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3 year-old twins River and Bodhi

Ocean and Michele Robbins


420 Bronco Road
Soquel, California 95073

831-465-1081 (voice)
831-462-6970 (fax)



What is an underlying question that gives form to your work or interest in this field?

How can we create contexts in which young people feel a sense of safety that allows their true selves to emerge and in which they deepen their connection and commitments to the well-being of themselves and their world?

What is your personal experience of collective wisdom in groups?

We have held 82 week-long camps and hundreds of day-long workshops in 10 countries for youth from over 50 countries, where we bring together groups of 30 young people (ages 15-30) to sit in circle together and share their truths, their dreams, their stories and their commitments. Our events weave together the inner journey of healing with the outer journey of compassionate social engagement, helping young people gain the support and skills to live with meaning, purpose and passion. We create contexts for young people to talk about what matters most to them, in an atmosphere of respect and support. To take down the walls and the masks, and to make friends and build bridges of respect and solidarity across the lines of class, race, gender and all the other differences we are usually divided by. Many of our events in the past were for young people who want to make a difference and didn’t know where to start. Most of them now are for youth who have already committed their lives to a path of awakening and positive social change. They are founders and leaders of organizations and movements worldwide working for peace, human rights, social justice and environmental sanity; those whom we believe are the emerging Martin Luther Kings, Gandhi’s and Susan B. Anthony’s of our generation. All of our events touch on a mysterious force (our alumni call it “the YES! magic”) that comes into a room at key moments and transforms a group of individual people into best friends who would trust each other with their lives--and who are profoundly connected to their deeper selves, to their path in life, and to their own capacity to be lifelong beacons of possibility and transformation.

What is it about the work in this field that excites you and connects you to your own deepest self?

I (Michele) am passionate about the ways our work with collective intelligence transforms the lives of young leaders and then ripples out to transform the world. I’m challenged by how to support the ongoing connection to the field after a group has physically left a space. At our last event a few weeks ago a 24-year-old Palestinian journalist arrived with no hope in humanity, having been shot twice, her house bombed 5 times, her boyfriend killed, and having watched countless people killed. We watched her reconnect with love, with hope, with possibility and then return home to be promoted to be the media coordinator for the Prime Minister of Palestine. She is e-mailing our group listerve almost daily as a way to stay connected. But I wonder how long she can hold on to the magic surrounded by violence and fear. This is just one poignant snapshot. Even in less dramatic circumstances, it seems to me a challenge to bring the fruits of collective intelligence work into daily life, ongoingly over time. I’m excited by Be Present’s model of local ongoing support groups as a tool.

Please provide a brief storyline or snapshot of what brought you to this work.

In 1989, at the age of 15, I (Ocean) raised $3,000 so I could travel to the Soviet Union for an international youth summit. Traveling behind the Iron Curtain, to a land at which my country had thousands of phenomenally destructive warheards pointed, and finding human beings who loved, prayed, dreamed, struggled, and longed for peace just like my friends back home, was transformational. I realized then that inside of everyone, no matter the color of their skin or the nation of their birth--and no matter how much armor they carried around their heart--lived a place of compassion and goodness. It might be buried, bent or twisted. But I came to a sense of certainty that in the right environment, with enough love and support, people (and most easily young people) could be helped to connect to and ultimately live from a place of deepened love and respect for themselves and all life.

In the summer of 1990, I attended a summer camp put on by an organization called Creating Our Future, and at that camp met Ryan Eliason (then age 18). Knowing instantly that we had some important work to do together, Ryan and I began hatching the nucleus of what was to become YES! Our first camp was in the summer of 1991. Since then we’ve been deeply influenced and mentored by Joanna Macy and Lillie Allen from Be Present, among other people.

How would you like to be available to others in this field?

We’d like to offer ourselves as resources for folks wanting to work more with phenomenal global youth leaders. Also especially to white folks who are trying to make their work “more diverse” and open to deepening their understanding of the complex dynamics of race, class, gender and all types of privilege and how they shape how we articulate, understand and move forward in this work. We are also available to speak at conferences, facilitate workshops, and connect conference planners and media with young visionaries. E-mail works best, as we’re parents of 3 year old twins!

Links to this site or others:

Be Present
Joanna Macy

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