Lammas Permaculture Retreat

Lammas Permaculture Retreat

Our permaculture retreats focus on immersing ourselves in Nature so that our needs emerge in co-evolution with our environment. The essence of permaculture is not really about designing sustainable gardens, but recognising that everything we need is already here! We need to shift our perception. Sometimes this just happens, or you can prepare with shamanic work, sacred plants, mantra or mindfulness.

1. Relaxation

The first principle of permaculture is “observe and interact”. Our approach is to take a few steps back and start with relaxation. We can’t immerse ourselves in Nature, or observe and interact in harmony if we are tense and our minds are full of junk.

We use meditation, Qi Gong, yoga and sacred plants to bring ourselves into a peaceful state of mind, so that we can align with Nature on Her terms. Nature isn’t busy with thoughts, judgments and plans; She just flows.

2. Intent

Our next step is to invoke intent. Intent is not the same as intention. Setting an intention is to make a decision and impose it on the environment as an act of will. Intent on the other hand is a capacity, the force of life that manifests reality. It isn’t ours, but we have access to it.

Invoking intent is not about wishing or thinking or deciding anything. It is the perfectly articulated expression of a heart-felt desire that emerges from deep inside us, without any chatter or conflicting thoughts from the rational mind. This takes practice.

In The Power of Silence Don Juan explains how “intent is beckoned with the eyes” by moving to the “place of no pity” which is characterised by a specific shine to the eyes. The “place of no pity” is Don Juan’s way of describing the point where you get over your self-importance and are fully present, without mental chatter. The power is in the silence.

The ‘shiny eyes’ is like being ‘moved to tears’ in the presence of great love or beauty, humbled, fully present and self-less. To bring yourself to that state and then focus the attention is to act with intent.

We can’t do any better than to start with the intent to be fully present with Nature!

3. Observation

The act of observation involves so much more than just seeing. When we look at Nature, do we see what is really there? Or do we see what we expect to see, or what we have been conditioned to see? When you look at an untended garden, do you see weeds or a cornucopia of healer plants?

 “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.”

William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

It is much easier for us to “project” what we think we see onto reality than to be able to witness what is actually there. Without relaxation and conscious observation what we  “perceive” or take into our experience is only a narcissistic illusion, our fantasy, and not real at all.

When we are relaxed and have invoked intent our powers of observation are liberated.

4. Feeling

Feeling is a direct sensory experience not to be confused with our emotional responses, which tend to be ego-modulated. Although we might feel through our sense of touch, we might feel hot or cold, wet or dry, we are essentially decoding this information via our hearts.

To quote from Stephen Harrod Buhner’s wonderful book, The Secret Teaching of Plants:

“The whole body is cradled within the electromagnetic field generated by the heart. The information embedded within that field is communicated to the external world through electromagnetic waves reaching out from the body. It is communicated within the body through the blood stream, which conducts electromagnetic impulses throughout the body…….

But the heart is not only concerned with its interior world. Its electromagnetic field allows it to touch the dynamic electromagnetic fields created by other living organisms and to exchange energy. Like all nonlinear systems that display self-organization and emergent behaviors, the heart is supremely sensitive to external perturbations that may affect its dynamic equilibrium. The heart not only transmits field pulses of electromagnetic energy, it also receives them, like a radio in a car. And like a radio, it is able to decode the information embedded within the electromagnetic fields it senses. It is, in fact, an organ of perception. “

Simply put, we need to stop, breathe and feel the biosphere in which we exist.

5. Acceptance

Acceptance is related to observation. We need to accept what we observe, even if we don’t like it, so that we don’t waste our energy. Acceptance is like an anchor that keeps us connected to reality. For example, you might not like the fact that your garden is on a north-facing slope, but if you cannot accept that you will waste a lot of time and money by trying to do things that will not work in that situation.

Acceptance is about non-resistance; it’s got nothing to do with approval or agreement, it is just a conscious acknowledgement of what is.  It is the foundation for everything that comes after.

At a deeper level it is an expression of unconditional love.

6. Desire

Desire is the basis for creativity and creation and to suppress desire is completely unnatural. Our aim is to recognise, accept and express our desires in a way that is in harmony with Nature.

What do you want?  What is your Highest Desire?

7. Imagination

 “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

Albert Einstein

“The imaginatio, or the act of imagining, was thus a physical activity that could be fitted into the cycle of material changes that brought these about and was brought about by them in turn.”

C. J. Jung

As we imagine we are also imagined and this is the key to co-evolving with Nature.

The ‘peak permaculture experience’ is about Love and Oneness, not about yields or usage; everything emerges from immersion.  In our permaculture retreats we connect deeply as we work on projects or participate in workshops.  We are always learning how to apply the wisdom of natural ecosystems to insights in our lives, our communities and in the garden of our heart. We will practice stopping, dwelling in the wonderful present moment, taking our time and doing everything in mindfulness: walking, sitting, eating, working, relaxing, having fun playing in the garden and becoming aware of all the wonderful conditions that support life in us and around us.  In this way we learn to look at our own lives and all the elements that come together to create what we are living right here, right now. Is this what we really want? Is this what the world needs? What seeds can we water more, which ones should we be careful with?

Our next retreat is Lammas 31st July – 3rd August.

Activities:

  • Introducing Mindfulness and Meditation
  • Qigong
  • Yoga
  • Introduction to Effective Micro-organisms and how to use them to enhance productivity in the garden
  • Principles of Gaian Healing and how to make them work in your life
  • Making natural shampoo, toothpaste and non-toxic household products that work
  • Introducing muscle-testing and how to work with your bodies innate intelligence
  • Introducing the Gaian First Aid Kit and making an essential salve and tincture from weeds.
  • Stargazing
  • Nature walks
  • Cooking outside (basic alchemy)

Contribution £250.  See Retreats for more information.

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A Cob Experience

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate to have the opportunity to spend a day with one of the only two professional “cob” builders in Spain. We want to build our new house using “cob” and this was a golden opportunity for me to have my first any kind of experience with it. Cob is a mixture of clay, sand and straw that combines to make a very strong structure that provides excellent insulation while being flexible. We like the idea that we can use the clay from our land for this build and the whole process is ecological.

After an 8 hour drive across Spain and several well earned beers upon arrival I slept well and rested up for my big day. The next morning I met Mateu on site where he was going to build a cob oven for a family that he had built a cob house for previously. So not only did I get to see a house that he had built I got to help with the cob oven. Mateu’s calm and pleasant mannerism coupled with his knowledge of cob made it a very enjoyable experience. The family who were having the oven built made the day even more of an experience by providing a big traditional lunch and their openness and hospitality made the day perfect.

I learned a lot about cob and realize first hand how labor intensive it can be but how satisfying as well. Even though I was allowed to pack the cob on to the structure the real art was when Mateu “sculptured” the oven making it symmetrical and adding features to make it unique.

Mateu is coming to spend a couple of days with us at the end of July and I look forward to seeing him again and to get his ideas for our new build.

Dean

Medicine, Alchemy and Cooking

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”   Hippocrates 431 B.C

Food as medicine doesn’t sound that appetising does it? The usual diet for many westerners is neither food nor medicine; it’s just chemicals pretending to be food. Likewise, our “medicine” is chemicals designed to mask symptoms; not medicine at all. Food as medicine was the norm for thousands of years and still is in other systems.

In the Ayurvedic system, one of the oldest and longest standing in the world, herbalism and nutrition are a single science, and no healing can be truly successful that disregards one or the other. Specific foods are prescribed therapeutically as herbs, or in combination with herbs. Eating correctly, according to your body type, is the most important aspect of Ayervedic healing.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, which is rooted in the Ayurvedic system, food is regarded as indispensible in regaining the yin-yang balance and healing. Traditional Chinese Medicine designates four uses for food: diet, medicine, tonic, and abstention.

Doctors are not required to advise on nutrition in the UK, it is covered in just a few hours in the first year of study. Their job is to diagnose, prescribe and refer. It doesn’t really have a lot to do with healing. Hippocrates turns over in his grave one more time.

Hippocrates was considered the “father of medicine”. He is well-known for rejecting primitive medicine and its superstitions and magic in favour of a scientific and rational approach. He is also famous for establishing a code of ethics, doctor/patient confidentiality, note-taking and patient record management. It is less well-known that he insisted his students study astrology, saying, “He who does not understand astrology is not a doctor but a fool.”

The Greeks had medicine long before Hippocrates. Their medicine originated Egypt, the home of alchemy. The historical and cultural links between alchemy and medicine have been systematically destroyed over many generations, but the memory still remains in the endo-psyche of our species. What does that mean? It means that if you sit quietly in nature, or look into the fire and pay attention to your body you will experience specific sensations and feelings and these will direct you to exactly what you need. It never fails, but it does take practice and this is how we get to cooking.

Alchemy can be arcane and complicated or as simple as bringing together a container, a substance and a catalyst. Purists might argue that cooking isn’t alchemy, as the substance that is cooked is not transmuted; a carrot is never transformed into ice cream, no matter how skilled the cook.  However, carrots protect you from heart disease and cancer, are anti-inflammatory, can improve your eyesight and support your brain and liver. I don’t go along with the notion that everything works exactly the same way for everyone all the time. Sometimes I want a carrot and that’s exactly when I need it.

Cooking as alchemy needs to be outside with a real fire. The first stage of alchemy is called the nigredo, blackness, suffering; the medieval manuscripts are full of references to putrefaction and death. In psychological terms it is about depression and the dark night of the soul, but in cooking as alchemy we are not talking about anything that intense. But wait until you are hungry before you start the process. Feel your hunger. If you have a health issue or are stressed about anything, feel that too and don’t push anything away. Then look at the flames for a while.

Flames have a wonderful way of quietening the mind and gradually begin to think about what you would like to eat. Of course, you will have had an idea before you start and you will have certain food available, but make sure you have a good supply of different ingredients and spices to hand. Notice the flavours, spices and textures that appeal to you. As you allow the recipe to emerge notice how you feel about different ingredients as they come to mind – the White Queen is always present in the feeling.

This process of feeling your responses to different ingredients corresponds to the albedo, or purification stage of alchemy. The purification is in the process of identifying and selecting the ingredients that make you feel good when you think about them. This is how you free the spirit from the physical matter of the food. It’s not about following a fixed recipe, this food is perfectly tailored to your needs at the time you are making it. If a new combination comes to you go with it. The Red King guides you to discover something new, or a different combination. The cooking corresponds to the rubedo or reddening stage. In this stage the spirit is reunited with the food, through heat, and a new “wholeness” is achieved through the combination of the ingredients and the intent brought into the process.

This is something to play with and is fun to do in a group. The alchemical marriage takes place in the merging of the ingredients to create something new. And where is the Philosopher’s Stone? Perhaps in the way you feel when you eat food prepared in this way.   With time and practice you will find yourself guided to the foods that support your healing.

Cooking is just one aspect of the practical alchemy of healing that we enjoy here. We work with the local healing plants, grow much of our own food and make most of our household and personal care items. It’s all alchemy!

Our next retreat is at Lammas and runs from 31July-4th August 2014.

Yolanda

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Benefits of Earthing

Earthing or grounding is the simple process of getting outside with your bare feet on the ground and it has astounding benefits. We have forgotten how important this is and not just from a spiritual perspective. We have been created to work in harmony and connection with Gaia and wearing shoes all the time has ironically been one of the most damaging things we have done to ourselves in the name of progress.

The Earth is electrical – just like your body! There is a well-known scientific phenomenon called the atmospheric Global Electrical Current. It’s basically a current of electricity coming out of the ground where lightning strikes and returning to the ground elsewhere. This creates negative-charged free electrons in the ground which contribute to the benefits of Earthing in people and animals (and probably all life forms on Earth).  These free electrons are replenished by an estimated 5,000 lightning strikes a minute all around the Earth.

When you touch the ground with bare feet or bare skin, then, you’re not just touching the soil – you’re connecting with a massive electrical warehouse of free electrons which are then transferred to your body. This will “ground” you – literally and figuratively. Just like an electrician knows the importance of grounding a house’s electrical system, so too is it important to ground your body.

The health benefit of earthing is in reducing inflammation. Inflammation is the immune system’s natural response to allergens, trauma or infection. There are two types of inflammation: acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is not normally a problem, as the body needs to make pro-inflammatory compounds to deal with injury or infection and then will go on to make anti-inflammatory compounds to repair your system after the infection has dissipated.  Chronic infection is a problem because the immune system continues to promote inflammation throughout the body with pro-inflammatory compounds.

Inflammation is now considered to be the root cause of many ‘modern’ diseases; it is a significant factor for arthritis, as well as heart disease, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and diabetes. Inflammation is also known to accelerate the natural process of aging and causing your body and immune system to weaken over time due to repeated or prolonged stress. Inflammation leads to more stress, which leads to the worsening of all auto-immune conditions.

There are many theories about the causes of chronic inflammation. The Gaian healing approach is to consider the possibility that your body is not ‘broken’, but merely misinformed and to focus on the solution, not the problem. Some understanding of the inflammatory response is helpful here, so that the mind can recognise the real benefits of earthing.

The normal inflammatory response is, in part, a burst of free radicals produced by the immune system in response to an injury. This natural production of free radicals occurs to prevent infection and to promote healing at a site of injury. A free radical is an electrically charged particle. Free radicals are produced during oxidation: the process during which electrons are extracted from molecules. Oxidation occurs through electromagnetic radiation or sunlight and when oxygen in our bodies bonds with other molecules. This constantly happens when we breathe, for example, or when our body breaks down nutrients.

This electrical charge occurs because the free radical is missing an electron. To become stabilized, a free radical must “steal” its missing electron from another molecule. When the electron is stolen from an invader (e.g., bacteria), the invader’s molecular structure is damaged, which leads to its death (as intended by the immune system). When there are no invaders left to destroy and when there is a lack of electrons available from antioxidants to stabilize excess free radicals, free radicals then turn to the only other source from which they can steal electrons – healthy cells. The resulting damage to and death of healthy cells, from loss of electrons to free radicals, further signals the immune system for additional help. This sets up a continuous autoimmune response (creating more free radicals), which promotes chronic inflammation and tissue damage, often referred to as oxidative stress.

The simple solution is to provide excess free radicals with the missing electron they seek, so that they don’t need to steal from healthy cells. The Earth herself is a massive source of free electrons that flood the body on contact with the naked skin. Research has shown that the rhythm of this free electron flux helps to entrain the body’s circadian rhythm, including the rhythmic secretion of cortisol.  This suggests that grounding is also important for optimal sleep, daytime alertness, and endocrine function.

Earthing also shields the body from the damaging effects of man-made electro-magnetic fields and microwaves as the Earth’s voltage is conducted throughout the skin, creating a natural Faraday cage effect.

Earthing is also known to thin your blood and make it less viscous, reducing the risk of blood clots, elevated blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Just getting outside with your bare feet on the ground for 30 minutes a day can significantly reduce pain and swelling in a few weeks.

If you stretch your mind beyond the scientific into the experiential, you will enjoy even more benefits from earthing.  Walking barefoot in your garden gives Gaia-Sophia useful information that She uses to provide you with the specific plants you need for your optimum health.  Plants use underground fungal or mycelial networks to share information and that includes information about you released through the pores in your feet.  Last summer, our first summer here, we payed special attention to many of the healing plants and wildflowers we saw around.  This year we have at least four times as many.  This isn’t something you need to believe, as you can easily try it for yourself and it costs nothing!  You can find out more about this at our Lammas Alchemy Retreat.

I find that daily earthing, when the weather allows, has helped my manage my body temperature more effectively; I’m less hot when it’s hot and less cold when it’s cold.  I also find that I’m able to deal with problems more effectively and I have considerably less anxiety.

Clint Ober is credited with bringing earthing into the mainstream and his book, Earthing, is a good read and full of research and testimonials.

There is also a lovely film, called Grounded, which follows the affects of grounding through a small Alaskan community – and has lots of beautiful Alaskan scenery.

There are also a range of grounding products available, such as sheets and mats that enable you to be grounded while inside. (We use grounding sheets and we all sleep better.)

Yolanda

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