5 Ways Practicing Permaculture Has Changed My Life

I grew up in the windy city of Chicago with the dream of being an entrepreneur. My life was consumed with technology, socializing and working a corporate job. I didn’t realize until I left that following a stale traditional path was consuming my potential to live a life filled with meaning and enjoyment. Although city-living is full of great networking, events and movers and shakers, I now prefer to live close to the land.

Bryan Arturo harvesting a jackfruit from a permaculture farm

Since 2013, I’ve been traveling, offering my skills to grassroots movements and supporting NuMundo all over the Americas. This winter, I chose to live at a regenerative farm called East End Eden in Ojai, California. We incorporate permaculture into our lifestyle by maintaining closed loop systems such as greywater, composting toilets earthen building and integrated animal systems. I feel renewed in the short time that I’ve lived here and more connected to who I really am. Here are 5 reasons why living in this slower-paced, purpose-driven way is changing my life already:

    1. I’m unlearning impatience that I developed through spending glued to my computer in the past. Instant gratification, immediate answers and intuitive UI used to demand my everyday life. Life on the homestead is not always as easy as searching Google or browsing Facebook. The questions I ask are usually answered by “it depends”. For example, the goats don’t all like to eat the same kinds of trees as they have distinct personalities and preferences. The peppers are not irrigated the same amount each week, it depends on how much sun there is and how the plants appear. I’ve learned how to be present, observing and interacting with my surroundings and learning from the subtle differences. Instead of just marching through the nursery I can notice how the trees are liking their new locations or if the Asian pears are ripe. This shift in my behavior is allowing me to soak in knowledge and wisdom in a new way. I can easily incorporate this newfound presence into my everyday interactions and my work.
    2. My flexible schedule is expanding my potential. My agreement to live on the land in a modern room is to contribute 20 hours of my time to East End Eden. I have plenty of free time to run my own businesses and explore my interests. I appreciate my work/trade agreement because instead of resorting to a temporary part-time job to pay for rent I can develop relationships here with other change-makers. I don’t need to perform monotonous tasks with technology that even corporate full-time jobs require. Instead, I am obtaining a yield of education, empowerment and skills towards the regenerative homestead that I want to manage in the future.
    3. Authentic social relations boost my personal and interpersonal growth. My favorite part of living in community is the camaraderie that always develops when there is clear communication. At East End Eden, we have daily check-ins after breakfast to understand how each of us are feeling and how we’re planning out our day. Once a week we discuss long term goals and there is time to resolve and process any tension that built up over the week. This structure allows me to, well, ‘check myself before I wreck myself’. I get to witness others give praise, apply self-regulation & accept critical feedback. I practice not taking things personally and see everyone as whole and complete beings. These meetings are wonderful reminders to get out of my head and express what I really need or desire.
    4. Feeling integrated into an ecosystem helps me to embody the interconnectedness of all life. I am literally creating relationships with my food, water and natural systems that I interact with every day. In the past, I would toss food scraps into a trash can to be driven to a landfill which create toxic gases for the atmosphere. At East End Eden, we feed the scraps to the chickens who transform it into eggs we eat and droppings that enrich the soil. After taking a chicken’s life for the first time, I feel deep gratitude and respect for the food that I consume. By producing no waste and realizing that my outputs are inputs for other systems, I am beginning to foster closed loop systems in all aspects of my life.
    5. Experiential learning is teaching me more than traditional education ever has. By expanding the edge of my comfort zone and living at permaculture communities I accepted a lifestyle of life-long learning. I usually don’t even realize I am absorbing so much knowledge because I’m just having fun with my peers who also choose this lifestyle are encyclopedias of information. I feel whole, happy and fulfilled and the reality is that I am not living in a secret garden of Eden. There are hubs like this all over the world, perhaps even in your local community. How do the permaculture principles apply to your lifestyle?


Bryan has led retreats and workshops all over the world that led him to co-found Earth Journeys and The Sustainable Living Tour. The annual tour takes 30 change-makers to SoCal’s leading eco-education hubs on a biofuel bus. Get on the bus: earthjourneys.org/tour

 

I Took 1-Month Digital and Social Detox: Here’s What I Learned

IMG_2470Organizing, traveling, spreadsheets, marketing, crunching, late nights, eyes glued to the screen. Skype calls, workshops, agreements, networking promoting and speaking. Does this sound familiar to you? This has been my life for the past 3 years. Although my work has been deeply fulfilling and amazing it’s also been deeply exhausting. I’m working toward social and environmental justice but at a rate that is ironically unsustainable.

While I was making strides in my work, I was not fulfilling many of my personal ethics, integrities and creative and spiritual potential. I found myself falling into robotic rhythms plowing through projects, not being fully present in everyday encounters-sometimes even with my own team.

Pitching NuMundo at Startup Chile.

Pitching NuMundo at Startup Chile.

I don’t feel in integrity when I ignore a stranger (who might be new friend) because my head is down in my phone answering emails. I also don’t feel right cutting conversations short that seem menial in comparison to a deadline to meet (that I’ve set for myself).

I longed to recover what it felt like to slow momentum and actually feel like I’m making a difference in the world without trying. I wanted to reconnect with my purpose and find that presence again. I asked myself the question, “How can I be a hero for the planet if I haven’t been a hero for my own family?” “How can I show up for social and environmental injustice if I’m not showing up for every-day strangers or missing emails of gratitude from my supporters?”

How can we go on forever trying to make a difference in the world without taking significant, yummy pauses for our own vitality, integrity and ethics?

My precious 8-month old nephew Julian and I during my digital detox,

My precious 8-month old nephew Julian and I during my digital detox,

This past September, my intention was to disconnect and reconnect to myself, to take care of my health and be a fully present daughter, Aunt, niece, sister and friend. In the past, when I visited my home in Michigan, I’d have to squeeze my family in.  

I wanted to reconnect with my own voice and purpose without the influence of social-media. I knew this would be challenging but if it’s something that’ll help me grow as a person, I’m always game.

I thought,“What would happen if I stepped away from all my projects and social media to live with my mom and do a health detox for 5 ½ weeks ?”

So, I survived my “Digital Detox” and here’s why I think all change-makers need to take pauses and how it deeply benefited me:

  • Don’t be a Stranger: It’s absolutely crucial for healing the planet that we first heal our relationship with each other. That means we must value any and all human interactions as important and meaningful. Giving the gift of presence and authenticity to a total stranger could change the world. Taking a pause from work and technology frees you up to be able to gift the gift of presence to anyone who comes into your path.
  • Disconnect to Reconnect: Getting off social media and limiting technology for a significant amount of time is transformational. For those of us who are social butterflies, influencers or just sharing the latest world challenge we face, we all need to remember what it’s like to live without social media. To disconnect can reconnect us to our OWN “news feed”, our own story, our own influence, our inner-voice and even develop a stronger telepathic, empathetic, psychic connection that we already intrinsically have.
  • Be Your Family’s Hero: Although many of us may try to avoid going home because of the inherent challenging aspects (needless to elaborate on), our family needs us more than anyone. Is it more gratifying to be a hero that’s widely recognized or to know you’ve gathered all of your grand-parents stories, taught your nephew a new skill or made crafts with your mom? Our foundation, our roots, our personal ancestry can teach us a great deal about ourselves and the world – if we take the time to listen. Let’s not forget to pause and take that sincere time with our families to exchange growth and inspiration that we can take with us and feel good about in our work.
  • Deepen Humility: I have to name it. I see a lot of people in the community of permaculture, transformational festivals and other modes of healing/empowerment that thrive off of fame and use sex appeal in marketing efforts. I see changemakers hyping themselves through “cool” affiliations and making themselves into a sexy brand. Guilty! (raises hand) If the intention is fueled by ego, it will come and go. If it is fueled by genuine, human attempts to connect all sentient beings – it will last generations. We can find that balance and continue to humble ourselves by taking pauses to step out of the limelight and feel what it feels like to not be constantly admired. It helps to bring humility and perspective.
  • Save Ourselves, Then the Planet: Take a pause to actually check in with our health. Although many of us are generally healthy, how are our adrenals doing? Are we getting all the vitamins our body needs? How are our Iron levels? Are we having healthy and regular bowels? (seriously!) Or have we been ignoring minor health issues? It’s super easy to “deal” with mediocre health in our busy lives. Even if we eat healthy and even exercise, our toxic world requires us to check in with our bodies (and our doctors – preferably holistic) and give ourselves the gift of taking time for healing. If you’re young, great! Now is the perfect time to do whatever you need to do to make sure your spaceship is running 100% so we can continue being super-heros. Our inner ecology is as important as our outer-ecology.
  • Flex Imagination: In my experience, a whole and effective transformational leader makes time and space to journey into the creative realm. Even if you don’t think you’re an artist, you are indeed! We all are. Taking time to channel our inner-artist will allow us to go with the flow, become graceful, accepting and celebrate successes. Flexing our creative self through poetry, song, dance or painting allows us to free our stress, exercise our connection with spirituality and drop our egos. At the end of the day, it takes enormous amounts of creativity, collaboration and imagination to come up with solutions to planetary challeneges. The more we exercise our creativity, the more clear our creative channels will be to change the world, inspire, create, enjoy and share!
  • Learn to Be: We certainly all know how to “do” that’s for certain. Do we know how to “be”? What does it mean to ”be”? To me it means a deep contentment of the now-moment minus the aching desire to outwardly act or participate. “Doing” involves engaging in “productive” activities that our minds think will bring us success and happiness. Being, is the process of inner-fulfillment that allows us to see, feel and gain wisdom we wouldn’t be able to access because we’re too busy “doing”. By just “being” for a month, I feel I was able to access a prolonged deep healing, self-reflection, creativity and a presence I wasn’t able to feel before. In our younger years we’re so eager to fly, excel, create our identity, figure out who we are and live out our destiny. However, it’s finding the center between doing and being that allows us to access deeper levels of wisdom and spiritual messages.
  • Re-aligning Guiding Forces: Taking a pause from our work and technology gives us the time and space to evaluate, clarify and refocus the deepest forces that guides us. We’re constantly evolving and so are our core values, motivations and passions. When we give ourselves the gift of asking ourselves ”what drives me to get up in the morning these days?”, we’ll be able to check in that our actions are aligned with our guiding forces. I do a small retreat for myself at least once a year to dream my own guiding forces.

A lot of us will go and go until we burn out or until a medical issue calls our attention – at least that was the case for me. But, our bodies know best and WILL notify you when it wants you to take a pause. Personally, I always did my yoga and dance practice every day, ate healthy and participated in regular healing activities even throughout my time working. I’m here to say, I don’t think it’s enough. I think we all need and deserve a thorough pause to actually go deep and come out more rejuvenated, aware and healthy!

Co-Inspiration: Ignite Experience empowers international entrepreneurs and rural community in Elqui Valley

Valle Del Elqui, Chile’s mellow toned, mystical and tranquil gem received 13 international entrepreneurs from Startup Chile. The Ignite Experience was a weekend of exchanging knowledge, inspiring and being inspired by the community and the children of Tierra y Valle. Tierra y Valle is a cultural and sustainability education center  connecting children to nature and fosters leadership, creation of culture, development of the family, neighborhood and society.

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Weaving our superpowers into a collective web! Photo by Evoluzion

My partner Bryan (Untos) and I (Dream Activation), NuMundo and Evoluzion co-designed the very first “Ignite Experience” with the purpose of hosting engaging activities to cross-empower children, community and international entrepreneurs alike.

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Bryan and I sharing the call and response that we would use throughout to refocus attention. Photo by Lukas Sommer of Good Things Everywhere

Day 1 – The Intergenecultural Exchange

After a lengthy 10 hour journey to Valle del Elqui, we were all exhausted but ignited with excitement for the action. We filled almost every room in a hostel that overlooked gorgeous mountains and had regenerative systems in place like grey water purification and composting.

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The entrepreneurs just arrived to Elqui Valley and are learning the background and history about the land. Photo by Lukas Sommer of Good Things Everywhere

After a few hours of settling in, resting and practicing for the cultural exchange, we were off to meet the children and give presentations to inspire the kids. For many of them, it was the very first time ever getting to know leaders from India, Philippines or Germany. Laughs, knowledge, wide-eyes and new cultural perspectives were shared.

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Vishwanath, an entrepreneur from India is shares culture with the kids! Photo by Evoluzion

We all skipped over to Tierra y Valle to see that the children were all preparing Churrascas, a traditional Chilean bread as a gift to us! The kids taught some of us how to make Churrascas while other entrepreneurs were receiving a lesson about worm composting from one of the boys. For some of the entrepreneurs it was the first time learning about transforming food waste into soil! Our team scattered about the land taking in their innocent wisdom as we toured their personal little garden plots each of them were tending. The day closed in awe as we said our “hasta mañana’s” to the kids.

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Nessim, an entrepreneur from France learns how to make Churrascas from the kids. Photo by Lukas Sommer of Good Things Everywhere

Day 2 – The Superheros

Fresh and ready for our biggest day of the weekend to engage with the kids and community, we gathered to discuss our roles as “superheroes”. Programmed and facilitated both Bryan and myself, we led a 3 hour leadership activation activity that interweaved the entrepreneurs (superheroes). The entrepreneurs represented a team of changemakers who were there to invite the children to “join us”. We helped the kids identify their superpowers, led them on a meditation to vision their community in the future and asked them to draw what they imagined. The entrepreneurs worked one-on-one with the children helping them to come up with ideas for their passions and motivations.

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The children are drawing and entrepreneurs drawing their vision of Pisco Elqui and themselves in 5 years. Photo by Lukas Sommer of Good Things Everywhere

Creativity, imagination and sharing were ignited for everyone. We then rolled into a yarn game to interweave a network of each of our superpowers with the kids as a representation  of our gifts, and the purpose was to instill that we are all part of a unique ecosystem that depends on each other. Once everyone shared, we asked the kids to shout out challenges they identified in their community. The answers of these 6-13 year olds were brilliant. They identified, drought, use of pesticides, pollution, garbage and fighting to be the most prominent.

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Merle, sharing her list of the things that she’s passionate about. Photo by Lukas Sommer of Good Things Everywhere

We split into teams based on each of the identified challenges mixed with parents, entrepreneurs and children. To our amazement, we witnessed incredible solutions crafted by the children. During the next 30 minutes, the entrepreneurs guided the kids combining their superpowers and visions for the future to work together on coming up with solutions for these challenges. The entrepreneurs were essential role models who kept everyone having fun while discussing important topics.

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Children drawing a picture of their future vision for the community and themselves. Photo by Lukas Sommer of Good Things Everywhere

Finally, each group presented the children’s incredibly insightful solutions. The garbage team, had the idea of building a bottle bricking and recycling center out of bottle-bricks and adobe complete with a campaign to get their town’s people to bring the trash to the site. A 10 year old girl came up with the idea of using plastic bottles cut in half for drip irrigation (an ancient aztec technique). The drought group came up with recycling water using a greywater system and having a tree planting party on the hills to retain water. With the support of Tierra y Valle and Evoluzion, the kids plan on working on these ideas long-term.

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Angela, Bryan and Matias helping the girls to present their ideas of projects they want to do in their community. Photo by Lukas Sommer of Good Things Everywhere

The second half of the day, the entrepreneurs worked in Tierra y Valle helping to make improvements to the site and having a mentorship session with two Tierra y Valle, local eco-hostels, and Arropa.

Day 3 – The Fulfillment

The final day of the Ignite Experience was spent biking down a wavy valley highway to the oldest Pisco distillery in Chile that’s still producing with traditional, organic methods where we sampled their sweet wine and orange trees. We closed out the weekend with a circle under willow trees by a river to share our gratitude, love and feedback about everything. It was apparent that this was a heart-opening and bonding experience for the entrepreneurs after hearing all of their reflections.

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Group photo of most of the entrepreneurs who attended the Ignite Experience! Photo by Lukas Sommer of Good Things Everywhere

The Ignite Experience was truly a cross-beneficial, rewarding and innovative transformational tourism adventure into the heart of culture, youth and wisdom exchange.  Although this was the first and has room for improvement, this has ignited a new flame within my heart to continue this type of work. It was a beautiful reminder that simple actions like these can have infinite ripple effects on the lives of children.

Co-written by Bryan Arturo