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Beyond the Search

After years of seeking fulfillment and realization in collecting experiences I landed at Quinta da Mizarela to volunteer for a month initially. It didn’t take long to understand that what was going there was the real deal I was unconsciously looking for : no more pretense to be spiritual nor the search for spiritual experiences but instead the radical presence in the here and now, the commitment to transcend Ego at any time and in every circumstance in the most lightly, ordinary yet grounded way. « I » felt trapped and a sudden impulse to run away and avoid rushed out of my nervous system. Yet an irresistible pull to stay and to lean in took it over. I decided to stay for another month and to participate in the 10 Day Evolutionary Awakening Retreat as it became clear that being a Free human being has always been my deepest longing albeit hidden under a pile of secondary desires that were for the most part only a means to become someone.

2 years later I am a resident at the Quinta as I understood that closing the « back doors » of escaping  and to commit was the way to catalyze the Awakening Process. That meant leaving behind personal life projects and just staying with my deepest intention, it  became the only « real » option. Recognizing that I am always already Free is one thing but how to make it real? How to live a life from that understanding? How to bring Heaven on Earth? At the Quinta I learn how to face resistances through manual work and to face my conditionings through human interactions and relationships with people, animals and the land (as I also do through the Sangha and Men’s Group of ALP). Being in constant relationship with what is becomes the means to step out of the false assumption of what I call « I » as a separated entity, and that entails being less and less preoccupied by personal problems, desires, stories. Then, naturally attention gradually shifts from that self-centric perspective to a bigger picture that has no center and thus the radical understanding of « Freedom is Here and Now » can potentially  be actualized in everyday life situations. The Absolute vertical dimension can inform the Relative horizontal plane of existence.

I found in Peter and Cynthia, the two founders of ALP, the teachers I was unconsciously in need of. I saw/am seeing in them a profound wisdom, humility, availability and a lightness of being that keeps inspiring me. Of course as I grew up in a postmodern society the concept of a spiritual teacher sounded very alien and awkward at first but, through time, with the building up of trust and the overcoming of resistances, a true relationship is flowering. The essence of that relationship always points towards that which I really AM and stretches “me” according to my understanding. It is an ever evolving relationship which has implications I get to learn every day.

Off course being involved in the Project or/and the life at the Quinta it is a daunting task and I oscillate between deep fear when I contract and blissful surrender when I chose not to resist. Yet deep down it has nothing to do with any kind of feelings be it good or bad, it is more about transcending them by resting in the unqualified Truth of who I am out of which the varieties of my human experience wax and wane. It is not about avoiding or denying them either but on the very contrary allowing myself to feel them fully, to being lived by them without attachment, without making them mean anything about me, without an “I” manipulating them to reinforce its concreteness. To put it simply it is about surrendering to the purification process of any genuine spiritual life in a humble and very ordinary way.

Why did I chose to live at the Quinta to undergo this Process? Ultimately I could live that anywhere, for how could the Undivided Reality be split between a « here » and a « there »? While that is true I also acknowledge that the Quinta offers a safe container with profound trust at its core, it is a safeguard with its discipline where I know that resistances , frictions and ego backlashes will be addressed from that fundamental disposition, and so it simply feels like it is where I need to be for now.

To conclude I would say that choosing to get involved with the ALP is a bit like daring to jump off a cliff and let oneself be falling eternally. Do you dare?

Bernard Erken, Belgium

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About the project

The Awakened Life Project is situated in a beautiful and wild ecological reserve in the mountains Central Portugal. We offer volunteer programs, courses, events and retreats to support the liberation of the human spirit in a context of evolutionary emergence and communion with the ecological web of life.


Quinta da Mizarela
3305-031 Benfeita
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