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.
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.
How Permaculture Changed My Life
I feel renewed in the short time that I’ve lived here and more connected to who I really am. Here are five 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 twenty 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 a 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 is 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 trashcan to be driven to a landfill, which creates toxic gases for the atmosphere. At East End Eden, we feed the scraps to the chickens who transform them 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 in 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 and who 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?