How Wayne Dyer Has Influenced Sprouting Chefs

With the passing of Wayne Dyer this week, I have felt called to speak about how his teachings have influenced what we do at Sprouting Chefs. Although we focus on garden programs in schools, a main ingredient we like to foster is the love within us and all around us. How if we truly love ourselves, each other and the planet, we are more likely to eat well, live well and foster an ongoing love for the planet.

One of the most important influences I have taken from Wayne Dyer and then tried to translate back to the children I encounter is that we are not our bodies. We are not our “stuff”, We are not our careers even. We are that which never changes. We are love. We are light. We are unique and special just being who we are. And that is enough.

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Creating a legacy, something for my children and the children of the community has been a personal mission of mine when it comes to school gardens. A place where we do not only learn about food and nature,science and math, but where we can learn about ourselves and how we can better interact with ourselves and each other.

I am definitely not the perfect parent. I don’t always say the best things in the right way. Garden Club however, gives me a chance to right things; to speak about deep truths with kindness like the virtues of Love, Forgiveness, Service, Compassion and Patience. After all, we teach what we most need to learn.

I have to learn Patience when 5 children are asking me a variety of questions at the same time.

I have learned Forgiveness when a group of children, including my own son and daughter, choose to wander away from the garden and not participate rather than help out. In the end, this is my path and not theirs. Having them help when they genuinely want to, serves us all and feels better too!

I have had to learn Compassion when a group of Grade 4 students are heartbroken over loosing their asparagus crop. In the same moment, I get to witness Gratitude when they hear about a school garden project in Maine that want to help them. We are all connected.

And I constantly learn about Service and what it means to give without expecting anything in return. Wayne Dyer says himself that “the purpose of life is to give. The purpose of life is to enrich the life of others. The measure of your life will not be in the duration of your life but measured in the donation of your life. The more you give away, the more that comes back.”  I see it all the time at Garden Club and during the Summer Work Bees with all the families and teen volunteers coming to help. I always encourage them to take a bag of veggies or herbs from the garden as a token of thanks and quite often, they turn the gifts down. Ok, maybe they don’t actually like squash or beans but I see them coming to help with open hearts and from a place of genuine giving of themselves to service their community and less of wanting anything back in return.

When asked recently why two former students of Forest Grove come to Garden Club they had this to say:

Donald, age 12 “What made me wanting to come back to garden club, was the sheer amount of things I was able to do, the people to talk to, learn more about plants and do something for the school.”

From his older sister, Jesse, age 17 who was also a former student from Forest Grove “Community involvement and the fact that I got to learn new things every time! I love how I could interact with a variety of people that I usually would not get a chance to meet at all. I also got to learn so much about gardening that I could immediately apply to my garden back home and also learn general knowledge about gardening I could tell my friends and family about too!”
There have been times when I have wanted to give up on this dream and questioned my purpose.

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Hearing Wayne speak about the lessons we learn along the way, despite the mistakes or obstacles, we need to see them as opportunities for growth shifts you away from feeling sorry for yourself “a victim” into a mindset of a student. I had the opportunity to hear him speak at an I Can Do It Conference in 2012. He was amazing. Time flew in the two hours that he spoke. How is it possible for me as a mother or teacher in life to help children get over their mistakes if I can’t get over mine? Children are always reflecting back what is deep inside of us; whether we like the reflections or not too. Even in the lowest times, it is a choice to see the light, to see the lesson and to grow from it.

A part of this journey for me has been to reflect on the various teachings of new thought leaders. Wayne Dyer has been one of the main models to look to when it comes to knowing your worth, defining who you are, creating positive affirmations and living life with intention. Children, especially in a garden setting, are wide open to these ideas. Gathering them together outside at a labyrinth or a food garden, are easy places for children to see how they can make a difference, what an “intention” really is and how to turn a negative thought into a positive affirmation. We have to have an intention before we create a garden. Although mistakes happen, we can turn the mistake or misfortune into a positive lesson as in the time when we lost our asparagus or when someone kept taking our colourful Swiss chard out of the garden.

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What has amazed me is that there have even been some students who know what the Law of Attraction is. When speaking to them about the labyrinth and what it has been for, they understand the concept almost completely because somewhere in their short lives, they have been shown or told about the Law of Attraction.  They are open to the idea that you not only attract what you want but the Law of Attraction is also about attracting what you are. I have taught the kids before walking the labyrinth that if you are in a happy mood and want to continue to be happy, walk the labyrinth to amplify this in your life. If you are sad about something but have the intention to want to let it go, you can also do this when you walk the labyrinth and have the intention to be at peace. This is why we have the various virtues posted around our garden and why we would like to finish our labyrinth project with 4 reflection stations with the words: Love, Gratitude, Peace and Forgiveness.

How blessed am I to have the opportunity at all to have these deep profound conversations with children? How blessed am I to create a wonderful outdoor teaching tool such as a school garden or walking labyrinth at a school and to bring these lessons to open minded children? Very.

What I know in my heart is that there is actually little sadness for the passing of Wayne Dyer. I know he has lived his life fully, on purpose and with so much love. He has given in complete service to the world his wisdom and thoughts. He himself has said he was not a perfect person, husband or father. “My goal is not to be better than anyone else, but to be better than I used to be.” Isn’t this what we should all strive for?

Although he is gone, so much of what he taught, a real legacy will always remain and this was his ultimate teaching anyway that life is not permanent, not perfect but ever changing. Who he was is that that never changes. Love. He is love, he gave love and I bet he is receiving an abundance of love still. Just as a garden is constantly changing, what always remains are the people who continue to care for it with love. This is my hope anyway.

Thank you Wayne for sharing your light and your love! Onwards!

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2014 Summer Reflections – A Mixed Bag of Seeds

Today is September 22, the first day back to school for kids in BC and almost the first day of Fall 2014. Naturally, I am inspired to reflect back on these past few months of growing, planting seeds and harvesting an abundance of growth at the school garden at Forest Grove Elementary here in North Burnaby, BC.

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For those of you unfamiliar with the education system in BC, have a quick glance here at a rundown of what has transpired over the past few years coming to a head these past few months. There are several sides to this story so please, if you do want more info, there are several links to read online. This is just one via the Vancouver Sun.

School officially ended for us on June 13, 2014, although at the time on the day, none of us knew for sure that this would in fact be our last day at the school. As such, there was a huge range of emotions; from hopeful that things would work out and we would be back for Sport’s Day events, end of year assemblies and Grade 7 graduation ceremonies to the extreme of cleaning everything out of classrooms and saying final goodbyes. Without knowing for sure, most of us just hoped for the best despite a huge amount of uncertainty.

June 13 for me was crazy busy. I had 2 cooking classes during the day, hosted a visit from Edible Vancouver Magazine to witness our potato harvest with a Grade 5/6 class and also hosted an end of year (as I was pretty sure it was the end of the year) celebration with the Garden Club where one of our main funders was paying us a visit.

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Thank goodness for the Labyrinth!

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Walking the Labyrinth one last time at the end of the school year did wonders for me; I could ground myself after a hectic day, remind myself what truly was important and enter the paths with a deep sense of gratitude as I led my Garden Club Members through the winding paths to do the same. Our visitor from the McGrane Pearson Foundation was impressed to say the least as he left with his bag of harvested greens from the garden.

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Without knowing for sure when we would be back, I was grateful for at least knowing there would be funding coming in for me to take care of the garden over the summer as well as a couple cooking classes with the summer program hosted at the school via The Grove Childcare Society via the grant we received via Metropolis at Metrotown.

It was a quiet summer of Work Bees mostly attended by my own two reluctant children and a handful of other families popping by throughout the summer. Yes, my own two children now are finding it difficult to go to the garden “again!” as their Mumma brings them more than they would like. Thankfully, they do still help water, plant seeds and are also given the camera to take photos as a way to keep them entertained.

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It’s always a magical time in the summer watching plants growing from seed to sprout to seedling to full on fruit bearing plant. I marveled at the corn plants that started out from an Orville Reddenbocker (yes, the K’s grew popcorn!) container in the K classroom that have now grown ears of corn. The sunflowers that always bring smiles to everyone who sees them, tower a good 15 feet above everything also reminded me of our smallest students who earlier in April planted them. I tried to take as many photos as I could of these beauties not knowing if and when the little ones would see them again but luckily there are still a few in bloom today as the kids headed back to school. It’s always the goal for school gardens that we instill a sense of appreciation for growing food from seed. Having the most exciting time of growth happen when students are not around is always a question schools face of whether or not they grow anything in the summer.

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The goal at Forest Grove was to plant out and tend for as many fruits and veggies as possible so that there was a crop to harvest for this Fall’s Cooking Classes that are set to start in October. So naturally, we did have a crop and garden to tend to in the summer. I believe we achieved this goal as the pumpkins, butternut squash, and spaghetti squash are all almost ready to harvest. Our beloved tomatoes sadly caught the blight but luckily I managed to save two ziploc bagfuls of ripe ones that have been frozen ready to cook with the kids. We also had our first crop of rainbow carrots and planted a succession of radishes which several of our students in the summer program really enjoyed.

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The most excited new crop we have growing still are the tomatillios. I point these out to all the kids visiting the garden as they are a fascinating plant that are also quite delicate as they look like paper lanterns. Little fingers have been trying to squish them too which then kills the fruit trying to grow inside. Perfect opportunity to teach both patience, kindness, and being gentle. We’ll be harvesting these as they ripen to eventually create a “canning” session with my older Garden Club students to transform them into salsa verde to later sell at the Christmas Craft Fair. Our principal is excited about this opportunity to teach the valuable lessons of seed to plate to market!

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Swiss chard and kale have been really abundant this season with a whole separate side crop of chard that has leaves grown the size of some of the small preschoolers. I encourage families to take as much as they like home to cook up the same way as bok choi (sauteed with a bit of olive oil, garlic, salt & pepper finished with some stock or water) served on the side as greens for dinner. The possibility of this crop growing over winter is very good as it has grown and survived before in the past couple of years.

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So with the official day of Fall 2014 starting tomorrow along side of the first day the kids are back for a full day of school I am hopeful for many “Seeds of Intentions” to flourish:

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  • To have a good crop of Garden Club Members with open minds and open hearts who are willing to connect to nature, themselves and each other
  • To cook some amazing new recipes with the 12 Divisions at Forest Grove Elementary using as many ingredients as possible from the school garden
  • To expand the Sprouting Chefs programs to other interested schools throughout the Lower Mainland of BC
  • To inspire other willing, open minded, open hearted individuals to join me on my journey to plant seeds of various virtues from love to forgiveness, courage to kindness with children through planting school gardens and cooking what we grow

The Labyrinth Project

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A couple of years ago at the start of the first Garden Club of the year, I asked the group what they wanted to do in the year ahead. I allowed them to choose a space in the school that could be something they transform by planting some seeds or making a bit more green. That was the first time I heard about the “Big Rock”. I never even really knew about this place until the group of 30 or so of the kids brought me to this space just beside the gravel field.

Of course all the kids loved it! It had this massive boulder called the “Big Rock” that the kids immediately showed me how they all ran and clammered up to sit on, it has 3 benches, a wonderful oak tree and is surround by the forest. There is even a creek near by that you can hear after the rains.

Most of the kids wanted flowers and maybe an arbor…a gate to welcome people I now remember was also part of the ideas…maybe a few more trees but mostly, lots of flowers.

The plans and ideas sat in a folder for awhile and then while searching for garden ideas to create without much of a water source (no way our hose could get to that space and rain barrels are yet to be approved by the district) I came across the idea of building a labyrinth in this beloved space.

What is a labyrinth?

A labyrinth is a path design that can be found in many forms: traced in the sand on a beach at low tide, painted on floors of cathedrals, lined with rocks in the dessert, rolled up in a canvass that can be spread out on a floor, or painted on concrete in all kinds of spaces. They are tools that people can use to find peace; a walking path of winding designs with one way in and one way out and a centre to stop and pause and reflect. Ultimately, labyrinths are mindful tools that anyone can use when faced with an issue. The idea is that instead of looking outside for answers, the person walking the labyrinth finds the answer within themselves by the time they walk out of the labyrinth.

A huge idea for a school right? In a system where kids are mostly inside the classroom learning all their subjects; except if they happen to have a garden 😉

We had no idea how to build or create a labyrinth. There are several sites on the net, a man who creates them at low tide at the beach at Spanish Banks (http://walkingalabyrinth.blogspot.ca/)  sometimes and there is a labyrinth lady too. But when it came time to write a grant, ask for funds and design this thing, Merrill my side kick parent, Al our principal and I had never really experienced anything like this before. The key thing was though, we were all willing to figure it out. Everything is figure outable after all!

2 years pass by with many design ideas out the window. We looked at paving stones, adding a slab of concrete and painting the design on, in laid concrete or rocks. They all went out the window as the main concern was to be honest, what would the kids do with the rocks or paving stones? Would they could they pick them up and throw them at each other? How can we get this approved if there is any trace of threat of injury despite the intentions of what it is “supposed” to be used for?

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Finally, after attending a summer wedding at the UBC Botanical Gardens, I came across a labyrinth there…I almost actually didn’t even see it at first because the design was in laid right into the grass.

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Finally we had a design that would work. Mind you, we had submitted a proposal with the paving stones that was approved by the District so changing it to this we felt would be even better and easier to get done. Also, the costs of crushed gravel vs paving stones was a big difference. 

A grant submission went into the Evergreen Foundation which was a group I had long wanted to become more connected to anyway as Dolores Altin and I were connected from the first time we met several years ago now. A year after that, we finally had funding to start this project.

Most labyrinth projects at schools are created by teachers who are on board first. We worked a bit backwards, getting the staff on board after funding was secured. It wasn’t a hard sell though. Here we were offering a space to use for the classes outside of the classroom; a place for teachers to bring their kids when they were facing a conflict and needing resolutions. Comments from the teachers included: “I’ll be first to line up and use it on a Monday morning!” as yes, it does seem really easy for an adult to wrap their brains around.

But what about the kids? Getting kids engaged in planting of food seemed so much easier. Would they “get” what this labyrinth thing is even?

All I could go with was what I knew of my Garden Club members and here was where a lesson in trust comes into play. You just never know what a kid already knows. When we talked about this idea to the group of kids who wanted to do something at the Big Rock, I wasn’t sure if they’d go for it. Some were definitely confused but one pair of siblings knew exactly what I was talking about. The two sisters went to a church that had a labyrinth and quickly, the older sister became my “go to” student for support. She always corrected anyone who thought a labyrinth was a maze for example: “no, a labyrinth has one way in and one way out” she would say. I also had the most memorable heart felt conversations with Anna when we talked about the idea of sand blasting our names on to the Big Rock itself.

In a conversation up to the Big Rock one day during the planning phase,Anna thought about  how great it would be to add all the names of the Garden Club members who came up with the idea for the Labyrinth. In reflection however, she said this: “The only thing with adding our names to the rock and not anyone else is that everyone else will feel left out and that’s not ok.” Instead of squashing her whole idea, I suggested we echo what we have around the garden and engrave the words of Virtues instead, those words will never change as being a part of who we are after all: Peace, Love, Compassion, Trust, Forgiveness, Service, Responsibility, Confidence, Respect, and Patience. I checked with Anna and she liked this idea.

See, this is what I love about these projects; when else would I or anyone have the chance to have this kind of conversation with a student? When else can we allow their light to shine this way? That is the intention with this space and the garden space, platforms for greater heart felt conversations. I just feel blessed to be a witness to these thoughts and so many others these kids can have.

And here we are, on Pi Day March 14, 2014, having just finished presenting the whole idea to the entire school. Standing before the large crowd of 270 (minus one class on a field trip) I found myself wanting to be a channel to my higher self and just allowed the words to flow. I wanted to explain the best way I could what the labyrinth will be, how it can help them, how it is everyone’s and that we need to respect it, how it will be a legacy piece for the Grade 7 students (let alone a  math lesson!) and then how to use it when it has been built. All eyes were on me with focus and interest and even the little K’s were for the most part, quietly listening. I included my story with Anna and watched her face light up with recognition. The virtues were mentioned and even though Olivia helped us 3 years ago, her hand still shot up with a memory of the day she painted the word “Confidence”.

We hope to have inlaid slabs of stone engraved with words like Peace, Forgiveness, Love and Gratitude that will be stations for the students to stop and reflect upon in the future as well.

Al our principal, ended the assembly the best way ever, with a slide show compilation of photos of the kids from the past year to the songs “Brave”, “Roar” and “Happy”. Of all the things we can teach our kids and this is where I resonate most with our principal, it is to be happy. I hope this labyrinth as tool for mindfulness will be used for the kids to find their own happiness within themselves.

Stay tuned for posts about our build that is set to happen on April 2, 2014 with 3 of the 12 divisions from the school, an opening ceremony in June and a mindful meditation in May with Child’s Pose, Dana Mahon

 

Forgiveness

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At first glance, this post could very well be about Swiss Chard, a gorgeous edible that grows in so many wonderful colours that it is actually referred to as Rainbow Swiss Chard. In fact, these plants featured in this picture are Rainbow Swiss Chard but why I took a picture of these poor plants is actually what this post is about.

Upon arrival at the garden Sunday evening to water after yet another sunny summer weekend, I found these sorry plants laying outside the garden, roots exposed, and a bit of soil around them but very weak and wilted…I’d dare say almost dead. I was about to capture the sun setting on the sunflowers and post about the glories of the garden but had to deal with these plants in need of extreme help right away. It was amazing how fast my emotions shifted from gratitude for the sight of the sunflowers to horror with the sight of these extracted plants.

Why would anyone do this? When could this have happened? Who did this?

Of course these were questions running through my head on top of, I’ve got to get these into the garden and soak them with as much water as possible as soon as possible. Instead of dwelling on the why, who or when, I focused on how I could help. Isn’t that the message most of us should focus on when encountering a problem? Focusing on the solution instead of what and why?

I dug them in as quickly as I could and really soaked them well with the thought it really would be a miracle if I could save them.

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Then I remembered our signs of virtue and what has already been taught to the kids in the Garden Club. One of the signs, actually right near where these plants were pulled is Forgiveness. When I speak to the children about vandalism and this is exactly what the “Swiss Chard incident” can be referred to, I also include a chat about forgiveness. In the simplest of terms, forgiveness means “giving up that the past could be any different.” Admittedly, this quote comes from Oprah Winfrey but it is so simple and so easy to translate back to children that I thought it works best. It worked so well for me to give up that the plants were not pulled out and the past could be different. It happened and now it was time to move on. In saying that it happened however, also meant that this incident happened for the second time. Last year, when the same coloured bright fushia pink and evervesent (sp?!) yellow plants were growing in the garden, they too were yanked out. So questions do naturally come up about the fact that maybe someone out there believes they are actually weeds or harmful to the garden. Needless to say, if it is the same person, they actually deserve even more compassion, another sign by the plants and a heaping cup of forgiveness. Perhaps even some education around the plants would be helpful if we could ever figure out who did this.

I digress, again, the focus is on the solution, get the plants back in, get them watered, shower them in fact with lots of love and have faith that all will be well, all signs around the garden that yet again, teaches us much more than just growing food! Stay tuned on how well the plants come back that and send some love and faith via the net too to nurse them back to health 🙂

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