Connecting to nature through plant music

Eily Aurora plays the harp with an orchid connected to the Music of the Plants Machine at the September 2017 Heart Resonance Concert. Photo by Mike Unrau.

What is Plant Music?   

Have you ever wondered if plants sing? Indigenous healers have shared that plants possess a spirit essence that communicates through light, sound and vibration. Musician Eily Aurora joins forces with Alla Guelber, founder of the Meaningful Work Project, for a unique Sound Journey and exploration into the mysterious world of the plants.

Science is now proving what native cultures have known for thousands of years: plants are aware, sentient beings. The Music of the Plants machine has made the song of nature audible for the first time. One powerful response while listening to the song of plants is the release of the bonding hormone  oxytocin, which initiates a healing process in the listener to bring mind, body and spirit into balance.

Listening to Plant Music reminds us of how intricately connected we are to nature. Plants are highly intelligent. They have a powerful ability to communicate with what’s around them and interact with their environment with over 20 senses. With the ability to now not only feel the benefit of being with nature, but actually hear and co-create musically with plants, our vital relationship with and to each other is even more evident than ever before. We need nature to survive. How can plant’s song wake us up to listen to the living beings around us and bring greater harmony to the world?

Follow the Inspiring Hearts Project for an exciting schedule of concerts, public Pop-Up Plant & Harp Concerts, and other ways to share plant music as an entry point to deeper inquiry about our connection to the natural world.

The Music of the Plants Machine, attached to a live plant.

The Collaborative Flow

Hanging out at the North American Systemic Constellations conference.

Ever since I created the Meaningful Work Project in 2009, and even before that, I have been learning to tune in to the flow of collaborations, following the energy of people and organizations that inspire me, and finding ways to work with people that share a complimentary vision.

It has come as a most wonderful and pleasant surprise to find my most recent collaboration with Eily Aurora. Since an amazing brainstorm at the Sangha Festival of Medicine in July, we have hit the ground running, with co-organizing the Heart Resonance Concert in September 2017, traveling to the North American Systemic Constellations Conference (where I assisted Eily with her presentation called Keys to Discovering Music as Medicine). And now, we have been fortunate to receive two grants that are kicking our project into fast gear.

With the support of the Small Experiments Grant through Calgary Arts Development, and the Take Action Grant through The Arusha Centre/Calgary Dollars, we are moving forward on some exciting offerings through the Inspiring Hearts Project.

But this dynamic collaboration was many years in the making.

We met at Mount Royal University in 2007. As I was nearing graduation, she passed on the leadership of the campus sustainability initiative that I co-founded to Eily and several other current students. Eily was a passionate student organizer, and, in her role as a student executive, advanced the vision of creating a campus-wide sustainability plan, committee, centre and full-time sustainability coordinator from 2007-2011. Both of us have shared a deep passion for sustainability, environmental and social action. We have sought innovative and interdisciplinary approaches to inspire positive change in our communities.

Through each of our own journeys, we have come to understand that the most powerful, impactful and long-lasting changes come from connecting to what we love, cherish and treasure. People protect what they love. This is a movement of the heart. It cannot be forced, and it is not responsive to fear or guilt. We aim to motivate and inspire others through a connection to the heart.

Concert photos by Mike Unrau.

Join us at the next Heart Resonance Concert on Feb 3!

Living the New Economy: A Learning Journey

The City Repair Calgary guild of 2014, (l-r): Alla Guelber (Meaningful Work Project); Lindsay Meads (reGenerate Design); Kym Chi (Giggling Chi Tree); Natalia Zoldak (Great Public Spaces).

The City Repair Calgary guild of 2014, (l-r): Alla Guelber (Meaningful Work Project); Lindsay Meads (reGenerate Design); Kym Chi (Giggling Chi Tree); Natalia Zoldak (Great Public Spaces).

Living the New Economy: A Learning Journey to Victoria and beyond

Every once in a while, there comes a time and a necessity to break away from the day-to-day and step into a space of wandering in the halls of creativity and inspiration. As we take in the gallery of ideas and possibilities, rub shoulders, share hugs and open our hearts to the wide spectrum of social, cultural and economic transformation, we let go of the reality as we know it, and can dream a new world into being.

Every couple of months, I feel the need to slide out my routine of feet-on-the-pavement, doing-the-work to yet again step back into the space of visioning and exploring.

This summer, by creating a new guild with my friends and colleagues coming with our own projects and organizations, but all sharing the dream of engaging Calgarians in a creative re-imagining of public space, we planted the seeds for new projects to spur on the culture of innovation and creativity that is rapidly taking shape in Calgary by revitalizing the group City Repair Calgary.

DSC_0214 DSC_0219From July 17-20, 2014, City Repair Calgary hosted four separate learning events that brought out more than 400 Calgarians with hands-on, interactive learning opportunities with Mark Lakeman and Mighk Simpson, and linking that with current initiatives and future opportunities in Calgary. Mark is a visionary architect and permaculture teacher and instigator of City Repair Project and Communitecture in Portland, Oregon who we had the honour of hosting along with Mighk for five intensive days of teaching and presentations in Calgary this past July.

Following the  successes of our summer engagements, we had to take some much needed time to rest, regroup and focus on other things moving forward…but now it’s time to dive in again!

For the next two weeks, Lindsay Meads, founder of the urban design, permaculture, and placemaking firm reGenerate Design and I are stepping out of our day-to-day to tour around the West Coast, meet with friends and colleagues, share ideas and document the inspirations we encounter along the way. We will continue to build on the various projects we have spear-headed and continue to envision what is our place within this emerging new economy that we so eagerly want to contribute to.

LivingNewEconomyThe Itinerary

To start our trip, we will arrive to Victoria, BC, where we’ll be reconnecting with our dear friend Mighk Simpson. Following five years of living and learning in Portland at the Planet Repair Institute, Mighk recently started a PhD at the University of Victoria. He makes his new home at Mason Street Farm, where their motto is “education through cultivation.”

Starting on Monday morning, we’ll be joining in to Living the New Economy (the LNE), a week-long gathering focused on breathing the new economy into life.

“LNE Global Live is your access point to creating a new economic reality. It’s a conversation and exploration of new ideas, new ways of living to create abundance, equality and sustainability.”

Mark Lakeman will be presenting on the final “Integration” day of the conference while Edmonton-based Tad Hargrave, owner of Marketing for Hippies, will offer a full day of interactive workshops on Marketing the New Economy.

Tad has been innovating in the domain of ethical marketing and communications, and we’ve learned a great deal from his practical yet deeply thoughtful and intuitive approach. Finally, we are excitedly looking forward to finally meeting and hearing from Charles Eisenstein, one of North America’s leading authors and philosophers who is helping shape the vision for the “More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible.”

That’s just part 1. Following our time in Victoria, we will venture to the charming village of Roberts Creek to spend time with our colleague, permaculture educator and artist Kym Chi, founder of education company Giggling Chi Tree, as we dive deeper into strategic planning and visioning on future projects into 2015.

Finally, we’ll end our trip in Vancouver, visiting innovative places such as the Hive, Sole Food Street Farms , the Vancouver Tool Library and City Commons, and interacting with our community-change counterparts.

Follow our adventures through the Meaningful Work Project Blog, on Facebook through City Repair Calgary, The Meaningful Work Project and reGenerate Design, and through Twitter: @MeaningfulWkPrj and @reGenerateDesgn.

Group Works training: Deepening your Facilitation Practice


Using the Group Works deck for an opening circle during the recent urban placemaking workshop MWP co-hosted with City Repair Calgary.

You are invited…


One-day interactive workshop

Friday, September 26th | 9:30am-4:30pm
CommunityWise Resource Centre,
223 12th Ave. SW, Calgary, AB

Are you interested in improving your work with groups and communities?

Calling project leaders, teachers, facilitators, public engagement practitioners, coaches, non-profit board members, civic activists, permaculturists and others whose work involves empowering people to participate in groups, workplaces, and communities in a more dynamic and effective way!

We invite you to attend a professional development session where you will have the opportunity to:

  • Reflect on your facilitation practices
  • Share dilemmas and seek solutions with colleagues
  • Get support on upcoming meeting designs
  • Identify opportunities for implementing patterns of excellent group process
  • Integrate exemplary patterns into your professional and/or community life (and start to speak the shared “pattern language” of facilitation)
  • Engage with others who care about these things!

We’ll be using the deck Group Works:  A Pattern Language for Bringing Life to Meetings and Other Gatheringsas our lens.  While familiarity with the deck is helpful, it’s not essential—you’ll recognize the patterns from your own practice and pick it up quickly.

When: Friday, September 26
9:00-9:30 am: coffee & registration. Workshop runs 9:30-4:30.
Lunch will be by potluck. Please bring one dish to share.
Where:  CommunityWise Resource Centre, 223 12th Ave. SW, Calgary, AB.
Cost:  Sliding scale $50-$195.  If the bottom of the sliding scale is not affordable for your circumstances, creative arrangements are available—don’t let finances be a barrier to attendance.

Registration:  Please register in advance so your hosts can plan appropriately; sign up at   If you have any further questions contact registrar Dave Pollard at

Led by:  Tree Bressen, Alla Guelber, Sue Woerhlin, & Daniel Lindenberger. To learn more about your workshop leaders, visit the following links:


What is Group Works?  Group Works is a way of thinking about great group process in the form of best patterns.  It was created by a volunteer collaborative of practitioners from a wide range of organizational backgrounds with many years experience, and published in the form of a card deck for maximum participatory possibilities.  It has the potential to serve as a common vocabulary for people who care about good meetings and events.  The 100-card deck is available for free download from, printed copies sell for $35 each, and there is an iPhone app too.  The project has been developed in an open-source manner and your future involvement is welcome!

This workshop is presented by the Group Works Pattern Language Project, a not-for-profit organization based in Oregon, and hosted in Calgary by The City of Calgary Cultural Transformation initiative and the Meaningful Work Project, with support from the Permaculture Calgary Guild.


Find out more about the Group Works Deck.


Keeping Calgary sustainable means keeping our small businesses alive

SteepsArticle by: Marta

Calgary is a forever growing city where some small businesses struggle to stay afloat with rising overhead costs.

Steeps, a teahouse, was a local business that attempted to become a local mainstay, but struggled with the rising costs of doing business in Calgary. Steeps served baked goods, homemade meals, and a great deal of tea to the folks downtown on the Mount Royal strip just off of 17th ave and 8th street. Unfortunately Steeps closed its doors early last year.

I sat down with the manager of Oolong, Chelsey McRedmond, to talk about what caused the closure and gain her insights on what could have been done differently to save her local business, offering lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs in our city.

Steeps1Oolong purchased Steeps in the summer of 2009 and kept the name and décor the same as before purchase. When asked about the ambiance within Steeps, McRedmond responds, “There were a lot of contributing factors to the Steeps vibe including the tea itself ( Camillia sinensus) which tends to create a very relaxed atmosphere and ambiance, food, décor, music, and last but absolutely not least the people”.

When asked why Steeps shut down, I didn’t get a quick answer from McRedmond but the jist of it was “We [the owners and staff] could no longer sustain ourselves.”.

Oolong opened another location in McKenzie towne on top of purchasing Steeps. When things slowed down economically and other tea franchises and corporations began popping up around the city, business slowed down immensely.

“The choice had to be made: lose all three tea shops, or close two and keep one, the original Oolong Tea House in Kensington location. We were faced with this difficult decision in 2013 and that summer Steeps and Oolong McKenzie towne closed their doors for good,” McRedmond says.

Businesses cannot thrive without customers. If the community wants places like Steeps to stay open, we need to support them as integral parts of our local economy. Many of us say that we want out precious tea shops and coffee shops and record stores to stay open but many of us buy our records online and buy our groceries at Safeway. Local markets can be pricey but they try to provide us with healthy alternatives. It doesn’t hurt to pay a little extra so that we don’t see another one of our local hubs get destroyed. The bottom line is that businesses need to make money to stay open so make sure that you are supporting the businesses you love so much so that they can stay open.