It is a sunny day and I look outside the window. The branches of this tree are bare. Naked. To some they might express – this is a place of death, no energy resides in this shape any longer. But I follow the branches all the way to the top. There, like little miracles, life finds its source, a rebirth in the dead branches.
I read somewhere that the German poet and writer Goethe once said everything is a metaphor. I think back to a moment in time when I watched the sunset in Vancouver and I concluded that everything is in everything. And you can find waves in the clouds.
Today, I find myself in the tree, in the branches. A metaphor for life and death and everything that happens in between.
How many deaths do we die before we die. How many skins do we shed, tears do we cry, rip ourselves into pieces, accept the stillness, the pain, the salt that needs to wash it away. How many times does this resilient heart beat for me. How many times do I break it.
How did I get here?
About a month ago, I had a dream where a voice spoke to me, telling me that to find home, I needed to adjust my inner compass by facing myself. It was a message that did not feel like a threat, it felt like a promise, a guidance. Trustworthy.
Meditating, the voice whispered to me again “go to Bali”. The next day, I received an email from my school in Vancouver with recommendations for internships abroad. Jiwa Damai - peaceful soul – was among them. A retreat, a permaculture garden, for me a healing project.
The voice announced this place long before I could know the depth of this place, the meaning it would carry for my journey. Although covered up as the mandatory work experience, to learn about permaculture in practice, even before boarding the plane to Bali, I had a sense of this trip’s true purpose. I marked it with a question mark, but it soon took a different shape.
I came to Jiwa Damai about two weeks ago. But time and space are not counted here. The meaning of sunrise and nightfall, of counting minutes and hours, the world we have defined does not apply to the
universe I find here. It is a place where butterflies dance, where bananas and mangoes grow happily. It is where frogs wake you up and where the green, the lush gardens, like a jungle, remind you of the fertility and the power of Earth. It is a place that reminds you of a truth often forgotten – you, too, are part of this fertile and vivid energy, of what we call ours.
Everything is so vivid that marveling at the beauty of life becomes as natural as brushing my teeth in the morning. And I become a child again, exploring the world through close observation.
I wonder how much I recognize and realize in my own patterns and behaviors. And what can others read in me? What is there that I haven’t come to understand yet? Forever in progress. Am I? Alive. When there is no change, life leaves us. That is when decay starts. In nature as in us. It bothers me to be pitied for being a free bird that flies through this world with an open heart and mind. That picture is incomplete. And am I always looking for something or is there ever a place to go, a point in time when I arrive? I used to be driven by the search for a place called home, restless and exhausted, always homesick for a place I don’t know. Looking for a comfort that no one can give me.
Now, being given that much space and time to face myself, inevitably I am more and more aware of my wounds. I observe myself, my criticism, my doubts. I see patterns and underlying unresolved hungry ghosts, pains from the past. Coping mechanisms developed out of the necessity to protect myself, but in the long run now holding me in circles, that turn infinitely. I often wrote about my inner kaleidoscope or a blanket of fragmented memories that I carry around. As I take a closer look now, the kaleidoscope of my personality is made of the colorful parts of my personality that developed as subpersonalities, on different missions, united by the aim to protect myself. So, when I judge myself, when I push myself, when I despise myself, when I run away, it is innately a way of stabilizing and protecting myself. I note this down, because it makes me question myself, the why and the depths of myself further. One of the things I am trying to practice is this compassionate curiosity to move forward, instead of being held back. As long as they continue, as long as I identify with these different roles, part of my potential is hidden which also steals my joy.
I spend my days with a volunteer, a soul on his own path towards healing and reconnecting with his purpose. With stillness and simplicity. We are allies. He explores the world with curiosity and teaches me so much of the Earth, of connection and of little wonders embedded within. Our conversations lead me further, show me the width and depth there is and the connections between it all. I am in awe; how much in our
ecosystems is equal to the human body. Health and disease, a matter of dysfunction caused by too much logic, too much interference, too many paths we take too far from our innate rhythm. Nature always finds the easiest way to grow, yet we turn against this and ourselves by trying to force a rapid growth in other directions. I see the parts of me that do this clearly.
Where this leads me is self-love through a new perspective. In nature, edges are the richest areas. Edges. Edges define entities. They are boundaries. Life on the edge. The margin of something. A shift happened when I was made aware of this. I always felt as if I was always at the margin of something, but never really belonged anywhere. Now, I see myself and my own belonging in a different light. Life on the edge, at the margin of something bigger means to experience life at its fullest. This is where inspiration kisses my forehead, where we meet more spirits of the same and different tribes, this is where true connection happens. And boundaries invite trust, they invite authenticity in.
Life on the edge, I thought to myself, not so bad after all. A field of dreams, rather.
Following this field of dreams, we unfolded the core ethics of permaculture of caring for the Earth, to caring for the community, to fair sharing. These ethics are the foundation of a life lived in abundance, away from fear. Coming from a place of giving, our moves create a rippling effect of love towards our true purpose. If we love, value and cherish, honor and respect ourselves and each other, ultimately, we cannot act out of fear. Fear silences, strangles. It makes us small, it creates insecurity and conflict. Love gives. Only when we love and give are we really free. So, in order to free each other, we need to free ourselves first.
In this sense, I wonder how we are always so blind to see our own twists, how come we criticize what lies unresolved within us. I suddenly see how small the room within that I call acceptance is. And I understand this may be where I have to start. Day by day, with each rising sun, this daily exercise becomes a bit easier, despite little sidesteps and setbacks from moment to moment. I work towards accepting the whole of me. What I feel is a great source of stability in this is the combination of looking inwards and being with my heart and conversations with Margret, who holds up a mirror to me in a way that no one ever has.
Really loving myself, every part of me, feels like the most difficult thing to do though. Yet I have never been more accepting of where I am and my life’s uncertainties which nourishes a new trust within than here. The conflicting parts within me become my friends and befriend each other,
holding hands and holding each other closely. Acceptance also means for me now to invite my fears in, instead of letting them haunt me, especially at nighttime. In the light of day, they are different, subtler. But even impatience is a form of fear and it seems that the path to healing and freedom is paved with patience and acceptance. Can it be only then, now, am I able to truly forgive and to give, to allow myself to rest. And to give myself permission to feel what I feel. So simple, but the hardest thing, a lifelong task.
I came for lessons of permaculture, of the Earth. What I got here were lessons of the Earth, of the Self, of My Self, of the connectedness between them all through the Earth and the heart.
Back in the garden, it dawned on me that life may be exactly like pruning those trees. We cut through the deep jungle, until we reach more light. Resilience.
Part of me feels afraid at the thought of leaving this environment that brought out the best in me and helps me connect with my heart, my Self and the world. It truly has given me the greatest gift I could have wished for, when my heart connected me with my highest deepest truest self during meditation. But when I listen closely, I know the impermanence of life and that I am called to move on. I aim to hold the memory of the joyful bliss, the expansion, the freedom and lightness of that feeling within. The image of myself floating and radiating from a place deeper than the bottom of my heart is what I am taking with me wherever I go. With every step, moving forward. And on this way, we’re all just walking each other home to a peaceful soul.
This article was written by Marie-Theres Langlotz, our intern at Jiwa Damai. If you want to join us as an intern, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.