Toward Finding a Place in Nature

Tony, my husband, and I first met Shumei a little more than two years ago, when we received Jyorei from Cathy and Norio Shima at the Legaspi Organic Market in Makati. I thank them for introducing us to Shumei. To be honest, we did not really understand what Jyorei was except for the explanation given by Cathy that it was about Divine Light and healing. After receiving Jyorei, there was really no significant or profound change that we experienced, except perhaps a very relaxed and calm feeling afterwards. We met Shumei again, this time through Mitsuharu Muratake and Sensei Alan Imai9 at the Ecovillage in Iba, Zambales, where Tony and I were working at that time for the ABS CBN Foundation. Subsequently, a little over a year ago, Tony was hired by Shumei. Thus he left ABS CBN to be the project director of the Shumei Natural Agriculture Farm, which, like Ecovillage, is also located in Iba, Zambales.
 
Through the practice of Natural Agriculture we learned that nature is very powerful and that our understanding of it is very limited. It is true that the more we know, the more we realize that there is still much more we do not know. We learned that we do not control nature and that agriculture is more than techniques and technology. It is working in harmony with nature. It is learning from nature. This was a very humbling experience for us. But it also makes us more appreciative and grateful for what is given to us. Personally, I was especially attracted to the simplicity of Shumei’s philosophy and the spiritual aspect of Natural Agriculture—the spirit of God manifesting itself in nature. The perfection of God is manifested in the perfection of nature.
 
Initially, working with Tony on Shumei’s farm did not interest me. But I liked the natural environment of Ecovillage—the river, the mango trees, the mountains, the beaches, and the beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Also, I found working with the community there to be challenging but also engaging. So I joined Tony in Ecovillage as a community development specialist. But first, I tried gardening in the front yard of our home in Quezon City. I did not really find the idea of working under the sun, thus darkening my skin, and putting my hands in the soil, therefore ruining my manicure very appealing. But my husband encouraged me and said it would be good for me. Somewhat reluctantly, I agreed. I started dirtying my hands by digging and planting. As I cared and nurtured the plants and watched them slowly grow, I began to feel really good—happy, energized, and invigorated by the experience.
 
We both became members of Shumei in August of last year and received our ohikaris from Eugene Sensei. Being academicians, in the beginning, we simply had an intellectual understanding of the three pillars of Shumei’s philosophy—spirituality, art, and sustainable food cultivation. At first, chanting ancient texts (which seemed like nonsense syllables to me) and all the hand clapping appeared only to be ritualistic exercises. However, we had open minds and open hearts. So, over time and through our continued practice of Natural Agriculture, chanting, and giving Jyorei, a lot more was eventually revealed to us.
 
Through giving and receiving Jyorei, we felt the grace of God continuously pouring through us and onto others. We also found that giving and receiving Jyorei made us realize that healing is holistic — whole not only in the sense of both mind and body but also of the spirit. Through the practice of Jyorei, we also learned the true meaning of gratitude and love.
 
I thank Shumei for leading Tony and I along this path and, in turn, would like to share this blessing with others. I am grateful to receive Jyorei but I am also grateful to be able to share Divine Light. I try to do Jyorei everyday with my family and my friends whenever I can. I know that some of them find it strange and do not understand it or what it does. But that is okay with me. Because that is the way it was for me when I first started receiving Jyorei. But over time it had a profound effect on me and I know it will also have a profound effect on those that I share it with.
 
Having been educated and trained in psychology, I was able to see clearly the profound changes that have taken place in my professional life now that I am a member of Shumei. I am now able to practice what I preach in the classroom through a course in Eco Psychology that I taught recently, thanks again to my husband who encouraged me to go back to teaching psychology and integrate my farm experience into these courses. As a result, I brought several of my students to the Shumei Natural Agriculture Farm in Iba, Zambales. They were there for two days to experience for themselves the joys and blessings of working with nature. Not only that, they were also able to meet and work with the local community there. This experience also had a profound impact on the students as well. My students continue to talk about it whenever they see me. Since then, I have been coordinating with other professors at the University of the Philippines who might be interested in having their students experience this farm and community.
 
Tony and I also incorporate the topic of Shumei Natural Agriculture in all the lectures, seminars, and workshops that we give to local government units, non-government organizations, and farmer groups that come to the Ecovillage to learn about organic and Natural Agriculture. It has been a heart-warming experience for both of us when we get positive feedback from all our efforts. That is another thing I like about Shumei, it is deeply involved with the communities in which they farm and all the benefits from the produce of the farms is ploughed back into the communities.
 
As you may know, we are moving the Natural Agriculture Farm from Iba, Zambales to Tanay, Rizal. We are profoundly past nine years where we practiced and taught the principles and techniques of Natural Agriculture. We hope that we leave Ecovillage in Iba a better place from the work we have done there.
 
I thank Eugene Sensei and the Shumei International Board for their support and confidence in us in our move to Tanay. I would also like to acknowledge with deep respect and gratitude the gift given to Shumei by Dr. Jasmin Acuna, who provided a new home for our Natural Agriculture efforts. Our new farm is a beautiful place. We found with Jasmin a shared value in the sacredness of nature and a shared concern to protect it. We also found a shared value in wanting the farm to be an educational and nurturing environment that would benefit the surrounding community. We also want it to be a place for people of all ages and beliefs to learn about Natural Agriculture and to see, feel, taste, and touch the beauty of nature.
 
A major reason we are moving is to make the farm more accessible. While Iba is a beautiful place, it takes four to five hours to drive there or five to six hours by bus. The farm in Tanay takes about one and one-half hours. In moving to Tanay we will be able to reach more people, especially the young. In Tanay we will have tours, camping, and other nature related educational activities.
 
Being a child psychologist, I see the deadening effects of our wired technology on the psyche and soul of our children, and I also see the health threatening effects of the synthetic fertilizers and pesticides that are used to produce the food they eat. There is a new term for what is happening to our children; it is called Nature Deficit Disorder. These are kids who never, or hardly ever, touch the soil, who eat almost exclusively processed fast foods, who do not know the smell of a real flower or the sound of a real bird, who only know these things through the virtual world of electronic media. It has a deadening effect on their minds and on their spirits. I would not even want to imagine what they and this world would be like when they grow up not having the experience of being with nature. But it does not have to be this way.
 
By bringing the children back to nature we can change this. We can heal Nature Deficit Disorder and enrich the lives of the young through nature. The Natural Agriculture farm will be a small part in addressing this issue. But we know that we are only one of many other small parts. And as more and more of these small parts happen, great things can happen. We do what we can. As part of this program we will see some drawings by children in the Iba community and hear from one of the Iba youth about his or her feelings about nature and concern for what is happening to it.
 
There is one final observation I would like to share with you concerning working at the Natural Agriculture farm in Ecovillage. It is the pleasure I have had watching these kids grow up in a rural setting. Sure, they are poor—some very poor. Yet, you see the kids playing with each other and not just with computers or iPads. You see the wonderful interaction they have with each other playing simple games with whatever they find around them. You hear the wonderful sounds of laughter and giggles. You hear the joy. And they run in the grass and dirt and play with animals. They eat the fruits that have fallen from the trees around them. I truly appreciate these sights and sounds as I compare and contrast them with the kids I see growing up in the big city whose play areas are the malls. The rural kids are playing in the natural environment that God has given them. The city kids are playing in the malls that man has made for them. Which one do you think is better for them? We want the Shumei Farm in Tanay to be a place where children can enjoy and learn to appreciate the grace of God and the blessings of nature.

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