Kauai Trip Post #4 5-12-13 – Sharpening the Synchronic Saw

Kapaa Art Walk, with sidewalks lined with  musicians and local artists' tables

Kapaa Art Walk, with sidewalks lined with musicians and local artists' tables

It’s three months since I arrived at Kauai, and I’m quite comfortable here. I attend Kapaa’s version of a monthly art walk – locals setting up their artwork on tables throughout town, interspersed with musicians and performers. I swim at the nearby beach and at the neighborhood waterfall, I participate in various social gatherings with my ever-growing network of friends, and of course I eat delicious fruit and produce.  However, for this Blog I want to try to articulate another level of my experience here. My apologies for the extended length of this post.

Many years ago my family participated in a “non-denominational Sunday School” with more than a dozen other families. We took turns teaching the classes for our different age children, which left a group of adults who gathered for an adult spiritual exploration group. The question that we often discussed, was “How does a person find their path?”. The word “Tao” (pronounced “Dow”) is similar to the word “do” which is part of the Japanese word “Judo”, which means “gentle way”. We would talk about that feeling of being in synch with “the Way”. When everything seems to be working out, I feel that I must be on my right path. Perhaps it’s egotistical to use the word “destiny” when thinking about a person finding their right path. It’s been a good excuse for despots to say they were only following their destiny when they put thousands to death to achieve their ends. Michael Meade says the Soul knows its destiny before birth, then forgets it during life. After death, the Soul looks back at its life to reflect on how its destiny was fulfilled.

My spirituality is aligned with my scientific understanding of the natural world and the principles of systems. I see that healthy systems each have a main purpose – which can simply be survival long enough to propagate and raise offspring. I believe that a person should also have a purpose in order to be healthy. It should be a purpose “higher” than surviving long enough to propagate offspring. Because after I’ve sent my offspring into the world, I’d be purposeless – unless I have some higher purpose. I call that higher purpose, “fulfilling my destiny.” I also feel that a purpose for many of us, is in fact searching for what our real purpose is..

My exploration of the possibilities on Kauai came about because I released many attachments in my life. Attachments to my nursery – I liquidated my huge plant collection last year when my dream food forest land just hadn’t manifested in the Pacific Northwest. I let go of my attachment to creating a permaculture school in January 2013, when it just didn’t feel like the Universe was opening enough doors for me – although I have carried that vision for many years. I believe that releasing attachments, and walking out onto a new path in life – gives the Universe an opportunity to spin the dice and send me in one way or another when I get to a branch in the road. Being attached to patterns wouldn’t give the Universe the same opportunity to engage in the game of dice with me. I call it “the Universe” because I believe it is a Living Universe, organized around the same principles and patterns as I can see around me at the cellular, ecological and biosphere levels.

My young mushroom expert helps out in the garden and nursery.

My young "friend of the farm" helps out in the garden and nursery.

This past month I accomplished my first goal: build and plant three vegetable gardens as soon as possible, so that there would be fresh, healthy veggies growing when I invited apprentices to join my permaculture learning community. My second landscape goal is to create a food forest. My friend Paul negotiated with Hedda to invest his last month’s rent in purchasing new  fruit trees before he left for the Mainland. So I started clearing trees from the 1/3 acre site to make space for the our new food forest. Paul was only able to plant his first tree, because of the work needed to clear the tree felling debris from the site. In his inimitable manner, Paul has initiated the project and our nursery is now an amazing collection of fruit trees and plants from a variety of sources – awaiting their final resting grounds.

Paul tree-planting
Paul plants the first tree of our newly developing Food Forest. His favorite: a Meyer’s Lemon.

With Hawaii’s lush growing environment those gardens are now overflowing with salads, greens, herbs, and early root crops (beans, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and more abundance on the way). I created those gardens alone, and Hedda supports me in finding help in order to continue with my permaculture landscaping plan. We  collaborated  to write ads for several farm apprenticeship websites, which also helped to create more of a shared vision  for the future of this place. We decided to change the name to something more relevant to our purpose, potentially looking through the Hawaiian dictionary for something appropriate. I came up with “Haleakala” – which means “house of the rising sun”. Aside from the instant theme song (the classic by Eric Burdon), it fits our location, which views the sun rising over the ocean view every morning. I wake at sunrise daily now, and gaze at the sun for a couple minutes when it’s safe at that hour – my version of “Eat the Sun” (a video my friend Paul shared with us before he left). But Haleakala is the name of a Maui volcano, and was a bit too self-aggrandizing for us.

Our typical morning view of sunrise over the ocean.
Our typical morning view of sunrise over the ocean.

Then a friend suggested the name “Kipuka”Kipuka is the Hawaiian word for anisland” of native plants not destroyed when lava flows around it, leaving an oasis of plants and habitat that can re-seed the surrounding lava-covered land over time. It contains the Hawaiian word “puka”, which can mean “hole” or “portal”. Hawaiian words often have multiple meanings. Our site has a deep ravine – ourpuka”. The ravine is a very special place that is truly a sanctuary for birds and animals, and may well be a sanctuary for forest spirits that have been displaced by the suburban development around us. We see our Kipuka as a sanctuary for sharing seeds of knowledge with the greater community and the world around us. I invited a local Hawaiian “elder” friend, to visit and walk our site, including our magical ravine. Afterwards  John shared his feelings that our place has a special energy about it, and he gave his blessing for us to use the nameKapuka. Names are powerful means for intentionalizing purpose.

Local Hawaiian elder site visit.
Local Hawaiian elder site visit.

So now we were energetically broadcasting to the Universe, calling in people to join our community and help develop Kipuka Permaculture. Hedda and I read through the respondents to our apprentice and “WOOFer” (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) ads. Being past the time when most serious apprentice applicants work out their farm season plans, we received mostly short-term work-trade applicants – none of whom had a permaculture background. We already have developed an extended community of “friends of the farm”, however. These are 20-something men and women who come to our social events and visit me and help me with some of my projects. Our potluck’s, with groups of fun-loving, intelligent young people keep us old-folks feeling joyful and young again. Music is played and sang, poetry recited, and our gardens contribute to the excellent food prepared for the potlucks.

Kipuka Potluck
Kipuka Potluck

The Universe seemed to be in synch, and one of my young friends introduced me to a couple of his friends one day – who were interested in our start-up learning community. By a week later, we had four people who had seemingly hitched “synchronic rides” to find us – and seemed to me to be a dream-team of potential community members. Now our potluck’s were even richer with joy, music and love. It seemed like we were going to have a sweet little community before Hedda and her partner Gary parted for the summer season. – and a crew to help me continue my work on the landscape and other projects.

At this point it’s still difficult for me to really understand what happened. It seems like the stress of Hedda leaving, combined with the complexity of forming a community with so many people at once – created an environment where fear and distrust began to grow. In my paradigm, I assume best intentions and generally begin with “gift”. For example,  I have often began my relationship with people by putingt in a garden where one is needed. In the dominant paradigm, however, people have to prove themselves before trust is given. This approach came into conflict with our new arrivals, who already had their intentions planted firmly in a new paradigm of interaction, and they responded accordingly.

Perhaps this turn of events was related to the lunar (April 25th) and solar (May 10th) eclipses. Astrologers say these eclipses were magnified by Pluto and Uranus coming into square conjunction May 21st –the third of seven conjunctions that are occurring during this major three-year cycle that began in 2012. Pluto may represents the plutocracy and Uranus is said to influence transformational change. The last time a sequence of Pluto/Uranus conjunctions occurred was in the 1960’s,when we didn’t have the cultural maturity to manifest true change and transformation. This time the revolution won’t end with a puff of Mary Jane and some wilted flowers. I believe the revolutionaries of the ’60’s have come of age to become the elders needed for the leadership.

Whatever the initial cause, the resulting fear and distrust at Kipuka fed on itself – and came to a head two days before Hedda was to leave. In an all-community meeting everyone spoke and was heard, while I used my best facilitation skills to create a productive meeting. However, when I finally began to speak, all my frustrations and lower survival fears took hold of me – just as they were dominating others in the room. With all the work I’m putting into this project, I didn’t want to have it go in the direction of fear and distrust that could make it all crumble. That fear of “the dark side pattern”  dominated me and my approach to this conflict. The “either-or” thinking of our two different leadership styles became the very pattern I wanted to avoid.

Now I can reflect back on how I acted and see that I took on many of the negative behaviors that I was projecting onto others. The meeting ended when one of the members found a way to dissipate the negative energy in the room. He stuck a fork in it and called the meeting done – without us having any resolution to the conflict.

The next day we went on as if nothing had happened, and I organized another amazing potluck to celebrate Hedda’s departure and her son’s birthday. Our main apartment business manager returned from 3 weeks vacation. Roger is a solid rock of an apartment manager who has been responsible for maintaining Hedda’s apartment real estate investment (in the business sense). In his absence, the emotions had roller-coastered more than usual. When Roger returned, he took charge, following Hedda’s long-distance instructions. There had been chaos for the past week, and Roger could see our disfunction manifested in the piled up recycle garbage, the mass of furniture cluttering our entire site, and the general lack of cleanliness and order caused by all the recent comings and goings of people in our transitional community. Nothing had been done that week of chaos that would indicate anything other than dysfunction. The four newly forming community members were told to leave.   I contemplated what I was to learn from it all.

During the evening two days before, after our conflictual meeting – one of our community members had offered to draw three cards with me.

  • LISTEN (to myself, and my deeper feelings for clues)
  • YOGA (connect with my body and with a quietness of mind)
  • BUILD ON STRENGTHS (focus on the positive).

I learned a short yoga routine to add to my sunrise sun-gazing morning practice. I’ve been writing to helplisten” to what I’m feeling. I realized (also with the helpful comment from another of our young community “teachers”) that I sometimes make negative comments behind people’s backs – even though I wasn’t realizing the comments arenegative”. But they came out of an anger that was still smoldering in me. When I realized that, I began to feel more compassion for the people in my life who may say negative things to me. I can see how easy it is to have sub-surface anger which gets manifest in negative comments. Even after I acknowledged it in myself, I still watch it occur sometimes in myself.  I try to work on that. I found a way to let go of my attachments to the way I had been seeing things, and opened up to my own strengths, and the positives Kipuka still offers.  I certainly questioned whether or not I should leave and start someplace else – which I had been ready to do during our evening confrontation. However, now that I had let go of outcomes, it felt right to be humble and start afresh.

Another of our young departing community “teachers” shared an Abraham Lincoln story. The time that Abe was given the task of sawing a pile of wood in six hours. As the story goes, he said that he would use four of his six hours to sharpen his saw. So maybe I needed to sharpen my saw some more, before I am ready to lead the community and school that I have been dreaming about for many years. Of course my friends know that  impulsiveness is not one of my own traits (with my astrological sun sign of Aries the Ram – head down and rushing forward)…So I build on my strengths.

I’ve been steadily increasing my biochar sales as I’m establishing connections throughout the community –selling bulk to farmers and to garden stores in my newly forming network.

Local garden store manager carries my biochar.
Local garden store manager carries my biochar.

I’ve been ordering materials and preparing to start experiments growing oyster mushrooms as a potential high-yielding cash crop. I spent the last weekend working on the permaculture whole-farm design of the 18-acre acreage that one of my young friends is stewarding for the landowner. I let go of my training job for guiding Botanical Garden tours, even though it was helping me learn local plants. However, it was creating time conflicts for my available time – a stress that wasn’t healthy for me or the Botanical Garden owners. I ground myself with hard physical work at the biochar production facility from time to time (which also replenishes my bank account); and I keep my hands in the biochar-amended soil of my three gardens. I’ve realized my focus is really a permaculture college, and not just a community. Yes, I want to also create community, but my priority is for people to be committed to learning permaculture while  living in community.A learning community is the most efficient way for people to accomplish a common focus together. I’ve got one “work-trader” who is helping out now, but my first real permaculture apprentice residentwill be arriving in a week. I’ll grow my school as the Universe sees fit, regardless how fast that makes my work progress.

Perhaps in service of this saw sharpening process, I spent some time yesterday with a good friend who also lives in the Pacific NW, and is a Sufi teacher (among his other gifts). I asked him how he finds his path He told me how his personal spiritual practice has helped him to anticipate and see what the Universe has in store for him – before he goes through an experience that then provides feedback as to whether it was the right path or not. I’ve been developing myhindsight vision”, that lets me look back on events and evaluate whether the Universe was in synch with me or not. That does tell me whether I should keep going along the same path, or to find another. Like driving using the rearview mirror for navigation. When I see many synchronous (serendipitous) events occurring that support my actions, I know I’ve been on my right path. If I could develop myself to the degree my friend has, then I wouldn’t have to walk down the wrong path before getting slapped ‘longside the head with a two-by-four. So I pick myself up, eat some humble pie, sharpen the new 25” Stihl chainsaw that Hedda bought us, and stumble back onto the path to play the Game of Life.

The right tool for the job - a 25" Stihl chainsaw - sharpened and ready to make room for the new baby Food Forest plants.
The right tool for the job – a 25″ Stihl chainsaw – sharpened and ready to make room for the new baby Food Forest plants.

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