minutes on the website. Who are we as a Society? People need a living experience of Anthroposophia. We need to more clear to members that we are part of world-wide Society which needs our support in all ways, including financial. We talked of a new category of potential members: “Friends” of the ASC. They would fill out a form on the website and receive the eNews and other notices without charge for a year. This would give them time to see if Society membership was something they wanted to pursue. Council members did painting exercises with Regine, exploring our relationship with each other as well as with the different regions of Canada. Another whole article could be written about the valuable process we did with her and what we learned about ourselves and each other. We talked of other matters as well. Perhaps some Council members might be able to send in some of their reflections to give a fuller picture of our retreat.
On Sunday, Catarina led us with Class Lesson 14 at the Saugeen Academy. Next came the AGM where John and Jef were formerly thanked for their service. There was a long discussion about Anthroposophy in Toronto as a separate members’ initiative working towards having a physical presence for anthroposophy in downtown Toronto. The announcement of the “Friends” category, towards full membership in the ASC was introduced. Corinna Sons (ON) and Monika Pudelko (MN) shared news of a 2023 Manitoba North American conference being planned in the centre of our continent, not far from Winnipeg. One important theme will be : What does it mean to show initiative in our time? This conference is confirmed for August 11 to 14, 2023 with Peter Selg and Constanza Kaliks from the Goetheanum attending, so — mark your calendars! More details will appear in the coming months.
Grant Davis (ON) set up the Zoom arrangements so that 70 members from across the country could participate in the weekend events. He moderated a successful exchange where those of us sitting in the Academy in front of a large screen felt connected to faraway members who checked in with reflections of their own artistic experiences with the theme. This was a fine example of how the forces of Ahriman’s technology can be redeemed, enlivening us in the process.
Many thanks to Grant, Regine, Dorothy and Catarina who met monthly over this past year to organize all of these wonderful weekend events in southern Ontario! Those of us lucky enough to attend will carry memories which will linger for a long time.
Further Reflections on the Weekend from Tim Nadelle (ON)
On Friday 24 June, asked to take up the question, “What does it mean to be human now?”, Christoph Wuerscher shared thematic images from his biography. One in particular spoke to me, a therapeutic exchange with a Vietnam war veteran who was working to confront his previous actions in the face of high-stress events. In his conversation with Christoph, an unspoken question hung in the air like a challenge from the vet: can you go to this dark place within me? Can you go with me, recognising me, knowing me without judging me? This question can reverberate among each of us, for this is a time when dark places become increasingly visible.
Saturday morning, an artistic exercise in clay, led by Regine Kurek and Dorothy Le Baron yielded an experience of how the engagement with Ahriman can be lightened when people work together. The work arrived in the form of a question. In this world, increasingly darkened by Ahrimanic interventions, how can each of us, from our place in life, work to restore a sacredness to human interaction? Such questions come with no formulae, no easy answers. Our attempts to make our answers real are the very substance of consciousness soul work.
This is a moment in earth evolution when the intentions and works of Ahriman in the world become ever clearer to see, a time when people are rewarded for lying and punished for speaking truth. This is a time when those who seek true understanding are called upon also to perceive the living individuality, the I-Being, the suffering, the forward karmic momentum of those who, for the moment, choose not to seek. And to hear their question,
“Can you go with me, recognising me, knowing me without judging me?”