April 12, 2018

Book Excerpt: The Last Elm

To bow before a humble tree
takes but a moment of our time,
while that which we may receive
fills all the spaces of eternity.

[The quote above and text below are taken from Michael Roads' book "Journey into Oneness". I am happy to share it for its remarkable insights and the wonderful story. Before you read, a bit of a description of the context is in order. The author is not on material Earth but watching it from a metaphysical plane. The events on Earth appear to be set in the near future. In the "metaphysical" dimension, however, time and space have no relevance (meta means beyond, so metaphysics = beyond physics). The author is inside a "living building" and describes his experience of watching or "being" a tree on Earth and the story that takes place around it. At the end of the extract you will find my comments. Original text has been slightly abridged.]

On reaching the mural, I gasped. It was a picture of a huge tree, but the image was holographic. Although the size made the tree appear to stand alone, it actually stood in a small copse, surrounded by other trees of different species.

“It's an English elm,” I murmured in surprise.

I stood back to regard and admire this solitary elm, stunned by the size, impact, and sheer overwhelming reality of the mural. As I stared, a slight breeze seemed to ruffle its leaves, and the tangible humus smell of a thriving ecosystem became apparent. Intrigued, I walked to one side, wondering if I might find an opening into some magical wood, but, no, the dimensional image faded, and the tree appeared flat. However, once I faced it again, it breathed with life and vitality. Almost as though following an invitation, I reached out tentatively to touch a limb of the great elm.

My arm became an outreaching branch, one of many branches spreading out around me. I was a mammoth specimen of English elm, my branches reaching over forty metres up and out toward the sky. I was Elm, yet my awareness of Self was undiminished. I stood alone in a small copse of trees, and I was aware of an aloneness that was almost alien to my human Self. I was the last English elm on Planet Earth! I felt a surge of horror, yet Elm contained the knowing with equanimity. Elm felt no emotion, no fear of death or dying, no alienation, nothing other than a sense of profound aloneness. Through Elm, I discovered the difference between separation and aloneness. Alone I stood, more alone than any member of any species should ever have to be, yet Elm's knowing of Oneness was as powerful as life itself. Not even the vaguest hint of separation flickered in the consciousness of Elm, just aloneness with Oneness.

Elm consciousness reached out across planet Earth and beyond, connecting with the countless stars in unnumbered galaxies. Yet, as Elm, I was grounded, a conduit for cosmic energies and influences beyond knowledge or understanding. My Elm role was unique, for, as with all tree species, I expressed a different vibration of the One, the Godhead of All Trees. As Elm, life was a weaving, creative rhythm of consciousness, while each human was a mode of consciousness struggling to express its individuality through a physical framework, yet hampered by its separation from the One. Every species of tree, plant, and creature existed as a blend of consciousness, unborn and undying. Each tree form was a physical touchstone with the physical Earth, each species a form of splendid physical evolution as it followed the design its tree spirit expressed in each species.

With human eyes, we see a physical tree, yet this physical tree is only a biological reflection of a spiritual energy that expresses itself through each species of tree. Just as it is I who express through my toes, my fingers, and each hair on my body a unique creation that is the physical me, so, using the body of Earth, other Beings express their uniqueness through the different location of trees. Through this Elm Being, I connected with spirit and intelligence of all Elm. My awareness focused on the Being, yet there was no hint of form. All that I could perceive was a Being of Light and, within this ethereal “substance”, the movement of energy. And beyond this, I connected with this Being in a way that defies description. I was Self - I was Elm.

As Elm, my Self-awareness reached out to a small group of humans who had come trudging into the clearing beneath my branches.

Unknown to them, our consciousness mixed and merged, for I was the focus of their attention. Like most people, they did not realise that their thoughts create a focus, and that no matter what the subject, they connect in consciousness with what they are thinking about. And they were thinking about Elm.

“So what are we gonna do about it, Gus?”

The person who posed this question was a young man named Billy, barely out of his teens, but the anger and violence that flared in bright red flashes around him was the result of many confrontations against injustice.

For many lifetimes, he had fought against injustice, as fatally attracted to it as a moth to the flame. Of the half-dozen people, two others, Tom and Hans, felt the same attraction. Any issue that was termed unfair was their unwitting fodder.

Elm had no intellect, no mode of reasoning, no inkling of separation, no emotions, no sense of injustice - simply a connection with All that Is - a connection based not on knowledge, but on Beingness. Within Elm lay an untapped reservoir of vast wisdom, yet this wisdom had never been translated into human terms. Elm's knowing was the pure essence of spirit, undiluted and pristine. Elm felt the discord of the mixed group of people. Not discord as bad or good, for Elm was without judgement - just discord.

Gus was an older man in the group, wiser and more moderate. His consciousness reflected the pale orange/yellow of deep anxiety, but his anger was finished, long ago burned away. He was accompanied by his two daughters, Faye and Jeanne, both with loving dispositions.

“What do you suggest, Billy?” Gus asked, his sweeping glance including Tom and Hans.

Billy, Tom, and Hans exchanged meaningful looks, and in their consciousness, I, Elm, read their resolution. They meant to harm another human. Their intent radiated as a dull, sickly red mist, roiling around them in folds of negativity.

“I reckon we ought to bash the bastard.” Billy spoke quietly but vehemently, while Tom and Hans nodded.

“No!” rose a shout of protest from Faye. “Violence isn't the answer. Isn't violence the very thing that we most detest?”

As Self/Elm, I marvelled at human deceit. This group of people was almost devoid of any comprehension of their intent, yet it radiated forth, shouting its message to all of Nature. In consciousness, every tree in the copse, every bird and animal, every insect could, each in its way, read the intent of this group of humans. Nor did there arise any animalism reaction or condemnation from Nature to this intent; there was simply a knowing in consciousness. Humanity, however, lost in the smother of intellect, blinded by personal fears and the isolation of each person’s separate reality, knew nothing of this.

“Listen, Faye, and you, Jeanne. You don't have to be involved in this - you don't need to know the details - but I, for one, cannot stand passively by and let that bastard cut the tree down. For Christ's sake,” - Billy's voice rose to an angry shout - “this is the last elm that anyone knows of.” His voice barely under control, he continued. “Just because the tree is on Joel Carter's land, that's not a licence to cut it down. My God, the last elm! I. .. I'll shoot him first.” He glared his defiance at the group.

“That's quite enough of the sort of talk, Billy,” Gus warned. “Your anger is going to get you into trouble one of these days. Faye's right. Using violence defeats our purpose, and it generates even more violence. It just goes on and on. I'm sure we can get Joel to see reason if we approach him again.”

“Oh yeah!” Billy snarled. “And what good has it done the last three times? Three times, I'm telling you! Ever since he was offered a fortune for the timber of the last elm, money is all he cares about. I’ll shoot the bastard!”

Aggression, anger, helplessness, shame, sorrow, loss, frustration - all these emotions and more swirled in a miasma around the group of people and Elm. Elm knew none of these emotions, for it was just discord that impinged into the consciousness of Elm. In Elm, this discord was subtly transmuted, vibrating higher and finer into the aura of harmony that was the natural expression of Nature. I knew that with the destruction of each tree this natural transmutation of negative energies would become ever more restricted, until eventually humanity would be forced to confront its own most base and negative reality. I shivered at the prospect, leaves trembling along my branches and twigs.

Jeanne looked up, staring at the tree in concern. “The elm can hear us,” she said softly, shyly. “It feels our concern. Maybe it knows it’s the last elm left. What a terrible weight to bear.”

“Don't be soft, girl,” Billy said angrily. “Trees don't know anything. They're just dumb, inanimate things waiting to be cut down and used.”

“Why do you care, Billy?” Faye asked perceptively. “You don't have any real feelings for the trees, that's obvious. Are you in this just for the fight? Someone to get angry with? Is that what it all means to you?” “That's enough.” Gus intervened before Billy could reply. “Squabbling among ourselves isn't going to help. Let's be getting home. I suggest we all think very carefully about this and plan a moderate, sensible approach to stop Joel Carter from cutting the tree down.”

The group walked quickly away, yet their distance meant nothing to Elm. For as long as their focus was on Elm, their consciousness continued to radiate their intent as clearly as if they sat in my branches.

Nights and days passed, unmeasured and unheeded. Time was meaningless; only the seasonal rhythms remotely resembled the passage of time to Elm. However, only a few days after the group had departed, a single, deeply troubled human approached. I knew that Joel Carter heralded the demise of Elm - the last English elm - but Elm was not disturbed. Only the discord of the moment had any import, the discord that preceded action. Neither was physical action of any real importance; the only active representation of reality was the movement in consciousness.

Everything about Joel was broadcast in his troubled consciousness, and I read his story with the ease of reading a book. He had been offered the staggering sum of a million pounds for Elm by an unscrupulous businessman who planned to make a personal fortune from the last elm.

Despite what Billy believed, Joel was very much a man with a conscience, and right now he was deeply troubled. He badly needed the money, yet everything in him abhorred selling the tree. His wife had left him four years ago, leaving him for another man, and Joel had custody of their only daughter, Nadine.

Nadine had recently developed a serious tumour of the brain, and only immediate surgery in America offered her even a slim chance to live. During the time it had taken for the surgeons to determine the best procedure and schedule an operation date, Joel had been contemplating cutting down Elm. The thought appalled and repelled him, yet he was terrified that without the money and operation, Nadine would soon be dead. Very few people knew of the inner struggle Joel faced every day. Only the business deal had leaked out, and he was now the local Mr. Bad Guy. For himself, Joel did not care. He was a taciturn, withdrawn man, not good at communicating and easily misunderstood. All the love he had was directed at his beloved Nadine. To lose her would be the end of his own life.

With trembling hands, he pulled a small can of deadly tree-kill poison from his pack, and digging down to some of the larger roots, he drilled a hole into them and poured in the poison. He cried softly all the while. His crazy logic tried to protect him by reasoning that if the tree were dead, it would not matter if it were cut down. This was self- deception to a high degree, but because the guilt and pain were more than he could endure, as crazy as the reasoning was, the plan might work. Soon, his mind could mercifully blot out the truth, burying it deep in the pool of his subconscious.

Elm felt the poison as a rapidly developing surge of discord - a discord so that as Elm died, every tree on the planet felt the withdrawal in consciousness of the last elm on Earth. Again, there were no feelings of retribution, no desire for revenge, no judgement, not even a fleeting feeling of regret. Elm was a conscious expression of life. Life continued to express that consciousness, even if the physical form could no longer continue to express it.

Although I was aware it took days for the leaves to wither, yellow, and fall, the sap to thicken and stop flowing, in consciousness Elm withdrew very rapidly. For many years a killer disease had decimated the elms of Earth, and as the last one left, Elm was ready for the next step in the movement of Elm consciousness.

But for the people involved, the tragedy had only begun. Although Joel had been faced with an agonising choice, Nadine died during the operation. When, a few days later, a single bullet murderously blew the back of Joel's head into a bloody pulp, this act only foreshadowed the suicide he had already planned.

Billy, so obviously guilty by having broadcast his intent to all who would listen to him, was sent to prison for life, yet he was innocent. Nobody ever suspected the more subdued, controlled violence of Hans, nor did they have any clue about why Hans hanged himself three months later. All the repercussions of violence played themselves out, gradually draining this small pocket of anger from the global pool of consciousness. And all so totally futile. Elm knew nothing of this. Although I followed the tragic repercussions, to Elm it was all meaningless. Elm related to life in terms of consciousness; discord and harmony each carried countless nuances of endless dimensional levels as Elm merged with the vast oceanic consciousness of One.
[...]

I was aware that over a century had passed since the last elm had died, yet, wonder of wonders, a strong healthy elm flourished and grew no more than a mile from where Elm had died.

Once again I faced the paradox of time and Oneness.
[...]

How had Elm survived on Earth? I viewed the answer from Elm consciousness, for a single, unrealised connection had remained. When the group of people walked away from Elm, unsure of how they would save the magnificent tree, Faye had lingered for a few moments. She had scooped up a handful of the biomass beneath Elm and had noticed a single flat, winged seed. Slipping the seed into her pocket, she had hurried to catch up with the others.

Many years had passed, and Faye's old coat had been discarded to hang on a peg in the closet. Years later, now married and on a visit home for a respite from her young children, Faye had found the coat, and the associated memories of the last elm had brought tears to her eyes. Idly, her fingers went through the pockets of the old coat, where they touched upon the seed of Elm. For a second she felt a breathless excitement as she held the seed before her; then the excitement died. Seldom did the seed of an English elm grow, for it was mostly barren. The tree was generally propagated by suckers, and of course, they were all long gone. But as Faye held the seed, a feeling entered her heart that this special seed contained life - an undeniable intuition that regenerated her excitement.

Watched by her father, Gus, Faye carefully set the tree seed at the bottom of his garden, not far from where Elm had once grown. Gus was convinced that it was all a waste of time, for what with barren seed and the passing years, what chance the elm? However, he promised to water the seed and to care for it, for, deep down, he wanted to believe in miracles.

A month before the poison had been fed into its roots, Elm had dropped its seed. In only a very few, a tiny reservoir of energy held Elm consciousness, and since Elm had died, all but one of these flickering sparks had expired. In the miracle of Nature, a tiny seed held all the consciousness of the eventual massive tree it might one day become, for Nature deals not in the size of form but in the essence of life.

It was this single living seed that Faye had reverently kissed and planted in her father's garden.

When, after three anxious months, Elm's strong green shoot emerged from the soil, Gus unashamedly knelt down next to it and bawled like a child, tears streaming down his cheeks.

“It's a miracle,” he whispered. “It's a bloody miracle.”

Elm became known as Faye's elm, and no tree ever received more love or protection than Faye's elm.

Faye and her family moved back into the village of her childhood, and she spent many hours each week simply sitting in silence with her tree. She learned a truth that she spoke about to conservation groups and wrote about for all who were interested. She learned by direct knowing - by realising that she could merge the focus that was her conscious Self with the consciousness of Elm. In this way she had access to the wisdom and intelligence of the Beingness of Elm. The truth that she encountered was based in the continuity of All life.

Faye learned that if we are to save the trees of Earth, all people involved must become aware of their inner feelings. Are they Faye's or Billy's? If a group of people fight to save some trees and their fighting is based in fear - a fear for the survival of the planet and their children - then whether the trees are saved or not is irrelevant. No matter how noble the motive, fear is not the basis of unity.

Fear-based actions threaten the extinction of many species of trees, yet if the defence of tree is also based in fear, in consciousness nothing creative happens. Fear is a force of restriction, of separation. If a thousand fearful people plant a thousand trees a day, then fear plants the trees, and fear will just as surely remove them. In a year or a hundred years, a fear-based action will reap the harvest of separation and more fear.

If, however, a person plants a single tree each month, or each week or each year, and planting that tree is a pure expression of that person's love, with no motive other than the joy of sharing life with that tree, then in consciousness this act will affect the universe - and Beyond. Love connects and creates.

Saving trees is not a numbers game, because numbers become meaningless in the reality of One. Oneness means that the One is not the sum total of its parts; it means that the One has never been divided. In truth, a forest is not just a large number of separate trees creating an ecological diversity; it is also the consciousness of One seeking to express Oneness through the diversity of species. Saving trees on our physical Earth depends entirely on the relationship we create with them and the development of that relationship. If we grow in consciousness as the trees grow in stature, then we have the potential to affect the substance and structure of all life on Earth.

All this and more, Faye learned from the reservoir of Elm wisdom with which she was bonded. In her loving relationship with Elm, she, too, became a pivot for change in the development of human consciousness.

(Print-friendly version | PDF | 8 pages)

[My comments: The story deeply resonated with me for multiple reasons. Most interesting of which, to me, is the part about tree consciousness and how it can aid the person who bonds with it. This expands on what the Ringing Cedars books hint at, but leave unsaid. Second, for the beautiful, inspiring, and uplifting ending of the story. Third, the lesson (about fear) it contains for activists and the kind of person I was at a time. Thank God, I'm not anymore! Fourth reason for liking the story - it hints at the primacy of thought and Law of Attraction, the most powerful law in the universe, metaphysically speaking. Fifthly, I like it because the character Joel Carter, the supposed "villain" of the story is drawn with such compassion and empathy! Poor guy is stuck in a seemingly impossible circumstance. This matches with my learning. The story suggests we must find compassion even for those we despise. An idea that is described later in the book in some detail. Finally, for describing humanity as being, "lost in the smother of intellect". Again matches with Ringing Cedars but great to have it reaffirmed. This also comes up in Roads' book-1 "Talking with Nature" in passages that refer to the difference between knowledge and 'knowing.' More on it later. That sums it. The idea of separation is a key issue here as well but not included in this list as it's familiar.]

January 30, 2018

The Ringing Cedars of Russia


August 04, 2017

A Lesson in Education (and in reading the Ringing Cedars books)

Atulya Bingham meets a man who lived in the forest for four years and teaches permaculture. The resulting conversation is a great read. I'm posting an excerpt below that illustrates a method of "teaching" described in the Ringing Cedars books.
“What’s this box of dead bird bits for?” I asked at last, unable to ignore it.

“I use it for teaching. It’s great for children.” My host pushed the box a bit closer. I stuck my hand in and rummaged about in the grisly, ornithological lucky dip. A game is a game. You have to play.

“Which bird’s feather is this?” I asked pulling a black and white striped plume from the box.

Ludwig sat back, formed a bridge out of his hands, and shrugged. “What do you think?”

I shifted on my chair. “I’ve no idea. I’m hopeless with bird names, especially in this country. I haven’t lived here for 20 years.” Well, I thought I’d better have some excuse for my ignorance, didn’t I?

“Which part of the bird is it from, do you think? The breast? The wing? The tail?”

I turned the feather over and stroked it. It was soft and silky. “I’m not sure. Not the breast. But could be the wing I suppose.”

Ludwig’s face was deadpan. I held the feather up, and peered even closer at it, hoping to see the bird in it somewhere. But no amount of hard staring drew the answer out. Turning back, I asked again, “Which bird is it?” feeling my eyes straining in curiosity.

Bilbo Gandalf shrugged and sat back. He was giving nothing away. I pulled my chair closer to the table while I racked my brain, trying to haul out mental images of black and white stripy birds that might live around the Scottish west coast. None came to mind.

Eventually, the bird collector stuck his hand in the box once more. He pulled out two more stripy feathers, much longer than the one I was holding. Then he bunched them all together and held them upright. Immediately I saw a tail.

“Pheasant! It’s a pheasant!” I grabbed the three feathers and stroked them lovingly. “Well, that was a bit tricky, you have to admit,” I chuckled. Carefully replacing the feathers in the cardboard box, I mused on the art of teaching. The patience required. How brilliant teachers always stand back and allow students to own their learning experience.

Strictly speaking, this is not really teaching. Which is why I put the term in quotes, because the learning here comes from the student itself with the "teacher" acting only as a facilitator.

The ten-volume Ringing Cedars book series is written with the same premise. This is one of the reasons why some people who read it as a regular book are disappointed with it, unable or unwilling to follow through with the thinking process required to really process and understand what they read.

June 05, 2017

The Lorences: Walden Recreated

A couple who lived in the woods in an unelectrified cabin for seven years now invite the world to reconsider the simple life.



For seven years between 2005 and 2012 Diana Lorence and husband Michael Lorence lived in a house that had no electricity and measured only 144 square feet. Located in the woods of California the house was built by a group of friends who came together to search for the ideal of Henry David Thoreau's Walden.

When a TV crew visited them in 2012 and asked Diana whether she considers herself a Luddite, she responded that she did not even know the term. After looking it up this is how she responded:
Well, I'm not a Luddite (laughs).

I am perfectly happy with the entire world living exactly as it wishes. But. I would live my life the way I wish.

And, I would have others know... not others who don't want to live this way, but others like the person I used to be when I didn't know there were any options. I didn't know there could be another way.

I'm not trying to persuade anybody of this life but I would offer as an alternative to those who are hungry for it as I was hungry for something I couldn't identify.
Michael Lorence serves as "practical philosopher, private designer and personal guide" to people in high places who find themselves seeking meaning in life.

Their house is called the Innermost House, The Lorences have now formed a foundation with the same name that is "dedicated to renewing the ideal of plain living, high thinking, and fellow feeling at the heart of American culture." They "seek an underlying unity in nature, fine hand craft and thoughtful conversation as a way home to the original wholeness and harmony of the individual soul."

May 24, 2017

A Relation of Love

"When human love and the love of the planet join forces, Edens are created" says Atulya Bingham.

If I were into species research, I would declare the discovery of Atulya Bingham as that rare new species that the world desperately needs. If I were a birder she would be that exotic bird whose sight delights every time one sees her. I almost feel kinship with her.

She is rare because she writes about nature in a way no one else does. Until recently, Atulya lived alone on a secluded spot on mountain in a mud hut she made herself. What is so special about that, one might ask. After all, so many people in the past have lived in nature, sometimes in complete seclusion, even in the wild, and have discovered the joy and peace it brings to one's life.

I recently posted videos of a successful businessman who gave up his business to restore a large parcel of degraded land, an accomplished sports personality who gave up her career to respond to her lifelong yearning for life in nature, and a medical doctor who gave up the rat race and city comforts to live and work on a farm.

Each of them have grasped what Atulya calls the magic of nature but only intuitively and partially. None of them, to the best of my knowledge, have been assisted by direct knowledge of what happens when one lives on the land in a certain way, as has been the case with her.

Atulya Bingham has understood the magic of nature because she held a relation of love with the land with conscious awareness of it being a living entity that responds back with love and magic that bestows protection on you and helps you realise your aspirations.

This knowledge is contained in the Ringing Cedars book series. The books have been super popular in Russia but have met limited success with the English translation. When I came across Atulya's writing for the first time, I couldn't stop, and strongly suspected that she has read the books. It turned out she has indeed. [See UPDATE added on 26-May]

In her most recent piece, she travels to Portugal and describes an eco-community project known as Tamera. Tamereans have done some wonderful work on what is sometimes boringly called "watershed management", technical jargon for practices that conserve water over large areas of land. To the readers accustomed to seeing only a world of "problems" and "solutions", Atulya briefly describes the physical attributes of the project but then talks about something more important:

But hold on there! The water solution isn’t actually the solution.

Now I know people love to geek out on these types of solutions. But to obsess over the lakes and the swales, to focus only on the most obvious physical structures of Tamera’s landscape is to revert back to the dam-building engineer mentality. It’s missing the point. I'd go as far as to say, after my own experiences on Mud Mountain, without Tamera's founding principles, it wouldn't even work in the same way. Because, the Earth is not a machine, and it’s not something to be solved. It’s a responsive organism.

What are those principles?

When I sat at one of the water retention lakes’ banks, it hit me. I hugged my knees under a pine tree watching dragonfly wings shimmer, butterflies flitting overhead, birds slipping so close they almost touched me. And I wept. I was suddenly back on Mud Mountain, in a space of beauty and love. Because this is how it was on my land too. When humans love the earth they live upon, when they truly see each part of the ecosystem as equal and valuable, when they build a non-violent relationship with it, something magical occurs. It’s alchemy. And nature becomes something else. Wild animals scuttle about with a relaxed confidence that is palpable. Flowers bloom. Trees bear fruit. And the ground oozes healing. It is this type of environment that makes anything possible. Life burgeons from deserts. Balance is restored in a matter of years. Miracles occur.

Tamera’s water experts say they can create their scenario anywhere in the world. When you see Tamera, when you move away from a screen and live it, it’s obvious it can be done anywhere, though Tamerans would be the first to agree that the water retention lakes are the least of it.

Who knows what life really is. But one thing is for sure, it thrives not only on water, but on connections, relationships and love. Oh how obvious this is when you've lost something you love! Everything responds to care, respect and attention; be it human, animal or plant. When human love and the love of the planet join forces, Edens are created.

Spaces like Tamera show the structures of urbanity, with their conveniences and comforts for what they are: Barren, love-starved, polluted, ugly, noisy hell holes. After four months in what feels like exile from Mud Mountain, I simply cannot fathom how people stand it. It’s hideous. It’s banal. It’s soul-destroying. How could anyone live in that and not feel depressed? It’s a complete and utter excommunication.

As the birds of Tamera chirped in delicious excitement of yet another day alive, I remembered what I had to do. I remembered what the point was. Because I’d lost it there for a moment.

My space. The Earth. Eden. I must co-create it again. ​​​​​Because there's nothing else like it.

UPDATE 26-May: I should add that the knowledge Atulya acquired through the books was of course confirmed through her personal experience. She first came across the books when she found herself living alone in a tent on the land and told me that she would "never have read or believed the the Ringing Cedars had I not been in that situation. It completely changed how I approached the space." And "many of the things the critics say are unbelievable, I have actually witnessed with my own eyes." She will describe these experiences in her forthcoming book. Sample this blog post about her experience on, what she calls, the 'Mud Mountain': The Lizards Dance

May 13, 2017

The Blueprint

Tom is a medical doctor in New Zealand who lives with his wife Sarah, an illustrator, and their toddler daughter Neesa in a tiny cabin on a farm. Until recently they lived in a large three-bedroom house, trapped, like many others in the cycle of working hard just to be able to pay off the rent or the monthly loan instalment. This six-minute video goes into why they moved to the farm and captures a slice of their life.

I really like the insight Tom shares in the end.



Select transcript with added emphasis:
I guess, in theory we have no security, there's nothing legal about living here. But. Somehow that feels completely fine. I feel trusting, the way we're choosing to live. Try and learn how to live more in relationship. Rather than, it's just us, we gotta make our money, we gotta have our walls tight to have security. And... maybe there's another way of being secure through being really embedded in our web of community.
[...]

There's a lovely poem that talks about we don't have to be good, we don't have to walk a 100 miles on our knees repenting in a desert. We just have to do what the soft animal of our body loves. I really like that. I really like that.

For me, this turns out to be what I love. And I have a suspicion that this is actually the blueprint. And there's some thing when people get to it - everybody would want to live this way. I suspect. But. It might be a really long journey for some folks to get to that knowing.

April 29, 2017

David Bamberger: Love of The Land

In the 1960's David Bamberger owned a successful fried chicken business with over 1600 outlets in the U.S. (For perspective, there are less than 400 KFC's in India today.) Then he decided to sell off his business and put the capital into buying some 5500 acres of the most degraded land he could find in Texas, in order to restore it. Fifty years later, the once overgrazed and bone dry land is completely restored. It is flowing with streams and springs and is a habitat for over 200 species of birds.

In this beautiful video portrait Bamberger says he inherited his love of nature from his mother. Another influence was a childhood lived among the Amish.

April 20, 2017

On Self-Sufficiency

I hold self-sufficiency as one of the highest aspirations that truly liberates us from dependence on money, market and other systems of exploitation. Most people in the environment/ organic food space would agree. But there are others like Aaron von Frank of Tyrant Farms who says one can never be self-sufficient.

His idea of self sufficiency is the proverbial man stranded on island who must survive using only the material at his disposal. But that's total self-sufficiency, an extreme version of it, as stultifying as total dependence on others. To me, to become self-sufficient does not mean abandonment of everything produced by society, even tools, rejection of community, all organisation and social institutions.

There are degrees to which one can be self-sufficient just as the degrees to which one can be dependent on others. One can participate in community and yet can be self-sufficient to a high degree. On the other hand a complete reliance on community only breeds conformity and lack of critical thought. It's unhealthy for a community to produce only yes-men. How do you expect a member to be critical of community when the well-being of his family depends on it?

E F Schumacher, author of "Small is Beautiful" wrote about self-sufficiency in a forward to John Seymour's "Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency". In the one-page piece Schumacher succinctly provides the forgotten context around self-sufficiency and highlights why it is a fundamental requirement for the health and well being of human society. I find myself going back to it time and again. It is included below in full.


We can do things for ourselves or we can pay others to do them for us. These are the two "systems" that support us; we might call them the "self-reliance system" and the "organization system". The former tends to breed self-reliant men and women; the latter tends to produce organization men and women. All existing societies support themselves by a mixture of the two systems; but the proportions vary.

In the modern world, during the last hundred years or so, there has been an enormous and historically unique shift: away from self-reliance and towards organization. As a result people are becoming less self-reliant and more dependent than has ever been seen in history. They may claim to be more highly educated than any generation before them; but the fact remains that they cannot really do anything for themselves. They depend utterly on vastly complex organizations, on fantastic machinery, on larger and larger money incomes. What if there is a hold-up, a breakdown, a strike, or unemployment? Does the state provide all that is needed? In some cases, yes; in other cases, no. Many people fall through the meshes of the safety net; and what then? They suffer; they become dispirited, even despondent. Why can't they help themselves? Generally, the answer is only too obvious: they would not know how to; they have never done it before and would not even know where to begin.

John Seymour can tell us how to help ourselves, and in this book he does tell us. He is one of the great pioneers of self-sufficiency. Pioneers are not for imitation but for learning from. Should we all do what John Seymour has done and is doing? Of course not. Total self-sufficiency is as unbalanced and ultimately stultifying as total organization. The pioneers show us what can be done, and it is for every one of us to decide what should be done, that is to say, what we should do to restore some kind of balance to our existence.

Should I try to grow all the food my family and I require? If I tried to do so, I probably could do little else. And what about all the other things we need? Should I try to become a Jack of all trades? At most of these trades I would be pretty incompetent and horribly inefficient. But to grow or make some things by myself, for myself: what fun, what exhilaration, what liberation from any feelings of utter dependence on organizations! What is perhaps even more: what an education of the real person! To be in touch with actual processes of creation. The inborn creativity of people is no mean or accidental thing; neglect or disregard it, and it becomes an inner source of poison. It can destroy you and all your human relationships; on a mass scale, it can - nay, it inevitably will - destroy society.

Contrariwise, nothing can stop the flowering of a society that manages to give free rein to the creativity of its people - all its people. This cannot be ordered and organized from the top. We cannot look to government, but only to ourselves, to bring about such a state of affairs. Nor should anyone of us go on "waiting for Godot" because Godot never comes. It is interesting to think of all the "Godots" modern humanity is waiting for: this or that fantastic technical breakthrough; colossal new discoveries of oil and gasfields; automation so that nobody - or hardly anybody - will have to lift a finger any more; government policies to solve all problems once and for all: multinational companies to make massive investments in the latest and best technology; or simply "the next upturn of the economy".

John Seymour has never been found "waiting for Godot". It is the essence of self-reliance that you start now and don't wait for something to turn up.

The technology behind John Seymour's self-sufficiency is still quite rudimentary and can of course be improved. The greater the number of practitioners the faster will be the rate of improvement, that is, the creation of technologies designed to lead people to self-reliance, work-enjoyment, creativity, and therefore: the good life. This book is a major step along that road, and I wholeheartedly commend it to you,

DR. E.F. SCHUMACHER

April 18, 2017

What is Our Purpose? A Ten-year Old Answers

A simple conversation with my ten year old nephew indicates that the answer to the eternal question, "Why are we here?" is not so elusive after all.

In Ringing Cedars books children are considered next to Gods in their purity of thought. The elders treat children as adults in respect and never disturb them when they are engaged in thought. It is also said that the elders often use the children as a benchmark to check their own purity of thought.

A day or so before my nephew Kshitij turned ten he came for a sleepover and I decided to check his purity. I also wanted to test my own assumption that anyone could be made to understand our purpose on this planet with a simple guided conversation. I learnt about this method in a book by Tom Chalko.

Below is my recollection of the conversation as it happened over six months ago as we lay down on the bed ready to go to sleep.
_________________________

Me: Kshitij, let's do an exercise. I'll ask you a series of questions and you tell me the answer of each. This is not a test though. There are no right or wrong answers. Just think about the question for a moment and then let me know what you think.

Kshitij: Okay.

Me: What do you think is easier of the two: to build a house or put life into a dead body?

Kshitij: (Begins to say "to put life into...", stops midway and corrects himself) To build a house?

Me: Okay. Do you think a house could build itself? That all the material needed comes together and ends up in a functional house with a kitchen, toilet, carpeting etc?

Kshitij: No.

Me: Okay. Do you know why? Maybe because a house has to be designed first? It has to be thought of and planned and it has to be built by someone, right?

Kshitij: Right.

Me: Okay. Okay, so if a house cannot build itself, do you think life can create itself? Remember, you said it's easier to build a house than to put life into a dead body.

Kshitij: No, I don't think life can create itself.

Me: Okay, so can we agree that if a house cannot build itself, there's little chance that life can create itself.

Kshitij: (Nods in agreement)

Me: If a house must be designed by someone, can we then also agree that life must have be designed by someone as well?

Kshitij: Hmm.

Me: Life is much more complex than a house. There are so many species that co-exist in harmony with each other and there are complex systems such as the seasons and the solar system. Everything has been designed in such great detail even at the level of a cell.

Can we agree that such a complex life must require a high degree of intelligence to design it?

Kshitij: Yes.

Me: Can we call this, the great intelligence? Or let's say, God?

Kshitij: Okay.

Me: Alright, let's talk about something else for a moment. Do you know anyone or have you ever seen anyone designing or creating something without reason?

Kshitij: No

Me: There's always a reason, right? Even if it is to pass time or destroy what's created right after creating it, no one creates something without a reason.

Kshitij: (Nods)

Me: So there must be a reason for creating such a complex life too, isn't it?

Kshitij: Yes.

Me: Why do you think the great intelligence or God designed life and created our world?

Kshitij: (thinks for a moment and delivers a thoughtful reply) For his entertainment?

Me: (delighted) "For his entertainment!" Exactly!

In other words, can we say, "for his pleasure"?

Kshitij: Yeah.

Me: Now tell me something. Which of these two acts do you think would please God, the great intelligence: those that improve his creations or those that destroy them?

Kshitij: Improve.

Me: You've answered all questions, Kshitij! Thank you.

Kshitij: Mamaji, can I go to sleep now?

Me: Yes, Kshitij. Have a goodnight.
_________________________

April 17, 2017

Kimi Werner: Living in Nature

How one woman's bond with nature formed during childhood kept calling her in youth to return to it.



In this wonderful TEDx talk Kimi Werner, a free diver and fish hunter, uses her life's story to illustrate a key lesson she learnt - that of slowing down when everything tells you to speed up. Her talk deeply resonated with me but not just because of the stated lesson. What really shines through is how her childhood memories of living in nature shaped her experiences later in life.

Kimi Werner hosts a NatGeo series currently running in India called "Living Free with Kimi Werner". I haven't seen the show but am told in it she travels the world to live with "people who are not just surviving, but thriving in the wild".

UPDATE 18-Apr: A longer interview with Kimi was broadcast by PBS Hawaii.