Over the past week I have been at the Omega Institute at Thomas Huebl‘s Celebrate Life Festival, and camped just down the road at Interlake RV Park which was a wonderful combination. At my campsite I found time to process and integrate. At Omega I found the most wonderful community of spirit, including both the folks who came together around Thomas and those who were living there supporting and inspiring the Omega community.
Thomas has had a “Celebrate Life Festival” for a number of years in Germany but this was the first one to be held in the US and the theme this year was: “Restoring a Fragmented World”. There were about 300 people attending, including many long-time familiars with Thomas’ work and quite a few new people also. The festival was well-organized, following a pretty daunting schedule which started with 6 am bodywork each day and the dancing didn’t end until after midnight. Needless to say we all had to pick and choose what to attend and what to skip.
Thomas started with the personal level of fragmentation. I started immediately on arrival by watching myself overreact to the uproar of the dining room. There were just too many people eating and talking at once and it was extremely noisy. I noticed that I would go to overwhelm right away and then into feeling inadequate and withdrawing inwardly. As an adult I am totally capable of putting a good face on it, but the withdrawal underneath was intensely noticeable to me within this festival container which was focused on personal level fragmentation – this was it! I was, in a way, leaving the room. So this habit of fleeing and all the early childhood emotions that were behind it became my focus for the “personal fragmentation” part of the conference. By working with it intensively, I learned how not to shut down while feeling those old emotions and to self-regulate that old pattern using my adult skills & resources. During this time we had a speaker about the challenges of personal relationships in today’s world, Terry Real. He was excellent, but my focus seemed to stay on my relationship to my self, in particular this very young part that felt very foundational. However the community around me was essential to the process and my sense is that I needed community to process this.
Then Thomas shifted the focus to the cultural aspects of our collective fragmentation, and brought the focus onto the collective wound of black/white race relations by inviting in two black speakers who were very provocative and articulate about their feelings about being black in our culture. I felt like they were purposely stirring up emotion and reactivity in the mostly white audience to allow us to get a real experience of the woundedness we all carry in our culture, rather than just be in our heads about it.
Then we had William Ury from Harvard speak about his global work in mediating in some of our planet’s most violent areas which was so impressive and amazing. His humility and his attunement to what can be learned from having to deal with such a world as this was especially impactful, as well as the possible value of each one of us to make the world a better place for future generations. And Thomas did the most wonderful wrap-up on the last day.
Throughout all this, we all were meeting with what were called “We-Lab” groups and this was a most wonderful experience. Our group just worked and was wonderful without needing any structure at all which in my experience is very unusual for a group of nine people who didn’t know each other beforehand at all. Plus, we met in the hubub of the dining hall each day. It was so wonderful that we think we will keep meeting by Zoom if we can figure it out.
I took a day off from the festival activities one day and took a tour of the “Omega Center for Sustainable Living” which was so impressive in a different way. The infectious enthusiasm of all the young people at Omega was everywhere inspiring but never more than when they were talking about this OCSL project. It is the first building project in the world to achieve both ‘Living’ Status and LEED Platinum and wow they are so proud of it and enthused about “Project Drawdown” which is referring to the point when we reverse the accumulation of greenhouse gasses and begin to reverse climate change. In the photo on the left you can see the tanks where grey water is pumped in at one end, cleaned by the bacteria in the water at one end, and in which fish live at the other end. The building also incorporated a living roof on one side and large intentional wetland beds full of cattails etc on the other where the cleaned grey water is returned to the aquifer from which it originally came. I felt so happy to see the attraction of Omega to so many diverse young people and to see their dedication to project drawdown that I signed up to provide ongoing financial support through membership even though I live so far away. If I can live that little bit less expensively and be able to support this kind of thing then I definitely want to do that.
Now I am in Exeter New Hampshire, where my parents lived for the last years of their lives, preparing for my family reunion on the coast of Maine next week, Labor Day weekend downeast in Harrington ME and then heading back out west via the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Wishing you all a wonderful rest of August.