This article was written by Lila Sahj.
Simple but profound, the Ecovillage Lifestyle Experience Week was humbling, soul-nourishing, and inspiring. My intention for the week was to listen deeply and learn, to be humbler and appreciate my life & nature, to open and feel more love in my heart, and to apply the knowledge I gain to my life, and then share it with others.
We were guided by the wise & wild Om (whose stories could fill books), on a journey through the 4 Dimensions of Sustainability: Social, Economic, Ecological, and Cultural.
I was expecting it to be very community and nature-oriented, so I was surprised at how central personal awareness and growth was to the process, which I deeply appreciated. We all reflected on our lifestyles & designed them anew, inspired by the mind-expanding questions we were given. I like this personal approach because I believe that to change the world, it needs to come from within – culture shift in ourselves & the collective. Being in an environment where we feel connected to all of life and take the time to explore true heart’s desires facilitates the emergence of a holistic mindset; one that values all life, including oneself. I wish for every young person to do this program.
If I had to place my bets on which topic would be the most emotional, economics would have been the last topic I would have bet on. But answering the questions of “What is wealth to me?”, “What do I want in my life?” “What makes me feel alive?”, and “What makes life worth living for me?” were the most powerful questions asked so far, and I questioned what I truly needed and wanted in order to flourish. I found that I most value joy, fun, and playfulness; freedom and the resources to take my time & space to relax and do what I love; being with people I love; the ability to flourish – to grow and learn in ways that feel aligned to me; a sense of safety and security in a grounded, comfortable home, and of course, beautiful food (and an outdoor shower would be fantastic, too).
Questions like this aren’t asked in “normal” environments. Having the space to reflect on life and design it holistically is a fantastic experience, which I would recommend to everyone looking for a fresh start, hope for a better future, and some peace and connection with what is truly real: others & nature!
I witnessed and experienced tears of gratitude, liberation in movement and body through the 5 Elements Dance, deep peace in meditation and connection with nature, feeling seen by others, having a deeper connection with myself, and being part of a small and tight-knit community with lots of fun moments throughout. Other experiences included creating a skit, documentary night, yoga, and being led around the farm by a partner with my eyes closed, exploring all my senses – one of the most pleasurable and peaceful things I have ever done.
I love living and being in ecovillages. Magic happens in these places that don’t happen anywhere else. It’s the influence of great souls who share their thoughts and way of life. It’s the entire new culture and system which honors all of life, including your own hopes, dreams, and talents – waiting to empower you so you can flourish! It’s the nature, the fact that I wasn’t in a single closed room with 4 walls. Everything is open, connected – it’s reflected in the architecture of the place. I love the simplicity of life here. I love the food (too much haha), I love the fact that I can go and switch the water on every day at 17:30, watching the sprinklers go from small to tall towers of water. I love the satisfaction and peace of sitting there witnessing the seeds I planted sprout and grow. I love watching the sky change color, seeing the sun peak gold through the clouds, hints of pink and lilac coloring the sky as the day turns into night. And of course, being barefoot as much as possible! I find myself taking off my shoes as soon as the ground is soft enough to bear. It just feels better.
This week has shown me the power of deep listening to others and reflecting back on people’s strengths. There is a magic created when another person’s eyes are shining as you tell them the light that you see in them. It is a gift we can all give to others, going deeper than the average compliment. It requires observation of the other, curiosity, listening, remembering, and compassion. This way of communicating leaves everyone around feeling better as we remember we are all celebrations of diversity. We learned during the topic of ecology that diversity is resilience. Without diversity, the soil dries up, erodes, the leaves get bitten away, and the yields are less. Our differences are what we can use to work together to create a new system that nourishes all life. The meaning we each give to our lives and our willingness to be open-minded and compassionate is what helps this bloom.
It was beautiful to see the intentions everyone set at the beginning of the week blossom into fulfilled wishes and more, as seen during our final sharing moment around a bonfire. Pleng played the drums, Sin’s awesome dance music filled the air, Simon kept the fire burning, Niki held loving space, and Ben presented his beautiful art. The course ended synchronistically with the full moon and we ended our evening playing a fierce game of Ninja under its glow, a symbol of completion, the waning moon an invitation to internalize the teachings that resonated most and to share them with whoever is curious.
I leave this week feeling much more grounded and connected to nature, something that I had been missing for a long time. I experienced the deeply humbling feeling of asking nature for permission before I sit in the company of its trees, shrubs, spiders, and crawling ants, well aware that this is not only my home, but theirs too, and theirs first.
I was aware and committed to my life’s purpose before this week, but the tools and knowledge parted to me during the program have grounded and deepened my plans and what I want to express. Gaia Ashram is a place to go when you want to connect back to yourself, other people, and nature, in an authentic and peaceful way, without the stresses of “normal life”.
Paraphrasing Om, this is not a place to escape from your life. This is a place to learn, to expand, and to empower yourself with awareness of your own strengths, skills, and talents, putting them into practice in the community so you leave (if you do ) being, even more, yourself, knowing what you love and what you find important – which I believe is exactly your purpose & medicine for the world .
Thank you, Om and Tom, for holding the space and for your wisdom, and thank you, everyone, in the course and others living in Gaia Ashram. It is wonderful being part of this community, our hearts united in the mission of life honoring life.
Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu,
May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.
Read Om Sunisa Jamwiset Deiters’s (co-founder of Gaia Ashram) article about the Ecovillage Lifestyle Experience Week here.
About the Author
Lila is a 21-year-old Project Management student & a coach. She has been researching and experiencing ecovillage and holistic living since 17 years old and found a deep love for community and natural living. She has undergone her own spiritual and self-healing journey, and she now holds space for others to go through their own journeys. Her coaching focuses on empowering the other to reconnect with and trust their own intuition, heart, and body so that they can live authentically and share their medicine for the world. The concepts of systems thinking, the permaculture principles, the 4 Dimensions of Sustainability, and regeneration are key to her coaching and project management style. She holds a Belgian passport but was born in Singapore and has lived in Myanmar, Indonesia, Malawi, Thailand, the Netherlands, Cambodia, and Spain. You can find more about her on her Instagram page @divine.play.coaching.