Humans of Ängsbacka is a photo project of portraits and interviews collected at Ängsbacka course & festival center.
“In the mountains on the rooftop of a south indian meditation centre doing my morning Yoga practice, I met a man who had been coming to Ängsbacka for seven years. He told me about this place and that I should visit. So I came just for the Tantra Festival and ended up staying 3 1/2 months on that first visit. The next time I stayed for one and a half years and I’ve kept coming back ever since. I have lived and worked in various different Ashrams and retreat centers over the years, partly out of curiosity and partly to see how an authentic spiritual practice can coexist with a business model.
Before I started this journey into the world of spirituality and community, I worked as a graphic designer, moved up the career ladder to project, studio and production management at prestigious design and advertising agencies in England with big teams and big budgets – a job that is very deadline-related, with a lot of stress and a big burn out rate. This was when I first started to practice Yoga, to make sense of the stress I was under on a daily basis. This practice then really took hold and it was the start of my aim to exit out of the marketing and advertising industry and into a more sustainable environment and life choice. But I am also a realist and, as such, I see the need to make an income. But how to do it in an ethical and healthy way for mind and body?
In my case I did this by starting to study Yoga, Shiatsu and Thai Massage seriously and began to practice and teach it as a full time job for many years. This allowed me to get to know the people I was working with in a much deeper and personal way than I had in my previous working environment. I moved to the countryside and trained as a firefighter and then as an officer, giving me yet another perspective on life. After several years I took a break from this to travel and work as an English teacher in Delhi’s slums through a Zen Buddhist organization I was involved in. In a Yoga center in Rishikesh, where I was practicing a lot and attending philosophy courses, I came to the realisation that what I was going to go back to in England really wasn’t what I was looking for in my life. So this is when my journey away from a conventional life with a fixed job started. I was 45 years old by that time.
The first person I met on arriving at Ängsbacka was a beautiful girl that I fell madly in love with after she had first ignored me for several weeks. She finally saw me and we got together. But unlike so many relationships that start here, in an environment of experimentation but then end, ours continued and still is today.
But this playground of Ängsbacka is not the easiest place to be and I do struggle from time to time with living here over long periods. The summers are incredibly intense because there are so many people living in such close proximity to one another. You’ll find some of the most extreme personalities with needs, wishes, desires, frailties and sensitivities coming together. You’ll meet the most wonderful as well as the most f*****g annoying people here. I realise that dealing with this second kind is something that needs to happen within yourself but this is a two way thing and if they aren’t working on themselves it can make Ängsbacka life really difficult. Everyone’s actions have impacts on the ones around in such a closely shared community. So it can be a struggle to live at this place full time, but I have also had times feeling the most at ease and peace here, thinking I couldn’t be anywhere else in the world. It takes and gives everything in a push and pull movement on a daily basis.
Over the years, I have found some really good friends here onsite as well as in the extended community in Molkom, which make me come back time and again.
At Ängsbacka I am able to relax into my working day without big expectations on me that I know from my previous working life wouldn’t be possible. The stress was passed on from one person to the next and now when my work is done I can just sit down and have meaningful conversation with one of the many interesting people that are around. For me that is all I need to connect to others but for those who have other ways, there are all forms of workshops and activities to participate in every day. There is freedom to connect in whatever way is yours, or to not do it when you need to be with yourself. You are allowed to be who you are, everything is acceptable. Living in this kind of community simply feels really good and I prefer it over living in isolation. Ängsbacka itself is a safe space. Nobody is going to be so confrontational that you would be hurt in a physical or emotional way. So whatever makes you feel unsafe is something within yourself that you have to face. And you have the opportunity to look at that here.
The greatest lesson I learned at Ängsbacka is acceptance of everything and letting go of whatever doesn’t serve me. It is a fantastic place to learn this and this is probably why I am here.”
Paul, 52 years old, from England.
Keep tuned next week for a new story from Ängsbacka!