HEART POLITICS – PEOPLE, GATHERINGS & COMMUNITY
A GROWING CONCERN SINCE 1989
Deliberately informal, low-key, and under the radar, Heart Politics Gatherings have been attended by notable and inspiring people – like you! Some of these have also been household names – Michael King, Jeanette Fitzsimmons, Rod Donald, Nicky Hager, or Sir Paul Reeves – whilst others – futurist Sohail Inayatullah, educator Ross Macdonald, film-maker David Jacobs, law professor David Williams, or community builder and social entrepreneur Robin Allison, for example – represent new thinking and cutting edges in their various fields.
Gatherings grew from the recognition that many of our political and social problems could not be solved at the same level of thinking that has caused these problems. Many believe these issues – and systemic causes – are not sufficiently being addressed by our political and economic leaders and institutions. However, innovative alternative solutions are being created by groups, communities and enterprises collectively taking responsibility for a more equitable, sustainable and positive future. They are using a new consciousness and thinking based on authentic “heartfelt” experience.
In recent years the gatherings have encompassed concerned citizens and change agents who are working inside organisations and institutions in education, health, business, finance, economics, law, publishing, local government and many other areas.
In Aotearoa/New Zealand, the thread of community concern, fiercely protected social justice and the speaking of truth to power seems as long as the white cloud itself. When these were spun together with threads from the 1960s and 70s festival culture – environmental concerns, “Small Is Beautiful”, indigenous rights, women’s liberation, commune-ism, spirituality outside religion, personal development, psychology and so on – a rich and multicoloured dynamic emerged.
From Nambassa Festivals, the Festivals of Cooperation grew and generated One Earth Gatherings which, in turn, led to a recognition that community activists needed care – and self care – too. As well as a break, it was felt activists wanted a forum where people might share ideas, effective strategies, and reach out beyond particular interests, deepening connection and practices.
In particular, three friends, Vivian Hutchinson, Rex McCann and Elaine Dyer, were thinking about this. Elaine was planning to go to Findhorn and, having just read Fran Peavey’s book, Heart Politics – a powerful message about heartful speaking across difference, to effect change – the group encouraged her to go and visit Fran in San Francisco…… And the rest is history!
Actually, when Fran Peavey heard that some people were going to have a Gathering named after her book, she decided to attend the first Gathering, much to our delight.
About – an evolving story
After the first gathering in 1989, Heart Politics remained at the Tauhara Centre, Taupo for more than 20 years. During this time the Gathering organisation evolved to be held by a group of trustees – although we never ever sought formal status, beyond opening a bank account that required authorised signatories! HPX Gatherings tended to have defining themes. These would usually be explored through a series of workshop style presentations covering diverse yet associated topics.
In 1999, the group began to explore “open space”. This is a conference and meeting style in which attenders are facilitated to evolve their own programme based on who has arrived. In HPx, these still tended to be oriented around an over-arching theme.
A series of Wananga was begun in 2003. These were longer gatherings, with a more soulful focus, as long term gatherers looked for ways to have more profound engagement with the world. The Wananga evolved into the Stewardship Learning Community, which continues to meet regularly at a spiritual centre near Hamilton.
In 2005/6 we offered a series of Tauhara Dialogues, focussed on Climate Change and the GE issue. These attracted people from industry, science, government as well as, deliberately, encouraging members of a wide public to participate in these important conversations.
In 2009, the Summer Gathering was held at Kawai Purapura in Auckland and then we spent 2 years in the Kauaeranga Valley, near Thames. This move saw the Gathering coming to more natural environments and this trend was repeated when we spent two years at Huia, on the Manukau Harbour.
These moves were part of a decision to bring the Gatherings closer to centres of population, to make Gatherings more accessible to a more diverse group of attenders – including families, and bring participants to places where the natural environment could serve as a backdrop to and informant of reflections on the well-being and sustainability of our place, communities, enterprises and acts of leadership.
At the same time, the previous trustee structure gave way to a looser, more self-organising “cloud trustee” approach. This draws on the accumulated experience of old hands, the energy of newcomers, and the freshness and flexibility of “open space”. As with any approach, it’s not without challenge, nevertheless gatherings continue to inspire, confront, delight, and empower young and old with a message that hope and possibility arise as we are not afraid of fear or change. Long may it be so.