Tag Archives: spiritual

Chuang Tzu, often described as the ‘do nothing Taoist’, may have been on to something when he seemingly lazed about and lived at his own pace, despite the criticisms of his philosophical colleagues.

Taoism is an ancient spiritual system originating in China. The founder is believed to be Lao Tzu, born around 400 BC, keeper of the archives in the imperial palace of the time. Seeing society decay around him, he chose a solitary reclusive life deep in the mountains. On his departure, he was asked to share his wisdom and experience in writing. He wrote down a collection of 81 short verses, almost poetry, called the Tao Te Ching, that formed the basis of this now worldwide respected path.

So what does Taoism and ‘doing nothing’ have to do with gardening? Well, my garden to be precise. Last year, like any good gardener, passionate about their plot, I tended, fussed, prodded, poked, plucked, dug, watered, fed and watched my garden daily, observing all the things that happen, and don’t happen in gardens, with all the hopes and aspirations of any keen gardener. And of course, I got great results. But I wonder, was all the fuss worth it? Could I have achieved the same results – a thriving, abundant, almost jungle-like space – with a little more ‘doing nothing’? Let’s see.

As a permaculture educator and consultant, of course I design my gardens on those principles, especially with a view to maximum production for little effort. I can report, that since December, a combination of summer heat, travelling, guests over the new year, lots of rain and lack of motivation at times, my garden is doing better than ever, even thriving with absolutely no input from me. I have watered a few potted herbs during hot periods, but the rest has been ‘respectfully, even artfully, neglected’. Yet food production has increased. Soil fertility has increased. New food plants, from self-seeding, are growing everywhere. Old friends are thriving and bigger than expected. Seedlings, once forgotten, are now mature, productive plants. THIS IS PERMACULTURE!

This is biomimicry. This is how nature works and works well it does. There is some work at the beginning, some design and set up. Then a little guidance and maintenance to keep things moving until a certain natural process takes over, and voila!, your garden is no longer a bed with rows of planned edibles. It is an ecosystem, with thriving biodiversity and life beyond anything you could have imagined, and most of it unseen. THIS IS PERMACULTURE. This is Taoist ‘do nothing gardening’- yet pregnant with possibilities, potential and abundant produce – something Chuang Tzu would definitely approve of.

A landmark 1987 report by the World Commission on Environment and Development, popularly known as the Brundtland Report, boldly addresses the value of indigenous ecological perspectives to many global efforts to deal with ongoing environmental crises. It pleads for the prompt restoration of traditional land and resource rights to the world’s remaining indigenous and tribal peoples, and it calls for a renewed respect for their ecological wisdom.

Their very survival had depended upon their ecological awareness and adaptation. These communities are the repositories of vast accumulations of traditional knowledge and experience that links humanity with its ancient origins. Their disappearance is a loss for the larger society, which could learn a great deal from their traditional skills in sustainability managing very complex ecological systems. It is a terrible irony that as formal development reaches more deeply into rainforests, deserts and other isolated environments, it tends to destroy the only cultures that have proved able to thrive in these environments.

We wholeheartedly concur with the Brundtland Report’s stand on the urgency of protecting native rights, lands and knowledge. Native spiritual and ecological knowledge has intrinsic value and worth, regardless of its resonances with or ‘confirmation’ by modern Western scientific values. As most native authorities would be quick to point out, it is quite capable of existing on its own merits and adapting itself over time to meet modern needs. For it is, after all, a proud, perceptive and extraordinarily adaptive spiritual traditional, every bit as precious, irreplaceable and worthy of respect as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and other great spiritual traditions. In our view, respect for native spirituality and the nature-wisdom embedded within it is inseparable from respect for the dignity, human rights and legitimate land claims of all native peoples.

Seen in this light, native knowledge and spiritual values are not simply ‘natural resources’ (in this case, intellectual ones) for non-natives to mine, manipulate or plunder. They are, and will always be, the precious life-sustaining property of First Peoples: sacred symbols encoding the hidden design of their respective universes: mirrors to their individual and collective identities: and ancient and irreplaceable maps suggesting possible paths to inner as well as ecological equilibrium with the wider, ever-changing world.

- David Suzuki & Peter Knudtson