Seven years in Guardia Sanframondi have a big significance: there’s a 7-yearly religious festival (taking place again in the summer of 2017) in which literally the whole town is involved, plus many members of the extended family, world-wide media representatives, curious foreigners.
It’s a festival which shocks those-who-are-easily-shocked at first glance: hooded participants reminiscent of sinister American racist gatherings; bloody chest-beating; the collective following church dogma and having to painfully repent their sins.
The real event is something else entirely: a collective catharsis with a tangibility which is beautiful – executed with precision and care, love and dedication: 5,000 souls gathering to release all that has happened in the past years; to be cleansed and made new.
‘Seven years’ also has huge significance in the human growth cycle – we literally replace every cell in our bodies with A NEW CELL, in that time period – EVERY SINGLE 7 YEARS OF OUR LIVES. Think of what that means – of what it could mean, if we were able to consciously harness that creative power… it’s mind-blowing! And it blows away the cobwebs too, from the rigid old school thinking around our limited potentials as humans.
Il mio settimo anno this year in Guardia, and I too feel the deep significance of a cycle well-lived: the energetic wheel is coming round to completion, and all the sacrifice and sweat is bringing riches of good relationship, profound nourishment, harmonious community -an upwards spiral of personal and collective significance.
So many meaningful conversations and connections, tears and successes, new friendships and celebrations – all of them now deepening, as we enter a period of truly settling into this new dynamic. Guardia Sanframondi has been changed in myriad ways by the incoming cultural flux, and the town continues to react positively and dynamically to all that we bring in – which in turn exponentially grows the well-being of all.
The seeming ’empty canvas’ of the mostly-abandoned centro storico – in this new period of riempiendo – started as something of a melting pot; a cooking experiment, with tons of new ingredients being thrown in willy-nilly, and all mixing and contrasting together – the resulting soup not entirely edible!
The initial buzz, and resulting chaos, brought about by the TV show in 2012, and then multiplied by the several subsequent transmissions, attracted some really beautiful folks and vibes, but it also attracted (and brought out of the woodwork) a pile of negative qualities. In particular, greed and manipulation; over-excitement about wanting to take advantage of this (presumed at the time) brief window of opportunity to make $$$s without much effort.
It’s a subtle and alchemical work to inspire and nurture and nourish a community to continue: to encourage it to be authentic and responsible, collective-minded and without negative power dynamics.
photo by Charlotte Sørensen
I’ve been super-disappointed at the various frictions which have come up in Guardia in the years I’ve been here – all seeming so very unnecessary in a win-win-win situation like this – old houses being repopulated, the local economy being stimulated, whilst foreigners find dream homes and idyllic life-styles: what could possibly be found to stress about?! (That’s a rhetorical Q!)
I was talking with close friends this week, about how harmony in community is not something which comes by accident, nor in a static way: perhaps that is an older concept of harmony; simply the absence of chaos/ violence. I think we are in an age where we now know that there is so much more to our presence in the world, and that our authentic presence -our integrity and vision – is something which radiates out into the long-term. Either positively…. or not.
We’re not educated to look at the far and wide consequences of our actions and thoughts, our intentions and ambitions. But we do live in an age where it is becoming increasingly obvious that everything we do/ are/ consume/ discard, goes out into the world with epic knock-on effect… And that we have both a personal and a collective responsibility to be GOOD, as we’ve never been so bound into rhythms of interconnectedness in the history of time. We’ve never been so dependent on each other for survival and continued evolution: the whole depends on the decisions and actions of the individuals now, today, more than ever.
What I’m saying, is that the tiny, every day actions and words we use, we use either to create, or not to create. But we live in a time where we cannot pretend any longer that life (or our interaction in it) is static; that our influence only goes as far as the end of our fingers and toes, and no further. We are beginning to really wake up to awareness that we can either be channels for energy… or not. But that the world needs our genius, our creative activity, our love and our authenticity and commitment, in order to continue.
photo by Anna Wiraszka
And in order to access those aspects of ourselves, we need to be in a safe, nourishing place.
I am super-heartened by what I see transpiring in Guardia Sanframondi: it is a collection of dreams, held lovingly in the hands of those who want to support those dreams. It’s a landscape being loved anew, and the eyes and hearts of those who perhaps were taking it for granted, being opened.
It’s a brand-new, delicious cultural inter-exchange, like a fabric of glorious bright threads woven thickly or the most wonderful recipe perfectly blended and baked to bring into reality a dish never before tasted.
At first I thought of this ‘filling up’ of Guardia’s medieval quarter as a practical necessity (quick, before the houses fall down!), and a cultural-economic stimulation exercise.
Now I see it as so so much more: as dreams being woven together to create a collective dream; as the sacred feminine and masculine being honoured and awoken; as individual healing turning into collective healing; as lives liberated – stranieri and locals alike – by shared wealth and feasts and small joys and beauty and mutual, loving respect.
I also see our individual and collective responsibility as having to call out when manipulative, unscrupulous or aggressive behaviours are trying to take root: the long-term flourishing of any town depends on healthy power dynamics, and on those who will flag up when unhealthy frictions/ conflicts of interest arise. This in turn can lead to resistance, psychological projection, denial, threats… I’ve had more than a fare share thrown at me since coming here!
But there’s a definite sense right now of the collective being on a more even keel – powered by fulfilment and shared purpose -and that everyone is learning to be more precise and honest in their business, because this creates the greater long-term energy for all parties: the old competitive model of win vs lose, melding into the new cooperative model of win-win-win.
My own body, heart and soul have been healed by these 7 yrs. My quirky house and my quirky relationship with everyone in this town, my intuitive and spontaneous activities (often misunderstood, even by myself) slowly becoming more purposeful and productive, my business developing to a place where I really am working my life purpose and being rewarded for it… and all the time, relationships deepening and enriching beyond even my excessive, positive imagination!
photo by Kat Tan
Guardia provided me with all the challenges and the nourishment; in equal measure, and in the correct dose – even when I didn’t want to take my medicine.
What we’ve created here together, and what we continue creating, is truly a precious and magical thing, from which an inspired sense of wholeness is radiating out and out to the world.
Bravi, tutti – and a brindisi to more of this!
Tante belle cose, Clare xx
PS The Arthouse Competition 2016 winner will be announced TOMORROW!