Learning Landscapes: Doing Less with More

Integrating “Permie” into the Holidays

As all good stories should, it is important to start at the beginning.

Once Upon A Time…

Like many, I was brought up in a system fragmented and fractured in its relationship with the world and itself. I grew as a fragmented and fractured reflection…naturally.  I still struggle to honor my authentic self, become aware of dysfunctional patterns and integrate myself into community and community into me. My family and I have come to permaculture as a way of regenerating our human “being-ness,” as well as that of our Mother Earth and all of the communities which reside within her.

Permaculture is a fundamental component of our journey back to wholeness, away from the segregated “me” and into the “we.” Permaculture is a flexible and adaptable holistic design approach based on natural laws that allows us to examine and refine our relationships with a whole ecosystem, including ourselves. Utilizing whole system ethics and thinking as a guide, we implement design strategies that integrate and harmonize with the whole system.

This holiday season, I invite us and our children to think about how we can honor ourselves, others and Earth by learning about one of the permaculture thinking tools – “Integrate rather than Segregate.” We can more fully honor our authentic selves, our relationships with others and our role and responsibility as part of the “we” by more honestly integrating our values into our lives. For me and my family, this includes the ethics and values of permaculture.

So, what is on my family’s “permie” holiday wish list? Just one thing:

Dear World, What I Want Most of All for the Holidays Is…

To Truly Be Present by Doing Less with More

Integrate values more fully into your “living” this holiday season in order to bring your inherent gifts and worth into the world. Instead of scrambling to buy presents this holiday season, consider how you can “be present” with the ones you love as well as those in your community that you have never really been present to see before.

Rid yourself of the clutter in order to be able to integrate the best of you with the things that matter. We sell ourselves on the idea that overextending and overpromising ourselves is how to integrate, especially at this time of year. In reality, we actually end up fractured and are never really present.

Often we run ourselves ragged trying to do everything for everyone because we feel that is what is expected and even demanded of us, especially at this time of year. Harmonizing with the whole system is not about running ourselves ragged. In our current prevailing human culture it is almost inevitable that one becomes ill of body and mind. Just as quickly as we are exploiting and extracting the life of Earth, we are doing this to ourselves. Though permaculture my family and I have learned to experience the world, and a way of being, imbued with; depth and richness, honor and reverence, beauty and unbelievable vibrancy, open sharing and exquisite cooperation and endless possibilities for creativity.

“Do Less with More” may sound counter intuitive, but integrating our values into our decision making and actions actually guides us to manage our calendar of priorities rather than trying to manage time itself. Don’t try to schedule your time this holiday season, but instead plan based on your priorities. One way to start for us adults and even our youth who are active on the internet is to take the 15 minutes (or in my case over an hour) to unsubscribe from all the email lists that you are on – more is not better.

Embrace “less” when it comes to gift giving as well. Consider starting a tradition where your children get just three gifts – one from you, one related to the holiday and one surprise for the family. Knowing this, children spend hours thinking and rethinking their holiday wish list in order to declutter the list down to two items they really want.

By doing less with the gift giving, we help our children learn the value of wanting less. It is not about “depriving,” but rather simplifying and valuing what is important. By doing “less” our children actually get “more.” Just think, they are much more likely to get (and use!!!) everything on their wish list. Another bonus of doing less with the gift giving is that you won’t end up spending hours late in the night wrapping a mountain of presents. Is this really giving the best of yourself this season?

What about taking this approach to your extended family, friends and community? Instead of doing the office gift exchange and scrambling to find some random gift that won’t likely get a second thought after the event, try offering the gift of wrapping someone in a hug. When was the last time you hugged with mindfulness, not leaning on the other but standing on your own two feet as they do and sharing an embrace? Something as simple as wrapping someone in a mindful hug can help bring justice, equity and compassion into our relations.

Just as “Doing Less with More” allows us to integrate our best self into our relationships, we can also take this approach to better integrate into Mother Earth. Shed your “leaves” just as the trees have done in order to put your time, energy and actions into what helps fulfill you and helps you live your values.

Instead of running to the stores to buy, consume a bit of nature and let it consume you. Take a walk with your family and take note of the squirrels capturing the energy of the last few fallen nuts or the newly made deer tracks that cross your yard. Visit a favorite place in your community that you go every summer but have never seen at this time of year.

Shift the paradigm. Perhaps rather than buying yet more food grown, harvested, packaged and shipped from many states away if not from another country, look through your pantry or cellar and think about sharing the surplus you have (and have perhaps forgotten about). Share with friends, neighbors, strangers, organizations and businesses trying to share with those less fortunate.

Perhaps this year you give food you already have, but think about perhaps growing food of your own to share next year. As helpful and heartwarming as it is to share or donate food, by sharing something cultivated from your land and hands even more mindfully integrates and communicates the values many of us believe the holidays hold. Next year don’t just give food, but use it to further grow love and community.

Think as well about what might be creatively shared with the critters around you. Something as simple as a family project making homemade pinecone birdfeeders with peanut butter and birdseed to decorate a tree outside can help us remember the love and awe we felt for nature as children. Re-integrate with the child-like part of ourselves that we once knew, but many have forgotten. That is doing less with more.

Journey Back to Wholeness

Life is about relationships and interactions. When we lose track of our human being-ness and become “human doings” we lose our wholeness. To nourish life we need to learn to use and value more than natural resources, but natural relationships. How can we and our children integrate so we can come together and see where and how to use the edges, value and utilize our diversity and integrate rather than segregate our activities in our individual households and in the greater community?

By integrating our values fully into our lives this holiday season and beyond we can work towards producing no waste and follow through by creatively using and responding to change in our environments through small and slow solutions. The thinking tool “Integrate rather than Segregate” helps us bridge the divide.

I invite you to join my family and integrate a little “permie” into your holiday. Integrate the “permie” spirit on the level of self, household, community and beyond. Share, learn and grow with others as they work to do the same. Together we can live a life that honors our ancestors and Mother Earth and lights the way to a better world for our children’s children.

…The End


Jen MendezJen Mendez

Jen is a wife, mother of two joyous children, experiential education mentor, and founder of PERMIE KIDs. She has a M. Ed. in International Education and has worked with children in the U.S. and overseas from early childhood through the primary years, as well as parent-educators. She integrates an ethical, design science methodology with her love for education to help others learn to design a customized education with their children that honors themselves, others, and the earth.

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