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Adlai Stevenson

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Holistic Systems Design: Creating low impact, high return lifestyles

Peace is not just the absence of tension, conflict, or war. Peace is the ongoing, conscious maintenance of justice and equity for the entire web of life.

   As an introduction, this course was developed initially by Dave Paulsen, co-founder and Executive Director of Attraction Retreat. He's the "I" in the following.

   Here's the philosophy, reasons, rationale, and goals behind the Holistic Systems Design course. When I started looking at the offerings from other permaculture courses and social change workshops, I noticed none of them presented a very complete view of what people have to do on a daily basis--maintain their personal health and well-being, take care of where they physically live (their place on the Earth), help focus their actions within their community toward building a just and sustainable future, and help restore and maintain the ecosystems which sustain them.

   I thought that there needed to be a way to present these ideas and practices to people who didn't necessarily want to return to school full-time to obtain a degree in one of these subjects, or take one of the many excellent intensive courses available. As a systems thinker, one of the first things I'd noticed was that no-one was tying these subjects together in a cohesive manner, or dealing in any depth with the relationships between these subjects. Starhawk's Earth Activist Training was about the closest, but didn't really seem to be geared toward the person who just wanted to make their everyday life both more sustainable and more personally fulfilling, nor did it provide a tool for people to use in their daily life for their personal health and their connection to the larger world.

   The first five paragraphs below are the core concepts I thought would be important. Everything else is based on this foundation. Much of the rest are individual ideas and concepts that will be covered in the various modules, marketing phrases for flyers and announcements, and further reasons that you will benefit from taking this course, as well as why the rest of the world will benefit as well from more individuals thinking and acting the way Nature works.

HSD Philosophy

   Attraction Retreat's (AR) Holistic Systems Design (HSD) course is an introduction to using ecopsychology, urban permaculture and related concepts in social change to help guide conscious and intuitive choices in creating lifestyles that lower the impact you have on the Earth and are thus more sustainable, responsible, rewarding, and joyfully fulfilling. AR's HSD course will help you create a more fulfilling life built on an active participation in building healthy, responsible relationships--that provide you with a high return on your investment in life.

   In order for HSD (and the Whole System Design paradigm it is partially based upon) to truly live up to its name, and in order for it to be able to completely fulfill its purpose, it must include the human intellect as well as the human heart and spirit. In addition to the built environment, it must include the created social structures of economics and democracy. The Natural Systems Thinking Process (NSTP), a method in applied ecopsychology, provides both the epistemology and a practical tool to do exactly that.

   The HSD course is not intended to be an ecopsychology or permaculture certification course, but will set you on the path to obtaining either one if your attractions go in that direction. The course itself won't provide all the necessary background, instruction, or hands-on experience to become expert permaculturists or ecopsychology therapists. It will, however, provide the necessary instruction and facilitated experience to begin effectively using these tools in your daily life. If you're interested in applying these techniques to the creation of new life choices and a more fulfilling life, if you want to start actually doing something to create a higher quality of life for yourself and help co-create a better world for everyone then this will be the perfect course for you. The basic theory will be presented, but more importantly for people wanting to implement these ideas into their everyday lives, will be the presentation of practical tools and examples of how to actually do so.

   Learn how to approach and apply HSD to both your professional and personal life in the creation of human environments, social structures, community and personal relationships. Restore and sustain the Earth, yourself, each other, and the built environment in integration with the natural systems processes of mutual support and reciprocity. You will become more fully aware of the myriad ways that consciousness, health and healing, and ecology interact in their interdependent relationships in sustaining the Global Life Community, Web of Life, Nature, or the Great Goddess Gaia, whichever term you prefer. Experience life in a sustainable urban intentional community that lives these processes and concepts in their daily routines, as well as building them into their activism within the community and bioregion. In doing so, you will discover that this provides one viable alternative that produces more meaningful results than mindless consumerism and rugged individualism.

   By consciously experiencing, with both our rationality and our sensuality, the manner in which nature provides the only model necessary for us to base our lives and created structures on, we see, for example, that increasing diversity is necessary for sustainable and equitable growth. This process is the step beyond merely transcending differences, but learning to honor and respect the emergent quality of strength that comes from our diversity. We can use that strength to create a unity of purpose toward the common good-the community of humans, of all species, and the living world itself.

Social Activism

   Social justice is a subset of environmental justice. With this as a core definition, it can be seen that social activism, at a deep level, involves more than peace, justice, democracy, or equality. Social activism means working to ensure the very survival and continuation of the human species. If we become indifferent, we lose a vital part of who we are. Active participation in creating a just and equitable future can make us come more fully alive because it overcomes the feeling of separation from others.

   The tools of social change, such as the Earth Charter, provide us with the set of values we hold in common. The Cultural Creative study makes us aware of the hundreds of millions who share these values. Community based social marketing provides a methodology to make the shift in consciousness toward justice and sustainability become a way of life. By facilitating your level of comfort with co-creating positive common social action, your own healing and growth will be amplified.

   Social activism takes us beyond the narrow concern of internal healing that so much of the self-help movement focuses on and brings us into our greater body and spirit that is partially comprised of the world and people around us.


   * Permaculture is the integration of, and respect for, all the systems we are reliant upon for our sustenance. Permaculture is the art and science of ecologically designing human beings' place in the environment. The HSD course will present you with the principles and strategies to create a productive, supportive, and effective personal living environment--a healthy and sustaining relationship with your place on the Earth.

   * A practical and relatively affordable opportunity for people who are interested in creating positive social change and environmental stewardship to learn how to foster personal lifestyle choices that can have both a local and a global impact.

   * The syllabus will integrate the different modules into a learning experience that will build the tenets of ecopsychology into the practicality of urban permaculture, eco-city design, and social change activism. The premise is to weave them together in such a way that different presentations will support each other, build on previous modules, and lay a foundation for the modules that follow, at least as much as possible. The majority of the module facilitators will be familiar with the NSTP in order to have a common framework of terminology so that the information presented in the various modules will be as highly integrated as possible.

   * Not expressly academic instructors, or dried professors trying to force facts down your throat, but inspiring facilitators who can best be seen as warrior poets. The facilitators are not only knowledgeable and can communicate passionately about the subjects, but they're passionate about both living these ideals and passing that knowledge on. For instance, any of the half-dozen permaculture instructors could present the entire Pc syllabus themselves, but they are most passionate and experienced in particular aspects, so the student will benefit from receiving individual expertise across a wide spectrum of ideas and practices.

   * One of our core differences from programs like the Living Routes study abroad program is that we are focusing on individual health and wellness for transforming existing North American communities into sustainable communities of cooperation within their bioregion, instead of creating new communities/eco-cities from scratch, or that stand apart, or are isolated from the wider human community. Not the the Living Routes program, which is an excellent program that I highly recommend, does the latter consciously. It is more a side-effect of their particular focus.

   * We want to enable people to embody a process that will allow them to integrate their newly remembered multiplicity of senses into the creation of healthy, responsible, reciprocal relationships with others and the natural world. The direct experience of felt senses tends to more readily move people from conceptual and intellectual understanding to a conscious, sensory awareness that shifting away from the dominator paradigm, where materialism is elevated almost to the level of divinity, is the only moral and ethical choice a rational person can make.

   * Allow your creativity to blossom, expand your sense of fun, and enhance your ability to find natural fulfillment, confidence and personal empowerment.

   * One benefit is participating in the care and support for and from kindred spirits who are more numerous than you may have previously dared to imagine.

   * Learn why personal growth is so dependent on strong, healthy, and diverse community bonds and the health, integrity, and biodiversity of the interdependent relationships of all global bioregions.

   * This is about more than how to live in an intentional community, but gives you the tools to make your wider community intentional. You can actively and responsibly participate in experimental community design, and experience living in a community modeled on natural systems.

   * Learn to think and live the way Nature works by combining the Natural Systems Thinking Process, Urban Permaculture, and information and methods to become an effective social change agent.

   * The Natural Systems Thinking Process is a proven process in applied ecopsychology (also known as organic psychology) for healing, transformation, and growth. This process facilitates overcoming one's disconnection from the natural world, which is seen as the root cause of our personal, social, and environmental ills today. The NSTP does more than increase one's intellectual understanding of our intimate interconnection with the Earth, but also enhances one's felt experience and sensory awareness of this interconnection with the Unity of All.

   * Urban Permaculture (UB) consists of methods of living more lightly on the Earth and becoming responsible for providing for more of your own needs, in part by developing stronger community relationships of sharing and cooperation. UB is more than just growing your own food, but looking at how you design and create your living environment, the resources you use, and the waste you generate. It is possible to lower your ecological footprint while also increasing your quality of life. UB allows one to live so all others may live as well.

   * The Holistic Systems Design course is geared toward people who don't want to become eco-therapists, permaculture design experts or instructors, or full time social justice activists, but who do recognize the value of actually building these concepts in their lives, and applying the principles and ethics of these fields into the conscious decisions they make about their lifestyle choices. Creating healthy relationships with others and the Earth is the first step in becoming able to pass on our biological and natural inheritance, not necessarily unchanged, but undiminished in its ability to provide for future generations.

   * Creating and strengthening the relationships, and the need to remain aware of those relationships, between a healthy environment, a just social system, and equitable economies. It is the relationships themselves that create and maintain sustainability and will lead to a healthy culture. By using the model that Nature provides, if we just pay attention, we can learn how the natural systems processes of mutual support and reciprocity can make our way of being, which will then be reflected in our ways of doing, a demonstration of a joyful and fulfilling alternative to the cultural mores of industrialism and predatory capitalism. Become an active participant in a full partnership with the forces of life and creation instead of death and destruction. Dedicate your energy toward what you are for, and not what you're against.

   * Bring your dreams into living reality. We can create the future we want to live right now. Pure potentiality exists in the environment that surrounds and sustains us, that is us. We don't need to wait for a moment of transcendence, it is in our living presence. Human intelligence is more than just regurgitating memorized facts, it is our natural ability to tap into the interconnected matrix we are a part of and interact with that universal intelligence. Our emotions and all of our other senses are not issues to be worked on, but a major part of our potential to move into an equalitarian way of life. The conscious co-creation of life as we evolve with it is the dance that none of us can afford to pass on.

   * Who is our market? Who do we think can make room in the overly busy schedules forced upon us by industrialism to take a three week course that cuts at the very roots of industrialism? Students, people in transition, self-employed, retired and all of those who just want to learn more about, and put into practice, the ideas about sustainability, rebuilding community bonds, simplicity (which is not deprivation), lowering one's ecological footprint, and being a participant in the social change movements they're starting to hear more about on a regular basis.

   Nurturing the roots of community as we nurture the roots of our food

   Coming together in community to joyfully fulfill our desire for authentic living-a dynamic celebration of life and the partnership paradigm

   Healing the self, community and planet--co-creating the life you want to live

   And so, in a nutshell, what's this course really all about?
Heal yourself, plant organic veggies, and save the world


"Learning is not compulsory... neither is survival."
W. Edwards Deming


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