Michael Author’s Personal Reflections

Link to original FB post

A PUBLIC REFLECTION AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

(Update Re: ISTA, International School of Temple Arts)

Resolution is often quieter than conflict.

Yesterday, 3SC (Formerly Issues with ISTA) and ISTA released a joint statement that represents the culmination of more than a year’s worth of mediation, behind-the-scenes-chats, collective learning, no small amount of turmoil, and (sometimes) difficult negotiations.

In 2022 when the hullabaloo around ISTA exploded, and a large group of individuals rallied in a facebook forum to share their experiences of harm, I volunteered to help with focusing the effort. We collected around 60 reports of harm, and organized the results into a report which we gave the organization. I had been attempting to communicate to the organization (as had many others) over the years that certain things about the way they ran their trainings would likely need to shift.

I had no idea that it would lead to a year-and-a-half long engagement commanding thousands of man-hours from leaders in the realm of transformational sexuality.

In the beginning it felt like a knock-down-drag-out war, with keyboard warriors on both sides dragging out the nuclear weapons. There were threats, counter-threats, canceled trainings, projections, misunderstandings, gossip, and all sorts of other more complex dynamics. It was a challenging situation to channel into a positive outcome, and some of us believed there would be none.

In the end however, cooler heads have prevailed, and today ISTA has begun and implemented meaningful organizational reforms with more on the way. Most notably they are clarifying and revising their protocols surrounding student-teacher engagement, have let certain teachers go, and have implemented a system for accountability.

This is a huge win for everyone involved. None of those involved in the months-long mediation process with ISTA wished to bring down the organization (though I’d be lying if I said none of us originally ever had those thoughts).

Much gratitude to Lalita K Diaz for spearheading the project, and for Cara and Dave who really helped carry it through to the end, but there were SO MANY people involved that to name them all would be impossible. Hundreds of conversations between individuals occurred, and this has really been a community effort.

Personally, the conversations I shared with Philippe Lewis during this whole thing have contributed massively to the understandings I now have of group dynamics and leadership, specifically in the context of transformational sexual spaces. I’m grateful to those in ISTA who really showed care for their impact, and for the mediation team they appointed to engage with us. Each one of us involved in the project on both sides has had our own transformation as a result of this.

If you are interested in learning more about the process and to read the joint statement, I will share it below. There are also opportunities for you to volunteer with 3SC if you are a leader or have some stake in the well-being of the field of transformational sexuality.

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