If we want to regenerate our selves in ways that are more holistic and resilient, we can turn to permaculture for ideas.

Some years ago, I received in-person training and certification in permaculture design from one of the top permaculture experts in the U.S.: Koreen Brennan​, of Grow Permaculture​.

Permaculture is all about cultivating holistic, caring and healing relations with the earth and communities. It goes beyond sustainability. It is a regenerative approach that in agriculture “builds depleted soils, increases diversity and wildlife habitat, renews water supplies and makes them healthier, and creates more economic resiliency, as Koreen explains.

Sometimes, we treat our bodies like BigAg (commercial agricultural industry) treats land. We think about how much we can “extract” from ourselves. We treat our whole selves like a natural resource, and one that is divided, with our mind the “manager” of the body (“the land”).

Permaculture is all about cultivating holistic, caring and healing relations with the earth and communities.

We “farm” ourselves in ways that lead to the depletion of our soul-soils, confine ourselves to the monocultures of our electronic devices, an hem ourselves in like the chickens or cattle on factory farms.

What if we looked at the permaculture (#regenerative) approach to working with the land, and re-imagined a more “regenerative” treatment of our own selves? This is an idea fundamental to how I approach ecospiritual life coaching.

I thought about these connections when I discovered an article about farmers Mark and Jen Shepard. They bought a corn farm in Viola, Wisconsin, and began to slowly convert it from the row-crops that had degraded its soils back to a native oak savanna. Now it’s described as one of the most regenerative perennial farms in the country.

Over the past nearly three decades, Mark has planted an estimated 250,000 trees on the 106-acre farm. The main agroforestry crops are chestnuts, hazelnuts, and apples, followed by walnut, hickory, cherry, and pine (for the nuts). For short-term income, the couple planted annual crops, like grains and asparagus, in alleys between the fruit-and-nut-bearing trees. Cattle, pigs, lambs, turkeys, and chickens act as pest control and free composters as they roam the savannas of the farm.

What do we “plant” in ourselves — in our thoughts, in our food, in our interactions? How do we let ourselves roam instead of being “penned in” to boxes like animals on factory farms?

tall trees bordering meadow

What do we “plant” in ourselves — in our thoughts, in our food, in our interactions?

permaculture gardening

Not content to rely on commercially-produced seeds, Mark does his own breeding to find the best-adapted trees to his region using the method he’s dubbed STUN (Sheer Total Utter Neglect). He plants trees at a higher density than recommended and with as much diversity as possible (at one point they were farming 219 varieties of apples) and then lets pests and disease run their course. He fells diseased trees or those that don’t bear enough, or early enough, fruit. The result is orchards hardy enough to survive even Chestnut Blight.

I love the idea of Sheer Total Utter Neglect! We push and push and push ourselves, but what about letting go sometimes, honoring our wild and messy selves? We’re often more resilient then we realize.

Hard times may require us to let go of material things we thought we needed. They may require intense struggle when we’re not sure if we will make it through. But they may also illuminate what really matters in our lives.

Also note that the farmer Mark planted with AS MUCH DIVERSITY as possible. These are our relationships. When you are going through hard times, the diversity of relationships (diversity of humans and more-than-humans) in your life can help you make it through.

And meanwhile, you are building your resilience!

As more and more of the alley crops have been replaced with trees and pocket ponds to help manage water on the farm, the land here has returned to the native savannas where the mastodon once grazed 12,000 years ago (in 1898 bones were discovered 5 miles down the road).

Instead of treating ourselves like factory farms, focusing on how much and how fast we can “produce,” we we can shift to work in right relationship with the diverse web of life.

In doing so, we also manifesti a right relationship with our selves. That’s what helps restore balance and bring meaningful abundance.

Cuban farmer Julio


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