Since last we spoke I have delved into the world of communities and ecovillages more intentionally and committedly than ever before. I spent three months in Findhorn, and have lots of stories from there of course. But more recently I visited Sieben Linden, an ecovillage in the middle of nowhere somewhere in Germany. It is quite young, founded in 1999 I think, and about 140 people live there. It is more committed to ecologically sustainable living than Findhorn, and people there don’t seem afraid to go far to achieve this.
There are mostly strawbale houses, only compost toilets, no cars, solar energy, solar showers etc. One house was built entirely on human energy, it only cost 8000 euros, but took 15000 man hours to build. Here’s a photo of it…
I think they grow something like 70 % of their food, including what they feed guests, and there is more of a permaculture element than Findhorn. They also only have one internet connection that everyone shares and don’t permit the use of mobile phones, because they don’t like the radiation. So yeah, it is really cool. but also a bit extreme and disconnected from the world outside in a way. I loved visiting these skinny legged sunburnt vegan Germans, but don’t think I could spend any longer period of time there…
In Sieben Linden we also spent some time trying out a new database for sustainability games that can be used by youth leaders when leading and exploring environmental and deep ecological issues. It was good fun to try them out, and it will probably be a fantastic resource once it is launched properly. In practice, this meant that we spent our afternoons in the shade under the birch and pine trees of our campsite, impersonating animals, engaging in deep conversations, building closed ecosystems, exploring decision making processes, and many other things.
All in all it was a great time in Sieben Linden. I spent a lot of time reflecting on the relationship between self-sufficiency and exclusion. When being self-sufficient, all time has to be spent on living on the land, and there is little time left to engage with other situations and people who are not directly involved. A form of escapism in the name of exploration. The world becomes divided into the events and activities inside the ecovillage, and the “outside world”, into which we venture out from time to time.
This I find in myself too, it is hard too look within and work on myself, discover who I am and where my path leads, being honest, authentic and sustainable in my practices towards myself and the planet, and also keep up communication and interaction with the “outside” world. Hence this period of silence from my side on our blog. What is there to say really to somebody who is not involved in the deepening process of my life? Sometimes I have the sensation that putting it into words, or trying to communicate it to others, is only taking away focus and energy, and rarely achieves anything anyway. Just as I am sure many people in Sieben Linden feel about engaging with the “outside world.” All I can do is live according to what I discover and that will have to be my way of communicating it. But still, this is more accessible than living it out in a place far away in the middle of nowhere.
A theme of life seems to be to find balance between seemingly opposing forces, such as inward-looking and outward-looking. So after a period of intense inward-looking, I feel myself shifting outwards.
Which is why I am now in Greece, working on a refugee project. But I also decided I didn’t want to go back to Calais, as it was too much outwards focus, and too little inner work possibilities. The project here is coordinated by the Global Ecovillage Network. It aims to take the knowledge and learning from the environmentally and socially resilient community life that ecovillages are trying to develop, and see how this can be used in refugee camps. But even more, the project has an awareness of the well-being of the volunteers, as well as the refugees.
Anna, our Greek coordinator, put it very well the other day. She said that we need to make sure that we can give with open hearts: The issues in the world come from people closing their hearts, not understanding and not relating to others. There is no point in giving aid or helping out, if we put ourselves in such stress and such conditions that our hearts close in the process, and we grow cynical, bitter, or hopeless. And this can be hard. After spending hours preparing food, and when giving it out to people they lie to your face and say they need more than they do, then come back for more, then shout at you for not giving them as much as they want, and then throw it away, just because they can, while others go without any food – it is easy to become harsh, ignore what the person is asking for and refuse their requests, shut down and close up the willingness for interaction. But this does not lead anywhere and to continue giving, being open, showing compassion and transparency in that situation, a good foundation is needed.
This is what RefuGEN also tries to do. So every evening we go back to the safe environment of our ecovillage called Skala, where there is nutritious homegrown food and conversations, yoga practices and sharing, good views (both scenery and opinions).
The inner work becomes the outer, and vice versa, and this is something exciting to engage with. More reflections on our work here will come.