The North American holistic centers began to meet on a regular basis in the mid-80’s. At that time the group consisted of the New York Open Center, Interface (Boston/Cambridge), Omega, Esalen and Wainwright House (Rye, NY). Within a year or two Hollyhock had joined the meeting. We met on average twice a year through the second half of the 80’s moving from center to center in an informal rotation.
Each center was represented by, on average, two people, who often had responsibility in the creative programming area on the one hand and the administrative/management domain on the other. The frequency and regularity with which we met was testimony to the fact that most participants felt this gathering was of real value.
What benefits did we derive from it?
- Until this point, most people running centers were just names in catalogues to those from other centers as there had been very little personal contact. The gatherings turned these names into flesh and blood and opened the way to more active support and co-operation.
- A sense of an emerging ecology of consciousness developed rather than the usual competitive rivalry that characterizes organizations in the same business.
- There was a candid sharing of problems, challenges, successes, issues etc. among participants. It was of great value to see that each center was often not alone in facing so many of the classic difficulties involved in running centers devoted to values different from the mainstream.
- By moving from center to center we saw how other institutions address fundamental organizational and logistical issues.
- Often a warm friendship emerged between people doing similar work and conscious of their role within the larger spectrum of holistic activities. In many cases, these connections have lasted fifteen years or more.
The North American gathering came to a halt at the end of the 80’s and attention shifted in the new decade to the International Center’s Gathering which was held, starting in 1990, in Europe. As this was the time of the ending of the Cold War, it took on a special connection with emerging centers in the former communist world, helping them make connections with well-established centers in the West and giving them access to good quality teachers.
There was a deep value in being aware of how others in many different countries are committed to the same goals and embody the same consciousness regardless of very different political, social and economic conditions.. Long held notions of an emerging planetary consciousness become a reality in such a group.
While many practical benefits emerge from these gatherings, such as co-sponsored programs, greater contact with teachers etc. this is a time above all for our own nourishment. As professionals who devote our lives to planning programs that will nourish others, this gathering is our opportunity to nourish ourselves. The living sense that we are each part of something much larger than our own individual centers is a source of enormous inspiration, as is the awareness that we are working together for the ‘evolution of consciousness.’