Values of the Kalavan Retreat Center©™

I've always felt that an authentic community would be one built primarily on shared ideals instead of the convenience of proximity or familiarity. Who do you share your identity with most strongly? The people who happened to be born in the same country as you? The people you are most closely genetically linked to?

The Kalavan Retreat Center seeks heroic and exceptional souls who understand why we are doing what we do here. More than nation, race, or the circumstances of your birth in any form, we believe it is the values you align yourself with and what you do with the gift of life that defines you. The strongest tribes are those with the strongest reasons to unite and co-identify.

Here's where we stand on what's most important to uphold for the future of Armenia and humanity:

Value #1: Fullest, Authentic Self-Expression

Global society is overrun with suppressive cultural, emotional, physical, and intellectual forces that prevent people from fully discovering and embodying themselves. Armenia, in particular, specializes in fear, shame, and insecurity as its tools to hinder young people's full emotional and intellectual development. It seems like almost everyone here is worried about the consequences of pursuing their passions and living the way they want, free from the baggage of their country's past and expectations.

A key component of valuing full, authentic self-expression is never inhibiting it in others. Otherwise, you are just a self-serving narcissist or megalomaniac seeking to expand your own expression at the cost of everyone else's. Any crime committed against another person could be seen as an attempt at stifling their will and consciousness. Anything forced onto others or created by manipulating them has robbed them of the opportunity to be themselves and make the best choices for who they are and what they value. It's another way of saying that your rights end where mine begin, and vice versa. Do unto others as you would have done unto you. More importantly, do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you. Full self-expression taken as a total concept naturally leads into mutual respect.

Value #2: Mutual Respect

Expression is a two-way street called respect. If you value your own self-expression, it means you don't want anyone impeding it with force or manipulation. You don't want anyone to suppress you and stop you from being who you really are. Logically, you have to extend that same courtesy to everyone around you. You cannot pressure others to live in accordance with your values. You cannot shame them for living differently than you do if it is an expression of who they really are. You cannot break the agreements you make with others without appropriate recourse or allow them to break the ones they make with you. You must defend yourself and others against attempts to interfere with the development of genuine values and personality.

If mutual respect cannot be established and maintained, people cannot interact with one another peacefully. You can only be as good to others as they are to you. We do not bow to ideological pressures to live or think a certain way, and we do not exert any on other people. We choose who to be, and we support and defend others in every way so that they can do the same.

Value #3: Radical Self-Inquiry

Every authentic choice stems from our awareness of who we are and what we want. Inauthentic choices are the result of not knowing ourselves well. We default to the values, customs, and opinions of the people around us. It does no good to try to avoid the problem by covering up real self-knowledge with platitudes, distractions, or easy answers to difficult questions. In other words: You can't fully express yourself until you know who you are. And you can't know who you are without being willing to deeply inquire into the matter. There is no single, unilateral path to finding the answer, but you certainly can't give up easily or give in to dogma.

We embrace a variety of spiritual, philosophical, and scientific tools for uncovering self-knowledge. We don't define our community by adherence to a particular path or methodology. If it works, keep doing it so long as it works. If it stops, try something else. Our point of view is that self-discovery is such a long, difficult, yet essential process that people should be willing to undertake any effort that yields valid results, so long as it can be done ethically and responsibly. The moment you start criticizing for not following the same approach that worked for you is the moment you've started missing the point.

Value #4: Lifelong Learning and Teaching

We believe in learning and adaptation as a core strength of humanity. No person is limited to their starting conditions in life or to what our culture happened to influence us to be comfortable with. If we don't know how to do something that needs to be done, we can learn how to do it through the influence of others, self-study, or basic trial and error. We trust in our ability to learn as we go and pass on what we learn to others for everyone's benefit. Self-imposed limitations like "I'm too old for this" or "I'm not good at this kind of thing" have no place here.

Everyone is both a teacher and a student, and one of the best ways to reinforce or improve your own knowledge is to pass it on to others. Everyone grows as a result. Just by living here, everyone has the opportunity to improve their critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication. The environment offers endless opportunities to experiment with new hobbies, skills, and ways of doing things. A rural homesteading lifestyle basically guarantees that something will always need fixing, building, or solving. Our extensive instructional library is available to those who prefer to read by learning. Our educational workshops offer a more intimate face-to-face approach to learning. And our workshop tools are available for anyone who wants to learn how to use them.

Value #5: International Community Building

Community ceased to be a localized phenomenon as soon as it became feasible for people to traverse great distances of land or sea. In the age of the internet and round-the-world flights, we appreciate how convenient it is to associate with people who share our values no matter where they are. Though our location makes it appropriate for us to focus our efforts on the people who live in or visit Armenia, we are always looking to collaborate with similar community models anywhere on Earth. Home is where you are most appreciated, and that shouldn't have to be a single location.

We hope that sharing our values here and inviting others into our home will allow others to decide if we are the type of people they want to invite into their homes, too. We are very open to the opportunities that international community building will bring us and others. Armenia, especially, stands to gain from greater international influence and interaction with the rest of the world. Its exclusionary perspective does not serve the people's long-term interest. We hope to open the nation up a bit to the benefits of collaboration and diversification. 

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