Tag Archives: Wettenbostel

Escape to Hannover

19 Jan

Well, after more than three weeks of much solitude in the havens of Wettenbostel… it was time.  Time to get out into the big world.  The opportunity was… Hannover.

It all started with an email from a friend… sharing innocently that New Orleans musician Theresa Andersson was going to be in Hannover on January 17 for a concert.  Hmmm… perhaps I could go!  This was exciting to me on a a number of levels.  I really appreciate Theresa as a musician and performer.  Plus I was ready for a little taste of New Orleans home.  Also, it was a chance to get out for a bit… do something different… so I explored the possibility that I might go.

Ever the budget traveler, I set out to get a ticket for free.  Not an impossible task in New Orleans.  The Big Easy is not so big, with an intimate network with maybe one or two degrees of separation.  With the good fortune of a friend’s connection, I was put on the guest list for the concert.  Hannover here I come.

Hannover is about an hour and a half away from Wettenbostel by train.  With an evening concert, I figured it made sense to go and spend the night there.  The best bet, I thought, was Couch Surfing.  Perhaps you have heard of it?  a somewhat notorious network of  travelers and generous hosts willing to offer a couch or bed for the evening.  It’s mission?  not just a free place to stay… but a network, an infrastructure for connecting to humanity… all over the world! I am a member, but had not yet successfully couch surfed while traveling.  I sent out a few requests through the website to some folks not too far from the concert and happily got a friendly and welcoming invite for a place to stay for the night.

The train to Hannover went quite smoothly.  I arrived in the main station, called in Germany the Hauptbahnhof, then found my way to the local trains to easily navigate my way towards my hosts home.  With just a short journey and a quick phone call to her, we soon connected and I found myself safe and sound for the night in Hannover.  The concert started at 8:00pm and I learned that Theresa was not the sole act, but the opening performer for a musician named Tommy Emmanuel, an Australian guitar player with apparently quite a following in Germany.  The show was at the Theater am Aegi.  I was not sure what sort of space to expect, coming from the experiences in New Orleans of often smokey rooms, open floors for dancing, and intimate settings.  What I found in the Theater am Aegi was a traditional theater complete with velvet seats and a balcony.  So we wouldn’t be jumpin up and gettin’ down I imagined.  I found my assigned seat and the concert began.

Theresa has created a unique style of performance for herself.  Armed with a gifted voice, talent on the fiddle and other instruments, and a sense of adventure Theresa trained herself to use pedals to record and then loop back as she sings and creates new sounds and rhythms.  Here is a sample of her performing the song Birds Fly Away recorded in her kitchen in New Orleans.  I just love it.  It gives me chills.  Theresa’s performance that night was short… just a half an hour… but still enough time to feel a little joy and lift my spirit.  My neighbors at the concert, a German couple there to see Tommy, had never heard of Theresa Andersson.  But they enjoyed her performance.  When I asked them what they thought they smiled and said, “she’s crazy!”… that’s funny, I thought.  She seems pretty normal to me.  Perhaps it is all that time I spent in New Orleans….

And next was… the main attraction.  The reason why hundreds of Germans came out on a cold Tuesday night… Tommy Emmanuel.  What I learned about Tommy through his performance was not only is he Australian, but an accomplished guitarist.  As he began playing an ease just came over me as he grooved on his guitar.  And the concert continued, original songs, cover songs… and one duet with Theresa Andersson.  Just beautiful. He shared a little about his adventure of meeting his idol, Chet Atkins, and the remarkable story of how, as an aspiring musician, he was invited to Nashville to visit him… and ultimately ended up cutting an album with him that I believe had him nominated for a Grammy. It was a great story! By the end of the night I felt a pleasant connection to Tommy Emmanual and while, not converted to a die-hard fan… I was glad I was there. After the concert, an easy and cold ride back to my couch surfing destination in what felt like the very safe city of Hannover.

The next morning, I was packed and ready to go for 9am as I departed back into the city with my host, Andrea.  She had a morning appointment, but she directed me into the center of town and we agreed to meet a little later for a coffee.  I began the morning with grabbing a little coffee and some warmth, then headed out for a bit to enjoy the cool sunny day.  Mostly just walking the streets, exploring a few stores and shops, I felt like a little kid.  It was fun to be out.  And fun to be on my own.  Seeing new places and enjoying the  fresh syncopation of a European city.  People on bicycles, old buildings.  Charm.  Good bus systems and public transportation.  Delighted, I met back up with Andrea and we traveled by bus to a near-bye neighborhood and enjoyed a breakfast together.

A mom who has raised her kids and now on her own, Andrea was a great couch surfing host and fresh for new experiences.  She recently traveled to India.  She looks forward to visiting her daughter in Africa and walking the Way of St. James, a spiritual pilgrimage in Spain.  She does yoga and she is exploring Archery!  Her enthusiastic spirit was really a breath of fresh air nicely partnered with her grounded stability.  After lunch, we parted ways on different busses… her to another appointment and me to see a little more of the city.  I was grateful for a wonderful time and nice balance of exploring someplace new on my own and having a friendly connection while there.

Eventually… I returned to Wettenbostel.  During my escape, I was glad to see that my aptitude and ease for negotiating the trains and trains stations had increased dramatically.  I connected later that evening with my Wettenbostel hosts in Lüneburg, a town not far from Wettenbostel.  I felt like a well-cared for child, finding warmth and refuge from the cold and the wind in the back seat of their station wagon.

This morning I woke up and deeply breathed in the fresh winter air of Wettenbostel.  Ah, feels good!  And wow, how nice it was for a little adventure in Hannover but also how nice it was now to be in the peace, solitude, space and natural surroundings of Wettenbostel.

Today, it was an afternoon of painting — the ceiling of the Big Dojo that is, one of the houses here at the Seminar Haus.  Slowly and easily.  Enjoying some tunes as it goes.  This weekend I head to Hamburg for the healing seminar lead by my friend Olaf.  A little excitement in my quiet winter life in Wettenbostel.

Words of Wisdom

6 Jan

Mmmm… content in the warmth of my room tonight in Wettenbostel.  The wind is blowing outside.  A little rough.  Some wind.  Some rain.  A door blown open now and then.  It is about 7:30pm, or should I say 19:30… and it is a time when generally and lately I have been at the Seminar Haus by myself.  The grounds itself are fairly big… enough to feel a little separate from the booming metropolis of Wettenbostel.. population I think 60 or something like that.  The wind blew in my hosts this evening with a little food.  Always a delight to see… my hosts… and the nourishment of course.  Some food for me.  Some food for our groups that is arriving sometime tomorrow evening.  I am told the group this weekend is a young Christian group… young as in 20 somethings.  A little different from the tone of seminars since I have been here… often intense groups and subjects.  Generally middle-aged and above diving through issues in Gestalt or couples therapy.  Sometimes yoga groups and then of course the is the Tantra group….but that is another story.  So this weekend should be a different tone from past seminars.

Tonight has been a pretty chill night.  My household chores are done and I have spent a little time musing on my computer.  I watched a little video on Ted.com by author Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the book Eat, Pray, Love.  I like her.  There is something about her as a writer, as a woman, that I find comforting.  Her presentation was on creativity.  It invited me in to consider… my own creativity.  And after that, I did a little chanting.  You know, my standard nam-myoho-regne-kyo plus the daily practice of reciting the Lotus Sutra.  These chants are the cornerstone of the practice of Nichiren Buddhism.

I was introduced to Nichiren Buddhism a little over a year ago by a friend, Lilly, who I know through my New Orleans Reiki group.  And then I was invited to their New Years 2010 celebration by my friend and Reiki Master, Elizabeth Ohmer Pellegrin.  It was an afternoon celebration of Nicherin Buddhism, chanting, and a wonderful, warm and social buffet lunch afterwards.  It is then I learned that Elizabeth had become a member and received what is called her Gohonzon, a scroll with Chinese and Sanscrit characters on it and the object of devotion in the practice.  She said she felt pulled to become a member and accept the Gohonzon.  She added that it gave her a breakthrough in her life in an area where she had been stuck for years.  Really, I thought.  “Should I do it?” I asked her. Wide-eyed, she nodded yes.  Ready to jump in, I leapt ahead and made an agreement to become a member of SGI on New Years day 2011 and within weeks I received my Gohonzon.

I received a book with the Lotus Sutra and a practice CD and quickly began to learn to chant the Sutra.  It was fun and I enjoyed having some place to put my attention, devotion and energy on a daily basis.  Lilly, a long-time Buddhist, was thrilled and an avid supporter.  She and her husband updated an alter they had for my Gohonzon and in a whirl of energy they delivered it to my home and prepared me for my practice.

I was encouraged to chant for what I wanted and situations I wanted to change in my life.  At the time I was selling gourmet mushrooms at the local farmers market in New Orleans.  “Chant for your mushroom sales, ” Lilly said. “I guarantee they will grow!”  So sure, I did it… and I have to say… that my mushroom sales went up.  In fact the doubled from what I was selling at the time.  So I kept chanting.

Mostly I was chanting for my healing.  My moving through my “whatever it is” that has been challenging me… most notably since my senior year in college.  Healing from life after ten years of the anti-depressent Paxil, the challenges of life after the drug, and the I wasn’t so sure that was troubling me beneath the surface.  So I chanted for that.  And chanted.  And I still chant for that.

Months after becoming a member everything in my life shifted and left me racing to find my bearings.  So many changes all at once…which opened the door for me to leave New Orleans and visit for a while here in Germany.  So I leapt.  I leapt in a space of enthusiasm and joy.  And I leapt in a space of uncertainty and discomfort in the face of the many challenges I still felt with myself.

I chanted for specific things as I prepared for my journey to Germany, piecing it together on virtually no budget and  a “wing and a prayer”.  I had bought a ticket to London through an online sale.  From there I needed to make arrangements to travel to Germany… and I wanted a place to stay in London for the night before I headed out on the next limb of my travel.  So I began to chant.  Chant specifically… for a free place to stay in London.  Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.  And with Lilly’s insistence, I didn’t give up.  Didn’t give up as the trip was nearing just weeks away and still no place to stay.

And then it happened.  It was a Monday night and I was heading to the Tulane University campus for a Landmark Education seminar.  I was “assisting” or helping out with the seminar.  On my way in, I saw a familiar face in a unfamiliar environment.  He was a seminar leader who lived in Austin, TX.  I knew him from my time living there and participating in Landmark Seminars post-Hurricane Katrina.  I did a double take and confirmed it was him and learned that he and a few other folks were visiting the seminar from Austin.

I arrived in the seminar room and greeted my friend and  “boss” for the evening who was leading the logistics for the seminar.  She knew about my upcoming travels and desire for a place to stay in London.  “You know” she said, referring to my friend and seminar leader from Austin, ” his mom lives in London and she hosts people sometimes when they come to town…”  What?!  I thought.  No way.  You have got to be kidding me!  I was so amazed and delighted and the wildness of events coming together… and my possible relief at fitting another piece of the details of my “miracle” journey… that is how to go to Europe with virtually no money. Later that night he and I chatted and with a little good fortune, we were able to arrange for me to stay with his mom for the night in London.  I was glad to offer her and her husband a little Reiki in gratitude.  And, as it turns out, his mom had practiced Nichiren Buddhism for about 15 years herself.  Interesting…

Nichiren Buddhism has been a lovely segment of my time here in Europe so far.  It is an international organization with groups that meet in villages, cities and towns all over the world.  Here in Wettenbostel, I have connected with an SGI group in Hamburg.  I have met many people there, visited with them and chanted with them in their homes.  I also have connected with Nichiren Buddhists closer to Wettenbostel in near-bye Lüneburg.

While visiting the Black Forest I was able to connect with two SGI different groups.  One in the lovely city of Karlsruhe and the other, an intimate gathering at a home in a village not far from Karlsruhe.  Both places brought me a little… I don’t know… peace.  There was something in me that just felt at ease… much-needed respites on my journeys.  Some care, some comfort and hospitality.  And the comfort of community… no matter where I am in the world.

So I continue to chant.  I chant for my healing, my life and my journey.  I chant for my friends and my family.  In this Buddhism they say the most important thing is to be happy.  And that is why we chant.  And I am learning from my time and practice that being happy isn’t about blissfully eating bonbons on a cloud.  It is meeting the challenges of my life as the unfold, doing my best to take responsibility for them, and continuing to move forward in my life and face them.  And not ever giving up.  So I chant, I chant for courage to face the challenges and discomfort with myself and my life.  I chant for healing.  I chant for inspiration.  I chant for love.  Ah, it is so good.  Nam-myoho-renge kyo, which literally means “I devote myself to the Lous Sutra.”  For me, true words of wisdom.

Coming out of the dark

4 Jan

New Years greetings from Wettenbostel.  I am hibernating alone tonight in the Seminar Haus.  An evening of  shameless treats – watching the movie 27 Dresses on my laptop and eating popcorn in bed. So far it has been a good year.  Some time to spend with friends.  And now the celebration and the people have left.  All of it a gift to me.  With the Seminar Haus mostly to myself again, I have some time to simmer in the possibility of the new year.

As we often do with New Years, I find myself making shifts and new decisions within and about myself.  New thoughts and fresh ideas for my European escapade.  I am grateful to have time to explore these ideas nestled within the mothering borders of the Seminar Haus.  Deep in the stillness of winter… well sort of winter, the weather being unseasonably warm.  I continue my work here in Wettenbostel… which is at least in part preparing the house and the space for seminar guests visiting this weekend.

And my other work here in Wettenbostel… well it continues to be things that look like growth. Feeling good about myself and seeing, little by little, day by day… who I am, what I want, what moves me.  As we roll into this New Year, I intend to shift the focus of my blog and my writing… just a little.  I will still write about the adventures of my experience wherever I may be, but I am also going to write more about my journey of well-being and spirit, both past and present.

I am writing to support myself and others who may have struggled with being on antidepressants, life without them or the difficulty in getting off of them.   And the challenges and gifts of living life and exploring the underlying trauma that sent me to antidepressants in the first place.  Like putting together pieces of a puzzle… the questions of  “why do I feel this way?  I just don’t get it…”

So this journey of life in Europe continues to be… growth.  That is the best way to put it.  Not always easy. But there are many wonderful experiences every single day that I am deeply grateful for.  Living life in Wettenbostel being surrounded by potato fields and waking up to Michael’s gardens.  New and flavorful people in my life… people who are light and bright spirits that help me see myself and the world differently.  The joy of learning to communicate and being with people who speak another language and the discovery in that.  New tastes. New sounds. New skills.  And possibilities available to me that truly delight and inspire me.

So Happy New Year!  Raise a glass and have a toast!  As I have learned here in Germany, it is important that you look your “toastee” in the eye when toasting or else, it is said, you will have seven years of bad sex…. that is what they tell me.  New Years for me, well it was rung in from the infamous outdoor hot tub of Wettenbostel with the glimmering of neighborhood fireworks exploding in the stillness of the cold night sky.  New Year’s set in the intimate darkness of Wettenbostel… welcoming in the brightness of the New Year.


30 Dec

It is a warmish winter day here in Wettenbostel.  The quietness of my solo experience at the Seminar Haus is shifting as familiar and friendly faces begin to make their way back into my world.  Last night my friend Jörn made his appearance, returning to Wettenbostel after a three-week hiatus in near-bye Lüneburg.  And today, my American friend and former porch companion, Dan, will return with his friend Ulla to celebrate the New Year.

The sun is shining today.  A nice break from the wintry darkness that has been mostly filling my world for the past several weeks.  Days have gotten very short here in Northern Germany.  When I wake at 7:30 or 8am it is still dark outside and as the evening nears 4pm the day already feels like it is coming to a close, dark by about 5pm.  Days are getting longer, I am told by Christian, Wettenbostel regular and Seminar Haus electrician and general do-everything person.  He says that the 23 or 24th were the shortest days of the year… so slowly we begin to expand and creep out of the silent, darker days of winter.

The New Year is bright on my mind, taking time to consider and honor this year that is passing away, a quiet death making way for a new beginning.  And what a year it has been!  It seems that gratitude is the key for me… to the MANY people who have been there and touched my life this year.  My many friends and supporters in New Orleans and throughout the US, the international Reiki Community as well as the international SGI Community.  New friends, helpers and companions I have met on my travels.   My family. Without the inspiration and support, personal, spiritual and financial, from the many friends and family this year would not have happened, would not have been possible.  So it is with humility that I take note of all of them, young and old, and thank you for who are in the world and in my life.

The day is still very early by Wettenbostel standards…. particularly over the holidays.  It is around 10:30 am and so far I am the only being that is moving around the grounds of the Seminar Haus.  I am told Dan arrives sometimes today and I have heard a passing word of a spaghetti dinner for this evening.

A mostly quiet time intended for me for this New Years eve, known here as Silvester.  Honoring the old, the waking of the new and celebrating and laying the groundwork of good intentions, healing and prosperity for the year to come.  Good fortune to you as this year comes to a close and much fullness of life, love and richness in the New Year!

-Photo of sweatlodge constructed in the woods of the Seminar Haus, 2008, by Michael Hartley

Twas the night before Christmas

24 Dec

It is December 24. After a full day of train travel yesterday,  I am now back in the cool and open land of Wettenboste in Northern Germanyl.  My home away from home.  All of my other Wettenbostel playmates are nowhere to be found.  And, aside from a few visits from Michael, one of my hosts here whose home is a few blocks up the street, I have the place all to myself.  A little intimate time with me and the seminar haus!  I have a fire going in the fireplace, prepared a nice meal for myself, and have some good music playing on the stereo.  I even made some homemade apples-sauce today!

It is the night before Christmas… or perhaps in Germany it IS Christmas… it’s hard to say.  I do know that in Germany they do their gift giving on the night of the 24th, rather than December 25.  Presents arrive from Santa Claus, much the same as in the United States.  “But how”, I asked Imke, my host while visiting the Black Forest, “does Santa Claus come when the kids are still up?”  She described a typical diversion.  One parent thinking they saw Santa Claus and the reindeer outside, attracting the children while the other unloads the presents, mysteriously appearing from Santa Claus.  Santa does not come down the chimney in Germany.  According to Imke, some families say that it is the Christ child, not Santa Claus who delivers the presents.  Now how this little child does this we do not know… probably about as easily as Santa Claus does with his sleigh and flying reindeer!

As a child growing up, Christmas was spent flooded with family visits.  My dad’s mom and dad on Christmas Eve… my mom’s mom on Christmas day.  And later that day a BIG celebration at one of my mom’s uncle’s homes.  As the years have passed traditions have changed.  Families have shifted and now it is my parents who are the grandparents.  And me, living miles away from my family, well, I have often been on my own for the holidays.  Sometimes being adopted by the families of friends, or spending time with other “orphans” as we lovingly called ourselves… over the holidays.  This year in the midst of my wanderings I am content to have a warm welcome place to be for its duration.

So, as this Christmas Eve slips its way into Christmas Day, I will be tending the fire in the Seminar Haus and thinking of all the wonderful people, family, new friends and old, all over the world, who help to tend the fire in my heart.  Namaste and Merry, Merry Christmas!


22 Dec

It has been a juicy few days here in the Black Forest.  A good balance of new experiences, and some of the comfort of home.  The hills of the Black Forest are greeting me from my window.  The sleet and rain tempting me to stay warm and comfortable inside.

I am coming to my last few days in the Black Forest with Michael and Imke.  Changes always met with mixed emotions.  Yesterday their daughter Skadi gave me an art project she made, a hedgehog called in German “igel” (pronounce eagle!).  It is little things that I notice and I am grateful for.  It has been nice to be surrounded by the warmth and, well, the reality of a family.  Michael and Imke have shown me that life can be simple… even with responsibilities.  Even in the midst of the chaos of having a family and small children.  And they have shared their experiences, their “german-ness”, and their interests generously and lovingly with me.

Here is a little snippet of German culture I learned yesterday… Michael got a haircut… and I asked Imke… “did Michael get a haircut?”  “Yes,” she said.  And added, “In germany, when someone asks if you got a haircut, you respond..’no, I fell down the stairs…!”  What?.. Now, I can’t say that I exactly “get it” , but I like it.  Shortly after I arrived at their home, I used the statement, “That is not my cup of tea..” and Michael offered that in Germany instead they say “that is not my beer..”  Okay, sure.  Why not? And it continues…

Yesterday I took a long stroll again through the near-by path in the valley of the Black Forest in Hilpartsau.  A recent discovery with the direction of Imke.  I was just amazed taking in the beauty… so different from the nature and landscape of Louisiana.  Strong, powerful streams, hills flooded with trees… and these great big… birds!  I first spotted one on the top of the building.  It was there, larger than life, unmoving and I thought… Is that real?  I stopped, and watched, and then… it moved!  Big beautiful bird.  It looked similar to birds I have seen in Louisiana, but bigger, and well… different.  There was a man heading up the path way and I stopped him asking… of course, “do you speak English?”  He nodded and then spoke in a friendly way, but mostly in German!  He offered the name of the bird, “reiher” he said.  I learned later that in English this means heron and it was a grey heron, popular in this area.  I repeated trying to mimic his expression.  And from there on, he became my guide through the woods.

Listening to someone who does not speak the same language as you takes a lot of attention.  He was very friendly and willing to communicate with me using expressions and acting out and pointing when necessary.  He had a few English words in his vocabulary, and I had a few German words in mind so between the two of us we communicated… perhaps!  There was just a small moment when he was speaking in German that I actually understood what he said.  I could pick out the few words that I knew and fill in the blank.  I felt, a little… successful!  But beyond that it was often just unknown to me.

We came to the end of the trail in the next village… a point where all I knew was to turn around and go back.  As a good guide he insisted I follow him and we headed into town just a little bit, then up some stairs and headed towards the hills heading back towards Hilpartsau where  we came from, but from a different view.  I loved walking amongst the hills and was surprised to find that the sometimes silence walking with this stranger was not uncomfortable.  We went to a spot that had a lovely view of the next town and then he showed me the trails in the dirt from the wild pigs that come out at night.  And then, eventually, when we returned to almost home we smiled and parted ways.  “Next time” he added in German and through demonstrating with his hands  “we need to bring an English/German dictionary!”

The night before I found myself basking in the welcoming hospitality of  Beate and Lefteri who live in a village not far from Hilpartsau.  They are a  German couple, Lefteri of Greek heritage, and members of SGI, a Buddhist organization of which I am a member.  I called them through a contact of a friend of a friend.  Originally I left a message on their answering machine in slow spoken English, hopeful there was an English speaker on the other side.  Later that day I received a friendly return phone call, directions and times for the train, and a welcome invitation to their home for the SGI gathering.  I arrived the next day  in the early evening, greeted by Lefteri at the train and was welcomed by their warmth and gentleness at their home.  There was one other member there, Andy, and their two children.  We chanted together and then shared a little personal information about ourselves and our experience with SGI and Buddhism.  We were gathered on the comfy floor surrounded with a fluffy carpeting and a variety of pillows.

They were generous and curious about me and my experiences and lovely in their sharing about themselves and Buddhism.  They spoke English and told about their beginning with chanting and Buddhism.  I was reminded through the conversation the importance of the practice is responsibility for the self and our own lives, no matter what our challenges or experience.  That is why we chant everyday… returning to and connecting with that greater larger self known in Buddhism as “Buddahood”.  We are all powerful, all part of the great whole.

Afterwards, we gathered in the kitchen for a bit and enjoyed some conversation and some good bread, greek cheese, olives and other goodies.  Beate sharing that when they went to Greece to visit family, the parted with a large chunk of Feta…to get them through the winter!  We took time to share a little about our lives, about America and Germany.  Our understandings and experiences.  And then it quickly was time to catch my train.

I returned home to Imke and Michael’s to receive an email from Beate and Lefteri.  A gentle reminder of the connection and time that we had.  A feeling extended like a warm blanket encouraging me as I continue on my journey.

I am almost packed for my departure from Hilpartsau.  Still secretly hoping that I get into the Vipassana retreat that starts tomorrow… I am on a waiting list and have been holding out making plans in hopes that a list minute opportunity comes my way.  But one way or the other, either the retreat or return to Wettenbostel, it seems I will be leaving tomorrow.  The bittersweetness of good time spent and the interest of new times to come.

The children are bustling downstairs and I imagine Imke is preparing a meal for lunch.  Imke is a great cook.  The food we ate the other day was so good I could almost scream.  “What is it that you put in your food? ” I asked.  She responded, matter of fact, that it’s love.  And its true.  I can feel it and taste it… that”x” factor.. something undefined in the food that invites you in to enjoy it.  And so with that… with the good experiences and good loving, nurturing food I have enjoyed here I find I am … full.  Full as I prepare to leave the Black Forest.  Well fed.  In many ways.

Being at ease

30 Nov

Ah!  Well, I have arrived in a sweet new location.  Looking outside of the window seeing the rolling hills.  I am now in a small village called Hilpertsau in an area in Germany known as the Black Forest…greeted by the kindness and hospitality of Imke and Michael, a host family I connected with through a website for travelers called Helpx.net.  Feeling the freshness and softness of this new space in the wake of leaving the fullness and richness of my time and experience in Wettenbostel.

My last few days in Wettenbostel were a busy time for me. Deeply wrapped in the experience of a workshop at Wettenbostel this past weekend and then spending time with Jörn, my German friend and fellow resident at the Seminar Haus, before I left today.  Drinking up all of the experience that was there for me, appreciating it as much as I could before departing.

The workshop I participated in was…a totally new experience for me.  You can call it an experiment… of sorts.  It was no ordinary workshop.  It was…a tantric workshop.  What is tantra you say?  Even after the workshop I cannot say that I know for sure.  What I can share, most simply expressed, is that tantra is a spiritual path that connects the spiritual and the erotic through the connection of the heart. Hmmm… sound interesting?

I was first encouraged to attend the workshop by my friend and former Wettenbostel porch companion, Dan. And one of the leaders of the tantra workshop, Astrid, is a Reiki Master and friend of the Seminar Haus.  The seminar is open to singles and couples and for this weekend I learned they were in need of more women to participate and I was welcome to join them.  So there it was… a door opening… dare I walk through?  After a little guidance from a few trusted voices… I decided to go ahead and… participate.

The workshop began on a Friday night.  New faces and voices filling the halls of the Seminar Haus.   I was a little nervous to participate.  Well, that is putting it mildly. But the kindness and sweetness of Astrid and the assistants helped to comfort me. During registration I was told a few ground rules… most importantly to love and trust myself in this experience. And then I was told to wear nice underclothes for that evening.  Okay, I thought.  Here we go.

We met in the seminar room in the Big Dojo, the room transformed into a warm living temple.  The other leader, Lucian, arrived with big energy wearing a bright red suit. The workshop was led in German.  And although I don’t speak German, I saw and watched and listened and when needed a helpful, friendly neighbor or assistant would whisper an English translation in my ear.

The seminar was divided into sessions with long generous breaks, giving me time to drink it what was offered.  Morning began with yoga and most sessions started with music and dancing… letting go a little bit, connecting with the body and with others. Then a new ritual or exercise was introduced, many with a chosen partner.  A few of the exercises helped to let go of emotional pain blocking the expression of self and sexual energy.  And still others helped to open up the sexual energy and get more connected to being in the body and its joy and innocense.

As the weekend progressed, my nervousness decreased a little bit as I began to see that, while challenging, the work and the exercises were really helping me and opening me. The other participants there were kind, warm and welcoming.  And I got to see and experience in myself… glimpses of things… I hardly knew were there.  I began to feel a little more ease in myself through exploring this expression.  Letting go of some of my boundaries that… just didn’t work anymore.

In the end for me the workshop experience was challenging, but deeply opening.  I saw a tremendous amount of healing for myself and others around being comfortable with and expressing myself sexually and just being at ease with me.  I got more connected to my own power.

And for now, here I am… in a sweet new spot.  The beginning of another journey.  New people, new experiences, more learning and healing.  Just a wandering flower… growing in Europe and beginning to be… at ease.


23 Nov

It is a brilliant cool evening in Wettenbostel.  After a busy seminar weekend, my hostess is away doing a little travel and my friend and regular resident of late, Jörn, is gathering himself for a few days in his apartment in nearby Lüneburg.  I am delighting in the juiciness of some time to myself.  I am warm, well-fed and listening to some music by German artist, Fjarill.  I don’t understand a word that she is singing, but her voice, the music and tone are satisfying.  It is truly dark outside except for the slightly distant light coming from the “Big Dojo” across the way still glowing with music and life as friend and  Seminar Haus electrician and general handyman is still at work.

It is already time to prepare for the next seminar.  A little different as with our hostess away I am tending to some new details in the rooms… placing towels, sheets and bedding.  I must say that when it comes to bedding at the Seminar Haus, my hostess here truly has it down to an art.  The colors and bright patterns of her bedding fill the rooms and it is always at least a little satisfying to leave a cleaned and prepared room… complete for whoever might be entering next. The other difference this time is that I will be attending the seminar this weekend.  So I am preparing space not only for our next guests, but ultimately for myself.

I am already getting ready a little bit for my upcoming departure from Wettenbostel.  I leave on a train Tuesday morning for a small town in an area in the South of Germany called the Black Forest.  It is known to be a beautiful area.  I connected with a family there through an on-line resource called helpx.  Helpx connects travelers with people in countries throughout the world interested in hosting travelers in exchange for a little work.  I will be staying with a family, parents about my age with two children for a month.  They have a beautiful home and from my connection to them already I feel they have warmth, experience and comfort to offer.  What comes next after that… is still to be determined.

I started getting myself a little organized, going through my purse throwing out all old train itineraries and tickets so that I can find what I need as I travel.  I had to laugh as when I was going through my wallet I found the American 20 dollar bill I stashed away as my emergency money for when I return to the States.  It was funny to me how foreign it seemed… like my connection to it is disappearing a little somehow… my wallet now filled with Euros… well, maybe not FILLED… but supplied nonetheless….

Things shifting and changing always tugs at something inside of me.  Uncertainty.  There is a beauty in it.  A richness that pulls me on to something… new.  Like a dance.  One of the requirements for dealing with uncertainty I find is exploring that balance of surrender and attending to what needs to be done.  In the midst of it find I am often compelled to reach for little pieces of certainty in the present moment.  Organizing my socks.  Sorting my clothes and putting them in nice little piles.  Sometimes getting lost in my mind as I find the things and ideas I may have been attached to.  Not wanting get lost in the space of uncertainty.  Thinking today about my little storage closet of personal belongings back in Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans.  My current mailing address…a post office box at a New Orleans neighborhood store.

Tonight’s call for dealing with uncertainty… I think a hot bath is the ticket.  My body and my spirit want to rest.  Let it go!  Ah!

So all is well.  I am well fed tonight and grateful.  A yummy meal of some sautéed veggies and tofu with a little salad.  I am warm in my wool clothes and comforted by the light in my room and the light I feel brewing within me.  Another day.  Another night.  And some things are changing.  There is some… uncertainty…

Photo by Gypsy Woman.  A little color remains in the cold gardens at Wettenbostel.


21 Nov

Well, it is November 21… my birthday… even though there is a mix up on my birth certificate that says it’s November 22.  But my mother assures me that I was born on the 21st.  She says she knows…she was there.

This birth certificate thing was actually a little area of concern for me when getting my passport to begin this journey to Europe.  I was moving quickly, planning the trip and shifting my world with just a months time to prepare.  When I first went to get my passport… the birth certificate was not valid as it did not have the official state seal on it.  So with just weeks to go I had to order a new birth certificate.  After I ordered it, I thought… oh no!  it says my birthday is November 22… and my driver’s license says my birthday is November 21!  Is that okay? Now just weeks away, I could no longer get my passport through the expedited service… but luckily there was an express center in New Orleans where you could get passports in just a matter of days… immediately if needed.  The only hitch was that you could go there no sooner than 2 weeks before your travel.  So there I was, two weeks before my travel with my mismatched birth certificate and drivers license.  And alas… it all worked!  But, they did put the date that was on my birth certificate.  So according to my passport, my birthday is November 22!

The other day I was thinking about a situation in my life that has been a bit of a challenge for me.  And the image that popped into my mind’s eye was one that I saw on the desk where I was house sitting in Hamburg back in July.  It is a picture of a little kitty looking into a mirror… and the reflection in the mirror is a lion.  That image to me speaks to the idea of … courage.  Courage when I think or feel that I am just a little kitty to see the truth of myself… the strength of the lion that is really there…  And that being said, it also reminds me of the strength card in the Tarot.  It is a picture of a lion and a maiden… The meaning of strength in this card is a little different from how may typically think of it.  It is a strength that comes from a higher power… and strength that can come from softness and surrender… balanced with the power of the lion.

This weekend was experience and an experiment for me… in courage.  Working at the Seminar Haus this weekend… we hosted a group of 50 people in a space that is typically suited for about 20-25.  Much work was demanded… of everyone!  We all had to go all out and give everything that we had… and then a little more… to make this weekend work.  Our busy four-day weekend began for me with 6:30am wake up calls… me grabbing a little bit of chanting or Reiki before I went out into the world of the kitchen.  Set up for breakfast.  Sometimes fun… sometimes a little confusion… “where are the eggs… are we out of eggs?  no worries… we can just chop up some fruit instead…” and so it goes.  With so many guests the business of breakfast bled into lunch.  Our host and chef, cook and creative extraordinaire spun us around  chopping and stirring and mixing and serving.  Learning to pay attention to the little things of chopping and the larger things like… did you get that out of the oven?  We set up two dining rooms for serving instead of our typical one as there were more guests that usual.  After lunch, the endless dishes of clean up… and then… ah dinner and clean up again.  Plus a few other surprises along the way.  Somewhere in the spinning and mixing and serving and preparing at the Seminar Haus there is a creative energy that gets stirred up.  Bleeding from one experience to the next.

So wow!  We did it!  And I did it… beyond my comfort zone and typical experience.  And today, the morning after and birthday morn, I am soaking in the quiet and comfort of my bed and some tunes from New Orleans yoga teacher and musician, Sean Johnson.  My friend Jörn just stopped in offering birthday greetings and the good spirited intention of preparing for me a little birthday breakfast egg… but alas, the kitchen is stripped and we are out of eggs.  And my lovely hosts surprised me this morning knocking at my door with a lit candle and some wonderful gifts… constantly surprising me and touching me with their generosity!

So for now, enjoying a little relaxation and comfort and a luxurious long morning to enjoy all the little things I love.  And the beginning of a new year for me.  A time of change, new experiences… and… whew, courage!

Photograph of  tree blossoming in the frost in the gardens of Wettenbostel.

Being in Germany

15 Nov

Although I have been living in sort of an “enchanted” corner of Germany… often spoiled with an English-speaking Canadian and good sported English-speaking Germans here at the secret world of the Seminar Haus, I am… nonetheless… living in Germany.  Things are different here and my regular American ways… don’t always have a way here.  Sometimes it is just little things… like the washing and hanging of the laundry here that is more like a ritual or an art or my hostess wondering what we call tea towels in the United States or what sort of towels we use to dry our dishes… the answer being, of course, in many homes…the dishwasher.  The other day a few of us were having a conversation and my hostess was searching for an English translation for what she was describing in German… the English term was… “plastic surgeon”… which sent them laughing… It was explained to me that in Germany plastic is “taboo” and materials such as glass…. more quality and basic things… are much more revered.  So to have a doctor called a plastic surgeons sounded odd to say the least.

After big seminars on the weekends we often have much left over food.  My American ways have trained me to pack it all up in the fridge and throw anything away at the first sign of spoiling.  Around here… things are allowed to linger a little bit more.  And while things are still healthy… food stays around longer before it is tossed away.  Jörn, the German man who has been living and working here for about the past month or so, once was surprised at me when I threw some food out.  I attempted to explain to him that it was just my experience and culture as an American.  He then shared with me that his parents lived in Germany after the second world war, when there was almost no food and he was raised by parents still living with fear that there might not be enough.  I was told that at that time people around here were literally starving. So in Jörn’s house growing up… food was kept around… and reused for days… and really, not thrown away.

And more and more, with my American porch companion gone…more  German is spoken at the Seminar Haus.  Seems natural as we are in Germany, but I suppose I got spoiled with everyone speaking English around me.  I have dipped my toe into the German language pool… and will continue to do so… but sometimes it is challenging for me to be sitting in a room filled with German conversations… and not understand.  Incidentally, I learned that the German language has something like 75,000 words and the English language has over 200,000 words…Sometimes I find I just love the sound of German and find it comforting to hear.  The other day traveling back from Hamburg, I can remember actually feeling a sigh of relief hearing the German announcement on the trains before we were to leave.  A strange modicum of  familiarity.  Sometimes I can pick out words or phrases that I understand.  But other times it is tough… and I feel disconnected from the people and the conversations that are happening and at times it takes some effort for me not to feel left out.

We have a new but familiar visitor this week at the Seminar Haus.  The woman who was the caretaker here before Dan is here.  She too is a Reiki Master and has come to assist the larger effort required this week as we prepare for a group twice as large as our typical weekend.  Furniture is being moved, beds rearranged… and typical cleaning and preparation.

It is a cool autumn night.  The coals in the fireplace still have some burning embers that will need to be fed before I go to sleep.  I have to smile as I notice my acceptance and appreciation of the cool air in my being… a feeling I haven’t felt for so long.  It has seemed like a long day… and it is time for a little rest… tonight surrounded by the frozen gardens of Wettenbostel under the cool night skies… being in Germany.

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