Tuesday, December 7th, 2021
“We need team building.” When a human rights group reached out to me, I was warned that their staff, who spanned three continents and four time zones, were so fried from working exclusively with virtual technologies that the organization’s norm was to keep their video cameras off during Zoom meetings unless it was absolutely necessary to turn them on. They were mired in the existential abyss of enduring the global pandemic, not to mention many different social, economic, and ecological disasters affecting where they lived and where they came from.
I Zoomed with this group for four days in a row. After the first day of talking to rectangles with names in the middle, I was in despair, wondering how I could possibly help build community and cohesion. Over the days, I gradually introduced sensory activities that invited participants to be grounded in their bodies and their actual, physical spaces. I led a dyadic activity that first involved a solo sensory exploration of one’s physical space and then silently sharing what was discovered with a partner. I facilitated eating meditations and sensory examinations of items from nature.
We also had honest conversations about Zoom fatigue and letting go of the fantasies we were holding of getting back to the before days. We talked about accepting the moment we are in, adapting, and engaging with reality. Towards the end of the week, staff were keeping their cameras on, long after the short, allotted times I had asked them to turn them on. Folks opened up, tears flowed, and so did laughter.
As we closed our time together and marveled at the greater sense of community we had developed, as well as muscle for continuing to work in this constantly changing, unpredictable time, we discussed how staff can continue to use embodied, sensory activities among themselves as well as with the people and groups they support. “How can we flow with these times, rather than fight them?” I asked.
One person offered the idea of inviting in the asynchronous and very concrete delight of sending and receiving actual physical letters, an international exchange. Another person floated the idea of utilizing telephone conference calls, a technology that had been immediately ditched by many, despite its utility, at the beginning of the pandemic. Unlike video technologies, telephone conference calls allow people to fully participate while using their bodies however they’d like:
Participant: Old school conference calls could be good! People can walk.
Alissa: That’s leadership!
Participant: Going back to the “old” ways.