This month, we interviewed Larry Butler, from Glasgow, Scotland
WTR: how long have you involved with the WTR?
Larry B.: I first came across the Work That Reconnects through Joanna’s books in the late 1970ies and a support network for Activists called “InterHelp” – or a similar title. It was modelled on co-counselling – peer support. After participating in several spirals, I did a WTR facilitator training with Chris Johnston, Maitrisara, Akkupa and Alex (don’t recall his last name).
WTR: What groups do you work with (example: elders, women, immigrants, refugees, youth, LGBTQ, other)?
Larry B.: Recently, I’ve worked with elders alongside Constance Washburn. I’ve co-facilitated several spirals with a group of Buddhists in Scotland. A one-day workshop with the Centre for Human Ecology. A retreat on Holy Isle in Scotland with activists from several European countries. Currently I am planning workshops with a movement called Extinction Rebellion.
WTR: How many workshops and/or events WTR focused do you run a year?
Larry B.: It varies. In the past year, I’ve co-facilitated six events/workshops including mentoring a new WTR facilitator.
WTR: Are you part of a hub?
Larry B.: Yes, if you mean a hub of facilitators. The core is myself, Kristine Jenson, and Ratnadevi, as well as a couple of mentees.
WTR: Tell us a bit about yourself, how did you become involved in the WTR and what role does it have in your life?
Larry B.: My attraction to this way of being in the world started in the early 1960ies when I was editing a monthly journal for the Kern County Council of Civil Liberties in Bakersfield California. At the same time, I was secretary to the local branch of the Congress of Racial Equality. Ten years later in London, I trained in co-counselling, started meditating, and still active in civil rights, I read one of Joanna’s early books; and this led to InterHelp. Now in my life I reckon the WTR colours most of activities: I bring the Spiral – starting with Gratitude – to my tai-chi students, my writing groups, my meditation groups, my dad’s group, my mindful communication group……In subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle ways I weave the WTR into my daily life.
WTR: What are you grateful for in the WTR world?
Larry B.: The one thing I most grateful for is the emphasis of working as team, being with others in solidarity. I appreciate how the WTR tools continue to grow and change, how the practice is evolving and overlapping with other modalities such as co-counselling, non-violent communication, eco-psychology, engaged Buddhism, etc. I’m grateful for the creativity and playfulness.
WTR: What challenges and struggles have you experienced as a facilitator of the WTR?
Larry B.: Advertising events and finding suitable venues for events. Once the group has gathered and we begin the journey with Gratitude, my struggles end – for a while! After the event, keeping in touch, following-up, deepening sometimes is challenging.
WTR: What has been the most difficult moment in your journey through the WTR?
Larry B.: Once when on a team leading a weeklong retreat in January with a theme “Wild Awake in Winter”, I attempted to lead a weave the spiral through the week including Truth Mandela. The challenge was the team. I was the only facilitator with experience of the WTR. The three other team members were experienced and highly skilled in leading retreat, but not the WTR. The Truth Mandela brought up a lot of strong emotion for some participants. Unfortunately, my three team members sat back and didn’t fully participate which affected the whole process. In future, I will only lead WTR with other facilitators who have been through the process and trust it wholeheartedly.
WTR: What has emerged for you since you started facilitating the WTR?
Larry B.: A deeper trust in the process. Appreciating there is never an end to learning. That I am not alone.
WTR: What are your next steps in this Work?
Larry B.: Answering these questions, then continuing to promote the retreat on Holy Isle. Making contact with Luke and Svenja about a WTR event with the Centre for Human Ecology. Meeting with a new mentee facilitator next week to plan a one-day workshop in the Glasgow Buddhist Centre.
WTR: What would you say to someone who is new to the WTR?
Larry B.: First I would listen, ask questions such as how did you hear about the WTR? what attracts you to it? etc. Then I might tell a story about the origins of the WTR and how it relates to other movements and networks. Finally, I’d suggest they look at the Work That Reconnects website, listen to one of Joanna’s talks.
WTR: What recommendations you have for new facilitators?
Larry B.: Dive-in, participate in several spirals with different facilitators. Choose a WTR facilitator to support and shadow. I edit an on-line toolkit for facilitators of creative words for health and wellbeing, and teach facilitator training courses. Many of the “tools”, I think are applicable to the facilitating the Work That Reconnects. Here a link to the website: https://www.lapidusscotland.co.uk/facilitators/
WTR: Do you have a favorite practice? Why?
Larry B.: Not specific, I like the whole journey. Being a movement/tai-chi player and teacher, I enjoy the non-verbal practices, the dramatic rituals such as Honouring the Ancestors, Congress of All Beings, the Millings…
WTR: Do you have an upcoming event?
Larry B.: yes! It’s already up on the WTR site, here’s another link: https://earthymindfulness.com/work-that-reconnects-5-day-retreat/
WTR: Are you available for mentoring others?
Larry B.: Yes, I’m already mentoring to people.
WTR: How can people starting in their facilitating path connect with you for mentoring?
Larry B.: By phone: 0141 946 8096 or email: [email protected]
WTR: Are other facilitators in your area? Who are they?
Larry B.: Chris Johnstone, Svenja Meyerricks, Luke Devlin
WTR: Anything else you want to share with us:
Larry B.: The importance of Going Forth and follow-up. There’s a practice I use with parenting groups, and my father’s group called the Solution Circle which has clear process for follow-up on next small steps – see below.
Getting Unstuck – A Creative Problem Solving Tool
This is a short and powerful tool that takes no more than a half hour. It is effective in getting “unstuck” from a problem in life or work. Solution Circles are tools of “community capacity”. It assumes and demonstrates that nearby people – in any community or work place have the capacity to help – if asked. It requires a person to ASK – not an easy thing in our culture of privacy and “do it alone”.
Time required: No more than thirty minutes. People per Solution Circle: Best with 5-9.
Roles to be played:
- Problem Presenter (focus person)
- Process Facilitator (team manager, time keeper)
Note Taker or Graphic Recorder
- amazingly creative Brainstorm Team
For large groups, the group facilitator (i.e, you) asks the group for volunteer problem presenters. (The number required is the total group divided by 9 approximately). Then ask for a process facilitator and a graphic recorder to attach themselves to each problem presenters so each core team is now a group of 3. The balance of the large group (.e. the world’s most creative community members) now join the various problem solving teams so each team totals approximately 8-9 problem solvers. Diversity in teams is best: spread the age range; have male/female diversity; the greater the diversity per team the better.
Explain the steps to the teams in detail:
Step 1: (6 minutes) The problem presenter will have 6 uninterrupted minutes to outline the problem. The job of the process facilitator is to keep time and make sure no one interrupts. The recorder takes notes. Everyone else (the brainstormers) listens. If the problem presenter stops talking before the six minutes elapse, everyone else stays silent until the 6 minutes pass. This is key! The problem presenter gets 6 uninterrupted minutes.
Step 2: (6 minutes) This is a brainstorm. Everyone chimes in with ideas about creative solutions to what they just heard. It is not a time to clarify the problem or to ask questions. It is not a time to give speeches, lectures or advice. The process facilitator must make sure this is a brainstorm. Everyone gets a chance to give their brilliant ideas. No one must be allowed to dominate. The problem presenter listens – without interrupting. He/she must not talk or respond. We often give the person masking tape to facilitate their listening. It’s hard to just listen!
Step 3: (6 minutes) Now the group can have a dialogue led by the problem presenter. This is time to explore and clarify the problem. Focus on the positive points only and not what can’t be done.
Step 4: (6 minutes) The First Step. The focus person and the group decide on first steps that are doable within the next 3 days. At least ONE step should be initiated within 24 hours. This is critical. Research shows that unless a first step is taken almost immediately, people do not get out of their ruts. A coach from the group volunteers to phone or see the person within 3 days and check if they took their first step.
Finally the group just does a round of words to describe the experience and the recorder gives the record to the focus person. If in a large group, the teams returns to the main group, debrief and continue.
Designed by Marsha Forest & Jack Pearpoint