What is there to be done?

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As the sun awakes
ready rebirth’s rise
for creation’s sake
where do you fix your eyes?

G-d’s breath breathed in you
but briefly borrowed
the five elements too
In body shrine most hallowed

While the ancient ice melts,
land’s life leaves,
a rhythmic memory felt;
your ancestors’ timely dreams

Convenient hinderances
(plastic’s patient pollution)
will ripple with turbulence
in your heart’s evolution

With eyes beholding
sacred sights serene
this rhythm not withholding
offer G-d your dream.

 

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Permaculture Design Course… in the Bahamas!

Join my team and I in the Bahamas at the wonderful Sivananda Yoga Ashram on Paradise Island! This is a 72-hour Permaculture Certification Course that will teach you how to design a world of abundance and bounty for all of life on Earth. Whether you desire to create community or create a village, have a small garden or produce all of your own food,  the wonderful wisdom of permaculture will guide you on your Journey. More information coming soon as well as a new website. Watch this space. In the meantime if you have questions please contact me at: richard@permaculture.guru or 330-235-9422

Lead with love!

Siva PDC '16

A movie we all must watch

I beg you to watch this film. The world is diseased for want of sacred knowledge. We are suffering for want of sacred knowledge. Connect in anyway possible to you. Follow your heart and uncover your reason for choosing to be born at this time…

Austria and Sepp Holzer’s Krameterhof

Individuals learning permaculture always want to know what the next step is. The answer is there for us in the principles we all learned and/or teach in our courses: 1) Observe and Interact. There’s a reason it is first and we all need reminded of this at times. Notice that it isn’t just observe. It also isn’t only interact. The combination of these two is a profound subject that will forever guide the student of permaculture down their path toward their life’s work. Observe also implies a meditation of sorts. Meditate on it, be still, be present for it is only from this space that your “interact” will bear worth while fruit. Indeed, it is this sense of meditative observation that is all too frequently missing from our actions, hence our often passionate yet overall design-lacking action that ultimately creates both personal and global energy waste.

It is with this sense of multifaceted observation in mind that I departed for Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria. While the ultimate purpose was to visit Sepp Holzer’s Krameterhof I decided to take some time to visit my close knit spiritual family in Bavaria, Germany. Together for a weekend about 20 of us came from various countries including the

Gardens at Arche Noah, Langelois, Austria

Gardens at Arche Noah, Langelois, Austria

US, Scotland, Germany, Russia, South Africa, and England to recharge our spiritual batteries in community. Through support of our life vision of healing one another and the Earth we walked a path in the mountains known to us as the prophet’s way, a path of prayer and connection. There each of us found their heart space in a moment of divine realignment as we prayed. We shared music, healing, and a sacred Sabbath service on Friday evening where we meditated upon what it means to fully let your light shine forth and not merely covering it.

After this powerful time of recentering a dear friend and brother of mine, Jonas, and I departed for Austria via the Czech Republic. Jonas was doing some advanced studies at the University of Göttingen on the selection of tomato varieties and disease resistance. In light of this we visited several sites including farms and gardens. At every turn the beautiful Austrian countryside held my breath. One of these sites was the well-known Arche Noah. At Arche Noah they are organically preserving thousands of cultivars of seeds for genetic preservation. They have nearly 500 varieties of tomatoes alone! It was a beautiful sight to walk through their gardens and see an abundance of both familiar and completely unfamiliar plants. Especially wonderful was walking through several gardens and farms

Seed storage room at Arche Noah. Drooool, a permie's dream

Seed storage room at Arche Noah. Drooool, a permie’s dream

throughout Austria and seeing hemp growing freely. It is acknowledged and used as a premier “Fasserpflanze”, or fiber plant with additional uses as windbreaks, erosion control and soil remediation. I even found a healthy bunch of Malabar Spinach (Basella alba) growing their high in the mountains. It is through the work of devoted people at places like Arche Noah (more info in English here) that our genetic seed diversity will survive the onslaught of monoculture and the influences of multinational chemical companies like Monsanto and Syngenta.

Sepp Holzer’s name has become so frequently used with permaculture that it is clear he is seen as one of the giants of the field, especially in Europe. The insight one gains into design possibilities from visiting such sights is profound. Hundreds, and even thousands, of years ago in present-day Austria and Switzerland they practiced high-altitude terraced subsistence farming systems in the Alps. One must always remember when viewing natural systems that the “geology dictates the ecology”. As the glaciers in the Alps receded around 10,000 years ago they forever changed the landscape. In their wake the glaciers left some atypical shapes amidst the more standard slopes: terraces. People eventually realized that these highly placed terraces had longer growing seasons and better access to sun than in the valley below. This form of agriculture and animal husbandry became the standard in the central European Alps and people began to mimic the natural terraces by building their own. Unfortunately, these beautiful systems were largely abandoned amidst the lure of monoculture and synthetic fertilizers. Enter Sepp Holzer.

Sign on the gate entering Sepp's property

Sign on the gate entering Sepp’s property

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One of the many terrace ponds – this one being used specifically for crawfish production. Note the biodiversity of the plants, all serving a function, more than we even know

The property now famous for European permaculture has been in Sepp Holzer’s family for over 100 years. As he began to farm it he realized the desire for stable water sources high up in the mountains. While farming and raising animals was previously practiced on these terraces building ponds was certainly not. At one point one pond turned to two and he and his wife realized they did not want to pass the diseases and undesirable attributes of pond one to pond two. It was solely from this perspective that they began to observe nature’s patterns and bring in a tremendous biodiversity of both plants and animals into their ponds. The water cleared up and the result were two bountiful ponds filled with food. To their surprise the land became more abundant and better hydrated. Fast forward 50 years and there are now more than 70 ponds on their 45 hectare (about 111 acre) property. Holzer has mastered microclimates high up on his mountain. The chain of ponds stabilizes the temperature optimizing growing condition. Additionally, most of the ponds have large boulders placed in them to absorb the solar radiation into the water.

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Lucerne – a common nitrogen fixer utilized by the Holzers.

The biodiversity on the property is amazing and nothing escaped them: there are both desirable edible cultivars and an abundance of so-called weeds. While there are certainly different agricultural/pastoral areas of the property, the ponds are constantly there linking it all together. As one pond fills it empties into the next. A process repeated down the entire slope of the mountain. On their journey through the property the ponds pass cows, chickens, orchards, herb spirals, fields of annual crop and even a wild boar system. Sepp noticed the ease at which the wild boars lived in the area so he began to cross them with more desirable breeds for human consumption. These boars live in a large enclosed area on the property. Once again it fell back on an observation and a desire to mimic nature’s patterns.

One of the more fascinating elements on the property was ironically the one that I wasn’t even aware of: cellars. Sepp, his wife Veronica, and now their son Josef who showed us around, have been experimenting with different types of cellars on the property for years. They vary in material from axed wood pieces and boulders to variations of what we would more commonly know as cob or earthen architecture. Though the temperature outside greatly fluctuates being in the mountains, the temperature in the cellars changes only about 10 degrees throughout the entire year. They accomplish this by building them into the side of the mountain and running pipes through the mountain behind them. The pipes through their journey in the Earth remove the humidity in the air and deposit the dry air inside the cellars.

One of the many cellars on the property nestled into the mountain

One of the many cellars on the property nestled into the mountain

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Cow and chicken orchard terrace system currently in chicken phase

While there were countless examples of beautiful systems all over the property, and I took so many pictures, one of the really great systems I saw that was highly productive for them was a cattle-chicken-orchard system, which sounds bizarre at first I know. On one of the terraces (see picture below) they have an orchard planted. The individual trees are all protected well-enough so that cows may come in and graze in order to clean up the area. As the cows are in there they manure the property in essence converting the green to a more readily useable soil enrichment. Once the cows are done round two is the chickens. They come in and rid the area of bugs and many pests. Each small pile of manure left behind is literally filled with thousands of bugs. Bugs become chickens which in turn becomes eggs and more manure. This all equates to an incredible healthy orchard system full of life and virtually free of pests. This system is constantly in motion up and down the property and it is truly the back bone of their production. Lastly below you can see a good example of IPM or integrated pest management in the form of their insect hotels which were scattered across the property. Wild bees are active for a longer portion of the year and therefore can pollinate throughout more of the year. By the time you attract several species you ensure that your plants are well-pollinated and that they are protected from insect larvae by the many species of wasps.

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One of many bee and wasp hotels on the property

From beginning to end the property was inspiring. They are even experimenting currently with rice production. Interestingly, when I spoke with Josef about the traditional Chinampas system of Mexico (one of only 4 or 5 sustainable systems in the world) he had never even heard of them. It served as a beautiful reminder of the need to constantly be networking and learning from one another. It would be so very easy for them to build a few chinampas on their property. Just imagine a cultural and sustainable thread running from Mexico all the way to Austria! The Alpine terracing systems benefited by Holzer’s pond systems benefited yet again by traditional Mexican agriculture. This is the power of permaculture. This is how we can heal the world.

View down one of the long swale/pond hybrids with spill point to the next pond in the immediate foreground

View down one of the long swale/pond hybrids with spill point to the next pond in the immediate foreground

Permaculture at the Sivananda Bahamas Ashram

IMG_0310As I peer out the window of our plane, gazing upon Nature’s premier patterns, islands and vibrant blue water, I’m filled with joy and gratitude in knowing that my permaculture design course at the world-renowned Sivananda Bahamas Ashram is finally here. The sun enlivening the world outside speaks to my very soul as I acknowledge this beautiful journey. When I had been asked to present the ashram’s first 12-day permaculture design certification course my heart was charged with the opportunity to speak to a yogic community about what I often call “yoga for the land”, that is, permaculture. Additionally, I would be speaking with the permaculture community about the divine system of yoga. In my own life I feel the wedding of these two systems as I never fully feel at home on either “side”. More still I see clearly how they are more than sister sciences: they are two perspectives on the same thing. What else could there be at the core of reality other than what there Is? Who else could be there at the center of ourselves other than who we are? Living misaligned with these questions is the source of the current world situation. We can no longer afford this misalignment. Nor can the Earth. Permaculture then is the realigning of ourselves within the greater ecosystems of Nature. Yoga is remembering who you are. It seems then only fitting to remind who we are how to honor these selfsame ecosystems.

As the plane lands I thank the Earth for allowing me to arrive safely, though I know how destructive our flights are to her health. I see a day in my future when I will no longer fly and instead enjoy intimately knowing one bioregion for the rest of my life. After being stopped a dozen times and being asked, “Hey, has anyone every told you you look like Jesus??” I make my way out of the airport with my younger brother Caleb, who was taking the course, and my co-teacher Terry Meer of the Green Education Center. Kim, our Bahamian Taxi driver, drives us along the blue waters we witnessed from above to Nassau, the busy epicenter of the Bahamas. Seeing the congestion, the lack of design, and the disconnection reminds me how we could be doing so much better. It is the same lack of pattern and design one sees all over the world. This all changes, however, as we board our small boat at the dock which will take us across the beautiful blue waters to the ashram.

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Stepping onto the ashram for the first time I could feel both my lungs and my heart pause with peace, such a contrast to the city. The shade of the canopy of Royal Poinciana and coconut trees a heralding of the sadhana (spiritual practice) of the space. Our escort, the wonderful Saraswati, kindly shows us the grounds and rooms. Amidst the thick green I see swamis wearing earned orange robes as the smell of incense finds me in another moment of awe. A moment I will stay in for the next twelve days. The people here walk differently than the people in Nassau. Socially this place is a microclimate of peace. One can easily feel God’s presence in such microclimates, be they social or ecological ones. As designers it is our goal to create more and more of these oases.

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One by one I meet the students who will be joining us on the journey and they are all truly wonderful without exception. It is a blessing to be able to constantly be involved with individuals so devoted to restoring Earth’s equilibrium. Permaculturalists are bold individuals willing to stand and take responsibility for the current state of affairs. Why responsibility? Because it is the ability to respond. If we as healers and permaculture designers constantly put responsibility on others then we constantly give others the ability to respond. In essence leaving none then for ourselves. We want full responsibility! This ability to respond is sacred and empowering and it will be your most powerful ally. Take responsibility and support others in doing the same. Only then will we accomplish our dreams.

The sky is breathtaking by night. Especially now as Jupiter and Venus are shining together in the sky. Everyday they move closer together in Cancer where they will dance side by side for a few days. One evening as I walked with a dear friend toward the sunset we watched as the sun dipped below the horizon. As we stood there spell bound by its burning beauty a certain sadness existed knowing the moment was almost over. As we turned around there was the full moon enlightening the night sky. Yes, the world truly is this amazing.

20150405_123433Through some amazing God-incidence my course was scheduled during Swami Swaroopananda’s 60th birthday. In the Vedic tradition one’s 60th birthday is one of the most important. In theory in marks the time it takes for Saturn to come around twice again to the place it was when you were born. I say in theory because it depends on how long it goes retrograde, backwards through the constellations, which delays this return (often called a Saturn Return in Western Astrology). For this auspicious time they brought in many well-known individuals including tabla maestro Swapan Chaudhuri, the great bansuri player G.S. Sachdev, kirtan artist Krishna Das, Swami Atmananda (one of Sivananda’s few direct living disciples) and many others. The energy on the ashram was incredible with so many devout yogis walking amidst the gardens, pools and shrines.

Teaching a certification course amidst this energy is such an honor. Typically when I teach a permaculture design course I can’t “let my yoga out”, at least not all the way out. However, here it is warmly welcomed. One of the students in this course is a close friend of mine, Anisha Durve, who is one of Dr. Vasant Lad’s foremost students. I invited her to teach a few sections on āyurveda and vāstu as part of our study of Zone 00, or the Inner Landscape. The conversations that emerged as you could see the students feeling the profound ancient connection between all these systems is something I will never forget. My deepest passion is the edge where these two healing patterns merge. Below is something I wrote concerning these systems as I was laying in a hammock under the coconut trees.

In a landscape water carries life. Where the water goes so to goes the life energy of the landscape. In the human being sexual energy carries life. Where our sexual energy goes so too goes our life. Both water and sexual energy are sacred. We can learn much from a culture merely by looking at the state of its water, its quality, clarity or simply its presence. Many cultures have very little water because they have misused it. Now their landscapes are dry and difficult for life to thrive and find its fullest expression. We can learn much from a person by seeing how they direct their sexual energy, their physical essence. Many individuals have arid inner landscapes where it is difficult for their life to find its fullest expression because of their misapplication of their vital essence. Their inner landscape is in need of the nourishing structure that a divine science such as yoga can offer. When the outer landscape is depleted or in need of healing, a permaculture designer will implement strategic earthworks based on sound observation to allow the damaged landscape to once again focus its vital energy, that is water. Yoga in turn is based on ancient observations of the energies of the human body that we may sublimate this energy. This recharges our inner landscape even as swales and earthworks recharge our outer landscape. These observations are still valid today. Indeed, they are needed more now than ever.

In permaculture we would say that there are three tracks of water, meaning that it can only do three things on your property: evaporate (or evapotranspiration), run-off, or sink in. In order to heal the landscape we take the above notion and apply a sense of balance, e.g. slowing down water that is rushing too quickly. In āyurveda there is the Law of Similars and Dissimilars as written in the Aṣṭāṅga Hṛdayam, which states:

Vṛddhiḥ samānaiḥ sarveṣāṃ viparītair viparyayaḥ

Or “Like increases like and opposite heals”. In the human example this would mean balancing our hurriedness with peaceful activities like mindfulness, meditation or yoga. So in āyurveda and permaculture alike there is an acknowledgement of how to heal and it should come as little surprise that they are the same.

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The ashram is wonderfully excited to have us here. Though this is their first full permaculture course other Sivananda ashrams, California and New York for example, are going full steam with permaculture already. In July I will be visiting the New York ashram to check out their permaculture projects. Other ashrams I’ve worked with in bringing permaculture to their sites have been Kashi Ashram in Sebastian, FL (see Sustainable Kashi) and the Amrit Yoga Institute in Salt Springs, FL. Despite the profoundly amazing spiritual practices of most ashrams the ecological situation is almost always the same: degraded soil, the use of cleaners that aren’t biodegradable and/or are completely toxic and little or no food production. What is beautiful though is the Sivananda ashram’s recognition and desire to do more. They are just now beginning some major design changes to the property and the new buildings will be dramatically more energy efficient and incorporate some sustainable energy. We are already discussing the next course and Terry Meer will be back in October for a shorter intensive. Incorporating permaculture principles and design will be the mirroring of their timeless and beautiful yoga practice. It warms my very being to see this. The truth is that the permaculture community needs the ashrams spiritual practice of health just as much as an ashram needs the permaculture community’s example of sustainability. One can not only see this wave of synergy building but as you look around here at this beautiful ashram you realize that we are the wave. The students, swamis, karma yogis, all of us represent the rising of this wave of consciousness and the return to a sattwic age once again. The students will be the ones who inspire others as our collective wave rises and rises more. Rise it will until it fully washes away the filth of our current tamasic culture.

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This course was the smallest one I’ve taught, having 7 students. However, the intimacy and strength of the group due to this was wonderful and it was delightful to witness. In between classes most of us would run down to the water and dive in its neon color basking in Nature’s splendor (and our non-stop laughter. We were easily the loudest group there!). After our last class of the day we would often be found in a yoga class and then again in satsang chanting timeless mantras for healing. I’m deeply proud of all of our students for completing this transformational course as its not easy. One has to deliberately set aside time and be very devoted to this knowledge. Similarly, in one’s yoga sadhana one must be devoted and create deliberate space. It is this deliberation the world needs. Why? Because the world is waiting for us to take full responsibility.

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This photo is of myself and my co-teacher Terry Meer with our students and the priest as they hold their 12-day permaculture certifications: signed by two permaculturalists, one swami and blessed by a Tantric priest. This is how we roll. Jus sayin’

*Thank you to Anisha Durve for many of these pictures. You can visit her blog here. Additionally I am eternally grateful to Terry for joining me on this course and to the amazing Sivananda Bahamas Ashram which guides so many souls to their divine essence.

Ayuryoga Weekend – Kent, OH – Last Weekend in July

Course Flyer

Course Flyer

In this comprehensive course we will delve into the worlds of Ayurveda and Yoga beyond what is typically discussed in any yoga class. These two systems are ancient healing arts and when combined one receives tremendous insight on how to use one’s yoga practice medicinally. Learn how to navigate the health trends of the world, find out what yoga asanas (postures) are best for you and which you should not do, which breath exercises to use during which seasons and which foods fit your individual dosha (bodily constitution).

This class will give you the necessary tools and knowledge to take your practice far deeper and how to bring great joy and peace into your life. Classes may be purchased individually or as a package in which case a discount is offered.

Please click the above flyer for more information including time, location and prices.

Om shanti

Exciting Update for the Sivananda Bahamas Ashram Permaculture Design Course!

anisha

I am thrilled to announce that Anisha Durve will be teaching the sections on health, internal landscape and zone 00 at our next, and very special, Permaculture Design Course! As a healer, Anisha has a long list of impressive credentials. Most prominently she is one of Dr. Vasant Lad’s foremost students. She studied with Dr. Vasant Lad closely for 4 years, 3 of these years being in India. Additionally, she is the co-author of the highly-regarded “Marma Points of Ayurveda” book with Dr. Vasant Lad. She also studied for 3 years and graduated from the Southwest College of Acupuncture in 2000 with a Masters of Science in Oriental Medicine. She is a Diplomat in Acupuncture certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) and has received National Clean Needle Technique Certification (CCAOM). Anisha has also completed 500 hours of training at Vivekananda Yoga Kendra in Bangalore, India’s premiere yoga research institute, in February 2004. She was also one of the first Ayuryoga graduates from The Ayurvedic Institute. It is all of this priceless knowledge as a healer that Anisha will be sharing with us in our classes on the Inner Landscape. (note: for full bio and more see her website)

As permaculturalists our design process truly starts with zone 00, that is, ourselves. The peace, joy and health we cultivate deep within us will ultimately be what is expressed in the landscape outside of us. Permaculture is a design science based on learning from truly sustainable cultures, ancient methods and nature. Ayurveda is itself an ancient design science for individual health and rejuvenation. The profound healing of the Earth therefore needs to be approached both from without and from within. Any imbalances we have inside ourselves will ultimately be expressed through our fingertips as we create. The ways we channel our personal energies will be channeled similarly in our landscapes.

One of the most exciting elements of this upcoming course has been to bring the worlds of Vedic Science (e.g. Yoga, Ayurveda, Vastu) and permaculture closer together. By having Anisha Durve present to teach the sections on Inner Landscape, we will have a strong foundation on which to build our nature-based designs, be they community, food growing, natural building, etc. Anisha will be incorporating the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine, Yoga and Vastu to show us how to fully unlock our inner health and radiance. Additionally, she will be available for private consultations (at an extra cost) should any students desire.

To register for this dynamic Permaculture Design Course at the world-renowned Sivananda Bahamas Ashram, please visit the program page on the Ashram’s site by clicking here. (Be sure to type in the ‘Additional Comments’ section that you want to take advantage of the discounted tent site and board option of $45/night)

For more information on Anisha Durve please visit her websites:

www.anisha.guru

www.wisdomofayurveda.com

For more information about this permaculture design see the menu links at the top of this page.

Lead with love.

Permaculture – An Ecological Rebirth

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When I woke this morning in my temporary home in Northeastern Ohio I could feel a certain excitement. The seasons here are just beginning to change and one can hear whispers of the coming spring in the natural world. This winter in particular has been cold and long, setting many records for coldest days. Indeed, the whole world is filled with excitement for the change that is upon us. In a mere few weeks the cold white snow and ice will give way to an explosion of green in an ecological rebirth of sorts as the sun’s warmth increases. As a permaculture designer and teacher I feel this representative of where we stand as ecological healers. We are in a winter of sorts in the world. It has been long and we have set records. However, there  remains an undercurrent of excitement, especially in the permaculture world, as we are realizing the power of nature and therein our own power when we work with her. Despite many situations in the world that are difficult to tolerate, including many one should not tolerate at all, there is reason for hope. This is because regenerative systems, a desire for radical healing of the Earth and a return of brotherhood and sisterhood can be felt in the world around us. Even as the winter here is slowly giving way one can see our collective efforts of ecological and societal peace around the world budding in preparation for a grand blossoming that will take place in all parts of the world.

How then do you hasten the coming spring? By getting your permaculture design certificate. The inspiration, insight, ecological tools, perspective shift, knowledge and guidance you gain during a pdc are tremendous. You will leave knowing you are more capable to assist in the ecological rebirth we find ourselves in the middle of. In the future this knowledge will be taught as basic education to our children. Now we must seek it out. Our dear Earth needs your presence, action and attention. Instead of randomly attempting to do our best, the design science of permaculture will teach you how to magnify your efficacy by basing it upon long standing natural patterns and rhythms found throughout the world. Mycelium (the living intelligent network that fruits mushrooms) will eventually colonize a fallen limb in the forest. However, if we inoculate it this colonizing will happen much faster and more completely. So too will you eventually learn some of permaculture’s methods through random studies and sincere attempts. Imagine instead inoculating yourself with appropriate information and inspiration alike from qualified instructors. This is the difference a permaculture design course will make in your life. It will increase the warmth of your personal sun to help usher in humankind’s ecological rebirth from this cold winter. Sometimes I’m asked, why should I get my permaculture design certificate? The more appropriate question is always, why shouldn’t you?