We now know well that the brain is changing all the time, affected both by what is inside a person and in his or her environment. From what I hear, more and more mediators are paying attention to the location and surroundings of a conflict resolution meeting. Perhaps these location-aware mediators know about neuroplasticity (changing brain) either from knowledge of the research or intuitively, and realize the impact scene, spot, and site can have on parties in conflict.Particularly because of my work with attention-based, awareness-focused photography, I have been thinking much about place. Therefore, the notion of places of poetry is of great interest, and I was intrigued by these few paragraphs in a book I was reading.
From the very start of Japan's long poetic tradition, places revered for their historic events, scenic beauty or religious significance were named or described in poems. Over time, a number of such places became recognized for evoking particular poetic feelings and associations. Used by Japanese poets as a kind of shorthand for tapping into shared cultural sensibilities, a body of such place names came to be called utamakura or "poetic pillows." Poets and poetry lovers planed trips to the locations of their favorite poems to experience the places firsthand, making them popular travel destinations in Japan. ... Particularly loved poems were carved into stones and placed at the site where the poem was written. [The stones] can be found all over Japan ... .
...I began to wonder which spots in my hometown or country might make good "poetic pillows"—places that evoke feelings common to the community or larger culture. Locations that were significant to me, personally, came to mind, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized any list I came up with by myself could not tell me what I wanted to know.
So I sent a little informal, unscientific email survey to about 50 of my friends in and around Port Townsend. In the survey I asked my friends to name five places in the immediate vicinity of town that was sacred to them, either for personal reasons or for the community at large. I also asked them to name five places outside their local area and within the United States that were sacred to them. either personally or for the nation. Then I sat back and waited for the data to roll in.
And roll in it did. If I did not know it before, here is one piece of news about the human family that came through loud and clear in the responses to the survey: we are connected to the planet Earth by more than force of gravity. We are tied to the places of of our lives by the forces that shape and ground our hearts and spirits.
I decided to follow the lead of the book's author and ask the same of my friends and colleagues; the email will go out soon after this post goes up. If you want to join me in this focus, perhaps meditation, on place, please do. What are the places in your community and in your country that you feel are sacred? And if you do this exercise, does it influence your thoughts about the location of conflict resolution?
Note (added at 12:40 PM Mountain): Thanks to my friend Amanda Bucklow for telling about genius loci, a related concept. More here.