Travelogue Part 2: Portugal – Paths to Knowledge

Over a small gravel path I went between vines and green meadows in the middle of the pampas, until I arrived in front of a closed farm gate. I contacted Jorge and a short time later the gate swung open without a sound. Great excitement came over me as this happened. I rolled with Sybille onto the front lawn of the house, where I was already expected. Casually dressed in sweatpants and with a warm hug, Jorge greeted me at the small garden gate of the large house, which is located in the middle of vineyards in the center of the Portuguese north about 45 minutes from Lisbon in a solitary location.

The time before I decided to set out on my own and the morning drive from the Alentejo region to the Santarem region was still heavy in my bones, but Jorge took me directly by the hand. With the words „This garden gate must always be closed behind you to leave the „old you“ outside and to enter a new life“, he led me through the front garden into the property. He immediately began the tour through the house, which was large by my standards. With my head still muddled, I couldn’t quite realize at first where I had actually arrived:

The house was built according to the principles of Feng Shui. The massive walls were made especially for the project from earth and wood fiber, only the foundation is made of concrete. There are no electrical wires in the walls, they all run in the basement along the foundation to the individual rooms. Heating is provided only by wood stoves. The whole house has an open ventilation system and almost exclusively round walls. This makes the living climate very pleasant.

After the tour we took a coffee and sat down on the terrace. There Jorge told me about his work, what and for whom this property actually is, how he came to it and much more. My host Jorge Venceslau is a psychotherapist with 25 years of professional experience. After a long time as an intervention therapist with clients all over the world, he decided to put down roots again in his native Portugal and build this center. He wants to move away from classical psychotherapy, which, like conventional medicine, is built on a materialistic understanding of the world. He wants to work together with people who are addicted, depressed or suicidal to get back in touch with nature, a healthy rhythm of life, their true self and a biological diet. In addition to traditional conversation therapy, he accomplishes this through adventure education, gardening, guided meditations, and motivational practices. Slightly overwhelmed with all the impressions and information, I cooked something to eat for us afterwards. After that, I really needed to get some rest and enjoyed the luxury of my own little bathroom.

The law of attraction

In the evening we sat down together by the fireplace in the living room and he told me more about the therapeutic foundations, his past and the bridging between spirituality and science. In the conversation, I also explained my own background and my views on these topics. I quickly realized that in my own way I had already dealt intensively with the same things in my life, and Jorge now presented me with an approach that united all these things under the umbrella of personality therapy. I will explain exactly what I mean in a separate post, so I will just focus on one particular aspect here. Jorge also spoke of the „law of attraction“.

My still tired and overstrained mind could not always fully absorb everything we discussed right away due to the language barrier. But at some point I understood that he was talking about the hermeneutic „law of attraction“ and I felt the same way! While still stuck in the South in my somewhat tricky situation, I ardently desired a place where I could pursue domestic routines and at the same time practice mental sanitation through meditation and physical work. I also had the idea of seeking therapy after my trip to work through the issues that were bubbling to the surface in my personal life as well. Now, as I was there talking to Jorge by the fireplace, I realized that those very desires I had sent out on the site in the south all seemed to be fulfilled in this new place. And that felt quite overwhelming. What exactly my tasks would be now, we postponed until the next morning, because my mind was more than filled for this first day.

My tasks and projects

Shortly after sunrise and a first coffee, we completed the tour and Jorge led around the house, sharing his visions with me and explaining my tasks and possibilities. The main task for me was to prepare the two rooms with the four beds for the new clients that would arrive in the next few weeks. This meant, in addition to cleaning, tidying and organizing, washing, sorting and arranging the bed linen and towels for the clients. For these tasks, he gave me a rough time frame of about a week. How and when I do this work, he left completely to me and my organization. In addition, he showed me various possibilities to tackle my own projects around the house.

The house should be a place that is continuously transformed and developed by its guests. I decided to design and implement a gravel path from the forecourt to the greenhouse. Since I was eager to work hard physically while being creative and productive, the gravel path was both a challenging and symbolic goal for my stay. Therefore, in the spare minutes of sunshine, I spent many hours digging up the loose soil with garden tools and paving a path with the large and small stones I pulled out of the ground. The work was an excellent balance besides the domestic activities and at the same time it created a beautiful place that would connect two parts of the site in the future. After I lined the plastic path with stones, the path was filled with white gravel. After about a week and a half, the project was realized:

The force of light

After Jorge and I had done some shopping together and he had made sure that I would not lack anything, he entrusted me with the complete house and went to Lisbon for a few days. Thus I was completely alone. The only other people I saw during those days was an elderly couple working in their vines on a distant hill, to whom I waved in the morning. Otherwise, I was able to focus all my energy on myself and the manageable tasks around the house.

My project and the chores, however, developed more and more into the framework for the actual work I was doing on myself. After only two days, my alarm clock rang at a quarter past seven so that I could have my first coffee before sunrise. Afterwards, I sat down on the terrace to meditate with the sunrise. In doing so, I applied a mixture of Wim Hof breathing and simple mindfulness meditation. Then, day by day, I approached the meditation technique that Jorge was working with and, in the process of my realization, weaved other elements into my morning routine, such as a special breathing technique, which I will discuss in more detail in a separate post.

The end of the day was also ushered in by the sun. As soon as it went behind the hill, I put down the work, lit the fireplace in the living room and also prepared the fireplace in my room to heat it up for the night towards evening. So, by the fireside, I spent the evenings cooking, cleaning up, and studying the theory behind the meditation technique and motivational training, the two pillars on which Jorge based his work. Of course, there were also evenings when Jorge and I sat together by the fireplace and talked about many topics, my questions about the theories and his and my experiences. Everything was always accompanied by the power of light.

Special moments

On the first weekend I went on a bike tour to Rio Maior, where sea salt was extracted. For this I biked about almost 40 kilometers through rural northern Portugal and met two super cuddly donkeys, many lemon and orange trees and the unexciting „Salina“ near Rio Maior. The following Sunday I visited a local weekly market called „Santana Market“, which is very traditional and exclusively visited by locals. There you could buy pretty much everything you can imagine, from live chickens and other animals, to umbrellas, bread, T-shirts, dried dates and gardening tools.

When the rooms were ready for the clients, the first guest arrived a short time later. Basically, my daily routine changed very little, except for the presence of another person and the slightly different appearance of Jorge, since he was now „the therapist“. Together with Ruis from Angola, we now organized the days by each following his routine early in the morning and then we got together around half past eight, 9 o’clock for the common morning exercise. Afterwards we discussed the rest of the day. We cooked together, took long walks, and I continued to do my chores while Ruis and Jorge had intense one-on-one conversations when Ruis felt ready.

Cultural exchange is also part of the therapy program and so we visited the neighboring village when a traditional chorizo festival was held there. The festival consisted of a church ceremony followed by a chorizo auction, where the locals bid for sausages more for fun than in earnest, and one by one the auctioneer „auctioned“ them off in this way. After the auction, a local music troupe led the people through the local bodegas, small parlors of the local winegrowers, where wine was then drunk and the auctioned chorizos were grilled together.

As a grand finale to my two-week stay with Jorge, we visited the coastal town of „Nazare“ together, which is known for its giant waves. More precisely, Nazare is the place where the world’s biggest waves can be surfed:

We walked along the beach promenade, were invited by Jorge to a traditional fish dinner and visited the famous viewpoint from where the giant waves can be observed. Unfortunately, on this day the sea was rather calm.

Many insights and even more questions

The almost two weeks at the Quinta „Fonte da Moura“ have, on the one hand, calmed my troubled mind, raised many questions in me about my near and distant future and, at the same time, given me valuable tools to actively shape this future. I was able to clarify for myself what triggered the restlessness in me during the previous travel period, where my mistakes lay and where I was already on the right path. In addition, I questioned even more deeply my own past, my upbringing and my relationships between myself and my fellow human beings and grasped even more precisely what I had already guessed beforehand through my own examinations of life. Everything I had been dealing with for over ten years suddenly came together and created in me a new level of self-confidence and strength. I’ll tell you exactly how that happened in another post.

Jorge would have liked to have me stay with him as a guest for longer. I would have been happy, too, if my situation had allowed me to stay there longer. However, I was called home. In addition, a lonely and long journey from Lisbon to Freiburg awaited me. I had already planned my journey and decided to make a total of four stops until I would leave the car back in Freiburg. My route would take me first to Lisbon and then from there via Madrid to Barcelona. Then I would travel from there towards northern Italy and finally to my mother in Waldshut-Tiengen and then across the Black Forest to Freiburg. What happened to me on this trip, you will hear in the next post.

Ending of part 2.

by Marco Lo Voi

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