The past several months, I have been traveling quite a bit with the book*— giving speeches, making appearances and meeting tons of people to talk wellness and fitness. To say the least, it’s been an awesome, enriching and utterly life changing experience. A blessing beyond my wildest dreams.
Beyond recounting my personal journey, a central theme in my typical presentation centers around the extent to which we are divorced from how our food is grown, distributed, packaged and marketed. The unsustainable model that is factory farming. The ills of GMO’s. How our food is unwittingly – and quite unnecessarily — killing us. And addressing the means to access the personal resolve necessary to reclaim our health and achieve long-term wellness with just a little enlightened education and the implementation of simple, better choices.
All fine and well, right?
But do my actions really align with my words? I fly home from my appearances, jump in my car and then drive to the local grocery store to buy my food just like everyone else. Sure, I try to eat locally grown food whenever possible, provided it isn’t too inconvenient. Organic unless it breaks the budget. And non-GMO when I can figure it out, because as you know labeling is optional (an issue now exacerbated by the surprising recent defeat of Proposition 37 in California, which obviates food manufacturers from any legal obligation to keep us informed on the proliferation of GMO’s in our food – in my humble opinion a travesty).
But I also often buy beans in a can grown somewhere I can’t be bothered to look. Or brown rice pasta in a bag that is made who knows where. How about fruits grown, sourced and shipped from South America? Like most Americans, I really don’t give these issues as much thought as they truly deserve. Do I really need water transported all the way from Fiji? Of course not. Truth be told, despite my keen interest and understanding of all things food and nutrition, I still operate fairly disconnected from the original sources of a large percentage of what I eat.
In our global economy, it’s impossible to be perfect. Or to even know whether you are making the healthiest, most eco-friendly choice. Case in point: it’s a no brainer to get off the sodas and high fructose corn syrup drinks and switch to coconut water. Now all the rage, it’s the planet’s (new?) natural refreshment – nature’s electrolyte replenisher. But turn the page and understand that this sudden huge upswing in demand for coconut water is now pillaging the world’s delicate and quickly depleting rain forests. Healthy? Sure. Eco-friendly? Well, not so much…
Moreover, modernity has eroded that connection to our fellow man that historically was the unique purview of food. Our meals should be the great communal uniter. A shared experience and celebration that transcends the boundaries of the nuclear family to reach out and extend, connect and create stronger community to bring people together. Unless you live in a remote Greek or Italian village for example, food now unfortunately revolves around speed, affordability and calories. Something you quickly inhale in the car on your way to doing something else. Now highly politicized, even a mild discussion regarding issues related to food all to often erupts in dissonant and heated debate, dividing people far more than it unites. And that is truly sad.
I’m not saying I have the answer. It’s complicated. What I can say is that I decided I wanted to do better. Increase the extent to which my actions align with my words. Find a means to connect more deeply with food — its origins; its ability to heal; and most importantly, its unparalleled power to create more cohesive, united and sustainable community.
As the book tour began to wind down, my wife and I began to discuss and think about what we wanted to do next. Paramount was identifying a means to simplify and downsize our lifestyle, abandon the unnecessary excesses and live more sustainably. We thought seriously about leaving Los Angeles in search of a better, more cost effective standard of living and began looking at places like Austin, Ashville and Nashville. But nothing seemed to really click in as the next right move for us.
Julie’s mantra was, “Don’t worry babe. We need to do all this research, but the optimal solution will ultimately just present itself. And it won’t be what we think it’s going to be.”
Easy to say. Harder to believe.
Shortly thereafter, I got a call from my friend Chris Jaeb. “Hey Rich. I’m working on some interesting things and would love your input.”
Chris is a fascinating guy I met about 9 months ago through my college architect friend Nathaniel Corum and my nutrition guru Compton Rom. A co-founder of Broadcast.com with Mark Cuban, Chris’ startup went public in 1998 – at the time the best IPO in history. None months later it sold to Yahoo for $5.4 billion. In 1999, Chris sold his shares and completely cashed out of the stock market.
In the wake of this success, Chris had options. He could have continued to empire build. Like most people in his rare situation, mire himself in business in an effort to exponentially expand on his success. But Chris had other ideas. Instead, he moved to Kauai, bought an old guava plantation, and got to work building what is now known as Common Ground – an organic sustainable farm in the town of Kilauea on the north shore of the Garden Isle surreal in it’s beauty. Why? Because he felt he and his family would benefit from a simpler life with minimal distractions. From that starting point, buttressed by an interest in what would be best for his children and a consistent practice of meditation evolved a desire to create a more sustainable communitarian way of living – not just at Common Ground, but on Kauai and beyond.
It takes character to do what he has done. And Chris has it in spades.
Elaborating, “I’m creating a new media platform to promote what we are doing here at Common Ground, share a message of wellness globally and give back to local communities. I wanted to see if you would be interested in getting involved.”
He didn’t have to say much more. Julie was right. In perfect fashion, the Universe was providing the perfect answer to the question we had been asking ourselves. We won’t even get into Julie’s long-time love of Kauai’s north shore, her affinity for Kilauea town and an internal deep knowingness that someday she would find a means to return to this beloved place with purpose. Her conviction was so profound, as far back as 10 years ago she started sketching plans for operating a healing / wellness center in this very place.
Just two weeks later, all 7 of us (our 4 kids plus my 21-year old nephew Harrison) boarded a plane to Kauai.
Today we find ourselves living in yurts adjacent to the produce fields. We awake to the roosters crowing through the pre-dawn rains and blend morning drinks with fruits and vegetables reaped just feet away in a yurt kitchen we share with the young interns who work the plots and grounds. The kids are getting involved in the farm and popular restaurant. Julie is teaching family yoga to the staff and developing food products. And we have some live events centered on supporting the community in the works.
Bringing the journey into focus, together with Chris we are endeavoring to develop and launch what will ultimately become Common Ground Media – a sort of Tom’s Shoes business model of social entrepreneurship as applied to new media on the themes of wellness and sustainable lifestyle that is intended to give back as much as it reaps. We are in the very nascent stages of course, so I don’t want to give away too much at this point. But suffice it to say that Chris is putting his money where his mouth is and we have big plans for what we envision will serve a much-needed niche in conscious wellness oriented content delivery while simultaneously supporting non-profit endeavors oriented around these common goals.
Most importantly, I have conviction that I have taken a solid step in the right direction in terms of increasing the alignment between what I preach, and what I do. And it feels good. Really good. A simpler lifestyle. Giving myself, my wife and all my kids a first-hand up close and personal experience with food, complete from farm to plate. Approaching our life and work from a service perspective, focused on “what we can give” rather than, “what we can get.” All while continuing to learn more about how to establish, build and maintain a more communitarian way of living based upon enhancing the self-sustainability of our internal and external ecosystems.
I look forward to the journey ahead. And as always, more will be revealed. But right now, life is truly an adventure. And I feel we are living it to the fullest.
Stay tuned for more. Like I said we have big plans, and there will be copious informative and entertaining content coming your way in the very near future. I can hardly wait.
Peace + Plants,
*Disclosure: Books and products denoted with an asterisk are hyperlinked to an affiliate program. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
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