Dear Listeners, welcome to a special joint episode between Beyond Asian and The HubCast - my newest podcast project on co-living in an intentional community in Berlin.
This episode features Sylvie Shiwei Barbier, the co-founder of Life Itself - an organization striving for a radically wiser world. Our interview takes us on a journey from Sylvie’s Taiwanese-French origins to the role of suffering in growth, to home and belonging, to founding Life Itself and the Hubs.
We finish with a lightning round on The Hub Knock Life - an up close and personal sharing of day to day life in the Bergerac.
Chapter 4: The Hub Knock Life
Sylvie: I think people don't really realize how harsh I am on myself, and That's a little girl in me that seeks for approval and appreciation And that I'm still working on not needing that.
Sen: We're talking about community practices and I'm curious, what's one community practice for you that you can't live without
Sylvie: in the morning. We have a cleaning for 30 minutes every day. I think it's my food and we put loud music. I love it so much because I love cleaning in general. So I love having a place where we live together. It's pretty, it's clean and. Just say I love it. I know it sounds really ridiculous, you know, sometimes you see films of in Buddhist, Japanese monk sweeping the floor or going back and forth.
And I used to look at it being like, Oh my God, what a dictator? And what an impression I'm like, no, this is so
Sen: awesome. And you get a clean space at the
Sylvie: end of it. It's functional. Yeah. Yeah.
Sen: And when you think about, I obviously all days are unique and different, but when you think about what the perfect day looks like for you in your community, what is that?
Sylvie: Probably gradually get out of bed. Because I'm not a morning person. So that's why morning cleaning it's even nicer for me, because it really gives me a motivation to get out of bed and come down. And I see all those smiley half awake and some really energetic face ready for today.
And we put the music and we start to feel like we're operating as one body red and many individuals and starting to say, like that is really fulfilling. And then we prepared we chopped together the vegetables, and while we chop the vegetables, we crack jokes and laugh about one another. And then off we go with our day and
also having moments with my kid and seeing him in the community is such a delight. What he brings to the community, that kind of sense of being a child, but also future, I think having various generation I has been really wonderful because it feels real, not isolated from the rest of life, that there is a life of a one-year old and there is a life of a 60 something year old.
And there are the, different experience and rhythm and wisdom. But it's lovely to then finish the day and. preparing dinner where people hang out and we talk. And so throughout the day, if there's something I need to clear myself with, I have someone to talk to.
I think Also for me, they would be a great dimension of authenticity during the day that if there's an upset with someone that, that gets cleared out or a noticing my own anxiety coming up and. Not let it ride me. I think someone else would tell you they would definitely be, an hour meditation in the morning and in the evening, but I'm just not a big meditation I'm saying yes, because I'm open to it.
Yes. I'm available. We have the Buddha nature and we're not awakened yet. But yeah, it's a great sense of belonging and trust just that people will really want to get you and support you. And then we are in this together. Even with our differences, sometime we have differences.
When we're in it together.
I think a part of life itself is to recognize the contribution of the past generation that has given us the present that we have and to be grateful for it. However it is that it is perfect the way it is with all its imperfection. And there is a future who wants to become that.
We don't know what it is yet, and it is gradually now our role to look after both our past our parents and to look after our future so that they have the space to become.
And of course, all of that is very embodied in the fact that you have your one-year-old son living there and you're thinking Will he live in this community when he's older.
Will He live in such a community like this,
Sylvie: in the future. Yeah. I think for me, it's more like, my role is to get out of the way. So he has the space to become who he is already, He is already there and I just need to get out of the way so he can find out who he is.
Sen: a lot of it is just getting out of the way
again, with the sculpture analogy thing, everything that doesn't belong.
Sen: A short question with a short answer. What is your biggest pet peeve at your hub?
Sylvie: My one
Sen: pet peeve is something that's like little and annoying. Like everyone has a pet peeve. My pet peeve is when people don't do that
Sylvie: would the thing that gets me really annoyed.
There must be many of it
that other people do. Yeah.
Sen: Yeah. Things that, you're just like, you know what, this has always annoyed me and I can't really change that. It will always annoy me those little
Sylvie: things. I think when things get moved around, You know, you leave something there and it's not there and you don't know where it is anymore.
And you're like, I fucking left it there. I can't find it. I think that's probably right. Yeah. Especially because you live in such a big space and you have to go looking everywhere for it using something and they didn't ask you before. But it's me having to have a breakthrough in my individualist.
Oh, I can
Sen: relate to this one so much. It's like when I lend things to the public for the common usage and they don't come back to me or Pieces of them get lost. Like I have a projector and someone board it and the lens cap got lost
Sylvie: and I was just like, Oh, take care of my stuff, yes, it's mine.
Yes, exactly. It's mine. And that's so
Sen: interesting, because I noticed myself doing them. It's just a projector, what is belonging? And and yet I have this like feeling of ownership over it.
Sylvie: Yeah. One thing I have is I have a mug that I got from Taiwan to relight and I don't like it so much when other people use it, but I fought well, the best way to do about it is to only have pretty mugs in the house.
So I don't have a sense that I don't want to use the ugly mug who took my pretty mug if all the mugs are prettied and I don't mind that other people take the pretty mug because all of them are pretty.
Sen: I like the way that you think could also be like, remove the pretty mug and then everyone's got the plain mug and then we don't think about it anymore,
Sylvie: but I like your way better.
It's much more artistic.
Sen: Who's the best cook.
Sylvie: Depends who you have in the hub, but I am supposed to say. I would say I have to say it's funny. He right. Cause she's, as in shift, I would say . There's a best coat. Yeah. Then Charlie's pretty good. Liam's pretty good. I mean, We have pretty good coats in the house, I would say, but by these is no vitamin D is definitely the best job.
She makes us biscuits and dessert and everything's vegan and like perfectly balanced and pretty, of course she's the best chef. Why am I even hesitating?
Sen: Sometimes I have the sense that the hub is like a spaceship. In the sense that on a spaceship, you have your crew members and you live and you work with them and you're so interdependent on each other. And on the spaceship, you know, visit different planets and you go on little missions and there are people that you meet who are outside of your spaceship.
And on the spaceship you have your official. Role. And then you have your unofficial role when you're like off hours. So I often think that my official role on this spaceship is something like science officer. Because that's my background, I'm like the analytical person. I'm like, let's think about everything and, Weigh the pros and cons of it. and like very braining and my unofficial role is like clown. And I wonder what your official role and your unofficial role would be in your spaceship?
Sylvie: My official and on the official
I think I am somewhat because I'm an anxious nature a bit and. I'm a big cat, so I have big whiskers and I like the space and I'm like thing is coming up. We need to the stairs a problem coming. Yeah. I'm often the one kind of like seeing the problem arriving before he arrives.
And I ring the bell an often, very much related to relationships, not so much on Just like practical thing, but very much on relationship I'm like there is something in the field, the emotional field that needs to be addressed. I would say that's my, I don't know if it's my official on official role, but I definitely have that role kind of like ships, impasse.
Yeah. We have a psychotherapist here at the hub and I would say he is superficial like wellbeing, ferry We call it emotional theory. Role is a good emotional ferry. I'm often like the like thing, meaning one that rings a bell. Uh, Let's see, we need do a cleanup. Something's going on.
I don't know. People say they feel that I care Oh, unofficial role. I don't know. It would be a good question to ask. I'm kind of a mom, mostly, I don't know my unofficial role. I'm a mom to act 10 and I have a little bit that, that sense of a mom with others. Like, Are you okay? Is everyone okay? Like making sure people are okay.
And I think that's the kind of maybe maternal side of me
Sen: in both of these roles. There's the sense of feeling and sensing intuition, and care and heart involve.
Sylvie: Yes. Yeah. And I'm also very practical. Like the control freak part. it's because I care because I'm like my house, my family ain't going to survive.
It's you don't, your roof is not fixed and you don't have four walls and there was no food on the table and having a family .
Sen: So it's kind of like the guardian or the caretaker or the steward.
Sylvie: Probably something along those lines. Yeah. Custodian, maybe something like that. Yeah.
Sen: Custodian. Beautiful. The last question that I have for us is people have usually perceptions of each other, and no one really knows the true you a hundred percent, the same way that, you you know, you, do if there was one thing that most people get wrong about you, that you would love to correct.
What would that be?
Sylvie: I think people don't really realize how harsh I am on myself and how much I. Seek, and that I'm still working on not needing that. That's a little girl in me that seeks for approval and appreciation, but maybe a sense of Oh, she has it. Like, Oh, she got it. You know, I really don't have it,
that would be the closest I probably can think of
Sen: Yeah. The sense of everyone perceives other people as more capable as they might perceive themselves.
Thank you so much Sylvie for the time that you spent with me for everything that you've shared, all the personal stories and the vulnerable parts of it. I really feel like I learned quite a lot about you and feel like I know you better for what we did today, so thank you so much.