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Laura Williams

From as early as I can remember I have experienced a deep connection with wildlife and plants and I had become interested in environmental matters and sustainability by the age of 11. I was deeply saddened by what I read and watched and took the fate of the world on my shoulders. With a burning desire to bring about change I went to University to study Ecology and became passionately involved in environmental activism, campaigning against a range of issues from the Criminal Justice Bill, new roads, Climate Change and Genetic Engineering. Ultimately myself and other activists placed these single issues under the banner of Anti-Capitalism and it was not long before I felt I was "against" everything.

I spent most of my time and energy trying to persuade people to change their views and lifestyles using any means necessary and became despairing and depressed when my message and actions seemed to fail to even start to bring about the revolution needed to bring down the system. (I lived by the saying “The earth isn´t dying it is being killed and the people killing it have names and addresses”). Much of my authentic intention to bring about positive change was fuelled by anger towards, and a sense of separation from, those ´killing´ the planet which simply increased my hopelessness and would often lead to black depression. I frequently burnt out and used drink and drugs to escape from the world and my own mind.
Extracting myself from the defeatism of my activism I spent some time working in wildlife conservation and research, working abroad and on a remote island reserve in Scotland. Although in some ways I was in my element, living remotely and surrounded by epic numbers of wildlife, still I continued to feel depressed and drink alcoholically and eventually ended up in rehab where I sobered up with the help of the 12 step programme of recovery. The 12 steps are a spiritual solution to addiction and it took a lot for me to overcome my closed and atheist attitude to life. But thanks to the gift of desperation I opened my mind just wide enough to let the new ideas in. Slowly and unsteadily I developed a faith in something powerful beyond my small self. I didn´t know what this something was but just that I needed to surrender to it daily and allow it to permeate and guide my life.

With this new outlook I moved to Wales to re-ignite my passion for growing and lived and worked on an organic vegetable farm. I see the food we eat as one of the foundations to environmental sustainability and was saddened by the shortage of widely available local organic food. I wanted to find out just what it takes to produce and distribute. Is local sustainability really possible? I learnt much about all aspects of growing vegetables and was so happy on the farm living and breathing agriculture. I fell in love with polytunnels, sowing and seedlings and started eating a lot of raw and wild food because it was suddenly available to me. I became a little disheartened, however, at the difficulties of providing high quality organic food to sell, we had to work so hard it seemed to come at the expense of quality of life. Also aspects of even organic growing seemed to resemble conventional growing without the chemicals; intensive and monoculture, I started to explore alternatives…
I came across the concept of Permaculture and realised I´d been practicing or wanting to live like this for years without knowing it had a name. I’d spent my life observing nature and being awestruck by the perfection and efficiency of natural systems. It seems utterly intuitive to me that to live sustainably, happily and we should imitate natural systems, combining the intelligence of man with wisdom of nature to care for ourselves and the planet. When I discovered the concept of Forest Gardening I was thrilled, the natural progression of Permaculture principles applied to growing food and other materials more closely imitating a natural system than any natural or organic farming concept I had come across; a forest ecosystem intelligently tweaked and adjusted in order to be of maximum benefit to humans. I took a course and was completely inspired!

At the time I was volunteering at an organic community gardens in Aberystwyth called Mentro Lluest where I was learning much about garden design and plant propagation amongst other things from Kenny McCausland. In search of a longer growing season, more experience and forest gardens I decided to WOOF abroad. I was really drawn to Portugal, though I wasn’t sure why. At first I was just hoping to learn about forest gardening then I decided to look for places that might have something of a spiritual focus. When I found the Awakened Life Project Website I was surprised and delighted to find a vision that I resonated with so completely, I had assumed it would take years to find a place like this; a community with a coherent vision, committed to evolutionary spiritual growth and sustainable living. Even so I wasn’t fully prepared for being totally met and supported on all levels of my being or the love and unwavering commitment to something bigger than themselves of the people I found here. I’ve found meaning and purpose to my life and I don’t say that lightly.

Because we all live here in the context of prior freedom I now know all the challenges of life cannot eclipse the fundamental Happiness that I am. I’m learning to take complete responsibility for everything in my life which is a new and entirely liberating stance. After years of running away I’m learning to be myself which is a lot bigger than I ever imagined it could be!

Articles by Laura:

Being Nature: Wild, Whole and Free

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About the project

The Awakened Life Project is situated in a beautiful and wild ecological reserve in the mountains Central Portugal. We offer volunteer programs, courses, events and retreats to support the liberation of the human spirit in a context of evolutionary emergence and communion with the ecological web of life.


Quinta da Mizarela
3305-031 Benfeita
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