23 Countries, 200 Rites of Passage Guides, Thousands of woodland trees in Southern Germany: One Unforgettable Experience by Michelle Katz
It has been hard for me to truly articulate what happened at the 7th International Gathering of Rites of Passage Guides. I am still sitting with it, reflecting and integrating it. And yet, it feels important to somehow articulate what I can about it, in living into the traditional and practice of storytelling.
From the high desert of New Mexico, lands of expansive views, monsoons and wildfires, after 30+hours of travel, and into the humid wet woodlands of Southern Germany. Upon arrival, pitched a tent and shared a meal with friends from familiar lands and began the 10 days participating in a powerful Pilgrimage to Dachau (see previous blog post), and then, 2 days later, the larger group arrived. 200 Rites of Passage guides from 23 different countries. Representation from Germany, Denmark, South Africa, Spain, UK, US, Israel, Columbia, Chile, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Czech Republic, China, France, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland the list goes on. It was a beautiful collection of people to bared witness to, hugging and laughing and storytelling with no knowledge of the passage of time.
The week together began with one representative from each country stepping into the council and speaking about their country. I heard the collective story of struggle and difficulty with political situations, social landscapes and injustice; as well as the shared story of collective caring for nature and the future of humanity. It was powerful to witness what draws us all together. It was deep recognition of not being individuals from many different countries, but being the world.
The councils continued. The collective saw those that identified as Elders step into the center. I witnessed those that have experienced various changes over the time of their lives speak about how they identify with the title of Elder, what they have learned and what they continue to learn. The words they spoke offered a refreshing drink, a gentle reassuring smile and a comfort in knowing that as life continues we all continue to grow.
The week continued and I found myself, in an honoring of being an introvert, moving my tent beneath an oak tree on the far outskirts of the grounds and wandering the lands of deep damp woods full of pines with the intermittent oaks, all meeting the rain in a soft quiet way. It was a place of whispering life. The meeting of the wide and fast flowing glacial water, river Isar, offered a welcomed resonance and pace. I visited often, listening to the calling.
The drums from the South African community echoed across the land every night, as did the feet that danced in sync with the heartbeat heard by human hands and breathing earth.
The week concluded with two councils to compliment the first two. One being the community gathering for decision making regarding the location of the next gathering. I have been, and continue to be, in awe of the way of this practice. Mostly, I sit in awe of the communal aim and deep desire to include, share and come to a consensus, a seemingly impossible task of our time. I cannot help but exclaim, “I love our way!” Especially as I watch the difficulty in it all and still we stay present and stay connected to each other, and continually meeting all the differences in thought and opinion with spaciousness, time and patience for developing more and more deep understanding.
And finally, it was the council of the younger guides, the guides of the future, who had the opportunity to share and be heard and seen. We began our circle holding hands in a deeper knowing that regardless of feeling alone so often, we are never alone and we know each other, need each other and hold each other in deep respect and loving. We honored our predecessors, we honored our stories and needs and we dreamed of what is to come. In the end, the whole community rose to hold, support, and celebrate the vision we collectively create.