Blog

Energy of Place

by Jackie Cahi on June 23, 2011

Kufunda breathes in the hot October air. Visitors come—carried on the wind of her welcome. The called and the callers—to share their dreams and stories, to sit with her in peace, to breathe in the scent of this land and to be refreshed.

Rising at the foot of Zimbabwe’s highest mountainMount Nyanganithe Pungwe River winds softly through golden hills, spreads out into tranquil peaty pools and then suddenly tumbles over churned up granite rocks in shallow rapids. It’s a high cold river fed by thin, sheer waterfalls with perhaps the sweetest water in Zimbabwe. Soon after I was married, my husband brought me to this river, feeling his way on forgotten dust roads to a place where the river is fordable over a manmade concrete drift. There are two isolated cottages there, one on each side of the river, on that first visit long abandoned, but he had come back to the sacred place of his childhood.

Sitting on the green bank of a long, wide pool and plunging my fingers into the thick grass I felt a deep connection. It’s a place of intense emotion, the high calls of birds in the clear skies, the shelter and shadow of the rounded hills, the elusive fragrance of the wild herbsa mixture reminiscent of coffee and pepperbut not quite. The river is constantly moving and constantly a place of stillness.

Downstream old trees weep over the water on one bank. The other rises sheer, choked with invasive pine and wattle. The river dips in and out of sunlight and shadow. Until you come to a soft sandy beach with the bank washed out by the currenta place to swim, with caution, because this is the first of a series of pools and drops at the top of a waterfallas the river squeezes into a gorge and plummets from the heights into a dense lowland tropical forest where it slows and fattens and warms and finds its way through a widening lush delta to the indolent shores of the Indian ocean.

We all know such places. Places that are eternal, that elicit peace, tranquility and something approaching grace, that hold a deep resonance and sense of spirit. Since that first visit almost thirty years ago we have been back many times and knowing it is there is enough. I carry this river within me, yet every visit brings a sharp physical reminderthe anticipation of the slow rutted road, the wild scent, the yellow flowering St Johns Wort, the stretch of sleeping green water, the gasp at the icy touch of cold water on bare feetof something precious beyond words.

This is a place that is both public and deeply private. Many people enjoy a special, intimate relationship with it. Sometimes in silence and solitude they have connected with the vast peace of the landscapesometimes they have enjoyed family picnics, slippery rockslides and children’s laughter echoing on deserted stretches of the river. But there is no sense of ownership or even stewardship. The place belongs to itself, the river dreaming in the sunlight. Visitors who come in the right spirit are welcomed, gentled and let go again, back into their other worlds.

Place as Partner

Something different happens in places where there is deliberate and intentional relationship between people and place. A special energy is activated when people are fully and deliberately engaged with place, where place is ‘consulted’ and honored, is part of the conversation. Kufunda Village in Zimbabwe is one of those places and last year a group, including Patricia Sogayar from Brazil gathered there in the waiting time before the rains when the dry land is thirsty and expectant and the long golden grass whispers on the edge of evening.

This was our invitation.

We hear the Powers of Place inviting us to gather—the land is asking for reconnection. We call together Stewards of places, and people who are inquiring into intentional relationships with place—rural or urban—to get together to be in a council of places.

We invite each other to gather in order to share stories and practices, illuminate a field of practice of place as partner in our evolution, create a web of people and places to continue the work beyond the gathering and to simply be together in a resonant space.

Patricia describes NAPS in her homeland, as the sacred place of her childhood. It was the place where she grew up, where she went for family vacations when she was very young, her father’s land where they would be together with the whole, large extended family. She sees it as a paradise, a place where dreams can be turned into reality. I see NAPS as a seed—of many possibilities…. A place that cultivates life in all its forms.

She is exploring conscious relationship with that land of her childhood, a relationship where she is stewarding the place and sensing into what she, the land and her community can become together.

Heart Connections

Kufunda rests on a land of ancient, eternal rocks, sheltered by gentle trees and echoing with the invisible footfalls of sprits. At night the owls call and take flight dropping off their high guardian roost to swoop over the shadowy landscape with their huge wings. A nightjar, startled by footsteps, swishes up out of the soft, powdery dust, a ghost bird. Her call is falling water, liquid in the luminous night. She nests in a shallow depression on a granite rock and sits almost invisible, agelessly patient, blending with the lichen that paints these rocks.

Patricia crossed an ocean from Brazil to join other travelers in this village which has been a constant, resonant space in her life. Many of her life landmarks are tagged by a connection or a visit with Kufunda or her people. This time she brings her family18-month-old son Yam and partner Paulo. Last time she was here Yam was growing in her. This time she is newly pregnant with Yasmin.

Uau—here I am for the 5th time, coming to a circle at Kufunda. I never know exactly what will come but always it turns out to be something which has a huge impact on my soul. What an amazing opportunity life gave me to be able to bring them all along in such an important place to me. I enter the room for the first check-in and immediately tears start running on my face. I cannot stop. I feel such a strong energy in the room. It’s of joy. To be here again I feel totally blessed. I can sense its gonna be another magic gathering… I let myself go with the flow and enter this magic world we are creating together.

Energy and vibrations call to Patricia. She is a deep listenerto heart, to people, to the lands she visits. She is conscious of the invisible energies at work as she articulates the relationship with her land, and draws both inspiration and practical strength from her connection with Kufunda, and the community which has cultivated long term relationship with this land over the years.

After her father died she journeyed to NAPS with some friends, and made a conscious effort to listen into what the land might be speaking. She felt that her father’s death had left the land kind of abandoned with a strong energy of theft. That night embracing a palm tree under the beautiful stars, in the company of two friends and listening intently, she felt the land calling and started to sense into the mission of the place. She heard three things.

That NAPS is a place of connection, and healing.

That a place is a mirror and reflects some characteristics of the person stewarding the place. For example when her father was there the land had one aspect, and now it has others.

That place has its own vocation and mission and this is drawn from what has gone before, from the other beings, from nature or our ancestors. The energy of living things the animals and the living beings from another dimension are also there.

When those three things are alive (and align) you come to a point of light.

Cultivating the Invisible

During the gathering at Kufunda Village we all become more conscious of the invisible and more open to listening to the land and to our hearts. We are coming to our point of light as we reactivate our instincts and our understanding and become more articulate about what we cannot see. We carry with us the echoes and scent of places that have held our footsteps and hold our hearths. These places accompany us on this journeyour invisible partnersand the Village is alive with faraway scentsolives and lavender, ancient quartz, mountain water, scrubby desert brush, yellow gorse, dry starlight of the high desert, jungle forests and lush palm trees, granite and the energy of distant city hubs.

Rain blesses the first afternoon and brings the elements into our meeting space, the dare. We start in a wide circle but in the early dusk of the encroaching storm the lights go out and we huddle together closer and closer around a candle flame, the weather cultivating a growing intimacy amid the drama of thunder and lightning and the pounding rain.

That storm heralds the nature of the gathering, the welcome and blurring of outside and inside. The invisible arrives at the party.

We are actively learning how to cultivate the power of place and this gathering is about connection and recognition, among ourselves and our places. Its about naming that which is already present, about recognizing the character and spirit of our diverse lands and acknowledging the unseenthe spirit energy, the elements, the silence.

Honoring the Mundane

Its also about noticing and honoring the mundanethe many things that have to happen to keep us all fed and sheltered and safe.

Says Mary Alice Arthur, our story gatherer, an intentional nomad with a foot and a heart in many places

Stewarding a place, a person, an idea, a concept, something that is a gift to the world is also a calling. Stewards are those who place the importance of what they are stewarding well above their own personal interests, they are in service to the greater calling of that which they are stewarding. It is the nature of holding in trust, working together with, manifesting for, channeling to and from, being in partnership on the highest levels, often of the visible with the invisible nature of being.

In practice stewarding a place is hard work. We are hosting in partnership with our places and we need to listen and cooperate, notice our resources and our limits just as we do with our people partners.

It takes a gathering like this to help us all be more aware our relationships with our diverse lands as well as with this one. Often the operational stuff is kind of crazy. Kufunda is a working village and catering for a crowd involves making the mundane very visible. When there is no electricity to pump the water we need to draw it by hand from the well and we need to collect wood for the cooking fire. We need to get the food which in this case means killing the chickens, or buying fish from a local fisherman, going almost daily to the market or the neighboring farms for fresh food. We need to nurture our space.

Walking this morning to the big metal container to get some water for our morning toilet I realized how far we are removed in the West from what it actually takes to have these commodities of water and energy. And it isn’t just a nuisance. It connects us back with what is real, with the true costs of all what we take for granted… There is way too much we take for granted in the West and which separates us from earth its limits. Notes Ria Baeck, one of the callers, in her daily journal.

Stewarding a place sometimes allows little time to listen and to appreciate the place itself. Patricia says sometimes she has to grab 15 minutes of solitary quiet on the verge of departure to meditate, to listen.

Sometimes there’s so much to do—I don’t have the time to get the grounding, to appreciate the place.

That grounding and appreciation is an important part of the relationship. We need to nurture ourselves and our landscultivate the awareness of how to look after each other and make space for our lands to host us too.

Activating the Web

As we spend intentional time together at Kufunda exploring with each other, working together, listeningdifferent energies emerge. People are activated, in some cases literally, to begin journeys and to take first practical steps in setting up intentional relationship with land. Daiton Swafi, for example, has begun a journey to set up a Learning Village in Malawihis sacred place of dreams.

The web that is the connections between us was made visible. We ended the gathering with a very literal evocation of our web—It became a ceremony of activating the web of people and places that spans our Earth.

We placed ourselves in our world zones in concentric circles which evolved into an infinite spiral. I was reminded of the fine strands of a spider’s web strung between trees on an early morningnot visible until the rising sun sparkles on the dew caught in the web, and then its all illuminated. The energy was palpablethe connection between us alive and sparkling. We almost literally turned on our lights as we affirmed our connection, our commitment.

Kufunda breathes out. She exhales air that is moist and full of life. Seeds push through the path and vines start to twine around the trees. The thatch drips and the earth absorbs the water. The people moving within the place are the breath Kufunda exhales as they drift outwards and homewards with inspiration.

Patricia and her family take inspiration and energy home with them. Her partner Paulo believes he was called here by the future.

I believe we need to change how we live in the world today and that Kufunda is part of this process. The gift for me is the possibility I see of having changes in myself. I am in the company of people who are wanting to contribute to the changes in the world today. I already work for change—within an institute that works with companies and organizations that are trying to create a new world and I also work with Patricia who has this in her blood. With her I have two children, one here and one coming. For me that is the main bet in the future.

As they return to Brazil they will go to the farm to celebrate Yam’s second birthday and to do a blessing ceremony for the earth and for their children.

The connection between Patricia and Kufunda is one example of an energy which continues to reverberate and which became more powerful during that gathering. Six months later the connections between us still sing, strong and fine as silk. The web is activated.

***

NAPS is named for Patricia’s  father and for sustainability.  Núcleo de Aprendizagem de Práticas Sustentáveis Paulo Sogayar (Learning Nucleus of Sustainable Practices).

In the middle of the mountains of North Parana, in the south of Brazil, surrounded by trees and a beautiful sky, full of stars to look at and dream of at night, lies a 120 hectare farm that carries the dreams of many generations most of them related to people who born in Ribeirao Claro (clear small river), a small town of 10,000 people 7km away from the farm.

Within that place of peace and inspiration you will find 10 hectares of a learning community to intentionally practice what we conceive as a healthy societyNAPS as we call this magical piece of land is a place to cultivate life in all forms.

We cultivate life there through our relationship with the earth, by producing organic. There you will find a demonstrative organic garden that was built to inspire and start a project, to transform the region into an organic business centreworking with 21 producers now and plan to expand.

We also cultivate life through our relationship with ourselves, by promoting spaces within nature to connect and hear our inner wisdom and dreams, as well as by feeding ourselves.

Note: This essay was originally posted as part of the Powers of Place initiative.