Your Eco-Community Questionaire – Duane Light
Living Green
Meredith Medland Sasseen

Episode 33 - Your Eco-Community Questionaire – Duane Light

Duane Light, a holistic attorney and eco-community consultant, gives you access to the questions that need to be addressed when considering developing or participating in an eco-community. You’ll hear about Duane’s unique, spiritually-based approach to law as well as why written agreements create foundation for good communication, relationship, commitment, clarity in eco-projects.

You'll learn how to evoke your highest spiritual values, while dealing with your eco-issues and how to ground your visions in reality. Attached to this podcast is Duane's community questionnaire to empower you to deepen your focus and consider what is most important to your future.



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Meredith Medland: You're listening to “Living Green: Effortless Ecology for Everyday People.” My name is Meredith Medland and I'm your host. Today, we're studying the psychology of ecology. If you'd like to read along with our show today, you can go to and read along with the transcripts.

Today, you'll meet Duane Light, a wholistic District Attorney, business non-profit and community consultant as well as life and happiness coach. Duane has traveled in the wild of Borneo with natives while doing rainforest protection work and he's lived and studied in Asia for five years. He has created a consulting and coaching practice where he help his clients to ask from their highest values while dealing with life issues and grounding their visions in reality.

Lately, Duane has been consulting for several eco-communities around the world. As a musician, he plays guitar and leads sacred chants and also plays and record a wonderful, wonderful flute with the [xx] group and other artist. We're going to learn more about that. In this particular episode, you'll hear about Duane’s unique spiritually-based approach to law, to consulting, and coaching and, you'll also going to learn about the deepest value of a written agreement for the success of any project.

Here are some highlights from today’s show.

Duane Light: I'm giving this time for spirit to be invoked to know the process, oftentimes, just miraculous things happen, miraculous guidance comes through on how to resolve a question, and importantly, we can then avoid acting reactively.

Write, you either having the word travel down your arm and through a pen into a paper or into your computer is another step of grounding and manifestation. When you put something in writing that has more of a seriousness, more of a substance, if people are more careful about what their going to commit to [xx] actually in writing, like what is this really about? What are the underlying feelings and emotions? What are people wanting out of this? And especially, how is this hitting me? What are my true feelings about it? I encourage people to let any deep even dark feelings to come out so they can be addressed.

There's also a smelling experience where you take a leaf or a piece of bark or grass and you crush it into your fingers, kind of roll it and crush it into your fingers. What that does is that it releases the oils so you can really much more deeply smell the essence of that plant. The best way to do it is to exhale all of your air and then slowly, slowly inhale the essence of the plant.

Meredith Medland: Duane, welcome to “Living Green.”

Duane Light: Thanks, it's great to be here.

Meredith Medland: Thanks so much for being on the line with me. You and I met when we were both consulting on an eco-community project there, some people that we have in common and are looking at some land in Central America. I facilitated one day and you facilitated the next and I was amazed at what you brought as far as the baseline to how to create agreements around eco-community. So that’s why you're on the show today.

Duane Light: Great.

Meredith Medland: Let's start there first, what do you know about ecology and how did you get into this ecological awakening that’s brought you here today?

Duane Light: It really happened when I was say sophomore in college in 1979. For some reason, the second Arab oil embargo, an oil crisis awakened me socially and ecologically. I started researching energy issues and environmental issues and the first one I landed on was nuclear power. Once I found out how incredibly destructive it is in many ways, I was just shocked.

So anyway, I became involved in an antinuclear citizen’s initiative in Montana that succeeded in keeping nuclear power out of the state. That was just the beginning. After that, I started working [xx] for a large number of nonprofit groups in human rights, peace, and environmental issues. That sort of stayed with me for the rest of my life.

Meredith Medland: Now, your website is and on this website, you talk about the importance of doing inner work before taking action in the world. So how does that work specifically for you and as well as your clients?

Duane Light: For myself, because I'm often dealing with people in conflict situations or very important financial issues or family issues, there can be some stress, big issues for clients. So for myself, I meditate every morning and get as deeply as I can into that sense of oneness and compassion and deep, deep peace and allow myself to be guided from there. That way, I can hold that space more for my client.

With my clients, I have a few basic rules that I ask them to follow. First, if there's a big issue or a big decision that they have to make, to not do anything for at least three days. This gives them time to sit with it, to meditate, to talk with friends, to speak with advisors or do some research and to really look at the situation from a higher perspective, find out where it sits in their life mission and vision and their values and their path. What would be the highest action for them and also the highest for everybody involved in the situation.

In giving this time for spirit to be invoked to the process, oftentimes, just miraculous things happen, miraculous guidance comes through on how to resolve a question. Importantly, we can then avoid acting reactively from our inner wounds [sp], our stuff, our fears. So that’s really the core of my work for myself and with my client is giving that time and space and process for spirit.

Meredith Medland: Now, you're also a big proponent of written agreements for any project. Why do you think written agreements are important?

Duane Light: I love agreements and contracts. [laughs]

Meredith Medland: Of course, you do!

Duane Light: I find that most people--and I used to be this way, too--there's kind of a fear or avoidance about written agreements. Some people feel that if you have to write it down, that means you don’t trust people or you're getting bureaucratic or left brain or too stuck in the world and, actually, it's the opposite.

The first reason to do an agreement and writing about anything important is that human beings memories are short. It's been proven that a week or two after a conversation, two people involved will each only remember about 20% of what happened and they’ll also remember the 20% that was most important to them that fit their goals or how they believe the world is. So their actual overlap might be 10% or 15% out of the 100% that was communicated.

Especially when you get three or four, five, six months down the road in a project or a business, you just don’t remember exactly what was said or what was agreed to. So this is the first thing, is just to put down in writing for clarity sake what actually happened and what was agreed to. Also, the act of writing, either having the words travel down your arm and through a pen into paper or into your computer, is another step of grounding and manifestation.

When you put something in writing that has more of a seriousness more of a substance and people are more careful about what they're going to commit to if it's actually in writing. So what that does is I found in the process of creating an agreement, it actually creates better communication because people end up discussing these written points and exactly how they should be written. It brings out any hidden assumptions or misunderstanding.

Another thing is that it just avoids any disagreements later. Again, based on these misunderstandings, a lot of projects, nonprofit or for profit, can get bogged down and just arguments later because things were vague or unclear. Specifically related to nonprofits that are formed in some kind of a community like an eco-community, there's a lot that needs to be agreed upon before a group can move ahead effectively.

For example, the vision and mission and values, everybody really has to be in alignment on those areas or else, they're going in different directions and that will show up later as conflict in the project. So besides those basic vision and mission documents, you need to have agreements about how people come in to a project or leave a project, what the requirements are, behavioral issues and norms, and many issues and land issues and how decisions are made. So it's a little bit extra work upfront but it really provides the foundation for the success of the project if this is done correctly.

Meredith Medland: You're one of those rare species, a wholistic lawyer so I can really say how you bring that into your work with eco-communities and I'm excited to talk about that. When we get back from the break, what I'd like to talk about is when you're working with those written agreements, what advice do you have for anyone with legal issues and how you evoke the highest virtual values.

So we're going to take a break to thank our sponsors and we'll be back right after this. My name is Meredith Medland and I'm here with Duane Light. You could learn more about Duane at or you can go to

Thanks for listening to “Living Green.”

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Meredith Medland: You're listening to “Living Green: Effortless Ecology for Everyday People.” I'm your host, Meredith Medland, and you can follow along on the Episode Page located at If you're listening in iTunes and you have the opportunity, I sure would appreciate it if you write a customer review, that’s how we get to the top in the green category and we want to send out as much information for you as we can.

As you know, we're right in the middle of speaking with Duane Light and Duane’s right about ready to tell us what his general advice is for anyone with a legal issues and how we can invoke our highest spiritual values. That’s a big question, Duane, how do we solve it? What do we do?

Duane Light: OK. Over the years, I finally developed a little what I call a “law with peace” e-guide and that’s available for free on my site, What I do in this three-day process that I was talking, these questions give people guidance on how to do that. Like first, our first question is “Throughout this legal situation, how can I deeply connect with Divine?” So, everybody has a different way of doing that but I want people to acknowledge, “Yes, this is the way that I connect.” Then, they make a commitment to doing that.

Then there are questions about analyzing the situation from a different perspective, a higher perspective like, “What is this really about? What are the underlying feelings and emotions? What are people wanting out of this?” Especially, “How is this hitting me? What are my true feelings about it?” And I encourage people to let any deep even dark feelings to come out so they can be addressed.

Then, another question is, “How can I fully experience, accept an impatient compassionate right time and heal my emotions so I can more deeply act from peace, clarity, and strength.” So this aspect of doing one’s inner works first so we don’t continue patterns of pain or reactivity in the world.

One way I like to think of this is when a difficult situation comes to me or somebody in pain or wounded do approaches me, I don’t want to add to that and create a dysfunctional, negative pattern by acting from my woundedness. So it's about slowing down, going within, and seen with emotions come up, then doing my inner works, healing that as much as I can and then revisiting the [xx] saying, “Wow, how can I come from a higher place?”

So the rest of the questionnaire goes to that. What are my resources? What would be the highest outcome in this situation for all involved? And then finally, what actions can I take? How can I communicate with love and clarity and truth and strength to bring this to resolve? So that’s the overview.

Meredith Medland: Now, you’ve researched and written a lot about community, and I know you’ve lived in a lot of group houses and have been a resident and member of two different spiritual communities. So in that experience as well as the consulting that you’ve done with other eco-communities and your study with Diana Christian, how can communities and individuals prepare themselves so that they are not in a conversation about legal issues that’s challenging?

Duane Light: That’s such a big question. First of all, I really recommend Dianne Christian’s book, “Creating a Life Together” for anybody who's considering joining that community or creating that community. She has years of experience of what works and what doesn’t work and I know you're going to be interviewing her soon.

Meredith Medland: Yes, she’ll be on our show next week.

Duane Light: Yes, that will be great, she's great. So from my perspective, there are a couple of things. One is having a process and tools where people communicate very deeply and emotionally open in a mature way. People have to be able to feel free to communicate what they're really feeling. So having a facilitator or some skilled people on the group who can really create a safe container, an open container for the process, is just key and I recommend that people get training together in some sort of a emotional group process to facilitate this.

So once you have this container, then you need to dive into this deep issues and get written agreements. That is so important in foundational, as I mentioned before, the vision and mission is the best place to start if you want to make sure you're all on the same page. I do a process with groups or individuals where I take them through kind of a meditation where they get in touch with their personal deepest values.

Then, we do a brainstorm where we put all of those up on the board or on pieces of paper. Then people discuss them and then I give people little stickies in a group situation. I give them little hearts, some smiley faces, and card stickies and they have fun and go up. They each get seven stickers and they go put their stickers on the value and issues that are most important to them. Then from that, a vision statement is created that they can all align with.

Another really key point here is that early in a project, it is entirely normal for people to come and people to go and actually that’s good. If you can find out early that people really aren't in alignment with the vision, it's so much better to have them move on early and find the group that’s right for them. Otherwise, a year down the road, tiers [sp] down the road, people will be invested financially, emotionally, with their whole lives in a project. Then when they find out or start trying to make group decisions when they're going in different directions, it can just be painful and stuck [sp].

I'll give one example around this, this is actually from Dianne’s community. Some people in that community really want it to be an educational center, others want it to be a quiet place for them to live in the country where they can be at peace and have their gardens. So when it comes to decisions about what to do with money, there are these kind of built in conflicts about why should we use the money for the visitor center and for marketing and visitor’s support and information. Or, should we use the money to build better fences around their gardens. So the more indepth that these kinds of issues can be dealt with at the beginning and you make sure everybody is going in the same direction, then the project has a much, much better chance of success.

Meredith Medland: Thank you for that. That’s really helpful, and I'm looking forward to interviewing Diana. I'm wondering if you have any special stories or anything you'd like to share about your experience with her. You’ve been training and studying with her since 1995.

Duane Light: Well, actually, I was aware of her works for years and we aware of each other but we really just connected this year. She told me that she’d been looking for me for over 10 years, a wholistic lawyer actually understands community. So it was just great to connect with her. I had a questionnaire that she love that I send out to people who are contemplating community. It's a, I think, three or four page questionnaire that takes people through those deeper questions.

“What is your mission on the planet really about? What is your vision? How does that apply to this land? What do you see happening there? What is this project about? How will people live? What will they be doing? What kind of businesses will they not be doing?” So what she had seen in our working together is that in some areas, I can help people to ground the community process a little bit more deeply on the legal side.

Meredith Medland: Is that document something you'd be willing to share with our listeners?

Duane Light: Sure, I could make that available. Actually, they could email me at [email protected] and request that community questionnaire and I will send it to them.

Meredith Medland: Thank you, that’s very generous. We're going to take a break to thank our sponsors. When we come back from the break, we're going to learn about how you have been teaching in the past, English through nature and using the environment as a subject. We'll talk a little bit about the book that you published in 1991 called “Teaching English Through Nature” and perhaps you'll have some wonderful tips and suggestions about how we can learn more about the environment and get outside.

You're willing to join me on that after the break?

Duane Light: Sure.

Meredith Medland: All right. Thanks so much. My name is Meredith Medland and you're listening to “Living Green.”


Meredith Medland: You're listening to “Living Green: Effortless Ecology for Everyday People.” My name is Meredith Medland and we're here with Duane Light. If you want to learn more about Duane, all you need to do is go to

So Duane, you organized a conference in Taiwan for 45 teachers and you taught them how to teach English using nature and the environment as a subject and then you later published a book about that. I'm wondering about that, and if you have any exercise or the fun things you can share with me and the audience about what we can do when we get outside.

Duane Light: Sure. I love that project, that was such a growing point for me in many ways. One thing I'd love to share with your listeners a little bit is how I organized it. I used this very organic process where instead of saying, “I want to do this, will you help me?” I basically interviewed people and asked for their advice. This comes from Dale Carnegie’s “How To Make Friends and Influence People.” What I would do to say, “You know, I'd love to do education, teaching English.” Here we are in Taiwan teaching English, how can we do this and help educate people about nature and the environment?

And then, that would just evoke interest in people and they came up with these ideas or art or a game or teaching plans, lessons. Basically, for me just interviewing people and asking how they would do this, I ended having 23 people who helped co-create this project with me, the conference. We had 45 teachers attend and together we co-created even more lesson plans and materials and art for teaching all ages of students. So that was just a wonderful weekend kind of workshop conference.

Then I was offered the chance to teach special two-week environmental course to children, I had a class of about 15 kids. So the idea was to teach them these concepts and making it fun and interesting and also, where they would learn some English [laughs] along the way.

So some of my favorite things I would do is I would just take them outside to experience nature and do these exercises where they could just deepen through their senses into that, just still silent, direct deep kind of God experience of nature. I continue to use some of these techniques in my life and with friends.

One of them was kind of looking exercise. I would take them out and I'd say, “Look at that tree, what color is it?” They’d go, “Brown.” I'd go, “Really? Let's go look at it.” They’d go over closely and they’d see yellows and greens and black and gray and white fungus and red [laughs] and all of these colors. Then I would have them paint it just to deepen their experience of that or I would have them sit and watch clouds move and change across the sky and draw that or paint that.

There's also a smelling experience where you take a leaf or a piece of bark or grass and you crush it into your fingers, kind of roll it and crush it into your fingers. What that does is it releases the oils so you can really much more deeply smell the essence of that plant. The best way to do it is to exhale all of your air and then slowly, slowly inhale the essence of the plant, like take at least half a minute for an in breath.

What that does is all the small particles are coming out of that freshly released oil that can then go into your nose and you get about four or five times the sensory hit from that plant. If this is done in kind of a meditative deep breathing process, you just get this deeper hands-on connected experience with nature. So it was that sort of thing that we would do, trying to get a direct experience as well as the other games and normal English exercises.

Meredith Medland: You know, right before this interview, I was at the beach, and this evening actually, we're hosting something at the Living Green Community Center here in Santa Barbara and it's a live interview for our guest that’s coming on the show for our Earth Day Episode. You can go to and learn more about him, his name is Tom, that will be uploaded during Earth Day Week.

So we're at the beach and I'm there with the Living Green chef, [xx] Chapman, and he and I are walking along the beach talking about this evening. We go over to the tide pools and, you know, I grew up in Wisconsin so I don’t have a lot of experience in the oceanic realm, that’s fairly new for me. I didn’t grow up with all these words as a kid. So we'd bend down on our knees and he brings my vision right in to the tide pool. We start looking and he's like, “What do you feel? Let's see if we can see anything.” We looked really deeply and then I thought, “Well, it's water and a bunch of pretty rocks with some green on it.” [laughs] I didn’t really see much.

Well, about 15 minutes later, we’d identified 10 living organisms, we’d looked at [xx] and I saw how they collect rocks on them to make them look like they're part of the rock in the tide pool. I got to touch them and they open and close and I got to feel their suction on my finger when I touched them and how important it was to be gentle with them. Then we got to see a little water spider that was on the bottom of the tide pool. I could go on and on but I think you understand what I mean.

When we walked and we pulled away from the tide pool and continued rocking down Henry’s Beach, I was absolutely amazed, I said, “Oh, my gosh, we just went into a whole another world there!” He said, “Yes, that’s the beauty of nature.” So I highly recommend that deepening exercise for any of our listeners because it's just so extraordinary.

Duane Light: Yes, great example.

Meredith Medland: Yes. So, Duane, we're about ready to wrap up the show and I'm curious as it relates to any of our listeners no matter where they are in the world. I get a lot of feedback from all over the place, people downloading this podcast on their iPods or their computers or at the Personl Life Media website. What's the most important thing that they need to know about creating a spiritual practice in their lives that will give them the balance that they might be seeking?

Duane Light: I'm really open about that, I love the approach of the Vedas, from the oldest spiritual writings on earth from India. The Vedas recognize that everybody is different and everybody has a different path. For people who are highly intellectual, you'd take a Jhana [sp] path of studying sacred writings. I'm much more on a devotional path with [xx] and music and devotional prayer. Some people work through movements and through the body so yoga dance, walking. Some people might be more connected to God through nature.

So if people are kind of an exploring stage, I'd say explore a lot, try a different things and see what really works. Also recognize, that as you grow, you will change and your spiritual practice might change. For deepening, as coach--I know you're a life coach also--you just need to really recognize the value of being connected spiritually. There are exercises and processes to deepen and bring out that value and then you put it in your life. You pull out your calendar and you look at the next week and you say, “OK, I'm going to go to yoga twice next week. I'm going to meditate at least five minutes a day or 10 minutes a day”, whatever is really easily doable. Then, you commit to that and it's great to have a friend or a coach that you can check back in with in a week or two and see if you kept your commitment. That’s the way we make changes and move forward really solidly in our lives is by making commitments to ourselves, to what's most important to us and then following through one step at a time.

Meredith Medland: Thank you so much. I know you'd followed through on so many wonderful projects in your life. And just so our listeners know, you're living in Ashland, Oregon and I want to repeat again that they can email you at [email protected] for your information sheet which is about three pages. I'm getting really clear about what your vision is for living and participating in community. I do have to say that I've read that [xx] and Duane, it's really quite exceptional so I encourage all our listeners to email you. There's a few other pieces of information I'd like to share.

The first is that we put together an Episode Page that accompanies this podcast. You can go to and on the right hand rail, you'll find Duane Light. You can click on that and you'll find his bio, his information as well as links in this show. You'll also see a written transcripts there. So that’s the information that I think will help you.

The two URLs that you can also go to to learn more about Duane are or As Duane mentioned, I am also interviewing Diana Christian and her URL, which Duane has also provided as a reference for all of you, is So there's some good Web reseach for you.

If you'd like to email me or if you'd like to be a guest on the show, you can reach me at [email protected] and just as a reminder that there's a blog, Living Green, for the Personal Life Media Network which is where this site is hosted. I’d also love it if you'd put together a customer review on iTunes because that’s how we increase the success of the show.

Duane, we're about ready to wrap it up here. So I just want to give you the last few minutes to share with our listeners any other advice, inspiration, or legacy creation before we wrap it up today.

Duane Light: Sure, I would love to do that.

Meredith Medland: Awesome.

Duane Light: As I sit here, what seems most important to me is the deepest reason that we're here on the planet and for me that’s self-healing, finding that place of oneness and compassion and love and deep, deep peace and then [xx] in the world as much as I can from that place. So my commitment is for myself, for my friends and clients, for the world is to do that as much as I can and to support others in finding that place also.

Meredith Medland: Thank you. Thank you so much for joining me today on the show. I really appreciate all your contributions.

Duane Light: Thank you, Meredith. This has been great. I love your work, too. You make such a great contribution. Thank you.

Meredith Medland: Thanks a lot. You're listening to “Living Green: Effortless Ecology for Everyday People.” This show is all about opening up the psychology of ecology. Now turn off you iPod, get outside and enjoy living green.

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