Exploring at Brackenburn

With this wonderful, enthusiastic group of children from Kurland Village we were very happy to be welcomed by Mark to do a walk at Brackenburn, in the Crags, last weekend. This was in the planning for some time now, after I received a small grant from PSG Wealth through a grant writing competition organized by Nature’s Valley Trust. The grant has been supporting the Nature Network and forest school activities, and was also meant for activities like this recent walk we did. I feel deeply grateful for this support.

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Mark from Brackenburn is a real nature enthusiast, knowledgeable of the local plants and animals (birds especially), and is a patient and inspiring guide and facilitator. It was an exciting opportunity for us all to join him for an afternoon exploration at their farm and surrounding indigenous forest. The children were keenly welcomed by Cara the donkey.. And after this, nature encounters followed each other in a natural order 🙂 Mark got the kids as well to get their hands in the earth and their eyes searching for signs of life around. We spotted spiders, crickets, cicadas and frogs, listened to the birds and observed the trees in the forest.IMG_20180317_151039

As it goes with groups of people, some of our participants have a more deep seated liking to the elements of the natural world, while others take part more for the enjoyment of sharing and experiencing something together… Mark was able to spot animal tracks and dung that the children might not have noticed, and thus inspired them to search for similar signs along the path. We looked under the logs and on the tree trunks for signs of life that might so easily get unnoticed if we don’t train our eyes to seeing them. Fun was had, and the walk through the forest presented little challenges as well to us passing through it…

Furthermore, the indigenous forest is not an environment that many of the children participating in Nature Network activities frequently visit and experience – despite Kurland Village being situated in the Crags, a part of the Garden Route where indigenous forest still stretches over vast areas! The Village has in its near vicinity mostly fynbos and non-indigenous forests. These are the places we frequently visit during our weekly meetings; and although looking for signs of life, observing things around and walking in nature follow same principles everywhere, the species and signs found do differ between the different environments. To visit indigenous forests can for these children be rare opportunities that provide chances for learning to better understand, respect and enjoy the kind of vegetation that traditionally has dominated this landscape and that has become somewhat threatened and fragmented due to all the human activity.

Cara was sad to see the children go. Perhaps we will be back sometime soon! Thank you so much Mark for this trip.

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Adventures with the children of Kurland Village

A bit more than a year ago, we started children’s afterschool activities in Kurland Village, to add to the variety of things already available for the children to engage in after school. This started under the name Nature Network, a concept that was developed by the resourceful and inspiring Rhian Berning in Cape Town some years back. Nature Network is about spending time outside with children using all the senses, exploring, playing games, and learning to appreciate especially the nature that is found right at children’s doorsteps.

In an earlier blog entry I wrote a little more about the background for the reasons for starting these activities, as well as the general aims of engaging in this kind of work. These are, in summary, to, where and when possible, enable environments, encounters and moments where love, compassion and care (for each other and other beings) may arise. The activities are also organized just to provide a safe and fun platform for the children to explore their local nature, and are done in the understanding that all one really can do is do one’s best and do it enthusiastically; if this excites or inspires those around, then so be it… We are all after all living examples to each other, and can pretty much choose what kinds of examples we want to be.

The sessions have over the year been on a break on a few occasions, but have overall been running weekly, and a core group of children has been established. These boys and girls seem to show up week after week, to take part in the walks, games, quiet moments, story moments and music sessions that we have been engaging in.  At times we are a big group – up to 20 children, in which case we don’t go for any lengthy walks – and sometimes a small group, with whom we can more concentrate also on activities such as quieting one’s mind, imagining futures and reflecting on one’s place in the world, and drawing. It was a pleasant surprise to discover Carmen Clew’s & co. book “Planting seeds of life” which includes lesson plans that have already been tested and proven beneficial with children of the Crags before, in terms of learning about respect and other useful tools for life, as well as environmentally beneficial behaviours.. Some of these activities have been incorporated in the sessions, otherwise they loosely follow the Nature Network lesson plans by Rhian Berning, the ideas put forth in “Coyote’s guide to connecting with nature” by Jon Young, as well as ideas from the forest school movement and other sources.

A few activities have turned out to be favourites; like, mimicking animals’ movements and sounds, “guessing what animal” –game, walk to a little waterfall, climbing trees, dancing, playing the guitar, as well as listening to sounds of nature around. However, the children are the real geniuses here, and often the sessions take their course depending on their wishes, moods and emotions. Indeed, they all have their own kind of “map” of the local area; some are familiar and comfortable with certain places, while others would rather not go to certain places. The children know where things grow, and some of them seem to have been alerted to this more during the sessions. Some are aware of many of the edible or usable plants around, while others do not really have this interest or knowledge. Most have some stories to share about what people do around the village; where people go trapping, where groups go smoking, or playing games, or walk to get to work or to visit their friends.

So we all build our views and maps of the places we live in! Based on our values, tendencies, habits and characteristics. It is interesting however, to me as a facilitator, how many things play a role in shaping these maps.. fear, excitement, curiosity or lack of it, wish and tendency for risk taking or the lack of it…

During a few talks with the parents, it appears that not many parents of these children have the time or wish to go spend time in nature with their children. Yet many of them find these sessions are times when children can deepen their learning.

Be it as it may (and plans are underway to further study children’s learning about nature and values related to it, in this area), the Nature Network sessions have been full of adventure, fun, learning and sharing. We have gotten to know each other better, and to know our environment a bit better as well. Even Tico, the dog who lives by AJ and Jackie, boys who often join the sessions, has eagerly joined us on numerous occasions!

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In the future, the Nature Network sessions will incorporate aspects of research; the wish is to loosely assess children’s connection with nature using established methods, as well as engage children further in learning about and immersing in their local nature by using self-study booklets. We would also like to start sharing videos, photographs, upcycled crafts and findings through platforms that enable the rest of the community to learn about and share in the adventures of these children. Perhaps via a little display at the community centre? Or a Facebook page? A book about children’s play & learning in nature? Ideas for the future. 🙂

The sessions continue weekly, and children also take turns to take part in forest school sessions organized about monthly outside of Kurland Village. In addition, we have an exciting visit planned to Brackenburn in the Crags, to see what we can find in the forest there…

I shall be sharing more news of the Nature Network and forest school sessions in this blog.

Thank you for reading. If you have any comments or questions do feel free to get in touch:

miila.kauppinen@gmail.com

 

Confused about blogging?? :)

So much time has passed again since I entered anything into this blog. World has shifted, probably no one is following this page anymore  (were there ever any who did anyway? 😀 ).. and I sometimes haven’t been sure what to write about and how to feel about blogging. These being the main reasons for the break!

I love to write. And generally feel like in every single day there are a lot of things that one could write about; we all could! Each day in each of our lives is full of miraculous things. And there are probably millions of blogs around the world that do indeed share these things, however miraculous they are deemed to be, with those who wish to share in them… We tell stories verbally to our companions, our loved ones, friends and families, our students, co-workers, or animals.. Blogs are I guess just one more avenue for sharing things with each other. At best.

However, I have often found that I do not have a perfectly sound reason for writing a blog. Every reason I could come up with feels always in some way arbitrary. Blog could be about sharing scientific discoveries with a wider public, thus adding to learning in some way. Or a travel blogger could write about the places he or she goes to, and this way assist other travellers in choosing where to go to.. Blogs are also about people’s personal stories, discoveries, pieces of life shared with other people. Nothing wrong with any of the above; I have also been writing a blog for quite some years now, more or less regularly. I just find it somewhat funny. To share in these ways. And never have I quite made my peace with it. 🙂

Anyway, this is me, writer of this blog – and in the coming times, no matter how confused I am about how to feel about it, I shall be writing a bit more again! So you are very welcome to share in these upcoming adventures through this blog. It will be a good exercise for me, getting into writing again, and putting thoughts and plans in writing, as well as reporting on events, activities and developments with projects… Perhaps, someone will also find it interesting.

Inspired, co-evolving human beans

A friend just said she sees nature as a reflection of herself, and also herself as a reflection of nature. For her, the soil they walk by every day by the field is a fertile ground, and a reflection of herself as a fertile ground in which things can grow… the soil needs to be replenished and restored, nutrients must make their cycles and water run through the soil – just like we as humans need continuous input of things and these conditions determine largely what the quality of life will be. Plants that she observes remind her of herself. At times, plants do well, especially when they grow on good soil and have the right nutrients, enough water and light. Sometimes they go through hard times, and may blossom and thrive again when conditions are right. Indeed, this friend often feels she’s like a flower, or a bird of paradise, right in her place and in need of certain few essentials that will keep her going. But that she’s learning more and more of what really is needed to truly thrive, and she learns a lot about this through observing nature… To see these things around us, and see what other creatures also need for their survival and thriving, is a wonderful way to reflect on oneself and on one’s place in this world.

Indeed, nature has always been an inspiration for poets, philosophers, scientists.. after all it is all around us. What differs between individuals is what kind of eyes we have for the various things around us.

Steven Kotler in his book “A Small Furry Hope” interestingly summarizes research on the evolution of human-animal relationship. He speaks of how humans have interacted with animals so intricately since probably the dawn of (human) time that these interactions have over the time altered the very physical as well as spiritual being of ourselves and our animal companions… He ponders on the question of why humans in some societies consider certain animals as sacred. One reason that is suggested is that animals were always there as the first points of comparison. We’ve probably always looked around and learnt about ourselves through observing those around, and apart from other humans, those around have ever mostly been animals, plants and other representatives of the natural world. We have pondered what is similar in them as in us, and what is different.. we have learnt from them and through them.

And so even today, many of us keep doing these comparisons and reflecting.

How are we then currently evolving? Always changing, where are we as humans going right now… We do reflect on nature and its things for sure, but how about people living in the cities; aren’t the comparison points rather different? What kind of influence will it in the long term have on the human brain and cognitive functions that people in many current societies have the advancements of technology and digital reality as their daily reference points.. Sure enough, these things have been around for a very short time in the very course of human history, and yet, it is interesting to ponder what all of our current actions mean for the future of this species of human beings.

Human beings, we are called, and some say that this should be a great reminder of what we all are actually about; we are not called human doings, which might be an apt description taken the extent to which so many people today swear to the name of achievement, over-working, ambition and material wealth, just to name a few things that sometimes do become issues. Instead we are called human beings which maybe refers to the fact that there is more to humanness than only doing (we of course only survive because we do things).. an existence that doesn’t require or imply anything else than what it is.

Or, to make a link back to being inspired by and reflecting on oneself through nature’s things, the character Big Friendly Giant in a film named after him had a way of speaking rather unlike proper English, and he thus had come to call human beings human beans. That’s not so far from what we are, actually, is it..! Just little human beans that need a little water, light and nutrients, and preferably some love, to grow big and healthy…

Here are some poems and quotes that compare humans with nature, or are inspired by nature, for those who like to read:

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, Troilus and Cressida

“There is new life in the soil for every man. There is healing in the trees for tired minds and for our overburdened spirits, there is strength in the hills, if only we will lift up our eyes. Remember that nature is your great restorer.”

CALVIN COOLIDGE, speech, Jul. 25, 1924

“God made the forests, the tiny stars, and the wild winds–and I think that he made them partly as a balance for that kind of civilization that would choke the spirit of joy out of our hearts. He made the great open places for the people who want to be alone with him and talk to him, away from the crowds that kill all reverence. And I think that he is glad at times to have us forget our cares and responsibilities that we may be nearer him–as Jesus was when he crept away into the wilderness to pray.”

MARGARET ELIZABETH SANGSTER, “The Gypsy Spirit”

“Look at a tree, a flower, a plant. Let your awareness rest upon it. How still they are, how deeply rooted in Being. Allow nature to teach you stillness.”

ECKHART TOLLE, Stillness Speaks
“Nature, hating art and pains,

Baulks and baffles plotting brains;

Casualty and Surprise

Are the apples of her eyes.”

RALPH WALDO EMERSON, Nature I
“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
― Albert Einstein

 

“The mountains are calling and I must go.”
― John Muir

 

“…and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?”

– Vincent Van Gogh

 

A poem written by my dear friend Mekhala:

“I see myself in you.
I have cried your tears,
those shed in pain and despair
and those shed in joy and laughter.
We are bound to one another,
as we are bound to the earth and all that exists.
We are bound by the Great Mystery that surrounds us
And at this very moment moves within us all.

I see God in you
In you, I see myself.”

 

And lastly a haiku poem…

 

 

 

In the twilight rain
these brilliant-hued hibiscus –
A lovely sunset

– Matsuo Bashō

Love, nature, politics.. and the choices we make

Benefits of nature to well-being are known throughout time by people ranging from layman to prophets to politicians and more recently scientists. So much so that it is rather arbitrary to speak of people and nature as somewhat separate, as what are we if not nature made up of same particles, same stuff and completely relying on things around us for our survival.. In any case, lately there is much talk about disconnectedness; the idea that humans often don’t deeply feel, experience and express the interconnectedness between all living and non-living things. This then can be related to conservation problems as well as many social issues on a small scale or across the globe.. See for example the book called Children & Nature by Kahn & Kellert (2002), research about nature’s benefits to Xhosa people of South Africa by Cocks et al. (2012), or article about children’s use of and play in nature by Alexander et al. (2015). Many of the problems as we may see it facing the world today are thus rather linked to human psyche.. Shall we say, problems and solutions? For both of these always are there. Read more about the links between social and ecological, conservation and psychology, and interconnectedness in for example Folke et al. (2011), Zylstra et al. (2014) and Price & Lotz-Sisitka (2016).

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Exploration of these matters led me personally over the past few years to consider more and learn about topics and practices related to eco-psychology, nature and compassion, and transformative learning. Eventually over the past year or so it has emerged in material reality as activities related to nature and compassion. I worked with Lunchbox Theatre who educate about environmental and social issues through live theatre.. I’ve been making music with the intention of providing something beautiful to ourselves and to the listener.. and I became more recently involved with Sunshine Sanctuary and MOYA Animal Outreach who work with holistic animal welfare in the Crags. As an ideal, the work includes working with the families in the local Kurland village to enable them to better care for their animal companions.. which also incorporates the aspect of being able to better care for themselves. On a practical level, the work often means rescuing animals from dire conditions and nurturing them back to decent health, after which new homes are found for them.. it also means organizing events for awareness raising, learning, sterilizations and other animal welfare matters, as well as a lot of fundraising and outreach. Some of the most profound moments during this work are when someone’s perception of or way of being with their animal changes, perhaps for the more compassionate.. And, when you see how simple acts of unconditional love may change the whole being of an animal that has gone through some hardship. Touching moments.. and the work has a physical, direct effect in Kurland village, where dog and cat populations still soar rather uncontrolled.

The explorations of human-nature interconnectedness also led to initiation of forest school activities. This we’ve been doing together with a Waldorf teacher and what pleasurable activity this has turned into. Children join from various schools, and we’ve thus far organized the activity as morning time forest school.. adventuring in the forest of Kurland hotel grounds, exploring what comes our way and loosely facilitating activities. The name of forest school is a little misleading for it has very little to do with traditional schooling.. rather, the idea is to lead children to outdoor activity that enables them to explore, reflect, and learn skills such as bushcraft, tracking and identifying nature’s things; but also to enable an environment where free exploration, risk-taking, taking responsibility and developing compassion and self-confidence may take place. It is something of a normal way of being for many children around the world, yet at the same time something that many children in today’s societies do lack these days, for reasons such as habits at home, safety concerns, and the possibilities of engaging with the digital world.. The engagement in activities such as forest school, then, has indeed to an extent been linked to greater care and compassion for other beings, ecologically beneficial behaviours later in life, and emotional well-being (See for example O’Brien 2009; Louv 2008; or Zylstra et al. 2014).

I also started facilitating Nature Network sessions, with some children in Kurland village, to engage with them in outdoor activities that go along these lines as well. We explore the local environment, engaging with it through games, use of all senses and free exploration.. and we’ve been playing music which the children absolutely love.

At the core of these activities lies the desire for, if at all possible, enabling environments, encounters and moments where love, compassion and care may arise.. and perhaps through time and through regular experience and practice, these may be sustained and their effect felt in the circle that surrounds each individual.. Though this is not in a person’s hands in any way; all one can do, really, is to give of what one can, in as an honest way as possible, and if this is inspirational to another being then so be it..

In the past times (a year; two; ten or a hundred..?) it seems that there’s lots of corrupt politicians in power. Especially in the recent times, all over the world, the right-wing parties are gaining in power.. there are a few politicians having money and power in their hands and influencing a little too much the lives of many others.. All kinds of problematic things. These thoughts are possibly fueled now by the current cries in South Africa to change the leadership of the country..  The above kinds of occurrences easily cause division, intolerance, and quarrel. Yet the world is in an ecological crisis and this is thus a social crisis too.. This is seen on small or bigger scales. So where are our priorities and what are we focused on..? Of course, there are then things counterbalancing these; there arise the movements of tolerance, peace, compassion and love. Always love.. And these start with each individual. Even when we talk of large scale changes and events, they are made of many individuals’ world views, perceptions, identities, values and behaviours.. Each of us make choices.

Love and compassion seem to have been things that many have pointed towards as pretty good ways to go, throughout the histories, for the human being to get along with him or herself and other beings and things around in an at least reasonably sustainable and sensible way.. When there’s greed, jealousy, fear and anger, things get messy. Yet humans are always in this battle sort of, with themselves and with each other. We sometimes forget that loving is often a bit easier to do.. loving and letting go, takes so little effort after all, whereas quarrelling and acting angry and inquiring lots of possessions for oneself only take a lot of energy.

Loving actually is giving too. These days, as probably always has been and will be, it is so important to give and share of what one has. Just that, and that is love. When we enthusiastically work with something we believe in and it sustains us, we are living our calling, so to say.. and perhaps giving something good off, somehow. If we honestly, fully, totally are happy with what we’re up to and can be honest about with everything and everyone else around as well. And to be fully happy and honest and fulfilled we need certain things that come from the environment around us; thus it would make sense (so easy to say these things) that when we live full and honest and happy, we are living in fully realized and enacted interconnectedness.. considering with all our actions also the other than ourselves.

Just personally, these things have become my quest, guideline, mission and source of much fun and interest.. as one is ever changing and learning. And thus, these activities, forest school and Nature Network and the animal work also are aimed at encouraging connectedness, honest encounters, making links and having choices… also at having fun, and freedom to explore, reflect, and choose. Ideally so.

The idea is that when one is exposed to several things, many ways of being perhaps, or at least given the honest answers, honest reasons, then one has more of a capacity to make choices, and take responsibility. Even later in life, one then has more of a choice, more easily.

Then I often wonder, did the corrupt politicians have choices? Or those who want to wage war on other nations…

Then again, how is it we judge so easily anyway. We wage war in our own homes with each other, so better sort that out first before talking of anyone else. 🙂 Give love to just oneself and one’s closest, isn’t even that hard sometimes. We are all different; different habits, desires, thoughts.. yet we’re all somewhat the same as well, we can see ourselves in each other if we wish.. We can just keep offering choices, to ourselves and each other. We can live as an inspiration if we so wish.

All is in its place, somehow… Yet I could recommend a good few huge dosages of nature exposure to Jacob Zuma, Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump and all the rest of those folks..

And to you too who’s reading this, for sure! Go out, go out, feel free, wonder and explore..

References:

Alexander, J., Cocks, M. L., Shakleton, C. 2015: The landscape of Childhood: Play and Place as Tools to Understanding Children’s Environmental Use and Perceptions. Hum.Ecol.

Cocks, M.L., Dols, T., Vetter, S. 2012. “God is my forest” – Xhosa cultural values provide untapped opportunities for conservation. S Afr J Sci. 2012; 108(5/6), Art. #880, 8 pages.

Folke et al. 2011. Reconnecting to the Biosphere. AMBIO 40:719-738.

Kahn, P.H.Jr & Kellert, S.R. Children and Nature. Psychological, Sociocultural, and Evolutionary Investigations. Massachusetts Institute of Technology 2002.

Louv, Richard, 2008. Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. In: And the Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age. Algonquin Books.

O’Brien, Liz, 2009. Learning Outdoors: The Forest School Approach. Education 3-13, v37 nl p45-60.

Price, L. & Lotz-Sisitka, H. Critical realism, environmental learning, and social-ecological change. London; New York; Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2016.

Zylstra et al. 2014. Connectedness as a core conservation concern: An interdisciplinary review of theory and a call for practice. Springer Science Reviews 2: 119-143.

 

 

Busking and connecting

Just gotten on a bus from Turku to Jyväskylä, I feel like reflecting on the past weeks’ experiences.

This Europe trip has already taken us to far corners and interesting encounters. In Cologne we got together with the “nameless music group”, braved ourselves and got to playing in the streets of Cologne and Heerlen. After some days of family-friends time there we set on a journey towards Finland.. driving through Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to reach our one destination. We camped on a lovely family farm in Latvia and got to admire the quite chilly Baltic Sea. In Tallinn we had a brief one-hour stop that was enough for a stroll through the beautiful Old Town and a 15-minute busking on an old cobbled stone street with Shariah. From there the ferry took us across to Helsinki, and from there we drove to Kintaus. Welcomed by my mother and Arttu we were able to enjoy lovely days of Finnish summer in the little Kintaus and nearby Jyväskylä.

During these weeks we have all gotten to know each other a bit differently and also are happy to have some new friendships. Travelling and living closely together makes us ponder on ourselves and our relationship with other people and the rest of the world.. It has for me been yet another important set of lessons that are only going home with enough repetition. I am reminded by some of the not-so-healthy ingrained behaviour patterns that take place with these dear people that I have lived or do live with, and how I could constantly learn more to be the loving, peaceful ray of light I aspire to be. Sometimes this is frustrating, realizing that the journey still is a process and maybe always will be, but the lovely thing about connecting deeply with some people around is that they can actually encourage you to accept yourself and be the loving, patient mother and friend to yourself that you always can be, while growing and changing. I am grateful for these friends, lessons and reminders.

Finland in summertime has also offered wonderful chances for connecting deeper not only within oneself but also with the surrounding environment. For me these places in Kintaus are in my heart and soul wherever I go, the forests, hooks and nooks, lakes, little hills and places; light and fresh warmth of still summer nights as well as quiet, freezing days of deep winter, and all in between. I realize that these aspects of space, stillness, natural sounds and working outside are those that I most am drawn to everywhere I go. It is a wonderful source of strength actually that I have with me, developing, that has to do with trusting oneself and ones companions as well as trusting the world around, or trusting in something greater, everywhere. Perhaps learning to adventure, explore and trust myself as a child in the natural surroundings have contributed to this trust, as have the love and caring passed on by our parents and family.

The other companions found the aspects of the environment soothing and attractive as well. The experience of having a sauna by the lake and taking a swim in the cool, calm waters seemed special for them as for me. They seemed to enjoy the quiet, space and slower flow of life. It is nice that for Petra, Shariah and Mekhala these days provided such experiences and resource that they, too, can perhaps draw from and be reminded of in their days. And we had wonderful adventures! We had dinner with my brother in town; went for a horse ride; busked at the “Compass” in Jyväskylä city centre, providing light entertainment for the afternoon crowd; took Shariah to the airport and she almost missed her plane but made it just in time, to spend some holiday time with her daughter in Cologne; took part in a friend’s birthday party near the Russian border.. and we made a trip to an island by the lake in Kintaus, sitting by the fire till late at night and sleeping in the forest with birds, mosquitoes and other island creatures as our company.

Well, for me at least this has all been highly invigorating, inspiring and enjoyable. I have managed to continue some work for Lunchbox Theatre as well, and finished one more funding proposal, hoping to acquire some funds to start further research on the theme of nature connection. And there has been some time to connect with my mother, Arttu and the dear brothers whom I will hopefully see more of still during this last week in Finland. Now we are off to see my grandmother, uncle and aunts in Oulu, more to the north, while Mekhala and Petra are just boarding a ferry for Stockholm, ready to drive down to Germany.

On a final note, even music making itself provides fantastic chances for self-reflection and the practice of living in the now. We have been doing some voice opening before performing and realized this is a chance to let go of some of the tensions in the body and tensions of the mind.. let yourself look and sound funny; it actually feels very liberating. While playing or singing, sometimes the mind wanders, or gets agitated: am I doing it right, what are those people thinking, my voice is cracking.. these tiny moments can be chances to stay in the present, live through whatever is taking place and continue from there still with peace in mind, steady hands, calm confidence and smile on one’s face. While at other times one ends up feeling tiny, unimportant and incapable of doing music at all. J So these moments are wonderful opportunities, to choose how to be and what to give power to! At the same time, the music making moments out in public can at best be inspiring and even healing both to the musicians and those around. Not that everyone will ever enjoy any specific music, but we had one such day in the old town of Porvoo where the environment, easy atmosphere and happy people all contributed to a very enjoyable musical experience. At least some of the on-lookers really enjoyed; this photo was taken by a market stall holder who said that our music had been a lovely remedy to lighten up his not-so-profitable market day and ease an aching head.

Photo Porvoo

Feeling a little sentimental, I also just remembered a dream from last night, in which we prepared a celebration of some kind for my father. When I met him and hugged him in the dream, we looked at each other with great warmth and connection and the whole celebration afterwards was very warm. Our father no longer lives, and indeed, I can imagine that those whose loved ones have passed away would know the feeling of that kind of a dream in which you meet them and you truly feel their closeness. Now I also realized it was on this day 5th of August that we heard of his passing in the previous day 12 years ago.

So these things, leaving, travelling, feeling the presence of those who have passed and the love of those dear ones nearby, are all contributing to this one specific moment in time for this one person.

That is life itself; breaking down, fractured, changing, and at the same time, completely connected and whole.

Pondering on how to be, at the start of a nature-busking trip in Europe

Sitting on the balcony of a dear friend in Cologne, I feel at ease, rested and peaceful. Shariah has decorated and filled the balcony with the most beautiful flowers and pots, pillows and artworks. It overlooks an inner yard where high beech trees now show their green summer glory and in those trees the blackbirds and finches sing their songs that echo across the yard.. between these high buildings. There’s a fountain in the pond that adds the sound of flowing water to the serene picture. There are three tortoises that live in the pond.

Surrounded by such peace apparently I also feel at peace. I feel good, great and alive. We came here to Germany and elsewhere in Europe to meet family and friends, to spend time in the summer nature and to do some busking. We started playing yesterday, in Cologne city centre, and are happy about the experience, though it felt so hectic in the big town, all the people..

Apart from what is “happening”, just this moment feels at ease. Yet I also know that the next moment something may arise that disturbs it somehow.

Quite a lot in the past few days have we been pondering on the problems people have. Most everyone I’ve met in the last weeks, before departing South Africa and after arriving here, have had their share. Problems, troubles, dilemmas.. self doubt, shame or guilt. Questioning the whole meaning of life and sorrow over the futility of current actions. There is feeling trapped, or unable to control something that is happening, or worry, and worry over worry..

We listen to each other and offer a listening ear or supporting hug. Some people dwell alone in their own dilemmas. Yet for everyone there are at least little moments when the dilemma doesn’t seem so big or overwhelming. Moments or long times of laughter, lightness, and full love. Even moments when you ask, how could I ever feel otherwise?

Surrounded by these high buildings or walking in the streets of Cologne, I look at people’s faces, see their way of moving or listen to their words… there’s happiness, and then sometimes trouble or doubt.

These we all have. I may feel at ease now but yet here I go, worrying over worries and pondering on problems. 🙂 A little bit useless, but, if there’s something there to learn..

We realized just the other day now that humans are like pigs. It was Mekhala who offered this after a friend mentioned how she thinks he is the seemingly most content, peaceful person she has met. And there have been more to think similarly, me included. It is like being pigs he suggested; now, we all have our mud around us. There’s always mud and grass, wet or dry mud. We may try and avoid the mud, run away from it, or ignore it.. pretend it’s not there. Or, we may roll in it and take something of the experience. Maybe it helps to shed off something old and create space for new. You don’t exactly have to enjoy rolling in the mud, but you might as well accept it.

In some of the Eastern religious traditions it has been believed the way to “happiness or peace” is through full acceptance of what is, and also, through full entering into the very depths of human being.. facing all that there is and leaving nothing into hiding. There is this thing called a charnel ground where a body is left after a person dies. Some people would meditate in these very places, in order to face fully all the aspects of life. Death, living, sorrow and laughter.. they would be reminded of their “inner monsters” and find a way to deal with all of it. This very theme inspired Shariah to write a song, about the monsters inside that we might wish to face in our lives should we wish to find some peace. So these themes have been on many of our minds’ a lot lately.

So, it has been suggested by many that a happy life is a continous journey of climbing to the highest peaks and needing to go down as well. Or needing to roll in the mud every now and then. Each situation can be seen as an enemy or as an ally, and something to grow from. And this is up to oneself.

So easily said, and we wonder what the key is. Some say the key lies in the here and now. So it is a solution of a little moment. This moment is the only moment we ever have, some say. No matter how we are able to think of the past that is gone or keen to think of the future that may never come, we can only choose every single moment our way of being or feeling the world if that is the only moment we ever have. Without ever forgetting the past or the future.

This can be such a relieve if one embraces it. I can be happy, free and well right now. No matter what is going on in my life I am actually standing here, breathing. What do I wish to concentrate on at this very moment; perhaps the only moment of my life?

Yet the solution is also not a quick fix. Even with the above in mind, the troubles may creep back. And desperation, sometimes; what do I do wrong? Many would give up; but what is there in life that we get good at that doesn’t take practice? Breathing, maybe someone would say, but if we believe certain teachings, we may come to think that even breathing can be done with greater presences, fullness and ease which can enhance the whole quality of life. So, even if a great key to dealing with dilemmas is to accept them and roll in them and decide to view it all in the here and now, peacefully, it is a solution that need to be chosen all over and over again.

Even when greatly practiced, the lows will come, and the great highs.

Yet with the practice of how to be with it, it doesn’t have to be an enemy, but it is merely another face of life. This life, these lives, that are all equally wonderful and magnificent, no matter what happens in them or how long they last. We do all belong on this Earth and this world after all, if nothing else.

The nice thing about this practice is that one can do it anywhere and anytime. There is no place in this world where one doesn’t access oneself.. one could always choose how to look, see or hear; or how to sit, stand, walk or even talk. And furthermore one could consider how to feel inside about something that is taking place; acknowledging what is, but realizing that what we make of it, then, is somehow a product of our minds. Living this way, one doesn’t have to be a victim of the world, but you have great responsibility, and thus also great, great possibility.

This is my view influenced by persons, views and stories from along the way, of how we might deal with things of our lives. There is no better or worse, as far as I know.

And so here I sit, releasing the tension of pondering on problems, and feeling so utterly problemless that it is like there never can be problems again. But that is an illusion, and I am happy with that, ready to practice, and grateful for what is right now.

Wondering about if I will get to take some photos to share through this blog at some point again! Perhaps. For now, for that who may read these words, you will have to rely on your own special imagination to picture a summer-like Cologne, with us playing music and admiring the wonderful life in it!