In a world becoming increasingly engrossed in technology and consumption, it is essential to bring people out of isolation and instead back to community. The living Earth sustains its inhabitants, including humans, who can still become grounded in place and regain inherent, vital connections despite certain obstacles of the modern age.
Situated among the bush growth of the Koreelah Forest, the community at Peace Valley center their work around such goals. They envision their site as an opportunity for place-making and regenerative, healing work between people, other beings of nature, and the land.Peace Valley was established to address a growing need for natural spaces of solace and reflection for urban dwellers. Joy Foley, the founder, began the Australian bush retreat at Bindarrabi Community, a developing ecovillage on a piece of their common land. After several phases of building, expanding, and fortifying their structures, Peace Valley now functions as a camp and event center. It continues to host volunteers and guests who engage in practices of simple living and shared activities such as meditation, gardening, walks, and swimming.
By putting the idea of “gift economy” into practice, no one is excluded on a financial basis from enjoying the Peace Valley bush retreat area. Among the restorative permaculture onsite, Peace Valley is also working to set up an edible grove of native Australian trees, as they believe in “growing trees to grow people.” The indigenous tree and plant propagation of flora such as hoop pine, silky oak, and acacia seed is one of several efforts to maintain indigenous biodiversity in the region, in addition to removing invasive plant species.Foley recalls the “deep calling to reforest, revegetate, reconnect, and simply be in love with nature, with life, and with the earth” that “strengthened in me.”
It is vital to promote access to the natural world, especially for those who are the furthest removed from it. In particular, as young people grow up more and more enclosed in artificial and technological surroundings, we must find ways to overcome the distance from our shared home and its abundance of gifts and wonder. The ability to receive the gifts that nature, as well as others, in our innermost selves, all have to offer, is what sustains life and gives so much purpose.
Earth, our old and wise mother, is most beautiful.
Life, of which together with Gaia we are part and expression, is most beautiful.
We are immersed in a treasure ineffable and of a mystery so transparent that we almost can’t see it.
For almost five billion years the Earth has welcomed and enabled the living systems that make life possible.
Ancient and beautiful Gaia is the oldest living organism, a vital and powerful force far beyond what we can see or understand with mere human perception. Wherever we are on the planet, each day brings us into direct relationship with her, and from her we are embraced and nourished. Even our ancestors — all were born and fed by Gaia’s generosity and by the light of the sun.
Through this ancient line of human evolution we are naturally connected to the body of the Earth and her heart, just as we are connected to all beings — the many other species which she hosts. Since time immemorial she has transmitted her wisdom to all living creatures just as the mothers do with children, generation after generation. Among all the species that exist we are the last to arrive, and like children we are still unable to appreciate Gaia’s sweeping simultaneous expression of inclusivity that is in benefit to the whole.
Despite the thousands of years of human presence on Earth, our juvenile behavior causes a great deal of trouble and brings suffering not only to ourselves, but to other species and the planet. We don’t even have the ability to live together in harmony yet. Selfishly we seek to control and exploit everything to our advantage; the life of plants, the water, animals of every kind, from insects to fish and mammals and even other human beings, believing we are separate and independent from it all. Within this illusion of separation we are blinded by ignorance and greed.
In our immaturity, although we know that we all breathe the same air and drink the same waters, are fed of the same soil, of an Earth that is round not flat, a sphere in an ancestral dance through an interdependent and infinite cosmos. Yet believing ourselves all powerful we claim the right to own and manage everything in nature. Audaciously we claim the place of a more evolved species. Full of desire for power, enslaved by our emotions, we find ourselves anchored to selfishness, asserting control of everything even if the damage we do is evident all around.
When we are confronted with the reality of the facts and information on the state of the planet that circulates the globe at great speed, shouldn’t our understanding be that we must wake up? Realize that the time to mature has come and that time is now and the place is right here, where each of us breathe moment by moment.
Even so, despite this collective spiritual underdevelopment, we find we are in a great momentum of positive change and there are enough individuals whose spiritual maturity is such that they can offer support at this time — in this evolutionary wave in which we find ourselves. But still that does not give us enough skill or wisdom to embody the next evolutionary step of the future — no longer as Homo Sapiens but as Homo Spiritualis.
So how do we abandon the old to make room for the new, both in nature and in ourselves?
How do we befriend ourselves in a deeper way, for I believe, it is in this profound state where we find the space and opening to sincerely befriend others, where we can step into service for all. This is the ancient teaching of Gaia.
And at just the right moment, to leave behind what has outlived its time, and in this space recognize the new. This dynamic is not always easy but it is essential and will lead us to grow spiritually and will give us a vision with a depth of transparency to reflect the mystery of which we are a part and should honor.
For this, time is needed, and often in solitude, because the intensity of this highly creative process requires utmost care and a state of total surrender.
Feeding bird at Bandas. Gallmann Conservancy, Laikipia, Kenya. Photo by Alice Kohler
It’s painful to realize that we are slow to evolve as a human community knowing that the fundamental changes that are necessary are needed immediately. We have what it takes but still we are lacking in the capability.
Personally I feel tremendous pain, a sorrow that can border on outrage – that we are not yet able to recognize and respect the beauty of life. How sad to note that we are incapable of equanimity or respect for life in its innumerable and myriad forms. Respect for our human brothers and sisters, for our relatives the animals, our relatives the seeds, respect for our home and Mother Earth. How is it that we are so immature? My pain turns to despair when I see the limits of what I can do to help. What can a tiny grain of sand do in the midst of an ocean? Why can’t we free ourselves from our greed and just live in peace?
In these difficult times it’s easy for people to become depressed. It takes strength to act in a positive way in this time of despair and grief – holding firm to the human values of trust, goodness, common sense in the midst of so much suffering so that we don’t lose hope. I have found myself wishing to withdraw from society, my spirit calling me into silence. I remember as a child being attracted to a way of living that would be willing give up something if it allowed for an opening of the heart.
More and more I am longing to live for the spirit, with fewer possessions and distractions, free myself from the madness I see around the world today. Tears flow warm while my words have no more power and somehow I know that we must still offer our help, accepting that the present is not the time to retreat, but to remain engaged and offer oneself in service to life. There is a goodness in dedicating ourselves with humility and gratitude. Each of us bring gifts and possibilities, qualities within that can come to fruition. Not expecting reward we can act trusting in the grace and the fortuitous randomness of life, for we are all vehicles for Life.
As I rise each morning I am grateful for the deep love that blesses each of us, day after day. I try to remain in a silence that directs me to see each tiny leaf, every cloud, the song of the bird, the raindrops, the highest mountain peaks down to the depths of the sea. The light of the moon. The cosmos takes care of all, including me and my incapacity. All that remains is the spiritual beauty of Gaia and of every being, this transparent silence revealing what cannot be explained.