Visit of Joan Sleigh to the Toronto Area 30 September – 3 October, 2015 – Mark McAlister


, October 16, 2015

Some background:
In 2014, the Thornhill Group hosted a number of events relating to social art.  (See: Resilience and Renewal Through Social Sculpture)  The social sculpture workshop with Deborah Ravetz   was a big highlight.  Here is a comment from one of the participants: 
As long as we as individuals do not look at our own “hidden, ignored and denied” issues, we will not move forward as a community. If we stay stuck in our old ways and don’t dare to jump,  we will not change anything. Only if we make ourselves vulnerable will we make progress. To face our own vulnerability is incredibly difficult for us, it requires such courage and strong will and not everyone is able to do take the important first step.
We studied the biographies of many individuals who emerged from shattering catastrophes, bringing powerful new impulses into the world.  We asked,  What is hidden, ignored and denied in ourselves today?  How can we help each other to break new ground and reveal our destiny?
Joan takes it a step further:
During her visit to the Toronto area, Joan gave talks and led seminars at Hesperus, the Toronto Waldorf School and the Waldorf Academy.  Empathy was the theme running through all these events.  She described how empathy is a process of deepening and challenging relationships.  We can only arrive at a real experience of another person when we understand and appreciate their differences.  We need to become selfless in order to experience the others self, and in so doing, we become conscious of our own self.  This, indeed, is social art! 
Joans way of working is experiential and very engaging.  Participants are guided through actual social experiences, and then responses are shared in open conversation.  Anthroposophical concepts are only introduced towards the end, to help people digest their experiences.  For many people, this was their first anthroposophical event, and Joans approach was very appropriate. 
The Goetheanum as catalyst:
Joan is a relatively new member of the Executive Council at the Goetheanum, and is very interested in learning more about what is living in the Society – particularly in North America.  Seeing her in action, a new image arose in mind: Goetheanum as catalyst.  She brings many inspiring resources into the discussion at hand, while leaving us entirely free to figure out what needs to be done.  Here are some examples of helpful interactions: meeting with leaders and residents of Camphill Communities Ontario, and helping us see our work in an international context, participating in a research seminar at York University, and helping us understand how gathering data is not an end in itself, participating effectively in networking opportunities in a range of public settings (e.g. Centre for Social Innovation, Beit Zatoun, Village Market)
Joan, you have re-kindled flames.  Come back soon!