Lost Valley Week 1 – Orientation and Classes

Holistic Sustainability Semester Week 1

All but one of the students had arrived by the time Monday began, and we had gotten to meet each other helping move-in and set-up, running into each other around town and in the bathrooms!

The first week was primarily orientation planned by Colin to ease us into living in community. This process, specifically with the HSS program, began by covering the 5 Spheres of Sustainability that make this program unique, which include – Ecological, Economic, Social, Personal and Worldview. Colin also planned for the mornings “grounding/bonding” exercises that were different each class. These exercises were definitely helpful to bring the class together in the mornings, and wake us up a bit.

The other aspects of week one orientation included kitchen and garden orientations. As part of the program, and LV resident requirements, we had kitchen shifts and garden hours to complete. We started with the kitchen, which is commercially-certified exclusively for non-meat food items, and is part of the community Lodge at the center of campus. We covered the cleaning and sanitation practices first, as some of the students still needed to complete their Oregon Food Handler’s Card in order to prepare food for the ‘public.’ I was more or less on clean shifts when I lived on-site, both as a student and a resident.

The garden orientation was tied in with the general site tour, so we got to see the main parts of campus, and heard from the two garden managers at the time on how we could contribute, where certain foods were growing, and the different features of each garden, like composting systems.

Once we had the campus, kitchen and garden orientations – Fern Harter, the site manager at the time – gave us the residency orientation process so we could have a better understanding of what it’s like to live in community in Lost Valley. The residency orientation was then followed by deeper dives into two of the three main community pillars – Nonviolent Communication (NVC) and Sociocracy – the style of communication and the system of governance within the community.

Most of the orientation was covered on Monday, and after our first dinner that night, we had a community get-to-know-the-students “speed dating” mixer. This definitely helped put names with faces and break the ice for some of the other students. Also, this is where I came up with my nickname, “Taylor from Texas,” because people were having a hard time remembering my name (story of my life).

Later that week on Wednesday, we had our first permaculture class with Brian Byers and met the other commuters and the exclusive PDC students. This intro class was an overview of the current state of the world and how permaculture fits in, as well as covered its three core ethics and 12 guiding design principles.

Friday was our first worldview and personal day – and it was pretty…well, it was a lot for me to take in after all the orientations, getting to know both students and residents, and acclimating to what could be described as “Lu-Lu” culture. The classes that day started with personal identity (which started to break down my foundation I built my life upon), then an exercise where we picked a ‘sit spot’ that we would frequently return to for seasonal observation, followed by an insightful intro to mediation with Justin Michelson, the former LV Executive Director.

Image result for heart of nowIn addition to morning “grounding/bonding” exercises, Colin also scheduled in Friday check-outs. I mention this because we ended the first week with Jess Johnston, one of the resident-teachers and community facilitator, and we had our first LEAF session. What is LEAF? LEAF is a modified ‘heart space’ exercise where a participant (actor) stands in the middle of a circle of people who aren’t allowed to talk, only observe and hold space for the actor. The goal of the exercise is for the participant to speak what is real for them and what’s on their mind, while constantly moving however they want within the circle.

I learned a valuable lesson that day, “Don’t volunteer to go first.” Everyone was hesitant to raise their hands, so I volunteered and was the first to perform. I thought I did well, I was entertaining while speaking what was on my mind and people were laughing. A few other students went and those shares were fairly similar.

However, as a LEAF facilitator, Jess then provided us feedback – aka, called me on my bullshit. So I went up again while considering her feedback, and began to perform. I didn’t ‘try to entertain’, and I spoke from the heart…which was only a few words before I broke down crying and was unintentionally interrupted. The well of sadness I dammed up flooded out into the world and I had no idea why. To say the least, it was a hell of a week, and I had a night of hell working through my demons…

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