A small community and holistic venue in Portugal for health, relaxation and meditation, run by Pujari and Luisa.
“Ours is not a traditional Zen centre. There are no monks and nuns at Laozi House and it is not in a remote mountain location. But you will find a quiet atmosphere where you can regenerate and heal in a natural way. Through a healthy lifestyle based on movement and meditation, using food as medicine and participating in daily activities shared by all of us. With respect and friendliness towards all things and people. You can become part of it too,” reads the blurb on their home page. But what lies behind these words in practical terms?
Laozi House is a beautifully renovated old farmhouse that sits in the midst of 2 acres of land, dotted with fruit trees and grapevines, complete with an organic vegetable garden. The Algarve region, the most southerly tip of Portugal, is famous for its beaches and resorts because of the mild sub-tropical weather. Laozi House – in a rural valley – is far from the hustle and bustle of tourism, although the coast is still reachable with a 10-minute drive. And after “a twenty-minute walk through a landscape of almond trees, aloe vera and cacti, you come to a tiny village with a little supermarket,” writes a visitor from the Netherlands, Gambheera. The closest airport is Faro; an hour’s bus ride then brings you to Lagoa.
The house has accommodation for 20, with a sizeable kitchen, meditation room with fireplace for colder evenings in winter; a sauna, and a session room. The verandah, overlooking the swimming pool, is used as a dining room for most part of the year. “In January when I was there, I could sit with my lunch in a t-shirt in the sunshine, but in the evening some heating was welcome. And the nights… Coming from Amsterdam, to see a sky full of stars, hear the sound of crickets, and occasionally an owl, was amazing,” continues Gambheera in her letter.
Laozi House is operating as a non-profit, where members/volunteers contribute with their work to the upkeep, so that no hired help is needed. The day starts with an active meditation or yoga, breakfast and a meeting to plan the day, then work in the vegetable garden, landscaping, maintenance, cooking, cleaning. All this done in silence – no gossip, no phones. The afternoons are free for walks, exploration, siesta, sessions, reading, swimming, while the evenings are usually spent together: a meditation, a discourse by Osho, or mantra singing – sometimes even a movie.
“It’s so nice to work in the garden and be in close contact with mother Earth. The rooms in the house are big and easy to clean with mostly tiles, and the big garage harbours a lot of tools for all the repairs that are needed. Doing the meditations in this pure place is very fulfilling,” continues Gambheera.
During their stay, guests can profit from their hosts’ knowledge and skills in biological gardening and cooking of healthy meals, but they are also welcome to share their own knowledge: new recipes, new meditations or exercises for the morning sessions, healing techniques, tips for gardening…
But who are the faces behind all this?
Pujari first heard about Osho in 1978, and did his first Dynamic Meditation at De Kosmos centre in Amsterdam. “Now, more than 40 years later, I still enjoy doing Osho’s meditations and I am still inspired by his words. The project Laozi House is my way of sharing the inspiration that transformed my life of searching for meaning – from lost to found,” he writes on the website. The other driving force is Luisa. She is from Lisbon and practices traditional Chinese medicine.
In 2010 Pujari opened an Osho information centre offering Osho active meditations, in Saboia, Alentejo under the name of Osho Garden. Together with Luisa, he then moved to the Algarve in 2015 when a suitable plot was found – Lombos Gardens – and started to renovate the old farm, care for the 15 olive trees, create an organic vegetable garden with irrigated raised beds. The association Laozi House was founded in 2018.
The Venue and an Experience
Now that all renovation and landscaping projects are done, there are hands free for the next development: that of offering the place as a venue for workshops, for up to 12 participants. Their first group will be in June. Pujari wrote to us, “Now we want to let facilitators know that they can offer their workshops and trainings here, at low cost, in a beautiful place with a nice climate.”
And to help with this development the right person, Melaina, seems to have come onto the scene all by herself:
I arrived here in early January as a volunteer with the intention to escape society and find inner peace and to heal myself from a lifestyle which was no longer serving me, nor my health. I had the insight that the life I had lived for the past forty years was all made of fear and stress. I remember one day, whilst I was in the worst of it, asking out loud to the universe for help – to please take me somewhere peaceful and tranquil so that I could find the real me and to begin healing myself.
The universe worked its magic. Laozi House was presented to me through my daughter. She showed me an advert for volunteers. I applied to five other places in Portugal but something attracted me to Laozi House and my intuition told me, “This is the one you will be going to.” The intuition was right. Laozi House was the only one that got back to me and within two weeks I was on the plane to Portugal.
Arriving at Laozi House I immediately felt a calmness. It was like walking into the garden of Eden. (Well, what I would have imagined Eden to look like, anyway!) Luisa and Pujari, the hosts, welcomed me and explained how they wanted Laozi House to be in the future. Then they asked what had brought me here and what I hoped to gain from the experience.
When I first arrived, I felt lost and completely broken – a bag of nerves. I couldn’t think straight, my mind was full of chatter; my body in need of love and care and inner healing. I had left everything behind, had got rid of my rented house, my job and even my partner. I was not only mentally and physically tired but heartbroken too.
Within the first two weeks I was already on the road to healing and felt completely at home. The clear blue sky, the warmth of the sun and working in nature in the wonderful organic gardens – at my own pace; there was no one rushing me or telling me to work faster. In fact it was the opposite – you are guided to work mindfully and peacefully.
In the mornings Pujari teaches the five Tibetans. This has helped me release a lot of trapped energies within my body. Every lunch-time we are served a super-healthy raw salad followed by a hot dish. (All vegetarian and chemical free.) The food itself is healing as it is prepared with love. Luisa has great knowledge of what we should be consuming for a healthy balanced diet. In the evenings we have an Osho meditation which starts with joyful dancing, and then we listen to a talk from Osho.
Just two months on and I am feeling calm and full of complete peace. My body is now healed; I no longer have bloating and digestive problems. I look and feel so much better. I truly believe that it’s not only the yoga, the acupuncture sessions from Luisa and the food but the energy here. It’s got its own healing light, this wonderful place.
I find myself much more mindful and in the present moment. This alone is a blessing for me – to be free to see each moment for what it truly is.
Melaina has decided to stay at Laozi House for the summer and help Luisa and Pujari, as a coordinator, and by offering healing workshops and individual sessions, with hands-on healing and crystals.
There is still opportunity for more long-term volunteer members. At the moment they are offering Forest Gardening work-weeks, with meditation and painting.
Melaina will be facilitating the workshop, ‘Spiritual healing with energy, using crystals and sound’, 7–12 June 2019 at Laozi House – www.higherconscious.org