I just spent a week at Corrymeela Community in Ballycastle, on the beautiful North Antrim Coast of Northern Ireland, experiencing their process for dialogue, mediation and conflict transformation. Our entire class walked through their process, starting with our Life Histories, and then exploring Deep Dialogue, and even experiencing a bit of the Wild Nature approach. This normally is done over a very extended period of time, usually with groups that have significant differences. For example, they typically work with a variety of groups that have been historical antagonists, such as a group including Loyalist and Republic paramilitary members, in addition to security forces personnel. They also frequently do work with international contexts, such as Israeli/Palestinian dialogue, and work over in the Balkans.
I’ve had a day since Corrymeela to think and reflect a bit more. I think it was good for my soul to be there, I had a fantastic time, and I’ve rarely had more fun. I laughed more there than I have in a long time, formed a deep emotional and friendship bond with the group, met loads of interesting people, and discovered even deeper who I am , and who others in the group are at a very personal level. There is something very unique about Corrymeela, it will always hold a special place in my heart, and I understand why people are drawn to the place. I was saddened by leaving; it was such a wonderful place.
At the same time though, it was a difficult and challenging place, I confronted truths about myself, and my preconceptions of others, as well as did activities that I felt very uncomfortable with (mostly the art-based ones, since I am not good at that and felt a struggle when doing it). The hardest things, however, were also the best things. I learned more about myself and how I think and function through them, and I really pushed myself to a place where I didn’t want to go because I was uncomfortable. It was because of this uncomfortable nature that I actually learned, and by letting myself go there, I got a better understanding of everything. I am continually drawn back to the example of Aslan, the Lion from C.S Lewis’s Narnia series, where the following occurs: [when asking about Aslan], “is he a safe lion?”, “Safe?!? No my dear, far from it! BUT, he is a good lion”. This idea of safe vs. good has always resonated very strongly with me.
In the end, I suppose that the point of Corrymeela is doing just that: pushing yourself to understand others, have deep dialogue with them about what difference is, and how it affects us, to push the barriers between people away, and to just spend time getting to know other people, even if they’re totally different from you in every way, shape, and form.
I will never forget my experience at Corrymeela, I feel as if I’ve only begun to learn from my experience there, and future reflections will take my back, and allow me to further explore the nuances of what happened there. Truth be told, I’m not entirely certain what I feel right now, my emotions have gone in so many directions in the past few days, but it’s been good. I don’t consider myself and emotional person, though I acknowledge that they exist, and that I feel, but I have a different way of processing them than many, and they rarely exhibit themselves externally. This week however, I had so many going through my head it was almost overload, but I let myself just be, and experience it all, reflect. I learned the value of stillness, though I still don’t get as much out of it as many. I learned to respect it though, and I feel as if it reinforced and brought value to my understanding of how to befriend people who think differently than I do, and that experience was really valuable for me. That should do it for now, I am exhausted of writing, there is so much more I could say, but I’ve written so much in the past few days, I cannot do any more reflection. It was good though, I enjoyed it, and it allowed me to think through my thoughts in a slightly more organized manner. I have found reflective writing to be a useful learning tool, and I hope to be able to do it in the future (I don’t yet like it quite enough to do it for fun…).