When I first began my permaculture journey, I was intrigued by the principles and ethics that gave shape to this lifestyle and practice. The ethics, Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share, were seen in my mind as a three-legged stool – each carrying their own weight and supporting the whole practice, whereas the principles required me to ask more questions, to dive deeper into their meaning and notice how they appear in daily life. In a time of such uncertainty and change, I turn to these permaculture principles for guidance and reflect on how I can use them to guide my own resiliency efforts at home as well as how I can embody them for my own health and healing.
The first principle, Observe and Interact, recommends that before we do anything, before we plant a seed in the soil, before we change how we do business, before we make a plan for tomorrow, we must first slow down, pause, breathe and observe all of life and our place in it. As humans, we like to act, or react, first and then if we have the time, we’ll observe quickly the results of our actions and most likely judge our actions or blame circumstances and others for the results of our actions. How many times have you sent an email, responded to something that upset you, reacted out of fear or anger, in such a way that immediately afterwards you felt remorse or your emotions were amplified by your reaction? Have you ever reacted to a situation so abruptly and swiftly that you keep thinking about it, that it echoes in your mind all day?
Observe and interact asks us to pause and feel the situation we are in before making a plan to react to it, and then when we do react, we are asked to interact, to be part of the situation and see our place in it as opposed to seeing it as something out there that is happening to us. Can we put this to use right now? When you read information about this virus, when you hear the latest statistics, the lack of safety equipment, the loss of jobs and lives, the uncertainty of it all, do you quickly turn it off, go for a walk, drink a glass of wine, learn a new skill online? What if you sat with it for a minute? What if you observed what was going on and sat in your body and breathed? You might be thinking, I can’t, it’s too much or maybe you are thinking, it won’t do any good to be consumed with the negativity of this situation. What I’m asking is for you to consider taking a moment to slow down, notice where you are feeling all of this uncertainty and fear in your body and breathe into that space. Allow yourself to feel grief, confusion, anger, and uncertainty, and feel without reaction. Just sit and notice. And as you do, can you also observe the beauty of the natural systems that are healing with less interruption from humans – dolphins in the canals in Venice, undisturbed turtles migrating across the beaches in India, less pollution from automobile traffic. Can you observe the kindness and compassion that is occurring across the globe as people bring food to those in need, applaud our healthcare workers after long shifts, share resources and wisdom at no cost, make safety equipment for our front-line workers out of materials in their home? And as you observe this, where do you feel THIS in your body?
Sit and breathe and feel everything that is going on. Allow yourself to take it all in. It’s OK to feel what you are feeling. It’s OK not to rush into reacting or keeping yourself so busy that you numb out to our current reality. Sit with it, breathe into what you are feeling, and then as you see the beauty and possibilities of something emerging from this, ask, how can I be a part of this? We can only truly be part of a more beautifully connected and compassionate world tomorrow by living and observing fully in the present.
- Written by Stacey Doll