Hello from my little corner of the world to yours!
I'm fresh off of the remarkable experience of nearly two weeks spent at Kashi Ashram, a sweet, sacred space in Sebastian, FL. I was gathered with an amazing, assorted group who all came together to take a Permaculture Design Course (P.D.C.). I bet quite a few of you out there reading this are saying a "permaWHAT??" which is more or less how I initially felt about it.
Before I happened to fall in love with Mr. Permaculture himself, I had a sense that it had something to do with gardening, which, conveniently, was something I had precious little experience with and only slightly more interest. Enter Mr. Permaculture, and I began to learn it can have A LOT to do with gardening, among so many other facets and disciplines. It turns out I actually DO have interest in gardening, among those many other things. Wonders never cease!
And what is more wondrous than evolution? How fascinating the way Nature innately progresses and proliferates! How humbling and needed to receive a lesson reminding me that I, Jessica; I, Gauri; I, flesh, bone, heart and soul, am as much a part of Nature as any flower in any garden.
For the many beliefs I hold about myself, my identity and the roles I play, I can see how, despite supposedly knowing better, I've held myself at a quite a distance from Nature in many ways, and have gone against my own Nature in others. Case in point: I've long believed myself to be "not interested" or "not inclined" toward a lot of things, never realizing I was putting all these self limiting labels into my reality simply by speaking them. "I'm not into math and science". "I can't keep a plant alive". "I'm not a big crier [lately]". And there are other things I've subconsciously told myself I can't or shouldn't do. "I shouldn't quit my job" or "I can't fully follow my heart".
Take away "not", "can't" and "shouldn't" and you'd be amazed at what you're left with.
I was left with the knowledge that I am very into this particular Applied Ecological Design Science (P.D.C. brownie points for that one!) known as Permaculture. I am very committed to not just keeping plants alive but nurturing them so they flourish for the benefit of Mother Earth and all her children, which includes not only me, but you and hundreds of generations of souls of all sorts to come! And yes, I do still have a good cry in me, even if it had been a while since I felt safe enough to let it out. And letting it out has a lot to do with considering that I can and should fully follow my heart. More on that later. . .
It's been many years now of me walking a conscious path, seeking communion with kindred souls and actively evolving into better versions of myself. But this path is not straight, because, as I learned in my P.D.C., there are no straight lines in Nature. Nature curves, winds, spirals, scatters and forms all sorts of other remarkable patterns that, even in their seeming randomness, make perfect sense when you really start to observe and understand them. So it makes perfect sense that I've experienced many a curve, and sometimes a curveball, along the way. It fits that there have been moments best described as a downward spiral, only to emerge again and wind my way a little further down the road.
That road has brought the practice of active, conscious gratitude into my life. It has filled my heart with a deep faith, anchored in the spiritual traditions of the East, while providing me with much of what we deem success in the West. Yet even as I stand in tremendous appreciation for what my Western success has afforded me, my soul calls for a simplicity that up until now I'd associated more or less exclusively with an Eastern way of life.
Permaculture is a paradigm shift. For me, it represents a way to bring East and West together. That's not how it is described in any book I came across thus far, but it is what I feel to be true in me. Permaculture doesn't come from India or Tibet. It comes from Australia, as a matter of fact, and was birthed by your "average white guy", not little brown men in robes. And while it does include getting your hands in the soil and creating lush, thriving gardens and food forests, it is about SO much more. It is about community, connection, compassion and caring. And who doesn't want to be cared for?
Care for the Earth. Care for the People. Care to Share the Surplus.
Those are the ethics that underly permaculture. And those very same ethics could, and I offer, should, underly any spiritual path. The earth is our Mother. We as people, and all the other sentient beings, are her children. Certainly her children have a right to share equitably in the abundance of Nature in all ways.
But we do not. Just as I fooled myself into believing self limiting labels about who I am, where my talents lie and what I'm capable of, we, as children of the Earth, have bought into a massive heap of lies. We have come to believe it is acceptable to have a grossly inequitable distribution of resources among our population, to have the masses governed by a select few whose agendas include nothing of general welfare, to abuse our Mother to the point where she is breaking down before our very eyes. We do not live simply or sustainably, and we are running out of time.
Let me lighten the mood by saying that, of the 36 classes that comprised the P.D.C. only one of them was focused on expressly discussing the world's problems. So this was not an experience of doom and gloom. Instead, it was an opportunity to learn to see the solutions inherent in these problems. We had the chance to come together, a diverse group of individuals walking seemingly different paths, and collaborate on ways to regenerate Nature and provide abundance for ourselves, our communities, our world, not just now but well into the future.
I walked away from that experience happy, hopeful and feeling very connected- to Spirit, to Mother Earth, to my new premie family and especially to Mr. Permaculture. I found a science I like! I actually do like having dirt under my fingernails and my bare feet padding along the earth! And now about that cry. . .
The morning after the course ended I found myself sitting in front of my work computer, smack in the middle of suburbia and feeling like I was living the antithesis of what I had learned and experienced during my P.D.C. I felt anything other than the happy, hopeful, connected sensations I had held dear just a few hours prior. I felt frustrated, bored, scared. I've invested over a decade working in corporate America. I've built a career, my personal finances and a significant aspect of my identity around an environment that is so misaligned with my personal values and interests it's almost comical in its irony. But I wasn't laughing. I was crying.
The overwhelming sensation brought on by the dichotomy fell on me like a thick cloud of smoke, smothering me with its toxic density. This is not the life I want yet I must own the fact that it is the life I chose. That was then. This is now. And now that I am choosing differently, I am faced with making my way out into the clear, fresh air. While that may sound like a no brainer, wanting it is one thing, and doing it is another.
I hear the call of my heart so very clearly. I've been hearing it for quite some time and yet continued to live what is increasingly coming to feel like a double life. I fill my spiritual account in one world, my bank account in another. I appear so very immersed in the conscious community I prefer to connect with yet struggle with the fact that I'm still keeping up appearances in the corporate world I've come to rely on. My heart wants out but my fear keeps me in.
So the self-proclaimed non-crier had herself a good cry. And Mr. Permaculture held me and held space so I could begin to feel into my fear and my grief, which is what I need. I've spent enough time in my head about all this. Pre-permaculture, the practical choice was glaringly clear: stay with your job because that is stability Anything else would be nuts. Post-permaculture, the opposite is clear: continuing to feed into the very system that has turned our world so terribly upside down is nuts. Find a way to be the solution in the problem.
My heart holds the truth. It is the key to unlock the door of fear keeping me in a space that no longer serves me. And I am nudging it open, slowly, but surely. I've been at that for a while in ways, but the push is so much stronger now. The call is so much louder. The path is so much clearer. And I have the experience of my P.D.C, which I'm fondly reflecting on as P.D.Me, to thank for that.