Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Austria... the beginning of independent pilgrimage.


Austria ~

My last entry was from Findhorn, a place I left two months ago to the day. My departure from Findhorn began at 4:00 a.m., beginning a LONG day of travel, alone for the first time since the pilgrimage began. After a missed car ride and a missed train, I caught a rushed sequence of: 1 cab, 2 trains, 1 bus, 1 flight, 2 trains, and 1 car-ride to arrive in Innsbruck, Austria. There, I joined Jon Young, his family, Mark Morrey of the Vermont Wilderness School, and a host of other wonderful people for an 8 day program training the leaders of wilderness schools from around Germany and Austria.

We were based at a boy-scout camp in the Tiról region of the Austrian Alps. There were about 80 people there for the week-long course on Nature Awareness and Community Resilience. I was immediately welcomed in grand and generous fashion and was able to offer myself in service to the group for the week as part of the "Acorn" (the working team who's task is help facilitate the culture of mentoring and awareness throughout the program for the week, as well as assist all things programmatical and logistical). There was very little sleep involved, but we made up for that in laughter, song, stories, time on the land, great food, and great company. It was a complete joy to work the German and Austrian wilderness community of my generation, as well as to meet and collaborate with some of their elders.

from left: Milan, his father Ron (one of our Austrian hosts), Jon, his daughter Willa, & Mark Morrey

The time in Austria was beautiful. It felt great to be of service in such a tangible way. It snowed almost every day, and the mountains were magnificent. The chance to meet and compare notes with other wilderness leaders from europe invaluable. It was interesting to see how many of the same challenges and triumphs exist in both the US and Europe when it comes to the work of nature connection. Perhaps best of all for me was the chance to bring a piece of home (the nature-awareness and cultural mentoring community) into the fold of this pilgrimage while abroad. It was an incredibly confirming to hear Jon's teachings anew, with ears changed by the power of this pilgrimage, and to recognize the parallels between the learning I have been engaged with while abroad, and that which I carry back home. I saw how it is all one story, one movement for healing and change on this planet at this time; emerging in many places and taking many forms, while moving steadily in the same direction.

Children's "story of the day", Tiról, Austria

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Findhorn came and went



Findhorn River

Well, Findhorn came and went without a blog post. Seems pretty typical at this point. It remains a challenge to write a good descriptor of this journey, even when there’s time to do it. So much has happened in such a short/long time. Our schedule is full; incredibly interesting and pretty ripe with unique opportunities. Like at Tamera, our time at Findhorn was long enough to allow us to sink into the community quite a bit.

We began with “experience week,” which is the standard starter course for any first-timers to Findhorn – it’s the pre-requisit for everything else they offer. During experience week we lived at “Cluny,” an old hotel that is now owned by Findhorn and used for programs and residents, a wonderful old place. Experience week was an introduction into group process, community living, “working community,” and many of the other nuances and practices carried-out by the folks at Findhorn.

On par with the rest of BB thus far, Findhorn was full and incredible. After experience week we moved to “the park,” which is the original location of the Findhorn community. We commenced many meetings with many parts of the community, and began holding sessions of our own as well. Findhorn is nearly 50 years old, one of the oldest communities we will visit. Incredible intention has been put into making this unique place function: Findhorn uses a wide variety of alternative building techniques, they power the whole place (160-ish permanent residents?) with 3 big windmills, grow a significant percentage of their own food, and take care of almost 100% of their wastewater (including raw sewage) through a “Living Machine” technology developed in the U.S. And still, Findhorn identifies itself more readily as a "working spiritual community" than an "eco-village" per se.

Though it is a spiritual community, there is not one over-arching dogma, but instead many wonderful individuals practicing their spirituality in their own ways, resulting a gentle sense of the sacred sprinkled throughout just about everything we did. We had a chance to work in the various work departments and get our hands into their world famous gardens. We met with the education department and learned about their many triumphs and struggles with programs and university affiliations. We were able to sit and interview some of the old-timers about how it used to be and what’s changed through the years. We met with the youth leaders and held council with the youth. We held community councils and a council training for the community. We met with the former president of the Global Eco-village Network, “GEN,” who now lives here full-time – a brilliant man with incredible perspective and scope. We helped to construct the new roof of an “earth lodge” on the land, using a “reciprocal frame” model (which is absolutely worth googling right now – an amazing, self-supporting technique). We spent 2 days in a workshop with Joanna Macy. We held evening presentations on Ojai, Tamera, and Auroville in an attempt to cross-pollinate between the communities.

Amidst the rest we also found time for own meetings and councils, visited another incredible and ancient stone circle site from the Neolithic earth-based cultures of old Europe, jumped in the cold north sea, made it to town for a good old Scottish fish’n chips from a place that’s been selling them since 1850, had a little fun, made independent study plans, and tried the scotch.

I love Scotland. It’s obvious from my name that I have heritage here and it feels to be an especially deep place for fulfilling the task of exploring ancestral roots (one of the intentions behind this pilgrimage). Especially important for me has been the chance to discover the indigenous of my own bloodline. It isn’t easy to learn, as a lot of it has been stamped out over the millennia. “Clavas Cairns” is the name of the Neolithic stones we visited in Scotland (there are hundreds of such sites still standing all over the UK). Just to be there – walking through the place, looking at stones erected by hands at least 5,000 years ago… hands that were connected to hearts, minds, bodies, and cultures that had an intimate relationship with the earth. Just to know the work of those hands – to be able to see it – does something for me that no amount of reading or research could ever do.

The standing rocks created circles, aligned with celestial bodies.


The old structures are thought to be burial sites... but no one really knows... and, there is speculation that they may be much older than we initially thought.


After 2 weeks at the park we packed up and left long before sunrise in a van, making our way through twisty roads and multiple ferry rides from the east to the west coast of Scotland, ending on the island of Erraid, where we stayed for a week. Findhorn care-takes the small settlement on Erraid for most of the year, using it as a retreat and residence. Just across the channel from Erraid is the famous Isle of Iona – home of ancient Celtic and Druidic sanctuaries, as well as the place where Christianity entered Scotland long ago through St. Columba: a site of sacred pilgrimage for many. Erraid is a rugged, wet, windswept Scottish Isle, with piles of granite dripping with big bracken ferns and mosses, peat bogs that forbid you to hike without a good pair of Wellington boots on your feet (“Welly’s” as the locals call ‘em), crystal clear blue water with white sand beaches (which are inviting, but the ocean is freezing). It’s a wild, elemental place.We stayed in old stone homes, once used for the families of lighthouse keepers stationed some 16 miles from here out in the Atlantic. Wood-burning stoves for heat and hot water, fresh milk and cheese from the cows, veggies from the gardens, eggs from the chickens, mussels from the sea, meditation twice a day… we were there to work and be in retreat together for our final 8 days before splitting up and heading our separate ways on independent study.


The Isle of Erraid


The old monastary on Iona


Sheep with a view on top of "Dun I", the tallest point on Iona


During this first trimester I have learned incredible things about alternative and life-sustaining ways of living, about community, about human-systems, and some the changes that will almost certainly have to happen in the coming times if we are to make it as a species. And, the real learning seems not to be how to do all of that, but who to be while doing it. Who to be at this time on the planet? Who to be when another species goes extinct? Who to be when the 200-year spike of cheap energy that we’ve been riding crashes? Who to be in myself? Who to be with the land, the earth? Who to be with my friends? Or my lover? With my community? The answer over and over is a mixed bouquet of truth, humility, integrity, and trust, which if lived seems to spell the only response that any of us could ever give… and seems to account for the deepest level of learning unfolding on this incredible journey.

We are now spread the winds on our independent studies... but that's another story...

Cheers,

Will

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Belated words on Damanhur

Belated words on Italy and Damanhur from Will:

For me, Damanhur was an interesting and introverted time. The place felt thick: the air was thick and humid, the vegetation was thick, the “field” of spirituality and unique Damanhuian practices was thick, even my body felt heavy, thick. I was making good use of the Italian espresso and still, I felt tired the entire time I was there.

Like Tamera, Damanhur is also a community that is some 30 years old.We were only there for 9 days, so it’s much more difficult to say a lot about it. We did not have the community immersion experience at Damanhur that we had at Tamera. Being at Damanhur was wonderful and very eye opening; an incredible chance to see a new way of being in community. Damanhur is spread throughout an area in northern Italy, with pieces of property sprinkled around a number of towns and valleys.Unlike Tamera, one needs a car to see all of Damanhur. We were staying in the central hub of the community, on some of the longest-own land in Damanhur. We were a short drive and a longer walk away from many of Damanhur’s primary projects, businesses, and social initiatives, including the famous “Temples of Humankind.”

Perhaps what Damanhur is most known for, the Temples were one of the first projects the community undertook, in secret, long ago. Without building codes, and following the inspired vision of their founder(s), they began to excavate a mountainside, hand-digging bucket-loads of dirt and rock by night so no one would see them. What has emerged there over the years is now both known and celebrated (though the unveiling process wasn’t easy). The Temples go some 30 meters under the earth and are an elaborate maze of corridors and secret passageways, leading in and out of multiple chambers, temples, and halls. Every wall is painted with “sacred language” developed by the Damanhurians, incredible murals, stain-glass, mosaic, and other sculpted and welded works of art. Putting all spiritual philosophies and intentions aside, the Temples stand alone simply as incredible works of art and architecture. And yes, there are many more esoteric and occult qualities to them, but I will leave those to you to discover if you are interested.

Damanhur impressed me again and again with the scale and accomplishment of its alternative society. They have their own schooling and child-care, their own currency, their own real-estate offices, stores, shops, super-market, and businesses of many kinds.People generally live in family groups called "nucleos," in large houses with 20-30 people in each. An impressive use of space and resources.Everything is quite well functioning and immaculate. The community functions smoothly on a “normal” everyday level, while at the same time integrating incredible alternative forms of… everything. This is a place where art and spirituality are highly valued; where alternative energies and ecological designs are being pursued quite matter-of-factly; a place with a dedicated focus on researching the paranormal; a place full of rituals, philosophies, beliefs, and insights that guide their unique culture.

For me, a highlight of Damanhur was the nearby river, where we took our breaks numerous times. We had wonderful opportunities to sit and ask questions of our hosts. We held a council with the youth. We toured, and were fed, and saw much. My overall impression was that Damanhur offers much to see: an incredible living example of a very highly functioning, artistic alternative society – and, at the same time – there seems to be much more than meets the eye at Damanhur. I left more curious about the place than I was when I arrived.

Now we’re at the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland. It’s wonderful… but that’s another story. Thanks for reading!

~ Will


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

It's been a long time... and it's a long blog...



... Tamera, Tamera.

When I left this blog, I was about to begin the Summer University.  I picked the blog back up in a youth hostel in Lisbon, a few days ago having left Tamera after being there for a month.  Now, I write from Italy, attempting in vain to summarize the whole month of Tamera in a single posting. (This is the "big lake" at Tamera with the guest house, the children's place, and the global campus in the background).  

I warn you readers now:  No matter how I try to prune it, this post will be long.

My month at Tamera was one of great learning.  Tamera gave me the gift of answers, as well as the unforeseen gift of new questions.  It was a month of becoming embedded in a unique, ambitious, and highly inspiring community.  A month to have many of my own ideologies and beliefs nudged, challenged, and changed.  A month to learn from some of the best of ancient human cultures, as well as modern, technological society.  A month of deep listening and
 incredible inquiry.  A month to be open to new ways.  A month of hopes and curiosities.  A month of global citizenry.  A month of many languages and translations.  A month that opened new insights into the capacities and potentials of human communities.  A month of work, service, fun, laughter, giving and receiving, song, art, gardening, basketball, food, prayer, council, connection, and stories.  A month of healing.  It was a rich month, in which I began to understand what Beyond Boundaries really means for me.

As I said in a previous entry, Tamera is an advanced "peace research village" or "healing biotope."  The goal of the peace research village is to become a Global Grace Village; a place that is fully functioning in it's healing work on the planet, and exists as a model for peace worldwide.  They are doing great work towards this end.  The primary research questions of this community have to do with some of the topics that many of us are least comfortable with confronting: love, relationships, and sexuality.  At Tamera they hold to the belief that we cannot have peace in the world "as long as their is war between the genders," and they ask a bold question: "Can we have love free of fear?"  Is this possible?  This question asks much of us, including a willingness to dive deeply into ourselves.  It's a very "hot" topic, and also one that does not translate well through a blog, so I will leave it at a surface level for the time being.

Tamera's research draws from ancient cultures that existed all over Europe and the Middle East long before the reign of Christianity, and also from their own collective research and observations over years of community living and social experimentation.  According to Tameran philosophy, healing “the war between the genders” (which is at least 7,000 years old) is an integral part of a larger scale healing of human and ecological communities.  This war began quietly long ago when patriarchy slowly emerged within, and eventually took hold over, the ancient earth-based cultures of Europe and the Middle East.  This slow transformation reached its apex in the human realm with the killing and barbarity inflicted on thousands upon thousands of women during the dark days of the witch hunts.  And it reaches it’s apex on the global level now, with a massive population stripped of its sense of community and connectedness with the larger whole of the planet.  The result is the thoughtless raping and killing of the earth that we see all around us today.

From what I've seen and learned at Tamera, the work of healing the war between the genders happens individually, interpersonally, communally, politically, globally, and even spiritually.  Global peace work is an inner as well as an outer process, and is the goal of Tamera: creating models of a new culture for a future without war.

After listening attentively to what the Tamerans had to say, reading their texts, attending their University, and asking countless questions around the bar late at night, the most important foundation of their entire project came down to one word: truth.  If we are truthful -- meaning deeply honest and transparent not only with ourselves, but with everyone around us -- and if the entire community is committed to being truthful back – all the time – then many of the hidden patterns of our daily lives come flying right up into the spotlight.  It is not comfortable.  It is not easy.  But it is honest, and from that place much can be done.  What a breath of fresh air to be surrounded by an entire community committed to honesty and transparency!  And, what a gift to have to one of the key components of Council mirrored back to us: to speak one's truth.

The "Aula," our main classroom at the Summer University

The Summer University was a 10-day example of Tamera's training in peace-work.  

It was a tapestry of personal exploration, global healing work, and community process. Issues from crisis areas around the globe were addressed and brought to the forefront, as were hot topics from personal lives.  Representatives from many countries and projects all converged on this rural, dusty campus in southern Portugal for intensive sharing and learning.  There were speeches, small working groups, tours, community-building “forums”, theatrical presentations, ecological initiatives, service work, and countless other opportunities to dive into the core issues of what it takes to build peaceful community. 

It became clear that concept of peace is different for different people.  For a musician and social activist from the ghettos of Sal Paulo, Brazil, peaceful community means one thing; for a young man from Switzerland, it looks quite different.  The Summer University hosted representatives from a peace village in Columbia, “San Jose' de Apartado,” where the community is under constant attack and pressure from both guerilla and national forces.  There was a young leader from a the Nasa people in Columbia who is working with a massive indigenous rights movement there.  There were Israelis and Palestinians coming together in dialogue around the creation of a Peace Research Village in the Middle East.  There were North Americans -- ourselves included -- there to listen and offer ourselves, to bear witness to so much of what is happening in the world that we don’t hear about on our daily news, and to recognize the unseen "crisis areas" we are living through in the developed world.  There were many from all over Europe creating their own versions of alternative culture, communities, and projects; a group of women from an urban war zone in Mexico seeking help; a man from India seeking to put an end to child labor; local youth from Portugal exploring new ways to transform their culture's inner conflicts; and woven through all of it the citizens of Tamera bringing their own unique and essential teachings to the whole. 

I chose to participate in a small working group called the “PRVME” (the "Peace Research Village Middle East.")  This is a project that Tamerans and other collaborators from Israel and Palestine are just beginning to launch (still in a dreaming/planning phase right now).  The vision is to bring the peace work of Tamera to this particularly critical and potent crisis area on the planet.  For ten days I had the privilege of sitting and listening to the plans, challenges, hopes, and fears for this courageous group.  It was incredible to watch the pendulum of focus swing throughout the time: one moment the entire focus would be on the individual healing and reconciliation work happening within the group, and in the next moment the inner war would be transposed onto the situation in the Middle East.  As parallels were drawn, insights about what large and small-scale healing might look like emerged.  Through this lens one could see clearly how so many conflicts in our world today (including ecological conflicts and crisis) are deeply related to unnamed and un-reconciled places within ourselves.  Through the lens of the PRVME, I saw some of Tamera’s core teaching coming to life.

~

One of the strongest aspects of the Tameran community is its wholeness.  Tamera is simple, dusty, hot, beautiful, complex, alive, and vibrant.  They're the first to admit that they don't have all the answers.  But after 30 years of work and research, I'd be the first to say that they have much to offer.  Love, sexuality, and the war between the genders are key issues, but they are not isolated from other issues.  Tamera works on politics and political theory.  They have a strong spirituality that is free of set religion or dogma, but holds a “higher” focus that extends beyond their small community to the whole world.  They are doing incredible work with, sustainability, permaculture, and regenerative design on all fronts of their projects.  They are creating new social and family systems, using new and old forms of healthcare and healing practices, initiating community-oriented versions of education and child-rearing, incorporating all kinds of arts, and living simple but rich example of real community life.

I was so heartened to see their emphasis on blending the environmental with the personal and social, as this has been a core synthesis that I feel we often miss in the environmental movement.  Tamera is making an admirable effort towards full sustainability with their food production, the design and building of their structures, their waste disposal, and their energy production.  They are creating all of their own energy, and are the test-field site for a new solar village technology designed by Jurgen Kleinwacter (www.solarpowervillage.info).  


many types of solar collection are used to concentrate the sun's energy for cooking, heating, and power.

We worked many days in the solar test village, and it is an incredible project.  It uses a simple solar engine technology that can be built and used anywhere (especially in rural places) and does not require photovoltaic cells.  The village can support some 50 people with basic power and food needs, and Tamera is actually doing the experiment now to see if it will work.  To develop and implement technology like this is incredibly important, but without a complimentary advance in social systems and community living, the technology is all but worthless.

Tamera is also re-hydrating a land that has been overused for centuries by creating a “water landscape” designed by Austrian Permaculture guru Sepp Holzer, which is composed of a system of swales and ponds to catch and contain the heavy winter rains.  Every winter hundreds of thousands of gallons flood the creeks and rage down to the sea.  Tamera is catching a tiny fraction of this in a pond system, which will percolate into the earth over the years, and in theory, will ultimately replenish the drained water table.  This is especially important for the massive dying off of the cork-oak tree population that is happening (similar to California).  One thought for the cause of the die-back is that the trees are no longer able to pull water up from underneath the ground (which is full of nutrients and minerals).  When trees are watered from the top only, all the minerals in the surrounding soil are washed out, and the trees suffer.

~

A final story to tell is about a rock, and in some ways it weaves our whole experience in this international peace village together.  There are old signs of old cultures all over Europe and one of the oldest is in a place called Evora, not far from Tamera, in southern Portugal. We were luck enough to visit Evora, which was incredible.  It is a circle of stone menhirs, left relatively intact, from a culture of old European decent that existed some 7,000 years ago and beyond.  The stones are still standing and are a powerful doorway to an old and connected part of human history. 

There is a newer stone circle at Tamera (below), which is part of the spiritual center of the land there.    

    Each stone represents some particular archetype, aspect of community, element, etc., and each is marked with a “cosmogram:” an image meant to convey an energetic meaning of the intention behind the stone that is beyond language (example to the above).  During our first week there, the Beyond Boundaries team was given the challenge and honor of “finding” the cosmogram for a newly placed stone that is to represent the United States.  A particular intention was put into the stone: that it hold a prayer of healing and reconciliation for the U.S. and the rest of the world.  We worked, dreamed, spoke, asked, listened, drew, thought, and prayed over this image for our entire month at Tamera. We used all the time we had, and even a little more to do this.  We asked the advice of the international community.  We drew countless images.  We let them all go and were willing to put nothing on the stone at all if that's what felt right.  We worked hard.  We met our own resistance.  We remained committed to the process.  
And it was not until our final night that a couple of us put the final strokes of ink from a dying marker onto the page.  This act was a strong part of our whole story, and it feels important to share here.  Ultimately, we felt the image needed to say something about acknowledgement and reconciliation, something about freedom, something about hope, something about the land, something about wholeness… And, ultimately, it doesn’t need to say anything at all, at least not directly; as the cosmogram holds the whole process in it, and process itself was a single act of hope, freedom, and reconciliation.                         

The lessons from Tamera were full and rich… are full and rich, as they certainly continue to inform all of us on our way forward.  Leaving was not easy, but felt right.  On our way to Lisbon we stopped at the sea and swam in clear blue water… I lay in it floating for a long time, feeling the buoyancy of all that I’d taken in, and the open channel of all that wants to go out into the world.  It’s rich.  It’s vast. It’s in motion.  It continues.  Thank you Tamera!!!


In gratitude,

 

~ w

 



Thursday, July 30, 2009

July 29, 2009 Tamera, Portugal

 

Another member of the Beyond Boundaries team mentioned to me yesterday that if I don’t update my blog at least semi-regularly, people will stop following it.  It occurs to me that I haven’t updated it for quite some time… and I realize also that by failing to update this story regularly, it becomes increasingly daunting and impossible to say all that needs to be said when I do update.  I will try to do better.  That said, I’ve always used it as a rule of thumb when my loved ones go traveling that to not hear from them is a good sign: generally, it tends to mean that they are engaged in their experience and probably having a great time... so good that there’s no time left to write home about it.  :  )

I’d say this is at least partially true for me.  I wouldn’t say that it’s all “so good”, but I would certainly say that it’s full, demanding, busy, rich, incredible, and is asking much of me in terms of showing up.

We are now in southern Portugal, at a truly amazing place called Tamera, an experimental “Global Peace Village.”  It’s hot and dry.  There are hills covered in brown grass and cork oak trees everywhere – reminiscent of some parts of northern California.

But, I cannot get going too far down the road of describing Tamera without filling-in the missing portion of this blog: Ojai.  We were there for 9 days, and not once did I find the right time or space to update this blog.

 

view from beneath the "teaching tree" at The Ojai Foundation


Our time at The Ojai Foundation was rich.  The ingredients consisted of numerous opportunities to sit in council with each other and the greater TOF community, a yearly gathering of council leaders, service work on the land, swimming in the creeks and the ocean, preparations for leaving the country, and the chance to meet, work with, and learn from 2 different members of the local Chumash community (indigenous to that part of California) who are both leading different (but equally exciting) projects in the area.  An additional ingredient for me was the gift and challenge of spending my final 9 days in the country with my sweetheart, Laura, who is part of the residential staff at the Ojai Foundation.  So, the time in Ojai wasn't easy, but it was great.  It was full of work and play and depth, and within it there was very little space or inclination to run to the blog and write home.


Working to the clear the land for a Chumash Cultural Center in Malibu.  This piece of land marks the first occurrence of land being given back to native peoples in Ventura County.

 

If you want to know more about any of the people or projects we worked with while at Ojai, please email me personally or comment here and I will include a deeper elaboration.  Also, if you're curious about The Ojai Foundation itself; its history and mission, check out my previous blog entry to get a link the website.  It is place of deep significance in the life of Gigi (and likewise she is deeply significant in the life of the Foundation), and thus it is also deeply significant to the vision of Beyond Boundaries.

Now... Tamera, Tamera...

Thirty years ago a group of free-thinking, radical Germans who were in search of solutions and a new way to be in the world moved out to the Black Forrest together.  There, they began the age-old experiment of community living, searching especially for how to re-create trust, and authenticity after being raised in a modern culture that seemed to have forgotten these attributes of the human experience.  Tamera's story is long, leading circuitously to this 320 acre piece of land here in Southern Portugal. I think the best way to truly learn about the work of this place is to visit their web site, read the books written by the founders, or -- of course -- come here.  

Just as the story of this "Global Peace Village" didn't begin here, it also does not end here.  I met my first members of the Tameran Community last year at the Bioneers Conference in California.  At that same time, delegates from Tamera were making peace pilgrimages in crisis areas such as Columbia and the West Bank.  The primary work of Tamera is peace, and the methods by which this all-important topic is explored are deep, revolutionary, incredibly personal, necessarily global, and wide in scope.

I can say without hesitation that my short time here (11 days now) has exposed me to some of the most important and radical learning I have yet encountered in my life.  The community here is comprised of around 100 individuals (permanently living) plus another 50 to 100 guests and students at any given time.  There are core philosophies and practices within the community, not based in any religion, but on cultivating a humanitarian search for peace. There is permaculture in action, and some incredibly innovative sustainable living technology at work.  There is music, activity, work to be done, a peace research university, an international population, and the ongoing experiment of what it means to create a "Healing Biotope" on the planet.  Without delving too deeply into the philosophy, the main premise is that all war begins with the human beings, and that outer wars will never cease while we continue to perpetuate a system of violent thought and action within ourselves as well.  The idea is for the individual to begin by healing and transforming the structures of violence he/she carries within, and then to also move into the world as an outer peace worker.  

My feeble synopsis of the deep communitarian, spiritual, and political work being done here should by no means be taken too seriously.  There is SO MUCH more to say about this, and most of it I don't yet understand.  I hesitate to mention anything about the teachings and philosophies of this peace work at all because it is so exhaustive, yet to write about Tamera and say nothing about the core foundations of their work would be an injustice to this place as well as my own experience of being here thus far.  Suffice to say that I am moved and deeply stirred by the thoroughness and depth of experience that has gone into the teachings of Tamera, and I look forward to learning as much as I can while I'm here.  

I also realize that blog posts can only be so long if I am to keep my reader's attention.  So, I think I will end now, and post again about Tamera again soon.  

Two days ago we began the yearly "Summer University".  There are more people here now than any other time of year, coming together for 10 days from all over the world to dive head-long into critical questions of peace and the creation of a sustainable future without war. The people are incredible, the teachings profound, and the experience completely consuming.  There are visitors from the heart of some of the world's most tragic crisis places, as well as representatives from some 20 or more countries, all seeking answers to the question of inner and outer peace among human beings.  

As things are quite dynamic here at this point, I will probably not update this again until the Summer University is over.


I hope you all are well, and finding your own sense of peace, wherever you are, 


~ Will 

(Because photos take a long time to load here, I will include some pictures of Tamera in my next post).

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Beyond Boundaries - the project and next steps


The time has been passing, quickly and slowly.  Summer solstice came and went, and the world (in our hemisphere) is now onto its waning cycle again.  The School of Lost Borders/Beyond Boundaries Youth Fast was an amazing experience for us all, and it was encouraging to see such a unique group of newly initiated young people go out into the world.

Like them, Beyond Boundaries is now preparing to go out into the world.  Today is our final full day here in the Owen's Valley, at 3 Creeks.  Tomorrow we head to Ojai   :  )  and after 8 days on the land at the Ojai Foundation (including the Gathering of Council Leaders, service work with the local place & people, and final preparations for leaving) we will fly to Portugal, to begin the international portion of this journey.  The Ojai Foundation is as old as me (founded in 1979), and is a non-profit educational organization providing tools for communication, connecting with nature, community building, and other seminar-based teachings and retreats.  It is a beautiful place to be and I'm very happy that we're on our way there tomorrow. 

It occurs to me as I prepare to leave and write this little blog, that many of you reading may still not know too much about exactly what Beyond Boundaries is: who we are, where we're going, and why.  So, this post may be a long one, as I want to provide some more background information, a rough itinerary, and the likes.

Below is a revised and shortened version of a write up for the pilgrimage that many of you hav already seen.  It's difficult to cut too much out, as the complete story feels necessary to adequately communicate the vision and intention behind Beyond Boundaries.  


 

Beyond Boundaries

A Service Pilgrimage ~ People Place Planet

 

Introduction

Beginning in June of 2009, a small group of leaders of diverse ages and backgrounds will begin an international service pilgrimage called Beyond Boundaries (BB).  We will move through a number of places, centers and communities in the United States, Europe, Asia and Oceania that are exploring the frontiers of creative, peaceful, and regenerative life. Overall, the Beyond Boundaries pilgrimage embodies a deep personal and collective inquiry into the pressing issues and needs of our times through experiential education, cross-cultural exchange, leadership development, and stewardship. Pilgrims will learn from the people and places visited, offer their service and various gifts, listen in deep inquiry in the spirit of council, and bring home valuable information, insight and gifts to share upon return.

 

Project Background

 

We live in a time of increased tension and concern over the future of our planet, the wellbeing of our children, and the sustainability of our ways of life.  Indeed, we live in a time of re-shaping and reconsidering, a time when the planet appears smaller than it ever has, and is awakening to its own limitations, a time when it is wise to take stock of our past decisions, and prudent to consider which ideals and systems to move forward with and which to leave behind.  Many ideas and design systems are attempting to do just this, to guide us toward a future that will support the wellbeing of the many and not just the few.  Sustainable, holistic, regenerative…many adjectives today are attempting to describe a commitment that is in some ways very old and very simple: to live in awareness of the generations to come, to live with care for the earth and all beings, to live with heart and truth, to live in remembrance of the gifts that are to be shared. This is not religion or politics but common sense. It goes beyond definitions of class, culture or nation; it goes beyond boundaries.  How to do this is one of the most challenging and pressing questions of our times.  We are not looking for the answer but rather some "best practices" being employed by innovative, thoughtful, and concerned citizens across the globe.  Our Key Questions and Areas of Inquiry include:

-- Who is pioneering effective models for peaceful, connected and regenerative ways of life?  What can we learn from these people and what can we offer them?  

-- Given our increased awareness of the interdependence of the international community and the natural world, how can we live in right relations now and for generations to come?

-- What does it mean to be a Global Citizen?  


The Inspiration and The Way of Council[1]:

In 1980, Gigi Coyle, team leader and visionary behind Beyond Boundaries, was inspired to embark on a year long walkabout, traveling to projects and communities in the U.S. researching what were then considered ‘alternative’ systems, meeting and learning with individuals and groups committed to sustainable living practices and the healing of self, others, and the planet.   Over the course of the past two years, Gigi has been again inspired to travel, this time globally, in keeping with the scope of what's happening on our planet.  Inviting a small intergenerational group to join her on this international service pilgrimage, Beyond Boundaries has grown through the influence of each participant into an individual and collective response to the pressing needs of our times.

Program Overview

Across the world one of the greatest movements in the history of humankind is taking place. Everywhere people and projects are offering their own versions of potential solutions and directions for future development by creating and embodying sustainable and regenerative living systems, restoring people’s balance with the natural world, working through domestic and cross-cultural differences, actively resisting the systems that do not work in today's world, and enhancing spiritual wellbeing.  Beyond Boundaries pilgrims will journey to several places where innovative solutions have been at the forefront for years, including: The Ojai Foundation in California, Tamera in Portugal, Auroville in India, Findhorn in Scotland, Damanhur in Italy and the Biosphere Foundation in Indonesia.  As well, each pilgrim will visit a number of other projects and places during the independent study time, based on their specific areas of interest and inquiry. 

By journeying to these sites, our intention is to deepen into a practice of cross-cultural community living, listening, learning, and offering.  Further, as we are increasingly aware of the need to use scarce resources wisely, we know we must make this journey count on many levels. Given its carbon footprint, literally and metaphorically, we hope to plant trees all along the way. We are inspired to be a multi-talented team and bring a unique set of skills as well as curiosities to a ‘mission’, in the best sense of the word, to elicit the voices of both youth and elders in council, and bring those voices home, back to our people. And last but not least, we are part of a prayer of reconciliation and healing that has been and will continue to be part of our work everywhere we go.

Process Before Product

The journey is not a “results-based” project, though we know that many planned and unplanned results will emerge.  Too many times people, especially Americans, go with a formula, a pre-determined outcome, and miss the genuine opportunities that arise along the way.  We feel there is something important, particularly as Americans, to going and listening, to practicing council with the land and its people and letting an exchange emerge that will reveal the future outcomes.  Thus, rather than pre-determining the outcome from this pilgrimage, we have generated a commitment to listen well for what wants to emerge naturally as we go.

Support and Financial Contributions

Beyond Boundaries is made possible by the generosity and support of many people who share in the vision and spirit of the journey.  Already, many have been very generous in their support of a project focused on long-term thinking and solution-based, holistic development.  We are continuing to fundraise as we go, and any added contribution will bring us that much closer to our goal, while also strengthening the support network of Beyond Boundaries participants and international collaborators.  

To Donate

Beyond Boundaries is a project of the Biosphere Foundation, a non- profit 501 (c) 3 (www.biospherefoundation.org).  General donations to Beyond Boundaries or to a particular participant must go through the Biosphere Foundations tax ID number (86-0686472). 

All gifts are tax deductable, and an official thank you letter from Biosphere Foundation will be sent for your tax records, (also, a copy of our detailed budget and tax exemption letter can be sent on request). To contribute money to a specific participant, be sure to put the participant’s name in the memo section of the check or include a note.  You may also direct wire transfer funds into the account, to do that contact Sierra at: sierra@pcrf.org.

All checks should be made out to “Biosphere Foundation” and mailed to:   

 

S. Silverstone

Beyond Boundaries

Biosphere Foundation

Box 808

Big Pine CA 93513

 

Again, in the spirit of inquiry, hope, and exploration, we thank you.


[1] Council is the act of speaking from the heart, listening devoutly, expressing oneself in a lean manner, and being spontaneous.  Though simple, the practice of speaking and listening in this way is at the heart of the intention behind the journey as it offers a calm, centered way to engage any topic, and brings an egalitarian method for communicating across our differences.

 

~              ~                ~                   ~


So, that is a bit about the journey.  Our first month is now complete.  We spend the next 8 days in Ojai, and then on the 19th we fly to Portugal, to a place called Tamera.  We will be there for a month.  After that, we fly to Italy to spend a little over a week in a community called Damanhur.  From there to Scotland, to join the internationally renowned Findhorn community for another month.  It will be early October by the time our month at Findhorn ends and we will then begin a 3 month independent study, where each of us will spread to the winds to follow those aspects of inquiry that are most pressing to us individually.  Already some of the BB team are planning amazing visits and service opportunities for this time.  We will rejoin in India in mid-January to spend a month in an incredible international community known as Auroville.  After that, we will go together to Indonesia, to join our sponsoring agency, the Biosphere Foundation,  and their "sea people" on a number of small islands doing coral reef studies and assisting in the formative stages of a global coral reef monitoring center there.

I would offer more information on each place now, but I think it would be more fun for you all to join me as I go... and since I know little more than what the websites and books say at this point, I figure I will leave it at that.

The night has grown late and there is much to do tomorrow.  Thank you for reading, for supporting, and for being with me on this journey.


Adios from 3 Creeks.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

build ups and beginnings continued...

3 Creeks (continued...)

here is a picture of what this place actually looks like right now. 

We returned from our time out in the Inyos a few days ago.  Here, by the side of the pond, we told our stories and supported each other in hearing and reflecting back the solo experiences we each had.  It was a strong and beautiful way to begin this pilgrimage and unite our team.

I am aware that there is so much for me to write about, and that I've had little time to update much of anything.  We've been meeting for many hours every day, creating group agreements, discussing itineraries and finances, and preparing for today's arrival of a youth group.  As part of Beyond Boundaries' initial work and offering, we are facilitating a youth rite of passage through the School of Lost Borders.  Gigi, Win, and myself are acting as guides, and the rest of the Beyond Boundaries team as assistants/interns.  We began today, and will work with the youth to undergo a similar process to the one the BB team just completed (3 days and nights of fasting alone in the wilderness).  For these youth the fast will be a process/challenge to confirm a step towards self-responsibility and adulthood.  On the final day, many of their parents and other family members will come to witness the telling of their stories.  It's a powerful ceremony and can be a very big deal for each them and their families.  We will be working with them for the next 10 days, 4 of which we will be back out in the Inyos, but this time I will be sitting in base-camp and eating while the youth are out alone.  :  )

Because of this busy schedule, I cannot write much more now.  I've got to get some sleep!  I plan to do a more general update soon (with things like a project description, an introduction of the other participants and links to their blogs, an itinerary and the likes).

For now, know that we have had a strong start and that we are doing well.  The bullfrogs around the pond are singing me to sleep tonight as they have each night I've been here.  The high desert air is warm and still, the milky way bright in a moonless sky, and a few crickets nearby add their flutes to the bellows, completing the chorus.  There is much to do in this world... and tonight, listening to the sounds and drifting off is all I can manage.