"Diiiiing", make the Tingsha bells and what is supposed to be a very calming sound, triggers a little panic in me. Because I know that what follows this "diiiing" will not be easy for me: 30 minutes of rest.
30 minutes of silence: Silence with guidance
And not the kind of calm, as in: "i flop down on my couch and nod off to the sprinkling of a Netflix series every now and then." No, this rest is another. A meditation in which not only I have to shut up, but also no impulses come from the outside, until one is released from it after half an hour. In which I do not lie somewhere, but sit, as upright as my back allows, on a meditation cushion in a room flooded with light. Not alone, by the way, but with other silent people, at a distance – because the pandemic is supposedly taking a break right now, but is still in our heads, as it will be again with full force a few months later. The quiet half hour for inner reflection will be led by Christel, who lives and works here, in the Saunstorf monastery in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.
In the summer of 2020, I had just started meditating and, with the help of an app, had already been able to report some successes. But this is something completely different. While the woman with the friendly voice in the app always brings me back when my "monkey mind" wanders off again, no one does that here. I am unsure if I am allowed to move, although I would like to, because right now my left foot is about to fall asleep.
My empty stomach makes a few gurgling noises and normally I would mitigate the awkward moment with an implied laugh and a self-deprecating eye roll. Now I just stay silent and hope that the others are already so deeply relaxed that they have not noticed anything of my metabolism. A breeze blows through the open windows, I hear the wind outside rustling the leaves in the trees and raindrops falling from a gutter. Unfortunately, not always in the same rhythm: drip, drip, drip – break – drip. I blink very briefly and secretly to see how my fellow blogger Eva is doing. She sits candle-straight and seems to be deeply absorbed in herself. I have to try very hard not to let meditation envy arise.
At some point I remember what I learned during my fasting hiking week: When my thoughts flood me while meditating, I should not judge myself for it – which is exactly what I am doing at this moment. "I'm so bad at meditating because I'm thinking about raindrops/breakfast/my to do list". Instead, every time something comes into my head I say to myself: "thank you, but not now." This also works now. Dear thought, you are completely fine and have your right to exist – but please not now.
When the second "diiiiing" sounds, I startle briefly. The bell has accidentally rung much too early? It does not. The thirty minutes of silence are actually up – and it actually didn't feel that long.
Gut Saunstorf: Revived as a modern monastery
In the context of the MidsummerRemise I was for one night in the monastery Saunstorf and came for the first time in contact with the people who live here and in whose life one may participate as a guest. The manor house, once left to decay and after a chequered history only existing as a ruin, was even supposed to be blown up in 1989. At the beginning of 21. At the beginning of the twentieth century it was developed by the community around the spiritual teacher OM C. Parkin restored and revived as a "modern monastery" in 2010. Situated near the Hanseatic city of Wismar in the middle of a spacious park, the manor house today serves as a quiet retreat for the non-denominational community living there as well as for temporary guests and residents.
Saunstorf Manor: A Place of Silence
If you imagine now that one may only whisper on property Saunstorf – it is not then nevertheless not so. There is also loud laughter, singing and sometimes raising one's voice here. But there are certain times when silence reigns here: during silent meditation, which takes place every morning and evening, as well as during lunch, which is taken in silence. A completely new experience for me – and actually not the worst one.
Spend the night at Gut Saunstorf
Who now expects monastic asceticism, will be surprised: The 23 rooms, two suites as well as the vacation apartment are not overloaded, but nevertheless nobly furnished. With the exception of the shared rooms, which are rather minimalist in decor and vibe, the rooms feel more like a cross between a spa and a castle hotel. The single rooms start from 70 € per night, the double rooms from 90 euros.
The manor house also has several seminar rooms, a spa area with saunas and a Kneipp pool, a manor house store and a small lake. And a beautiful garden, where among other things the vegetables are grown, which are then processed in the Gutshaus kitchen to very good, ayurveda-inspired meals.
Inner retreat at the monastery: fasting, yoga and dark retreat
You can simply stay overnight at Saunstorf Monastery and do your own thing, but you can also participate in monastic life, such as during a fasting retreat, during the yoga and Ayurveda days, or during the week of silence. Unfortunately, I can't look at two very special rooms during my visit – they are booked out all the time. I would not have seen much either way, because: the rooms are completely dark. They serve as accommodation and a place of retreat when you take part in the so-called "dark retreat". For this you go into absolute darkness for several days. For me personally – at least at the time I am writing these lines – it is inconceivable to do something like this voluntarily.
I get into a bad mood when the sun doesn't shine for three days in a row and I can't do one of my favorite things: contemplating the clouds in the blue sky. For quite a few other people, this absence of light and almost all external stimuli is exactly what they are looking for. It is supposed to help to be able to concentrate fully on one's innermost being and to come across things that otherwise do not come to light in everyday life full of distractions. From three days the dark retreat can be booked, for really deeper processes four to even ten days are recommended. Of course, there is also something to eat and drink during this time and there is even a shower bath in the dark room.
The monastery, the community and the guru
Now we come to the part that really makes Saunstorf Monastery something other than a normal manor house, where yoga workshops or Ayurveda stays take place from time to time. The special thing are the people who live and work here permanently and with whom you inevitably come into contact as a guest. In order to really enjoy and benefit from your stay here, you should not have any reservations about spiritual communities – and especially not those that have a guru at their head. In Saunstorf the OM C. Parkin. However, he is not called a guru, but a "spiritual director" and embodies the philosophy of a non-denominational community:
OM embodies in its work the combination of Eastern non-duality teachings and Christian mysticism, of depth psychology and philosophy, beyond the limitations of religions and denominations. Here he refers to the tradition of Advaita, which in the 20. century through the Indians Shri Ramana Maharshi, Shri H.W.L. Poonja and by the American Gangaji and others was revived. OM works in the tradition of these teachers and by being rooted in the original Christian teachings.
During my stay at the monastery, the wisdom teacher is not physically present, but in a different way: His books are available in the manor house store, his picture looks at me in the breakfast room and the two women who guide through the rooms of the monastery tell about the so-called "Darshan", where you can meet the master in exchange and in silence. Although the monastery residents really don't seem like rapturous nuns or monks removed from life (quite the opposite) – for me it's all a bit too much spiritual "woo woo". However, I sometimes feel the same way about yoga and I don't even want to start with the communion and confirmation classes in my childhood. For me, I don't need a guru – but it doesn't bother me that there is one here.
Working at Saunstorf Monastery
If you are not afraid of spirituality and living in a community, then there are several ways you can organize your longer stay at Saunstorf Monastery. At "ora et labora" you help for three hours a day with the usual work – so for example in the garden or in the kitchen. In return you will get a discount on the price for the overnight stay. As a "karma yogi", you're put in for six hours a day and become part of the community for at least 14 days.
As compensation for the commitment, you get a cheap weekly rate for the room, three vegetarian meals a day and free participation in the meditations and workshops. And those who would like to stay even longer, can do so within the framework of a so-called Volontariat, which lasts for several months. All information about the different possibilities to join the Saunstorf monastery can be found here.
Conclusion: For whom is a vacation in the manor Saunstorf suitable??
A break at Saunstorf Monastery is just right for those for whom everything is too much and who want to take a really deep breath. You can relax here in every conceivable way, and both like the body as well as the mind. How far you want to participate in the community life, you can decide for yourself.