Our time at Source Temple was superb. For two and a half weeks, we were in a place out of time and space. For 2 and a half weeks, we were not in Brazil anymore, we were in a parallel universe where money does not exist, where everybody loves everybody and where our mind opened up to a new way of living.
During our time there, we helped build houses, painted, gardened, taught in school, did yoga, rebirthing, qi gong, kung fu, attended spritual sessions, hiked to waterfalls, chanted mantras, participated in ayahuasca ceremonies and had a lot of interesting conversations around cups of tea. Above all, we got to know extraordinary people.
I will do my best to describe our experience with words, photos and videos but I know it will not do it justice. Being at source temple is about energy, and you need to be there to feel it.
Where is it
Source temple is in the middle of nowhere about 15 kilometers from Cunha. A town located more or less between Rio and Sao Paolo. To get to it, we took a taxi from Paraty (2 hours for 40 dollars).
What it looks like
When you first arrive, you are immediately struck by the beauty of the place. You see several little wooden houses scattered around lakes and surrounded by hills. Everything is green and immaculately kept. The property spreads through several hectars and if you walk some more you find other houses perched on hills. A cluster near a river, another one isolated in the jungle near a waterfall. You see horses and dogs running around, hammocks, benches, wooded platforms for yoga and meditation surrounded by bamboos.
We are welcomed with smiles and hugs and are shown to the guest house, where volunteers live. The guesthouse has a common kitchen surrounded by several spacious rooms with a sitting area downstairs and a bed on a mezzanine upstairs. Most volunteers get their own room. There is a also a living room for people to relax and socialize. There are usually 8 volunteers.
There is an abundance of water in the area and water is extracted up in the hills to get pressure from the gravity.
The bathrooms are outside and consist of four wet toilets with showers and four dry toilets. It was the first time I saw dry toilets. Basically, the way it works is that you pee in a normal toilet that flushes back into the river (wet toilet). When you need to poop, you do so in a separate toilet made of wood that has a huge hole underneath it (dry toilet). Once you are done, you cover your poop with dry leaves and saw dust available in a bucket and you put your toilet paper in a bin to be burned later. You cannot pee in the dry toilet as the amonium in the pee will create smell. The poop dries quickly and the hole can be emptied every 2 or 3 weeks and the dry poop burried somewhere. A simple and ecological way to have toilets in the middle of nowhere!
Volunteers work monday through friday from 7:30 to noon. In exchange, they get accomodation, 3 meals a day and can attend all activities for free. A more than fair deal.
A vegeterian lunch was cooked for us and everybody ate together at 1 pm. We got a large supply of food (vegetables, fruits, pasta…) once a week to make breakfast and dinner. We also got yogurt and milk 3 times a week and fresh bread every morning.
05:45 – wake up and get ready
06:00 – yoga or qi gong
07:00 – breakfast
07:30 – morning meeting to give us our tasks for the day
07:45 – work starts
12:15 – work ends, we swim in the lake, shower and chill
13:00 – lunch and clean up the kitchen
13:45 – relax on hammock
14:30 – short qi gong
15:00 – kung fu or boxing
16:00 – tea with one of the residents
17:00 – yoga or rebirthing
18:00 – chilling in the guesthouse with the other volunteers
19:00 – attempt to all cook dinner (sometimes we were invited to sessions given by residents)
21:30 – sleep
Cutting grass: the property is big and the residents believe that to have a clean mind you need to be in a neat place so everything is always clean and well organized and the grass is well cut. Two people cut grass everyday.
Gardening: there are two green houses and two gardens to grow vegetables. The tasks went from taking the weeds out to going to the neighbors to get cow poop.
Construction: two houses and a “cafe” were being built while we were there. Tasks went from painting to making windows to cleaning bricks to carpenting.
Cleaning: everything had to be always clean and everybody participated.
Cooking: Afaf helped a lot in the kitchen to make lunch.
Sewing: Afaf sewed some of the old clothes the residents had.
Racking: racking dead leaves to clean the property and to use for the dry toilets.
School teaching: we went to the local school and taught 7 years old about Morocco. The volunteering is usually very involved with the local community. It was however less when we were there as there was a lot of building work to be done.
Dog sterilization: we went to a campaign to sterelize the dogs from the local community.
Qi gong: it looks a bit like tai chi and is the perfect thing to wake up in the morning.
Hatha yoga: a soft yoga, very good for morning as well.
Ashtanga yoga: a more dynamic yoga that we had friday morning and sometimes in the afternoon.
Kundulini yoga: this is a special kind of yoga supposed to wake the kundulini energy in you.
Kung fu and boxing: we concentrated more on the defense techniques and mental side that on hitting people.
Rebirthing: also known as breathing, consists of deap and continuous breathing. It can be done either laying on your back with your eyes closed or sitting down looking at somebody else in the eyes. The exercise has a lot of physical and emotional effects. My firtst time, I got very intense tingling all over my body and my second time I sweated so much I looked like I was thrown in the lake. This can be accompanied by memoriesand emotions that resurface and help with dealing with problems. When it is finished, you lay on your side in the feotal position for about 10 minutes. A moment of peace and harmony with the world that I found fantastic.
Mantras: this consisted of sitting down and chanting some lyrics in a certain rythm with the group. It is great and was one of my favorite activities. Some people can get strong reactions from this and is linked to kundulini energy as well.
Ayahuasca: they do not do this on the premise but some people like it so we did it in a place near Cunha. The experience was really nice, a lot less intense than my first time.
EFT: this is a technique that consists of taping certain parts of your body while concentrating on positive thoughts. Not very different from acupuncture principles.
Tea: we were often invited for tea by a resident as we had a lot of questions about the community and the belief.
Birthday party: we were invited to a birthday party in the nearby village.
Waterfall adventure: we took a walk in the jungle to some waterfalls that are on the property.
Is it a community?
As they live in an ecological manner and grow some of their food, some people come to source temple thinking it is a self sustaining community. But as the residents would say, they are anything but that, in fact, they are a non sustaining community as they are only there for the short term. But more on that later.
Even though source temple is not a community per say, they live in a communal manner and it was interesting to see how it works.
When somebody becomes a resident, they are free to donate some or all of their money to the community. Thereafter, people in the community do not really own anything. There are about 25 residents from different nationalities and of different ages and each one has a specific task. The task is more linked with what makes them happy than what they are good at and can change with time. Some people like cooking, others gardening, handling the volunteers or building. New projects and initiatives are started continuously.
Everything is kept simple to keep cost down to a minimum. Food consists of rice and beans and a vegetarian dish (cost of about 1500 dollars a month for everybody), but don’t get me wrong, the food was delicious. They build their own simple houses and furniture that consist of a room and a kitchenette (cost of about 5000 dollars). I still found the houses gorgeous. They repair everything and do not own any fancy electronics.
If somebody needs anything that requires money, the community will take care of him.
There are of course no locks in the premise amd they swap houses every so often as to not get attached to anything.
The common areas consist of the main house that has a huge kitchen, a dining room and a library. Plus the session room with yoga matts, cushions and a video projector and speakers for activities, sessions and movies. There is also an isolated house with a vegetable garden that can be used if somebody needs to go medidate in silence for several days or weeks.
There is no structure so decisions are taken day by day and people in charge of a specific task are trusted to make the decisions. Everything seems to always work out.
Everything works because there is total trust, love and forgiveness among the residents.
It seems like it is the perfect community, but as mentioned, it is not a community so what is it?
The belief is based on a book called A course in miracles written in the seventies. The book is believed to be the words of Jesus Christ himself.
The belief is that when God created Man, he created him as an extension of himself. Man however thought he could be separate from God and hence the Ego appeared (the ego is the little voice you have in your head that thinks you are separate from everyone else). Man thereafter fell in a state of dream in which we are.
We are hence all just different egos of one entity that forgot that we were all one and that we were the extension of God.
We are on earth (the dream) reincarnating over and over again until we awaken (wake up from the dream) and be one again.
The goal of the residents of sourse temple is to remember that we are all one and to awaken. Many people have awakened before like Jesus, Mohammed or Buddha. There are different paths to awakening (hence different religions) but there all based on the same things.
To awaken you need to remember that we are all one and to do so you need to love everybody and forgive everybody as you are really just loving yourself and forgiving yourself.
Meditation, yoga and different techniques can help in the awakening.
The idea that we are all living a dream may seem very strange at first but it has been addressed by many philosophers and made popular by many movies such as Matrix, Vanilla sky, Revolver and The nines.
To awaken, the residents of source temple follow the teachings of a course in miracles book. The book consists of 365 lessons and you have to apply one every day. Most lessons are about forgetting what you know of the world and seeing it in a new way. Focusing on love, forgiveness, being grateful and so on to reunite with God.
The volunteering program source temple is running is called persist as love. As you need to love everybody no matter what. It can be difficult sometimes but you have to persist in it.
You understand now why the residents of source temple are some of the nicest, most loving people you will meet in your life and why their communal life works so well.
You also understand why they do not want to call themselves a community, they live as a community as a necessity and not a means end. It is only a temporary situation as they are working on awakening as fast as possible.
The irony is however that by trying to get out of the dream, they have created the perfect dream.
Note that the residents will not push their belief on you and even not talk about it unless you inquire.
Volunteering at source temple has been our most impacting experience in this whole trip. It was fantastic to be among some of the most loving people we have ever met and to be part of their community for a little while. No matter how interested you are in their belief, as long as you are open minded, source temple is a great place to be. You can take away from it many things on different levels.
If you just want to volunteer: well you get a great environment, great food and lodging. You work with people whose principles are to love and forgive so I cannot think of a better work environment.
Appreciate the simple things: in source temple, you really get to appreciate that the best things in life are the simple things and that you don’t really need those nice shoes, iPhone or fancy car you wanted.
Interested in the activities: you can push it a step further and attend the classes and discover yoga, qi gong and rebirthing.
Communal living: although they are not really a community, you get to see how a community that shares everything can work.
Open your mind: their belief may be difficult to swallow but you have to admit that it is interesting. So you get to have some great conversations discussing it and open your mind to some new concepts in spirituality.
Meet some incredible people: the people we met at source temple will be forever engraved in our mind. They were fantastic and the highlight of our stay there. We will truly miss them and I hope we will see them again.