Newsletter October 2015
We spoke with Robina McCurdy, a locally and internationally known teacher of Permaculture, and with Divyajyoti, one of Anahata’s founders and author of "Nature's Creation - Knowledge & Guidance through Healing Plants"*. They will both be leading the upcoming Anahata Permaculture Design Certificate and Yoga Course from November 12 – 29, 2015, integrating the Yogic Lifestyle and Philosophy with the classical Permaculture Design System in a beautiful environment.
*For a Special Offer on "Nature's Creation" see Products Section.
1. How did you first get introduced to Permaculture?
Divyajyoti (DJ): After purchasing the land at Bird's Clearing we knew we wanted to develop the property sustainably. Our knowledge of sustainable property development was next to nothing so we took a Permaculture Design Certificate course in the North Island. From there it was all going forward and putting the knowledge into practical, systematic development of Anahata with Permaculture principles.
Robina (R): When I was a small child I was always out in nature and I had my own garden. I always saw things holistically and when I came acrossPermaculture, which was back in 1985 through an article in Organic New Zealand magazine, there was a course coming up immediately and I took that course, the first course in New Zealand. And when I did that course it was a complete affirmation of how I’d been living my life since I was a small child until a 35 year old adult at that time, and also it was an expression of how I was doing my life and work. That fitted hand and glove, myself and Permaculture.
2. Why do you think Permaculture is important in today's world?
DJ: Permaculture is a basic philosophy of using nature as a model to foster sustainability. It is a comprehensive, practical system and approach to setting up an entire sustainable property.
R: As the situation deteriorates on the planet, so Permaculture becomes more clearly and more seriously taken as a solution, from a household level to food security to a management level to natural disaster management to a council planning approach to a holistic solution. There isn’t any other methodology that I can see that matches Permaculture as a solutions approach.
3. How does Yoga fit in with the philosophy and approach of Permaculture?
DJ: The external environment is a reflection of the environment within our bodies. When the external environment and ecology is out of synch, our inner ecology is also affected. The mental and emotional pollution within us needs to be restored and harmonised just as the outer pollution does. Yoga practices can restore the inner ecology and Permaculture practices can restore the outer environment and ecology…bringing back harmony and balance internally and externally. The two are intricately connected.
R: Permaculture has a concept of zones from zone 5 (wilderness zone) right through to zone 0 (the house). Now Permaculture is embracing zone 00 which is the person, the inner person. Yoga is about zone 00 and then about how we express the principles out into the world.
One can go through all of the Permaculture principles and apply them to the Yogic way of life. For example, in Permaculture principles we have the “edge effect” – cultivating the edge (e.g. the physical edge which is between two ecosystems which is an area of high productivity) and then when we look at Yoga or personal growth, it’s cultivating our own edge, the challenging edge of our own growth.
As another example, in Permaculture we look at how we can store energy using appropriate technologies to harness and store energy – then what about our own personal energy? Harvesting energy, harvesting prana (life force), harvesting the earth energy and containing and maintaining that to use in our own life support system. So when we look at the Permaculture of the inner landscape, we look at how we go about our lives in a way which is holistic and integrated and rhythmical and therein the practice of Yoga becomes a core part of it.
4. How will Yoga be incorporated into the upcoming course and what is the benefit of combining these two approaches?
R: In this Permaculture course we have [included] the typical Anahata Yoga Retreat centre rhythm, which includes the silence every morning, the Yoga Nidra (relaxation meditation) during the day, gathering in a circle before eating, the meditations, the Hatha Yoga, the Havan (fire ceremony) and so on. These will run through the whole course, as well as some additional topics that you might not find in a Permaculture course, added in there which are about inner Permaculture.
Divyajyoti’s going to be taking sessions on communication with the natural world, working with the plant kingdoms and designing gardens. Then there’s a theme on the Yogic way of life, how we live our lives with those natural rhythms, and the relationship between Yoga and Permaculture, the inner and the outer. So it’s these topics that are sprinkled into and through the classical Permaculture teachings.
DJ: Yoga is the internal ecology and Permaculture is the external ecology. Anahata has developed this unique course so that the participants can link and merge these two systems into a very powerful outcome and learning experience.
5. What can participants expect to gain from the upcoming course?
DJ: The participants will experience Yogic lifestyle (inner ecology) while receiving a Permaculture Design Certificate (outer ecology). They will learn the basics of Yoga and Yogic philosophy and receive the tools to develop a sustainable property in every aspect from organic gardening, earth houses, alternative power, animal husbandry, grey water systems, etc.
6. What are some unique features of holding the course in this particular location (i.e. at Anahata Yoga Retreat and/or physical features of the landscape / growing season?)
DJ: Anahata is situated in one of the most beautiful, world-class locations in the South Island of NZ. It is primarily a Yoga retreat...developed on Permaculture principles. There are three earth buildings that are all uniquely different. The participants will learn about these buildings and also take part in a practical session building our neighbour’s straw bale house. Anahata is run entirely off the grid on solar power with our own water system that will also be of interest to the students, as they will learn how these systems work. We have a functioning organic garden with green houses, chickens and particularly interesting is the sustainable inter-planting of wood trees throughout the property and the state of the art grey water system. The participants will have wonderful teachers coming in from the outside to impart their specific knowledge and we will be taking a day trip to other Permaculture properties in Golden Bay. Anahata is located at 650 metres above sea level so it has it's own growing season. Students will learn how to grow food at different elevations.
R: The key thing is also the design, the very specific design, which you do at the end of the course which is going to be in and around the Anahata Yoga Retreat centre for the centre to have an even more harmonic landscape. With the Permaculture design it will be making the retreat centre even more an outer physical reflection of the inner Yogic environment. Since the Yogic way of life is vegetarian, we will also be working to develop a design appropriate to a vegetarian way of life. The design will emphasize creating the type of environment that a Yogic retreat centre would most emulate.
7. I am curious if you’ve done a Permaculture course with the Yoga angle before or if this is something new?
R: That’s a very good question. So, in the Tui Community when we run our Permaculture courses, and we’ve been running Permaculture courses at Tui for something like 9 years now, we would have what we call Morning Well-Being every morning. Before we start our sessions, actually before we start our breakfast, we will have people doing Yoga teaching or Chi Gong or Tai Chi – pretty open, but apart from that, no, this is something new. So it will be very interesting to see how it works out. It does make the course a bit more full but in a way, if it’s effective, Yoga can also make people more present, less tired, and more able to bring themselves to be engaged. So let’s see – if integrating it in more than it would usually be, pays off.
8. Anything you'd like to share about the other teachers / guest teachers on this course?
DJ: In addition to Robina and myself, we have two experienced Yoga teachers coordinating the Yogic side of the course. Swami Kriyaratna who has been living in ashrams in Victoria and NSW, Australia for over 20 years, and Nityadrashta who has completed her Satyananda Yogic Teacher Training and has been teaching in Australia and world wide for 15 years. She has studied Ayurveda (the ancient health care system of India) that brings together the natural elements that exist within and the ancient wisdom of Yoga.
R: Everybody who’s a guest teacher on the Permaculture side is also a Yogic practitioner, including Courtney Brooke from the United States who also has a degree in Ecology, Tobias who has done a lot of practical permaculture putting in systems, and Andrew Stephenson, a local architect who will be the building tutor. Because there’s a lot of hands-on stuff and a lot of designing exercises, then all those hands on deck are really helpful to make a course run smoothly.
9. What are you most looking forward to with this course?
DJ: Anahata's early days began with Permaculture Design Courses which were very successful. Yoga then became the focus of Anahata Yoga Retreat and the Permaculture courses were dropped. We are very excited to bring back the Permaculture courses and combine the Yoga with the Permaculture. We believe this is going to be a unique course as the two disciplines are intertwined and compliment each other in every way and we are excited to see how this evolves in our future.
R: Anahata is a magnificent place just to be away from the rest of the world, and to be high on the mountain, kind of up in the clouds, on a clear day looking way down into the ocean, into that big vista of ocean of Golden Bay. It’s a great place for reflection and integration. I think it’s an excellent place to learn and re-gain and retain what you’ve learned. Yes, a good place for reflection.
Robina McCurdy has been engaged in community development, organic growing, Permaculture design and tutoring on a global scale for the past 25 years. She is the founder of the Institute of Earthcare Education Aotearoa and the co-founder of Tui Community in Golden Bay, NZ. Robina comes a wealth of knowledge that she loves to impart to her students.
Divyajyoti is a Yoga teacher and one of the founders of Anahata Yoga Retreat, NZ. She is also a qualified teacher of Permaculture and Sustainable Community Design. Her knowledge of organics, sustainable living, medicinal plants and working co-creatively with Nature is extensive. She is author of the book and card set, Nature's Creation - Knowledge & Guidance through Healing Plants, based on ancient and current medicinal plant wisdom.