In these blogs I write about the background of the different courses that Wonder-word organizes. This one is about our 6th Open Dharma Deep Rest Retreat in the North of Holland.
"Why don't you come to Holland?" I asked Jaya and Gemma after managing the kitchen during a retreat in Spain.
"Yes, why not," they replied. "If you organize a place, we will come."
I called my Dutch Open Dharma Friends. Jaya and Gemma like to teach in Holland, I said. Let's organize that, they replied. So we looked on the internet for the right place. Which was not easy. We wanted cheap, we wanted a place where we could cook ourselves, we wanted silence.
We drove through the whole country, visiting places. Places were expensive. Had strict rules. Or had a very specific spiritual energy. We wanted an open, neutral place - that fits to open Dharma - that does not have too many statues. We wanted a place without tradition, so that during the retreat it would be easier for participants to find a new, fresh way to meditate.
After a long day of driving we arrived in Westerweelde, Ter Apel. We met de owners, the friendly Karin and Rens. No, they never had a silent retreat on their ground, but well, why not? The place was perfect. It is spacious, silent, a lot of camping possibilities, we could cook ourselves. The old attic was filled with benches and tables, a television and a pingpong- and footballtable - but well if we took it out we could meditate there. We counted the hall with steps, yes 35 people would fit here.
So we made flyers, an account number, a promotion-mail. We contacted organic farmers in the neighborhood. And in july 2009 we had our first Open Dharma Retreat in Holland, full.
The first retreat
I remember the first Dutch Open Dharma retreat as heaven. In the attic of this Dutch old farm were sitting Indian friends, my mother, Dutch friends, housemates and people I had never met before. The hall with the low beams was packed and side by side we were listening to Jaya and Gemma. It was as if all different parts of my life had merged into one moment.
We were in Groningen, the province were I grew up. Clay under our feet. A fresh blue sky. Flat land till the horizon. Space. It is the place where I grew up. When I was 18, I just wanted one thing: get out of there! I felt isolated on the Northern countryside. Couldn´t wait to leave, to see the ´real´ world. When I was 20 I went to India, and found some weird but deep realness there. I fell in love with meditation. On one of my later journeys to India I met Open Dharma, Jaya and Gemma.
When I first heard Jaya's dharmatalks, she spoke in a language that reached my heart, not my head. I did several retreats with her. And slowly my analytical brain, that wanted to understand, fell asleep. Cause Jaya encouraged us to lie down. Which was new to me. I used to sit straight, analyze, focus, visualize and trying to be clear. Lying down I fell asleep. I was dizzy in my head. I couldn’t get grip on my mind.
But than, after a few days, when I came up from a deep rest, the world looked differently. The light fell so beautifully through the windows. The trees were glowing. The birds were singing. And under that was a deep silence, that I had never experienced before. The whole world resonated through me. I went to Jaya. Is this real, I asked. Yes, she said, without any doubt.
When I gave up the control and my wish to understand everything, I found something much deeper. A deep wise love. That wasn't something that I could achieve or find. But that ccomes to me when I surrender to life.
That is what Open Dharma teaches. No method, no goal. Rest. Surrender to life how it is right now. Be available to life.
India in Holland
It was strange to practice this on the ground on which I learned to walk, talk and fight. On the ground I tried to be strong. But I wasn't isolated anymore. The real world had come to Groningen. I loved how my international friends enjoyed the place. Swimming in the small lake, camping outside, walking though the fields and the forest, smelling the cowshit, seeing the windmills working, following our straight canals. I was saw my land with new eyes. And I felt the same joy and thankfulness as in India. The cowshit started to smell a like insence, the windmill did Shiva's dance.
Spirituality is not linked to India. Not linked to a method. Not to a statue. It is nameless and placeless, freely available. Also on the Dutch clay. This year we go for the 5th time. And this still I am as much looking forward going to Ter Apel as I am looking forward going to India.