[Report received from Sara Ortega van Vloten in Spain relating to the International Gathering of Young Theosophists, held from June 3-7, 2022 at the International Theosophical Centre (ITC) Naarden, the Netherlands.]
From 3-7, June 2022 an International Gathering of Young Theosophists with as theme “Treading the Path to Self-Transformation" took place on the beautiful grounds of the International Theosophical Centre (ITC) in Naarden, the Netherlands. It was the first in-person gathering of members under forty years old since the global pandemic began. During previous years, the youth movement had connected via digital means and started working together (i.e. group chats, monthly online gatherings, the initiative towards the reactivation of the World Federation of Young Theosophists -WFYT). When the opportunity arose to organize this event, I didn’t have to think twice, and agreed to commit myself to this project. Soon afterwards, the dates were confirmed and an organizing committee was created with a small team of young members who were all full of enthusiasm.
After months of preparations, ultimately 31 participants attended from 16 (!!!) countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Estonia, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Singapore, Spain, Sweden and the United States. We were very fortunate that a diverse group of like-minded people could come together since a variety of points of view, cultures, background, enriches the outcome when all gather with similar objectives. Unfortunately some young members could not make it this time for a variety of reasons, but they would certainly like to attend future events.
Group photo of participants, with Tim Boyd and his wife Lily
The location chosen to host this gathering definitely had a positive effect. Those who have been at the International Theosophical Centre in Naarden know how special it is there. It is truly a sacred place where one feels submerged with Nature, connected with it into deeper dimensions. In this atmosphere it is very easy to forget about your daily lives and be present, slowing down, rejoicing in the inner silence, and become one with the beautiful surroundings.
Encircled by nature, a welcome and safe atmosphere was established, like entering a blessed space out of the ordinary world, which provides the means to relate with others in a very profound manner. This kind of atmosphere gave room for genuine and sincere sharing of our highest aspirations, points of view, curiosity, inquiries, questions, as well as laughing, singing, and playing games. All the workers at the ITC were welcoming the young members and were fully supportive of this gathering.
On the first evening, a tour around the estate and St. Michael’s house, provided some information on its history and its present activities. ITC is fully run by dedicated volunteers.
Tour visit led by Arend Heijbroek around the gardens in front of St. Michael’s house
During the following days some volunteering activities were organized so that participants could get immersed with the Centre by helping with several activities, such as fixing the fence line, replacing rotten poles, collecting wood, clearing the pond, removing weed and gardening around the perimeter.
Even the typical Dutch rain could not stop them from working. Although physically demanding, all worked harmoniously in groups and enjoyed conversations whilst being in contact with nature.
Volunteering group working at the Garden of Remembrance
The program activities included morning meditations, youth workshops, a panel of youth talks, and sessions with guest speakers, Tim Boyd, International President of the TS, and Vicente Hao Chin Jr., former President of the Philippines’ section. Activities promoted involvement and active participation, all of which focused on the theme of the gathering. There were workshops dealing with Arts, Service, and the future of the TS. Small groups were able to brainstorm and discuss ideas on what our role as young theosophists is, how we can help propagating Theosophy, and explore ways to be useful and serve others in a greater scheme.
The newly approved World Federation of Young Theosophists was also a topic dealt with, both from a historical perspective, outlined by the experiences of Arend Heijbroek some decades ago, who once was an active youngtheosophist himself.
Picture taken in 1978, (Varanasi) John Coats is surrounded by young folks. On John's left a young Arend Heijbroek
The focus was also directed at the present, as a new constitution was written by an international group of young theosophists. The future was explored by looking at activities, which intend to offer a platform to connect young TS members, across all sections and regional associations, collaborating at an international level with different projects for the youth movement, supporting its mother institution.Some time was dedicated to formulate the mission statement of the WFYT: “To inspire a community of seekers on the quest of life”.
Workshop to brainstorm and discuss in small groups, followed by short presentations
At the same time, the importance of service was not overlooked and one workshop was especially dedicated to that. It was useful to share experiences with others, which could be replicated in other lodges, and to reflect upon different aspects of service. Overall, renewed motivation and energy emerged, emphasizing a sense of responsibility by serving in our theosophical communities. The third workshop was dedicated to self-transformation through arts, exploring the works of past theosophical artists who portrayed through color different inner realities of existence. Participants had the chance to paint their own vision related to the process of self-transformation. It was a fun activity which calls for the creative aspects in relation with our highest aspirations.
We also shared different activities with both guest speakers. Tim Boyd is an excellent speaker with captivating and inspiring anecdotes, as well as enlightening perspectives that are able to convey the importance of focusing our attention and capacities towards building a better world, by starting with ourselves. With Vic Hao Chin we dived into a practical way to “process” our emotions when they are triggered by reaction patterns. It gave us useful tools to practice on a daily basis in order to become more and more unconditioned and free from limiting patterns.
Round table with Tim Boyd, International President of the Theosophical Society
Obviously there was also some free time to spend together with rich conversations, enjoying singalongs from all four corners of the globe, or to play some games.
This event was very meaningful in order to meet in person, being able to share many precious moments together. To meet on Zoom, although a useful tool, lacks the experience of human interaction on all planes of existence.
Specifically for young members, who are scattered all across the globe, and many times even scattered within their own sections, it was very significant to experience a few days of practical theosophy. We were able to build fine relationships in such a short time span. It was a delightful getting to know each other, listening and probably acknowledging our Higher Selves, being present and living deeply the joy of a sense of Unity.
Many have expressed that this unique gathering turned out to be a life-changing experience even though some came with modest expectations. As a result their motivation, sense of responsibility and willingness to serve was most certainly raised to a higher level.
Free time spent at Crystal Hall talking, singing, laughing and playing games