Monthly Archives: June 2012

The fish that just swam by …

 … didn’t awaken hunger in me but rather marvel and joy.


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Organic Gardens for Thai Freedom House

Please help us in creating beautiful organic gardens for the wonderful Freedom House in Chiang Mai, Thailand. To give funding click here.

Who are we?

We are the Panya community, a sustainable living/education centre north of Chiang Mai city. We’re designing and implementing two gardens for the Thai Freedom House; a non-government, not-for-profit, community language and arts learning center in Chiang Mai dedicated to assisting families and individuals who are refugees from Burma and Indigenous peoples of Thailand.

What are we doing?

Garden one is located in the Free Bird Cafe, where the NGO raises income for their project. The idea is to make the space more beautiful attracting many customers to the cafe, and to organically home grow a selection of the ingredients used in cooking.

Garden Two will be located at the Freedom house school, where displaced people from Myanmar and Thailand come to learn Thai, English and enjoy a supportive, creative community. Our aim is to green the concrete surrondings of the school, reconnecting the students back to nature as many of them are from rural, farming backgrounds and now living in crowded poor conditions in the city. They will  have their own space to plant, watch the plants grow and finally harvest and eat the fruits of their work!

By donating to this project you will be giving marginalised members of society in Thailand a chance to re connect to their growing heritage. You will also help us create beautiful living green community spaces that will act as a refuge to people without real homes of their own.

What do we need?

What we can do depends on the funds we get. If we don’t reach our goal we are still comitted to buying and planting as much as we can with the amount we do have.

We would like to build living trellis’ and pergolas, with climbing spinach and jasmine.. plant high yeilding and easily maintatined chillis, eggplants, lime trees and papayas. Create beautiful herbs gardens to use in cooking, both in the cafe and for the students to take home for their familes… hang baskets of overflowing flowers to bring bright colours of inspiration and to all who come and visit.

When do we need it?

We will be working over the 1st 2nd and 3rd of July… Any funding that we have by then will be used to impelent these gardens at Freedom House.

Please please give what you can to our project, we promise to use your money wisely and keep you updated with our progress!

         Thank You for your Support!

Towards Permanent Cultures – An Introduction to Ecovillage Design 4th – 11th August, Chiang Mai

This 6-day Introduction to Ecovillage and Permaculture Design is based on the Global Ecovillage Network’s Ecovillage Design Education, an internationally taught training for sustainability and social change. In an interesting mix of head, heart and hands on experiences we will teach 40+ hours of interactive workshops around the five dimensions of Ecovillage Design.

Social dimension: We will explore the non physical processes necessary for community to thrive; positive communication, decision making, conflict resolution and meeting facilitation will all be covered. We will look at organisational structures of different scales, from intentional community  to wider society. By discovering what we believe to be true community we can develop new ways of working and living together.

Ecological dimension: Actively building natural capital throughout the duration of the course we will learn how to live with the earth, restoring and regenerating ecosystems. Workshops will include learning how to save seed, build healthy soil, catch, clean and store water, manage forest sustainably and use appropriate technology.

Economic dimension: We will take a look at the current global economic system. Analysing its strengths and weaknesses, we can explore alternatives and the possibility of a Common Welfare Economy that is truly beneficial to society. We will learn about developing local currencies, gift economy and LETs schemes amongst other ways of being community reliant.

Worldview and Cultural dimension: A diverse mix of community building games and exercises will guide us through the week. An Open Space to share and a World Cafe event will give us the opportunity to explore our collective power as a group.

Design dimension: Discovering concepts of systems theory and pattern language we will learn to observe and recognise patterns in nature, society and ourselves. Once we become aware of these patterns and systems, we are able to incorporate them into intelligent design from garden landscaping to community development. We will focus on Permaculture Design and Dragon Dreaming as integral approaches to project/land design.

This brief overview of the topics that we will cover is by no means comprehensive.

The Panya Project Permaculture and Sustainability Centre offers an optimal and inspiring environment to truly experience living in intentional community, exploring an alternative way of life and reconnecting to a natural state of being. This 6-day workshop will equip participants with the right inspiration and tools to become a force for positive change in this world.

Find more information at the Panya Project’s webpage here.

Four Paths of Yoga

… there are many roads leading to the top of the mountain – once we’re up there we all have the same view.

Karma Yoga as the path of action teaches us to do our own duties skillfully and selflessly; dedicating the results of our actions to humanity. Practicing this kind of yoga helps us to be unselfishly and successfully in the world without being burdened or distressed. Many teachers agree that this is the most meaningful yoga for modern times. Generosity becomes a part of everything we do and is not relying on any object or person. Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist Zen master, gives us the image of the left hand helping out the right when the right is injured. If we are washing dishes and think of others that do nothing we cannot enjoy washing the dishes. In that way Karma Yoga is a good practice of acceptance and getting beyond Raga Dvesha. As people that were mostly Karma Yogis we could name Mahatma Gandhi or Mother Terese.

Bhakti Yoga is the path of love and devotion is often said to be the easiest path of Yoga in this particular time of evolution. Bhakti Yogis use devotional practices such as chanting, mantra meditations and God visualisations to transform their emotions into pure devotion, open hearts and turn every action in life into an action of love, an offering to God. The path of the Hare Krishna group is mostly a Bhakti path of Yoga. Ramakrishna is an enlightened Yogi and guru who reached his high state of consciousness through devotion.

Jnana Yoga, or the Yoga of Knowledge involves intense mental discipline. Discrimination between the transient and the everlasting, the finite and the infinite through the intellect is the goal of this Yoga. Jnana Yoga is an extremely difficult path that is only mastered by a few. It involves questioning the Self, existence itself, the mind and its relations to every other thing in the universe. Krishnamurti or Ramana Maharishi are popular Jnana Yogis.

Raja Yoga is considered the royal path, the Yoga of the mind or of self-discipline and is a more integral and scientific approach to Yoga. It is believed that the mind needs first to be tamed in order to be purified. The indian God Siva is believed to have thought the art of Raja Yoga to Parvati, his beloved and feminine aspect. The spiritual teacher Swami Vishnudevananda is one example of a popular and accomplished Raja Yogi. (More on Raja Yoga following soon)

Consensus Decision Making at the Panya Project

The new decision making process that we’re currently using at the Panya Project has shown to be effective and save us a lot of time that used to be spend in useless and tiring conversations. Below is a describtion that serves as a guideline during the process.

We are using hand signals for each of these options, so that so that a quick overview on the groups standpoint is possible.

I am one …

… with the earth. She is my larger body. I am an organ in her system: one self-organised, semi-autonomous entity, one part of a whole which in its own turn is a part of a bigger whole. We depend on each other. I wouldn’t exist without the earth; the earth wouldn’t exist without me. Hurting the earth, i hurt myself.

Everyday I touch the earth in gratitude, take a few breaths, look at the sky in gratitude, I smile, taking a few breaths. Here i am, the next step that I take is one step further towards peace; everystep that I consciously take is guiding my whole being one step closer to being one with the earth; every step that I mindfully take is taking every being one step closer to being one with the earth and the universe.

Painting by Matteo Bertelli

Painting by Matteo Bertelli

Permaculture in Practice Internship, July 17 – July 30, Chiang Mai, Thailand

This is a perfect opportunity to get a hands-on experience of Permaculture – whether you’ve done a Permaculture Design Course before or are new to the idea. Permaculture in Practice Internships are regularly run by the Panya Community and have always been very successful and inspiring courses during which we explore the practicalities of building sustainable relationships with our environment.

Learn the art of natural building: Learn and put into action natural building techniques including wattle and cob, adobe, clay plasters and pigment renders and use these tools in building projects.

Plan and plant organic vegetable garden beds.

Learn to plant and tend a food forest: This will be one of our focal points during this year’s PIP as we’re in the middle of rainy season, ready for planting a great variety of fruit trees, shrubs and soil improving plants. 

Make 18 day compost: see how we turn organic matter into usable living soil in less than three weeks.

Discover the importance of seed saving.

Empower yourself to live self sustainably through sessions where you can learn to make bread, wine, cheese, yoghurt, kimchi, kombucha, tofu and EM.

Experience day to day life in a Permaculture community. We will hold daily yoga and meditation sessions in the mornings and there is a nearby reservoir to have cooling swims in the afternoon.

Put your new-found permaculture practice to good use!

This course is organised and run by the Panya community, with each community member contributing to the content and skills shares to bring in a high diversity of experience.

For more information check out the Panya web page.

Consent with people

We’re trying to use consent in all our decision making at the Panya Project. When a proposal is made by the facilitator we make a round to find out people’s feelings and concerns. For the proposal to be accepted a maximum of two group members can stand aside (this is the case in our usual group size of 6 to 10 people; if there are less, 2 seems one to many). Standing aside means that you don’t agree with the decision but you won’t block it either as it seems as if the majority agrees and you want what is best for the community. People who stand aside express their concerns to the group and those who agree with the decision get a chance to express themselves as well – this might change the picture, more people agreeing or standing aside, in a second round. If more than two people stand aside, the decision can’t be made and the proposal has to be reformulated to match the groups needs.

If one person is strongly opposing a decision, he or she can block it. Not in every group that uses the consensus decision making process blocking is an option. Blocking needs to be properly understood and in many amateur groups it isn’t: we’ll block a decision ‘once or twice’ in a lifetime, when we truly believe it will harm the group/community.  If we’re the only person blocking we might ask ourselves a second time what is best for the group as everyone is of different opinion and, if a solution can’t be found, we might even consider leaving the group. However, a block as well as standing aside are options that have to be respected as valid choices; reasonable concerns must be addressed.

Why do we use consent decision making rather than vote?

We want to create win-win situations. Even this little insight is capable of changing the group’s attitude. In a vote decision we’re not trying to find an optimal solution or an optimal formulation of the proposal, we just let the majority chose ‘yes’ or ‘no’, create two sides, separation. In consensus we’re listening to concerns and reservations and try to adjust the proposal to fit everyone’s, and even more important, the group’s needs. A concern is coming up for a reason and a decision taken is strongest and most powerful when concerns are eliminated. The result we mostly go for is however rarely ‘ this is the optimal choice for everyone’, but more often ‘everyone can live with this’ or ‘this is the best for the group’.

Here is a short step-by-step guide for the process:

1. The facilitator gives a proposal to the group and announces a first round show of hands;

2. Handsigns are used to show people’s position:

    • a. two hands up shaking means ‘I fully agree’;
    • b. one hand up shaking means ‘ I agree but have reservations’;
    • c. two hands up with palms facing to the group means ‘i stand aside’, or ‘don’t agree but I can live with it’;
    • d. showing an X with the arms indicates a very severe disagreement and ‘blocks’ the decision from being made.

3a. Everybody agrees, so the proposal is accepted;

3b. Space is created for reservations to be expressed and addressed if necessary and possible. The proposal is either accepted as it is or with adjustments;

3c. Everyone has the right to express his or her concerns, reservations, toughest and feelings. If there is a maximum of two people standing aside the proposal is either accepted as it is or with adjustments. If there are more than two people standing aside, the proposal is not accepted, the group can however adjust the proposal addressing the concerns of the group and start the decision making process again;

3d. A block is stopping the decision from being made. The concerns of that person must be addressed is one way or another.

In this regard, consensus or consent IS NOT unanimity, which leaves groups often in frustration and endless discussions. Consent is building solidarity to take out collective strength and the best of the group.