Our first 'Girls in their Garden' series muse is meditation teacher, speaker, writer and permaculture enthusiast Laura Poole.
“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.” - Masanobu Fukuoka
Laura's garden is in Gherang, on Wathaurong (also rendered Wathawurrung or Wadawurrung) country, on the Surf Coast of Victoria. Although a self proclaimed 'newbie' to gardening, Laura and her husband, Alex, live on 30 acres of bushland that they are turning into their very own food forest.
I met Laura six years ago when I was living and designing in Bali. A friend recommended I learn to meditate with Laura, as she was going to be teaching in Ubud at the same time I was there. She opened the door wearing a tee shirt I had designed many years prior with 'The pursuit of invisible particles' printed on the front of it. I was exactly where I was meant to be. Laura and I started studying Permaculture at the same time, and I've loved watching her journey and fearless experimentation when it comes to gardening via @devaloka_bushland...Laura is my first muse as she is a constant source of inspiration for me, and someone, I know, will also inspire you.
Describe yourself as someone who loves you would…
An Earth-Dragon-Scorpio with a Libra moon, Laura is all about going to the depths, seeking the truth, setting the world alight with inspiration and living it fully in daily life. She is kind and generous, devoted to her dharma of teaching within the Vedic tradition, and has a passion for creating community so people can live as nature intended - together in harmony. She is funny without realising it (you can hear her laugh from a mile away), she embraces change and challenges fully (she seems to like the unknown aspect of life), and at her essence is a sweet little girl who just wants to play, learn and love.
Sunflowers and Fig Trees.
What is your main drive to have a garden?
To be in communion with Nature every day and learn to live with Her.
How do you practice self love at home?
Vedic meditation, walks in the garden and around the bushland, self-massage, cooking fresh plant-based food, spending time with friends and planting seeds.
If your inner child could design a garden what would there be?
Lots of sweet yummy fruits, bright colourful flowers, chickens, ducks, cats and goats, and sunset sunshine all day.
Gardening is a meditative practice, does it help you find peace?
Over the years, my Vedic meditation practice has been the most powerful thing for finding peace - and I’m talking about the real peace that is unchanging, unbounded, residing in the heart of all beings. But it has been our garden that has allowed me to express this peace residing in my own heart. It’s the place where I am an innocent child, curious, excited, hands in the dirt, skipping around seeing what new shoots have come up. It’s where I get absorbed in observing a dragonfly ingest a dead fly on a coriander flower (seriously captivating). It’s where I learn about the wisdom of life lived through the naturalness of the plant world. And it’s where I come to know my place in the world and feel deeply connected to the ecosystem of life. It’s also where I go if I feel sad or overwhelmed. I can sit in the garden and cry, or shake it off, take a little nap/meditation and be reminded of the relaxed essence of life. I feel that the presence of all the plants, just being so unapologetically themselves, really create the space for letting go and a deeper embodiment of peace.
Watching something grow is such a beautiful and rewarding experience, can you share an example of a plant you are fond of in your garden and how it has changed?
When we came to our land, the fruit trees hadn't been well taken care of. Most of the land hadn’t been actually. The fruit trees were still alive, but they weren’t producing fruit, and they looked quite neglected. We decided to start there. And knowing how important soil health is, we went right to ground level. We ‘sheet composted’ the dry dusty dirt by layering horse manure, compost, hay, recycled cardboard and then mulch. It was a huge job, but wow has it been incredible to witness the change. The trees have all come back after winter with lots of new growth, most are fruiting and there are so many yummy bugs and organisms crawling around in the soil now! One of my teachers, Ayurveda practitioner Myra Lewin from Hale Pule, speaks about soil as the ‘digestive system’ of the earth. As humans, we know that if our digestion isn’t working well, then our health suffers. And if you want to fix your health, according to Ayurveda, you start with your digestion. And it’s the same with a garden. If you want to revive your plants, you start with the soil. To know that everything comes from healthy, vibrating, microorganism filled soil has been such a wonderful learning. If you want to listen to more about it, you can listen to our Mahasoma podcast episode with Myra Lewin “Coming back to our nature through Ayurveda, Yoga and Vedic farming practices”.
Have you always been attracted to growing plants? If not, what inspired you to start?
Oh no! I am a total newbie at all this. To be honest, it’s probably only been in the last few years that I’ve really got into gardening. It started with wanting to grow my own food so we could have delicious fresh meals each day - so we started a little driveway garden in our suburban rental. It brought so much joy - watering the plants, watching them grow, and making meals from the harvest - that I was hooked. Many books, documentaries and other inspiring experiences later… we’ve ended up with a 30 acre property on the Surf Coast which holds endless potential for growing plants! It also means a hell of a lot more learning, making mistakes, experimenting and just giving it a go. I really appreciate organic farmers now and those who provide us with healthy, nutrient dense foods. Thank you!
It has also made me have such a deeper respect and gratitude for the traditional owners of our lands and our ancestors who have this wisdom of living with life. The more I move into this gardening/growing/land connection world, the more I realise that I don’t really know that much. If I were to be put out in the bush, with no iPhone, food or water… I probably wouldn't last long. I speak about this quite a bit with our meditation community, saying how our lack of embodied ‘life survival knowledge’ is one of our prime subconscious triggers for stress. Can you navigate your way around via the stars? Can you find water via reading the land? Do you know which native plants you can eat and which ones will kill you? It’s these skills that are so important, and yet we tend to know more about celebrity lives, smartphones and IG algorithms. No wonder we’re so attached to our things, and worry about the systems we currently have changing (even if it’s to help the Earth)...
"There’s no technology greater than human consciousness connected to Nature. This is where we need to get back to."
How do you connect to your land?
By being here, feeling the energy of the land, observing the changing of the seasons, learning from our actions and simply walking around appreciating the beauty of this space. I also perform traditional Vedic fire ceremonies (Agnihotra) to enliven the subtle energies and align with the solar rhythms of sunrise and sunset.
I love seeing you and your husband share your journey on your instagram @devaloka_bushland, are the gardening gains and trials something that brings you together?
It both brings us together, and challenges us! Having a garden on 30 acres of land is a big undertaking and responsibility - especially in the middle of the bush...
"It’s teaching us team work, surrender, commitment, experimentation, love and devotion - everything you need for a healthy, thriving relationship!"
Do you find permaculture intertwines with spirituality? If so, how?
I feel that permaculture is spirituality in action. All the principles of a spiritual life - present moment awareness, witnessing, connection, understanding, relationship, balance, service - it’s all right there in permaculture. If you want to get a little taste, then this free PDF on the 12 principles of permaculture from co-originator David Holmgren is a great place to start!
All images: Cailin Rose @caiirose