Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
Relational Agriculture at Esalen

Three times a week, just after breakfast, as the sunbeams begin to brighten Esalen’s Farm & Garden, and the butterflies, honey bees, and hummingbirds engage in a cosmic dance of life, the Farm & Garden staff meets in another symbiotic process. It’s known as Relational Agriculture and it’s a rich and vibrant example of the powerful ripple effects that can occur when we “come together” with intention.

“Relational Agriculture in its most basic understanding is learning to connect with oneself, the community and the land we walk,” says Esalen Farm & Garden Supervisor Chris Omer. “It’s an awareness practice that can be very dynamic and creative, often taking on many different forms. However, it always comes back to strengthening, building and restoring relationships. Ideally this practice informs the work we do here.”

The unique process finds the Farm & Garden crew sitting in silence for several minutes, followed by an acknowledgement of the Esselen people, who lived on the land 1,000 years ago. Past farmers and gardeners who poured their dedication and process into the Farm & Garden are also honored. “This ties us to the past, and brings all those relationships to the present,” Chris explains. “We hold this act of coming together and sharing in a circle as sacred.”

A group check-in follows the time of honoring. In this space, each person has the opportunity to show up as their whole self. They can choose to share physical, emotional and spiritual feelings that are present for them.

“It’s also known as a ‘weather report,’” Chris adds. “It’s a time where we can check in with ourselves and ask the question, ‘What’s really going on right now?’ We really encourage folks to express their authentic self, and not feel the need to match some idea of how they think they should be showing up. It’s such a profoundly simple exercise that ripples out in so many mysterious ways.”

By sharing, actively listening, and empathizing with one another, the group realizes how much they have in common with each other. They also have the potential to understand the connection that is always present between them.

“It’s a sacred time, something we share with volunteers and resident students,” Chris says. “Often when people leave Esalen, we hear that the practice they miss most in their lives is the check-in. Not only does it fill a human need of expression and the need of being heard, it really drops us into our humanity.” Check-in also allows the crew the ability to craft their day in the Farm & Garden according to where people are at. For instance, if someone mentions she’s experiencing back pain, the team knows to keep her from heavy lifting. Rather than running compost he may harvest greens or tend to the wash station for the day. And on an interpersonal level, check-ins help eliminate the stories people may have about another person’s current mood or state of being. Instead of taking another’s agitation personally, the team can relate to their team member’s experience and potentially support them throughout the day.

But how does all this affect the crops, the land, the environment?

“Farming inherently carries with it a responsibility, both in the food we grow and the ecology we steward,” Chris says. “We strive to maintain consciousness that what we grow will eventually land in someone’s body. When people eat our vegetables, they are literally eating the land. They are taking in the minerals, nutrients and microbes each plant carries with it into the kitchen. So, we ensure our growing practices enhance nutrient density and are infused with loving kindness so we may support our community to our full potential.”

In this way, the crew masterfully adds their influence into the ecology, constantly reassessing their approach to ensure they all act out of integrity in an effort to create a regenerative environment.

“We always ask, ‘How do we listen to the land and each other in order to ensure our systems support all life?’ and ‘How can we leave this land in a better place for future generations?’” Chris says. “These questions are alive, and in this endeavor, we’re constantly learning and adapting.”

To that end, Relational Agriculture is not simply something the crew “does,” it’s a way of life.

“It’s really a way of relating with ourselves and the world,” Chris goes on, “and one in which we use growing food as a vehicle to express that.”


Photos by Kyle Evans

“Remembering to be as self compassionate as I can and praying to the divine that we're all a part of.” 
–Aaron

“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
–Karen
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
–Charles
“Try on a daily basis to be kind to myself and to realize that making mistakes is a part of the human condition. Learning from our mistakes is a journey. But it starts with compassion and caring. First for oneself.”
–Steve

“Physically: aerobic exercise, volleyball, ice hockey, cycling, sailing. Emotionally: unfortunately I have to work to ‘not care’ about people or situations which may end painfully. Along the lines of ‘attachment is the source of suffering’, so best to avoid it or limit its scope. Sad though because it could also be the source of great joy. Is it worth the risk?“
–Rainer

“It's time for my heart to be nurtured on one level yet contained on another. To go easy on me and to allow my feelings to be validated, not judged harshly. On the other hand, to let the heart rule with equanimity and not lead the mind and body around like a master.”
–Suzanne

“I spend time thinking of everything I am grateful for, and I try to develop my ability to express compassion for myself and others without reservation. I take time to do the things I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. This includes taking experiential workshops, fostering relationships, and participating within groups which have a similar interest to become a more compassionate and fulfilled being.“
–Peter

“Self-forgiveness for my own judgments. And oh yeah, coming to Esalen.”
–David B.

“Hmm, this is a tough one! I guess I take care of my heart through fostering relationships with people I feel connected to. Spending quality time with them (whether we're on the phone, through messages/letters, on Zoom, or in-person). Being there for them, listening to them, sharing what's going on with me, my struggles and my successes... like we do in the Esalen weekly Friends of Esalen Zoom sessions!”
–Lori

“I remind myself in many ways of the fact that " Love is all there is!" LOVE is the prize and this one precious life is the stage we get to learn our lessons. I get out into nature, hike, camp, river kayak, fly fish, garden, I create, I dance (not enough!), and I remain grateful for each day, each breath, each moment. Being in the moment, awake, and remembering the gift of life and my feeling of gratitude for all of creation.”
–Steven
“My physical heart by limiting stress and eating a heart-healthy diet. My emotional heart by staying in love with the world and by knowing that all disappointment and loss will pass.“
–David Z.


Today, September 29, is World Heart Day. Strike up a conversation with your own heart and as you feel comfortable, encourage others to do the same. As part of our own transformations and self-care, we sometimes ask for others to illuminate and enliven our hearts or speak our love language.

What if we could do this for ourselves too, even if just for today… or to start a heart practice, forever?



About

Relational Agriculture at Esalen

About

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop

Three times a week, just after breakfast, as the sunbeams begin to brighten Esalen’s Farm & Garden, and the butterflies, honey bees, and hummingbirds engage in a cosmic dance of life, the Farm & Garden staff meets in another symbiotic process. It’s known as Relational Agriculture and it’s a rich and vibrant example of the powerful ripple effects that can occur when we “come together” with intention.

“Relational Agriculture in its most basic understanding is learning to connect with oneself, the community and the land we walk,” says Esalen Farm & Garden Supervisor Chris Omer. “It’s an awareness practice that can be very dynamic and creative, often taking on many different forms. However, it always comes back to strengthening, building and restoring relationships. Ideally this practice informs the work we do here.”

The unique process finds the Farm & Garden crew sitting in silence for several minutes, followed by an acknowledgement of the Esselen people, who lived on the land 1,000 years ago. Past farmers and gardeners who poured their dedication and process into the Farm & Garden are also honored. “This ties us to the past, and brings all those relationships to the present,” Chris explains. “We hold this act of coming together and sharing in a circle as sacred.”

A group check-in follows the time of honoring. In this space, each person has the opportunity to show up as their whole self. They can choose to share physical, emotional and spiritual feelings that are present for them.

“It’s also known as a ‘weather report,’” Chris adds. “It’s a time where we can check in with ourselves and ask the question, ‘What’s really going on right now?’ We really encourage folks to express their authentic self, and not feel the need to match some idea of how they think they should be showing up. It’s such a profoundly simple exercise that ripples out in so many mysterious ways.”

By sharing, actively listening, and empathizing with one another, the group realizes how much they have in common with each other. They also have the potential to understand the connection that is always present between them.

“It’s a sacred time, something we share with volunteers and resident students,” Chris says. “Often when people leave Esalen, we hear that the practice they miss most in their lives is the check-in. Not only does it fill a human need of expression and the need of being heard, it really drops us into our humanity.” Check-in also allows the crew the ability to craft their day in the Farm & Garden according to where people are at. For instance, if someone mentions she’s experiencing back pain, the team knows to keep her from heavy lifting. Rather than running compost he may harvest greens or tend to the wash station for the day. And on an interpersonal level, check-ins help eliminate the stories people may have about another person’s current mood or state of being. Instead of taking another’s agitation personally, the team can relate to their team member’s experience and potentially support them throughout the day.

But how does all this affect the crops, the land, the environment?

“Farming inherently carries with it a responsibility, both in the food we grow and the ecology we steward,” Chris says. “We strive to maintain consciousness that what we grow will eventually land in someone’s body. When people eat our vegetables, they are literally eating the land. They are taking in the minerals, nutrients and microbes each plant carries with it into the kitchen. So, we ensure our growing practices enhance nutrient density and are infused with loving kindness so we may support our community to our full potential.”

In this way, the crew masterfully adds their influence into the ecology, constantly reassessing their approach to ensure they all act out of integrity in an effort to create a regenerative environment.

“We always ask, ‘How do we listen to the land and each other in order to ensure our systems support all life?’ and ‘How can we leave this land in a better place for future generations?’” Chris says. “These questions are alive, and in this endeavor, we’re constantly learning and adapting.”

To that end, Relational Agriculture is not simply something the crew “does,” it’s a way of life.

“It’s really a way of relating with ourselves and the world,” Chris goes on, “and one in which we use growing food as a vehicle to express that.”


Photos by Kyle Evans

“Remembering to be as self compassionate as I can and praying to the divine that we're all a part of.” 
–Aaron

“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
–Karen
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
–Charles
“Try on a daily basis to be kind to myself and to realize that making mistakes is a part of the human condition. Learning from our mistakes is a journey. But it starts with compassion and caring. First for oneself.”
–Steve

“Physically: aerobic exercise, volleyball, ice hockey, cycling, sailing. Emotionally: unfortunately I have to work to ‘not care’ about people or situations which may end painfully. Along the lines of ‘attachment is the source of suffering’, so best to avoid it or limit its scope. Sad though because it could also be the source of great joy. Is it worth the risk?“
–Rainer

“It's time for my heart to be nurtured on one level yet contained on another. To go easy on me and to allow my feelings to be validated, not judged harshly. On the other hand, to let the heart rule with equanimity and not lead the mind and body around like a master.”
–Suzanne

“I spend time thinking of everything I am grateful for, and I try to develop my ability to express compassion for myself and others without reservation. I take time to do the things I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. This includes taking experiential workshops, fostering relationships, and participating within groups which have a similar interest to become a more compassionate and fulfilled being.“
–Peter

“Self-forgiveness for my own judgments. And oh yeah, coming to Esalen.”
–David B.

“Hmm, this is a tough one! I guess I take care of my heart through fostering relationships with people I feel connected to. Spending quality time with them (whether we're on the phone, through messages/letters, on Zoom, or in-person). Being there for them, listening to them, sharing what's going on with me, my struggles and my successes... like we do in the Esalen weekly Friends of Esalen Zoom sessions!”
–Lori

“I remind myself in many ways of the fact that " Love is all there is!" LOVE is the prize and this one precious life is the stage we get to learn our lessons. I get out into nature, hike, camp, river kayak, fly fish, garden, I create, I dance (not enough!), and I remain grateful for each day, each breath, each moment. Being in the moment, awake, and remembering the gift of life and my feeling of gratitude for all of creation.”
–Steven
“My physical heart by limiting stress and eating a heart-healthy diet. My emotional heart by staying in love with the world and by knowing that all disappointment and loss will pass.“
–David Z.


Today, September 29, is World Heart Day. Strike up a conversation with your own heart and as you feel comfortable, encourage others to do the same. As part of our own transformations and self-care, we sometimes ask for others to illuminate and enliven our hearts or speak our love language.

What if we could do this for ourselves too, even if just for today… or to start a heart practice, forever?



About

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
Relational Agriculture at Esalen

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Relational Agriculture at Esalen

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