The North American Council held the yearly conference this year in the province of Quebec, Canada, at Maison Emmanuel.
I felt so happy to see so many old friends, meet new friends, and to experience the energy of the people and places across the continent: from east to west and all the way to Hawaii! We must have been 80 people!
Val David, where most of the conference was held, is a picturesque and quaint French Canadian village north of Montreal in rocky, hilly terrain. Maison Emmanuel has a home, a craft and coffee shop, all there on the main street. Members of their community work in a pottery nearby. We met in an old church that is next door to the convent a few doors down from Maison Julia and the coffee shop. The convent has recently become a Waldorf School, and the school community was kind enough to let us use the classrooms for the artistic activities. Everything nestles together on the street very nicely!
The weather up there in the Gatineau Hills was rainy and cold! But nothing could dampen our spirits.
Mary Small welcomed us with a wonderful meal created by their café staff, and then she gave a talk on the arts based on a lecture by Carlo Pietzner. I had never really understood that lecture, but I feel that I understand a lot more now thanks to Mary!
We practiced the arts all Saturday… Painting, drama, music, poetry, dance, eurythmy and spatial dynamics… it was fun and exhilarating! I did skip some activities though, because I wanted to spend time with my old friend Inge Sell, who was the founder of Maison Emmanuel. We have known each other for many years and it was beautiful to reconnect. We found we had a lot to share as we talked about our lives and about the changes and growth in the places we started.
On Sunday we met at the Maison Emmanuel farm property where there are several beautiful homes. It was cold and rainy again, and there were too many of us to meet inside one of the large houses for the Sunday gathering, so we met outside! That was an experience!
For me there were many memorable experiences as we celebrated art and community through the time together. One thing in particular stood out for me. Both languages, French and English, were spoken. Everything was shared first in one language and then the other so no one was left out. The quality of listening and the opportunity to live into the other language for a time was very special.
I had a wonderful meaningful time. And I know my friends from Camphill Ontario were smiling the whole weekend.
I am looking forward to next year. Where will we go? What will we talk about and do together?
Joining a Camphill community is an exciting opportunity. When I joined Camphill communities California I had a to learn to live in community and be part of an unconventional social formation while carrying out the task of caregiving to which I was a novice. I was glad to join the community’s training program when offered the opportunity. I thought that it would be nice to balance the practical work with a formalized learning process. Looking back, I can only express gratitude because this decision enabled me personally to get the most out of my Camphill experience. Over time, the Camphill academy became a very clear way for me to attain a Bachelor’s degree through the accumulation of college credits, but more importantly it became a resource for my work and helped provide perspective and guidance in community life and life in general.
Camphill is a place where each aspect of life is imbued with consciousness. We attempt each day to walk through our community mindful of our surroundings and the social intricacies of community life; this requires the cultivation of openness and willingness to live in a way that allows for healing and social wellbeing. In community, we strive to live in a way which brings out the best in each other, we strive to recognize each other’s humanity. It is the social therapist’s task to perceive the potential in the other and hold it quietly as a guiding light for the unfolding human being. The social therapy training attempts to cultivate this attitude as the therapeutic backdrop of social therapy and the work in the adult communities.
The Camphill academy’s training in social therapy is a community integrated course designed to support individuals in carrying out their task in the Camphill communities. The Social Therapy training offers a rich array of subjects ranging from various components of Anthroposophical study to artistic engagements through music, Eurythmy, visual arts and drama.
The training organically flows into community life and in many instances, extends to the entire community. Whether it happens through drama or Eurythmy performances, or through student projects, the community is involved. Social Therapy at its heart seeks to teach the art of living so it is no surprise that the training takes place in community life.
The student projects, which are different each year, come to fruition in many different ways. The first-year students are asked to partner up with another community member and explore a new activity through a project. In the second-year students are asked to help an individual explore and share their biography. After several months of regular meetings, the project concludes in a festive sharing of the biography among invited guests. The third and final project is a research project connected with the final thesis of the social therapy training. There is a lot of freedom within the parameters of these projects and in many cases the community is directly involved. These projects create meaningful activity and often times fulfill a community need or add to the wealth of community experience.
Anthroposophical study is another corner stone of the training. In the course of the training students study “Theosophy”, “How to Know Higher Worlds”, “Esoteric Science” and “The Philosophy of Freedom” by Rudolf Steiner. Each year one of these works is studied in a study group setting where students and instructors explore the works alongside. Each week students are responsible to prepare the reading and have discussions with the group based on summaries given by the students.
Each year the students get to be part of retreats and all students have the opportunity to experience another community. Students get the chance to have weekend retreats exploring different themes through intellectual and artistic avenues. These retreats range in subjects from inner life and meditation to cosmic evolution and embryogenesis.
From a student perspective, I can say that this training has added a whole new level of understanding and appreciation to my experience at Camphill. I am able to appreciate my task and the different ways in which we work at Camphill based on this personally transformative social therapy training.