Ecodharma Bearing Witness Pilgrimage to Germany,

May 8-12, 2024, by Svenja Wildflower Hollweg


The new retreat will be a pilgrimage in West Germany near the Dutch and Belgian border. We will visit places that are connected with the ecological crisis.

In this retreat, we will reconnect to the Earth and reflect on how we in our society treat our sacred environment. We will honor and celebrate the beauty of nature and feel and share how the ecological crises affect us.

We may end up with more questions than answers or solutions, but we will at least try to no longer look away. There will be space for multiple perspectives and inspirations and for the authentic experience and insights of each participant.

Not knowing, bearing witness and healing will be our three tenets and main practices, in the tradition of the Zen Peacemakers founded by Bernie Glassman Roshi. In this sense our approach will be similar to street retreats and bearing witness retreats. Ingredients of the retreat will be visiting ecodharmic places, meeting with people connected to the ecocrises, connecting with nature, meditation, rituals and council circles (talking stick circles). For more backgrounds on the Ecoretreat and Bearing Witness, see here:

Ecoretreat, foto Harry Aaldering

The program

Wednesday May 8thwe will gather in the evening for a potluck dinner, an introduction to each other, to the program and to the themes of the retreat and we will have a first sharing circle.

Thursday May 9th we will spend time at the Hambach opencast lignite mine and activists who are committed to the preservation of nature and the villages in the Rhenish lignite mining area and continue to campaign for an end to the climate-damaging production of electricity from lignite by the energy company RWE

Friday May 9-10 we will visit the German airbase Nörvenich. Until 2026, Nörvenich will serve as an alternative base for the Tornado fighter aircraft of Tactical Air Wing 33 from Büchel airbase, which will be used to deliver the nuclear bombs kept in Büchel to their targets in the event of war. Then we travel further to the village of Schuld in the Ahr Valley, which was strongly damaged by floods in July 2021. There we will spend the night.

Saturday May 11th we will walk along the Ahr river from Schuld in the direction to Altenahr for about 10 km. Along the way, we will visit buildings damaged by the flood, talk with residents about their experiences and find places to eat and sleep. We will spend the evening and the night at a place near Ahrbrück.

Sunday May 12th, we will continue our walk to Altenahr and finish our program in the beginning of the afternoon.

Altenahr 2023, foto Harry Aaldering

The program of the retreat, the food and sleeping accommodations will not all be prepared before the retreat, only rough ideas and some accommodations that we visited before. For the rest we will trust in our own creativity, cocreation, inventivity and meeting friendly people who will help us find our way. We will practice long distance walking and use public transports.

Series of events

The international group of meditation practitioners and Zen Peacemakers who are organizing this pilgrimage consists of Svenja Wildflower Hollweg, Dieter Mueller and Patrick Avalokiteshvara van der Hofstad.

This pilgrimage is a next activity in a series of earlier events. In August 2022 we held an Ecoretreat in Lützerath in the Spirit of the Zen Peacemakers. The village in the Rhenish Brown coal area was destinated to make way for the huge lignite mining operations. The residents had already been bought out, but climate activists were still occupying the village and the woods nearby. After a big demonstration on Saturday and a clash with the police, eventually on Sunday January 15, 2023 the village was evacuated by the police. On April 30, 2023 we returned to Lützerath with a small group for a day of reflection. In September 2023 we hiked for a weekend in the Ahrtal valley, which had been destroyed by floods in July 2021- a first eco-pilgrimage. On January 14, 2024 we returned to Lützerath again to gather with activists and perform Buddhist ceremonies for the 1 year commemoration of the eviction.

Practical information:

  • Dates: 8.5 until 12.5.2023
  • Location: Buir, near Hambach opencast lignite mine and other ecodharmic places in the region, Nörvenich, Ahrtal
  • Participants: no minimum, maximum 20
  • Language: English (although meetings with people may be in German and will be translated for whoever needs it)
  • Costs: we estimate 250€ – 300€ for transports, food and lodging along the way during the pilgrimage, please consider making a donation to support participants with limited financial resources
  • If you have concerns or physical limitations, just talk to us, we will look for possibilities that are suitable for you.
  • People who are interested in participating in the retreat can send an e-mail to

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