Tamera is a small international community with big dreams of changing the world. About 180 activists work here together towards a goal of global peace. It is located in the Alantejo region of Portugal, a poor and arid agricultural area, half way between Faro and Lisbon, about 35km from the Atlantic coast. Originally conceived by a group of german students emerging from the 1968 Revolutions, committed to doing something about ending violence in the world.
Violence, against people, the planet, animals and all living beings is said to be being committed by a system, a system inhabited by humans, humans that have been born into a world where living with fear is the dominant paradigm, fear that is particularly interwoven in our most intimate experiences of love and sexuality. It is through the healing of this fear that the people inhabiting the Tamera Community, hope to achieve a system change in the world. Tamera is the place where this new way is manifested for the rest of the world to see and experience.
At the core of this active, mostly german community of specialists, scientists, artists and thinkers is the sacred Bodega, The Temple of Love, a place hidden in a valley, deep inside the community boundaries where these people can come together and make love, free love. Freeing one’s love from the commitment to one person and following ones instinctual impulses toward truthful, consensual and deeply loving intimacy is the objective. The social infrastructure that surrounds this process is joyfully referred to as people addressing ‘Issue Number One’.
Before arriving here 4 weeks ago, Bex and I discussed our fears that such a place brought up in us. Our insecurity surrounding what we had taken to be our most secure position, our monogamous commitment to each other, supposedly achieving for us the most solid foundation from which we were to raise our family, achieve all our goals and dreams, and ultimately be happy. We were facing the possibility that it was actually our way of supporting each other with our deep insecurities around loneliness and being good enough, our way of having something in this world to identify with. It was all rather confronting.
The Saturday of our arrival in Portugal coincided with an open morning at The Place of the Children, the school and the community’s exclusive area for its children. We met Maria, soon to become our confidant and child minder, and we had a tour for an hour (see post dedicated to The Place of the Children). We then made our way to the dining area for lunch. Here were gathered the ‘Guests’ of Tamera, approximately 60 people, ready to be warmly and lovingly welcomed by the kitchen team, a ritual we would become used to after our 3 weeks here. Abundant vegan dishes of rice, beans and stews accompanied by again abundant dishes of salads were presented.
The Guests help to generate approximately 60% of Tamera’s income. The guest season runs from April to November when Tamera is open to the public, during which time many and various courses are conducted. The guests are mostly kept separate from the community, a concept that I was unprepared for initially, expecting to be encountering Tamerans as part of our stay, expecting to be confronted with free love all the time. Instead, the guests area was a bizarre place, at times excruciatingly challenging, populated by all kinds of people from all nationalities and age groups, all here for different reasons.
There was a group of young single people who were here because during their travels had heard about this place where free love happened. There were families like us interested in Ecovillage life, families interested in free love, retired couples and singles looking outside their boundaries, spiritual types wishing to work out mystical conundrums, devotees of the prolific writer-and-thinker founders of Tamera, invited guests part of networking groups, all kinds. We were all there to learn more about this place. The one thing the guests didn’t have access to was the social infrastructure that created the deep support, allowing the Tameran’s to work so thoroughly on their self-development. This made the energy in the guests area a little chaotic, dramatic and emotional, with a lot of coming and going and a kind of general wariness.
The self-development work is an important part of ones commitment to living communally at Tamera. Having been through the 2-4 year process of joining the community, one is given an occupation according to skills and enthusiasm in one of many areas such as agriculture, maintenance, engineering, education, politics, writing, etc. One is also connected with a social group. It is with this group of usually 20-30 people that you live, cook, eat, sleep and do Forum with. Forum is a daily 1-2 hour sharing circle used to ensure truthful transparency amongst the group and the community. It is facilitated by an experienced member of the social group, the aim is to widen one’s experience through sharing others experiences, and to grow according to ones greatest potential, through the groups supportive encouragement. Every Tameran I spoke to, highly valued their time dedicated to Forum.
It was during the Introduction Week Course, 12-18 June, that we got our deepest insight yet into the community. It just happened to be the first ever LGBTQ Introduction Week at Tamera (just for some perspective, The Findhorn Community of Scotland had their first LGBTQ Introduction week in 1995). It was a significant moment for us, the other participants, the Tamera Community and the world it felt. As we gathered together on the first day, news of a mass shooting in Orlando Florida, the LGBTQ community targeted and 49 men and women killed. As healing in love and sexuality is a core issue at Tamera, it was simultaneously a joyous experience to be part of such a first and also disheartening. In a place where openness and transparency in connection is so valued, it felt like some kind of discrimination was being silently endorsed, with ‘gender relations’ up until this point being portrayed as between man and woman. It was very touching to hear the European experience of being ‘different’ in the deeply traditional cultures. Coming from Sydney Australia where gay pride is very strong and celebrated, it was a shock to hear the common stories of needing to hide, even today, that my friends were sharing. It shed light on the gender issues at Tamera that we were discussing.
Tamera proposed a communitarian way of life, where the issues of love and sexuality are openly addressed. This is not about a self-gratifying, all-hours orgy, this is addressing the phenomenon of separation that humans in the western world endure, separation from each other and the rest of nature. After my time there, I saw in context my western experiences of disconnection and otherness, and I know that the way people are living at Tamera is extremely different to that. Even just from the perspective of isolation in village/town/city life where people are living out their motivations of ownership, private space, financial success etc, overshadowed by media and advertising, these people were living connectedly. The fear that is so evident in city life, simply riding on a metro train and feeling the isolation of being surrounded by people yet disconnected in a fundamental and irreversible way, permeates the whole structure. Bex and I don’t want our kids to grow up like that! We don’t want to keep growing up like that! Could we live there? Everything else to me just seems pointless unless issues of connection are being addressed and processes are in place to live connection. This is what Tamera proposes, to what extent this is achieved can only be known through further experience. With a deep dissatisfaction in what I perceive to be the future of my Western ‘culutre’, I need to be a part of something different, my children need that too.