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Just the Essentials

“Blow up your TV. Throw away your paper. Move to the country. Build you a home. Plant a little garden. Eat a lot of peaches. Try and find Jesus on your own.”
~ John Prine.

You don’t have to literally blow up anything to simplify your Life. Find out what the essentials are. Think about that for a minute. What do have in your life that you can’t do without? I don’t mean things like, “A hammer, wire-cutting pliers, a pocket knife, WD-40, Duct Tape, Aviation Form-A-Gasket and 14 gauge wire”. I’m looking for something deeper, but let me ask you something. That list of stuff – why do you think you need it? Looking at my list, which I call “The Essential Tool Box”, it’s obvious I want to be prepared to “fix” anything. And why is that? Because you never know what might happen. Why am I worried about that? Being prepared gives me a sense of safety and security. And that may be an essential for me. But why are safety and security are such a big deal for me? I’m sitting here wondering why… I don’t have a good answer that doesn’t come back to safety and security. How does that sense of security make me feel? I don’t think there’s any one word to describe it. Happy? Prosperous? Peaceful?

Once I get to feelings, that’s where I believe essentials lie. No matter what kind of stuff we want or have, it’s how those things make us feel that is the essential. You may have said money was what you wanted to have. What does money give you? “I can get what I want with money.” Is it the security thing again? Aren’t we simply looking for Happiness, Peace, Abundance – does it all boil down to feeling good? Whether it does or not, we keep coming back to those things.

You can take yourself through the same process. What stuff do you have to have no matter what? Once you get to an emotion associated with feeling good, I suspect that there is your essential. From there, you can create an I AM Intention. “I AM Happy. I AM Abundant. I AM Peaceful.” Create an Intentions practice, repeating those every day. Take a moment and feel Happy. Do you smile when you’re Happy? Then Smile! The more you can duplicate the feelings of Happiness, the more likely you are to make Happiness a bigger part of your Life. Lest you think this is hocus-pocus, it’s an old psychological technique called acting “as if”. What you are doing is training your brain to seek out the feeling of Happiness. You can do the same for Peacefulness and Abundance. Will you create World Peace and become a jolly millionaire doing this? I don’t think so, but you’ll feel Happier, more Peaceful, and more Abundant in your life regardless. And THAT might put you in a frame of mind that contributes to world peace. And it might make you less worried over things, which might make you more attentive to opportunities to make money, laughing all the way to the bank.
“I AM Happy. I AM Peace. I AM Abundance.” Live those as your Intentions. Act like a Happy person. Spread Peace to the world. Feel so Abundant that you share what you have with everyone. And so you begin to change the world.

What are your essentials?

REMEMBER – I AM Living My Life Essentially. I AM_____________.  Add your own essential.
And So It Is!

~ Inspired by The Season of Nonviolence

Peace, Grace, & Love,
Jeff

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Make It So!

Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact.
– William James

Belief has great power. With it, nations have risen and fallen. Truths have been proven and disproven. Religions thrive and wither. But when someone suggests that belief can help us create our Lives, it’s dismissed as lies and balderdash. My inner cynic tells me this is simply the elites trying to keep the huddles masses under their control. But truly, I think it’s simply because we haven’t been taught that we can, in fact, chart the course of our Lives by what we believe.

I’ve said before that our thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions create our Personal Mythology, all of the stories we use to create our Lives. I believe that’s true. I can point to parts of my Life that I have changed by believing that I could be that change. Anybody that knew me 20 years ago will tell you I’m a very different person. It was the belief that I could do it that made the change possible.

How does this work? I’m sure that if I took the time, I could find research and scientific literature about how belief changes a certain part of our brains, and that’s why belief helps us change. But simply put, thoughts and beliefs tend to work together to change how we perceive the world around us.

Here’s what I mean. In all of the sound and fury of modern life, our Personal Mythology guides how we see what happens to us. If you believe that the world is going to hell in a handbasket, you see evidence of that all around you. If you believe the world is a Beautiful and Abundant place, you’ll see Beauty and Prosperity everywhere. Our choices are affected by our beliefs. By believing that the world is going to hell on an express train, your choices might have a distinct “bend over, put your head between your legs, and kiss your ass good-bye” philosophy behind them. The other viewpoint might see things as “It will be OK in the end. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end” feel. The same events are viewed through the very different lenses.

Obviously, I come down squarely in the, “It’ll be OK in the end” camp. And so my Intentions, the “I AM” statements that I use to manifest My Life, are guided by a positive view of Life. My choices are guided by My Intentions, which are always stated in the present tense. “I AM” is a way to remind myself that I AM a certain person or experience. Using “I AM Abundant” is a way to remind my brain that there is so much in the world available to me, much of it freely given. It puts my Thinking into a positive state, which then affects how I perceive the world. When opportunities come up, I’m more likely to see them, and can take advantage of the situation. I’m also more pleasant, which makes people more inclined to work with me. More opportunities can come from that, too.

“What if I said I could jump off a building and fly? Does that mean I could?” No, because you don’t really believe it. I don’t believe it, either, unless you’re in an aircraft of some kind. Come to think of it, nobody believed man could fly in any way, until the Wright Brothers and others proved that you could. Then we believed, and look where that took us.

REMEMBER – I AM creating My Life with what I Believe!
And So It Is!

~ Inspired by The Season of Nonviolence

Peace, Grace, & Love,
Jeff

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Unarmed Truth and Unconditional Love

“That’s the America I know. That’s the country we love. Clear-eyed. Big-hearted. Undaunted by challenge. Optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. That’s what makes me so hopeful about our future.”
~ Barack Obama, President of the United States

I like to think that, despite all of the sound and fury of the political process, that most Americans still believe this. That we ARE a big-hearted country. I do think that we need to be reminded of this on a regular basis. It’s easy to be cynical and say that we’ve lost our way, never to be compassionate again. But I’m not going to do that. I’ve decided it’s not true. And yeah, I CAN decide that for myself.

If I believe that “unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word”, I have to Live that way. That doesn’t mean I have to kowtow to the sound and fury. It DOES mean I don’t add to it. I can be FOR whatever I believe without rancor and vitriol. Better yet, I can go and do the things I believe need to be done in the best way I know how. That might mean working for a specific candidate. Working as a volunteer for a cause or effort you are FOR is another way to create the world you want to be a part of. It could also mean some kind of resistance in support of what you’re FOR. Whatever you do, do it in a spirit of Love.

Because it won’t be the politicians that create the world we Live in. It will be us, in our everyday actions and Lives. Politicians can pass all of the hateful laws they want, and we can go about our Lives the way we want. Don’t believe me? We do it all the time. We drive over the speed limit, we smoke and drink what we want. “But when you get caught, you’ll pay for it then!” Could be. But in the US at least, when enough of us are for doing the Loving thing, we usually get around to actually doing it. Please note I didn’t say doing the “right” thing. I’m more concerned about showing Empathy and being Compassionate than I am about “right” and “wrong”. And I really don’t care whether it’s done by individuals, groups, or government. I’m responsible for me, and what I do. I don’t have to wait for laws to be passed, or money to be raised. You don’t either. But if a law needs to be passed, I can work for that, too.

Here’s the thing. We can get caught up in all this noise, or we can can go and do what needs to be done. That includes voting. It also includes being a Compassionate person in the face of anger. It includes understanding that some people are afraid, and fear makes folks do strange and often hateful things. Creating a world of Unarmed Truth and Unconditional Love isn’t easy, but as Dr King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

REMEMBER – I AM creating the world by how I conceive, believe, and perceive the world. I achieve this creation through my actions in the world.
And So It Is!

~ Inspired by The Season of Nonviolence

Peace, Grace, & Love,
Jeff

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“Preciate It!”

“I appreciate it!” We use this phrase as another way to say “Thank you!” I’d never really put any conscious thought into the use of the word “appreciation” in Gratitude practice. In all honesty, I’d never thought much about the word at all. What does appreciation mean?

Gratitude, of course, when we say, “I appreciate your service” or, “I appreciate all you do for me.” Another meaning is an increase in value. Usually this refers to financial assets, but it can apply to anything…or anyone. If someone has value in your Life, it’s important to APPRECIATE that person. A full understanding of a situation or a person is another part of appreciating someone or something. Understanding the value of a person helps you to APPRECIATE that person or a particular experience all the more. We also APPRECIATE someone when we recognize and enjoy their good qualities.

When we say “I appreciate it!”, we mean that we are Grateful to someone that has added value to our Lives, often by simply being alive. We understand the value of the experience. We see that Good has come from the experience with that person and we enjoy everything that we have received as a result. Knowing this, appreciating someone is a much bigger expression of Gratitude, don’t you think?

So how do you include Appreciation in your Gratitude Practice? Consciously using the word in your practice, obviously. As you use the word, recall the meaning of recognizing, understanding, and enjoying the value that has been added to your Life. Really SEE the value, understand what has been added to your Life. Be so Happy about receiving that value that you just can’t wait to share it. By reveling in the experience, by savoring the encounter with that person, you add even more value to it, for yourself, and anybody that was a part of the experience.

To paraphrase Rob Brezsny, “Don’t just count your Blessings. See them, understand them, recognize them, enjoy them, APPRECIATE them!

REMEMBER – I AM appreciating all of the Good people and Good things in My Life.
And So It Is!

~ Inspired by The Season of Nonviolence.

Peace, Grace, & Love,
Jeff

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The Sound and the Fury

“It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
– Shakespeare’s Macbeth
Macbeth was in his full torment when he made this tortured commentary. And if I’d made his choices, I’d probably have that same sour, puckered view of Life. I picked his words “sound and fury” to be a form of shorthand for all of the swirling miasma of stories about fear & anger & violence in the world. I’m not saying that there are no terrible things in the world. There are, and seemingly always have been, things that are undeniably horrible. Some natural, some manmade.

The negative stories that are told & repeated & tweeted & seeded in our consciousness are the “sound & the fury” I refer to. But they aren’t the “truth” about what happened. They are tales told, not by idiots, but by the unconscious, by the afraid, by the greedy, by the angry. And they create this miasma, this heavy cloud of fear & depression that create that sour, puckered, fearful view of life. Not the actual event, but the beliefs & perceptions about Life & people are what create our view of what happened.

Here’s an example. After being inundated by the sound and the fury for so long, we come to believe that the world is going to shit. We can perceive only the things that prove our belief. So we can only conceive of things that add to that. That’s all we see, so that’s what we believe is “true”, which reinforces the belief. And so the cycle begins again.

But we have the choice to change that. We can choose to conceive of all of the Good things that we want in our Lives. And by those thoughts that we consciously choose, we can, in fact, begin to change both our beliefs and perceptions of the world. And by doing so, we so change our world & our Lives. I say this from experience, not from simply seeing this over and over again on Face Book.

Finding & expressing Gratitude for all of the Good in your life is a great place to start changing how we see our world. And “Don’t just count your Blessings. Name them, savor them, revel in them, and give Thanks for them”*

REMEMBER – I AM always choosing how I see my world. Today I see Love & Peace & Abundance.
And So It Is!!!
– Inspired by events in MY LIFE.

Peace, Grace, & Love,
Jeff

*From Rob Brezsny, Pronoia is the Antidote to Paranoia

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I AM

Recently, I was traveling to Matthews, NC for a speaking engagement, and had a flat tire. When you cover as many miles as I do, that happens. This time was a bit of a different experience. I was in a new (to me) vehicle, and I was unfamiliar with the location and operation of all the tools I needed to change the flat. I dealt with that and as I jacked up the vehicle, it became obvious that the jack just wasn’t up to the job. Full disclosure, I started to get really frustrated, and my old reactionary habits of profanity-laced anger began to boil over. Just as I started on a rant, I heard a voice say, “I AM Peace.” It was as plain as if somebody said it out loud. That brought me up short, and all I could do was say, “Yeah, I AM.” I let go of all of that frustration and proceeded on to take care of things, along with the help of a Good Samaritan with a decent jack. And I went on my way.

I bring this up as a real-life example of how Intentions work for me. They can work for you in the same way. Remember that Intentions are “I AM” statements of Who I Really AM. They are how we consciously manifest our presence into the world. I’ve had a regular Intention practice for some time now, and it is beginning to show up in My Life in interesting ways. That episode on the road was the clearest example of the practice’s effects.

The use of “I AM” statements as Intentions comes from Buddhist practice. Stated in the present tense, the words used create a state of mind that you ARE __________. The statement isn’t out in the future or the past, it’s now. Used in a practice, regularly and with a specific outcome in mind, you begin to create a new narrative in your Personal Mythology, the thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions that you use to Live your Life. For instance, anger has been an issue for me most of my adult life. Having a bad temper was who I was, even as it cost me a marriage. So as a part of My Practice, I included the simple “I AM Peace” Intention. And it’s started to have very obvious effects, as I wrote at the start of this piece.

How can you include Intention as a part of your practice? How do you want to feel? Do you want to be Happy? “I AM Happy” comes to mind. What about dealing with other people? I use “I AM Patient”, along with “I AM Compassionate” and “I AM Empathetic”. Don’t try to change anybody else. Don’t work with specific things like “I AM a millionaire”. In that case, “I AM Abundant” is where I would start. Focus on how you want to BE, not on stuff. This focus on BE-ing is what makes this work, I think. Craft your Intentions in a positive manner. Avoid negatives, no “I AM NOT’s”. While they may work for some folks, I had too many negative stories in My Personal Mythology for that to be effective. Always creating positive Intentions adds to the focus as well.

Here’s where the practice comes in. Set aside some time to repeat your Intentions. I usually do them first thing in the morning, and may have some occasion to repeat them during the day. But practice with your Intentions daily, at least. Be patient as you do the practice. I have no idea how long it will take for the effects to show up in your Life. Maybe I should say for you to begin to notice them. I suspect they show up in subtle ways as first. But I don’t know that.

Don’t use them to judge yourself either. I could easily have berated myself for not being Peaceful when I started having difficulties with the car jack. Surprisingly, I didn’t, which is probably an effect of the practice, too. I like the notion that we have to “ripen” through our practice. Just like a vine-ripe tomato or a tree ripened peach, we need the time to fully BE Who We Really Are. No need to rush things. And the time may be an essential part of the practice.

Here’s the short version. Craft I AM statements. Positive, present tense statements repeated regularly and with a purpose. Make it Personal. Be Patient. Be Forgiving. Be Who You Really Are.

REMEMBER – I AM Living an Intentional Life.
And So It Is!!!

~ Inspired by events in My Life.

Peace, Grace, & Love,
Jeff

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Agripreneurship

There have been lots of posts on social media lately about new farmers having to stop farming because they can’t be profitable. It’s difficult to know why the farms didn’t make a profit. There are probably as many reasons as there are farms. I do have a notion as to why so many of these folks are struggling. They’re starting a business. Doing that takes effort. Effort often becomes a struggle. I’m not trying to be callous. I’m not being negative, or even “realistic”, which to me is a code word for negativity. I’m simply speaking from 20+ years of experience as a farmer, nurseryman, landscaper, writer, teacher, and consultant.

As a society, we don’t see farming for what it is. Farming is an entrepreneurial venture, an enterprise that entails creativity, risk-taking, and lots of passion in order to succeed. “Success” can be hard to achieve for a new business, especially in the first 5 years of any venture. That’s true of any enterprise, whether it’s farming, auto repair, or web design. I have no idea WHY it seems to take around 5 years for a business to really become profitable. I’ve spent some time looking into this, and for every study that “proves” it, there is another that “disproves” it. It just seems to be the cultural theory. I don’t mean that it’s true. I mean that everybody believes that it’s true, which is different. That means it could take you less time. Or more, if you need it. That’s a lot of freedom.

I like the notion that entrepreneurship, or more accurately for farm businesses, agripreneurship*, is a ripening process. It just takes a certain period of time to mature. And success, which for most of us is defined as financial sustainability, is a result of this tumultuous gestational period. Just like a healthy calf or a juicy peach, ripeness is a state of being, not a time.

That ripening consists of a lot of different things. And things, as we all know can take time, money, and effort. Farming is capital intensive, which means you need to have stuff to do it. That stuff – land, equipment, livestock, buildings, computers – costs money. It also is a profession that takes a very wide skill set. Propagator, agronomist, breeder, vet, mechanic, book keeper, and marketing whiz, just to name a few. Farming has a lot of risk with it. Bad weather, crop failures, market downturns are all a part of being a farmer. If you didn’t grow up doing all those things, the learning curve is very steep.

For every challenge, there’s an innovative solution. Renting land and equipment cuts the initial capital investment. There are farm internships, incubator farms, Sustainable Ag schools, and conferences galore to allow you to add to your skill set. And now, new methods of growing (high tunnels and drip irrigation come quickly to mind) and marketing (social media) that help you mitigate the risks of farming and expand your opportunities.

So it’s time for farmers to understand something. Part of being sustainable is being financially profitable. Being profitable as an Agripreneur is to be aware of all of the opportunities in growing the food, fuel, and fiber crops that can be produced wherever they farm. Agripreneurs pursue those opportunities in innovative, creative ways. And they understand that just like so many of their crops, they have to ripen, too.

REMEMBER – I AM an Agripreneur. I consciously create Abundance from all of the Opportunities that come from the food, fiber, and fuel crops and products that I can produce. My Innovative actions are guided by my clear Intentions.

~ Inspired by my students, my own studies, and my own process of ripening.
And So It Is!

Peace, Grace, & Love,
Jeff

*agripreneurship is a term that I first heard in the 1990’s. I have no idea who coined the term.

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No Free Lunch

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” I’ve heard that a lot during the latest political campaign. It’s usually in the form of a disparaging remark. That’s unfortunate, because to me, it’s so much more.
First of all, nobody eats for “free”. By that I mean that somebody has put some effort into the meal you’re eating. Even foraged foods take the time and effort to ramble around looking for tasty morsels from farm and field.
Farmers spend a LOT of physical, temporal, and financial capital to put that food in your plate. For every bushel, basket, or peck you buy at the Farmer’s Market, the farmer spends a lot of her time and money to bring it to you. Chefs do the same for all of us. That beautiful food plated and placed on your table is the result of tremendous effort in a short amount of time.
As I have spent the last few years helping to create (and sometimes re-create) Local Food Cultures, it has become astounding to me how many people have put so much time, effort, money, and LOVE into every meal we eat. Even a meal that you cook yourself from food you grew has your heart in it.
A single breakfast of eggs, sausage, grits, and a biscuit has dozens of people involved in bringing it to your table. And let’s not forget the animals and plants that live their lives and give their lives so we might live. When you stop and truly think about that meal, the amount of involvement should astound you. The only response I find appropriate is to shout “Hallelujah!” before every meal. FYI, you should always let people know before you do that. It startles people so much, they might drop their own meal (Ask me how I know that).
Seriously, Gratitude of some sort is the right approach to this amazing culture of food. A part of that Gratitude is to help make sure that everybody gets to eat every day. To do less is to disrespect those people, the farmers, chefs and fast food workers who serve it to us, and you disrespect yourself. We’re all in this Life together, and to spend time being selfish hurts you terribly. You aren’t able to be the Shining Light we all really are if you hide that Light by wrapping your arms tightly around your heart.
There is no free lunch. But there is an abundance of food grown, distributed, and cooked on this planet by people who love what they do and love to bring it to us. So let us see food as the sacramental nourishment that it is. Let us appreciate all of the time, effort, and passion that goes into food. Let us be Grateful that there is, in point of fact, nothing free about the food we eat. Hallelujah!!!

Peace, Grace, & Love,
Jeff

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Local Food CULTURE

Local Food is very much a hot topic these days. I go to a lot of agricultural conferences, and every one of them have sessions about the benefits of Local Food. For the benefit of those who aren’t food policy junkies, I define Local Food as that which is grown, produced, sold and consumed within 100 miles of wherever I happen to be. You should know that not everybody defines Local the same way. The USDA, for instance uses a 400 mile distance as their definition of Local. My 100 mile definition isn’t arbitrary. My introduction to the Local Food movement was the book, The 100 Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating, by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon. I was working for NC Cooperative Extension as a Horticulture agent, and one of my many responsibilities was working with area fruit and vegetable farmers. I’d been encouraging shoppers to visit farmers markets and such, when the book came out. Curious, I took a road map and drew a circle around Union County, NC, where I worked. The area inside that circle represented a lot of food, and more importantly, a lot of people. But that map isn’t what I want to talk about.

When folks talk about Local Food, the discussion usually get to Local Food “systems”, or the way the food is grown, marketed, and sold. That word – system – just doesn’t sit well with me in this context. “System” has an industrial feel to it. Local food isn’t usually mass-produced. Neither is it a commodity, regardless of how much is grown or consumed. So the word “system” just doesn’t work. In fact, it puts good, fresh, locally produced food into the same category as any other food system. Systems aren’t about people. They are about processes. And processes can change because one person says they should. There’s very little sustainability with processes.

I much prefer the term, “Local Food Culture”. Why a Local Food “Culture”? Culture has been defined as “the full range of learned human behavior patterns & perceptions”, or simply the result of what people learn by interacting with each other. What does food have to do with such a high flown definition? Simple – culture is about people. People eat food. The way we eat it is cultural. The way we buy it is cultural. The way we grow it is cultural, or it used to be. And it could be and can be again.

Why does this matter? Isn’t it just a matter of semantics? Possibly, but words have power, and the words you choose (i.e., semantics) have the power to frame the issue. The food we eat, how we eat it, and the way we grow it isn’t a process. It’s a part of us, both literally and figuratively. It’s all about people. It matters because not only will our food be fresher, it will be more nutritious – for people. And money spent with a local business has more economic impact – on people. Which means more jobs will be created – for people.

Culture can be a lot more fun, too. What makes a meal pleasurable? The food, sure, but add some good friends (people) eating good food cooked by loving and willing hands (more people), and you have the makings of a great experience – for people.

In the South, it’s a truism that we respond to everything with food. Birth, marriage, health issues, death – somebody’s bringin’ a casserole or a dessert. Having a meeting and want people to attend? Feed ‘em! Food and people make a culture. Buying food from friends and neighbors who farm or bake or make a good meal is a cultural event. PERIOD.

REMEMBER – I AM eating real food grown by me, my family, or local farmers. Growing, eating, and enjoying good food is a part of my culture. Because it’s a part of me
And So It Is!

~ Inspired by many a good meal shared with lots of friends over the years. It’s a part of my culture.

Peace, Grace, & Love.
Jeff

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