The World Goes Green: Eco-Friendly Construction Finally Comes of Age

A nice article below by Sam Marquit – more about him and his work at http://fmarquitv.tumblr.com/

“Green building materials and technologies has never shown more promise in terms of saving the environment and in terms of creating jobs and wealth. Indeed, this industry is set to increase in value from $116 billion in 2013 to more than $254 billion in 2020. If you work in the construction business, you almost can’t afford not to go green.”

“A number of facilities are embracing going green, especially in New York City. Ink48 is a Manhattan hotel owned and operated by the Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group Inc. It serves organic foods and beverages — including fair-trade teas and coffees — to guests. It hosts sustainability conferences for members of its Earthcare program. And each of its rooms is full of environmentally friendly features such as recycling bins, ceramic mugs to discourage wasteful paper cup usage, low-flow faucets and showers, and low-flush toilets. Energy-efficient lighting fixtures and eco-friendly cleaning products are employed throughout the property as well. Ink48 recycles extensively. What’s more, many private homes are beginning to follow the lead of establishments like Ink48. For instance, drip irrigation systems are growing in popularity; they’re especially useful in drought-ridden areas. These underground systems hydrate lawns and gardens with recycled water from showers and washing machines. They significantly reduce homeowners’ water bills in the process.”

“Many businesses are also beginning to take advantage of solar power. Hotels across the United States are installing enormous skylights and heating swimming pools with energy from the sun. Outdoor rooms are becoming increasingly prevalent in a wide variety of commercial enterprises and private residences as well. Not long ago, outdoor rooms were limited to decks, patios, and terraces. However, an outdoor room today might be a screened-in porch or an elaborate courtyard. Many of these rooms contain designer furniture, electronic entertainment devices, and even fireplaces. As such, they can be enjoyed at any hour of the day and at any time of the year.”

“Just about anywhere you go these days, there’s an eco friendly building or retrofitting project going on somewhere nearby. In cities of all sizes, businesses are installing sustainable systems, this is especially evident with the green hotels in New York City. In the process, they’re saving money. They’re also making a personal contribution to the health of the environment, and every such contribution helps. ”

Shoutout to the new Sustainable Living Center at Maharishi University of Management and the Abundance Ecovillage in Fairfield, Iowa – 2 examples of what’s possible if we want to take this green building movement close to home!

1000 Words on Purpose

I moved to MUM with an understanding that “purification leads to progress.” Yoga philosophy instructed yogis to give up all impurities, intoxicants, unhealthy food, and other bad lifestyle habits. When my experience in meditation improved after eliminating toxic substances I realized that we really are what we eat! Thus, I became much more interested in good food and learned about all the damaging byproducts of our modern industrial food system. Through food, I found a direct connection between spiritual growth and physical life on earth. I figured if I could learn how to grow the purest food and live a natural lifestyle, then I would be doing something really good! After all, it seemed obvious that humans would never find peace on earth if they were poisoning the earth through their agriculture.

My Sustainable Living degree program has been dynamic and inspiring. Key classes like permaculture design, systems thinking, applied soil ecology and deep ecology have taught me to see patterns in nature. I’ve learned about the strength of collaboration between organisms, which supports diversity and abundance. I’ve learned that we can fulfill our human needs by collaborating with nature and connecting with nature on a direct personal level. Going forward, I intend to participate in the sustainability revolution by working with people directly who want to strengthen their own personal connection with nature and realign their communities to collaborate with nature. This is applied permaculture design, with a heavy dose of forest fairy magic.

During my summer apprenticeship in New Mexico my life was forever changed. I learned first hand how to use the “heart-field” as an organ of perception and communicate directly with plants and learn about their medicine. We did exercises to practice using our intuition to read the character of people, places, and anything else under the sun. We did deep psycho-emotional shadow work during our course, revealing layers of subconscious programs, memories, and beliefs that suppress our uninhbited expression. I learned that we all need to heal by reconnecting with our inner child – this unlocks our extrasensory potential, as does opening the emotional heart and healing insecurities. Speaking of insecurities…I learned that sexual energy is life-giving energy and is as useful for spiritual evolution as its is for procreation.

I feel as good as this woman looks when I'm meditating...

I feel as good as this woman looks when I’m meditating…


The daily practice of transcendental meditation has been one of the most transformative influences of my MUM career. I had experimented with other meditation techniques and had good experiences, but this technique has been the most reliable one for getting a daily dose of inner peace. Closing the eyes each day and transcending connects me with the mysterious inner reality and satguru that guides my life. Doing meditation in the framework of the ideal daily routine at MUM has helped me learn that rest and activity are equally important steps of progress.

Cultivating relationships with people at MUM continues to be the most rewarding ongoing experience next to meditation. From day one at MUM I’ve grown in love and openness with people through deep connection and intimacy. I learned the value of honesty, openness and transparency; self-knowledge can be gained through interaction with others, especially when people are aware of the power of their interaction. At MUM, more people are aware of that power than anywhere else I’ve ever been. This shared intention to grow and support each other in becoming whole has made me realize “Vasudhaiva Katumbakum” – “The World is My Family.” I’ve been able to live in co-housing with other people studying sustainable living, and this has emphasized the importance of community. Living a collaborative lifestyle with other people has given me the opportunity to actually learn how to live together in harmony, which is priceless

GoodFriendsinNYC

Friends from all over the country here together in Union Square NYC. Bonds at MUM strong enough to bring us together wherever we are on the map!

So Who am I NOW? How have my experiences at MUM changed me? And What do I want to do next?

I’m much more balanced now. Rest and meditation are the foundation for my activities. I’m more sensitive and in-tune with my body and emotions. I’m much more responsive to my digestion day to day and have good control over what I eat. I’m less afraid than I used to be, and more willing to be my honest, open and unguarded self. Thus, I’m more compassionate and loving than I used to be. I’m a more sexual person now….Or should I say…I’m more comfortable expressing my innate sexuality, and I don’t feel as much pressure to be anyone other that who I am in the present moment. When I came to MUM I was inspired, and am still inspired, but now I’ve got a clear direction for the future, getting clearer everyday…except for the days when I haven’t had enough rest. I’m beginning to understand what it really means to be autonomous; I’m taking full responsibility for my life – an empowered, self-referral life. I rarely run away from intimacy because I’m not ashamed to be seen. Naked. I feel prepared to go off into society and offer my gifts to the world!

Its clear to me that my writing skills, public speaking skills, organizational and administrative capacity, and critical thinking ability are all valuable and marketable assets wherever I go. What I really want to do in the immediate future is play a major role in creating a small-scale example of sustainable community living here in Fairfield. The nature of the work I’m getting into is intensely entrepreneurial, and I may need to acquire some good business skills. However, the field of permaculture and sustainable community design is highly interdisciplinary, so I’ll rest on my tested ability to learn on the job and adapt as I go. I know that I don’t know everything, which is important. But I know enough to undertake the project at Prairie Song Farm, which will require computer and media skills, advanced plant and ecological knowledge, practical gardening and soil fertility knowledge, advanced social skills and emotional intelligence, tractor mechanics and machine work, basic and advanced carpentry, electrical engineering, etc.

Wow, clearly I need more than just me to accomplish my goals. I should’ve studied cloning. This illustrates a simple yet profound point: Community is formed by a group of people working together – it can’t be top-down. I see my role as a leader (initiator) who is also a catalyst and connecting agent. My gift is the ability to gather and articulate a shared vision. From that point, a design can be made, and it takes a community of people to bring the design to life. One thing is for sure: If a deeply spiritual, environmentally regenerative and economically thriving culture were to emerge anywhere in North America, it would be Fairfield, Iowa.

“The Brain is a River, Not a Rock” (Last) Part III

Experience changes the brain – that’s the only way I can understand how my lifestyle has changed so drastically during the 4 years in college. The motivation for change first started after an experience in the car with my mother in 2008. We were 4 hours into a long ride down to southeast Virginia to visit Christopher Newport University, which I hoped to attend after graduating that year. I was behind the wheel, and once again my mother’s wisdom had a CD playing a man named Eckhart Tolle, who was speaking to a group at a spiritual retreat center. His calm, intelligent voice took my unsuspecting attention to a place I never expected: the present moment. As he spoke, he guided my attention not just to the words but also to the silent space between the words, and to my great surprise I found something there. As I listened and drove my mind became still, his teaching became clear, and the reality of “me” expanded way beyond the ego-personality that is confined to a human body. The awareness in me noticed itself and the infinite nature of its presence. I felt peace and freedom like I had never known before.

This experience propelled me into a new world, one that was enlivened by inner-silence, mystical experience, and meditation. To my surprise, the pleasure of this sense of inner awareness and freedom was more expansive and interesting than any altered state I could conjure up with drugs. As weird as I seemed to others who had no reference for this strange behavior, my interest in the Eastern traditions of Vedic, Taoist, and Buddhist meditation was justified by the peace, freedom, and clarity I felt during and after meditation. Today at age 23 I sit down to meditate as part of my daily routine. The simple and natural process of transcendental meditation brings me to a stress-free place where there is nothing but pure subjectivity – I am a witness – and infinite silent space pervades. After twenty effortless minutes I emerge as the exceptional thinking-feeling individual who I knew myself as before, but something is different: My brain. Even though the content of my waking experience had disappeared, my brainwaves revealed that something significant was occurring during the process of transcending.

As a student at Maharishi University of Management I’ve been literally required to learn all that brain scientists have discovered about the positive correlation between Alpha 1 coherence in the brain and transcendental consciousness (meditative state). These well-established findings include other unique physiological markers, which establish the transcendental state of consciousness as distinct from simply sitting with eyes closed or contemplative practices. Alpha brain waves are a sign of relaxed activity in the brain, and are defined as waves that cycle between the frequencies of 8-12 hertz. Alpha 1 brainwaves are active during “peak experience,” and are associated with the feeling of “being in the flow” and operating at a highly creative level. This provides neuroscientific understanding as to why daily meditation is such a good thing to be doing. The repeated experience of Alpha 1 coherence throughout the cortex during consistent meditation practice changes brain circuitry to support optimal brain function. Each new experience in meditation strengthens and reinforces the Alpha 1 coherence, just as the effects of any other behavioral pattern or habit is encoded in the brain. So the science is out – The experience of transcendental consciousness changes the brain in a special way, yet the mystery and intrigue of this deep state remains.

The ancient Vedic knowledge of Indian yogis explains that the state called “Cosmic Consciousness” (CC for short) is the inevitable progression of a person experiencing transcendental consciousness over time. This state of consciousness is what others refer to as “Enlightenment.” Aspects of this state of consciousness include total brain integration with alpha coherence as described above, as well as some subjective markers like experiencing the unbounded, stress-free awareness of meditation simultaneously while functioning as an awake individual in the world – being “in the world, but not of the world,” as the Indian mystics say. One additional prediction was made about life in CC that can actually be studied scientifically: witnessing sleep. Strange as it may seem, neurophysiological markers of alpha and beta brainwaves are found in coexistence with delta patterns during deep sleep in long-term practitioners of transcendental meditation reporting subjective experiences of being consciously aware that the brain and body are asleep. The coexistence of alpha-beta-delta deep sleep patterns are currently beyond the acceptable scientific paradigm; the studies done on “witnessing sleep” are immature and thus considered protoscience, which calls for replication and further analysis of new findings. Nonetheless, so-called “higher states” of consciousness do appear to be a real and inevitable development of human potential.

Before coming to MUM I only read about “higher states” of consciousness in terms of philosophical or psycho-spiritual theory, and individual anecdotes seemed to point to glimpses of potential for experiencing an unexplainable reality. The framework of brain research used to support the understanding of transcendental consciousness and “higher states” of consciousness as distinct from waking, dreaming, or deep sleep states is very informative. At first I could only relate to my meditation and other spiritual practices in terms of philosophy and the great wisdom traditions that teach about them. Coupling experience of transcendental consciousness with knowledge of brain development has influenced me to refine my paradigm once again. I am beginning to realize just how powerfully our minds limit and constrain the range of experience that is available to each of us.

Given what is known about paradigm blindness I must make it a practice to seek novelty on a daily basis, which can be as simple as opening my mind wider to what is possible and present in this moment right now. What if I really can consciously communicate with others without word or sign? What if illness and disease in the body can be prevented and reversed by believing I am healthy and immune to disease? Based on the nature of the brain I have realized that an emotionally-supportive and loving environment infused with wisdom, honesty and openness is conducive to the type of growth I am seeking. I can intentionally create a lifestyle overflowing with beautiful and pure food for all the senses, as well as challenging activities that draw out my higher capacities and talents for Self-mastery. As self-organizing systems (humans) our unique physiologies determine which stimuli in the environment disturb us and warrant response; the influx of new information from this course has created a disturbance that I have chosen to respond to. As I continue to digest and assimilate new ideas and information I realize that my brain is changing accordingly. The more open I am the more flexible and resilient I will become. If I refine the filters of my reality to accept the whole range of experience as growth promoting and evolutionary, the way I interpret and perceive my reality will change; this inevitably shapes the flavor and nature of my experience. How far can we go as human beings? How much are we capable of? What limitations do you hold yourself to? What will it take for you to thrive?

Change of Mind, Not Heart

Fairfield is a transformative place to be, especially when you’re already working on yourself. The inner work of Self-awareness and liberation from unconscious conditioning is the good work of becoming your True Self – free from guilt, shame, fear, suppressed emotions, hidden desires – and free to be happy, sad, mad, loud, quiet, tough, rough, soft, so long as it respects the free will of others and is non-violent to others. It’s this process of inner transformation that makes life most exciting for me daily, and being in a place like Fairfield allows me to connect with a ridiculously high number/per capita of other people consciously becoming their unique and liberated True Selves. Interestingly, not in Fairfield but New Mexico I experienced an enormous acceleration and integration of my personality; participating in the Earth Medicine Apprenticeship was a primary reason for this progression.

“Earth Medicine” is a way of healing; it involves sacred plant medicine and herbal medicine, deep ecology and environmental philosophy, ecopsychology and psychotheraputic experience, shadow work, inner child work, extra-sensory perception and tracker skills. I just threw out a bunch of labels to point to a process that is more than the sum of its parts. To practice Earth Medicine is to commune deeply and develop a compassionate healing relationship with our own inner nature, which is guided, inspired, informed and blessed by deep communion with Earth Mother – Gaia – Mother Nature. This process involves developing our innate intuitive and psychic skills and developing a deep capacity for sensing with the heart-field as an organ of perception; the experience of these practices challenge the boundary we perceive between “us” and everything else. This work in integrative in the way it connects individuals with a sense of wholeness and oneness with all things “inner” and “outer.”

As I was reflecting with my school advisor on my decision to do a permaculture design for my senior project it became obviously, undeniably, irresistibly apparent that what I want most deeply is to continue to go deeper with “Earth Medicine” now and on into the future after graduation; thus, it would be most appropriate to focus my senior project around this area of interest to go deeper and get to know what aspects of it I am drawn to most. This would include actual physical work in the garden where I live – planning and planting a perennial medicine garden, writing a 30-page integrative paper on the subject, and offering a series of workshops on “Earth Medicine” to the community.

There is, however, an important consideration and responsibility that I must uphold – Doing the Permaculture Design. Since my original project proposal was for a permaculture design at the site where I rent and live, I need to consider my landlord’s expectations, since we agreed that I would do the design for his land. I am free – I was born free and I will die free -and I’m not bound to anything. But keeping agreements is something that is important both on karmic and personal levels. Thus, I need to re-negotiate my agreement with my landlord because the timing of everything is going to change. While my intention and interest still lie in doing an ever-so-necessary design for the land, my highest passion and most precious attention will be going toward Earth Medicine for the 2 months of my senior project. Fortunately, there is overlap between certain aspects of permaculture design (observation, analysis and assessment) and the process of Earth Medicine will help tremendously with the initial fundamental stages of any good permaculture design.

Fortunately, I plan to remain living where I am for several seasons after I graduate, which will allow me to continue to work on the permaculture design after I graduate. I also have a feeling that having more time to deliberate and research proposed aspects of the design will make for a more intelligent and appropriate design overall. Ultimately, what’s most important is that I’m being True to mySelf. So long as my thoughts and actions are grounded in the integrity of who I am at my core the outcome will be most evolutionary for all concerned.

Prairie Song Permaculture Project (Part II)

By the time mid-November came around I was exhausted from all the grunt work but felt great about the increased growing capacity in the garden from the formation of new beds. All in all, there is about 1500 sq ft. of prepped bed space that will be ready to plant in come spring. Originally, the plan for my senior project was to focus on growing as much food as possible in the garden to feed farm residents and sell at the farmer’s market; in addition, I would do a comprehensive permaculture design for the farm.

However, various conversations with friends and fellow permaculturists inspired me to think about the garden’s growing potential more as a perennial medicine garden than purely annual veggies. Growing herbs for market and certain restaurants seems to offer more of a profit-earning niche for the farm than would annual veggies; also, it seems to be a better use of space, since the price per pound of fresh herbs may yield more dollars per square foot than would melons or broccoli or beans, if you know what I mean…

With this shift in focus for the garden I realized that the garden itself will be an ongoing project beyond the scope of my 2 months of senior project. Thus, the formal permaculture design will be the primary deliverable and focus of my senior project, along with the creation of a website to display and present the design among other things.

Thus, the deliverables for my proposed project are:

  1. The entire permaculture design, with physical base maps, overlays, species lists, etc.
  2. A digital representation of the full permaculture design and a presentation of the design from the viewpoint of the website. This will include a guided tour of the website for Stacy, who will be grading my project.
  3. A 10-page summative/integrative essay (double spaced) to replace the 30-page paper (double spaced) currently required by the official SL Senior Project Guidelines. This paper will integrate the most pertinent principles of SCI that inform and enrich the project, as well as a summary of accomplishments and short discussion/reflection about the significance of the senor project experience (what I got out of it).

Since most of my time during this month of self-directed study was spent outside in the garden, it was only toward the end of this month that I really sat and thought about the permaculture design process itself. I chose to do a formal design for the farm because I identified that it will provide a thoughtful and comprehensive basis for the ongoing development and creation of this sustainable living experiment. For a concise background of Prairie Song Farm and its mission see “Unconventional Rurual Permaculture Farmstead with Work-Trade Renters,” posted on February 24, 2012.  As students come and go, this design will be useful to offer a context and common basis for action, with regard to project phases of implementation and long-term goals.

I feel like this process is important for my evolution as an individual, because I’m learning that the key to a successful design is how well I observe. My primary goal is to spend quality time observing and yield to the voices of the land and its inhabitants – plant, animal, elemental, invisible. This place is home to people seeking spiritual growth as a primary purpose for life, and the actualization of material projects, whether they’re called “permaculture” or “business” or “creative,” are a waste of time if they don’t serve the spiritual evolution of the people, planet, and universe. This means that this project is less about what comes to be and more about how it comes to be. I don’t expect to be perfect when it comes to the nuts and bolts of the design. All that I hope to accomplish is a deeper acquaintance (and thus knowledge) of the land and its diverse inhabitants, and that I observe/listen to the source of creative intelligence out of which all things come.

If I can leave behind a permaculture design that is creative and useful to residents in some way I will be happy. If I can learn to be a better inhabitant, a more responsible co-creator, a better son and servant of Mother Gaia during the process I will be happier. And if by some miracle I can remember to keep things simple and not over-think it, I might actually enjoy myself the whole time.