I’ve known my purpose as long as I can remember. It is to heal the earth and humanity’s relationship with the Earth. That may seem like a lofty goal. But what it looks like for me is very life-sized. One day it can be a water harvesting perennial bed that processes greywater. Another time it can look like a vision for a tribe of people working to create equitable solutions for thriving along with the land they live on.
How I express my purpose has looked different as my life has unfolded. While I haven’t written a blog post in quite a while, writing has been one way I teach and share my purpose. For the past several months my weekly radio show has been my immediate avenue for expression. And of course I’ve been teaching groups of people in person through classes, hikes and workshops for decades.
As a teacher, and one with a vision for the world, my avenues for expression have been very important. I have things to say. I imagine they might benefit the world, so they must be expressed.
I’ve always felt I am an expression of the healing instinct of the Earth. Speaking and imagining for the Earth has always been my instinct. That pretty much explains me. It’s not always easy to share this particular experience of myself. I’ve noticed a big contrast with what other people’s central motivations are. That’s not a judgment, but an observation. I’m just wired this way. Other people are wired other ways. When we are all obviously of this Earth, completely dependent on the Earth, and owe everything we have to Her, why doesn’t everyone prioritize the health of the Earth in their lives? That is a conundrum I will never understand. That mystery is part of what motivates me.
In my world, the plants, the sky, the sun, the wildlife- they are all sacred. The more I celebrate their sacredness, the more sacred they become. From this, I know we shape our own experiences of reality. And we have some deep hard wiring.
The place where everything is sacred is the place I like best. Visitors to Ampersand can sense this in the built environment. I hope to honor and merge with this beautiful canyon by adding to the beauty and functional interconnection that is possible for a human habitat.
Sometimes it takes work to create sacred space. I don’t know anything more worth working for. It’s a place where I belong, and where everyone and everything belongs. It’s not all perfect, but in sacred space we are in a perfect process of becoming who we are. Perhaps the Earth is in a (very uncomfortable) process of finding a new state of health and wholeness. I get to be a part of that. We all get to be a part of that. It involves real sadness to look at all the suffering of beings on this planet right now. That reality makes people turn away. Our culture supports this kind of denial. Some people jump into hopelessness, and our culture supports this too. We are urged to be good consumers and keep up with the trends so that we can belong to our human culture. We are just like all the other gregarious creatures. We want to be accepted as part of the pack/flock/tribe.
It’s important to me too. But I want to be a part of a tribe that revolves around the sacredness of the Earth, and all her inhabitants. Even with all the suffering, the amazingness of life on Earth is overwhelming too. How do we create that tribe? Well that’s what I’ve been working towards, starting with myself. I want my lifestyle and my community to be shaped around the sacred places where we live and get to care for.
That’s why I’ve designed Ampersand around harvesting the sun and the rain. Living that way reinforces their sacredness. That’s one entry point to sacred space. Along with restoring the land, building with earth, growing food, composting, and many other practices. I’ve been working that physical environment angle for many years with my teaching.
But there’s another way that might be a more direct path to creating a tribe that revolves around the sacredness of the Earth. That’s ceremony. Ceremony is a tool and form of expression that I have so far kept separate from my more technical teachings. Elements of ceremony have crept into my classes and public events ever so sightly just in the past year. But after this recent visit from James Skeet when he came to teach the Decolonization and ReIndigenization Workshop I realize that ceremony is a part of my job that I can no longer keep private.
Here’s the truth: when I integrate new design elements within Ampersand’s site, I don’t only use the permaculture design that is second nature to me. Or maybe it’s more correct to say that the observation part of my permaculture design goes not only outward, but deeply inward. I know the feeling in my gut when a design element is right. If everything logically lines up, but the inner knowing is not there, it’s not finished.
There’s that guidance from within that must be acknowledged, but there’s something else too. I experience my inner knowing to be a place of connection with the larger world around me. I usually call it the Earth, but many refer to this connection as being with the universe, or with spirit. And my experience shows that it is facilitated with ceremony.
During dinner the night before his workshop, James spoke of the purpose of ceremony in a very succinct way. He said some things should not be spoken of without the safety of sacred space. That is what ceremony brings. Issues around decolonization can be very sensitive, and colonization itself is what makes us separate parts of ourselves, like logic and intuition. In the workshop someone asked, How do you sense spirit? Joyce, James’s partner offered that everything is spirit. I have to agree. Everything is clearly Earth, and Earth is intelligent and sensitive and sacred. When I am in sacred space, spirit is clearly saturated through everything.
We are conditioned to ignore our own sensations. There are quiet voices within as well as things we see and hear outside of us that we designate to be separate from what else it happening in that moment. Our colonized and conditioned mind tells us that some things don’t matter, that there is no connection between the physical world and our emotions and our spirituality.
In ceremony, everything becomes sacred, everything in that moment is filled with significance. Sacred space can heal these divisions. I know the more I am in ceremony, the more the time in my life between ceremony feels sacred too. It allows me to notice the messages and patterns that weave through my life. Encounters with wildlife become not just photo opportunities, but communion experiences. Losing one’s way on a trail is no longer a silly mistake, but a reflection that invites a deeper engagement with one’s life path.
These are important times! We are the humans on the Earth right now, during this window where we can respond to the climate crisis and this mass extinction event. Or we can be in denial or hopeless, turning away from the task at hand. All hands on deck, my friends! It’s time to offer what you’ve got. Hence, the last workshop in our Social Permaculture series, that I will be offering with Navona Gallegos. James Skeet had a plan to end the Decolonization and Reindigenization workshop with a ceremony to honor our relationships and agreements with the land. Time got away from us and that didn’t happen. But I can see now it’s time to bring my whole self to my teachings and share the teachings of this magical canyon in a deeper way. For the last workshop in this series, Practicing Reindigenization, we will weave a sacred space by being on the land, deepening our relationships, and merging with the patterns of wildness. I can feel the land’s invitation.
Written by Amanda Bramble
By the way, you can email me at email@example.com to join Ampersand’s newsletter, and access our radio show archives here. Just in case you want to keep in touch with my work in the lengthening spaces between blog posts!