Shamanic Permaculture – Where the Inner & Outer Meet

by Cynthia Robinson,
(Cusco, Peru)

It brings such joy to witness the permaculture movement becoming more and more popular, with new projects emerging all over the globe.

Many, including myself, got to know this science from the desire to find a way to return to a natural and holistic lifestyle, integrating self-sustaining organic food production and natural building – which of course makes sense as Permaculture is, in essence, a design science supporting us to live and interact with nature and our communities in harmonious and lasting ways.

However, through my personal journey to embody a sustainable lifestyle, the teachings of Permaculture have been the gateway unlocking a profound transformational journey. One of the discoveries I have made on that journey is that a truly sustainable relationship with the world has a lot more to do with being rather than doing.

My Journey

I came to Permaculture during a time in my life when I was feeling disempowered and, essentially, stuck in a victim mentality. Permaculture offered powerful and practical principles, tools, and design approaches to take responsibility for my life and my relationship with the Earth.

Permaculture helped me to start looking more deeply at nature, in terms of interdependent relationship, and how can I engage with a world full of “problems” from a positive, proactive, and optimistic perspective, focusing on solutions instead of the problems.

However, focusing on solutions also left me with a dilemma. I was choosing a more empowered and harmonious worldview, while at the same time it was yet another way to do, do, do and fix, fix, fix.

Now, I knew a “better way” to work with natural systems in a sustainable manner, but I felt that there were more levels of responsibility I could, personally, take for my life. What about my inner landscape? And how does this inner landscape interact with the outer landscape?

Peru and Tibet

This inquiry led me deeper on my spiritual quest into the shamanic traditions of Peru, as well as the Buddhist traditions of Tibet.

Through the support of these ancestral lineages, something very deep inside of me began to click, and I began to understand and embody the teaching of Permaculture in an entirely different way.

The ancient wisdom lineages have supported me in unraveling a path, which illuminated a deeper understanding of one of the core permaculture teachings, and the first step in any permaculture project is TO OBSERVE.

Before I started to fully acknowledge my inner landscapes, I was relating to this act of observation in terms of doing. What I failed to recognize is that I was observing with an agenda.

I was observing in order to figure out something so that I could then accomplish. It turns out that this is not true observation.

True Observation

True observation actually requires cultivating full presence with ourselves, our environment, and how these two are in relationship without any agenda.

There is nothing I need to know and nothing that I need to accomplish. How much time do we actually spend just being with ourselves and in relationship with life without judgements or agendas? I have found, on my own journey, this is a very challenging state of being to embody, and I can honestly say that I have only had momentary glimpses.

This is not to say that we should never try to accomplish something. After all, we are human, and we have needs for which we must take responsibility, such as eating healthy food, drinking pure water, and composting our waste.

The distinction is in the intention that we are evolving our conditioned relationship with ourselves and, thus, with all life.

In my work at the Paititi Institute, Shamanic Permaculture, in essence, is this intention to unravel what it truly means to be a human, in service for the benefit of all life, and the path to this service is through knowing one’s own true nature and self.

Shamanic Lineages Today

Today, you can find many different lineages that consider themselves shamanic. There are countless techniques, rituals, and ceremonies available.

However, Shamanism, as I have learned it, is neither about a fancy or exotic ritual, nor a religious following. Shamanism is a profound exploration of the true meaning of relationship and interdependence with self, with others, the Earth, and the Cosmos.

Ritual and ceremony can be a powerful tool to bring deeper realization of the interconnected and interdependent nature of all life, and thus, support us in bringing deeper meaning in our perspectives, and greater mindfulness in all that we do.

Therefore, the essence of Permaculture, to me, is about the same principles that ancient tribal societies embodied in their life, which involved individual and communal evolution, in harmony with surrounding systems and landscapes in a way that could allow for sustainable and regenerative development of multifaceted resources.

In fact, Permaculture has come about through the exploration of aboriginal and other ancestral ways of life, in combination with more modern practical insights into the manifestation of Permanent Culture.

Building a Relationship with the Planet

It is easy to get stuck in the techniques of the Permaculture manual or a certain form of some Shamanic ritual and forget the essence.

The true reason for the technique or ritual is to support our connection with our inherent intuition and from there, be in relationship with the natural flow of the planet and people in an authentic and beneficial way.

Our interconnectedness with the environment does not happen when we start to spend time in nature or do a specific shamanic ritual. This connection has always existed, and it is simply a matter of shift in perspective and perception.

It is an opening and expanding of our awareness and consciousness into the full experience of here and now.

The Meaning of Shamanic Permaculture

For me, Shamanic Permaculture does not mean that we are finding our power animals and talking to plants.

For some, these gifts may emerge, but first and foremost, it is about learning to observe our inner landscape, question our perspective of reality, and cultivate a deep understanding of how our inner landscape has powerful impact on all life.

How much of what I am seeing is filtered by my conditioning – by the way I was taught by society to see and relate to the world? From where do my judgements really come, and how are they stored in my being on a cellular level?

Am I willing to let go of who I think I am? Who am I without my personal history – the story of my life? Am I willing to look at all the pain, injustice and suffering in the world and see these problems as a part of a solution? How can I be responsible for this solution by recognizing the same seeds of ignorance in myself?

As we change our relationship with ourselves, we naturally change our relationship with other humans, with nature, and with the mystery of all of existence. The journey is the destination.

Paititi Institute for the Preservation of Ecology

It is through that perspective that the Paititi Institute for the Preservation of Ecology and Indigenous culture was founded 5 years ago.

Since then, we have worked extensively with indigenous Amazonian and Andean communities to create many intercultural bridges that both empower these communities to continue their way of life while maintaining their natural environment and share their wisdom with the world, so that these people continue to be an inspiration to all of humanity in how to live in peace and harmony among people and nature.

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