The Emerging Me Through Natural Education

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By Christopher Tydeman

In my former life, I was a teacher. I taught a range of ages from 7 to 12. I taught reading, writing, mathematics, history, science…et al. While I was teaching I was wondering if I was really teaching anything at all. I mean, yeah, I was helping with some basic fundamentals that are the building blocks of an education. But the content was a mixture of somewhat useful and interesting to downright drab and boring. I tried my best to bring in something meaningful and engaging but, to be honest, it was a lot of work. It all had to tie into the “Standards” of the prevailing curricula. Oh yes, the Standards.

We want our children to be “competent” so that they are “successful in today’s highly competitive world.” As a former parent to a school-aged child, I bought that with half my heart and all my mind. I passed that down to my students and their parents and care-givers. If they could demonstrate “proficiency” they would have a much better chance of “making a better life for themselves”.

I agree that my use of quotes is a bit tongue and cheek seasoned with sarcasm. That is my intention. Even while I was buying and selling those words, I could feel how devoid of humanity they really were. The Standards System, or Core Knowledge, or whatever the hell they are calling it now, is nothing more than a conveyor belt by which the Industrial Machine can create its submissive robots. I couldn’t participate in that system anymore without being guilty by association.

Why am I writing about this now? Great question. It has been two years now that I have left my teaching career. I am also now just learning what real education is all about…self-sufficiency, emotional awareness and fluency, and a place to discover and nuture our Divinely-given gifts. I guess I just realized I am in school for the first time since I was a child, where learning happened through creative play and experimentation. As an adult, I can add a lot of physical work to that list. This was the education I wished I could have given my daughter and my students. This is the shit that really matters. I knew it mattered because my students went crazy for nature, food, play, and art. They, as well as us older children, were born with the Divine Fingerprint. The desire to be with what we need most as human beings.

Somewhere we forgot that along the way. Convinced ourselves it must be more complicated than that. But as I sit here in Mexico with gardens literally popping out the ground from our own research, intuition, play and labor, I can tell you it isn’t. Granted, it is hard work. I have worked hard before, but this is for our food. Our sustenance and currency. Our hearts and our souls. You can’t get more real than that. I am learning more about myself and nature, as Mother intended. This is the real classroom.

So, I am back to being a student again. That is hard for the Industrial part of me who thought we had it all figured out. Put in the time and retire in peace. But once you feel your true, wild, natural self you can’t stay in the System without feeling the rub, the pain. The un-naturalness of it all. The insanity. This part of me is becoming more aware of how much happier he is now than he was then. I am beginning to feel a new me arising from this transition from teacher to student. From Industrial Self to Natural Self.

At some point I see myself teaching again. Not sure what that would look like, but I know what it wouldn’t. Been there, done that. I see being a part of a new reality for education. One that will emerge from the collapse of the old. For now, I am enjoying the ride of sitting in the student seat. Learning from my SoulFullHeart family, the ranch workers, the animals, the plants, and the Divine. They are the best teachers I have ever had. Time to rewrite the standards from the inside out.

Organic SoulFullHeart Gardens At Rancho Amigos- Jardines Organico De SoulFullHeart A Rancho Amigos

Our Gardens

By Jillian Vriend

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One of the most pressing issues in our modern age is the need for chemical-free, environmentally sustainable, diverse, preserved, and homegrown food. The majority of food stock in grocery stores is shipped in by eighteen wheelers from hundreds and even thousands of miles away. Anyone who has eaten a banana in December and doesn’t live somewhere tropical has experienced transit-based produce. Most stores hold very little back stock, only about three days worth with no regional supply houses available since the ‘just in time’ delivery system was implemented many years ago. Produce has especially high ‘fuel miles’, the amount of distance that it traveled by truck to reach your location. The produce that does reach the stores has usually been genetically modified (even patented in some cases!), sprayed very liberally with toxic substances, and harvested before it was actually ripe. And it tastes about that good too.

Awareness of the dismal state of modern food brings an increasing need for everyone to grow their own organic produce if possible. We’ve had a strong desire to grow our own food organically following permaculture and ecological design principles. We wanted to create garden spaces that would meld conscious design with respect and understanding of nature’s principles. We also wanted to blend modern practices with indigenous and native ones, creating a mixture between the two that would honor both.

We started our first garden project in January, 2015, just a couple of weeks after arriving to live on the ranch. We were gifted a 30 foot by 30 foot space here with a rock wall already built around it. Rather than fill it with linear and straight rows of crops, we created a main, raised, keyhole bed (a ¾ circle bed with a keyhole shape in the middle for turning around) with another raised circle bed enclosing it and raised beds around the edges.

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For compost, we spent many days gathering ‘green’ (kitchen scraps, sheep manure) and ‘brown’ (dried leaves and straw) manure creating a lasagna layering pile system as the organic matter compost to add to our soil. We trucked in silt soil from the banks of the riverside nearby to add to the soil in the garden and the compost. We collected dried bamboo leaves on the ranch to use as our 3 to 6 inch cover mulch (with thicker layers to come as the plants grow taller) to help with water retention and weed suppression. We lined all the paths with river rock to help with erosion and because it looks good. This we call our “Rio Jardin” (River Garden), as it is right next to the river.

We’ve filled the beds of the Rio Garden with three kinds of tomato plants; eight varieties of beans and legumes; three kinds of peppers; greens and cabbages such as kale, arugula, mizuna, tatsoi, bok choy; yams and potatoes, red/green/white onions, cucumber, jicama, daikon and regular radish, and cilantro. We’ve already enjoyed the radish and some of the greens. We look forward to the next few months of harvesting and learning; adjusting and responding. Eating! This is truly our experimental garden with many lessons happening around seed germination, plant placement, and adjustment to the tropical yet arid climate here during the dry season.

The next garden we started is our “Casa Jardin” (House Garden), a ‘zone one’ garden, meaning one that is close to home and therefore includes plants that are used regularly and need more attention. Once we moved into the house we are staying at here on the ranch, we started trucking in soil from the river again because the top soil around the house had been destroyed during construction. We spent days clearing out debris and pulling weeds (that weren’t edible we hope) to clear spaces to plant. In a cleared space right by our outdoor kitchen, we created an herb spiral- a four by five foot mound of dirt with river rocks moving up from bottom to top to form a spiral shape. An herb spiral takes a 30 foot linear planted bed and reduces it to a much smaller footprint. Plus it looks really neat and mimics a shape regularly found in nature (always a good thing when designing garden beds.) We filled the herb spiral with dill, thyme, oregano, basil, cilantro, cumin, mustard greens, green onions. We included some medicinal herbs such as calendula and Echinacea.

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We also created a greens garden bed next to the spiral garden with mizuna, kale, mustard, tropical lettuce, tatsoi, and a native medicinal green called qualite alvaro obregon. Greens are impossible to find here at tiendas (stores), beyond iceberg lettuce, because they don’t store and transport well due to the heat. We have all felt a deep craving for more greens, especially after being used to regular doses of greens in BC, Canada. Radish greens and morenga leaves (a medicinal and edible tree grown here on the ranch) have helped meet this need so far. We filled beds along the path in front of and the sides of the house with sunflowers, artichokes, more mustard greens (good ground cover and green manure crop), and some native flowers. Keeping the four ranch dogs and our own three dogs out of the beds using twine and bamboo fences has been important. How to keep the wandering and hungry ducks from the pond next to the house out of the greens bed is the next dilemma, although we put down bamboo leaf mulch, spray with the pepper-garlic solution, and planted mustard nearby so that will hopefully help. We are still waiting to catch a pato (duck) in action as it tugs on our kale!

And, our grand vision and most recent garden manifestation is a ten minute walk from home called ‘Tranquila.’ A sloped piece of land with large granite rocks, this is the plot of land that we have purchased here at Rancho Amigos. The lot contains a water cistern located over a natural spring so fresh water is no problem. The top soil is dark brown, has some good worms, and the years of cutting down feed grasses for sheep and cows and letting them mulch in place has kept the soil in good shape.

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It is the work of hardscaping, double digging out soil and creating paths that leads us to get up at six in the morning to get some of it done before the hot sun comes up. It is foundational work, work that we won’t have to do again. It is hard, but, it is also satisfying…watching raw land become the infrastructure for our garden. We are planting seeds as soon as the soil has been double dug, formed into circular, raised winding beds with plateaued tops, and sprinkled with compost. We’ve been adding the same mulch back to the beds that we raked from the ground before we started tilling. It forms straw nests around our sleeping seeds and a light blanket of cover for our scattered seeds.

We planted more beans since they germinate quickly, seem to grow well in this climate, can be dried, and are great nitrogen fixers. We planted sunflowers, artichokes, and other tall plants for privacy and shade. We started several trees in bags and will plant them as soon as they are ready to add diversity, shade, microclimates, and environments for wildlife. We planted eggplant, squash, and pumpkin (and soon watermelon) where they will have room to sprawl and spread out. Making a mound, we created a ‘sisters’ planting inspired by Native Americans. Corn, pole beans, and squash form the perfect combination of support, both structurally and in the soil. Scattering seeds across the soil, we sowed quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, chia, and, soon, flax. These will form the foundations of our diet, along with the beans for protein. Joining the party are medicinal flowering plants, more peppers, and tomatoes. Our future plans for Tranquila include creating a small pond in the middle of a natural gathering of rocks, a stream leading to the pond, pathways to the large sitting stones and boulders on the lot, tall plants all along the fence line for privacy next to the ranch road, and whatever else our imagination comes up with! We envision a place where design has given form to the food and function to the wild. A place where we and others can come to study the plants, sit on the rocks, meet in a circle under the shade tent, dip our feet in the pond, and wander the paths, foraging as we go.

We’ve held some books like bibles along the way, combing over them time and time again. Two such books are Gaia’s Garden: A Guide To Homescale Permaculture and Rodale’s Organic Gardening. Yet, also, we’ve been learning as we go, responding to the needs of the plants as they arise and feeling what the land and nature wants. It’s important for us to access our soul’s knowledge of cultivating the land for food; its’ experience with growing food which is actually much more familiar to us than the more recent industrialized experience of easy and disconnected non-food grocery shopping excursions. We’ve forgotten our native roots as hunters and gatherers and buried our instincts about plants and how to grow them in a sustainable way.

Our gardens have brought us joy and peace already, even as they’ve required some sweat and effort. Every seed we plant is like a new baby needing attention and focus until its more mature and can stand on its own. We pick off every caterpillar and unidentified Mexican bug with love and care; spray every leaf with a combination of garlic and pepper spray that bugs hate. We support the garbanzo beans with sticks because we didn’t plant them close enough together to let them lean on each other like they like to. Each plant is held with gratitude and given energetic attention. That’s a lot of babies to care for!

Our gardens have already drawn attention here locally. There are very few personal gardens in this area, even though poverty is a common here. The nearest grocery store is 90 minutes away (when the weather and roads are good) and yet the village closest to us doesn’t stock anything more than a few tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and eggs. The locals who work on the ranch have gone from feeling perhaps a bit confused by what we are doing to more and more interested in it. They ask us many questions about what we are growing and give us tips related to cultivating in this climate. We have already started giving away baggies of cilantro and radish greens and received cucumber and cacao seeds in return. Many more are expressing interest in exchanging with us when the real harvest comes in.

Gardens can invite the imagination to come to play. If we allow ourselves to move beyond the linear rows, typical crops, and pest warfare of mainstream gardening, the possibilities are as limitless as nature’s manifestations. In the garden, there is both a strong sense of the present and the future. We are enjoying the process of creating the infrastructure of our garden beds and paths, which will serve us for many years. The first layer of weed suppressing and water retaining mulch that we lay out begins a legacy of layers of decaying organic matter that will serve the soil and our bellies for a long time. The compost piles we create today serve to fertilize the soil for the rest of its (and our) lives.

It is the gardens that have received most of our time here at the ranch so far and, also, every bit of time spent feels worth the rewards, both in the present and for the future. This legacy of growing chemical-free, ecologically friendly, and truly local food is one that we are proud to be creating and to leave for future generations. Or, at the very least, for the immediate future needs of our hearts and bellies.

To come visit our gardens about three hours south of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, become a volunteer, or attend one our retreats, please visit soulfullheart.com and email us at soulfullhearts@gmail.com.

Building The Ark: Life At El Rancho

By Jillian Vriend

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The ark is about learning what I don’t know; remembering what my soul knows; and using my intuition to feel out the rest.

I have felt like Noah at times; holding a prophecy of a big storm coming and making plans and taking actions to survive that storm. Like Noah, with some foresight and surrender to the Divine, doing something for which most of the culture is not understanding or seeing. My version of the ark was my passenger van and the human and dog companions that came along with me on the journey from Canada to here in Mexico are as treasured as the pairs of animals saved to repopulate the earth. We landed here in our ark on the shores of what feels like our safe sanctuary. A place where water flows not from city taps but from natural springs. A place where exotic fruit grows year round from trees. A place where no insulation is needed on homes or on bodies. A place where having no electricity or refrigeration is not a big inconvenience but a manageable work around. A place where many people ride horses to get around and cars are just another option. A place where traffic slowdown is caused by a swarm of cows not frustrated commuters.

The storm is growing, building strength in the skies of the world. These are dim skies to me right now; they feel far away from the daily realities here on the ranch. But, I can feel the thunder rumbles of war in ISIL occupied areas and the Ukraine; in the economic contentions of European nations faced with growing debt that can’t be repaid; in oil price fluctuations due to diminishing reserves and bubbles bursting fracking empires; in the diminishing fresh water resources around the world and especially the southeastern United States. And maybe the lightning from these events is still far off and hasn’t charred the ground and struck near or in your world. But, as so many people have foretold, the storm that will end this industrial age as we know it is coming. Whether in ten days or ten months or ten years, the world as it being run and experienced right now just isn’t sustainable in any kind of long term picture.

We’ve become so out of touch with our intrinsic nature as hunters and gathers and growers. Becoming so out of touch has made us disconnected about where our food comes from, how it is grown, how it is treated (in the case of animals), how chemicals are used on it, and how synthetic or natural it is. Becoming so out of touch has made us easy victims for the storm that is coming. Rather than being able to tough it out relying on ancient instincts of survival, so many people will be unable to respond in any way that is beyond feeling helpless, hopeless, and immobilized. Many people, sadly, will simply end their own lives rather than have to find the will to survive in a world without all the easy conveniences that they are used to.

This last week has felt like another phase of ark building. The ark this time isn’t about transport to sanctuary; it’s about reconnecting with my human instinct and imprint for feeding myself. The ark now, for me, is about growing my own organic food and incorporating what grows here on the ranch already into my diet, even if I’m not familiar with it. The ark is about learning what I don’t know; remembering what my soul knows; and using my intuition to feel out the rest.

We have all been building this ark with dedication, getting up by the rooster’s call at six am to work at Tranquila, our third garden space here at the ranch. Tranquila is described in much more detail here. We’ve put in five or six hours a day during the hardscaping and shaping of earth phase that is required to sculpt raw earth into a garden space. This is the laying out of floor and wall boards, pounding in of nails process of building our ark. And inside of the ark, instead of just animals, there are beans, tomatoes, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, and much more. Inside of the ark is true self sustainability and connection back with a primal instinct that has been numbed by easy living.

As I watered the gardens in Tranquila for the third time today, I felt how I don’t resonate with the idea of being a gardener. For me, it’s not about being something outside of who I am just because I am growing seeds, tending them, harvesting them, and eating them. I am not a gardener; I am a human. A human reclaiming the inner gardening abilities inherent in my soul and embraced by my heart.

Jillian Vriend (soulfullhearts@gmail.com) is co-founder and facilitator of SoulFullHeart and author of three books. Visit soulfullheart.com for more information about SoulFullHeart retreats and volunteer program.

A ‘Tail’ Of Personal Power: My Exodus Journal – Entry Eight

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 By Kathleen Calder

As I write on my computer, my beautiful dog is laying on my feet. He and I have gone through a transformation together that hasn’t been easy. Adopting a 9 year old Malamute/Labrador when you are a single, 5’4’’ young woman living in a small apartment isn’t exactly the wisest of decisions, but at the time I housed an ache inside myself for some sort of rewarding companionship. Thus, my relationship with Nanuk was born. Nanuk is the name he came with and it means “Master of Bears”. Alarmingly appropriate given his size. I thought that developing a close relationship with him would be easy right from the start. Or rather, the part of me that really wanted a dog did. I grew up with Labradors and Labrador mixes so I figured he would be no problem for me. What I didn’t know or expect were the intense lessons that choosing to take on a dog, especially one that has needed some rehabilitating, would bring.

There has been a theme for me for the past 8 months or so, which has only intensified since taking on Nanuk and about 2 months later, deciding to join in with Wayne, Jillian and Christopher and venture here to Mexico to live sustainably. The theme is finding and inhabiting my personal power. In some ways, Nanuk has been the biggest litmus test to see where my power is at. He has been a catalyst. There have even been times where I have had to feel into if I still wanted to be his “owner” or if he was just too much for me to hold. He is a big responsibility. He is in my care and in some ways, because he is an animal, he is unpredictable. Yet what I’m realizing now is, just like with any relationship, there is give and take that leads you to the love and respect you seek. I’m not entitled to a palpable connection with my dog that helps me predict him a little better or at least anticipate what he may do in a given situation.

The ways in which I haven’t inhabited my responsibility to help guide and re-train him have affected my community too. A couple of times Nanuk has run off after something here on the ranch and refused to listen to my screaming and yelling his name. In these moments, others have had to hold the stress with me and supplement my lack of power. It’s interesting…this idea of having enough power inside myself and my relationship with Nanuk that he responds to me, and yet his instincts are natural and there’s a way I have to surrender to that too. At times he needs to find his own way in his life on the ranch, and yet that doesn’t dismiss the fact that I am responsible for responding to the consequences of his actions.

In a matter of a few weeks, Nanuk and I have gone from almost no heart-connection, to him laying with his heart chakra on my feet. The anxiety he once had is almost completely gone. He hardly runs off or wanders far away anymore either (a habit with most huskies, from what I understand). I keep a close eye on him now, feeling what it is he needs from me. He doesn’t seem to mind having less off-leash freedom than he did when we first moved here. There are lots of ways to still give him the exercise and exploration time that he needs without letting him wander off on his own, unsupervised. I feel more closely bonded to him now than I expected to be in those times I felt at my wit’s end with his antics. It seems that I may be rehabilitating him, but there’s no doubt in my heart that he’s actually been rehabilitating me.

As I’ve said before, the recurring theme of personal power has been a big one for me, emerging in many ways. It feels so much like my life in Canada was designed somehow to keep me holding myself as a victim with constant “you are a victim of ___ because…”. Especially being in my twenties, there is a way my whole generation is looked at as the most indebted and perhaps also the least gainfully employed.

My feeling is that we are a generation more or less at the tail end of a system that is no longer working. We are needing to shift gears into greater sustainability and while I have met many others around my age who are into that and actually have great ideas around those issues, there seems to be a leap of faith needed to leave Canada and plant the seeds of sustainability (in the form of literal plant seeds, too) elsewhere. I don’t know if Mexico is the answer for most, yet I do feel a growing desire, as I live into my own power and discover what that even is, to feel others of my generation feeling the same way and making their own efforts to finally stop trying to turn the Titantic around and just jump ship already.

My hope is that some of these people are drawn to volunteer with us and be felt in their own transformation and soul trajectories while learning what they can from us during their time here. We are not experts, but there is a way that the others and I are learning to lead and live into sustainability in a real way that gives back to the planet we have so marauded as a species. Of course I would also like to extend this invitation to those who aren’t in my generation. When the gift of unplugging from the grids and plugging into nature is a new experience of yourself and your power and gift expressions that you can take with you for the rest of your life, what greater gift can you choose to give yourself, no matter what age you are now?

I don’t know for sure that I am meant to lead many others in this life, yet there is a growing desire in my heart to serve others in overflow of how I am learning to serve myself and be served by nature (including my beloved dog) and my community. Perhaps my desires will come true, perhaps not, but I do know for sure that one gift I will always have is a greater sense of what it means to inhabit my power in a world that hasn’t always seemed to want me to rise up and claim it.

Kathleen Calder is a SoulFullHeart facilitator, SoulFullHeart retreats volunteer coordinator.

Death and Rebirth: Life At El Rancho

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By Jillian Vriend

Death is a necessary and unavoidable result of being alive. Every beginning brings an ending. Yet it is hard for most people to embrace death as a natural and sacred process. On the ranch there is death and rebirth all around us. Many lambs were born this winter and some will die from predators and getting sick. Every day we plant new seeds and pull up other plantings due to thinning them out or when they are ready to eat. Death and rebirth can also be metaphorical- a letting go of something that is complete in order to let in a new arising.

We had a death ceremony this week for my husband Wayne’s expression as a painting contractor. He has run his own painting business since 1984, a young married man supporting two daughters with his first wife. Running his own business offered autonomy in one way and yet, always, there was the customer to think of and respond to and many details to hold. For a number of years, he had felt pressed with time and energy, wanting to focus more on our healing work and serving people. As a symbolic death, we burned a painting shirt of Wayne’s in our fire pit and he shared feelings and memories from his career. We honored what his career had produced, the family members it had supported, the clients it had pleased. Wayne felt how he is in an in between space now as his authentic expression emerges from the ashes of his painting career. Out of this death and ending comes a rebirth into a new form, as it always does.

There are now chicks at Rancho Amigos. Fuzzy yellow and black beings with rapid heartbeats. I held one in my hand that I had rescued when it ventured outside of its fenced area. I placed it back in with its mother and it quickly tucked underneath her, seeking out safety. This is life in all its chirpy and adorable form. We have started eating eggs again after being vegan for almost two years. It was just too difficult to get imitation meat products and even tofu or tempeh in this part of Mexico (other than driving to Puerto Vallarta). We still haven’t found nutritional yeast here which provided a good source of B12 for us in the past. Eating eggs again yet holding a chick in my hands brought up the death and rebirth cycle again. Appreciating the sacrifice of the unborn chicken (if it was fertilized) to feed my needs.

We are creating our third garden here, this one on the lot that could eventually hold our own house if that alchemizes for us. Our first garden is what we call the ‘river garden’, a more conventional (although still organic) vegetable garden with curved, raised beds. Our second garden is a ‘zone one’ garden, the things that we will eat and pick daily so need to be near the house. We created a herb spiral and a bed of lettuce greens, kale, mustard, radish, tatsoi, and mizuna right by our outdoor kitchen. Our third garden is called tranquila and our vision is to create a true sanctuary with winding paths, clusters of microclimates, a shady area around a tree inviting conversations or rest, a small pond created from a circle of rocks, a visually diverse offering of native and tropical plants, shrubs and trees. Many of these plants I have never grown or even heard of. These are heirloom plants, some from Africa and South America, all able to survive the heat and humidity here.

This is birthing, putting all these seeds in the ground. Watering them from nothing to something. And then, death by pulling and pinching. Sautéing and eating raw. Boiling and baking. The sense of both death and rebirth here makes it feel more alive, less cushioned, and more real.

The bigger context of death and rebirth seems so poignant now with the state that our world is in. Violence and war are a continual reality in many parts of the planet. There is the grand death, the slow dying of the industrial age as it winds down after a feverous and fast paced life. What will be reborn of the human species after this death, whether it is in 1 year or 30 years? What will arise from the ashes of technology? These are important questions, yet, here, the heart beat and rescue of one little chick seems equally important. Or, at least, more immediate.

Jillian Vriend is co-founder and facilitator of SoulFullHeart and author of three books.

Finding Home And The Unfolding Mystery: Life At El Rancho

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By Jillian Vriend

I’m sitting here at an internet cafe in Tule, a town about 90 minutes from the ranch. Normally I’ve been writing ahead of time and sharing it once I am in town. But, today, I thought I would try just writing and see what comes out. I feel a bit buzzed and heady from being in town, even though this is more like a small village than a town, especially in the western sense. Even the small amount of activity is a lot for me to digest now that I am used to being in the peace and quiet of the ranch. It is amazing what is becoming overwhelming and how quickly.

I have recently realized that this life is most likely the only one I’ve had within an industrial society. The only life where easy electricity, food, water, and shelter were readily available and expected. This explains so much about why modern technologies and conveniences, while I acclimated to them, still felt foreign and uncomfortable to my soul. When I am in our gardens recently, I feel this acess to my soul’s knowledge about growing food beginning to open up to me. I know how to do this, I think, and then I read my organic gardening books for validation. I like to lead with intuition and retreived knowledge first, and book knowledge second. I like for the plants to tell me what they need and want rather than use my mind to deduce it. I feel that this intuitive way of gardening is what is most natural to my soul in past lives as a healer, medicine woman, priestess, etc. Maybe this intuitive way is what is most natural for all people.

Nature is beginning to call to me. Not just in a casual way that happens when you take a hike in the woods, but in a deeper way that invites me to experience both the groundedness of the land and the metaphysical and transcendal aspects of the natural world. I have been curious about exploring parallel universes and other dimensions for a long time, yet felt to focus on my emotional healing primarily and healing my connection with the Divine in a way that was grounded in my body. After ten years of this focus, I can feel a rumbling of curiousity and desire in me to expand my consciousness and see things which cannot be seen by the eyes. This, it feels like, is more familiar to my soul than the logical and practical world I have been raised in.

This weekend, Wayne and I are going to camp out for a night in the hills. To light a fire, to feel the oak trees around us, to take in the soul opening view of the river and the lake. To connect with the Divine and our guides. To see what opens up that won’t be easy to explain to the rational mind. To feel not walls around us but the open air. We’ve been camping quite a bit the last few months but now that we are in a house, which is also very appreciated, we both feel a desire for the open air. And for whatever metaphysical journey our souls would like to go on.

It is interesting how much it feels like home to me to be without easy internet access and all the other things I have been used to. I feel that this sense of home is the core of our sacred humanity and what I call our wild self. We’ve been tamed by industrial society and lost our connection with so much of what makes us and the world sacred. I like the feeling of appreciating the home within me, the home with the Divine, the home in nature, and the home in metaphysical realms. My journey has been about finding home in all these ways and, yet, also to be open to experiencing the ongoing mystery arising in every moment.

Jillian Vriend is co-creator of the SoulFullHeart Way Of Life and author of three books.

Poco a poquito: Life At El Rancho

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By Jillian Vriend

Poco a poquito or poco a poco means, “little by little,” in Spanish. The hispanic foreman here at the ranch uses it often and it’s become a favorite of ours as well. Not only is it fun to say (as so many Spanish phrases are), but it seems to capture a deeper lifestyle shift for me since moving to the ranch.

Recently, I was lining the spiral paths in our garden with river rocks that are piled close by. I started doing this to denote areas of the garden that were close to the path and in threat of getting stepped on. We sowed carrot seeds on a slope inches from the path and I didn’t want any unsuspecting foot crushing them. Then, I started lining paths that we created in some of the beds with rocks to denote where it was, again, ok to walk without crushing anything still dormant in the soil. I have been very relaxed about this process, mostly letting my inner child lead the way when she feels like adding more rocks. I was in the middle of adding more rocks when Chino, the aforementioned foreman, came by. He said the word for “path” in Spanish and we communicated through hand gestures that I was, indeed, using the river rock to line all the paths.

Chino offered then to wheel barrow over a bunch of rocks for me. I knew how Chino worked, which was in a big display of strength and grounded push. I knew I would find myself with a huge pile of rocks in a short period of time. I smiled at him and pointed to the bucket I was using to slowly bring them over. Then I used his seemingly favorite expression, “poco a poquito.” This he got immediately, smiled at me, and moved on.

This sense of responding to things needed to be done, little by little, is a different approach than the pushing productivity of the western world and actually in most work projects. While there is a sense of importance about getting our garden planted and harvesting from it, there is also a feeling that nature will take its own time. There will be periods of activity and periods of rest. Periods of big growth and periods of little growth. Indeed, little by little, our garden grows and rather than feel that I am ‘working’ on the garden every day, I feel that I am responding to it in a circular way.

Some days that means adding more stones to line the paths and some days that means not adding any. I trust that eventually all the paths will be lined. I feel like this approach is what I imagine for our next garden, which will surround the house that we are staying in on the ranch. We imagine creating a herb spiral full of basil, oregano, cilantro, thyme, chamomile, and more. Rows of tropical lettuce, arugula, mizuna (an asian type of lettuce), and mustard greens will be tucked near the house with ready shade and easy watering. Perky sunflowers and other flowers will line the walk way up to the house, inviting creatures and people to come in. We want to create a path made of brick from the back walkway to the outdoor kitchen and level out the back of the house by the veranda for placement of some hammocks.

Or maybe not. This is the plan but we’ll see what actually unfolds…little by little.

Jillian Vriend is co-creator of the SoulFullHeart Way Of Life and author of three books.