Monday, February 28, 2011

The Human Planet - Co-Creating With and Respecting Nature

Pass between Hemis Shakpachen and Ang in Ladakh.Image via WikipediaBy Semele Xerri

I watched Human Planet last night - a fantastic BBC TV programme if you get the chance to see it. The series looks at extreme environments on the planet and how humans in those places have adapted incredible and resourceful techniques for surviving within them. Two of the stories really spoke to me personally in this particular programme which focused on rivers.

In the first one, we saw Hali who lives in Cherrapunji, India where they have the highest rainfall in the world, leading to problems with heavily swollen rivers that still needed to be crossed safely by the villagers. Any human structure put in place would simply be washed away by the ferocious current and probably take half the river bank with it.

The amazing answer from Hali, passed down to him by his ancestors, was to plant a strangler fig tree on the banks of the river at the crossing point. Over time, as the tree grew, this man painstakingly teased, trained and weaved the roots to grow across the river, forming a natural, living bridge. At the same time, the strong knotted root system of the tree which was carefully tended and protected by Hali held the soil of the river bank together and insured against erosion.

The result was one of the most beautiful and magical structures I have ever seen, a stunning collaboration between man and nature that was seamless - it was hard to see where the tree ended and where Hali's contribution began. It brought tears to my eyes and images to my mind of Lothlorien, Tolkien's Elvish paradise.

Even more striking about this story was that no bridge formed in this way could be built in one lifetime so Hali would never see his work completed. Instead, he was training his niece to carry on the project after he had gone. Somehow, this made the bridge seem more achingly beautiful as it also represented the universal cycle of death and the surety of the continuation of life. I felt sad for our soul-less concrete and steel structures that would go up in a tiny fraction of the time but certainly wouldn't survive here for even one lifetime. There are more than one valuable lessons encapsulated in this true story.

The second featured a father who had to take his two children on an amazing school run - a six-day trek down the frozen Zanskar river in the Himalayas. It is extremely dangerous as in places the ice is treacherously thin and could crack at any moment, and avalanches occur regularly. As I watched the children follow in their father's footsteps, literally because otherwise they could fall into the icy water which would mean almost certain death, it made me think how valuable an experience this was for them.

Now I'm not condoning deliberately taking children into life-threatening situations, but on that journey those children had to face and overcome their fear, place absolute trust in their parent while observing proof of his wisdom,, show resilience and determination to overcome challenges, and have total respect for the strength of the natural forces at work around them. What a fabulous education for their future lives, sadly lacking in our Western social structure, and that's all before they got to school! Which they did safely, I'm very happy to say.

Semele Xerri is a spiritual healer, Reiki Master/Teacher and psychic intuitive. Based in Wales, she offers healing and readings, runs spiritual and self-development workshops and trains Tarot readers. She also provides email courses for spiritual development and Tarot reading. Visit her website at

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