GreenFriends representatives from several European countries met in the French ashram for an Easter retreat from 2 to 5 April, to launch GreenFriends Europe, the informal network of all of Embracing the World’s green initiatives in Europe.
The three-day retreat was a meeting to motivate, cultivate and develop newer ideas on green initiatives for fostering the planet. On the second evening, a few party games were organized as an ice-breaker to blend participants from various countries and cultures. The mornings of the next two days consisted of several workshops. People blended well with each other by doing common activities: building the mandala garden for the ashram’s seed garden, bread making in the traditional wood oven, GrowIn workshops in the French ashram’s GrowIn space, making ecological plasters with lime, straw and clay, walking meditation in nature, sharing experiences on the use of Effective Microorganisms, organic vegetable gardening amongst many more. A large party was organized on the last day evening that was more joy and fewer musings.
Several decisions were made and new commitments were set up as part of the meeting. On the evening of April 3rd, 11 selected projects from all over Europe were presented, as well as a UNESCO Initiative on education for sustainable living that Embracing the World has started to promote as essential for green living. On the morning of April 5th, a large meeting enabled the participants to discuss the best way to work together in the future. GreenFriends (Europe) will start a European Volunteer Service Initiative in partnership with the European Commission and will use AVIEW, the video conference tool developed by Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, for bimonthly e-meetings.
As satsang to all participants, Br. Shubamrita Chaitanya introduced the ecological issues that can be taken up by today’s youth. Bri. Dipamrita Chaitanya emphasised the interest in today’s world to build ecological spiritual centers during her satsang. The French ashram has started building a network of ecological spiritual centers from different traditions.
The best time during the retreat was the inaugural puja for the new bee sanctuary. This project, known as BABEL, is an important project for the French ashram and had created motivational harmony amongst youth during its initial phase. This inauguration was a moment of sharing, full of joy, simplicity and grace. On the morning of April 5th, the first bee swarm was installed in the sanctuary.
The GreenFriends retreat concluded with many sharing the feeling of gratefulness. There was also an expressed desire from all participants towards a harmonious collaboration for a greener world.