WELLNESSSEPTEMBER 8, 2015

a farm retreat + setting intention for fall

I had the fortunate opportunity to lead a weekend wellness retreat with the wonderful staff at Angelic Organics Learning Center over the holiday. The learning center is under the umbrella of Angelic Organics Farm. Situated in Northern Illinois just shy of the Wisconsin border, the farm has a popular CSA program available around the Chicago area. Angelic Organics sits on about 22 acres, and produces over 2,200 farm boxes filled with fresh lettuces, roots, vegetables, and herbs every week. Its an idyllic setting where the air is fresh, chickens roam free, happy goats peek out of their pens to say hello, and beautiful organic plants, herbs, and vegetables are ripe for picking. All in all, it is the perfect place for an urban getaway.

In developing the curriculum, I hoped the retreat would showcase the setting of a working, organic farm while weaving in mindful practices of yoga, meditation, and cooking experiences. Katie was the on-staff guide and environmental educator at Angelic Organics who introduced us to the animals, helped us harvest fruits and vegetables, informed us on the history of the farm and land, and educated us on the principals of an organic farm – specifically why they are so crucial to our health, environment, and the future.

On our farm tour, Katie mentioned farmer John, the owner of Angelic Organics. He could be considered a ‘famous farmer’ as he is featured in the documentary ‘The Real Dirt on Farmer John’ which focuses on his family history and the struggles to maintain and operate an organic farm in modern times. As though it was planned, his vintage pick up truck rolled up to our group as soon as she said his name. John waved hello, and walked over to introduce himself. He spoke briefly about some of his current struggles: he was recently diagnosed with lyme disease, limiting his ability to work on the farm, he listed off the unexpected repairs this past season totaling over $45,000, and how the recent surge of heat and warm weather has him out working on a Saturday – when he would usually have a day off.

Farmer John was generous with his time, and offered to give us a tour inside of some of the buildings on the property. If you watched the documentary (which I strongly recommend – I found it available to rent on Amazon Prime), you would know that farmer John is not the typical farmer. In addition to his incredible love of soil, he also has an incredible love of expression and creativity; John has dabbled in acting and playwriting, loves architecture, costuming, glitter, and color. He explained to us that everything on the farm was put there with specific intention – including all of the structures. The interiors were also carefully selected with the same intention and purpose. In some instances, the paint colors were chosen to signify the rising and setting of the sun – and one guesthouse has a disco ball hanging from the cathedral ceiling because, “that was what the room said it wanted.”

He showed us into the silo where bales of hay were encircled. He fashioned the structure in such a way so that space could be used for discussions or personal contemplation and said that, “… in this silo, you can have thoughts that you never had before; spaces have the power to do that.”

This brief chat with Farmer John really resonated with me.  When we use intention in our lives – the power of what can result is infinite.

Where we spend our time, what we bring into our homes, the people we surround ourselves with, the thoughts we think, and even the food we put on our plates, are all very deliberate choices we make that ultimately constitute the fabric and quality of our lives. It can be so easy to forget that these are choices we are making, and not circumstances happening to us. To someone else, that silo would just be a storage space, or an afterthought to the connecting barn and loft space. But Farmer John chose to elevate the silo into a contemplative sanctuary – and so it was.

As we enter into the transitory season of fall, I would like to challenge you to think of the spaces in your life where you may have lost intention. Sure, it can be related to diet or health, but beyond that, it may be your home, relationships, finances, or career. True holistic health and wellness takes into account all areas of our life. While there’s no argument food and diet have tremendous importance to our physical health, I realize that it is one piece of the puzzle: facilitating a true mind-body connection may be the only way to experience optimal wellbeing. 

So where could you benefit from taking a more active approach in creating your life? Look for where habits, monotony, and routine have set in. Think about what you have lost connection with and where you would like to feel more present.  Now is the time to create a space for something new to grow: to think new thoughts and have newfound inspiration. I hope you are reminded with careful thought and action you can plant the seeds for the life you want to experience. 

While I can’t forget to mention that our weekend retreat was filled with beautiful, delicious, wholesome food, that was carefully harvested from the fields and prepared with love by the amazing retreat participants, what I will take back with me goes far beyond the food that filled our plates.

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