Tag Archives: Change

Gangs and Circles

Gangs are a product and a reflection of social domination structures. Inducing fear, guild and shame by either punishment or ideas like right and wrong are strategies that make people do what their leaders want them to do; it makes people obey and follow. This works only as long as people are ignorant of it, and if they are ignorant of it long enough, their inevitable protest or uprising will in most cases, at least at first, be conducted in a similar spirit, dominated by a similar thinking, a similar mind-frame than that of the oppressor, because that is what the people have learnt, that is what they were brought up with and so that is the behavior they know.

But human beings are able to learn from each other, as well as from their own mistakes. They are able to have insights and expand far over what we would expect of them.

It takes a different thinking, a new mind-frame, an inner revolution to become able to break the structures based on domination, authority and oppression. It takes an inner revolution to invent or rise up to a new culture, a new structure that supports life, that supports freedom, that supports the idea of mutual support and create a lasting change.

When I mention domination structures in gangs I don’t want to stress on street gangs, they play a small part, they are a dim reflection of what is inherent to most of our human connections and relations. Most of us have grown up with it in our families, in our schools – fear, punishment and reward, guild and shame, right and wrong, good and bad, we’re this and we’re that. It’s been there in kingdoms thousands of years ago, in institutionalised religions, in monarchies, in centralised governments with their justice system to now be replaced by corporations, the economic systems and the media creating these hierarchies and casts that put one above the other, and divide people into those who have and those who don’t. It is a part of us, we’ve all grown up in it, we’re all victims of oppression, more concerned about our status and what other people think of us than about our needs, our feelings, our being human.

We’re moving, people are looking for different ways, first emptiness, giving space for the new, they are experimental and are called crazy, mental, dreamers. We’ll find a way though, letting empathy in, letting compassion in.

Thinking of circles I think of groups sitting together in a perfect circle, in a way that each person can see every other person in the circle; each person can look into each other person’s eyes; all have the same point of view, at least on the physical plane. Sitting in circles is something that has been practiced for thousands of years by tribes, families, work groups, decision making groups, in situations of conflict resolution, yes also by governments. When we sit in circles today, do acknowledge the circle? Do we realise its power, do we consciously create that connection?

There is the plane that goes beyond the physical, that plane where we see each other as equal, where rank and status disappears. The spirit of a circle invites everyone to speak out and be listened to, without being judged, without being evaluated and analysed, but as a part of a bigger whole, interdependent, belonging, safe and supported.

Circles in circles and circles around circles, circles linking circles and circles extending circles, a world of circles, is that where we’re heading.

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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

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?

People want to engage …

People want to engage with their whole being, head, heart and hands.

If we try to create social and environmental conflict awareness through posters, flyers, web articles, newspapers and movies we engage people in thinking, in using their heads; there is still that element of ‘Me and Them‘, ‘that’s what THEY tell ME‘ or ‘look what THEY do‘. We fail to integrate or engage people’s whole being and make them be a part of what is happening.

This will be important to think of when we want to achieve social change: how can we engage whole people and how can we make them take ownership in the solution, be a part of the solution in progress.

That’s what makes visitors feel at home at the Panya Project so quickly. They are integrated in daily activities from day one; working at the farm, cooking, cleaning, things we all do communally and some things they do at home as well, caring for the most basic needs. At the same time they have the opportunity and the freedom to start something on their own, to bring change and own ideas. They are a part of the community, and they are the community when their whole being is engaged.

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.

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.

The Art of Dreaming

We had our Panya LTV (long-term volunteer) Dreaming Circle the other day and I’m very pleased with the results. I had never before really practiced it outside of the highly motivated EDE group. I knew this would be more of a challenge. Before the Dreaming Circle about the project, everyone took a couple of minutes to talk about their personal dream as a possibility to reconnect to it. I found this to be a very interesting practice which teaches us a lot about people.

In aboriginal culture people believe that their dreams are their projection into the future; we’re constantly calling our future into being through our dreams. People nowadays have lost this connection, have forgotten the art of dreaming because they’ve been told off; being a dreamer is regarded as being unproductive, we’ve unlearned how to follow them. Knowing our innermost dreams and visions and sharing them with others is the first step towards this reconciliation with the future.

You can hear when people talk about their dreams how they haven’t really thought about them at all. Some people stay in the past, talking about their experiences and mention the future very little. Others express a lot of hope and uncertainty through saying phrases like ‘I hope in the future I’ll be…‘ or ‘maybe I’ll have…‘. most of us don’t know where we’re going… we are not clear about what we want. What we did want as a child was often laughed at and rejected and we did’t allow ourselves to dream. When the body of the child grows up we don’t leave it any room to be.

Wenn das Kind wird erwachsen wohin wird es gehn,

Ist das Kind dann verloren oder kann man’s nicht sehn,

Hat es sich vielleicht versteckt, hinter einer Haut,

Die die Wahrheit der Dinge im tiefsten beraubt.

Wenn das Kind wird dich rufen wirst du es hörn,

Oder wirst du so tun als würds dich nicht störn,

Und es einfach verdrängen bis es nicht mehr geht,

Weil das Kind dann vergangen und es nicht mehr lebt

Not only spiritual mystics but also science is showing us the power of dreaming and visualisation. ‘Brain studies have shown that imagining something in vivid detail can fire the same brain cells that are actually involved in that activity. In other words, the new brain circuitry appears to go through its paces, strengthening connections, even as a person merely repeats the sequence in the mind.’ (Goleman) Through this visualisation or mental invitation we call our vision, our dream into being within ourselves, we open up our being for its manifestation. The more we have clarity in what we want to see or become, the more we trust ourselves, the higher the possibility that we create it.

Building capital that lasts

Do you believe in the value of money? Do you believe that you pay for what you get when you buy cheap gadgets on the market; or when you pay for your food, apples fromEnglandsent toSouth Africato be waxed and send back to theUKto be sold at1.5 poundthe kg? Who is paying for it?

ImageDo you believe in money, profit and economic growth to solve our problems? Do you believe that the World Health Organisation for instance is about healthy citizens when its main aim is to make profit; that we will care for the people and the earth when every progress is measured solely by the profit we make? A tsunami that hits the country means economic growth; a river is polluted, more bottled water sold – economic growth; a country goes to war or sends weapons for wars – more economic growth. Looking after the elderly, the children, the disadvantaged, all of that is institutionalised today. We found ways to make environmental conservation and social service profitable, very rarely however it is for the sake of the environment or society itself that these essentials are considered.

Some people in the world work with the soil, knowing how to improve it, they live with the earth. Look at those people planting trees, catching and storing, bringing water back into the landscape, regenerating the ecosystem, growing food in a natural way in tune with the environment. Every year they store more wealth, more capital in biomass, water, in saving seeds for the next planting season and for coming generations to be able to provide for what is most important: a healthy way of life, healthy food produced through healthy soil and a healthy environment. It’s not complicated; it’s the essence of life, connecting to the earth. People have been doing it for thousands of years.

Look at the people who have relationships, whole communities working together on their lands, many of them producing food for their neighbours, sharing, caring. Look at these wealthy cultures that we in our western civilisation often call poor. Profit, obtaining a yield has a different meaning for them. Look at their wealth, diversity, yet so much simplicity and time, relationships, family, smiles on their faces, health and dignity.

This doesn’t mean that I think we should all live in communities surrounded by forests. I feel a bit overwhelmed and even annoyed when people come to me and preach about what it takes to change the world, “it would be so easy if all of you could do this and do that”. For myself I need however some clarity for what is important in my own life, what makes me healthy as a person, and what I can do that makes the people around me as well as the environment and through that my children and the coming generations healthy and happy. I do recognise that all of that is interlinked and society influences my well-being and vice versa. I am interested to startle thinking, make people observe themselves and their society around them and then draw their own conclusions. Doing this over and over again will inevitably lead us to action, because there’ll be things that we want to change, there’ll be reconsideration and reorganisation of values in our lives. Do we want money to guide us around, or do we want our values to do that for us. What is sustainable? Can we build a society where values like mutual understanding, empathy, self-responsibility and cooperation are part of everyone’s life? Is common welfare a possibility? Can we build capital that lasts?

Defragment a fragmented reality

I ve learned a lot during my five years of university; however the vertical thinking approach that is used predominantly in the academic world has slowly built up a wall around my creativity. I can do research, analyse literature, write scientific papers; I mean I can add one to one and get two… no one however teaches us to think out of the box, generate alternatives or even question given concepts. That is something that has been neglected and is probably not wanted by our society; to understand the system, to be a “good citizen”, we shall think like the system.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” –Albert Einstein

In my environmental studies, we had people choosing landscape architecture as their focal point, others specialised in plant ecology, or soil or water ecology, others preferred to learn about environmental law or something called sustainable development; rarely however was the architect interested in ecological matters, the new development activist in architecture and the environmental lawyer in plants or soil; mostly it even seemed as if the one saw the cooperation with the other as a burden, each on constraining the others ideas and actions.

It took me five years of studying ecology related topics to discover permaculture, attend a permaculture design course and become part of a movement that is pulling all of these elements together to represent a wholistic, positivistic science. Permaculture is a post-modern approach to gardening, building, communicating, governing and living which builds on the ideas of systems or design thinking. It puts emphasis on the fact that every thing depends on every other thing and provides us with a tool that suggests to observe the existing systems and the relationships, to dive into them and discover our place in them. Permaculture initiates us to interact and create strings of connection using available elements and patterns to create environments that are serving to the human society without disregarding the complex ecological systems they are built and rely upon.

System thinking has shown us that the interconnection and diversity of elements in a system create resilience; however they can enable small events to cause large unpredictable changes as well while a change in one area most probably affects other areas. A good example for this is the human body. In this regard, system thinking and permaculture propose that a sustainable change can be achieved by changing the system rather than a single unit of the system.