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The Little Commuity That Could
by Geoph Kozeny

"I think I can! I think I can!"Most of us remember the kids' story about the little train trying to go up a huge, steep hill.  The moral was that we can succeed at a seemingly impossible task if only (a) we believe that we can do it, and (b) we have the determination to follow through until the goal is reached.  Well, that was the lesson I learned all over again at last August's "Summer Camp," held near Portland, Oregon and sponsored by the Network For a New Culture (NFNC).

NFNC was originally inspired by ZEGG, a 19-year-old German community based on scientific research, personal growth, healing, free sexuality, and the development of a new culture.  The North American network has, however, developed a focus and a culture of its own, emphasizing a multi-pronged approach that includes personal growth, communication skills, open sexuality, and building community, although the culture they're evolving is not yet a "textbook" process.

The Organized Part

Summer Camp's promotional flyer had advertised itself as "an exciting way to integrate new thoughts, build new friendships, and get a feel for community living.  We will focus on building an environment of truth, honesty, sharing, and cooperation -- with plenty of time for creativity, relationships, and fun."   The setting was in the forest, about a half hour outside of Portland, with outdoor showers and a 12-foot diameter hot tub.  Campers either brought their own tents, vans and RVs, or “camped out.”  The meals were vegetarian, and the week's schedule was fairly full, though folks were free to participate in whatever inspired them and to create their own experiences with others by clearly communicated mutual consent.  Naturally, we ranged from celibate to sexually adventurous, and covered the entire range of the introvert/extrovert spectrum.   We started bonding informally on our own, with no formal process in place to nudge us along faster, deeper.  I, for one, was still carrying a lot of armoring from my interactions with the wider world, and felt relieved as the layers melted away.  

The slate of workshops included a positive "hot seat" exercise, erotic massage, and several techniques adapted from the ZEGG culture including the "Forum" and one called "The Dating Game."  The Dating Game was said to be about openness, communication, and intimacy.  First, all the women got together to set up a date matrix with the men that interested them, then later in the week the men got together to play the game in the other direction.  Everyone who played was guaranteed at least one invitation, and the underlying idea was to get the same-gender campers to work together to create a cooperative process that would give everyone an experience they wanted ...  a win-win situation.

Although the ground rules were that "anything goes" by mutual consent, most of the paired couples got together for a half hour or so of talking or walking, sometimes massage swapping, and only occasionally something blatantly sexual.  In the end, through the Dating Game and other exercises, the sense of camaraderie was palpable.  Our shared visions and values were constantly being explored, validated, and nurtured.  It helped that there was a lot of sympathy for and interest in exploring intimate relationships, and in looking at and overcoming barriers to intimacy.  Though there was notable interest in "poly" lifestyles, and clearly some campers were having sexual adventures in their tents or in the woods, there was no prevailing pressure or mood that people "should" participate sexually here.

The real magic was that we collectively managed to set a tone, holding the energy of the group in a way that made folks feel safe and willing to be vulnerable.  Campers were encouraged to share their stories, and people got really creative with their suggestions for how others might look at and/or work through their own material.  We could do this same personal growth work back home, but usually we avoid the opportunity out of fear that we'll be misunderstood, judged, ostracized.  Here, at camp, we believed -- in ourselves, in our community, and in our potential.

Back into the Mainstream

I've often heard it said at personal growth workshops that "You come to these sessions, get all inspired by the insights and the transformative energy, then you go back out into the 'real world' and get discouraged or depressed by the lack of intimacy in your everyday life."

I believe we CAN have that ongoing sense of community in our daily lives, but we each need to take personal responsibility for initiating and maintaining it.  A big part of taking that responsibility is (1) learning to be clear about what you want, (2) asking for it, (3) not being attached to getting it and (4) being grateful and appreciative when it does manifest.  However that's jumping the gun a bit -- for these steps to be effective, you need to establish solid relationships that value and encourage intimacy.  Be prepared to reveal some of your own challenges, growing pains, and insights -- the magic doesn't usually happen in one-way exchanges, and transformation work takes time.

Seek out opportunities to explore growth issues more deeply in the company of other sympathetic and supportive beings traveling a similar path.   Hopefully we'll all come away inspired to push our train up that mountain of possibilities ...  "I know we can! I know we can!"

For more information contact Network For a New Culture,
 PO Box 160, Forest Grove, OR 97116
1-800-624-8445.  Web: www/nfnc.org .Email: info@nfnc.org,

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