Salvia Goethe Retreat: Dynamic Engagement, A Goethean Approach to Connection

This four day Alpine retreat is intended to transform the international group of environmental changemakers, convened for the Global Environments Summer Academy, into a cohesive learning community. Held at Gemmi Lodge, in the Swiss mountain town of Kandersteg from 27-31 July 2014, the purpose of the retreat is to ground the participants and the entire three-week course in our profound connection and commitment to the natural world. Via experiential learning techniques, from this foundation we will foster awareness of the effects of our own training and assumptions on our engagement with the world. Workshop activities will focus on generating self-reflective practice and developing tools for creative resolution of conflicts arising from conservation and development. Complimenting participants’ presentations of their work, the retreat will prepare the learning community to fully engage with one another and the content of the course to co-create knowledge and establish a resilient network.

Tekguc_130728_038_mDrawing on her work at Schumacher College, her expertise as a transformative educator and facilitator, and her lifelong practice as a natural philosopher, Emily Ryan, in collaboration with geographer and political ecologist, Susannah McCandless, has created a unique learning journey for the GESA 2014 participants. The facilitators will highlight the scientific methodology of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe as a phenomenological tool to cultivate direct relationship with one another and the Earth, share interactive learning practices, and promote community engagement.

Goethe’s scientific method recognizes the fluid nature of all Life and stands in contrast to hypo-deductive Newtonian science. Goethe presented a process of inquiry and engagement that runs consistently throughout his work, and Goethean scholars have distilled this into a commonly recognized four-stage method. At the core of this method is a commitment to a phenomenological process of deep listening and observation leading to the observer’s more genuine understanding of the subject. This intense focus teaches us to listen to what the phenomena is actually communicating, not what we project onto it. Goethe’s work is a marriage of art and science, uniting self-reflection and careful study. Concerned with arriving at an organic wholeness, Goethe applied his science to the observation of plants, color, clouds, weather, morphology, and geology. Goethe conceives of unity through diversity. His science demonstrates how seemingly disparate elements exist in relationship to co-create a cohesive whole. Contemporary Goethean scholars apply these insights to create entry points to build coalitions around conflict-ridden questions of social and environmental justice.

The retreat will maximize the opportunity participants have to engage with the magnificent Alpine setting of the Kander Valley. It will focus on building a foundation of personal and community responsibility, mutual respect, and open-mindedness. We will share our work and intentions for the course, make nourishing food together, and gather for storytelling circles in the evenings. We will cultivate and strengthen our tools for keen observation, practice the skills of deep inward and outward listening and conscious communication, and open ourselves to the innate wonder and awe Goethe’s process inspires. From this strong and celebratory ground, we will begin the GESA experience, nurture the emergent work of the Global Environments Network, and offer participants new inspiration to take back into their work in the world.

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