Reflections on 2014 and visions for 2015
It has been more than three years now that the question “So what do you do? Do you work or do you study?” has been driving me a little crazy. Even before, during my university years I was not really satisfied with the answer “I study liberal arts with media and communication specialization and Dutch minor”, so I immediately added: “but I do a lot of other things besides: I am volunteering in NGOs, organizing youth projects, coordinating an environmental working group…” Blablabla… Desperately trying to explain that I do not consider myself only a student (even though that has been my main occupation for a while) but I am doing many different things and my identity is not shaped only by an institutional framework (which I felt more and more critical about). After I graduated with a bachelor degree and with great disappointment in the higher educational system, replying to this question has become quite tricky. I have been living on a farm for a while, milked goats and went for long forest walks, kept on organizing projects about sustainability, community building and arts, co-founded an NGO and tried living as eco and low-cost as possible. This was followed by three dream-like months in a folk high school in Denmark where I spent my time carefree dancing, painting and cooking, and then moved to Berlin with my partner.
So who am I? What am I? Ever since these questions are undefined and each day I could give a different answer: I organize projects, I write novels, I am a dancer, I am a designer, a painter, an artist, a facilitator, a storyteller, a trainer, a dreamer, planner, doer and celebrator… Usually I pick one or two answers from this list and try to present it in a convincing way. This is usually followed by raised eyebrows and doubtful questions of “But what is your profession really? How do you make a living out of all these?” Good questions. I have no idea. But somehow my life seems to work out. And before you again raise your eyebrows and sticker me a “bloody hippie” or a “hopeless life-artist”, I would like to share how my life looks like at the moment, what I spent my last year with and what are my perspectives at the moment. I am not propagating any philosophy, ideology or way of life – I am simply sharing my personal journey: a journey of constant challenges, of honesty, of dreams coming true, of trials and errors. A journey outside of boxes and beyond labels, a journey of coming of age in a challenging time of global transition. It is a story of a young woman living into the Great Turning and the New Story of humanity.
2014 started for me with two major dedications: one of them was writing a book in Hungarian based on personal experiences and stories about living a more sustainable and connected life on Earth. I included topics such as living in intentional communities, water, waste, eating meat or not, building up an intimate and personal relationship with the land, finding our roots and connecting to our ancestors etc. I have been aiming to combine personal stories of my travels all around Europe, getting to know inspiring people and projects and offer approaches and perspectives, which are not really wide-spread in Hungary (yet). My sources of inspiration have been visiting ecovillages such as Sieben Linden, Tamera, Tribodar, the Krishna-valley, Schweibenalp, of taking part in amazing courses and events such as the Ecovillage Design Education, annual conferences of the Global Ecovillage Network and the Green Poenix conference – and meeting many-many amazing people connected to these places and projects. I feel immensely grateful and blessed for having had the opportunity to make all these experiences, therefore I have felt dedicated to bring seeds of inspiration back to “my good old homeland”, to spread perspectives, approaches and methods, which I got to know within these international circles and which might not be available yet in the local context. And since I am not living in Hungary at the moment, writing a book felt like a good contribution to make. However, even though this book project is still important to me, around the end of the winter it was pushed to the background since some other things jumped on the top of my priority-list.
My other dedication has been coordinating the 2nd Danube Bioregional Communities Convergence, a pioneering and promising project, aiming to connect intentional communities, Transition Town initiatives, permaculture projects, ecovillages and community seekers through a one-week long event. I have taken up this responsibility for many reasons: to organize an inspiring event in Hungary and to connect initiatives in Central-Europe, to be part of a team of special, inspired and gifted folks, to have a project to focus on, to channel my creative energies, to dedicate my time and efforts to a meaningful cause. However, around the end of February it became clear for me that this is not a way to go. Even though I have had experience in coordinating international projects, cooperating in diverse teams and working together with different people, this one was a too big fish for me. At the stage where I left, roles, tasks and many-many other things were undefined and the whole project was just draining my attention and energies without giving me much back. I was also quite discouraged by a weird weekend in Hungary, which I have organized with the intention of recruiting a local organizer team for the convergence and which turned out to be one of my most challenging and difficult group-experiences – which also made me learn that intentional communities and ecological living attracts, hmmm, may I say very diverse people (quite a few of them directly depositing their personal traumas and emotional garbage in the community space) and I don´t necessarily need to engage with all of them. So all in all, it felt a good and honest decision to step out, even though was a little painful. (By the way, the project continued and was realized by an enthusiastic team, which I have felt really happy for!)
Another thing I have been engaged in was bringing Dragon Dreaming project design into Hungary – organizing introduction workshops and sessions for existing groups and projects. This year I have facilitated an intro workshop in Pécs (South of Hungary) together with Vitka, a dear friend and permaculture-fairy and offered little taster sessions to a community initiative and the team of a yoga studio in Budapest. Even though these events have been successful and rewarding, I felt that Dragon Dreaming hasn´t really been grounded in Hungary yet. The first step of sustainable community project design is to have a stable core team, a little group to focalize efforts and keep the fire burning. I know this very well, I have heard it and learnt it so many times on workshops – and I was still updating the blog, translating material and organizing events mostly by myself. Even if there was a team, I felt the commitment to carry things forward has been missing. This often made me blame myself: I am doing something wrong, I am teaching something I myself am not capable of doing… But after a while I managed to relax into the situation. At the moment I am happy to offer Dragon Dreaming introduction workshops, sessions or some coaching if I am asked, but not really feeling the drive to kick-off a movement or to organize introduction weekends to spread the method itself.
All of these things have been somehow connected to Hungary, so this might be a reason that it has been difficult to really ground myself in Berlin for a long time. The only ongoing thing, which made me connect to the place (besides my partner) has been a year-long wilderness pedagogy course (in German – has been quite a challenge!), which I completed this year. Singing songs around the campfire, playing games in the forest, sitting and observing nature, listening to the song of the birds, doing some handycrafts are all lovely things but I haven´t been able to integrate many activities into my work, since I just got a little taster of all these things. However, indirectly they opened up a lot of new perspectives and approaches for me: connecting to nature in subtle ways, being able to stay silent and listen, start to see and hear things, feel a bit more like home outdoors… But maybe the most important impact has been that through a chain of events and meetings it has motivated me to do a Vision Quest in April.
I would not really describe here all the processes I went through and all the things the Quest (the 3 days of preparation with a group, 3 days and nights spent alone fasting in a forest and 3 days of integration) has brought me – many of them still unfolding in my life. I would just mention some general questions and elements, which are still (more than half a year later) very much present for me. The first thing is to keep on asking all the time:
What is my true path? What is really calling me in life? What are my dreams? What is my true vocation? Where and how can I be of service? What are the things worth my commitment and dedication?
These lines from “All the True Vows” by David Whyte really grab the essence for me:
“There is only one life
you can call your own
and a thousand others
you can call by any name you want.
Hold to the truth you make
every day with your own body,
don´t turn your face away.
Hold to your own truth
at the center of the image
you were born with.
Those who do not understand
their destiny will never understand
the friend they have made
nor the work they have chosen
nor the one life that waits
beyond all the others.”
This poem (and many similar ones) is like a guiding compass for me, which taps into the deepness of human life – into the deepness of the soul.
There has been some periods in my life, when I wanted to live the life of at least five different people – studying, volunteering, organizing, travelling, dancing, painting, writing, activism, this youth exchange, that event… And almost all the time I’ve had the feeling that I am not doing enough. I could do more, I could be capable of more, better, bigger things… (Observing similar people around me I’ve found that a symptom of highly motivated, superbusy, hyperactive people, easily ending up burned-out. The people who do the most often have the feeling that they are doing too little.) However, I am immensely grateful for all the projects, organizations and events I have been connected to, taken part in. Each of them has given me something, made me learn many new things, made me grow and develop personally and professionally. From teaching a simple circle dance I have grown into coordinating international projects, from introducing energizer games to developing training course programs, from being a shy teenager to become a young woman who is able to talk in front of many people, facilitate processes and speak from a space of authenticity. Working together with people, running organizations and projects are a bit like love relationships for me: in the beginning there is the spark, the inspiration, that amazing enthusiasm: this is so great, I wanna join, I wanna contribute! And then come the challenges, the hardships and the difficult situations through which we can all grow. And I feel I have grown – a lot.
This year I have asked myself more and more: yes, this is all great – but what is my true mission? What are my true passions? Which contribution comes really from my heart? Which projects resonate really? What is my own, authentic path?
2014 has been a year of detaching myself a bit from projects and ideas which have meant a lot for me in the last few years: the Communities Convergence, nextGEN (the youth group of the Global Ecovillage Network), which I hoped to be my plug-in to the ecovillage movement, Dragon Dreaming… These circles, projects and people still mean a lot to me, through personal connections, shared values and vision I still feel connected to these amazing global families of changemakers, I still feel part of the networks. But something has changed inside me… Since I have done the Ecovillage Design Course in Sieben Linden in 2011 I have been fascinated with the idea of living in/grounding an ecovillage, creating a learning centre, living in community, close to and in harmony with nature. Getting to know things, approaches, methods and philosophies such as deep ecology, permaculture, Dragon Dreaming, different ways of building community and working with groups motivated me to bring all these to Hungary, to spread them, to be a bridge builder, a networker, a connection point between the international ecovillage scene and the movement in Hungary. Moving to Berlin seemed like a temporary thing. But now, as I am grounding myself more and more in this city, starting to really feel at home after 2 years and loosened my threads a bit with the eco-community scene, some more questions came up: is it really still my dream to live in an intentional community? (Who knows, maybe I get stuck in the city and will have children there…) In which ways can I sustain myself (i.e. earn money) and follow my deepest calling? Does it make sense to still take part in/organize gatherings, conferences and come-togethers of interesting people or I have had enough inspiration and now it is really time to build something up?
As I stepped back from a few projects, I have also noticed that also friendships loosened. Since university times friendships, volunteering or working together has been overlapping more and more in my life. I have very few (and precious!) friends with whom I just meet for a coffee, a chat or do some fun stuff – with the others we are usually working or having worked on some projects together. Which is fine and well but these relationships are also quite dynamic and fluid – mostly due to geographical distances or the business of the big city. I am very grateful for the few lasting and strong connections, for example with Ági with whom we run Pandora Association together.
Besides loosening ties, this year has also been the time of creating amazing projects! Last year in cooperation with an organization from Liechtenstein and a Slovenian friend of mine I have written two applications for EU-funded training courses and we got money for both of them! This is how the Reconnect to Empower and the Take the future in your hands! training courses were born. I won´t introduce them here in detail – after both trainings, I have written, edited and designed (oh yeah, it has been a lot of work!) two booklets, which are available for free download here:
So actually I spent half of the year with the organization of these courses – with the preparation, facilitation and follow-up stuff. And after all the work was done, all the booklets were printed and reports were sent, came the question: so what now…? What is my next step, what do I do, which is the next project? A scary vacuum opened up and I was desperate for a while. Maybe I have done something totally wrong in my life… Maybe I should have continued studying, should have gone for an MA, should have gone for a proper profession, should get a proper job, should get a proper life… These creepy little question-monsters wake up in me from time to time (quite often actually). But if I really listen to myself, if I really deeply ask myself, I already know the answers. There is this inner compass, however I call it: my heart, my soul, my inner voice – which if I trust will lead me on the right path.
In the autumn this inner compass led me to the New Story Summit in Findhorn Community, made me write a novel inspired by the Vision Quest and finally collect my writings (short stories, fairy tales and poems) into two books, organize my first literature event in the city where I was born and storytelling sessions in Berlin.
So if I want to be pragmatic, this is what I can put on the table this year: two successful training courses and the booklets developed after them, two small books: one with short stories and one with fairy tales and poems, the rough first version of a novel – and many smaller events, workshops, contributions here and there… (Even though I am not sure if all these would convince my granpa about living a reasonable life. He is that kind of man of numbers, you know…)
As 2014 is coming to an end, I am creating a mind map of how 2015 will look like and I feel quite happy with what I see: my NGO, Pandora Association has a wonderful (and feasible;) strategic plan for the new year with many exciting events and workshops, I am planning to continue my path as a writer (organize more events, try my fortune with publishing and write the second part of my novel) and a storyteller (step by step building up the Wild Geese nomadic storytelling project), we have an approved Erasmus+ strategic partnership called proVOCAting innovaTION to develop and educational curriculum for youth workers around the topics of finding authentic vocation, responding to the social and ecological challenges of our times and entrepreneurial skills, and there are many-many creative ideas of workshops and artistic projects… I want to learn so many things: to dance tango, to speak proper German, to develop myself as a writer and storyteller…
As you see, I don´t have a fixed job. Some might say I don´t even have a proper education (with a bachelor degree and many-many training courses on very different topics from ecovillage design through peace journalism to mural painting). I don´t have a boss, I don´t have regular income. I am not operating within an institutional framework, I am not working for a company. I have (at least) two homes. Each day I wake up with a tickling feeling in my stomach: this is another day of becoming the person who I want to be. A mixture of creativity and anxiety is boiling in me. Another day of total freedom and of full responsibility. How can I spend it in the most constructive and creative way? How can I handle my freedom? How can I relate to others and to myself in a loving, compassionate and authentic way? What will the future bring? What is my next step? How will I feed my future children with the things I do?
I have no standard answers to these questions. Sometimes the little voice in my head says I am totally crazy and I have made a big mistake (or not only one…) something like 3-4 years ago, when I decided not to walk a conventional path… But deep inside I feel and I know that my story is part of a bigger story. A global transition, the Great Turning or however you might call it. As crisis and unraveling shows up in many areas of society, as the towers are trembling and the system is shaking, a new era is emerging. Will we be able to find ways to live in a balanced, connected and harmonious way with each other and with the Earth before it´s too late? Are we able to create the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible? Can we collectively create the New Story of humanity when the old stories (about what is valuable and what is not, about what is the meaning of life, about how we live together, how we love, about the relationship between humans and non-human beings, about economics etc.) are demolished? And what is my part in creating the New Story?
Another inspiring poem gives me the answer (from the amazing Climbing Poetree project):
“we were born right now
for a reason
we can be whatever
we give ourselves the power to be
give what you most deeply desire
every moment you are choosing to live
or you are waiting”
I have received so many gifts from Life. I am privileged from so many points of view. So therefore I am dedicated not to gamble away these gifts but to give – what I most deeply desire to give. I am dedicated to following my dreams. If I want to motivate other young people to do the same: to follow their dreams, to listen to their calling, unfold their talents, to create a brave vision for their lives and go for it – than I need to do be an example. To stay true to myself and to my calling. It is not easy. It is a constant challenge. But a beautiful challenge – full of creativity, which makes me feel alive.
This is the end of the year – time to calm down, look back and look forward. To reflect and to give thanks. I am immensely grateful for each heartbeat, each breath, each step on this Earth. For the food and the water, which keep me alive, for the blood circulating in my veins. I am grateful for each human (and non-human) being I have connected with on a deep level, since these connections make me be the person I am today.