"I felt drained of strength and never fully recovered, because I never had such a respite, which - by the way - is recommended to have a certain cyclicity, not once in a lifetime, because burn out doesn't come to visit you just once."
"I felt physically unwell and couldn't fully participate in the events I was organising."
"I felt that nothing made sense, that everyone around was lying and pretending."
"I don't think I've ever been in a burnout like this year. When I felt like I couldn't anymore were the times when I was drained of strength - physically and mentally."
Put down the phone and emails and turn your attention to what's going on around you. Feel the wind, notice the details and read nature's newspaper! This is how you increase your quality of presence and exist on the spot. You stop running and become part of nature.
Take something with you to sit on and walk a few steps to a spot in nature or even a park. Aim to stay there doing nothing but observing for 30 minutes. Look at the landscape as a whole, then look at the vegetation, notice if there are birds present or which way the wind is blowing. If you stay still long enough, something interesting is bound to turn up.
Take a notebook with plain paper and go in search of an interesting detail in nature. It could be a leaf, an insect or a bird. Spend at least 15 minutes drawing. It doesn't have to be perfect. What matters is that you can stick a few details in your memory.
Look in the area where you are for the bank of a sandy river or a place with mud and puddles. Snow is also ideal. That's where you can "read the paper", i.e. see what critters have passed through. Even if it doesn't seem like you're good at first, take note of the size, shape and then discuss it with a partner. Many clever conclusions can be drawn, and you can also check the internet, where there are plenty of drawings of animal tracks.
For disconnecting from the hustle and bustle of the city and the daily routine, there's nothing better than a jump into nature. Connecting to the natural ecosystem calms the nervous system and has a disruptive effect of increasing mindfulness of the present. Taking advantage of the spectacular scenery in the middle of which the WeWilder campus is located, Common Ground used track and sign interpretation as a method of connecting to nature. The animal tracks and signs recognition session was facilitated by Georg Messerer, wilderness guide and part of the WeWilder team.
The practice involves observing tracks left by animals and insects in the ground or on trees and deciphering the stories these clues tell. Participants worked mostly in teams, but also tried to figure out the signs on their own. The exercise gives a wonderful chance to "get into the animal's skin" and work with others to reach consensus, activating the empathy muscle and challenging participants to hang between the microcosm of a trace and the larger context - where we are, what season it is, what the ground is like or how the wind blows. This day's lunch break spent outdoors in the shade of an orchard gave us the opportunity for a waste-free picnic and a discussion about our place in nature.
Be kind to the body that bears you and treat it well too! Get moving in the morning, get out in the sun, dance without thinking it matters what it looks like. Or sit and get a massage from someone.
Get in a circle with everyone present and sit down. Join hands as in a dance. Then your right hand massages the next person's left hand, while getting a massage in your right hand. Then switch. The brain will fizzle a little. Then the same trick with the feet: you give one foot to receive massage and get a foot to massage.
Find a catchy mix or maybe one of our suggested mixes. Dance, shake, bounce, but don't stop for half an hour, solo or with others. Afterwards, the endorphin shower follows. You're welcome!
Just like when we were kids, we'd pick up on the dance someone is doing. It has to be a simple, repeatable element that everyone else replicates and you hold it for a minute or two and then change.
Recovery after an intense period of work involves a return to oneself and, above all, a regeneration of the body. Some cultural workers do office work that requires them to spend a lot of time without moving. At the other end of the spectrum are artists, who often work in difficult conditions and put their bodies under extreme strain. The benefits of movement are well known, and practising it outdoors in a natural landscape has added value to the sessions to relax and energise participants.
Mădălina Dan, contemporary dance dancer and choreographer, proposed a series of morning movement sessions and shared mindfulness practices for the body that each of us can apply, alone or with another person. In her practice, Mădălina explores the mind-body-emotion relationship and generously invests in the Romanian dance scene, but her concerns go beyond dance. Mădălina is a guide to one's relationship with one's body, and the practices she proposes - ranging from breathing techniques to massage - are designed to inspire participants to remember their bodies when they return home.
Sometimes reconnecting with the self happens if others make room for us. Do the exercise of creating space for someone else just by asking and listening. Meeting your thoughts is an exercise in creating time and space and you can do this in a quiet place or outside with some friends without allowing other elements to distract you.
In short, three people support the fourth by asking questions from one of the areas they have taken responsibily: social, psychological and physical. At the end of 30 minutes, they give this person a short testimony about times when they felt the same way. Then at the end they offer the person concerned a piece of advice or a challenge. Recommended to take a look at the protocol at length.
There's a superhero in all of us. With the help of a discussion partner, you can bring it out. Take it in turns to do a 10-minute interview that aims to find out what she likes to do, where she shines, when she saves the day. Then each of you draw a caricature of the person as a superhero on a card and give them a name . Then present them to the others in plenary and put the cards on the wall.
The tribe can come up with solutions to all problems. Invite the participants to a circle and everyone says what is on their mind. Then in popcorn style, anyone can offer advice to someone who has voiced something. The session continues until the participants feel the issue is resolved.
Because the participants came to the retreat after a very busy period, we felt it was important to create a safe space for them to reconnect with themselves and actively reflect on the notion of self-care. We provided a setting in which participants could honestly ask themselves how they are feeling at this time in their lives and, more importantly, what they would need to be better.
Cassie Thornton, a Berlin-based artist from the United States, introduced participants to a solidarity-based self-care protocol called Hologram. Inspired by the social care practices of free clinics that emerged in Greece during the financial crisis, the Hologram is a collective and supportive practice of care and wellbeing in which three people (a triangle) are invited to listen and ask questions of a fourth person (hologram). One member of the triangle asks questions about social health, another about physical health, and the last about mental/emotional health. The hologram includes a structured protocol for viral distribution of care to ensure that all caregivers are cared for. Participants tested this practice among themselves with the idea of taking elements or the entire protocol into their future practice.
Think about how you'd be doing if money didn't exist. Sure there are many kinds of capital, for example equity capital or who do you know. Surely there are people who don't need certain resources or even industries. How you find those resources is a matter of communication.
Share with the group a pack of 2-colour post-its. On one colour write what you have to offer and on the other what you need now (material or skills). Then look at what others have written and add new ideas. Finally, see if you can combine some needs and offers through barter. It's important that everyone signs up so you know who to get back to if something new comes up.
It may not even be a full-fledged classifieds website, but in any community you can make a group to put up materials, surplus or loan items for sale. It's important that you or someone else is a facilitator of the group, who may also know who/what else they can do to get the group going.
You can suggest a real mission, like "let's landscape the garden" or a play mission "let's build a chill space" at the office. Ask people in the group to bring what resources they think would be useful, or prepare some materials yourself that can act as design constraints. And this is a good thing. In a few hours, many hands can work wonders.
We imagine a world where pooling resources takes the pressure off each of us. Sometimes, it turns out that an object that is useless to someone is just what someone else needs. The exercise of (re)thinking what we have to offer, professionally, in a bounded personal setting, can bring surprises to the surface.
At Common Ground, we identified what we have to offer and what we need, then looked at these resources together. Building together, we explored how we could use diverse resources together.
Megan Williams from CAN ARTS was our guest speaker who intended to inspire participants through the model of the organisation she is part of. CAN is a recycling and reuse tool that helps the cultural sector combat the climate emergency. CAN stands for Circular Arts Network, an online platform that supports the circular economy within the arts community.
Just as they say it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to raise an idea. See to it that people close to each other get together in joint missions, where everyone finds something to do as much as possible without bosses. Some will happily work together, and some will happily stay together, but that's ok too.
A community can start with 3 comfortable cushions on the ground or a bench in the shade of a tree. Engage the group in thinking about what kind of space would be "hygge" with questions on "what to sit on?", "how to illuminate it?", "what to write on or serve snacks on?". Consider making it an arrangement where everyone can hear or see each other easily.
Find an excuse to research any topic that people in a village are good at and go to them in teams with questions on the given topic: gastronomy, building, customs, ideals, etc. All you need is a notebook, a pen and a bit of guts at first, and then enough willpower to refuse the various drinks offered. You'll hone your empathetic research tactics and apply them to projects where you get closer to the "beneficiaries".
Find some excuse and perhaps invite members of a surrounding community - people from a village, staircase neighbours, suppliers, etc. Make a menu list and see which people in the group know how to make certain specialities. Then ideally go to a farmers' market or even to the village to pick up ingredients and cook. The important thing is the process, the food will be good anyway after so much preparation!
WeWilder is located in the village of Armenis and relies on relationships with local people, who are the main suppliers of the produce used as ingredients for the food cooked in the campus kitchen. In fact, the locals also participated in the construction of the main building, called the Fairy, and the three huts where guests can sleep. WeWilder has supported several villagers to open guesthouses, such as SubMăgrin House or MuMA Hut, a building on the hills of Sat-Bătrân that impresses with its minimalism and location. By creating demand for local products and local hospitality services, WeWilder wants to further inspire the community to get involved in green businesses.
The strong link with the community is visible from the start on campus, through the presence of Dosia Vela, the cook who reinterprets traditional dishes, turning every meal into a real treat. Dosia cooks only with local ingredients, with great inventiveness, and is a very good storyteller, drawing connections between local culinary tradition and the contemporary and progressive ethos of WeWilder. We wanted retreat participants to deeply understand the relationship between the young WeWilder team and the local people, so on the last day of the retreat we cooked for the locals ourselves. The retreat participants divided into teams and visited several households in Armeniș and three other villages in the commune - Feneș, SubMargine and Sat Bătrân. The villagers who welcomed the participants into their homes, offering them produce from their gardens or from the animals they raise, were then invited to a community dinner where the life stories of the local people mingled with those of the guests.
"Better means doing simple activities, cooking, eating good food, dancing, talking about other things, taking care of myself in general."
"I loved the mix of activities with time spent in nature, time for connecting with the body and not just the head. :) As we all spend a lot of time in our heads, through the nature of our jobs, it can become a trap and even a prison. [...] As I said at the fire, the mix has solved the old dilemma of choosing between nature and culture, because we are, in fact, nature producing culture."
"It gave us a sense of belonging. It was a pleasure to do something together that everyone enjoys."
Armenis, Banat region, September 2023
Special thanks to our team of visual storytellers, that helped us document the process and illustrate this toolkit.
Videographer & editor
Photographer & videographer
Director & videographer
With gratitude for the project team