One of ISKCON’s mantra’s we hear recited time and time again is that of “Simple Living; High Thinking”; however as one observes there is in general not much Simple Living given our conditioning to consume, this being simply what we do.
It is amazing however how one can learn the true meaning of Simple Living and the way to truly connect with the high thinking of understanding the environment one lives in, and truly care for Mother Bhumi.
So I had the opportunity to spend time on Flat Holm Island with Marianna and her team of amazing volunteers who each individually taught me so much; whilst learning how to live within the limited provisions provided.
Watching the amount of water and energy consumed, given the only water is that caught from the rain, the electric from a renewable source (with back up generator when required) and a limited amount of bottled gas; made one conscious of what is used and how precious our resources are.
One was also aware of the amount of food consumed it focused the mind given you couldn’t just run out to the local shops; almost everything was cooked fresh with evening meals being a community activity.
Managing the land included checking on the wildlife, counting the bird and insect species; each piece important to the ecology of the Island. To picking up and documenting the rubbish washed up on the Island impressed on my mind how the smallest thing makes a difference, unlike the hedonistic consumerism which is environment destructive and generally means we use others or ruin their local ecology.
Each day was filled with activities, cleaning roofs to make sure the water remains unpolluted, managing the land, maintenance of the building and equipment and the aforementioned survey’s; their was always something to do, each day was full.
Indeed simple living but with an important aim the maintenance of the small Island ecosystem and to be honest it was difficult to leave; I loved the people on the Island who are a unique special bunch of individual’s
It did impress however why Srila Prabhupada talked and emphasized the farming communities, managing the land is a full time job there is always something to do; and done correctly will also care for and encourage the wildlife; giving especially as devotee’s we are meant to look after Mother Bhumi, it will indeed increase our love of Sri Krishna.
If indeed as devotees we worked together as a community in an organic farming environment, will also make it easy for everyone to attend morning and evening classes, make first class prasadam; and learn how to manage our interpersonal relationship’s working even with those we find it difficult to get on with., indeed you get to see their hidden beauty and appreciate them: given that Srila Prabhupada requested we learn to get on well with each other.
It also impressed upon the mind how insignificant consumerism and the pursuit of material advancement is and that you don’t need a lot to be truly happy; one’s mind is truly regulated something that indeed will help in spiritual advancement.
Sadly however it appears observational wise we want it all, a concept of High Thinking, Simple Living that allows our pursuit of self-centred consumerism which is symbiotic with spiritual life claiming this is the pursuit of real happiness.
Whilst on the Island I noticed that in the simplicity of living was the true great happiness and how humbled one felt being accepted and part of one of this tight integrated group; if not for a short while.
In summery it impressed upon me how Srila Prabhupada gave us a great example to follow, spoke on what we needed to do for spiritual advancement; and how attachment to material consumerism hold’s me back.
So it was with great sadness I left Marianna and her team of volunteers, it has been an interesting learning curve; leaving me with a lot to ponder and some of the sweetest memories which will be hard to surpass.