Permaculture As Spiritual Practice

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By Sean Fennell
At Sunburst I employ the principles of Permaculture to observe how I live daily, how I connect with the wisdom of the Earth, with myself and with others. This is the outward journey, having been sculpted inwardly through my practice of the twelve virtues and the eight-fold path of conscious living.

Sean FennellThis practice supports a continual path of transformation and growth in my everyday life. It helps me approach ordinary activities in extraordinary ways.

Where Spirit, Nature and people meet in oneness in activity, as well as in non-activity, is that place where I find my center. Permaculture is the marriage of the spiritual with the natural and social and is, therefore, one of the highest expressions of spiritual practice.

Permaculture begins with the individual, and is contingent upon one’s thoughts, ethics and beliefs. This, in turn, is what one can fully utilize in creating a sustainable way of life, starting from the inside out.

By employing the benefits of meditation, deep self-reflection, time spent in nature and group interactions, one’s creative expression and endeavor can translate into a life that’s fun, rewarding and sustainable for oneself, for others, and the Earth!

“If it’s not fun, it’s not sustainable” is the Permaculture mantra.

Sean demonstrating the permaculture method of planting trees.

Sean demonstrating the permaculture method of planting trees.

Permaculture and Virtue – A Perfect Marriage 

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By Ischa Lea

The backbone of our spiritual practice at Sunburst is the application of  the Twelve Virtues in our lives: Charity, Faith, Loyalty, Patience, Honesty, Perseverance, Temperance, Humility, Courage, Equanimity, Continence, and Compassion. This makes for balance, peace, and inner joy — the barometer of all spiritual success. Likewise, the application of these virtues with the Twelve Principles of Permaculture and Permaculture Ethics ensures success in our outward endeavors at Sunburst.

A successful Permaculture project is contingent upon the application of Spiritual Principles, whether we use such terminology or not.

Charity resonates with the Permaculture Ethics of Fair Share and People Care.

Faith and belief in our endeavor creates the motivation for success.

Loyalty among participants ensures steady commitment.

Patience is critical, for even the best designs and objectives in Permaculture are still subject to extremes in environmental conditions.

Honesty is important — As in spiritual practice, we must walk our talk.

Perseverance in meditation and living in virtue ensures spiritual advancement; likewise, perseverance in Permaculture and living in integrity ensures generational rewards.

Temperance in spiritual practice ensures balance; in Permaculture balance ensures that no strand in the Web is broken or weakened.

Humility in spiritual practice ensures that we’re not acting from our lower ego selves; likewise, humility in Permaculture ensures that we are open to suggestions, respectful of other’s opinions, and are able to “hold hands with each other” and work together toward our common goal.

Courage is critical: Spiritual advancement requires courage, patience and perseverance. Likewise, Permaculture cannot survive as a practice without courage, patience and perseverance.

Equanimity in spiritual practice means overlooking obstacles and maintaining even-mindedness in our goal to achieve enlightenment. In Permaculture we are faced with doing the same in order to maintain symbiotic relationships that ensure successful outcomes.

Continence, the practice of self-control, ensures the conservation of vital energies necessary for higher meditational practices. Likewise, self-control is necessary in Permaculture — it ensures that our goals and visions do not exceed our physical capabilities.

Compassion may sound simple; yet, in spiritual practice our ego selves can often propel us into being critical and judgmental rather than compassionate and understanding. Likewise, in Permaculture, without a loving and compassionate relationship with the Earth and each other as we work toward a common goal, there can be no successful rewards.

In the end, Permaculture at Sunburst is Spiritual Practice!

Permaculture and Virtue

Ischa during Sunburst’s “Permaculture As Spiritual Practice” workshop

A Spectacular Heavenly Event

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By Ischa Lea

Saturday, August 13, 2016 was finally there, charged with anticipation as we prepared for yet another evening of great fun and excitement at Sunburst. Decorating the Lodge, preparing snacks, laying tarp upon the sacred Wheel of Life hill for eager campers created a high-energy environment perfect for those who would stay awake all night looking at the heavens. Celebrations for our customary annual “Star Party” had begun. The Perseid Meteor Shower was to make its grand entrance!

Sunburst-star-party-2016_03Moksha Badarayan, our renowned Sunburst science teacher, held her large classroom full of eager students, both mature and young, spellbound as she presented a three-part slide show on astronomy that included the latest discoveries and scientific information that kept us riveted in our mental journey through outer space, traversing the Milky Way! How amazing to hear the many theories put forth by science as they try to define and categorize the very subtle differences of what constitutes “life” in outer space – mind-blowing and intriguing propositions that elicited much teacher/audience participation, with the tiny “grown ups” asking the most interesting questions, resulting in the most interesting answers! Needless to say, Moksha’s acumen and preparedness placed both her and the kids among the “stars” that night!

Sunburst-star-party-2016_02And the evening was just starting! On the patio outside lay mounted three gigantic telescopes, manned by an amazing group of seasoned astronomers, including Sunburst’s own Steve Anderson. Not only were we all in awe peering at the rings of Saturn, the moons of several planets, watching the space station whiz by, but an occasional meteorite would streak by too, further building the excitement of the evening as  some made “goop” as a science experiment, drank hot homemade chai, snacked, and continued their periodic visits to the telescopes.

The grand finale marked a short pilgrimage to our Wheel of Life hill that held a 360-degree view and upon which some of would spend all night scanning the heavens, “ooing and aweing” as the heavens presented the ultimate light show – incredible meteors with their comet-like trails streaking across the land! Oh what a night to remember – warm, starlit, fun-filled and joyful. Looking up I could only sum it up in a few words to Moksha camping beside me: “Look what beauty our Heavenly parents have created for our enjoyment.”

Thank you, Moksha for making “Star Party 2016” a memorable one!

Moksha holding her classroom spellbound.

Moksha holding her classroom spellbound.

3-D Big Dipper

3-D Big Dipper

Exploring Soul Growth Through Mandala Painting

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By Ischa Lea

What an exciting day it was at Sunburst Sanctuary on Saturday, May 28th as Reverend Ron Gibbons guided all participants through a meditative journey of soul exploration through mandala painting. Signifying the wholeness of creation, the word mandala is derived from Tibetan Sanskrit. Mandala translates “to be in possession of,” or “to know oneself.”
IMG_3559_MandalaWorkshop-crop-768x437A well-seasoned teacher on this topic, Reverend Gibbons touched on some of the historical aspects of mandalas reflected in both Eastern and Western renderings. He said:

Representing the order beneath the change and apparent chaos of our lives, it is the invisible thread that ties our existence into a living net, or the spokes of our turning wheel. It is then the relationship between the individual and his life situation, the seeing of the relations between things, and the vividness of life as it is.

The mandala is universal, with one constant, the principle of the center. The center is the beginning and origin of all forms and processes, including the extension of form into time. Nature paints for us the most magnificent mandalas in flowers, snowflakes, galaxies, the rings of a tree, even the eye, all emanating from the grand center of creation, the mind of God.
The speaker’s words and the visual slide show inspired participants to enter their “inner garden” during a guided meditation. Some amazing revelations emerged, and were later shared—unique experiences coming from a Higher Self. A personal mandala rendering by each participant expressed this significance, no matter one’s artistic talents.

IMG_3564_Mandala-copy-768x512A mystical, magical time, it was as evidenced by the healing that occurred for one person, the overall clarity that most experienced as it pertained to their present life situations, and the overall excitement and joy that pervaded the room.

One cannot but feel the childlike anticipation of intrigue that further inspirations might hold. We continue to meditate and embellish our individual works of art, or create new ones. A joyful, healing and meditative journey of exploration still unfolding, one must reflect in awe the power of the mandala. And, as Reverend Gibbons cited:

2016_05_28_mandala-workshop_03-rev-300x200The center of the mandala is not only the external constant of space, but also of time. The center of time is now, living totally in the now of one’s existence is to unfold like a mandala.


The Light Divine

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By Ischa Lea

What is this light that within glows
A thousand rays in all direction goes
What is this peace, this joy it holds
That none can explain, merely concur
If to him, to her its witness shows?

Darkness if there be, matters not
Its presence made invisible,
Vulnerable, inconsequential, weak
For in this light is held the joy I seek
Yes, this light powerful yet so meek

O great light, soother of souls
O devourer of ego, of falsehood all
Bare we become, stripped to the core
As a young babe in our mother’s arms
Pure love to receive, O light divine

Where there is love there can only be light; where there is light there can only be joy; where there is joy there can only be peace; where there is peace there can only be God; where there is God, there can only be virtue; where there is virtue, there is only pure consciousness; and where there is only pure consciousness, there lies bliss, there lies the one, the all, the beginning of the pure light we once were and the light we are again to become. This is the beginning, the journey, the end.


Growing Up!

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By Ischa Lea

Screenshot-2016-03-15-21.29.33-300x194So often I listen to beautiful songs sung, hear beautiful words read, feel uplifted in my soul, yet watch the cosmic play unfold in mockery to those songs, those words, those pleasant platitudes.

Even as a child I wondered about this, having my talks with God in secret: “Lord, why is the world so bad—even the same people who say nice things and read the good books to us?” Being a child, I would innocently blurt out what I saw, then be reprimanded then for speaking my mind. By my elders, I was branded “disrespectful” for noting that some speakers we heard were proud, parroting other’s insights. Their audiences were appeased, yet all week so few were nice.

My grandfather stood always on my side. He was a man of great integrity and honesty, and many would seek his counsel in the neighborhood. I was naughty, for I would occasionally whisper in his ear, “Nana, that’s not a nice person.”

Grandfather would smile and say to me, “My child, they don’t know any better.” Of course I would protest, “But Nana, they’re big; if they don’t know, then why do they play boss?” In local jargon that meant “Why on earth did they behave as if they knew!”

The shackles of a child’s body were unbearable and confusing, were it not for the fun part, playing games—and not having to worry about cooking or laundry, and all the things adults worry about. “What else is there?” I thought. When would I ever be able to speak my mind without being told to “hush?”

Well, being a grown up became an eye opener. I wasn’t being told to hush anymore; it was worse. I had to know when and how to speak my mind without hurting someone, or when to simply be quiet even though it hurt to do so!

Yes, decades have passed. The same movie of life is still being shown over and over again; however, I’ve learned that I’m not here to change anyone, only to be an instrument of change in the world by being honest in front of my Maker. It’s only to my Divine Parents that I have to prove myself, even though they do not ask for it. It is only before them that I can truly bare my soul and say, “Lord, I know I’m not perfect in this human body, but help me please to think and act in such a way toward all my brothers and sisters, and all of nature, so that my thoughts and actions may be pleasing to thee, Lord. Please, guide me by Thy divine hand.”


Screenshot-2016-03-15-21.39.06-224x300Thy Divine Hand

In thought, word and deed O Lord I pray
Make me an instrument for Thy loving hand
In virtue, dignity and commitment to stand,
Ever guided in all things by Thy divine hand

Each day Lord, make me an instrument of love,
Let not my ego above good judgment command
In heart-centered action toward all I ask
Give me strength to be guided by Thy divine hand

Seeking not to be controlled, nor to control any
Let me, in free spirit undertake all tasks at hand
In sincerity, humility, and integrity let me stand
Give me courage to be guided by Thy divine hand

I know not what’s best but know enough though
That when my heart’s open, Thy energy to it can flow
Sculpting my day, my intentions, dreams, and plans
That all will be well when guided by Thy divine hand

All are Thy creatures, Thy children, Thy creation dear
How can I in honesty one above another show care?
Let me not for a single moment, on this sacred land
Stray from Thy light, Thy love, from Thy divine hand

Where I Am One

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By Sean Fennell

We give ourselves over to the influence of the breathing Earth.
Sleep, the shadow of the Earth, seeps into our skin, spreading throughout our limbs, dissolving our individual will into the thousand and one selves that compose it—cells, tissues and organs taking their prime directives from gravity and the wind as residual bits of sunlight, caught in the long tangle of nerves, wanders through the drifting landscape of our Earth-borne bodies like deer moving across the forested valleys.

TheBigPlan-300x188Where Spirit, Nature and Humans meet in oneness—in activity, as well as non-activity—I find my center. Permaculture is not just about growing gardens; it’s about growing infinite possibilities. It’s the marriage of the spiritual with the natural and social, and therefore, one of the highest expressions of co-creating with Spirit.

Everything belongs to Spirit; it’s designed, created, operated and maintained by Spirit. We humans are merely caretakers of this divine creation. As such, we are obligated to share all Spirit’s gifts fairly with others.

The basic principles of Permaculture are Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share. It’s at the intersection where these three practices converge that infinite possibilities exist. In meditation we strive to commune with Spirit inwardly; in Permaculture we strive to connect with Spirit outwardly.
PlantingSeedInGardenBed-200x300Acknowledging this fact, I’m faced with the questions: “What does Permaculture look like at Sunburst?” and “What infinite possibilities can I co-create with Spirit moving forward—not only for the immediate future, but for generations to come?”

We sleep, allowing gravity to hold us, allowing Earth, our
larger body, to recalibrate our neurons, composting the keen encounters of our waking hours (the tensions, joys and terrors of our individual days), stirring them back as dreams into the sleeping substance of our muscles.

As we move forward, the future of Sunburst looks brighter than ever, for what can be greater than honoring our Divine Mother and Father, by loving and caretaking Mother Earth and all her creatures, utilizing her natural resources with utmost respect and care, loving others as we do ourselves, sharing the fruits of our labor and our God-given talents with passion and commitment?

In the vast, endless sea of eternity,
My body, mind and Spirit with Thee,
In truth I strive to be the best I can be,
Better than none, but simply all I can be.

In silence amidst the inner worlds I dance,
Feeling Thy presence. Oh the Divine Romance!

How can I contain this gift from Thee,
How can I let it flow unceasingly?

Awakening gladly to the Sun-kissed day,
Knowing love cannot be held, simply shared,
Given to Nature and to all brothers, sisters dear.
This gift, my offering, I humbly bear.

Seeding-the-Future-300x200 PlantingSeed-300x200

Shaping Time 

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By Sharon Ray

In building a life of inner harmony, it’s so important to slow down. This is not easy. It’s not easy to create space in our lives, but it can be done through choices. Inner harmony is a form of peace, certainly. In order to have peace, it’s important to have quiet time, and to have it every day, especially on the days that we have “off.”

Sitting with a good spiritual book and a cup of tea or coffee is a balm to the soul. Taking a rest in between paragraphs or chapters just to look around the room to listen to the sounds: the rain on the roof, the birds chirping, the hum of the refrigerator. These are moments of pure consciousness, of pure conscious awareness. These are moments when we are consciously connected to our true and eternal Self. That Self is looking out of our eyes. It is listening with our ears.

Time alone with the Divine, doesn’t just happen. We literally have to “carve out the time.” That means we have to take something out to put our quiet time in. Developing this true inner life of harmony and to make it our home, whether we are at work or at play, is essential to our happiness.

On what days and at what times can you make space for simply sitting? What do you need to take out of your day, or reschedule, in order to enjoy some time with your own True Nature? Make a date with your pure Self to just enjoy Being.

“There is nothing else worth seeking in this life!”
– Norman Paulsen, Sunburst’s Founder

Young woman standing in the middle of autumn meadow with high go

Leaving a Legacy

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By Ischa Lea

A dear friend, Rita, once shared with me one of the best questions one can ever ask oneself when adversity strikes: “Lord, where have I not been in integrity.” My humble friend never realized what great teaching she was imparting to me. Those words, simple yet profound, are my friend’s legacy. On par with any enlightened teacher, they continue to hold deep roots in my consciousness, a benchmark for my own self-scrutiny and a gift worth sharing with all.

The month of January was not only a new beginning, but held a reminder to the world of the legacy of a great man, Martin Luther King, Jr. Wherein lay his greatness? Like Mahatma Gandhi, he, too, noted the suffering of his own brothers and sisters. Yet, like Rita, King and Gandhi were not embittered souls seeking revenge or wasting time casting blame. They opted to do something noteworthy instead. They opted to walk the path of peace, love, and integrity. Both leaders followed the commandment of the Master Jesus to “turn the other cheek,” to offer love where hatred was commonplace.

I have so often questioned, “What could I possibly leave as a legacy?” The one thought that continues to override all others is that I must practice vigilance by asking myself in all instances, “What would love do?” Granted, the emotional side of my being does have its occasional outbursts; however, subsequent actions are usually guided by deep introspection—guided by “What would love do?” I’ve come to that place where I do not “beat myself up” as much, dwelling on “Where did I go wrong? Instead, I do my best to prevent unhappy outcomes.

The following poem was lovingly provided to me by a dear brother at Sunburst from the obituary of someone he knew. Tony Johansen’s legacy to the world resonates of a great soul, full of love, kindness, compassion, and wisdom. Like Martin Luther King, Jr., he, too had a dream for our world.

What Would It Feel Like

What would it feel like
Not to live in a world gone haywire
Where everything we did
Gave to the world
More than we took from it?

What would it feel like
If we woke up in the morning and
The feelings of despair were gone
And we leapt from the bed
Eager to contribute the next thing
To the great turn around?

What would it feel like
To climb on your bike
Or walk to the bus
Instead of the car
To dig up an asphalt parking lot
Plant a vegetable garden
A duck pond, a small forest?

What would it feel like
To read to the blind, tutor a child,
Push a wheelchair
Knowing your few needs were met
And worth was measured in love
Not money
To sit quietly and listen
To those in conflict
With themselves and others?

What would it feel like
To bring the stillness of your own heart
To the turmoil of another’s heart
Gentling their waves with your calm
Letting their waves pass
Through you and away
Like wind through bamboo?

Tony Johansen

Pause machen