<aside> 💡 This resource is inspired by the work of Mia Mingus for the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective, as well as the lived experiences of members of our community who contributed to this documentation.

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If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed and lonely (and let's be honest, who isn't in 2020) then creating a safer community space where you can share openly and be there for others can be a nourishing experience. Here are a few ideas and tips to help you create a Care Pod for the remainder of the Covid lockdown and, if you wish, beyond.

Mutual aid has a long history in grassroots organising, and projects like Care Pods are an important part of that story. A Care Pod (we like this name, but this kind of organising goes by many names) is a small group of people - ideally 4-8 - who interact on a planned and regular basis to hold space for each other.

By coming together in support, we create autonomous alternatives to isolation and despair; we create community. This can look like many different things.

This year, countless new mutual aid groups have been created around the world offering practical support for vulnerable people during the pandemic and lockdowns. This can be as simple as a neighbour bringing groceries while someone's in self-isolation/quarantine. It can last a few weeks, or a lifetime.

It can also look like regular emotional support. One format we love is the sharing circle.

<aside> 📹 Open source and free tools for online video meetings:

https://meet.jit.si/ https://bigbluebutton.org/

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What is a sharing circle?

In a sharing circle, each member can share how they are feeling and be listened to without interruption. It sounds pretty basic, but these two tools are essential healing instruments when processing grief, difficulty and trauma and (to us at least) feel incredibly nourishing in our fast-paced, reactive world. Members of a Care Pod agree on an interval of meetings and boundary system for them to share and listen in, and hold space for each other and themselves with non-judgement and compassion.

What structure should we set up?

There are a few boundaries in a sharing circle gathering that ensure this is a healing space where space is held for each person, without judgement or reaction. It can be beneficial to have members in your Care Pod that you do not know personally to begin with, as it lets you experience them with no previous mind chatter you could have about someone you know well. You can arrange for your own Care Pod to meet and check in in whatever forms and regularity you would like to as a group. Meeting every 2-4 weeks can be helpful so that there is time to process the last meeting and for life to roll on a bit before the next one. You can also choose to have a shorter check in or gathering on a weekly basis, and a longer sharing circle perhaps every 2 weeks or once a month.

<aside> ⏰ Tip: It's great to have a set time scale for your sharing circle. I like to calculate 15 minutes per member for sharing and questions, so 1.5 hours for 6 members for example. The entire meeting should last no longer than 3 hours so as not to overwhelm people as it can be a pretty intense emotional experience.

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Creating your space

To create a grounding and equal space I like to arrange a seated circle on cushions on the floor if that's accessible to everyone. For online meetings, you can use a tool like Jit.si or Big Blue Button to do video chats. Each person can join from somewhere a bit cozier than their usual "meeting" space. Often just sitting on or close to the earth already has a grounding and calming effect. If you're holding it in a physical space, you can place a few items to look at in the centre of the circle: a flower, candle or natural object are nice choices. It's also great to have some tea or water ready for everyone to sip between speakers. Finally, choose an item that can be easily held in the speaker's hand while they are talking. This is the symbol that it's their time to share, and they are the only speaker for that duration of time. A smooth pebble, stick or crystal are great here as they also feel nice to hold onto and fiddle with for the person sharing.

<aside> 🕯️ If you're holding a digital meeting, each member can create their own sharing space at home by lighting a candle and sitting on a cushion on the floor or comfortable chair. Instead of a stone to hold other members can be set to mute, or another agreed speaking symbol can be used.

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Sharing and holding space for each other