Inner Permaculture

Freedom Fighter

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Patterns for consumerism are so easy to slide into.  This way of being and relating to the world has become so innate that it feels normal.  Our family is dedicated to reducing the number of purchases we make, but still, we end up slipping into the mind trap of ‘consumption means progress.’

We are just edging away from a very busy season in our lives.  We completed a tiny home project where we converted the unfinished addition to our home into a 400 sq. ft. apartment.  The result is wonderful.  The apartment turned out great and we now have some of our best friends living with us on the farm!  Although it is easy to minimize what a labour of love this project was now that it’s complete, the truth is, it was hard work.  There were many late nights, a lot of frustration and an overall exhaustion that befell our home. What the project meant was many months of stretching ourselves to our maximum edges and beyond them some days in order to get the project done.  This had a trickle down effect for our children.  Not only were we as parents strapped for energy, but our children were parched for attention and authentic connection.

Part of the process of creating the backhouse apartment was accumulating many items.  We tried to use as much recycled material as possible, but not everything we accumulated was able to be used.  We were in the state of increasing our volume of ‘stuff’ for nearly a year.  With little time to manage it all, things became heaped upon each other making a giant mess of our workshop and parts of our yard.  We just simply didn’t have the space to deal with it all.  We have been feeling the pressure of disorganization and our inability to keep up with the demands of maintenance around the farm.  Every job has taken many times longer because tools haven’t been put away properly and oftentimes we need to sift through piles of items to locate what we need!  It’s easy to recognize in hindsight how inefficient this is.  But at the same time, it is with a compassionate heart that I recognize how very hard we worked.  It is real to say that the project would not have been finished if we took the time to tidy as we went.  We were doing the very best we could and it was still impossible to stay on top of it all!  Our lives are very full!  Between homeschooling and caring for our children, running a farm, my full time job, Rob’s nursery business, an auto-immune paleo diet and the related health issues, not to mention everything else life brings!  There was no time for management since life required us to push forward in order to keep our heads above water.

This year when garage sale season rolled around, I was in full accumulation mode!  I was excited as I always am to experience the thrill of finding something unexpected that someone else no longer needs.  Weary from a year of full time work, I was ready to hit the streets and find the bargains, as well as some instant gratification!  It’s amazing how alluring it can be to experience that thrill of a great find.  It was also appealing to run away from our trashed and neglected homestead.  The draw was somehow to finding that perfect ‘something new’ that would fix it all.  This thought of course was not so overt on the three Saturdays I spent driving around shopping from people’s driveways.  My subconscious wanted the solution to cleaning up our lives to be easy.  But the reality is, even if I found the item that could revolutionize our lives, I would not be any further ahead in doing the actual work of implementing it!

“Bandaids don’t fix bullet holes.”

~ Taylor Swift

I had been feeling exhilaration at going to yard sales and coming home with new items.  But beneath the surface there was also a dissatisfaction with how my time had been spent.  After a morning wandering from home to home buying what other people didn’t want anymore, my children and I were more connected to the stuff we toted home than each other.   This commodification of our lives wasn’t really made clear to me until Rob and I were talking through our plans for today.

Today is the day when the wealthy neighbourhood nearby has their town-wide yard sales.  The town is renowned for having great stuff and people travel from all over to attend.  I try to go every year, arriving at 7am before things get picked over and the crowds show up around 10.  I usually find some clothes for myself, some Christmas presents for my children and a few odds and ends for Rob, the household or the farm.  More stuff.  

We have been talking about looking for ways to live more authentically as of late.  We’ve been lamenting about the state of our homestead.  We’ve been working through how to meaningfully connect with our children while still getting the work done.  We’ve taken action for change in our lives when I accepted a new part time job for next year.  We are sacrificing money for the lifestyle we want.  Yet here, on this Saturday, one of the two precious days I have with my children, I’m willing to get up early and go to yard sales without them, or drag them around looking at things I don’t really want them to buy.  It became clear to Rob (before me) that this was a juxtaposition of our values.  What were we really choosing to value here?

It took me some time.  I had to sit with the decision for an hour or so.  I had to feel it.  I had to acknowledge my emotional connection to the event.  To wanting to find the deals.  I had to get real about how much I was valuing stuff.  I had to get honest about valuing stuff over the people in my life.  Not easy ideas to rumble with.  It became clear over the course of my hour mulling it over that what I really want for my life is not found at any yard sale.   Used or not, cheap or not, I was still bringing home mounds more stuff!  And the inevitable work that comes with managing it.  It is work to find a place for it, organize it, deal with what has to go because we have something new to fill the space, and so on.  I was able to realize the whole picture…that the management of stuff is not how I want to spend my time.

In our over-scheduled consumer-driven culture, we have to make a concentrated effort to create space.  Not just physical space, because our 50 acres can hold it all!  The type of space I’m seeking is in freedom.  By clearing things from our lives, both tangible and time drains, we can clear the mental and emotional space needed to see what we really want for ourselves and our families.  Space has the potential to highlight for us what is not serving.  Had we had more space during the backhouse renovation, we could have kept things more orderly.  So now, when I do have the choice…I’d like to make it.

If you want freedom, you’ve got to fight for it. 

So…we stayed home this morning.  We spent time fixing fences and plugging holes in the barn where the mink got in.  We tidied the yard where the children had made a village out of recycling that had since been abandoned.  We played with ducklings and chicks.  We cleaned the bathroom together.  We read books.  I washed the cupboard faces.  We played lego.  I swept the floor for the first time in 2 weeks.  We connected.  To our stuff…the stuff we already own.  To our homestead.  To our animals.

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Forced Growth

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A whole lot has happened in our lives over the past year, and in the last 6 months in particular.  It is impossible to imagine the day you get a phone call from your vacationing father telling you that your mother has been hit by a car while cycling.  Nothing can prepare you.  The journey has been long and difficult with relentless complexity.  Our lives have become exponentially more full…we now have more to do than we ever thought possible.  But our expansion has also filled us with a deep appreciation of every moment we have together.  My mother’s view of life from her electric wheelchair is certainly different than before her accident, but she continues to inspire us all with her determination and positive attitude.

To complicate our lives further, a couple of months ago I was offered an increase in my teaching contract to a full time position.  Out of necessity, I now teach other people’s children all day.  My husband left his job at the beginning of September, which was set in motion before my mother’s accident in May.  He is now the official homeschooler.  We are making it work, although I miss educating my own children.  In fact, I just plain miss time with them.  I feel amiss in prioritizing my commitment to our family.

Somehow when you need to, you expand.  Every time I have felt that growth was not possible, it became possible.  When I question my path, the reasons for me to ‘show up’ appear in abundance.  Sometimes we just don’t have a choice but to be present for what we’re being called to do.  Instead of being able to opt in or out, I get to choose how to navigate my circumstances.  How to be within the throws of a nightmare.

“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.”  
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
 I had a vision for how our life would be when we moved to the farm.  How we would grow in spaciousness and increase our resiliency.  What I didn’t want to believe was that my vision was fantasy.  This year has brought me the growth in resiliency I sought, but definitely not in the pleasant spacious way I had planned it in my visioning.  Growth has been a byproduct of difficulty and suffering.
When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
For all that has happened, I am now changed.  Goals for the farm remain nearly untouched.  My work and home life balance needs to be addressed.  Connection with my children is an ongoing challenge.  My health hasn’t been great as a result of lifelong autoimmune issues.  Supporting my parents through the development of a new way of life can’t always get first billing either, leaving guilt to fill the rest of that page.  There just doesn’t seem to be enough time.  So I have found myself calculating the costs and benefits of what takes up the hours of my day.  What can I let go of so that I have space to rekindle the parts of my life that I desire?  How to I carve out enough space to feel alive…to thrive.
During this past season of my life I have been forced through a very narrow passageway.  The reality is that many of the things that fill my life space are obligations – some of which I love, but obligatory none the less.  I have hope that soon I will emerge from the constriction of this birth canal, changed, new, and ready for a period of rapid growth.  I still hold my vision for a beautiful future, but I also hold the reality that the future is now.  Hoping that someday life will straighten out and become easier, more blissful, spacious and in line with my idealized visions is the fallacy.  Because my life can be that now.  I get to breathe ease, bliss and space into the tiniest cracks of my life.  I have the opportunity to make my idealized visions a reality in each moment.
There are no guarantees that I can ‘build’ anything for my future or that even if I did that it would match my plans.  But joy is not a destination.  It is built one moment at a time.  It is in the smallest spaces where glimmers of abundance can be found.  I feel like I’m finally getting the point of life…to define oneself within ever-changing sets of external circumstances.  The pieces of reality that create our lives cannot be changed and the future cannot be predicted.  What I can change is how to hold my present reality in balance with the past and the future.  Holding present, past and future simultaneously with detachment from specific outcomes is what allows me to grow and move forward.
 “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature-the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”

– Rachel Carson

So I welcome 2018.  I welcome this chance to remind myself of the turning of the wheel.  To release the burdens of 2017.  To reel in my line and cast it again.  To remember that life can once again be approached with resolve, hope and vision.  The past cannot be changed, but my future continues to be defined.  Moment by moment I have the opportunity to choose how to live within it.  Indeed it is this, the gritty hard work of living, that creates a life.  I get to decide how I will shape and define the raw materials life hands me into a work of art.  I am the sculptor.  And so I sculpt.

 

Feels like Home

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There has been a long period since moving to the farm where I have missed the old house.  It is not so much a laundry listing of things I miss about it (although this has happened on numerous occasions), but it presented more as a guttural emotional response at the loss of my previous life.  There was something about that place that was so entwined with my identity.  And isn’t that just it, when we invest ourselves in place, it becomes much more difficult to uproot ourselves.

It was as if we were root bound, having grown tighter and tighter within our undersized container.  In order to free ourselves, we ripped ourselves from the pot, tearing apart our roots, separating them, damaging some of them in order to allow new growth.  I feel as though I left many roots behind.  Not the ones that breath life into me (my family, my creativity, nature), but gone are the tiny side shoots that were numerous but fragile.  They were not salvageable.  But these roots are slowly being replenished with new ones.

I looked at some photographs of the old house several weeks back without feeling the lurch in my stomach that I had grown accustomed to when reflecting on life before the farm.  As we approach spring, we can’t help but get excited!  Things have already started to accelerate around here.  Orders are coming in for the nursery’s spring pick up date, we have received a grant to plant a wind break of edible and useful trees, the tree cuttings are rooting in our basement along with many flats of annual seedlings, plans are being made for the sustainable cropping of the fields, the tarp is laid for the breaking of a new garden bed, and the research has been completed for the expansion of our barnyard – soon we’ll have lots of chicks and ducklings running about the place.  We are drowning in abundance!

In addition to all of the farm related tasks, which Rob has been amazing at taking the lead on (I prefer to take the role of ‘best supporting character’), we have been adjusting to a different sort of life.  I am now back at work part time, teaching Kindergarten gym for the most part.  I miss being home with my own children.  And they miss me.  I have become very busy, trying to juggle all of my different roles (mother, teacher, employee, farmer, wife, writer).

After a stint where I wasn’t sure my extreme efforts were making any sort of positive difference in this world, I have decided to pursue a project that has been on my heart for quite some time.  I am beginning to write a book about family life and parenting – Permaculture style!   The writing is in the early stages so it is all still really exciting and I can’t seem to work on it enough!   Because we’ve got so many things vying for our time, like always we’re jostling priorities so that I can carve out time to make it happen.  I have taken to a nightly routine of writing for an hour after the kids go to bed.  So far that seems to be satiating my writing appetite.  Perhaps more blog posts will roll out of me too now that I’ve remembered (yet again) just how important writing is to sustaining me.  I am home.

Thank you for reading this update…I know it’s been a while since you’ve heard from me!

 

Let’s Do This!

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This is beyond us. This is more than personal. What we are being called to do is to live freedom. Be freedom. Don’t apologize for being radical. Be it. Live it. Push it…because it’s what is needed to survive.

Bring up the heaviness that has sunk to the bottom. Mix it in. Blend the hearty nourishment that has settled beneath the depths, largely forgotten. Bring it up. Make waves and turbulence when you do. Don’t be afraid to drown. Fearlessness will actually be what keeps you afloat. Fear is a cage we create for ourselves. An entrapment that will starve us in the end. We can choose to move beyond the bars of our confinement with our eyes, our minds or our full selves when we grow enough courage to make the flight through the open door.

The surface is oily – it slips and slides reflecting and refracting light. It is elusive and escapes our stirring. It is beautiful, but it is an illusion because it is disgusting at the same time. The surface is only a shape-shifting mirage. It is not real.  What we see is not representative of what’s buried in the depths. It is thin and vain. It can’t be mixed – only skimmed form the surface. So trust and reach deep for the good stuff. Don’t be disillusioned by the surface grime that will only serve to mat your feathers flightless.

Get real. Get honest. Get to the bottom of it.  Savour the fulfilling roots at sustain us all. Connect to earth. Connect to each other. Look past the illusions of freedom that have become delusions of hollow meaning. There is nothing real in what you cannot grab hold of.  Talk to people not screens. Hear heart songs not gossip. Be engaged. Be in real time. Be in control…of what you do with yourself. Of how you choose to meet the world. Be mindful of what pulls you from your roots. From each other. From what’s real and meaningful. Stop straining. Force should not be necessary for this is a natural process.

Don’t engage the dramatic escapades of the media. Or each other. Call it out! Don’t sit idly by watching it all fall apart. Name it as fear mongering. Keep a soft heart. Stay close to your attachments. Make them your focus. Attachment determines our existence –for it is more important to us than food or water. So cling to those you love and those who love. Build form there…together. Visioning , creating and actioning…together. Secure your community. Both the externally and the one within. Stop waiting at the wall. Step out onto the dance floor and give it all you’ve got. Break out your best moves without shame. Take love seriously. Bomb the world with it. Forget the war on terror…this is a war on fear. Let’s get our rage on!

Parenting Community

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I have been thinking about what skills I might need in order to live in community.  I have thought about what would help to make me feel safe and comfortable.  What would allow me to feel fully present and myself?  Thinking about these questions made me realize that the times when I’m most comfortable are when I’m alone and don’t have to worry about anyone else.  Clearly, this defeats the purpose of community!  Second to that is when I’m with my family.  When we’re together, everything is as it is.  We mess up, we make it right.  We know that we will be loved and held even in our darkest times.  Family is forever.

Reflecting on time spent with my children, I can’t help but acknowledge the difficult times we’ve had.  There have been many things said and done that I wish could be taken back.  But they can’t, they can only be learned from.  Working to be a respectful parent, is actually working to become a more respectful person.  The time I sit and reflect on what I could have done differently, in hopes that next time I will do something different is reconditioning my mind.

Being detached from the outcome.  Being able to sit with difficult emotions.  Not trying to fix other people’s problems.  Using non-violent communication.  Sustaining judgement while solutions are found.  These are the skills I need for community life.  I already am learning what I need to know about living in community because what I will bring is who I am.  In community, I will make more mistakes, and say and do things I wish could be taken back.  And I will learn.

The challenge now is to apply what I’ve learned to adult contexts.  It is easy to fall into old patterns, and to expect more of adults, because, well, they’re adults.  Children’s responses are just closer to the surface because they’ve had less conditioning pushing them to conceal their innate responses.  But we are all people.  And all of us are at the mercy of our inner child and the stories we continue to carry with us.  Adult or child, we all want to be treated with respect, to be understood, and to be truly heard.  No matter what age, we want to feel valued.

Choosing Joy Over Fear

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“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead —his eyes are closed.”

-Albert Einstein

There is a difference between intention and our emotional attachment to our intentions.  One can still have the intention for something to come to fruition, while detaching emotionally from it turning out in a certain way.  Although it is difficult to do, nearly impossible at times, the natural world and the unfolding of the mystery of the universe will take us along for the ride whether we concede to it or not.  All the while we must continue observing and interacting with the shifting and unpredictable landscape.

Someone said to me recently that although our emotions are real and an important piece of the puzzle, they do nothing to change the outcome of any situation.  Seeing them as separate from the event somehow makes it easier to feel emotion in its intensity, and let it pass through, knowing the situation will advance regardless of how I feel about it!  In my opinion, getting caught up in the emotional mess of life usually pulls me away from my intentions.  ‘The voice of reason’ – which is a lovely placating way to describe fear – pulls me back from living out what I feel innately called to do.  When I find myself working my mind around the ways to figure out the final outcome, the destination, I know I have hopped back on the ride.  This mental wandering into the unknown, the unknowable does nothing but fuel emotional fires.

Having our focus set on the end result is effectively driven by our consumerist society, where we get instantaneous results and gratification, served by the invisible hands who have done the hard work of bringing us cheap consumer goods.  This illusion that we create for ourselves, over and over again, sets us up for malcontent in all other areas  of our lives.  We expect the same results, ease and unseen support  and are left feeling marooned instead when it does not spontaneously appear.  Seeking joy outside of ourselves and removed from connection is enforcing a message that cheats us out of enjoying the journey and ultimately trusting that everything will work out as it should.  The consumer gears have sped up to the point where our culture often sees work as undesirable, which is an attitude that robs the joyfulness available to us in the process.  In focusing on the destination alone, I have missed the journey.  I have missed life.

We have found the farm of our dreams and our conditional offer has been accepted.  As a result, I have been fixating on the sale of our home.  It has not happened.  I am stressing myself out by trying to find ways to make our home more appealing.   I wrack my brain about how things might work out, or how they might not.  While the inner storms rage, I try to keep everything ‘together’ – an approach to life I thought I had left in the dust until we put our house up for sale.  Not only is it stressful to maintain a visage of perfection, but it isn’t real.  The more my life looks great from the outside, the more I realize what is lacking on the inside.  What happens when I strive for external perfection is that my internal self becomes bound.  I am no longer able to ride with the flow of things.  I try to control.  Once I unleash that beast, it seems to lash out at anything and everything it has a hope of affecting.  Feigning control is a joy thief.  I feel like I’m ruining my current life because I’m so worried about my future life.  My fear about what may or may not happen is causing me to lose sight of what is and sits right in front of me.  A loving husband, three amazing and adorable children, a beautiful house we still call home, a wonderful and supportive group of people we have the pleasure of calling family and friends.

When I can refocus and see all that I have from a place of gratitude, when I can really see that I am living in fear, I open up to the possibility that I can choose joy.  If I want to actually have control in my life, making the choice to pursue joy is the best way to achieve it.  I hereby release all that is bringing fear into my vision…at least for this moment.

 

Inner Buoyancy

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I have found myself indulging many of my deepest fears lately.  As we make the conscious choice to step out of our conventional life and into the murkiness of something completely uncertain.  Selling our home without a new one to inhabit has been pushing my edges with intensity.  Most days I feel convicted.  But lately, I’ve been swirling around in puddles of ‘what if’ and regret.

I have chosen to jump into a deep pool without being prepared and have been here for quite some time.  There are times where I’m able to stay calm enough to tread water and wait for the way out to appear.  My recent feeling has been more like I’m drowning; thrashing around looking for something, anything to grab hold of.  I remember from my lifeguard training that when someone is drowning, they are fully under the influence of their amygdala gland, scrambling toward survival.  Writhing around is not only an abundant waste of energy, it creates a situation where the people around the victim need to worry about keeping their head above water too, since saving oneself might be achieved by pushing another beneath the surface.

We choose joy.  It is clear now that what I choose to focus on contributes greatly to my perception of the world.  My emotional landscape is correlated to my ability to meet the world with myself.  It is often that I am drawn into feeling like an external object can solve a problem.  I have been seduced by our culture into thinking that it is the ‘thing’ – in this case my home – that will bring me happiness.  Feeling between things means that I am forced to find inner security.  We have created a situation where we are forcing ourselves to grow beyond materialism.  I know from my experience over the past weeks that there is no room to indulge fear in my new landscape.  I am happy to acknowledge it, thank it for it’s messages of warning, then to put it into perspective and ultimately set it free…at least temporarily, in favor of joy.  Deep joy that is only possible from within.  I just keep bringing myself back to the surface…again.  and.  again.