Finding True Consensus

Using Theater of the Oppressed during Community Connections

a guest post by Tenar Flynn

In my community I find myself more alone than I would expect in a place where people are coming together to share resources, to garden, to eat, and to live close to the earth. My community is not very tight-knit, and doesn’t desire to be as a whole, though I and many others crave closer connection. Through my experience in the Art of Being Human workshops I am becoming particularly aware of where we could be. In my home life, I find myself lonely, but I am also part of a world where we are present together, where we learn to understand each other, to express ourselves as we are, and to shed what no longer serves us.

In the Art of Being Human workshops I find that communication is so intentional, so meaningful and valued that the time is spent to make sure we do not lose our individual pieces in translation. A place where we speak to create a shared world, not to hear ourselves talk or to feel accomplished in our listening. Here, I may not always feel that my own experience is entirely seen in all of its aspects, but I feel confident that we have created a shared experience, that I understand where people are coming from and that if I speak, my friends will offer curiosity to explore the piece I am offering in depth, so that they can better understand me, so that I can better understand how others see me and how I can more effectively communicate in the future. When I come together in community with the tools that are offered at these workshops, I have space to explore what it means to share my experience. I learn how others see, and I get a diversity of experiences that help me compare and contrast my own.

Finding consensus

I am performing for love. I am asleep to myself. I am doubtful, and fearful. I do not sleep well at night, I do not know how to ask for what I need, and I shun my own power – but when I am given a space where I can trust that I am well-held, my neatly folded and tied corners dissolve and I show much more of what I could be. Something magical happens when people come together to be present with each other, to bring our often solitary, rich inner lives – our thoughts, our emotions, our joy and pain, forward into the collective to be shared. With this, I feel less alone, I feel seen and loved, and I can surrender the pieces I bring to the collective organism, trusting that they are recognized and protected. We come together with less conflict, and our motions are smoother and more flexible in how we respond to the world and each other. This is true consensus – transparency within an organism, bonded with compassion, trust, and shared vision.


Tenar FlynnTenar has been participating in Living Awareness workshops since early 2019. When not helping to assist Art of Being Human workshops or attending weekly meetings, you can find Tenar in the garden at Maitreya Eco-village or making some incredibly yummy food in the community kitchen.



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Update on the Art of Being Human Workshops

As ya’ll know, COVID-19 has disrupted business as usual – especially when it relates to humans being in contact with each other. That being said, the Art of Being Human team has been  working on getting these workshops up and running again.

workshop with Teryani Riggs

How do we do this kind of sharing during COVID-19?

So if you’re been wanting to come – be patient. We’re figuring it out.

For those of you who’ve already attended a workshop, we’ve started up our weekly meetings in Eugene…with social distancing, of course. In them we do warm up games and then lots of Forum. Since the groups are small, everyone gives a mirror and everyone gets a chance to go in, so LOTS of Forum experience.

We’re loving it!

Want to know more? Email info @ lebendig . org

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The Art of Being Human

The Art of Being Human is a 2-3 day workshop that explores what it means to be a human being living to our full potential. We delve deeply into both individual and collective potential, as well as branching into what it means to be fully realized as a species in the overall Gaia system.

Exploring the art of being human

Some of the questions we play with are:

How can we actualize our personal highest potential?

How do we tap into collective intelligence?

What will it take for our species to evolve in terms of creating a thrivable culture that works for all of Gaia?

What does an ideal society really look like?

What does it mean to be human in a time of intense environmental and social degradation and how can we be a force for break through rather than break down?

These are questions we delightfully explore, all while diving deep into what is authentic, alive, and true in each and every moment.

Techniques used involve ZEGG forum, applied theater, and other games and activities designed to foster empathy, entrainment, and collective intelligence.

The Art of Being Human is an on-going workshop series open to all. Previously we’ve kept it word of mouth only, but now we’re opening it to the public.

Cost is a small site fee (fully work-tradeable) and gift economy for the facilitation. Lodging is provided; meals are via meal teams. (More on meals once you register.)

Want to know more? Feel free to email info @ lebendig . org for more information.

Click here for our events calendar to see the dates of the next Art of Being Human workshop being offered.

UPDATE: Due to COVID-19 our workshops have been suspended until we can figure out a way to do them safely. Don’t worry – we’re working on it.

In the meantime, our weekly meetings in Eugene have resumed (with social distancing), so if you’ve already attended an AOBH workshop, you’re welcome to join us. We’re going deep and having fun and learning great skills in the meantime.

Email info @ lebendig . org for more info.

The Art of Being Human crew

The Art of Being Human crew from the October 2019 workshop


What people are saying about the Art of Being Human:

Work consumes so much of life that I could easily live out my whole life without ever really discovering the art of being human.  So it was with surprise that I discovered in The Art of Being Human the art of trusting, opening, and sharing with a growing joy and eagerness my life with others. There are skills and practice to such an art. First we create a safe container where we can be vulnerable with each other. There, I learned how not to betray another’s vulnerability, but rather to admire their courage. I found that sharing my own vulnerability in such a safe environment was an experience so rare in its level of trust that I felt more connected to those in that safe container than I ever felt with anyone ever before. I feel a special bond between myself and those with whom I shared this experience with. The Art of Being Human has expanded and enriched my life, and the depth and meaningfulness of my connection with those I shared it with.



I was blessed to be able to attend one of the three day sessions. I can honestly say it was one of the most profound experiences of my life. What came up within this group of strangers was alive in me as well. Getting to peek behind the curtain and see the process and the struggles people carried built an intense feeling of connectedness with the people. The subject matter was presented with a lot of skill and a lot of joy under some really intense conditions… And for me those intense conditions made it less like a work shop or a retreat to real world solution based community healing. I know the connections I have been blessed to nurture through this have been anchors over the past few months. Normalizing vulnerability AND being able to move step by step into a new outlook on how to see the rest of humanity for sure a new way to see my self.

I feel the work of community building and resiliency is THE name of the game, especially in the face of a pandemic, and civil unrest currently sweeping the world. I wholeheartedly believe that being able to entertain new ways of connecting and encourage the processes that lead to community resiliency and healing is of paramount importance now and especially in the times to come. I also believe that I only saw a glace of what this kind of work can really do but can imagine.,especially with a group of people who already know and trust one another. The workshop lives true to its name and provides some new skills and ideas to become master’s in the art of being human.




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The Gift Economy

Over the years of working exclusively on a gift economy, a lot of questions have come our way. Folks aren’t quite sure of what it means or just what’s expected of them in terms of “completing the circle” after taking our courses.

Part of this stems from the need for clarity, wanting to know just what we’re getting into. But another part comes from the dominant culture that seeks to commoditize everything, to put a $$ value on anything it can get its hands on.

Here at the Living Awareness Institute, we believe there’s no way to put a price tag on that which is meaningful.

We also believe that everyone has something they can give that’s meaningful, regardless of monetary wealth.

In many cultures, those who offered their spiritual talents, teaching, or healing did so without placing a price on their offerings. Their community would make sure they were taken care of, and those who were coming to them for guidance or healing would bring them an offering – one they knew would be valued. No “exchange rate” was needed or desired. In fact, in most of these situations, to suggest one would have been highly offensive – even if you were visiting from another culture.

At the Living Awareness Institute, the gifts our facilitators and team members offer through our workshops aren’t meant to be seen as commodities. In fact, if you take our workshops, you’ll probably agree there’s no way to really quantify their value. At the same time, we recognize that energy given out must in some way be replenished, hence the notion of completing the circle.

Completing the circle means that after you’ve received the gifts we have to offer, you take the time to see how you can, in turn, contribute to keeping the energy flowing. We start the circle by offering our gifts; you complete the circle by offering what feels to you to be the right thing to give back.

Finding the right thing isn’t always easy, as most of us are so used to being told what something’s worth we’re not used to finding that value ourselves. We also don’t often take the time to deeply check in around these things. Yet that’s just what we at the Living Awareness Institute are asking you to do – to look deeply within yourselves and see what our offerings mean to you, to get to know us (if only a little bit), and see what would be the best thing to help us continue this work in the work in the world.

The guides and teachers mentioned earlier were known to their communities, and so were their needs. These days most of us don’t live in community. We also don’t tend to know those we learn from – what they need or what would keep them sustained. Yet to sustain any type of meaningful work in the world, some kind of energy exchange is needed so that the giver can keep on giving through the long term.

So how to find the right thing (or amount if you’re offering money)? The first thing to do is to check in deeply with yourself or your spiritual guidance.

Oftentimes money is the right thing – especially if you’re one of the few people in a course that has plenty of it to give. Money is honestly a quite helpful tool for keeping these courses going.

Musical instruments make great gifts.
Musical instruments make great gifts.

At the same time, you might be one of our participants who is richer in other offerings. Maybe you love to fix bikes. Maybe you’re a bodyworker. Maybe for you offering labor is the right to do. Or maybe you have a bit of land you’d like to contribute as a conference center. Anything’s possible!

Whatever you choose, the best of these gifts are the ones where lots of thought and “blessing” have been put into it.

Gift basket
Some of the contents of a gift basket offered after the last Being Human workshop.

An example:

One person who attended the last Being Human workshop lives quite far from the world of commodities. She travels with next to no money, including no a phone or computer. She chose to give a “blessing” basket that was truly filled with care and thoughtfulness. Each thing in the basket was rich with intention – a jar of spring water, blackberry jam and tomato sauce made by her, a journal made by her from paper bags, a small zine on how the workshop was for her (also made by hand from paper bags), a CD with her original music on it. You get the idea. Each offering had a tag stating the intention behind it. In the world of capitalism, this might be seen as a paltry gift. For me, it was priceless! (As I hope our workshops are for you.)

A 6-course meal with wine pairings
A six-course meal for three with wine pairings was one of my favorite gifts ever…

Another example:

One truly priceless gift came out of our Maui workshops. One attendee there had next to no money, but was a lover of wine and good food. He lived in a tiny garage space with just one hot plate, but offered a 6-course dinner for three with wine pairings. What an incredible evening! For each course, he’d open the wine and then prepare the meal as the wine flavors befitted – straight off his hot plate. All the while he’d listen to our talk and change the background music to suit or offer a tidbit here or there that matched the conversation. His skill was incredible – both as a cook and as a host. The evening culminated with a fantastic dessert flambé made right in front of us on the floor. Truly a gift to be remembered!

Of course, not all non-money gifts need to be so complex. We just ask that you really put thought and intention behind how you complete the circle. After all, we put a lot of thought and intention behind what we’re offering you.

Note, we’re not talking about “trades” here, and we certainly aren’t inviting our participants to take this as an opportunity to offer back less than the courses are worth. We also hold that completing the circle is up to you – it’s not for us to track you down and “require payment.” If you choose to let it slide or forget about it or offer far less than what was offered to you, that’s your prerogative. Still, if you’d like to work with us in future, truly completing the circle will go a long way towards helping this work go further in the world.



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Playing the Game of Power at the Campbell Club

A few days ago I had the opportunity to facilitate at the Campbell Club again, this time using Augusto Boal’s Game of Power. In the Game of Power, we use image theater to explore how we and others exert power-over in social situations. While I usually offer this game as part of my Exploring Leadership, Power, and Consensus, workshop, it can stand quite well on its own.

The object is to create a situation where one chair has all the power.

The object of the first half of the game is to arrange six chairs, a table, and a water bottle so that one chair has all the power. The game is done in silence. While many scenes are quite obvious (like the one above), others leave one to ponder. Some scenes will be ones we know of through the media, but others will hit deep visceral chords.

The second part of the game involves taking the position of most power in a scene. Each additional person has to find that place of power, responding to whatever is in the scene before them. The larger the group, the more creative the last few folks have to be. But there’s always a way to take power.

At the Campbell club the game started off very different than at many communities–from the beery beginning the scenes were intensely political. In fact, the more obvious (yet often subtle) student-teacher and parent-children arrangements that most groups start out with were entirely left out. Instead we had street scenes, clear scarcity of resources, and other highly geo-political scenes. Perhaps it’s a sign of the times or perhaps that’s what you get with keenly aware students, but it was very different than working on the intentional community or permaculture circuit.

We didn’t play long enough to get into the subtler aspects of the game–that will come next time when we get a change to do the full LPC workshop. But this was a great taster and the folks who hadn’t worked with this kind of material yet got excited to do more.

Playing the Game of Power in Maui

Using statues in the Game of Power

The Campbell Club, one of the three student housing co-ops at the UofO, is a fantastic place to be, both in terms of just hanging out and in terms of working with participants that are deeply engaged with what’s going on in the world today and excited to make change.

The purpose of the game? For me, it’s creating an understanding of how we use power to get our way when functioning in group dynamics. Once we understand that, we can then move towards creating dynamics that are more power-with than power-over or under. That’s why it’s an especially powerful game when placed in the context of learning how to do healthy leadership, power-with, and true consensus. (Hence my LPC workshop.)

Want to explore leadership, power, and consensus in your own community? Email info @ All workshops are offered on a gift economy. This particular workshop works great with any group who really cares about improving their interpersonal dynamics and/or helping to our culture to one of power-with than power-over. Come play with us!



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ZEGG-Forum in the USA

The popularity of “ZEGG-Forum” has exploded in the U.S. in recent years. Part of this is due to the variety of teachers who’ve recently cropped up, and part is due also to major modifications in the process/intention of the Forum.

What is “ZEGG-Forum”?

ZEGG-Forum was created by a group of cultural creative in the 1970’s calling themselves Project Meiga. Their goal was to create a world without fear or violence, and knowing that the first steps began with themselves, they embarked on a fairly radical journey of exploration together. For a number of reasons expressed elsewhere, Project Meiga came to a close, but it’s members went on to later form ZEGG (The Center For Experimental Social Design) and Tamera. Although the structure of the Forum was liberally experimented with, over the years a fairly standardized process evolved. No one or two people created the Forum (nor have ownership of it) and members from both communities feel a strong sense of ownership (as well they should, as its creators and first participants live in both communities).

ZEGG Forum in Maui

ZEGG Forum in Maui

Forum in the U.S.

Brought to North America by members of ZEGG in the mid-90s, the Forum began to be practiced sporadically at NFNC’s Summer Camps, camps that were originally inspired by the Summer Camps at ZEGG. In the earlier days, members of ZEGG would occasionally come to the states and offer trainings, while members of NFNC would occasionally go to ZEGG. Soon, Summer Camp East would decide to hold daily Forums. From there the practiced moved on to the West coast camps. At the time, the only trainers of Forum facilitators were a few folks from ZEGG and one native North American from NFNC who’d studied both in the US and at ZEGG. As a result, the Forums were still fairly similar (though facilitated with different degrees of ability and understanding).

Recently, however, a number of people have begun teaching Forum who are either second/third generation from those original trainers, or have taken a few courses from folks from ZEGG (usually Ina Meyer-Stohl and Achim Ecker) and felt a desire to teach it. In addition, Forum changed over the years, particularly as folks were less and less connected to ZEGG and/or were learning from folks who taught truncated versions of the Forum. The versions practiced in the U.S. now often have little similarity to those practiced at ZEGG or Tamera (at least in content and intent), and indeed, most today’s practitioners often seem unaware of what and who ZEGG is. Indeed, the only reason ZEGG-Forum now retains the “ZEGG” in it is because it’s necessary to differentiate between it and the Landmark Forum. (In all honesty, most of the forums practiced today in the U.S. are so far away from what is practiced at ZEGG and Tamera, it would probably be best to drop the ZEGG part out.)

Forum at Heathcoate

Forum at Heathcoate

A World Without Fear and Violence

Unlike what many have been taught today, Forum was not created solely for the purpose of “seeing and being seen,” nor as a primary means of creating connection per se. The members of ZEGG and Tamera were already deeply connected with each other, particularly in the early days when sexuality was being heavily experimented with. Their common mission and vision, their experimentation, and their life together all created a strong sense of connection and intimacy. It’s also important to remember that both of these communities had the mission to create a world without fear or violence—in other words to evolve. The Forum, although also fostering connection and intimacy, was intended to be an artistic stage for moving towards that evolution. It was a means of bringing our darkness into the light and transmuting it, of finding where we as human beings are stuck and finding a way through, of confronting our demons by playing them in real time on a stage witnessed by our peers, for finding “what will come to light beyond politeness and everyday masks and disguises,” for finding our authenticity. But this kind of Forum can only be done with a committed, well-bonded group of people. At both ZEGG and Tamera, member Forums were unilaterally closed off to guests—the container needed to be solid, one where the groundwork for trust and connection had already been laid.

ZEGG Work Action

Circling up at ZEGG during one of the Work Actions


While this deeper, more evolutionary form of Forum works well in committed groups, it wasn’t particularly designed for the needs of more transitory groups. And while a milder version works extremely well in groups meeting daily for a week or more, even this version wasn’t meant for more transient groups and it still needs strong, skillful facilitation. But many, many people are longing for the authenticity and transparency that even the most basic Forum can offer. So many of us are feeling isolated in our world and are longing for deeper connection. Or we have little opportunity to be witnessed in their daily lives. And some of us only find connection—the kind of connection Forum presumes—at festivals and events. The Forum at its most primitive can help fill these disconnects—if only momentarily—but to do so it had to change. Additionally, who among us had the breadth and depth of experience to be able to facilitate those evolutionary Forums? Not many to be sure. To even begin to understand the Forum on this level one needs years of experience, and so many of us want to take a weekend course and call it good—we’re now facilitators. Truly not possible with any but the most basic of Forum methods. And so Forum changed.

Forum at Anahata

Forum at Anahata

What did it change into? How are the Forums practiced today in the US different than what happens at ZEGG or Tamera? Stay tuned for our next blog post.





Posted in Intentional Community, ZEGG, ZEGG Forum | 1 Comment

Is Our Need For ‘Empathy’ Stifling Our Personal Growth?

It’s true that all humans need empathy from time to time, and that it’s an important value to cultivate giving and receiving, but are we as a culture going a little overboard in it? Are there times when our demand to be heard is really just another way to stay stuck in our suffering? Consider this video:

Cis-gender stereotypes and humor aside, there are some important pieces illustrated in this short:
The man in the video has valid insight.

He could see something that was likely clearly contributing to her suffering, and he was moved by a desire to help her end her suffering. In short, he was moved by his caring for her. In fact, he first offers help only after she says her greatest fear is that the pain wouldn’t stop.

He does not have consent.

Can you imagine what this is like for a facilitator in a personal growth workshop? The teacher of facilitator sees clearly something that is in the way of a person’s joy or growth, and there’s a flat refusal to hear it or take part in it (even though the participant willingly signed up for the workshop? The key for the facilitator is creating rapport, getting consent, and then offering the feedback in a way the participant is most likely going to be able to hear.

If the facilitator attempts to continue without consent, it’s quite likely to end up somewhat like this video, no? (Esp. if done this reactively.) Conflict until the facilitator changes tact.

Demanding Empathy

Her refusal to listen to his feedback assures the continued suffering she’s complaining about.

In this case her desire to be heard trumps any willingness to hear solutions—even after he gave her what she wanted (albeit reluctantly). Of course, this video was intended to show why men get frustrated with this kind of cis-gender stereotypical behavior, and he’s not the most graceful in trying to give feedback, but the point is still well made. Most of us are highly addicted to our psychological suffering and our stories about why we’re the way we are. We’ll do almost anything to avoid confronting the truth—that it is we ourselves who are keeping ourselves enslaved and in pain.

What’s even more troubling in this age of demands for empathy and somehow being made to feel ‘safe’ is that many of the tools that were designed in the 70s, 80s and 90s to help folks get out of their psychological suffering are now being diluted into mere compassionate listening. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe in compassionate listening, but not as the sole component of growth. Listening to someone’s story and offering them emotional support are both intrinsically important. Yet it’s also equally important to compassionately speak truth, radically explore how our prevents us from becoming fully authentic, alive and true.

The Take-Away

Obviously this video wasn’t meant to be the end-all-be-all of how we perpetuate our self-suffering, nor was it meant to effectively demonstrate how to give empathy (or even sympathy for that matter). It does however illustrate a trend I’ve been seeing in the workshop/personal growth/festival world—using the need to be heard as an excuse to avoid really looking at the causes of our suffering. The point of personal growth is to, well…grow…and though safety and comfort and being heard are important, they aren’t the only factors necessary for growth. Staying stuck in our stories of pain and limitation (and getting comfort from others for them) is generally far more comfortable than breaking free.



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The First Portland Naka Ima in Years

As many of my Cascadian friends know, there used to be this amazing personal growth workshop offered at Lost Valley Education Center called Naka Ima. Naka Ima—whose words mean “within the present moment”—was first created by Deborah Riverbend and Jaime Campbell and came to Lost Valley in 1997 or so. It was so helpful there that Larry Kaplowitz and Karin Sundberg took it on and it soon became a mainstay. By the year 2000 it was being offered monthly.

Teaching Naka Ima is very intensive and soon Larry and Karin both needed a break. The folks who took it on, however, made some pretty large changes to the content and their version was to become the “Heart of Now.” Some of us still wanted our old Naka Ima, and one of those was participant named Candace. She started to offer Naka Ima’s in Portland (soon with Larry co-facilitating) and did so for many years until they both decided to change the program somewhat (and therefore the name). Their version became Solsara.

Today, both Solsara and the Heart of Now both remain similar to Naka Ima in form, but are very different in content in terms of tools taught and practiced. After attending a Solsara together, a friend of mine convinced me that she wanted to know the NI tools (I’d been talking about them for years and had hoped Solsara still included them). The result? The first Portland Naka Ima in years.

It was a trial workshop and mostly by invite only. We wanted to see if these tools were still relevant in an age where there is not only a glut of workshops out there, but most seem much softer and lighter than a traditional Naka Ima. As humans, we seem quite addicted to our means of keeping ourselves in psychological suffering. Naka Ima brings those to light and asks us to let go of those in real time—something that doesn’t seem very popular these days. Even so, we wanted to try it and see if it still resonated in today’s world.

We held the workshop at a private house, with no assistants, and only me as the teacher (those of you who’ve done any of the workshops with this form will know how crazy that is!). We had only ten students but I saw this as a bonus, especially since I had no assistants. We had a good mix of folks, including 5 of whom had done either Solsara, Heart of Now, or both. One participant had been with me when we assisted monthly for years in the early 2000s. The others had never done anything like it. We had gender diversity and ages from 20-60. All a great mix for sound feedback.

Yet even through the logistical challenges (and the fact that is was my first full 2.5 day workshop in over three years), it was an unequivocal success. I held my part well enough and at the end of the course the participants unanimously said that it should be done again. One, a new Lost Valley resident, wants to bring it back to Lost Valley (that would be a trip!!).

Overall I feel humbled and amazed. This process that was so much a part of my life for a number of years and intimately informed every aspect of my life—from my personal work to my workshop creations—may actually make a comeback and be relevant for folks today. (I’d led the workshop twice before, but only couched between other workshops—not just as itself.) If it can help today even a fraction of the folks it helped in yesteryears, it’ll be worth it!

The next Naka Ima is in the planning stages and may be as soon as early January. If you’d like to be kept in the loop as to when and where, please let me know. If we do it in January in Portland, we’ll only be allowing 12 students in and the place hosting it will be supplying 5-7 of the participants. (A reminder: all Living Awareness workshops are offered on a Gift Economy.)



Posted in Community, facilitating, Intentional Community, Social Sustainability | Tagged | 8 Comments

My 7 Favorite Theater of the Oppressed Games

If you read the post, you’ll already have an idea of how and why I use theater games in my trainings and in my Forums. In case you’re wondering about which games I use most and why, I made a short Oumy clip detailing them. (I’ve been asked to experiment with Oumy, so let me know how the format works for you.)

Of course, I use many, many other games from both the Theater of the Oppressed and Playback Theater in my workshops, but these are a few of my favorites:


All of these games are super fun, help bring people present, and reveal key human behaviors re: power, leadership, and who we work together. As revealed in the clip above, one of my especial favorites is “Emily’s Morph.” It’s a modification made by an 18-yr-old of a different consensus game that isn’t recorded in any book (that I know of). I learned it at the TOP lab while studying with Augusto Boal (the warm up exercises were run by the TOP lab staff who showed us this rendition of the game). It not only demonstrates what an “ideal consensus” can look and feel like, it gives us the opportunity to practice building these skills in real time. Altogether an awesome game!

Emily's Morph

Have you played any of these Theater of the Oppressed games (either in Living Awareness Institute workshops or in other contexts)? If so, did you find them useful? Were you able to apply them beyond the context of the workshop?


Posted in Applied Theater, Community, facilitating, facilitator training, Invisible Theater, Invisible Theatre, Social Sustainability, Theater of the Oppressed, Theatre of the Oppressed | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments