Sunday, 30 September 2012

Earth calling Lisa

Had someone told until recently that I could become excited about composting toilets I'd have told them to bog off (haha) but last month's permaculture festival at Angsbacka truly inspired me to consider self-sufficiency! Yes, really - the girl who, just a year ago, lived and worked in Canary Wharf, craves a basic lifestyle. I've had several failed attempts in the past at growing herbs and vegetables on my balcony and windowsills but I'm encouraged to try again now I've met people who survive on home-grown produce.

If it's possible to make a fully functioning loo out of a wooden box, a toilet seat and a bucket; to build a rocket stove in a matter of a few days, using an old oil drum, some clay, bricks and incorporating warm, outside seating; to grow our own food and to eat directly from the plants around us, even using some of them as simple toiletries (add a small branch of spruce tree to your bath to get rid of a cold, fragrance the water and moisturise your skin!) it sure makes me wonder why the majority of the Western world equates "success" with money, cars, property and clothes (and the associated misery of trying to obtain and maintain it all).

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying a permaculture lifestyle doesn't come with struggles, of course it does, but the satisfaction and contentment of knowing you're minimising damage to Earth, and working with nature has to, in my eyes, sit way above the constant longing for fashion and fast cars.

I arrived in Angsbacka kind of by accident (I think it hears your needs and lures you without your knowledge) mid-July in time for the yoga festival, then came the raw life festival, then the tantra festival and then the last festival of the year, brought about by a merry band of permaculture enthusiasts - and, oh how they transformed the energy of the whole place!

They smiled, they sang, they planted, dug, built, danced, played and, everything they did they did with the kind of pure love, cheer and enthusiasm I've only ever seen displayed by my grandparents - true creativity with gratitude and contentment; completely present in every activity, with the confidence that they're working for the good of the planet; with nature instead of against her.

And, at the end of the closing ceremony, as we all stood together in a huge circle of over 200 smiling faces, each holding a flower from the Angsbacka garden, presented to us by the organisers, it occured to me that every person in the room shares a vision of how the world can look, if we step off the capitalist treadmill, consume less, and consider our lifestyles in relation to the overall effect on the planet.

As the GM of Angsbacka said at the closing ceremony, "It really feels like we're coming together to create a brand new world." I hope so.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

What are you? A look at existence through zenquiry

Zenquiry - see what they did there? A combination of "zen" (meditation) and "enquiry" (asking questions), zenquiry entails two people facing each other, looking into each other's eyes and answering a really huge question pertaining to our existence, such as Who are you? or What is love? or What is life? - the kind of conundrum that takes us out of the box and really has us thinking deeply about what we're made of, why we're here, what's the point - you know, the stuff we talked about when we were kids staring at the stars. Or when we were on drugs and solved the mysteries of Life, the Universe and Everything but couldn't remember properly afterwards what we came up with that made perfect sense at the time, godammit!

I've done this child-friendly, drug-free exercise twice and on both occasions I've worried a bit beforehand that I'll just draw a blank and won't be able to come up with anything but, au contraire! During each of the enquiries the meditative environment was so conducive to this deep thought that I came up with loads and was still talking when the bell chimed! (Thankfully there's an "I've started so I'll finish" policy.)

When initially I did this exercise in July I had the realisation that I'm not my identity - that "Lisa" is just a body I'm in and a role I'm playing during my life on planet Earth. And that when I'm done here, I'll be off some place else, or maybe back here in a different body before heading off some place else... I knew and could feel that I'm not simply a human being. It's a really cool feeling although it didn't actually explain WHAT it is that I am, underneath my Lisa The Human Being costume. Maybe you've felt the same thing at some point in your life. Or maybe you just think I'm a complete mentalist...

Either way, today, I answered the question, What are you? It took me almost two hours to get there but eventually I was able to see the following:

I am the same as you. I am an octopus tentacle, out there feeling; experiencing. The octopus body is God; source. I am part of source, as are you. Source is a perfect balance of energies and therefore cannot feel; experience. When there is perfect balance there is no up, down, right, wrong, inside, outside, black, white... In order to feel; experience, an imbalance of energies is required. And that's what I am: an imbalance of energies. And that's what you are. I experience you, you experience me but we are both part of the whole, of source, of God. The more imbalanced my energies, the more I feel and experience; the more extreme my existence. I seek perfect balance because the more balanced my energies, the more I am closer to source; to God. It makes no sense to compete with you because ultimately I'm competing with myself. It makes no sense to hurt you because ultimately I'm hurting myself. The kinder I am to you, the kinder I am to myself.

I've been seeking answers to some existential questions for about a year now and very recently I've been offered some plausible explanations - halle-flippin-lujah! (Yeah, I go all over Asia and find the answers in Sweden from a group of people I met last year in London - ha, bloody typical!) Anyway... Maybe a continuation of this simple zenquiry technique will allow me to check whether these jigsaw pieces I'm being offered fit my picture...