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Episode 019: Allowing Space in Community Projects to Observe and Interact with Claire Henkel

Jan 14, 2020


Allowing Space in Community Projects to Observe and Interact with Claire Henkel


We have a really inspiring change-maker here on the podcast this week. Claire Henkel joins us for Episode 019 of the Seeds of Tao podcast where we discuss creating change in the community while allowing space for organic feedback. Claire is an awesome example of someone who adapts to changing environments and finds a way to leave a place better that it was when she came. Here are some links to her fantastic permaculture non-profit out of Guatemala, the Garden of Hope.


Here’s the website of Jonathan Engels and his wife Emma Gallagher, who helped build the Garden of Hope… 


The Garden of Hope fundraiser...


Garden of Hope's Facebook... 


Garden of Hope’s website (under the together we can non-profit)...  


Here is the link for the Denver Children's Advocacy Center (Claire’s current employer)... 


And a link to the farm where the Garden of Hope is located in Guatemala...  


Observe and Interact

One of the most basic and foundational principles of permaculture is that of “observe and interact.” 


Way back in Episode 07 with Adam Brock, he mentioned in the podcast and we discussed further in the blog post the need to utilize this principle in the community before engaging in community projects. It is vital to allow that space to gather as much information as possible before moving forward, but we have to be careful with this dynamic.


We’ve heard over and over about how you should watch your land for a year so that you understand its changing faces through the seasons, where the water flows, how the winds behave, how the sun changes angle and nourishes different parts of the environment etc. This is absolutely critical, though it's often very difficult to have the patience to wait this long before taking steps to transform the environment into your dream landscape. Claire mentions in the episode the struggle to take this time to observe, while working under the constraints of a board, funding, and other time-sensitive aspects of a non-profit. At the end of the day,  you just have to take as much time as you can to observe before starting, until you feel that you have a clear understanding of how the environment will change.


On the flip side, sometimes we’ll observe so much and then get stuck in analysis paralysis. This can be a tricky place. Our brain doesn’t like to move forward into unknown places. It totally freaks out. This is our primitive brain that lights up, and according to our primitive brain, the unknown future could involve pain, embarrassment, failure, or even death. It’s irrational, I know, but it totally has a purpose. However, there are three main channels it uses to appeal to our logical brain to not move forward into the unknown, and one of those is that you don’t have enough information. It’s your brain’s way of keeping you from moving forward by telling you that you don’t have enough information yet, and you can stay in this loop indefinitely, never moving forward.


So just bear that in mind, there are two sides to the coin. Observe as much as you can, but also commit to taking action and moving forward, even if the path isn’t 100% clear.

Receiving Feedback

Claire mentions many times in the episode how important it is to obtain feedback as you move forward. The important thing with receiving feedback is that our environment is constantly sending us feedback, it’s just a matter of how tuned in we are to hear it.


There are so many signals being sent every day from people, from electronic devices, from companies, from the earth, signals are everywhere. If we aren’t consciously tuning into the signals that we want to receive, to the ones that will truly serve us, then we will be overwhelmed with information and effectively tune out to everything. We must truly choose what signals we want to receive, and then develop our listening skills for that specific signal.


The earth is sending you signals constantly, but are you choosing to receive them?

Goals and Flexibility

We set goals to increase our focus on moving our life forward in a specific intentional way. Back in Episode 08  we talked all about goal setting. We talked about aligning your goal with your WHY, identifying and overcoming obstacles that stand in your way, and the five areas that will stop you every time from achieving those goals. So this rigid framework to move forward intentionally with full purpose of heart will help you to accomplish those amazing, fulfilling goals that you have, but what if along the way obstacles come up that make it necessary to change the goal?


Do you plow through anyways?

Does that mean your goal was wrong, or that you can’t make it happen?

How do you stay flexible while maintaining faith and conviction of your goal?


Claire mentioned many times the need to stay flexible with your goals. Now that doesn’t mean you should flip-flop, changing your goals whenever friction arises. It means that you have to stay focused on your goal, but when obstacles arise that indicate the necessity to PIVOT, you should follow it. Pivoting should not come out of giving up or settling, but rather out of an improving opportunity for growth. Pivoting shouldn’t be a cop out, it should be an enhancement to your goal.


Stay focused, but flexible, and pivot when necessary.


Permaculture for the Next Generation


We improve the world around us one plant guild at a time. Our hope is to create natural, flourishing systems in the landscape so that it can continue to flourish even after we’re gone. While that is a worthy goal, we also need to be aware that if the next generations don’t know how to manage, replicate, and progress what we know and develop, our impact may stop with them.


Educating the rising generations about permaculture in every aspect (our minds, our homes, and our communities) is a great opportunity for the permaculture community, but that will look different for everyone.


For some, they are developing non-profits to educate the youth in the communities like in Claire’s case. Others may create beautiful community centers for troubled youth. Some will be educating their own children.


For us, that means educating our children on permaculture and helping them develop the skill necessary to see the world and know how they can help improve it.


We love to watch permaculture documentaries with our family, we have four kids between the age of 7 1/2  and 2 1/2. Recently our children have been taking the bits of permaculture that they understand and are looking to apply them where they can. Our 6 year old daughter recently registered for a homeschooling science fair and her question was: How Can I Help the Giant Pandas in China? We did some research about why they are struggling, and it’s because people have destroyed their habitat to create farms. Now the bamboo forests that they need to survive and thrive are separated from each other. Anyways, my daughter is looking at exploring how farmers could use permaculture to grow their crops and allow the bamboo forests to re-grow in the same space. It’s still in its early stages, but it’s an interesting avenue for a 6 year old in Utah, USA.


 Is there a way that you can impact the rising generation of potential permies?


That’s a wrap for Episode 019, I can’t believe the next episode will be #20 already! Hopefully you all are enjoying the episodes and blog posts we’re dishing out. If you’d like to share what you think, feel free to comment below or chat with us one on one in our Community. Also, if you haven’t gone through our FREE Dreamcatcher Mini-Course, it’s a great tool to help you get grounded and moving forward with your goals with purpose and conviction. 


Keep Growing!