For years I dreamed of it. I don’t remember when it first came into my thoughts. Suddenly it was there and I was dreaming about it. When work shoved my personal life into the trunk and proceeded to drive the car in such a way as to make a professional race car driver grip the seat with white knuckles, I dreamed of it. When friends and colleagues told me tales of their own maniacal life-driver experiences, it hovered in the background as I listened and commiserated. For years it went on like this. I struggled onward with the dream always lingering in the shadows.
Then one day everything clicked and my dream started to solidify and come increasingly into the light. What I had been dreaming about and mulling over all those years was Space Bangkok. Space Bangkok brings together an absorbing need to delve more deeply into reflective practice and a passion for training and facilitation.
The peacebuilding and humanitarian fields in particular have become especially notorious for the lack of psychosocial support they provide their staff, even those working in conflict zones or who have directly experienced violent events. Recent work by The Guardian and others has shed renewed light on this long standing gap in the field. In addition, many peacebuilding and humanitarian workers find themselves entrenched in a tradition in which one person does the work of several over long working hours while holding onto the elusive hope that everything can be fixed with a weekend at the beach. The panacean nature of a self-care weekend at the beach is of course a myth. Self-care, in fact, must become a regular feature of daily life in order for it to reach its full effect.
Self-care itself is a rather problematic word, invoking connotations of taking time for selfish indulgence while others continue to suffer. Organizations term it staff care and others use wellbeing. Regardless of what we term the process of looking after our inner selves, the fact remains that mindful and balanced individuals are more able to work better for populations in need than their colleagues forever in the midst of burnout or on the verge of a breakdown. At the same time, maintaining this balance and mindfulness is difficult and dynamic. Tried and true strategies sometimes come to the end of their usefulness and new approaches may be needed. After all, the inner journey is exactly that. A journey. And there is nothing static about it.
With the understanding that it is not necessary to sacrifice one part of humanity while working to save other parts of humanity, Space Bangkok aims to provide, well, space for particularly those in the peacebuilding, humanitarian, and diplomatic fields to recharge and reflect. Safe space will be provided for individuals to both pursue existing reflective strategies and discover new ones in both guided and unguided settings.
Michael Fryer, a colleague and contributor to this blog, maintains that war will always be a step ahead of peace because of their different approaches to training. War trains incessantly and proactively maintains readiness. Peace, on the other hand, tends to train reactively, and is therefore always playing catch up. Additionally, I think training in peace topics is needed not only for those working directly in related fields, but also for the rest of society. If we want to make increasingly significant progress for peace, we must train increasingly broadly and proactively.
In the nexus of all of this, lies space, and thus Space Bangkok: Growing Human Potential.