I find myself in an old Dutch monastary. It is owned by Sid Bachrah and his family. “De Weyst” – as it is called – is kind of a special place and has transformed into the embodiment of Sid’s vision. Practically everything that is served here is grown on the premises (without the use of pesticides of course). The labour is often done with the help of people who have been sentenced to do community service for relatively small crimes (theft, brawling, driving under the influence etc). Sid tries to be a ‘Mensch’ and he is doing a good job at it.
This is a nice place to be but the reason that I’m here is even better. I have been invited to help the new students of the YFM Academy 2011 to get to know each other. The letters YFM stand for Youth Food Movement. The mission of YFM is to strive for good, clean and fair food. By making a meaningful contribution to awareness around food and the global challenges humanity is facing in this field, educate young people and help them find their voice so that they can make themselves heard in media, industry and politics, YFM wants to change the current way of producing and consuming of food in the world. The YFM Academy selects 25 people under 35 to participate in a six month course. The profiles and resumés of the participants are impressive. The average participant is around 25 years old, has not only an interesting education and background and a connection with food but has also taken real action make a difference in this world. They talk the talk and walk the walk.
My job is to make them aware of the connection between awareness around food and awareness is the most broad sense. My idea is to invite them to share their dreams with each other because our dreams connect us with our heart and by sharing we connect with the other. My goal is to deliver a profound message and make it fun as well.
First I let them introduce themselves to each other in a conventional way, creating a bit of chaos and aliveness in the space simultaneously. So we start with just moving randomly through the room, shaking hands with everybody we come across. At some point I stop the exercise and ask them what their experience was. Their responses sounded like ‘energized’, ‘fun’, ‘bit ambivalent’ etc. Then we proceed to the next part of the exercise, where I ask them to do the same thing but now with a conscious effort to make a connection. Not only do we now shake hand and tell the other person our name but we look the other in the eye and also share one of our dreams. So I would say “I’m Atalwin and my dream is…” . What comes on the dots is decided in the moment as the participants are invited to speak what is true for them in that specific moment.
This exercise is in all it’s simplicity paradigm shattering. By sharing our dreams we are invited to let our guards down. We open up and connect with our humanity and with the other. We find out that we have simple dreams and quite vulnerable dreams, even these young environmentally and socially engaged, idealistic high potentials. We want to be happy, we want to have children, we want to make something of our lifes. We find out that we are not so different than the other. We find out that dreaming is good for us and hearing the dreams of others touches us, inspires us. Within 30 minutes the energy in the room is completely changed. A beautiful display of change coming from within.
We worked together for 2,5 hours, faciltating an experience of openness, connectedness, togetherness, acceptance, space and silence. The willingness of these beautiful young people to plunge into the experience touches me. At the age of 23, I can imagine that me and my friends would sabotage a similar process, thinking that acting rebellious would be the cool thing to do. Working with this group gives me hope. Hope for our planet and hope for the future. I wish them an open heart and a strong back bone on their journey. I wish them the courage to stay true to their hearts when the going gets tough. I hope their bonds grow strong and that they got each others back, supporting each other when facing resistance. And finally, I hope that they will forever keep dreaming and that their dreams will come true; not just for me, not just for them but also for the sake of our planet.