Tag Archives: Seminar Haus Impulse

Leaving Wettenbostel

15 May

Well, it happened. I left Wettenbostel. I know it is true because… I am in France! I am doing a new help exchange and have connected with a small bed and breakfast in Burgundy area of France through the website helpx.net.

There was a time I thought I might not leave Wettenbostel. Like somehow it was my cosmic fate to be forever entwined amongst its potato fields. Even a week before I was scheduled to leave for France… I was not still totally confident it would happen. But here I am. I have left. And so it seems to cosmos has opened the gate to what is next.

The last few days in Wettenobstel were full and hearty for me. We had a seminar all weekend filled with the usual demands… mostly assisting with preparing meals and cleaning up after. In typical fashion these work weekends stretched me to my max demanding that I take a closer look at myself… is there something more than I can do? Can I look at this another way? It also continued to challenge me in the space of living and working in community and the balance of caring and honoring myself in the midst of much work to be done. Still a wobbly act and a skill that I have not quite mastered. But alas, I continue to grow.

The last evening in Wettenbostel was spent in typical Seminar Haus fashion. The hot tub was filled up and we were joined for the evening by regular faces of the Seminar Haus tribe. We gathered from around 5pm into the evening, hanging out in the hot tub, sharing a farewell toast, and giving and receiving words of thanks and completion. My departure was not a solo act as my new Candadian friends too have left. In a way it was a relief to me to share the departure spotlight with them. It was a joy to experience a little grace in the evening, sharing time with my hosts, the Canadians, my friend Dan from the States and other guests, until at last there was no more…and it was time to leave.

I am leaving a place that has been so colorful and lush decorating the landscape of my life. And yet it is clear that nearly a year to the date that I arrived, it is time for a new scene.

Traveling on the train to France, as I switched trains in Southern Germany to the French train it was like entering another world. I suddenly felt ill equipped not knowing which standard greeting to use… as I was still in Germany but on a French train. Do I say “hallo”… or now “bonjour”? The familiar business-like feeling of the German Deutsche Bahn was replaced by a sleek silver French train with plush lavender interior. As we arrived at each stop slowly getting closer to France I felt butterflies arise in my stomach. It is one thing to leave New Orleans and go spend a year in Germany. And its another thing to make plans to leave Germany and say you are going to France. But it is still yet another thing to actually GO to France.

And so here I am, I have arrived.  I am quietly settling into my new digs… diving into some of the familiarity of my small traveling world. Unpacking my suitcase. Finding my toothbrush. I have a simple but comfortable private room in the downstairs floor of the private quarters of the Bed and Breakfast.   I am surrounded by the gentle and friendly company of the owner and his visiting mother. So far there is an easy laid back attitude here inviting me to… relax a little bit. Maybe even exhale. Yes it is true…  I am in France.

Photo from the flowering gardens of the Seminar Haus, Wettenbostel.

The little ways

7 May

It is a rainy day in Wettenbostel.  It is Monday after a busy Seminar Weekend.  The weekend felt intense and I am grateful for a rainy Monday… allowing a little quiet and rest to drift in.

It seems lately there is always something happening here at the Seminar Haus.  A party happening nearly every night and the energy of change in the air as the Seminar Haus prepares to close its doors in August and considers what is next. I am still accompanied in Wettenbostel by Dan, the American Reiki Master, and the young couple from Canada.  The Canadians have been here for the past month or so to visit, live and do work exchange. While Spring is blossoming in the garden… it is coming hesitantly with the last few days filled with cold breezes demanding the returns of jackets and scarves.

I continue to do my work here… my outer work… cleaning rooms, chopping vegetables, assisting in the kitchen. And my inner work of learning to pay attention and be present.  This weekend I got to make humus for the guests… a bit of a treat to be allowed that flexibility in the kitchen.   I also chopped up dozens of vegetables and mixed up a good salad or two.  Finding a joy in putting the green olives decoratively on the top of the salad then season and speckling the top with pepper.  Looks good and well, tastes good too.  Appreciating the pleasure of mixing the salad with oils, vinegar and seasonings feeling and seeing all of the ingredients come together.  And experiencing at least a degree of satisfaction of being pretty well prepared in the kitchen after nearly a year of working here.  It feels good to… mostly.. know what to do… For example… at the Seminar Haus kitchen… when you cut and chop the onions, a standard at most meals, you saute them in a little oil and always add plenty of garlic!  Then add herbs while sautéing and when it is nearly done… melt in some butter.  My host says it provides a better flavor and texture when you add butter.  Then the onions will be added to… something!  Often soup, or a sauce, or some other vegetable combination that has been prepared.

I had a new experience this weekend in my life of trade in Wettenbostel.  I got to mow the lawn!  It was a riding mower and the lawn is quite big nestled with windy paths in the garden.  My host encouraged me that I was doing a good job and I somewhat hesitantly lead the big machine around the yard.  Kind of a kick to find myself out mowing the lawn while the men of Wettenbostel were in the kitchen cooking.

It’s been fun having the “young” Canadian couple around.   They have a young fresh attitude and add an ample additional set of helping hands which makes the work around here feel… possible.  They will be leaving soon to head to their next adventure… teaching English in Thailand.  They leave sometime next week… the latest turn in their adventure of life and travel!

And me, well for today, I am going to do my best to enjoy some rest in the wake of the latest seminar and accompanying partying here at Wettenbostel.  In the quietness of my meditations I continue to hear an inner whisper… “I am learning a new way”… Sometimes feeling overwhelmed in all the twisting energy here and life and change… I wonder what is this new way I am learning.  But then I hear and I see and I am clear.  It’s the lesson of my namesake… St. Teresa the Little Flower.  Teresa is recognized as a Saint in the Catholic church and was a mystic in her own right.  She dedicated her life to serving God.  She is known for her attention to the little things… serving in the little ways.  She is quoted as saying “What matters in life is not great deeds, but great love.”   So I see in my journey I am learning my way in the little things of life.  And learning to be of service in the little ways.  One day at a time.  It is requiring of me patience, humility, learning to pay attention and learning to show up to myself and to my life.

Inner work.  Outer work.  And little ways. It’s just another day in Wettenbostel.

Photo from the gardens of the Seminar Haus Wettenbostel.

New Beginnings

29 Apr

Well, it’s official.  My year of being in Europe is coming to a close and it looks like I have the pleasure of extending my time here.  Why is it official you ask?  Well, my flight back to the United States was on Tuesday, April 23 and… I wasn’t on the flight.  The strangest things about it is that not getting on that flight was… quite natural.  I took note of it… the day the flight was supposed to leave.  I paid special attention to my intuition the days before in case, for some reason, for my highest good, my insight demanded that I get on that plane.  But it didn’t happen.  I called to officially cancel my flight the morning of my flight, shared the news with one of our visiting Canadians, and then ate my oatmeal for breakfast.

As this year of travel is coming to a close it seems as if it is also a time… of new beginnings.  New beginnings in the space of not knowing what is next.  New beginnings in the space of being in Europe… without a ticket back to the States.  It is new ground for me… and on that ground I am growing.  I can see, imagine and feel what is next… without a deadline.  That door of returning to the States is always open to me, and I will take it when I feel the time is right… but in the meantime… so many other doors are open to me as well that feel oh so rich and inviting.

As I have spent most of my year in the expansive world of the Seminar Haus and Germany, it is still a thrill to me to look at another country… France perhaps… and consider the possibility of being there.  I am  somewhat of an “unexpected traveler”… making the decision to come to Europe at the last-minute in the face of many life changes… and so I am not a traveler with a lush traveling bank account.  Therefore, I am patient.  I keep it simple.  And I do my best to enjoy the time and lessons where I am.  And when the time and situation is right, I will head to a new destination to enjoy the time, experiences and lessons there.

From my time in the country in Wettenbostel I have learned that I really can do simple quite well.  It is not too startling or an upset to my psyche to be surrounded by potato fields and to have the plans for the evening to be a stroll in the flowering fields.  I don’t mind my neighbors being trees… and ponies…and goats… and a few people…or walking outside and more than anything hearing and feeling the silence and fresh air surrounding me.

I am grateful for my spiritual practices that are cornerstones for me and my time in Wettenbostel at the Seminar Haus.  Nearly daily, and some days twice a day, I make a visit to the altar of my yoga mat… greeting her with my breath and my patience.  Allowing myself to move and feel and being restored in that way.  Lately I feel pulled to spend more time doing yoga and bathing in its healing and nurturing impact on my body, mind and spirit.

It is hard for me to believe, but there was a time when I didn’t do yoga.  A time when yoga was foreign to me.  Raised in the suburbs of the mid-western United States, yoga was not something that I considered for myself.  I had a friend in New Orleans who grew up in Vermont and had been doing yoga since she was 18.  She knew I had challenges in my life and had often suggested yoga for me…  She would have a hard week at work and talk about her Saturday morning yoga class as returning to the love… or getting the love.  But at the time I just didn’t get it.  It wasn’t until the wake of  getting off of the anti-depressant Paxil that I seriously considered yoga.  And one day I did it… I just took the leap and committed myself to yoga starting with a class one day a week.  It was the place I went to find myself… to begin to unleash my pain and sorrow and surrender to something greater than myself.  And here I am 8 years later, still worshiping her.

It is a quiet Sunday night in Wettenbostel.  The crazy birds are outside my window singing their relentless sweet songs.  We had guests this weekend celebrating a 40th birthday.  They “took over” the whole compound, even the kitchen, and so mostly the staff here found ourselves dismissed for the weekend.  We would retreat from time to time to our hosts home up the street and share a little dinner prepared in his kitchen and watch a movie.  But mostly, we took it easy and laid low, which felt like a welcome respite.

Today as the party was coming to a close, my host and the visiting Canadians prepared themselves to head to Amsterdam to join in the celebration of Queens Day.  With the spirit of the trip being to party hard,  I chose to stay behind and enjoy the wake of stillness left in the space of the weekend party diminishing and their departure.  My porch companion Dan, too is gone for a few days as well as my hostess traveling for the week at a seminar.  So it is me here… to delight in the juicy peace that I need from time to time.

Enjoying the time alone, I am grateful for the fullness of the experiences of this past year and for some reason, somewhat relaxed at the possibility of the future.  The tulips are blooming in the garden and as May nearly creeps in, it is just starting to look like spring.  I can begin to feel the warmth of the sun, warming my heart, as I look forward… to big and little changes ahead, some things coming to a close and the promise of new beginnings.

Photo from the flowering gardens of the Seminar Haus.

Learning a New Way

22 Apr

I have been here at Wettenbostel for almost a year now.  What an opportunity and challenge it has been! This year has been packed full with new experiences and people.  The foundation of my “existence” here is my agreement with my hosts to do work exchange.  This idea is simple… I work a certain number of hours a day in exchange for room and board.  It’s a brilliant idea and opens up a world  of opportunity.  My host here in Wettenbostel is very generous about opening his doors to people willing to lend a hand with the work.  He has recently become a member of the website helpx.net, a resource that connects travelers with hosts offering room and board in exchange for work they may need at their home, farm, business.  We currently have two visitors through helpx from Canada visiting here for a month… or longer as things may go.

Living this past year in exchange for room and board at the Seminar Haus has been interesting and challenging.  Here in Wettenbostel we are asked to work three to four hours a day… but the truth and experience of that is we are part of a “community” here and asked to contribute to what needs to be done on any given day.  Some days before seminars we can get very busy and rushed and it isn’t unusual to work 8 or ten-hour days.  Generally speaking we do not have days off here, although sometimes after a seminar we will take the next day a bit more slowly.

This past year has been a bit of a dance with me and my host finding the jobs that I do well and in a way that is pleasing to him.  I have had to learn to be flexible, try new things, fail, try again and communicate.  It relies not just on the physical work, but also maintaining the relationship with my hosts along the way.

The work I find I mostly do here at the seminar haus is cleaning the rooms before and after seminars.  We have 15 sleeping rooms total in all three buildings on the premises.  During seminar weekends I often spend a lot of time in the kitchen.  We serve three meals a day and I have helped with breakfast, lunch and dinner… sometimes helping to prep the food and often cleaning up afterwards.

I have done other miscellaneous jobs over the year.  I have painted the ceiling in the big dojo, pulled weeds and dug edges in the garden, assisted with cleaning and organizing the home of my host, and I have given Reiki treatments.  Through it all I have learned many lessons.   I have learned to have more patience, with myself and others.  I have learned to be more flexible as the spirit of this place and my hosts is unpredictable.  I have learned to take more initiative… that is considering what needs to be done or what could be done or asking what should be done in the course of the day when things may be slow.  And I have learned, and continue to learn, what it means to give of myself to others and asking myself… what is it I have to give today.  I have learned to continue to work in the face of my own challenges or resistance to the work at hand and I have explored setting boundaries for myself that still gives me time and space to take care of myself and meet my own needs in balance with what needs to be done and what is happening in my environment.

Like I said, this time of doing trade has been a dance… I am not sure what kind of dance exactly it is… but ultimately I feel it is good and nourishing for me.  It has taken me down new roads and paths, and it has pushed and challenged me mentally, emotionally and physically.

And after a year, I feel I am just beginning to find my feet in this new way.  There are places where I feel I have faltered and places where I feel I have grown.   Wow, what a time it has been!  And will continue to be… learning to live life in a new way.

Photo from the gardens of the Seminar Haus in Wettenbostel.

Friday the 13th

13 Apr

Another day in Wettenbostel!  The cool not yet spring air of April is invigorating as I find my way back to the little room where lately I have called my home.  I just finished eating a little dinner and enjoying the company of our visiting Canadians.  During dinner we were doused and periodically entertained by the injected energy of our host, Michael.  We are now complete with four residents here at the Seminar Haus with the return of Dan, porch companion, Reiki Master from Oregon and long-time resident here in Wettenbostel.

It is Friday the 13th and I wonder if that accounts for some of the strangeness of the day.  There is a new dynamic and energy here in Wettenbostel with our shifted collection of folks and my hosts returning from their week-long escape to Austria.  I’m noticing new ebbs and flows which sometimes have me feeling a little dizzy and sometimes feeling a little lost or left out in the cold.

Our new visiting Canadians are a young couple who have been traveling around Europe since September of 2011.  They found their way to the Seminar Haus through the on-line web-site helpx.net, a resource for work exchange for travelers.  They arrived at the Seminar Haus in the midst of kitchen chaos during the week-long Aikido workshop.  They seem to be doing a good job so far of riding the Wettenbostel wave… where you never know what will happen next.  Both are friendly, with big hearts and loving kindness.

The sun is starting to set on this Friday the 13th and I have to say I am glad for this day to wean away.  It has been filled with a mixture of emotions that I am ready to tuck into bed into the comfort of a good night sleep.  All is well in the land of Wettenbostel.  Things are shifting on the inside and out.  Somethings are clear.  Some things are uncertain.  And a new cast of characters assembled for now… falling asleep underneath the Wettenbostel moon on this night,  Friday the 13th.

Photo by me, gypsy woman, from the budding gardens of Wettenbostel.

Soft Power

7 Apr

It is a chilly day in Wettenbostel.  The day before Easter.  I woke up this morning to see white flakes flying through the air.  My first thought was… perhaps they are blossoms coming from a tree… it’s Spring, right?  But alas, the weather today has been below freezing and those white flakes were snow.  The day has been a strange culmination of sunny blue cold skies and unexpected flakey white showers.

I recently finished a week-long Aikido workshop here in Wettenbostel.  It was led by Reiki Master and the  Head of Discipline in the Usui Shiki Ryoho tradition, Paul David Mitchell.  I am left in its wake feeling like I just took a magic carpet ride!

This workshop was not your typical Aikido workshop, but a poetic journey of exploring Aikido practices and principles.  Paul calls the workshop ” The Way to Harmony” and we were lead home to ourselves, to each other and to a power greater than ourselves.  Paul has been teaching Aikido workshops in Wettenbostel and other places in the world for over twenty years.

Paul Mitchell is a gentle, thoughtful, attentive, powerful and kind teacher. I was the “new kid on the block” in an assembly of around 16 returning and dedicated students.  I was welcomed into the group with open arms and challenged to be present and rise to the experience.

The workshop began with an introduction to the Aikido concept “one point”.  One point physically is located in the pelvic area.  If you hold your thumb to your belly button and extend your hand to your pinky, it reaches your one point.  Being in “one point” gives one access to a soft gentle power that to me felt like coming home.  The first few times I experienced being in “one point” it almost brought tears to my eyes, being so relaxed and at ease yet being strong and unmovable.  In that space of grace and ease there is an undeniable power that is greater than any physical force, resistance or effort.  Learning to connect to one point for me was like beginning to meet an unmet need.

We were partnered up and began a series of tests to learn and explore being in one point.  We began with holding our bodies in a state of resistance.  Holding tightly, we used force to hold our bodies still and with some effort our partners were not able to move us from our stand.  Then we explored holding our bodies in non-resistance… that is we allowed their hand to move us as we gently fell backwards.  Then, one point.  Standing in a space of non-resistance we focused our attention on our one point.  And when tested… we didn’t move.  But not only did we not move, unlike with physical resistance, our mind-body and spirit were in a space of openness and relaxation. Paul referred to being in one-point as our natural state, which he called mind-body unified.  The creator of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, calls this the perfect state of balance with the spiritual and the physical self.

We were guided to access mind-body unified in other ways as well.  We explored the principle of weight underside. To understand and experience this concept we were asked to stand next to our partners and put our attention on the bottom of our feet and let that feeling of attention flow through our whole body.  When doing this, guess what?… again unmovable.  To test this our partner put their hand on our ankle and tried to lift us.  When in a state of resistance we would eventually go toppling over with some strain.  But with attention to weight underside, again unmovable and ease and grace in the body and mind.

As we continued to explore these concepts in the workshop I began to see that certain things can take you out of the state of mind-body unified.  If I was worried, or thought to much or let me emotions take the lead I was unable to maintain the soft ease of mind-body unified.  I noticed this and practiced returning to the space of mind-body unified in the midst it.  I was coached by Paul to let my emotions go to my one point and with some practice I was able to find my “center” again using these techniques.

To demonstrate these ideas, Paul had us do an exercise where we went to one point and whispered to ourselves… I can’t do it.  And notice the results… which were, of course… not being able to stay in the soft power of one point.  Then we whispered “Maybe I can do it”… and similar results.  And then we said “I can do it”… and with that positive intention there was success.

The workshop invited us to explore our relationships and connection with one another.  With some practice, we progressed to some more challenging exercises.  One of these exercises used wooden swords.  We learned a pattern with the swords, dancing over and around our shoulders, that at first we did separately.  But then, we came together and worked with that pattern in relationship to a partner.    We stood, legs stretched out, connecting first one point for ourselves and then connecting in mind and heart with our partners.  And then we began.  As we did our individual patterns together, our swords connected with our partner intermingling in a beautiful and powerful pattern.

During this exercise, I learned a little bit more about the importance and possibility of trust.  First I had to trust myself… with my own power and my ability to do my part.  Second I had to trust my partner to do their part.  I saw that if I didn’t trust my partner, I would hold back… trying not the “hurt them” which limited the connection and the experience.  But if I trusted myself and let go and trusted my partner, the exercise was a satisfying experience of play and connection.

In the workshop I saw that I am not a victim… I have equal access to the “inalienable right” of soft power of mind-body unified.  I got to experience that even when challenging feelings or emotions came up, there is still the possibility of reconnecting with this strength.

And now, the week  has come to a close.  New faces and connections from the workshop have come and gone.  And time continues here in Wettenbostel.  We have received the gift of a young traveling Canadian couple here to work and visit for a little while.  Their smiles and spirits very welcome here.  My friend Olaf from Hamburg unexpectedly arrived in Wettenbostel as well so on “Easter eve” we have a small community here.

There is an easter bonfire in Wettenbostel tonight.  It is promised to bring out most of the 59 residents of this small farming village.  The cold weather may be a little daunting, but I intend to make my way to the community event.

But for now, I enjoy a little quiet time in the intimacy of my room looking out the window at the expanding woods outside.  Bathing in the aftermath of the Aikido workshop and the experience of my own strength and soft power.

Photo by Michael Hartley from the emerging… Spring?… gardens of Wettenbostel.


26 Mar

Well things are definitely changing here in Wettenbostel.  The birds are back and … possibly taking over.  Here it is 8:04pm and the loudest sound I hear is the birds singing.  So sweet… it is almost silly.  We recently had a time change so rather than the early darkness of winter, dark outside by 5pm… the day is now stretched and light still remains in the sky as I am writing.

I had some time on my own today to do a little work.  I am practicing my digging skills, creating an edge around the many garden beds here and giving them some shape.  My host refers to this as an English method of gardening.  Gardening in general is one of the areas where you could say I…have room for growth.  But I am willing to learn and find that I really love being outside and being in the dirt and connected to the plants, creatures and flowers.  During the process of learning and discerning in the garden I find I need to have some patience with myself.

It was late afternoon/early evening when my host arrived to do a little gardening himself.  Master gardener that he is, the garden is truly his universe.  As he was immersed in his fervent gardening, I sheepishly asked… are there any other little projects you might like me to do?  Perhaps something I could do today and continue this week?  “Why yes” he said with an enthusiasm in his body and his eyes that can be… almost daunting.   And we headed towards… the roses.

Now the roses here in Wettenbostel pre-spring don’t look all that rosy just yet.  Mostly they are greenish and brownish looking nubs most distinctly identified by their thorny limbs.  The task of the hour?  Pruning the roses.  A new thing for me, I must admit.

What is most new to me in gardening is being aware of myself and the impact I have on all of the little living creatures in the garden.  One false step and I have knocked out the potential life of some unassuming plant or flower.  In its current state it may look like nothing more than a little stem with a green leaf, but one false move and… gone!  I was cautiously warned by my host once, no twice… to “look out!  look out for that!…”  I empathized with him imagining it seemed as if I was carelessly swinging a bat through his china store.  I did my best to listen and… pay attention.

So once I got clear that I was not stepping on his favorite plant, he showed me a thing or two about pruning roses.  Pruning them, as it turns out, gives the roses strength and helps them grow.  I was to clip the brown or black branches all the way down to their base or where the green or “life” began.  The healthier branches still needed a little trimming for best growth.  So those I cut back to a place where there was a bud already growing to promote the growth of that bud… about a half inch above it.  It took me a few times to get the knack of it.  I took a few rounds with my host to get clear what he wanted while I was pruning.  I received a few more reminders not to trample on his garden.  Yes, I kept forgetting about that.  Pay attention.  But in the end it was… fun.  And, a beginning.  I pruned one bed of many beds in the garden of Wettenbostel.  So more pruning to do!

My host encouraged me to keep the beds clean as I was pruning…. don’t leave the clippings behind but instead toss them into the center of the bed that is the general space for “compost”.  I had to laugh as nearly every time I tossed a branch or clipping towards the center it would get caught or hung up on a limb or tree or something… dangling, taunting me.  But it was… a good effort.

The experience of pruning the roses required that I have a more delicate touch and sensitivity.  At dinner tonight as I began to peel the onions to chop for the meal, I couldn’t help but notice how the soft peelings of the onions skins felt new and delicate in my hands.  A different sensation since pruning the roses.

I thought perhaps we all could use some pruning in our lives.  Some things cut back or cut off to make room for new growth….and sometimes we get some things clipped that perhaps we were attached to but ultimately makes us stronger.

The pruning of the day is done and all that is left is the cool evening air and the light that has now diminished to dark.  There is a beautiful bright crescent moon in the night sky and near-bye what looks like a bright shining planet.  It is stunning.  I imagine tomorrow will be another day in the garden enjoying the newness of the warm sun.  Hanging out with the roses… doing my best not to step on other living creatures…and doing a little pruning.

Keeping it clean

22 Mar

It has been a sunny day at the Seminar Haus. It is such a relief to feel the heat of the sun penetrating in a way that actually warms and heats my body!  Ahh!  Feels good!

Things have shifted these past few weeks as the days get longer and warmer weather has brought some life back to the Seminar Haus.  Days are mostly no longer solo as my host has returned to bring his garden back to life.

This past week I was challenged by my host to wake up further from my winter slumber and step up more into action.  Some of it is a call for me to pay attention more… to the cleaning that I do.  Some of it is to pick up the pace of my work.  And additionally, some of it is a call for better communication… on my end and his.

To meet his request I am exploring sharpening some new skills…particularly those of cutting vegetables as we prepare meals for our guests during seminars.  Lately I have been somewhat… hesitant in the chopping department as I have been afraid I might slice and dice a finger instead of the vegetable of the day.  But, I will not give up!  Yes it is possible for me to learn to cut vegetables quickly like a pro… it’s just going to take some practice and some patience… on my part and his.  At the suggestion of a friend, I explored the web and found a friendly and informative you tube video that demonstrates chopping.  We did a little chopping today at lunch, the video and me.  And slowly and carefully, it seems this method may work and keep my precious fingers, if only in my imagination, from becoming part of the dish of the day.  Here is the video if you’d like to check it out!

But today was…. pretty good.  A little cleaning this morning and a new task later this afternoon of washing the windows in the “big dojo”.  The afternoon was completed with some innocent garden work – learning how to create an edge around the beds with the shovel.

So… it’s been a challenging week… coming out of the cold and meeting the call of Spring.  I am sharpening some skills, learning some new ones and continuing to practice my work around the Seminar Haus of keeping it clean.

Photo by Michael Hartley from the not quite spring gardens in Wettenbostel.

Happy End

11 Mar

I had to laugh this afternoon.  I began cleaning the Seminar Haus for the workshop this weekend.  I started with the bathrooms.  Typical work – cleaning sinks and floors, restocking toilet paper.  I noticed something that never caught my attention before… the toilet paper brand name is “Happy Ends”.  Made me laugh.

It is a quiet Sunday.  A longtime friend of my hosts came for a visit in her caravan… enjoying some time with them at their home just down the street.  I joined them for a while for breakfast.  The little child in me found some comfort in being surrounded by “adults” for a bit.  We enjoyed a typical German breakfast… plenty of bread and rolls, cheese, butter, honey, fruit.  And tea.  Of course tea.  The conversation of the hour was the closing of the Seminar Haus.  A hot topic these days.

After a few hours I escaped back to the Seminar Haus and started the work of cleaning.  Mindfully I shifted my attention from the time spent with the group to the simple work of the moment.  Wiping the sink clean.  Stocking three rolls of toilet paper in each bathroom.  I am listening to the ipod my friend Dan gave me while I clean.  The music of the moment is a song by Yael Naim, called Far Far.  Her music and lyrics grab me there in the stillness and privacy of the moment… cleaning the bathroom.  She sings, “How can you stay outside, there is a beautiful mess inside…Just look at yourself now… deep inside.  Deeper than you ever dared… there’s a beautiful mess inside.” As she invites me in with her words, I catch my reflection on the silver top of the bathroom trashcan and…I am moved.  I am moved by what is beautiful inside and I catch… just a glimpse. The moment is gone and I am grateful for what felt like a breath of cool fresh air after being held under water… or something like that.

I continue cleaning… bringing each bathroom three rolls…. of Happy End.

Photo from the emerging Spring garden in Wettenbostel by Michael Hartley


10 Mar

The past few days I have been coming undone as the cloak of winter seems to have abandoned me. Spring has started showing her face in Wettenbostel.  Recently when talking with a friend back in the States on Skype, she shared her hesitancy for the end of winter.  She and I are in similar situations… both spending much time alone and both in transition.  She is in the rural Northeast after having lived many years in New Orleans… so the winter and solitude for her too has been an adjustment.  But like me, in some ways she found the forced solitude of winter was like a warm and comforting blanket.  She wondered if she would be ready for the change, the end of hibernation when the snow melted.  I can see what she means.

The good news about coming out of slumber is the beginning of feeling good.  Moving more…mentally, physically.  After being so still for so long.  Shivering in the cold.  And now, as the snow begins to melt and visitors and people speckle the world of the Seminar Haus, the shift for me is sometimes a little daunting.  I feel somewhat like a grumpy bear being woken from sleep.

That being said I see that I continue to grow.  Growth is such a funny thing… it brings one to a space of humility.  For me the humility lies in the fact that many simple things are challenging to me… and being with that and moving through it anyway.  Not stopping.  Taking another step.  And another.

The good news of this emerging spring is the development of strength.  Strength that starts in the physical but I can’t help but think it also extends to the mental, the emotional.  They are all connected.  Since the wake of my host bear from hibernation there has been an injection of energy and a request for more physical tasks to be done around Wettenbostel.  Recently he asked me to help with loading and unloading the lumber that was cut… even the “big” pieces.  And these past few days it has been digging up the garden from last year preparing it to be planted again.

I have to say that I am proud of the work I did these past two days in the garden.  For me, it was no small task.  There were three large patches of garden beds (big by my suburban eyes… not sure what my Canadian host in Germany would agree…) that I dug up and turned over the soil…with a shovel.  Step by step…until hours later … it was complete.  A few people stopped by to say hello while I was working and commented… did Michael (my host) help you out with some of that? Nope!  I said. I did it all by myself!

Being physical feels good right now and I think it is just what the doctor ordered.  But I am still mindful to be balanced and not push things too hard. I am finding my body is stiff and bristly in unexpected places and often my legs feels locked to the ground like led.  Digging in the dirt helps.

The benefits of my work and growth include simple things… like riding my bicycle down the street to visit my hosts and just feeling so good for that moment in my own skin.  And having that feeling ground and supersede any negative and toxic thought that wanted to brew in my mind.  And sometimes, that is enough.  Noticing these things is the gentle way that I love and nurture myself through my process of growth. The good days, but also the painful days. The awkward moments. Ah. Compassion.

So I am practicing the seeds of compassion with myself as I prepare the garden beds for the fertile grounds of Spring.  Happily receiving the gift of compassion from others here in Wettenbostel during some of the more challenging moments and days.  And… hesitantly… coming out of hibernation.

Photo by Michael Hartley

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