learning to listen

Learning to Listen -
Working with Land, Forest and Wildlife Management


'Dancing Farmers, Farming Dancers'
Understanding how land/sea operates by the means of dance and meditation practices

‘To become one with nature — agriculture is an occupation in which a farmer adapts himself to nature. To do that, you have to gaze at a rice plant and listen to the words from the plant.
If you understand what the rice says, you just adjust your heart to that of the rice plants and raise them. In reality, we do not have to raise them. They will grow. We just serve nature…Giving up your ego is the shortest way to unification with nature.’

Masanobu Fukuoka


In the Okanagan, our understanding of the land is that it’s not just that we’re part of the land, it’s not just that we’re part of the vast system that operates the land, but that the land is us. In our language, the word for our bodies contains the word for land, so when I say that word, it means that not only is my ability to think and to dream present in that word but the last part of that word also means ‘the land’.

Jeanette Armstrong, ‘Original Instructions - Indigenous Teachings for a Sustainable Future’


Masanobu Fukuoka is the originator of ‘Natural Farming’ - a way of farming that does not plough the earth, it does not add prepared fertilizer or compost. There is no weeding, and no pesticides or herbicides are being used.

Similarily, indigenous tribes of North America have lived over hundreds of generations in intimate and interdependent relationships with their natural environment. They were 'tending the wild'.

Addressing and challenging our perception of agricultural practices and progress, Fukuokas and the Okanangans point of view and life-philosophy surely reach way further than farming.

Practicing Zazen Meditation and using principles and exercises of Tango and the post modern dance form of Contact Improvisation we investigate their statements.

Contact Improvisation is a dance practice of improvising and partnering, based on the physics of touch, balance, weight, momentum, flow and resistance.
It tunes our senses to be ready to respond in an ever-shifting dialogue of movement.
It is an endlessly variable experience suitable for all bodies and inquiring minds.

Similar principles of fine-tuned listening you find in Tango.

An ecosystem is called resilient if it is able to adapt to unforeseeable and sometimes drastic changes.
Thus to create agricultural systems and practices that are resilient is a choice that seems to be favorable in these times.

In order to do so, the ability to listen is key.
This is where dance and meditation come in (which, in one or the other form, have been, or still are part of daily life and practice in various cultures we recognize as sustainable).

Dance and meditation can make us understand and experience ecological principles like interdependence and interconnectivity, but also intuitive response and adaptation to sudden disturbances.

By expanding our understanding of dance, and transcending a human-centered perspective of being and dealing with the world, we will discover how core concepts of Zazen, Tango and CI relate to, and may enrichen being and collaborating with the land.

Ideally, we will come to comprehend what 'learning to listen' implies, and thus allow new understanding and ways of interacting with our so called 'environment' to arise.

Related article:
People enhanced the environment, not degraded it, over past 13,000 years (30 august 2016, Eureka Alert Science News)
Lessons learned from Centuries of Indigenous Forest Management (Yale Environment 360)