This is where my passion for sustainable and meaningful life began. I was attracted to the idea that some people join together, create a community and live harmoniously with nature and care for each others. People work hand in hand, sharing services and goods. And indeed, every person I met in this community have so much passion and love to share, you can feel their vibrant joy for life. Of course, this can not be compared with the busy stressful life in cities. Most people are unable to find their meaning and taste for life. I think that working with nature instead of against it might be an answer for a happier and peaceful life filled with passions.
I was there only for a week, but this journey was so rich, it opened my eyes to a new perspective in life. I will describe to you my journey in detail below.
I admit that I was pretty dang nervous, but also very exited. It was my first experience traveling alone. My flight was early in the morning. So I planned to sleep the night before my flight at an hotel close to the Montreal airport. I woke up at 3 AM to catch my flight for 6 AM.I arrived to destination at 1:30 PM in Asheville, NC. The landscape was beautiful with mountains and trees everywhere. There I met Jerry, a gentle community member of Earthaven so that he can drive me to the village. He once lived in Canada and had good conversations with him. He offered me to go for a snack, so we went to a typical restaurant and then drove up to the Ecovillage.
Earthaven is off-grid up in the mountains about 45 minutes from Asheville. I really enjoyed the ride, climbing up, curve after curve in total wilderness. We arrived at 3 PM. There I met the group of participants for the program. They were sat on logs in circle at the camp site where our tents were set up for us to sleep at night. I was the last person to arrive and I was gracefully welcomed by everyone. I remember NikiAnne the amazing organizer of this trip, said «Jonathan, YOU MADE IT!» with happiness and a smile on her face. She is the Co-founder and director of SOIL (School of Integrated Living) whose mission is to inspire and empower people to live responsible and creative lives by providing experiential education in integrated living and regenerative systems. Every participants were beautiful souls, open minded people. There was a group of students from South Carolina, an ecological activist from New Jersey, An architect from Florida who wants to found his own ecovillage (he actually did co-found an ecovillage to this day in Florida). And a young couple with a new born baby travelling the world to find an ecovillage they fit in. We presented ourselves and talked about the objectives of the program and what we want to accomplish during the week. Then Kimchi, co-Firekeeper, and longtime member of Earthaven Ecovillage. An artist, deep ecologist, and permaculture activist, did us a little tour of the site, showing us where we meet for meals and the main facilities. We had a little brake, and met for dinner. Dinner reassemble community members and students of different programs and it’s a time where everyone share, laugh and eat delightful organic, local food offered by community and prepared by generous members and volunteers. We often have to participate for preparing meals, or dish-wash and clean-up. I enjoyed the vibe, it’s different from society, watching TV while eating mac n’cheese. After dinner we had some free time so I decided to relax and sleep early after this long day.
Mornings are slightly cold and pleasant. There is something magic about waking up in nature. Feeling the first burst of light, the smell of fresh air and the morning dew falling from trees. I felt exited for this new day. I brushed my teeth, saying good morning to those who were waking up and went for a coffee and breakfast.
After breakfast we had a «Circle Check In». It was a new concept to me. The objective of this is to prevent misunderstanding and motivate each others throughout the day by simple communication. The process takes no longer than 15 minutes and here’s how it works: The host will asks two or three simple questions like «What are you grateful for the last 24 hours?» «What do you want to accomplish today?» «How do you feel after this activity?» «If you were a fruit for today, wich one would you be?» and once it’s your turn to answer, you are also free to express any suggestions, discomfort or anything you want to share. This principle is commonly used in community so that everyone has their word to say. The same basis are applied in the decision making process were everyone participate to find agreement. In society, we rarely communicate with non-violent communication principles, and “check-in” with our partner, family and friends to understand how they feel or share their joy/fear/problems, right? This lack of communication often end up developing social anxiety for some people and we underestimate our ideas and fear judgment.
Then we had this event called «Build Our community» at the Council Hall. The Council Hall is the first building at Earthaven and is the center point of the ecovillage. This is where events and courses take place most of the time. The whole point of this reunion was to improve our relationship with the members of our group to develop confidence and ease with each others. We did exercises somehow… awkward, and uncomfortable, and that was the ole point after all. Once we feel awkwardness with someone, barriers are broke and you free yourself from fear of ridicule. I felt lighter and confident afterward.
Next was this story, philosophy course with Chris Farmer, called «The Big Story». Chris is a genius in every area of self-sustainability. From tiny-house to green energy and organic gardening. He built his own little paradise in Earthaven called «another way». I share a little article with you about him.
«When I was twenty-years-old I realized I had never eaten a single thing in my life that I knew where it came from. It was like the Sunday morning cartoon where the anvil falls out of the sky and flattens the cartoon character, that was MY anvil. It just destroyed me to realize that. I thought I was connected to nature because I was going outside and connecting with nature, then I realized that I wasn’t as connected as I thought.»
For Chris, living with the Earth in mind is far more than a hobby.
“Trying to live a sustainable lifestyle is my means of self-medication. I have dedicated my life to figuring out where my food, water, energy and wood I use come from, and that’s literally saving me from an incredible psychological bill.”
“Human beings have a spiritual responsibility 5 to take care of what takes care of them. If we had that level of relationship with everything that gave us life, imagine that. But we don’t. We have mountaintop removal. We have fracking. We have wars throughout the Middle East. We have clear-cut areas of trees bigger than we can even fathom. That’s what we have and we can do better. If we knew then what we know now, humanity would be even more successful and less addicted to fossil fuels. Our quality of life and our connection with each other would be better. It can be done. We just have to keep learning from one another.” – http://poweringanewsouth.com/chris/
Chris is such an empath. He narrates his heart touching stories with emotions often with a tear falling out of his cheek. Every words he says provokes deep thoughts. I can’t say how grateful I was for this. Later on, I will share with you one of his story. That morning he spoke about the Soil Food Web and shared his philosophy about the root of our own existence…
It’s dinner time and I was already overwhelmed by this incredible morning. But hold on, it’s just the beginning. Everyone in the group talked with excitement about our morning classes during the meal. My heart was opened like never before, living all this new things.
«Drumming up Mindfulness». As I read that in my schedule I felt SO happy! And it was such an empowering experience. I couldn’t believe it. Every step forward through the program was just like a huge step in personal evolution in tune with my core values. This event took place with Nick.
Nick is a professional drummer. He explained how drumming can be a useful tools of expression and communication. It’s like a language where everyone can express freely and understand each others. Like two people of different languages won’t be able to communicate with words, but they can play together.
Everyone had a Jambe, placed in circle. We all drum together with a basic rhythm at first. As it progress, rhythm can increase or decrease and everyone express their feelings by adding tones, notes or progressions. feeling the vibe. it’s impressive how fast every one adapt knowing this concept. The ole room was filled with energy has we played and progressed. It was energetic to me. I felt like I could do this all day long!
Next was a class filled with great informations offered by Diana Leafe. Diana is known around the world as a trainer. Diana’s mission is to help intentional communities get started successfully, function effectively, and achieve their goals. She has learned what works well from founders and long-time members of more than 170 communities worldwide — ecovillages, cohousing neighborhoods, housing co-ops, shared group households, income-sharing communes, and more. She is author of Creating a Life Together, (2006), and Finding Community (2007).
After dinner with had a campfire with a story shared by Chris Farmer «Clueless Honkey». Again, I was amazed by this story. Everyone shed a tear to his story. It’s now time to share one part of his story I found in his blog. And I encourage you to read further with the link below.
The Clueless Honky
“One day, I began calling my friends “honky”. And all of a sudden, I had a new habit. Admittedly I don’t even remember why I started. Maybe I was strangely jealous of African Americans who called each other “nigger”, or gay people who called themselves “queer”. Something was perhaps attractive about somehow reclaiming such horribly harsh words.
Maybe I was just trying to be stupid – always a favorite pastime of mine. But “why” was, and still is, not the point.
Then, when I was hanging out with my family once, my uncle overheard me call my brother “honky”, and he said “Oooh. You don’t want to be using that word.”
“Well, do you know where it comes from?”
So this is what he told me. I don’t know if it’s really true, and actually I don’t care, because it’s priceless.
He told me that back in the Old South, when a man was looking for love – the kind you have to pay for, but he was too poor to hire a white prostitute, he would drive down to a poor black neighborhood. He wouldn’t get out of his car, because he knew the brothers on the street would kick his ass. So he would pull up in front of the prostitute’s house, and stay in the driver’s seat, and honk and honk on his horn, until she came out and got in the car with him, and they drove away. That’s where the term “honky” comes from.
“Wow”, I said, “you’re right. That is horrible.”
But then, after a few days, I thought, “Hold on. That’s the Perfect word.”
That’s how so many of us obtain so many of the objects of our desires. We drive down into the poorest of the world’s neighborhoods. We’re afraid to get out of our cars, so we stay in the driver’s seat, and honk and honk on our horns until the object of our desire gets in, and we drive away.
Except that these days, for the most part, we’re not even aware that we’re doing it. It’s like we’re not only Honkies, we’re Clueless Honkies.
I began to realize that the Clueless Honky is like a club, but the strangest club of all time. It’s not a club that you have to get admittance into, but a club that you have to get admittance Out Of.
In that the first step to get out of the club, is to admit that one is in the club.
(Hand in the air). Hello, I am Chris Farmer. And I am a Clueless Honky. I eat food that I don’t know where it comes from. I am heavily addicted to the fractional distillation of petroleum. I wear clothes and shoes and use electronic gadgets that are made very, very, very far away.
How did I get myself into this mess where my life is dependent on things to which I just don’t know how to give thanks?
Well, that’s not an easy question to answer. But over time, this is what I’ve come up with:
I noticed how we humans are such creatures of story. And I began wondering if we got in this mess because we lack a coherent enough creation story. And by creation story, I mean one of those Big stories that for eons people told themselves, and that answered the really big questions in life – who are we as human beings, where are we, and why are we here – and that, in essence, explains how we are connected to the source of our lives.
Because it sure seems to me that to have unwittingly become a clueless honky, I must have lacked a clear sense of who I was, where I was, and why I was here. I must have lacked a clear sense of my connection to the source of my life.
To get another perspective on how this plays out – how lacking a coherent creation story – plays out, I want to go back a couple of hundred years and look at an intellectually and morally luminous person we’ve all heard of – Thomas Jefferson.
Now, Jefferson found himself in a similar predicament – that of his life being dependent on things to which he didn’t know how to give thanks.
As is well known, Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence which included these famous words: “We hold these truths to be self evident- that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.“
As is less well known, Jefferson was also the author of Notes on Virginia, actually the only book he ever published. These, too, are his words: “The blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distant by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments of both body and mind.”
What allowed, and continues to allow, this kind of confusion, these kinds of ridiculous justifications for the unjustifiable, even from one such as Jefferson?
I wondered, if your creation story doesn’t help you make sense of the tricky stuff in life, well then, you just start filling in the blanks, so to speak, and you wind up creating ridiculous justifications for the unjustifiable, instead of dealing honestly and directly with the tricky stuff. And that’s what we’ve been doing for longer than anyone can remember.
And then, as time went by and as technology allowed, we hid – or exported – the unjustifiable way out beyond the horizon of our lived experience. Or, in other words, we made a slow transition – from slaveholders to Clueless Honkies.
And I also wonder whether or not the creation stories that we do have within our culture – I wonder if they are too infected with “guilt, sin, and blame” – what John Trudell calls the “Trinity of the Chain” – for them to ever do us any good. Because it’s almost unbearable to deal honestly and directly with anything we feel guilty about, or that we’re blaming others for, and so we therefore never truly learn from the big mistakes our species is prone to make.
So I propose that it’s time that we create a new creation story – a story that can help us “admit” ourselves out of the Club of the Clueless Honky.
I’d love to go ahead and recommend three design parameters for just such a story. Main design parameter – my dream is that it would be a main “frame” story that could hold an infinite number of stories within it. Kind of like the “1001 Arabian Nights”. Maybe not quite as explicit as where the main story is of a woman telling one unfinished story night after night. But, nonetheless, where the main story could fit an almost infinite number of individual’s open-sourced stories within its broad central theme.
Second, the main frame story would actually already exist and would already be at the least somewhat familiar to most folks, like it was some kind of sleeper story that just needed to be slightly tweaked and awakened to reveal its full potential. Doing this – revitalizing an old story – would avoid any kind of potential cult of personality surrounding the author of the new creation story.
Third, the frame story would answer not only who we are, where we are, and why we are here, but would also elucidate our connection to the source of our lives in such a way that it would answer, without resorting to any guilt, sin, and blame – how did we become such Clueless Honkies, and how do we get ourselves out of this stupid club?
Now, I have a suggestion for just such a story that would meet all of these design parameters.”
Sleep time. I didn’t slept a lot. There was so much to think about. I was still on a high. Pretty satisfied though.