When we started the Peaceful Bamboo Family, we were inspired by the ideals of the Camphill Movement, but we wanted to create a community that was completely embedded in the Vietnamese context. We did not want to import foreign values and cultural practices in a country that has suffered too much and for too long from destructive foreign influence, whether from French colonialism or American imperialism.
At the same time, we knew from our experience in the Camphill community of Perceval the importance of spiritual and cultural practices to structure the life and cycles of time of a community. So our challenge was to find the essence of the practices that we had experienced in a Western, largely Christian context located in a temperate climate zone, and to recreate comparable forms and rituals born out the Vietnamese, largely Buddhist and Confucian, tropical context. I explicitly mention the climate zone because most religious festivals are related to the season: Christmas near the Winter Solstice, Easter at the Spring Equinox, St John at the Summer Solstice and Michaelmas at the Autumn Equinox.
So we structured our yearly cycle around traditional Vietnamese and Buddhist festivals that are connected to the moon cycle rather than the sun cycle; including ancestor and Earth-spirit worshiping ceremonies which are held on New and Full Moon.
Likewise, we organized the weekly rhythm with a day of Mindfulness and an evening called ‘Sharing from the Heart’ where each member of the community has an opportunity to share how they feel, what makes them happy or worries them and heard in an atmosphere of respect and non-judgemental listening.
We also hold regular seminars and workshops for both co-workers and youngsters in a spirit of lifelong learning for all, and we have created the ‘Eurasia Learning Institute for Happiness and Wellbeing’ (ELI) to share our experience well beyond our limited field. As an example, we have started a training programme for forty university professors from Saigon who want to implement a ‘Mindfulness Based Compassion and Happiness programme’ with their students. We are also working with the Education Department of Hue province and have implemented a mindfulness and compassion educational programme: “A call to Care” in primary schools in Hue.
These are just some of the many examples of the way we have consciously included the spiritual and cultural dimensions in the community life and how it can spread beyond our community.