The WWOOF experience article- Bare minimum mag

The WWOOF experience.

 

WWOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Their aim as an organisation is to connect organic farms to volunteers in a purely non-monetary, trust basis, to achieve a more sustainable and connected global community.

As a volunteer, you work with your host farm in a variety of tasks, which are not just limited to maintenance. There are plenty of testimonies on the WWOOF experience and how it was life changing, ground breaking or simply just enjoyable, however they’re never detailed enough, so I went ahead and I talked to Simon David, a 20 year old final year politics student who volunteered for two weeks in a farm near the coast, close to Bologna this summer.

 

I wondered why he wanted to do it in the first place, or anyone for that matter. Usually, it’s easier and probably more comfortable to book a package holiday if what you’re looking for is just to get out of the country. If the aim was to get volunteering experience, why do something that could entail heavy-duty manual labour, or the risk of ending up with a host you don’t like, or many other possible ways the experience could go wrong.

 

Simon, in a relaxed, low voice narrated the whole experience to me, and it was almost mesmerizing, so I’m going to narrate it to you-

 

This is not for everyone, that’s for sure. I like working outside with my hands, I get a deep satisfaction of seeing the fruits of my own work, feeling my sweaty forehead in the middle of the day and my tired muscles just before going to sleep, farm work is the best way to do that. On top of that, everything’s organic, the hosts eat what they grow and that’s what you get as well. You see things full circle, it’s hard to describe.

 

I chose Italy because I wanted to work somewhere with vineyards and olive trees. I love the Mediterranean diet and I felt like olives and wine are two of the core pillars. The family I stayed with had been there for 15 years and made their own wine as well, it’s just an art. They had WWOOF volunteers come from all over the world, some staying for a full year at a time.

 

I like to be separated from my day to day routine, back at home. Other WWOOFers would stay on their phones; carry them in their pockets all day whatever they were doing. Personally, I wanted to detach from everything for a while. It’s an adjustment in the first few days, but once you get used to it the structure of your day changes completely. It’s bizarre how much of our lives are dictated by the devices that are supposed to make it easier. Over there, I stuck to a simple routine that included the tasks for the day, the meal times and that was pretty much it, it was surprisingly liberating.

 

You’re never finishing something quickly to get onto the next task, you have to take your time, do everything meticulously. From breakfast from mid morning I’d be shovelling donkey shit, and I could have done it in 45 minutes but if it weren’t done well, you’d just have to come back and do it all over again. It’s just a completely different mind-set, the speed that dictates our normal lives is obsolete over there, you just have to do a good job every time, even if that meant I would be shovelling shit for 8 hours. It sounds unpleasant but you would be surprised how rewarding it can be to know it was a job well done, no matter how menial.

 

If I had a choice I definitely would have done it for longer. It’s a great way to see a country, explore different types of farming and people. It would be hard to do it for more than one month in the same place unless you really know the hosts. Hoping around is essential, there are so many different hosts, different routines and different methods of farming to explore.

 

If I had to complain about anything is that there were scorpions and I didn’t know there’d be any. I was moving rubble to clean out a barn and a scorpion crawled over my hand, it was horrifying. I later found out they were not poisonous and at most a bite from them feels like a bee sting, but as an aracnophobe I was really not feeling it.

 

Manual work takes a lot of concentration, but you also have a lot of room to think. A part of your brain is heavily focused whilst the other is reasoning, envisioning, dreaming and everything in between. You’re also giving a lot of thought to your choices, your life as it is in that moment. You actually have the time to think about things while you mind is occupied with the task, it’s not something you can do very often.

 

This experience is just something else. It really depends on the person, but I would definitely recommend it. Some people don’t like manual labour or being outside but if you’re into it, then don’t even hesitate. You learn so many things as you go as well, what you eat when you eat it and how it grew, why things grow, natural pesticides, food waste, its all so interesting.

 

Self-sustainable food growing definitely appealed to me before this experience, and more so after the fact, but I’ve seen how hard it can be. I think it’s an admirable lifestyle, I would love to get to that point, but for the time being, every small part helps. Whether you do it because it will taste better or because it feels good, it’s all worth it for your personal gain-

 

With that, the conversation ended and so did the topic, but it floated on my mind for the next few ours. It sounds so simple yet it was hard to wrap my mind around the whole experience, and with that I felt an incredible urge to go ahead and to it myself.

I’m not particularly keen on farm work or scorpions, yet for some reason the desire to be there and see it all for myself started to creep in; maybe reading Simon’s experience in his soft relaxed voice will spark that desire on you too.

Federation of city farms & community gardens.

Intervention-

So I got in touch with the coordinator of the London of the federation of city farms & community gardens. My proposed intervention is to gain feedback from them by measuring the perceived happiness/fulfillment levels that the participants of a specific farm (preferably in Tower Hamlets) have, and how far they relate that to their participation on projects like those. I’m aware that most community gardens are used specifically for gardening and city farms are used for larger scale farming, so I also asked (this is a far shot), if I could be allocated a plot of land to be used specifically for self sustainable purposes. If I get that far, I will encourage members of my target audience who are willing to participate, and also myself, to begin planting on that plot food crops for later consumption. I have no assumptions on how that would go. Maybe it’s a complete fail, but I want to measure the levels of commitment and interest that could arise from this.

She replied really promptly actually, scheduled a phone call for this Friday, so I reckon this might actually work eeek!

The bare minimum magazine and self sustainability.

So I’ve taken all the knowledge I’ve gathered andI’m writing to articles for the bare minimum magazine on growing your own food for self sustainability and also on the WWOOF experience. This is the first article-

Yes, growing your own food at home is good for your mind.

Self-sustainability is anything and everything that you can do for yourself to alleviate the massive pressure we’re putting on our natural resources and surroundings.

There needs to be more awareness on what self sustainability is, and what it looks like. It’s not just recycling properly, or re-using certain containers or trying to reduce plastic. Although these are fantastic ways of contributing to reduce waste and being environmentally friendly, self-sustainability can also look very simple, starting with what you put on your plate.

 

Growing our own food, especially in a big city like London where space (and light) is limited can sound like an impossible task, almost ridiculous, but you don’t need much to start your journey to being self-sustainable in the food department.

The city life is undeniably fun. There is always something to do, and somewhere to be; the people, the city buzz, the opportunities, its all part of why we live here. I can only sing London songs and praises, yet I feel like there is something missing.

Sometimes I go to the store and I look at everything pre-packaged and sealed in unnecessary amounts of plastic and it feels so weirdly anti-natural. I genuinely forget where food comes from; I must confess sometimes I don’t even know in the first place.

 

It definitely feels good to visit the farmer’s market on the weekend, and get fresh ingredients for a nice Saturday lunch or Sunday brunch. In fact it feels strangely good. Maybe it’s because you’re shopping local, or because you know the ingredients you got are going to taste great, or maybe it’s because you know they’re really good for you. Realistically though, it’s very difficult (and quite expensive) to shop at these sorts of establishments all the time.

Why does it feel so good? I’m sure everyone’s experienced it at least once. You get to touch, smell and feel all the food that’s displayed around you, and it’s all you can focus on. It feels like it’s miles away from the usual Tesco shelves.

The thing is, cities are a double edge sword. We begin to thrive in an environment that is superimposed onto the tangible reality that surrounds us.

The lack of palpable, concrete and present achievement in our lives is decreasing quickly, and I don’t mean getting promotions or degrees, or many other life achievements that definitely can make us feel great.

I mean those things that are small and insignificant, that we tend to forget about and never really aim for, but that we can see, and taste, and smell, and that are there, with us, and not in a screen or in an advert.

Grocery shopping is an example of this. It can become a mindless task, usually more like a chore. It’s done online more often than not for convenience purposes, yet we don’t even get to see for ourselves what we’ll be putting in our mouths later.

 

Feeling fulfilled or satisfied in a permanent condition is hard to define, and it may not be directly tied to either physical or mental health. Contentment and happiness are extremely loose concepts, but it has been demonstrated that activities that contribute to self-sustainability are engaging and contribute towards promoting a greater sense of achievement. Wilson (1984), a keen ecology researcher, first put forward the idea that humans have a ‘tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes’ and that knowledge about the natural world (especially plants and animals) contributed to the survival of the human race and is thus innate. In practical terms this implies that people feel most comfortable in settings where they can identify with life processes (Gullone, 2000).

It’s all about the positive emotional environment.. This in turn can aid with very well know and widespread mental health issues like depression, stress and even dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

 

 

Growing your own food at home, however small or large the scale you’re able to do it in, has endless benefits that aren’t just limited to the environment. It can be an extremely therapeutical activity as well, and it can encourage all sorts of personal self-fulfilment.

 

To begin with, seeing the colour green in our living space is soothing. Plants oxygenate the room and create a homely and calming environment, allowing your mind to restore its directive attention on tasks and therefore improving mental acuity.

This is a well-researched area; food growing is great for your mental health and wellbeing. It might sound difficult to believe, but taking care of a plant can simulate the affective feelings we experience when taking care of a pet. The human mind is full of wonders.

It’s simple, its cheap, it’s useful, its edible and it helps us to engage in one of the most ignored and taboos aspects of our humanity, the fact that our minds aren’t perfect. The reduction of redundant plastic use and the awareness aspect of self-sustainable food growing practices aren’t the only reason you should do it.

 

Getting started might be one of the most daunting parts of this whole idea, since it could be easy to think you probably don’t have the space or the resources or the time.

It’s genuinely easier than you might first think.

First and foremost lets remember plants need sunlight, so pick a spot with enough of it. Windowsills are ideal, a bathroom or a bedroom sill would suffice. Also it’s important to pick the right container; 6 to 12 inches deep is ideal, herbs actually grow best in deeper containers.

 

Pick quick maturing crops that you can grow in succession if you have a limited amount of space; for example radishes, salad leaves, carrots or spinach. That way you’ll be able to observe the quick progress and you’ll not only feel excited about it, but you’ll also be able to eat it in your salad or stew sooner than you think!

Each plant needs a different quantity of water, but they all need some, so its very important you don’t forget to water them whenever they need it. This is probably most people’s demise, even my own, as it is surprisingly easy to forget to do this, but just set yourself a little reminder in the fridge or on your phone, it only takes 21 days to build a habit, after that it’ll be second nature.

 

The more you do it, the better you’ll become at it, and the more you’ll enjoy it. The benefits will show as soon as you plant that little seed, and from then on you’ll never look back. Remember you don’t need a lot and you don’t need to do a lot. Planting your own chives in your bedroom is self-sustainable, having a full garden of seasonal vegetables also is.

Growing your own food.

So obviously, and as usual, I’m thinking massive scale and I’ve kinda forgotten to investigate something at a smaller scale to research the impacts of small change, but I stumbled upon an article that illuminated that path for me; growing your own food. So even as a city dweller, if you have a garden, a balcony or even a window sill, you can grow your own salad ingredients, spices and even fruits and vegetables. I’m aware that this trend is becoming more and more popular, yet it never occurred to me that it could be a small scale version of what I had in mind, which it is.

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/yes-you-can-grow-your-own-food-even-if-youre-a-city-dweller_uk_5b04121de4b0a046186fc5e6?vy7&guccounter=1&guce_referrer_us=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZmFjZWJvb2suY29tLw&guce_referrer_cs=DWJ7ykKAqrGe1OsGovsZPg

Staff at Harvard University in the US, which has its own community vegetable garden, attest to the advantages of growing your own: you can control the pesticides that come into contact with your food, vegetables which ripen naturally in your garden have more nutrients than those picked early for supermarkets and it encourages you to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables as they’re easier to access.

I mean, that’s a pretty straight forward answer for me, in terms of people observing the fruits of their own labour and getting gratification from it.

“Many people find the act of gardening therapeutic and a way to unwind from a stressful day,” she says. 

Yeah that’s damn right, that’s what I thought. I mean, Michelle Obama did it in the Whitehouse, you can’t get more aspirational than that. But in all seriousness,

“You will be amazed by how much fun gardening can be, and the pride you take in sharing healthy food nurtured by your own efforts,” says Acacia Matheson, the CHGE’s assistant director of communications. “We hope that people will develop more interest in learning about their food choices, and how to prepare fresh, healthy food at home.”

Be patient as you cultivate your relationship with your garden and the Earth. Before long, you’ll reap the benefits. You may even see a little tinge of green on those thumbs.

People in Harvard know what’s up. 

Side note- I just emailed  thebareminimummag@gmail.com, they’re looking for someone to write about self-sustainability, so what better way to spread the message of growing your own food than that way. I’m assuming this counts as an intervention, hopefully they get back to me soon.

 

Psychologist review and Scarlett Penn.

So I got in touch with a psychologist named Attilio Gardino, who commented on the project from a more psychological perspective, in terms of how efficient it could be. This is his response-

Dear Miss Estela Rodriguez,

Your poser is extremely interesting as complex, and if I understood well, I can summarise as “How to be happy, without having to be sheltered on the mountains of Tibet, but living in the routine?”. 

the gasp of the happiness is a motor which moves humans all long, to the point of finding as a right in the USA Constitution, even if that recognition never created any tangible outcomes.

Political, Religious and Scientific Thoughts are that aim, but we can notice that the outcomes aren’t particularly thrilling, they outline the complexity of the topic. 

When we talk about “Happiness” (I prefer the term “serenity”) we should distinguish between “exhibited happiness” and “lived happiness”. In the nowadays society ” of the spectacle” the exhibited happiness is the most common, however, the other one used as a status symbol ( for example permanent smile, physical vigor, excitement, economic status), the happiness or the serenity intimately lived is, for its nature, discreet and perceived in an intimate relationship with itself and with the other.

The happiness is one of the broad range of emotional states which any human can feel likewise as the anger, the fear, the sadness, the pain, etc. they are all important state, even some of them are uncomfortable, but they change in relation to the stimuli each people receive and they show the quality of them related to the sounding. That forms part of the big life process and his evolution and transformation through the time. 

Doesn’t exist any medicine: the universal treatment right for everyone. In general, the different therapies or techniques have in common the importance which gives to the awareness itself. 

The formalities that are used for reaching the purpose are different, but they can empirically be gathered in two seams: one sets great attention to the language, the other to the body, even if none of the two is able to exclude completely the other.

The method “Mindfulness” operates bringing the attention to the body and on the respiration, it is a revision, in actual key, of the ancient Buddhist meditative practice.

She asks me if it were effective… I think that can be, but it won’t produce miracles, it won’t act on the structure of the person, but as the autogenous training it could be able to give relief to the daily stress and therefore it could be a good beginning for a run of approach to if same.

Hope to answer all your question 

and I wish that can help you with the research

Attilio Gardino  

It was very interesting to see someone describe the different tiers of what happiness can be defined as, and it definitely brought a new concept to my project that I hadn’t thought of before- serenity, and also exhibited happiness versus lived happiness. I’m thankful for the response as I can narrow down my question even further to look at lived happiness, and stop using the umbrella term of exhibited happiness.

This was the email from Scarlett (general coordinator of WWOOF)-

Hi Estela,
I agree with everything you say and I definitely agree “people would obtain more fulfillment by seeing the physical fruits of their labour, as opposed to sitting in front of a desk every day.” Many times I’m told that WWOOFing has changed someone’s life, helped them see things in a different light. Anything we can do to help people reconnect I believe is valuable. At the moment we are in danger as we see ourselves as separate from the web of life, sitting like kings on top of the pyramid in a hierarchichal strucutre. We seem ignorant of the fact our ways of life are causing everything ‘below’ us in the pyramid to crumble and if it gets worse, being at the top, we have the furthest to fall.
So…is that all you wanted to know?
Scarlett
I obviously had a million more questions but I wont post those, I’ll just focus on the answer if I get one.
All this feedback is definitely helping me not only to refine this project to a very final question, but to actually set it in motion in real life.
My question thus far has been- How can self-sustainable spaces help individuals re-evaluate their sense of success in the professional environment?
My revised question is- How can self-sustainability be used as an alternative tool to aid individuals in re-evaluating their idea of professional success in a limited timeframe?
BOOM. YEAH, THAT’S RIGHT.

 

Cara Courage and placemaking.

Yesterday i attended a talk given by Cara Courage, head of the Tate Exchange on placemaking. The way I understood it was a form of gentrification trying to incorporate the soul and essence of a certain place, to preserve identity yet give the locals of an area amenities and facilities that they might be lacking. I found it quite interesting and although it wasn’t directly associated with my field of research, I had a very nice conversation with her afterwards, where she took my email and promised to send me a reading list on environmental psychology, as well as recommending I look Jonathan Chapman as an artist that could compliment my research. She also took my email so hopefully I’ll stay in touch with her, as she said it would be lovely to have environmentalism as part of Tate Exchange 2019.

Curiously, there was a CSM fine arts graduate at this talk as well, who I had a wonderful conversation with as well. She has a studio in tower bridge and she does drawing performance, which is honestly insane. I’m trying to figure out how I could use this as a tool of awareness, I will go visit her as soon as we’re both back from Tenerife.

https://www.mlohrum.com/

Circle 2Smashd Bouquet

The sun bed wars and the obsolescence of the concept of holidays.

https://www.channel4.com/programmes/holidays-from-hell-caught-on-camera

There is such a thing as sun bed wars. Seriously, look it up. Sun bed wars. Looks a lot like rush hour to me, a hell of a lot like rush hour. Isn’t the point of going away on holidays to relax, disconnect from the constant urgency and precipitation of the daily grind? Watching a video like this seems almost laughable.

Data has revealed that British citizens are the most depressed people in the Western World, having more than double depression sufferers than people in Greece or Italy.

The overall number of people with mental health problems has not changed significantly in recent years, but worries about things like money, jobs and benefits can make it harder for people to cope. 

It appears that how people cope with mental health problems is getting worse as the number of people who self-harm or have suicidal thoughts is increasing. (Taken from the NHS National Archives).

I recently did a survey and posted it on my social media to find out he reasoning behind people staying in a city like London, and how many times they wished to escape it. A total of 57 people took my survey and these are the results-

The results of the survey primarily reveal that job opportunity and lifestyle are the main attractions of London for those who took the survey. I was surprised to learn that 42.11% of the group was planning on staying in London for 5 years or more, but the other responses seem to match my presumptions of what people like and dislike from the city.

An astonishing 39.28% of people dislike the living costs of the city the most, yet 47.37% of surveyees chose to go on holiday between twice and thrice a year. Correlation need not mean causation by any means, yet these results seem to demonstrate quite the pattern in my eyes. The job opportunities and lifestyle that attract people to the city also seem to be the factors that drain the most, as people seem to struggle to keep up with the costs of a decent living and all the activities that are enjoyable, yet costly. The wish to escape between 2 to 3 times a year, despite the monetary implications is an indicator of the burnout culture I have described in my previous posts.

The fact that almost half of the people are willing to stay in London for the next 5 years or more was unexpected in one sense, but expected in another, as it is hard to simply drop all responsibilities and move away for a while, or for a longer while. This is where my project begins to really get grounded, as I feel it provides with an alternative to having to drop everything, or having to change your lifestyle.

Whilst doing my research, I came across the Buddhist peace fellowship, which had a similar principle to the one I was proposing, so I decided to investigate further just to be sure I wasn’t just copying something that clearly existed before.

Vision

Aware of the interconnectedness of all things, the Buddhist Peace Fellowship cultivates conditions for peace, social justice, and environmental sustainability within our selves, our communities, and the world.

Upon reading this, I kind of panicked slightly as I am willing to promote exactly these values, HOWEVER-

Mission

The mission of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship (BPF), founded in 1978, is to serve as a catalyst for socially engaged Buddhism. Our purpose is to help beings liberate themselves from the suffering that manifests in individuals, relationships, institutions, and social systems. BPF’s programs, publications, and practice groups link Buddhist teachings of wisdom and compassion with progressive social change.

I think this is what sets me aside. I don’t wish to create a practice, or a system of belief, or any kind of lifestyle for that matter. I don’t even wish to educate per say, although it would be a by-product (hopefully). The mission of Reset is to give space, air, and to slow time down, and everyone experiencing it can draw their own damn conclusions from it. If someone realized after experiencing it that their job of lifestyle isn’t their problem, but something else and they wish to carry on being dicks to the environment and doing coke every weekend or whatever, that isn’t a failure, because the purpose of the program was fulfilled.

The dispossession of lives.

 

La falta de tiempo, una nueva pobreza

BARCELONA

27/05/2018 02:19

La gente vive como una culpa personal el hecho de no hacer nada durante los ratos libres. En las ciudades se camina, se habla más rápido. Parece que hay que salir de casa con un objetivo, que cada minuto es imprescindible para no perder el autobús, para llegar antes… La aceleración, explica, impacta en la calidad de vida de la sociedad, nadie se para a ayudar a nadie.

People live with a personal guilt in the matter of doing nothing in their spare time. In cities you walk, you talk faster. It seems as though you always leave your  home with a specific objective, that every single minute is essential to not miss the bus, to get there sooner… The acceleration impacts the quality of life of society, no-one ever stops to help someone else.

 

El objetivo es que la ciudadanía sea crítica ante un sistema que quiere desposeerles de su vida

The objective is that citizenship becomes critical in a system that wants to dispossess people from their own lives. 

*Speaking of an app designed for women to make other female friends, playground magazine*

El objetivo de la app es que puedas conectarse fácilmente con colegas a fin a tus intereses. “No es que no tengamos amigas, es solo que todas estamos muy ocupadas todo el tiempo, necesitamos optimizar el tiempo que tenemos”, ha dicho una de las creadoras.

The objective of the app is that you can easily connect with colleagues with similar interests to your own. “Its not that we don’t have friends, it’s just that we are all so busy all the time, we need to optimize the time we have”- said one of the creators.

I mean first of all what the fuck.

Personal and Planetary Well-being: Mindfulness Meditation, Pro-environmental Behavior and Personal Quality of Life in a Survey from the Social Justice and Ecological Sustainability Movement.

  • Jeffrey Jacob
  • Emily Jovic
  • Merlin B. Brinkerhoff 

In summary, the BPF sample is composed of moderately affluent, middle-aged respondents who are sympathetic to activist causes and relatively virtuous in their practice of ESB. Spirituality is also a defining characteristic of the respondents, with nearly four out of five (79.5%) practicing meditation at least once each week. How, and to what extent, their spirituality, in the form of MM, supports (is correlated with) day-to-day sustainability practices, and SWB, is the subject in the “Findings” section of the article, following a discussion of measurement strategies.

Recycling behavior has a particularly weak, practically non-existent, relationship with MM (0.007). This is perhaps because recycling is becoming a kind of institutionalized behavior that does not need to rely on a motivational source similar to MM. Overall, Table 3’s zero-order correlations lend support to the study’s hypothesized model (Fig. 1). Both the ESB and MM scales have moderate to moderately strong associations with SWB-SD and GH. And there are also statistically significant correlations between two of the three ESB scales and MM.

Pro-environmental behavior (measured as Sustainable Food Practice) explains a statistically significant amount of variance in SWB

The innovative dimension of the findings reported here comes by way of the connection between planetary and personal well-being, in terms of inter-relationships among environmentally responsible behavior, formal meditation and SWB. The distinction between spontaneously occurring mindfulness and that cultivated by formal meditation (MM) may appear overly subtle at first inspection; nevertheless, there are two important implications. First, the indicators for mindfulness detached from formal meditation need to be sufficiently general in order to connect them to the day-to-day experiences of typical respondents.

The second implication of the distinction between cultivated versus spontaneous mindfulness is that naturally occurring mindfulness does not appear to be goal oriented.

Conversely, material accumulation as a primary object of one’s life energy has not led to either personal or societal welfare (Kasser 2002; Kasser and Kanner 2004; Roberts and Clement 2007). At the same time, taking advantage of spiritual/religious belief and social support systems, of which MM is one manifestation, is consistently related to individual life satisfaction (Ellison 1991; Myers 2000; Barakan and Greenwood 2003; Watts et al. 2006).

 

Reset.

Based on the question I posed, this is my idea. It’s called Reset.

I am exploring the impacts of big metropolis in the lives of those who live in them. I have observed that there is a constructed, artificial perception of success that leads to a cat and mouse game. People in cities such as London work jobs they may not necessarily enjoy for hours on end just to be able to afford a slightly more expensive pub, and a slightly more instagramable brunch on Sunday mornings. There is a total de-connection between the lives that we live and the lives that we wish we lived, and amidst all of this, we age, we rack up debt and we become ill.

It isn’t easy for everyone to just simply change their career choice or their job. Bills don’t pay themselves and responsibilities don’t just disappear. Practicing mindfulness is fantastic but sometimes that alone isn’t enough, and just leaving everything behind to start again is sometimes just not an option for some.

Currently, I’m aiming to create a organization that I’ve named Reset. The aim of it will be to create an atemporal bubble where people can go for short periods of time, between 2 weeks and a month, with the aim of re-evaluating themselves, their lives, their choices, their jobs and their professional pathways, without having to book a flight to Nepal and becoming a buddhist monk. It will be a self sustainable space, a small community of people looking to find the same answers. The best way I can illustrate this point is by using the example of- if you stick a banker in an environment where banks don’t exist, they will stop worrying about their daily grind, and will have to focus on the real things around them. I want to connect people to themselves, but in a timeframe that allows them to go back to their normal lives (if they wish to).

I also believe that these communities being self sustainable create awareness of what self sustainability is, and how it can easily be achievable.

This is an extract of an email I sent to a professional psychologist, in order to gain some insights on the psychological impacts of this sort of idea. I asked him these questions-

Would just like a professional opinion on mindfulness, do you think it really works? Is it a good idea to cut off people from their lives, almost as a form of shock therapy, to release them from their trap? How could I offer psychological help in this environment? Do you think the wellbeing of someone’s mind is in any way connected to their surroundings? To nature? Do you have any experiences with people that have become stuck in a job that they don’t like, or that they’ve realized they essentially hate their lives? Is there a therapeutical remedy for chronic unhappiness? 

I think it would be useful to really consolidate what sort of help I could offer, since sticking people in a gated community like pigs in a pen isn’t exactly useful, or very well thought out for that matter.

I want to reiterate that this isn’t some sort of spiritual retreat, or a retreat at all for that matter. I don’t mean to cut people off from their lives with any purpose, at all. The aim of this whole project is to reset. Reset themselves, like having a cold shower, it doesn’t necessarily have to change anything, people can go back to doing what they did before, just with a refreshened perspective, or they can radically change their lives, that is entirely up to them.

I’m giving the survey a few more days before I close it, I want to get as many answers as possible. So far, 43 people have taken it, if I reached 50 that would be fantastic. The results of the survey, I’m hoping back my theory that people don’t need to want to change their environment i.e where they live, in order to want to change their perspective.

My main aim isn’t environmental, but environmentalism is a huge part of my research, as I genuinely believe (and also backed by evidence), that taking care of our surroundings creates a sense of fulfillment that can’t be equated by any other sort of activity. I still have to find more facts to back this, but we’re on the right track!

The game.

So the idea I’ve been developing is great, but Claudia made me ask myself a better question; well, actually, she asked me a better question. She asked me what other incentives were there, and that really got me thinking.

Why not turn this whole thing into a massive, immersive game. When I was little I used to play this third person game called Age of Mythology. To say I was obsessed with it is an understatement, I genuinely loved it. The content and story line of the game were actually super simple, you had to create a civilization from scratch, and then defeat your enemies. I didn’t care so much for the enemies part, but more about the development of my little clan, how I could make improvements to the buildings, collect wood and harvest food faster etc.

I thought, why not take that principle and apply it to the real world. Why not create an atemporal bubble, self sustainable of course, where people can come, for a short amount of time (say like 2 weeks) and completely reset themselves. It’s like going back 500 years, where whatever might be plaguing the mind of a banker has no importance whatsoever. It is an incentive to find oneself in an environment where the only pressures reside on surviving (assisted of course, this won’t be a survivalist camp).

I feel like this needs a lot of refinement, but I genuinely see a future with it. It reminds me of these enterprise retreats, except I wont be doing what they do, aka trust exercises or therapy (I do have to do some research on what they actually do), but more of a holistic, personal and professional reset, a chance to genuinely take a break.

Employing data from a mailed survey of a sample of ecologically and spiritually aware respondents (N = 829), the study tests the hypothesized relationship between ecologically sustainable behavior (ESB) and subjective well-being (SWB). The proposed link between ESB and SWB is the spiritual practice of mindfulness meditation (MM). In multiple regression equations ESB and MM independently explain statistically significant amounts of variance in SWB, indicating, for at least the study’s sample, that there can be a relationship between personal and planetary well-being. The inter-relationships among SWB, ESB and MM suggest that for specific segments of the general population (e.g., the spiritually inclined) there may not necessarily be an insurmountable conflict between an environmentally responsible lifestyle and personal quality of life. The research reported here also points to the potential for meditative/mindful experiences to play a prominent role in the explanation of variance in SWB, a direction in QoL studies recently highlighted by several researchers (Layard 2005, pp. 189–192; Nettle 2005, pp. 153–160; Haidt 2006).

Consequently, when one’s behavior matches one’s ideals, particularly in relationship to as an emotionally charged project as planetary survival, one is likely to experience a sense of fulfillment reflected in SWB (Jacob and Brinkerhoff 19971999)

Consequently, meditators believe that consistent mindfulness awareness practice permits them to see their attachments, and rather than being carried away by the impulse to cling to things that have little probability of offering long-term satisfaction, they possess the presence of mind to make decisions less likely to leave them with regret. This is particularly important in light of the research that indicates people generally have difficulty making the choices that lead to SWB (Gilbert 2006; Loewenstein and Schkade 1999).