This year we celebrate the 30th anniversary of Miasto, the much loved Osho commune and holistic venue in Tuscany, Italy. Article by Punya.
I have known the founder of Miasto, Pratiti, from the very first days in Pune and heard of her centre while I was in the Zurich commune after Osho had left Pune. Rumours were that Miasto was a very strictly regimented place, almost spartan, whilst where I was staying the atmosphere was more about ‘enjoying life’ and ‘having a good time…’ This was funny because that was in direct contrast to what we usually associate with Italy and Switzerland.
Ivanna, who has spent 32 years of her life in Miasto, says, “Pratiti, who had experienced living in a community in London, wanted to create a commune of people who were not only living together but were also meditating together: communal living plus meditation. We started in 1979 and the place became an Osho Centre in 1981. In the beginning it was a rural community, very much determined to become self-sufficient. These were not easy times. It was cold and we had to prepare the place for groups. Work meant cutting wood, clearing the fields, tending the animals… but everything was connected to meditation. We even made our own flour and our own cheese. We were also manufacturing brooms and humus – in fact our Buddha Hall was built for that!”
Another long-time member of the commune, Ivano, the local electrician, remembers, “We had the vegetable garden, seven goats, four cows, but after 10 years of this we came to recognise that the effort was not worth it and we closed everything down except for the vegetable patch, which still gives us most of the vegetables for our kitchen.”
After the Ranch had closed and during a visit to some in-laws in Tuscany I borrowed my father’s car for the afternoon, called up Miasto and they arranged for me to meet someone in nearby Colle Val d’Elsa who could show me the way to get there. Someone – it might even have been Ivano – had some shopping to do in town and so that worked out perfectly. We met at the Caffè Pasticceria (those pastries…) in the main square of this market town built high atop a hill. I followed his car and soon we drove down into the valley and after a short while we took a dirt road up into the hills again.
What sets Tuscany apart from the rest of Italy is, according to me, the beautiful way people take care of their houses, leaving the stonework unplastered and so giving one the sense that they belong to the natural landscape they are set in. Some of these stone-faced houses were along the road until we reached the top. “Here we are.” A set of houses tucked under ancient oak trees with vast open fields to the south, allowing the view onto distant wood-covered hills, a bright sunny sky invited me to savour the intensity and remoteness from everything I knew. It was thrilling, almost scary.
My second visit was for the Music Festival in 1990 to which many musicians were invited to come and participate. This was shortly after Osho had left his body and many of the musicians had not found their home bases as yet, so it was no wonder that Prasuna, the organiser, feared that in the end there would be more musicians than visitors. The Festival was set up to attract as many visitors as possible in order to propose to them the prospect of participating in the co-ownership of Miasto. Pratiti had died from illness a few years before and her son wanted to sell the property.
The charismatic presence of Majid, who was the Ambassador of Osho for Italy and the founder of the left-wing magazine Re Nudo, certainly helped and the Associazione Miasto was formed soon after and secured the continuation of the community. For three weeks the boards of the open-air stage bore the weight of musicians who would rarely be seen to play together after they dispersed. There was – if I remember correctly – Kamal, Karunesh, Joshua, Madhuro, Sirus, Neera, Bindu, Ravi, Pramada, Jamie, Anugama, Teerth. And the stage also creaked under the bounces of the jugglers and pantomime artists.
This was the beginning of all Festivals. I participated in many more (now reduced to one week instead of three!) when living in not-too-distant Italian Switzerland and once I remember being moved to participate in a group by Sagarpriya.
Coaching the Staff
At the beginning of the season, in March, the commune members (‘i Miastini’), old and new, participate in a six-day workshop called ‘Conscious Living’ by Sagarpriya. The workshop uses situations in our daily life to help us grow and discover our centre while working, without losing the blissfulness of meditation. In the morning commune members do the chores to run the place, listen to Osho talk about Conscious Living and in the afternoon they experiment with some exercises. (Read Sagarpriya’s article on this workshop…)
During the season the staff of Miasto, apart from the weekly department meetings where they can resolve any current issues, also have the good luck to participate in one-day or half-day sessions with Upadhi, who lives close-by and also leads groups and trainings at Miasto. This happens maybe 4-5 times a year, addressing issues which surface during work. Once they worked on the issue of ‘hosting’ where they explored what it meant to welcome people with love while remaining centred, without becoming subservient. Other themes have been: expectations, reactions, projections, communication, and also traumas and guilt.
Upadhi also coaches the workers with key positions in the commune, together with Dwari.
Workshops and Meditation Weekends at Miasto
Dwari first came to Miasto with the Osho Diamond Breath Training (then run by Devapath, Shanti, Dwari and Bodhi Ray), which brought the Centre to a new, international level. She says: “I love the energy at Miasto and around it. The best thing is that here meditation is alive. There is Dynamic, Kundalini and the Evening Meeting every single day! Also the participants in the workshops are taken in by the community and the meditativeness. This is so precious! Something you cannot find in many places in the world. It reminds me of the atmosphere which Osho created in Pune. For those who are receiving therapy work it is important to have a place where meditation is the main focus. Even if nobody talks about it … it is in the air.”
My good friend Ida used to plan the workshop programme and put the brochure together, but she managed to pass on her understanding and wisdom to some of the staff before she left her body two years ago. It is now up to Dhairya, Mukta and Prafulla to use their acquired knowledge and also to let things happen: they often have the impression that something magical, something bigger than they are makes it all work.
“We want to keep the richness and variety of a Multiversity. This means that we also offer some groups which will not attract a great number of participants. We are trying to keep a balance between techniques which work with the body, explore emotions, childhood issues, conditionings and some based on meditation or creativity. It is important that the programme has a wide range from which everyone can choose something to their liking,” says Prafulla who is also taking care of the printed programme (150 pages!).
Part of the programme is also the very popular monthly meditation weekends (the ‘meditation camps’). Prafulla and Dhairya alternate with each other and they choose the meditations they like best. Prafulla, for example, sometimes invites Subodha and Madhuro to play with him for the Heart Singing when it is his turn. As most participants are new to meditation and Osho they reserve, on Sunday mornings, a slot where the participants can share what is happening to them or can ask questions about meditation, Osho, Miasto, the commune. “I try to convey my understanding but most of the time I turn the questions around or tell them that I cannot know things for them. This puzzles them at first but gives them a sense of relief that there is no teacher here to tell them what they should or should not do,” says Dhairya.
And Miasto is one of the few places in Europe where you can participate in the three-week Osho Mystic Rose process.
‘Living the Commune’ Programme
In 2007 a new scheme was introduced so that people could participate in the life of the community for a short time (4 months) and to ‘refresh’ the energy in the commune. Now a third of the residents are part of this programme. While replying to the applications they take care that there is a balance not only between the genders but also between Italians and people from abroad. This has given the commune a more international flavour. The departments where people will work are mostly: kitchen, cleaning and maintenance.
The programme starts with committing to do Dynamic Meditation for the first three weeks and once a week the participants can share what is happening with them in a meeting. In the beginning there might be embarrassment or fear of being judged, but soon they discover that just by sharing the problem evaporates into nothing. I hear that they often receive letters from people who have gone back home and write about how they are now able to live life in a more integrated way and that they feel more at home with themselves.
Devapath says that, for him, after the introduction of this programme Miasto feels more like an organism – a place where there is space for friendship between even a short-time guest like him and the long-time residents, the new guests in the Living the Commune Programme and the workshop participants. (See his article ‘Miasto, My Love!’ which we reproduce in its entirety here…)
And Premartha, who, together with Svarup, is now living a couple of miles from Miasto, is happy to see that people can now get the feel of living in a commune, as this is, according to his understanding, an essential part of any group process. “The workshops can only go so far, whilst living in a commune will give a more total experience,” he says.
Four years ago new buildings went up – one with 16 rooms, and one with a new kitchen, a dining room and a bar – and more is happening: a permit has been granted for a new Buddha Hall, which will be financed by the sale of Ida’s property, who left it to Miasto for exactly this purpose.
Text by Punya for Osho News – To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Miasto, the Italian Osho Times came out with a special edition this month and many of the more recent updates have been taken from that issue.