ICIMOD Mountain Prize 2020 honours the women of Majkhali

Great news! The Majkhali village homestay mothers’ group, the Jagrati Swayam Sahayta Group, has won the ICIMOD Mountain Prize 2020. (www.icimod.org/mountainprize)

This is a really a great honour for everyone involved. This award really rewards the tremendous effort and achievements of the women of Majkhali and can be held up as a beacon to other villages in Uttarakhand.

Building connections, sharing a sustainable way of life.
The Jagrati Swayam Sahayta Group is a women self-help group based in village of Majkhali, district Almora, Uttarakhand, India. The women organized themselves into a group in 2011 in order to collaborate with the Foundation for Contemplation of Nature, Majkhali and invite students to experience life in the village.

The idea was simple; to offer residential courses on Resilient Leadership in the Himalayas to university students from all over the world, so that students can experience first-hand how a traditional lifestyle is a holistic skillset and mindset that can inform all aspects of modern life.

Since 2011, the group and the foundation has offered more than 30 2-week long immersive courses to over 500 students from across the world. Since 2018 the course has been recognised as a semester credit course by the School of Sustainability Studies, Western Colorado University.

The course has been taken by many groups of students, mostly from the United States, including Princeton University, Pittsburgh University, Western Colorado University, Nanda Devi Outdoor Leadership School, Where There be Dragons, Realms of Inquiry, Lakeside School, and Menlo School.

A host family house in the village.

Sustainable mountain development and resilience building
The place-based learning modules of the course are built on 3 pillars of sustainability: Dignity of Physical Work, Interdependence and Interconnectedness.  These pillars emphasize ways of constructing society that are in harmony with nature, community and self-cultivating inner and outer resilience.

Together with the villagers, the students have raised awareness around the issues of waste disposal, environmental health and energy efficiency, gender, education, forestry management and the benefits of an organic and zero-waste lifestyle.

Seeing the passion and engagement from the students who visit the village has given the residents a fresh perspective on the value of their natural and cultural heritage. They feel very motivated to connect with their landscape and cultural heritage and explore opportunities within the village that will ensure that their traditions and knowledge are sustained while they enrich their life and livelihoods.

Transformative change
The program has created opportunities for women who didn’t believe that they added much economic value to their household. Through the collaboration the women understand how their tremendous contribution as primary care givers and holders of traditional knowledge crossing all aspects of village life is at the core of their survival. As well as being homemakers the women are farmers, physically engaging in over 90% of all agrarian tasks.

The group has given recognition to their skills and demonstrated how their culture and food traditions are intrinsic to maintaining balance with the environment. It has increased their self-respect, empowered them to communicate their knowleddge and engage their menfolk, and demonstrated the importance of engaging women as decision makers not only in the family but in the broader regional community and society.

The visiting students have also demonstrated a transformation in their world view and attitude to life, moving from seeing rural farming families as poverty stricken, illiterate and helpless to understanding the depth of knowledge and culture in village life and its relevance for developing sustainable thinking.

It’s through this cultural exchange that the students learn hands-on skills and understand the efficiency of a holistic and integrated perspective to natural resource management on one hand and the balance of emotional values and happiness through simplicity on the other.

9 households and 40 members have benefited from the project over the course of 10 years. The group has collectively earned over 20 lakh rupees enabling the women to contribute towards their children’s education, their family’s health and develop better housing facilities in the village.

Gender and social inclusivity
The project has also raised awareness amongst local people about the importance of gender equity for the health of society moving forward. Villages in India have a deep-rooted caste system and gender bias. Women are considered inferior to men and certain castes are looked down upon. Despite holding the knowledge and effectively running village life and being responsible for the health and sustenance of the whole community, women are traditionally excluded from decision making. And this does t stop at the home, it extends to local administrations, banking, local government, and even NGOs. As well as the gender divide, dominant castes also often avoid any interaction with people from other castes, even refusing to eat food cooked by them.

This programme has broken these deep-rooted hierarchies and created an inclusive space where the students and villagers work, eat and celebrate together, irrespective of their gender, caste, religion or age. Students from the western universities challenge the local youth when the local girls are performing all the work! The villagers are slowly incorporating equality into every aspect of their lives. Men have started to see value of their women folk and even start to participate in tasks and projects connected to farming which were earlier thought to be only for women.

Through this the home stay program, the women have become financially independent and self-reliant. They have brought an additional income which usually came from men being forced to leave the village to work in the cities. They not only managed to get people from outside to take interest in their traditions and environment, but also increased awareness with the residents of Majkhali. Majkhali is now a much more inclusive, equitable and aware space. A vibrant and welcoming space.

The proof of success is in the farewells between host mums and students- not a dry eye in sight!

You can see more photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/188675493@N06/albums/72157715040065013

President of the Jagrati Swayam Sahayta Group: Sushila Devi
Majkhali, India
+91 9568986738


Contact for more info:

Ajay Rastogi
Director, Foundation for Contemplation of Nature
Ranikhet, India
+91 9758727196




How to contemplate nature; a simple nature-centric mindfulness practice

Nature-centred mindfulness is a great way to start meditation practice for a beginner, and also a beautiful practice for more experienced mindfulness and meditation practitioners. This extract is taken from the upcoming book, Nordic by nature. New voices on deep ecology; Arne Naess in the 21st century. If you would like to receive a free copy of this book please sign up to the Foundation of Contemplation of Nature’s newsletter here and follow the foundation on Facebook and @foundnature on Instagram.

Preparing lemons!

The contemplation of nature for inner and outer resilience
Hi, my name is Ajay Rastogi and I live in the village of Majkhali, in the state of Uttarakhand in the Indian Himalayan region. It’s about 400 kilometres north of Delhi and we overlook the high Himalayas with many 6000-metre high peaks. I have been an ecologist and an environmentalist for a large part of my life. I used to work with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as the organic programme coordinator for India. The basic drive to move back was to find a tool for the transformation of people from inside, so that they can connect deeply with nature.

The fact that we are unable to make big changes in society that are needed for sustainability means that we need to look again at the approach environmental movements have taken so far. For that reason, I was thinking that meditative practice, which can be done in nature, could be transformative in making us understand that we are an integral part of the natural world. Meditation is considered as a method for inner transformation.

Ajay near the foundation’s headquarters, in the foothills of the Himalayas.

Experiential transformative learning
We have a residential programme based out of village homestays. These are typical rural homesteads, structures where there is no running water and the toilet is outside. Participants are supposed to stay for a two-week programme and help their host agrarian families, doing the same work that they do. They learn about everyday work: taking care of the cow, getting fodder from the forest, getting enough drinking water from the springs.

Students on the Mountain Resilience Leadership course learn how a mixture of cattle dung and water produces biogas for cooking stoves.

The programme is based on three pillars. One is called ‘the dignity of physical work’ because, unfortunately, we are losing the connection to working with our hands. The second is ‘interdependence’ because sometimes we feel that if we are economically sound then we don’t need anybody else – ‘I just spend money and get whatever I want’– but that’s not how society is structured, that’s not how sustainability comes about. The third thing participants learn about is ‘interconnectedness’, which is more about the landscape and the elements, where the water is coming from and so on. It is about knowing that this does not happen by itself, there are trees and filtration is taking place, there is some soil which can absorb water. It’s not as if it comes out of thin air. It needs to be nurtured.
We have a structured programme now. It’s a three-credit course, with the collaboration of Western Colorado University, called Mountain Resilience Leadership. We have also worked with the National Outdoor Leadership School for the past nine years.

A short nature-centred practice group session before co-creation workshops and meetings can change the whole dynamic and outcome of the work.

Students from all over the world come and participate in these programmes.
Bring nature to our consciousness
The nature-based mindfulness practice that we call the ‘contemplation of nature’
is done in natural surroundings, if possible. It is a multisensory experience. It helps because we are biological organisms and we have an inherent need to connect with nature. It’s kind of how we are genetically wired, so the contemplation of nature is not as abstract as many people find other meditative practices to be. It is good for beginners to feel the interconnectedness of all beings.
People can start with the contemplation of nature and then go on to learn about other deeper levels of meditation. But the contemplation of nature is definitely an approach that can be done on a daily basis. It quickly brings us to a level of tranquillity that gives us all the benefits of the meditation: the compassion, the kindness, the deeper connection to the natural law as well as to the social community around us.
At about the 23rd minute of meditation, a response known as the relaxation response activates a deeper trigger in our bodies. The relaxation response allows the body and internal chemistry to function in a much more regulated and balanced way. This also brings other benefits, including a gentle detachment from the continuous flow of thoughts and emotions, and deeper awareness and insight into our interconnected being.

Three steps for contemplating nature
So, all we do is sit and observe with a soft gaze. You can contemplate nature indoors with very simple objects from nature, following the three steps of nature contemplation that we have designed. The three simple steps of the contemplation of nature are: observe nature with a soft gaze, accept your thoughts, emotions and sensations with gentle detachment, and send love to the world with sympathetic attention.

By observing nature with a soft gaze, we bring nature into our consciousness, all the time accepting with gentle detachment our thoughts, emotions and physical sensations. We are not interested in finding details or drawing conclusions. Of course, our minds will wander here and there, but as soon as we realise this, we gently bring our mind back to simply observing nature with a soft gaze.

One very important element of any meditation practice is to let go of your thoughts. You do not do this by fighting them but just by observing them and acknowledging them without judgement. This is what sympathetic attention means. Be gentle with yourself and just remind yourself of feelings of gratitude and oneness with nature. We sit, we observe softly with a gentle gaze, and continue sitting with gentle detachment. No matter what thoughts come to mind, don’t make any judgment about where you are, or what you are doing or thinking. It is this step that is transcendental in nature, and therefore a fundamental aspect of the practice. Being able to sit quietly allows us to somehow transcend a call of judgment and ‘the thinking mind’, at least for a little while.

Chipko Andolan; The Original Treehuggers

45 years ago, in 1970’s, there was a non-violent grassroots protest movement aimed at the protection and conservation of biodiversity of trees and forests in India, and how more actions needed to be taken to protect nature that supplies local people with clean water and soil.

It created a precedent for nonviolent protest and made the world take notice of non-violent protest. What they did was to simply embrace the trees to stop them from being cut down.
Women of the Chipko Movement embracing trees in Uttrakhand, India.

The Chipko Movement, or Chipko Andolan, began in Uttarakhand, which was then a part of Uttar Pradesh, in the foothills of Himalayas.

The movement gained momentum under the environmental activist Sunderlal Bahuguna.

His slogan “Ecology is permanent economy” drove thousands of men and women to become activists to protect their livelihoods.

Both male and female activists from Uttarakhand played vital roles, including Gaura Devi, Suraksha Devi, Sudesha Devi, Bachni Devi and Chandi Prasad Bhatt, Virushka Devi and others.

Deforestation creates a lack of firewood and fodder as well as water for drinking and irrigation which directly impacts women’s survival.

Today, the Chipko Movement is also seen as an ecofeminism movement, whose struggle still goes on today in India and across the world where women have few land rights despite being the primary farmers, stewards and knowledge holder of the land.

Chipko-type movements date back to 1730 AD when in village Prasanna Khamkar of Rajasthan, 363 Bishnois sacrificed their lives to save Khejri trees.

These movements practice methods of ‘Satyagraha’ – Satyagraha is for holding firmy onto the truth. (Sanskrit: सत्याग्रह; satya: “truth”, āgraha: “insistence” or “holding firmly to”), Someone who practices satyagraha is a satyagrahi.

The term satyagraha was coined and developed by Mahatma Gandhi and greatly influenced Martin Luther King Jr.‘s and James Bevel‘s campaigns during the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.

In 1987, the Chipko movement was awarded the Right Livelihood Award “for its dedication to the conservation, restoration and ecologically-sound use of India’s natural resources.”

Chipko treehugging immediately inspired many other eco-groups around the world to use the same techniques. It managed to slow down the rapid deforestation, expose the vested interests, increase social awareness, ecological awareness, and above all, in India, it brought awareness to the mainstream about the issues of tribal and marginalised people.

To the world, it demonstrated the viability of nonviolent people power.
Sunderlal Bahuguna

Episode 7: ON ETHICS Transcript

Transcript: ON ETHICS

Link to simple landing page: here

John and Ajay Rastogi at Majkhali Village, Uttarakhand, India.
Recorded 27.10.2019



Welcome to Nordic By Nature, a podcast on ecology today inspired by the Norwegian Philosopher Arne Naess, who coined the term Deep Ecology.

In this episode ON ETHICS, Ajay Rastogi at the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature in Uttarakhand, India, invites Dr. John Hausdoerffer, from Western Colorado University in Gunnison, USA, to speak about what constitutes Ethics today.

Both Ajay and Dr John, as his students call him, are part of an growing movement that calls for a new kind of ethics that views all places as part of our home, all generations and beings as part of our scope of responsibility, and all actions as potential expressions of human care for the world.

Dr. John and Ajay were at the Foundation’s HQ, the Vrikshalaya centre, in Majkhali village, at the foothills of the Himalayas, at the time of this recording. Every year Dr. John and Ajay lead students on an experiential Mountain Resilience Course, that is part of a longer-term Sister Cities program between Gunnison and Majkhali.

The long-term aim of the partnership is to share climate change solutions between the two Mountain Communities, and co-create a project based transformative Masters’ degree course that is both transferable and scalable.

I hope you can find time to relax and enjoy listening.


Ajay: Hi, my name is Ajay Rastogi, and I’m joining in from Uttrakhand State of Central Himalaya. It’s a very beautiful afternoon. We have the majestic mountain views in the front, and I’m happy to have this conversation.

John: My name’s John Hausdorffer. I’m the dean of the School of Environment and Sustainability at Western Colorado University, and the founder of the Mountain Resilience Coalition, co-founder, and co-founder of the Resilience Studies Coalition, and a humble and honoured friend of Ajay Rastogi’s through our Sister City partnership between Gunnison, Colorado and Majkhali, India.

Dr. John Hausdoerffer

What are ethics?
John: For me, the ethics is different from morals. Morals or notions of right and wrong that we received from society, from elders, from family, from law, from religion, from popular culture, literature, philosophy, external claims about right and wrong. And ethics is our capacity to question, analyse, evaluate those moral claims as to whether or not we want to live our lives based on them or unsettle them and create new visions of how to live.

Ajay Rastogi at the Vrikshalaya Centre

In an outer sense ethics is about how do we know what’s good for the world beyond what’s good for me. How do we measure right and wrong beyond what’s right for me? How do we understand what brings good to any being, system or community with its own value? Whether it’s human or more than human? And how to extend our own value out into the world. But it’s also about internal resilience; What is the good life? And to me, these questions of the climate crisis, questions of social justice movements, questions of deep ecology, re-enliven in very ancient questions.

What does it mean to live a good life when seen from the point of view of social and ecological systems that sustain us from which we evolved? Of which we are a part? It’s really about the good life and re-asking old questions like “What is the world? Who are we? How are we to live?” with frameworks that come from a global consciousness about anything from our economy to the climate crisis.

And so, again, ethics is simple. It’s our ability to analyse moral claims, but it’s become really complex. Now that those moral claims involve things about ‘How driving to the corner store to get a gallon of milk might affect farmers on the other side of the world.’ These old questions are much more complicated now, as complicated as they were before.


Ajay: The issues are far more complex. As Dr. John Hausdoerffer often has mentioned, and this whole thing of that we carried on for several decades about north south are temperate and tropics. It seems that this North-South divide is no more a clear cut north south divide, because there is a south in the north and there is a north in the south.

Every community seems legs to be fractured. And fractured so much that we have a highly multicultural societies that are evolving, multi class societies that are evolving, and to address these concerns of social equity above all, access. Access to basic amenities. On the one hand, we are seeing that the world is being destroyed.

Women transplanting of rice accompanied by a Hudikia Ball musician at Majkhali village. Photo by Dhirendra Bisht.

The biological diversity is being destroyed. The oceans are being destroyed. And on the other hand, we feel that there is a crisis of development because there is not enough water for the people. There is not enough food for the communities. So, this looks like a highly complex scenario where it cannot be just dealt with by technological solutions.

We need a certain kind of a transformation, maybe a radical change in the way we look around. I think within societies, the notions of development therefore need to be challenged.

If so few people with their affluence can destroy 90 percent of the resources of the world, or consume 90 percent of the resources of the world, how do we learn resilience to the entire society so that there is more equity and there is more ecological security? It is not just about outer resilience, but there is those of us who are privileged to have the resources. It’s also about our inner resilience to be able to share with others.

On the middle-class desire for ‘Greatness’
John: If we reduce the climate crisis to carbon emissions, we reduce climate actions to technological strategies for shrinking carbon emissions, we lose out an opportunity for growth in ourselves. And what I mean by that is that. When you look at the emergence of ecological science in the 20th century, or you look back thousands, ten, thousands of years, a traditional ecological knowledge both come with an evolution of perceiving the complexity of living systems in the human place in them and an expansion of our capacity to care for that complexity.

And I worry that when we reduce ecological problems, social ecological problems, either natural resource, quantity or tons of carbon in the atmosphere, we lose out on the opportunity for inner growth, for expanding our capacity to perceive of, and care for complexity in a new way.

Gas, 1940, by Edward Hopper

It’s really about the growth of the human spirit that I’m worried about as much as I’m worried about deforestation and loss of snowpack, I’m worried about, the commodification of the human capacity to care through just seeing the value of the natural world is quantifiable resources, reducing our role in the world to doing less bad rather than our role in the world as loving, perceptive beings.

I think that the moment we’re in is a great opportunity to work across cultures, to grow that capacity to care, and if we just frame it around carbon emission reduction by 2050 we’ve lost the deep ecology moment that we’re in.

Arne Naess reminded us to make a distinction between bigness and greatness, and I would also ask us to make the distinction between smartness and greatness. It’s nice to humble ourselves and to — think of the language here –shrink our carbon footprint, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Leave no trace.

But at least speaking for middle class Americans, we’re not inspired by making ourselves smaller. We want that greatness that Naess was talking about, but greatness doesn’t need to mean bigness in terms of our global impact.

Greatness can be around a great capacity to care for each other, a great understanding of ecological complexity. A great and compassionate global community.

And the alternative to big is not just shrinking ourselves. Ajay was sharing with my students the story of Lakshmi, who represents eight kinds of wealth. Ajay? So we think about richness in so many ways. You know, there’s all these kinds of richness. We’re looking at together; social capital, human capital, cultural capital, intellectual capital, natural Capital.


A new context for old questions

John: One of the things we were talking about yesterday, Ajay and I, looking out at the Himalayas was how some of these questions that are emerging from the climate crisis and emerging from global equity and poverty are old questions. And what we were asking the students is that, you know, are they comforted by the fact that these are old questions or are they disheartened by the fact that these are old questions?

There is a concern that lack of inner resilience, that whole inside of us driving a kind of external greed that will destabilise us inside, but also create injustice in the world on the outside.

That relationship to an inner and outer resilience is what Jay and I have been talking about with our students is at the core of ethics. How does an outer resilience movement like, for example, sustainable agriculture or water conservation or renewable energy, stem from and how is this sustained by a kind of inner resilience?

And how does our inner being find fulfilment and satisfaction from those outer resilience efforts? If those two aren’t merged…. I know plenty of American organic farmers or environmental non-profit workers who got burned out.

Enviro-non-profits have a high turnover rate and so they may be doing out resilience work with their collapsing for lack of inner resilience.

We’re trying to find that sweet spot as the core of ethics in the Anthropocene.


What is resilience?

John: So resilience, I hesitate to offer a simple definition because resilience emerges from so many cultures and time periods. But in the Western scientific discourse, it really starts with, in my view, Aldo Leopold, the American conservationist who did not even use the word resilience, but when he talked about the health of land, he talked about the capacity for self-renewal. And that gets at the core of resilience. Resilience is the ability to adapt to shock or disturbance.

Before ecology we’ve seen that word used in psychology, how people respond to trauma, whether they grow from that healing or collapse from it. But in ecology, it really emerged from Buzz Holling in 1973. And he really shook up ecology and the sciences and talking about the capacity to persist, because for him it was no longer about nature’s equilibrium. It’s no longer about how an ecosystem reaches a sort of climax community status and then has natural balance.

For him there is this adaptive cycle that requires disturbance. And so suddenly resilience is about the capacity for a system to absorb and adapt to disturbance, to thrive on the other side of that disturbance. So, thinking about a low intensity forest fire clearing out excess of dead and living trees to allow for the understory and the forest to thrive in the habitat to thrive.

By the 21st century, we have Brian Walker and David Salt taking Hollings’ notion of the importance of disturbance. And they’re actually now using that phrasing in a definition. They’re saying resilience is the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance.

But the real turning point has been in the last decade. I think there’s been a revolution how we think about resilience. An essay by Carl Folke, 2010. He talked about the capacity to create a fundamentally new system. Now, Carl Folke, talking about transformational change is the definition of resilience. So, resilience is now the capacity to create a fundamentally new system, literally transforming our political systems around capping carbon or a carbon tax or disrupting campaign finance, so that oil and gas companies no longer have so much power.

Carl Folke

It’s about building awareness into our citizenry. And really what he says, here is a quote from me says, “Transformational change often involves shifts in perception and meaning, social network configurations, patterns of it, of interactions among actors, including leadership and political and power relationships” Right? So suddenly resilience is about activist democratic co-creation of economics, social, political, environmental justice.

I was lucky enough to talk with Vandana Shiva in 2018 about this. I just asked her point blank. What’s your definition of resilience? And she said, “Dealing with illusions is the resilience of our time.”

So think about that arc, you know, from Leopold’s capacity for self-renewal to Buzz Hollin bringing disturbance into how we understand ecological systems, to Folke talking for transformational change, to Vandana Shiva just saying resilience is just whether or not we can deal with illusions.

And I think those illusions are outer and inner. The illusions can be the way in which companies have spent billions of dollars to get people to doubt scientists, but illusions can also be internal. The illusion of the separate, individualistic self being fulfilled by consumption. That illusion is also driving resilience, the illusion that we’re not part of one global community together, we’re in competition with each other.

Vandana Shiva


How can outer resilience drive inner resilience?

How do we become renewed when we work together to renew the world that’s inner and outer resilience? The second layer, though, is going back to Arne Ness when he talks about realisation. Already using realise in a double way, you know, he’s first we’re first intellectually realising, like Eureka, my self is bigger than just my mind. My self extends out into the river that he protested through chaining himself to a dam. Right that was part of his larger self. He realised that intellectually, from saying, OK, collagen interconnects, everything physically, why wouldn’t it interconnect the self with the world?

But I think realisation for him is also about you make something real. So, you realise your full potential of yourself through intellectually realising it is the world, but also through fighting for the realisation of a free-flowing river. You are realising your own self-actualisation, but also the liberation of your larger self.

Self-realisation again, there is an inner and outer resilience coming together. Ani ness chaining herself to a dam right as a way of realising his self-actualising potential. I mean, just last week in United States, the actors Ted Danson and Jane Fonda; He’s 71. She’s 81, they were handcuffed and arrested for protesting climate change.

Sitcom prime time actor Ted Danson said “Being handcuffed focussed me.” Now, think of that. It’s an outer action to push fellow citizens to take on climate change. But what do they say there? “It focussed me.” So how will he be energised from that focus. It’s almost like Thoreau saying: “The jail cell in a slave society is the only place for a free man,” Right? It focussed him in civil disobedience.

There’s that inner resilience.

Jane Fonda and Ted Hanson arrested at Climate Crisis demonstration at Capitol Hill.


On the Mountain Resiliency Course at Majkhali Village
Ajay: So in 2016, we developed a collaboration with the Western Colorado University and a graduate student. That time, Brendan McNamara. He visited us and we in collaboration designed a course which is now called Mountain Resiliency. It’s a three-credit course.

And students have been coming for the course together with the dean, Dr. John Hall, staffer and the course is being offered in much cuddly. It’s a month-long course. We also have customised courses for different universities, which could be shorter duration anywhere between a week, ten days to two to three weeks. And the mountain resiliency module is getting quite an attention, in terms of how much transformation it can bring about in the students.

This is a course which started with this thinking of place-based learning and place-based learning based on those three pillars of dignity, of physical work, interdependence and interconnectedness.

But we are encouraging students to think and to interact with people in the community who understand more about those themes.

So, for example, one theme in the mountain resilience course place-based learning is local co-operatives, which is about the five forms of capital.

How do the students understand that it’s not just the economic or the financial capital that is important, but an enterprise should build ecological capital and social capital, natural capital and human capital?

So for that, we go to a local co-operative who has been working here with 2000 women as members and we learn from them. How have been your experience of building these five forms of capital in the institution?

Similarly, another theme is lifestyle thinking. Lifestyle thinking is about the purpose that you mentioned. OK, so what is the purpose? How about happiness? What are the sources of happiness? Is it just about acquiring and consumption? Or is it about social connectedness? Is it about the meaning of how we relate to each other? Is it about trusted relationships?

About the interconnectedness? Then we think about in how many forms do we get what we need from the landscape and how do we maintain reciprocity and equilibrium with the resources that we get from nature? So, It’s also about traditional ecological knowledge, about agriculture, about forestry use, about livestock, etc..

Now, water is another very big issue in the mountain areas. And water also, as you know, connects right from the watershed down to the spring and to the kitchens of the people. So how do we take care of the water? What are the traditional norms of taking care of the water?

Why are the forests in the catchment of water springs sacred? How does it relate to our customs in this society? And do those customs help us in more rejuvenating water use for everyone?

So that’s how the place-based learning module has been evolving.

One very important aspect of the course is a walking journey. We have just finished in this course. It is walking journey like last time, we passed through villages. We talked to the people. We have discussions. We have circle time.

Students get to go across different kinds of village, different kinds of agriculture around the villages, different utilisation of the forests, and then they can talk to the communities. It’s also intergenerational learning because when we talk to the youth, you get a different response. When we talk to the elder, you might get a different response.

How do you reconcile the aspirations of the youth? So, I think students are able to grasp the social complexity, the ecological complexity and the cultural complexity.

It is not just about carbon. It’s a whole lot of a complex scenario that we are facing in this society. And to be able to comprehend it, to be able to contemplate what would be the possible scenarios of intervention, that is little bit about the outer resilience.

Now, if you turn it other way down, what is my responsibility? How do I accept my privileges? What do I do as a responsible citizen in this scenario? I think that is where the inner resilience also plays a big part.

Diwali and notions of wealth
The social events like for example; we are at the moment celebrating Diwali. The students are a part of those festivities in the village. What is the message that the Festival of Diwali gives? What is it? What is the concept of wealth? Because in the valley, the general notion is that we offer prayers to the goddess of wealth. And the wealth is not just about money. So, it is about liberation. It’s about food security. The wealth is also courage to be able to behave responsibly. We need courage. And courage is a kind of well, it is. Wealth is also about being able to follow the path of resilience and also how we can destroy the suffering.

So, we need to be giving up certain things and taking up certain other things to be able to make these adjustments in life.

It’s a beautiful course that students are able to experience in a different culture.


Sister cities

John: One of things we’ve done out of a concern that American students don’t simply swoop into a community where their guests think they can solve problems and swoop out without a proper needs assessment, without humbly co creating solutions with community leaders, is that beyond the course which lasts a month, we’ve created a sister city partnership between Gunnison City Council in Colorado and Majkhali leaders here, so that there is a continuity between each year’s course and one of the glue between each year.

Undergrad course is a graduate student living in Majkhali, keeping a mountain conversation alive when the course is not happening so that students feel like if they contribute something in Majkhali, it’s within the intellectual capital of this community and can continue beyond their presence here, knowing that they’re part of a larger self that students will come long after they’ve left.

Project based Master’s degree courses at Colorado University

Brandon MacNamara designed this with Ajay. He did it as his master’s project. And when I created the Master and Environmental Management Program at Weston, I did away with the thesis, and said the world needs these students defending theses to expand knowledge, but why do we have master’s degrees?

Why not to extend the reach of visionary but overextended organisations by requiring a yearlong project for that organisation? Five years later, we’re sending twenty-five thousand hours of these projects around the world to extend that reach for organisations, and we’ll have a thousand of those by 2035.

But they’re playful. Students don’t just get bogged down in complaining about who the US president is and what the global impact of that arrogance is. They are playfully creating solutions. We call the IMBY program instead of not in my backyard. In my backyard. What do you want to create? What do you want to grow? What kind of wealth do you want to promote? Scale it up.

Yeah, actually through the United Nations Mountain Partnership there, they’re connecting me with what they see as a similar project driven programs around the world. The Resilience Studies Consortium I’ve started is looking to find those partners. We found a beautiful one. Eberswalde, a university in Germany? We have a nice partnership with them. The first the job is to create an excellent model. We haven’t perfected what we’re doing yet. We never will.


On Inner and Outer Resilience
I’d like to expand on inner and outer resilience. Ajay was talking about water, and one of the aspects that we share between sister city communities is water.

We both are on the edge of major mountain ranges. We both rely on snowpack, from spiritual fulfilment to economic need, to forest health, to eco tourist potential, to family traditions. And in Colorado, there’s a community, San Louis, Colorado. Someone you should interview one day is, Devon Pena, writes brilliantly about San Louis, Colorado, and what happened. There was Culebra Peal, a fourteen-thousand-foot, or four or five thousand metre peak.

The snowpack of that mountain is not necessary for a two-hundred-year-old food system in the town of San Louis. It’s Hispanos traditional farming community that uses ditches, bringing gravity fed water to the fields. That water is managed democratically. So, water, democracy and that water actually expands the riparian ecosystem.

So, the way in which that community produces their livelihood and sense of cultural self, the food of their ancestors in their stomach, also renews the ecosystem. How exciting is that, when we have examples in the modern era of social livelihood resulting in more biodiversity, rather than less?

And that’s not just a movement making itself smaller. That’s finding a new great story of human communities as co-creators of social ecological renewal.

That’s been disrupted. Logging companies have tried to clear cut on the mountain, which speeds up snowmelt, threatening the growing season.

The movements there have been really resilient, though.

We’ve seen examples of, conservative in some cases farmers, linking arms and chaining themselves to a gate with Earth First tree sitters. They care about those trees for different reasons. But there’s something resilient in the intersection between them.

For me, out of resilience really is really told by that story that to have the resilience of that forest ecosystem protected from a clear cut, we need the social resilience of a community’s water democracy, which needs the cultural resilience of that community’s diet and traditional food practices; its deep food, which needs the emotional resilience of its youth.

Many of the youth of that community are leaving for economic opportunity in Colorado Springs and Denver. And it is a lack of that deep connection to the intrinsic value of being of that place among the youth that’s going to be the tipping point for the rest of that community’s resilience collapsing.

We don’t have a next generation that feels spiritually fulfilled in doing the hard work of managing that community’s food system. Suddenly, the expanded riparian system, as well as the food system, as well as people who protect that forest as well as people who want to protect the amount of snow on that mountain will collapse.

And I’m finding that here as well. On our trek to the Himalayas. Interview after interview with Community Elder, they talked about the loss of youth to economic dreams in Delhi. Now, even the ancient stone walls are starting to crumble because the youth are leaving.

How to build inner resilience in the youth, spiritually and I don’t mean religion, I mean fulfilled as beings in a place so that then cultural, social, ecological resilience follows?

Ajay: It’s a very big question as to how do we connect our youth to the beauty of the place and wisdom of the past? It’s not an easy answer.

It’s also rooted in the fact how and what is projected as respectable in the society. And that, I think, has changed.

It was, I think, possible if the environmental degradation was not there to the extent that we have seen, it’s also to do with the policies of the British Commonwealth. Now, the big change that has come about is in the last 25 years.

What we are seeing is that the educated youth would venture out from the communities and they would find certain employment. But the rest of the family would be here. And therefore, the lands would be fertile. Their traditions would continue. The festivals will happen, the deity…The resident deities of the landscapes would be offered prayers regularly. Now, if the whole families migrate out, then it is an even bigger question. How do we keep those lands productive?

Food systems used to be kind of the central pivot for a society. Most of the festivities, the ceremonies and the connectedness with the landscapes was around food systems. So just the economic answers may not be able to fulfil the needs. Although it may seem that economics may be at the root of beginning trying to bring a change. It appears that connecting to the roots, the identities of the place, the ancestral locations that we have. I think those are the kinds of bigger connects that will bring us in with a better comprehension of wholeness, that I would feel, not just by being myself a lot, but in a community and a community which is not just about neighbours, but it’s also about the trees and the forests and the water and the air and the mountains.

Camping on a hiking trip in the Himalayan lowlands.

John: We ended our trek from much collie and Kausani and visited with Jay’s friend Deeraj runs B2R, you are as a company dedicated to keeping the youth in the mountains in the foothills of the Himalaya through having them serve banks and other industries through mass data analysis and double checking PDFs and things like that. And they take an incredible amount of pride, as Deeraj put it, in being participants in a global conversation in their little mountain town.

Would even Deeraj would say, you know, as proud as he is of that, he really wants to then have that transition into a more holistic connection with their place. He’s done it for 10 years. He’s employed three hundred mountain peoples, youth mainly. But for him, it’s half the battle to keep them in the town.

And the question is, what is the value of that life in that town? And how do you make that mountain life in itself whole? Rather than making it feel like a mini Delhi? And I think that’s where Ajay and the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature really comes in. To connect people to the sacred value of the land they walk on through the dignity of work.

Yes. One should take great pride in being educated technically in this new economy and finding a voice in that economy by walking from the farm to Deeraj’s computer station. But how can one have the same level of dignity, if not more, from returning home and milking the cow or splitting wood, repairing that ancient stone wall, repairing that ancient stone temple?

I think the dignity of work and the dignity of mountain work must merge with bringing opportunities to mountain communities, and there’s something in that bridge that’s necessary.


On renewal

John: I think a lot of what this conversation is about is about renewal.

When we talk about renewal. We’re talking about anything from ecosystems capacity to renew itself, to certain cultural practices, renewing themselves, to keeping and having that spiritual renewal in the face of a collapse of a way of life.

And, thinking about, you know, beyond the Himalayas, where, by the way, the infrastructure for that kind of connection with renewing cultural and social and ecological systems that are traditional, that infrastructure is still there. Whereas the United States is being rebuilt, in a lot of cases we’re seeing audit growth in farmers markets, we’re seeing a lot of backyard gardens. There’s a really inspirational place in Chicago called Eden Place, where the south side, where the predominantly African-American community that had hardly lead contaminated soil has renewed that land by cleaning up the soils, turning into community gardens, and then renewing that confidence, in being a land based people, after their ancestors left the south because of what happened on the land.

So, it’s not just a renewal of lead contaminated soil. It’s also a renewal of the spirit of a people who are traumatized by land itself. And so, I think we’re starting to see renewal come together and all of these ways. Renewal from cultural trauma. Renewal from ecological collapse.

Vandana Shiva talks about the living energies that are still embedded in the infrastructures of rural India, while fossil fuel driven infrastructures are coming in rapidly in food systems with pesticides and tractors and highways, systems and automobiles and industry.

She’s saying, you know, these living energies are still here and the energy of the cow, and the energy of compost, the energy of shared networks of labour, the energy of the sun, the rain. Those living energies are very much still in place. And her concern is if we shift fully into that fossil fuel infrastructure, a lot of carbon will be released in the atmosphere. Right, but you’ll also have that loss of renewal. People being displaced from their farms has led to a quarter million farmer suicides in this country in the last 20 years. Talk about the opposite of renewal.

I think a lot of this is about renewal, inner and outer resilience, and Brendan MacNamara, our colleague who developed this course with Ajay on inner and outer resilience. He’s adding this other form of capital that he’s calling spiritual capital. And I think for me, that’s not about making sure a certain religion is still followed, to me as being a spiritual being is simply being more than a body that consumes bodies in a global economy.

Two teenage boys at Majkhali Village.

Inner resilience is a thing in itself that’s not taught enough. We have enough doom and gloom about, oh, the loss of the Ganges, and the loss of the Om glacier, and that kind of fear of loss is just not a sustainable fuel in that instead, we have to start talking about what are we going to gain? And if we see them in a reciprocal relational way, inner and outer resilience.

Maybe they keep each other alive rather than just, if we make people feel scared and guilty enough, maybe they’ll do some mindfulness exercises so they keep fighting against climate change and don’t burn out, then go on a mindfulness cruise, right Ajay?


A young perspective

[Actually, on the track, my 8-year-old and 11 year old daughters joined us and you know, they understand the changes happening around them. They’re not that much younger than Greta Thunberg. And they have some clarity and some climate anxiety, and I just asked him on the track. I said, how is it fun? How is it more fun to fight climate change?

And one daughter said, Well. If we have a pretty yard with fun plants that attract butterflies, we’re not using gas to mow the lawn in the yards, more fun.

And I think my daughter was onto something there. There’s beauty, there’s fun, there’s creativity. We are talking about the core of our evolutionary species being. What are we, if not adaptive, creative being’s right? Karl Marx said we’re producers, which means we can imagine something in our mind and make it real in the world. That’s somewhere most human.

Why not view these climate solutions as playful, carnival last celebratory expressions of our evolutionary species being as adaptive and creative members of this blue ball flying through space?

The American middle class of the last three generations represents the first time in which private life has been more pleasurable than public life. And that’s very dangerous.






Thank you for listening to this episode of Nordic By Nature, ON ETHICS.
You can find more information on our guests and a transcript of this podcast on imaginarylife.net/podcast

Please help us by sharing a link to this episode with the hashtag #tracesofnorth and follow us on Instagram @nordicbynaturepodcast. We are also fundraising on panteon.com/nordicbynature.

Many thanks also to Ajay Rastogi at the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature. If you would like more information on Courses in Resilient Thinking for both students and professionals, please write directly to Ajay via foundnature.org.

You can also follow the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature on Facebook, and at Contemplation of Nature on Instagram.

Thanks also to Dr. John Hausdoerffer. Dr. John has written and co-edited books on the intersection of environmental ethics and social justice including “Catlin’s Lament“; Wildness and his upcoming book What Kind of Ancestor Do You Want to Be?

He is also the founding Dean of the School of Environment & Sustainability and Director of the Master in Environmental Management (MEM) program at Western Colorado University. . He co-founded the Coldharbour Institute with Butch Clark on 350 acres of land east of Gunnison, Colorado, to exemplify sustainable mountain living in the Rockies. He also co-founded the Resilience Studies Consortium to unite environmental programs from liberal arts colleges across the world, so they can provide what he calls “multi-place, place-based education in hands-on, interdisciplinary “learning laboratories.”

You can find more information on Gunnison’s “Sister City International” partnership with the Himalayan community of Majkhali, on https://sistercities.org/

We’d love to hear your thoughts on our podcast, so please email me, Tanya, on nordicbynature@gmail.com


Become a Patron!

Guión Del Episodio 3: Sobre La Resiliencia Interior

Título en inglés: “On Inner Resilience”
Nordic by Nature
Sonido: Música De Diego Losa
Introducción: Voz De Tanya.

Bienvenidos a Nordic by Nature, un podcast producido por “Ecology Today”, inspirado por el filósofo noruego Arne Naess, quien acuñó el término “Ecología profunda”.

Naess utilizó el término “auto realización” para indicar una imagen de perfección, un proceso y un propósito, tanto para una persona como para una comunidad. El podcast “Sobre la Resiliencia Interior”, combina las ideas de Naess sobre “auto realización” y una visión del equilibrio humano. Este contenido sólo debería ser puesto en práctica con un sentido de alegría interior y de benevolencia hacia el mundo.

La “Resiliencia Interior” puede ser definida a partir de ciertas características:

La “Resiliencia Interior” es plena de sentido y deseable, pero en ocasiones puede ser dolorosa. No es un sinónimo de comodidad. Más bien, es un proceso de maduración espiritual, por el cual una persona actúa de una manera más consistente consigo misma como un todo;

La “Resiliencia Interior” es un proceso continuo; puede ser alcanzada a través del conocimiento y el estudio, pero exige una práctica constante que incluye cultivar, comunicar y compartir valores como la compasión;

La “Resiliencia Interior” desarrolla nuevos tipos de habilidades que son necesarias para una transformación personal, incluyendo la empatía, el respeto, la humildad, la construcción de consensos y la co-creación;

Estamos constantemente cambiando y no podemos separarnos de los procesos planetarios de los que somos parte. Nuestra propia salud y bienestar no pueden existir a expensas de otros, ni de la diversidad biológica y cultural que son la naturaleza de la vida.

Ajay Rastogi comenzará introduciéndonos en una práctica de Mindfulness secular y centrada en la naturaleza, que él mismo desarrolló, y enseña actualmente, en la Fundación para la Contemplación de la Naturaleza, en Majkhali, un pueblo de los Himalayas en el Estado de Uttarakhand, en India.

Después escucharemos las palabras de Noor A Noor, un conservacionista egipcio de la Universidad de Cambridge en el Reino Unido, quien describe su propio camino personal hacia la “Conservación” y el Mindfulness, a través de su historia familiar, su experiencia con la música, y los dramáticos acontecimientos de la revolución egipcia de 2011.

Luego escucharemos a Judith Schleicher. Judith nos explicará cómo la meditación diaria le ha ayudado en su trabajo en “Conservación”, después de participar, por primera vez, en un retiro de Vipassana de diez días en Perú, hace siete años.

Finalmente, escucharemos a Christoph Eberhard, antropólogo legal y practicante de las artes tradicionales Chinas e Indias como el Tai Chi Chuan, el Qi Gong y el Yoga. Christoph cree que el diálogo está en el corazón de una transformación plena de sentido: el diálogo con un mismo, el diálogo con otros, el diálogo con la naturaleza y el diálogo con lo trascendente (“the beyond”).

Este podcast está diseñado para que pueda ser escuchado con audífonos. Ojalá puedas hacerte un tiempo y disfrutar escuchándolo.


Hola, mi nombre es Ajay Rastogi …. y … nosotros vivimos en el pueblo de Majkhali, en el Estado de Uttarakhand, en la región india de los Himalayas …. y … está a alrededor de 400 kilómetros al norte de Dehli. Desde aquí miramos muchos de los altos picos del Himalaya de más de 6.000 metros.

He sido ecologista y medioambientalista durante gran parte de mi vida.

Ajay Rastogi, Founder of the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature.

Ajay On The Contemplation Of Nature.

El hecho de que no hayamos sido capaces de hacer grandes cambios en la sociedad, que son necesarios para lograr la sustentabilidad, requiere que revisemos el enfoque que hemos adoptado hasta ahora en los movimientos ambientales. Por esta razón, empecé a pensar que nada sería más transformador que una práctica meditativa que pudiera ser hecha en la naturaleza….

La meditación ha sido considerada como una metodología para la transformación interior.

La Contemplación De La Naturaleza

La contemplación de la naturaleza, una práctica meditativa[1], se realiza en un entorno natural. Es una experiencia multisensorial.

Esto ayuda, porque somos un organismo biológico, y por lo tanto tenemos un impulso inherente para conectarnos con la naturaleza. Es algo para lo que estamos genéticamente configurados, por lo que no es una meditación tan abstracta como muchas otras que la gente encuentra, por lo que es una buena manera de empezar.

Las personas pueden comenzar con esta meditación, y después llegar a niveles más profundos siguiendo cualquier otra práctica que deseen. La meditación en la naturaleza, la contemplación de la naturaleza, definitivamente es un práctica que puede llevarse a cabo cotidianamente, que nos lleva a un nivel de tranquilidad y nos aporta beneficios como la compasión y la bondad, así como una más profunda conexión con la naturaleza y con la comunidad a nuestro alrededor.

Aproximadamente después de 23 minutos de meditación, la tranquilidad que se alcanza gatilla procesos más profundos de relajación fisiológica, lo que lleva al cuerpo y su química interna a un estado mucho más regulado y balanceado. Esta es la llamada “respuesta de relajación”, que es lo que estamos intentando lograr en un nivel fisiológico y psíquico, además de los otros beneficios que entrega la meditación.

Entonces, mientras nos sentamos y observamos con una mirada suave….

A veces podemos no tener acceso a un paisaje natural, pero esta meditación puede ser realizada también en algún interior, utilizando objetos muy sencillos. Luego, sigues los tres pasos de la contemplación que hemos diseñado….

Acerca De La Meditación

Entonces, los tres pasos …. tres simples pasos, son: a) observar la naturaleza con una mirada suave; b) aceptar con desapego gentil; y c) enviar amor con atención simpatética.

Observamos la naturaleza con una mirada suave, permaneciendo en la aceptación con un gentil desapego. No nos interesamos en encontrar ningún detalle. Por supuesto, la mente va a deambular de un lado a otro, pero tan pronto como nos demos cuenta de que nos hemos alejado a la deriva, podemos volver a la contemplación de la naturaleza con una mirada suave.

Un elemento adicional, muy importante en la práctica de contemplar la naturaleza, es “dejar ir”, y esto sucede sólo cuando nos sentamos y empezamos a contemplar, generando un sentimiento de amor con atención simpatética, y recordándonos a nosotros mismos la gratitud, un sentimiento de gratitud. Y continuamos sentados, observando suavemente con la mirada y con un desapego gentil.

“Dejar ir” es no hacer ningún juicio acerca de “dónde estamos” y “qué estamos haciendo”. Éste es un paso trascendental en la naturaleza, y por lo tanto es un aspecto fundamental de la práctica, a través de la cual somos capaces, de alguna manera, de trascender el impulso de juzgar y pensar, al menos por un breve momento.

Voz 2: Noor A Noor


Mi nombre es Noor A Noor. Soy un egipcio de 28 años, realizando un master de “Liderazgo en Conservación”. Antes de venir a Cambridge, dediqué los últimos 7 años a dirigir la ONG Nature Conservation Egypt, una institución que trabaja en la conservación de los hábitats de especies y de comunidades locales.


Noor Sobre Egipto En 2011

Cuando era pequeño, yo era un niño de ciudad. Mis padres eran muy activistas por la justicia social, y por los derechos políticos y económicos. Sin embargo, no recuerdo que me hayan llevado a la naturaleza …. no fue parte de mi educación.

En 2011, Egipto vivió uno de los más increíbles aunque dramáticos levantamientos, en los que cientos de miles de egipcios salieron a la calle exigiendo más pan, libertad y justicia social. Y obviamente todo lo que se deriva de estos tres componentes. Como resultado, se produjeron cambios significativos. Algunos de ellos fueron para mejor, pero muchos otros fueron para peor.

Nos enfrentamos a una inmensa violencia por parte de las personas encargadas en ese tiempo, específicamente las fuerzas armadas.

Había un constante conflicto con los manifestantes que exigían una completa transición hacia un gobierno más democrático y respetuoso de los derechos humanos. Como resultado, hubo una tremenda persecución, y hasta el día de hoy muchos egipcios continúan siendo perseguidos por el Estado.

Durante ese año 2011, yo, al igual que cientos de miles de egipcios que tomaban parte en estas demostraciones, tuvimos literalmente que correr por nuestras vidas…. las suficientes veces como para darnos cuenta que la vida no es lo que parece, cuando tienes que correr para ponerte a salvo. Pasé entonces de estar siempre preparado para sacrificarme por la causa, a darme cuenta de que en realidad sería más útil para la sociedad si trataba de sobrevivir, y parte de ese darme cuenta vino del hecho de pasar tiempo en la naturaleza por primera vez.

Noor: Descubriendo La Naturaleza

Por primera vez estaba pasando una significativa cantidad de tiempo en la naturaleza, aprendiendo de la naturaleza y enseñando sobre la naturaleza, así como conservando la naturaleza, todo como parte del nuevo trabajo que asumí desde el 2012.

Mientras más entendía la naturaleza, más terminé entendiéndome a mí mismo.

Poco a poco, terminé por encontrarme con el Mindfulness, que al principio odiaba como término porque encontraba que era muy contraintuitivo. Pero mientras más leía sobre Mindfulness, más empezó a resonarme y a hacerme sentido, tanto en un nivel teórico como político y personal. Pasar más tiempo en la naturaleza, ir comprendiendo cómo funciona y dejándome inspirar y sanar por ella … todo eso fue en sí mismo un proceso de Mindfulness.

Esencialmente, tuve que pasar por muchos traumas físicos y emocionales ese año, ya sea infligidos en mi persona, o peor aún, que afectaron a quienes yo cuidaba, e incluso a quienes no conocía, pero con quienes compartía un terreno político común.

El trauma acumulado en esos años, por mí y por miles de otros, se arrastra hasta estos días.

No hay nada romántico en una revolución. No hay nada romántico en un conflicto ni en los levantamientos sociales, porque hay mucho que se sacrifica….

Pero estoy completamente agradecido…. por la manera en que finalmente terminé por responder a estos traumas, en un nivel físico y emocional, por cómo logré alcanzar un mayor nivel de Mindfulness para reducir mis niveles de ansiedad…

…. incluso políticamente. Creo que esto contribuyó a ver de mejor manera cómo podemos…. ser mejor holísticamente como planeta; cómo sobrellevar las inevitables crisis que estamos enfrentando y que continuaremos enfrentando a una tasa exponencial en el futuro.

Después de los levantamientos de 2011, estaba decidido a trabajar en terreno, y terminé dirigiendo una ONG dedicada a la conservación de la naturaleza y trabajando en una empresa de turismo educativo ambiental, llamada Dima.

Me hizo darme cuenta de ciertas dimensiones que estaban relacionadas con nuestra supervivencia, con la sustentabilidad, y con las batallas que estábamos dando por la justicia.

Me di cuenta de la importancia de la naturaleza y de los recursos naturales de los cuales dependemos.

Lo que mucha gente está comprendiendo ahora es que todas las dinámicas políticas, económicas e incluso sociales, relacionadas con nosotros como especie, están directa o indirectamente relacionadas con la manera en que interactuamos con la naturaleza que nos rodea.

El hecho de que continuemos viéndonos separados de aquello que nos mantiene vivos, empezando por la comida, y muchas otras cosas más, incluso el aire del que extraemos el oxígeno que necesitamos, que proviene de otros seres vivos y otros hábitats de este planeta, está en el centro de algunos de los actuales conflictos sobre los recursos naturales, así como de la trayectoria que seguimos hacia el colapso del sistema que nos sostiene.

El concepto de “Ecología Política” es un excelente término para dar cuenta de esta situación. Lo que nos dice este concepto es que siempre que pensemos en recursos naturales, necesitamos pensar en las estructuras políticas, sociales y económicas que imponemos a la naturaleza, si es que vamos a hablar de conservación. Y al mismo tiempo, si lo que buscamos es el desarrollo social, necesitamos pensar en los procesos ecológicos que soportan estos procesos sociales.

Para ser honestos, estamos todos implicados. El teléfono que estoy usando ahora, para hablar con ustedes acerca de la sustentabilidad, los componentes que han sido usados para construir este teléfono, no son sustentables. El café que estoy saboreando en este momento, supuestamente proviene de un proceso que es éticamente correcto, pero finalmente es probable que provenga de algún lugar muy lejano a eso. Esto en sí mismo, que es parte de nuestra cultura de consumo, hace muy difícil que estemos conscientes de todas aquellas cosas que comemos y bebemos, porque hemos llegado a ser muy dependientes de ellas.

Cuando tenía 15 años, mi padre fue encarcelado por el gobierno de Mubarak, el régimen que estuvo en el poder por más de 30 años. Mi padre fue sentenciado a 4 o 5 años de prisión, como castigo por participar en las movilizaciones políticas que se oponían al presidente…. en ese tiempo recuerdo muy específicamente haberme dicho a mí mismo cosas como: ok, tienes un minuto para sentir lo que tengas que sentir … tan pronto como ese minuto pase, cambia el switch. Cambia el switch …. continúa con lo que tienes que hacer en tu día a día, no te rebeles en tu interior, sólo continúa funcionando. Recuerdo perfectamente tener 15 años y estarme diciendo estas cosas. Y aunque obviamente esto puede no ser siempre la mejor solución, recuerdo haberme forzado a mí mismo a hacer esto para desconectarme de la ansiedad y el miedo que estaba en mi cabeza. Sólo para ser capaz de seguir funcionando.

Diez años más tarde, cuando me encontré a mí mismo … reconociendo mi ansiedad por primera vez, ¡me di cuenta de que había estado respirando incorrectamente toda mi vida! (risa), y fue una realización fascinante porque … técnicamente …. no nos enseñan cómo respirar correctamente cuando somos niños… nadie te dice que respires a través de tu estómago cuando eres un niño.

En mi último año de universidad estaba estudiando ciencia política y derecho, y ese último año me involucré en un proyecto para hacer música a partir de la basura.

Así que … nos dedicábamos a… reciclar y reutilizar deshechos para hacer música, y para despertar una conciencia ambiental y social utilizando la música como un medio. Ese proyecto musical, a través de los conciertos que organicé, me ayudó a conocer a la gente con la que terminé trabajando en los años que siguieron.

Voz 3: JUDITH SCHLEICHER (c. 8 Mins) 


Soy Judith Schleicher. Soy postdoc[2] aquí en el Departamento de Geografía de la Universidad de Cambridge, y también trabajo actualmente como Consultora en el Centro de Monitoreo de la Conservación Mundial del Medio Ambiente de Naciones Unidas.

Siempre he estado interesada en los bosques tropicales, su diversidad, la gente que vive ahí, la diversidad cultural, la biodiversidad, todo eso … tratando de protegerlo, y también de entender mejor a la gente y nuestra relación con ella.

Judith Schleicher at David Attenborough House, Cambridge.

Cuando estaba haciendo mi Phd[3] empecé a meditar … mucho … y luego, cuando tuve la oportunidad de trabajar en la relación entre la naturaleza y las personas, después de mi doctorado, me pareció que todas estas cosas finalmente se reunían.

Desde este lugar, lo que podemos ver es un estacionamiento y mucho concreto. Y tú sabes, si ese es el ambiente en el que crecemos, y que con la edad nos volvemos menos conectados aún, pienso que eso no sólo tiene un impacto muy negativo en nuestro desarrollo personal, en nuestro crecimiento personal y como sociedad, sino que también significa que en el futuro podríamos preocuparnos aún menos por lo que nos queda.

Pienso que lo que es realmente importante es que también miremos hacia nuestro interior. Necesitamos pensar en nosotros mismos, en nuestro propio bienestar, y trabajar en hacer los cambios desde adentro, y luego podremos hacer cambios más allá de nosotros.  Y creo que esas son las cosas que realmente necesitan ser parte de nuestro sistema educativo: cómo crecemos, cuáles son las cosas que realmente importan en nuestras vidas.

Los niños pasan tanto tiempo en el colegio, y se les enseñan tantas cosas que involucran sólo nuestro intelecto – sólo pensar en ellas – pero realmente no se piensa en cómo desarrollamos nuestra resiliencia emocional, cómo tenemos que pensar en nuestro bienestar, cómo desarrollamos nuestra propia actitud mental.

Preocuparnos realmente de eso es tan importante. Y si pudiéramos hacer de eso una parte fundamental de la vida de una persona cuando está creciendo, creo que ése sería un cambio positivo inmenso.

Me gustaría mucho ver, por ejemplo, que se impartieran clases de Mindfulness y meditación como parte del curriculum normal de educación, y que entonces la gente pudiera empezar a pensar “qué es lo importante en mi vida” y “cuáles son las cosas que son importantes”.

Si realmente internalizamos todo eso, luego podremos tener una discusión auna escala más amplia … a una escala comunitaria, a una escala social e incluso a una escala nacional, sobre cuál es la dirección en que queremos ir … Pero realmente tenemos que empezar en un nivel personal… Mucha gente no está familiarizada con la meditación, y no sabe realmente lo que significa. Podrían pensar, por ejemplo, que por ser budista entonces tiene connotaciones religiosas, cuando no es necesario que sea así. Puede ser secular y no tener nada que ver con religión.

La espiritualidad no quiere decir que tienes que creer en una religión específica.

Puede ser realmente muy desafiante trabajar en “Conservación” porque siempre tienes que estar peleando una batalla cuesta arriba.

Básicamente siempre te estás confrontando con malas noticias. E incluso la manera en que nosotros mismos hablamos de eso, muchas veces es de una manera muy negativa.

Estaba avanzando en mi campo profesional y muchas cosas iban mal, y entonces una amiga, quien había estado meditando por un tiempo muy largo, desde que era una adolescente, me dijo: “ohh hay un curso de meditación de diez días en silencio, que se hará en Lima, donde tú estás”, y me dijo “por qué no lo haces”? Yo dije “¡seguro!”, pero nunca había pensado en la meditación ni en ninguna de esas cosas. Y luego una noche me dije: “¿por qué haría algo como eso?”

Hice el curso de diez días sin saber nada acerca de él. No sabía lo que era la meditación, no tenía ninguna idea en qué me estaba metiendo. Fue una experiencia fascinante, de esas que te cambian la vida. Quiero decir, en un curso de diez días pasas por tantas cosas y altibajos, pero cada minuto que pones en eso vale la pena. Tuve tantas experiencias positivas, pero la más fuerte fue definitivamente una sensación de paz interior, que nunca antes había sentido de esta manera.

No sólo sabiendo de eso, sino que realmente sintiendo que esa felicidad y contentamiento no tiene nada que ver con algo externo.

Y por supuesto, hay cosas que puedes saber intelectualmente, pero realmente sentirlas es una cosa muy diferente, y experimentarlas…. Ya sabes, por supuesto que siempre hay un desafío de internalizarlo en el día a día, y sin embargo sabes que es un gran regalo que sí puedes experimentar.

He hecho algunos más de estos cursos, y cada vez, al final, es maravilloso cuando no has estado hablando por un tiempo, durante diez días; tu mente está tan focalizada y tan clara, y te das cuenta cómo nos impacta toda esta continua charla, y por toda la información con la que está siendo alimentado tu cerebro todo el tiempo. Realmente te das cuenta de cuál es el impacto…. en cuanto empiezas a hablar, tu mente simplemente ….  puff!…. se vuelve loca….

Un primer paso verdaderamente importante es darse cuenta, tú sabes eso que dicen, que sientes que te vuelves más sensitivo, pero quizás es sólo que te das cuenta de algo que siempre ha estado ahí, desde antes de que te dieras cuenta. Esto significa que no podías cuidar de tu cuerpo …. en la manera en que éste necesitaba, con la atención que necesitaba, por el contrario. Tú sabes, los mismos procesos podrían haber continuado, sin que tuvieras forma de darte cuenta del impacto que tenía en ti. Quiero decir, puedo conectar completamente con lo que tú dices[4] acerca de que la naturaleza provee ese espacio en el que puedes desarrollar todas estas cosas.

Supongo que muchas de las cosas que experimento a través de la meditación, antes, estando en medio de la naturaleza, simplemente surgieron de manera natural. Si me siento en un bosque, que es un ambiente que me gusta mucho, nunca me siento sola. Puedo sentirme sola estando rodeada de mucha gente, en un ambiente no natural, pero sé que no me sentiré sola si estoy en medio de un bosque, simplemente estando ahí. Mientras que en nuestra sociedad siempre nos están diciendo que seamos productivos. Tenemos que estar haciendo … tenemos que estar haciendo cosas. Es mucho más sano estar alejado de eso, al menos con cierta frecuencia, y simplemente “estar”, “estar” con la naturaleza, “estar” con otras personas. Y eso es lo que, finalmente, produce contentamiento y felicidad interior. Y la naturaleza provee el natural espacio para hacer eso.

Tu mente está justo en ese momento.

En el curso de meditación en el que he estado ayudando por todos estos años, estaba en la cocina, preparando comida para un grupo de ciento treinta o ciento cuarenta personas, lo que puede ser muy demandante, porque … tú sabes, cocinar para tanta gente y en espacios de tiempo muy restringidos, es lo que mucha gente podría llamar un ambiente estresante, con personas con las que nunca había trabajado antes, pero eran todos meditadores y todos eran conscientes o al menos más conscientes acerca de estas cosas. Y era, no sólo un muy buen trabajo sino que también era muy entretenido y éramos un gran equipo de trabajo … Así que, si pudiera traducir esto a mi mundo cotidiano … sería maravilloso.

Empecé a meditar hace 7 años. Medito diariamente al menos por una hora, algunas veces más. Y eso hace una inmensa diferencia en cómo vivo el día a día. Y también ha hecho una gran diferencia probablemente en la forma en que pienso acerca de la “Conservación”.

Antes de empezar a meditar, toda aquella retórica pesimista y negativa algunas veces puede ser realmente desalentadora, y hacerte sentir que es realmente muy difícil pensar en hacer un cambio positivo, si no tienes esta práctica.

Eso es muy difícil de entender a veces.

Con la meditación también tengo un sentido, más profundo creo, de tranquilidad, tú sabes, de que estaremos bien eventualmente, y que la naturaleza será capaz de hacer frente … Si los humanos podremos hacerlo, bueno esa es otra pregunta. Supongo que … sí, que me ayuda a estar más en paz internamente, de que puedo hacer lo que está en mis posibilidades hacer para luchar por un mundo más justo y más sustentable ambientalmente. Y que puedo estar bien pase lo que pase.

Voz 4: Christoph Eberhardt (C.12.03)

Christoph Eberhard

Soy Christoph Eberhard, soy austríaco, y ahora estoy radicado en el sur de Francia, en Archachon.

Para ponerlo en pocas palabras, toda mi vida ha sido dedicada a … umh … diría que a la búsqueda de la paz, o de la armonía … una armonía viva.

Esto se manifiesta, por una parte, digamos en las ciencias sociales. Tengo una carrera como Antropólogo Legal, entre el derecho y las ciencias sociales, tratando de ver cómo podemos vivir en comunidad de una manera más dialógica, entendiéndonos unos a otros y armonizando unos con otros un poco mejor.

Qi gong class at the Vrikshalaya centre, held by teacher Christoph Eberhard.

Y luego un segundo aspecto ha sido como un diálogo interior y con la naturaleza, y eso se expresa especialmente en mi interés en el arte tradicional, especialmente el arte chino y el arte indio, como el Yoga.

Para mí, la resiliencia interior está en esta dimensión del diálogo …

El diálogo es escuchar, pero no es sólo escuchar con tus oídos, es escuchar con tu corazón, y más aún, es escuchar con tu alma.

Podemos experimentar eso en nuestra experiencia del día a día. Es sólo cosa de tomar un poco de tiempo antes de empezar a hablar inmediatamente, tomando 5 o 10 minutos para armonizar antes de empezar a hacer cualquier cosa.

Sólo dejando que la mente se aquiete, “enraizándose” de cierta manera.

A veces las personas no quieren hacerlo, dicen que no tienen tiempo para hacerlo, pero justamente sentarse así, en silencio, en calma, de cierta manera cambia completamente la atmósfera.

Y si lo haces, encontrarás que las personas están mucho, mucho, mucho más abiertas a un diálogo real, a escucharse unos a otros, a realmente compartir sus experiencias, de lo que encontrarías sin ese tiempo de silencio al inicio.

Entonces, empiezas a dialogar con otro ser humano. Realmente a dialogar, en el sentido de que realmente quieres escuchar a la otra persona, y te permites ser desafiado por la visión de mundo que el otro te presenta, o la sensibilidad que está expresando.

Mientras que por una parte puede ser enriquecedor, algunas veces puede ser muy impactante. Tú sabes … puede ser que no realmente no queramos escuchar ciertas cosas, o que realmente no las escuchemos aún cuando las hayamos oído más de cien veces, y repentinamente tu sientes “Oh wow”…. había algo más profundo que lo que pensaba.

Entonces cuando esto ocurre es … es como un desafío, también, algo que nos lleva a un segundo tipo de diálogo, que es un diálogo que yo llamo “con uno mismo”; empiezas a estar consciente de cuál es, llamémoslo, el horizonte invisible de las acciones y del vivir.

Y para eso, realmente necesitamos el diálogo con otros, porque de otra manera nunca llegaremos a estar conscientes de nuestra propia ventana personal.

Y luego, cuando empiezas a profundizar en este diálogo con otros y contigo mismo, escuchándote más a ti mismo, también empiezas a darte cuenta de que realmente estás conectado con toda la naturaleza alrededor tuyo. Que, en un cierto sentido, una vez que la sensibilidad a escuchar ha sido abierta, bueno, empezarás a escuchar a los árboles, al sol, a las flores, las nubes …. En cierta manera ellas empezarán a hablarte.

Si quieres escuchar, primero tienes que vaciarte a ti mismo, y entonces todo viene y habla contigo. Este es el aspecto dialógico de la naturaleza que empieza a desarrollarse. Entonces, es un diálogo con uno mismo, con los demás, con la naturaleza. Y luego está esta otra dimensión del diálogo que yo llamo “más allá”, o como tú quieras llamarlo, tú sabes, estas cosas que están más allá de las palabras y que no puedes realmente expresarlas, pero que también están ahí.

Algunas veces, cuando hablamos de lo “interior”, nosotros o separamos o distinguimos de “lo exterior”. Por mí, yo diría más bien que la experiencia de entrar en tu interior, o de entrar en diálogo con otros o entrar en diálogo con la naturaleza o con lo que está más allá, es más un proceso de crear vínculos. Cuando hay menos vínculos, puede que tengas una idea o un sentimiento de separación, tú sabes, te sientes separado de los demás, y te sientes separado de la naturaleza, la naturaleza más bien es un conjunto de “objetos” que están afuera, como si fuera un segundo mundo de “objetos”, no una realidad “viviente”.

Incluso algunas personas … se ven a sí mismas como objetos, como robots que se comportan de una cierta manera, pero no como personas con las que interactuamos.

Y la misma cosa con nosotros mismos, incluso nosotros mismos no podemos realmente …. Hacemos nuestro trabajo, hacemos nuestras cosas, con nuestras rutinas. Pero realmente nos estamos considerando como “sujetos” vivientes? como tales?

Hay cuatro dimensiones, y tú puedes empezar por cualquiera de estas dimensiones.

Si eres alguien que ha crecido en un entorno muy natural, quizás tu primer diálogo empiece con la naturaleza. Algunas personas son pastores y están mucho tiempo solos en las montañas. Entonces probablemente para ellos el primer tipo de diálogo que empezarían sería más bien con la naturaleza.

Para personas como yo, que soy más una persona de ciudad, es un desafío mayor al principio, tú sabes. Pero el punto importante para mí es que todas estas dimensiones están siempre ahí. En el momento en que empezamos a abrir una de estas dimensiones, a dialogar con una de estas dimensiones, poco a poco empezamos a darnos cuenta cómo las cosas están mucho, mucho, mucho más unidas de lo que nunca esperamos.

La vida no es un vacío a ser llenado, es una plenitud a ser descubierta. El “otro” no es el vacío a ser llenado. Es una plenitud a ser descubierta.

No es que …. Siempre es fácil decirle a alguien que vea algo que no tiene, que no tiene esto o no tiene esto otro, y construir una imagen que es una versión inferior de ti mismo. Pero ellos pueden hacer la misma cosa, porque desde su punto de vista, tú no tienes esto o no tienes esto otro ni lo de más allá, y así sucesivamente.

No sería más interesante, en lugar de empezar a llenar al otro con tus propias proyecciones, sólo escuchar, abrirte y luego quizás descubrir la plenitud que es el otro?

Simplemente empecé a darme cuenta de que nuestras vidas, hablando en términos generales, muy frecuentemente las vivimos como un vacío a ser llenado.

Tú sabes, todos sentimos que tenemos que tener un cierto estatus social, y sentimos eso en un nivel psicológico, queremos lograr ciertas cosas y alcanzar un nivel económico, lo que está muy bien, mientras no sea algo que necesitemos para llenar nuestras vidas, y en el momento en que nos atrevamos quizás a dar un pequeño paso hacia atrás, puede que encontremos que la vida es realmente muy abundante y que bien pueden todas estas cosas empezar a pasar sin que necesitemos empujar con tanta fuerza.

La plenitud significa empezar a darnos cuenta de todas las relaciones por las que estamos unidos, a través de nuestro ser.

Así como tienes un cuerpo físico, tal como lo considera la ciencia occidental moderna, somo realmente hijos de las estrellas. Quiero decir que …. todos los elementos de los que estamos hechos han sido hechos en las estrellas, así que tenemos de hecho una relación con ellas.

Así que tenemos esta dimensión fisiológica, pero también tenemos nuestras emociones, nuestros sentimientos, tenemos nuestros pensamientos; y en todas esas diferentes dimensiones estamos todos interconectados.

Por medio de la contemplación de la naturaleza exterior, que percibimos como estando afuera,    establecemos de hecho una relación, una en la que en un nivel externo puede conducirnos a este sentimiento de que no deberíamos preocuparnos por el medioambiente porque sea nuestra  obligación, sino por su belleza. Y así, establecemos esa relación con la naturaleza exterior.

Pero al mismo tiempo, al contemplar la naturaleza exterior de hecho nos conectamos con nuestra naturaleza interior. Puedes usar el término “ecológico”, pero yo simplemente diría que es nuestra naturaleza interior. Aquello de que se trata la vida.

Tú eres parte de la naturaleza.

Cuando digo “naturaleza” … tú sabes que existe la naturaleza, y que la naturaleza es la naturaleza visible que observamos. Y luego está la naturaleza en el sentido de, llamémoslo así, el planeta como un todo. Y el sistema solar y las galaxias, y los multiversos de los que se habla ahora … todo eso es parte de este otro concepto más amplio.

Realmente se va uniendo, al crear vínculos donde no los veíamos, vínculos donde había separación, poco a poco hasta ver que las cosas están mucho más conectadas, lo cual es muy importante en el pensamiento ecologista, empiezas a entrar en estos enfoques más holísticos porque te das cuenta que no puedes simplemente cortar las cosas en pedazos, porque siempre están relacionadas y cada vez que cambias o afectas algo, siempre tendrá un efecto en la totalidad.

Si empiezas a practicar Qi Gong, si empiezas a practicar cualquier movimiento, hazlo con tu cuerpo relajado, tomándole el gusto a lo que estás haciendo, quizás haciéndolo despacio, y haciéndolo conscientemente. Poco a poco lo que vas a empezar a sentir es lo que los chinos frecuentemente denominan Qi[5], que es “energía”.

Nuevamente lo que es experiencial, una sensación que puedes tener al inicio, es un poco de hormigueo en los dedos, o bien puedes sentir algo de calor que empieza a aparecer, y luego si continúas, en algún punto puedes sentirlo más en tu interior, como una sensación magnética. Algunas veces puedes tener una sensación como de electricidad, simplemente permaneciendo sentado y observando tu respiración … De hecho, incluso si sólo haces esto pero lo haces todos los días, y lo haces por un par de horas cada día, y así una y otra vez, al comienzo vas a estar más en un nivel psicológico. Estarás sólo pensando sobre esto y sobre lo otro. Pero más adelante, en algún momento, cuando estas cosas empiecen a decantarse un poco más, tú, como un vaso de vidrio con agua que se mezcla y después empieza a decantarse, empezarás a sentirte más claro y más transparente. Cuando esta etapa empieza a ocurrir, las cosas empiezan a circular por tu cuerpo, eso es básicamente todo lo que es el Qi.

Estas cosas son muy reales.

Y esto me lleva a la reacción a esta experiencia. La cultura en la que vivimos, lo digo bien, la cultura de ciudad, tú sabes, somos una sociedad tecnologizada, embota muchas de nuestras experiencias.

Si tú vives en la naturaleza, y “tienes que” vivir para sobrevivir en la naturaleza, tus sentidos están mucho más refinados que los sentidos que podemos tener quienes vivimos en las ciudades. Así que, en cierta manera, de nuevo hemos colonizado nuestra mente, e incluso ahora me sigo dando cuenta de cuan colonizada está mi mente.

Es un muy, muy gran proceso de aprendizaje también … porque empiezas a darte cuenta de que … tengo una inteligencia innata, mi cuerpo entiende ciertas cosas. Ok. Tienes que estar atento. No es que no tengas que hacer nada. Tienes que estar atento, tienes que tratar de escuchar,  tienes que practicar. No es que simplemente llegas y no haces nada. Y una vez que aprendes poco a poco a saber, a diferenciar entre lo que son tus ilusiones y tú, y qué cosas son reales, en aquello que sientes…

No somos dioses, no somos los dueños de la naturaleza, o los reyes de la naturaleza … no, sólo somos una parte de ella, una muy pequeña y humilde parte de ella.

Humildad … la importancia de la humildad.

Te reconoces a ti mismo como una maravilla del universo. Es fascinante. Y mientras más humilde te sientes, en cierta manera, más hermoso es todo.


Voz De Tanya:

Gracias por escuchar!

Nordic by Nature podcast es creado gracias al apoyo del Ministerio Nórdico. Por favor ayúdanos compartiendo el link de este episodio con el hashtag #tracesofnorth y síguenos en Instagram en la cuenta @nordicbynaturepodcast. Nos gustaría escuchar tus pensamientos en nuestro podcast. Por favor escríbeme un email, a Tanya, a la dirección nordicbynaturepodcast@gmail.com

También estamos en Patreon, si quieres apoyarnos con una donación para mantener la continuidad de estos podcasts y realizar una segunda serie. Búscanos en www.patreon.com/nordicbynature

Si estás interesado en conocer más acerca de “Mindfulness” y “Pensamiento Resiliente”, por favor lee acerca de los retiros en el Centro de Ajay Rastogi www.foundnature.org, y sigue a la “Fundación para la Contemplación de la Naturaleza” en Facebook y a “Contemplación de la Naturaleza” en Instagram.

Noor a Noor trabaja en Nature Conservation Egypt. Por favor búscalo en www.natureegypt.org. Puedes seguir a Noor en Twitter en @Nxoor.

Puedes seguir a Judith Schleicher en Twitter en @j_schleicher.

Puedes encontrar a Christoph Eberhard en su canal de Youtube “Dialogues For Change”, o en Twitter en @PeaceDialogues.

Sonidos diseñados por Diego Losa. Búscalo en diegolosa.blogspot.com.

[1] Agregado por el traductor.

[2] Postdoc: abreviación de Post Doctorada.

[3] Phd: Doctorado.

[4] Parece referirse a alguien que está presente en la conversación, durante la grabación.

[5] En español se pronuncia “chi”.


Become a Patron!


Ajay Rastogi: A Resilient Leader

Ajay Rastogi’s life is a journey of passion, enquiry and action for the protection of nature, biodiversity and sustainable livelihoods. To practice what he preaches, Ajay left a gleaming career as a conservationist to move to the village of Majkhali, Uttarakhand, India, at the foothills of the Himalayas, and work in a hands-on way with the villagers. Ajay set up headquarters of The Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature, the Vrikshalaya Centre, to be a meeting place for the local village community, a hub of knowledge exchange with extended communities in the Himalayan lowlands, and a destination for people interested in deeper and more meaningful forms of sustainability.

Nature-centred contemplation can be held anywhere.

Through his work promoting nature mindfulness, and resilient thinking, Ajay has challenged the caste system and gender inequality in the region, and created a network and cultural exchange between west and east, urban and rural – and helped the villagers find a new form of income that is meaningful and future focussed. The proof of concept is in the eyes of all the people involved; the host families and visitors, the neighbouring tribes and volunteering conservationists. When the guests leave, says Ajay: “Every farewell is always tearful, always connected.”

Qi gong class at the Vrikshalaya centre, held by teacher Christoph Eberhard.

Learning Resilient Leadership Skills from Village Women
One of Ajay’s major initiatives is to connect international students with the women of the village through homestay immersion courses. Combined with course work and village development schemes, these short residential courses aim to increase authentic leadership skills and critical thinking as well as share the latest conservation frameworks and models through practice as well as theory. The Foundation’s 3 principles of resilience are at the heart of all the teaching, as well as work on intensifying inner resilience and soft skills needed for the next wave of sustainability; collaboration, co-creation and empathy, mindfulness, mindful communication, resourcefulness in the face of adversity, and human, compassionate values.

Students are sent every year from top universities such as Princeton, Pittsburgh, Western State Colorado, NOLS (www.nols.edu), Where There be Dragons (wheretherebedragons.com), Realms of Inquiry (realmsofinquiry.org) Lakeside School, and Menlo School. Ajay’s aim is to spread the Resilient Leadership method to other types of organisations by setting up teacher training courses. Our podcast is interviewing conservation and human rights leaders to explore what tools and cases should be included in Resilient Leadership workshops and courses for government and other forward looking organisations.

View from Majkhali Village. Photo by by Dhirendra Bisht.

Inner Motivation through the Contemplation of Nature
The teaching sessions are always preceded with half an hour practicing The Contemplation of Nature. This a straight forward secular mindfulness meditation, but on surrounding nature- the source of all life. The method is documented in a book published in Spanish in Chile, and available in print form. This specific form of mindfulness practice is based on robust scientific research into proven benefits of mindfulness, nature immersion and compassionate values.

The Relaxation Response- a state where the body’s physiology reacts to not being under stress, is an important factor for health and wellbeing, and compassionate values are known to result in increased civic participation and a positive effects on sustainability.

When mindfulness is practiced as a group before a conference or work session, something incredible happens. The atmosphere changes, and so does our openness to engage with each other and simply listen. Ajay believes that Nature-based Mindfulness, together with Resilient Thinking, are powerful catalysts for personal transformation and motivation to evolve our relationship to the planet and humanity.

The results; increased awareness and dialogue with ourselves, each other, society, and of the world beyond.

3 Principles of Resilience.
Through his work, Ajay aims to share the first-hand experience of 3 foundation’s core principles of Resilience;
The Dignity of Physical Work, Inter-connectivity and Interdependence.

Land and forestry management is in the hands of women. Shown here, the women of Majkhali take compost to the fields.

Edgework; Place-based learning.
Ajay’s residential courses begin with teaching how to perform bio-cultural mapping and other tools of the conservationist. He introduces big concepts such as The Common Good Economy and Community Capitals Framework. He creates active workshops where the participants actively map deeper contexts of environment and culture working with villagers to tackle topics of indigenous knowledge systems and practices, gender dimensions and roles, or caste systems.

For his work as an experiential teacher, Ajay has already received the Global Maverick Teacher Award in 2008. The cultural exchange between the students and the village has challenged both to think about how lifestyle, social equity and environment are as interconnected.

Transcript from Podcast; Ajay Rastogi, ON INNER RESILIENCE

Hi my name is Ajay Rastogi. And we live in the village of Majkhali. It’s in the state of Uttarakhand, in the Indian Himalayan region. And it’s about 400 kilometres north of Delhi. And we overlook the high Himalayas. Many 6000 meters high peaks from maybe. I have been an ecologist and an environmentalist for a large part of my life.

The fact that we are unable to make big changes in the society which are needed for sustainability required that we also relook at the approach that we have taken so far in the environmental movements. So, for that reason I was thinking what can be more transformative than a meditative practice, which can be done in nature.

Meditation is being considered as the methodology for inner transformation.

The contemplation of nature is done in a natural surrounding. It’s a multi-sensory experience. It helps because we are a biological organism and, therefore we have an inherent drive to connect with nature. It’s kind of we are genetically wired, so it is not that abstract as many people find many other meditative practices to be. So, it is a good beginning.

People can begin with it and then get to deeper levels of meditation whichever part they want to follow. But meditation in nature contemplation of nature is definitely an approach which can be done on a daily basis and it leads to that level of tranquillity and gives us the benefits of the meditation the compassion the kindness and the deeper connection to the natural law as well as to the social community around us.

At about 23rd minute a tranquillity factor causes deeper trigger or physiological relaxation. Which brings the body and the internal chemistry, in a much more regulatory and balanced way.

That’s called the relaxation response, and that’s what we are trying to achieve, also at the physiological level besides the psychic and other benefits, that the meditation will bring.

So, as we sit and observe with a soft gaze


One may not have access to such landscapes so it can be done indoors.
And it can be done with very simple objects of nature, then following the three steps of native contemplation that we have designed.


So the three steps simple three steps is observe nature with a soft gaze except with gentle detachment and send love with sympathetic attention. Observe nature with a soft gaze, we accept the gentle detachment remaining. Not interested in finding details. Of course, the mind would wander here and there but as soon as we realised that we have gone further and drifted we can come back to observe nature with a soft gaze.

One additional element which is a very important element of Need contemplation practice is to let go and this happens by just as we sit down and begin our contemplation, we send love with sympathetic attention, we just remind ourselves of the gratitude the feeling of gratitude. And then we sit, observe softly with a gaze, and continue a gentle detachment.

The let go is not to make any judgment about where we are What are we doing. And this is a step which is a transcendental in nature and therefore it is very therefore itself a fundamental aspect of the practice that we are able to somehow transcend this call of judgment and thinking mind at least for a little while.


Stewardship as a Concept of Self.

How do we view ourselves and our place in the world? A question that every great philosopher has wrestled with throughout time, but also one which we are revisiting in the light of the climate crisis especially amongst a growing movement of deep ecologists who want to revive a new type of ethics, where every human act is potentially an expression of care.

In the case of environment, the circle of ‘otherness’ is more inclusive. As everything is connected, the ‘other’ includes the non-human world as well as our common habitat. The moral right for all living beings to live as a part of our ever-changing ecosystems.

‘Environment’ is much more than the set of resources that mankind needs to survive, and our language itself is limiting our intrinsic view of nature by conceptually separating it from humanity. Suddenly we are asked to grasp the ungraspable- that the planet’s fate is now in the hands of human beings and that time has already run out – the state of emergency is here. Environment is on the front line and entangled with all our global challenges.

The notion of ‘stewardship’ can describe the role of Homo sapiens species in bringing back the environment back to the forefront of care- and our survival as a species, let alone Happiness, depends on it.

To see oneself as a steward is already a huge shift in mindset for most of us brought up in the modern consumer world. It introduces a whole plethora of other notions such as community, interdependence, and interconnectivity. Suddenly we can see the possibilities for protecting the environment in our everyday lives in the actions we make daily, in and out of our homes and workplaces. We feel a growing responsibility with our wallets too- refusing to buy a never-ending pile of stuff or food cultivated at the expense of our environment and global neighbours.

Increasingly, more and more people are interested in what they can do in their own lives, and this is illustrated in the growth of new online communities, connected across social media by hashtags; #zerowaste or #quitplastic being prime examples.

As stewards of our immediate environments we start to think about where our waste goes and the impact on our consumption patterns on the world. The sense of individual encompasses a much more fundamental and primary biological being, that has a natural place in the world. It is clear that consumer society has, by and large, taught us to separate ourselves from this notion of connectedness and live fragmented lives with little integrity between our thoughts and actions.

On one hand we are expected to express our values, while on the other, the only acknowledged expression of those values is through what we consume, i.e. we are only acknowledged as consumers.

Stewardship addresses the fact that we are losing our connection with the natural world very rapidly- and that our leaders and corporations do not have our interests at heart. The structures that drive economy are not in equilibrium with the needs of living beings. The primary domain of our work and life culture in the modern times is shifting further away in terms of physical distance but also in terms of our emotional and intellectual engagement with nature and the resources upon which we rely.

Our language is embedded with consumerism- the default mode is ‘non-organic.’ The things we need appear miraculously without much effort and relatively little cost to our wallets. The cost is elsewhere. Alongside this, technology is driving a new kind of ‘self-sufficiency’ revolution that has create a fake abundance, where we can order almost anything one imagines to our door step via Internet. The need for interaction or communal activities is reduced to a minimum. Most effort is targeted towards increasing the desire for ‘purchasing power’ whilst to oppose these mechanisms and make the ‘right choice’ day in and out seems to weigh heavily on the individual’s time and energy.

Going with the consumer society flow means continuously damaging the environment and cutting off our emotions from the horrors of reality. The more we cut off, the more our emotional intelligence is underdeveloped. We get the social ‘fix’ we need by going online. We get self-esteem from the clothes we wear and the thing we buy. Experiences from TV, internet etc. are cognitively experienced as ‘real’ by the brain. We are satisfied on food without nutrition and relationships without real contact or connection — because it is easy. Our emotions are influenced and that in turn continues to influence our everyday behaviour, as the emotions are the key influencers of action. (Frijda et al. 2000).

Emotions also influence our deeply held beliefs. The problem of poor emotional balance is being further aggravated by the disconnect with nature: external natural surroundings as well as internal human nature of reflection and contemplation, as Mayer et al. (2009) observed in their seminal work on Role of Connectedness to Nature:

“Environmentalists (e.g., Berry, 1997; Leopold, 1949; Orr, 1994) and nature writers (e.g., Louv, 2005; Muir, 1894; Thoreau, 1854) have long maintained that humans derive physical and psychological benefits from spending time in the natural world. The past two decades of research in environmental psychology have supported this contention. Using a variety of methodologies and measures, researchers have shown that exposure to the natural world decreases negative behaviours and states (e.g., aggression, anxiety, depression, illness) and increases positive ones (e.g., affect, health, cognitive capacity). The big picture is clear: Exposure to nature leads to many desirable outcomes.” (See the Health Council of the Netherlands and Dutch Council for Research on Spatial Planning, 2004; van den Berg, 2005; Frumkin, 2001).

Fredrickson et al., (2008) has reviewed recent research in the field of psychology to show how subtle emotions create a transforming impact on oneself.

“A paradox surrounds positive emotions. On one hand, they are fleeting: Like any emotional state, feelings of joy, gratitude, interest, and contentment typically last only a matter of minutes. Moreover, positive emotions are less intense and less attention grabbing than negative emotions (Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Finkenauer, & Vohs, 2001) and are more diffuse (Ellsworth & Smith, 1988). Yet on the other hand, research indicates that positive emotions contribute to important downstream life outcomes, including friendship development (Waugh & Fredrickson, 2006), marital satisfaction (Harker & Keltner, 2001), higher incomes (Diener, Nickerson, Lucus, & Sandvik, 2002), and better physical health (Doyle, Gentile, & Cohen, 2006; Richman et al., 2005). People who experience frequent positive emotions have even been shown to live longer (Danner, Snowdon, & Friesen, 2001; Moskowitz,2003; Ostir, Markides, Black, & Goodwin, 2000). Indeed, a recent meta-analysis of nearly 300 findings concluded that positive emotions produce success and health as much as they reflect these good outcomes.” (Lyubomirsky, King, & Diener, 2005)

So, in a way it does not sound so far-fetched to maintain that compassion, self-integrity and care can make a significant contribution in dealing with some of the world’s major problems. An attitude of profiteering and perpetual growth results in environmental destruction, but also emotional and physical violence, drugs, corruption and socially unjust exploitation of other human beings. A mainstream shift in mindset could potentially reduce many of these human-made challenges.

Many societies and communities are recognising this and some of the nations have started to work on ‘Gross Domestic Happiness’ instead of ‘Gross Domestic Product.’

Gross National Happiness is a philosophy that guides the government of Bhutan and has gained traction in New Zealand, Nordic countries and Finland in particular, in recognition that technology and material goods have their limits when it comes to making people happy, and that by reframing happiness, society can also address the constraints of environmental resources. This approach, however, can neither offer a sole solution nor an easy one. There is an urgent need to initiate work on developing tools and techniques to integrate improved connection with external and internal nature in every aspect of our lives, to complement the existing efforts of saving the environment and the humanity. The mindshift has to come from every one of us- as professional and private stewards of future generations.

From extract from a paper The Contemplation of Nature: An Integrated Approach for Resilient Thinking by Ajay Rastogi and Tanya Kim Grassley for the Society for Human Ecology conference in Lisbon, Portugal, via the The Foundation for Contemplation of Nature, Majkhali, India.

Nordic By Nature, on deep ecology

Nordic By Nature started in 2016 as a research, content and editing partner for environmental experts publishing globally relevant content on Ecology Today. A side product of this work resulted in 26 interviews and 11 podcast episodes, inspired by Arne Naess, the Norwegian philosopher who coined the term ‘deep ecology’ produced in association with the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature in India.

The interviewees were not chosen to represent society at large, but rather because of their ability to follow their own inner voice. All of our guests have repeatedly set aside opportunities for material gain to pursue their own lifelong journey of transformation.

The podcast transcripts have been turned into an e-book Nordic by nature. New voices on deep ecology; Arne Naess in the 21st century. Please email info at imaginary life dot net for a free copy.

Become a Patron!

Deep listening for deep ecology. Each episode of Nordic By Nature’s audio podcast is a spacious, mindful exploration into what constitutes deep ecology, through voices from around the globe.

Episode 1: ON ACTIVISM

This first podcast episode ON ACTIVISM, presents the inspiring voices of peace activist Satish Kumar, Marijn Van de Geer from Extinction Rebellion, and Siti Kasim, human rights lawyer passionate about Orang Asli, the indigenous people in the Malaysian peninsula.

Episode 2: ON SURVIVAL

The second episode, ON SURVIVAL, presents the voices of culinary curator Monika Kucia, who runs a farmer’s & producers’ and hosts cultural food events in Warsaw, Poland, design leader and educator Daniel Wahl, whose book Designing Regenerative Cultures is must for anyone interested in transformative innovation and Helena Norberg-Hodge, author of Ancient Futures, a seminal work that compares the way of life in the Himalayan region of Ladakh, before and after globalisation.

Episode 2 Simple landing page: https://share.transistor.fm/s/39486f1f

Direct download of Episode 2 mp3: https://media.transistor.fm/5fdc83be.mp3


In this episode ON INNER RESILIENCE, we hear four voices share how they maintain inner equilibrium. Firstly, we learn about nature-centred mindfulness practice from Ajay Rastogi, at the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature in the Himalayan village of Majkhali in Uttarakhand, India. Then you will hear Egyptian conservationist Noor A Noor, who describes his own personal path into mindfulness – through his experiences of the 2011 Egyptian Uprising. Then Judith Schleicher explains how daily meditation has helped her with her conservation work, ever since she attended a 10-day Vipassana retreat in Peru 7 years ago. Lastly, we meet Christoph Eberhard, legal anthropologist and practitioner of the Chinese and Indian traditional arts Ta Ji Chuan, Qi Gong and Yoga. Christoph believes that dialogue is at the heart of meaningful transformation- dialogue with oneself, with others, with nature, and the beyond.


Episode 4 features the voice of Swedish social entrepreneur Tomas Björkman. Tomas is a former investment banker and progressive thought leader, who is exploring how to create new spaces and places for co-creation, personal and societal transformation, and community development through conscious social development.


The fifth episode of Nordic By Nature, On Happiness, presents two guests who have dedicated their careers to understanding the relationship of values to our behaviour, sense of wellbeing and impact on the wider world.

First, we hear Tim Kasser, currently a professor of psychology at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, USA. He has authored over 100 scientific articles and book chapters on materialism, values, goals, well-being, and environmental sustainability, among other topics. In 2018, he collaborated with the cartoonist Larry Gonick to create HyperCapitalism: The modern economy, its values, and how to change them.
Then we hear Dasho Dr. Karma Ura, President of the Centre for Bhutan & GNH Studies located in Bhutan’s capital city, Thimphu. The Centre has a mandate to research Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness, Culture and History of Bhutan, and policy related studies.

Simple landing page and text to share on social media: https://share.transistor.fm/s/a2b3ea54

Direct download of mp3: https://media.transistor.fm/862d207c.mp3


Simple landing page and text to share on social media: https://share.transistor.fm/s/c4dea848

Direct download of mp3: https://media.transistor.fm/4d7e9187.mp3

In the sixth episode of Nordic By Nature, On Belonging, we meet three people who have thought a lot about what ‘home’ means to them and how that relates defines their relationship to a place. All were present at Standing Rock.

First you hear the words of Andrew and Kayla Blanchflower, tipi dwellers and makers whose way of the life can be an inspiration to all of us to live lighter. Andrew and Kayla met and fell in love in Oregon in the States and decided to raise their family ‘off the grid’ with a closer contact to the earth and Mother Nature.

You will then hear Yvette Neshi Lokotz teacher of hand drumming and practitioner of the Medicine Wheel or Sacred Hoop healing, and tribal member of the Potawatomi Nation.

Episode 7: ON ETHICS

Simple Landing page: https://share.transistor.fm/s/eac9ae9c

Direct download of mp3: https://media.transistor.fm/1c4f061a.mp3

In this episode ON ETHICS, Ajay Rastogi at the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature in Uttrakhand, India, invites Dr. John Hausdoerffer, from Western Colorado University in Gunnison, USA, to speak about Ethic today.

Dr. John and Ajay are leading students on an experiential Mountain Resilience Course, that is part of a longer term Sister Cities program between Gunnison and Majkhali India, with the aim to share climate change solutions between the two ‘Mountain Headwaters Communities.’

Dr. John an environmental philosopher and writer whose has written a number of books that look at the intersection of environmental ethics and social justice including “Catlin’s Lament”; Wildness and his upcoming book What Kind of Ancestor Do You Want to Be?
Both Ajay and Dr John are part of an ever-growing movement that calls for a new ethic, one that views all places as part of our home, all generations of all beings as part of our scope of responsibility, and all actions as potential expressions of human care for the world.


Simple Landing page: : https://share.transistor.fm/s/d4dd7033

Direct download of mp3:

This episode, ON KNOWLEDGE, features two guests who have dedicated their life’s work to enabling marginalised communities protect their own resilience, whilst net-working and lobbying for policy changes around the issue of Food and Nutrition Security, Climate Change, Sustainable Livelihoods, and integrating People’s knowledge into bioregional development.But first you will hear a few words from my colleague Ajay Rastogi, at the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature. Ajay works closely with the women of Majkhali village in foothills of the Himalayas, in Uttrakahand, India. He set up the Vrikshalaya Centre there to be a meeting place and knowledge hub for the villagers and other communities in the Himalayan lowlands, as well as foreign visitors and homestay guests interested in more meaningful forms of sustainability.

We then hear from Nadia Bergamini who works at Bioversity International. Nadia also lives on and runs an organic, biodynamic farm together with her husband, in the countryside, outside of Rome.

At Bioversity International, Nadia collaborates with the Satoyama Initiative, helping communities all over the world develop strategies to strengthen their social and ecological resilience, and maintain the diversity of the landscapes’ agro-ecosystems, species and varieties.

You will then hear from Reetu Sogani, women’s rights activist who is working on strengthening and evolving Cultural and biological diversity, and its integration to address Food and Nutrition Security and build Climate Resilience, in the remote areas of Himalayas and other parts of India. Reetu has addressed the International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit in New York as one of the 100 women global leaders from across the world.

Episode 9: ON ART

Simple Landing page: https://share.transistor.fm/s/4ae3f02b

Direct download of mp3: https://media.transistor.fm/72c1084f.mp3

In this episode, ON ART you hear a few words Ajay Rastogi, at the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature introducing the voices of two Norwegian artists, Catrine Gangstø and Laila Kolostyák. Catrine and Laila are committed to using ART as a meeting point for engaging the local community in thinking about equity, identity and our inner and outer natural worlds.

Ajay Rastogi works closely with the women of Majkhali village in foothills of the Himalayas, in Uttarakhand, India, where making art is an intrinsic part of everyday life. Ajay set up the Vrikshalaya Centre there to be a meeting place and knowledge hub for the villagers and other communities in the Himalayan lowlands, as well as visitors and homestay guests interested in learning about more meaningful forms of sustainability.

Catrine Gangstø is the founder of the Peace Painting Foundation, that runs painting workshops for children, youth and adults all over the world, including war zones. Through her idea of Painting for Peace, Catrine has engaged over 3,000 workshop participants and many more through travelling exhibitions of their work. Catrine has proven that painting can be a safe space for sharing difficult experiences and emotions as well as a way to communicate hopes and desires for peace in the world.

Then we hear from Laila Kolostyák, a visual artist who works with snow and ice. Laila and her colleagues have engaged a whole generation of young people in creating and enjoying outdoor snow and ice experiences that culminates in the Borealis festival in Alta, which lies 375 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle.


Simple Landing page: https://share.transistor.fm/s/c0946216

Direct download of mp3: https://media.transistor.fm/e7881e4d.mp3

In this episode ON CONNECTED VOICES, you will hear from two guests prominent in the world of internet access and freedom of speech. First you will hear from Walid Al Saqaf, free speech advocate and software developer who focusses on the non-commercial use of Internet and its impact on democracy and freedom of speech. After Walid, you will hear from Bahraini civil rights activist, and blogger Esra’a Al Shafei founder of Majal.org, a network of digital platforms that amplify underrepresented voices in the Middle East and North Africa. The World Economic Forum listed Esra’a as one of 15 Women Changing the World, and she was featured in Forbes magazine’s 30Under30 list of social entrepreneurs making an impact in the world.

Walid founded a ground-breaking news aggregation service in his home country of Yemen, which spurred him onto work with tracking Internet censorship and enabling activists and journalists to bypass government-imposed firewalls to access news and social media websites. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Internet Society (ISOC) and co-founder of the Society’s Blockchain Special Interest Group. His work in tech development for increasing Internet Access has earned him international recognition, including a TED senior fellowship, and Örebro University’s Democracy Award, and he has been featured by global media such as CNN, the Guardian, and the Huffington Post.

Esra’a is passionate about music as a means for social change, and is also the founder of MideastTunes, where musicians across the world with Middle Eastern and North African origin can share their music that is often censored on mainstream music platforms. She also a senior TEDFellow, and Echoing Green fellow. As an outspoken defender of free speech, Esra’a was FastCompany magazine’s “100 Most Creative People in Business and The Daily Beast one of the 17 bravest bloggers worldwide.

The music you hear with Esra’s is by Tam Tam, the Saudi born pop star who sings about solidarity and equity.


Simple Landing page: https://share.transistor.fm/s/0c4117d7

Direct download of mp3: https://media.transistor.fm/b994ac43.mp3

In this episode ON NARRATIVES, we hear from four people working to shape more constructive narratives of our relationship to nature in order to increase environmental protection; First, we hear from Tom Crompton, founder of the Common Cause Foundation in the U.K., then, Paul Allen from the Centre of Alternative Technology in Wales, followed by Yuan Pan at Cambridge University and finally Rewilding expert Paul Jepson.

Tom Crompton’s research into values shows that the dominant narrative of the selfishness of humankind is deeply flawed.

Paul Allen presents a positive and attainable vision of the future, where technology creates smart, localised and integrated infrastructures that help us humans live in harmony with the planet for centuries to come.

We then hear from Yuan Pan, whose work integrating biodiversity into the Natural Capital Framework at Cambridge University aims to help businesses and policy makers make smarter decisions and start understanding the direct benefits from acting as stewards of the environment and nature’s resources.

Finally, we hear from Paul Jepson who is also active in science communication, particularly in the area of biodiversity, science-policy interfaces and new media. In 2016, Paul published an agenda for European Rewilding and conducted research with Frans Schepers on creating policies for Rewilding within European Commissioned nature institutions. Paul currently works for the consultancy ecosulis.


Nordic by Nature Podcast is an Imaginary Life AB production. We’d love to hear your thoughts on our podcast. Please email us on nordicbynaturepodcast at gmail.com.

We are also on Patreon if you would like to support us with a donation to keep this podcast going into a second series! See www.patreon.com/nordicbynature

Become a Patron!

If you are interested in Mindfulness and Resilient Thinking, please read about Ajay Rastogi’s village homestay retreats on foundnature.org, and follow the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature on Facebook, and Contemplation of Nature on Instagram.

Nordic By Nature Ep 1: ON ACTIVISM Transcript

Please listen to our podcast here.



Welcome to Nordic By Nature, a podcast on ecology today sent from Suburban Sweden, and a mountain village in Uttrakhand, India, in the foothills of the Himalayas. My name is Tanya and my colleague Ajay will be joining us later. Sound has been arranged by Diego Losa, in Paris.

In this episode On Activism, we have 3 strong voices who represent many thousands more at the forefront of change. First you will hear the words of Satish Kumar. To people in the ecology movement, Satish Kumar needs little introduction. He has been a world leading activist for over 50 years.

In his early 20s, inspired by Gandhi and British peace activist Bertrand Russell, Satish embarked on an 8,000-mile peace-pilgrimage together with E.P. Menon. They walked, without any money, from India to America, via Moscow, London and Paris, to deliver a humble packet of ‘peace tea’ to the then leaders of the world’s four nuclear powers.

After Satish, we will meet Marijn van de Geer, a Dutch national, living in London, and active member of the growing, grass- roots movement Extinction Rebellion, that staged a 10-day demonstration across London, in April 2019, preceding the UK parliament declaring a climate emergency.

We then will hear Siti Kasim, celebrity lawyer and human rights activist who is passionate about the rights of the indigenous people in the Malaysian peninsula, the Orang Asli.

I hope you can make some time to relax, and simply enjoy listening.



It’s been snowing again last night. I’ve been reading about Arne Naess, the Norwegian Philosopher. He was committed to non-violent communication and research.

He coined the term Deep Ecology. His work can be summarised as follows.

Number 1. We underestimate ourselves. We confuse self with ego.
Number 2. Human nature, that is sufficiently mature, cannot help but identify with all living beings – Schopenhauer, Descartes, and Heidegger were all immature in these matters.
Number 3. Nature and our immediate environment have been largely left out of definitions of the Self.
Number 4. The meaning of life, and the joy we can experience in being alive, is enhanced by self realisation.
Number 5. We inescapably identify with others. Our self realisation is enhanced by the self realisation of others. It is possible to act beautifully in harmony with nature and not just morally or morally.
Number 6. The greatest challenge today is to save ourselves from ecological devastation which violates the existence of all living things.



In 2017, I met Ah-jay Rastogi at a conference in Delhi called the Tasting India Symposium. After a long career as an ecologist, Ajay cofounded the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature. The foundation has it’s headquarters, the Vrikshalaya centre, in a village in the foothills of the Himalayas. Vrikshalaya means the Home of the Trees. Together with the village m’s women’s association, Ajay runs homestay courses in Mountain Resilience.

In 2016, he won a prestigious prize, Global Maverick Teacher. When I met Ajay he described 3 very important basic principles of life upon which his courses are based. (Fade to)
The Dignity of Physical Work, Interconnectivity, and Interdependence.


My name is I Ajay Rastogi and for last 10 years I’ve gone back to live in my own village in the Himalayas. I used to work with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of United Nations working as the organic program coordinator for the country and.

The basic drive to move back was to for to find a tool for transformation of people from inside so that they can connect deeply with nature. And we have no residential program based out of village form stays rural homesteads where the toilet is outside in the sense that it is a structure where there is no running water and that students are supposed to.

Participants are supposed to stay for a two-week program and help the host family which is an agrarian family, in doing all the work that they do like, everyday work, which means taking care of the cow, getting fodder from the forest, and getting enough drinking water from the springs.

And the program is based on three pillars. One is called ‘Dignity of Physical Work’ because unfortunately now we are losing can contact in working with hands, our hands, the second is interdependence, because sometimes we feel that if I am economically sound then I don’t need anybody else; I just spend money and get whatever they want, but that’s not how society is structured. That’s not how the sustainability comes about.

So they learn about interdependence, and the third thing is interconnectedness, and interconnectedness is more about the landscape elements, that yeah this is what it is coming. But this is not by itself you know there there’s some trees there’s some infiltration taking place. There is some soil which can absorb. There is some aquifer and then the water comes up. It’s not as if it comes out of thin air.

And so, we have a structured program now it’s a three-credit course with the collaboration of the western state Colorado University called Mountain Resiliency. And it’s going on. We work with the National Outdoor Leadership School for last nine years. They’re students from all over the world come and participate in these programs.

Tanya: Thank you very much.


Ajay and I got talking.

What can organisations learn from a village in the Himalayas?
How is this way of life relevant to people living in cities?
Is it possible to blueprint Mountain Resilience for Resilient Leadership?
How can the tools and frameworks from ecology be applied at other types of organisations?

We realised we needed to talk to a lot of different people.

We started by asking Satish Kumar, mentor and guide for the ecology movement. Luckily he had time to meet us in London.

Words have power only when they are practiced otherwise. Words have no power. You could say love but it has no power until you love someone you love or compassion. Word is compassion but unless you have a compassion in practice it has no power.

The power comes with practice; not ‘why’ but ‘how’ — how we implement it and the way always is from seed to tree, from small to large.

Start small, start wherever you are, the journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step. So start where ever you are, and by your authenticity, with your integrity, with your commitment, you will influence the others. So don’t worry about ‘how I influence others.’ You will influence others. There’s no way you cannot influence others, if you be the example and start, and do things what you want to do in your life and then others see it and they will be impressed, and they will follow you! This is how all big change happened. Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa — all these great people who have done.

Just start.

SOUND: INTERLUDE TRAIN LONDON (We have a little issue on the train ahead, I hope to be departing shortly)-


I could have had money. I did not go without money because I did not have money. But I went without money because I did not want to have money. And I said ‘money will not be a help,’ because when I’m walking for peace, I want to show that peace comes from trust.

If I go to Pakistan as an Indian, I meet a Pakistani. If I go as a Hindu, I meet a Muslim, or Christian, but if I trust them and I go as a human being, they are human beings. And with that trust. So, if you have money, then you go and stay in a hotel, or B&B, eat in a restaurant, buy your own things. You don’t need to trust anybody. You don’t need anybody, but if you don’t have money then you need people to help you. What is more important people or money?

You can have money and you have no people you cannot build a movement. But if you are people… then… So money is only a kind of means to an end. Money is not the answer. If you have no money that’s blessing. That’s a blessing. If you have no money, just have people, make friendship, work with people. Give service to people. They will help you. They will support you.

The First Episode, ON ACTIVISM, features Peace Activist Satish Kumar.

Money may make things easy, but money does not make things authentic. People offered me money, when I was starting to walk. But Vinobha, my teacher Vinobha Bhave, he said that go without money go without. He was great teacher. So Vinobha had no money. He practiced Kanchan Mukti, money free living. So, if people say ‘I have no money, say ‘you are blessed!’ People with lots of millions and billions of dollars and pounds, what good it is doing?

Why every single individual must own their own house? I think we have to go back to living more frugally and living with families. And when you live with the family have be more tolerant, you have to be more accepting. You have to be more kind. You have to be more compassionate. You have to be humble, because your parents will say something, your brothers will say something, your sister will say something. Why are you not doing like this? So you have to be humble…. so living in a family.

I think in the West we have too many houses, underused, big houses. One or two people living in four-bedroom houses. This is…. And then we take a mortgage, because we want individual, we want isolated. We are separate. We want on our own. Humility lacking. We can live in a community, share. Absolutely! Share.

And then if you do what you need to do. The money also will come. Money will also come. I’m not saying I’m not against money I’m not against money. Money is a useful invention. Money is useful for the means of exchange and so on. That’s OK. But money is not the end. Money is only a means to an end.

What is your end? We have to always ask. What is my end? I have to always ask. Everybody has to ask what am I living for? I’m not living for money. I’m looking for something ‘altruism’– something higher greater. And if I live for that people may give you money.

I did not have money for two and half years. People gave me food, people gave me clothes, people gave me shoes, people gave me even boat ticket from England to America — I went by boat. I had no money. People gave me a boat ticket. People give you everything. There is no shortage of money in the world.

There is a short of imagination, short of altruism, short of action. So money will come. Money will follow you like a shadow follows you. That’s what this is happens. You are not the shadow. The shadow is yours, but you are not of the shadow. So, money is a useful thing but don’t work for money. Don’t live for money. Money is money will be added do you do something bigger and greater, and more wonderful and more imaginative.


The economy, traditional economy, has a very good, classic economy, when you study economics, it has a very good system. They say that three things you need for the economy. First, land, or nature. That’s a first. If you had no land, no forests, what’s the point? You can’t live.

Then second is labour; land, labour, capital. So, second is labour. Labour means people. And if people are true capital. Their imagination, their skills, they can build a house. They can make furniture. They can do things, they can… Their skills. The people are the capital. Nature is capital, people are capital, then money. Money facilitates, money is good at the third level, but if you put money at the top and put people and nature at the service of money and capital, then economics is skewed.

So, what you need is you need nature capital first. human capital second, because humans are nature. We are nature. We are made of earth, air, fire, water and, and basic elements. So nature is out there, in nature. We are also nature. Human skills, community, cooperation. As you said and imagination and the skills. Making things. Building a house. Building furniture. Making things. We’ve lost that. And this is why we become slaves of money.

I have two hands. This is the source of my income. My two hands can build a house, my two hands can grow food. I can eat. My two hands can make a jacket I can wear. My two hands can make a shoe, pair of shoes, I can wear. My two hands are the real money, and then when I make something, I can give it to you, and you can give me some money, but if I don’t make something then I make myself a slave of somebody and I do something but I’m told to do but I want it or not.

And so money, working for money, is a guarantee of enslavement. You’ll become a slave because you are working for money. So, money comes only third. Land, labour, capital. At the moment we have put capital at the top, and humans are servants of capital, and the nature is servants of Capital.

Equity requires social justice doesn’t it? And so, we have to work to create equity and social justice, so that everybody…. I call it Elegant Simplicity. Elegant simplicity. Because if you live Elegant Simplicity, that is a prerequisite for sustainability, because at the moment we make …make… make so much stuff and clutter our houses, and our hotels, and our buildings, and so on. It all comes from nature. We are turning nature into stuff, clutter.

And so for sustainability simplicity is prerequisite. Then for spirituality, for being contented and happy, we need a few things, because if you want lots of things, that you have to work hard, to make money then you have to work hard to buy. They have to work hard to look after them. It’s all time wasted in external things.

So, for your inner peace, you need a few things, you need good things; good food, good clothes, good furniture good something, but minimum – minimalism, basic. Enough is enough. Then it’s a spiritual, and then equity, social justice. If a few people have too much, others have too little. So, without equity without, social justice, economy is no good.

Economy must be accompanied with equity.



Elegant Simplicity means less stuff, less clutter; production not for profit, but production for need. Only purpose for production should be to meet the real, genuine need. Rather than equality I like the word equity, you said. Equity means we all have a stake in it. In the economy we all have a stake in our life. We have more… sort of we all share. Equality is a little bit sort of… like five fingers are not equal. They just some small. The thumb a small. This is big and they still work together.

So equity. They all have their share. They all have their function. They all support each other. Cooperate, collaborate, work together to hold– if I want to hold the glass, all the fingers were equal will not be right, but my thumb needs to be with a smaller but larger, so it can hold the glass and, and, etc.

So, I would say your word ‘equity’ is a more appropriate word, and if you have equity, than equality would be an automatic. More or less everybody would meet their need. Somebody can eat more, somebody can eat a bit less, doesn’t matter. Somebody can have a slightly bigger body, somebody can have a smaller body, somebody can have a bit… Doesn’t it matter, as long as everybody feel part of it.

Equity is there, everybody feel ‘I am part of it.’ So even a small child is a part of the family. Even an old person of that not the same age, but they have a share. They have equity in the family. So, I prefer the word equity to equality. I mean equality is good. But equality is not, not as, um, kind of neutral and as the kind of idealistic as equity. In the family, not everyone is equal, but everybody has a stake in the family, and family is a good model. But they all have harmony and equity, I think. Equal rights. Yeah. Everybody had a dignity. Everybody equally respected. No ownership, just relationship.



Recently I was coming to London and I was at the train station and there was somebody cleaning and sweeping the floor and cleaning and keeping the station very neat and beautiful. And I went to him and I said thank you for cleaning our station, without you keeping this in such a nice way we wouldn’t be so happy, there would be clutter and dirt and dust and so on. Thank you very much. I said this to this person and he was surprised.

“Nobody thanked me like that. Thank you. I’m glad you noticed that I’m cleaning.”

People don’t thank people who are cleaning your station, but without them cleaning, your station would be so awful hopefully you won’t enjoy being there. So, they are as important as the station master, or the person who to show you the ticket, or the person who is driving the train, or person who is managing the train. If the cleaner was not there, station will not be good.

SOUND: FLOATING ICE AGAIN… continues in background

If you have a proper Craftsmanship and if you make something really by hand, as a craftsman, machine can never make as beautiful, and as perfect tool, as human hands can make. So let’s promote craftsmanship and interdependence together.

Don’t be a consumer, be a maker. A human being is not a consumer. He’s a maker. We are all makers we can make something. The moment you say you are a consumer, you are putting the dignity of humanity down.

I’m not a consumer. I refuse to be called a consumer. I’m a maker. I make something. I make books. I make a garden. I make kitchen. I make good food, I make things. I’m a maker. And when I made something I eat it. When I grew food, I eat it. I made clothes I wear it. Consuming is a by-product. Not of consuming — it’s living you are not a consumer. Don’t be a consumer be a maker, and you can learn to be a maker. You’ve got two hands. Your hands are miracle.

At the universities, they are being told that the only way to progress is industrialisation, urbanisation, consumerism, economic growth, all these paradigm, and they are being brainwashed for five years. Day after day after day.

I think your 3 principles of Dignity of Labour, Interdependence and Interconnectivity are fundamental. Now the corporations and corporate world is becoming aware of the issues, and that’s a good opening.

Sweden is a good place to start. Because Sweden… it was Sweden, Stockholm where the first environment conference took place in 1972, and I was there– the first U.N. conference on the environment, and that’s where the limits to growth blueprint for survival; many, many things were launched there, I was speaking there in the forum, and I was invited by the government of Sweden. And so even in ‘72 they were becoming avantgarde. That’s amazing. Sweden as I said, a lot of awareness, and lots of people are doing very good work there. And it’s one of the pioneer countries….

It’s very important for people to be the change then communicate the change and then organise the change. First of all, I want to congratulate all those activists on the front line.

You are the champions and the leaders of today and tomorrow, and what you are doing is courageous and you are not being self-centred, but you are doing something for the planet Earth and for the whole of humanity. And if we do not take a new direction of sustainability, and resilience, then our future is in jeopardy. And therefore, I want to congratulate and say that what you are doing is absolutely wonderful. It is on the lines of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela, Wangari Maathai – many, many great women and men have taken such courageous path to stand up for their values and speak the truth to power. And that is what you are doing. And so, I want to support you wholeheartedly.

And what I always say is are three steps towards transformation and change. The first step is Be the Change that you want to see in the world. Second step is: Communicate the change, through poetry, through writing, through books, through plays, through theatre, through music, through demonstrating, through whatever you are doing. Communicate so that other people become aware of it, and then organise the change.

And that’s in a way what, many, many marches and many, many demonstrations are doing. They are, and you are doing that, so that’s wonderful. So be the change. Communicate the change effectively and organise the change. Then change is coming. Transformation is on it’s way


And we will be there.


XR logo is based on an hourglass timer. Time is running out.


My name’s Marijn Van De Geer and I’m in London. I am the co-founder of ‘Resolution:Possible’ which is a research company. And I’m also an active member of Extinction. Within the political circle of Extinction Rebellion, I am one of the coordinators for the citizens assembly working group.


“This is an incredible moment. I’ll try and describe it to you the best I can but…. People from Land’s End, Truro, Stroud, Swansea, Reading,  I’m sure I’m leaving loads out. It’s just. Kind of coming together. I am now being welcomed by XR London in Hyde Park…. All of XR is coming together. In Hyde Park, this afternoon, it’s amazing….

“It’s been incredible. I think it’s exceeded our wildest expectations really. We didn’t think we would be on the streets for nearly two weeks. The movement has been growing ever since it started back in October 2018.

And then we got quite a lot of media attention at the time, for blocking off five bridges. We did also have a lot of new people joining us. We were blocking roads and causing disruption, but also, I genuinely believe that a lot of people didn’t quite get the severity of the climate and the ecological crisis.


We got more media coverage and it became better known what it was that we were about and what we wanted. People really started looking into it, accessing the science. The vast majority of people who sort of joined us after November, said to us “We have no idea how bad it was we had no idea that we were talking in terms of climate breakdown and ecological collapse within our own lifetimes.”mIt’s not sort of something in a hundred years, it’s something that’s going to be happening within the next decade. As soon as you realise that, people were like “Right OK, yes disruption seems extreme and you know civil disobedience. But actually, it is extreme what we’re facing.” It’s… it’s a justified method.


So since November it’s just grown so much, people have joined us and approached Extinction Rebellion and either said “Yes, we’ll come and do actions” or you know they wanted to be more deeply involved and said we want to join working groups.

We give people non-violent direct-action training and VDA training, so they learn to de-escalate potentially aggressive situations –because we’re so focussed on being a non-violent movement. It sort of gives people the skills. Because it’s a tense situation when you’re sitting there on the street and there’s dozens of police officers, sort of around you, and telling you to go away.

Generally, the police in the UK, anyway in London, have been incredible. But it’s still very intimidating and quite scary. And to then have this kind of training in the back of your mind saying you know “these are the things to say. and this is how you react.”

There’s a lot of chanting and singing and (laughter) so it all becomes quite surreal really. But having that training is just so important.


XR Trainer: “So um many, many, difficult situations will be eased by fun and music and singing and those kinds of things so we can do those kinds of things and that will often um ease a lot of tensions. But if that doesn’t work, the first thing you can do, is you can put your hand up, like this, and fall silent. Look you see everybody is doing it, and as soon as you put your hand up, we all know this don’t we?

Okay. There’s another one you can do, if that doesn’t work, which is… maybe you can do this guys um uh clap once if you can hear, me clap twice if you can hear me. Clap three times if we can’t hear me. Okay so we’re all familiar with that. So that’s to establish silence. To establish silence when there’s some violence going off will already create a different kind of a vibe.

Okay so that might be enough. If it isn’t enough. The next thing you can do is sit down. OK, So you’re sitting down and let’s pretend I am the aggressor so facing you guys, sitting down, and that already creates a situation where my violence, if I was a violent person will be exposed by having all these people sitting down around me.

If that doesn’t work the next stage after that is to start chanting and the chant that I’m recommending it goes “We’re non-violent. How about you?” (laughter) Okay. So do you want to try that.

Someone in crowd: “Now don’t you think that’s a bit o the aggressive side?” (Laughter) Chanting: “We’re non-violent. How about you? We’re non violent. How about you? We’re non violent. How about you?” Crowd: We’re non violent. How about you?”


Everybody in the movement has to have the non-violent civil disobedience training, but then also if you decide to sign up as what we call an “arrestable” – so if you’ve put yourself forward to saying I’m willing to do disruption until I get to that point where I will get arrested.

Then you also have the arrestee training. So that’s where you get told everything, what your rights are, what the procedure will be when you get taken into custody.

Behind the scenes of Extinction Rebellion it is truly remarkable. There’s just all these incredible volunteers who are keeping track of where all the Arrestables are being taken which police stations. There’s legal observers at every action so they have the sort of bright orange bibs on, and they take down the names of the people getting arrested.

They take down the names of the officers who are the arresting officers and then they sort of have a rota at all the police stations. And as you can imagine, in April you know we had over a thousand people arrested. So, this was a big project for people to ensure that there were always people waiting for the arrestables, to come out of the police stations.

It is quite intimidating being arrested. At the beginning you’re always with your arresting officer. I was really lucky that I had a really nice officer. But then you are put in a cell by yourself for many hours.


You do kind of need that little bit of TLC afterwards, because it is very disorientating; you have no idea what time it is and it’s all very confusing.

It was really something that was happening all over the world not just in London. All over the world, people were doing actions in the name of their own Extinction Rebellion groups. It was it was hugely inspiring knowing that you know while we were sitting on the streets in central London we knew that people were doing the exact same thing all over the world.

And it has to be like that obviously, because we’re talking about climate change and an environmental breakdown, so, we can’t just have one country committing and everybody else carrying on as usual. It has to be a global effort.


The ideas; you know so we have the pink boats on Oxford Circus and we had the garden bridge at Waterloo Bridge. You know these incredible creative ideas and also you know the logistics of the camps. So Marble Arch was kind of our main camp, but there was a reception area, and there was a Regenerative Culture tent, where there was yoga every morning, this incredible cooking crew on every site, and throughout the time when we were occupying the streets we had new recruits coming to us — at least three new rebel inductions per day for nearly 2 weeks.

When it all comes together it’s just amazing. Even when police in the end took the pink boat away, someone like immediately created this massive sign saying “We are the boat” because obviously having something big symbolic, removed from site was sort of quite sad, you know, our boat!


We were all there together and it was just incredible. It was such a such an amazing coming together of people from all walks of life. The sense of community there was amazing. There were people from all over the UK, from all sorts of backgrounds.

We actually had taxi drivers actually joining us in the end you know because they were like: “Well I have children too. And something does need to change, and I can’t just say you know I’m going to now individually do something. I need the support of the government to help us navigate through this crisis.”

There were farmers from all over the country, inner city young people. It was a huge mix, especially amongst the youth. I think they were just so diverse. Then you have people well in their 80s who were camping out. I mean it was just incredibly humbling actually to see people who are you know my grandmother’s age, who were sitting on the bridge at Waterloo, and they were like well “Well we will actually be the first ones to be arrested because we don’t want these young people to have criminal records, and impeding on their potential future working life.” They were like arrest us the old people, we’re happy to take this on.

They kind of sat in front of all these young people and took on that duty of getting arrested first. It was incredible. And you know then when the first thing they ask you is why aren’t you just privileged white middle class people?

What can you do? I think we all learned to shrug a lot at the media and the weird stuff they came out with.

We initially started buying a lot of food because we’d managed to raise quite a lot of money to be able to buy supplies in bulk to supply to or to the kitchens in the various sites. But we also started getting donations from actual food companies. There’s a company called Riverford. They’re based in Devon and they supplied us with loads of fresh fruit and veg and you know feeding the Rebellion. So there’s a lot of amazing people stepped forward to help. Everyone was provided for.

It was a moment in history. At the moment obviously it’s early days. I hope that it will prove to be a positive moment in history, certainly.

So, it was very exciting when the UK parliament declared a climate emergency a few days ago, but obviously now we are actually watching to see what that will actually entail.

We want the creation of a Citizens Assembly to navigate through what the climate emergency is actually going to entail on a practical level. What change that’s going to bring to all of our lives here in the U.K.

It’s one thing declaring an emergency, and obviously it’s one of our demands, and it’s hugely important that Parliament has taken this seriously and that they are talking about it and that an emergency has been declared, but it doesn’t have any teeth yet, so’s to speak. It doesn’t mean anything yet. And that’s what we need to focus on now.

With the Michael Gove meeting, who’s the Environment Secretary, last week, he kind of talked us through all the things that the government had already done. You know what a waste of time. Why are you telling me this? We already know this. Stop telling us how amazing you think you are. I can’t believe that in 2019.  This is how government functions.


Now! Now! Now!
No more waiting!
No hesitating!
We need to build a revolution,
And we need to start right now.

The only thing I am hopeful for is that if we get deliberative democracy to supplement the current system. I think it’s the only way forward. This is the aim is that we will have a national citizens assembly on climate emergency. So that would be on a national level.

We need to have national policies with teeth that can that can address the big strong corporations and that government has the mandate and the strength to say “No” – no fracking no Heathrow expansion no this no that.

Those things have to come on a national level, or even an international level. There needs to be systematic, systemic change….so it’s not just out of the goodness of the individual’s hearts that this needs to happen. We also need to hold governments and corporations accountable as well.

Time is ticking.





My name is Siti Kasim. I’m a lawyer by profession in Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur. You see, I used to do a lot of human rights cases, children rights, the refugees, but then I discovered that I can’t be saving the world, you know. I must focus on one or two issues.

So, I actually take my work with the indigenous people in the peninsula of Malaysia. I can expand my knowledge about the law to the Orang Asli community. So, I go into the interior a lot, into the jungle to the villagers and to their settlements, and I told them that they do have rights, and that they shouldn’t be afraid to stand up and you know, take up that right.

Of course, they have their own activists as well. The Orang Asli activists. I don’t charge this kind of thing.


They are the eco warriors, indigenous people. They are the front line of our nature conservation. We should recognise that because the way they preserve the balance of the ecosystem is the way they live.

For example, they have their ‘Pantang’, meaning that they can do certain things in their culture. It’s been going down for generations. But there is a reason for it is actually to preserve the balance of the ecosystem.

So these are their rule.

Siti Kasim

The Tamaya tribe… They told me that they will never touch the tiger because to them the tiger is very powerful, powerful in the sense of spirit-wise. They revere the tiger very much.

In the olden days. Of course, nowadays no more because of the settlement built by the government — They plant their rice and everything for your own sustenance. And after a while they will shift –rotating. That’s the word. Yeah, so it’s a rotating thing and so it’s how they preserve it! And people don’t understand that it’s beneficial to the earth.

Generally, Malaysia’s people support that we help our indigenous people, but when it comes to religion, they become much more possessive. They don’t like the truth, you know, people hate to hear the truth. With me nothing is too sensitive. Ha ha!

But we still must keep on pushing the boundary. Otherwise we are never going to improve. That’s what I believe anyway.

I mean human rights is something that it was not ‘given.’ It’s already born with us. We are born with rights as a human being.

Our country is unique you know, Malaysia, because we have so many cultures so many races and it all have different ways. I know I have many, many supporters I know, I know I have very, very good people around me. I think I’m blessed with a strong constitution by God that I don’t really care about what people see online because I know myself. I’m very confident about who I am and what I am. I think, women, we evolve better than men. Haha!

I notice from my fifty-five. Coming up the 56 years old I noticed that the more religious a person, the more closed their mind would be, they are limiting their minds to the barriers that build up or walls that they build up for themselves based on their faith or their beliefs.

I just think that religion should not be imposed on anyone.

Siti Kasim

Even the indigenous people in Malaysia right they do not have a religion. But of course, these people that do go into the interior you know where a majority of them live, trying to spread the faith. What we call a Datwa, missionary. Islam and Christians usually do this. They go into the jungle where the Orang Asli reside and then be tried to get as many as possible of the indigenous people. What we call them as Orang Asli here to convert to the faith either Christian or Islam.

The problem with our Indigenous people, the Orang Asli, in Malaysia, they are also determined by law who can be an Orang Asli. You are only an Orang Asli, An Indigenous person, If one of your parents is Orang Asli and you are practicing your culture, and the 3rd one that you must be able to speak the language of your tribe.

And so these three things– if you don’t practice one you are no longer Orang Asli. Like for Malay, Once you are a Malay, you’re a Muslim automatically. It doesn’t matter whether you believe it or not, there’s method by on people as you are.

But with the Orang Asli, so once they convert to Islam or Christianity then they are being taught not to practice a certain aspect of their culture, because it is not accepted that in your new faith.

In fact, it has been used by government before.

When we took matters to court on behalf of the Orang Asli, pro bono of course, they become smarter and smarter government lawyers. They question us: Are these litigants really Orang Asli, it is really crazy.

If you go and see these or ask leave the interior and you meet the older generation, those who knew the British during their governance, they only have good things to say about the British.

The older Orang Asli always say that the British looked after them very well. Their health was taken care of and in fact until now Even if you’re white you go into the interior, they look up very highly towards white people because they still have these remnants of memories on how the British treated them.

They always said that the British treated them better than the government of Malaysia. They probably felt they were much more better off because there was no palm oil being opened up on their land, they were not forced to move out from their villages. They were not forced to do anything they didn’t want to. With the new government, obviously I think that intention is probably noble.

They want to try and help to improve the life of the Orang Asli by bringing them out and even amongst others who integrate to assimilate they want to try and assimilate the Orang Asli to become Malays.

Just take out these jungle people and help them. This is what they think. What I see even now the majority of people do not try to understand the psyche of the Orang Asli the indigenous people.

People don’t understand. There is no way you can actually expect them to live like us. Why don’t you ask them? When you see them sleeping and resting? How many days were you in the jungle to try and find their sustenance?



Siti Kasim


It’s not easy. Just couple of hours you go into the jungle. You know how hard it is. But when they go into the jungle they go for a couple of days. Can do that as a town person?

To be honest I would say ninety-nine-point nine percent of the logging– they are all legal. They are all legal. This is the problem. People think that there are many illegal loggings in Malaysia. No, no, it’s not even illegal.

They do get the licence from the State Government. They do get the licence from our forestry department. They are supported by our politician and the State Government. This is where the problem lies because a lot of corruption going on they don’t care about the well-being of the forest.

They don’t understand the forest is related to us leaving in pounds you know they cannot relate to that. Even one of our ministers– not the current government yet because they are only about not even one year. I’m talking about the previous government, one minister actually said that the palm oil they consider as forests. You are a minister you must find out what is really the international world consider as forest.

They say they planted that the palm oil tree. So, it’s a tree. You know ha! It’s really hard when people are making decisions without understanding the nature of our Orang Asli. They use poisonous things you know pesticides. But what they don’t understand is that all these pesticides seep into the ground and go into the water and into the river where the Orang Asli use for the drinking water when they leave amongst the palm oil plantation. A lot of the Orang Asli

Actually they have a lot of problems you know with skin disease and generally not healthy if they lice actually in and around the plantation. Yes, I know the current Malaysian government are pretty upset with the European Union because they say they’re not going to buy any more palm oil from Malaysia. I support that the EU action.

But of course the government is worried because they have to maintain the economy right. Why don’t the government actually insure no more forest being cut down?

Recently the opening Durian King (aka Kind of the Fruits) because Durian King now commands more value than the palm oi! Some state governments now allow allowing these companies that want to plant durian in the middle of the jungle!

This is the fight right now that we have with the Kelantan government. They have given this company M7 a ten thousand hectare to plant more sun king durian at the expense of the Orang Asli.

…Even right now they have already trampled on the Orang Asli graveyard. You know a lot of things, so this makes them very upset of course, but M7 is quite rich. They do everything they can not to abide by the noise made by NGOs as well as the public we have a federal government and then we have the state government.

And then the federal government cannot decide on land, when it comes to land. Only the State Government can decide. Power within the state government. When it comes to issues of land– so the federal government cannot tell for example Kelantan, Why don’t you just give these indigenous people the land be one not not because you want to destroy it. They want to make sure that all the things they need for their nobody wants to give up. No way. Because the land where the Orang Asli actually live or seek is so valuable.

This government is trying to do something to help in which I’m very proud of. It is a first action. Which our federal governments. They can suing the state government for taking the rights of the Orang Asli on your land. So this is the first case maybe perhaps in the world that a federal government suing a state government under the law.

The Orang Asli comes under federal law. You see ,they have the fiduciary duty to make sure that Orang Asli lives are not affected by so-called modernization. But after so many, many years the Orang Asli in Kelantan have done so many blocking. Even fighting contractors, who use weapons as well. You know trying to scare the Orang Asli kids. They persevere.

This is the first case that our federal government sued the companies as well as the State Government. This is the first case now. We are very excited about it actually.

All this while is with us the lawyers the lawyers are the one would think methods to court on behalf of the audacity of course pro bono. I can tell you one hand only the same lawyers will be doing the same. He says while we Indigenous people despite all the cases in support of the rights of the Orang Asli history, our governments before never, never make a policy out of those cases because as you know cases are actually laws.

But they don’t. They don’t care. In respect they do respect at all. The case not actually started yet….

Yes, there are a lot of other application made by the companies and the state governments. So they are asking for a stay on this, on and even if the xxx application just like Najiv case they keep on these two delay matters.

There used to be about 18 tribes, OK, or what used to be 18 tribes, in the peninsula of Malaysia. ….And some tribes have totally wiped out. Basically.

For example, right now no more- no more. Only by name only. Right now, we only have very few of the Bateks. OK. And also the Jahai, these are most shy people, very shy and they are from the ‘negrito’ line. And these are the people. Yes. They are very, very, very, shy. You know during the big flood back in 2016?. I remember now the big flood in Kelantan. I heard story about where the Jahai people live behind the Malay Kampung, you come home Malay couple Malay village and I don’t actually leave behind further behind.

So, when the food aid came people just dropped at the first Malay village. Yeah and the food never being passed on to the Jahai village at the back. They always stop these cars from going further. And these Jahai people will not even come out– they don’t come out to demand their rights to take the food. No they won’t. You will not fight. You will not argue with you. Yeah. This is not just not them. So a very few left.

And what I am also worried for our Indigenous people that soon you know will be no more. So, the whole of Malaysia the population is about 35 million. But for the indigenous people Orang Asli, in the peninsula, there are about 200 to 250 thousand. That’s all.

They are only a drop in the ocean. There be no more of Orang Asli in Malaysia. In Sabah Sarawak there are many, many more. Mostly there –mostly in Sabah Sarawak. Only a few tribes left but they considered themselves to be different. They prefer to be on your own if they can.

I hope to see something just serious dangers in another year’s time hopefully. Otherwise I think we have to think about a third force.

We must keep on fighting in what we believe!





Thank you for listening to our first episode! Nordic by Nature is an ImaginaryLife.net production, created with the support of the Nordic Ministries.

Please help us by sharing a link to this episode with the hashtag #tracesofnorth, and follow us on Instagram @nordicbynaturepodcast

Many thanks to Satish Kumar and Elaine Green for their ongoing support and encouragement. Satish is also the editor of Resurgence magazine, and the guiding spirit behind the internationally-respected Schumacher College in the UK.  Please see resurgence.org and Schumachercollege.org.uk

Many thanks to Marijn van de Geer, founder of the consultancy Resolution: Possible. Thanks to Extinction Rebellion members Emma Wallace and Sophie Jenna who also shared their Rebellion sound recordings with us. Please see extinctionrebellion.com to read more about the movements demands for transparency and climate justice.

Thank you to Siti Kasim, lawyer, activist and writer of the column Siti Thots on the Star Online.

That’s (spells it). The flute music is a nose flute played by an indigenous Orang Asli man from the Temiar tribe in Kelantan.

All the sounds have been arranged by Diego Losa. You can find him via diego losa.blogspot.com.

You can see Ajay’s project on foundnature.org. and follow the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature on Facebook and Contemplation of Nature on Instagram.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on our podcast. Please email me, Tanya, on nordicbynature@imaginarylife.net.

p.s. If you would like to support our work please become a patron via https://www.patreon.com/nordicbynature

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/.

Nordic by Nature, a new kind of mindful podcast on ecology today.

Sit back, relax and out your headphones on. Nordic by Nature is a new type of mindful and spacious sound-crafted audio podcast inspired by Arne Ness, the Norwegian philosopher who coined the term Deep Ecology.

In ten episodes, and with a global perspective, Nordic By Nature explores human, social and personal resiliency and adaptability that is needed for these challenging times.

The podcast is sent from Sweden and the foothills of the Himalayas by two colleagues who met in 2017; Tanya Kim Grassley and Ajay Rastogi. The podcast is intended to be listened to like an extended exercise in mindfulness; the soundscape has been designed by sound artist Diego Losa.

In this episode On Activism, we have 3 strong voices who represent many thousands more at the forefront of change.

First you hear the words of Satish Kumar. To people in the ecology movement, Satish Kumar needs little introduction. He has been a world leading activist for over 50 years. In his early 20s, inspired by Gandhi and British peace activist Bertrand Russell, Satish embarked on an 8,000-mile peace pilgrimage together with E.P. Menon.

They walked, without any money, from India to America, via Moscow, London and Paris, to deliver a humble packet of ‘peace tea’ to the then leaders of the world’s four nuclear powers. Satish sends a message to all activists out there! “You are doing something great,” he tells us. All important social change was driven by protest.


After Satish, we meet Marijn van de Geer, a Dutch national, living in London, and active member of the growing, grassroots movement Extinction Rebellion, that staged a 10-day demonstration across London, in April 2019, preceding the UK parliament declaring a climate emergency. Marijn takes us by the hand through the Rebellion, why it is so necessary, and the experience of 10 days non-violent protest.

XR logo
The Extinction Rebellion Logo – a call for radical action.

We then will hear Siti Kasim, celebrity lawyer and human rights activist who is passionate about the rights of the indigenous people in the Malaysian peninsula, the Orang Asli.

Nordic by Nature is an Imaginary Life production, created with the support of the Nordic Ministries (Norden.org) and in partnership with The Foundation of the Contemplation of Nature.

Please help us by sharing a link to this episode with the hashtag #tracesofnorth, and follow us on Instagram

Many thanks to Satish Kumar and Elaine Green for their ongoing support and encouragement. Satish is also the editor of Resurgence magazine, and the guiding spirit behind the internationally-respected Schumacher College in the UK.

Many thanks to Marijn van de Geer, founder of the consultancy Resolution: Possible,

Thanks to Extinction Rebellion members Emma Wallace and Sophie Jenna who also shared their Rebellion sound recordings with us.

Please read more about the movements demands for transparency and climate justice on their website.

Thank you to Siti Kasim, lawyer, activist and writer of the column Siti Thots on the Star Online.

The flute music is a nose flute played by an indigenous Orang Asli man from the Temiar tribe in Kelantan.

All the sounds have been arranged by Diego Losa.

You can follow Ajay’s project at the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature and connect on Facebook
and Contemplation of Nature on Instagram.

Press contact: nordicbynature@imaginarylife.net
Become our patron with even a small donation via Patreon!

Finding Zero

You don’t have to go to the Himalayas to find yourself – but it might help!

Immersing yourself in natural surroundings brings a huge amount of physical and psychological benefits. But naturalness is much more than a superficial sense of wellbeing. It can bring us to another level of autonomy, where we are freed from all the usual external influences that shape our beliefs and behaviour. It’s about gaining insight into The Human Condition.

View from Majkhali Village. Photo by by Dhirendra Bisht.

View from Majkhali Village. Photo by Dhirendra Bisht.

That kind personal transformation is much easier to attain with hands-on experience, says Ajay Rastogi, Philosopher and Applied Ethics practitioner, and founder of The Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature.

I had the good fortune to meet Ajay at the recent Tasting India Symposium in New Delhi, an event that brought together some of India’s brightest minds within food and sustainability. Like many of his contemporaries there, Ajay had left a successful career to go back to his home region and drive change from within. For Ajay that meant working together with the rural villagers of his homeland at the foothills of the Himalayas, in Uttarakhand.

Ajay welcomes everyone, regardless of race, caste, age, religion, gender, orientation, or education.

Ajay welcomes everyone, regardless of race, caste, age, religion, gender, orientation, or education.


The foundation aims to research and develop new models for Resilience through cultural exchange, by connecting villagers with people from the cities and other countries in residential homestays and programs such as yoga and meditation retreats. The Contemplation of Nature is threefold; immersion in nature, mindful meditation, and a hands-on experience of the rural ‘resilient’ life.

Resilience moves far beyond current definitions of sustainability. On a 2-week homestay, you get to take part in everything that rural village life offers. Don’t worry – there is no enforced programme here. You are free to just rest and explore if that’s what you need, but guests usually end up getting quite involved with village life; learning about everything from organic seed banking, to preparing grain harvests, to tending to the village cows, cooking the local Kumaoni cuisine, or celebrating one of the many festivals that happen throughout India.

The Yoga Hall was listed as one of the top ten yoga venues of the world by The Guardian newspaper.

The Yoga Hall was listed as one of the top ten yoga venues of the world by The Guardian newspaper.

The Vrikshalaya centre is the headquarters and heart of the Foundation. It also offers longer-term residencies for artists and designers who are interested in exploring the principles of resilience as part of their work. Vrikshalaya means ‘Home of the Trees’ in Sanskrit – so outdoor activities such as rock-climbing, water rafting, camping and hiking are all part of nature immersion. The area is stunning, and the centre has been listed as one of ten top yoga venues in the world by the Guardian newspaper.

The aim of the foundation is to get people to experience three basic principles of Resilience that sustain all life; Dignity of Physical Work, Interdependence and Interconnectivity.

Women transplanting of rice accompanied by a Hudikia Ball musician. Photo by Dhirendra Bisht.

Women transplanting of rice accompanied by a Hudikia Ball musician. Photo by Dhirendra Bisht.

The Dignity of Physical Work
There is a long tradition in India of travelling to the Himalayas and rural areas to practice yoga and meditation as a spiritual practice, but not physical work.

Ajay explains: “In India, we have such an inequitable society. The caste system is still deeply ingrained in society and especially in rural life.”

Specific tasks, such as tailoring, traditional music, cleaning and different crafts, are often associated with specific castes. It’s considered servant’s work. And work is very gendered. Traditionally, women prepare the food, work in the fields and take care of the house. A recent survey revealed that women spend more time in the fields farming than men and bullocks combined!

Homestay Mums preparing food.

Homestay Mums preparing food.

“We never even imagined the value of cultural exchange with western visitors. Younger westerners, in particular, would challenge outdated ways of thinking about caste and gender,” explained Ajay. “They wanted to know why the village girls were fetching water and taking care of the cows after school, instead of playing cricket with boys.”

Also, the homestay families are from different castes. This was purposefully provocative on Ajay’s part. The foundation hosts communal events for the visitors and their host families, challenging these deeply ingrained practices. Traditionally, lower castes do not eat together with higher castes. They do not attend the same meetings. Lower castes are even given separate plates and cutlery if they go to the house of a higher caste.

For the visitors, the learning curve is clear. Artisanal types of work and growing our own food re-connects our minds and hands.  Doing something mindful with our hands together with others is natural and enjoyable.

This especially affected some of the younger visitors from the States, Ajay explained. “Their tears welled up as they realised they hardly ever spent time with their family. Here in the villages, shared activities, whether its farming or preparing millet, or making textiles, is a way to spend quality time with our friends, family and neighbours. It’s fun to create something of value together.”

Traditional farming is organic.

Traditional farming is organic.

The repetitive actions of simple tasks also have a positive effect on the mind and body. When your mind can reach a level of sustained calmness, your body starts to do miraculous things. It’s called the ‘deep relaxation response’ in psychology. The stress hormone cortisol isn’t frantically released as our bodies aren’t in a fight or flee mode, aggravated by extremes in emotion.  Combine this innate calmness with physical movement and you have a recipe for better mental and physical health.

Interdependence is about people, reciprocity and solidarity. We are all used to financial transactions; I buy something and I pay for it, I own it. But it’s far smarter and more beneficial for the individual to systemically build a society around shared spaces and shared resources. In the village, not everyone has to take care of their cows every-day. They can share the duties, and reduce the daily work from once a day to once every 30 days.

Celebrating Diwali. Photo by Pete Zhivkov.

Celebrating Diwali. Photo by Pete Zhivkov.

Traditionally, when someone dies in India they are cremated on an open funeral pyre. So when someone dies everyone visits the house in mourning to pay their respects and donate some wood. The job of collecting wood for the funeral pyre is taken care of by the community. Community takes care of necessities. It used to be the same with cooking for a wedding. Surplus food and goods are also distributed throughout the community to those in need. Interdependence exists as a fact, so working with it is just common sense.

A host family house in the village.

A host family house in the village.

The third and final principle of the foundation is Interconnectivity. This is about striving for a harmonious coexistence with nature, as we rely on our environment for all the resources that keep us alive. Ajay’s hope is that people will take the realisation of interconnectivity back with them and apply it to their own lives.

Celebrating Spring. Photo by Jogendra Bisht.

Celebrating Spring. Photo by Jogendra Bisht.










As a modern, connected culture, we need to cultivate an attitude of care and understand where the things that sustain us come from and go to. Our resources are not limitless. Food, water and energy doesn’t just appear, just as clothes and products do not just appear.

Our culture of waste has inherent challenges. All our actions have an impact and an intrinsic cost that someone somewhere must pay. If we keep that connection in mind the impact on our everyday choices can be profound.

The proof of concept is in the eyes of all the people involved; the host families and the visitors. When the guests leave, says Ajay: “Every farewell is always tearful, always connected.”

11. Ajay gardening
Words by Tanya Kim Grassley. Published in The Forumist, March 2018.

The Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature 
Tasting India
India Tourist Board
The Guardian top ten yoga holidays