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Ecovillage Design Education Report

2013 EDE Course
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Konohana Family Japan
by Rick Mickelson

2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
Format This report begins with an overview of the Konohana Family ecovillage in Japan. This is followed by the reports and journal entries I kept everyday over the duration of the course. The daily reports include a summary of the curriculum and events we covered, followed by my journal entries*. Each day’s entry also includes observations on best practices that I would like to implement at my own ecovillage. The EDE course members took turns reporting on the events of every day. These daily reports are available (in Japanese only) here: http://ede.konohana-family.org/category/traineeblog_2013/ Please check out these entries for even more details and insights into the workings of Konohana Family and the development of our EDE group. *Konohana Family is very open in sharing their feelings about any and all subjects. I have revealed many of my deepest, most personal feelings about many topics in my daily journal entries, entitled “My Impressions.” I tried to maintain the privacy of others who shared their feelings with me by not going into detail about them. I chose to include my journal in this report because it reflects the most important aspect of Konohana Family’s success: the process of sharing from the heart and helping one another through life’s challenges. Overview I had the good fortune to participate in an Ecovillage Design Education (EDE) course at Konohana Family in Japan from 17 February to 19 March, 2013. I enrolled in this course to acquire the skills and knowledge of how to start an ecovillage with my wife on our home, a small island, off the northeast coast of Japan, called Ajishima. At the course, there were fourteen total EDE members, of which thirteen were Japanese. I am from the United States but live in Japan and am in the process of starting an ecovillage with my wife. Below is a brief account of what I learned about designing an ecovillage both from the curriculum taught us and from the observations I made of Konohana Family’s daily life. My Japanese language abilities are mediocre and I received translations for only some of the topics I encountered. Therefore, the following is true and accurate to the best of my ability and knowledge. Appreciation Only through the generous donations of many supporters was I able to attend this course. The cost was out of my reach, so I performed a month-long garbage cleaning challenge around my island home as a fundraiser (highlights: www.dreamseedfarms.com/blog). I also intended this fundraising method to be the first step in creating a sense of community amongst the supporters of our ecovillage on Ajishima. Thank you all for your support. Thank you all for reading this
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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
report of my experiences. Please share it far and wide. I appreciate your invaluable help in getting our ecovillage started. Please come to Ajishima to see what you have helped create! My sincerest gratitude goes to my fellow EDE members. I have yet to meet such an amazing group of people in Japan, or any where else in the world. Thank you for sharing your hearts with me and for accepting me into the group. In the end we are all family! Thank you beyond words (in any language) to the many, many Konohana Family members and fellow EDE members who helped me all day everyday by translating and interpreting for me. I exhausted my Japanese language abilities in the first few days of the course, but through your unwavering support I could understand the heart of the matter. I would like to give special thanks to: Yoko-chan, Tomo-chan, and Michiyo, for translating my journal and helping me express my deepest feelings; Awa-chan and Yuga-chan, for being by my side during class because I would have been lost without you; Ko-chan, Tomo-chan and many others, for helping me understand the adult meetings every night. Junko-chan, for reaching out to me and including me in the EDE group; to Isadon for challenging my perception of myself and the world around me; to Michiyo for being one of the most amazing teachers and an all around great human being! Thank you EDE and Konohana Family members for a life changing experience! Above all else, I give thanks to my extraordinarily supportive and infinitely patient wife, Michie. Without you there would be no heart and soul in our ecovillage. Indeed you are the reason for us being where we are now and the motivation for making our future dreams come true. Welcome to Konohana Family Konohana Family is an intentional community and ecovillage located at the southwest foot of Mount Fuji. It is two hours southwest of Tokyo in Fujinomiya City, Shizuoka Prefecture. Konohana Family celebrated its 19th year together in March 2013. It was founded in 1994 in Aiichi Prefecture by 15 women and 5 men. Soon after that they moved to Fujinomiya, where they now reside. Currently there are 85 members from all walks of life. There are 34 men and 51 women; 61 adults and 24 children. Konohana Family 238-1 Nekozawa, Fujinomiya City Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan 419-0302 Tel: +81-544-66-0250 Fax: +81-544-66-0810 Mail: info@konohana-family.org Web: www.konohana-family.org

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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
Community Objectives Konohana Family does not have an expressed vision for their community. However, they have a process in place that allows them to address all issues that arise and to stay flexible in resolving those issues. Without exception, there are meetings everyday after dinner where all adult members gather and discuss anything and everything. The process entails sharing sincerely from the heart about personal and inter-personal challenges, problems, successes, etc. Together, the entire community of adults listens and then works together to solve any problems that arise. This process allows an individual to share a problem, that might otherwise be overwhelming if faced alone, with the whole community. This sharing lessens the individual burden and brings new perspectives and solutions from the other members. Their goal is to “polish their hearts,” knocking off the rough edges of their personalities through daily interactions with others and by honestly examining and addressing their own internal struggles. Four Aspects of Ecovillage Design at Konohana Family Social: Konohana Family is consensus driven. All decisions are discussed and reached at the adult meetings which take place every night. The members live in several houses on various noncontiguous parcels of land. All of the children and some caretakers sleep in one house, while their parents and other adults sleep in other houses. Married couples have their own rooms. Single members generally have same-sex roommates, who are switched up at regular intervals to encourage more interactions among members. Children do not address their parents as “mother” and “father,” but rather by their parents’ nicknames. All adults participate in raising all of the children, encouraging everyone to interact with and love everyone else even if they are not biologically related. Children attend the local schools while the adults work on their designated teams everyday without days off. The teams center around necessary activities like farming, cooking, cleaning, etc. There is also a ‘care’ team that provides therapy and support to nonmembers suffering from a myriad mental and/or physical problems. These care guests live and work as a regular family member for the duration of their stay. This complete immersion in the family life, including participation in “polishing their hearts” at the adult meetings, is an integral part of their recovery. Economic: Konohana Family has one common bank account (or shared purse) between all members, which means all income and expenses are shared. However, at the suggestion of the local tax office, each adult member maintains an individual savings account into which is paid an annual salary. This annual salary usually falls well below the threshold for paying taxes. The money in this account is, however, not used often, if at all. Personal expenses for things like clothes, hygiene products and even university tuition are all paid for out of the common account. There are three basic legal business entities within Konohana Family: an agricultural cooperative association for farming; an NPO for managing their therapy program and hosting educational courses (like the EDE); and a collection of individual business owners.
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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
Ecological: Konohana Family is primarily an agriculturally based community. They live and work in the immediate area surrounding their vegetable fields and rice paddies. They brew a special concoction of Effective Microorganisms (EM) that is applied to all of their fields and consumed by their goats, chickens, bees and even the members. This EM mixture consists of organic materials from around their farm that are fermented to increase the number of enzymes and beneficial microorganisms. When applied to the soil it increases biological activity and fertility, and in animals serves as a kind of probiotic. This concoction is the source of fertility, production and the health of all the systems on their farms. They operate a shared fleet of vehicles to transport people, produce and farm implements. In the past they have lived in old, rundown houses as that was the most cost effective way to accommodate all the members. Recently they purchased two modern buildings: a former retirement home, and an adjacent guest house. Both house many people and have the necessary facilities to take care of their needs, like multiple kitchens, baths, laundry machines, offices, etc. They are nearing completion of their first ever self-built house, which incorporates several green-building techniques and materials. In terms of an ecological footprint (www.footprintnetwork.org/pt/index.php/GFN/page/calculators/), Konohana Family rates a 0.8. This means it would take 0.8 Earths to produce the resources they consume. For comparison, the national averages of the United States and Japan are 5.3 and 2.4, respectively. Their low score is a result of: sharing items like houses, vehicles, TVs and washing machines; reusing and recycling clothing; and growing their own produce to meet the needs of their vegetarian diet. Worldview: There is no professed religion among the community, but Konohana Family subscribes to a mixture of Buddhist teachings supplemented by the animistic beliefs of Shintoism and various cherry-picked aspects of Christianity. At the heart of their belief system are the concepts of reincarnation and karma. Through astrological observation they believe the potential of a person’s character is determined by the position of the planets relative to the sun and to each other at the time of said person’s birth. A person’s given name determines how their potential character is unlocked and expressed. The practical application of this belief system manifests itself in the community’s practice of “polishing their hearts.” By understanding that the roots of their personal problems stem from their karma and character type, they are able to look into their own hearts, find and express those problems, and work on solving them together as a community. This process is the way by which they intend to reach enlightenment. Current Stage of Implementation Konohana Family has 85 current members with no apparent plan to limit membership. Members are free to leave whenever they choose and the community does not bar anyone from becoming a trial member. Becoming a full member is subject to group consensus after a one year trial. There is no concrete expressed plan for growth. Konohana Family values the flexibility and adaptability that arises from their consensus based approach. As the needs of the community change they are discussed and decided upon during the nightly adult meetings.
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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
That said, Konohana Family is currently in the process of launching a nationwide Earth Family Network (EFN) of ecovillages across Japan. By consensus they have accepted a nascent ecovillage called Omachi Village as equal members of their family, despite being located over 100km away. The EFN will see all members and member ecovillages as equals. From a legal and corporate structure standpoint, each member ecovillage will be considered as a branch of the main EFN organization and as such they will be able to exchange goods freely with other branches. This means for example, that an ecovillage that grows certain local produce can trade (effectively, tax-free barter) part of their harvest with another member ecovillage for some of their specialities. More specific details of the EFN have yet to be determined. The flexibility of Konohana Family’s process will hopefully carry over to the EFN as is takes root and grows. Daily Report and Journal The following section contains my personal reports and journal entries for al 31 days of my EDE course. The curriculum covered shares common threads with other EDEs offered around the world. However, I feel that Konohana Family is unique in their approach to living, working and solving life’s challenges together. I hope the spirit of how they live everyday shines throughout this report. The “My Impressions” section comes from a daily journal that I kept and submitted for feedback to Isadon, a co-founder and the spiritual leader of Konohana Family. All of us EDE members kept a journal and sharing it with Isadon and others was another form of “polishing our hearts,” sharing our problems and working them out together. I have included Isadon’s comments at the end of each entry to share what I learned and to illustrate the whole process even more.

2013.2.17 Day 1 Today’s Events and Curriculum: I arrived a day earlier than most of my fellow students. So, that meant that I was able to help out this morning before the rest of the class arrived. There are many teams that I will write about throughout this report. Yesterday, I helped out the ‘kitchen team’ with dinner preparations Today, I helped out the ‘snack team,’ and baked about 200 peanut butter cookies from my own recipe! Our day officially started around 11am with registration and a general health evaluation. We were also asked to surrender our wallets as we will not need them while we are here. We can retrieve them on Saturdays: our days-off from studying. We then had lunch as a group, with most of the Konohana Family members as well. We then proceeded to our orientation. We were joined by about twenty Konohana Family members who will be directly supporting us, and all of us gave a 2-minute self-introduction. We then went over our schedule for the month, daily activities and chores, special events, and other organizational matters.
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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
After a delicious dinner of home-grown rice and vegetables, we were treated to a concert. As a special welcome to all of the EDE students, the Konohana Family members played about six or so songs. We ended up in a big hug circle swaying side to side. Without exception, every night the Konohana Family adults hold a meeting. They talk until everything is discussed, no matter how lat it goes. There is organizational info, the next day’s schedule, financial updates on income and expenses, and time for ‘sharing.’ During this segment, members are given the chance to share any and all feelings or ideas they have. My Impressions: As soon as I arrived at the Konohana Family building, called ‘Sunflower,’ I was warmly received by many Konohana Family members. Everyone was outgoing, friendly and very open. The most striking thing for me was seeing so many children running around, laughing and smiling. I was absolutely surprised that every single child I saw came up to me and shook my hand or said hello or interacted with me in some way. When I was a teacher in Japanese schools I saw how children were introverted, and how their personalities were forced out of them by strict teachers and unnecessary discipline. I was very encouraged by the Konohana Family model and how the children were able to express themselves freely. I have seen in two short days that such an openness for self-expression carries over into the older members as well. At the adult meetings, no topic seems off limits. The biggest issue yesterday and today seems to be a case of unrequited love between two members. From the opinions expressed by many members it seems that the inability to overcome one’s own ego might be the downfall of the whole community. I was surprised that something I would personally consider a private matter, like a broken heart, would be discussed so openly by all members. I think a big challenge for me in the process of building our own ecovillage on Ajishima will be opening up my heart and sharing like they do here at Konohana Family. This is connected with the message I received today: “あなたのやくわりはおおきい。まずはせいしんせいをたか めよ。Your mission is significant. First, enhance your spirituality.” I am not sure how to do that exactly, but I feel and hope that I will be able learn how to start doing so during my time at Konohana Family. Finally, I am so very grateful for all of the support I received over the past several months. From the EDE staff, to my fellow EDE students to all of the generous donors who supported my Ajishima Clean Up challenge, I appreciate each and everyone. Thank you all for your support and encouragement! Isadon: I hope that you will be able to understand what we would like you to do and make the most of it for your future vision. Therefore, please try to share your thoughts and vision to us willingly.
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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
Useful Items for Ajishima: On a practical note, I noticed that during the adult meetings at night, there are big bags of beans and seeds for everyone to sort. While listening to all of the discussions, the members cull the bad seeds from the good ones. This is a great time to take care of an otherwise tedious task. If we have many people working together, it makes a big task smaller and more manageable. Another item of note would be the music played tonight. Music is a universal language and can provide entertainment and create tradition for our burgeoning ecovillage on Ajishima. Our EDE in Pictures: [NOTE: Photos in this section are relevant to the day’s activities and are credited to the author unless otherwise indicated.]

Photo Credit: Konohana Family (KF)

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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
2013.2.18 Day 2 Today’s Events and Curriculum: Our first class this morning was delivered by Michiyo, who has travelled all over the world to many different ecovillages. She taught us about the the first ecovillages and how they have grown and developed over the years. Our second class was taught by Isadon (a co-founder and the spiritual leader of Konohana Family), and it was all about where we are in the universe, and how everything is interconnected. In the afternoon, we did a type of self-introduction exercise where we wrote a few tidbits of info about ourselves on a piece of paper. Our classmates read the info, and asked us questions about it. Then, instead of a regular self-introduction where one person tells the whole group about themselves, the whole group told something about each person that they had just learned. In the evening, we watched a brand new movie about Konohana Family. It was made by a TV personality and took about one year to film. The premiere showing was tonight. I volunteered to help with adding English subtitles to the movie so it can be shared with the rest of the world. My Impressions: At the beginning of Michiyo’s presentation, she asked us what we imagined when we hear the word ‘ecovillage.’ The first thing that popped into my mind were small houses with earthen walls and thatched roofs, and many people out working in the gardens. But, just in the first two days of the EDE course, and especially from today’s classes, I am beginning to see that an ecovillage is much more than just the physical structures. It seems to be more the interconnectedness of people with people and between people and nature and the whole universe. I was raised in the western world, where we are taught to be very individualistic and to question everything. We tend to be reductionists, and we break everything apart and look at all the small individual pieces to see how they work. But, we only look at the pieces as separate parts and not usually how the parts interact to form a whole, and how that whole interacts with everything around itself. I am skeptical about a lot of the spiritual aspects of the EDE course. I have had negative experiences with organized religion pretending to be spirituality and being forced onto me. I believe that the two are mutually exclusive. I believe spirituality is something that an individual person finds for themselves along their path through life. We can interact with and learn from and teach to others along the way, but our spirituality is as individual and unique as all of us are. I do not want to belong to an organized religion, but I do want to enhance my own spirituality. I hope that I can learn some ways to find harmony within myself, and within the wider
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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
community. I want to have a harmonious life with my wife, with my family and with the people of my community on Ajishima. We want to create a peaceful place on Ajishima, that is a safe haven for anyone and everyone to come to find their own peace and harmony. Isadon: (combined comments for Days 2-3, below) Useful Items for Ajishima: We read a very inspirational quote today from Buckminster Fuller: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” It is easy to define oneself by who or what you are not, and then to fight against that to make it fit your own image. I do not want to waste my energy always fighting against things, I want to find motivation in Fuller’s quote and work to build a new model that will attract people and help us create a viable lifestyle on Ajishima. Our EDE in Pictures:

KF

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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
2013.2.19 Day 3 Today’s Events and Curriculum: Our first class this morning was taught by Isadon and was entitled ‘Oneness.’ It was basically an introduction to and a history of Konohana Family. They are originally from Aiichi Prefecture, Japan, but moved to Fujinomiya (near Mount Fuji) in 1994. At the time of their founding, there were 20 members. As of last week with the addition of a new born baby, they now number 85, of which 34 are male and 51 female. There are 61 adults and 24 children. The Konohana Family children all live together but separate from their biological parents. They have caretakers who look after them in their own children’s house. They do not address their biological parents as ‘mother’ or ‘father’ but by their nicknames, which everyone uses to address everyone else. They believe this allows the children to love all the adults and for the adults to love all the children equally. I have not seen so many engaged and excited children in all of my time in Japan previously, so perhaps something is working for them. We also learned about the farming operations which include 8.5 hectares of vegetable fields, 9 hectares of rice paddies, 11 plastic green houses, 670 chickens for eggs, a handful of goats for milk, and hundreds of thousands of bees for honey and other products. Every person, every animal, every plant and all the soil at Konohana Family receives a special culture in the form of homemade EM concoctions. They claim this mixture of micro organisms and beneficial bacteria keeps everyone and everything healthy. I hope to learn more about their recipes, preparation and application during future classes. Our second course this morning was about the care program that Konohana Family offers. Isadon and Yoko-chan (care supporter) introduced case studies from their care program. They offer spiritual care to guests which lasts for several weeks to several months depending on guest’s progress. In the afternoon, we had our first introduction to ‘facilitation.’ All of the EDE students have been asked to facilitate one of the adult meeting during our stay. We are learning the basics now, and will apply them through games and role playing in future classes to prepare us for the real thing at the nightly meetings. My Impressions: It has been my experience that the idea of “it takes a village to raise a child” has many shortcomings. I worked for a large school district in the US and saw how the idea of other people raising a child somehow freed the biological parents from any responsibility. The burden was placed on teachers and school administrators to care for and raise many children. This is the
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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
opposite intention of the idea, but unfortunately it was the consequence of poor implementation of the idea. Because of that experience I feel that it doesn’t take a village, rather it takes one, preferably two, concerned and engaged parents to raise a child. However, I think I understand the rationale behind Konohana Family’s preferred method of child rearing. I do see the advantage to children having emotional access to many caring adults. It must teach them to not be afraid of nonparental adults, and to be able to expand their hearts to love even more people. The same must be true for many non-parental adults in that they are able to share their love with many children, and help contribute to the children’s guidance and spiritual growth. In my own case, once my wife and I have children our own, I do not think I could or would want to live apart from them. I would like to involve the contributions of other adults and to be involved personally in the other children’s lives, but I cannot envision the level of Konohana Family’s separation at our own ecovillage on Ajishima. On a different note, this afternoon it was quite a shock for me to see all the case studies of the care guests Konohana Family has served. In my home country, America, there are many many laws that protect the privacy of patients. It is absolutely illegal for any caregiver to disclose anything about a patient’s physical or mental health. They cannot even mention a patient’s name, age or any detail of any kind. I strongly support this protection of privacy. I do not think anyone has a right or even a need to know about another person’s physical condition. That said, I can see how living in a type of open and free-sharing community like Konohana Family the members might feel comfortable enough to share their conditions with everyone. Over lunch today, I was able to talk about this with some of my EDE classmates. They too were shocked to hear so many details. After our conversation I suppose I could support this if the patient chooses to disclose their information of their own accord. I think that is the whole point of Konohana Family: to live life open and honestly with all their family members. My classmates made a compelling argument that by sharing your problem with others it ceases to be just your problem. Others can approach the problem from a different perspective and offer advice on how to deal with it. You do not have to face your problems alone, and that can be reassuring. I guess that with this subject as with many other things I am bound to discover here at Konohana Family, I need to find a balance of what will work best for me, for my family and for our ecovillage on Ajishima. I look forward to learning as much as possible. Isadon: (combined comments for Days 2-3) The values of right and wrong look different from different perspectives.

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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
Useful Items for Ajishima: I want to learn more about several vegetables that are grown for their medicinal properties: shimon potato, purple turmeric (gajyutsu) and red turmeric (ukon). From what I could translate of someone’e explanation, shimon potato promotes blood circulation and helps with coagulation if you cut yourself. The turmerics are good against cancer, and I know from previous research that they are anti-inflammatory. The shimon potato will probably grow really well on Ajishima, where we already grow famously delicious sweet potatoes. As a root crop, the turmeric should do well in our soil too. Our EDE in Pictures:

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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
2013.2.20 Day 4 Today’s Events and Curriculum: Today was all about agriculture, all day long from 8am-9:30pm with only a few breaks for food and a bath! Today, we had a guest teacher, Wata Wata, from Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture. He is in the process of becoming a member of Konohana Family. He arrived last night and we coincidentally sat next to each other at dinner. He told me about his volunteer activities in Ishinomaki after the disaster where he and others inoculated the soil in many places all around the city with EM (effective micro-organisms), which is a mixture of beneficial bacteria and other little beasties. The little critters helped reduce the smell from the rotting debris deposited by the tsunami, and helped regenerate the soil. We started today’s first class with a quick introduction to the emergence and evolution of plants and animals. Then came the differentiation between plants and animals which comes down to photosynthesis. Then we moved on to the various means of reproduction that plants specifically have. After that we got into specific examples of how companion planting, crop rotation and plant breeding work. It really made me want to dig into our fields on Ajishima and to get some plants growing! My Impressions: I was feeling a bit tired after dinner. We had another class scheduled at 8pm and I wanted to rest a bit. But, to do so would have meant skipping the children’s meeting. I left the dining hall for the restroom and came back to the main doors. I hesitated to go in. It is challenging for me here to find personal and private time, which is a huge priority for me. It is difficult to find that alone time with classes and meetings almost all day long, then we eat together and bathe together. Anyway, I looked through the window into the hall, and noticed that no one noticed me. I felt free to leave. I started to walk away to my room, but hesitated again. I felt obligated to go to the meeting, so I turned around and went into the dining hall just as the children’s meeting began. I went to the same seat I had used at dinner time, but it was already taken. So, I looked for an open seat and sat in the first one I saw. Perhaps by coincidence, I sat next to my personal supporter, a Konohana Family member named Ta-chan. He smiled and offered me a shoulder massage. It was quite a relief. I feel that I was rewarded for making the right decision to attend the meeting. I do want to find a balance of group interaction and personal alone time. In the meantime I am beginning to see more and more benefits of living in a community.

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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
Isadon: Whenever you need private time, please let the staff know. I think we can give some kind of consideration to it. You don’t have to force yourself to participate in any programs except for the EDE courses. However, as a result, it was good for you to participate in that. The more you learn during the EDE courses, the more your values on privacy might change. Useful Items for Ajishima: Wata Wata talked about not adding fertilizer or even natural compost to the fields. Through crop rotation and growing green manures in place, the fertility of the soil increase without additional materials or resources added. This is a huge advantage to us on Ajishima, as we would have to use the ferry to carry any materials we cannot produce ourselves. If we grow it on the island and use it on the island we have a closed nutrient loop and that is a good thing. Our EDE in Pictures:

KF

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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
2013.2.21 Day 5 Today’s Events and Curriculum: [Note: I will use the word ‘kanji’ to differentiate between the two uses of the word ‘character,’ which from here on will denote a person’s character traits.] Today’s class was presented by Isadon, and was entitled ‘karma.’ It was essentially about how Konohana Family begins to understand each member’s personality based on the specific ‘kanji’ (Chinese characters) of their given names. They believe these techniques reveal a person’s true character and help diagnose and address their personal problems. This morning we spent time on the technique of counting the pen/brush strokes from each kanji of a person’s given name (family names only account for the history of the family tree, without influencing personal character). The number of brush strokes plus the total number of kanji all help conclude the yin & yang distribution of a person’s character. Based on the predominance of either yin or yang and the strength thereof, a person’s character is revealed. Since I have a Western name without kanji Isadon had to look at some kind of birthday-related horoscope to judge my character instead. This afternoon was dedicated to several very practical applications of natural farming for the purpose of making and building soil. We studied the use of green manures and how to prepare the fields with them in order to plant veggies on a rotational basis. We also studied all kinds of compost mixes and methods as well as mineral and nutrient concoctions in order to actually make soil and then to keep it healthy. My Impressions: I have lots and lots of questions from today’s class about understanding a person’s character from counting the stokes of their kanji-based name. First, this process presupposes the idea of reincarnation. I do not subscribe to any religious belief of an afterlife. However, based on my Catholic and, in general, Christian upbringing, I would like to hope that there is some reward or paradise awaiting everyone who does good in this life. That might necessitate a punishment for those who do evil; is this an other example of yin & yang? I do not believe in a Heaven or Hell in the dogmatic religious sense, but this is not the point of my discussion at this moment. During class I asked about parents who know this system choosing to name their children and therefore assign them a certain character. I was informed that the child chooses its own name and relates that to the parents. I then asked why a child would choose a difficult character over a more balanced one. This is when I learned from Tomo-chan (my translator) that a reincarnated person may choose their next life to be difficult and challenging in order to learn more about themselves and to grow spiritually. She said the value of life lies within how much you have
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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
learned and changed yourself for the better. I can absolutely agree with the value of life being the measure of how you have improved yourself. I respectfully doubt the concept of reincarnation, however. Tomo-chan then asked me if I believe in God. I told her that I do not believe in God in the dogmatic religious sense. I told her that I think that there might be ‘something,’ something even god-like, but that I wasn’t personally sure. She asked me if I believed in that ‘something,’ and I said that I don’t believe in it, but that I want to believe that it is there. I have been blessed in many ways over my life, maybe it is from God, maybe the universe, maybe it is just coincidence, or maybe I am just lucky. While I may doubt reincarnation or the Catholic God, I do not discount the possibility that they may exist. My big challenge now is searching for a personal connection to this ‘something’ out there if it exists. I want to find my own spirituality, I am just not sure where to look first. Isadon: There is a theory of reincarnation in the early Christianity, too. Either way, please look forward to encountering different cultures. I think it is all right to doubt when you don’t know. However, in that case, I think it is better to consider not that it is wrong, but that you just don’t know. It would be a huge task. I’m pretty sure that you will be able to solve the mystery someday. Useful Items for Ajishima: I am excited to try the simple process of growing a green manure like rye then following it with cabbage. We can also use different plants grown between other plants as physical barriers (bunker plants) to pests. For example, growing barley between fava beans keeps aphids in check. If pests arise, they can eat the barley and leave the beans alone. I will have to study more and learn how to use this rotational system of veggies and soil building plants on Ajishima. Our EDE in Pictures:

KF

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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
2013.2.22 Day 6 Today’s Events and Curriculum: Yesterday morning I went outside for the first time in 5 days. We have so many classes everyday all day long, and by night time I just want to sleep. But yesterday I had about 10 minutes before our first class so I took a short walk. It was very invigorating and kept me energized all day long. So, I was excited when I saw today’s plan: wake up by 6 am and go to a Konohana Family fruit orchard near Mount Fuji to watch the sunrise. Afterwards we came back and did some simple activities that grew into a really moving event. We started by writing in our own words our impressions and inspiration from the sunrise; prose, poetry or just lists of things were ok. Then we drew a picture, much like a kindergartener, with crayon and colored pencils. At the end, we read what we wrote down and then described our drawings. After that our teacher, Mika-chan, brought out a box of musical instruments; mostly percussion items like maracas and bells and wood blocks. Our next task was to sing the words we had written. We had the option to ask the group to accompany us on their favorite instrument and we went around the circle and sang fourteen different songs all from the heart. In the afternoon we did a quick visioning exercise of the things we would like to see in our own future ecovillage. We then wrote down the highlights and then read them to the group. We then negotiated with the rest of the group to see who would join a number of smaller groups. I listed several things for Ajishima like: support for the aging population on Ajishima, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program with the island’s grandmas, creating shared/ common rituals like cooking and eating together, holding homemade music concerts, festivals and birthday parties and planting and harvesting rice and vegetables together. I would also like to help heal and clean the soil of radiation (from Fukushima) through bio remediation and to create a model of sustainability and disaster recovery for Ishinomaki, Miyagi Pref. and Tohoku. I paired up with Sada-chan and Chie-chan who are interested in natural medicine, anti-aging, natural forestry, natural building and Transition Towns. We will work on a joint project based on Sada-chan’s property. Chie-chan and I will be able to give our input and take examples from our group project and apply them to our individual projects. My Impressions: After our morning excursion, with the sunset and ensuing music making, I started to think about the things I wrote down, and the picture I drew. The core of both were that we are all connected; everything and everyone is connected to everyone and everything else. After my presentation a fellow EDE classmate said “Rick, you are very spiritual.” To which I responded, without thinking at all, “Not yet!” I have been thinking about that interaction and my projects, and this is

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the direction I am leaning now: I am beginning to intuitively notice connections between almost everything. I see it but I do not quite yet believe it. My reductionist mind is still trying to break everything down into its tiniest parts and my clinical reasoning is trying to refute the existence of the connections between those parts, connections that my heart knows are there. I have also realized that this is one of my perhaps most dominant thought patterns. Anytime I approach a new experience or phenomenon my knee jerk reaction is to dismiss it right away and to discount its validity. This is probably a defense mechanism to protect me from having to consider others’ points of view. There is usually a positive end to the process, though. Once I deconstruct the situation in my mind and have no more things to disagree with, I usually come to accept and strongly embrace the new idea. This can take seconds, minutes, days, weeks, even months depending on the scope of the change. I do not know where it came from but I have been bubbling over with so much energy all day long. Maybe it was from waking up extra early or watching the sunrise or from holding hands in a big circle or from somewhere else. The strength of my energy grew more and more once we started singing our impressions. I was shaking by lunch time as if I had drunk a dozen cups of coffee! Wherever it came from, I loved the experience and want more of it. Isadon: We exist in one universe, on one planet (the Earth), and in the one life. It means that you are not always negative toward new ideas. New experiences will be the motivator to make people grow. After you experience something, why don’t you make a judgment? Useful Items for Ajishima: I am thrilled just thinking about making music. I used to play bass in a band 13-14 years ago. I have not made my own music in over a decade and I miss it. After today’s musical interlude, I think we definitely have to incorporate music and making music ourselves into our island community on a regular basis and also for special celebrations. Michie and I have already talked about even holding a big outdoor concert event in the summer. It could take place over a long weekend and the attendees could camp out on the island, and then celebrate with all kinds of music at night. Now, we just need to book some cool bands...

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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
Our EDE in Pictures (Day 6):

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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
2013.2.23 Day 7 - A day of rest Today was our first day off. All of the EDE students will have Saturdays off, but our hosts keep on working everyday without a day off. I asked why they don’t take any time off from working so hard, and it was explained to me that “a dog doesn’t take a day off from being a dog and a bee doesn’t ever stop being a bee.” So, Konohana Family members live the life they live everyday. They do have special celebrations and festivals, but they put in an honest day’s work first. We are actually holding a big birthday party tonight for several Konohana Family members. Many groups are performing different forms of entertainment. We EDE students are presenting a demonstration on life and death and all the problems that arise in between. If we can change our way of thinking and move towards a new model of interconnectedness, we can link together and help each other through anything. After that we are going to do a series of dances that where we start out alone and then slowly pair up and then join progressively larger groups until everyone on the dance floor is in one writhing mass of humanity! In preparation for our EDE group presentation at tonight’s birthday party, we students discussed several options. I presented an idea inspired from Isadon’s introduction and the video of the vortex model of our solar system. I also took inspiration from the connections that I am starting to see everywhere. The group decided to present the idea I offered. Once I put the idea out in the group it started to grow into an even bigger and more expansive concept. My idea became our group’s idea and it developed a life of its own. In my younger days I would have tried to control every aspect of the presentation, but I was totally content in setting it free and watching it grow, fed by the nourishing energy of the whole group. My idea would only be a few scribbled words on a scrap of paper if it were not for the love and input of the rest of the group. While I usually try to do everything on my own, I see the beauty of what can be created by a group working in synergy with one another. I believe in that beauty and want it to be a part of my life. Isadon: Every single person has a very unique personality. Rather than trying to make the most of it on your own, personalities would have possibilities to develop toward bigger and more various worlds by connecting to each other and creating a network just like an ecosystem. Therefore, in that sense, it is very abundant to develop your ideas though the network.

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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
Our EDE in Pictures (Day 7):

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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
2013.2.24 Day 8 Today’s Events and Curriculum: This morning came with an introduction to the economic possibilities within an ecovillage and/or intentional community context. We began the lesson in the context of a universe populated by people who are only connected to the universe but not to others. From this perceived lack of connection, people see themselves as individuals opposed to and in competition with one another. From this situation exploitative and survival-of-the-fittest type economic systems emerged were everyone struggles against one another in the pursuit of limited resources. We then learned about several other things: such as a local currency where a community prints or mints their own money for members and visitors to use. This keep profits locally to be reinvested in local businesses and infrastructure. As well, we learned that Konohana Family is following a new economic model referred to as a “buffet economy” where everything is laid out on the table potluck-style for everyone to see. Then each person and/or group takes what they need. The process is transparent and everyone sees what others both contribute and consume. Konohana Family is also in the process of setting up a larger economic network of several ecovillages in Japan called the Earth Family Network (EFN). All income made by each member ecovillage would go to the network and be redistributed based on ecovillage membership size. Between ecovillages they will exchange goods and services they do not produce locally. This is essentially a barter system between the various EFN branch ecovillages. Konohana Family believes this could be come a model for governments and countries to adopt. In the afternoon we did some leadership training exercises that will help us move away from the current outdated model of control by a single individual towards a system where every group member is a leader. I learned a lot about my personal leadership style and how to adapt better to leading which includes giving up my need to control and sharing the leadership role with others. My Impressions: After the wonderful birthday celebration yesterday I was totally worn out. I gave all my extra energy to our presentations and to dancing like a madman. It was an amazing, fun experience but I totally crashed afterwards. My energy dropped and I noticed over the course of the adult meeting that I was starting to get a little depressed. When the meeting was over I went back to my room and recorded everything as fast as I could think it and write it down (I took Isadon’s advice to Takki and expressed what I received as soon as possible. The next step is to speak it to others). I fell asleep without resolving the causes of my depression. In the morning I talked with a fellow EDE student about all this, and just after a short time of sharing I felt a huge burden lifted off
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me. Later, we EDE students decided to organize our own sharing sessions. I spoke up to the group and said I want to share, but that I am scared. Everyone else spoke up and said they are scared too! As a group we agreed to support each other. It is such an awesome feeling to know that there is a group of people, each with their own problems, who will share and support one another without judgement. Isadon: It is wonderful to help everyone “polish their hearts,” improve their spirituality and establish a network to love each other. Useful Items for Ajishima: Michie and I have talked about a local currency for Ajishima. It would be something we do in the future as it would take a significant number of people on the island and in our ecovillage to support the system. Our EDE in Pictures:

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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
2013.2.25 Day 9 Today’s Events and Curriculum: Today was the kind of day I like the best, since I am a hands-on learner. We started out making a half dozen different kinds of Japanese pickles. Then we proceeded to make a fermented bean dish called natto. In the afternoon we went to the fields and checked out a series of five massive compost piles, with the oldest one made five years ago and the youngest one from the end of last year. After that we made two types of natural fertilizers. The first is a type of compost called ‘bokashi’ which essentially adds beneficial bacteria and other friendly microbes to kitchen scraps and garden cuttings to create a really active compost. This is mixed with other organic materials and eventually added to the soil. The second was a kind of EM (effective microorganisms) and it is the base that kickstarts all the living processes at Konohana Family. Their chickens, goats and bees all consume it and it is delivered to every plant, veggie and tree Konohana Family grows. The Konohana Family members even drink an EM concoction, that acts like a supercharged yogurt. My Impressions: We learned that when we make Japanese pickles, we press them down with very heavy stones. This keeps the veggies submerged in brine so they can pickle themselves. It was shared that these stones add pressure which allows surrounding energy to enter the veggies. This energy is what keeps the food from rotting. I had a knee-jerk reaction and thought that the energy keeping the veggies from spoiling was nonsense. I knew that it was the chemical effect of salt, vinegar, sugar, lactic acid, etc., that created an environment unsuitable for non-beneficial microbes to grow. But then I had a feeling that maybe the preservation via chemical process is simply an expression of that energy. It is a gift to humankind to preserve foods to keep for lean times. I was surprised at my first negative reaction but even more surprised how half a second later I had another thought that showed me once again the interconnectedness that is everywhere. Later on at the fields, we were digging into the compost piles to see what was there. This is what occurred to me: the compost pile is a microcosmic example of interconnectedness. All of the creatures have a role to play in breaking down the leave, straw and chicken poop, etc. None work alone, though all have a specialized function. One cannot start its process until the other does it job. Some eat the others, but that is the circle of life. It took five years for an undisturbed pile to become dirt, which demonstrates the long and slow process of life. I think this is a model of balance and harmony for us to follow. Isadon: It looks like numerous creatures exist alone in the system of this world, but the circle of life works by interconnecting and networking.

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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
Special Fasting Report Day 1: Today is the first day of a fast I joined in with five other EDE students, a Konohana Family member, a care guest and a volunteer. We decided to do so after last night’s meeting. This is what I have experienced so far: I did sense a physical hunger (my stomach churning, maybe expecting food) but noticed that I do not have a mental hunger for food. I abuse food sometimes and use it as a drug to comfort my depression and apathy. I have fasted many times before, but never in such a supportive place. I hope to gain some control over my desire through fasting. Isadon: You have a positive perspective toward fasting, putting an importance on spirituality. Useful Items for Ajishima: I definitely want to start making more pickles, and homemade food in general, on Ajishima. From my experience as a chef it is very easy for me to create heaps of delicious food. The biggest challenge for us now as I see it is not growing, harvesting, preserving or making the food, it is having enough hungry mouths to gobble it all up before it goes bad. Does anyone want to come over for dinner?

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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
Our EDE in Pictures (Day 9):

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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
2013.2.26 Day 10 Today’s Events and Curriculum: This morning we continued Isadon’s discussion of how the strokes of the kanji in a person’s name indicate their character. We also delved into how it affects interpersonal relationships of all kinds. This afternoon we checked out several green house, veggie fields and dug into the dirt to see the different strata of soil types and organism living therein. Afterwards we concluded a discussion on natural agriculture from a few days ago. My Impressions: Last night at the adult meeting, I think we were witness to something unique and amazing. For many days (maybe even since last month if I understood it correctly) the Konohana Family members have been discussing whether or not to join together with another ecovillage about three and a half hours away. Ultimately they decided to go ahead with it. While that decision was a huge accomplishment of showing that heart can encompass more than we think possible, it was the process employed to reach that decision that is momentous. During the long discussion many members expressed their feelings that the whole community might fail and fall apart. The members shared directly from their hearts what they were thinking and feeling and eventually they came to the consensus that they could love the other ecovillage just like they love each member here, even if they live in different buildings down the road. This new model demonstrates for the rest of the world both the capacity for an ever-expansive love that our hearts possess and a process to reach the next level of interconnectedness. The process as I interpret it is this: talk and share honestly from your heart. Listen sincerely. Digest the others’ feelings. Speak. Listen. Digest. Repeat. Today, Isadon mentioned that your real life is your daily life. The process above is applied to every aspect of your daily life and through continued application it polishes your heart. The process is slow and potentially painful because it is new and unique. But, this is a new emerging model towards a better understanding of one another and all interconnectedness. Isadon: Actually, Konohana Family members have already decided to merge with Omachi ecovillage, about three and a half hours away. Tonight we were discussing what kind of attitude we should have towards the new newly added members. Should we accept the Omachi members in our hearts the same way we accept our fellow Konohana Family members? The Konohana Family project is an unprecedented one and we have no model to follow, so we are trying to find the direction, sharing what we think and feel along the way.

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Special Fasting Report Day 2: My mind has been racing with so many thoughts, and I have been busy with classes and preparations for a self-introduction presentation tonight. I haven’t had the time to pay much attention to my body. While I can feel a tightness in my stomach, I haven’t felt hungry at all. I have had peaks and falls in my energy level, and I felt a little exhausted in the afternoon. In the past when I have fasted I usually did it alone or only with my wife and just stayed at home. I spent more time meditating on my hunger then than now, and it became greater the more I thought about it. I have been too busy here to think about it. I do feel that I am in control of my hunger, though. Isadon: You won’t be able to achieve the aim of fasting, just by withstanding your hunger. If you feel hungry, try to be aware of the reason why you have been fasting. If so, your hunger will be relieved. Useful Items for Ajishima: We spent some time in several green houses today and it reminded me of a plan I thought up last year. There is an abandoned outdoor swimming pool on the island, at the old elementary school that became the hospital. I researched some clever folks who built a small green house over their backyard pool and could grow all kinds of things. If we could convert the island’s pool to a green house we could build grow beds vertically to maximize space, and we could even grow our own bananas! Our EDE in Pictures:

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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
2013.2.27 Day 11 Today’s Events and Curriculum: This morning we had a guest lecturer, Kaichi, who presented on planetary alignments how all of the heavenly bodies interact with each other. We also watched a video that zoomed out from the earth to lightyears away from the Milky Way Galaxy, then zoomed back to the Earth and further into a human being going all the way down to the subatomic particles in our DNA. There were patterns from space repeated inside our own bodies, like spiral galaxies and DNA, and networks like galaxy clusters and neurons. In the afternoon we studied the practical steps towards founding an ecovillage, from zoning to residential laws to tax advice and new membership process. Started out 19 years ago with about 20 founding members. Since they had the money before joining, Isadon bought a house, Junjiman bought farming implements and Ekobachan bought farm land. Others were completely poor and/or in debt. Some members were extremely rich and decided to leave because of the concept of a shared purse, or pooling all the money and using it for family needs. They have been slowly growing and now live mainly in a converted retirement home they purchased last year. My Impressions: Special Fasting Report Day 3: This morning I felt fine, much like yesterday. The biggest challenge as I see it now is how I will act at my first few meals. I imagine starting with only some miso broth (no veggies) at first and waiting until the next meal to eat solid food. I wonder if I will act like a pig at a trough, or controlled and measured in the amount of food I take and how fast I eat it. I would prefer the latter. I have thought about a 5-7 day fast to learn to control my hunger even more. Then I thought of something else: I am a control freak anyway, so is my desire to control my hunger a desire to control more and more things? As a control freak, what is the threshold of control? Is my control freak tendency a reaction to things I cannot change? I see this world’s problems and it depresses me because I feel helpless to act and change those problems. So, I try to regain some measure of control by controlling the things in my immediate reach like trivial things from my daily life with my wife, dogs, etc. Not always, but sometimes I eat to comfort my depression that arises from my regret of being so controlling and causing problems in my marriage. Isadon: It would be good if you have an image that self-control is not to fight against your desire, but to let it go calmly when it arises. As for “by controlling the things in my immediate reach like trivial things from my daily life with my wife, dogs, etc.”, it is important to respect and live in harmony with other people. Then, if your idea is excellent, you will be able to lead them to it.
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I think it is a democratic way and logical. By the way, which kanji do you use for your wife’s name? Useful Items for Ajishima: I learned from Michiyo today after lunch more about the Earth Family Network that Konohana Family is implementing locally later this year. It might be possible for our Ajishima Ecovillage to become a member group of the Earth Family Network. We also talked about the possibility of implementing the Earth Family Network on a global level, with chapters all over the world. Members would be able to move freely among the various ecovillages around the planet and work where they fit in best. Our EDE in Pictures:

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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
2013.2.28 Day 12 Today’s Events and Curriculum: This morning we had a guest lecturer who gave an introductory course to globalization and localization. We looked at some of the roots of globalization and examined whether it lived up to its promise to make everyone happy through access to a world of goods and services. We considered some positive effects like access to life-saving medicine previously unavailable and the benefits of interpersonal connections and information sharing across boarders through the internet. After that, we brainstormed possible remedies to the ills of globalization and came up with a plan for localization, which included, communities growing more of their own organic food and textiles closer to home, community banks, renewable energy sources, etc. This afternoon we had another guest lecturer who shared with us his experience with a community bank that serves other NPOs. He used to be a regular banker but quit ten years ago and founded the Community Youth Bank ‘Momo’ in Aiichi Prefecture. Investors lend ¥10,000 (about US$100) to Momo who then lends it to NPOs for start-up or program costs. The NPOs repay the loan over a term set in a contract at an interest rate of 2-2.5%. Initial investors receive up to¥10,000 back later on (no profit is made), with the possibility of less due to loan defaults by some NPOs. Momo supports itself financially through newsletter subscriptions, community banking seminars and lectures, and a large government subsidy. They plan to move away from the subsidy and support themselves independently. In addition to loans, Momo provides volunteer support to the NPOs for organizational matter and even helps set up websites for them. My Impressions: Special Fasting Follow-up Report: I broke my fast this morning with a tiny bowl of miso broth (no veggies). It was exceptionally delicious. I abstained from everything, with the only exception of water, for 84 hours. It absolutely was not my goal, but I did lose 4kg (8.8lbs) over these three plus days. Interestingly, over the first week of the EDE I lost 4kg, even though I would take a mountain of food and go back for seconds and thirds almost every meal. I attribute this to not eating as many sweets and snacks and not drinking beer like I do at home. I eat and drink when I am bored or just to take my mind off of something. I think I will always enjoy eating; it goes hand in hand with my passion for growing and cooking delicious food. However, I have realized that I do not need food and alcohol to make me feel a certain way. I have an all-or-nothing personality, which means I do something either 100% or not at all. It may also be days, weeks or months between my snaking and drinking binges. But, for example, if I eat some potato chips, I eat the whole bag. If I drink beer, I drink more than I should. There is
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an advantage to this trait, though. When I decide to do something, I am fully committed. Other things that stand in my way, though, are my apathy and fear of failure. These keep me from even getting started with a project or idea, and then my 100% attitude kicks in and I am a 100% shutin (引きこもり, hikikomori), and then I get depresses and eat to mask my sorrow. This is a hard cycle to break. Isadon: If you feel that your personality is a problem so much, it is necessary to master selfcontrol at this chance through the EDE activities. Useful Items for Ajishima: It may be useful for us to borrow money from a community bank to get started with our initial projects on Ajishima. I am not a huge fan of borrowing then owing money, but the possibility of a low interest rate through a non-conventional community bank has its merits. Momo operates almost exclusively in Aiichi, but we learned that community banks are springing up all over Japan. I just have to research if any exist in Miyagi Prefecture yet. Our EDE in Pictures:

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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
2013.3.1 Day 13 Today’s Events and Curriculum: This morning Isadon gave the third part of his character readings lecture and displayed his interpretation of three EDE students’ characters. They all seemed to agree with his assessment. The question remains for me if you know how you are and how you want to be, how do you change? In the afternoon, we broke into our project groups. Chie-chan, Sada-chan and I decided to name our group Majo Medicine Man, because we are taking on Sada-chan’s plan for a medicinal herb healing salon for the elderly folks in her area. It will be located in Nagano Prefecture. We laid out rough plans for structures like the salon and guest quarters, and possible ways to attract younger people to help with the manual labor of growing, harvesting and processing organic crops and medicinal herbs by means of Wwoof or an internship program. We talked about a possible CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and even a CSM (Community Supported Medicine) subscription/delivery program for the surrounding area. My Impressions: We gave a brief presentation and received the feedback on our group ecovillage project. The main point we were lacking was the “glue” holding our community together. This essentially means no shared spirituality. This is a good exercise for all of us, but especially for me. I want to have a more harmonious relationship with my wife. I want to imbue our ecovillage on Ajishima with a sense of peace. I want to ‘polish my heart’ as Konohana Family members are fond of saying. I have a grasp of who and how I am, and I have many aspects I would like to change. But, I don’t know how to do that. I am open to suggestions. Isadon: (combined comment for Days 13-15, below) Useful Items for Ajishima: We are working on a single prospective ecovillage for our group project but we have been allowed a few freedoms. We can add things individually that we would like to implement at our own ecovillage. The CSA is an idea I want to pursue on Ajishima. I am also very excited about Sada-chan’s idea of a healing salon for elderly people. This is the reason I joined her group, because I would like to learn some care options for the aging population on Ajishima.

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Our EDE in Pictures (Day 13):

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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
2013.3.2 Day 14 - Day of Rest I walk between two worlds. I went for a solitary walk after lunch and found my self deep inside a dark pine forest. All of the sudden the scenery changed and I was surrounded by bamboo bigger than I could wrap my hands around. The two distinct ecosystems butted up to one another with only a few encroaching bamboo shots on the pine side and the rotted trunk remnants of a few pines on the bamboo side. I sat and listened to the clacking sound of the high bamboo branches swaying in the wind, and watched the dappled light trickle through the canopy. The first thing I noticed was that change, progression and succession (in the sense of one plant species overtaking another in the forest) were both inevitable and irresistible. For me, the personal change I seek with be challenging, but once I set my mind to it I know I can achieve it. The second thing occurred to me as I started my way back. I realized that I was walking between two worlds. Literally, I was on the edge of two mutually exclusive forest types, experiencing all the sensations of both while not inhabiting one specific zone. Reflecting back, I can see the pattern in my life of living between two, often times many, different worlds: from being the smart football player in high school, to the American exchange student in Germany, to the vegetarian chef at a steakhouse all the way to the introverted team leader, and to the self-centered outsider trying to found an ecovillage community in Japan. I believe I have the ability to see things from an outside perspective. And, I feel that I have gained insight from this pattern. However, neither world ever really accepted me nor did I feel at home in either. That could be the reason I have moved around the world so many times and tried my hand at so many jobs. I also think this is both the cause and effect of my most overwhelming character trait to turn inwards and shutout the outside world and everyone in it. I am totally comfortable alone, I do not feel the necessity to rely on others nor do I pay much attention to their needs. I had a meeting later on with Isadon and Yoko-chan which basically confirmed all of this for me. I do not have a connection to community, and I struggle to make change happen on my own. While I do walk between two worlds, the balancing act is getting tiring. I do not really want to fall onto the side of forever alone. So to find my way to community I have to listen to, trust and share with others. This will help me with my marriage, with founding an ecovillage and even in raising my spirituality. Isadon: (combined comment for Days 13-15, below)

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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
Our EDE in Pictures (Day 14):

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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
2013.3.3 Day 15 Today’s Events and Curriculum: This morning we had a brief introduction to natural building with the main example being a composting toilet Konohana Family built last year with the help of the previous EDE class. This afternoon we made miso (which is a fermented soybean paste, used primarily in soup). The beans were already cooked for us and all we had to do was mix the ingredients, smash them into a paste and pack them in containers. We all got to take home a few kilograms, but it won’t be ready to eat for at least one year, and it will only get better in flavor after that! My Impressions: Yesterday night after the adult meeting, several EDE students and I met for what I like to call ‘the after party!’ where we just hang out in a small lounge and talk casually while working on various things. I noticed a pattern where I start the conversation and just say everything I am thinking for several minutes, wait for others to translate it for the group, listen to their comments and then my participation is basically done. This is a great example of me trying to interact with the group, but turning back within soon afterwards. I just say my own thing, and don’t listen to others afterwards. Part of it is the language barrier, and I reached the limit of my Japanese ability last week. Many kind EDE members translate for me, and I absolutely appreciate that. Anyway, I talked with some EDE members this morning about the pattern I recognized. I am going to try from now on to listen from the beginning and to chime in only when what I am thinking matches the flow of the group’s conversation. Isadon: (combined comment for Days 13-15) When you try to see and judge your inner aspect objectively and go toward a new direction, a new door in your life will be open. We are looking forward to your achievement and hoping that you will enjoy it! Useful Items for Ajishima: I have researched compost toilets a lot on my own, and I take pictures of the ones I see in person. One thing I really liked about the Konohana Family compost toilet that we discussed today was the addition of a certain layer of soil. This is called “AO” soil and comes from the bottom of a one meter deep hole. It has lots of micro organisms and helps jump start the decomposition process in the toilet. Konohana Family also uses bokashi as a cover between each use. These are two really good ideas to apply to compost toilets on Ajishima.

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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
Our EDE in Pictures (Day 15):

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2013.3.4 Day 16 Today’s Events and Curriculum: This mornings first theme was micro organisms and homemade EM (effective micro organism) concoctions. We learned the recipe of how Konohana Family makes their special brew of micro organisms that they feed to all animals and plants on the farm. They use ingredients available on their farm like various leaves and fungi from the forest floor as well as food waste from local businesses like soybean lees (okara) discarded after making tofu. Everything is fermented in a big tank, diluted and used around the farm. Later on, we constructed an air filter out of a piece of plastic pipe, a fish tank air pump and some coral sand. This will last for years and will provide fresh air to an average size room for the price of parts and electricity use. Many EDE classmates and I discussed the possibility to manufacture such air filters as a small eco-business. In the afternoon we studied the World Cafe idea of meetings. We brainstormed several topics for further discussion. Michiyo asked us to close our eyes and to raise our hands for the topics that interested us most. In this way the majority voted for discussing our farewell party presentation. During our last session, we practiced the World Cafe method. We broke into three groups at three tables complete with poster paper and markers. We discussed what we wanted to present at the party for 20 minutes. Some of us switched tables and interacted with the other groups’ ideas and then came back to our original table and shared the new ideas. Each group then presented the party themes we discussed to the whole group. My Impressions: My mind is not clear. I have not been able to focus on a single thought for very long today. I am not sure the reason. I will have to spend some more time talking with and listening to others, and some time on self-reflection. Isadon: You need a place to talk about everything, based on the relationship of trust where you are able to show your inner aspect. If your current situation is difficult for you to bear, we will be able to set up another meeting. Useful Items for Ajishima: I have been thinking about small business opportunities on Ajishima that we could undertake as a household or as an ecovillage later on. The biggest obstacle as I see it currently is importing raw materials by ferry to the island and exporting valuable resources off the island. For example, I considered the air filter we built in class today. Even if we used materials like old sake bottles or
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even glass buoys that are on the island we would have to import air pumps, hardware, etc., and then export the same items along with materials we would have to gather from the island like sand from our beaches (for the filter) and wood from our forests (for the pump housing). Another example would be value added food products like jams and fruit preserves. We would have to pay to import glass jars and boxes, then fill them with our fruit then ship all of it back off the island to be sold elsewhere in Japan. Exporting nutrients in the form of produce, preserves, wood/bamboo products, etc., means that we no longer have those nutrients available on the island. We would have to import more nutrients in the form of mulch, compost and other fertilizers to make up for the loss over time. This whole process involves many extra ferry trips and burns a lot of diesel fuel. I would like to find a workaround in the future so we can share Ajishima’s bounty with the world in the most sustainable way possible. My idea of an ecovillage is a community that is as self sufficient as possible. On Ajishima, an island isolated from the rest of the world, we have an amazing opportunity to demonstrate how to thrive in a closed-loop system. Our EDE in Pictures:

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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
2013.3.5 Day 17 Today’s Events and Curriculum: In the morning, we had a guest lecturer from the Agri-Business Support Center who presented on ‘Green Businesses.’ He introduced a series of case studies about businesses in the fields of agriculture, social services, and even restaurants that benefited from his organization’s support. While these examples were informative, the most useful thing presented was a worksheet called the ‘5Ps.’ We spent the rest of the morning session in groups working on real life possible businesses for three different EDE members. We addressed the following: Product, People (target market and business structure), Price, Place (shop location and distribution), and Promotion. This was an immensely useful tool to help focus on a product or service that our future ecovillages could offer. In the afternoon we did a simple exercise called, ‘how do you feel now?’ I will describe my answer below. My Impressions: My mind was cloudy yesterday, with many thoughts rolling through but none materializing. Today during our afternoon class, we did a brief exercise in writing what we were feeling/ thinking at that moment. I just wrote what I felt and the thing I was struggling with yesterday just came out in a few short sentences. I wrote, “I really do not know how to love people. I am so self-centered. Sometimes I see or notice that I am not caring enough or doing enough for others but I then think that that is not a big deal.” I will try to elaborate further: Most of the time I am very self-centered and uninterested in what is happening to others or in what they are saying. This includes strangers, friends, family and even my wife. As I see it in that moment, it doesn’t concern me so I don’t bother to get involved. Not often, but sometimes though, I will recognize that I don’t care about others. At that point, I recognize that I don’t seem to care about not caring about others. This really scares me because maybe I should feel guilty for not caring, but I don’t feel guilty. And I don’t feel guilty about not feeling guilty. It is at this point that I usually wonder whether or not I am capable of any human emotions, whether or not I am even human. I used to have a personal saying that “one loves the way one wishes to be loved.” I am not sure if this is true anymore, but if it is then does it necessarily mean that I do not wish to be loved? I do not know what to make of that. I can say the words “I Love You,” but I don’t know how to back those words up with action. Isadon: This is a part of the human character. Just tell what you think and feel honestly. It is just as simple as that. If you doubt your own thoughts and actions, going forward to what you are not
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good at would be the most efficient way to rid yourself of your fear of your weak points. Don’t be afraid and move actions toward what you are not good at and dislike. Useful Items for Ajishima: I will definitely use the ‘5Ps’ to help us focus on products we can produce on the island and market around the local region. We can use this tool to help establish an Ajishima brand as well. This could be as simple as selling Ajishima sweet potatoes to grocery stores in Ishinomaki on the mainland, or value-added jams over the internet, or even hosting classes and workshops at an education center on the island. Our EDE in Pictures:

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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
2013.3.6 Day 18 Today’s Events and Curriculum: This morning we worked on several exercises that will help us determine the goals, mission and vision of our future ecovillages. We started with the goals and built our vision around them. We also learned that most ecovillages that fail have too strict or too lofty of a vision inflexible to change. Konohana Family does not have an expressed vision, and it has worked for them because of their process of sharing from the heart everyday and collectively solving all of their problems. Later in the morning and all afternoon we covered the topic of health, healing and diet. We discussed patterns from our bodies that repeated throughout the universe at micro- and macroscopic levels. We moved on to the specifics of the Konohana Family diet which is lactoovo vegetarian. There were many similarities with macrobiotics which espouses eating seasonally and locally, which Konohana Family easily manages due to their many fields and farmers. My Impressions: Happy Birthday to Me! In the past I have said “I don’t like people!” I truly meant it, too. I have been thinking about this in the context of me living on a literal island now. Our island is like a fortress surrounded by a giant moat that is the Pacific Ocean. Few people live there and even fewer visit. For the past two years I thought I was hiding from the rest of the world. I have come to realize that I have been hiding from myself the whole time. If I am alone it is easier to distract myself with video games, books, food and alcohol rather than face my problems. If I am among a group of people I have to interact with them and in that process my personality surfaces. Perhaps that is what I don’t really like; people seeing me for who I really am and me having to face myself. I use that phrase to justify not facing others when in fact it is just an excuse not to face myself. During one of our visioning exercises this morning we had to think of five examples of when, and why, we were happy in a particular experience, either alone or in a group. I rattled off experiences from my college dormitory, playing football, volunteering in India and hosting cooking classes. For the fifth one I choose a long solitary bike ride I once took. The theme that occurred to me is that I did in fact enjoy being with people, as long as we were sharing from our hearts or working together towards a common goal. I struggle with small talk and avoid superficial relationships because I do not see value in them. I do not want to invest a huge

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amount of energy into a relationship that won’t last long. However, the idea of building a community with like-minded people seeking to grow together spiritually is appealing to me. Today is my birthday, and while this might not be an ideal subject to think about on such a joyous occasion, I think the best birthday present I could give myself would be knowing who I really am in the deepest recesses of my heart. Once I know who I am, I can work on who I will become. Isadon: By knowing who you are, this birthday would be the first step toward your new journey of life. Please try to face yourself positively to make your future better. Useful Items for Ajishima: Last year, I attended a visioning session at a newly forming ecovillage in Nagano Prefecture. Komoro Village invited people from all over the country to help them determine their goals, mission and vision. It was a very productive for them and and a good experience for me, reinforced by today’s lesson. For Ajishima, one of the most important first steps will be to gather potential members and to start imagining the world we want to create. Our EDE in Pictures:

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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
2013.3.7 Day 19 Today’s Events and Curriculum: In the morning we had a hands-on workshop making beeswax wood polish. We broke up old honeycombs from Konohana Family’s apiary. We melted the pieces in hot water then let the mixture cool. The wax solidified and then we poured off the water. We dried the wax and then melted it in a pot of hot paulownia seed oil (桐油 - kiri abura) (though any vegetable oil would work). We poured this into containers to set up. This is used to seal and protect wooden furniture and even flooring. We will use the polish later on for a special project. In the afternoon, we learned about the process of consensus decision making. This is unlike majority rule (51% vs. 49%) or even supermajority rule (66%, 75%, 80%, 90%, etc) in that if one single person does not consent no action is taken. Votes are not taken in the traditional way, but a facilitator checks to see if consensus has been reached. If not, then any dissenting opinions are expressed and a conversation takes place to address those concerns. The process involves everyone and that way everyone is empowered to make a decision and everyone can take ownership of the final decision. There is much more to the consensus process, and I hope to learn about it at other workshops after this EDE course finishes. My Impressions: During our class on consensus the words of Lao Tzu, from the Tao Te Ching, were presented and they had a profound effect on me: “Giving birth and nourishing, having without possessing, acting with no expectations, leading and not trying to control: this is the supreme virtue.” While I might comprehend the letters of this message, putting the spirit of the words into action in my daily life is a massive challenge. Wouldn’t it be great to skip right ahead to the end and be supremely virtuous, I thought. A message from yesterday’s class rang out to me; there are no shortcuts! There are many steps leading where we want to go and the journey is sometimes arduous. But at every step we have the chance to learn about and improve upon ourselves and to find the strength to rise to the next step. I am slowly realizing that what has been lacking in my life has been actually belonging to a community and within that context nurturing the growth of my spirituality. Almost all of the conversations I have had with Konohana Family members and my fellow EDE members have centered around the one question of “How do I polish my heart.” Everyone here talks about polishing their hearts, or growing their spirituality, but no one could tell me how I could do it. I realize this was me seeking a shortcut. I had to find the way myself.

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From a conversation with Ko-chan, who was interpreting last night's adult meeting, I now feel I have a handle on how to take the first step. He said that in order to overcome our personality traits that hold us back and to assume the traits that will propel us forward we have to live our daily lives with intention. I interpret this to mean for me that I have to always be aware of my tendency to turn inwards and shut other people out and instead actually engage with them. Living for others, serving others and caring for others are the keys to expressing my intention. Isadon: I told you that it would be your theme to manifest such a personality, looking at your heliocentric calendar. However, instead of denying yourself even if you can’t do it soon, you should always work on it consciously. You have fully recognized your tasks to work on it already, but the important thing is to manifest it. In order to grow your spirituality, you have to start with facing yourself and accepting your current reality. Once you accept it, you will be able to work on your issues. In that sense, the advice from Ko-chan is very meaningful. Please put an importance on it and try to manifest it. Useful Items for Ajishima: While Michie and I are vegan, abstaining from eating or using any animal products including honey and beeswax, but we have been considering building a whole slew of bee hives around Ajishima. We would do this first and foremost for the bees to thrive. As a secondary effect the bees would increase the pollination of trees and plants on the island. We are openminded about utilizing products from the hives in the future but before we do we would have to research beecentric methods that don’t disturb or stress them out. There is one man, a friend and supporter of ours, on Ajishima who has made bee hives out of old tree trunks. He will be a great resource for us to consult.

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Our EDE in Pictures (Day 19):

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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
2013.3.8 Day 20 Today’s Events and Curriculum: This morning we had a brief lesson on ecological footprints and learned of a website (http:// www.footprintnetwork.org/pt/index.php/GFN/page/calculators/) to calculate our impact on the Earth. My score was 1.8 which means that it takes 1.8 Earths to produce the resources that I consume. For comparison, the national average for America is 5.3, and Japan is 2.4. The average among my fellow EDE students was 1.88. Once we know the ramifications of our choices hopefully we can find ways to limit their impact. Our second morning session was centered on business incorporation strategies and the various organizational options available. The concept of an agricultural cooperative association is intriguing as is becoming an NPO, or a collection of small business owners operating together. There are many tax breaks and sizable subsidies involved in some of the options, so it is important to research and choose the most suitable option for your given situation. For our third morning session, we broke into our project groups and worked on a 10 minute presentation. After lunch we presented and received feedback on our plans for an ecovillage. I will share more about the project closer to our final presentation. My Impressions: If I can learn how to love I believe that I can love the world. Two weeks ago we had a pretty deep conversation with Isadon about male-female relationships, sex, love, ego, jealousy, etc. The message I took away was that the sexual act is the essence of the beginning of the universe. It is sacred and therefore difficult to understand. It can be an expression of beauty and love. And if you can polish your heart and control your desires, sex without desire is a chance to express love and to create a world out of love. The key seems to be loving for love’s sake, and not letting your ego take control in its endless pursuit for selfgratification. Tonight I had a follow up meeting with Isadon triggered by my incessant questioning of how certain relationships within Konohana Family measure up to others. My questioning triggered some negative thought patterns in an English speaking visitor here, with whom I spoke at length about all of this last night. We had a very good meeting and cleared up our misunderstandings and agreed on the beauty of love. I still do not have the black and white answers I was looking for about what makes a certain relationship worse/better/more or less ideal/more or less appropriate than others. I can see how there may not be such clear cut answers. I am starting to see how ego has a negative affect. Some
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people enter relationships to be loved by others. Some people just want to give their love to others, but that often times is just their ego seeking the satisfaction of doing what it wants. If you can control or remove your ego then you can express true love. I have absolutely no idea how to let go of my ego. I’d like to learn how! Isadon: There would be no answer for it. That is because what happens as a result of the event is attributed to the spirituality of people involved in it. It is important for those involved to reflect on themselves, learn from it and not to bring such disharmony, by considering their relationship as the barometer to bring disharmony. Later on at the adult meeting a Konohana Family member was sharing several stories from her past. The theme that came through was that there are nuances in the way we approach love. Both the Japanese and English languages express these subtleties: 愛 (ai) - [to] love; 恋 (koi) - [to be] in love, which is a sensation that radiates from your spirit; 恋愛 (renai) - [self] love, which starts the same as the other love but becomes an ego-centric, ego-gratifying love. The differences arise in these two examples as I have experienced in the past: ‘being in love’ and ‘loving the sensation of being in love.’ Loving and being in love are both beautiful. Loving the sensation of being in love is dangerously addicting and is not real love. As I am learning this is simply the ego fulfilling its own desires. I am not sure how to achieve separation from my ego, but I see it as the challenge inherent in Lao Tzu’s words, “Giving birth and nourishing, having without possessing, acting with no expectations, leading and not trying to control: this is the supreme virtue.” Isadon: Ego is not always bad. If you don’t read the atmosphere and just spread your egoistic ideas, any place could be disharmonious. On the other hand, if you make use of even your egoistic aspects effectively, they could be used to express your good characteristics. Those who can’t do this won’t be able to establish a rich human relationship. Either way, it is important to have the will to work on your ego. Useful Items for Ajishima: While studying the benefits of the various organizational strategies for our ecovillages, we also learned about subsidies for using abandoned farm land. Many city hall offices have a special department that records abandoned land and awards subsidies to people who cultivate it. This may be an amazing discovery for us on Ajishima. Much land has fallen into disuse, and so we may be able to reclaim it and start growing food to eat and sell. This will take a lot of research but will be worth it in the end.

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Our EDE in Pictures (Day 20):

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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
2013.3.9 Day 21 - A Day of Rest We had today off from classes, and I took advantage of that time to relax on my own. I appreciated this opportunity very much.

2013.3.10 Day 22 Today’s Events and Curriculum: This morning we had a class related to envisioning our future, followed by a workshop I will detail below. In the afternoon, we looked at Konohana Family’s care program and how they provide for guests with mental, emotional and psychological sicknesses. One current care guest and three former guests turned Konohana Family members shared their stories in overcoming a variety of illnesses. The key points to Konohana Family’s successful treatment that emerged from the discussion were that the care guests are treated holistically and are not treated separate from daily life. In fact, they are immersed in the daily life here. One member summed it up this way, “living happily is a healing process.” My Impressions: During this morning’s exercise we wrote our past way of thinking on one sheet of paper and our future vision on another. We were asked to place our ‘future’ paper anywhere in front of us and our ‘past’ paper somewhere behind us. I could easily place the past, and put it directly behind me to symbolize that I (thought I) realized the way of my old thought processes and have taken the tiniest of steps away from that mode of thinking. Placing my future paper in front of me was much more challenging, and actually impossible this morning. I didn’t place it close, nor did I place it really far ahead of me out of reach. I just kept it in my hands. I couldn’t envision my future anywhere. I was totally stuck. We were then asked to take a step forward towards our future, and then another and then another. I went through the motions of stepping forward, but I was not moving towards anything. I could see behind me and I was putting distance between me and my past, but I was not going in any particular direction because I had no goal ahead of me. I feel I do not know how to manifest my dreams and my future. The last thing we had to include on our future papers were the people we envisioned being around us, supporting us in the future. I tried hard to imagine who would be there and even asked for more time to finish writing. In the end the only thing that came to me, no matter how hard I looked into my future, were the two
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words “no one.” I felt forever alone. This feeling overwhelmed me and I was brought to tears out of sheer despair. In the afternoon, I had the opportunity to receive a massage and burnt mugwort (お ) therapy

from Sada-chan, as we practiced for our group presentation next week. Directly after that I sat down with Michiyo to help prepare for a class tomorrow on ecovillages in the context of disaster relief. I had prepared some information on and pictures of Ishinomaki and Ajishima after the 3.11 disaster. Having relaxed my body, my mind and heart found a moment of respite. Michiyo offered me a lot of good advice that I was able to easily receive. The shining star was this: if I can first improve my heart and work on my relationship with my wife then we can create a model of peace and harmony that will radiate outwards, a beacon of hope that will attract others to us and to our burgeoning community on Ajishima. I have never felt such a fear of failing like the debilitating fear I have felt since the disaster two years ago. Before the disaster, I was a little nervous about starting an ecovillage, but it was nothing out of the ordinary. I don’t know if it was the trauma of the disaster or a pre-existing yet buried condition within me, but something flipped like a switch and I was powerless against it. I do believe we live in a generous universe. Now, I am also realizing, though, that I have felt unworthy of that generosity. Perhaps I should take a cue from my biblical past: “ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” I can also take Isadon’s advice to another EDE member today and reframe my goals. Inherent in the biblical quote above is the necessity of a pure spirit when making such requests. All indications are leading me to see that I have to start with my own heart first, before I can begin to ask for anything else. Isadon: Even if you can’t see a specific vision in your future, you will be able to see it for sure, by living in the here and now all the time. You could say that is your vision. And the vision you will see in the future will be influenced mainly by your current spirituality. Therefore, if you step forward towards the future with positive thinking, you will be able to solve your problems if you have any. Useful Items for Ajishima: Another piece of solid advice that Michiyo offered was that we need to figure out the people we need to help us on Ajishima. This basically means identifying the skills and abilities we lack and seeking those in perspective members of our community. Specific examples would be people with knowledge of business law, land use and zoning, local ordinances, etc.; and skills like rice farming, medium to large scale vegetable farming, orchard management, etc. There are many more skills and niches we will need to fill eventually. For now, learning what we are capable of should be the first step.

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Our EDE in Pictures (Day 22):

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2013.3.11 Day 23 Today’s Events and Curriculum: This morning we worked on the new home Konohana Family is building to house some of its members. We applied a beeswax finish to cedar floor boards in one room. We made the beeswax finish in class last week. We also applied a plaster coat to the walls of another room. All afternoon we spent reflecting on our last three weeks and what we have all written in our daily journals. We commented on each other’s ideas and Isadon gave us all individual advice, but that advice ended up applying to many of us all at the same. My Impressions: From today’s reflection on the changes we have seen, I shared two realizations I had. At first I thought the problems in my life came from the outside world, but I discovered that they came from within myself. Once I figured that out, I realized I felt unworthy to receive love or anything else from anyone or anything else in the universe. Isadon asked what good I saw in such a world where I felt unworthy and whether I really wanted to live in such a world. I answered ‘nothing’ and ‘no,’ respectively. I have a great contradiction, of my own making. I want to live in a world where I can love and be loved, but by projecting my thoughts of unworthiness I am creating a self-fulfilling world of negativity. I have to spend some time searching for what the seed of my internal contradiction may be. I was able to take some solace in Isadon’s comments to Awa-chan, “the amount of difficulties you have in your life is the capacity for joy once you overcome them!” What’s holding me back? Isadon: It comes from your innate cloudy and distorted heart, but you were born, choosing your family to get rid of such negativity this lifetime. I think that you created the contradiction you have now through the relationship with your family when you were little. In order to get over it, it is important to realize that you yourself chose your family under your life program. And in order to clean your innate cloudy and distorted heart, it is significant to understand that you needed such experiences. It would be a huge task for your life to get over your trauma. And by doing it, you will be able to change yourself a lot. However, you tend to withdraw into the inner world and it seems like you are not trying to work on it. If you maintain such an attitude, the distance between you and the outside world would be farther and you might be isolated. Therefore, it is important to consider many kinds of problems in your life as something that will give you big joy in your future, and take action now. It would make a huge difference for you if you do it or not.

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Useful Items for Ajishima: I am facilitating the adult meeting tonight with the help of Michiyo. I definitely think we will need regular meetings at our ecovillage on Ajishima. It will be challenging to institute a process of sharing from the heart like at Konohana Family, but perhaps we can start with a ‘lite’ version. I cannot think of another place like Konohana Family. I am very grateful for the chance to learn about myself here and to apply both what I learn about myself and what I learn about the sharing process to my own ecovillage project. Our EDE in Pictures:

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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
Our EDE in Pictures (Day 23):

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2013.3.12 Day 24 Today’s Events and Curriculum: In the morning I was invited to co-present a class on Ecovillages in the context of Disaster Relief. Michiyo presented on natural disasters around the world and community responses to them. After that we delivered a slideshow and held a discussion on Ishinomaki and Ajishima and the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami two years ago. For the second half of the morning Michiyo employed ‘Open Space Technology’ techniques to help brainstorm solutions for our challenges on Ajishima. The class was divided into four groups each with a large piece of paper, one for each of the four aspects of our EDE class: economy, society, environment and worldview. We wrote down all kinds of ideas and moved around to the other papers and jotted down more ideas. In the end, each subject was presented to the class and then the papers were given to me to help us find some viable solutions for Ajishima. I am so thankful for the continuous support from my classmates and grateful for all of their wonderful suggestions. I invited them all to Ajishima, then asked them never to leave! In the afternoon we studied the finer points of how to grow rice. The class was way beyond my skill set, as was it for my classmates too. However, there were two short video clips of very clever ways to weed a rice paddy. The first contraption was made of a long plastic pipe with steel chain dangling off it. It is pulled across the top of the paddy and rips the weeds out, roots and all, without hurting the rice. The second idea was a series of bamboo brooms sandwiched between two 2x4s that is dragged across the paddies to the same effect. My Impressions: Late last night I received comments from Isadon on my journal entry from 3.8. When I read it I was totally confused. I originally wrote: “I have absolutely no idea how to let go of my ego. I’d like to learn how!” To which Isadon responded: “Ego is not always bad. If you don’t read the atmosphere and spread your egoistic ideas, any place could be disharmonious. On the other hand, if you make use of even your egoistic aspects effectively, they could be used as your good [characteristics]. Those who can’t do this won’t be able to establish a rich human relationship. Either way, it is important to have the will to work on your ego.” For the past three weeks I have thought my ego was the culprit of all my problems, and have sought to rid myself of it. And while it still may be responsible for most of my faults, it seems that I still need to keep it around. I just have to learn how to keep it in check. Isadon: There aren’t many places where you can learn to make use of your ego efficiently. One of the few places could be Konohana and the EDE program. If you would like to master that in the future, I recommend you stay in Konohana in some way and work on it.
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Useful Items for Ajishima: There are old abandoned rice paddies on Ajishima that have not been cultivated in over 30 years. There are massive trees growing in the middle of most of them. I would love to start growing rice as soon as possible. Today’s afternoon class illustrated the need for us to attract skilled rice farmers to our community. Growing rice is not something I can, or would really want to, do alone. So, here is one more case in support of community! Our EDE in Pictures:

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2013 EDE Report | Konohana Family | by Rick Mickelson
Our EDE in Pictures (Day 24):

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2013.3.13 Day 25 Today’s Events and Curriculum: All day today we studied the concept of called Transition Town (TT). This is an approach developed in England and spread across the world that brings communities together in order to transition away from a global, oil-based economy to a more local, vibrant and people-based solution. There are eight tenets to the spirit of TT that call for a transition: 1. from abuse to independence and coexistence; 2. from division to the whole; 3. from separation to connection; 4. from top down to bottom up; 5. from control to self-motivation; 6. from consuming to creating; 7. from exclusion to inclusion; 8. from complaints and fear to action. We also did a visioning exercise in small groups and imagined a TT we would like to live in. The three of us in my group all separately imagined a very similar scenario where we would wake up with the morning sun near the sea with birds singing and a nice breeze. After breakfast there would be some light work for growing food but everyone was smiling and happy so it didn’t seem like laborious work. My personal vision continued with lots of relaxation in a hammock followed by friends, family and guests gathering at our house and B&B for a commonly prepared and eaten meal. There was a lot of self-entertainment with instruments, singing, dancing and games. We then retired to our own tree houses or hammocks or slept under the stars. This was the first time I have been able to see myself happy in the future, let alone in the future at all. I was pleasantly surprised and very grateful that this happened when it did. My Impressions: Yesterday was a day of truths. Actually, it started two days ago during our reflection session. Two significant ideas surfaced early in the discussion. The first was that once you discover a seed of conflict within, you should expose it and share it or else it will grow. The second was that being honest is not just speaking honestly it is also not holding anything back or hiding it within. The moment after I heard this, I admitted to the whole group an issue I had with a classmate from the beginning of the EDE. We seemed to have resolved that issue pretty easily, but the lesson was that I should have brought it up sooner. Isadon: We encounter various kinds of events every day from which our emotions arise. If they are negative, by honestly telling that to those involved as soon as possible and looking back on the event, you will be able to feel good in your daily life. If you delay the solution, it would be more difficult to solve the problem.

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Yesterday, I admitted another truth I had been hiding from another classmate. This one was much more complex. The biggest truths came out later in the evening as a Konohana Family member shocked the the whole community by divulging some of his deepest, darkest secrets. There is a saying in English: “the truth hurts.” Perhaps in all these cases it is not the detail of the truth that hurts so much, but rather keeping it hidden within. I didn’t share earlier because I neither wanted to get hurt, nor to hurt anyone else. Perhaps an even more compelling reason, though, was that I was afraid of what others would think of me if I told the whole truth. Isadon: You may think that you can protect yourself and feel secure by keeping the truth inside. However, if the time comes when you have to reveal it at some point, the sooner you deal with the problem, the sooner you will be able to solve it. Therefore, I think it’s better to reveal the truth soon as a smart decision. Today, the whole community was visibly shaken by the Konohana Family member’s confession. Even we EDE students were affected. I was and am still processing my own admissions. And even though, my problems pale in comparison the the Konohana Family member’s, all of this combined has completely sapped me of all my physical and spiritual energy. I have resorted to my old ways and became extremely introverted today. My ego kicked in and said, “See! That’s why you should keep to yourself!” I really do not know how to go forward. I think it would be easier to get rid of my ego completely, rather than try to control it. Why keep even a tiny bit of it around, if it will just sabotage me in the end? Isadon: If you feel pain by revealing the truth, there is a problem in the timing to do so. Those who always reveal the truth soon will be able to share it with little pain. However, the longer you keep it inside, the bigger the pain will become. Therefore, those who keep the truth inside on a regular basis like you will feel fear when sharing it later. And from the pain you feel as a result, you came to the conclusion that it’s better to keep to yourself, but your daily attitude could be the problem. If you share the truth willingly as needed, you won’t encounter such an occasion. Useful Items for Ajishima: I researched the TT idea several years ago just after I got interested in Permaculture. In many cases TT chapters are started by Permaculture graduates. One of the main reasons I think it will be beneficial for Ajishima is the fact that there is a focus on transitioning away from a petroleum-based system. As we are on an island everything we do not produce ourselves has to be shipped by a diesel-burning ferry. I would love to pursue the idea of growing non-edible plant and tree crops that produce large amounts of vegetable oil. I think it is wasteful to use virgin edible plant oils that could otherwise be consumed by humans. However, reclaimed deep fryer oil is ok, because it would be thrown away as waste. The point of the vegetable oil is to replace the diesel fuel in the ferry with Straight Vegetable Oil / Waste Vegetable Oil (SVO/WVO). This is different than making bio-diesel from SVO/WVO, in that it is just oil and requires no
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expensive chemical processing. We would need a mechanically inclined individual (or a handful of them!) to help realize this project. Once we start growing some oil crops, that is! The challenge of nutrient loss (burning island grown oil) still remains and will be a big issue to consider. Our EDE in Pictures:

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2013.3.14 Day 26 Today’s Events and Curriculum: Today was the last of two full days devoted to the Transition Town theme. In the early morning we looked at the concept of inner transition. We examined the reasons why we feel the way we do, and how we manifest our reality based on those feelings. We agreed that the current world we live in is created by our own internal fears. As an example, many of us have a sense of lacking inside of us, so we over-consume, overeat, drink to excess, etc. Many of us feel worthless so we seek social status through brand name products. Many of us feel alone so we connect superficially to others through the internet and social media. For the second part of this morning we did another type of visioning exercise. We started out walking around randomly and were instructed to slowly increase our speed and pretend that we were in a train station racing where ever we had to go. We then slowed down and tried to make eye contact with other people. After we finished this part we were divided into two groups, one from the present day and one from the future. We paired up, one current and one future member each. The future members came back from a time when all of the Transition Town ideals had been achieved and the world lived in peace and harmony. They asked the present day members three questions: what do you feel about your current situation, how do you get motivated to change that situation, and what role do you envision playing in making your own future? We exchanged partners several times and then switched present/future roles and repeated the questions several more times. In the afternoon we watched a video called “In Transition,” which I had seen before. It had many great ideas in how to get a Transition Town movement started in your local area. Afterwards we did an Open Space Technology (OST) workshop where we brainstormed four questions related to starting a TT project: how to achieve 100% food self-sufficiency, how to reduce energy consumption before even thinking about meeting energy needs through renewable sources, activating rural and local communities/economies, how to attract people to your cause. My Impressions: From the first part of our morning exercise, running around each other, I drew a very relevant conclusion about myself. I noticed that I would calculate how to avoid bumping into people as I raced towards whatever goal I thought to be important. In real life I do this as I walk in a crowd, weaving in and out sometimes cutting people off as I make my own way. I also came to the realization that I do this emotionally too. I calculate how to avoid emotional interaction with others. But it takes much more energy to always scheme my way out of relationships than it does to just go with the flow.

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Isadon: It’s impossible for us to live alone. Even more, we are not able to live, straying from the system of this world. Therefore, it’s important to understand that we are alive in that system and that we have to interact with others. By communicating with each other well, there would be no boundaries with others and you will be able to develop a smooth relationship. From the second part of the exercise, where we role played present day and future people, I learned quite a lot about myself. Only the present day person could talk and we had to answer three questions. I tried my hardest to express myself in Japanese without a translation, and I think the three people I spoke to could really understand me from the heart. The first two questions about my current situation and how I get through it elicited overwhelming feelings of isolation, loneliness, worthlessness, disenfranchisement, powerlessness and debilitating sadness. But it was absolutely liberating and therapeutic to finally express these things out loud to other human beings who felt the same things that I did. The third question was about the role I would play in creating a new future. Other than yesterday’s ‘swinging in a hammock all day’ vision, this was the first visioning exercise where I could positively see myself in action creating a future of peace and harmony for me, my family, my community and the whole world. I cried like a baby the whole time and it must have been contagious as my conversation partners did too! Through our interactions I realized we humans are more alike than we are different. There are no boundaries of race, country, culture, religion, age or gender between our hearts, unless we construct them ourselves to keep others out. We can connect even without words because we all quintessentially have the same basic needs, wants, hopes, desires, dreams and fears. I am not sure how to love others but I know that I want to. I am tired feeling alone in my heart. One more thing I learned is that if you cry a lot and look at any ceiling lights it looks like beams of shimmering sunshine radiating down from heaven. This works for tears of sadness as well as for tears of joy! Isadon: You are the only you in this world. The emotions that arise inside of you are your own things. Unless they grow only inside of you and are not shared outside, they will lead you to a self-centered and isolated life. We are able to have a life of abundance by getting connected, admitting each other and sharing what we have in common. Please try to understand that well, and positively look for what you have in common with others and get connected. If so, your negative thoughts toward your life will disappear. How are you going to work on it? I believe it’s very important especially for the relationship with your wife. Please think about how you are going to work on it from now on. Useful Items for Ajishima: Our TT trainer, Junko-san, was involved in another TT related movie called “Japan in Transition.” She also has many connections to the various TT groups around the country and
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introduced me via email to a woman active in Sendai and a man working to support Ishinomaki. I am looking forward to making connections with them and to even possibly getting involved in the TT movement. If we can incorporate Ajishima into Ishinomaki TT that would be an excellent way to meet like-minded people with whom we can work together towards a new future for the disaster stricken parts of Tohoku. Our EDE in Pictures:

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2013.3.15 Day 27 Today’s Events and Curriculum: This morning we had our last full class of the course. It was on the history of economics, money and power. We looked at the ways money was developed and the tacks it took on its course to the modern monetary system. We began the afternoon session with a recap of the economic topics we discussed in the morning. We broke into groups and put together a brief presentation on our impressions and visions for a future economy. My group had two ideas that we could see growing together. We started with the seed planted during this EDE course, and saw two stems emerge. In the image below, the stem on the left represents local currencies and the one on the right represents ecovillages. Over time, both sides grow and local currencies spread and the number of ecovillages increases. Leaves start to grow and these represent regional currencies and Earth Family Networks (Japan, Ethiopia, Spain, South America, Southeast Asia, etc.) grow to connect local ecovillages together. From the currency stem a flower emerges and blossoms into a one world currency. This facilitates international connections and breaks down borders. Later on a larger, much more beautiful flower emerges from the ecovillage stem. This flower represents all of the regional Earth Family Networks converging into one real Earth Family. This flower becomes so big that it blocks out the sun and the one world currency flower withers away. We are left with a world of peace and beauty where we no longer need any money. Maybe parasites will try to attack our plant but our beautiful flower will attract pollinators and predators that will take care of the pests. Also, we are firmly rooted in the ground representing our deep connections to and interconnectedness with nature. My Impressions: [Note: In order to protect the privacy of those involved, I will be intentionally vague in this entry when it comes to others. The facts are not as important as the process of resolution. I will do my best to express my own feelings as accurately as possible.] I have been thinking a lot about the truth that came to light on 3.12 concerning one of the Konohana Family members. What he revealed angered many people, including me. I actually walked out of the meeting that night because I couldn’t stand to hear anymore. I skipped the entire adult meeting the next night too, because I knew it would be the main thing discussed, and
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I wasn’t sure how I would react. I wanted to punch the guy, many times over, but my pacifist heart wouldn’t allow that. As I walked out that first night a member came to check on me and we talked briefly. He listened to my concerns and then shared with me something I have been thinking about since then. He said that if only one little thing had been different in his own life that he may have done the same things as the first guy. As hard as that is to accept, it is true. We never know how we will react to any given situation, until and unless we actually have to live through it. Part of me wants to see the guy punished and part of me wants to embrace him and support him. I wouldn’t know how to support him, even if I could bring myself to do so. In talking with my EDE classmates, Konohana Family members and reflecting back on all the lessons I have learned over the past three and a half weeks, this is where I stand now. By his own admission the guy is repeating a pattern he learned as a child. It is possible he witnesses a similar pattern here acted out by other Konohana Family members. The intention of the other members may be more pure, but I believe the guy perceives the actions of others on a superficial level and sees that as permission to emulate the others. But because he has lacks any semblance of spirituality his actions are as impure as his heart. A theme that has emerged for me is that we are all here as learning opportunities for each other. We are all mirrors for each other. I can see both my strengths and weaknesses in everyone around me. If I were to punch that guy, no matter how much he might deserve it, all I would do is shatter the mirror and lose any chance to reflect on myself. While he may reflect the worst in me, might he not also reflect the best in me, and vice versa me for him? Isadon: (combined comments for Days 27-31, below) Useful Items for Ajishima: Last night we received an Earth Family Network (EFN) update from Nakanon, the Konohana Family accountant. It seems that other ecovillages in the EFN can be considered legally as branches of a main organization and therefore do not need to purchase products from each other. As branches they are not separate entities but part of a larger whole. This means that if our Ajishima ecovillage is able to join the EFN then anything we might produce like sea salt, seaweed, jams, etc., we will be able to trade with other EFN ecovillages, for rice, veggies, miso, etc., without any transfer of money. This kind of barter system would make it easier for us to survive on less income. It would also allow us to focus on providing the products we can exclusively produce locally to other ecovillages, while they do the same for us and others.

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Our EDE in Pictures (Day 27):

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2013.3.16 Day 28 - Our Last Day of Rest I was so busy with final projects and cooking curry today that I decided I would skip this journal entry. Despite being so physically busy, my mind was at rest, and I wasn’t actually thinking about anything. However, after the adult meeting I realized that I needed to check on some technical aspects of our group presentation that we would give in the main hall in two days. It was hectic for me trying to communicate with many people in several languages. I remembered that I had forgotten something in my room, so I turned to leave, took two steps forward and then out of nowhere the guy who revealed his dark truth a few days ago walked in front of me. We both stopped. I looked at him in the eyes for the first time since he shared his darkness. Then...I hugged him. I thought I might do this anyway at some point, but I didn’t know how I might do it, so I didn’t try. The timing was right and my mind was clear from most everything, so when we stood face to face I could not hide behind the anger I felt before. I could see him for who he was, good and bad, and in that moment I saw myself. Isadon: (combined comments for Days 27-31, below) Our EDE in Pictures:

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2013.3.17 Day 29 Today’s Events and Curriculum: This morning was dedicated to finalizing our group projects. My group went through many dress rehearsals and fine tuned our presentation. We have put in a lot of work creating our vision of an ecovillage, and I am looking forward to all the feedback we will get afterwards. This afternoon we had a wrap-up session with Isadon, where we could ask anything. The theme of most of our questions was how we can function in the outside world once we finish the EDE. We have been living fully immersed in a community unlike any other I know of on Earth, so many of us had some anxiety about returning to our homes, families and jobs. The personal message I took away was two-fold: simply get rid of my anxiety; and find a balance within myself between good and bad, darkness and light, ego and selflessness and live with the intention of becoming the person I want to be. At the adult meeting we presented our group projects to the Konohana Family members, Konohana Family’s 2012 EDE alumni and other guests. I will share my group’s presentation separately from this report. Details will follow. My Impressions: A graduate from Konohana Family’s first EDE course last year, named Kaori, asked the first questions after our group project. I was defensive towards Kaori’s questions. She asked how we would achieve our vision of seeking peace in our hearts, and then asked how we would share that with others. I answered that we do not have a concrete vision in order to stay flexible. We will share honestly from the heart and help each other through our problems. Then, to spread that to others we will live with the intention of loving others. I feel I answered the way I did and in the tone I took because I do not know how to actually implement or achieve any spirituality. I just answered her with words I heard others say during the course. I also feel that the individuals in our group also struggled to include spirituality. This struggle is rooted in our personalities and we were not able to switch on the spirituality for our project. Kaori’s question just made me face my lack of spirituality and in the moment I resented that. After the presentations I went up to Kaori to talk about her question. I explained that before the presentation I asked (prayed???) that I receive many good questions from the audience to help further improve the ecovillage we created. I then explained to Kaori that her questions were exactly what I asked for and the most appropriate questions for that moment. However, I could not recognize it then. I apologized to her for that.

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She then thanked me for my integrity and honesty, and then said something else, but I did not listen to her. I realized then in that moment that I apologized only for my own benefit and not for hers. Once she praised me, it was like stroking my ego and I just tuned her out. So, twice my ego sabotaged me in the same situation. I specifically sought the interaction we had but when it happened I rejected it. My follow-up was not sincere. I apologized so I would not have to feel bad. I did not care about her feelings. We have the opportunity tomorrow to connect with the EDE alumni, so I hope I have a chance to talk with Kaori again. Isadon: (combined comments for Days 27-31, below) Useful Items for Ajishima: We could use the process of designing an ecovillage for Ajishima like we did for the group projects. This will help us envision the things we have and need and plan to do, and also to visualize the people and skills we will need in order to accomplish our goals. Perhaps we can host an event this summer with part of the schedule dedicated to laying out a plan for an ecovillage. Our EDE in Pictures:

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Our EDE in Pictures (Day 29):

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2013.3.18 Day 30 Today’s Events and Curriculum: This morning we had a networking session with Konohana Family’s 2012 EDE alumni, plus members from the first two EDE classes ever held in Japan (through other organizations). We made many connections that should both be useful in helping us 2013 EDE members get our own projects off the ground, and also in helping us reach out to the other EDE alumni to help out with their projects too. The afternoon was dedicated to the final preparations for our farewell party. Inspired by my own original recipes, we made over 300 chapati (Indian flat breads) to accompany a set of Indian curries we EDE members cooked as a gesture of gratitude to Konohana Family for taking care of us for a whole month. In the evening we put on a wonderful, tearjerking farewell party, which highlighted how we EDE members have grown over the past month. My Impressions: I felt good tonight. And for the first time in a long time, I felt hopeful. At our EDE Farewell Party we decided to repeat the workshop activity we did on the second morning of our Transition Town session. However, this time we did it with all of the Konohana Family members as well as all the EDE members. Before we began I thought back about how sad I was during the first part of that original TT exercise. Coincidentally, at the farewell party one of my partners was Junko-chan who was also one of my TT partners a few days earlier. The first time all I could think about was the debilitating sadness of my then-current outlook on life. At the farewell party though, it became very difficult for me to think of any negative aspects. I was surprised at how optimistic I was tonight. At the end of the original TT workshop I was finally able to envision a beautiful future with me in it. Somehow I was able to maintain that optimism until the end of the EDE and that is what came shining through at the final exercise tonight. Isadon: (combined comments for Days 27-31, below) Useful Items for Ajishima: Our networking session this morning made me think that we could hold an EDE reunion on Ajishima down the line. This would be a great opportunity to gather the brilliant minds from our class and to bring new perspectives to the many challenges we face on the island. We could also engage in some good old fashioned “polishing of our hearts!”

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Our EDE in Pictures (Day 30):

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2013.3.19 Day 31 Today’s Events and Curriculum: We spent a short time this morning recapping the course with Michiyo and Isadon. I realized that I could apply many of the lessons other EDE members had learned to my own situation as well. This reinforced for me how much alike all of us human beings are. When we accept those similarities we can then work together on solving the problems we all have in common. After our last wonderful lunch, we filled out an evaluation form. After that, our EDE course came to an end. My Impressions: Today after our last lunch together, Tomo-chan and Michiyo invited me to a small meeting to discuss ways for Konohana Family to support the creation of an ecovillage on Ajishima. I had known about this meeting for a couple days and had been thinking of things we could discuss. The main and immediate challenge I saw was in overcoming our current lack of members beyond my wife and myself. Over the course of the EDE I came to realize that I really did need to rely on others to help us get our ecovillage started. Among other things we discussed my worry that I might slip back into a depression and become inactive once I returned home. It was easy to get optimistic during the EDE since I was supported, encouraged and inspired by so many wonderful people. The challenge is in staying motivated and moving forward when I am alone on Ajishima. Finally, I had an epiphany: the best way for Konohana Family to support me is to ask me to support Konohana Family! In order for me to stay active and engaged, I will need a constant reminder from outside sources. If I am left to my own devices I will turn inwards and and try to do everything alone, and I will not see any problems with that. But, if others ask me for support or input, and if I can ask the same of them, then I know we can realize our dreams. Isadon: (combined comments for Days 27-31) It is up to your perspective how what you learned through the EDE course will appear in your future life. In other words, it is up to your will how positively you perceive things and if you lead a healthy life with other people. It is important to get connected with others, open your mind and accept their opinions instead of trying to create an ecovillage by yourself in Ajishima. You will be able to forward this project by such a reform of your mental structure. Even if you leave it to other people or complete this project by yourself, you will be involved in the society anyway. If so, it would be the major premise to become a person who tries to communicate with other people healthily and positively. Please try to improve yourself, remember what you learned through the EDE course and make the most of it for your future.

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Useful Items for Ajishima: I would love to participate in hosting and teaching EDEs in the future in order to share all of the life-changing experiences I have had with as many others as possible. Once we are an established community on Ajishima, we could even hold EDEs here, as a full immersion experience in a living, breathing, thriving ecovillage! Our EDE in Pictures:

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Closing Words We fourteen members of the 2013 EDE course were fully immersed in the daily life of Konohana Family over the month-long duration of our course. While the family members went about their work every day, our job was to learn. We had class from early morning to the late afternoon. We also participated in many chores as well as in the nightly adult meetings. We were treated like family members and were encouraged to share from our hearts for the purpose of “polishing our hearts.” We EDE members recognized the value of the “heart polishing” and implemented our own EDE meeting which we held most days prior to the main adult meeting. These meetings were open to family members and typically a handful of them joined us. Over the course of our stay we built a deep trust among our fellow EDE members. Several of us shared our problems and as a group we worked out solutions to those problems. Sometimes we would share our problems further at the adult meeting if the attending family members thought our discussions might benefit the wider community’s consideration of similar topics. There was the recurring theme that all of us are like mirrors for one another. When we interact with others we have the opportunity to see in them the problems that we have inside ourselves. Perhaps we get angry at others for something that we ourselves think or do. This phenomenon provides us with the opportunity to reflect on our own problems, to express them to others and then to discuss solutions together as a group. Another recurring theme reinforced for us through our immersion in the daily life of the family was that of community. Living and working alone is challenging, and for many of us EDE members it can also be overwhelming and even depressing. By the end of the course, most if not all of us held the firm belief that the ideal way forward entailed forming or joining a community. Together with others we can accomplish so much more. We can build more necessary structures, grow more nourishing food and even “polish our hearts.” In the end, it is hard to become a better person if you do not have the chance see who and how you are through your interactions with other people. When we share from our hearts we help each other grow into better human beings. Sharing is caring!

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