We Love You

Click here to find out where the gathering will be.
Click here to find out how to get into the gathering without receiving a mandatory court appearance ticket. (check the right hand side of the page)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Guest Post on Shanti Sena

This comes from a wonderful sister Medicine Socks bit I will add my two cents. I never support duct taping of people. Sometimes we need to restrain people to prevent them from hurting themselves or others and then rolling them up in a blanket or sleeping bag is much more loving than duct tape.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ On to the guest post ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

it's been a while, i'm too old, poor and crippled to involve myself in rainbow gatherings nowadays, so this qualifies as something like armchair quarterbacking...

but i was once all gung ho, a regular local folkielizer and all about dealing with the some major instances of weirded out shit that sometimes came up at the getherings i was part of...especially around kid village... so here's some shanti sena lessons i learned in the trenches

first of all, it means, translated literally, something like peaceful scene. at a gathering, if everything's mellow, if everyone is feeling alright and nothing much is going on, that is shanti sena. there is a marked absence of drama. no one has to do anything in particular about anyone except mingle and enjoy.

shanti sena also became a term for a clique of people who, at gatherings, styled themselves a kind of affiliated crew of plain-clothes, radio toting, duct tape weiding rainbow hippie police force. some of these guys and gals do a great job, others, well.... these people may have sincerely thought of themselves as peacekeepers, but some of their attitudes, imho were pretty obnoxious, kind of a weird mix of biker/hobo/ dope dealer/ ex marine/cop-brotherhood and some of em drank heavily and lived in hotels off campus somewhere... whatevah...they had dramas of their own, but at times they did deal with flarings of violence inside or dangerous situations with the LEO at the gates effectively enough...

then there's the people at gatherings who put their energy into constantly teaching & lovingly demonstrating basic rainbow, at councils, at dinner circles, in workshops and ongoing conversations with the newbies. if no one around seems to know what shanti sena is, or how to shit in the woods, or build a proper campfire, or help in a kitchen or where to put the "garbage".. to paraphrase mother jones, who said, "don't mourn, organize!"...don't bitch; teach teach teach
teach teach! *that* is true shanti sena, in my book, or what i like to call pre-traumatic stress prevention. the more you get these teaching memes out and get conversations going among gatherers about how to deal with a crisis if it arises, the more peaceful and calm the response will be whenever somebody yells shanti sena!

shanti sena is like that kipling poem, "if" If you can keep your head while all around you others are losing theirs... *that* is shanti sena. it involves remembering to breathe, and slow your heart rate down. it involves knowing how to get, and stay, clear headed in a crisis. and knowing how not to do *anything* until and unless you have effectively calmed and centered your own damn self, until you know as much about the situation you're addressing as it is possible to quickly assess,& until you're sure that you're coming from a place of alert, calm strength and compassion, and a fair degree of certainty that you can handle whatever's happening when something out of hand and really threatening is potentially unfolding. if you can't calm down, if you feel at all overwhelmed by the swiftness with which a violent situation is escalating... then it is quintessential shanti sena to get your overwhelmed ass out of the way... but if you're cool, and you decide to stay.... it helps if there's more than one of you, best if there are enough strong people to contain a really violent individual without hurting him (or her). once contained, you need enough gentle people to keep the vibe around such an action as calm as possible. not too many people, at that point!

people who can stay cool and focused are key.

then you have some decisions to make. is this someone who can be reasoned with, talked down, who may, once their grievance is understood and addressed, be willing to calm down and stay peaceful of his own volition? if that's the case, peer counseling can do wonders to diffuse a tense, angry, but essentially rational human being who actually *wants* to find a solution to whatever set him off. or are you dealing with a crazy? i'm sorry to be so blunt, but often shanti sena situations arise when someone at the gathering is, for one reason or another, experiencing a psychotic break, is operating on aggravated sleep dep, rampant ptsd and/or spasms of pure inexplicable violent impulse...& i've seen sad, bad things happen under these conditions... people trying to trail a raging psychotic & discretely babysit him without impinging on that person's freedoms get to watch a terrified, often violent and frighteningly delusional poor soul battle his demons for days on end, becoming weirder and more at risk as the days tick by of hurting himself or others... i know this seems like a cop out, but in my experience, i feel to this day we might have spared many a poor psycho and all those who got caught up in the babysitting movies a lot of anguish if we had just quickly secured & duct taped em, got to phone quick and got a parent or sibling or someone to come get their sick puppy & take him home or some other
mellower place than a gathering for a real crack up...

that said i know a few gifted healers who really do know how to help a body navigate the terrifying inner landscape of psychosis. there are shanti sena shamans, soul retrievers, spirit world energy workers, who understand intuitively what it's going to take to get a freaked out
freak through the worst of it, how to help him break down the old disfunctional precepts of his consciousness, how tto guide lost souls til they break on through to the healing side of their nervous breakdowns. if you can do that, boy... that's great... more power to you. you know who you are, and you are a boon and a blessing to any gathering. then again..

if you're one of those sorts who merely wishes you were an aikido master or a cop or a magical healer, please take your woo woo bullshit as far from the crisis as possible and go chant and shake your fake honky indian yaya sticks over there... please! shanti sena! keep the scene peaceful! over that-a-way!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Shanti Sena Basics

Some would say the phrase “Shanti Sena” means “peace army” from Sanskrit and has its roots in Gandhi’s concept of non-violent volunteer based peace keepers. While in gathering lore, some would translate the phrase as peace scene.  No matter the logical translation you wish to put on it, I translate it as being part of a family and looking out for my family in peaceful ways.

In the years of the strife between gatherers and the United States Forest Service Law Enforcement Officers (USFS LEOs), the phrase came to spell trouble for the LEOs and by 2008/2009 many gatherers actually thought the cops were the Shanti Sena (so not true). Because of the many misconceptions floating around, I thought I would take the time to rap about my perspective on keeping the peace at a gathering.

As many of my friends point out, “Shanti Sena” is a verb not a noun. In other words, no one “is” Shanti Sena, but many people “do” Shanti Sena. Most functions at the gathering are verb rather than noun based.

In a culture where individual liberty and communal needs often clash, countless opportunities arise to “do” Shanti Sena and keep the peace.

Before we worry about keeping the peace, we need to define “peace.”  For different people, “peace” takes on different connotations. For some, acting peacefully precludes any acts of physical violence, but yelling is considered peaceful. For others, cussing is not peaceful. For every one hundred gatherers, there are probably ninety different perspectives on what “peace” means. When we gather, I believe that 99.999% of gatherers have every intention of creating peace. We’ll get back to the 0.001% later.  So how then do we create and increase the peace at the gathering and take those skills into the world at large?

In my perspective, the single most important aspect to “doing” Shanti Sena is to be observant. Sure there are big movies that happen and lots of gray haired folks get involved with radios, but most of the time when a big movie happens, the root cause was a failure of each and every one of us to pay attention to the hurt, suffering, pain and/or stress building up around us.  (As an aside, not everyone with a radio has a clue.)

Reality check!  Going to a gathering, especially for the first time, can be very stressful. It’s a crash course in a brand new culture. Access to food and filtered drinking water can be hazardous. Being unprepared for the conditions can leave people cold and wet or sitting up by a fire all night to stay warm instead of sleeping. Many people who take medications for chronic conditions often seem to space out on taking their meds, leaving their health further compromised. Dehydration, low blood sugar, and lack of sleep are just a few of the stressors gatherers experience -- add to that doing activities or substances that are new to you. When one small thing goes wrong, people who are stressed out can explode.

Being observant means noticing that some belly is having a hard time or a bad day. Allowing each of us to be our own unique self means not telling other people what to do. Telling people to eat or drink can backfire. So what’s a kind loving brother or sister to do?

Pay attention to the people around you. Notice if they seem to be struggling, are confused or look disoriented. Offer to share your water or an energy bar you might have on you (always good to bring lots of these). Introduce yourself and make a friend. Usually people are more willing to share their troubles with a friend, than someone just trying to fix a problem. Share a song or a joke if the vibe feels right. Sometimes people are in their own head space and don’t want to interact. That’s OK.  You can still stay near them (but not too near) just in case they need help. If it’s two am, please don’t walk away from someone. If someone wants to wander the woods all night, grab a couple of friends and trail after them just in case they need your assistance.

If someone doesn’t have a safe place to sleep, try to hook them up with a camp that can help. If they have small children, Kid Village is a great place. But there are lots of other kind loving camps at the gathering that have the space to squeeze another body into a crowded tent or provide emotional support. If you yourself are new to the gathering (blessings to you for helping others), you can stop by INFO and ask for some advise.

If you find a lost kid, you and a couple of friends should escort the child to Kid Village. Make sure to take the child up to the kitchen and announce very loudly that you have a lost child. DO NOT JUST DROP THE CHILD OFF AT KID VILLAGE. 

If someone is having a health crisis and is willing, take her/him to CALM. Most of the larger kitchens/camps like Fat Kids, Loven Ovens, and Kid Village (to name just a few) have medical people as well. If the person isn’t willing to move, find someone with a radio and medical people will come to your location. If that doesn’t work, send a runner to INFO or CALM with as much information as you have about the situation. By taking care of people’s critical needs before people reach the point of explosion, we create the peace we want to see in the world.

Other times we have conflicts that arise from differing lifestyles. For example in 2002, the gathering site was small and we ended up with Tea Time and Yoga Space next to each other. Talk about a mismatch in energies. Tea Time likes to stay up all night, serve tea and make raucous noise at 3 AM. The Yoga folks are more into silent mediation and mellow energy. Two distinct energies colliding is a classic gathering issue. If we want each camp to be free to express their own vision of peace and love, what to do?  When space permits, it’s always best to camp in an area that meets your vision of what comprises peace and love. So don’t be expecting to sleep in silence until noon every day if you’re camped in Kid Village as kids wake up early.  But ….

As to the 0.001%, when the situation gets a bit crazy, yell “Shanti Sena” and other people will come and assist. With a circle of people, we can try to get a council going where the parties’ involved and random calm and centered gatherers can sit down and listen to each other.  Keep in mind that sometimes people’s emotions are volatile and getting a council going is difficult at best. Then what?

SITTING down on the sidelines and oming tends to help ground energies. If nothing else, it makes misbehaving people feel a bit silly and often times that breaks up the situation. This doesn’t mean the root cause of the problem is solved, but at least it buys some time and space to work on the issues. I’ve experienced a beautiful voice singing an appropriate song calm everyone down as well. Peaceful, mellow music helps everyone feel better.

Sometimes problems don’t seem resolved at the time. That’s OK. Rainbow magic takes time to work. I’ve sat in circles with people who were full of anger. At some point the primary people stomped out of the circle and didn’t return.  Then a day or two or three later, I ran into those same people again, very happy and peaceful. Rainbow magic doesn’t always have a logical cause and effect.  Sometimes, just hanging out with someone for six hours prevents someone from getting lost in the woods (yes it really happens and if it’s cold out can be a cause of death), drowning in a lake (yes this has happened multiple times at gatherings) or wandering up to the road and getting arrested (you know this happens). Plus you’ve just made a new friend. The more we get to know each other, the more we create community. The more we actively work on creating community, the more we increase the peace.

If you are not able to help when the universe calls you, please, please, please, make sure someone else helps. Ask others for assistance, guide the person to one of the larger kitchens, go to INFO or CALM and let them know what’s going on. Be the change you want to see in the world.

Many years, we have Shanti Sena councils or workshops at the gathering where people who have “done” more Shanti Sena share the lessons they’ve learned with those who have “done” less or no Shanti Sena. As with everything gathering related, we are all of us teachers and all of us students. In the spirit of sharing other ideas on what Shanti Sena is and does, here are some other voices on the subject.

From Welcome Home with links to multiple Shanti Sena Raps by well respected family (must read).
From Niman - a scholarly look

My Rap from 2008
From tribe

Ask not what the gathering can do for you; ask what you can do for the gathering.

We are our brothers and sisters keepers.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

On Individuality and Community

The gathering functions as a temporary community where we practice creating the world the way we want it to exist. Not only are we creating a temporary community, but we are also creating hundreds of communities within a community.

The gathering itself is a temporary community with not exactly rules, but guidelines on how to gather and create the peace we want to see on this planet. In gathering speak--these guidelines are called the “Raps.” I strongly recommend you read the raps, which you can find here  as well as the Mini Manual of Gathering Consciousness. Or read Paul's a rainbow guide.

At the gathering, we have hundreds of individual camps (some small, some large) that might have their own special community standards. For example, Serenity Ridge is a camp for people in recovery so they request no smoking of any kind and no-mind altering substances of any kind (including caffeine). Tea Time is up and noisy all night long, while Kid Village tries to maintain quiet during the night, but come sunrise the kids are up and rambunctious. Some camps create drum free zones while other camps celebrate drumming and drum culture (sometimes 24/7). If you like quiet at 2 AM, camping at Dundun Village will lead to unhappiness and potential conflicts. Depending on the gathering, our sites can encompass two square miles so there’s plenty of room to spread out.

When we come to the gathering, each of us comes as an individual with our own personality, life style, hopes, and dreams. The beauty of the gathering is that you are free to be who you truly are and express your beautiful unique being in costume, face paint, sleeping habitats, musical tastes, etc. . We have individuals that come home and promote teeth brushing, veganism, free hugs, and naked peace signs --to name just a few of my beloved characters. The variations on this theme are endless and the amazing diversity of opinions and unique expressions of these opinions is what makes the gathering amazing, insane and creatively vibrant.

We are an opinionated family with many strong willed personalities. We welcome every peaceful person with a belly button to come home (and offer exemptions to those who are missing belly buttons due to freak accidents). We welcome republicans, occupiers, democrats, libertarians, greens, hippies, punks, beats, tea partiers, christians, jews, muslims, hindus, burners, pagans, voodoo priestesses, rednecks, cowgirls/boys, peace workers, middle-of-the-roaders, poor/rich/middle class, doctors, lawyer and indian chiefs. We even welcome wanna be-ers.

As you can imagine, a delicate balance exists between all these diverse individuals and creating temporary community. As a long time gatherer (or one of the earlies) once told me, we work on the basis of “peaceful respect.” Peaceful respect means that we offer respect to every belly at our gathering including cops, lawyers and dirty kids. We don’t always have to agree with each other, but when we disagree, using respectful modes of communication helps us work towards peace.

~ ~ Peace is the path on which we are traveling ~ ~

Some people at the gathering focus almost exclusively on their individual rights to do whatever the FX^& they want. Other people focus strictly on community. In my mind, the beauty of the gathering is the heartfelt attempt to find a modern way to live in community while still celebrating our individuality. Hundreds of years ago (and in some place on this planet today), the community mores ruled with an iron fist and if you didn’t fit it, you were kicked out, persecuted or worse.

In my lifetime, I have witnessed the pendulum swing to the side of individuality over community (at least in the USA). The gathering can be seen as an attempt to find a balance between the two all the while holding them both in tension with each other.

IMHO, the gathering works bests when we respect both the needs of the community and the needs of the individuals who make up this community (including every person in the area in which we gather). Gathering works best when we talk softly, sit in a circle, and speak from our hearts. Gathering works best when we all realize that creating community means something different to each individual. Gathering works best when we let our individual trip support the community and the community supports our individual trip. Gathering works best when we approach it with an open heart and each of us try to be the most peaceful, loving, helpful individuals we are capable. Gathering is a journey of the soul and a practice of the heart. I invite the world to join this journey.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Minutes from the council over Thanksgiving holiday weekend

These are the minutes I have received from what was once upon a time called Thanksgiving Council and which folks at this year's council renamed to Fall Counsel.  While the minutes included people's names, I have only include initials.  If you want the full names, please email me privately.


After a few weeks of heave-ho communications to-&-fro, this
is the awaited Report on the Thanksgiving/Fall Counsel at Flashback
Farm... yup, that's what they call it.
Many Thanks to our hosts, who kindly opened their homestead in the
upper Hudson Valley to family travelers over that weekend, and to
NERF wizards who handled preparations, brought in needed gear and
wonderful food.  It was good to see all the old friends and great
folks who attended.

    First -- a crusty rapporteur wrote up a colorful account of
their Friday arrival and the course of the Saturday council:  "One
man's report and random thoughts".
    Then -- a trusty scribe submitted the Consensi as-recorded,
so that these statements would be more accurate and explicit:
"Another report".

    []]  Together these were posted to the 'nerflings' email list
& website, and went out on a few channels.  For brevity and at the
authors' request, they are presented via this direct link:

       Soon after, I offered a few friendly amendments... one
powerful, heartfelt segment of Saturday's discussion deserved further
explanation.  This revision was suggested:

A consensus was proposed supporting the release of Leonard Peltier,
AIM activist falsely imprisoned for 40 years.  Lakota & Rainbow
friends held a prayer circle for clemency in front of the White House
on Thanksgiving Day... we shared solidarity, but a `formal consensus`
was improper, with legitimate concerns over using councils for
political speech in the name of 'Rainbow', exclusive of other beliefs
or purposes in gathering -- and a current controversy in Pine Ridge,
with loose talk of a "Rainbow-Lakota Alliance" agitating tribal
leaders, best to defuse and not make statements that might seem

The feather passed, and the next person asked for a silent prayer
that "Leonard Peltier should walk free"... a long, long, moment
passed with the circle in silence, longer than any consensus by
silence that I remember -- and 24 individuals expressed support for
the release of Leonard Peltier by signing a paper that was passed

       Here is the scribe's "exact wording of the consenses reached"
-- except for the last one, which was also slightly revised for
precision and clarity, as-shown:

   * Consensus #1:  Fall Counsel of 2015 consenses to try to meet as a family
    to keep the ball rolling, sometime over the winter.
   * Consensus #2:  Spring Counsel will be the weekend of June 10, 2016
    at a place to be announced.
   * Consensus #3:  Fall Counsel of 2015 consenses that we love ice cream!
   * Consensus #4:  This circle is referred to as our Fall Counsel.
   * Consensus #5:  (( See below, as Amended* ))

    []]  The proposed amendments added the saga of the intriguing
Sunday discourse, which was not covered in the prior reports.  They
were circulated by email among council attendees and interested
nerflings, and subsequently posted with the other info for

    The deliberations that day were creative and significant...
this further account is presented here, with the modified 'UnBank'
consensus and clarifying comments as proposed:

     Discussions on forming a 'banking council' were left unfinished
Saturday evening... that topic was picked up when council resumed
late Sunday morning.  Folks shared accounts of how it worked in the
old days, and also the problems that arose -- especially when permit
enforcement got intense and perceived 'leaders' were targeted.  Last
year a bank was set up but the names were withheld from Facebook &
other public channels; this stirred up a big squawk about handling
funds in secrecy, but then no money came in anyway.

     A few people expressed continuing fears about putting their names
out -- but it was noted that in any call for public contributions,
willing donors must know where the money is going, and who is
personally accountable for getting it there.  We acknowledged the
importance of supporting costs of scouting & gathering prep, and the
need to work out open and reliable ways to handle funds.  A stalwart
sister amplified this point and spoke eloquently on the need to stand
up in our own names, and the power of courage in doing so.

     A seasoned brother used the feather to facilitate a consensus,
then properly stand aside.  Discussions came to focus on proposed
language that made these responsibilities most clear, and three
people experienced in water, medical, and supply efforts stepped up
as volunteers to take them on.  We then agreed that a banking
'council' per se was problematic and unneeded -- that was the
breakthrough.  A simplified statement was proposed, and there was
consensus as the feather passed fully around the circle in silence. "

   * Consensus #5 (*Amended):  Fall Counsel 2015 declines to form an
interim 'bank council' for the 2016 Gathering; we encourage broader
discussion and innovation.  In the interest of transparency, these
individuals have volunteered to publicly receive donations for
scouting and specific gathering needs, and will provide followup
         o  Jxxx Hxxx- Team H2O (water and water supplies)
         o  Rxxx Zxxx- Main Supply
         o  Jxxx Lxxxx - CALM
Individuals scouting are encouraged to make themselves available to
receive donations as well.
__ . __ . __ . __ . __ . __ . __

    *Proponent's Notes:
       I served as the facilitator for this consensus, mindful of the
full discourse that went into it, and how it will be widely reported
and understood... I offer these inputs in that spirit, to finish the
job. (_sca_)

   i)  Narrow changes in the wording are suggested, for clarity:  The
original proposal (breaking from tradition) was expressly about not
forming a banking "council", so that term is restored, and this was
the first sentence.  Reference to "scouting and" other needs is more
accurate... there was no intention to exclude scouting from bank
support, only to make it more flexible.  Most important, the posted
Reports excluded the names of the Volunteers -- but the defining
point was that they WOULD be made public.  There is no "transparency"
if they are concealed, so they are included as stated in open council.

   ii)  It was discussed and agreed that the volunteers should be able
to receive checks & digital donations, and will set up a personal
bank account & secure on-line channels to do so -- with contact info
and instructions to be publicized later in accord.  Some of this
language was included in a prior draft, but left out of the recorded
consensus, assumed to be adequately implied.

   iii)  It's fitting to call it Fall 'Counsel' -- the scribe's term
in accord with the Ozark consensus years ago, properly connoting a
bunch of people talking (not a vested ruling body).  It is most
significant that this consensus divests Rainbow of a "banking
council" per se, the old fictional tag suggesting a legally embodied
'Group' -- and affirms that individual Volunteers can stand up and
serve responsibly in their own names, without fear.  This approach
aligns with the real nature of the gatherings, as public assemblies
based on personal standing and voluntary participation.


        3 contributors in cahoots,
            in order of appearance:  Qxxx, Fxxx, Sxxx a.