Living in an eco-village — Permaculture and it’s permanent impact on my life
Nong Khai, in northern Thailand, is not a place I would have picked to spend a hot spring month in. However, my month at Gaia was one of those experiences that cannot be fully articulated with mere words. Gaia School Asia is many things — an education centre, a permaculture farm, a facilitation training centre, an eco-village and an intentional working community.
When I first arrived at Gaia, I had some expectations — mostly to learn about permaculture and its practices and also pick up some skills with which I could contribute as I travelled further. What I found was much much more.
In my travels, one thing that keeps ringing true for me consistently, is that it is the people that make the experiences richer, memorable and life changing. At Gaia, this was the highlight of my stay. From the co-founders, Tom and Om to the long term contributors, Lars, Karla and Maria and other travelers like me, I was engulfed in compassion, commitment and inclusiveness.
Tom and Om’s vision of the eco-village is steeped in mindfulness and is in commune with the cycles of nature. The practice of spiritual ecology is the foundation of the Gaia community. Yoga, meditation and relaxation are practiced almost daily. Community living with daily teams for cooking, cleaning and composting brought us closer to one another as we learned new skills from more experienced members. We blessed the food before eating to remind us of the efforts that went into nurturing the ingredients and preparing the dishes — by nature and our friends.
The most beautiful aspect for me was co-living with families with small children. When I arrived, there were two families present. One with a year old infant baby girl and another with a 4 year old boy. Watching, interacting and co-living with different age groups gave me a perspective that I had unknowingly craved for.
We worked hard everyday and played hard too. Our days began at 5:45am with meditation and ended at 9pm after a post dinner activity. During the early hours of the day, we did natural building of Lars and Karla’s mud home, we sowed seeds, watered plant beds, made fire breaks, mulched, harvested and cared for baby plants. We cooked breakfast and lunch together, each person contributing in their own unique way, thereby bringing to the table new kinds of exotic cooking every single day.
We helped with composting wet and dry kitchen waste, depositing hu-manure from the dry toilets and using nitrogen-rich urine to fertilize the garden trees. This, in particular, was a rich learning experience. In permaculture, nothing goes to waste. Although I cringed at first, I was surprised at how easy it was and there were no assaults on the olfactory system either.
We washed utensils and dishes with natural soap and vinegar. We made kombucha and natural soap. We made bottle bricks from plastic bottles stuffed with plastic wrappers and bags. Co-existing with nature and leaving close to zero waste was truly inspiring. I saw how do-able it was. How it is possible to live without too many things. We were happy and joyful and didn’t need much to be that way. We shared chores, things and spaces. Community was replacing the need for distraction and connection via devices.
I even took on a project of my own. I wanted to help bring down the use of electricity and make a solar cooker. The support I received from everyone was empowering. Although, my attempt wasn’t successful at cooking our staple food — rice, I was able to understand the best practices and plan to continue learning more about solar cooking. It gave me great joy to be able to contribute in my own way with something I was deeply passionate about.
When it was time to leave, I felt sad but I knew that I would come back. What I was taking with me was a new sense of peace and understanding. The feeling of true ahimsa of community living and oneness with nature stays with me.
If you want to know more about Gaia and my experience with permaculture, drop me a note below :)
Also I’m sharing a link to an article on Lars and Karla’s website about Gaia: https://www.flowful.org/blog/intentional-community-living