This August, half of Tribe 15 and several Tribe 14 alumni embarked on a journey to Klein Jasedow, where they partook in a gathering of learning communities from all over rural Europe. To crystallize participants’ insights, the Erasmus+ Project “Learning Communities in Rural Europe” compiled participants’ journeys into one storybook, Learning Journeys: How to Become Oneself.
It’s about our search as humans for the perfect place to exist, to connect to ourselves, and to nurture our full potential. It is our intrinsic nature to always seek different experiences and perspective shifts; to really explore what it means to be a human with all of our needs and wants.
Our own Saskia, Tomás, Kurt, Amber, Marciano, and Anna-Liisa all had their journeys recorded. This here serves as a snapshot in time of the personal transformation that goes on within the Knowmads program.
As a small child, three and four years old, I wanted to draw and craft little things all the time. At home I could follow this motivation undisturbed, but in kindergarten and primary school I was told what to do, and that made me more and more unhappy.
When it was time to switch to high school I visited several schools as a guest. Each one was terrible for me—I just would
not understand how normal school worked. It did not feel human that the pupils had no voice there. Finally I visited a Steiner school and realized that this was a place where I could survive.
Here I wouldn’t have to study books all the time, but could also work with my hands, draw and dance and do creative things. Every day we had two hours of crafting, gardening and cooking, and we could make up our own schedule in this time. But it still was a school—all students had to follow the ready-made curriculum and obey to many rules. I often asked myself why all this was necessary. Why couldn’t we just follow our interests in our own rhythms?
From childhood on, drawing and painting have been my main ways of expressing myself. Up to today, I draw many hours a day, usually in the evening and at night. The drawings are a language I can constantly reflect on; colors and forms are much easier to read for me than words. The evenings are a sacred space reserved for myself, especially the period from midnight to three in the morning. This is the best time to work. I constantly draw to stay connected with my inner voice.
I studied arts at the AKV St. Joost academy in Breda in the Netherlands. It was a normal university, but at least at my fine arts department the professors did not follow any curriculum. They prepared a space for us where we could create something from our very own intrinsic values. If we needed guidance, there was somebody to ask. Finally I had the freedom I needed; I could leave everything behind what bothered me in school and start to create my own live. I felt as if I was reborn.
Time after time I began to deconstruct all the patterns that in my mind were connected with school and being forced to learn things I was not interested in. Although because of the government the teachers had to take exams at the AKV St. Joost, they would say to us: Don’t care about that, you don’t have to listen to us, you have to listen to yourself, do what you want and not what someone else is asking you. We were encouraged to autonomy and authenticity.
Shouldn’t this be at the heart of education everywhere in the world? Since my time at the arts academy I have wanted to create my own school where people can be really passionate about something coming from themselves, from their heart. I ask myself: How can I create a school-community where people can really find out what is in their hearts and create something from this? How can we find the fire in ourselves, nourish it and even make a living by doing things we love?
I was looking on the internet whether schools like this already existed and found three that captured my interest: the Kaospilots in Denmark, Knowmads in the Netherlands, both alternative business schools, and Schumacher College in England, a place that offers programs on sustainable living. I spent some time at Schumacher Collage and loved to get in
touch with the approach of deep ecology, but the teaching methods there were not as co-creative as I had expected.
My next experiment would be to discover the Knowmads. I did not want to be there as a student, but to get involved with teaching, so I mustered all my courage and wrote to Guus Wink, the main organizer. I offered my help in various fields like coaching students, offering arts or deep ecology workshops, doing some marketing or arranging evening events. Guus agreed that I work two or three days a week at Knowmads, and so I got involved with an amazingly creative learning process.
Knowmads Business School offers a 6-month program for social entrepreneurs. The first two months are pre-structured by the staff, while the rest of the time will be created by the students themselves. Each group forms a “Tribe”, a kind of community designing individual and collective learning journeys.
I found myself in the weird position of being at the same age as the students, but not being a participant but a learner in the field of coaching and facilitation. This was very scary, but I understood that my way to learn is real life; I have to jump in at the deep end. First I was writing blogs for the Knowmads website—about the group process, how it changed the students, and about alternative education in general. Later I did a bit of coaching and really enjoyed it. At the Knowmads Summer School I gave my first workshop in this setting, focused on feeling one’s own creative source and expressing it through drawing, using colors and lines, and later expressing it through words.
Focalizing a workshop as a young, inexperienced person for me is scary. I have to overcome all the voices in my mind that say: Maybe what you do is not good enough, maybe they don’t want you. Sometimes I wish I had an easy, regular job, but then I know: I have to try things out all by myself in spite of all insecurities. In fact, there is no reason to be afraid.
The last time there have been many situations that made me trust more and more in the power of creative processes and collective intelligence. For example last week I attended a summerschool for artists on co-creative leadership and community organised by the Eroles Project in the pyrennees. It was an amazing place in a lonely village in the mountains called the “House of Colours”; every room had its own colors. We were cooking together and sharing workshops in bodywork, meditation, and arts with people from all over Europe.
At the beginning, the organizers were disappointed that there were much fewer participants than they had expected. They feared their concept for the summerschool would not work with only a small group. During one and a half days, we talked about this situation and asked ourselves how we could create a learning space here with so few people. What could be the advantage of such a small, intimate group? This process changed the original concept—instead of given workshops, we had this big board where we made up a new schedule every day, and it was really easy to be open to everything wanting to emerge. We learned to trust each other. It takes time to get into such a process, which helps you to trust that everything will be okay and will unfold. I was watching this and learned a lot about creating space for education.
In the near future I will try to find more places to teach, to share my practice and knowledge. I will continue to work for Knowmads and look for a room, a nice open space to give coaching sessions and maybe organize weekend workshops. It could be the beginning of my school. In reality you have to make small steps—every journey starts with the very first step.
Coming from a very international background, I have always learned a lot about interacting with different people of different age groups who come from very diverse social backgrounds and cultures. Yet, what was missing was a big piece of knowledge about myself and about what gives me fulfillment. This only came in the Knowmads program where we really delved deep into the question “What do I want to achieve for myself ?” instead of “What is expected of me me?” or “How do I get someone else’s approval?”
Of course, finding out and constantly checking with yourself what you want at any given moment is an ongoing process. By that I really got to know better myself and what was important to me. And by doing so I become confronted with topics of self-love and love for others, in relationships and otherwise.
When it came to relationships I was restricted. I was not myself because I was kind of pretending to be someone I was not. This dissociated me from who I actually am. Now I am experimenting with getting to know myself better, also in romantic relationship to others. In schools there should be a class where students get to discuss this. How do we see ourselves in relationships? How do we deal with cheating and jealousy? Some people are lucky enough to find space in their families to talk about these matters but many people do not have such spaces in their lives.
And I would love to facilitate that. I am far from all-knowing when it comes to relationships, but I would like to share my knowledge and experience—sharing is the way people learn. It did help to be in a group of people where I felt safe and accepted and free to share share without fear of judgement or of losing face; whatever was there and alive at a given
moment. Putting yourself in a group situation where you can learn from each other is crucial. I think it is impossible to do this kind of work on your own. All these things that I learned didn’t just come out of the blue—I learned them from interacting with other people.
I joined Knowmads in March 2017. I came from a very different environment. I did a very masculine study, a Master’s degree in philosophy, politics and economics, followed by working as a boss of 30 men in an entrepreneurship incubator. I was pretty drained; I felt like I was having to be very competitive, pushing myself very hard, but not really succeeding.
I arrived at Knowmads, and within moments of my arrival, for reasons I find hard to explain, I was swept up on a magic carpet of very feminine energy. For me there is a big interplay between masculinity and femininity—I am not even sure whether these are the right terms to describe it, but at this moment these are the words that made sense to me.
We had a really intensive week of self-discovery. We had to ask ourselves questions of who we were, confront questions that we had not really welcomed into our lives. In the ceremony that we did at the end of the week, we had to let something to go and allow something in. I let go my over-paranoia about cultural appropriation, which came from
my studies and from my passion of running choirs and singing African-American music; and I brought in: “I embrace nakedness”.
And at that moment, while one of the other girls was painting my face, I felt this white light inside my body, and heard this
voice. It was a familiar voice, a voice that is my voice, the voice of my four-year-old self saying the very same wish it had been wishing on every birthday cake, on every eyelash, on every shooting
star since: “I wish I was a fairy!”
At that moment I thought: Why don’t I just be a fairy then, why don’t I just do it?!
This was on Friday; on the following Monday, I was announcing to my Tribe slowly, “Just so you know, I am now a fairy!” It was kind of my fairy birthday. Everyone was super accepting and said “Well, of course, you are a fairy. That makes so much sense!”
At that time, I did not know what the significance of being a fairy would be. In the week following the coming out of my fairyhood alter ego, I started feeling lighter, more able to connect, and my energetic sensitivity had gone higher.
We were asked the question of what did we need to heal? And I think this was the very question I had been asking myself for a long time. And the fairy became an avenue for me to transform into power physical pain that I was still feeling in my body. It was not surprising that it was feminine power that I felt rising up as the pain that was most alive in me was pain related to rape and sexual abuse that had happened to me between the age between 15 and 21.
On that physical journey that I was going on, I had talked to a lot of men and women who had been physically assaulted in that way, but it was also about connecting to maybe the most vulnerable part of my body, so I started dancing. I never had any dance training but it felt very natural to do this. And I set an intention to dance for my Tribe after the end of my half-term presentation.
A friend was taking me to this alternative lingerie shop offering beautiful lingerie, challenging the way that we perceive
womens’ bodies. I had been modelling for them and I danced in lingerie for my tribe. I intended a bit of a spiteful, angry presentation but it really became a presentation about love, and self-love, and healing, and expression. The pain part was the minor part, it was all the transformation and growth that had been triggered from me trying to set off on this journey that became most present in the presentation.
So right now what is most alive in me in terms of learning is, firstly, that in order to step on this learning journey I needed to step into this alter ego, because it gave me a way of completely cutting myself off from survival strategies into something that gave me new insights into the potential that I had. It was also really important to me to be part of an extremely safe community where I could talk about these kind of things and was accepted a hundred percent as who I was. And finally it has also given me a little bit of insight of where I would go into the future: Trying to find my voice, which I experience—now that I feel a little bit more connected to my body—as one of the most vulnerable parts of our bodies. In terms of saying what I have to say but also in terms of singing and being sonic in the world, hoping to find my voice through dance and connection. But it’s really hard and confronting.
copyright Knowmads 2020