In the Spring of this year, I was staying high up in the Bulgarian mountains, in an ashram named Surya Kiran. I'd never stayed in an ashram before, and I didn't know what to expect. It turned out to be one of the most transformational few weeks of my life.
From the moment they picked me up from Sofia, Roksana and Rai Das, the inhabitants of the Ashram were like parents to me, truly wise, caring parents. They seemed to know all about me the moment they met me and required no encouragement to get to work on pushing my buttons, tending my wounds and smoothing out my jagged edges. Early on in my stay Rai Das even promised to turn me 'from an elf into a yogi'! That was something I wanted to see...
There was an energy of such startling intensity about the place that I even found it difficult to sleep when I first arrived. According to them, all of the practises and rituals they carry out every day create a very strong energy field of protection and transformation. I could believe it just by feeling it.
On just the second morning of spontaneous dance sessions led by Roksana something happened that shocked and surprised me, and has never truly left me since. Through Roxi's prescribed guidance, I discovered a way of dancing that I'd never tried before. It was like I was dancing not just on the outside, but within also, and as the session was coming to a close a massive surge of emotion came over me, causing me to collapse on the floor, in floods of tears and trembling. I had no idea what was going on. So many thoughts, feelings and emotions came rushing through my being, my intuitive feeling was this was all very important and that I shouldn't fight any of it, just sit back and allow it all to happen...
Somehow everything felt so alive, with such vibrancy and intensity. It was like I had just truly opened my eyes, all my senses to the life that was always around me. So many painful memories were associated with this experience - it was like all of the things I'd be avoiding feeling were also numbing me to the Magic of Life Itself. But now I felt all of it, and though painful, Roxi's reassuring presence gave me the courage to stay with it.
Then something even more surprising happened. Of all the energy I felt, the energy right under my body, the presence of the ground - The Earth became especially strong. So much of my body was in contact with the floor at that moment, and it was like I wanted more and more contact with the feeling underneath me.
Never before had I felt anything like this. Although I'd had other insight experiences before, I'd never felt the Earth's energy in this way. It felt so Alive, so vividly real, my body's contact with the ground felt just like contact with another person, or living thing. It was turning into more of an embrace, and this presence was undeniably feminine. It felt like a long lost connection.
Of course I'd heard so many others talking about being with 'Mother Earth' - though I was prone to taking this talk to be either symbolic or slightly whimsical. I expect others who read this now to have the same response (I might well have been sceptical before this meeting, now all I can do is humbly report my experience.) I'd always felt close to 'nature' - the birds, the bees, the trees, the plants all seemed very alive to me, yet the actual planet - a living being? I was always in denial - it wasn't a comfortable idea for me. And yet here I was in intimate contact with something that felt even more real than ordinary reality, so alive and vibrant and part of me that I knew my relationship with her was never going to be the same again.
As our communion deepened, my feeling of pain began to get mixed up with her pain. Extraordinary pain. An unparallelled sense of hurt and betrayal. It felt like she was pouring out all of her unheard agony onto someone who'd finally listen. Before now I'd never been available, and Mother was going to make sure she took this chance to tell me exactly how she was feeling!!!
And incredibly, juxtaposed with all this pain and hurt was a feeling of the most unshakable calm too, a feeling of unconditional peace and acceptance over all that was happening. A feeling of unconditional Love towards me and all other beings who live on her, and from her, who are after all part of her. No matter what comes to pass, I will always love you the same, the feeling told me.
Can you imagine how I felt? What a whirlwind! I continued to lie there, pressed down against her, balling with uncontrollable tears of grief and exultation, the two feelings now not feeling opposed at all, but One.
I felt an indescribably intense urge to say sorry, sorry, sorry... I said it to her in the same language as she spoke to me - through feeling. My whole being desperate to rinse out the cloying after taste of guilt and shame after what I had done, and somehow for what we have all done, for the way we have all treated Mother.
The response came back - it's ok, I'm very hurt, but it's ok - you can heal me, you can correct your mistakes.
At this point I almost recoiled... Was this why I had been avoiding speaking with her for so long? Is this why we all avoid this intimate contact? Once we have realised all the harm we have done, we will also realise our duty to undo, our duty to restore and regenerate our once radiant planet - some kind of service.
Most of us shudder at the notion of becoming a servant. It's interesting that in our times the word evokes a sense of inferiority, a lower-than-ness, even an association with shame. In other cultures to serve is regarded as a very noble pursuit. I remember being so impressed visiting the Tibetan's Children Village in India - for refugee children. All around the school were banners and slogans about 'Living to Serve' - Wow! What a stark contrast and what breath of fresh air it was from our schools back home, who only seem to program to 'compete and defeat' all others to become the best. To serve seems like such a lowly, humiliating thing to us.
And perhaps hence the world is the way it is. This cultural conditioning had clearly rubbed off more than I'd liked to have admitted, because when I felt even the suggestion of a request to serve coming, something in me wanted to turn back, wanted to cut this call short. Even with all this divine love Mother had shown me, even though through this experience I could now vividly feel how I rely on her for every breath of air that I'd ever breathed, every morsel of food that I'd ever eaten, and every safe landing of every footstep I'd ever made - that she wanted something from me seemed too much... an unreasonable request. Sure, I'd admired others who'd dedicated their lives towards conservation and environmentalism, and I'd even given much of time and energy towards the cause of agroforestry, but such total devotion felt like something I wasn't quite ready for... not for someone like me. Sorry Earth, but I still got important things to do for me.
Of course I was mortified with myself for having such a selfish response to the most heart felt, the most worthy calling I'd ever felt in my life, and yet there it was. I felt what I felt and I couldn't deny it. I had to be radically honest with myself and with her. This kind of communication seemed to leave no place to hide anything and no room for deception of any kind.
But it seemed like Mother wouldn't take no for an answer. From a kindly asking, was now coming a real plea. A very direct, alarmingly urgent plea for help... 'But what about my freedom?', I retorted - but mother was clearly not very interested in such infantile notions of freedom. I was clearly still to realise that the ultimate freedom is service.
Ok, maybe, I'll try, I'll try, I said, only half believing myself. Our conversation stopped about there, there wasn't much more to say. I clearly had some growing up to do, and some self indulgence to let go of before I was going to be of much help to Mother.
Luckily, I was in the right place to learn such things! The main focus of practise in the ashram was 'Karma Yoga' - the art of selfless action, service to a higher cause, work that is truly worthy of our highest self, the All. And Rai Das seemed to know that this was exactly what I needed to learn! Every day we worked hard, giving our fullest energy and attention to the given task at hand. Little time was given to breaks, to chat, or to drift off to a dream world, (which had always previously been my favourite occupation.) My teacher was firm and consistent, not allowing me a moment of inertia, but kept me disciplined at all times. I found it relentless... How could I keep up this level of effort for three weeks - I cried inside. There were moments where my whole being resisted and refused to offer my precious energy up for something that 'wasn't for me', there were moments when I wanted to throttle my teacher and storm out of the ashram, with my stubborn ego intact.
Thankfully a voice deep inside me insisted that I continue... day by day I got worn down. My little self that is... and when I just couldn't resist any longer, a whole new, much bigger life force of energy would come rushing in, and somehow the work was suddenly very easy. These little glimpses of peace and ease opened up into a whole other way of working. I realised that work was not the difficult part - the difficulty was in my resistance to the work. And now I started to understand how this type of work could be described as 'effortless'.
Every time, as soon as resistance subsided, another possibility presented itself to me. A life of dedication turned out not to be the life of strife that I'd feared at all! But instead the greatest peace, the greatest joy, the greatest offering. Though my mind still didn't quite understand, the more work I'd do, the more energy I'd have to do more. The more I could offer to others, the more joy I'd feel in myself.
I started to think about my life back home, my gardening work and my budding nursery, and realised that I had already been serving Mother for years without really knowing it. But now my work was to take on a whole new meaning. Now in communion with Our Source, it seemed my new purpose was to do everything in my power to work for the benefit of all life on Earth.
For years I'd studied the miraculous effects that agroforestry and specifically forest gardens have on restoring ecosystems and regenerating the natural cycles and rhythms of life. For years I'd been putting these principles into practise, both on my parent's farm and for others who I'd worked for. But now a much greater significance emerged, and I felt so privileged to have the tool box of knowledge and skills I was given to be able to carry out the work that Mother had so wilfully asked for.
Since coming home my way of life and my way of working has changed dramatically. Suddenly I'm able to utilise all my energy to complete tasks thoroughly, with order, care and dedication. Although my old dreamy and resistant self still emerges from time to time, its days feel numbered as I find greater and greater certainty in my path.
Now I understand the work I do is not for 'me' but for us 'all'. I still try to listen to Mother to take guidance whenever I can, the way I work with plants and the methods I use for multiplying these plants for others. She is very much the managing director in the creation of Symbiosis - a powerful force for restoring our connection to the natural world.
She's also presented me with a whole new model of how 'business' can work. Through generosity, we create abundance. Therefore plants from the nursery should require no price. They are simply offered out to others with an unconditional sense of abundance - what comes back from others should be a reflection of the Spirit they were given in.
Therefore generating enough abundance, anything is possible. Mother's presented me the greatest visions of Symbiosis is to acquire enough resources to buy land across Europe, and find passionate individuals who would also like to devote their lives to serving this most urgent of causes. On these Symbiosis plots, large regenerational edible landscapes will be created - safe guarding the future for our children and their children's children. The land will be stewarded with the utmost love and care, and beauty and order will be at the Heart of everything we do. Symbiosis plots will also serve to create healing and transformational spaces for others to come and find the path, and so the potential is literally boundless.
I believe that working alongside our Divine Mother, all things are possible.
Our Heart is Her Heart, Our Mind is Her Mind, every part of our body comes from Her and Is Her.
So Symbiosis, the mutually beneficial relationship between organisms can happen best when we realise we are in fact, One Organism. Therefore I no longer think of Symbiosis as a project of mine, but a project of the whole mother, the whole Earth, and everybody on it. Long may it serve us all.
Thank you to all those who've helped me along the path, especially Roksana, Rai Das and my wonderful friends and family. Bless you All.