Going off Grid, Part 3: Homesteading

This article was contributed by Robert Richardson, environmentalist and arborist who has planted over 1 million trees in the last 50 years. He currently lives, studies, and maintains forestry in the Umpqua National Forest in Oregon. Read Part 1 and Part 2

Like most farmers, we have chickens. Chickens are a large part of our daily routine. We start each day with our one and only rooster's unique attempt at crowing, usually hours before sunrise.

He's not loud, but he is creative and punctual. His announcement is a seminole moment on the farm as it marks the beginning of a daily routine, where each and every living thing on the farm plays a part and contributes its own unique gift to what my wife calls the 'dance'.

The Daily Dance

The 'dance' begins when the sounds of a dozen cattle growing restless in the pasture get us up from our beds. One old bull named Clipper has learned to kick the fence, which rattles a cowbell. It's his way of saying “you're late” if we're not there at the crack of dawn. This time of year they've got plenty of grass, and aren't necessarily hungry. Sometimes I think they just enjoy human contact – or watching us work. Either way, they provide us with food, so I happily oblige their indulgences.

After feeding the cattle, we enjoy the half mile walk to the barn along a well-worn path beside the creek, under tall cedar and fir trees.

The old barn has withstood a hundred winters. The last one took off part of the roof in a windstorm. (Repairing that is one of the many things to be done this fall, before the snows come once again).

In the barn, the old cow Daisy Duke provides up to eight gallons of milk a day. She has to be milked at least three times and she eats about 100 pounds of feed each day, which is a combination of hay, grain, and silage we make from dried corn stalks mixed with proteins, such as ground organic soybean meal. The animals provide so much for us that this step is critical. The livestock depends on us to keep an ample supply stored in an airtight silo for overwinter feed supply or they would die during the long, hard winter months.

Being a dairy cow she also must take vitamins and minerals that we are lucky enough to be able to exchange for in barter at the local veterinarians clinic. Its good to know your local vet's needs and how to trade for their services when living off grid. You will need their services or learn to be a vet yourself.

It also helps that Daisy has been here for nearly twenty years, she is a well known and much loved member of our community because she provides so much milk and has such an agreeable manner.

After milking and feeding the cow, feeding the three horses, brushing, bandaging and binding their manes, tails and legs whenever necessary, we turn the horses and a herd of Kinder Goats out to pasture. Smaller goats eat less than their full-sized counterparts, and so they cost less, almost nothing, to keep. The advantages of smaller animals to care for become more and more obvious as we get older.

The best part of the day is when our work turns to the garden. With any luck, we get there before the sun is up too high.

The Dance in the Garden

Our garden is overflowing with corn, squash and beans in the Three Sisters style of planting. Every year we increase our crop varieties, experimenting, and trying new things. Some work, some don't. Our root cellar is full of ginger and turmeric root, and we have a collection of matsutake mushrooms growing in a five gallon bucket. We hunt and gather the oyster, honey and wild morel mushrooms when available.

The garden covers about two acres now and includes four varieties of corn, sweet potatoes, onions and garlic, spinach, tomatoes, leaks and lemons, beets, berries and broccoli, carrots, cabbages, kale, cauliflower and cucumbers, peas, pumpkins, and peppers, sunflowers fruit trees and acres of wildflowers; all what we’ve propagated, planted and tended from seedlings.

We're hoping to grow coffee and asparagus next spring. This fall we're planting sugar maples in the meadow where there is water just below the surface. Things like sugar are too expensive to buy and when it literally grows on trees, then its obvious we need to bring it into our land use plan.

After an hour of tending the garden, we take our bounty of herbs, legumes, veggies, along with the eggs collected from our rambunctious hens and whip up a completely organic, farm fresh breakfast. Of course, I wish every day at the homestead was as blissful, and there are days you can't see how you'll keep up. But take a look at the good versus the bad of self sufficient off grid living and compare to the anxiety of the nine to five job.

The (Big) Benefits of this Dance

The first and foremost benefit is the exercise. You'll never need a gym membership while you're working your butt off earning the fruits of your labor. (You'll find that all the benefits have multiple applications and dual purposes; such is the essence of sustainability.)

Less pressure is another great benefit. Localized living reduces the scale of potential threats, you learn you can overcome anything rather quickly. That peace of mind means less stress, less anxiety and better rest – all of which correlate to better health. Plus producing your own resources brings a sense of achievement. You're accomplishments are measured by the mouthful, not by the direction of a flow chart in some corporate investor's portfolio.

You also reduce expenses by reducing dependency on things like food, transportation to get food, and the energy you need to heat, cool and keep your lights on in your home. Instead of buying wood, you can find dead trees that need to be removed and use the wood from that tree to heat your home. No money exchanged, and you pay nothing for a winters heat supply. Like most of the sustainable practices, the more work you put in the less money you will need to succeed.

No need for entertainment; there is never a dull moment on the farm. There are always fun, exciting things going on that can inspire every emotion and there is never the same day twice. As you solve one problem after another, you'll soon find great satisfaction from the definitive result that you created yourself, and you’re bound to feel pretty good about life by the end of the day.

Learning to observe and participate in the repeating cycles of the four seasons and doing the daily chores of farm life, especially gardening, are the perfect medicine for rehabilitation of physical or emotional strains. There are things to do on a farm that every aged person can enjoy no matter what there physical or mental condition might be.

Chiefly among these benefits is also the benefits of new perspective on what it is to understand life.

Raising your own livestock for sustenance will change the amount of importance you place on the way animals are treated and seeing your cows graze on organic grains in a pasture of green will give you a new perspective on organic vs. mass-produced meat and dairy. Disasters both manmade and natural are inevitable, but with a self-sufficient lifestyle, you’ll have a leg up on how to survive and even thrive in a survival or emergency situation.

Constant Improvements for Constant Growth

One of things we do each year is add another resource to our self sufficiency list. This year it was Sustainable Chicken Feed.

Meal Worms are perfect for self sufficient farming. Start with a few that you can purchase at your local bait shop. Place them in a plastic container of any shape or size. A clear quart jug works great so you can watch the farm grow.

Put some oatmeal on the bottom. The Meal Worms will eat the oatmeal and begin growing, the more they eat the faster they will morph into the reproductive stage of adult beetle. Those worms turn into a dry larvae, a chrysalis from which a beetle will emerge. Tear up an egg carton or cereal box for shade and places to hide, and a place to lay there eggs.

Soon you'll have dozens of beetles appear on the bottom of your jug. Those beetles lay eggs, and the process repeats exponentially, until you have millions of worms. Three dozen beetles will produce enough worms to feed a half dozen chickens and supplement their grass, clover and grain scratch with much needed protein to produce the best eggs and a happy, healthy chicken.

What can top a day of happy, healthy living self sufficiently in the lap of our beautiful Earth's bounty? Not much.

Living off grid and off the land must be a labor of love. Being able to care for your family and your animals is hard work. When you look back on the day and all you've accomplished and learned in your quest to be self sufficient you will be proud and you should be.

Becoming self-sufficient isn’t easy. There is a good reason people do not want to chop off the head of a chicken, pluck its feathers, and eat it. But the rewards are greater than the struggles. There are many financial, emotional, mental and physical benefits that come from all the many facets of self sufficient living that make the joys of a life off the grid that much more rewarding.

One thing you can be sure of: You'll spend more time doing what you love, when you love the work you do. Happy farming!


How I Gave Up the Personal Automobile

This article was contributed by Robert Richardson, environmentalist and arborist who has planted over 1 million trees in the last 50 years.

After dealing with yet another unpleasant trip to traffic court, a friend said half jokingly, “Maybe you just weren't meant to drive!”

This bit of logic made perfect sense. He was absolutely right.

When I actually considered the costs of the car and its upkeep, the costs to the environment, and the inherent risks – like the reality of strapping myself to a ton of steel with only a painted line between people doing the same thing – I knew then that my transportation habits would never be the same.

Driving didn't have to totally go away. I could carpool with friends, take a bus, or hitch a ride if I planned to go anywhere. I could contribute a few dollars for fuel or pay fares, all contributing to petrol fuels, but still far less than the cost of another car on the road.

A New Beginning: The First 40 miles

Certain I could get anywhere without a car, I was anxious to test out my theory. I needed to go to the bank, a distance of just under 40 miles – about an hour's drive.

Being mid summer and in the middle of a heat wave didn't discourage me, but actually encouraged my commitment to traveling by my own power. With renewed purpose, I set out to prove my theory that, somehow, I could survive within my means and not depend on my own personal automobile.

I had to travel 40 miles and arrive at my destination before dark. "Even if I walked the entire way, I could do it in about 12 hours," I told myself half jokingly, half bravely. So, I started out in the cool predawn hours.

Arriving at the roadside at sunrise, I felt the heat still radiating off the asphalt from yesterday's scorcher. Looking down the expanse of empty highway, I was suddenly overwhelmed by a feeling of isolation while also being wrapped in the smell of petrol and rubber; it felt as though the world had stopped. The reality of how far I had to go over-ruled my earlier bravado. No wonder no one walks. It takes forever to get anywhere, and anything could happen.

I felt foolish standing there defenseless and vulnerable to anyone drifting a few feet over the line, or maybe some maniac who would suddenly be compelled to run me over or an elderly cardiac arrest veering off at the last second. Or worse, what kind of person would pick me up?

I knew I had to overcome these worries if I wanted to actually make the trip. Taking a deep breath, my mind became clear. I suddenly became of my surroundings. The shoulder of the highway was awash with colorful assortment of garbage and trash, small pieces of paper, plastic and, metal objects and countless thousands of cigarette butts, all covering the ground like a solid mat.

"Wow," I thought. "I'll be looking at this all day."

It's amazing how big the world is when your only able to move forward as fast as your feet can take you. The immensity of my undertaking became clear. I was not prepared for the boredom of standing on the side of the road, nor the reaction from the general public. These are the two things one must consider when attempting to use the roadway systems without the safety of a private vehicle.

Even worse: living in a small town, a ride could be while. Few people ever left town to cross the mountain, and those who were headed that way were likely passing through and would not recognize me.Twenty minutes passed. I decided to begin the walk.

Soon, the highway merged down to a narrow shoulder as it entered the wooded hills and began climbing. There was no place to pull over. I had to commit to walking over the mountain, only 16 miles, or stand in the one spot wide enough for a car to stop and wait for a ride.

Walking at 4 miles per hour would take four hours, and from there, I could surely get a ride the rest of the way before dark.

A mile into the walk I hear a car coming up behind me, the motor slowing then accelerating as it cornered its way up, stereo blaring. I stepped off the road into the weeds as it came around the corner and blew past as if at the Daytona 500, with a mega-bass sound system that vibrated the earth beneath me.

It would be impossible to get a ride walking up the mountain. I had to stay off the road or put myself at serious risk.

The Isolation of Commuting

Car after car flew by, each pushing speeds way past the limit, in and out of each corner, up and over the mountain. I'd take position well away from danger, and watch the drivers faces as they passed.

The impressions of their faces resembled their cars. Like pet owners look like their pets, the drivers looked like their cars.

The cars, like their drivers were all strained to the limit of their performance. I could sense their anger by the whine of the engine, pressing thier foot harder to the floor. Why are all these people so bent out of shape? A dissatisfaction with their cars performance, perhaps. Why are they in such a hurry? Late for an appointment, I guess. But how could everyone be late on the same day?

One driver in particular, heading down hill, came screeching into a corner, tires bent, barely holding traction. I caught a glimpse of her face. Grimacing with fierce determination, both hands on the wheel pulling hard. She could not have been under 80 years old but still driving like it was a dirt track championship. It was as if these people were suddenly endowed with a supreme power, an invisible magic that made them invincible and nothing could stand in their way.

Each car that passed brought with it a wave of anxiety and impatience. Totally oblivious to my presence, they'd fly by and with them would go this offensive assault like a big cloud of toxic waste following them.

The smell of exhaust and melting brakes would soon fade and I'd find myself alone again, enjoying the sights and sounds of the woods around me. This was a road I had driven countless times, but had never stopped to actually see it as there is no place to pull off if one wanted to.

My walk was everything I had hoped; the trees swaying in the breeze, the warmth of the sun on my face, the scent of sweet cedar and pine. The occasional screetch of a red tail hawk announcing my presence was the only interruption to the quiet peacefulness of nature. Tolerating the speeding cars was a minor distraction. As long as I was certain of my safety, this was a great adventure unfolding under a cloudless June sky. I soon realized just how isolated commuting in a car made you. It pulled you away from this natural paradise.

Random Acts of Kindness, where art thou

This next part of my journey underscored a fundamental flaw in my assumptions: people would be likely to help a stranger. This definitely was not the case.

When I reached the flat, straight roads of the valley I thought I'd get a ride easily. It was not to be. As I walked in the open, I became a target. Shouts like 'Get a Car' could be heard and the frightening trick of blaring the horn just as they come up from behind seemed to be a form of demented entertainment.

A couple times, a car would stop, then speed off just as I would run up. One car actually rolled down a window and shot me in the face with a water canon, then sped off. The blast hit me right in the eyes, temporarily blinding me. This was probably the scariest thing that happened, when I realized it could have been acid or bullet from a gun.

I gave up thumbing, and stayed well off the road for the rest of the journey. The last ten miles were the hardest, my feet ached, every muscle in my body felt strained. Even the muscles in my stomach were burning from this long walk.

I finally made it to the bank just minutes before closing time. I cashed my check, feeling defeated, and violated. I called a friend who was commuting back over the hill. I told him my story, and asked if I could catch a ride with him. He could not believe I had walked 40 miles that day, in a little over 10 hours.

To my relief, he was happy to give me a ride. On the way, I watched the trees pass in the window. I looked at the trash on the roadway. I felt the roar of the engine, once again beneath me, not behind me. The contrast was remarkable.

A Lesson Learned

My walk has since lasted fifteen years. I've driven a car since then, but over the years I've learned how to minimize, and change habits. My goal is to maintain a lifestyle that does not require driving a car.

As a converted minimalist, I need so little that a car is just a potentially unnecessary luxury, a waste of time and money. I live by the work invested in the garden. I am able to barter with neighbors for other resources that I can't get from the land. I am in no hurry to go anywhere that I cannot enjoy the journey along the way.

I've learned a lot about how to live in a society that does not give incentive to or make allowances for people who do not drive a car. My mode of transportation has changed over the years, depending on where I need to go. Public transportation and carpooling have replaced the costs of a personal vehicle quite effectively. Greyhound is a great way to travel long distance, very affordably too. Recumbent bikes and Human Powered Vehicles offer all kinds of personal freedom in our break from being enslaved to our cars.

I bought a three wheeled bike and have used it to haul hundreds of pounds of goods like groceries and tools. For heavier goods or longer trips, neighbors in our community plan group trips to town , splitting costs, reducing consumption yet still providing for everyone.

The money I save not owning a car, I don't need to work for. For many people, the cost of owning a car is all they make from working anyway. Drive to work, work to drive, an endless, arguably vicious assault on one's own freedoms.

Without the costs of owning a car, suddenly there is plenty of time to enjoy life. Yes, walking or bike riding and even public transportation poses risks and dangers, but with careful planning and keen observation, a person can safely negotiate this fast paced world from the safety and sanity of Human Powered Transportation.

It is my hope that the concept of strapping yourself to a ton of steel filled with highly flammable liquid and propelling yourself directly at others, with nothing between you but a line painted down the middle, does seem as ludicrous to you as it sounds to me. Add to that the costs of gas, monthly payments, insurance and the always present danger of accidents, both personally caused and those caused by other drivers, and you may find yourself questioning driving, just as I did.

Life is about the quality of the time you have, not the quality of your possessions. Walking, in many ways, is a way to protect and preserve your freedom, your health, and the planets health. And its free.

“The order which we impose on nature is never more than temporary or illusory. In the end the logic of nature will win out over the logic of capitalism, the logic of a industry, the logic of efficiency. Its always been so and it always will be so. Nature is stronger than any of our designs. Nature resists our control.” Michael Pollen 'The Botany of Desire'


The Perks of Being Positive

"Keep your face in the sunshine, and you cannot see a shadow." - Helen Keller

Positivity is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. It drives changes, inspires growth, and rights the world's wrongs. A change in attitude, from negative to positive, can literally change your day – even your life.

But what is positivity? It's something we all understand, but perhaps find hard to put into words. It's a sensation of right; an experience of joyfulness; an idea best characterized by the gratitude, elatedness, and serenity of good life. Positivity, as a state of mind, is satisfaction and acceptance.

What's more, positivity brings with it a host of "perks," if you will. In itself, positivity is a direction in life, and one that can lead to compounding positive things – including better health. Let's see what positivity brings:

Positivity Inspires Humbleness

Positivity, at its heart, is pleasantness inherently born from a sense of gratitude. It's gratefulness thats breeds into happiness – the gratefulness of being alive, being fortunate, or being able to change something about your life. This gratefulness is tied deeply to the art of acceptance; when, no matter the results, you accept the outcome because you know you've done your best, or at very least, learned valuable lessons around the way.

As said by psychologist Pelin Kesebir, "Humility involves a willingness to accept the self’s limits and its place in the grand scheme of things, accompanied by low levels of self-preoccupation." This deflating of ego can be extremely powerful.

When you accept things, you're inspired to be humbled. Humbleness, to some, is among the highest virtues to practice. Unfortunately, over-confidence, competition, and the focus on the self, and the self alone, is modernly a popular calling, making this even harder to grasp for many people. But being positive, grateful, and in effect, accepting, can help lead you away from this.

As an exercise, reflect on what you feel grateful for. Reflect on what you've attempted to attain/change, what led you to succeed or fail, and how you interpret that outcome for yourself. Ask yourself, has this led you closer or further from being humble? Why or why not? Consider, then, if a change in positive thinking (ie. acceptance) can inspire a new attitude, perhaps a new outlook on these things.

Positivity Inspires Greatness

It may seem counterintuitive, after just speaking about humbleness, but positivity can also inspires greatness. Greatness not in an insatiable, self-righteous sense, but greatness in the sense of pursuing something incredible because one ought to. It inspires one to seek new goals at higher levels – it inspires one to dream and create. Being positive means being a dreamer. Being positive means having hope.

Take a moment to imagine what kind of life you want to lead. Ask yourself to name your biggest goals, your smallest goals, and the steps you need to take to achieve them.  Ask yourself, if you believed you could do anything you wanted, what would it be? What's stopping you?

Positivity is Healthy

Positivity is also an exercise of health. Having a positive, tranquil state of mind can lower stress levels, keep you calm, and keep you focused on the tasks at hand. It can help grow your relationships, both improving the ones you have and helping create new, healthy, lasting ones.

In fact, more positive attitude directly correlates with better physical and mental health. On the one hand, negative emotions can lead to hampered health – people tend to take poorer care of themselves, placing less emphasis on health and regular healthy behaviors. On the other, positive attitudes toward health can help inspire more activity, a better diet, and a better physiological state. In all, positivity means a pursuit of healthier, happier living.

Take a Step to be More Positive

With this in mind, take a moment to take a step in the direction of positivity. Meditate on what gratitude, joyfulness, and serenity mean for you in your life, and ask yourself what brings you closer to these things. As you align yourself with positivity, you'll find that your humbleness, pursuit of greatness and great things, and health are all brought a bit closer.


The Great Teacher of Yoga

Yoga is a physical, spiritual, and mental practice with roots back to the sixth century BCE. In Indian tradition, the practice is much more that a complementary exercise – it's a deeply meditative practice and means by which to reach enlightenment. It exists in several forms, including Karma, Raja, and Mantra Yoga, each representing different practices by which to improve one's health and spiritual wellness. It's also often considered a sister practice to Ayurveda.

While the lessons of yoga are bountiful, here are 3 big lessons taught along the way.

Lesson 1: Stillness Inspires Peace of Mind

Much of yoga deals with analyzing life around you. Questions about morality, existence, and happiness are brought up in the literature of yoga, and if you've attended a few yoga classes, you've likely noticed this philosophy coming into the classroom. Among the chief lessons learned by this is the art of meditating on one idea, or on nothing at all, in order to grow understanding and attain peace of mind.

Here, one seeks to find stillness by moving away from thoughts and sensory experiences. No doubt, they will occur, but through practice, calming the mind and finding that mental "silence"can achieved. In practicing this, you'll find that your mind is calmer throughout the day – more at peace.

Lesson 2: Physical Awareness

The physical practice of yoga is also enlightening for the awareness of body it teaches the mind. For many, this is one lesson of yoga is becomes almost immediately evident. Contorting your body in new ways, aligning breath with movement, and maintaining balance requires immense physical and mental concentration. Many instructors illustrate this by encouraging your to "feel" your body awakening in new ways, focusing concentration on specific muscles, joints, and parts of the body.

With yoga, you're able to understand your body in new ways. This can be applied to every aspect of your life, from its incorporation into other physical activities to posture while at work. Being aware of where your body is tight, relaxed, or strained is one of the most valuable tools you can use to extend life, longevity, and your energy levels.

Lesson 3: A Path to Alignment

Yoga, in its holistic sense, also provides a path to alignment of body, mind, and spirit. By practicing Hatha yoga (the physical practice), you gain a greater sense of your body-mind connections; by practicing Karma yoga, the practice of having good actions and thought, you grow your love and connection with those around you; mantra yoga, the practice of repeating words, phrases, and thoughts, helps align your attitude to your beliefs; Jnana yoga, the practice of attaining wisdom, helps you accurately understand the world around you. With a devoted practice to each of these, yoga provides a truly holistic sense of enlightenment, understanding, and calmness.

Begin Your Journey

If you have yet to try yoga, consider these few lessons above. Begin reading, practicing, and immersing yourself in the philosophy, and perhaps signing yourself up for a yoga class at a local studio. In a short time, you'll soon meet the Great Teach of Yoga.


How to Live to be 256 Years Old

Li Ching-Yuen was a Chinese herbalist who claimed to have been born in 1736. Other records, obtained by Professor Wu Chung-chien, Dean of the Department of Education in Minkuo University, showed that Li was born in 1677.

What's interesting, though, is not his year of birth, but the year of his death: 1933.

This means he would have either by 197 or 256 years of age, respectively, at the time of his passing. Newspapers around the world reported his death. In their search for information, there were accounts of Ching-Yuen knowing grandfathers in his village when they were just boys, and he was already a grown man. According to some sources, he had 180 living descendants spanning 11 generations.

He had been brought into warlords' homes for advice on longevity, and when asked by a pupil what his secret was, as reported by Time Magazine, Li Ching-Yuen revealed his methods:

  • A tranquil mind
  • To sit like a tortoise
  • To walk sprightly like a pigeon
  • To sleep like a dog

Whether or not Ching-Yuen really lived to be the age he claimed to be is still disputed, but the tenets he shared were intuitively correct. In these rules by which to live, he touches on some of the most important practices that today modern science validates. It starts with remaining stress-free and calm of mind, carrying oneself with good posture and breathing, and getting plenty rest.

Step 1: A Tranquil Mind

Stress can have some of the most devastating effects on our lives. It can exacerbate illness, be the source of unnecessary anxiety, and even cause you to break out in a rash. Regardless of your diet or exercise routine, if you feel stressed and mentally over burdened, you're not likely to live a very full life emotionally, and your health may suffer because of it.

In fact, remaining tranquil in mind and stress-free correlates to better health, and in effect, longevity. Simple tools to combat stress, like meditation, can improve emotional wellbeing, from helping your ability to accept what you cannot change to focusing on the present to warding off negative emotions in general. It can also help with serious health issues, like substance abuse, sleep problems, and depression.

Ching-Yuen was thinking of meditation when he gave his famous advice. To him, it was about quieting the mind to such an extent that all processes were stopped – the body fully hibernated. Even involuntary physiological processes slowed. To Ching-Yuen,  when you remain calm, centered, and tranquil, you set yourself for living a fuller life mentally, and potentially a more healthy life physically.

Step 2: To Sit Like a Tortoise

Sitting like a tortoise may sound difficult, but here, Ching-Yuen was referring to a open, comfortable breathing posture. Tortoise breathing is used to describe sitting silenty and withdrawing the senses almost completely. Like quieting the mind, this encourgaes a reducation of energy use by your conscious and unconscious processes. It allows your body to exist in an expansive, awake, but preserved state.

Here, the name of the game is deep breathing and proper breathing exercises during mediation. Like meditation, breathing exercises help center the mind and body, helping reduce stress and the feeling of anxiety.

Step 3: Walk Sprightly Like a Pigeon

Another slightly peculiar piece of advice for those unfamiliar with the term, walking sprightly like a pigeon may sounds like a joke to you. In reality, this practice was used to describe the conscious connection one carries within them when walking about the earth. All things are made up of atoms, and all things thus emit a point of light and energy. Ti Ching-Yuen, walking sprightly – that is, full of energy and spirit – connects you to this energy. It allows you to absorb the energy emitting from the Earth.

To walk sprightly, it is almost always inherent that you must also use proper posture – and one must be on their feet. This is actually corroborated with modern evidence, which suggests sitting (ie. not walking sprightly enough) is indeed linked to reduced longevity.

Step 4: To Sleep Like a Dog

At the end of his advice comes one thing that truly resonates today with modern science: adequate sleep. Ching-Yuen describes his practice as "sleeping like a dog," an ode to a lethargic, deep sleep characterized by sleeping often and whenever needed. Sleep is a silence, to some, that inspires wisdom, and Ching-Yuen would have likely agreed.

So would science.

Harvard has found a causal link, for example, between insufficient sleep and disease resistance, not to mention overall mental well being. Lack of sleep impairs judgements, affects energy levels, and makes it harder for us to stay focused and thinking clear. On the other hand, adequate sleep can improve our immunity and boost our mood, leaving us feeling fresh, awake, and full of life.

Reach 256 (or something near it)

Si did Ching-Yuen really live to be 256, or 197 for that matter? We'll likely never actually know. And while the idea seems interesting enough, the real point isn't to focus on this one man with this one fantastic story. Instead, take these lessons and apply them to yourself. Ask yourself, how could your like be different, or longer, by making just a few some lifestyle changes? Get a few extra hours of sleep, practice meditation and breathing, and conscious walk with energy. You might soon be recounting to the media the last two centuries of your life!


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Bloom with Spring

The Spring season is finally here – and that means you're another step closer to the warm, sunny summer of growth that lies ahead. This April, awake your senses and soul to the blooming energy of the season with Yogi Surprise.

Through January to June, the atmosphere is dominated by the Kapha element, the dosha of fluidity and rigidity. It's a time when our immunity and growth can be depressed, with harsh, wet elements dominating much of the winter months. In April, though, this cycle begins to wane, and we move closer to a season dominated by the Pitta element, a hot, fiery, and intense energy.

This April, we'll focus on the smooth, balanced transition of these elements, encouraging a renewed flow of energy that helps remain in balance with the coming intensity of summer

A Season of Awakening

The Spring season is a time of growth and rebirth. The cold clench of winter has finally retreated, with nothing but warmer days ahead. It is a time of awakening for the body and mind, as well. The winter season tends to encourage a sluggish, heavy energy, which can leave us feeling depleted and lethargic. As Spring grows stronger, the atmosphere grows more active, with life blossoming.

This April, take time to refresh and detox your system. If you indulged in excess during the colder winter months, now is the time to cleanse the body. Practice opening, flowing asanas that promote circulation. Forward bends and simple twists (such as Parivrtta Trikonasana, Revolved Triangle Pose) should be emphasized.

Get Outdoors (and Get Your Hands Dirty)

April is also a perfect time to (re)engage with Mother Earth. If the winter months have discouraged your outdoor activities, now's the time to get started again. Hop on a bicycle, join a marathon, or revisit your trail – nature is waiting!

And while the ground may still be cold in some parts of the country, April is also a good time to prepare for growing and organizing a vegetable or herb garden. In fact, April is usually the best month to plant most vegetable seeds, and it's still a good time to plant tomatoes and peppers. Consider taking a few steps to organize a home garden, whether it's a small inside herb garden to a complete transition for a piece of your yard. Both provide a rewarding experience that helps connect your emerging energy with that of the Earth's.


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Among the old growth of Oregon is FivePine Lodge. Rated among the best lodging in the country, this delightful resort transports you into Oregon wilderness, allowing you to renew and reconnect with nature in incredible ways. This March, we're excited to partner with FivePine Lodge to giveaway a special spot in their April Yoga Retreat.

Win a 4 Day, 3 Night Retreat in Sisters, Oregon

The perfect retreat for practitioners of all levels, this incredible 4 day retreat in Sisters, Oregon (near Bend!) is the ideal place to restore and rebalance body and mind. With incredible nature trails and activities around every corner, spectacular views, and the blossoming season of spring in Oregon, this natural paradise is guaranteed to provide an exceptional environment for peace and tranquility. The winner should expect access to extremely engaging, fun outdoor activities – so come prepared for adventure!

4 day package includes:

  • 3 nights lodging at FivePine Lodge in a Single Occupancy Room
  • Daily organic breakfast and lunch
  • 4 Vinyasa Flow Yoga Sessions & 2 Restorative Yoga Sessions
  • 2 optional group mountain bike rides on the Peterson Ridge Trail
  • Evening wine reception
  • Access to Sisters Athletic Club including group exercise classes
  • Free time to enjoy limitless outdoor adventures
PLUS! All Yogi Surprise members will get $75 off when they mention Yogi Surprise!

That's right - even if you don't win the retreat, you can still save big on this incredible yoga retreat. Sign up now to take advantage of this discount!

Five Pine

 Learn How to Win this Retreat >


The Joy of Listening

Hearing is one of our natural senses. It is the process of absorbing the sounds around us, and there is always some sound going on for our ears to catch, from the backing up of trash trucks, to the birds chirping, to the wisp of a flame, and even your own breathe.

Take a moment, 15 seconds or so, to quiet your mind and hear to the world around you...

What do you notice?

Very quickly, you'll move from passively hearing the world to actively listening to it. Listening is hearing with purpose. It is intent driven, and with it, we are able to gain wisdom, grow our emotional intelligence, and connect with others on a truly deeper level. In truly listening, we are able to empathize with others. In listening, we are able to remedy conflict and ultimately grow our joyfulness.

What is Listening

Listening is more than just taking in the sounds around us. It is the conscious connection between the mind and the sense of hearing, rather than the unconscious connection, which allows sounds to register in the mind, but not take root. One can be "engaged" in hearing without truly listening; you can face the subject, hear what they have to say, and still not understand or still not fully grasp the message. (Almost everyone who has been in a relationship knows this feeling – when the other person appears to be hearing you, but not listening to what it is you're actually saying.)

And this is the true dichotomy between hearing and listening: an authentic, sincere attentiveness that drives understanding.

Too often, we grow up in environments that develop poor patterns of communication, usually due to the lack of emphasis on truly listening to one another. The root of thousands of conflicts comes from this phenomenon of hearing, but not listening. We are even encouraged to digest information while also actively thinking about it, analytically, in our minds. While this enables us to perhaps better speak about the subject in the moment, it ultimately detracts from our ability to understand the subject matter and retain it.

This is sometimes considered as the difference between thinking with your head and thinking with your heart, and one example is when The Hopi Tribe in Arizona once famously told psychologist Carl Jung, 'We think the white man is crazy, because they think with their head.' Jung replied, 'Well, yes. How do you think?' The chief replied, 'We think with our heart.'

The Hopi's note here was because of their practice of listening. The Hopi would sit in council, a circle around a fire, and they would pass a talking piece around the to each member. They would share stories, on hunting, gathering, and the stars, and it was the job of the rest of intently listen.

When we invoke this style of communication, we invoke the practice of thinking with the heart. We open our minds to the lessons and words to others.

The Joy of Listening

What comes from this is truly a sensation of joy and understanding. Internally, we seek that "Ah ha!" moment, when we are able to fully grasp an idea or feeling expressed by a person. Externally, when we reach greater understandings with each other, we too feel a similar feeling to the "Ah ha!" moment – the feeling that we are finally 'on the same page,' so to speak.

Try creating an environment similar to the council in your business, schooling, or relationship. Take time to intently listen to each other, without thought of hierarchy past the talking stick. Allow your feelings, thoughts, and emotion to come forth. Recognize them, discuss them, and allow them to exist in a place free from right or wrong doing. From here, an unbelievable sense of communication can be achieved, and joy follows.