Jessica: Corrymeela

June 3, 2011

What an opportunity to go to Corrymeela. This experience was so great. It reminds me of LeaderShape in a way, because of how it deliberately developed us throughout the time and gave us a transformative experience through questioning and a safe space.

We arrived Monday and were immediately welcome. I had the best room ever with the most beautiful view of the coast, ocean, fields, cliffs, and SHEEP! I’ve gotten a newfound love and adoration for lambs. I want one as a pet. 

Anyway we signed in by telling everyone what our names mean and where it came from. We definitely take for granted how much our names really represent a huge part of our identity. We set up some ground rules which is always important to me because it gets everyone on the same page before we even start.

Then we moved to doing team building exercises in three teams—it was a ton of fun, one was moving a volleyball with a ring and strings to the other room, maneuvering a ball through a wooden maze with holes, getting us all through a hula hoop as fast as possible, then the human spider web. It was really cool getting to interact with people we didn’t normally hang out with. The energy created was amazingly positive and invigorated us. 

We learned about some conflict models to put a framework to the topic we are studying to focus what a positive community looks like, what the view of success was… It was kind of cool! 

After dinner there is worship in the Croi (pronounced Cree, Irish for heart) and we rediscovered the value of just silence. We took those moments listening to a boys choir to recollect ourselves and just be in the midst of Corrymeela craziness. 

That night we went down to the beach via a great half mile walk along a stone walled road by the cliffs. We went out on the bridge/walkway thing to the rocks and watched the sun set.

Worship the next morning covered the topics of being open and closed—what makes us open and what makes us close. It reminds me what I can do to keep people open. Bre also shared with us her guitar playing and song, and I sang in the crazy awesome acoustics of the chamber.

Then we got together to talk about perspective. We went over how our lenses are shaped, as shown by our first reactions to certain words (woman, single mother, men, Muslims, Republicans, Charlie Sheen, Sarah Palin). It was really powerful to see that despite all of us seeing the same thing we all interpreted it differently through distortion, deletion and generalizing information.

The funniest one we talked about was Change Blindness which makes us ignore change in our environment as we try to deal—they showed an experiment with a man stopping to ask for directions on a map. In the middle of the conversation, movers with a giant poster would interrupt and the man would swap out with another man who would continue the conversation. None of them noticed the man was different!!! The worst was when he swapped out for someone black!! She didn’t even realize!! Just so interesting how our perceptions are definitely not all reality. 

Then we did what’s called the Walking Debate activity. They read a statement, and we stand toward Agree or Disagree. The topics were of course very emotional and deep. For instance, they stated “gay pride parades are disruptive.” this statement was touchy for many reasons, but it came down to how you defined disruptive. To me, ALL parades are disruptive, loud noises, redirected traffic, etc. So in that light, yes, they are disruptive but that has nothing to do with the CONTENT of the parade. That one got heated real fast. 

Another was about how it was right to have killed Osama on Pakistan soil. At some point someone was speaking, and someone else made an exasperated, “oh my god.” she got very upset and called him out, saying how rude he was and how he was talking over her. It really brought to life how we really need to adhere to these rules we made for ourselves, how we need to respect and listen, and how all these things we do or say really affect the environment we are in, and that is constantly shaped by everything we do or say (or don’t). It was a really humbling conversation to have. 

That was probably the best part of the experience: forcing myself to take a stance on an issue. Most of these things I havent thought about, much less take a stance. Then to have to verbalize my thoughts was developmental in and of itself—and the lesson is of course in the WAY I verbalize my thoughts to others, how they interact with me in regards to what I share, etc, just to have a successful open dialogue. 

During lunch we got to talk about the opportunity to come back to Corrymeela to volunteer with them for different amounts of time- I am highly considering this. It would be a different way to study positive change and leadership. 

This afternoon we went to a cliff walk to sit quietly with ourselves and reflect. It was nice to have time to stop and think about what we were experiencing, writing down our thoughts and processing. And it was absolutely breathtaking, with views of the ocean, cliffs, cows, and Scotland In the distance. What a way to end the day. 



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