Winter? What winter…!?!

EC Blog News & Reports

Winter? What winter…!?!

February 27th, 2014

The winter of 2013/2014 will be remembered for quite a while in Allgäu: at least until the end of February, there was hardly any snow worth mentioning, accompanied by very mild temperatures.

Considering that we’re used to six to seven months of constant snow here, this is really remarkable. The skiing industry is not so amused, but there is a very good side to this mild winter as well: our new buildings are growing by the hour! Quite the opposite of the break for weather that the builders planned on.

On some of the pictures it’s clear that there is far more snow across the Alpsee; the EC is literally on the sunny side of the lake. Almost every light snowfall at the EC is followed by enough sun to quickly melt it all away.

So not only is our gompa inside the barn progressing as planned, one wing of the new building has already risen to its final height – basement, ground floor and 1st floor. On some pictures you can already get a glimpse of the view of the villa you’ll have from the new building’s rooms.

Since the ground is not frozen at all, it was even possible for the excavators to dig really deep in the courtyard, right in front of the villa, in order to install some sewage pipes. Only two days later, the ground was smooth and level again.

Oh, and remember the brick-cleaning action last autumn, scrubbing each single one of the bricks from the old barn? Now they are already in their new place, gracing the walls in the entrance area of the Brasserie on the ground level of the “new/old” barn. Their surface will be treated a little bit more to get an even more beautiful, rustic look, restoring some of the old-barn-atmosphere to our new dining area.

So we hope you will enjoy these impressions of our growing Europe Center!

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To round off the EC team building weekend, Caty and Gergö, as heads of the Diamond Way Buddhism Foundation and main coordinators of the construction, gave a guided tour through our future gompa and dining hall, as well as through the new building. The shell of the East Wing is already completely built up from the basement to the first floor.

In between many planning meetings with the architects and construction companies, Caty and Gergö shared a lot of background information and why what is being built in which way. It’s obvious just how much thought and creativity from all sides has already flown into the planning process for years, and now into the ongoing construction.

The main goal of the Europe Center is to bring as many people together as possible, and enable them to meet and connect often and in many places. Therefore, many different models of how we could live together in the future were considered and kept in mind, and translated into architecture.

This lead not only to an architecture dominated by lots of glass to give transparency, a “wide” view and the possibility to interact easily, but also to a very flexible system of rooms in the new building. Light-flooded, spacious, multifunctional rooms with a view will provide utmost flexibility for all kinds of activity, be it working together, sleeping, playing with the kids, working out in the fitness area or simply chatting to friends or reading a book.

All around the new courtyard, sunny balconies will connect all the rooms including dormitories, multifunctional rooms, residents’ and guest rooms, and make it easy to visit neighbors or talk to the friends or kids outside.

The size of the relatively small standard living spaces can be changed, adapting to different situations of life in the rooms, be it for a family of five or single inhabitants. The Europe Center’s priority is to accommodate and connect as many people as possible, rather than providing luxurious living space for only a few. High quality and durability is the clear focus of the design in all the buildings: lots of wood, glass and concrete, which will partially stay visible as an architectural design element.

Especially in the Brasserie underneath the gompa, the future heart of the Europe Center, things will get cozy using also old furniture, and new pieces created by our carpenters. It will be our night-and-day-living room, with a bar, a big table where we’ll work together, smaller tables and corners to have more private talks or work on your laptop, and lots of light coming in from the outside. And of course, there will be a beautiful romantic terrace underneath the two huge chestnut trees for having coffee or tea outside.

The entrance area of the “new/old” barn will feature a small exhibition space, a prayer wheel, another terrace to sit on, an elevator to the gompa, and another flexible area that can be transformed into additional dining space, a wardrobe or a dance floor. And of course, a beautiful Buddha statue will welcome the guests.

For the huge meditation hall upstairs, the priority was clear and every square meter was carefully considered: less is more – providing the maximum of space and freedom for meditation and lectures. The wooden floor will be put in by our team of voluntary carpenters this summer.

Coming into the future gompa with its massive wooden roof-construction, one can already now get a very nice impression just how spacious it is going to be…

Space for mind!

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Our team of meditation cushion seamstresses is looking for support, friends!

The first floor of the villa has been partially transformed into a tailor’s shop – specialised in beautiful meditation cushions for our new meditation hall in the old barn, to be inaugurated during the International Summer course 2014.

Our diligent ladies have been spending quite a few weeks calculating, measuring, cutting, sewing, folding, and piling already. For some of the guests and residents at the EC, this has an unexpected side-effect: the chattering sound of the sewing machines that our moms used to work on while we were playing next door brings up childhood memories.

If you would like to come to the EC to help with getting those cushions ready for everyone to sit on during the inauguration of the gompa and in the years to come, please just drop us an email when you would like to come. And if you would like be one of the first to test our brand-new meditation cushions – of course the Summer Course 2014 is the place to be!

 

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Maybe you’ve asked yourself what keeps the EC running every day?

Of course it’s the generous I grow EC! donations from thousands of friends around the world, but on a day-to-day basis, the people who live here – both the permanent residents and guests, as well as our local friends living in Bühl and Immenstadt – who have the surplus to invest their time and energy into working here as volunteers are the blood pumping in the EC’s veins. We’d like to fill you in on what needs doing and who does it, so we’ll post the occasional “Joyful Effort” story here to fill you in.

Let’s start with Maks. You may not have met him when you last visited, since he spends almost all of his time in the workshop at the end of the barn. Maks is a carpenter, but not just any carpenter; he’s specialised in restoring old furniture until it looks like new. If you’ve ever been to the EC, you’ve almost certainly sat on a chair or at a table that Maks restored.

Much of our beautiful furniture was donated, and usually not in the best condition. Through the photos of a particularly tricky restoration below, you’ll learn to see the EC’s furniture with different eyes.

The 100 year old chairs came to us in difficult condition: broken joints, dried and cracked leather, chipped carving and a dark layer of grime all over. Max first carefully took them apart, donned his gas mask, and patiently cleaned the wooden pieces with alcohol until the original oak shone through again. Then numerous chips and joints had to be glued and clamped, some decorative details recarved, and finally the frames were reassembled and given over 100 coats of french polish until they glowed and shined.

You won’t be sitting on these chairs for a little while though. When all 8 chairs are finished, Maks will take an upholstery course in Kempten so he can recreate the leather cushions. Once they’re done, you can enjoy sitting on them in the villa dining room. See you there!

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Spending time at the Europe Center means meeting and becoming friends. This very much applied to the meeting weekend of the German speaking Western Diamond Way Buddhist teachers appointed by Lama Ole Nydahl, also referred to as traveling teachers (because that’s what they do – giving Buddhist lectures and explanations in different places).

Since a high percentage of these teachers are from Germany, Austria and Switzerland and the EC is the obvious ideal meeting point for them, they met for a whole weekend to exchange knowledge and experiences, meditate together and of course help run the EC.

Many of them are regulars at the EC anyway whenever they are not traveling or earning their living, since it is the place of transmission for Diamond Way Buddhism and we love to benefit from their wisdom and advice – and have a very joyful and intense time together with them – which is easy to see in the pictures as well!

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EC team building weekend

February 9th, 2014

With our new meditation hall and dining area (aka the old barn) to be inaugurated on the occasion of this year’s International Summer Course, and the body shell of the new building already more than half-way up as well, it is high time for all the teams running the Europe Center to get ready for taking their activities to a way greater dimension than before.

This is why we invited everyone already involved or wishing to get involved in the activities at the EC. We dedicated a whole weekend to review and plan our activities for the future, to develop a deeper understanding of how big things are actually going to be once the new building is finished as well in 2015, and to brainstorm creatively how to change or adapt which systems concerning the administration of the Europe Center.

Caty and Gergö got us into the mood with an evening of telling about the vision of the Europe Center project. They showed pictures and shared many, many stories and details, starting with the idea that it would be very meaningful to build a central place connecting all Diamond Way Buddhists and Centers around the globe, then searching for the right place for ten years, finally finding it in “Gut Hochreute” in beautiful Allgäu, and building it up based on voluntary work over 6 years to what it has become today. And – most important for this weekend: the vision and functions that this place is going to fulfill once the new buildings are up and running.

On Saturday we kicked off a day of team-building and brainstorms by presenting the activities in detail. Each time had a few minutes to give a brief overview. This was very useful for everyone to see where the activities between the teams actually overlap or where they should be linked, as well as for everyone who wanted an overview to decide which team to join.

For the afternoon, the workgroups got together to create visions, ideas and new systems for their area of activity, based on these questions:
- what is your team’s work going to look like in 1/3/5 years?
- what do you/will you need from other teams to function well?
- how can you (and can the whole EC team) involve more interested people?

Then again each team presented their answers and ideas, and then exchanged and worked together. Probably there was not a single person in the room who wasn’t deeply impressed and inspired by the potential which showed in each of the teams – so much energy, motivation and determination to make it work together for the benefit of everyone coming to the EC in the future!

After dinner we gathered for a cosy story-telling evening, recalling memories of the “pioneer years” of 2007 and 2008 and all the development that has taken place since then. And of course, afterwards there was still energy left to dance the night away together…

After a tour through the body shell of the new building and our future gompa and dining hall on Sunday morning, many of the teams were so inspired that they immediately started with their follow-up meetings, getting deeper into details about their future plans.

The EC team building weekend was a huge success and inspiring to everyone involved. It became so obvious just how much the joy, friendship and trust in each others’ qualities, skills and activities has grown over the last years. The realization of how BIG—in all senses of the word—it is what we are doing here together was omnipresent, the teams showed great courage and determination to joyfully manage whatever challenges await us in the future.

Of course you are always most welcome to join the activity, no matter where you come from or how long you are staying. Just ask us when you are at the EC. And maybe this overview can already give you an idea of which team your skills would fit with.

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Just a little bit of winter…

February 2nd, 2014

Ever since we bought Gut Hochreute and built up the Europe Center on its grounds, we had 6-7 months of snow each year – normally at least half a meter high in average. This season, it is a bit different.

Mild temperatures and very little snow for the last months did not exactly make the ski and tourism industry in Allgäu very happy, but on the other hand made it possible for the construction workers to get a lot of work done on the old barn, our future gompa and dining hall, which otherwise would have had to wait until spring.

Finally in the middle of January, we had around 20cm of snow and sunny days to thoroughly enjoy the beautiful landscape. Some went out for walks and checked out the construction site coated in white, the kids sled down the hill behind the villa until only the grass under the snow was left, and others simply enjoyed the always breathtaking and always different view from the villa towards the lake.

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For a whole weekend, we focussed on the Four Foundational Practices  (Tib. Ngöndro). These meditations are also known as the preliminary practices of the Great Seal (Skt. Mahamudra), and they lay the foundation for realising the true nature of mind.

Involving many repetitions, they create strong positive imprints, making the practitioner unshakeable. The foundational practices may take several years to complete. They are a translation of a meditation text known as ‘The Vehicle for the Path of the Supreme’, composed by the  Ninth Karmapa, Wangchuk Dorje (1555-1603). The four Ngöndro practices are: (1) Taking Refuge and Developing the Enlightened Attitude; (2) Diamond Mind Meditation (Skt. Vajrasattva; Tib. Dorje Sempa); (3) Mandala Offerings; and (4) Meditation on the Lama (Skt. Guru Yoga, Tib. Lami Naljor).

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The Europe Center’s primary purpose is as a place of transmission. A place where all members of the more than 640 Diamond Way Buddhist centers worldwide come together to learn from each other and meditate together, and exchange experience, knowledge and views.

For the first Transmission Weekend of 2014, representatives from some of the big centers, each with a few hundred members, including Hamburg, Prague, Budapest, Warsaw and London came together to share their stories and ideas. The Londoners came with a group of 20 people to share the experience of buying and renovating the historical Beaufoy Institute, now London’s biggest Buddhist center.

The weekend was for everyone in the worldwide sangha. So people from other centers came to get inspired by the many magical stories and memories, to find out what it actually means when the small group that has been meeting in someone’s living room to meditate together grows large enough to get its own “key center”. This is most of the time a rented space to meet and meditate at, and often grows so much that the vision of buying real estate and building a center to enable people in their city to get in touch with the timeless Buddhist teachings and meditate.

Idealistically donating one’s personal savings and fundraising creatively for years, looking for a place that fits the needs of the future meditation center, finally buying for example an old factory and then renovating it, all completely based on non-profit work and the surplus that comes with meditation practice – all this challenges everyone involved on a large scale. It means constantly working to keep a joyful, beyond personal view of things. The result: great development and growth both as an individual as well as a group, as well as a deep trust in the Dharma and the blessing and protection of our teachers that often enough becomes so obvious in these experiences.

With deeply touching honesty, some of the strongest and toughest guys spontaneously recounted their struggles to become and stay friends and keep up the idealism, to “put their egos into a corner” and keep looking at things on a beyond personal level in order to make such a huge project happen. They opened up completely in front of everyone. And why? To make it easier for other places going through a similar process. To help others to avoid making the same mistakes and learning from the sometimes admittedly hilarious mishaps or hindrances the “old dogs” encountered during four decades of pioneer work making Buddhism accessible to people in the Western world.

Because after all, what we strive for is to create the conditions to have lots of time to meditate together in order to reach enlightenment for the benefit of all. His Holiness the 17th Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje once put it like this at the Europe Center: “It is precious work you are doing here for the benefit of all. With all this work, please also remember what you are building this place for: meditation!”

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Summer Course Core Team Meeting

January 12th, 2014

Thanks to a highly motivated and very joyful team, a lot of experience from the summer courses in Kassel and the pioneer years of the EC Summer Course the last 6 years, the preparation and organisation of the course was smoother in 2013 than ever before.

This is why there is only one big meeting for the whole course team in May, instead of two like the years before. Instead, the core team met for a weekend of talks and planning. The international summer course core team consists of the team leaders, who are responsible for main course areas like site management, kitchen, technics, cafeteria, cleaning, shuttling, communication or gompa tent organisation.

The core team very much enjoyed meeting again, for much longer than had been possible for quite a while. At this meeting there was plenty of time to think through and discuss things thoroughly. The core team was able to take the time to figure out how to best move together in one direction, and discuss changes and responsibilities.

The plan is to do it like this again next year. So the core team meeting will take place in January and the big summer course team then picks up at the big meeting in May around the Easter course.

Now we’re looking forward to welcoming everyone who would like to join a team for the course, at the Big Summer Course Team Meeting weekend May 9th to 11th, which is always a very joyful reunion of a few hundred friends, closely connected through so many shared memories of course build-ups, event coordination and tent dismantling. Come and join the summer course team if you like!

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