Reflections: National Congress 2015


National Congress 2015

Gatherings of this kind attract me because they form social check-in points with the greater Subud Community. I’ve attended Subud Gatherings at all five levels of organization since 1969. Most of my international travel experience has been related to these gatherings. They provide a sense of who we are and how we interact as a region, nation and part of a global community. Like everything else in our collective lives, they are evolving toward some unknown future for the role of Subud in the World.

Rarely have I played an official role at Subud gatherings. A few times I was a chairman or helper or was asked to assist with one function or another. Most often I attended Subud gatherings as an observer. This time I was asked to represent the Rocky Mountain Regional Helpers. I was delighted that Roland Evans would be attending and would represent our region in his role as Chairman of our RMR Joint Council. The regional helper’s mandate is to assist regional members if situations related to their spiritual development and engagement with the latihan. This function played out in several personal and group testing sessions and discussions, not necessarily only with RMR members.

On Thursday, arrival day, all the attending Regional and National Helpers assembled for a three and a half hour group check-it regarding situations in the respective regions.

The harmony issue was a big one for many groups.  It was mentioned that the Seattle group does a voluntary brief latihan after their regularly scheduled one specifically to promote group harmony.  Various regions shared their success with call-in latihans; a national call-in was suggested. There was discussion about how to reach isolated members – calling them to check in, or trying to visit them. We discussed the difficulty of how to make the latihan more accessible to applicants where there is no group, especially as Rahayu does not think virtual meetings are appropriate. Travel was a challenge for many RH’s, finding both the money and the time. The sheer size of many regions also made travel difficult.

Harmony was again a topic in the second part of the meeting held on Sunday.  People offered more strategies that seemed to work for their local groups including social events where members shared a transformative experience in their lives, celebrating members’ birthdays once a month, reading a little of Bapak or Rahayu in their groups, etc.  Harmony seemed to occur when it wasn’t so much of a focus.  People seemed to enjoy sharing their challenges and what was working for their regions and groups. I think we felt closer as a working group and, hopefully, will feel more comfortable with keeping the communication going after the Gathering.  (Thanks to Sophia Nicoletti for recording and sharing these topics).

There were three latihans, early, middle and late each day. The second half of Saturday and Sunday men’s morning latihans involved group-testing sessions facilitated by our International Helper, Hoan Toan Phan. We experienced the testing via DVD recordings of Ibu Rahayu’s awareness testing sessions made during Ramadan gatherings in 2013 and 2014.

Ibu’s advice to the IHs was that they use the recordings only at large gatherings such as national or zonal meetings for all helpers and members especially for those that have not had a chance to do testing in person with Ibu. However, members of the IH dewan must be present to oversee the testing and manage the recording. These recordings cannot be used at small gatherings such as regional or local event or when members of the IH dewan are not present.

Testing this way is somewhat awkward in that the recordings needed to be stopped and started in such a way that the members present don’t hear the latihans on the recording – only the questions. The start and pause points are difficult to hit accurately and of course there are amplification problems that occur with digital technology. And in which direction does one face while receiving? Toward the speaker’s, I guess! Technical problems and awkwardness notwithstanding, it is apparently important that we continue using this method of awareness testing under the proscribed conditions. The men and women’s groups heard different questions, I am told. One question that I felt I received something identifiable was on the quality of the voice at subsequent decades of our lives. I felt how the energy it takes to express verbally diminishes as we age. The actual pitch and quality of the voice may change noticeably but the strength or energy of expression changes also. It seemed apparent that as the latihan develops the voice, the source of energy behind it shifts to a deeper place.

The wings groups, SD, SES, SIHA and SICA held testing for board members and elected new officers where needed. Accept for SD, whose reps offered several interesting workshops, the presentations by the wings groups were consolidated and presented at one fairly long meeting. My impression is that these groups, although they have developed different identities, are flowing together and offer symbiotic associations rather than existing in isolation. Many of the conferees, myself included, are interested in several of the groups and try to support their development where it’s needed. SD’s hosted workshops on Children, Human Rights,

The Global Environmental Crisis, A Grant Writing Exchange workshop.

There was an LGBTQIA, Informational Conversation, which I missed but noticed it was very well attended. There is a comprehensive one-sheet handout that graphically describes many of the “sexual identities” and how they are expressed. It includes graphs that clarify identities with-in the queer community and identities of the general population. A note at the bottom regarding inclusion: “With our presumptions and language, we are excluding and dismissing 20 identities (1 in 15 people) and 75 experiences (1 in 4 people) of the 300 here today”.

Susanna Rosenthal, expressing her interest in aging issues, art, and business arranged Conversation Café topics: The future of Caring and The Future of Business.

These very interesting discussions are essentially presentations on the topics by Subud Experts. I hope they can be expanded and evolve into regular events at gatherings. I spoke with Susanna at length and asked her my “have we failed in fulfilling Bapak’s vision for Subud ?” question. Her reply: “ One of the things Bapak wanted was that we come up with and experience something new”.

A highlight of the gathering for me was listening to Sjarif and Tuti telling stories about their recollections of Bapak. This event attracted a very large group of gathering attendees. Considering my own memories of being in Bapak’s presence intermittently in Cilandak, at world congresses, and US visits, I’ve often wondered what it was like for those who spent much more time with him. Sjarif began translating his public talks in the late 60s around the time I was opened. He traveled with Bapak and party until Bapak’s death in 1987 and has been a familiar presence at gatherings such as this one ever since. The session was facilitated by Kenneth Clark who asked questions and took questions from the participants.

Sjarif noted that he never got used to being around Bapak. “Even though I was with him so many times, it was always different.” In his first encounter with Bapak in England when he was only seventeen Bapak passed him while exiting his car that had arrived from the airport.

“This was my first really strange impression of Bapak, because he passed with in 6” of me and normally when some one passes you, you kind of feel an impact of their force, but as Bapak passed I had the feeling there was nobody, there was no impact, it was as if an image passed me. It took me some time to process this strange feeling”

Continuing the story, he told of being in the flat where Bapak was staying, he was in the back of the crowd when:

“I felt somebody touch my lips. I’m not the kind of person who has constant spiritual experiences, but this amounted to two in close proximity. Later when I met Tuti and told her of the experience she said he was telling me that he would be using my mouth, which is of course was what happened”

Sjarif spoke about the late night, informal discussions Bapak would hold after latihan during Ramadan. It was about this time he began encouraging non-Muslims t observe the fast. These chats were not recorded. Clark asked “Did you see or hear anything that you thought would change the world?”

He replied: “I think what I started to understand better from these sessions was how the latihan is really different from anything else that existed in the world. That you can really live like that. I started to understand that Bapak was really serious that we are supposed to feel the latihan all the time. He was always contrasting this with religious teachings that are holding or following a tradition. There is Javanese mysticism and Islam and there are nowadays people who say it’s all from these influences.

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