Monday, February 16, 2009

My new anthroposophical community-life

A number of folks have asked me what my new life here at Camphill Soltane is like. Here is a brief little description for you...

I've been getting more and more settled here at Camphill Soltane, with my own room, work that I enjoy, and people who I appreciate living with. Despite my initial anxieties, the living / working with developmentally disabled people thing turns out to not really that much of a challenge for me, since I see how they all have their unique talents, contributions, hang-ups and short-comings just like everyone else. Continued time and interaction has enabled me to feel more and more comfortable with them. There is still much to learn in this area, and I look forward to it.

My room is something that I really feel grateful and content with here, and I am increasingly finding it reflect who I am. It has a hardwood floor, a large wicker cabinet, a large comfortable padded wood chair, a desk with chair, a tall vertical mirror, a window-seat, and a door that opens directly to the outside that has a paved path connected to it that wraps around the house to the nearby parking-lot. In all of the places that I have lived, I have always wished to have direct access to the outside so that I could avoid interacting with people whom I lived with if I so desired, and now I finally have it. My room also has a door that locks too, which is helpful since a number of the disabled folks have a tendency to abruptly open doors if they can. A number of people have remarked that my room looks like a monk's quarters, and I love it. I guess I mention all of this stuff because it provides a place for peace, quiet, and solitude, as well as a "space of my own" which I have not had in a very long time.

The architecture here in general is something that I really love. A lot of the buildings here are designed in an anthroposophical style, most notably with very few right angles. A colors and decorations for the buildings too also has it’s own unique style, apparently prescribed by Rudolph Steiner to be the most effectively soothing and nourishing for the soul. The whole effect of it all on myself is really nice, I think that it supports me in having more of a sense of inner safety and stability that I really like.

The work that I do here is relatively easy, so far it mainly has been stuff like collecting trash & recycling, cleaning things, moving things around, and accompanying people places. I also help assist in a class here, and am working on designing my own new classes here in Nonviolent Communication. The challenging thing here is not the work per se, but the interacting with the disabled folks such that they feel a greater connection to and harmony with the work that we are doing together. I am also gradually learning how to cook here. I cook one meal a week for the house that I live in, and am looking to move that up to two so that I can get even more experience with it.

The house that I live in is an old traditional style farmhouse that was here before Camphill Soltane even got started. I live with seven other people - three volunteers and four disabled folks, and the name of our house / group is "Nantmel Farm". The group living quarters are separated by gender, with the men in the basement and the women upstairs, with the kitchen and two living rooms on the ground floor. I do feel a real sense of care and connection with the people that I live with, but often find it frustrating that the main topic of conversation is schedule-related matters - who is going to do what when. I would like to introduce more meaningful conversation topics for us all, and I believe that the work that I do with Nonviolent Communication here can contribute to that.

One thing that this culture has is a lot of meetings, meetings of all kinds, pretty much every day some group is meeting about something here. Some people are frustrated with the number of meetings that take place, but I really love it. For me, I view it as a way to have greater mutual understanding, awareness of what is going on, and trying to consider everybody's needs. I could easily see myself, if I am not careful, get totally overwhelmed and immersed with meetings here. I enjoy meetings, but I also see how I too have my limits with that, and I want to be sure to honor that.

The Rudolph Steiner / Anthroposophical orientation underlying Camphill I find to be really interesting, but I also recognize that it is not for me. I love religious and spiritual matters, but when it comes down to it I am just not a Christian or an esoteric-minded guy (despite my previous flings with Gurdjieff and 2012). I do hope that I can learn and grow spiritually and personally through the Anthroposophical stuff here though.

I am eager for it to become Springtime here, for I have a sense that what I have been experiencing of Camphill Soltane is just a fraction of what is possible here. Being able to go outside and enjoy outdoor activities and leisure time here seems like a whole other world here that I have yet to experience. I have seen pictures of this places and the people here during Spring and Summer and I often find it hard to believe. It has been quite snowy and icey here, which I also greatly enjoy, but after a while I begin thinking about this season moving on.

Overall, I am finding my life here to be quite peaceful and enjoyable. I feel very content here, and I can very easily see myself being here for longer than the one year that I signed up for. I enjoy the connections with the people, the shared values with folks, and the structure and stability of the place. I love the overall sense of awe and beauty that I feel for this place, what it is trying to do, and the whole area surrounding it (two other Camphill communities and a Waldorf school are nearby).

I am wishing you all the best, my beloved readers!


JRV said...

Hey Ian
That was really lovely. Thank you for writing about your experience. It's making me happy to imagine your life there.
--- Jenny of the Dhamma Center----

Duchesse said...

I am delighted to hear of all you've found there, within yourself and the community. I too enjoy calm, simple space and the opportunity to make a specific contribution.
- Kathleen in Toronto