This Summer Festival of Love at our Teaching Center at the Integral Practice Community Venwoude in Holland has again exceeded all expectations. More than 175 participants came to love and be loved open, to break the boundaries of their smallness, and to participate in the evolution of love itself.
On a personal note, I, Kerstin, have been thoroughly cooked over the last 20 years with intense spiritual experiences at all kinds of events, retreats, and seminars. None of them have prepared me even vaguely for what I have found in retreats with Marc Gafni over the last 3 years: the depths of the dharma transmissions, the openings of hearts, minds, and souls, the embodiment of outrageous loving, the humility and audacity of his teachings, his passion and devotion that is deeply infectious, and the depths of community I have found here again and again. And although each time I think this is IT, that it cannot be any better, it always gets better. It deepens, opens, connects us to the greatest depths and highest heights, and opens the gates to heaven, flying higher and higher and higher.
In this Festival, everyone could feel the Goddess dancing among us again and again. And Marc danced her all the way, taking every one of us with him. And the wonderful community of Venwoude and of Center for Integral Wisdom created such a clear, warm holding container that new people could dive into it immediately with almost no resistance. Wow!
Let’s hear from two participants:
Blog post by Stefan Schoch: A Summer Festival of Love
“Actually” I just wanted to relax for 2 days, when I drove to Venwoude at the 4th day of the Center for Integral Wisdom/ Venwoude Mystery School of Love Festival (following a personal invitation).
On the other hand, I already suspected (after the experiences with Marc in 2011) that it might touch me deeper.
When I arrived, it was just “love in action” time: all participants of the Festival were immersed in some kind of service: someone swept the yard, another one plucked weeds from the paths, and in the kitchen they were doing the dishes and whittling vegetables—all of it with concentrated silence, great mindfulness and devotion. What a difference to the hectic and busy world I just came from! In the faces of the people I could read that they really liked what they were doing. A small service in love for the community.
Then, at 11 o’clock, the first teaching with Marc. Luckily the issue of his teachings is halfway known to me, so that I am able to totally drop into the process immediately. We are at the third (of 7) tastes of sexing.
Sexing? Is this just about sex? I thought I was at a Festival of Love?
Yes, it is about sex, but sex in a much broader sense as it is usually seen in our society. Sex not reduced to the physical act between people, but as the all immanent expression of the creative impulse of evolution. Sexing as Eros in action, this creative force that drives evolution since 13.7 billion years to ever greater complexity and ever more Truth, Beauty and Goodness. And at the temporary leading edge of this process, we (humans) are just about to recognize ourselves as exactly that process that is becoming aware of itself through us.
Marc incarnates the vibration of Shakti energy on the stage. It is not only his truly brilliant mode of translating and evolving the deepest wisdom of millennia old dharma into contemporary language. It is especially his lively manner of making his own Unique Self available in order to transmit this fire of the evolutionary impulse coursing in him, as him and through him to us. The audience is electrified. There is no teacher “up there” who teaches his students “down there” something; there is “outrageous love” in action that would shake us and stir us until we open and awaken to exactly this love. A love that is so much more than the romantic love between two people, while it totally includes this love. A love that is able to hold all pain and to recognize that pain and love are not separate from each other. That it is not about avoiding pain but dissolving it in love. In these days I experience a physical understanding of the sentence “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.”
Each moment is fresh and new. Unique and unparalleled. Informed by the experiences of the past, I am every time free to choose anew. To decide whether I hold on to old stories or open up and surrender to what is, to accept it and then take my next step.
Of course, after all, I stayed until the end. And engaged not only in Marc’s teaching but also in the field of the community that these wonderful people have created at this impressing place.
Now, back home, I feel fulfilled with love and gratitude for the commitment of all those who have made this event possible and have been contributing to it.
Yet, my particular thanks is for you, Marc.
I bow to you in love and respect before your courage, your clarity and determination of your Unique Self through which you encourage me—and all of us—time and again to truly be myself. Just like you, a distinctive, unique part of the whole, without which the whole would be lacking something.
(translated by Kerstin Tuschik–the German version was first published on Stefan’s blog)
Thank you, Stefan, for your presence and willingness to open up and for this beautiful account.
And thank you, Harry de Bont, for your wonderful testimonial:
The Afterglow of Venwoude, Part II by Harry de Bont
Part 1 I wrote last year after the second Summer Festival of Love at Venwoude, The Netherlands. Just returning from the third Festival of Love, I obey the inner urge to write about it again. It is as if I return from the front row of the cutting edge of human evolution, where, as a participant-observer, I witnessed the manifestation of Love and Eros as it is possibly to become in an enlightened society.
Our beloved teacher Marc Gafni introduced us to the seven levels of sexing and helped us to discern these different tastes and possibilities as Erotic manifestations of the Divine. By alternating the teachings with chanting and dancing, in which we were madly in love with each other, they became deeply embedded in our body, mind and soul. Ken Wilber probably would say: made psycho-active in our operating system simply by having heard they exist! In Chahat’s words, “We liberated FUCK (capital letters) from fuck (small letters) as each person woke up into an actual enlightened state” and pulsed with Marc called “the interior field of reality’s fuck — the field of outrageous love,” which became the core of each individual and the collective consciousness of the community.
I can, and do, become lyrical when thinking to describe the exercises Marc invited us to do everyday: beautiful in simplicity, but with a depth only outrageous love can provide. Standing still, looking each other deeply into the eyes, perceiving and being perceived as the Unique manifestation of God(dess) that we are. Or as Marc says it sharply and with cosmic power: to FUCK (capital letters) each other open into this moment as God. By doing this with as many people as possible the consequences were overwhelming! Everyone became infused by this arising etheric field of love – you simply could not escape it! – and the words “we outrageously love each other” are denoting a reality or state of consciousness that is only by poetic words to be described. As Chahat said, “Such was the field of enlightenment that Marc kept opening up as a sustained palpable identity transforming power awakening in each of us again and again until it was revealed as our true nature. Or, as Marc put it prophetically: “The new Buddha is going to be the SANGHA and a Buddha”. We all had a direct sustained taste of enlightenment and were ecstatic both in it, and to be making a joyful contribution to, this new evolutionary emergent.
This does not mean that everyone was floating in bliss during eight days of mutual embrace. Not at all. As we were opening up, and our sensitivity increased, our vulnerability increased as well. And then there were these moments, and practically everyone experienced these, in which there was a sudden closing down. An ego-contraction in which the connection with all the others got lost, with loneliness and emptiness as an unescapable result. I think that these moments are old wounds of feeling insignificant and unlovable, rising to the surface, with associated feelings of shame, translating as “I AM TOTALLY WRONG”.
The structure of the Mystery School, including all the different workshops during the festival, is designed to restore at these moments the connection with Whole. People are invited to show up during these moments of personal pain. Then this miraculous Corrective Emotional Experience can appear: instead of the deeply rooted fear for total rejection to appear, people experience the opposite: total acceptance in the loving embrace of the whole Sangha. Where un-love was the root cause of this ancient pain, love then of course is the healing force of total recovery.
I notice the review of the festival takes form in my heart as an outrageous love letter. Love to everyone who was involved: Marc, as a radiant manifestation, a messenger of the Divine; Chahat Corten as a guarding angel and Goddess watching over the well-being of everyone involved; and all those wonderful teachers and participants, whose names are too many to tell.
But also love to those who were not involved physically, but are (at least) mentally as you are reading these words right now. To you I would say: if you want to have a taste of how an enlightened society might feel like, visit the festival yourself as it is held in 2015 in Venwoude again. It would be delightful to meet you there!
With a deep bow to you all,
Harry de Bont (Clinical Psychologist)
Besides all the beautiful morning teachings with Marc, there were millions of special moments everyday: the morning practices, the day openings with Chahat Corten, who together with Marc holds the whole Festival, the afternoon workshops with the dedicated teachers of Venwoude, CIW and beyond, the evening events with concerts, dance & chant sessions, a “chassidic” Q&A session with Marc in the beautiful Venwoude Pyramid and so much more…
First Annual European Integral Wisdom Conference on Love, Eros and Enlightenment – a Conversation with Ken Wilber
For all wanting to go deeper into Integral Wisdom, one evening was dedicated to a special conversation (Skype) between Ken Wilber & Marc Gafni on models of relationship: monogamy, celibacy and polyamory.
Ken described how these models developed historically from pre-modern to post-modern ages and how the masculine and feminine played out in them.
Marc then argued passionately for each of these models as genuine options for people aspiring higher levels of consciousness.
Ken focused on the right-hand quadrants at most of the major level of consciousness. He talked about major patterns in research, how the relationship between the techno economic based and the different emergent styles of relationship and addressed monogamy polyamory and celibacy within this larger integral context.
Marc focused on the left-hand quadrants primarily at Graves levels six and second tier consciousness. He showed how monogamy celibacy and polyamory were all true but partial. He then offered a passionate upper left hand quadrants and lower left hand quadrants argument in favor of each of the three.
It was a brilliant, truly Integral dialogue that was received with resounding enthusiasm.
Some Gems from the Festival
Each day of the Festival we collected Marc Gafni quotes. Each one of these quotes holds huge depths, and were thoroughly unpacked during the 3-hour dharma teachings in the morning. Nevertheless we hope to give you a glimpse of the teachings through this sweep (below) of our favorite quotes! If you were there, enjoy them, and we hope to see you again next year. If you were not there this summer, please come next year. We would love to have you there! Everyone is needed. Or as Marc likes to put it: “There are not extras on the set.”
Who are you? You are an Outrageous Love Letter written by reality to itself signed with your name.
Who are you? You are an Outrageous Love Letter written by God to Herself signed with your name.
How do you live your life? You write an Outrageous Love Letter back to reality.
Whoever you write an Outrageous Love Letter to, you are writing to Source itself.
In the newness of the moment is the healing of the moment.
Anyone living their stories is wildly interesting.
You can’t be an Outrageous Lover in sex, if you are not an Outrageous Lover in life.
You can only surrender when you radically trust and radically love.
The opposite of the Holy is the superficial.
I’d rather fail in order to succeed than always succeed small.
In the newness of the moment, reality is taking you and desires that you open.
God is hot! Totally hot!
The biggest gift you can give to your partner is to claim your own power.
Total surrender = total power!
Dharma gives you the best possible prism to take you out of prison.
Everyone is responsible for their own arousal.
Context: for your own arousal that allows you to love the moment open.
The simplest human being is a genius at self-deception.
Sex is an experience. Every experience is interpreted.
The highest pleasure is to know that through my own transformation I transform the world.
When you work your stuff you are working it for all of reality. If you don’t get that the whole thing depends on you, you are asleep.
The work of becoming perfect is more perfect than being perfect.
God is perfection that is always in need of further perfecting.
You don’t want to just transform for yourself. You want to bring down love for the world. Your ultimate gift is your transformation.
The Feeling of Pleasure is SHE Herself.
God becomes man. And this man’s transformation transforms everything.
The Church said this is only Jesus. Love’s Evolution says: It is every one of us. We are all the Christ.
If it’s unconscious it cannot satisfy.
Source is holding radical power and at the same time is fully submitted. That’s the holy paradox. That’s the joke.
Giving and receiving pleasure is the nature of the cosmos, the inner nature of reality.
Why do I cry out the name of God or other in moments of extreme light (orgasm/ hebrew: or mugzam = extreme light)? I realize they are the same.
When there are words that cannot be spoken, the bad stuff happens.
You can only plug in through your uniqueness.
To say I am special is to be in devotion for SHE.
You can be uncomfortable and still be located. Or you can be totally comfortable and still be dislocated.
God is having a Philippe experience. God is Philipping.
If Philippe doesn’t claim his Philippeness, God’s name doesn’t get spoken.
If Philippe doesn’t claim his Philippeness, God’s name is taken in vain.
Outrageous love is a perception, not an emotion.
To live without being reflected back is to die.
Just to do sex and not know the 7 tastes of sexing is like listening to a Mozart symphony and all you hear is a kid banging on a pot with a stick.
Dharma is a trickster. It’s not at all about sex. But it’s totally about sex. That’s the joke.
Let’s evolve sex beyond shame.
Not only, on the inside of the inside, is prayer sex, but also sex is prayer.
We are a community of evolutionary mystics. Evolution is waking up through us.
A Bodhisatva says, I am not going to claim enlightenment unless you are claiming it with me.
I refuse your pleasure, if the world is not pleasured with me.
I refuse your pleasure, if the world is in pain.
I refuse to accept this pleasure unless I can give it back to you for the healing of the all.
Instead of fighting the ego, I align with the evolutionary impulse. And I ask myself: What does the evolutionary impulse wants to say or do through me?
You are in an ant hill. You don’t have to do the whole thing. That I have to do the whole thing is a strategy of the ego.
SHE is waiting for me to dance. The only thing I have to do is to show up. And if I dance her all the way, everybody will dance with me.
Everybody has a different SHE. Dance your SHE! That’s why we get to love each other.
The ancient mystics didn’t get there all the way. How could they? It was yesterday. Today has its own revelation. To suggest that yesterday’s revelation is the whole story is to say that today God is dead.
The 5th Big Bang: We are awakening to a new structure of reality: evolutionary we-space.
When you go from mastermind to metamind, the whole game changes. Metamind is evolutionary we-space.
The only authority over your life in this room is you. Now that you have total freedom, you can step in. Each person is the technology of the evolutionary sangha. In the old sangha you would give up your authority. Evolutionary sangha is the expression of evolutionary we-space. The technology of evolutionary we-space is Unique Self.
True Self has to awaken as Unique Self. Then everyone is a unique star giving gifts for the sake of the larger whole, called the voice of SHE.
Union at its core is the evolution of love. It is not about disappearing into the ONE. It is about appearing uniquely AS the ONE.
Whenever a community comes together, SHE speaks, SHE dances.
The evolution of love is not only a slogan I coined. It’s the nature of reality itself.