Saturday, December 25, 2010


Today is Christmas day and I feel lonely so I am connecting with as many people as I can by writing to them.  Some of them don’t have email so they won’t receive what I have written for a few weeks, but even as I sit and write to them I feel myself connecting with them.

It has been a difficult month as I have been ill with dysentery.  It was so dark and wet and with no current (no sun so little or no electricity) and feeling very unloved – it was a very difficult time.  Since the beginning of the year I have taken on new roles in the Farmgroup related to the wider community – sitting on different groups and that sort of thing – and some of that has been very challenging.  I’m not much good at that sort of stuff and much prefer to work and grow Buddha Garden and do my own writing and painting.  I also think I have not been looking after myself properly and have gradually got rather down physically as well as being rather depressed.

Its difficult to know what to do.  Should I say ‘no’ to this work?  Or is there something for me to learn here?  I seem to get ‘messages’ that despite the difficulties I should carry on, but I was shocked at how ill I was and it seems to be taking some time to build myself up again. My insides still feel very sensitive and tender.  One thing I did decide was that I needed some sort of practice that would keep me in touch with myself and with God/Divine/Universe.  It is not enough just to keep work, work, working although of course for me that can be very creative and a source of growth. 

So I have started doing a yoga practice before I go to work in the morning (at 6.15am).  My yoga teacher said I should do it at that time and I was very resistant.  I thought it would add yet another lot of stress in having to get up early, but I seem to have taken to it really easily.  I wake up early with no problems and the regular asanas and meditation seem to be doing me a lot of good.  Only this last week I have watched how things have shifted almost effortlessly as I get rid of work that was weighing me down and decided that I wouldn’t engage in some of the stuff that was going on in the Farmgroup. 

So maybe I will find a way to do this work that is creative for me and doesn’t jeopardise my health.   I have given myself three months and if after that time things still don’t feel right then I will have to look anew at what I am doing.  It helps that every morning I do something with the earth that anchors me, whether it is weeding or clearing a bed or mulching or planting for the new season that has come upon us.

Monday, November 29, 2010


It has been extremely wet this month.  It started with a cyclone that fortunately didn't last too long which was followed by days of persistent rain.  Trees have come down and one of our gardens is still flooded, but somehow we have managed to continue working.  We have managed to provide some food for our community although some of the plants are looking somewhat moth eaten and yellow.  The wet weather encourages the growth of  slugs and snails that eat the plants as well as leaching out nutrients in the soil that weaken the plants and make them more susceptible to pests and diseases.  The grey skies mean that often we have been short of electricity which means I can't spend too much time on my computer.  It has been a challenging time when I feel that more of my energy than usual has been spent just in getting through each day.

I was walking around the garden yesterday.  Parts of it were (and still are) flooded and very muddy and other parts felt saturated with water.  Walking on this sort of earth is like walking on a blancmange.  There is a distinct sense of the ground wobbling as I walk over it.

I found it disconcerting to feel what is usually so solid to suddenly become so soft and seemingly unsubstantial.  It made me realise how even the most solid seeming things can change; mountains can explode, rocks can topple and even the earth under our feet can move if there is an earthquake.  But it is a good reminder of how even the most solid seeming things can change into something different and that what is unchanging is elsewhere.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Since the beginning of the year I have found myself being drawn into doing things that take me away from the work on the land. I have found myself more and more involved with Farmgroup administration, which has led to me spending a lot of my time taking and writing up meeting notes. In addition I find myself sitting on a lot of other groups, one of which takes up one whole day each week. While this can be quite interesting, a lot of the time I feel that this is not what I really want to do.

Yet it is work that needs to be done, and as quite a few people have pointed out, I have the skills for doing it. It is also work that needs to be shared amongst several people in the Farmgroup, as it is too much for one or two people to do.

Every day I see a plant in Buddha Garden that has not only managed to grow, but seemingly to flourish, even although it is set in cement.

Obviously the message is that I can grow anywhere. So why do I find it so hard to accept the work that is coming my way right now? Why do I want it to be different?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


In the last week I have been picking the last of the beans before the monsoon and musing on my relationship to these plants. How picking them is an exercise in balancing the growth of the plants so that they grow as many beans as possible for as long as possible.

All plants that we call vegetables produce them in an effort to grow seed, although we often eat them before they get to the seed producing stage. Once the plants have grown seed, if they are annuals (ie seeds planted every year) they stop producing and the plant dies. The long beans I have been picking are eaten at a stage of growth before they produce seed. Thus the more we pick, the more beans the plant grows as it tries to produce seed. It is important to pick all the beans that are ready for eating, otherwise they stay on the plant to grow to the stage where they produce seed and the plant gets the message to stop growing more beans.

Picking beans is therefore an exercise in balancing the plant. In making sure that all the beans that are ready have been picked, but not picking any beans that are not ready for eating. In that way we can keep the bean plant producing for the most amount of time although of course eventually it does get old and die.

It made me think about the balance I don't have in my life at the moment. How I seem to be too busy doing things I 'have' to do leaving me with too little time to do the things I 'want' or 'need' to do for my own health and well being. Unlike the bean plants I cannot rely on anyone else to create this balance for me.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Ever since my house was broken into just over a month ago I have been unable to write or paint. The thieves got in by breaking the jalleys (cement shapes that let in the light) in two windows which meant there was a huge amount of mess to clear up and repairs to do. I also ended up doing something which I have resisted for some time which was to put metal bars  at all the windows. Which of course meant even more mess and disruption while that was being done.

During this time I have found it impossible to write or paint and hence the gap in my posts on this blog. Every day I managed to do the necessary work but I had neither the inspiration or the energy for any kind of creative endeavor. It wasn't just the lack of time and all the disruption.  I felt that something had shut down inside me. I felt dry.

Yet without all was wet, as we experienced much more rain than usual at this time of year. At one point we had three days of grey skies and rain that was more like the monsoon than the usual  showers and thunderstorms of the summer rains.  At one point we started to go short of electricity  as no sun = no electricity when you depend on solar power.  Although there were no floods at times it got very soggy.

It was the water that finally unlocked my spirit.

One early morning as I walked from my house to the garden I looked up at the sky and saw the most beautiful rainbow over the full moon that was just setting in the west. For some reason we don't see many rainbows here and those we have are often quite faint and don't last long. But because of the sun coming from the rising sun this one had clear colours in a clear blue sky and seemed to last longer than most. 

A few days later, as a result of that mysterious process known as 'creation' or maybe 'inspiration'  I felt something unlock within me and I painted the following picture:

 And as I painted I knew the drought was over and that my creative river was flowing again.  I felt blessed.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


For the last week or so we have, for the first time this year, had no volunteers staying in Buddha Garden. It has come at a good time as we are just in the process of finishing a lot of building work - inner fence and 16 new raised beds. We hope these changes will make it easier to grow more food for the community with our volunteer labour.

Now it seems that this is changing as two volunteers turned up yesterday and several are booked to come later this month. I was working with the two volunteers this morning and as usual they asked a lot of questions about Auroville; how I came to be there, what I thought of various issues.

Then one of them asked me 'Are you happy in Auroville?'

At the time we were weeding and I realised that yes, at that moment, doing the job I was doing, being in contact with the earth and the plants, I was very happy indeed. At that moment I was in contact with the real spirit of Auroville, doing something that brings me great joy creating something for the community.

It is a moment to carry in my heart and feel again next time I am upset by something I see going on in my life. A moment that is like a present from the earth which I feel very privileged to care for.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Contemplating chaos

I’m having a difficult time trying to make sense of a report that was recently produced which is supposed to provide a five year sustainable plan for Auroville agriculture. The report has some very interesting nuggets of insight as well as data about our unsustainable diets which the whole community needs to know about. Trouble is it doesn’t hang together very well and if there is an overall plan in the report its not very evident.

I very unwisely volunteered to try and find a way of synthesising all the data and recommendations and fear that I may have bitten off more than I can chew. Sitting and looking at the report and trying to work out how all the disparate pieces can be brought together has made me more confused than ever.

So I have decided to stop trying to think it through intellectually and look at it like I might look at a forest. At first the forest looks quite chaotic, but if you sit and look at it long enough you see how everything hangs together in an interconnected web.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Being anchored

So much seems to be happening at the moment that I feel I have lost my connection to the earth. I still continue to go out and work every morning of course, but for about a week now it has been something that I do each morning before I deal with various issues/problems that seem to be a constant part of my life right now. This has included things like; having a volunteer who got rather unbalanced and left leaving a trail of chaos behind her, going to two meetings and writing up the quite complex notes, dealing with people who want to come and see Buddha Garden and talk about what we do. The list is endless and each new day seems to bring a new crop of ‘things that have to be dealt with’.

I find myself focusing on these things as my hands continue to weed and plant and pick.

I suppose if I was so inclined I could castigate myself for not being properly ‘present’ while I am doing the work on the land. That if my whole consciousness was focused on the present moment as I do this work I wouldn’t lose my earth connection. And yet the fact that I do the work, that my hands touch the earth and I do the things necessary to grow food means that I never lose the connection completely. Even when I am focused on something else in my head my hands working in and with the soil are the reminder which I feel physically even if it gets crowded out by other things taking up my attention.

Once again I see how the work of growing food is the very physical anchor that keeps me connected with the earth – whether I temporarily lose sight of it or not.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Different Sorts of Babies

These days I don’t dream very often. The one I had a few days ago is only the third one this year. My dreams always have something to say to me and often I can decode the message of the dream pretty quickly. But with this last dream I was completely stumped as it didn’t seem to resonate with me on any level or to have anything to say to me. Gradually though, I seem to be understanding what the dream was trying to say, and surprisingly, it seems to relate to what is going on in Buddha Garden.

In the dream I went on a trance like journey with these shadowy presences in a very old, stolen car. We ended up in Surrey (!) and after more dreamlike wandering around shops and losing two women who agreed to help me I found myself walking around in a basement carrying a baby. This seemed to trigger a lot of decisions as I decided to get a bus back to Pondicherry (the city near to Auroville where I live) and found my way out of the basement and on the road to the bus station. With the baby I knew where I wanted to go.

Going back into the dream over these last days I have been struck how I changed once I had the baby. From being dreamy and just going along with whatever anyone else wanted I became more decisive and knowing about where I was going to go. And of course it got me thinking about all my babies.

I have had three real babies – all adults now – and lots of symbolic babies consisting of projects of various sorts. I feel Buddha Garden to be one of my babies as I started the farm in the year 2000 and feel that I have nurtured it all these years. At the moment we are going through a lot of changes as we reorganise different parts of the farm so that we can grow more. We are building 16 new raised beds as well as a different system for making compost. This reorganisation, my present baby, is taking a lot of my time and energy.

As in the dream, this baby is also forcing me to be more resolute. What do I want for Buddha Garden? How do I want it to develop? What do I need to do so that this development can happen? How these questions are answered will determine how Buddha Garden evolves. And since I feel my inner development is very tied up with the outer development in Buddha Garden, I need to be as clear as I can about the answers to these questions.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Domination or Co-operation?

Feeling a bit miffed as a group of people from the Ministry of Agriculture in Delhi didn’t turn up as expected.  In honour of their visit we had spent the last week clearing the place up.  I had even weeded the cactus!
Then I thought – why do I do this?  Is it a displaced domestic activity when you feel you have to spring clean the house when people come?  Or is it an attempt to control nature?  To make it look ‘tidy’ or pretty?
Recently we have been in the process of having 16 new brick raised beds built.  Over the years we have found that growing vegetables in these raised beds is the easiest way to do it.  The brick separates the weeds on the path from the weeds on the bed, making it much easier to keep the beds weed free.  They are also easier to plant and because the beds are flat across the top the whole area of the bed can be used.  When the raised beds were just earth banks we could only use the top piece for planting as the sides were too delicate – getting too dry in the summer and washed away in the monsoon.
Looking at the beds, however, I wonder at the element of control in what we are doing.  Does the brickwork symbolise our domination over nature?  Or does the brickwork symbolise our support and co-operation with nature?  Within those bricks the soil that we nurture does not dissipate as it does on beds that are less well marked out. This makes it possible to grow food year after year after year, with much less work than if we had to remake the beds every season. 
At least, that is what I have observed.
So for me, the new raised beds, the clearing up – even the weeding of the cactus – demonstrates our care for the land.  The land that is caring for us.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Earth as anchor

I started Buddha Garden Community farm ten years ago and I have always felt that cultivating the land to grow food is an important part of cultivating my inner life. 
I have found, however, that it is a difficult thing to write about.  The connection between the one and the other is not always clear.  It isn’t just about those moments when I feel a oneness with all life as I work with the soil.  Or those times when I have some kind of insight as I do the weeding.  Sometimes what happens in the garden is a metaphor for something going on in my life, and seeing it in the garden helps me understand it more clearly and/or deeply.  Sometimes nothing much seems to happen and I just get on with the work – I just am.  Which looking back on it may be one of the most transforming of moments – but not always. 
During the past six months I have been asked to participate more with the organisation and planning groups in Auroville, the community where I live.  Doing this as a representative of the farmers of Auroville.  A lot of the time I have not enjoyed this work very much.  After forty or more years of existence the community of Auroville still hasn’t been able to agree on how to disagree.   Consequently participating in group decision making can be a very fraught experience. 
So often I have resented having this extra work that I don’t really enjoy.  I keep wondering why I persevere with it and maybe its because I want or need the challenge of finding a positive way to respond.  It is a process that has certainly brought out qualities within myself that I never knew I had.
But I don’t think I could do it unless I had this work with the earth.  It keeps me anchored to what feels like a very basic reality that I need to be reminded of on a daily basis.