Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Six Thinking Hats of Edward de Bono

Following are thinking cards prepared for community meetings.

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Deep Observation

Observations lead to interaction. We need a deep sense of observation to perform healthy interactions; and more observation to  fuel reflection and further action.

The Buddha talks about penetrating the objects of observation; diving into them and observing the body in the body, the perception in the perception; only so we can know the object. From observation comes insight; from insight comes knowledge. In the end it is deep observation that leads us to an interaction based on understanding. The interaction closes the loop; an interaction based on insight or true understanding creates meaning.

“When you practice deep looking and master yourself, you dwell in peace freedom and safety.”~Thich Nhat Hanh

Observation – the Core Element of Permaculture Design

The permaculture design is the designer’s chance to enter into cooperation with the Earth. He/She steps into a natural space and becomes an integral part of a complex system of interconnections and living relations. The permaculture designer wants to work in accord with the laws of nature in order to make best use of available resources. Wanting to design a garden, organise a group of people or plan an activity, he/she might become part of an intact or a defective environment. In any case, the designer, being an element of the respective system, must be aware of his/her influence and potential to enhance or harm his/her surroundings. Therefore, it is his/her first duty to be a careful observer.

The designer has to be well aware of different influencing factors that are part of the environment he/she is operating in. These factors may be located inside but also outside of the actual planning area. Firstly and of major importance are social factors: the local culture and society, the economic and political situation as well as governmental and legal support. Secondly, the designer records site-related factors such as history, geography, water supply, soil properties, topography, climate and plant and animal availability. Thirdly, energy-related factors are cleared: the designer has to understand the available site-structures, resources, local skills, technologies and infrastructure to base the design on. Fourthly, abstract factors, such as time management, deadlines and project related facts, the client’s wishes or requirements and general ethics are considered. The observation and analysis of the site and the collection of data constitute the initial steps of any design and enable the designer to create a useful connection between the different factors.

Through these observations the designer determines boundaries, limiting factors and available resources. The area boundaries for a design should exceed the actual planning area and integrate the effects of outside influencing factors. In a garden, this might be the neighbours tree casting shade on the planning area – in the case of planning an event, the designer has to regard public transport or parking possibilities around the site. The social context, natural conditions, the legal framework, the clients wishes or financial or timely resources can all present limiting factors that restrain the designer’s freedom of self-expression. The actual usable and available local resources and skills are identified and sustainably integrated into the design. From the evaluation of the collected data, the designer will formulate ideas, realistic aims and compare his/her interests with those of the client and the expected users or participants. He/She will identify key functions to be fulfilled and possible elements, systems and patterns to apply to reach the desired results.

Three of the main permaculture planning tools are sector, zone and elevation planning. They all follow the principle of energy efficient planning. Sector planning is used for the detection and integration of outside energies such as winter and summer sun sectors, wind sectors, flow of cold air, flood or fire danger, pollution, people currents, views, etc. The visualisation of these energies will help the designer to create interconnections and to select design elements that enable their moderation: capitalise on shortages and ameliorate or use excesses. The method of zoning is based on the idea of optimising the internal management of resources and minimizing human energy expenditure. Starting with the core zone around the house, elements and systems are placed in zones from 1 to 5 according to the amount of visits, inputs and maintenance they need. Elevation planning makes sure the designer uses slopes and elevations to facilitate efficient energy flows. The most obvious example here is the downward flow of water, but also nutrients in the soil and cold air move downwards while warm air is rising. A good designer understands and integrates these forces of nature into his/her design.

Natural systems and processes are characterised by a high complexity that is hard to understand for the conventional human mind. Therefore the permaculture designer makes use of a high variety of tools and methods that he/she compares in overlays and analyses. They help him/her to better understand the interrelations of different elements. These tools are all instruments designed to enable us to work with natural processes and stand in cooperation with them.

For an article on Permaculture click here.

A safe place …

… is a place where we are welcomed and included in all our being; physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. A safe place is a place where we can fully be ourselves and express, share, give insight to the brightest as well as the darkest places of our soul; here we can portray the pattern as well as every little detail of the landscape that lies within us.

It takes commitment, participation to include ourselves. It takes humility and empathy to be able to include others. It takes contemplation and self-awareness to develop these qualities; they are all essential group ingredients to provide a safe place, a place for peace to develop, a place for us to lay down our weapons, our armour, our shields of protection and fully open ourselves towards change, embracing our whole being.

Painting by Monica Giglio

The Skin of the Earth pt. one

Soil is the skin of our planet Earth. It is the skin where vegetation roots in, the skin that stores nutrients as well as water. Food production for ourselves but also for millions of other animal species is depending on the health of this small layer (average depth of 15 cm). If the soil and soil management is good, food production and farming will also be good. The health of the earth and life on earth as well as the human society are all depending on the soil. If we manage to keep the soil fertile, production increases and the local economy will also in the future be strong and safe. Many problems in the world come from modern farming practices that are not taking care of the soil.

The main five soil forming factors are the parent material (which is rock, deposits from sea, rivers and wind or volcanic ash), climate, topography (relief), organisms and time. Nowadays, human activity is often named as a sixth one.

To protect and improve the soil we need to understand its needs. The main ingredients that are present in all soils to greater or lesser amount are the following four. The right mixture (given in %) of these equals natural fertility.

  • mineral particles (sand, silt clay) 45%
  • air 25%
  • moisture or water 25%
  • organic matter 5% (visible and microscopic organisms 10%; roots and living plants 10%; humus, which is dead animals and plants that are broken down, 80%)

All these ingredients are necessary for healthy soil; of major importance are however the invisible organisms, bacteria and fungi, who break down the organic matter and produce detritus and other break down products that can be taken up by other organisms like earthworms. We can find 2 billion organisms in one tablespoon of fertile forest soil. The natural conditions are usually best for them, human activity mostly disturbs them.

We can however also provide them their needs and they will work for us for free: the right food, biomass, and the right working place, temperature, moisture, aeration and a lack of disturbance. For information on how to make compost and let micro-organisms work for you, click here.

Another post on understanding the needs of our soil is coming soon … .

Emerging World

This is the first time in the history of humanity that we have access to most of the world’s cultures, past and present. It is hard to imagine, that for the thousand of years of generations before us most of the world’s population didn’t have an idea which kind of tribe and societies and civilisations existed on other parts of the world. Today we have research, history records and travel opportunities that facilitate the learning and the transmission of knowledge. It is the first time in history that we’re able to get a vision of the whole; we’re able to get to know and learn from such a diverse range of people, cultures and societies.

Is it in this time that we’re able to unite this diversity into a worldwide vision? Can we integrate all these paths into one path of humanity towards prosperity? Not that we will eradicate differences; we will transcend them and find unity in the abundance of diversity. There are cultures with so much knowledge, can we gather it all to create a more complete, a more whole tomorrow? What will the world of tomorrow look like?

We travel the world in this times in search for healthy intentions of humanity and everywhere along the way we’re able to meet highly evolved beings, we meet people who not only share the vision, people from all over the world who not only dream our dreams, but also people who are taking steps, who start living solutions, who share openly, let others know what they know and meet us with curiosity.

We’ve gone through a time, at least in the west, of rugged individuals, rationalism based on scientific understanding and achievement. We’ve built our cultures, our systems and our economy on this scientific understanding, on what we think are the laws of nature. Most of our western civilisation is still carrying this spirit of our time. We’ve created a world in which every individual has the right to use and manipulate natural resources for his or her own gain, a world that believes in the doctrine of competition and ‘the survival of the fittest’. We’ve built up economical systems and industries that have not only endangered our sacred habitat planet earth but have also split up humanity in people that have and people that don’t have. Materialism replaced relationships of value and even though the population of the world is constantly rising, most of us are lonely, unsatisfied, unhealthy. Many of us are in search for deeper meaning, in search for reconciliation, for reconnection, in search for soul and mystic, understanding that control and rationalism, materialistic individualism are not the values that could ever sustain our planet and her people.

This loneliness, this desire for happiness made us go out again and search, connect to each other, see what the neighbour’s got, what the Earth’s got. Do you see the suffering? Do you see us suffering?

I’m just listening to the emerging spirit; I’m looking for answers but I don’t pretend to have them … There is so much to be learnt from all the generations, so much to take with us into the rebuilt. we’re trying. Can we get over our egos in the effort to rebuild community? What will the emerging world look like and what will the new challenges be, challenges that again push us to the edge of our being? Can we embrace our ancestors, their work, learn from them and build the next day to come?