Dharmananda in photos

If you haven’t read about our journey visiting Australian intentional communities, check out either my 2015 or 2016 introductions. This gallery features some of the photos from our visit to Dharmananda in northeastern New South Wales, a lush rainforested region of incredible beauty.

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The community house just after sunrise

 

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The bunkhouse – our home during our stay

 

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Leigh preparing a field with his trusty tractor

 

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Creative owner-built homes

 

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The cows doing their morning routine

 

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Lots of healthy grazing country for these cows

 

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The community kitchen

 

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You can’t get fresher bananas than this!

 

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Maggie is making cheese

 

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Stunning light through the meditation forest

 

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The community kitchen in the forest

 

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Thank you guerrilla artists who decorate the brutal potholes around here!!

 

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The Channon’s famous monthly markets

 

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Musicians at The Channon market

 

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Folks selling stuff at The Channon market

 

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Amazing plants at Dharmananda

 

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Wildlife taking refuge in this healthy wilderness

 

 

Actions + words

Sometimes I think it’s easy to say but not do (when really you should), while other times you do but don’t tell (when really you should).

I find it’s so easy to either say or think that I should be doing something a certain way (like being more ethical, doing more exercise, helping people, eating more healthily, being more pro-active with many things, stopping unproductive behavior…to name a few), but then get stuffed up when it comes to putting these things into practice. Conversely, some activities are easy to do (eating unhealthily guilt-free, spending too much time on Facebook, enjoying the company of friends), even ones that might have been difficult in the past or are sometimes difficult for other people too (living simply with less stuff, earning less, shopping a bit more ethically/organically/fairly, focusing more on other people than myself), but don’t get talked about.

For example, today I woke up with a wretched pain in my back from an albeit long, 13-hour workday shooting a wedding yesterday. Fair enough, I was on my feet nearly the whole day, but the pain was made worse due to my aversion to exercise. Even simply doing a few crunches every day will strengthen my torso and keep my back from bearing all the load. I know this stuff, but I don’t just do it. A few minutes a day will save my ongoing pain and yet I just can’t get myself to expend the effort. I even say these things to myself while sitting in the kitchen eating a block of chocolate (Fair Trade chocolate, at least!). Sigh. These words are something that need some action attached to them!

On the contrary, I have surprisingly easily slipped into a low-consuming life, becoming quite adamant about staying away from consuming holy lands (aka. shopping malls), taking a hard line about racking up credit card debt, building my own furniture, being careful what I eat and how much I eat out, and being satisfied in general with less. While I act this out every day, it wasn’t until very recently that I’ve been talking up this lifestyle (in this humble little bloggie-blog!), something I still feel a bit funny about though as I am not pretending to know what I’m talking about.

Perhaps what I’m trying to decide is when is it important to just act with no words, when is it good to have words but no action and when do you need both?

I’m always quite happy to lavish my lovely girlfriend, Heidi, with lots of thanks and praise for guiding me into this more responsible world of frugality and giving, but she has learned with her lifestyle choices that sometimes actions need to speak for themselves. As I believe she quite rightly assumes, people are very reluctant to be told that they are doing something wrong and should change; they need to just see how it works for someone else and feel inclined to question why you do what you do. Seeing that this way of living or things that you’re doing makes them happy or less stressed or just feels right, might incite them to do it themselves, or at least ask more questions. One can always hope that if it’s a good thing, the idea or action will cascade through to their friends and so on and so on

Maybe words and actions are both required sometimes though; I was just reading from a brilliant and well-written book The Rough Guide to Ethical Living, and they suggest that it’s all well and good to eat organic, shop Fair Trade and make other ethical decisions about where your food and products come from, but sometimes the action of making the right choice needs to include a message that communicates what you’re doing. Simply making the choice doesn’t specifically tell one brand or retailer why you’re not shopping with them (if it’s due to their brand/product being seen as having poor production practices, eg. treatment of people or animals, poor emissions, or marketing practices); you need to not only make the purchase, but indicate what your problem is with the other brand/product. Even more ideal and impactful in terms of acting and telling is to cut your own carbon emissions then writing to your local MP and “encouraging them to lean on the government to pass legislation which requires everyone to reduce their greenhouse emissions.”

This is sound advice; I think I’m going to get into the habit of regularly writing to retailers (like, Coles – boycott Nestlé!), writing to brands (like, Nestlé – irresponsible marketing practices!) or MPs about a variety of green/sustainability things. I hope anyone reading this can challenge themselves to put into action at least one thing that they have been telling themselves to do but haven’t acted on it; or conversely, if you’re doing something great but no one knows about it that’s ok but you could be influencing a whole lot more people with being a bit more pro-active with letting them know about it! But don’t listen to me (yes, listen to me! heehee).

Home-made stuff

There’s a handful of people that my lovely girl introduced me to through her friend network when I moved to Adelaide, and they are into living simply. Not too many people are building their own furniture from recycled materials, but this idea appealed to me as I’ve always liked making my own things. I am not a carpenter or have any trade skills at all, really, so the furniture that I have built is lovingly considered “rustic” which happens to be a style I love and is all I can really build 🙂

Anyway, when I moved into my own place after housesitting for a few months, I was inspired by my girlfriend’s housemate who was starting to build things out of discarded wooden shipping pallets left in piles of hard rubbish on the side of the road. If you find one in half-decent shape, it contains a lot of hefty quality hunks of wood, certainly good enough to build a strong structure. And when you start looking, they are everywhere!

Here’s a few things I’ve built from wood pallets:

Pallet table and crate n' pallet daybed/sofa

Spice rack made from pallet pieces

I also made my computer desk out of a pallet.

…and some stuff from other recycled bits of hard rubbish I’ve found around the neighbourhood:

Bits of a discarded dining room table and loose metal scraps

Crate seats with op-shop fabric seats and found wood for the tables

Do I Need It? poster

Do I Need It?

web version of Do I Need It? poster

Here’s a poster that I designed which was conceived of by my friend Penny. I think she’s done a great job of streamlining a path that everyone should go on to decide on whether to make a purchase or not. It essentially allows you to follow a flow-chart style path to determine whether or not you can really justify purchasing that new so-and-so that you’ve got your eye on. If everyone just diverted from that new item path more often, we’d become more responsible shoppers!

I made it into a print-quality A3 poster size in PDF format (link below) which would be perfect for posting somewhere influential where people will see it (hint hint!).

Do_I_Need_It-poster – A3, 300dpi PDF