Walking the path from the car park to the reception, I am besieged by an abundance of green leafy plants, bushes and small trees, flowers in all shades of pinks and purples, and butterflies, lining the path and spreading out in either direction along a wooded green. Like hitting a wall of warmth and sweetness, it has now engulfed me, and I suddenly feel like I could just sit down somewhere and take a rest – even before I have really arrived.
A short way ahead, the reception front has an architecturally simple, clean, modern design, with primarily glass front, and wooden structuring showing. The patio in front is lined with knee-high walls over-spilling with herbs and meadow flowers, swaying gently with the breeze. There are a couple tables with chairs, with jugs of water and glasses.
I drop my heavy bag down and gratefully take a glass of water, looking back into the warm green garden I just passed through, reflecting on how it felt like a nourishing membrane to release the discordance of the journey here and drop me right into the field of the heart. I lean down to take in the aroma of growing mint, rosemary, thyme, lavender and run my fingers through the meadow flowers. A part of me has landed.
The glass doors are already open, so I sweep inside into a clear light-filled space. There are several large green air-detoxifying type plants spread all over, a few shelves with information, some impressive crystals and some gorgeous art, but for now I am drawn to the warm faces of the two women sitting behind their desks before me, greeting me.
They are the type of people who are sincere people-people, e.g. they make you feel instantly comfortable and accepted, rather than people who simply act friendly because their role requires it. The lady dealing with me also seems quite tuned in to me, not just giving me a full download of generic information and the program, but rather taking a person-centred approach, following my lead regarding why I’m here and what might interest me, yet taking care not to overload me as I am clearly a little low on energy reserves.
The receptionist, Alena, guides me to walk down the right side of the reception; the white wall curves along and then opens out into a big light space. It is part information centre within a fresh and vibrant feeling café. The whole space feels inviting, with glass front to the left, open doors with lots of cosy looking seating outside. The café interior is full of wood and light neutral tones with colourful and cosy soft furnishings on the seats. The café contains three long benches along one wall, that can sit perhaps eight people each, and six circular tables in the middle that could sit four people.
There are a few people sitting inside and outside the café, relaxing, on their laptops, or socialising. The man working in the café has the same friendly and calm vibrancy as the receptionists, and is letting me check out what’s on offer without bombing me with information. There are some creative high vibrational lunch options, as well as versions of some nourishing favourites, superfood snacks, smoothies and juices. I order some refreshment and take a seat.
It feels like a luxurious and calming space to land in, and I start to explore the information wall to the right of the space with my eyes, which far from being taxing, is actually more food for the soul.
It is a comprehensive, aesthetic, and inspiring gallery of program schedules, information posters about the eco-village’s ethos and vision, and photos. There are some benches with an array of leaflets, booklets and books. In the corner is a neat children’s play area, with lots of foamy cushions, wooden animals and drawing materials.
I wander over and soon discover that this building was built with Fibonacci proportions, all with local materials, and that most of the food on the menu is grown here in the ecovillage, with the remainder bought or traded at local markets. There is a beautifully designed poster on the wall and leaflets describing the ‘New Earth Ways’ that form the community’s culture, and another one for the ‘Four Wind Vision’ of the community. The poster on the ecovillage’s principles says:
Stay Tuned in – to live and act in natural, universal alignment
Respect Energy – yours, others’ and nature’s resources
Live by the Circle – to learn and create self-replenishing abundance
Embody the Vision – to live from one’s heart, truth and purpose
Celebrate Individuals – to create a symbiosis that serves the whole
I am already feeling how this culture and vision is behind the warm and intuitive energies of the people I have met so far who live and work here, and am getting a sense of how much consciousness and intention has gone into every detail of the design of this whole place. I have not even left the entrance yet and I feel so much happier in myself and with life.
It dawns on me that I cannot remember the last time I was anywhere that I felt so much wholeness and clarity. Is this possible? That you can experience such a shift in how you feel, simply from being somewhere like this?
There are more beautifully illustrated posters on the wall with words such as “Be curious of meeting ‘need more’ people and ‘need less’ people along your path. We all have different needs, though the need for compassion is universal.” Is this awareness why the warm reception and café staff are so tuned in to me – because they sensed straight away that I am a ‘need less’ person, and therefore know that I will feel more nourished by less words?
I pick up a leaflet next about the Four-Element Social Practice of the ecovillage. It tells how the community thrives due to their comprehensive and committed social practices. Non residents can also undertake training programs on social dynamic awareness and leadership, or join the residents in their regular training sessions and ‘therapeutic practices’ such as contact improvisation and family constellations.
There is a big timetable for these on the wall also, and I am happy to see that this evening there’ll be a ‘Four Wind Ceremony’ taking place in the Children’s Garden. I don’t know what this will entail, but I feel excited about it.
I am open to alternative things, and have been on various holistic retreats, but I am put off my many events and communities that seem too far out in this direction. I’ve not come to spend two weeks in this ecovillage because I need to heal something or want to do some intensive program – at least not yet. I was drawn here because I am curious and longing to experience a way of living that feels healthy and alive, wholesome and connected to nature.
I’m not ready or interested at this stage in suddenly becoming off-grid, or doing anything extreme. I love the benefits of the modern world I inhabit, whilst I am also painfully aware of the price, to the environment, to the community, to families, to relationships, to our health and wellbeing. My children are now grown up and I am divorced. I would be happy to sell my home and invest in a new life, if only I could find one worthy, one that answers the real questions.
So in some ways I am here to heal – and healing is happening already – but I’d rather think of it as being here in openness, to discover a new way. I am here in hope, that something will drop, a light will shine upon a new path.
I wonder back into the reception area to ask reception about this evening’s ceremony, and observe the receptionist that had been so gentle with me, giving a huge lively download of information to another new guest, who is looking excitedly activated. I will wait to ask the volunteer who is coming to meet me shortly.
The next morning, I wake with the natural light pouring through the bedroom. I had the choice of waking late, but I want to experience attuning to nature’s rhythms. The bathroom is an inside-outside space, with plants everywhere, nurturing the sense of being more connected to nature without even trying.
I chose a self-contained eco-hut rather than a room in the guest lodge. Again made with fibonnaci proportions and according to natural building principles, it is simple yet perfect in size to give just enough space for a sense of luxury and expansion, with light pouring in all through the front, and an ideally designed interior for minimal fuss and maximum bliss. The hut semi-adjoins a ‘relative’ hut belonging to one of the residents, Melina. It is customary to meet my relative for a cup of herbal tea in our shared leafy courtyard later today and share why we are both here.
The experience of last night’s ceremony is still fresh in my heart as I head out to explore the ecovillage today. Simple yet far-reaching prayers and intentions were made with such humility, not over ceremonially, but with great love and attention by the facilitators who live here. Most of the residents, including children, and guests were present, and the level of respect in the former was palpable. Everyone felt the truth of the words spoken and gestures offered, and so I felt it too, and was quite moved by it.
I came away feeling like I’d been a part of something beautiful and real, and although I barely interacted with anyone there, I felt a bond to everyone there. It is a strange feeling. It’s not even something I feel when gathering with friends and family – people I actually love – for a special occasion. The thought of this suddenly brings tears to my eyes… how in our modern society you can be so close to people and yet never experience anything so sincere, so true, though that’s not quite the right word…
Michael, the volunteer who came to meet me yesterday used a term – unassuming sacredness. He said that sacredness has a strong presence in the community, but it’s not like spiritual communities where they make a big song and dance about it – even though they do sing and dance here! Here sacredness is something that is felt and practiced, not paraded and preached by inflated spiritual egos.
I got the impression he’d had some bad experiences and asked him about it. He said he’s been in the ‘conscious movement’ for twenty years and he just got bored of people having the same ego issues as non ‘conscious’ people but covering it up with clever spiritual talk and spiritual bypassing.
‘In the end I wanted to hang out with normal people, who are at least down to earth and kind of innocent,’ he said. ‘But then you soon remember why you can’t spend too much time with them either – because they are asleep; it’s like you are just interacting with a computer program.’
I could only make a sound in response. I was taken aback by his lucidity. He continued, ‘So when I found out about this place, I was sceptical. But so far it has been a dream. I keep deepening, crystallising into myself…’ He was starting to drift into his own reverie and caught himself, but I wanted to know more. ‘What makes it different?’ I asked.
‘I think it’s a lot to do with the tenacity of the vision holders. They believe in the vision and serve it wholeheartedly. It’s not about ego, it’s about service, and they have a warrior-like attitude to it – even though what they’re creating is about peace and paradise. It then attracts people who are similarly minded and committed to the practice, and there’s a kind of soup of safety and respect between everyone.’
Reflecting back on last night’s ceremony, and the people that gathered, I noticed that the residents here look like normal people – albeit very healthy ones – and were not dressed in ways you often find in alternative scenes that suggest the people have dropped out of normal society and only want to meditate, chant and do yoga. They all seemed down to earth, present, alive, and radiant.
There was no separation between residents and non-residents either. The residents, who were distinguishable only by their calm radiance, were showing equal kindness to their community members and guests alike. All were present to the occasion, so I did not see much by way of how the community members connect with each other. But I appreciated their gentle exchanges of warmth – smiles, eye contact, moments of touch.
To get to the village centre is a fifteen minute or so walk from my hut, passing some other eco-homes en-route up a slight incline over a ridge and down a gentle slope through some open forest. I also chose a hut in this quiet part of the land, where from here you wouldn’t even know there was a village centre on the other side of the hill. I could walk in the opposite direction and just be in the peacefulness of nature with the sun radiating down on me.
There are many acres of forested land here that belong to the ecovillage, that are being protected and nurtured. Guests can wander through, but are asked to do so with sacred intent. It is also suggested to maintain this sacred intent throughout one’s stay anyway, which is part of the language used in the New Earth Ways principles. On the leaflet about the forest it is described thus:
‘Imagine, see, and interact with the forest as if it were sensually conscious of you. Be present to the forest, in the same way you’d be present to a person you were spending time with – not lost in your head, but aware and engaging with the energy and consciousness of the person or nature that is with you from the heart. If you have an intention, for healing something, or receiving some insight, then share it with the forest, and be receptive to the subtleties of what happens during your sacred wander from then on.’
I feel excited at the prospect of doing this at some point during my stay. Even though I have walked through forests and beautiful places in nature numerous times in my life, somehow, having this simple instruction gives it a whole new meaning.
Standing just below the top of the hill, looking across at the village centre, the education centre is to my right, a beautiful big eco building made with glass and wood, which has a strong presence. From the top floor it looks over the whole village to the west, in keeping with the ethos here, that the educational component is the head of the village.
Michael said that they were going to build a look out on the education centre as high as the meditation temple on the top of the hill further east along the ridge, but they didn’t, because even though experiential knowledge and training is central to the ecovillage’s ethos, nothing learnt will ever match that which is given directly by Source through the non-linear, non-space time enlightenment experiences one can receive in meditation.
So despite the down to earth ethos and focus on accessible education and training for everyone, the meditation temple is the highest point of the village. Michael then clarified for me, ‘It’s not just a spiritual hierarchy thing though, that the temple is at the top, but also for practical reasons. Being above the airwaves of human life assists one’s practice. That’s why people go to high places to meditate. If there’s not so much collective mental and emotional energy around you from other people, you have only got your own to deal with – so you stand a better chance! People then bring that clarity and purity of consciousness back down into the village, and it benefits everyone.’
Again, I was moved by how lucid, how clear in intention everything here has been created. I am starting to realise this is going to keep happening, so I better get used to it and actually drop into it. I let out a huge breath, and with it a huge weight off my shoulders that I didn’t know I was carrying. ‘We are all carrying the weight of struggle,’ I think to myself. The thought of letting that weight go is suddenly a strong ache, painful only because of the fear of having to carry it again when I leave here. ‘Don’t think about that,’ I say to myself.
I now look at the map of the village I hold in my hand, and then look out at the actual village before me in a new light. Studying the map again, I consider that everything must have been designed with purpose and intention. The educational centre to my right, is at the head of the table, so to speak, only ranked higher by the meditation temple further up the hill, to the East. I imagined the pure spiritual energy of the temple flowing down the hill into the educational centre, and flowing out into the village, like golden rivers and streams. ‘Wow!’ I thought, suddenly surprised by my intuitive vision. I’ve not felt very in touch with my intuitive vision for some time, but now, just through being open and applying some intention, something magical just happened.
I continued to open to the vision, and imagined the sun rising in the morning, the rays piercing the temple in the east, then the education centre, then the children’s garden, then the garden of life, working slowly more westbound through the village. I imagined each place acting as a kind of mediating filter for the next… Dismissing this poetic idea for fear of becoming too imaginary, I look at the map again.
The Children’s Garden is in the centre of the village, west of the Education Centre, with the Central Studio - where yoga, dance and talks happen - to the south on my left, the Children’s Centre ahead to the north, the reception and café up a slight hill to the northwest, and the Garden of Life further along the valley to the west.
Reaching the Central Studio now to wait for the morning movement class, the Children’s Garden is clearly visible and accessible from here, although far enough away that the sounds of children playing are not too encroaching. I reason that its position means that guests can come and take a class, whilst keeping an eye on their children in the garden below, and similarly the children know that mummy or daddy are just right here and can play in the garden feeling safe. Clearly family life is prioritised here.
A few others are entering the space now, and a woman sees me, and when I smile and say hello, she comes over and squats beside me, says hello and looks in the same direction that I was looking. I find it intriguing that she doesn’t follow normal social rules and ask me how I am or starts talking. Aware of my own inner pressure to do so, I ask her something stupidly obvious which I already know the answer to, ‘Was the Children’s Garden built in the centre on purpose, with the studio here so that parents can be close to their kids?’
‘That’s right,’ she replies, ‘We have team members who work in the children’s centre and garden every day, whose life purpose is working with children, so they are not left alone, but it’s important to us that visiting families feel safe, so this way children and parents can be visible to each other, whilst giving the parents a chance to have their own experience. More independent children are often happy to run between the garden, the centre, and the woods all day, giving mum and dad the chance to visit all the main parts of the eco-village without ever being too far away. We think it works really well.’
After class, I am feeling more blissed out than ever, and feel drawn to just take another moment on the edge of the studio looking out at the village before me to contemplate my next move for the day. Sarah, the class teacher, comes over once more to join me. Continuing from our previous conversation, she adds, ‘You’ve probably already seen it on the program for this week, but we also run various classes in the Holistic Centre and the Garden of Life, where the energy is more peaceful still. In the busy season, the timetable changes week by week, depending on how many guests we have, whether there are any retreats booked in for the holistic centre, etc.’
I thanked her, and asked her if she could recommend what I do next. She suggested that I simply wander through the paths with ‘presence and openness’, giving myself time to sit in different spots, contemplate and interact with village life. I’m grateful that I asked her, because this is exactly what I would love to do now, but somehow wasn’t giving myself permission for, thinking I should ‘do’ something more proactively.
I instinctively start to wander westward along the trail. All the trails are banked mostly by beautiful gardens and green areas, with lots of inviting places to pause and sit – to contemplate, exactly as Sarah had said. Most of the people I pass by who are sitting down are in twos or threes and they look like they’re having meetings or brainstorming sessions. I come to the Garden of Life and now see a few people who are sitting alone, meditating, relaxing in the warmth of today’s heat, or stretching. Michael had said that although there are gardens throughout the village centre, the Garden of Life and the Children’s Garden are intentional spaces.
Employing my own intuition and reason again, I deduct that the Garden of Life is a space to enter with similar sacred intent to what is recommended regarding the forest. This must be why there’s no one in here having meetings. The ceremony last night was probably held in the Children’s Garden, because the future generations are central to the ecovillage’s vision and purpose for existing.
I pull out the welcome booklet from my bag and have a flick through the pages I’ve not read yet. Reading the page about the village’s ‘Four-Wind Vision,’ it goes on to describe how the Children’s Garden is not just for children. It is in honour of all of Mother Earth’s children, including the whole plant and animal kingdom, and us adults. It stands as a reminder that we are born from this earth and nourished by her, and that we have a duty as adults, to safeguard life on Earth for the future children – human, plant and animal.
I’ve not even been here for twenty-four hours yet, and I’m enjoying the slight shifts I feel in myself. It feels like softening, like my inner knowing and latent gifts are beginning to glow again, as the armour drops away, and I feel reassured, safe. Again, tears spring to my eyes, grief for a way of life that is so rare to modern human beings. How did it come to this? That people all the world over, no matter how ‘successful’ they appear to be, or how many material comforts and conveniences they seem to have, are walking around armoured, hardened, convincing themselves that they are thriving, when really, under all the layers, they feel deeply unsafe.
Further along to the west past the Garden of Life is the holistic centre and accommodation lodge. I imagine how wonderful it would be to do a retreat here, and how ideally situated you are at this end of the village, where you can easily be blissfully unaware of what’s happening over the other side of the village. You could basically move between the beautiful accommodation lodge, the Holistic Centre - full of different studio spaces and healing rooms, the Garden of Life, and then head up the hill into the forest for some sacred wandering in peaceful nature away from everything. What a joy it would then be to take the short pilgrimage along the ridge up to the temple!
Just next week there is a retreat happening, and one of the facilitators is Sarah who I met today. It is very tempting, especially as I also feel very nourished and inspired by Sarah’s warm and spacious energy.
As I am standing here outside the Holistic Centre, contemplating, several people start showing up and walking in. I ask a passer by what’s happening, and she says, ‘A social exploration session.’ Upon seeing my none-the-wiser face, she explains with a smile, ‘It’s part of the social program of the community. All are welcome.’ I reply, ‘Well I guess I’m standing here for a reason!’ The woman laughs.
I’m sitting in a bright spacious room, with wooden floors, cosy bright ethnic rugs, glass along the curved outer wall and warm terracotta washed walls on the inside. There is a deep sense of calm in here, and I suddenly feel like lying down in the corner on all the cushions and taking a nap whilst everyone else does the social exploration work!
Instead I sit up, forming a circle with the other twelve people here, as we listen to the teacher, Jaime, begin to talk. For the sake of the three of us present who are here for the first time, Jaime shares how the community’s social program is integral to the health of the community, and that all members join in regularly regardless of whether they’ve been here for five days or five years, because it is ongoing practice, so long as life is ongoing. He goes on to describe the ‘Four Elements’ of the program, and how this session today is part Fire element - social awareness training and part Water element - therapeutic practice.
Jaime’s energy is different to those I’ve met so far who live here: less soft and spacious, and more direct and radiating – yet with the same fullness of heart. It is good medicine against the sleepy wave I just experienced. Now I feel fully engaged, and get the sense that I could learn a lot from this man.
It is now mid afternoon, and I wake from a nap in the Garden of Life. The social exploration session was so moving – to see another, and be seen, so unconditionally, with no filters, needs, expectations or projections. I felt met in a way I have rarely done before. No wonder people keep turning up for sessions, when they get to experience such authentic, unconditional connection. This is truly what we all crave, and the root behind all the ridiculous unhealthy games we play with each other. I am on fire from Jaime’s words, clarity, and the experiences he facilitated for us all there… so much so I had to just lie down afterwards in the garden and let it all sink in.
I could easily just lie here for another hour, yet I also feel a restlessness. I’m hungry, and I had pencilled in a tea date with Melina, my eco-hut relative, for half an hour’s time. She did say not to worry if I am in a different flow, as she’s at home working today anyway, so it could easily be rescheduled for the next day.
Looking at the map for inspiration, I consider whether to go to the café to get a takeaway wrap, and then head through the north of the village, through the food forest, the rewilding area, checking out the carpentry and natural building places – perhaps first swinging past the permaculture gardens pre-café as they are on the west side of the café – and then making it up the hill to the temple.
I check myself doing it again – going on a mission. ‘There’s no mission right now. I’m here for two weeks, not two hours!’ The only thing genuinely calling at this moment, is the temple. I feel like I’ve a lot to integrate in this past twenty-four hours, and getting above everything into a pure and clear space feels just… divine.
Now that’s decided, I look around me to absorb this garden. I am tucked in a corner, hugged on either side by beds of long green stems with big blowsy red flowers swaying about in the breeze, big bushes of dazzling purple star shaped flowers attracting butterflies, lots of pretty yellows closer to the ground… It feels so alive. I want to drink it in, for the vibrancy and life force to enter my cells and stay there always.
Thinking of cellular nourishment, I remember that I bought a bunch of superfood bars yesterday and they’re still at the bottom of my bag – so I can survive on them as I voyage to the temple, and not have to enter back into the village proper. Feeling like an arrow that’s left the bow, I head out of the garden and straight up the hill through the trees behind the Holistic Centre toward the ridge. ‘I’m on a mission again,’ I thought, ‘but this time it feels good – it’s not a sacred wander, but a sacred mission. Perhaps by the end of the two weeks I’ll be able to do both!’
By the time I reach the eastern edge of the ridge and start up the steep incline towards the temple, I am already refreshed and feeling sublime from moving my body, being in the forest, feeling sun on my face, and filling my lungs with clean air. The temple is now in close sight.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, given that there are so many associations calibrated with ‘temple.’ I am somewhat surprised, to not see some elaborately designed and painted building, but rather a simple yet elegant white building. It is raised on a slight platform at the front, as it is against the hill, not directly on top; there are few steps leading to the front, which is completely open.
The walls are thick and painted white – perhaps made by cob as they feel somehow breathable. The floor is made of beautifully laid wood, and there are lots of mats and cushions; at the back there is a seated ledge all the way round so that people can choose to sit with their back supported and perhaps look out over the heads of those on the floor.
There is nothing belonging to any spiritual tradition. In the centre towards the back there is a beautiful pure white sculpted piece, like a flame, spiralling upwards from the floor, with a round altar in front made from the same materials, where some some white candles and impressive crystals are creating a diamond geometry. Next to it is a big basket full of blankets, and more candles and matches.
Just sitting here, without even trying to meditate – which I was never very good at, I feel a deep sense of presence or purity – no, sacredness, that is both spacious and penetrating. There is a sacredness, that belongs to nothing, and directs one to nothing, that simply is of itself. To be here, in this beautiful, minimal, intentionally created held space, facing the world below, feels utterly purifying.
It’s now only my second day waking up in this ecovillage and I feel like a different person to one that arrived a couple days ago. I spent two hours in the temple yesterday… just breathing, being, retrieving all the pieces of myself and assimilating all the new bits of understanding. It was profoundly therapeutic. I’m looking forward to joining Melina for breakfast momentarily and sharing it with her.
Melina is an interesting woman. Once upon a time she would have triggered me, as she has that confident, ‘I’m a spiritual goddess’ type vibe going on, which I’ve found in the past to be full of superiority and an act of defence. But I soon realised that Melina is not like this. She has, power, depth and fire, yes, and she is in full ownership of her femininity.
More to the point however, when we’re talking, she really looks into my eyes, and then I see an honesty and tenderness. Her power is authentic, and she is simply comfortable with it and direct. She seems deeply at peace with herself, and with the world – whilst also having a passion that would fight to the death.
There are a few herbalists that live here, and Melina is one of them. She shares that some of the residents live in the edges of the forest on the hillside like her, and some live in the eco houses in the valley, where the studios are. This part of the village, continuing west from the Holistic Centre and accommodation lodge is off bounds to guests unless booked for a tour so that residents can live a peaceful life as and when they choose and life in the ecovillage centre doesn’t have to stop.
Rather than going to the studios every day to make her potions, she prefers working from home. I also learn that Jaime, who taught the social exploration session yesterday, is Melina’s partner, but that they choose to live in separate houses. ‘Several of the couples here – unless they have children – do the same.’
She explains, ‘In sharing and serving this ecovillage and living by its ethos, there is deep security between us – it’s not necessary to embed that security further by living together. Having separate spaces keeps the magic alive – both in the relationship and with myself. It keeps things fresh and real, healthy. Sometimes we are together all week, and sometimes we don’t stay together for a week, and we just trust that ebb and flow; we respect each other.’
Curious, I ask her if there is a noticeable difference in the couples living separately to those living together. ‘Some couples have children, so that changes things anyway of course. But we all get together to support each other, and those that live together and don’t have children definitely have more challenges to work through overall, but they choose it that way because they prefer to live together.’ With a warm laugh, she adds, ‘We all think of it as an experiment, and wonder how the difference will be in ten year’s time.’
I feel a wave of envy for Melina’s seemingly deep seated trust and graciousness. It is a quality I have always aspired towards. I share a little about my life, how I am at a turning point and why I am here, and Melina catches scent of my momentary feelings of disempowerment and shares some more information about her own story in a very open, matter of fact way.
She shares that when she arrived here three years ago, she was a lot like she is today, in her power, connected to natural medicine, and so on, but she was also wounded from a series of heartbreaks, and can now see, looking back, how emotionally unstable she was, though she couldn’t see it at the time, believing it to simply be part of the wild feminine.
‘The practice of the New Earth Ways taught me how to relax and trust. There’s no escaping it here. If you want to stay here, you have to be committed – to yourself, to nature, to life, to the greater good of all, by practising these ways. It isn’t easy, or at least, wasn’t. I had to take responsibility for the ways in which I didn’t respect another’s energy, and yet I believed myself to be loving. I had to own up to the ways in which I would disconnect from my own source, and then expect other people and things to fill that disconnection for me, and then blame them for making me stray from my truth.’
‘How does that lead you to trust?’ I enquire, fascinated by Melina’s journey.
She considers the question for a while, and then replies, ‘Because once you’ve seen the truth, there’s no way back again. Once you’ve seen how everything about how you operate only leads you away from your Source, from nature, from peace, then it becomes crystal clear that there’s no other way then to let all that go. There is instant peace in that, even if the work is hard.’
The sun is warming our faces, as we sit with fresh herb tea on a beautiful courtyard with flowers before us and trees behind us, looking out through the gaps in the forest to a beautiful view of distant hills and realities. Melina’s words had fallen upon me in such a way as I need a moment to just be. Melina gets up and walks back into her house. I just know that this is purely from a place of intuition. Just this fact alone makes me want to live with these people – that they know when to give space.
A little while later, she comes back. ‘I’d like to do the New Earth Way’s training,’ I share. ‘I didn’t know it involved so much shadow work.’
‘No one does,’ Melina confides, ‘The shadow work just happens by itself, and is different for everyone. There’s no purpose in promoting it as shadow work, which might put people off or attract other people for the wrong reasons. You sign up to learn how to live in a way that makes sense, and inevitably, that means letting go of how you were doing it before.’
I suddenly feel exhausted at the thought of it.
‘I recommend taking the full Ambassador Program if you’re going to do the NEW training anyway. Boosting it with ecological awareness and leadership training – which is no ordinary leadership training – is incredibly potent.’ I don’t doubt her for a second.
I observe the heavy feeling pressing in on me, and the familiarity of it - every time I suddenly realise I am meant to do something that I know is going to be really challenging, I go through a kind of preparatory shock. Melina starts to clear the table; our breakfast date is over. I thank her heartily, and go back to my hut to sort myself out for the day. I think I know where I’m headed to.
The impressive glazed front of the Education Centre glimmers before me. Stepping inside, one enters into a light-filled space full of information about the environment and climate change, regenerative initiatives, eco building techniques, permaculture, and the history, goals and ethos of this ecovillage. There is a section too about the NEW Ambassadors Program and other training programs, courses and workshops for university groups, outreach work at schools and more.
I spend forty-five minutes filling up on knowledge and examples of sustainable design: the use of platforms to avoid destroying ecosystems, rainwater collection, laminated timber for reusable and recyclable benefit, light capturing and energy storage, orientation of courtyards, glazed sections and the sloping of roofs and walls, gray water systems and more… not to mention the permaculture side of life, huglekultur, aquaculture.
I move closer to the wall of well-presented information about this ecovillage. There is a fun and friendly looking poster that says:
Our Cultural Ethos summed up in 7 points:
Reach & inspire visitors, neighbours & the world through meeting them where they’re at
Prioritise aesthetically beautiful design for universal appeal & the positive effects on consciousness
Maximise on social design with generous & regular training, facilitation and practices
Expand & influence consciousness through design of spaces & the paths between
Prioritise kindness, boundaries (which together can be called love-intelligence) & awareness as a spiritual baseline over ‘advanced practices’
Implement a worldview culture which breaks out of the old paradigm & is based upon the enlightened yet grounded ways of nature.
Move beyond spiritual / not spiritual duality into a paradigm of health, enlivenment, empowerment, personal truth, creativity, respect and presence.
Everything it says, perfectly and simply describes what I’ve experienced here. I even find myself now interested in the more in depth information about the methods with which the buildings have been built. There are photos of some of the buildings with great illustrations of their passive and active energy strategies and bioclimatic designs. Next to them are details about the ‘energetic architecture’ – the purpose and energy – that each building has, which the physical architecture reflects.
I am intrigued to read that the energy of the land, particularly the forest along the southern ridge, ‘wanted’ to be more present in the Holistic Centre, than any other building, and was consulted very closely with in every aspect of the design of the space. Wondering whether that has anything to do with how calm I felt in there, I am suddenly curious to go back and explore the other rooms of the centre.
In fact, I am feeling a sudden strong urge to know more about everything. At that moment a group of about fifteen university students come pouring downstairs and out the building. Melina had mentioned that there is a university group staying at the village for the next few days to learn about regeneration, natural building, forestry and wilderness skills. They are camping in the north forest, and moving mostly between there and the Education Centre.
I wonder what they learnt today, and how they were taught, thinking back to my career of over twenty years as a teacher. A man comes down the stairs, carrying a folder, looking serious and happy at the same time. Guessing he might have been the teacher, and that he might be busy, I say hello and then get straight to the point. ‘I’d like to know more about the Ambassador Program, and then I saw the student group that just left and wondered about the teaching style – I taught undergraduates for twenty years.’
To my relief, Daniel seemed delighted to stop and talk with me. In a strong, but gentle manner, he suggests, ‘Shall we wander outside?... What would you like to know more about first?’ We walk into the sunlight, and the sounds ahead of us of children playing in the Children’s Garden.
‘Have you taught undergraduates for many years?’ I start with.
He replies, ‘I’m not a qualified university teacher. I’m qualified to teach permaculture, and with it I bring in regeneration and the New Earth Ways. How much of the New Earth Ways I bring in to my classes with visiting groups of university students however is limited, but it informs how I teach – as you mentioned teaching style just now.’
‘What do you mean, that it informs how you teach?’
Daniel takes a deep breath and looks out to the distance, considering the question in a deeper way than I am used to anyone doing.
‘I’ll give you an example,’ he begins, ‘I am a qualified permaculture teacher. But I also teach other things that I’m not qualified in. There are other people that are qualified, or more qualified in the traditional sense of years of experience and courses with a reputable body, but they are not the ones teaching this.’ He pauses. ‘Part of the wisdom of the New Earth Ways is the natural design of one’s make-up, which translates into one’s purpose. This can be cultivated with experience and courses, but not created from. Our world view here sees the importance of fanning the fire that burns in every person’s heart… because that fire contains the raw authentic energy of the Creator.’
Captivated, I am completely silent as he pauses. One thing I have come to understand about men is that if you’re patient when they have something meaningful to say, it keeps getting better. As he hasn’t directly answered my question yet, I am looking forward to what he has to say next.
He elaborates, ‘The NEW worldview, assumes that there is a perfect natural design, and you must be tuned in to it, to be in sync with nature and the universe. Every person has a purpose, that is unique in some way, like some understanding, insights or ideas that may have no basis or recognition in the established world. This doesn’t come off in a CV, and that’s why people are out there doing jobs that they’re not meant to do in a failing system. Young people are great to work with because they have the chance to get it right from the start – if they are given the right guidance and support. So I rarely miss an opportunity to de-program them, and rewire them to tune in to what is speaking and alive in their cells.’
‘You have just summed up why I loved teaching, and why I hated it. Whilst giving young people any kind of education is useful over no education, it pained me to witness and be part of a paradigm that strangles their original creative expression, instead of trusts it.’
‘Mmm.’ Daniel looks at me with an impressed smile. ‘I like how you used the word trust there. Perhaps you would make a great New Earth Ways teacher for the kids that live and visit here?’
I laugh. Entertaining the thought for a moment, I play along: ‘I wonder if I would fit it in here.’
‘That is never a factor to worry about. Practicing the New Earth Ways creates strong cohesion and powerful individuality. That’s why people here are so fulfilled. What else does any of us want, but to feel cohesion and peace within our community, whilst being able to stand out as who we really are? This is central to the Ways. It sounds like it’s time for you to learn more about them.’
All at once I realise that I just failed to apply the same understanding to myself as we just shared towards our students, that clearly there is much room for me to learn and embody these ways despite my natural intuition and years of practical experience, that I still don’t have a firm grasp on what each of the Ways are, and that it is time for Daniel to move on. ‘Thank you so much for stopping and talking with me.’
‘You’re welcome. I hope you find more clarity soon. There are some leaflets in there about the program, and you can just ask anyone as everyone knows about it! Otherwise I’ll be here again tomorrow if you’d like to talk about it some more.’
Daniel disappears in the direction of the north forest. I can hear some wonderful music coming from ahead. It must be the noon contact improvisation class in the Central Studio. Getting into my body now feels like the perfect counterbalance to all this mental exploration.
I turn the corner into the studio to find about twenty people all dancing, smiling, laughing and performing lifts and rolling about one another. It certainly feels like a great way for members to let off steam, connect, be free –and demonstrate boundaries – as the leaflet on the community’s Social Program describes. I recognise Alena from reception, and Michael, the volunteer that showed me around on the first day, and they both give me a big smile. How genuinely lovely. I’m in.