Newsletter 5.18.2Felipe Chammas from Brazil visited the ZEGG Summercamp 2018. Here is his report:

 Physically and emotionally, I'm in a cool process of learning how to undress myself to be more confident and connected - with myself and with others.
Between July 25th and August 5th I was at ZEGG, in Bad Belzig, a small German town located an hour away from Berlin by train, experiencing their summercamp, of which the theme was From Ego To Compassion.

The name ZEGG is an acronym to Zentrum für Experimentelle GesellschaftsGestaltung (freely translated by me as Center for Experiments in Social and Cultural Design) and the community was created in 1991 by a group of people that were committed to research, expose and face the truths about human relationships, mainly regarding love, sensuality and sexuality, because in these territories our patterns get really intense.

The main quest behind the initiative was to establish a peace culture among individuals and, according to their perception, this peace won't possible as long as we don't reach peace among the genders. That's why love, sensuality and sexuality have been at the core of their experiments of community living for these 27 years of existence.

 THE CAMP

The summercamp is an event that the community puts together annually with the intention of sharing with whoever is interested their experiences and challenges regarding community life, sexuality, sustainability and spirituality.

Around 300 people gathered for 12 days at the community, a space that's taken care according to permacultural principles, to watch lectures about the camp's theme (From Ego To Compassion), share meals, work for the community, engage in different reflective activities, experiment some new sensations and, above all, coexist.

zelt

Main tent where we gathered frequently

Many synchronicities took me to ZEGG so, of course, I had a curious energy about being there, but I did not have an image of how I'd like it to be nor did I really know what to expect.

I arrived there by myself, knowing only Barbara, who's been living at the community for 17 years, who I met in Brazil at a course that she facilitated. She was the one who told me about the camp and who connected me with people so I could offer services in exchange for a scholarship/discount to participate in the camp. I had the opportunity to facilitate yoga practices to the people at the camp and helped at the kitchen a few times.

The lectures we watched were about sexuality, deep ecology, consciousness, activism, ego, and all this with a lot of music and theatre to keep things lighter and more easily digestible. 
We had a cacao ceremony (something that's pretty trendy here in Europe) and we had many opportunities to dance and express what's inside our bodies — I'm even beginning to like this Contact Improvisation thing.
We could take part in circles of discussions and reflections on gender identity — women's, men's and people's circles — , on faithfulness and on long term partnerships. 
We also had a lot of free time, which I spent reading, taking siestas on hammocks, playing the guitar, play beach volleyball and having some interesting and stimulating talks and encounters.

Something that called my attention in a positive way was the diversity in age of the people that were present.

There was a camp for children, for families who came with the little ones, there was a camp for the teenagers up to 14 years old.
And every adult were part of a home group, which gathered almost everyday to share and deepen the experiences. Each group had a specific theme and one of them was dedicated to young adults up to 26 years old and another one to international participants.

In my group, the internationals, we were a little over 20 people from countries like Venezuela, Poland, New Zealand, Romania, England, USA and also from Germany, and there was people in their 20s (I was the youngest, being 27), in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s. There were people who were single, people who were married but whose partner was not there, there were people with their partner looking for a new way to relate to each other and there were people with their partner and a third lover together.

I was very happy this diversity because I believe that the provocations being made there, about ego, community life and the expression of ourselves in a wholesome and free way should be in everyone's agenda. Without demagogy, without pressure and without obligations, but present so we can all reflect on how we personally want to deal with all this freedom and, further more, how we can accept other people's manifestations of freedom without repressing them because we're identified with our fears and concepts in an unhealthy manner.

FREE LOVE

A very serious stand that ZEGG has been taking for a long time is about free love.

When I hear this term, the siren of polemics goes off inside me.

I believe it's because of how I see people around me deal with the subject, but, above all, because this is definitely a subject that is not well sorted inside myself.

In my mind I've already understood and agreed with the idea, 1. because I believe that, following the social standards, I usually put a lot of pressure and expectations on my partner, a single person who has to fulfil all my quests — a very heavy load to carry; and 2. because I don't believe anymore that it's possible for me to not feel interested in anyone else other than the person I'm in a long term relationship with (after all, we're 7 billion people in the world, there's a shit ton of amazing people out there)

But according to the sensations I get when I'm in a relationship with someone and I think about the possibility of her getting involved with someone else — sensations that go from having a bad feeling in my stomach to getting the chills and feeling my blood warm up — I realize that I may no be quite ready yet for this.

I'm noticing that these sensations are based on some very harmful cultural perceptions that I grew up with.

Some of them were imposed by the church and Brazil's catholic culture, which demonizes sex (only when it pleases them), created a series of taboos and celebrates the sacrifices of monogamous faithfulness.
Others were imposed my the sexism in which this same culture is immersed, which is also supported by the church, that helps build the perceptions that "women are a prize that men have to win" and that "women who are in a relationship a feel interested in someone else is a slut".
And there also some others that were imposed by Disney, that has showed me that I should be a prince (whatever the f*** that means) and find myprincess so we could live happily ever after.

From these notions, I create inside myself a thick layer of fears.

Fear of being a sinner, a horrible person who will pay for his acts. Fear of being humiliated publicly for being cheated on, which is the end of the world for a man's reputation. And fear of spending the rest of my life alone because I didn't know how to make sacrifices in the name of love.

It's from these fears that I react and create my sensorial reality. I can notice them acting more intensely when I'm in auto-pilot, that is, when I'm not very present and connect with what's going on inside myself.

I felt more invited to dive into the subject when I understood that, first and foremost, free love means love without fear.

Therefore, the main focus is the internal work — emotional, psychological and spiritual — that I can do individually and with a partner if we decide to have a long term relationship.

The way this freedom will manifest — if it'll be an open, a polyamorous or a monogamous relationship — is a second step that will develop from the open communication and listening between the partners.

But the core thing is first being transparent with myself and, then, with my partner.

At the camp, there were partners in a radical open relationship, in which they allowed and supported each other in getting involved with whoever they wanted. I met a couple in their 70s, who've been together for 25 years, that currently have a polyamorous relationship in which both have another partner — and they said their sexual life is still active, but it also got better after they dove into polyamor. I saw partners who go through periods of being open and periods of being closed, that try to understand their moments through communicating with each other. And there were also people in monogamous relationships, but still trying to keep a transparent and honest to stimulate mutual support between the partners in all of life's subjects.

Nobody I talked to said it was easy building a relationship based on transparent communication.

There is jealousy, there's drama, sometimes there's fights and somethings someone gets hurt.

But all of these things already happen in traditional relationships, don't they?

What I see as the essence of these experiences is a real interest and a desire to support each other emotionally and psychologically, instead of suppressing what's going on inside themselves, because that doesn't make the feelings disappear — to the contrary, chances are that they will grow and get out of control.

There's people that, like me, will question "well, but how will it be if I have a open relationship, being allowed to get involved with other people, and want to build a family, have kids and raise them in a healthy way?".

As a community, ZEGG also questions the notion that free sexuality and long term partnerships are incompatible.

First because having an open relationship does not mean having sex with every single person you feel attracted to or taking part in orgies indiscriminately. Second because the possibility to relate to other people outside your long term partnership comes from a place of love, which can manifest in many ways, including sexually — and the idea is that to love someone new we don't need to stop loving who we already love.

I don't agree with everything that ZEGG defends and never practices most of these concepts, but it seems to me that, for all of these ideas to be put into practice, it takes a lot of transparency and clarity in communication, with care, openness and comprehension regarding what's happening with the other person. And this I value — a lot!

ZEGG FORUM

From the experiments that the people at ZEGG set themselves in, they realized the need to transform into a habit the practice of communicating openly about what's going on inside oneself.
So they developed a tool called Forum.

Forum is basically a circle of people that get together to build an emotionally safe space, in which anyone can go into the center to share and research what's alive in themselves at the moment. The group, that watches the sharing, creates an energy of support with the idea that whatever a human being faces, feels and goes through doesn't belong only to that human being, but rather to the whole of humanity — for, in one way or another, we all have similar anxieties and quests.

That way, the group seeks to comprehend and welcome what's being share, instead of judging and diminishing the others' challenges.

In summary, the dynamics is the following:
// The circle is composed by people who have something in common — same summercamp, work in the same company or live in the same community
// There are 2 facilitators who actively engage with the person in the center, giving them emotional structure and supporting the research with active listening, stimulating questions, and body and theatre techniques
// A Forum can have a specific theme — such as love, sexuality, family, work, money, power, dreams — or it can be open, about any topic
// With the set up, I can access the center to share whatever I want — through speech, movements or music
// The facilitators support me to deepen at least a little bit into the subject to try and access the roots of the feeling — then come cries, screams, laughters, dances, insights
// Once both sides — the facilitators and I — agree that it's enough, I come back to my seat
// If I want, I can get mirrors, through which the people in the circle can go into the center to reflect on what they saw, heard and felt while I was sharing
// Afterwards, if anyone wants to bring the subject to a private talk, it's suggested that people ask if the other person is comfortable talking about it

And life goes on.

My first contact with this methodology was in the Warriors Without Weapons program, last July, and then in October I started studying this tool.

I've spoken about money, about my insecurities of being "out in the world", about sex, about love, about my father. And I've had the opportunity to listen to and mirror couples who were sharing their challenges with the group, people suffering with depression and not knowing if they want to go on living, people learning how to manifest the anger they have inside them.

And I keep getting more interested in the tool because I see a few things happen.

The first is that I make myself extremely vulnerable when I share what's alive in me. I can talk about my love relationship, and my partner may be in the circle. I can talk about my challenges with money, and my boss may be there. And I can talk about me fears and insecurities and my family may be present. I make myself transparent, take away my shields and, with this intention, I open up to be helped.

Sharing, I give to the group the opportunity to understand better "where I'm coming from" and why I make some decisions in a specific way. This stimulates compassion and comprehension and, consequently, discourages reactivity in our relationships.

I also notice that, in general, people can identify themselves with at least a little bit of what I'm going through, they see themselves in me. This deepens our connection and our ability to support one another.

Through facilitation, I can access sensations that up to this point I hadn't had. I simulate situations to see how I feel, I create sentences that represent me, I gain clarity on what I really want and search for.

And when I get mirrors, I notice that 1. I can count on my community, that they're not judging or putting me down for being who I am and making it public; and 2. I gain new perspectives on my own story, I see it through a new light and, possibility, realize things that I hadn't seen yet.

This whole practice goes with ZEGG's idea that, in order for us to build a new way to relate — as lovers, friends, community or family — we need a support network. We'll hardly be able to change our relationship habits by ourselves or in two people, because we'll always hit on the brutal cultural wall that involves us.

Having a support community and turning transparency practices into habit, I don't need to fear being who I am or accepting what I feel and want anymore. I learn how to access the roots of theses wishes and feelings and I count on a network that supports my learning without crucifying me.

To me, this creates a really cool result because I see that as I deprivitize my personal issues, I can let go of my masks and access a more comfortable place to face truth and ask for help when needed.

FAITHFULNESS

Among the subjects that were discussed in the camp, one that really called my attention was faithfulness.

Starting by its most obvious meaning, of being faithful to your lover, I believe that it was the first time that I could really see the concept being subverted in such a wide and explicit manner. Just the fact of seeing couples with an official third lover, in common agreement, already made my brain work really hard. But, even though I'm not used to seeing it being put into practice, I've accessed before the idea that faithfulness is not a static concept, but rather depends on the agreements made between the partners.

My big insight on the topic was when I realized that my main challenge is to be faithful to myself.

My tendency when I start a love relationship is to put a lot of attention and expectations on the other person.

I notice that finding a lover to build a family is one of the ways through which I seek to fulfil my need of belonging. I have really strongly inside myself the dream of having a family, having kids, and when I find someone who fits into the conscious and subconscious pre requisites, I feel like I'm closer to realizing my dream and then I jump into a cycle that I identified recently.

I commit deeply to the relationship and make myself extremely available to the other person and to the relationship, and I find it really difficult to communicate my needs because I fear being the person who asks for too much or is very selfish — because that would screw everything up and push the other person away and, therefore, keep me from realizing my dream. The only problem is that, because I don't communicate my needs, I end up not practising my freedom — which, often, is something as simple as going out without thinking of what time I'll come back, without having that little voice in the back of my head saying "you should give more attention to your partner", or saying that I'm jealous of someone, which I don't do because "I have to give her all the freedom in the world, otherwise I'm sexist and she'll run away".

And this pressure, in general, comes more from myself than from anyone else.

Because I don't have the habit of sharing these deep things about myself — and because I don't accept them as legitimate feelings and desires — I go on suppressing them up to the point when I feel trapped. And though I'm the one who's most responsible for this imprisonment, my defense mechanism is to blame the other person and, seeking for freedom, I run away from her and from the relationship.

I got really inspired when I had clarity about this Circle of Involvement that I even drew this diagram:

My emotional pattern, systematized (in Portuguese, sorry)

 grafik

Again, I go back to something I've already shared in another post: because I don't want my loved one to go away, I take on a series of behaviors that end up making me want to push her away from me.

Because I'm not able to faithful to myself, I end up betraying our relationship when I access a defense mode in search for my freedom.

Talking to Zeev, the 71 year-old Israeli man, who was at the camp with his 25-year-long polyamorous partner, he repeated a few times something that got really stuck in me:

“Felipe, do what you want. Do what you want and, if your partner doesn't understand, she wasn't the right one."

I could understand this as an ode to egoism, but I'm really looking at it from the following point of view: I cannot neglect the care for myself in order to take care of someone else or of a relationship.

I think this is where my main challenge regarding faithfulness lies. Having enough courage to face and accept what's going on inside myself without repression. Then, maybe, when I'm not afraid of facing what's inside, nor of how people are going to judge me, I'll be able to be truly faithful and communicate in a transparent and wholesome way.

THE BODY

During the camp, I was actively and intensely invite to embody this idea of transparency.

I did not expect this but, yes, people were naked in an extremely natural way — as if they were simply drinking a glass of water.

On this "reality facing" moments, my conservative self grows inside me.

It was on the first morning of the camp, coming back from my yoga practice, when I walked through the grass by the pool, that I saw a bunch of people naked enjoying the moment — some were hugging each other, some were reading, others were stretching and some others were sun bathing.

Immediately, I had the thought of "oh, shit, what should I do? Should I say hi? Should I pretend I didn't see them?".

I turned my face and walked faster.

I went to my tent to gather my stuff to go showering. When I arrive to the open sky showers, I see another bunch of naked people — mothers and fathers showering and and helping their children, old ladies, old men, young adults.

There were three showers that were literally together and everyone was acting very naturally, even having those small morning chats.

I felt this little thing in my stomach and went on looking for something in my toiletry bag while I gather courage to get naked and go into the shower.

A movie — quick, but very deep — went through my mind:

“Shit, I'm really gonna be naked with all these people? There's some kids in there…"
“F***, her husband is there as well. That's uncomfortable…"
“Will they think I'm ugly or too hairy? Will they thing my dick is too small?
“Dammit, what if I get horny in there?"

Yes! All these thoughts went through my mind in that one minute and a half during which I wnet through my toiletry in history's longest ever search for a soap and a comb.

I took a deep breath, took my shorts off and went in.

And would you believe me if I told you that nobody gave the least bit of attention to me being in there?
Nobody laughed, nobody commented on anything — not even in German.
I showered and came out of the experience safe and sound and full of reflections.

It was really hot there, so I must have showered 30 times during these 12 days. Quick chats happened, some help with the dropped soap happened, an attempt to fix the broken shower happened.

But no sexual impulse happened.

This got me thinking about how the sexual connotation of the body is actually in my mind.

It seems to me that, as a consequence of having as a reference a culture that suppresses so much the exposition of human genitals and keeps sex as an immoral subject and act, my brain attributes sexuality to any small little access that I have to the "prohibited" thing.

But there, in that environment, where we talked a lot and openly about sensuality, sexuality and love, and experimented this freedom, the sexual impulsed calmed down. Almost as if because it wasn't forbidden and was so accessible, it was possible for me to stay more centered and less euphoric about the subject.

Bodies became mere bodies and sexuality could only flourish from conscious openness, touch and exchange between people. And I had the perception that, maybe, the more sensual a culture becomes, the less sexually violent it's subject to be.

“The more sensual a culture becomes, the less sexually violent it's subject to be.”

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Ecstatic Dance after the cacau ceremony (photo: Facebook ZEGG)

Another thing that was clear to me in relation to the body was around women having hair in places other than their heads.

If one of my thoughts before getting naked to shower was "will they think I'm ugly because I'm hairy", I'll hardly accept that women exercise their freedom in keeping their hair on their bodies.

And what a f***ing horrible oppression I'm doing.

With myself and, most of all, with women, that end up being obliged to spend time and money in waxing, to feel a lot of pain and reinforce the social oppression while doing it.

It's not the first time I come across women who don't share their legs and armpits and, the more I'm around it, more natural it becomes to me.

And I'm enjoying noticing myself finding them beautiful and feeling attracted to them "even with hair". I catch myself rewiring my system in relation to hair and also learning to appreciate the strength of the women who challenge the pre determined standard that has been set for their bodies and decide to do what pleases them.

Of course, it's okay if someone doesn't like hair. And it's okay for women who want to keep shaving — I don't think anyone is less because of that. But it seems important to make sure that this comes out of your own wish, and not from social oppression and from an obligation in order to be desirable by men.

I celebrate the efforts of everyone who's working to build a culture in which a naked body doesn't necessarily refer to sex and in which bodies that are out of the standards of youth-skinnyness-shaved-competition can also be sexually attractive.

To close out this body experience, on our last home group meeting, we start dancing as usual. At the end of third song, on that 35 degrees heat, everyone was dripping in sweat. Before we moved on to the following activities, someone suggest a shower to cool down. We checked if everyone was okay with it and done: off to the shower!

I had my first collective showing with 15 people. Everybody naked, cooling down and without and inherent sexuality in the act.

All this experience with the body is reinforcing a perception that I've built throughout my 7 years of yoga practice.

The perception that my physical body and my subtler expressions — mind, psiqué and emotions — are not dissociable. Though we try to create this separation through modern science, which is reductionist and cartesian, my personal perception is that both things can only move together. What I feel and think had a reflection on my body. And what I do in my body — my posture, exercising, eating habits — reflect directly in my mental condition.

It's clear to me that I' won't be able to be emotionally and psychologically transparent as long as I have so many locks and concerns in relation to my body.

COMMUNICATION

More than having an ideal of how to lead my life (free love, polyamor, monogamy, nudism, etc.), what I take of practical from this whole experience if the challenge of deepening the way I communicate.

Mainly through speech, but also through gestures, affection and looks.
A lot with other people, but mainly with myself.

I want to look into what's going on inside me in a soothing way.

Listen, research, ask, understand.

So I can welcome and accept myself, and manifest whatever it is from a place of peace and care.

I came out with a strong idea to practice radical sincerity.

Which, to me, means sharing transparently what I feel, perceive and think with the people I love and coexist with. It means accessing delicate, painful and uncomfortable subjects, but above all, it means a desire for connection, learning and compassion.

Think of this, I remembered a cultural trace of mine, and I believe of many Brazilians as well: the idea of sincericide.

Sincericide: the symbolic act of committing suicide by being too sincere.

Something that makes a lot of sense to me and to many people that are close to me, because it's obvious that we shouldn't share everything we think of feel, it could be too much for other people.

Talking to some people here in Germany it became clear to me that this idea is not necessarily so obvious for everyone. I had reactions such as "oh wow, why would it be bad to be honest about what you feel or think?".

Of course I'm not talking about the violent sincerity in which we vomit on the other person things that are not well sorted inside us.

I'm talking about the careful sincerity, that seeks complicity, comprehension and closeness.

For this, of course, I'll need to dedicate a lot of energy and time to listen, to look and look again at what I feel and think and where it all comes from. And of course I'll need partners that are also willing to diving into themselves and help me on my dive into myself.

It's challenging and it may hurt, but we don't need to suffer. And I'm willing to go through it.

 



ZEGG – Center for Social and Cultural Design
Rosa-Luxemburg-Str. 89, 14806 Bad Belzig
Germany

phone: +49 (0) 33841 595-100
fax: +49 (0) 33841 595-102

Email:
Web: www.zegg.de


The ZEGG is a community of about 100 adults and children. How can we create a sustainable and creative life and an awake awareness to promote issues of love and sexuality, ecology, community, and create policy. We invite you to visit us, especially our summercamp.

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