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Knowledge From Experience

As happens to me regularly, today I had an opportunity to learn something from an experience. Some of you may have seen the “beautiful morning” post from yesterday, and the follow-up Gratitude post. So I get up this morning after a good night’s sleep, do my morning practice, and get on with my day. I’m driving the short distance over to the farm, and all of a sudden, I’m the old Jeff, pissed off at the world, cussing and fussing at everybody and everything. And even now, I have NO idea where that came from. Nobody cut me off in traffic, the truck’s running fine, I haven’t realized I screwed up something. There was no reason for me to be angry.

Now it “just so happens” that I am studying some of Judith Hansen Lasater’s work as part of my practice. Just that morning, in a YouTube video, she’d said that we are constantly manipulating our central nervous system. We do it with coffee, weed, chocolate, you name it. However, we don’t see it that way. We just want to wake up, chill out, or feel happy. We do it unconsciously. Yoga practice is also a manipulation of the nervous system*, but many yogis, me included until recently, don’t know it. The question is, are we doing the manipulation consciously or unconsciously?

As I was sitting in traffic with this unexpected bout of anger, I remembered what I heard just a short while ago. So I did a conscious manipulation of my nervous system. I used a Pranayama practice called “two-to-one” breathing. In this practice, your exhales are twice as long as your inhales. This engages the parasympathetic nervous system, the “rest & digest” part of our nervous system. I use this in my Yoga Asana classes to get us out of the stressed mindset that all the sound and fury of modern life puts us in. It works very well in class, and it worked amazingly well this morning. The anger left as quickly as it came.

What’s the lesson? That we have more control over our moods than we think we do. We have a choice to stay in a bad mood or to choose a better frame of mind. The technique that helps with that choice is very simple and already a part of our Life.

Take a deep breath in, then exhale. Breathe deeply and evenly for a few breaths. Then inhale, counting to three, exhaling on a 6 count. Pay attention to each breath. Do this for 6 breaths. Feeling better? Good! Breathe normally for a few breaths, paying attention to how you feel. If you need to do another round of 6 breaths two-to-one, do it. I’ve used this for other types of stress, and even when I had a hard time falling asleep. It’s worked for me every time, as long as I stayed with it and focused on the breath.

Paying attention, recalling the teachings, making conscious choices from those teachings, Creates knowledge from experience. Now I can apply that knowledge to other experiences, generating more knowledge. It’s specific knowledge from a particular experience that I AM GRATEFUL for today!!!

Peace, Grace, & Love,
Jeff

*It’s also much more than that, but that’s another post. – Jeff

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Letting Go Of Opportunity

I create Opportunity for myself. I gave myself permission to do this a few years ago, and I haven’t regretted “picking myself” to do the things I think the world needs more of. I’m not a fan of waiting for others to pick me. Though when they do, I AM GRATEFUL to work with them.

Recently, I created another Opportunity, this time with a twist. The way the Opportunity will go forward was left up to another entity. In other words, I gave away too much of the decision-making process. I was just so interested in the project, that I didn’t think it through. So I’m stuck waiting. Or so I thought.

In what I thought was an unrelated endeavor, I have added the Yogic practice of Svadhyaya to My Yoga Practice. Part of the Yoga Sutras, this niyama or observance, is most often translated as “self-study”, though I think “self-discovery” is more appropriate for me. In that practice, I have come more and more to see all of the attachments I have in My Life. One of those things is “the way things are supposed to be”, otherwise known as expectations. Letting go of those expectations is one of the hardest, yet most rewarding things that I have done. Hard in that I think, ‘this is THE way it’s supposed to be, dammit!” Rewarding in opening up to any possibility, maybe better than my expectations.

You see, “Detachment is faith, a confidence that ‘everything will be OK in the end, and if it’s not OK, it’s not the end’ (John Lennon). Detachment is letting go of worrying about results. Detachment isn’t passive. It’s an active engagement with Life, while being fully confident that the engagement is done with no thought of compensation.” I wrote that some time ago, and had to be reminded that I need to detach from Opportunities, too. Do the work, put it out there, let it go, and have Faith. That doesn’t mean you never work on it again, because what you let go of was the anxiety and fear, the worrying about it. That Confidence is knowing that it WILL be OK in the end. We don’t wait for Abundance or Justice or Happiness from others. We Create it ourselves with Love and Compassion and Faith.

So I’m not stuck waiting for anybody, unless I choose to. If waiting helps me Create, fantastic, If it doesn’t, I have plenty to do. I’m going to continue to Create every day. It’s that lesson that I AM GRATEFUL FOR TODAY!!!

Peace, Grace, & Love,
Jeff

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Answers In The Stillness

I used to tease my kids that they needed a soundtrack for their Life. Always a radio, CD player, or a smartphone cranking out tunes. But I understand now that they were using sound as a type of distraction. These days, we all seem to do that. Actually, we have for a good while. Radio, then TV, then tapes, next was CDs, after that mp3s, now smartphones. And to be honest, books before that.

Lest you think I am coming down on technology, I am not. I’m not even coming down on distractions. We all need them on occasion, after all. But what are being distracted from? All of the chatter in our minds. This mental activity must be ancient, because a form of it is mentioned in the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali’s writings on Yoga. There are many translations of the Sutras, and I’ve come to this version for myself, “Yoga is the stilling of the ever-changing states of the mind”. (1.2) The Yoga Sutras were written thousand of years ago, and are a collection, probably a summary, of even older writings. So our constant mental activity ain’t nothin’ new. Does it’s ancient roots make all the brain chatter useful? I have no idea. What I can tell you is that the noise in my head is too often negative. I don’t know why that is or even where it came from. But I’ve had to deal with it for as long as I can remember.

Today in the asana portion of My Yoga Practice, I opted for silence. I began with a meditation on the Sutras, and by “coincidence”, Sutra 1.2 was the choice for the day. I usually have a playlist running, and practice my class instructions on myself. But quiet seemed the order of the day. As I lay in Savasana, a answer to a negative belief that I’ve carried for years popped into my brain. It was really quite obvious, and a variation on something my Pop had said years ago, but until I stilled my mind, I couldn’t hear it. Now, I had set My Intentions on wholeness, because the translation that I used this morning read, “We become whole by stopping the turning of the mind”. Becoming whole is how the authors* define Yoga. Plus, “I AM Wholeness, Love’s Perfection”, has been an Intention of mine for quite some time. I have been looking for ways to “embody my Intentions” for the last few weeks, as well. So My Mind had been primed for Wholeness on some level today. But a quiet mind allowed those thoughtforms to manifest as the answer I wasn’t consciously seeking.

That quiet mind, and the answer that came from it, are WHAT I AM GRATEFUL FOR TODAY !!!

Peace, Grace, & Love,
Jeff
*The Essential Yoga Sutra: Ancient Wisdom for Your Yoga, by Geshe Michael Roach & Christie McNally, Three Leaves Press, 2005.

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Creating Opportunity


The last two days have been quite busy. Between travel, teaching, and content creation, it’s been a very creative time. What I’ve been Creating is Opportunity. Taking the actions necessary to put My Work out into the world, and then simply giving those actions time to take effect. And THAT’S WHAT I AM GRATEFUL FOR TODAY; the Opportunity that I can Create from the uncertainty of Life.

There’s more than one way to Create. That’s one of the things that make Life so interesting. For me, Creation starts from My Personal Mythology – all of my thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions. I use these stories, if you will, to manifest that Mythology out into the world through the choices I make and the actions I take. I influence those choices and actions through My Intentions, the “I AM” statements that help me Create My Life. All these things go together in order to focus my choices. In turn, those choices direct my actions.

Creating Opportunity follows that format. What I add to that is My Wisdom, the product of my ever increasing knowledge multiplied by the many experiences that I have had. I gain knowledge through experience, and have more and different experiences as a result of knowledge gained.* That wisdom affects my choices and actions as well, as it is assimilated into My Personal Mythology.

What am I really Creating? I’m focusing the effect of my actions in the field of uncertainty. Instead of “anything could happen”, I’m Creating a situation where selected things have a greater certainty of happening, or reducing the chances of unwanted things happening. That’s what I mean by Creating Opportunity. For example, marketing a class of some kind is Creating Opportunity. The more people that know about the class, the greater the Opportunity to make a profit from the class. Learning a new skill is Creating Opportunity. Completing my Yoga Teacher Training gave me the skills to take advantage of the Opportunity to teach Yoga. Even being a part of a community could be a chance to Create Opportunity. Meeting new people, gaining new knowledge, and having new experiences can lead to new Opportunities of all kinds.

Remember – we all have the ability to Create. Let’s Create something Good today!!!

Peace, Grace, & Love,
Jeff

*One of Buckminster Fuller’s definitions of wealth

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Jeff’s Schedule for September 11-16, 2017

This week, I’m in Patrick County, VA, working on some private projects. Hopefully, all of you who read my posts regularly have survived Hurricane Irma. For those of us still in the many projected paths, I hope you and yours make it through OK.

While the calendar says it’s still summer, we’ve had some cool nights on Locust Ridge. Leaves are changing color, too! Fall is on the way, and that means planting season. While I’ll be pretty busy this week, I can always make time to help YOU be a Successful Gardener! If you live in Patrick, Henry or Floyd County, VA and you’d like me to come by and help you with a garden consultation, I’d love to do it. I’ve designed and installed all kinds of landscapes, from formal herb gardens to Permaculture homesteads. In an hour, I can solve problems, identify plants, show you some opportunities, and help you enjoy your garden even more! If you’re interested, contact me here.

Fall is a great time to evaluate farm enterprises as well. I farmed and operated a plant nursery in NC for 15 years, and was an NC Cooperative Extension agent for 8 years. In that time, I learned a LOT about farm production and farm business management. I can help you with organic certification, transition to organic practices, and marketing your farm and food products. To learn how to cultivate profit on your farm, contact me here.

Fall can be a great time to start your own business, too. You can be up and running by Springtime, and if you have a good business plan, maybe even sooner. Whatever the schedule, strategic planning is essential for success. I can help you write a business plan, construct enterprise and cash flow budgets, and do market research. Individual consultations and group trainings are options for getting the information you need to succeed! To take advantage of the opportunities that are available to small business owners, contact me here.

Remember to enjoy your garden, because THAT’S what makes you a Successful Gardener!

Peace, Grace, & Love,
Jeff

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Not So Random Moments In Life

I AM GRATEFUL for those “WHAT?!?!” moments that come from outside, but absolutely resonate with something deep inside of me. You’ve had those experiences, I know. They can be something that absolutely rings true with you, or, moments of clarity that topple an entire house of cards that you’d built. But either way, you understand Life better. That happened to me twice yesterday, showing me more on My Practice. Or maybe they are part of the same thing , I’m not certain yet. Maybe I was simply a little more conscious of those moments after my Facebook post yesterday, encouraging us all to look for those random, or maybe not so random, moments in Life that Inspire us.

Like a lot of folks, I came to Yoga for physical reasons. Essentially, I was afraid of dying from the stress of my job. My father, suffering from cancer at the time, said, “Son, if you don’t do something, you will die from that job. I’m in better shape than you!” I’ve been practicing for not quite 7 years now, and I’ve hit a point where the benefits of Practice have begun to slow down. I even felt like I was going backwards, losing some of the benefits. I was really puzzled by this, and have been letting it percolate in my mind, trying to wrap my head around it. I was listening to an Alan Watts video the other day, and he asked, why do we practice? Are we doing it out of fear, running away from something? WHAT?!?!

I had to answer, “Yes, I am”. While I took what I thought was a positive approach to My Health (and I still believe that), I’d hit a point in My Practice that was weakened by the foundation of fear I’d built on. I had reacted to my lack of health, instead of created a healthy Life.

I don’t think this is uncommon, simply because, like me, lots of folks come to Yoga because of physical ailments. And we are taught to be afraid of sickness, as opposed to being taught to create a culture of wellness, of health. Fortunately, Yoga encourages such a culture. Even practicing from a reactive state, over time, My Practice led me toward wellness. And now is the time to detach from that fear-based motivation.

As this revelation is sinking in, I’m studying the Yoga Sutras. I’m watching Judith Hanson Lasater’s talk on Samtosha, one of the 5 Niyamas. She says that if we force ourselves onto the mat (out of fear – JR), instead of inviting ourselves to our mats, then we block much of the benefits of our practice. Practice with Kindness and Compassion for ourselves, to practice with Love for ourselves. WHAT?!?!?

That “Loving myself” thing has always been hard for me. How do I jumpstart my practice by Loving a person who just isn’t good enough to be Loved? Fortunately, Compassion, Kindness, and Contentment toward myself, and others, are some things I can consciously practice. I have to learn how to do that, but Yoga is a good platform to learn on.

As I learn to invite myself to practice, I offer you the same invitation. Create that space in your Life where your Love for that Life invites you into it. Every time you choose to Love yourself is a chance to add to that Creation.

Peace, Grace, & Love,
Jeff

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A Beautiful Day!

A beautiful day on the farm yesterday – sunny skies, fall temperatures, a recent rain to help the plants grow. It made for a good day at Renfrow Farm, and that is what I AM GRATEFUL for today! And that set me to wondering…what makes a day “beautiful” or “good”?

I’m sure that you could ask that question of 10 different people and get 12 different answers! And they would all be correct; for that place and time, anyway. Standards of beauty and goodness are different for everybody. And standards shift based on experience.

Here’s a recent example. As I have mentioned (probably too often, but I had a “beautiful” time), I spent the Labor Day weekend at YogaJam in Floyd, VA. The first days of the festival, we had to deal with rain showers from the remnants of Hurricane Harvey. Cold, wet, and muddy. Most days we would consider that a “bad” day. But for most of those days, I was surrounded by smiling, happy people. Now, you may be thinking that yogis are always smiling. Not so! One of the “painful blessings” of Yoga is that it is so effective at helping clear away so much of the shit we have to deal with. But that’s another post. Back to the subject at hand. What made those folks so happy in such a sodden state? They went with a beginner’s mind. No expectations. They made allowances for the rain, and concentrated on the “good” part of the weekend.

Let’s be clear here. It wasn’t all fun and games. There were times I had to grit my teeth and concentrate on the “Beauty and Truth” of the experience. I expect others did as well. My point is, it would have been easy to see the rain and cold as the main part of the experience. Most folks didn’t. They danced in the rain, walked barefoot in the mud, and wore rain ponchos to class. With a smile on their face. And they cheered when the Sun came out!

So how do we carry that “off the mat and into the world”? For me, it starts with Gratitude for My Life. For All of Life, in fact. Even the “painful blessings” we experience. And that comes from a Personal Mythology of positivity. That can be hard in these days of sound and fury. It is for me, quite frankly. That’s why I practice so often. I have no desire to fall back on that angry white guy mentality I had for way too long.

I encourage you to start looking for the “good” and the “beautiful” things in your Life. Even in the shitty things that happen to you. Do it regularly, and you’ll teach yourself to see Beauty and Truth in the world. Do it for 30 days. Then 60, then 90. Keep doing it until seeing the Good in Life is your “default setting”. You might be surprised to discover that what has changed is YOU.

Have a Beautiful Day!

Peace, Grace, & Love,
Jeff

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Go With The Flow?

I travel a lot in my work, and for the most part, I enjoy it. But there are stretches of highway that just seem difficult to travel. Yesterday I was on one of those ribbons of asphalt that have frustrated me in the past. And the trip was relatively stress-free. And for that, I AM GRATEFUL TODAY!!!

My travel methodology used to be all about time. How much time WILL it take to get there? How much time DID it take to get there? Did I beat the planned time? It was really a pain in the ass. Then one day not so long ago, I had to travel on the above-mentioned highway, and I had a very pleasant trip. After having so many worrisome journeys on this same road, I had to take a look at that. And My answer was a cliché. To have a pleasant trip, all I had to do was “go with the flow”. But not exactly in the sense I normally do.

Think about it. When you go with the flow of wind or water, you get tossed around a lot, your speed is erratic, and you might get caught in a whirlpool or find yourself becalmed. If you let things flow around you, simply using the direction of the flow, you have a much calmer trip. No need to fight the current, you use the flow, instead of allowing the flow to use you. It’s pretty simple to do this, too. Cliché Alert: there will be several ahead!

Travel with a “Beginner’s mind”. No expectations. No ETA, no schedule, no nothing. In practical terms, if you have an event that has a schedule, give yourself enough travel time to avoid the hassles of a timeline.

Slow down. This has the added benefit of avoiding tickets. I’ve found that if you actually drive the speed limit, that makes for a more relaxing trip. Best stay in the right lanes so the folks in a hurry can get where they’re going, which has the added benefit of lessening stress for yourself and others.

Enjoy the journey. Part of travel that I really like is all of the out-of-the-way, funky places you find along the road. Stop and see what’s up. You just might find the best place you’ve ever eaten. Or a great garden. Or a fantastic view. Or low gas prices. Or a short cut!

Let it go. As you travel, odds are things will happen. Traffic backups, Flat tires, stuck thermostats, whatever. Once I had a hood latch break. The hood flew open, completely blocking my view as I travelled at 65 mph. That was exciting! But it’s the frustration that come along with those things that you need to let go of. Fussin’ and cussin’ about it only raises your blood pressure. Have the things that help reduce that frustration to begin with, whether that’s a complete mechanic’s tool set or AAA Service on speed dial.

Go with the flow. Remember, we are using the flow, not being used by the flow. Maybe another way to say this is we are letting traffic flow around us, not resisting, not obstructing. Just simply being.

Peace, Grace, & Love,
Jeff

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Look After Yourself

I had a good conversation the other day with my dear friend and fellow entrepreneur Yvette Ladd (wellness-pursuits.com) about the ins & outs of running a business. She is much better than I am about self-care, which is an essential skill for anybody running a business. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t handle the stresses of an entrepreneurial enterprise. Plus, you won’t do a good job of taking care of your customers. So for any business owners out there, take this advice. Do something for YOURSELF on a regular basis. Even an afternoon off on a regular basis will help you do the entrepreneur thing more effectively.

My Yoga Practice is my main self-care, and even there I need to recharge my batteries on occasion. As I wrote on My Threefold Yoga FaceBook page yesterday, I immersed myself in Yoga over the Labor Day Weekend. Floyd YogaJam is my Fall recharge for My Yoga Practice. Practicing Seva Yoga as a volunteer allowed me to spend time thinking of others instead of what I need to do next for my company. Experiencing Sangha, the community of Yogis that I see only once a year, gave me a sense of Gratitude for all these Creative people. Being immersed in My Practice (Abhyasa) gave me the Opportunity to LIVE My Practice off the mat. This weekend provided clarity on some things, boosted my Creative juices, and gave me a chance to just have some fun. What more could you ask of a weekend NOT working on your business!?

Patanjali, the ancient Sage of Yoga, has left us with some concepts that we can apply to our Lives, both individually and as business owners. These Yamas, or guides to Right Living, show us how to act in the world. They are also ways to practice self-care by lessening the stresses of Life.

Ahimsa, or Compassion as I define it, encourages us to be gentle with ourselves and others. Satya tells us to be True to ourselves. Asteya inspires us to have integrity in our dealings with each other. Brahmacharya prompts us to maintain self-control as we go through Life. Aparigraha urges us to not waste our energy being jealous of another’s success.
Each of these Yamas, or guides, help us create a Life and a business that is much less stressful. And by decreasing stress, help us be more Creative, Peaceful, and Loving.
It’s concepts like the Yamas, and the opportunity to practice them, that I AM GRATEFUL for today!!!

Peace, Grace, & Love,
Jeff.

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Jeff’s Schedule for September 4-9, 2017

Late Summer is great for spending time in the garden, not just working, but ENJOYING your garden. Feed your body good food from the garden. Feed your mind new knowledge as you learn more about nature. Feed your soul just by watching things grow. All this while having a beautiful place to sit and enjoy coffee before breakfast or a glass of wine in the evening. Get the kids outside and away from “the screen”. Decompress after a hectic day on the job. The movement and exertion of gardening has long been considered a beneficial physical activity, and you get food or flowers as a result!

This week, I’m spending a day or two on Locust Ridge, then I’m headed South to Matthews, NC. I’ll be working on some farm projects, but I’ll be available for home garden and landscape consultations. I can help you evaluate your home landscape and find the right landscape for your family. In a one hour consultation, I can solve problems, identify plants, show you some opportunities, and teach you some cool shortcuts that make gardening more fun and interesting. If you’re interested in enjoying your garden even more, contact me here.

Organic farming has seen tremendous growth over the last few years, even while other sectors of agriculture have slumped. I farmed and operated a plant nursery in NC for 15 years, and was an NC Cooperative Extension agent for 8 years. In that time, I learned a LOT about farm production and farm business management. I can help you with organic certification, transition to organic practices, and marketing your farm and food products. To learn how to cultivate profit on your farm, contact me here.

As a former Small Business Center Director in NC, I can tell you that these are times of great opportunity for small business owners. Many small businesses can be started for as little as $100! To take advantage of these opportunities, strategic planning is essential. I can help you write a business plan, construct enterprise and cash flow budgets, and do market research. Individual consultations and group trainings are options for getting the information you need to succeed! To take advantage of the opportunities that are available to small business owners, contact me here.

Remember to enjoy your garden, because THAT’S what makes you a Successful Gardener!!!

Peace, Grace, & Love,
Jeff

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