Post #9 – Mindfully Playing in the Mud

July 25 – 31, 2011 – This week was spent at Mindfulness Farm near Doi Saket, approximately 45 minutes North of Chiang Mai city. This was an opportunity to not only practice mindfullness, but also to learn about earth building and organic farming. Our host Pi Nan, who after being a monk for some twenty years, had a vision to combine  mindfulness and living sustainably with the land.

Mindfulness Farm is set in a beautiful forested area, providing an excellent environnment to let go of ones worries and find peace and tranquility with nature. Life here is very simple, adding to the attraction and beauty of the place. After getting up around 6:00am, and having morning tea, we are off for meditation, either by the lotus pond, up on the hill overlooking the valley and mountains, or maybe even in the garden to send loving energy to all the plants growing, that will nurish our bodies in the mounths ahead.

During meditation, Pi Nan takes the opportunity to share some teachings with us on how to live more in the present moment, to be more mindful during our day, and so much more. After meditation, it’s time for everyone to come together to share breakfast, here at Mindfulness Farm, all brothers and sisters live, eat, work and share together.

Then it’s time for learning and work time. During the course of the day we do different things, all depending on what needs doing at that time on the farm. This being an organized workshop, several mornings were spent learning about earth building, which was amazingly simple in the techniques required. Basically you start with a stone or a cement foundation, set some wood post and bamboo together to make a frame, and your set to apply the mud to make your wall…how easy is that.

Other times we worked in the garden, either planting vegetables, weeding, watering and applying EM. What is EM you ask, well it stands for effective microorganisms, which is a natural way to improve the quality and fertility of soil as well as the growth and quality of crops, as well as improve soil structure, increase productivity and to suppress both disease and weeds.

Pi Nan showed us how to make EM for ourselves, demonstrating how we can be more sustainable and not dependant on chemical fertilizers to feed and make our plants strong and more resistent to pest and disease. Of course, in an organic garden, we apply many different techniques for feeding our plants and controling pest, such as using compost, attracting the natural predators of the pest into the garden such as birds, frogs and lizards, and many other techniques, thus allowing us to immulate what happens in nature.

Pi Nan also showed us how to build up soil for our garden beds when starting out. By digging out our garden bed, adding freshly cut green grasses and weeds and throwing them into the digged out bed, then adding cow manure, rise husk, and liquid manure/EM, and then covering it up with a thin layer of soil. Afterwards, we added compost and worm castings, some more rice husk and covered the whole thing with a good layer of soil and finally mulch…and voila, a garden bed ready for planting new vegetables in a few weeks time.

We also went into the forest to cut down some trees to build a frame for a new house that Pi Nan wanted to build. In a matter of a few days, we had a complet house framed, and so simple…amazing. On another occasion, a few people even built a chair for Pi Nan from some wood in the forest.

After lunch, the afternoon is time for some time to relax, read, go for a walk in the forest, meditation, or anything else that one wishes to do. If one choose, one can continue to work on any of the various projects Pi Nan needs doing. At mindfulness Farm, it very much the “Freestyle” concept that prevails, meaning that each person comes and goes or does what they want, when they want. Their is no set schedule in which everyone must manitorily participate, everyone is allowed to listen to their own needs.

After dinner together, and a short free period to do as you like, it’s time for the evening meditation, and then to bed around 9:00pm…and that’s all in a day at the Mindfulness Farm.  As far as I’m concerned, I had the best sleeping quarters at the farm, as I was provided the opportunity to sleep alone by the pond and the bamboo forest with all the frogs singing their song, the fire flies, and the stars and the milky way…ah I love being in Nature. The air was so fresh in the evenings, and everything so calm, helping enormously to calm ones mind and state of being, not mentioning for a good night’s sleep as well.

I enjoyed my time very much at Mindfulness Farm, and have learned many things that will be valuable on my journey to live sustainably. However, the most significant aspect of my time hear was the opportunity to meet Pi Nan himself. He is such an authentic individual, who does not take himself only as the teacher, but also as a student. He also includes himself as being on the journey with us, experiencing pain and suffering just like everyone else. I see a friend in Pi Nan, someone in which it is my intention that we become friends, sharing and supporting each other on our journeys, as we share similar interest, including gardening, living sustainably, and living mindfully.

The Mindfulness Theme Song at Mindfulness Farm

Happiness, is here and now.
I have dropped, my worries.
Nowhere to go, nothing to do.
No longer in, a hurry. 

Pi Nan

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