Fate Foretold by A Fortune Cookie…

…at least as it pertains to the next few weeks.  Last night I was handed this fortune cookie, it could have gone to anyone else but it came to me:


Turns out I am travelling to “many exotic places” with the specific intent of looking within.  In less than a week I’ll be jetting my way to the island country of Sri Lanka, where I will spend a week in remote lodge in the mountains near Kandy.  It will take me close to 48 hrs to get to my destination, a very very long journey…to a place very very far away.  The lodge I chose comes very highly rated (by complete strangers on travelocity) but it’s not the Hilton (which is the point of choosing it).  I’m looking forward to getting to the know that family that runs the lodge, wandering around the nearby village, spotting monkeys and birds and visiting a nearby elephant orphanage.

This from the lodge’s website:

“The jungle is filled with wildlife that include 61 different species of birds of  which 16 are endemic. Monkeys, barking deer and  the giant squirrel roam about during the day while wildboar, owls, flying squirrels  and bats appear at night.”

I’m still sorting out what gadgets I will need to take.  After Sri Lanka I’ll be heading to India for work so I will be lugging along my laptop, but given the power situation at the lodge, I don’t expect I’ll have much use for it in Sri Lanka.  Which is fine, my plan is to go as electronic free as I can.  I will have my kindle so I can read some books, my new awesome DSLR camera (this will be its debut trip), and my phone for emergencies.  Otherwise, I want to disconnect.  I won’t pretend that this “disconnect” plan doesn’t make me a little anxious…I travel quite a bit for work…and do so alone…but this feels different.  When I travel for work I stay connected to the world, I have a clear focus on what I want to achieve and when, and even though I may do a tourist side-trip here and there, I never really get out of work mode or take any real time for myself.

But – This trip is about letting my mind completely unwind, to completely let go go of my routines, my obligations, and my expectations.  This trip is about waking up each day and allowing it unfold exactly as it will, without an agenda or anyone else’s influence.  This trip is about leaving large empty spaces (physical and mental) for new experiences.

Sri Lanka Animals

Tar2Trees Turns 1 Today!

Just a quick note to acknowledge that today marks the end of my first year, and more importantly, the beginning of my second year, writing this blog.  I thought I would celebrate by sharing with you some yummy red velvet cake pops (imagination required).

tar2trees turns 1!

I stared this blog with the intent of exploring a rather obtuse sounding concept called biophilia (see 1st Entry!).  I began to sense a need for a change when I wrote Wrapping Up 2012, and formalized the new direction last month by writing My Conscious Living Wake-Up Plan.

Over the last month I’ve updated my blog by editing and consolidating my blog categories and tags to more accurately reflect the content I intend to write about, I’ve updated the site’s “tag line” from “My Journey into Biophilic Design” to “My Journey into Conscious Living”, and I’ve updated the About Me page.  All of these seemingly mundane tasks have helped me because they are “actions”, however small, towards expanding my thoughts.

The change in direction feels right.  Zooming out from the details and specifics of biophilia and biophilic design has freed (and fired!) me up to write about a broader set of subjects.  I feel more more creative and I have a nice queue of projects, and associated blog entries, in the pipeline!

Thank you for reading and supporting my blog, the connection this blog provides with people like you, has been truly inspiring.  I look forward to the next year together!

Burning the Past

A few days ago as I was cleaning out some old boxes in the basement (major spring cleaning) I ran across a pile of journals.  As I read the pages it became clear to me that until very recently (the last year or so) when I wrote in my journal the content was focused on angst, problems, and other negatively charged topics, while my more recent journal entries are more gratitude and solution based. This past year I’ve been learning more about how “energy” flows in our lives and the different types of energy we create and consume (Anabolism and Catabolism) and as I read I couldn’t help feeling that holding onto these journals wasn’t a very good use of the pent-up catabolic energy stored in the pages.

  • Catabolism is the set of metabolic pathways that breaks down molecules into smaller units.  These reactions release energy.
  • Anabolism is the set of metabolic pathways that construct molecules from smaller units. These reactions require energy.  Anabolism is powered by Catabolism

I sat there for quite a while looking at these journals, wondering what I wanted to do them, asking myself why I have been holding on to them for so long and what purpose they served in my life today.  After contemplating this for quite some time I realized that there was no reason I could think of to keep them….but they could service a new purpose for me now, while at the same time releasing them and the energy they contained.

I have gotten into the habit of ending my day (when it’s not raining) by building a small fire in my backyard fire pit.  I find that sitting by the fire at the end of the day is very relaxing – even meditative.  I’ve been using the wood I salvaged from the deck demo project last spring that is not of high enough quality to build something new with as fuel.  It was during one of these evening “burns” that it dawned on me to burn my journals – use those old words as fuel just like I was using the old deck wood.

Journal Burning

As I burned the old journals I found that if I dumped a big bunch of pages on the fire at one time the fire would lose heat, and energy (not enough oxygen to feed the fire), but when I put the pages on one at a time, I could feel a burst of heat and energy along with a satisfying blaze, clearly this was not a process I could rush.   As I burned each new page I was feeling mentally lighter and the physical heat from the fire felt wonderful on that chilly spring night. The next day I turned the ashes into one of my garden beds where it will help build life again….thus completing the circle of energy.

Catabolic to AnabolicThis process is an example of some of the actions I’m taking to grow my awareness tree.  By burning these journals, and ceremoniously letting go of the past,  I feel I’ve taken an important step towards my mental wellbeing.

My Conscious Living Wake-Up Plan

In the Beginning

Last year when I started this blog my main focus was my external world and associated projects. What I’ve learned in the last eleven months, is that to truly connect with my outside world I need to take a more holistic approach. So…I’m zooming out a bit and expanding the scope of this blog to include my entire journey. Instead of trying to limit my entries to those specific to projects related to biophillic design principles, I’m going to open this up (more formally) to entries that promote my journey into Conscious Living. My writing has already wondered about a bit as I’ve gone through some major emotional life changes this last year…this is just formalizing it a bit. I’m still intensely interested in biophillic design, particularly green roofing, and plan to look for ways to bring more of that type of thinking/doing into my everyday life and work, but I expect my writings this year will also include more about ways to provide self-care, promote enlightenment, and in general, live in a more conscious manner in all aspects of my life.


For me, conscious living means living in the highest state of awareness as I can muster in the moment.  It means having the courage to face the reality of the moment and not numb-out, sleep-walk or drift through my days.  This can be scary; life is constantly changing, most noticeably when we don’t want it to.  There are many teachings on the concept of the impermanence of life – the fluidity of the people, places, and situations that make up our world – and frankly sometimes it just seems easier to not think about all that and numbly do the next thing on my life until it’s time to go to bed, wake up and start over again.

My goal is simple, to raise my awareness whenever possible (and when it occurs to me) so that I can experience a deeper level of satisfaction with my actions, choices, and people in my life.

Where to start?  I like to think in metaphors….and to carry forward the theme of my site (tar2trees) I think a tree provides perfect framework for my Wake-Up Plan.  My plan is build a healthy root system from which to grow…focusing on my 3 core aspects that make up me:

  1. Mental Awareness – Reshaping thoughts and beliefs that have created who I think I am in the world
  2. Spiritual Awareness – Connectedness with something bigger than me
  3. Physical Awareness – Conscious actions toward a healthier embodiment of the Mental and Spiritual me

My belief is that by focusing what I believe are the roots of me, that I will be build a sturdy trunk, from which I can branch out and share/experience life on a deeper more connected level with the people and causes most important to me.  I’m excited to see how the next 11 months unfold!

My “Tree of Life”

Awareness Tree

Wrapping up 2012

After my post Accepting Life Unconditionally back in September, I had a short burst of posting activity and then fell off again…2012 has been a tough year…major ups and major downs.  As 2012 draws to a close my goal for January is to update folks on all of the major projects I started last year and to start planning for 2013.

I began this blog with the intent of documenting my journey into Biophillic Design, the “understanding the human-nature connection and designing with that in mind“.  My focus has been on my immediate surroundings, my house, and neighborhood, and my community.

Given the massive personal changes that occurred in my life during the last 9 months, my journey has been more inwardly focused than I expected it would have been when I started this in March. The turn of the new year offers a fresh start, if even just a calendar event, it gives us the opportunity to review the last year, appreciate and show gratitude for the happy events, accept the hardships and take the lessons offered from both into the next year.

When I look at the last year at the highest level I have definitely begun to shape my physical surroundings to be more in sync with Nature – which will be the focus of my upcoming posts. But the biggest lesson for me from last year is to live in sync with the Natural Rhythms of life. Birth, Death, Love, Loss, Gratitude and Acceptance.

Accepting Life Unconditionally

It’s been 3 months since my last post and I can honestly say nothing in my life right now is as it was 3 months ago – and I could not have envisioned where I am today.  A very good friend, and a fantastic blogger/life coach, posted today about Accepting Life Unconditionally.  There was much about this post that hit home for me today, particularly this:

“Accepting life unconditionally is allowing yourself to be where you are on your life journey, and recognizing that where you are isn’t static. Life is ever changing and each experience has value. And each experience is changing your perspective and Who you are. This gives you a new vantage point and opportunity to make new decisions.”

Author:  Hanna Goss

I had high hopes for my blog when I started it in March and got off to a great start but then “Life Happened”.  My personal relationships changed dramatically, I was laid off and hired back by the same company – I now have a completely different job.  Through all of that I still made steady progress on the yard/house but did not have the motivation to share…I turned inwards and felt like I was using all my energy on more urgent matters.   I’ve been away from blogging for so long that it’s been hard for me to start again.  But I want to share all the progress that I’ve made with The Projects, and put myself back out there in a way that only blogging seems to accomplish.

So here I am 3 months later, with a new vantage point and an opportunity to make new decisions.  Stay tuned…you will not BELIEVE what I’ve done to the house….

“P2P” Points to Ponder: “Don’t Look at the Rock!” and “Don’t Carp!”

A very long time ago, in a place not so far away (here actually), I used to river kayak.  One spring I took a series of  lessons and by that summer I was cruising down class 3 rapids – mostly upright.  There were 2 main instructions that were drilled into me that summer:

  1. Don’t look at the rock!
  2. Dont Carp! (Carping is defined as gasping for air while trying to roll yourself upright once you’ve capsized, your head comes out of the water for a brief moment…you gasp…and then you fall right back to your upside position.)

These two instructions sound simple enough…sure…but to actually put them into practice you must ignore your initial instincts and trust that if you do the opposite, things will work out perfectly.

1.  Don’t look at the rock!

Here is how it works…when you are cruising down the river and there is a obstabcle (usually a rock) right in front you, your instinct may be to look a the rock, focus on it intently, and as you approach the rock you may lean away from it because you don’t want to hit it.  Well, a couple of things happen very quickly when doing this in a boat on water.  When you look at the rock you are pointing your head at the rock, in kayaking your head determines where you body/boat are going to go, so by looking at the rock, you are pointing your boat directly at the rock!  As you get closer and try to lean away from the rock, your boat edge will catch on the current coming downstream and flip you over. Exactly the WRONG outcome!

What you are supposed to do; locate the rock but LOOK WHERE YOU WANT TO GO, focus on the path of raging water right beside the rock and your boat will head that direction.  As you do come closer to the rock you actually lean towards the rock, the water coming downstream will slip harmlessly below your boat edge as you effortlessly pivot around the rock.

Easy Peasy right?  Wrong…this was a hard leaned lesson for me…often times I ended up tipping over at the 1st big rock and taking the rest of the rapids upside down or “sans boat”.

Which leads me to the next lesson….

2.  Don’t Carp!

Ok, so you’ve tipped over, no big deal right?  You’ve trained for this and can roll back up in pool practice with no problemo.  But, rolling back up in raging water, while you are spinning around hitting things is a slightly different scenario.  You are also “trapped” in your boat by your spray skirt, and there is that pesky little issue of being under water and not being able to breathe – which sometimes can cause a wee pit of panic.

All your instincts are telling you to get your head out of the water – fast – but that is exactly the wrong thing to do.  Your head should be the last thing that comes out of the water.  I won’t go into all the physics involved…but you basically need to trust that if you focus on rolling your hips out of the water first the momentum of your lower body will carry the rest of you right side up, with your head coming out last.

I don’t river kayak any longer, but I do think of these 2 instructions often when dealing with the everyday obstacles in my life and when I find myself focusing on the obstacles instead of the paths around the obstacle.  Also, when I feel like I’ve been capsized and I’m desperately looking for air, and I keep trying the same old move over and over and not getting the desired outcome.

Life Lessons:

  1. Sometimes it’s best to ignore your initial instincts and rely on training to achieve a different outcome and lean new instincts
  2. Look where you want to go
  3. Sometimes, when dealing with a sticky situation,  your head needs to comes first…sometimes your head needs to come last