This project looked at transpersonal experiences and contributions from people involved in the Earth Moves community as we begin to work on Telegraph Lane, our new base. I am very grateful for the funding from the Alef Trust for this project, as it has given me the chance to obtain data, initiate transformative activities for the group and develop resources for the wider project.
I took a multidisciplinary, qualitative approach in documenting and researching the psychological and spiritual impact on participants, as they engage with four acres of semi-rural land, transforming it and themselves with permaculture methods and transpersonal integral approaches. Function and aesthetics were woven together in food-growing, art projects and psychological processes. We observed how permaculture principles could inform human movement and creativity, and how we are all intermeshed with the place we are located and its processes. My project succeeded in its initial ambitions, but also surprised me and was not without challenges. At times I was seriously tested.
In the last five years working with Earth Moves, I have seen how changes occur when people connect deeply and experientially with nature, and when they act collectively and co-operatively. This project was about connection with self, community and landscape, and how this can facilitate global transformation.
At times I felt like I was indistinguishable from the land and the group, and participants consistently echoed these sentiments. In just a few months we have made a big impact, transforming the land by adding hundreds of new species, enriching the previously sparse biodiversity. We have connected with plants by planting them, eating them, watching them and talking about them and to them! For some people this was an introduction to a world that had not previously interested them. My many past psychedelic experiences had already enlightened me to the sentience in plants. I am happy I could show participants what I knew. When I garden, as when I dance, I feel glad to be alive in this world. My dark times come when I am not moving. I believe people have a hunger for beauty. Plants feed this with beautiful colours, shapes and perfumes. When we connect in intimate ways with nature like this, we don’t want to hurt her. We danced, drew, sculpted, meditated and conducted rituals on the land, forming a deep, visceral and spiritual connection to her.
At the beginning of the project the land was barren. It flooded very badly in winter and was dominated by bramble and bindweed. The rain did not come in spring, which prompted us to dig a well. We thought the trees and shrubs we planted would die because of the conditions. When most of them surived it seemed like a miracle.
We negotiated a kind of chivalric code as we progressed, discussing the best ways to interact and what was expected of each other. Rich conversations and dialogues were generated, prompted by the relationships to the land, inner self and other people. Misdemeanours were used to define what was wanted and accepted. I now realise how and why people connect to the land through dance and ritual and why it is important. I feel so different now and so do the participants. The activities continued with Covid-19 and lockdown in the background. Due to this funding, I was in a position to provide a therapeutic space of safe connection for a diverse range of people.
The Telegraph Lane Connecting Land Connecting People project explored the personal interface with nature. Jung understood that the field of being extends into all the phenomena we are experiencing. Differences between you and your experience are illusory. When we are disenchanted by the dominant materialistic values, we feel alienated and outside the community of nature. The principles of permaculture illustrate a method of living that is both optimizing for people and the planet; this is why it combines well with concepts from Transpersonal Psychology. The Alef garden is currently used for hybrid activities: gardening, creative pratices, meditation and ritual activities.
The project applied the following core ethics at the heart of the Permaculture Flower:
Earth Care: The project was motivated by environmental and ecological concerns.
People Care: Consideration was given to the participants’ needs, desires and safety.
Fair Share: The ‘yields’ from the project were shared. (Transformation, education and connection).
Working in nature forged an understanding that nature is the interplay of cooperation and competition.
All our ancestors were pagan, as are many indigenous people. Our urge to find spirituality in the land is what stimulates this spiritual modality. People still carry the historical trauma and conditioning that shames bodily urges and spiritual experience through nature. Mental, physical and spiritual health are connected. Connecting with nature outside the self-connects with the nature inside of the self. Connecting to the vitality and cycles of nature improves the wellbeing of the individual and the collective. Nature is a mirror. Interacting with her by working the land, ritual dancing, art and meditation creates a link to our ancestral roots and facilitates energy, ecstatic experience and environmental concerns.
Our community is intertwined with the history of the land. It links us to our ancestors and can be a portal for spiritual experience. Human bodies and ecosystems are composed of fractals of individuals, making ever more elaborate systems. All life is part of an interconnected whole, and our aspects of inner change facilitate outer change.
“At times I feel as if I am spread out over the landscape and inside things, and am myself living in every tree, in the splashing of the waves, in the clouds and the animals that come and go, in the procession of the seasons. There is nothing in the Tower that has not grown into its own form over the decades, nothing with which I am not linked. Here everything has its history, and mine; here is space for the spaceless kingdom of the world’s and the psyche’s hinterland” (Jung, 1989: 225-6).
Most modern humans have forgotten the true holistic nature of reality. We are not really separate from our environment. We are the landscape. The Earth loans her materials to us for a time then our bodies go back to her. Nature can teach us about the cyclic and contradictory nature of reality and the joy and impermanence of life.