The village, for me, is ultimately about the people, in other words, us. Before joining Learning Village, I imagined I would gain a lot of intellectual lessons regarding hosting and self-organizing. And I did, to a certain extent. But my most important harvest is the people I met and the beautiful connections we had.
We are as diverse as we can be. Our ages vary. I am probably the youngest of us all and I found it so easy to make friends with someone of my father’s age. Our nationalities differ, and so do our mother languages and accents. Yet, we never fail to have meaningful conversations. Our tastes are different as vegan and meat lover and still, we enjoy every meal together with abundance and gratitude.. We are diverse as we can be, but we are not different. We are not different because we all come from one source, the source of Life. Because of you guys, I was able to to see more clearly that oneness and interconnectedness.
When we sat in circles, I remember looking at many faces, listening to your heart sharing and just thinking how beautiful these people are.
When we engaged in sharing the abundance fund, I remember wanting to have more beans so that I could give more. Mohit’s music was playing, the wind was blowing gently, and one thought popped up in my head. Maybe the only reason we have something is that we can later give it, to a friend, a stranger or a dog.
After the final check-out, we came to the beach, exchanging shells and appreciation. We sang while looking right into the eyes of each other. “And I surrender. I surrender. I open my mind, my heart and my soul.” At that moment I did feel like I was surrendering. Surrender to the sand under my feet. Surrender to the wind on my skin. Surrender to the beauty of human beings right in front of my eyes.
Never have I felt in love with humanity deeply like that.
In the time of fear and separation where things can go ugly outside and inside, I am happy to be surrounded by such beautiful souls like you so that I could connect with the basic goodness within every human being.
Seeing beauty from people (and yes, nature) around helped me also see and appreciate the beauty inside me. I started to open up. I started to initiate deeper connections and speak up what I had previously hesitated.
When I picked the shell for the final check-out, I didn't think much. Only when others were sharing did the song “Break the shell” came to my mind. It’s a song about breaking open for life to come in. “Damn, I should have picked a broken shell! That would be much more relevant and meaningful.”
Only later did I know that we had the opportunity to “trade” our shells. And yes, without any intentional effort, I ended up with a beautiful broken shell! How magical it is that Life always give you exactly what you need, in the most natural way.
I left Learning Village feeling like a broken shell, open to whatever gifts given to me in the next journey. Inside that broken shell, I also carry my fond memories of the time we had together. Whenever things go ugly and difficult, I know that I can always come back to those memories and be reminded of what it means to be a human. You guys will always stay in my heart.
Now I realize this looks more like a letter than a reflection note and my critical mind doesn’t like that… So, here is my attempt to come up with some insights that sounds more intellectual:
Living deeply in community brings self-awareness. We live in a society operated by power, rules and norms. For a big part of my life, I always knew what I was supposed to do, whether being told or not. So when it comes to self-organizing community, I found myself uncomfortable at first. I would need to ask what my values are, by what principles I want to live by while living with others, and what practices could support those principles. It dawned on me that those questions become more alive when I live in a real community than when I am alone or just belong to a group of people. I understand myself better, as an individual and as an element of a dynamic collective being. I am reminded of a question I heard some time ago: Who am I beyond the I?
We cannot practice the outcome, we can only practice the process. Sometimes during our decision-making process, I found myself tempting to make it quicker. I had wished we could come to the optimal conclusion in less time and with less effort. But after some conversations, the beauty of a well-hosted process fully revealed itself. Whatever comes out of the process is the only thing that could have. I also realize that we travelled a long way to come to Learning Village, not for any specific outcomes, but for the processes and practices. Now that I wrote it down it seems so obvious, but this learning is very important for me, especially when I often pay much attention to results and numbers.
Indian music is so gooood!
That’s it for now. Wishing us good health and great retreat time. Looking forward to the sense-making call!
With love & gratitude,