After returning from a trip to the American continent, Irene Goikolea reconnected with the need to awaken to the sacred feminine aspect as an inherent part of the legacy of her people of the Basque country. She was inspired to found the Amalurra communities – which is Basque for Mother Earth – more than 20 years ago. Today, Amalurra has three communities with 150 men and women. In the first part of this article, Irene shares her experience with the female principles; the second part is an overview on the development of the communities.
The female principle is a value that is deeply linked to the legacy of my ancestors, which contains and recognizes it as the basis of our own culture; reminiscent of the pre-Christian civilization that worshipped the Goddess as a representative of divinity.
I understand the sacred feminine principle as an energy that makes no distinction between genders, and welcomes men and women alike. The feminine principle represents the link with life and endows any of its expressions with a touch of sacredness. Amalurra was born out of the need to evoke the feminine and, from there, move toward the masculine in order to reach a balance between both energies.
The objective was not to reject the masculine, but to foster its integration, aware that this aspect in women, men, and the culture is injured due to an overvaluation of the masculine whose negative side has mutilated our relationship with the feminine.
In 1993, I started a conscious process toward the encounter with our feminine presence and power by forming circles of women that would turn into a safe space in which to initiate a process of transformation along with other women. We longed to be seen and heard in order to inspire a radical change. We also wanted to cultivate a new relationship with man and the masculine. As a facilitator of the circles, I was committed to this process, favoring a container that would welcome all our inner contents so that we could become aware of both our challenges and our abilities.
Previously, out of a deep feeling of love for our people, most of us had participated in organizations committed to achieve a more just and equitable society. Without abandoning this activism, we started an inner journey that would undoubtedly have an impact on our personal healing.
Our intention was to dedicate our healing process to the healing of the wounds caused by the historical traumas of Euskal Herria, as for example, the witch hunt conducted by the Inquisition in 1610, and the bombing of Guernika in 1937 on a Monday when the market was full of women selling their products. Both events represented an attack on the feminine. The effects of this trauma were present in our individual and collective psyche, as we had the opportunity to confirm throughout our shared experience as a community.
Therefore, in the beginning, I focused on exploring the meaning of the sacred feminine principle, from which a majority of us are disconnected. Awakening to the sacred feminine meant to awaken to the sentient capacity, or the vulnerability of the heart wounds, that is activated in the interaction with the other.
Our resistance to opening up to vulnerability was considerable because of its connection to feelings of shame and fear. However, as we would later corroborate, opening ourselves to all this also connected us to joy, creativity, love, a sense of belonging, compassion, and dignity; aspects that undoubtedly had a positive influence on our feminine empowerment.
Thus, we began to focus on ourselves and on our own feminine center in order to liberate our instincts, passions, mind, and the feelings that we had repressed because of our identification with a subjective way of understanding the women’s liberation movement and other ideology-laden social projections.
In our attempt to attain the same victories as men, we had adopted masculine behavior patterns that, unconsciously, we considered more valid, thus undermining the power of our own femininity.
Actually, after this identification, we hid our resistance to connect with a deep wound, based on a poor relationship between the masculine and feminine principles. The first thing we discovered was the extent to which we had rejected and relegated our feminine nature. Even, our external appearance testified to that. We avoided dressing or looking in a distinctly feminine way in an attempt to protect our vulnerability.
In the protected space of the circles, among all the voices, we started to distinguish the emotions, thoughts, and desires that had been clamoring for our attention. We consciously immersed ourselves in profound feelings of guilt that emerged due to experiences of abortions, separations, the practice of free love, or submissive relationships disguised under a more liberal appearance.
All this emerged to the surface as if it were an explosion, because the support and the mirror effect that emerges in a group container helped us to honor and validate our conscious and unconscious feminine attributes. Whenever a woman touched the contents buried deep inside her, we all connected with her, resonating with our own contents and awakening them. As we started to express our feelings with spontaneity and openness, anxiety and control defenses started to lessen.
Sharing our intimacy in this way generated much energy and determination in the group. Our ties became stronger as we consciously opened to spaces of vulnerability and mourning. The introspective work that we carried out revealed behavior patterns with which most of us were identified and behind which, ultimately, lay the sorrow of a wound partly caused by our poor relationship with our fathers; representatives of a patriarchal society that had depreciated the value of women.
In most cases, the father figure had not acknowledged our feminine nature, which had contributed to our feeling of not being supported by them. This impoverished bond was the origin of our bad relationship with our masculine side, which we would then project into our relationship with men in general.
Faced with the pain caused by this wound, some of the women took refuge in weakness, passivity, and dependence on men. Others hid their tenderness, fragility, vulnerability, and feminine feelings by identifying with the masculine side. In the latter case, women were trying to take control of their lives by denying their creativity, spontaneity, and vitality.
Moving towards healing implied appreciating and retrieving our rejected aspects. Some needed to abandon their victim image and regain the strength that lay inside them. For others, it was essential to release control and accept their weakness. Ultimately, we needed to embrace both opposites in ourselves: strength and weakness.
Once we understood the nature of our wounds and we accepted them, we could recover many disowned inner contents. Moving toward healing opened ourselves to feeling compassion for ourselves, as well as to a new awareness that favored including the other; as a reflection of those aspects that we were including and integrating within us.
This movement toward awakening brought us face to face with the consequences of all that we had not assumed. The more we deepened, the more intensely we could feel the violation of our rights in our own bodies.
However, we understood that the attack did not come only from the opposite sex. We realized that we were also responsible, out of our own difficulty in honoring our feminine body and feelings. Gradually, we began to become aware that a man’s lack of respect for us originated in our own lack of respect for ourselves. On many occasions, we had renounced aspects, feelings, and fundamental needs of our feminine essence to be accepted by the trend of the moment.
As we descended within ourselves, we started to activate very deep areas to which we had not had access before. The moment we opened Pandora’s box, we initiated an uncomfortable process characterized by a great emotional chaos. We also came across an element that most of us had repressed: rage. Our disconnection from this powerful energy was the cause of the lack of emotional strength in many of us. In most cases, anger was directed inward and manifested itself in the form of bodily symptoms, addictions, depression, anxiety, or obsessive guilt, for example.
Faced with this situation, I encouraged a practice oriented to express this energy. Sometimes, unable to contain the emotions that awoke, these were projected out in different ways. However, at first, it was essential to become aware of the existence of such emotions to avoid the death in life that some of us were experiencing.
Some other women had no difficulty in taking out their anger against those around them, thus hurting them. As their rage was not conscious, it manifested itself, above all, in an attack on their partners. However, anger hid feelings of vulnerability as well as the possibility of tenderness and intimacy. Learning to channel the anger adequately contributed to access a very powerful energy that helped to release their feminine potential.
To the extent that each woman could integrate her separated parts, the energies previously contained, disconnected, or repressed, found a way of expression that generated an unstoppable movement of creativity and strength. Such a movement influenced the community and its environment in a positive way.
It should be noted that, in the course of this process, an important part in the transformation of consciousness consisted of taking back the reactions that our own projections had unleashed. Opening to them was medicine that would help us to take responsibility for our personal emotions. All this contributed to integrating them effectively as we started to assume their effects.
This healing process has been slow because it put us in contact with very deep wounds that were buried in the collective psyche. The result of the metamorphosis that took place in our circles led us to find a new definition of ourselves from a more feminine perspective.
Our biggest challenge was to accept ourselves with our light and our shadow aspects, but also to not try to get rid of our wounds, which are in fact a part of our experience. For this reason, it was necessary to learn to accept and live with them, integrating what they contained. Despite the challenge, this opened new possibilities for healing.
At the same time, we entered in contact with our creative energy, often relegated by ideologies, beliefs, limitations, and complexes, as well as by our identification with the masculine energy. In this period of encounter with our feminine nature, many of us had access to our maternal instinct that, in some cases, was dormant and even denied.
Many of us got pregnant as a result of our connecting to the life-giving energy. Others gave birth, not physically, but to a new awareness of themselves, which they devoted to the service of life. It was a time marked by unstoppable creativity and vitality, since we felt driven by the need to rescue the life that we had lost with the passage of time. We women focused on awakening our inner fire or feminine consciousness, which made us remember our place and responsibility in the times in which women held the connection with Mother Earth.
This powerful energy took us to co-creating, together with our partners, the physical materialization of the community. The process was unstoppable. In just two years we built our homes, designed the gardens and green areas, and opened a hotel and a restaurant. This time was full of magic, enthusiasm, solidarity, love, and creativity, qualities that are embedded in the physical environment of the community.
Ultimately, the protected space of the circles favored the awareness of the feminine values that we had excluded, such as the maternal and protective instinct, compassion, tenderness, forgiveness, or reconciliation. However, it would not have been possible to reconnect with these qualities without an integrative and inclusive relationship with their opposites, what in psychological terms is known as the shadow of the feminine or the negative feminine, which translates into a possessive or controlling behavior.
In fact, we had acted being moved by this negative aspect out of our identification with a pattern of behavior that equaled femininity with weakness, in resonance with a patriarchal perspective. As a result, we tried to avoid negative emotions such as anger, shame, insecurity, fear, or anxiety, which enveloped our wounded woman.
Gradually, we understood the need to honor and fully own our feminine shadow in order to empower ourselves and access our creative capacity. Otherwise, the shadow would continue acting from the unconscious, impacting negatively on those around us.
Supported by the inner work undertaken in the circles we came to embody a deep and genuine sense of confidence in our own identity and the way we expressed it outside. Likewise, we learned to listen to the wisdom of our bodies through energetic practices that consolidated our feminine presence. Body awareness was supplemented by psychological practices that stopped our negative emotional and mental habits.
At that time, it was also essential to focus on achieving a balance between our desire to be seen and our fear to be seen. Throughout this period of learning and practice, the circles provided a safe environment in which we gave and received mutual care and support, ingredients that underpinned our empowerment process as we applied the accomplishments of the circles to our everyday life.
After observing the positive transformation that women of Amalurra experienced driven by the power of the circles, I would like to encourage other women to gather in circles and work on recovering their forgotten aspects, their feelings, their gifts, their vocation, and everything that we do not dare to experience for fear of rejection or abandonment, but above all for fear of feeling that our inner power is able to transform the world.
Currently, fear keeps many women isolated from others because they are afraid of feeling the fire that fills their inner space. They are afraid of being taken by the force of the spirit and put it in the service of a collective good.
However, I believe that to advance toward a global transformation, or a new form of human culture, we need to awaken and expand wisdom and compassion, essential attributes of the feminine aspect of humanity.
Amalurra: Manifesting a Vision for the Next Generations
20 years ago, Irene Goikolea began to share her impulse to regain the feminine aspects in her circles of women in Basque country. Later she would facilitate circles of men. After a time, the circles became mixed. The desire to live in community emerged as a long cherished dream and they started giving shape to a shared project of life, whose intention has been to devote their individual and group healing processes to the healing of the collective soul and trans-generational wounds of their people. These wounds are the result of traumatic events that the Basque country has gone through, such as the witch-hunts conducted by the Inquisition in the 17th century, and the bombing of the Basque town of Guernika in 1937, during the Spanish Civil war.
The community Amalurra in Euskal Herria was the first to materialize on a piece of land that they acquired in 1993. Irene, alma mater of the community, achieved a level of unity among the participants in this project and with her contagious enthusiasm, transmitted an impulse that began to take shape on the certainty that, as she says, “it is possible to achieve a desire that comes from our heart if we are able to face with honesty the challenges that every impulse of this kind triggers.” She also coordinated and facilitated individual and group processes so that the difficulties inherent in this initiative did not block the movement towards the realization of an impulse that resonated with everyone who embarked on this adventure.
Little by little, they restored the derelict buildings of the previous inhabitants of the property: a German religious order of priests, called the Holy Family. They prepared their homes and the land, working for the recovery of an abandoned place. They planted more than 4,000 indigenous trees. As Irene says, “This was an attempt to cover the Earth with her traditional costume as well as to connect and honor the knowledge that she contains.”
They also built some sacred spaces, such as a stone circle, an underground meditation hall, or a temascal. Later, they constructed a hostel and a dining hall, which would become a rural hotel and a restaurant, respectively. These facilities are a platform for the practice and development of cooperative work.
While the first community was materializing, Irene began to facilitate two other groups, one in Granada, in the south of Spain, and the other one in Catalonia, in the east. Some time later, and on the basis of their individual and collective processes, each of these groups formed an intentional community.
Currently, the three communities altogether are made up by 150 of us, including adults, youth and children. All the members of the community are nationals. At the moment, there is only one member from another nationality. In the community of Euskal Herria, 8 of its 13 families have been there from the beginning. In the other two communities, most of them have been there from the beginning too.
The 3 communities share the same purpose and management. Irene is the founder and Elder. She sustains and guards the spirit, information and “common vision” of the project. She also takes care of harmony between individual and collective rhythms and needs, paying attention to the dynamics that occur in the group, the influence processes, governance and power sharing as well as of all the relational framework, participation, distribution of responsibilities and expansion of the project.
In each community, there are working groups or commissions that are in charge of organizational charts, tasks, regulations, statutes or other explicit membership rules like quotas or commitments etc. Decisions are taken in circles in which each member participates and expresses their opinions, feelings, ideas, etc. The final decision is taken on the basis of its contribution to the good of the collective in accordance with the current moment and circumstances of the community.
Every relevant sector in the development of the community is managed by a team that has a person in charge of it. For example, there are commissions for the restaurant (kitchen, serving), gardening, vegetable gardens, maintenance, construction, communication, media, etc.
Each family lives in their own apartment. Some people work in the community and get paid for that (the cook of the restaurant, for example). The rest has a job outside the community. Saturday is a day to share activities relevant for the development and maintenance of the community. Everybody participates in it as a way of contributing to, and receiving from, this form of selfless service.
We share many other activities and practices that nurture the body, the mind, the heart and the spirit: yoga, dance, sacred songs, daily meditation, rituals, celebrations.
The hotel and restaurant in the communities of the Basque country and Granada are a way to share our experience with other people. We have also suitable halls and spaces that we rent to people that organize courses in the facilities of the community like yoga, biodance, painting, or others that meet there like psychologists, coaching, sport groups, painting groups, etc. The money of the business goes to the outgoings of the hotel and restaurant, to new projects and also to support some NGOs we participate with.
Every 3 months, all the people that make up the whole Amalurra project gather in a retreat that Irene facilitates. Most of the participants live in one of the three communities. Some others do not but are part of Amalurra and participate in its activities in different ways.
The retreats are an opportunity to deal with a topic that is common to all members of Amalurra, and especially it is an opportunity to reconnect with the spirit, consciousness or impulse that encouraged the materialization of the communities. This is a way to connect to the information and purpose of the project, to share experiences, feelings, deepen in oneself, and expand the “we” space so that others get inspired from its intelligence. Every two months Irene also facilitates workshops open to everybody that is interested in awakening to consciousness on the platform of daily life.
The women circles are really important for us. We meet every full moon and invite friends and other women that are interested in sharing this experience. Men also gather on new moon nights. Sometimes we celebrate mixed circles.
In the three communities, children, young people and adults make up a unity in which everyone is recognized and has their place, out of which they are a contribution to the whole, at the same time that they are nurtured by it. The community supports and protects any member who is in difficulty of any kind until their situation improves. Almost all the adults and youth of the community participate in an NGO encouraged by Amma.
Amalurra´s Community site: www.amalurra.org
Irene Goikolea: www.irenegoikolea.es