Grainne O’Neill, Comhlamh’s Volunteer Engagement Officer Reflects on a weekend of Capacitar training.
Saturday morning – sitting in a big airy room in All Hallows college, watching the tips of the trees moving outside and faintly hearing the birds chirping away. Day 1 of a year-long Capacitar course, starting as the rest of the weekend would continue, feeling relaxed and curious of what would be coming up.
Capacitar offers simple practices in body work, including those of tai chi, meditation, acupressure and visualisation (just to name a few), as an energy based healing practice to support individuals and communities to awaken and activate their own power and healing. Myself and Janet went along, having heard about it through work and through friends and colleagues who were enthusiastically supportive of the practice.
The practice emerged in the 1980’s when Pat Cane, who was working with groups in Nicaragua, was asked by these groups for exercises to help nourish and energise them through the different challenges they faced. And so Capacitar was born. The practice caught fire and spread first through Latin America, touching groups that were experiencing political unrest, environmental disasters and community based issues… then the practice began to reach communities in Africa, North America, Asia and Europe. Whichever community in which capacitar is practiced, it will respond to the needs of this community.
But what does it have to do with the work of Comhlámh, and more widely with grassroots activism, volunteering and campaigning more generally in Ireland? The wonderful thing that I took away from the weekend and my initial learning about capacitar is that it nourishes individuals: those who have suffered trauma, those who are working at the forefront of social activism; those who are the carers of society; and those who are working within social change making, but who are at risk of getting burned out. And so for these important individuals, it provides strength, nourishment and a ‘toolbox’ of practices to help them care for themselves. However, it doesn’t end here. Capacitar also works at a group, community/ society and global level, and so applies this energy work more widely, in terms of recognising those around us and the importance of consciousness and healing at a societal and global level. The two, the individual and the wider world, act in relation to one another.
And so, applying it specifically to the work of Comhlámh, capacitar will be relevant to anyone going overseas in terms of self care and looking after themselves, as well as this self care and nourishment on return from overseas. And as well as the benefits for individuals, the practice can also nurture the feeling of solidarity, of an awakened awareness of the wider world and create the space for groups and communities here in Ireland (and overseas) to give positive energy to the forces affecting the world.
Over the coming months, Janet and myself will be exploring this practice more, and finding ways to integrate it into our work here in Comhlámh.