“Truth is an empty cup.”
Frank Herbert

Chapter House Dune

Shumacher College Alumni Gathering

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Disclaimer: this post is a note to myself, it may change as memories and reflections from the event continue to move in me.

That which touched me personally and deeply

  1. Jerome (from France) seeing an Israeli in me and for softly offering this insight to me with an open heart. I usually feel deeply alienated from Israel (hence living in Romania) and distance myself from being associated with it. Yet sometimes, somewhere deep inside me I can recognize a connection to and appreciation of qualities that have very little to do with what is currently manifesting on the face of the planet in the place that calls itself Israel. Jerome saw it, valued it, showed it to me and gave it a place on the earth.
  2. Manu seeing and acknowledging pain and grief in me. He saw through the superficial layers of a conversation, through my alienating words. He saw this and with a soft firmness shared what he saw with me.
  3. Feeling welcome, held and secure in Ivo & Lili’s home. On the second morning I asked Ivo’s permission to play the Shakuhachi in their home. The Shakuhachi felt open and full of resonance and brought me to tears. The resonance of the home, the shakuhachi, myself … opened the door to introducing the Shakuhachi to the group.
  4. Karsten’s (the spirit that chose Lars and Robyn as parents) soft, whole and sweet presence touched me deeply. He touched my confusion, struggle and pain around not having kids. He gave me hope. His presence complimented, illuminated and even challenged the qualities of elders that was presenced by Satish and June.
  5. Playing Shakuhachi with the group at the end of an intense mental session … arriving at a shared-silence. Thank you Ingrid for opening the door and to everyone for softly walking in together,
  6. A surprising sequence of a few eternal moments with Ingrid … when our eyes met and we connected and I felt as if we sank into each other.
  7. Dan and Tincuta’s dedication to nourishing my body and in doing so allowing me to be free to be present with others. I know Dan to be a profound person who has so much to contribute to a gathering. I am (again!) in awe of his recurring clear choice to come into service of others. I am also inspired by how he and his family have come and grown together, not just as a family (which seems to me to be a remarkable achievement in this day and age) but also in service of purpose together.
  8. Pepik’s fatherly embraces.
  9. Men – this probably deserves more than just another bullet … suffice to say that for most of my life I’ve had a less-than-positive opinion of men (with only a precious few men giving me a sense of a masculine I could embrace) … but the men I met in this weekend turned that around for me. I enjoyed being with and a part of them.

That which shimmered for me

  1. The astral paintings of Vlad, the taxi driver.
  2. A group that is willing¬† to step together into an unknown space. My life has made this an almost regular personal practice, but I’ve never witnessed such a move in a large group. I do not recall a single person who expressed (implicitly or explicitly) discomfort that the gathering did not have a clearly stated purpose or objective.
  3. Real feminine leadership – this gathering was made possible by a team of organizers who, as far as I could tell, were almost all women. This made it possible not only to pleasantly step into an unknown space but to continue to inhabit and respond to it.
  4. Feminine & masculine balance both within individuals and within the group. I looked around during the closing circle and got the impression that the group was close to evenly divided between men and women. It was then that I realized that also within most (possibly all!) the individuals in the group there was a pleasant combination of masculine and feminine qualities. My feelings about the men in the group were informed by feminine qualities present in them. And, the attentive and detailed organization and direction and redirection of the group spoke of masculine qualities among the women.
  5. A conversation with Collin about fermented cabbage (and its seasonal absence from our meals) that started off with friction but ended up building a bridge between cultures, and maybe even getting a better sense of culture itself.
  6. A soft, humble, wise, available and unimposing presence of Satish and June, the elders of the group present when called for, gently offering re-views.
  7. Richard’s soft spoken balanced present.
  8. Delia who, in private conversation, invited deeper (usually less spoken) aspects of Cutia Taranului to emerge.
  9. Seeing a working traditional loom … and how it echoed a simplicity I find to be typical of Romanian village culture.

That which disturbed me

  1. Happy Hall – our first meeting took place in a large hall that was build by one of Ivo’s members. It was a large wooden hall and we found it in a welcoming state. Satish in his positive outlook named it “Happy Hall”. I was impressed and somewhat envious of the wooden timbers that went into making the space. I immediately thought about the many trees that were cut down to make it possible. Then, when I learned that it was built by its owner because he could not find a better place for for the marriage of his daughter (and remained mostly unused since!) … that made me sad. It takes quite some aggression and arrogance to cut down so many trees for one personal event. The name “Happy Hall” felt like insult was being added to injury. It was also interesting to note that we spent the rest of the time (except the “village celebration”) in the more intimate space of Ivo and Lily’s home!
  2. Ivo and Lily’s fireplace … which kept me warm and peaceful gazing into it … yet knowing that it is such a wasteful device … that the slow burning wood is mostly converted into carbon that is released to the atmosphere instead of heat in the room … made me wonder what keeps us from collectively doing better? It made me recall flying once over Romania and seeing the vast fields plowed into straight lines and feeling a conflict: on the one hand there was an aesthetic there that appealed to me (man made order in the world), but on the other hand I also knew that was a vision of ecological destruction. It left me wondering about my likes/dislikes, my sense of aesthetics … and how all that informs choices that I make. Is the world burning in giant corporate furnaces or billions of home fires?
  3. The evening of mingling with the villagers … though I understood and appreciated the intentions and effort to make this happen … for me it brutally broke a bubble of presence that was born of the gathering. When the “celebration” ended … I felt a need for personal and communal energetic healing. This invites, for me, more reflection on the space between stories … there are things in the world that are only beign conceived (maybe one day born) and there are things that are dying because their time is up, because they are no longer relevant (though their essence will live on deep inside us).
  4. Romantic Village – a recurring theme in our conversations (supposedly inspired by the village setting in which the gathering took place) kept coming back to what felt to me like a romanticized image of a village, far removed from the reality of village life in Romania. I recognized that may have spoken to a deep wish many of us carry to experience a true “village-life”. But it felt like a lie when it pretended to be inspired by “village life in Romania”. It felt to me like a weak foundation for a reality we may aspire to really create in our lives.
  5. Guided Meditation – guided meditations, since I first encountered them and through to this weekend, alienate me. For a person like me, who feels alone in the world, the index finger touching the thumb or that we all breathe does not act as a reminder that we are all connected. Hearing these words tramples my personal experience and feels … well … like being trampled. It does not facilitate meditative qualities in me.My understanding of meditation itself makes the very notion of “guided meditation” an oximoron. Every word of “guidance” that I hear activates my mental mind and, if I was lucky enough to experience a meditative quality, snaps me out. My personal practice experience has been that no amount of word repetition (though it can always be argued that if only I repeat them a few¬† more times … ) leads to change.

    As I see it, mind, like a falling snowflake, forms in response to life experiences and it changes in a similar way – from the feedback that comes from actions acted out in the world. I do not meditate to change my life, I change my life so that I my experience of it may become more meditative. I did not feel comfortable speaking out about this.

    I joined the morning sittings to share quietness and presence with the group and this was despite the “guided meditation” (and because I am usually awake at this hour and had nowhere else to be).When asked about religion and spirituality, Satish offered a generous answer – he said that religion is a doorway into spirituality but that too many people are getting stuck at the door and not walking into the space. I feel similarly about guided meditations (and most practices that I’ve encountered that are labeled as “meditation”) – they provide a taste of what meditation can be, but they are, to my understanding, as far from meditation as religion is from spirituality.

    I feel that meditative qualities are vital to gracefully inhabiting life. For this, we need to be able to recognize that we are at the door and that we have yet to walk into the room of meditation. For that to be possible we need to better discern between the door and the room, between sitting/mindfulness practices that seem to be popular and meditation itself. I feel that if we keep using the word meditation too loosely, we may forget there is a room to step into. Maybe if we spoke more of sitting (and set aside the fashionable spiritual halo of “meditation”) we could remember and grow towards dhyana.

  6. Posture – Satish was asked about the importance of posture in “meditation” and the answer he gave saddened me. As a practitioner of Yoga I believe there is so much more to be said. There did seem to be an agreement that posture is important, and yet no actions were taken for care for body and posture (neither in preparation for sitting nor after it).Consider the amount of time, attention and work that made this short gathering possible … how much preparation (by everyone: organizers, hosts, participants) was required for us to come together for three days. that I believe, can give us a good indication about the relationship between preparation and action: a recurring pattern seems that preparation is much larger (the unseen iceberg that we tend to under-estimate) in relation to action itself (the visible tip of the iceberg) . Yet when it comes to posture and placing the body in a seated position … where is the preparation? Are our thoughts and our actions aligned?

Thank you

Thank you to Satish and his co-founders for birthing and nurturing Shumacher College (whatever and wherever it is) in such a way that I, knowing very little of it, was welcome and embraced.

Thank you to Ivo & Lily and Lars & Robyn for wanting this and creating the conditions for it to happen.

Thank you to the organizers & volunteers who chose to create the gathering here (from my perspective: coming to me so that I may partake) and for providing the precious (and easy to overlook) life foundations (food, shelter, warmth) for the gathering.

Thank you to the participants who travelled and came here to be together and for together holding that shared sense of being which can’t be named.

Will I see you again?
Will there be a second date?
Will we get to come into a relationship where we act together in the world?

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