There is Another Way of Looking at the World.
A Month in the Mountains. Source Temple: my first Workaway experience.
There have been a couple of times over the past month that I have noticed the direction that my thoughts were heading and have considered changing the name of this blog from Recovering Hippie to RELAPSING Hippie.
You might want to bear this in mind as you read through this post.
As I continue my adventures, and attempt to volunteer my way across South America, I decided it was time to try my first Workaway. I had heard all good things about this site by bloggers and people that I had met along the way. I had done my own research into other similar websites, settling on workaway.info as the best fit for me. In a sharing culture where you can rent out your room when you are out of town, or hire a hound to take for an afternoon stroll in the park, exchanging my time and labour for accommodation and food seemed like a logical way of making my travel budget stretch a little further.
Hosts generally offer a hearty meal and accommodation in return for 4-5 hours of your day volunteering with them. This can be anything from working in a bar, helping around the house, taking care of their kids, or offering a cultural and language exchange as you share in their hospitality. I first discovered the site last year as I was researching my travels, and made the decision to join the site after searching through the host list and finding the Spiritual Sanctuary for Harmonious Living, that I now know to be called, Source Temple.
Now, you can be forgiven for thinking that having been drawn to Workaway at a ‘Spiritual Sanctuary for Harmonious Living’ that a relapse into hippiedom was already on the cards. But the truth is I think that I had glossed over much of what was on offer at Source Temple. I had been completely seduced by the photography on the site, and ‘quite liked the idea’ of chilling out in the mountains for a couple of weeks, admiring the breathtaking views, swimming in the waterfalls, and if I met some cool and interesting people, then that would be a bonus. How I had underestimated how affecting my time at Source Temple would prove to be.
The road to the right leads to Source Temple.
I was dropped off at the end of a dirt track in what was essentially the middle of nowhere with only a dust covered sign pointing the way to what would be home for the next two weeks. I was the first to arrive of my cohort; all eight volunteers arrive on a Saturday morning and leave together two weeks later. I was met by Paul and Oli who were of the previous intake of volunteers, and was pleased to discover that they had enjoyed the experience so much that they had jumped at the chance to volunteer for a further two weeks when the opportunity had presented itself. When I eventually left three weeks later Paul and Oli were still at Source Temple.
My how that place touches your heart and keeps hold of your hand!
I saw my predecessors leaving. There were tears, and hugs and long drawn out good byes. Exchanges of emails and Facebook, and promises of visits to all corners of the globe… I didn’t understand it at the time, but it soon became apparent how firm a friendship could be forged in a relatively short period of time.
There are around thirty resident who live at Source Temple permanently, and each and every one of them welcome the volunteers with open arms. The original twelve came to the site is six years ago and have now been accepting volunteers for almost two years. As volunteer models go, I have to say that they have got it pretty much streamlined; everyone at Source Temple works together for 4 hours in the morning, followed by a group lunch (prepared by volunteers and residents) with everyone helping to wash and clean up after the meal. The rest of the day is yours to do as you wish.
The work, or service as it is called there, really doesn’t feel like a chore. I was buddied up with one of the permanent residents each day, and had a number of tasks such as, sanding and/or varnishing furniture, painting, raking leaves, cleaning, kitchen duty, or community outreach (with the assistance of a translator!) It works perfectly well, and is an opportunity to get to know the different characters who call this place home, to find out about their lives, and how they found themselves to be living at Source Temple. I was captivated by the new stories I discovered everyday.
Once service had finished there is so much more on offer, and so I quickly put aside any inclination I had to catch up on my reading, or writing. The residents offer so many enriching activities for the volunteers to enjoy, all for free. Each day begins with either yoga or Chi Gong, unfortunately in the summer months you have to be up with the larks for a 5am start. It is totally worth dragging yourself out of bed and walking past the still moonlit lake up to the Communion Hall for the morning session. I always had an extra bit of spring in my step on the days I manage to make the class. I will admit, that while I started with the best of intention, I had about a 50% success rate by the end.
The is also plenty on offer in the afternoons too; guided meditation in the Upper Room, Kung Fu with James, flow arts, film night, and my personal favourite, African dance with Peonix! In the first flow art session we took part in an eye gazing experiment, and this is where I started to notice that something else was happening here at Source Temple beyond the raking and the yoga. The group spent 6 minutes looking not just into the eyes, but also into the heart of the person sat opposite. Initially, I will be honest, this felt like an eternity, and I felt mainly hysterical, and rude. Once I had relaxed after the first couple of turns the activity moved beyond the feeling of a staring contest, it became about being vulnerable to be seen, about opening up and letting your stories be reflected in the other person, and allowing their vulnerabilities and stories be reflected in you. There were lots of tears and hugging, and after only three nights I understood why there had been so many tears when the previous group had left.
Individual and group therapies are also available at Source Temple, for a nominal cost. The only one that you are really encouraged to join is Rebirthing with is just $R20, and happens every Friday afternoon, or sometimes more often as was the case with our group who got addicted to recreational-rebirthing, as I started to call it. It is a simple technique that involves conscious breathing through the heart chakra, merging the inhale and exhale in a gentle rhythm in an intuitive way that floods the body with energy. Sounds simple enough, right?
I went in with an open mind and had few, if any, expectations. I had visions of reliving my actually birth, which was quite traumatic by all accounts. I know I was there, but I don’t remember anything of my actual birth itself. My first rebirth thankfully wasn’t traumatic at all, nor were any of the subsequent sessions I attended. They were quite physically demanding however, and in my first session I felt although every muscle in my body had contracted, I felt contorted by an intense spasticity from the crown of my head to tips of my toes. Once the tension released and I had let out an almighty sob, I felt as thought my body temperature dropped below zero. Like ice. As in, like an actual dead person. It took quite a while for me to feel normal again afterwards, whatever normal is supposed to feel like. For the days that followed I felt light as a feather. Subsequent session were similar in the sense of release, but were not as physically demanding. After my final session Sweetie asked if I had managed to reconcile anything. ‘No,’ I replied ‘There isn’t anything to reconcile.’ I felt amazing.
Beyond the Gates.
With mountains in all directions, 12km from the closest town, and a swimming lake in the centre of the grounds, the physical place where Source Temple sits is as beautiful as the people who live there. The houses have been built in a way that look as though they have grown up out of the ground beneath them, alongside the main house, the academy building and guesthouse where the volunteer stay. There is a gorgeous community feel at the place, with nothing being mundane, not ever for one second.
There is a bar a short walk away, and I will admit that I enjoyed a few hours on a Saturday afternoon alone in the sun, with only my book and an ice cold beer for company. Beyond the bar there is a river and waterfalls plunging into crystal clear pools, which are perfect for swimming in when the sun in high, and for watching and daydreaming with when the sun is not. I found that I left the main site seldom in the weeks I was there. I didn't feel there was a need.
Nothing Lost in Translation.
One of the things that cannot be ignored about Source Temple is the spiritual model that they use. They are guided by A Course in Miracles, and also take from the teachings of Adi da. When I first arrived the use of language such as God, His Son, The Holy Spirit, and Heaven really jarred with me. I accepted it respectfully, but I felt a resistance every time the conversation headed that way. As a hippie I had long since felt that my relationship with God, whatever that means, had very little to do with any organised religion, and I had often labelled myself as a Spiritual Agnostic, if I had ever been pressed to give a name to what I believed. I learned very quickly not to give too much meaning to the words that were being used and instead pay attention to the essence of what was being said. Communication after all being less than 10% words (citation needed), and this had been how I had been feeling my away around Brazil so far. With almost zero Portuguese and a tiny bit of Spanish I had been looking beyond the word when English was not an option and had had many exchanges with people when we both speaking with a different tongue, many that had been filled with the warmth of understanding and of being understood. (There had also been numerous disaster using this tact, and such interaction had been short lived.)
Whatever they call it at Source Temple and wherever the teachings come from, it is beyond the words they use and books that they read, and I am struggling to convey just how special it is here in the blog. Trying to explain in feels like over intellectualising something that is easy to understand, but difficult to describe. And every time I think I have the words, I feel that I would have to put each word into context and that would move be further and further away from what I am trying to say. Tying to explain it feels a lot like dissecting a frog: not wholly necessary, and ultimately the frog dies. The language of A Course in Miracle is a reference that all understand at Source Temple, and I learned to see beyond the language that was at first so unsettling.
I stayed for an extra week at the end of my tenure, and it was sad to see some of my friends leave, only to be ‘replaced’ within a few hours by the next cohort of volunteers. Of course I cried. The new intake arrived, fresh faced and eager to experience everything Source Temple had to offer. Their energy was amazing, and as the resident had with me only a fortnight before, I welcomed them with open arms. Marie and I moved into the academy building, along with Oli and Paul. At the time of writing I think they are still yet to leave. I could have easily stayed there amongst the mountains, and I hope to go back to visit one day. There had been a shift the way I was looking at the world and I wanted to go out into it and see it through my new eyes. I left feeling like I had just been given the keys to a new car, eager to take this baby for a spin and see what I can do. Any change would feel pointless if I wasn’t able to sustain it, and if nothing else I liked the challenge.
I can remember Christian saying that once we leave Source Temple we will start to notice who our people are, as they will be set apart for all the background noise. The truth is that since leaving Source Temple I have started to notice my people, and what is incredible, they have started to notice me too!