How do we get people to be inspired, interested to join the community, and learn deeply during their time at Gaia Ashram? This was one of the questions we contemplated during the lockdown in Thailand.
The pandemic affected Gaia Ashram as an international learning center and community due to the lockdown and shutdown of transportation for international travelers. This made us cancel a lot of programs offered in English for international travelers. However, We also observe that more Thai and local people have a stronger realization of how sustainable living and lifestyle such as ecovillage lifestyle is quite resilient in this kind of situation. We then emerged with the idea of launching the Ecovillage Lifestyle Experience Week (ELEW), where people can get an introduction to ecovillage design principles and also experience how it feels like to live this lifestyle.
We design the program where the participants get a theoretical session in the morning and join the hands-on/ practical work in the afternoon. The daily routine flows as Gaia Ashram’s usual routine where we start the day with daily yoga practice. Breakfast starts at 7.30 am where we gather together to bless the food and remind ourselves how grateful we are to be alive on this planet earth. After breakfast, we have our morning session which is class time for workshop participants until 12.00 am. The afternoon session starts at 14.30 pm, we do practical work together until 17.00 pm. After that, we continue with a dance session at 17.45 – 18.30 pm followed by meditation until 19.00 pm as the way to wrap up our day. Workshop participants join our daily chores to do dishes, tidy up, feed the chickens with kitchen waste, etc.
Our aim was to have people experience Gaia Ashram’s lifestyle and cultivate an understanding of why we designed our lifestyle this way. How we use ecovillage design principles as guidelines to design our life and the importance of holistic and whole system design.
This program and most of Gaia Ashram’s programs from now on are bilingual, English – Thai. We intend to start promoting the ecovillage concepts and Ecovillage Design Education to Thai audiences as well as international participants.
We also made this Ecovillage Lifestyle Experience Week (ELEW) compulsory for those who want to volunteer or take an internship at Gaia Ashram. They have to join this ELEW program before starting their volunteering/internship period.
We offer this program monthly at Gaia Ashram, usually in the first week of the month. We have done this program three times already so far.
We found that the participants value the programs both in terms of the experiential part of it as much as the theoretical inputs. The lifestyle where each day we find the balance of the use of the head, heart, hands and also the time to connect with nature, work with nature, and experience community spirit.
We found that this program helped volunteers/interns to understand the big picture of Gaia Ashram, our core values, and why we have our structures as they are.
The interest among Thai audiences has increased. As a result, more Thai People are interested and inquire about the full Ecovillage Design Education program which we will offer in November/December 2022.
Read an article by Lisa Sahj about her experience joining the Ecovillage Lifestyle Experience Week here.
Gaia Ashram is an Eco-Education center on Permaculture, Ecovillage Design, and Deep Ecology. Gaia Ashram aims to be a place where we live holistically, practice, and realize the interconnectedness and the oneness of all beings.