The first group of participants started slipping away from Hibernation in the early morning, when the time barely passed the 6 a.m. in the morning. While they tried to stay quiet, some heard them and quiet sounds came from the sleeping room. Slowly the rest of the people woke up and filled the breakfast table, for last morning together before running off to the bus. On the way out participants left a note for the cook, for her lovely cooking from the heart, proving, that it’s an art.
When everyone boarded the bus and blasted away with the smoke of petrol pouring behind it. Knowing that it’s the last time together, participants the formed conversations, sleep on others shoulders and passed last warm hugs of appreciation. The way back home made them reflect on the time together and raised smiles for the feelings they got from each other.
The last ritual was over along with the ceremony and last day of hibernation arrived. Some of the participants felt sadness for this being the last day, but nonetheless, everyone was grateful for the time together.
In the early morning, participants gathered in pairs for a walk, to think about time in Hibernation and carry part of it back home. After twenty minutes of walking, everyone came to a circle, to pour seeds in the ground and plant their thoughts deep into the earth. Later on, participants were invited to write a letter for themselves, taking into account the wish from the first day. The wish they wrote upon the arrival to Hibernation and put it into a magic light bottle, to carry this wish along the way.
When everyone gathered in spirit house, the participants exchanged envelopes with each other and give away to receive, to remind each other what is important. Putting notes and envelopes aside, participants formed the last circle, with space in the middle for one of them. Where one by one, participants laid in the middle of the circle, to take one quartz crystal and fill it with warm thoughts from around the circle.
Some of the participants had to leave in the evening and the rest of them decided to make a last dance in the spirit house to say last goodbyes join together for a dance and a magical time.
It was noticeable that not everyone was enthusiastic about building a candle in the early morning, when the sound of drums tried to collect everyone outside the house. Before heading to work, participants held a circle of silence to gather peace and calm in their minds, and greet the day with positivity.
Bottom of the candle for holding a light on its top was almost finished and some participants thought about working on their own ideas and began to work on smaller structures which will decorate the surroundings of the candle. While most of the participants were busy working outside in the cold and enjoying the music playing in the background, the rest of the group were inside – brainstorming the evening ceremony. The work on the candle continued with entertainment while music for everyones liking was playing along with it. When the candle was almost finished, participants began transporting it to the burning site next to the frozen pond. Before assembling it on the burning site, most of the participants found joy on the frozen pond and spread their creativity on the snowy coat which laid over the ice – drawing images and writing lovely wishes.
When anticipation finally came to life and the night for the ceremony was upon them, the group who worked for its planning started gathering everyone in front of the house. With another circle of silence people calmed down and one after the other started walking towards the burning site. Before lighting up the candle, everyone joined in the circle and passed their wishes around it. When everyone had passed their wish around, they picked up the paper on which was written the song for the ceremony. Along with the singing candle lid up and everyone moved their bodies in a peaceful flow. The eyes of twenty-four people lid on fire as they watched the sparks from fire going up in the sky, as a symbol of light.
The several-day-long lack of water made participants adapt to a more primal lifestyle, cleaning and showering with cold water. Nevertheless, they were happy to have electric power and understood from first-hand experience what negligence of natural resources could lead to.
The further Hibernation got, the more the program flow was left to the group's creativity and initiative, and each day the walk to the spirit house felt like a surprise. This time when they sat in the circle and the talking stick passed from one hand to another, everyone shared something that they were grateful for. Some reflected about their life in general while others kept it simple and reflected about the time of Hibernation.
After everyone shared their grateful reflections, some people introduced to the group the idea to build a special structure to be burnt in a sacred ritual representing the ending of Hibernation. Everyone got excited and after brainstorming for ideas they ran out to build a giant candle – representing a light that shines in all of them.
It was impossible to work on the structure when it got dark, but our magical fairy, Rota, gathered everyone in the spirit house for an evening dance, involving the four natural elements together with ether. The bodies in the spirit house flowed from earth to fire, continuing with water and moving to air, ultimately ending with ether. The experience was different for each participant.
It was the middle of Hibernation project, and tiredness could be seen on everyone’s faces. Unlike the first days of the exchange when everyone gathered around the breakfast table early, now most participants crawled down late and sleepy.
To wash the worry off everyone’s skin, the group gathered in the spirit house for a cuddle pool. Spontaneously, everyone came together in a pile of hugs, and shared their love and compassion with each other. It was what all of them deserved after the previous day’s adventure in the woods. As soon as they finished with swimming into each other hugs, it was time to reflect on the days spent in Hibernation.
After lunch participants cuddled for another hour – creating a new circle of loveliness. During that time the idea to build a sweat lodge surfaced. People were given the choice to help with building it or take a couple of hours of self-care. Most of them chose to have a break, but the brave ones joined hands and began gathering everything for the lodge. Slowly the afternoon slid into the evening, and everyone’s mood started to significantly improve. They couldn’t wait for the dinner and sauna that would follow the delicious dinner.
The morning felt ordinary up until the contribution hour, when participants helped out with household chores as usual. However, this time whispers of a hike to secret location flew from one ear to another and everyone got excited.
The rumors turned out to be true, and the group quickly prepared for the day-trip. They carried the essentials for the campsite and dinner. Half an hour after the group had left the house, they reached the location in the forest where their campsite would be. Everyone dropped their bags and Laura invited them to create a circle with their backs against each other. She invited them to get lost in the woods to explore nature by following the direction their noses pointed. Everyone was invited to walk in silence to hear the nature and stay alone with their thoughts for the next three hours.
When the sun began setting down, most of those who went deep into the woods started to return back, until the numbers grew close to twenty. However, this wasn’t all of them. Two of them were lost until dark clouds rolled over the wild woods, creating some worry around the campfire.
Just an hour later, the lost people were brought safely back to the camp for dinner. Everyone was happy to be back together and started preparing for the way back, knowing that all of them were safe although with wet socks.
The quiet night surprised everyone. Peaceful sleep uninterrupted by snoring was the blessing the group needed for the exciting day ahead.
The day for sharing knowledge with each other was here. In the morning the participants split into two groups to lead and participate in their own workshops. One group shared yoga practice, while other had a discussion about zero waste. All went smooth, perhaps, smoother than anyone of them expected.
When lunch was over, it was time for theatre and everyone gathered together to have a good time laughing. The workshop started with a couple of acting games and ultimately lead to image theatre. The three wonderful souls behind the theatre workshop wanted to show people that theatre is about fun and that being a fool in front of the public is part of the act. After everyone had had a good laugh, the group split again for another set of workshops. Some of the workshops had less attention than others, but ultimately everyone found something to their liking.
The day ended peacefully with everyone gathering in the spirit house for a sharing circle. Every person shared their reflections about the day with candlelight illuminating their face. Once everyone had their turn, the group continued with a special ritual suggested by one of their members. The activity was called “angel walk” and involved two rows of people who face each other and form a human tunnel. One by one participant travel through peoples compassion and let the pasts scars heal by the hugs, loving and inspiring wishes of others.
It came early in the morning and out of a sudden. When bowls of porridge were getting empty and bellies started to feel up with joy, darkness laid upon them. Some thought it was an accidental bump into the light switch, but no. Electricity was out and candles quickly crawled on the table. With darkness in the room and light in everyone's hearts, all twenty of them awaited sunrise.
The blackout encouraged everyone to work together and as soon they finished with their daily contribution, it was time for a walk of forgiveness. Everyone looked for a person they didn’t know and paired up for a walk. The falling snow melted on its way to the ground and soaked into every jacket while participants worked on forgiving themselves for the things from the past. Once everyone had found peace within, it was time for another sharing circle.
No power meant no water, but people looked for alternatives to restore balance. Despite the unexpected blackout, all twenty of them held together and took care of each other. It was a surprise that united them all. After taking care of each other, everyone received alone time to take a walk, and dive into their own thoughts – all of them deserved it without a doubt.
When everyone had spent some time by themselves, they gathered together and brainstormed the next day's activities in order to share their knowledge and awareness practices with each other. Through a pile of ideas, the group found a common ground and started preparing for the next day.
At 8 a.m. snoring stopped and everyone crawled out of their beds, so they won’t miss out breakfast. No one was in the hurry for mornings sandwiches as if they knew that everyone will be coming down at their own pace.
When the breakfast was over, it was time to get to know each other – more personally. All twenty beautiful souls gathered into the spirit house. Excited for the next day and the beginning of their shared adventure they sat in a circle next to each other - nothing gets people closer than sharing the circle. Rota, their magical fairy, introduced them to the talking stick, which drives the groups attention to the one who’s speaking. With rules and practicals out of the way, the group dived into their first shared reflection, sharing what they had gotten out of the last year. In the next hour participants bravely poured out their challenges, fears, regrets, and accomplishments. Everyone got out what laid underneath. To move on from the past, they all stood up and helped each other heal by singing a powerful mantra and releasing their fears in the comfort of others’ compassion.
When lunch ended, it was time to return to the spirit house for the afternoon activities. The group was introduced to the five places we can focus our attention on: the chatter of the inner critic who constantly judges us; the desires of our inner child, the sensations of the body, the guidance of the inner compass, and ultimately, pure awareness. “What is pure awareness,” some wondered. One of them described it as “zoning out”. Another saw it as body and mind working together, shutting off every thought that travels through. Importantly, participants discussed different approaches to arriving at pure awareness. They discovered that it could take many forms – from creative expression to playing basketball or cooking.
When the train with the 20 international participants in the Hibernation youth exchange reached Tukums, the participants were welcomed by the breeze of Latvian winter and the people behind the project. Rota, Kristaps, and Laura, the three lovely souls who had put months of hard work and inspiration into the creation of the project greeted everyone and handed them fresh apples. Their wide smiles left an unforgettable mark for Latvian hospitality.
The group was given several maps and sent on a 13-kilometer hike to the place where Hibernation would take place. The road ahead of the youth was dark and long. The participants left their bags and embarked on what would be a more than a two-hour walk, having nothing but the road, maps and each other. That was the moment to get to know each other, they realized on the way. The black sky brought everyone together and shortened the distance from one heart to another.
The twenty young people were starting to form unity while following the railroad track. Eventually, that track would lead them to a sacred place, where their unique winter hibernation adventure would take place. None of them knew the road, but all of them trusted the map. In small groups they walked the track, signaling each other when the train was coming. Some encouraged the train driver to honk the huge machine and everyone loved the sound of the passing beast. No matter how cold or slippery the night got, the group held it together and bravely walked in the dark supporting each other. Not even the frozen field could stop them.
Once they had crossed the field, the youth saw the shimmering light in the distance and heard an unknown but friendly dog barking. They knew right away – their home for the next week was now close. They had arrived at the projects picturesque venue, but their journey to inner peace was just starting.
Hocus pocus, tends to lose focus and blooms like lotus.
The project Hibernation was funded by the European program Erasmus+: Youth in Action.