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On restoring our inner and outer ecosystem, and the art of Thriving

The garden at the permaculture center Mas Franch, Catalunya. An amazing mix of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers – planted together in beautiful patterns, to increase soil quality and provide natural protection against many pests.

This text was originally published after taking my Permaculture Design certificate in 2015 - and republished today in honor of Earth Day 2019. When I ask myself what I want in life, and what it means for me to be healthy, I can best express it in my will to Thrive. I want to be like a flower growing in fertile soil, with all the nutrition and water I need, all the microorganisms and beneficial fungus in the soil that help me to be all I have the potential to be. I want to surround myself with other plants that complement me, and insects that pollinate me and protect me. And I want to reach my leaves up towards the sun, bathing in it’s energy and ever-giving life force. An eco system is a complex network consisting of many parts, where each part is beneficial to the whole, like in the case of the flower I just described. In a healthy eco system, the different parts co-exist in balance. Permaculture is the name of an ecological design system that aims to restore balance of an eco-systems - it could be described as the art of observing nature in close detail, and to ask "what would Nature do?". Through observing we gain knowledge on how to be as less invasive as possible in our meeting with the Earth’s eco systems, as well as how to re-create balance in eco systems that have been disturbed by human interaction.

Stomping cob (clay + straw) with permaculture and spiritual teacher Starhawk in 2015. Cob is used as a natural building material.

In holistic medicine, we observe all the things that affect our body, mind and spirit – knowing that our “body-mind-spirit complex” is also an eco system, very similar to those found in the nature around us. The chemical environment surrounding our cells determine wether they will be healthy or not. We recognize that sickness commonly is a sign of a larger disturbance of our inner eco system, and focus on regaining this balance through nutrition, lifestyle, psychology and non-invasive treatments – rather than treating symptoms with synthetic or surgical methods, which often disturbs our inner eco system even further. In this way, holistic medicine can be seen as “permaculture for our bodies”, and permaculture can be seen as “holistic medicine for the Earth”.

Natural chemical-free swimming pool in Mas Franch, Catalunya. The water get cleansed by passing through ponds with water-cleaning plants. As a proof of success, the swimming pool is inhibited by a rare specie of salamander – whom can only be found in water of exceptional quality.

Sometimes, we might believe something is “wrong” with us when we are not feeling good, that we are somehow flawed in our construction. But just like a flower, we cannot be healthy and grow to our full beauty if we are growing in the wrong place or with a lack of physical or spiritual nutrition. The experience of not “feeling good” is your body’s way of trying to tell you what it needs. In practicing permaculture we trust that nature know what is best for nature. On my own journey, it has been and continuously are a huge lesson to learn how to listen to the signs of my body and my emotions in the same way as the permaculturist observe the nature. To listen, to honor, to follow it’s voice. I trust that my body know what I need and when I need it, and I have many times been surprised by how things seems to work out when I follow the voice of my body – even if my stressed mind usually tells me that I really don’t have time to rest or take it easy or enjoy or whatever else it is I need. I have come to believe that our bodies – and nature – contain far more intelligence than we could ever imagine. Applying permaculture to our health means to understand that we never were designed to live like we do in contemporary society, as little as the Earth was designed to have us living as we do. The amount of stressors we experience daily is overwhelming, as well as the fact that it is quite impossible to avoid chemical contamination in our bodies, or eating only what is good for us. Not to mention the lack of clean air and clean water big parts of humanity are facing. We can never be truly healthy if we live in an environment we are not adjusted to, which means that re-creating balance in nature and re-creating balance in humanity is one and the same process. In going further and deciding the next steps to take in our society and in our lives, I believe it is helpful to look towards this way of thinking to find answers on how to find resilient health; how to recreate an eco system and a fertile soil where we can grow, thrive and be resiliently happy.

Turning the compost, taking the old and transforming it into fertile soil for the new. What do you want to compost in your life?


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