In Harmony with Nature and People

Permanent residents in the Village 1.0 are delightful neighbors.  The trust and camaraderie and personal insight we share is deeply enriching.  Then there is what I call the Village 2.0, made up of hundreds of equally delightful, endlessly diverse and interesting people from all walks of life who visit only briefly, stay in one of our vacation rental cabins and share their unique talents and interests.

This week, a couple on their honeymoon stayed we us in the container guesthouse for four nights.  Little did we expect that honeymooners would reflect the Village motto, “In Harmony with nature and people”, so well.

I was fortunate to spend hours with newlyweds, Scott and Stephanie, learning about mushrooms that fill the forest floor of our property.  You see, both are highly accomplished mycologists.  They were able to point out, name, categorize, and identify many edible and medicinal mushrooms right in our 45-acre back yard.

so, I asked them to write something for this blog.  Stephanie wrote,

“There is nothing to describe how beautiful the area here is. The wide variety of mushrooms, plant life, and animal life was amazing. I couldn’t believe how many waterfalls are in the area. We saw four different waterfalls, one being on Grant’s property.  There were so many more we didn’t get to see while we were here.  I can see why Grant and his wife, Becky would choose to build their community here. I loved seeing how much Scott’s face would light up upon seeing new species of mushrooms he had never seen before. It was a truly spiritual experience for us. Thank you so much for having us.”  

I think I was even more thankful to have them come and share their for mushrooms with us.

Scott meticulously identified and documented many of the mushrooms in the forest with beautiful photos.  Here is what he sent me.

“A mycological survey conducted in the area surrounding the eco cabin between July 29 and August 1, 2019, finds the following:

The area is rich with fungal activity, amanitas, russulas, and boletes, are seen every few yards.”

Found:
Amanita Varieties
1. assorted varieties of amanita including white, yellow, orange, blush and black
Russula Assortment
2. assorted russulas- mostly red and green, some purple
boletellus betula
Boletes

3. boletes- many varieties, most notably ‘boletellus betula’.

‘leotia lubrica’ (jelly babies)
4. ‘leotia lubrica’ (jelly babies) 

5. ‘scleroderma citrinum’ (pigskin puffball)
tapinella atrotomentosa
6. ‘tapinella atrotomentosa’
cinnabar chanterelles
7. Both golden and cinnabar chanterelles

8. and the coolest one of all ‘calostoma cinnabarinum’
9. a few types of coral mushroom, and many many more.
-Scott Ulrich

You can view this and other Cabin Rental related posts on my other blog at TNwaterfallGetaway.com

What is Sin?

What is Sin?

I just viewed Mel Gibson’s riveting 1990 performance of Hamlet. At its core, Shakespeare’s tragic masterpiece is an examination of the effects of sin that results in mental illness and death.

Sin is often too narrowly defined in Judeo-Christian theology by the narrow minded. Narrower still, where sin does not exist, in materialist secularism.

Sin is so much more than the breaking of ten profound, yet rudimentary commandments etched in stony tablets and stonier hearts.

Sin is simply the source of pathology.

Whether physical, mental or of the spirit, it is all the same.

Even genetically based sin-induced pathology is suspect under the new science of epigenetics where the sins of parents may be expressed in subsequent generations. Genes can apparently be turned on or off by our thoughts, actions and reactions (sin or virtue) and passed on to our children.

The consequences of unresolved sin are therefore, inescapable regardless of world view, religious orientation or whatever.

Then, well-being is the product of overcoming the source of illness, that which I broadly define as sin.

“To be or not to be”. Hamlet famously soliloquizes on depression and suicide, the modern psychological equivalent of the common cold. Is depression the consequence of sin? Well. . . Check the definition.

Hamlet’s father’s Ghost reveals that it is not his murder that is to be mourned, but its unfortunate timing . His ghost is stuck in this world, caught unprepared before he could repent of his unresolved sins. Later, Hamlet is given an opportunity to avenge his father’s murder by killing his Uncle, the murderer. He defers specifically in order to achieve a ‘just revenge’ because his Uncle is, at that moment, in the act of repentance for which Hamlet assumes his Uncle will be forgiven and therefore be rewarded in Heaven despite his grievous sins.

It’s an interesting way to re-think sin and repentance. If sin is nothing more than the cause of illness, it should not evoke feelings of superiority or holier-than-thou judgement or shame any more than a physician judges the victim of a heart attack or diabetes. It exists wholly independent of religious beliefs, doctrines or dogma.

Or does it? Do doctors routinely judge their patient’s for their sins of unhealthy, cholesterol or sugar-infused lifestyles? Is an unhealthy lifestyle a sin? Depending on your definition, yes.

Learning to Replace “BUT” with “AND”

Starting from a vulnerable place, I am deeply flawed, but seeking a higher state of consciousness, even perfection in the Greek sense of that word, which is wholeness or completeness. Aah, there it is, that pervasive BUT. Why do I insist on using but as my go-to connector of compound sentences?  Our language reveals much about our state of consciousness and connection with the eternal.

“But”, “however”, “nevertheless” or its many other derivatives are not always, but often the products of an argumentative mind-set that seeks to justify one’s own point of view.  It comes from a place in adult development that seeks solutions through logic where we defend our position adamantly while sometimes grudgingly acknowledging but rejecting an alternative perspective. We are the “expert” on our opinions as only we can and should be.  This is right.  It’s a pretty solid place to be. It is a necessary place to be at certain times and stages of our development.

When I examine my own speech and writing, I notice it is full of argumentative buts that seek to resolve binary questions through logic.    The deepest questions of meaning in life are not binary, to be solved with either/or propositions. Life is deeper, more complex and more nuanced than that.

In my thirteen year journey to develop deep community with the Village on Sewanee Creek, I have been forced to face many areas of incompleteness in my own life.  And, consequently, I have grown.  Slowly, often in imperceptible increments.  Today is one of those aha moments that I will probably struggle with for some time.  The word “but” has served me well, at a lower state of consciousness.  And . . . I can do better.  BUT will remain useful in my thought toolbox.  And, I will seek to increase my frequency of use of the word AND.

Why?  AND is an inclusive word.  It recognizes that many differing, valid and true perspectives can co-exist without conflict.  I can strongly hold to my beliefs that are based on my experiences and interpretations of those experiences.  And, by recognizing, with a bit more humility, that my views do not encompass the entire universe of possible truths, I can welcome additional truth that adds to the richness of my understanding and relationships.  AND invites me to conceive of possible solutions that defy resolution in a binary world.  AND is the little word that signals advancement from the “expert” level of consciousness to “strategist” in the newly emerging discipline of adult development.

When I do that, I am blessed in so many ways.  I am less contentious, less annoyed by others, more at peace and, most importantly, my heart becomes softer and more capable of unconditional love.

Recently, a friend shared an interesting quote that goes something like,

“If you are not a liberal by 20, you have no heart.  

AND

If, by 30, you are not a conservative, you have no brain.”

anon

I interpret this in the context of the evolving stages of human development where each successive stage of development does not erase or replace earlier stages.  It simply builds on earlier foundations, adding new dimensions and perspectives.  A perfection in wholeness requires both the heart and the mind working together in harmony.  So, the appropriate word tying those two sentences into one is most definitely AND, not but.

The perfect example of this openness to other perspectives is best informed by the life of Jesus Christ. His perfection of love is enabled by His ability to accept and deeply understand every perspective with respect, kindness and the grace of forgiveness.  This is the perfection I hope sometime in eternity to achieve. Wouldn’t the world be heaven if we all saw each other through the inclusive lens of the word AND?

Say Thanks with a Smile

Say Thanks with a Smile

Gratitude is the surest foundation of a happy life. That’s true for cultivating your own feelings of gratitude for things, events and especially toward people.  It goes the other way too. There’s nothing that makes me feel happier than knowing something I’ve said, done or helped someone experience made them feel great – AKA grateful. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean they say “thank you”. While that’s nice, there are just too many ways to discount a polite thank you from someone who doesn’t look all that happy.

I think deeply feeling someone’s gratitude is one of the reasons why giving is so much better than receiving.  For me, the best thank-you’s are non-verbal. You feel it to your bones because you know it’s real, and you know you made it so.  It affirms who you are.  You are good.

We rent out a couple of cabins near our gorgeous waterfall. I make it a point to take each new guest on a personal tour of the waterfall and trails, pointing out ways to enjoy it.

It takes some extra time. But I do it mainly so I can experience that flush of endorphins that comes from seeing the look of amazement and pure pleasure as they come to the top of the falls, peer over the edge, and find that it is so much more than they expected. You see, the expression of pure pleasure on someone’s face is a form of gratitude that beats the oral kind hands down.

Every time I get to vicariously experience pure joy just by seeing someone else’s face, knowing that I helped put the smile there, I want to do it again and again. It’s a good thing to notice the pleasure you feel from other’s genuine gratitude and how that programs you to keep doing nice things.  It goes the other direction too.  Simply by wearing a genuine, expressive smile, other people will do whatever they can to help me keep wearing it.  

So, smile. It’s your best way of saying thank you and it pays high dividends for others and yourself.

Awareness Care-ness

Be careful and caring about the things you welcome into your awareness.
Darkness that you are habitually conscious of wires your brain into dark habits.
Unhealthy habits become addictions.

Deep awareness of that which is light and good will gradually attract that which is light and good.
Positive consciousness becomes positive action.
Repeated action becomes habits that mold your life, your character.

Awareness of that which is evil is necessary; but you need not dwell on it.
If you can change it, make it a cause.
If you cannot, or it is beyond the scope of your interests, talents or abilities, let it go.
There are others more suited to bear those burdens.

Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof.
Jesus Christ, Matt 6:34

But you and I are sons and daughters of God.
We can be in this world but not of it – beginning with our awareness of light and good.

Be thankful for all that is good and dwell upon it.

Mindful Awareness: Seed of Creation – Seed of Wealth

I moved, last night, to the treehouse. There is energy, peace and quiet on The Beech Treehouse that I lovingly built. It is my best place to cultivate self-awareness, nature-awareness, other-awareness, creative problem solving and focusing my energy to do and create.

Steven Covey said that all things are created spiritually before they are created physically. His metaphor was God’s creation of the universe. In the beginning was the word. The word is spoken thought and truth that preceded creation. The universe was created in the mind of the creator before it existed. Similarly, Napoleon Hill wrote Think and Grow Rich. Hill’s thinking preceded the book. The book inspired seeds of thought that preceded wealth creation for millions.

Wealth comes in many forms. Money is essential. It is the easiest form of wealth to quantify. But it is only a means to greater forms of wealth. (See “Money, Entrepreneurship, Meditation and Joy“).

All forms of wealth are created beginning with self-awareness.

Roger Hamilton said, “I believe entrepreneurship and this whole idea of raising consciousness come from faith and three things: self-awareness, then self-mastery, then self expression. You can only get to self-expression, which is where all the money gets made, if you’ve actually got clear in self-awareness first.

Self-awareness is where you begin. It is where you learn your strengths, talents, weaknesses, interests, values – the things that will direct and guide you through life, give you purpose, drive and energy. It is the place where you begin to understand the needs of others as you explore needs in yourself.

I was asked to teach marketing strategy as an adjunct at the University of the South (AKA Sewanee). I taught for five years. Most basic among marketing principles is that the marketer must satisfy an unfulfilled need of a defined group of people of significant size. The quickest, most sure way to find that need and that market (people with that need) is to look within. The self-aware person understands at depth, his own needs and is able to intuit those needs to others faster, more accurately and with nuanced understanding better than big data with artificial intelligence.

Great men and women changed the world, overcame intractable problems and became fabulously wealthy because they saw needs more clearly and complex solutions more simply and elegantly than all the MBA-enabled smart people around them. Self-Awareness is always the beginning point. Our modern examples include Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and my favorite, Mahatma Gandhi. Extraordinary self-aware minds, extraordinary impact.

You should know yourself better than anyone else can. I say “should” because most people don’t. Hence they fail in business and in life because the seed of all creativity fails. No seed, no roots, no stalk, stem, trunk, branches, leaves, flowers – no fruit. Self-awareness is not the be-all, end-all. It is just the beginning. But it is the solid beginning without which there is no happy ending.

And so, I go to my place of meditation to explore myself. The process is not born of narcissistic navel-gazing. No, it’s a process that begins with self, but quickly transitions to connecting dots outside the self. Then, to energizing, hope and faith-filled dreams and strategies. Dots that, in our distracted, frenetic world seem unrelated, irrelevant or unimportant. Yet, these are the very seeds of creation, elegant strategy, wealth through and beyond money – JOY.

Throughout my business career, I discovered that my greatest strength was in strategy. At times, I was able to create a vision that inspired action in others, solve problems or develop a franchise that flowered into more than ten thousand stores, producing wealth and convenience for millions of people. That story is for another time.

It wasn’t enough. I tired of the constraints of large corporations. I “retired” to become an entrepreneur. I made every imaginable mistake, yet I succeeded on the back of the ability to change strategy nimbly and effectively when situations changed radically. I bet the farm on 750 acres of land, three miles of breathtaking bluff line to develop a high-end, gated residential community, anchored by a Medical Spa that would holistically care for retiring baby-boomers. That strategy was based on market research and what I thought was a bullet-proof business plan. Three months after committing my entire life’s savings, with debt secured by everything I owned, the sub-prime mortgage Real Estate crash occurred. It was followed in 2008 by the whole economy. My target market disappeared. Every developer with similar plans and aspirations on the South Cumberland Plateau in middle Tennessee closed up shop. My bank was awash in foreclosed land from failed developments like mine. But, they stuck with me because I was making a few sales when no one else was making any. My banker could see that my new strategy, market positioning and personal passion were aligned and working. I was still making lots of mistakes that slowed me down. But that alignment saved me. It came from knowing myself and knowing that others in similar conditions and similar mind-set would want what I wanted.

Today, the Village on Sewanee Creek is alive and well, an intentional community quietly fulfilling its purpose in the lives of those who live here. They reassure me that what I created was good. It blessed their lives. That is meaning, purpose, joy and a kind of wealth. I reflect on the seventh day of creation, where God stood back, Took a deep breath, rested and proclaimed his work “good”. That is a kind of wealth called Joy.

Today, after teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and despair, I am not financially wealthy. I lost most of it. But I am debt free and wealthy in other ways. I am confident that money will return as I satisfy the needs of more and more people. The Village has been an exciting (sometimes depressing) ride. I have learned much about myself and the world I live in. That is my seed for creating great wealth of many kinds.

It’s been thirteen years in the wilderness. Like Henry David Thoreau, I came here to live my life deliberately. Over that time, I systematically, deliberately, thoughtfully developed a natural strength into a proven process that is changing my life for the better. I hope to use what I have learned to change many lives for the better.

I thank God and all his creations (including people like you) for making all this possible.

Money, Entrepreneurship, Meditation and Joy

So, is Money essential for existential joy (ikigai)? Where does money fit into this philosophy of doing for others? Is existential joy for religious fanatics or ascetics who fast, live in a cave, and meditate all the time? Is it for those who take pride in having no camel to fit through the eye of a needle?

Hardly!

The fastest path to self-awareness is by becoming an entrepreneur.  

The best way to make a difference – to raise the consciousness of the world – to solve the world’s problems is to be a successful entrepreneur.

I once made a post to this blog under the title, “We didn’t know we were poor”. It was during a period when the world was still suffering from the 2008 downturn. People had lost their homes and their savings. The private banking cartel called the Federal Reserve had been bailed out by the tax payers.  The world was suffering under a poverty mentality.  It was hard times for us too, having made personal guarantees on a million and a half dollar business loan.

I received an email response to that post from someone who was interested in joining our intentional community, the Village on Sewanee Creek.  The subject line read “I hate money”. He went on to explain that he just wanted to get back to the land, to be self-sufficient by having a little garden and living simply without working for anyone else to earn money.   I thought, “wow”!  There is someone who missed the point and doesn’t understand money.  There are times in the life of most if not all entrepreneurs, when things get very tight.  You worry whether you will be able to make payroll or whether the bank will call your loan, forcing you into bankruptcy.  Money is not the enemy.

They say there are two kinds of business people – missionaries and mercenaries. The missionary entrepreneur with a purpose beyond money, to provide what the world needs, is shielded, if not immune from the poverty mind set. (S)He can live frugally and joyfully without the trappings of wealth.  That does not mean (s)he doesn’t appreciate, seek or enjoy wealth or money or, god forbid, hates money or revels in poverty.

If you believe money is the root of all evil, recheck your Bible.  It’s the LOVE of money where people go off the rails.  It’s the infatuation with money to the exclusion of the needs of others that is evil.  

So, what is the opposite of love?  Does one need to hate money instead of love it?  Think again.  Are we to give evil money to the poor?  No.  Love people. Do good. Help others. Raise their consciousness. Teach them how to become wealthy themselves (as in teach a man to fish so that he too can become independently wealthy).

Money is the most powerful vehicle we have to love and do good for others and ourselves.   We are told to love others AS OURSELVES.  That’s an equation, so if it is good to give money generously to others it is just as good if not better to make it generously for ourselves.  I believe God wants us to be fabulously wealthy so we can be fabulously generous.

True wealth is not how much money you have.  It’s what’s left if you lose all your money.  It is the trust you have earned, the relationships you have created and the competence you have developed that enabled you to earn money abundantly and give you confidence that you can make it again after a fall.

The tough times for me began in 2007, peaked in 2008 and continued for years. I posted “we didn’t know we were poor” in November of 2013. People who have true wealth can hurt like everyone else, but don’t have to feel that they are poor when they lose their money. People who have true wealth live in a state of self-reliance and existential JOY.

Interested in becoming more resilient and making more money?  Take the entrepreneur track.  

Start with becoming self-aware through meditation, journaling and building a business to serve others.  If you are a would-be entrepreneur, come, let’s share our best ideas on how to solve problems and serve people’s needs.  Then, let me show you how to cultivate the right mindset through purposeful meditation on the principles of joy.

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