One of the nicest experiences started due to this project. The Erasmus project was about meditation. But what is really meditation?
Meditation “keeps our minds and hearts calm, peaceful, and loving, in the right place”.
Indeed, most people who become interested in meditation are drawn to it thanks to the widespread notion that it will help them feel calmer, more balanced, and less exposed to the effects of daily stress.
Meditation is by no means a new practice. In fact, it has been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years and a part of diverse cultures. Originally, meditation had strong ties with religion — not just Buddhism, with which people usually associate it — but also with Christian practices.
Many people today with different religious beliefs like to incorporate meditation as a spiritual practice.
Mindfulness has also branched out as a series of practices involving focusing on small details in the present moment. The aim is to help a person stay rooted in the here and now and de-escalate unwelcome feelings or moods, such as episodes of anxiety.
We had one week to live a different way of lifestyle. We learnt how to meditate and to control our emotions and thoughts.
We were 6 Greeks from different places of Greece but we had all of us one common goal: to become a team and to live this unique experience. Each one of us had a different idea of what meditation is. Let’s see with details how was the experience for each participant:
July is a month that usually we are thinking about going vacations somewhere next to the sea and imagining ourselves relaxing on a beach under the sun. As I am from Greece this idea is something realistic and I am so lucky I can experience it without many costs. But this year I had different plans in my mind. I wanted to leave from the south for a while and experience something new in another country. So i said to myself: Let’s apply for a youth exchange Erasmus program! I already did this in the past and I had a great time, so why not trying it again and do the vacations in Greece a bit later.
This time I went in Slovenia in a small region very close to Ljubljana called Dob. From what I read in the info pack before applying for the program, i saw that it would be about yoga, meditation and spending some time in nature. During my staying there I realized that all these three were contained, maybe not that much the part with nature but every morning I could see a beautiful scenery around me and most importantly the organizers had prepared a program rich in different kind of activities so I never got bored. And indeed, I feel so lucky that I had the opportunity to put myself in many various situations and realize facts about myself. I used to do yoga but suddenly stopped after having an injury doing hiking in a mountain, so I thought that this topic suited me and because i had recovered and i really needed some motivation to start again yoga and getting closer to nature. And indeed, I got this motivation thanks to this program and its people.
Each day we had tasty meals and good snacks during the breaks. The activities included a clay workshop, sound bath, drawing, drama workshops putting us to experience communication with movement, touching and use of body language in general and of course lot of meditation! I can say that i was a bit prejudiced about meditation at the beginning because it’s a practice that i am not familiar with and it’s not part of my culture so even when i tried it in the past i couldn’t feel connected to what i was doing but also i didn’t felt any good reason to do it. After all meditation was a big part of my days there and i felt that it can be something over culture were anyone can try it and gradually feel some things that are hidden inside us and find the courage to face them and even get some answers sometimes.
This week was kind of a revelation to me. I had never tried anything like meditation. In modern society there are a lot to get frustrated about, to get nervous and anxious. That was also the case for me since I went there while worrying about various stuff. But by the time I’ve arrived, I relaxed by noticing everyone there was very friendly and in the mood of actively participating, something really important for the successful course of a project. I immediately got engaged into participating through the good organizing and smooth facilitation of Anja and Tomaz. I have to mention that although it was their first time being in the position of a facilitator, they did a great job which is really difficult to achieve, something I realized by my participation in 7 projects (Youth exchanges and Training courses). It was very serious for them and they were very dedicated in providing us the best experience and the various aspects of meditation. Their ‘’rules’’ of non-judging, curiosity of a child, being always grateful, provided for us the perfect environment to practice our first steps into meditating. The facilities were amazing, from the dorms we were staying to the rooms that we were practicing meditation and we even had access to the gym. We had also the room to organize our own workshops, providing us the freedom to develop our abilities in facilitating in a safe space and also adding in each workshop a personal touch. Every single one of them had an impact to the project and all of us. Something I was skeptical about was the silent day. Surprisingly it was a great personal experience, even something I needed as proof that I really enjoy my ‘’me’’ time. Last but not least, the sound bath was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had and props to Tomaz for organizing this awesome workshop. I would like to close by mentioning that it was a really eventful, fun(even without alcohol and early morning exercise) and impactful week for me since I went deep into a spiritual world which helped take a better look at myself, I got to know amazing people(our great group leader was someone to depend on and help us develop great chemistry and becoming close friend by the end of the week). For a while I deeply believe I found my inner-peace there and now to the biggest challenge ahead, maintaining it!
For me, the project in Slovenia was something unique. As I had just finished the university, moving to working life, I needed some time with myself to understand what I want to do later in my life and to make some goals and I found that opportunity in this youth exchange project.
I had tried meditation before, but not in a regular basis. In Dob, we were meditating every day, which I enjoyed and helped me a lot (even if it was just 8 days) and I keep on meditating almost every day after the project.
As we were not drinking alcohol, I also decided to keep it like that and cut it almost completely.
I enjoyed the place of the accommodation with the football field and the sports center next to the hostel, where we could do many activities and also work out.
I also enjoyed out day in Ljubljana, exploring the city.
I learned a lot about meditation.
I didn’t like the food some times and the fact that not everybody was joining all the activities.
I will remember the Greek team, as we came very close to each other.
The best moment of the this ye for me was the sound bathing, where a musician came with a lot of percussions like gongs and bass drums and played music as we were listening the frequencies and feeling the vibrations.
The hardest moment was the silence day, when we were together eating and drinking coffee and tea but we should not communicate. Generally, I enjoyed this project and I want to visit Slovenia again.
This Erasmus youth exchange program was my first one. When I got selected, I couldn’t believe it, a dream would come true. To be honest it took me some days to adapt to the demands of the whole procedure. We had many hours of different kind of meditation, a lot of workshops and other activities during the day. I also run my own drawing workshop, that helped me become more inspirational and sociable.
I met many people brimming with motivation and ideas and I experienced a wonderful sense of community that allowed me to see that I am, in fact, more than I thought I was. I was able to transfer my ideas effectively and make people laugh while tackling difficult topics and that gave me a newfound confidence that I never knew I had. And as I can see now, this started to show in all areas of my life, from my workplace to my writing and even the way I was much more open towards people. A big task for me was the fact that we were speaking in English all the time, difficult task but I think I did it great. The most difficult part of the program was the ‘’silence day’’, we couldn’t speak to each other, eye contact was prohibited and we had to be alone for some hours without phones. It was a really hard time for me but also an experience that I would never feel without this program. In general, this exchange helped me improve my skills, to be more creative and to find more pieces of myself, while proving me that I can leave my comfort zone and be more motivated as a person.
It was my first participation to a youth exchange. The subject “Look Inside Yourself” was about mindfulness and meditation and was the main reason for me to decide to go for it. At first, I was stressed because I didn’t know what I would deal with, but in the end everything went better than expected. The people were kind and we shared the same interest and passion of meditation. The place was beautiful, both the hostel and the city as well. Also, the activities were covering every aspect of interest that I had as the meditation is concerned and I learned many things about meditation and mindfulness.
That youth exchange changed somehow the way I see through some things about myself and the people around me. I experienced Hungarian, French and Slovenian nights with traditional foods and dances. I realized some differences in these countries mentalities and ways of thinking compared to the Greek one and I really enjoyed it. My English skills were practiced during this exchange and I became good friends with people that I know for about a week. We had our good moments, our bad moments, our funny moments, our emotional moments and I feel these people close to me.
As for the subject of the youth exchange, there were many different activities like dancing workshops, movement workshops, contact workshops, clay workshops and of course a lot of meditation. I learned new methods and ways to meditate and I practiced my breathing, my focus and my concentration. I experienced some intense feelings during some activities and I realized some things about myself that I didn’t even know that I had in me. For instance, the ‘no phone’ challenge and the silence day made me apprehend that I can and should focus on myself sometimes, for my own mental relaxation. I realized that some people think the way I think and some other don’t and I found that really interesting. That experience was life changing and I will definitely repeat that again when I find the chance. I totally recommend everyone to participate at least once in his life in a youth exchange.