I believe that engaging with the natural environment creates a desire to preserve it. This is at the root of the Transforming Land, Transforming People project. Embodied connection to the natural world reveals information that can be transformational. I am influenced by the work of the eco-feminist and activist Vandana Shiva, who also integrates a spiritual dimension to environmentalism. At the Earth Moves community initiative, where I am a director, we believe in an economic and ecological system that functions in a wider context of social justice and fair share. A re-sacralised approach to nature can create a healing in the individual, community and on a global scale. The microcosm affects the macrocosm in an aspiring fractal-like pattern.
Currently, there is an intensifying mental health epidemic and escalating environmental destruction. Clearly the social norms we feel are natural and inevitable are not serving people or ecosystems in a way that stimulates the greatest good. I am concerned about raising awareness of the counter-productive cultural patterns we generally find so hard to eradicate. Collective and individual feelings of toxic narcissism, for example, create barriers to community, others and nature. Working on the land together is humbling and fosters connectivity.
We are very grateful to be included in the Alef Trust Conscious Community Project with Transforming Land, Transforming People. This award is serendipitous and synchronous to Earth Moves obtaining a 25-year lease from Wirral Council, in Merseyside, UK. We aim to transform a neglected 4 acres of peri-urban land, into a permaculture forest garden for community use. We plan to use the garden to work with traumatised individuals and to help bring peace and beauty into their consciousness and the wider community.
The integrative and research modalities employed involve utilizing contemplative strategies for embodied revelation and creative investigation. Connection with nature can foster authenticity in humans and encourage cooperation with others. The process of transformation will be expressed through Holmgrem and Mollison’s ‘Permaculture Flower’. This model begins with ethical principles and includes cultural and spiritual dimensions. These can be integrated in the process of changing and conserving the land.
In a developed country like the UK, most of us find all our basic needs at our fingertips. However the global corporate economy and the addictive and numbing behaviours of our consumer culture can alienate us from truly sensing our feelings and connecting with the natural world. When disconnected from our own nature we may not make choices that are beneficial to the individual, community and planet.
Earth Moves seeks to create a system of governance that supports ecosystems and factors in the integrative input of ecologies and a diverse range of people. We understand the importance of intersectionality and biodiversity. Interacting together outside on the land helps us initiate receptiveness to other ways of being. I have found that many powerful experiences occur in this state. Sharing disturbing experiences in group circles is illuminating; processing these aspects through creative and embodied work is revelatory. The land itself is a reflection of the unfolding psyche of the group. The clearing, rewilding and cultivation of Telegraph Lane will have correspondences in the psyche of participants. My intention in this project is to document, navigate and understand the transformations that occur when people become immersed and focused on nature, working in a community and using creativity and ritual movement to express the external and internal landscape.
I believe permaculture to be a way forward, as it is a holistic system that benefits ecosystems and community, and ultimately the potential for change on a global scale. Permaculture values diversity in people and biosystems, and diversity fosters resilience. A society ingrained in monoculture is susceptible to being inflexible to unexpected change. These current times of the Covid-19 pandemic illustrate why we need to be open to responding to biological, cultural and psychological diversity.
The work is concerned with the transformative relationship(s) between planet Earth and its humans. The research we will do will have an alchemical dimension, transforming as a community as we take on land to transform collaboratively and collectively. Permaculture design philosophy looks to generate sustainable, resilient and productive communities. Ecosystems change over time – this is called ‘succession’. By understanding how ecosystems change we can accelerate the process and create productive bionetworks faster than is usual in nature. Forest gardens are an example of this, where all the layers of the forest are put in together, rather than over years. The correspondence with the potential to escalate personal conscious transformation is clear.
Permaculture is an integrative system that weaves ecology with ethics, aesthetics, and practical intention to create a more collaborative and interpretive framework. In this project we plan to weave together function and ethical design, examining how each permaculture principle could inform the aesthetics of dance and creative responses. Early human creative output inspires this project. Dance and art are ancient ways to honour nature and her spiralling, cyclical, evolving identity.
Participants are invited to co-create the permaculture planning during 12 sessions in the field and online. Activities will include the planting, harvesting and processing of herbs, as well as the creation of Palaeolithic and Neolithic inspired art. Introspective and integrative work will be explored. The programme aims to inspire an integrated eco-wellness and feelings of solidarity.
As a result of this Transforming Land, Transforming People project the group will be able to reach out into the community to seed further research, education and community projects.
I am grateful to The Alef Trust MSc programme in Consciousness, Spirituality and Transpersonal Psychology. The course has given me the tools to decode these transformational experiences and embark on my current work.