By Manfred Folkers Many German workers have an annual, government-sponsored vacation for learning new skills. Most people use the week for training in their professions. Mindfulness, spiritual life, and compassion are not usually aspects of this training, in part because many people resist learning things which seem to have only an indirect influence on their work. But, our German Volkshochschulen (adult education schools) increasingly offer courses with spiritual components.
For several years, I have offered five-day "Mindfulness and Inner Peace" seminars at various Volkshochschulen. Participants are mainly social or educational workers on their "learning vacations." They range from 20 to 60 years old and most are women. Many complain of job stress. We discuss alienation, bum-out, motivation, and frustration before approaching the foundations of mindful living. Then, we examine the Five Mindfulness Trainings and discuss the importance of bringing heart and mind together. During the five days, participants enjoy sitting and walking meditation, noble silence, mindful meals, touching the earth, and of course, a tea ceremony.
These seminar participants don't want to become Buddhist. They seek the opportunity for mindfulness practice. Unfortunately, when the seminar is over, most of them must practice alone, because there isn't a Sangha or a Mindfulness Practice Center close to home. Without the support of a Sangha, it is very hard to continue the practice in daily life.
Manfred Folkers, True Great Togetherness, works for several Volkshochschulen in Germany. He lives and practices in Oldenburg.