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 (  

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