To find the lost. That was the main aim of the project bearing the same name, taking place at the end of August in a beautiful place in Latvia, called Rites. There were five other Czech participants attending the project with me – Jana, Katka, Jirka U. and Jirka Š. There was also Jan, who is now in Latvia, participating in a European Volunteer Service, helping projects like this one. After reading the info pack I knew immediately that this is, in this fast and overly technological age, the exact thing I am looking for. The project promised reconnecting with nature, finding honesty with oneself and others, and also a creation of something useful, beautiful, creative and natural – the barefoot trail, which would help returning to nature and grounding oneself through the barefoot walk.
I received all above and so much more. I appreciate the attitude and leadership of both our facilitators, Rota and Laura. They both had an undisputable and unique role in the whole experience. I would compare them to two polarities, complementing each other into a perfect whole, like Jing and Jang. Although they had an idea of the overall programme at the beginning, they didn’t mind adapting it to current conditions and needs of the group. They also passed on the responsibility for some parts of the programme to us, the participants. That supported our community sentiment, creativity and self-knowledge, as well as responsibility for our time and learning from each other. At the same time, however, Laura and Rota had a clear vision of where they want to lead us and what to show us, which they achieved through various methods and the dynamically set programme of the whole project. Moreover, they were always helpful and willing to hear any request from the participants. I must also mention their care for our stomachs. The meals were purely vegetarian, but overall varied and excellent. This was all due to Ilze, Rota’s Mother.
The whole programme could be divided into three parts. The first four days were filled with activities that were supposed to lead us to the understanding of why we were actually in the project, as well as what we had lost in life and wanted to find again. We also already begun the search itself, when we were supposed to fill two days with our own programme that would build so-called awareness. At this point, we had the chance to contribute with our experience and knowledge to the mill, but also to try out different techniques and methods to help us connect with ourselves and with the natural flow. Exercise, games, improvisational theatre, manual work, totem building, these are just some of the activities we organized ourselves in groups. At the same time, we overcame the fear of heights with the Jacobs Ladder rope activity.
The second part of the project was a trip outside of Rites. We packed our backpacks and went camping into the woods. This part had a profound significance in connection with nature, something that every participant tired of the city life wanted. We spent two days in amazing Latvian nature, and had a chance to calm our minds and just wander around, watching all the fauna and flora. Making dinner together, sleeping outside, making breakfast and cleaning our place of residence strengthened even further the group feelings and care for each other that we had been building from the beginning. This part closed with an activity linking confidence and intuition, which was a powerful experience for us all.
The last part of the project and the last days in Rites were filled with the creation of something tangible and meaningful, the barefoot trail. At the beginning, we only had a place where this trail was to be built, roughly prepared materials, and a vague idea of how such trail is built and what the outcome should look like. In two days, by self-help, we created something that will serve other participants to come, something that brought us pleasure, freedom and aim for our creativity. I believe I speak for all the participants when I say that I am proud of our joint work.
Finally, I would like to add that the whole project was immensely powerful partially thanks to the evening sharing of our deepest thoughts, experiences, fears or wishes. These evening circles were the anchor of the whole project. All of us found the courage to open up not only to the others but also to ourselves. Thanks to this, the project finished with satisfied, relaxed participants charged with new energy, courage and ideas. Participants, who, through the course of the project, became good friends.
Aneta Zemanová, Translated by Jiří Švidernoch