From Perma-culture To Prema-culture

Posted by Nisha Srinivasan on May 9, 2017
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Last month, I attended a Permaculture Design Course facilitated by Aranya Agricultural Alternatives, a soulful organization near Hyderabad, India started Padma and Narasanna, a remarkable couple who have been serving in thousands of villages for more than thirty years.

Our farm has been dry since August so I wanted to learn how to equip better for the new reality. Also, some of us from the ServiceSpace community were interested in the shift from Perma-culture to Prema-culture (Prema in Sanskrit means Love) and this seemed like a good space for such an experiment. Abid, a dear friend of the eco-system had prepared the ground.

The physical spaces that hosted us were breathtaking - one with with a lake view and the other, a 15 year old mini forest.

About 30 of us from different parts of India and the world (with heavy representation from France) gathered with our unique personalities and offerings to learn from Narasanna, the master and Nature, the master's master.

I was so happy to see friends like Sheetal Vaidya, Joseph-ji and Steve Ryman, the co-conspirators of this Prema-culture experiment. Thanks to Abid, we arrived earlier and as the bus pulled over with the participants, we welcomed each one with a heart pin and a welcome hug. Was pleasantly surprised to see Sandeep, a dear friend who used to host Awakins near Delhi.

As we settled down, it became clear that the schedule would be intense - from 6 am to late night and mostly outdoors in the summer heat of 40 plus degrees. So we decided to leave acts of service and hosting circles to emergence.

Helping out in the kitchen became a contagious thing where Joseph-ji and Sheetal were in a graceful flow in spite of not knowing Telugu, the local language.

Community nights of dancing and singing brought us closer and by day 3, we had started feeling like a single entity. Along with this deep video from Dr.Venkhat, a teacher of Narasanna, we watched Nipun's talk on Designing for Generosity.

We started doing simple things like observing a minute of silence when participants felt overwhelmed with information. And the gift table with wholesome goodies was much appreciated and people started leaving all kinds of things like books and natural soaps. But we had to put in a note to say "please do not leave money" :)

A young participants had a birthday and our super friendly host family of Supriya, Anil and their parents baked cakes for him. He was completely taken by surprise and became a source of joy, lifing up the spirits of so many other participants.

And one of the days, we had the evening free. It was precious but all of us decided to split into teams and do acts of gratitude towards the space - like cleaning the toilets, collecting plastics and metal scraps from the farm, and cooking and serving dinner so Aranya's cooking team can rest. The 5 course community meal including soup and dessert was relished by everyone with Joseph-ji offering deep gratitude by quoting Thich Naht Hanh's Cloud in a Piece of Paper

After a week, there was so much to learn and so much had been taught.. And familiar strangers and strange familiarity created a mellow atmosphere. So when Narasanna offered us 60 minutes in the evening to do an activity of our choice, it seemed perfect.

Steve Ryman (in the picture), a humble practitioner of the Art of Circles, and a dear friend of Sheetal and Khushmita, stepped up to host a circle. He shared about how the speaker tunes his/her intention towards the purpose of the circle and how everyone else tunes their attention towards deeper and deeper listening. The purpose of our circle was how this design course was connected to our larger life outside this campus. It brought out so much of authentic sharing and many many folks teared up. After 90 minutes, we felt like family with care, trust and vulnerability flowing through each of us for all of us. And Narasanna gracefully decided not to look at the clock.

And a couple of days later, we did another circle - of gratitude and the themes that kept coming back were Nature and Family. I personally felt deep gratitude for course anchors Ritu, Smriti (in the picture) and the many students of Narasanna who freely shared their knowledge with us while volunteering long-term in preparataion for the upcoming International Permaculture Convergence.

The last few days were spent in learning about taking Permaculture to communities. And we realized the power of subtle love that flows through Padma, Narasanna and every one at Aranya to make it their mission for this large community to flourish. They may not call it Prema-culture but that is very much what it is. Like Narasanna says often, Close the Gap, Open the Circle. 

Posted by Nisha Srinivasan | Tags: | permalink

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