In permacultural design, an important principle in energy efficient planning is the idea of zoning. With any home, there are areas which are more intensively used than others. When cohabiting a space with teenagers, these were the kitchen, bathroom and couch. Exhaustively used areas need energy and a concerted effort in labour to maintain. Thus, I was forever cleaning the kitchen, bathroom and pulling out lost socks, pens, pennies and crumbs from under the cushions of the couch, or else engaged in highly ineffective persuasion techniques, often involving yelling, to induce some personal responsibility for one’s own mess. I’m not unversed in psychology and knew it wouldn’t work, but emotional outbursts are their own therapy, if not overused.
Zoning in permaculture is similar, the areas that are intensely used are the areas demanding most work. The home is regarded as zone 0 and the area immediately surrounding the house is zone 1. In this zone, regularly used herbs, water-catching, fuel, and worm farms are placed, enabling ease of access. Zone 5 is the furthest from the home and therefore the least visited. It is, if there is sufficient acreage, dedicated to an unmanaged, wild habitat free from human intervention.
However, as Chris Roth suggests in his article ‘Permaculture 101 and Attending to Zone Zero’ (he refers to zone 1 as both his home and the area surrounding it), permaculture literature often neglects the people who occupy a permacultural design project. Roth recognised the “personal and cultural baggage [we bring] with us as we attempt to enter the permaculture paradigm” (Roth, 2011). When Verd and started learning about permaculture, we found that while we remained in our current location and employment, we couldn’t plan, let alone, ‘do’ permaculture. We became conscious of a need to deprogramme ourselves from the cultural matrix within which we’ve been operating and develop new patterns of being. This would be a spiritual, psychological and physical path. We began with the physical. It was a move from inertia, but we are now in month 7 of a regular programme of exercise. Roth’s advice, though, is a timely reminder: to respect your knees! Mine have been complaining, it is time I listened.
Reprogramming the body for greater physical labour than to which it has been used has proved a little easier to undertake than personal and social reprogramming. Starting this blog has been instrumental in initiating the process; it enabled more focused research and the internalisation of some essential principles – a readying for change. However, our meaning is a little deeper than conscious effort. Social conditioning permeates our inner worlds and is more insidious and nocuous than the effect of a temporary lazy streak or sedation upon the body. Its reach is the unconscious and it pervades all thought, explicit and implicit, it guides personal and community action, and any form of operational reasoning. In wanting to avoid Roth’s pitfall of deriving “at least as much from “old paradigm” attitudes as new“, hence continuing to living without balance, we do see that a radical “paradigm shift” to be vital.
Four potential routes are envisaged.
The first entails an acceptance of the culture within which we live and that to reject it and actively work against it could be counter-productive. Facing challenges from increasingly capitalist forms of production, in addition to other factors, the Kibbutz Movement went into decline, but through the implementation of “… reforms to become commercially viable and stem decline. Liberalisation – including permitting differential incomes and home ownership – has increased their [Kibbutzim] attractiveness to newcomers reluctant to commit to pure communal principles.” (The Guardian, 2012) We have both been extremely functional within the constraints of the culture we inhabit, have learned a great deal, and the experience may provide us with a wisdom to make our endeavour even economically viable. However, it is this very system from which we feel increasingly alienated and ‘unhealthy’. Envisioning this future instills a sense of a degenerative soul in addition to deteriorating knees!
The three alternative routes are more connected to a nurturing of the spirit rather than a spiritual assault. It may be that they are inseparable and that all are needed for neural reshaping.
The Inner Child
A popular psychology concept, the inner child is conceived of as an independent aspect of the unconscious mind. We could apprehend our journey as a form of rebirth and enter it with all the innocence of a child. The child is also an example of an archetype (Jung, 1968). In dreams, commonly occurring primordial images and mythological entities transpire, including that of the child. Child-like characters are also evident in myths and fairytales. Jung argued that archetypal images can intrude spontaneously into the conscious mind and form the basis of our mythos. Myths are therefore experienced, rather than invented. He also viewed them as living psychic entities which can promote human development and growth; neglecting archetypes may lead to a lack of psychological well-being. Hence in psychoanalytic psychology, working with the inner child promotes healing.
I liken the archetype of the inner child to that of the Fool, depicted in the tarot. In many tarot card symbolism, the Fool is an innocent explorer, about to embark on an adventure, mindless of the dangers that might be encountered. I have a preference for the artwork and symbolism in the Thelemic tarot. Card 0 of the set is the Fool and is represented by Dionysus, the god of Spring. It symbolises an awakening of creativity and the readiness for change and embracing the new. But, unlike the perilous fool in many depictions, the Fool of the Crowley/Harris collaboration is not an unguided innocent, the umbilical cord of rebirth is united with the cosmic universe enabling physical, cognitive, emotional and spiritual development. The Fool, like the child is undeterred by fear (represented by the tiger in the card), having the courage to break free from tradition, and worn out patterns of existence. Ostensibly, a worthy card of meditation for our journey.
In the spirit of popular magazine psychology, I set about getting to know my inner child. That is not to say that I do not have awareness of nem, but sometimes a bit of light-hearted exploration and play is a passage to deeper understanding.
“Your inner child is creative
Your inner child is like a mischievous imp. Your approach to life is to be curious about everything: you like to understand, discover, and get to know about things in depth and you take a practical and systematic tack. You know that getting things done is down to trial and error and your thirst for adventure means that you get the most you can out of each new experience. What’s more you have a very active imagination. You are very ingenious, have lots of good ideas and love being creative, and all of this is enhanced by your finely tuned intuition. The need to learn but also to invent is what makes you tick. Your inner child, with its lively nature and sharp intelligence could grow into an Einstein or a Leonardo da Vinci. So, your inner child is a powerful force full of promise if you learn how to allow it a voice, and give it guidance, because it will then have the capacity to dream, and give life and form to its imagination.”
Although a good relationship has been developed with my inner child, it would be good to again see the world with the eyes of a child, with its mystery yet to discover, untainted by cultural preconception.
Throughout life, I’ve intuitively engaged in guided vision work of a personal devising. Although the capacity for audacious exhibitionist extraverted energy exists, I am introverted by nature and could easily live a hermit’s life. There are some visionary journeys where a return to conscious rationality creates a feeling of something lost – a deeper but evasive knowledge. The habit of regular meditation has been broken as often as I have become obsessive in practice. However, with lack of preparation for many of the experiences, the tiger of fear prevents a return journey, but curiosity always beckons again. Since reading around various forms of magickal practice and meditational experiences, I’m ready to travel paths I’ve avoided for a couple of years, this time with a mental toolkit for dealing with unexpected encounters more wisely. Undoubtedly, a catalyst for an exercise in reprogramming selfhood.
Whilst shamanism has come to have a generic meaning pertaining to healing and divinatory practices aided through communion with the spirit world and ceremonial ritual, the term shaman once had a very specific meaning originating with the Tungus people of Siberia, i.e. “priest of the Ural-Altaic people.” Shamanism, like the way of many peoples, before the advent of globalised communication technology and developments in transportation, referred to someone who was specialised in a variety of techniques designed to help and guide the community of which they were a part. The meaning has not changed, but various forms of shamanic practice are now more accessible to those who have become estranged from spiritual engagement. Fortunately, there are keepers of traditional wisdom that are as much in danger of extinction as many animal species. We’ve become particularly interested in, albeit not exclusively, Peruvian shamanic practices, or curanderismo. It’s some years since I was first introduced to the idea of plants as teachers, and have harboured intentions of visionary exploration. As with many of my intentions that don’t materialise, this was also relegated. However, the idea is again prominent on learning about Icaros – songs that are taught by plant spirits to the curandero (shaman) and sung during healing ceremonies.
When people choose holidays, there is an instinctive sense of place and experience that their spirit is drawn too. Financial, time and other constraints might limit the choice, but that does not deter the dream. To work with a shamanic healer is that kind of intuitive calling, and in the quest for a radical break from the past and a healthier restructuring of our being, the experience would be a catalyst for finding our new path and developing Zone OO of our permaculture project.