Notes from the Retreat, April 2017

Story 3. Frogs in the well

Once upon a time there were several small frogs living in a deep well. For many years they were quite happy living down in their small dark world with just a tiny ring of sky for their roof. Then a day arrived when one of the small frogs became curious and wondered what lay beyond the well. For many days he tried to clamber up the wet sides of the well, sometimes making progress, sometimes slipping back. But eventually he made it to the top and gazed around in wonder at the vastness of the world surrounding him.

“Hey!” he cried to his friends below. “It’s an incredible sight. I can see fields and hills stretching away into the distance all around me, and the sky is endless too.”

But the small frogs at the bottom of the well, looking upwards, could see only the head of their friend outlined against a tiny circle of sky and did not believe him.

Source: “Dancing with Foxes,” by Henry Elwell.

— H.A.E.

Notes from the Retreat, March 2017

Story 2. The farmer and the fox

Once upon a time there lived a fox who loved eating game birds. One day the fox happened to be very hungry and ate one of the pheasants reared by a local farmer. The farmer was very angry when he found out and set off to catch the thief. After searching for many days he found the fox hiding in a hollow log.

“Come out,” he ordered. “I am going to shoot you.”

The fox, shivering with fear, began to plead for his life. “Please don’t kill me,” he whined. “I have a wife and two cubs to feed. I didn’t know the pheasant belonged to you. I thought it was a wild one.”

The farmer was a kind man and very soft hearted. He agreed to let the fox go but only on condition the fox and his family became vegetarians. “Since you cannot tell the difference between my pheasants and wild ones,” the farmer said. “You must promise not to eat any meat whatsoever in future.”

The fox quickly agreed and true to his word he and his family stopped eating meat and lived on berries, nuts, fruit and roots.

As the years went by, the farmer noticed the number of birds, rats and mice on his land increasing at an alarming rate. Soon there were so many they were eating up all the fruit in his orchard and the grain in his fields. It got to the point that, every time he opened the door to the granary, the rodents would nearly knock him off his feet as they rushed out. They even dug up the seed he had planted in his fields. Since he had nothing to harvest or sell, the farmer and his family began to grow hungry.

One day, when the farmer was in his lands trying to stop flocks of pheasants and partridge from eating the seed he had just planted, he saw the fox watching him from the edge of the field. He noticed the fox was sitting quietly, perfectly at ease, smiling to himself.

“Why are you happy when I am suffering so much?” the farmer asked.

The fox pause to scratch behind his ear before answering. “Don’t you remember?” he said. “Years ago you made me promise to become a vegetarian. I have kept my part of the bargain and now you are reaping the result. It was I who kept the number of birds and rodents in check. They were never a problem in those days but you hunted me down for killing just one little pheasant.”

The farmer was very ashamed when he heard this. He realised that, by ordering the fox to change its habits, he had upset the balance of nature with dire consequences for himself and his family. It was now the farmer’s turn to plead with his old enemy.

“Please Mr Fox,” he sobbed. “Please go back to eating meat. I shan’t mind. Really I won’t.”

Mr Fox licked his paws with studied care before answering. “I will do as you ask,” he said at last. “But on one condition.”

“I’ll agree to anything,” the desperate farmer gabbled.

With a twinkle in his eye Mr Fox said: “I’ll only agree to eat meat if, when times are hard, I can take one or two of your prize pheasants.”

Source: “Dancing with Foxes,” by Henry Elwell.

— H.A.E.

Notes from the Retreat, February 2017

Bush Remedies


You know how nature always provides the antidote right next to the problem plant – nettles and dock leaves for instance. Well here in Belize there is a tree with poison sap appropriately called the Poisonwood Tree. The sap reminds me of napalm because it eats into the skin causing irritating and painful sores. Some people are very susceptible to it. And right next door is the cure in the sap of the Gumbolimbo Tree. A slice is cut from the bark of the Gumblimbo and the wet sap on its inner side rubbed over the sores from the Poisonwood. It takes a few days to clear the problem but it does work.

Insect bites

Mosquitoes and yellow Doctor Flies abound here during the hot wet season. Their bites are particularly irritating and can keep one awake for nights – unless you know the remedy. Would you believe that I got the remedy from and episode of NCIS New York? Tim had an irritating rash from poison ivy and Gibbs told him to spread a paste made of baking power/soda and vinegar over it. I thought I would try it on insect bites and its works like a dream – literally. Now I can sleep at nights.


Our house is regularly invaded by swarms of house cleaning ants. They do a good job carrying off the eggs and grubs of insect pests of all kinds but have a nasty bite and are not welcome when guests have arrived. We avoid using poisons unless absolutely necessary and particularly not in the house, so our control options are limited. At least they were until a lady from Guatemala told us that they would go immediately if we made the mark of a cross near them with the point of a machete without leaving a visible mark. We were naturally dubious but made Xs near the windows and doors and they did indeed vanish in spectacular fashion. We have found that lime spread along foraging trails is effective for controlling leaf-cutting ants and, in Africa, we planted penny royal to keep red root-eating ants at bay and tobacco dust for slugs and snails.


The remedy for all forms of ignorance, whether it is destruction of nature or intolerance of others, is spiritual. Ignorance arises in us when we forget that we are the limitless soul and an integral part of everything and everybody. But it takes only a little observation and a drop of common sense to realise that whenever we harm nature or other human beings we inevitably harm ourselves. All the poisons being used on agricultural lands, for instance, are polluting our soil, water and air resources. It is any wonder so many people are suffering from asthma and cancers these days?  Have all the wars fought to bring peace to the world ever produced peace? Yet millions die yearly from agricultural poisons in the name of food production and securing peace on earth.

Choose your own way

Select only the best.

— H.A.E.

Notes from the Retreat, January 2017

Find the Joy!

The material scientist is like a man skating over the ice on a lake, believing the frozen world he can see to be all there is, not realising that a vast water of endless subtle forces lies just out of the sight of his physical eyes. His view is turned forever outwards for he lacks the courage to investigate the ocean of Spirit inside himself. Such a man is a superficial scientist – not rounded at all.

The religionist merely mouths the words of his scripture without living the life. His view is also focussed outwards, mesmerised by his rites, rituals and dogmas, not having the courage to investigate the real meaning behind the ceremonies he performs mechanically. Such a man is a superficial priest – not rounded at all.

Find the Joy of being whole!

Like the bee, search for the Nectar of immortality.

— H.A.E.

See the previous Notes (from 2016)

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