Often I get asked how and why I set up Artisa Retreat.
The desire for a center in Greece has been dormant for a long time, without being consciously aware of it. Looking back gives the illusion of a clear path mapped out, where it was a search into unknown territory, a moving with the wind that brings the sailboat at its place of destination.
I still remember the first time I arrived in Greece like it was yesterday. It was 1982 and I was blessed with 3 months traveling ahead of me, hitchhiking alone and with friends. Entering the country I was struck by the light, the sea in all imaginable colors of blue and green, the rugged coastline, the people, the hospitality, the food, the rhythm of life. It was love at first sight. I traveled two months through the country, visiting a couple of islands. It felt like coming home. Yes, one day I would love to live here ….
In the Netherlands I just had stopped with a frustrating study psychology. What I did not find at the university I found in dance, mime and voice work. After an intensive selection year I was admitted to the dance teachers faculty at the theater school in Amsterdam.
Study and work
My life became like a pendulum between ‘science’ and creativity. After working one year as a dance teacher I decided to go back to university and obtained a masters degree in organizational psychology. As a teenager I was touched by seeing many people filling a large part of their life with work they didn’t like, they were complaining about and that wasn’t meaningful.
In high school and during the first years of my psychology study I had experienced how depressing it can be to do something in which you cannot develop your talents. I wanted to encourage people to be authentic and create a life that would be meaningful and lovable.
After my masters I almost immediately found work as an independent facilitator for leaders in business organizations and the Dutch Police Academy. In this work I could give my passion and inspiration partially. I often felt the limitations from organizations and from people who only wanted to participate to a certain extent.
Retreat and renewal
Fortunately, I already had experienced how important it is to build islands of space, time and tranquility, away from your daily life. Islands where I could create the conditions to allow new things to happen. So I met Michael Barnett on a weekend training, which eventually led to two years living and working in Energy world, at that time his center in France. He brought me in touch with another reality in which there is a connection with everything and I experienced trust, energy, confidence and acceptance, allowing to happen what needs to happen.
Besides my work and being a mother, this need to express myself creatively continued. The dance gave way to painting.
Moving to Greece
A few years later, after my daughter was living on her own, I could follow that voice, which I’d heard years ago. To explore how it is to live close to the Mediterranean sea. Initially Athens became the place to be. Without partner and without job it was for many a remarkable step. Work wise there were very few satisfying possibilities. In the beginning I often asked myself why I was in Greece and what I was supposed to do.
Those first months alone in this million colossus, trying to create a home and searching for meaningful and paid employment were challenging… But something inside me told me that I had to be here. Every time the plane landed on Greek soil it felt like coming home. With open windows driving into the night, the cicadas singing, smells of thyme, oregano and trubi, sounds of the Greek rebetika from taverns with welcoming food, exuberance and melancholy … and especially the light and the natural daily rhythm.
Meanwhile I started facilitating silent retreats in Greece and I examined the possibility of giving personal leadership training in Greece. I definitely wanted to work with someone together and craved for building a company with a soulmate. It led to collaboration with different people, we did nice projects together but it was never a long lasting covenant … we were too much the same or there was too much difference in vision and ambition or the person was already working with someone else…
During a silent retreat I met Louise Thoonen. There was a match. She had a dream that awakened my desire and brought the idea of a center in a different perspective. She wanted to set up an academic writers retreat, I a place for learning and creativity. We decided to join forces and to put her initial idea into a wider context. Except for science we also wanted to make space for the arts and personal / spiritual development. It was the beginning of Artisa. After months of searching for a suitable location in a circle of two hours around Athens fate brought us to … Ancient Epidavros. In ancient times the center of healing and art …. How fitting.
During one year, we made all preparations and developed our first programs: retreats for scientists, for artists, PhD writing weeks, sabbaticals and a silent retreat. Right from the opening of Artisa in Autumn 2011, we welcomed our first guests.
What had been separate worlds for me, the cognitive/ academic, arts and spirituality could be united. United in a place where the beautiful, the true and the good can exist with each other and inspire each other. An approach that focuses on inner and outer, on me and we, body, feelings, mind and soul. A place where people can be authentic and where conditions are provided to create and get the best out of themselves, where one can learn and celebrate life.
In 2013, it appeared that it was not Louise’s fate to run a center. Again I was faced with the decision to go on by myself or … Apparently it was meant to be … By saying yes to my fate the fate of Artisa continues … And I’m so grateful for that.
With committed facilitators, enthusiastic, regularly returning guests and new participants we are building an inspiring community and a fertile place for creations and learning experiences. Artisa, a place that feeds you – creatively, socially, spiritually and physically.