Process Intro: THE MILLING

This is a series of exercises designed to create group bonding, and to focus our whole attention (heart, body, mind) on the subject of the workshop: our relationship with the rest of the natural world. Feel free to be creative with this series of exercises, any group-bonding and trust-creating activities will be effective.

The format of the milling is that the participants move around in all directions in a defined space (outdoors is best), and then find a different partner for each of four or five ‘stops’, each of which has a different exercise.

As facilitator, make sure that you walk around the very outside of the group, so that you can speak facing the whole group.

Show participants how to walk about. Encourage participants to center themselves as they walk, to focus on their breathing, the feel of the earth beneath their feet, the feeling of the breeze (or the sun) upon their skin. After a while, when the people seem calm, encourage them to make eye contact with the others (remind them if necessary, that they don’t have to smile or prepare a face for anyone, just relax their facial muscles and make contact). Keep them walking. (This moving around making contact with each other is not just a way of finding people different partners. It is an important part of the process, so don’t speed things up too much.)

Ask them to find a partner (a new partner for each stop). When most people are paired up, ask anyone without a partner to raise their hand high in the air (model this). If there is an odd number in the group, you as facilitator need to join in the exercises and take the remaining person as a partner. (If you have a partner, reposition them so that you continue to speak facing the group.)

Instructions for ‘stops’ we usually use are:

1. Sharing. “Stand facing your partner. No don’t look at me, look at your partner and just listen to me. Now take it in turns to tell each other something really special that’s happened to you in nature. After a couple of minutes I will ring this bell (or shake this rattle or bang this drum) which means that it is the other person’s turn to speak.” ………. “Now say good-bye to you partner and start moving around again.”

After each stop, ask people to start moving around again, making eye contact, and when they feel ready, to start to reach out and touch people as they move past.

2. Hand Dance. (This process introduces the feeling of following and openness, similar to the feeling of inviting the ally to speak through us.) “This time find a different partner.” (Make sure everyone is paired up.) “Within each pair, there’ll be a person A and a person B. Person A put up their hand.” …… “Place your palms on the other person’s palms” (Model this.) “and without any talking, person A begin to move your hands through space. Person B just follow.” ….. (Allow a couple of minutes while people do this.) ….. “Now, without stopping. No, without stopping” (people sometimes stop as soon as you speak) “person B start to lead and person A just follow.” …. (couple of minutes) … “Once again, without stopping, keep your hand dance going without lead or following. Neither person lead nor follow. Keep moving.” …. (another couple of minutes to experience this) …. “Now, without speaking, say good-bye to your partner and start milling around again.”

3. Look into these Eyes. (Introduces deep feelings.) “Find a different partner this time, and look deeply into each others’ eyes. Through this process, don’t speak at all. Just listen to me and welcome any feelings which might arise in you.”

“Here in front of you stands a human being who loves this Earth. That’s why they’re here at this workshop. There are millions of people in Santiago today, doing many different things, but this person has chosen to come here to do this work. …… Now invite any feelings in you which may arise in you at this thought.” … (Pause to allow to this to happen.) … “Now, close your eyes and let the feelings you had drop away into the Earth. Open your eyes again and take a new look at your partner.”

“Now consider the deep knowing that this person holds about what is happening to the Earth. This person knows about the poisoning of the air, the water, and the soil. This person cares about the species of animals and plants becoming extinct today. This person knows about the arsenals brimming with weapons all over the world, and about the thousands of hectares of forest being clear-cut.” (Just use any examples which touch you very deeply.) “And somehow, this person has to find a way to live in this world, knowing all of these things. …. Once again, welcome any feelings which arise. Feel them in your heart, and in your body.” …. (Pause) …. “Now close your eyes for a moment, maybe shake your body a little and let go of the feelings, and then open your eyes again and look at your partner.”

“Consider how dangerous a world this person lives in … a world bristling with weapons and dangers of every kind. This person might die of a cancer caused by the poisoning of the air they breathe or the food they eat. This person might die in some senseless war. Even now, although the stand-off between the United States and the USSR is over, tens of thousands of nuclear warheads are poised and could go off at any moment, without warning. ….. In fact, looking deep into the eyes of this person in front of you, you could be the last person that they ever see. … And again, don’t fight any emotions which are arising in you at this thought, just feel the emotions flowing through your body and let yourself express them any way you like.” … (Pause) … “Now, close your eyes and let go of those emotions, shaking your body allow the feelings to flow out of you and down into the ground. Open your eyes again and look at your partner.”

“Now, consider what it would feel like to work alongside this person for the healing of this earth, and to prevent violence and warfare. What would it feel like?” (Pause for a minute or so, while people fully absorb this beautiful and empowering feeling.)

“Without words, say good-bye to your partner. And start to mill around again, making eye contact and reaching out to people as they pass. … And find another partner”

4. Hand Evolutionary Journey. (This is a brief version of the evolutionary journey – see ‘Thinking Like a Mountain’ – but which can be done in may different settings. It reawakens us to our direct family relationship with other animals through recapitulating our evolutionary history.)

“Take your partner’s left hand in your left hand and close your eyes. Now begin to explore this hand, gently, and with great sensitivity and innocence. Imagine that this is the first time you have ever touched a human hand. …. Feel the skin (it’s texture, warmth or coldness) …. and now the structure of this hand (the nails, the knuckles, the bones and sinews, the flesh). …. What can this hand teach you about the person it belongs to? Is it used to physical labor, being in the soil of the Earth, does it write a lot, or maybe play a musical instrument? … This hand can express deep feelings … perhaps it held a baby when it was first born. Perhaps this hand has comforted someone in their last moments before death.”

“Now let this hand take you back into its history. Can you feel the hand of the child which this person once was … playing with toys and climbing trees? Certainly much smaller, but somehow the same hand. … Going back further still, can you feel the baby’s hand, really tiny and reaching out into the world for the first time?”

“Now with the help of your imagination, go even further back into the history of this hand. Can you feel the paw of the monkey – with its strong opposable thumb for swinging through branches … and sensitive fingertips for judging the ripeness of fruit and grooming other monkeys. … And now back to the hand of the reptile, feel the claws in those fingernails and the strong knuckles for gripping the earth. … And now feel the fin of the fish, before this hand had crawled out onto land, feel this fin swimming through the waters of the ocean. …. And perhaps if you’re really sensitive, you can feel the very dust of stars from which this hand is composed.”

“Without words and with your eyes still closed, say good-bye to this hand and without opening your eyes, turn away from this person. Open your eyes and begin moving about again.”

5. Blind Walk. (This exercise builds trust between participants, and introduces them to nature through many senses. Allow 15-20 minutes.)

“With your new partner, decide who is person A and who is person B. Person A is going to shut their eyes and person B is going to lead them around the garden/forest/fields for about five minutes. But not yet… first I need to explain what we are going to do.”

“Person B gently holds and guides person A” (use a person to help model this – e.g., have an arm around the person’s back, and guide them holding their arm) “around this area, introducing them to different smells, textures, sounds and even tastes if there is anything edible. All this is done without speaking. Place your partners hands on anything you wish them to feel, crush leaves into their hand or wave them beneath their nose. Be creative and have fun. Maybe twice or three times during this session, find something particularly beautiful to look at, place your partner in exactly the right position to see this view, and them squeeze their shoulder very quickly” (Model this.) “When your shoulder is squeezed, open your eyes very quickly, for a second, and then close them again (just as if you were a camera).”

“In five minutes time I will ring this bell (or bang this drum, etc.) and this is when person A and person B should swap roles. So stay within ear-shot of this bell/drum. After ten minutes I will ring the bell again, and this time come back here and form a circle.”

[This is a good time for a morning tea break.]