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Arriving at Family CampEvening bonfires
at the family Camp

I HAVE ATTENEDED THE FAMILY CAMP ALMOST EVERY YEAR SINCE BIRTH. Therefore in the years between 1988 and 2008 the Family Camp has shaped my life. I met my best friends at Amaravati Family Camp, so even though I will probably never participate in the whole camp again, it will always remain part of my life. However far I drift away from Right Livelihood, the Family Camp always brings me back, not just through the Buddha’s teachings but through the company of peers who are going through the very same experiences.

Essentially, the Family Camp has slowly injected a stream of Buddhist teaching into my life, year after year. It has allowed me to grow up surrounded by Buddhist culture. Not only have the teachings of the Amaravati Family Camp provided a code of conduct but they have made me more open-minded through the acclimatization to Thai rituals, foods, and people.

In this sense it has been a window into an alternative lifestyle that I can incorporate into my everyday life. I have strong memories from my early life at Amaravati; of the tepee and the absence of boundaries in the field, the feel of an eternal expanse. When 40 or so families gather and live together for a week in (imperfect) harmony it shows that another world is possible. Walking into the kitchen and seeing not just a familiar face but someone you have grown up with; that feeling of comfort is rare in a world where movement and change is constant.

The Family Camp is one week of 52 when the monks and nuns, anagarikas, visitors and laypeople of Amaravati are disturbed, their patience tested, their equanimity questioned. For the monastery it is eight days of disruption; for us it is eight days of tranquillity. One of the busiest weeks in the Sangha’s calendar is the week the family campers pause and reflect, stop the business of day to day life, and insulate themselves from society.
– Rosa

Campers past and present are asked, 'What is the Family Camp?'

‘It was the only safe place I knew, a different vibe from school which wasn’t safe and home which wasn’t neutral. We were all kids and did what kids do, but we were outside of the terrifying stuff of adolescent hell and in a space where the calm was pervasive.’

‘A week each year in which I belong to a group of safe hands; singing and dancing. I lie back onto the earth, tying knots into the long grass, forming a cocoon so that all I can see is my hands and the sky. My childhood woven into those reeds. We sit shoulder to shoulder, blankets enveloping us, looking into the bonfire, and I watch each of my cells replenishing. Filled with lentils and birthday cake, the circle of people lean into the heat, their faces washed in orange like embers. The mug of cocoa sits in my palms, I can hear those familiar chords again and I sit back and feel it with my whole body; compassion.’

‘Amaravati Family Camp is an actual working utopia, it means for me the knowledge that it is possible to create a completely safe environment, so I will go through life knowing that there is an alternative to the way we live and it’s not useless to attempt to change it.’

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