Get lost in the woods, and find yourself! Time well spent at Ängsbacka.

After many years of hearing about this magical place called Ängsbacka in the centre of Sweden, it was time to see what all the hype was about. To experience, or at-least witness, some of the heart warming things that I had heard. As someone who’s interested and wanting to learn more about myself and the spiritual world in general, it was time for a trip to the country. To witness this with my own two eyes!

So I dived in head first, and volunteered at the community Cafe for the summer festival period. The busiest time at the site, with all sorts of interesting workshops and activities to attend. At the peak during there are over 1,200 people on what is a fairly small site.

Now, I am home. Sitting in front of the keyboard thinking where to start. Because that is just it. During the 3 weeks I spent at the site, there were enough moments, experiences and general interactions to write a full on novel. One that would not fit in either factual or fiction sections at the local library. It would have its own shelf, labelled ‘That s*#t be whack!’.

To boil this down into a bitesize morsel, there are three main things that I think convey the fundamental message of this place. Cutting through all the rumours, fantasies and images conjured up by listening to others experiences. So here are some (hopefully) useful insights in what lies beyond the woods at Ängsbacka.

The community is alive

Ängsbacka is a type of collective or cooperative, living on a fairly small plot of land, surrounded by woodland and natural beauty. There are some huge barns on the property which have been converted into very functional spaces, and a main house full of bedrooms, kitchens and living areas. But even though the location, facilities, and festivals alone are enough to draw seekers from far and wide. It is in fact something very intangible, whisping through the air, that keeps those seekers staying, and coming back for more.

On arriving day 1 at the site, I constantly found myself internally guffawing at some of the cheesy and unnaturally intense encounters that seemed to be everywhere. Par example, rather than clapping after someone has performed, you rub your hands together, to charge the love, and then whilst going ‘sssshhhhh’ you wiggle the tips of your fingers at the person. Called a ‘Love Shower’, every part of my city boy upbringing wanted to laugh out load, and call them all dorks. But I stayed politely quiet, as you do.

You may very well feel the same way as I did. But I can tell you now, cut to day 2, and I was love showering the heck out of people. I was getting friction burns on my palms from charging so much love. And the beautiful thing is I wanted to. And I would put money on it, that you would too!

The reason is simple, but very difficult to define. Somehow, this place has cultivated an atmosphere of complete support. Nothing is weird or strange. Terms like this just don’t exist. You support each other, and in turn, you are 150% supported yourself. And when you are in such a community, where everyone is allowed to be completely themselves, you can all relax. You can be yourself. Without any fear of judgement.

Now this all sounds very nice. But it is not just nice. It is hugely important. Because, whether right or wrong, we as people, generally care what others think of us. Fear of rejection has prevented many, with low self esteem and confidence from following their dreams. Myself included. And I am not sure why, but outside of places like Ängsbacka, talking negatively about people is far more common than positive talk. Again myself included. It sometimes feels so much easier to talk and laugh about something or someone else than sit there being positive. It seems to be in vogue. But it is incredibly destructive, to people and to society as a whole.

So if you remove all of this negativity, and instead are surrounded by support and positivity, then there are no obstacles. There is no fear. What is the worst that can happen? You do terribly and no one cares? So I found myself performing on stage at the open mic night, and getting a standing ovation. I have terrible stage fright, and my hands where a sweaty mess as I got up. But I did it, and as soon as I started, I felt great. This is just one example, of many, many, many confidence building moments, I alone had during my short 3 week stay. Multiply this out to everyone who attends, and that is a whole lot of love that needs showering!

A safe space to explore

In the woods, only a short walk away from the site, you can hear a pin drop. The wind is the only sound you will hear. And during No Mind festival, where over 1,200 people cram into the small site, I spent many hours just walking with the wind. Sleeping on the moss covered ground, which is one of the comfiest mattresses I’ve slept on. But a nightmare with fitted sheets.

This was all very beautiful, but it was exploring myself that was by far the most profound. Having been raised in a very traditional British way, with a very traditional British family, getting to know yourself is rarely on the agenda. Its something that is never really discussed over the dinner table. We learn maths, science, and a language if you’re lucky, but very little self study. Understanding how you feel. Why you may feel that way. Learning ways to enhance or reduce these feelings, as you may want or need. All vastly important subjects, but unfortunately not on my curriculum. You may even get abuse for just mentioning such things.

There are lucky ones, who have been raised to recognise these things. A blessing for sure. But I do think that I might be in the majority. So there are a whole swathe of people that go through life unhappy and unknowing. Unable to really understand their own emotions and feelings, and what it is they truly want in life. What makes them happy.

There are many ways that these sides of yourself can be explored, enhanced and answered. Therapy, religion, spiritual practices, and the list goes on. But right at the very top, for me, and in alphabetical order, is Ängsbacka. Through the incredibly supportive environment, the many opportunities to explore yourself through volunteering, attending workshops, or just meeting new people at the site, you will no doubt find out a lot about yourself. Surrounded by people that can help.

The amount of experience and guidance you unknowingly receive is inspiring. Just sitting down for breakfast with a stranger may turn out to be the moment you learn how to hug, or the moment you realise why you have been feeling so much anger. It is these moments, that happen all the time without you least expecting, or caring, that really help you learn and explore yourself as a person. And understand why. The eternal question we sometimes forget to ask ourselves.

Along with strangers, that soon become friends, there are also facilities like the ‘Emo’ team or emotional support team for longer. These angels are there for you whenever you need. And even if you do not use them, it is really comforting to know that it exists. That there is a shoulder to cry on if you take one step of exploration too far. Or not far enough.

Access to the alternative

So you have a beautiful community, full support from those around you, and the ideal setting to explore yourself in many different ways. All you need now are some opportunities to try out. To test the water. And at Ängsbacka, you’d be in luck. There are a whole host of different festivals running all season long, which really do offer something for everyone.

The first festival I volunteered for was Sexibility, which as the name suggests, provides those attending with a whole range of options to explore the sexual world. Rated with a chilli system, ranging from 0 chilli’s covering presentations and clothes on activities, right through to 3 chillis for the more ‘full on’ sexual experiences. A myriad of opportunities are available, such as how to tie and be tied, which was very interesting and insightful, through to BDSM and orgasm workshops. As a sexually inexperienced member of society, I only paddled in the shallow end, sticking mainly to the 0 and 1 chilli stuff, but the environment and set up at Ängsbacka makes this type of event extremely safe for all. You can explore at your own pace, and on your own terms. Walking out of workshops if they get too much is not only suggested, it is thoroughly encouraged.

Then switching this completely on its head, we moved into No Mind festival. One of the largest alternative festivals in Europe, with over 1,200 people on site at its peak. This is a very family friendly event, with lots for all to do alone, or together as a family. Again as the name suggests, the idea is to relax, and lose all of that baggage that takes up so much of your mind. World renowned experts come from far and wide to give presentations and practical workshops on some amasing techniques and lifestyle advice. I attended some great workshops on sound healing and tantric dancing, which have left me inspired to try more. The benefits I felt were so fundamental, and built on all of the confidence building moments I experienced at Ängsbacka.

So I left the woods after 3 weeks of living a serene life, and having attended many incredibly useful workshops with a complete new found confidence and sense of self worth. Things that are extremely difficult to cultivate outside of communities like Ängsbacka. Especially if you live in a city or in any other stressful environments. There are so many distractions that we forget ourselves sometimes. I have learnt some great techniques to check back in and deal with the day, that with practice, will help me grow strong, healthy and happy. I am eternally grateful for my time in the woods, and will no doubt be back to grow some more.

Here are some photos taken from the No Mind festival – here.

And for more information, visit the Ängsbacka website – https://www.angsbacka.se

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