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.