meet lotte, floris and isa
In 2016 we were travelling in our campervan with a dream of driving all around Europe to find a more fulfilling way of living. Benfeita, in Central Portugal, was one of the first places we discovered and we basically never left.
After a life changing meditation retreat and finding out that we were expecting a child, we decided to stay and live together with another family on their land. After two turbulent years which included a major forest fire where we lost our self-build nomadic yurt, we found our own piece of paradise to care for and settle, a piece that we came to call Vale do Ulmeiro, valley of the Elm tree.
We have been together since 2012 and are originally from Holland. We led a completely different kind of life in the city (Floris worked in IT and Lotte in the cultural and environment sector) where we seemingly had it all.
We soon discovered that we were not completely satisfied and that something seemed to be missing from our lives. The idea was born to go on this adventure to see how other people were living. We would never have guessed this journey would take us to where we are now!
Since our arrival in Benfeita, we have been closely involved in the Sangha of the Awakened Life Project, a spiritual community dedicated to the evolution of consciousness and culture in communion with the ecological web of life. Together with other Sangha members we discover, through the mens and womens collective and the Sangha meetings, what that means in everyday life.
We attend weekly online meetings, monthly gatherings and yearly retreats, where we explore what this life is about and who we truly are underneath the layers of conditioning that are keeping us bound to our often not so happy lives. What is left is a unique authentic manifestation of the one consciousness that we all always already are.
Over the last five years Floris has set up a Project in building Rocket Mass Heaters and Lotte opened a Second Hand clothing shop. We spend much of our free time working on the land, building facilities and gardening as well as doing online work. Meditation, spiritual practice, contemplation and sharing, body movement, vegetarian cooking and spending time with our daughter and the animals in nature is part of our everyday life.
We are in the beginning phase of making our beautiful piece of land into a home. Our dream is to live there together with other people in a conscious, transparent and joyful way. How this will look like will unfold over time and is no way fixed. Right now we are creating spaces and facilities that support that dream.
The Project’s Vision
Our Dream for living in Communion
Our dream is to live together “Under the Elm” with other people in a conscious, transparent and joyful way. We all know it is not always easy to be and live together. We understand that we are all deeply conditioned human beings with habits and patterns that are shaping our life. We have endeavoured on a journey to discover who we truly are beyond all of those limiting ideas and to live in Love, as Love, in each and every moment. Not denying anything of the human experience, and at the same time knowing who we are beyond any experience, is living in Freedom. In our experience, this exploration takes a lot of courage and humility. The courage to take risks, make mistakes and step out of our comfort zone and the humility to admit that we don’t know nor understand everything.
Is this for you?
We are interested in living with people that want to explore and discover this with us while living in a communal setting with shared meals, conversations, contemplations, meditation, working together and much more that is yet to be discovered! We are in the beginning phase of making our beautiful piece of land suitable to live, with houses, communal facilities and gardens.
Since 2019 we are the guardians of this beautiful two hectare piece of land in the mountains of Central Portugal. It has a long flat strip of land in an otherwise steep valley next to a small river that is ideal for growing vegetables and all sorts of trees. There are mature oaks, chestnuts, wild cherry trees, walnuts, and lots of elderberries. The land has three chist ruins that are being renovated and terraces with olive and fruit trees. See more pictures on Instagram and Facebook.
Over the last three years we created gardens and harvested many vegetables and some fruit. We’ve built a greenhouse and planted many fruit trees in the valley. On the steep slopes we had a massive tree planting weekend to reforest the mountain sides with native species and to get rid of the eucalyptus and burnt pines. In 2020 we started rebuilding a small ruin for us to live in.
Although the land is quite hidden, it is in the midst of a lively community of people from all over the world. It is close to the Awakened Life Project Ashram. Our daughter Isa attends an alternative educational project called ‘Folha Verde’ which is a 10 minute walk away on a historical trail called “caminho do Xisto”. There are two small villages close by and there are usually lots of events in the area.
The Elm Tree
In the centre of the Quinta, on the valley floor, stands an incredibly beautiful Elm Tree. This tree has become the center, and a very special symbol, of this land. Elm trees have been more rare since the Dutch Elm disease wiped out a lot of them in the 1930’s. When the seeds develop, before the leaves come out in spring time, the tree has the most magnificent bright green color and we have been sitting many hours in meditation, contemplation and just in awe under it’s long low branches that seem to embrace you while you sit under them.
We have intuitively felt the sacredness of this tree and when we began to research the history of Elm trees and their symbolic meanings it made total sense to us. It is said in old folklore that the tree is a gateway to the underworld and represents clear vision and prophecy and is named ‘tree of justice’ because judges would sit under it in contemplation. It was also seen as a magical tree, bringing order to chaos, courage to the fearful, and solutions to those facing difficulties. It’s been planted in front of churches and houses as a good omen. And people used to gather under the Elm to meditate, which we continue to do.
Earthen floor & Natural Plastering – Carpentry – Beautifying & Maintenance land – Wedding prep
Summer Season 2022
This years goals
This summer (May-Oktober) will be a very special one for us as we are organizing our wedding on the land that will take place in September! A lot of work will go into finishing the outside cob-kitchen we have built last year (plastering and carpentry) so that we can use it to cook delicious food for the wedding and we want to finish our tiny xisto house (mainly carpentry), so that we can finally move to the Land permanently. Other goals are to beautify the land, cutting firewood, land maintenance, garden work and anything that goes into preparing our land for the wedding!
Our main goal is to live our lives in prior happiness and freedom in relationships and to co-create life from that place of passion that is inherent to Freedom. From that place we will manifest the following as best we can.
Our goals for this summer are::
- Finishing our naturally built outdoor kitchen.
- Finishing our renovated tiny house and moving in.
- Preparing and hosting our wedding.
If this inspires you please consider coming and co-create with us!
Come and Be with us this summer (volunteering)
We are looking for people to come to live and work with us this summer between May and October. We are looking for people that are not only interested in the kind of work, but more importantly in the way of living and getting to know our projects and values. To be with us is more than a work exchange and that is why we don’t like the word ‘volunteer’ very much. We, Floris and Lotte, will give everything we have, to set and keep a context of happiness, joy and truth, which includes not holding back when we feel contracted and when there are ‘messy’ things that need to be addressed. In order to live in a community, based on freedom and trust, we have to go through things if and when they arise and everyone has to be willing to face their fears and deep patterning, including us. We are not perfect! Nobody is, and yet we are! What this seeming paradox means is that fundamentally there is nothing wrong with any part of any of us yet we are all conditioned human beings, at times (seemingly) trapped in our own mind and repetitive behavior. What we can help you and each other see is that we are never trapped and always already Free. This is the work we have been doing for several years within The Awakened Life Project. Freedom and Happiness come before any- and everything and that is what we want to live with you. We do not want to settle for anything less… Do you?
What you need to know
We will live in a community setting, sharing work, cooking and having meals together. If you stay with us for a considerable amount of time we require you to join the daily (guided) meditation sessions, sharing circles and conscious conversations. We feel that these practices are crucial for us all to be in touch with Truth. We can do exercise like yoga together and we hope to play, make music and laugh a lot!
We are open to anyone, singles, couples and families. We would like for people to commit to a longer period, so anything from 3 weeks onwards. The facilities are basic but the land is suitable for camping and, depending on the vehicle, small campervans. The communal main meals are included.
As we are quite secluded in a valley it is helpful to know that our dirt track going there is not very suitable for normal cars. You can either park and we pick you up (only for arriving and departing or when we can give you a lift) or you park your car and take a 20 min walk to the land. We will guide you to the land and it’s a beautiful walk on the old ‘camino de xisto’ walking trail.
We would like for everyone present to fully participate in the day to day life (including work, community tasks and practices). If, for whatever reason, this is not possible full-time for you, but you do want to stay with us, please get in touch to see if we can arrange another type of exchange.
In the summer of 2021 we hosted an intensive Natural Building Workshop together with Permaskills. In one month time we have built an outdoor kitchen with a xisto stone foundation, a roundwood timber frame and reciprocal roof, wattle and daub and cob walls and a cob pizza oven.
It was an amazing experience where we lived and worked together with 20 people on our land. Our project and our ideas came alive and we learned a lot about living in community, sharing work and life together.
Stay with us and help us finish our outdoor kitchen!
Permaskills teacher Robert Brendler, who guided building the kitchen last year will help us this week.
In this week we will:
* Build with cob. We will be plastering and making an earthen floor
* Make a start with carpentry projects in the kitchen
* Have meditation sessions in the morning if you want
* Live in community in our beautiful secluded valley
* Have 3 nourishing meals a day
If there is interest we can have talks in the evenings about Rocket Stoves (with Floris) and any part of Natural Building (with Robert).
Get in touch for any questions or to join us!
In the summer of 2021 we hosted an intensive Natural Building Workshop together with Permaskills. In one month we have built an outdoor kitchen with a xisto stone foundation, a roundwood timber frame and reciprocal roof, wattle and daub and cob walls and a cob pizza oven. It was an amazing experience where we lived and worked together with 20 people on our land. Our project and our ideas came alive and we learned a lot about living in community, sharing work and life together.
Send a Message
Phone & Email
+351 924 048 433
Benfeita, Arganil, Coimbra