Local Nature

MUM community garden boxesI walked up to the new MUM Sustainable Living Center on the first day of my Local Nature class.  Wooden garden boxes with luscious lettuce growing in it greeted me.  The colors and vibrancy of the vegetables jumped out at me.  A friend walked passed and explained that students could pick any of the vegetables and that it was a free community garden.  The leaves tasted delicious.

The classroom setting was very interactive and we gathered around tables grouped together in a square.  David Fisher, our teacher, would bring in plants and lay them in the center of our table and we would inspect them and learn about them.

On the evening of our first class we met at the Fairfield Loop Trail at 9pm and embarked on a two-hour full moon bike ride.  Our group, of approximately thirteen, set off into the cool light of the moon.  No lights were allowed and at times we cycled under the thick canopy of the trees, barely able to see in front of us and with only the fireflies to lead the way.  Sometimes we stopped and listened to the frog symphonies.  It was fun to be able to distinguish between all the different frog sounds that we had learned about in class during the day.  There was the sound of the cricket frog, which sounded like two metal balls clacking together and of course the distinct deep melody of the bullfrog.  As we biked down into little valleys we could feel the rivers of cold air flowing over us.  At the end of the trail we all went our separate ways and cycled off into the dark with the sound of the church bell signaling that it was eleven o’clock.

For this class we studied the Kamana Naturalist Program.  We learned how to tune into nature, open our senses and to cultivate a greater awareness of our surroundings.  We learned to not only use these skills when we are out in nature, but to realize that nature is around us all the time and to open ourselves up to all the little signs of her.

David introduced us to many of the interesting species living around Fairfield, one of these being the beaver.  He gave us an assignment to go look for the beaver colony on campus.  As a group we decided to follow the creek that ran through the school grounds.  Instead of just inspecting the parts of the creek that were visible from the road, we decided to get right into the creek and to follow it all the way along.  It was very overgrown and I remember asking a significant amount of times, “Is this poison ivy?”  I am from South Africa and unfamiliar with poison ivy.  It was fun to explore this muddy world usually out of my daily sight.  We discovered some interesting tracks, saw a tortoise and the carcass of a deer.  We also saw a woodchuck and many types of insects.  Unfortunately we didn’t discover the beaver colony, but one of our classmates who started at the other end of creek found evidence of them.

We had to find a secret sit spot where we could spend half an hour a day observing nature on our own.  It was wonderful to scout around my area for a peaceful spot to spend everyday.

One morning my class met at the reservoir and went for an early morning swim.  Afterwards we gathered under the trees, still in our bathing suits, and started our morning work.  It was blissful to be in this class.  It was not my first option, but I took it since I needed a class that was only two weeks long.  I am so happy that I landed in it by pure chance.  It once again reminds me to be open to all of life’s possibilities, since you just don’t know what life has planned for you.

Stay open and receptive.

Love, peace & play.







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Meet Elisabeth

Elisabeth first walked into my life in June of 2011 during our CIC course.  Her bright blue eyes accentuated by long eyelashes covered in layers of mascara.  Throughout the course her hand was always in the air, ready to ask a question.

If at first glance you thought she resembles a character out of a legally blonde movie, she would not correct you.  She doesn’t take life too seriously so why should she take her self seriously.  But behind this facade of pink nails and sparkling jewelry lies the persona of a once tomboy that grew up in the mountains of Colorado.  And still enjoys camping, four wheeling and horse back riding.  You might be thinking like me, “Surely in tight jeans,” but if you did then you’d be wrong.  Elisabeth’s alter ego enjoys going camping barefaced, wearing baggy denims and an old oversized t-shirt.

While telling me about her outdoor adventures she fondly reflects back on her tomboy days as a child when sports mattered more than brushing her hair or even her teeth.  Allegedly this change over into the pretty and prim Elisabeth that most of us know happened when she was fifteen.  At this time she switched schools and because of the pressure to be accepted by her new classmates, she explored her femininity.  She discovered that what she loved second to the wild, freedom of the outdoors, was being a girl.

The concept, you have to be presentable to be socially accepted, that Elisabeth cultivated has helped her greatly in building her image as a future lawyer and business consultant.
She maturely gazes at me and says, “To be believable, you have to look the part.”  A skill she has clearly mastered.

This young woman, that value respecting her elders and the importance of family, will be taking off to Colorado soon.  She will be continuing her studies at UC in law.  For now she will put her love for hunting and guns on hold and focus her energy on developing her knack for mediation and negotiation.  Next time you think, “Elisabeth is so sassy!” don’t forget that she is savvy too.


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Finding Meaning Through Memoir

Most of the time I am completely preoccupied with whatever is happening in my life right this second.  I worry about the bills I have to pay, the assignment that’s due or the appointment I am late for.

For the past four weeks I have spent at least six hours a day, remembering my life. Sure, I often reminisce about things I have done, places I have gone and people I have loved, but memories stand for so much more.  The past is the foundation of our present.  No matter how much I want to convince myself that the past doesn’t exist.  It exist in every one of my cells, my behaviours and even my identity.  So instead of shunning my past, I took four weeks to appreciate it.  To look at my childhood through the eyes of an adult that has been shaped by her life and the world.  The result was a wonderful experience.

I discovered that there are many things, that I hardly ever gave any thought to, that did affect me very strongly.  Like growing up during the apartheid regime in South Africa.  I don’t remember too much of that time, but when I took the time to look at my memories I realised how much unresolved emotion I still carried with me from my experiences.  A memory can be like an unused room in your house.  It can get dusty and the energy can become stagnant, but if you are brave enough to venture into it then you can dust the cobwebs away, open some windows and let fresh air in.  And what do you gain?  An extra room and more space in your heart.  Memoir is like spring cleaning your life.

I ventured into the years that I spent growing up on a game reserve in South Africa.  The wonderful freedom I had as a child and how privileged I was to grow up so close to nature and what I perceived as God.  Every day I had the opportunity to witness life even if that sometimes meant through the death of a beloved pet.  I experienced adventure.  When I took the time to collect my memories they became like a necklace made up of precious artifacts that I can now proudly wear.

Through my Memoir class I discovered wonderful authors such as Marjane Satrapi and Jill Ker Conway.  Jill wrote about her childhood growing up in the outback of Australia and then some years later about when she left her country and moved to the United States to study history at Harvard.  In Inventing The Truth she talks about how important it is to examine your life and to make sure that the plot is the one you really want.  She talks about how important it is to not be sentimental, especially as a woman, but to take charge of your life.

I also discovered the wonderful book Old Friend from Far Away, that helps you to provoke memories.  One prompt was, “Write everything you know about Ice Cream. Ten minutes. Go!”  Who would have known what a massive role Ice Cream played in my life.

Thank you Nynke for a wonderful class and thank you to all my classmates, who non judgmentally allowed me to share my life, even when the words were clunky or came with tears.

Love, Peace & Play

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Fresh Perspective

Sometimes all you need to get a fresh perspective is a little bit of time out.  It is a time tested philosophy that you don’t know what you have until you’ve lost it.

In November of 2011 I decided to go back to South Africa for a couple of months.  I had a few important family events that I wanted to attend.  And missed my family, my country and frankly missed the “real” world, as I like to call it, a bit too.

Two weeks into my stay I was still in shock, actually four weeks into my stay I was still in shock.  I was so surprised at society, how utterly material and ego driven it was.  People seemed to spend all their time upholding some sort of image.  What they wore, where they ate, who their friends were and what they did.  All these things seemed to count a whole lot in the “real” world.

One of the many unique things about Fairfield is that it strongly pulls people towards it that want to evolve as human beings, who want to explore the deeper layers of themselves and life.  Often conversation would revolve around this topic.  Most people here are open to looking at themselves and life and seeing what needs changing and how they can do that.  And it is the perfect place for that, since it is safe, emotionally safe.  People will take you for whom you are, they will look into your eyes when they speak to you and love you.  This love that permeates everything here makes you feel safe to open yourself up emotionally, to drop all the walls and guards and to be.  All the time and energy you spend building your ego in the “real” world you can now spend on building your “inner” world.

I felt open, emotional and exposed in regular society.  I had grown enough to be able to see the charade, but not enough to be free from it.  I was back in the world working and living and still felt the need to be apart of it.  I was torn in two.

Some tears were shed, some new clothes were bought and a lot of attitude adjustment took place.  At the same time that I was having this realisation about how superficial life is I also accepted that I wanted to live and function in it comfortably.  I needed some time to integrate.  It was okay to enjoy life and all its superficiality, as long as you stayed connected and aware of that which underlies it all.  To know that there is a difference between the small self and the big Self and that everything that existed was still an expression of God even my own individuality and tastes.

Through this experience I also got a glimpse of what it is that I wanted from my life.  Where I wanted to go as a person and where I definitely didn’t want to go.  I realised how important investing in more growth would be, since I would like to be able to stand in any place with comfort yet be aware of the Truth.

After a few months I realised that I had reached that comfort and that it was time to return to my little haven of growth, Fairfield.  On the 27th of March 2012 I was on a flight from Johannesburg heading for Atlanta.  It felt good, I felt ready, and I felt balanced and stable within myself.  I was ready to take on another round of uncovering my Self.

Lucky for me I could return to something I had lost temporarily, Fairfield and its community.  And now I can appreciate it with even more sweetness and richness.

Love. Peace & Play

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Some Words of Advice

Nobody can prepare you for moving across continents.  I am South African and I lived in the United Kingdom for seven years and during that time I travelled all over the world, yet moving to America and returning to school at the age of twenty-seven was a bigger adjustment then I had anticipated.  Come to think of it, my biggest mistake was that I didn’t anticipate it enough.  The NUMBER 1 bit of advice I would give to any student moving here from abroad would be to be prepared.

It took some time to get used to the time difference.  South Africa is seven hours ahead of Iowa, which meant that I only had a small window of time in the morning before class to speak to family and friends over Skype.   By the time I was finished with class everybody was already in bed.  Know what the time difference is, discuss it with your family and friends so that they are aware of what time during the day you would be available to speak. You will need their support during the adjustment period more than anything.  You will make a lot of friends in Fairfield, very quickly, you will be busy and you will be having fun, but there is a cultural difference and it is good to stay connected with the people you know back home to help you to get used to this.

I found the most difficult thing being a phone.  Get a good one that is my advice to you!  Depending on how long you will be staying, you might want to get a pre-paid phone from Walmart or a contract phone from somewhere else.  Check which countries they offer a service too.  I realized too late that mine didn’t text or call South Africa and so I was stuck with something I didn’t really use.  I found that Boost Mobile’s service was also very irregular.  After a few months I got an iPhone with Verizon.  It made the world of difference.  Now I can Skype my mom on my walk to school or give a friend a quick call during lunch.  Whatsapp is brilliant too; it is a texting/chat service that uses data so practically cost free.  My NUMBER 2 advice would be getting a smart phone!

I would recommend being aware of your different housing options.  It all depends on your age, personality and your needs.  You might enjoy the regular dorms; they are lively and fun even though the building is quite old.  The rooms are big and you share a bathroom.  The beds aren’t particularly the best.  I had already been living on my own for many years and just couldn’t imagine sharing a bathroom, so I live in the vastu dorms.  They are a little more expensive and they are quiet (which I love).  My room has three windows and gets a lot of light.  There are also some frats available.  One that is popular is Frat 106, it’s not as big as Hildebrand and the layout is a bit different.  My NUMBER 3 piece of advice would be to get comfortable and to find somewhere to live that suits your needs. You always have the option to live off campus, but as an international student this can work out more expensive so it also depends on your budget.  The trailers are surprisingly good and very spacious.  They are kind of their own little bohemian community.

International bankcards might not work everywhere, depending on what you have, but you will almost be able to draw money anywhere.

Don’t forget about the tax!  The price you see is not the price you pay.  I know it seems silly, or maybe like trickery!  Remember that tax will be added to everything.

Other than that the transition should be easy.  Fairfield has a unique supportive community and the best is to get involved as soon as you can.  Nobody will ever turn you away if you want to talk to him or her and everybody would be willing to help you out wherever they can.

But prepare yourself; you will be in the middle of nowhere!  Far from any big city or particularly good shopping.  Make the most of it, explore the town, and find your favorite place to drink coffee.

My last word of advice would be, exercise!  It helps you get out of your head and back into your body.  Also you might be experiencing major personal, emotional and spiritual growth here (yay! I know!) and exercise will help make this journey a little smoother, even if it is only a bike ride on the trail or a brisk walk under the stars.

Please feel free to ask if you have any questions!

Love, peace & Play

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Lunch with Lynch

A few months ago I had the great opportunity of volunteering for the David Lynch Foundation. The David Lynch Foundation aims to bring Transcendental Meditation to any student who would like to learn TM. They are also doing “Quiet Time” programs that offer TM in schools. These programs are mostly aimed at youth living in problem areas and they have had wonderful success at improving the lives of these adolescents. 

The DLF also work on many other projects including the Warrior Wellness program that offer TM as a solution for Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. The DLF often host music events and movie previews in Fairfield and around the United States and it is truly an honor to be able to volunteer for one of these events.

David Lynch recently came to visit Fairfield and they hosted a lunch with him for staff and volunteers at one of Fairfield’s favorite eateries, Revelations. I arrived early and was introduced to David. My first impression of David was that he is a lovely, grounded human being with a big heart. We all sat together and shared pizzas, sandwiches and laughs. David is very funny and has a sharp sense of humour. He definitely has a unique point of view. His luminous yellow Swatch watch, suit jacket and paint stained trousers made for an interesting combination. But what else would you expect from David Lynch if not at least interesting?

Thank you to the wonderful team at the DLF for including me in your celebration.

Love, Peace & Play

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Vedic Recitations

I first heard about Vedic Pundits through one of the many taped lectures by Maharishi.  Maharishi always spoke about the Vedic hymns and Vedic texts and gave many beautiful quotes from the Veda.  From my humble understanding, the Vedic Pundits recite the Vedic hymns in Sanskrit.

All form originates in sound, in vibration and the words of certain languages are closer to the real sound or vibration of a particular object.  It is said that the Sanskrit language is the closest sound vibration to form.  When Vedic Pundits do these recitations they enliven natural law.  They enliven the natural sound vibrations of the universe and the result is that the atmosphere becomes more coherent and harmonized.

I went to experience my first Vedic recitation over a year ago in Vedic City just outside of Fairfield.  The recitation lasted for about three hours and it is recommended to sit comfortably, to close your eyes and to simply allow the sounds to flow over you.  I found that it was very easy to sit through the recitation, the time passed quickly and the experience was very soothing.

I have been to quite a few recitations since and have enjoyed all of them.  Recently during Guru Purnima the Vedic Pundits came to do a recitation in the dome.  It was wonderful to be able to sit in the dome and to hear these beautiful recitations.  I felt the sounds resonating in every cell of my body on a very subtle level.  When I walked out of the dome I felt completely refreshed, revived and calm.

It was so lovely to see all the Pundits leaving the dome in their beautiful white clothes.  They are mostly in their early twenties and seemed to be as excited by us as we were by them.

A truly joyful experience.

Love, Peace & Play

Images By Nicholai Fischer

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Oprah came to town!

Yes that is right, Oprah Winfrey came to visit our lovely little Fairfield. Oprah learned Transcendental Meditation some months ago and loved it so much that two hundred and fifty of her staff members learned TM too! There had been some whispers that Oprah was coming to Fairfield when we were informed one day that they would be filming us while meditating in the dome. I was told that the next afternoon I would have to sit in a special place for the film crew while practising my daily TM. That afternoon I put on my comfortable meditation clothes and head to the dome. There were quite a bit of security around a big black SUV and there in the open door sat Oprah. I walked into the dome and went to sit on my assigned seat. Big spotlights and film equipment seemed out of place in the silent, calm atmosphere. I sat and watched as hundreds of women streamed in to do their daily program. Totalling four hundred and eighty in the end. When it was almost time to start, Oprah slipped in along with some companions and took her seat two rows in front of me. There was so much excitement in the thick silence that lay like a blanket over the dome. It reminded me of once hearing Maharishi talk about silence and dynamism being present at the same time. This was the perfect example of that silent dynamism. I was really impressed with Oprah’s soft yet powerful energy and there was a beautiful coherence among all the ladies. We closed our eyes and started to meditate. I am sure everybody experienced the excitement and joy I felt while sitting there in meditation. It was extremely beautiful and it was such a great joy that this wonderful, powerful media figure was endorsing something that we all feel so passionate about. It gave me even greater joy to know that now the knowledge of TM would be made available to millions of people seeking a tool to remove stress and to improve themselves and their lives.

Jai Guru Dev

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Autumn Air

As I opened the front door this morning I was hit by the coolness and crispness of autumn air. I got on my bike after wiping the dewed seat with my sweater sleeve, curled my hands around the cool handle bars and set off into the fresh air with a smile smeared across my face. There is something so magical about autumn.

I was discussing the beauty of autumn with a friend yesterday at lunch. We were trying to pinpoint exactly what it is that gives autumn that special vibration. He said, “It is the transformation” and it surely is. After a long hot and sticky summer the first signs of autumn’s coolness is invigorating and energising.

Autumn provokes nostalgia and memories for me. Memories of winters spent in South Africa, of navy blue school uniforms and sitting on the lawn sharing sandwiches with friends while trying to warm up in the sun. Memories of my years spent in London, of walking along the streets in Highgate and watching the leaves turn brown.

Autumn romances me as I ride my bike through the trees exploding in golden hues. And as I ride I realize the falling leaves are counting down the days until winter with me.

Love, Peace & Play

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Speaking Freely with Dennis Raymondi

During the summer break I did a directed study on radio production.  I had the opportunity to work with Stuart Tanner and James Moore on the Dream Green radio series on KRUU-FM.  James mentioned me to Dennis Raimondi who hosts a show on KRUU called Speaking Freely.  James phoned me up one day and asked if I wanted to appear on Dennis’ show.  I have a policy to say yes to anything that comes my way, to never refuse an opportunity.  So I said yes.

Later that evening I did some research on the show and discovered that Dennis has had some wonderful guest on his show including President Barrack Obama.  I listened to some of the recorded shows online and started to feel daunted.  I wondered what I could possibly talk about.  It was an interesting moment where I had to ask myself what it is that I feel I have to say.  What do I have to say that could be of any worth to somebody else?  It made me question what role I played in our world and what I am doing to contribute to some greater good.

I realized that all I have is the journey that brought me to where I am now.  And that I have chosen to study at MUM and to live in Fairfield purely because I wanted to better myself and because I wanted to take time to discover how I could make my own unique contribution to making our world a better place.

The next day the interview went well.  I was really nervous at first, but Dennis is really good at what he does and we ended up having a lovely conversation.  I learned a lot about myself through somebody else’s questions and I had a lot of fun in the end.

I would challenge everybody to take a moment and to ask yourself: if you had half an hour to address the world, what message would you want to pass on.

I have attached a link to the audio clip of the show below.  I would love for you to listen to it and to have your thoughts and feedback.

Love, peace & play

Tanell Pretorius on Speaking Freely

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