Oscillations

I am struck by the idea that everything oscillates, and that all stasis is  an illusion.

We have an impulse to strive for stasis. Even that impulse oscillates as we grow weary of our day to day activities. We jump outside of our comfort zone and learn and live and jump back in.  Oscillations change frequency, amplitude, and form.  It doesn’t seem to matter if we’re talking about our lives, our relationships, our gardens, the migrations of butterflies, our taste in clothes, or our skill at crossword puzzles – all things oscillate.

Karma is simply the natural flow of energy.

Here’s the thing – we deny that is the natural state. We go through life thinking it should simply be a steady increase in peace and prosperity. That is a successful life. In that way we deny the reality that we will always have ups and downs, there will always be high points and low points in our lives and in our societies. Life isn’t a yellow brick road straight to Heaven or Hell. We visit both poles equally within the brief span of our lives.

Well, at least that is what I believe, and what meditation has shown me.

We seem to be at a low point, where hate speech and the proliferation of fear is becoming common and ordinary. A time when black lives are being gunned down with impunity. A time when compassion is considered blase and vapid consumption is the norm. But people are waking up, people are beginning to question the authoritarian solutions that are handed out like candy in every institution.

I say there are no simple answers – I say that in a world where debate and conversation is becoming base and crude, and ignorance and anger is shared instantly and constantly in soundbites that eat our brains alive like mad cow disease. But I do think there are simple solutions, for the parts and for the whole.

Chaos theory shows us that the initial conditions in complex systems will determine their actions,  but since we can never know all of these conditions in perfect detail then we can only create possible models of the systems future behavior. The only way forward is to address those initial conditions and stabilize the turbulence  – each act of violence or hate is like a fractal inside a fractal, showing us what the underlying problems are.

There is a lot of noise out there. Nobody really wants to hear the negative stuff – but anything internalized becomes expressed externally, as Jung posits.

Farmers, healers, artists, and all folks involved in the practice of the Regenerative Arts have the power to cure this rampant illness. We have the ability to divert the negative energies into productivity and a regenerative cycle, for we can understand the ebb and flow of life itself. All the static and linear thinkers and doers  of the past fail us now, as we plan for a new type of living, one that acknowledges that, at the heart of designing a planetary populace instantly connected via electromagnetic waves, we must cast off linear thinking and doing.

 

 

Heroic Chores

Sometimes your animals seem to be plotting a coup and can’t wait to escape their paddocks or break everything in it to bits.

Sometimes every little chore turns into a heroic effort to overcome your own incompetence at the simplest of tasks.

Sometimes you don’t remember why it is you chose to do any of this.

At these points, it is good to take a break from what Robert Pirsig calls the “Gumption Trap”.  Simply put, when we suffer setbacks or hangups, a negative feedback loop can start and spiral out of control.

Whatever you call them, the negative feelings we encounter as we farm are vast and uncharted for the most part – dark tides pull and clouds gather many times in the course of a day or week or year. The assumption in our culture is that the mentally healthy thing to do is to shake off these negative feelings – what Thich Nhat Hanh call mental formations. These formations arise out of our selves, and are like knots that need to be untangled. An essential part of that process is patience.

I see little difference between the various types of formations we create in ourselves  – like a mollusk secreting calcium carbonate around a sharp object . And like a pearl, we can transform our formation into something beautiful if we acknowledge and work on it.

But I will not pretend that it is all chocolate and roses.

There are good parts galore, but plenty of bad times as well.

In the small-scale farming world, one of the most common default reactions is to beat oneself up over perceived inadequacies. It is extremely difficult to find the time to get everything done every day, and so instead of coming to terms with that reality, we end up criticizing ourselves incessantly until we have broken down our own sense of self-worth into tiny bits. This leads to a collapse of meaning in our day to day lives, and turns our actions into repetitive gestures that we perform unconsciously.

The unconscious has more power in our lives then we let on. The Jungian concept of our Shadow Self grows larger and more powerful the less we pay attention to it. Unconscious reactions to perceived hardships become the norm, and everything falls apart. The shit hits the fan and we get covered in it, basically.

How do we approach and work with this deep well of unconscious behavior that continuously builds and deconstructs manifestations of our hopes and fears? I believe the best way we can consciously attempt to knit our diverse mental and physical landscapes together is through the process of individuation, via a whole systems design strategy, utilizing ways of integrating the infinite smaller parts into a finite big picture approach.

It all starts with one small action.

 “If you take care of the small things, the big things take care of themselves.”

-Emily Dickinson

 

 

 

Falling over

In a way, every time we take a step, we are committing to not falling over.

Commitment.  What a strange concept, especially in this day and age, when mostly we are oriented by our passing desires. Bingeing on Netflix is the closest thing we come to committing to a long term endeavor.

And yet without commitment, some of the most amazing things we take for granted and that provide our lives with such luxury and ease would not even exist. Commitment and a dream. For instance, the World Wide Web – It took an idea and the commitment to create by Tim Berners-Lee to allow you to read these words right now. And barely anybody knows who he is. Similarly, paper is such a blase item in our daily lives, and yet, when you think of it, it is an amazing thing – wafer thing flexible sheets of magic invented by the Chinese in 105 AD. So we can get bills for our World Wide Web in the mail. You get the picture.

A dream, and  the will to see it through.

Without the will, of course, nothing can be created. Will is commitment in action. Will is the dream’s course to fulfillment. Beginning in the ether of our souls, Will spins a web of matter to gradually edge itself into the world, like a hatching duckling, covered in the goo of birth.

As I talk with those who have started and run their own business, there is a current under their words that thrums with the will that keeps them thriving. It’s that current, that vein of will, that differentiates between the doers and the talkers. That is a real division in the realm of homo sapiens, one that is evidenced by a life led by others or a life led by one’s self.

I don’t have a moral judgement whatsoever about the right or wrong way to live, just this observation. I think a lot of dissatisfaction in people’s lives are created by a lack of commitment to a dream.  Really, the only thing to fear is failure, and failure doesn’t really exist anyways. There is only steps forward or steps backwards, but it is always a journey somewhere, through life.

 

Pissing on trees, part 1

In the act maintaining any relationship, there are boundaries that must be established.

A co-evolution of what that means to either party is probably necessary. There are always 2 or more parties – with 2 or more different ideas of  what is correct. But in reality, nothing in life is correct. A fundamentalist will fail at any real relationship because they think there is 1 way to do things, when there are almost an unlimited smorgasbord of ways to do this thing called life.

I’ve made many mistakes in this arena and I’m bound and determined to figure out why it is such an intense part of what makes me, and most likely every living creature, tick. Our most ancient reflexes pop up when our territory has been invaded.

So in our romantic relationships, we start out without a care in the word, happy that some wonderful person is part of our lives and making it sparkle again. After a while we start to get irritated at all the little things that our partners do that seem to infringe on our personal space or time. The person hasn’t changed, only our perception and feelings have.

How can we remain uncritical, and what is the fulcrum that tips our minds to critiscism? When critisicm, which implies moral judgement, enters the picture, I tend to become extremely agitated and thus unreasonable. But is there really a time when any off us are really reasonable? We like to think we are, but we are running around motivated by emotional states, hormones and neuron patterns, all day long.

I’ve found that those most convinced that they are logical are usually the least able to admit the illogical nature  of most of their behavior. This makes me nuts- mostly because I was like that for quite a long time!

I will simply say this: Reason can be used to justify almost anything, reason based on so-called logic. Using logic gives the user a sense of moral superiority and holiness that they imagine the other  person or creature who isn’t using logic lacks. So I don’t think it is the best tool in our toolbox. It creates hierarchies of control. He who has the most logic wins.

I believe our subconscious is the only compost pile that can really break down our lives and create a nutrient rich fertilizer. The answers are there, but our minds have so many mazes we can never really find them until we let go and let grok.  As we break down the raw detritus of our lives within our subconscious, we also need to be working on reconciling our conscious lives with our core beliefs. Again it seems that the most sensible thing is to balance out any extremes. Our answers can’t all be based on logic or emotion, we can’t imagine that we can even clearly see the big picture, let alone the small events that make up why we do what we do. Discarding hubris, we enter into real relationships outside of ourselves.

A fence is there to keep something in or something out. My life as an animal farmer is made up off a lot of fence work. Even in the relationship between me and my animals, we are still establishing a certain amount of understanding – they have a sense off where they are supposed to be and stay there as well as they can. If they really wanted to be elsewhere, they could. Most animals can escape their fencing if they really want to. So there has to be a level of understanding there – they know I will be there for them as long as they are where I left them. It’s much more complicated then that, but suffice it to say that it is never simple. It isn’t simply putting up fence and walking away – it’s a daily maintenance situation, a constant monitoring of what is going on with them.

Establishing respect and understanding in a personal relationship is a little like making those fences. It might sound a little harsh to those who haven’t kept larger amounts of animals, but believe me when I say a fence is little more then a suggestion. We do need our personal space, and we do need our personal lives – and we need those who we love to respect whatever it is that makes us tick.

Since in reality we don’t want to build fences around ourselves or create impenetrable shells, establishing boundaries is a little more like pissing on metaphorical trees. It’s important to inhabit the space that makes you happy – your happiness creates happiness around you. My happiness is essential to creating happiness throughout my circles.

Next time I will muse on the opposite practice – opening up boundaries.

 

 

whirl with it

Calm down.

It’s as simple as that.

There is literally nothing that isn’t solvable with some thought, time, and action.  The last couple of months have been a whirlwind, and I have been stressed to the max at certain points. Moving my whole life from my old farm, and the cabin I built there, has been intense. I need to give myself some breathing room, but it is hard with over 40 big mouths to feed and house and take care of, as well as situating myself in a new place, on new land, with new partners of various sorts.

There are only a few things that stand out in my brain at this point, the most important being that none of us can go through life without depending on partnerships. We need many to survive, and many to thrive. We don’t and can’t exist in a vacuum, and all that I’ve done these last few months has been possible with the help of many kind souls. I do alot on my own and that’s just my DIY independent farmer spirit, but only when I start working in partnership with others do things grow and flourish.

Not only that but I have been pondering how important it is to really find out who you are to be able to live your life fully. Partnerships help us thrive but only if we really know who we are and what we’re on this planet to do. Otherwise partners can be crutches and help us stay in stasis. Stasis is what the unrealized soul longs for, the comfort of the absence of life and death.

But that is what makes the universe spin – our infinite beginnings and ending.

No need to cry over spilt milk because there will always be more milk. No need to grasp on to some wonderful experience because there will always be something wonderful to experience. No need to fret endlessly over the possibly negative outcomes, because they will come and they will go.

We can’t grasp water (or slippery pigs) but we can flow with it, become it, dissolve in it. There is our only real comfort, that impermanence is permanent.

So let it flow, let yourself go, slow and low is the tempo.

 

Living on the land

“The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land… In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such.”

-Aldo Leopold

We are bone wrapped in muscle packaged in skin. An infinity of hydraulic and electrical systems intermeshed – molecular programming and elemental exchange bubbling along at nanolevels and quantum rhythms. We, as part of the universe, are evolutionary machines. But unlike the metal machines we make with our hands, we are complex beyond understanding and filled with the tendrils of chaos. Love bubbles up out of pain and happiness bursts from depression.

What are we?

What a question.

One answer is that we are great apes, primates, with humungous brains and sparse hair. As members of the Homo genus with an evolved skillset of  hand/eye coordination we can drive cars, drink lattes, and facebook, but we still contain the morphology and genes that yearn for hunting and gathering on the savanna.

We move toward happiness and fulfillment, just like any animal on the planet. Individual units banding together as tribes, tribes banding together as cultures. We meet our needs, our tribes needs, then our cultures, and humanity overall.  Our priorities start with our own breath and expand outward.

When our basic needs are met we search and find meaning and love.  Religion and art arise out of an abundance of material resources . Life becomes less about survival and more about pleasure – whatever stimulates our neo cortex.

We are stimulated by the act of doing. Activity is what starts growth. Inactivity promotes depression, sickness. Perhaps it is a simple evolutionary trick – the survival of the tribe hinges on its weakest link. So we applaud positivity and health and shun depression and illness.

We have become experts at creating satisfactory analogues for our primal needs. We are saturated with the ability to join interest groups and participate in social media. But a trickle of dopamine will never truly satisfy the the soul.

Connecting with nature is the first step toward a healthy  life.

We need a comprehensive reeducation in what it means to be a member of our land communities. To start with, an appreciation and respect for the elements: the earth, water, air, and fire.

To know nature truly we need to be connected to our local foodshed and soil: the complex web of life it contains and the food it produces. We need to understand where our water comes from and where it goes, and we need to tend to it on it’s journey through the landscape. We need to learn and live within the climate of the land that we live on. We need to be connected to our sources of energy; the carbon we harvest to produce our warmth and heat, that we burn to power our engines and lights and vehicles.

Furthermore, we need to be connected to our fellow creatures: the tame and wild animals that provide more sustenance then we can understand: not just muscle, fat, bone, and skin, but all of the countless activities they do that support our land community.  We need to be connected to our shelter; the materials we gather to create buildings, the fibers we cultivate to weave into fabric and tools. We need to be connected to our tribes, and ourselves.

All of these things are possible right now. All of them are necessary for survival.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just be

There is really nothing you can do.

There is nobody to please. Nothing to prove. No reason to impress.

There is nowhere to go. No place better then another.  No home that will not crumble.

There are really no words to say. But of course, I must try to say them. I am human.

We judge every single action that we do. I don’t know why. We are trained very early on, and we are trained continuously throughout life to fear most everything, and to judge most everything, and to put most everything into compartments.

Take a moment. Sit still, breathe.

Don’t go anywhere. Don’t think ahead. Don’t think of the past.

Take a moment, take a breath.

Remember yourself as a child. Remember the way you looked out onto the world. Remember the way you felt.

Forget it. Sit.

We only possess a small spark of life, nothing else.

This breathe I possess now, and now it is gone.

One heartbeat – so fast I cannot even type a sentence before a dozen more come and go.

One sip of tea, and then it is gone. A pleasure on the tongue and then warmth in the stomach. Soon, piss in the pot.

The only thing we have is our spark and the moment. Some people say YOLO, but I say you only live a trillion times, over and over. Each time, new. Each time, different.

We can’t hold on to anything, least of all our image of ourselves.

There is nothing about me that is perfect. There is no such thing as perfect.

So, dispense with the judgement.

Sit for a moment. Breathe a little.

Forgive your self, forgive your body, forgive all.

Let it all go. It isn’t for us. It is death accumulating in the corners like dust.

Forgive and let go. You have a trillion moments to cherish.

Breathe.

Just be.

 

 

Revitalize

I’ve been feeling sick. All kinds of symptoms, a new one to worry about every day. I started to think about bad habits I should cut out of my life to help me regain some health.  This morning, though, I realized something. My problems weren’t all about my health. It has been a very stressful year or five, and I was blaming all that stress for my compromised immune system. But it wasn’t just that.

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A couple days ago I had a really shit experience at a local feed store. Just a clusterfuck – they sold me what I wanted, but didn’t know it had ingredients I didn’t want, not to mention they didn’t have most of what they sold me and on and on. What I thought would take a few minutes stretched out to half an hour. I was filled with anger – what a bunch of incompetent idiots. I was going to complain to the manager and never set foot in the store again.

After that I had yet another shit experience. I chalked it up to the whole world being horrible at customer service.

But really what was going on was that I was falling back  into  old patterns. I won’t deny it, because it happens. We all fall back into old comfortable ways of being, even if they basically cause life to be more difficult in the long run.

It wasn’t all of “them”, it was me. I was closing up, getting pissed, and not being present in the moment.

Without conscious breath we drown. Without a strong back we crumple. Without a clear goal we flounder.

No matter what time it is or where we are in life, we can revitalize and get our mojo back with a simple flick of a switch. That and a whole bunch of work to retrain the brain and body to be what we actually want them to be.

So, stepping off that treadmill, I head back out to take care of business.

imperfect steps

I learned a lot of important lessons when I used to take  my backpack full of outdoor gear into the woods and disappear for days. For a short while, that trail became my whole world. It taught me that all we can really do is to put one foot in front of the other. The destination was never the point, it was always about the journey.

We all get stuck in ruts. Then we get frustrated, overcome by guilt or shame. We sometimes manage to get out of the rut only to find ourselves stuck in another just a few moments later.

This is what is known as a feedback loop. We find ourselves going around and around in circles, sometimes spiraling completely out of control. At this point we have to stop everything and start over.

None of us are perfect.  I think that feeling guilty about getting caught up in these loops can only serve to reinforce them. So I advocate, especially to myself, to take that guilt and set it aside. That guilt is not my essential being. That guilt is a program that can be turned off for the moment. We can silence our monkey minds and open our eyes to the reality of where we are. Is the path you are on taking you where you want to go?

Unlike being on the trail in the wilderness, there is no map of life that we can consult when it feels like we are way off course, lost in the wilderness. These days, with GPS and electronic gadgets in our pockets, we feel like we are in complete control of our destiny. But then the batteries die or the signal is lost and we find ourselves in the middle of the woods with wolves howling on the ridge and no drinking water.

Then we find out what we are truly made of. We can reach into ourselves and find the resources to keep hiking toward the lake, or we can give up and stumble to a paved road to thumb a ride to the nearest Walmart. We can either experience something new and expand, or return to the familiar and contract.

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So with this in mind, I take my own imperfect yet perfect step forward.

 

 

Yoga Sangha

“When we say “I love the members of my own family, the people of my own religion or country or color” bias limits our affection. But with proper practice, from an ordinary level of affection we can develop an unbiased universal love, in which we don’t care what other people’s faith is, their nationality, or social status – so long as they are human beings, they are our brothers and sisters. “
-Dalai Lama

I have to go to my Sunday morning yoga class. It’s at my friends farm, only a couple of miles from where I live today. That may change soon because I am going through a divorce. But meanwhile I have to go to yoga. My body needs to stretch and move, and I need to chat with my fellow yoga students. I also crave the Amish donuts or other delicious breakfast foods that our gracious hosts serve after the class. They ask for nothing in return for this generosity. Sometimes a student brings an edible offering, like cupcakes or cucumber juice.

We meet at about ten minutes to 10 AM and chat a bit as everyone arrives and parks their vehicles, and then we all shuffle up to the barn loft, where we take off our shoes and unroll our yoga mats on the plywood floor. Then we stand on the mats and start the class. When we start, I have a small moment of panic. Am I going to make it all the way through? My body feels worn out, drained dry of vigor. I grit my teeth and continue.

My body is like a wound up mechanical bird – I compress downward and spring up. My bones are rusted out. I can feel muscles bunching and tensing and my blood is pumping at high pressure through my veins. Maybe I will have a heart-attack right here and die on the floor. What a gift to the class that would be.

But I continue. I move into Downward Dog, then Upward Dog, then Forward Fold, and finally I raise my arms over my head, a little dizzy. My mind is fully focused on how to arrange my body correctly. I don’t even remember to breathe unless our teacher tells me to do so. It feels good to focus on something as basic as movement, instead of the troubles that are clouding my mind these days.

Highland cattle graze peacefully out in a field beyond the open southern door of the loft. A soft moo drifts through the air. There is a gentle breeze that carries a scent of fresh hay and manure. Then it rains hard, a burst of watery bullets pummeling the steel roof. A cacophony outside that mirrors the clamor inside. But I continue, and twist my body into a pretzel.

The twists make me sick. My blood feels thick with toxins. Like I am trying to wring battery acid out of my internal organs. I almost quit, but I don’t. I know if I keep going, I will feel better, I will feel strong again. I have to stoke the prana inside me, to clean out my sluggish nadi. I am told what to do and I do it. I let go of all the grasping in my mind, and simply move.

Toward the end of the class, with sweat beading, hearts beating, and muscles aching, we are guided through slower, gentler poses, ending up on our backs in Savasana. Even as a corpse I am tense. I try to force my body to relax. Finally, sometimes, I give up and simply lay there. Like a fractal, the yoga hour mirrors my whole life.

It dawns on me that I have found a Sangha, a fellowship of friends attempting to create an island of peace in the chaotic seas of our day to day lives. As a Buddhist I’ve sought shelter within the Buddha and the Dharma, but never really within a Sangha. Now, joining this loose collection of neighbors to do yoga one morning a week, I realize how important this practice is for me.

The hot mess within me bows to the hot mess within you.

 

Piglets arrive

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My very first batch of piglets have arrived. One recent sunny morning I noticed that my bred gilt, a mutt hog bred to a Large Black Hog/Berkshire boar, was laying down and not getting up for breakfast. Then I noticed a bunch of movement around her. Holy crap, I thought, it has happened. It was farrowing morning. She was at day 120 in her gestation, as far as I could tell from my notes. I went and grabbed my coffee and came back to find 5 healthy black little piglets jumping all over the momma, and nursing occasionally. It was beautiful.  I did not see the birth but it had happened without event. Soon she passed all of her afterbirth and I felt calm.

 

 

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The next day it was going to be stormy so I was nervous about their comfort. I set up  a simple hog panel shelter, with two metal panels on top. I gave the momma  couple more bales of hay right outside the shelter. She had eaten a lot of the hay I had previously given her. Later on in the day she had a great nest built, and I felt more confident that all would be well. After a stormy night I visited her and all the piglets were active and doing well.

 

 

 

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Now they are growing in leaps and bounds. Soon I will need to castrate the boys if I choose to do that. I will also have to consider training them into electric fencing within a few weeks. I am very surprised at how robust they are – so small yet so resilient and playful. So many lessons to be learned from the realm of the pig.

New life

In 2010 I started my own permaculture based landscaping business, fell in love, started to raise pigs,  bought 39 acres in Western Wisconsin,   and moved back to the land on my birthday. In 2011 I got married, and began to learn about the realities of being a homesteader. I started to fall in love with my community. Since then, I’ve been through many things, including fighting a frac sand mine, a terrible fire that burned to death a new flock of our ducklings, a house that leaked heat like a colander, and regulatory issues that almost kept our farm business from functioning.  Winds that blew away a hoophouse cover, tractors that broke an axle, freezing cold turkey harvest days that left hands and minds frozen. I pushed myself and constantly suffered injuries; after processing 50 turkeys one day I couldn’t use my right arm for weeks because of an inflamed rotator cuff, I tore my right calf muscles carrying a 50 pound sack of feed and couldn’t walk for days, I fell off some scaffolding and busted up my ribs and couldn’t work for weeks. When I wasn’t incapacitated with pain  I learned carpentry and  built some structures, including a cabin that was supposed to be a retreat from all of this mayhem. But even that effort was steeped in stress and issues, and it turns out there is much work to do and money to spend to bring this cabin up to a code I didn’t know applied here. In any case, it turns out that wasn’t going to be how the story that begun in 2010 ends.

Instead,   I received divorce papers from my wife a few days ago. Suffice it to say, it hasn’t been an easy past few years for either of us. I  have never felt the level of stress that I have had in these years, and I certainly didn’t understand, going into this endeavor, how much of a toll it would take on me physically or emotionally, or how quickly it would erode a marriage.

If you are beginning a farm dream with your loved one, I don’t want you to end up in this situation. If you are trying to create a dream without pure communication between you and your partner, it can easily become a nightmare. I have my own issues, my wife has hers, but in terms of us making sense of this life we have lived together, this dream we have pursued together, without an open line of communication, it will all fall apart. If you are not on the same page about your vision and values, at some point they will split apart. You can’t be truly together unless you share yourself 100%, you have to bare your soul, and if your partner can do the same, there is a chance.

Airing dirty laundry is not something I will do here. I am more interested in the lessons to be learned, and the steps to take to grow and evolve. I’m not going to bitch and moan.

I don’t believe there is anybody at fault here in this situation. As human beings we’re all fucked up, to paraphrase the Buddha. For a long while I blamed myself and beat myself up emotionally. But that doesn’t help me grow and evolve into the next stage, and it isn’t particularly pleasant for anybody else around me for that matter. So I would simply like to acknowledge this new turn of events and move on. Everybody has questions but I don’t have many answers, other than a bit of advice. Truly open yourself up to your partner, and if they accept exactly who you are right now, that is true love. It can be romantic, it can be platonic, whatever your relationship is, openess and acceptance is key. How can their be love without those things?

So on this my 37th birthday, my nugget of wisdom forged from the fires of dukkha is to stay open. Don’t close off when the going gets tough. Don’t construct a shell when you feel the need for protection. Stay true to yourself, and be open about what you want and need. Otherwise how the hell can anyone know those things? We may think we are transparent, but in fact we are all mysteries to one another. Unlike the other beasts that roam the planet, we have language that we can use to try and translate the mystery that is I to the mystery that is you. That is a gorgeous beautiful thing about being alive.

After I received those divorce papers, my first piglets were born. Rain poured and wind raged the night after they were born, but with a  sold roof and plenty of bedding, along with the warmth and protection of their mother, all five piglets survived and are healthy right now. In fact, they are roaming all over the place already. All endings are sad, but with each we find a new beginning.

Take care of yourselves. Don’t forget to breathe and smell the air.

 

Venus & Mars

Women are from Venus, men are from Mars.

For some reason I am fascinated by the Wachowski’s Sense8 series. In this series we see a blurring and in some cases reversal of the stereotypical roles that men and women play in our society. We also see a group of people linked together telepathically in much the same way we are with our friends and family, only much more so in real time. It seems  to me to be a vision of what the Wachowskis see as an ideal in human evolution. It is a new mythos, spawned in part from our collective societal obsession with the  science fiction themes that mirror our fears, whether the genre be mutant heroes, zombie hordes, devastating apocalypse, robot intelligence, or alien invasion. The future is unclear, and only a fraction of our creative forces are being harnessed to present a positive vision. Darkness is in vogue. Sense8 is a less of a didactic diatribe on the polarization of good vs. evil and more of a speculative exploration of the future’s possibilities and the ambiguous nature of relationship and love.

In the LGBT community we see a blurring of these gender divisions right now. We see folks finding their actual inner identity beyond what options have been provided as roles for them to play in the past. To become exactly who you are should be a primary goal in life, should it not? Within the LGBT community there are many that are shirking our common social conventions to undergo whatever changes they wish to make to the creation that they were guided into being as children. And with that they experience tremendous fulfillment. Society in general frowns upon radical self-acceptance as it doesn’t seem to contribute to the greater good of the masses. Nor does the hammer of authority like the nail sticking up out of the wood. But “seem” is the key word here. If we can accept and nurture our own souls, we can do so for others as well. We become self-actualized, as much as I dislike that term. If we can’t accept ourselves, we fall back into playing the roles offered to us by the old mythos. Venus & Mars, Virgin & Whore, Hero & Villain. These dichotomies don’t help us evolve. The ages of purity are past, I think, and we all now know that the world is a big messy place, with almost every role in existence being subjective according to circumstance.

But as Jung says, if we deny some conflict we have about our inner selves and don’t face it head on and embrace it, embody it, transform it, rearrange it, or in some way take real control it, somehow we manage to manifest our inner conflict out into the world.  Or in Buddhist terms, dissatisfaction is the origin of suffering, and suffering nurtures suffering. What person feels satisfaction at playing a role that doesn’t fit them?

Unlike many living things, we have this enormously complex brain computer. Each of us has a whole universe inside that thing.  We can see into the future and look back into the past, we can see through eachother’s eyes and walk in eachother’s shoes. We can choose empathy over self-interest. If we all shared in eachother’s lives intimately, like the group in Sense8, how could we not band together to achieve our common well-being? If you understood and felt the suffering that I have, and I understood and felt the suffering that you have, how could we fail to be kind to one another? If we shared our feelings of happiness, giving becomes automatic and taking makes no sense.

But meanwhile, without sci-fi telepathic connections, we can make do with simple meditative and yogic practices. We can be conscious of who we truly are and manifest that goodness out into the world, instead of spending time waging silent war inside ourselves.  Easier said then done, I know. Stress makes it very hard to keep calm and carry on.

Filled with darkness

Last night nine human beings were killed by one young man who was filled with darkness.

“The psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside as fate. That is to say, when the individual remains undivided and does not become conscious of his inner opposite, the world must perforce act out the conflict and be torn into opposing halves.”

-Carl Jung

I have known of Jung’s concept of the Shadow since 2010. The Shadow is the Self that one doesn’t want to acknowledge, as it contains all that we find fearful and dark about our own selves, our own lives. If a person can acknowledge that it exists, then there is the possibility that it won’t manifest itself out into the real world. If they can’t, then it most likely will. What I see on the news almost every day is the the Shadow unleashed. The Shadow is a real part of our mind and should be acknowledged as such. Only by looking at it without fear can we stop it from running the show, our lives.

I struggle to believe that as a society we could possibly acknowledge our cultural Shadow and work on it for the greater good. I know on a personal level it is possible, but even so just because it is possible doesn’t mean it is at all easy. It is extremely difficult, because as a human being our natural tendencies are to refrain from going into that dark closet to confront the bogeyman. We would rather move toward comfort and be surrounded by light and warmth.

Facing the Shadow means facing your fears. On the news we find people who are filled with Shadow – they kill the Other over and over again in some desperate attempt to escape themselves. Only by acknowledging that there is no Other, that all we fear is ourselves and the nothingness that we think might lay behind the curtain, can we even begin to move forward. We need to summon the courage to face our fears and let them pass through us, and then get to work.

The Shadow self would like to tear everything apart. When we don’t acknowledge it, we let it have free reign inside us, and it wreaks havoc in our outer lives. As a person who studies and practices Zen Buddhism, I see similarities in Jung’s concept of the Shadow and the Zen concept of the Small Self. Essentially, Zen says all of our concepts of who we are are just that, concepts: our Small Self. Only in being present from moment to moment can we really truly be our Big Self; enlightened, completely real, in the flow. Constantly examining the mind to find these concepts that provide the framework for our Small Self and letting them all go is the simple practice of meditation. The Shadow is all of that Small Self stuff; all the experiences and concepts that we have ever had and have not processed, grown into a dense heavy jungle of our past. Only by facing our fears and realizing that our fears are not who we are, that we can actually process them and let them go, can we lighten our hearts and minds. A good article about the Small Self is here: Zen Bite: You!

If we are chained to the past or putting all of our hopes in the future, then we don’t have a fucking chance. All I can do at this moment is to sit at the table with birds chirping outside and turkey babies peeping inside, thinking my thoughts, and trying to write them down with the least amount bullshit.

There is a lot of living to do today, so I have to go live one moment at a time.

Out of the nest

Lets talk about farming.


“Once you decide on your occupation you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success and is the key to being regarded honorably.”

-Jiro Ono

I am a farmer. To be honest I hadn’t really said that, to myself or to others, and really felt it in my bones until recently. I had been living my life without examining it too closely, in a whirlwind of action and reaction that almost led to a nervous breakdown. I hadn’t really known why I always felt so frustrated, overworked, stressed out, and worn down to the bone. Living this way damaged my relationships with everything and everyone, including myself and my body. I could go on about causes and effects, reasoning my way free of personal responsibility, but the fact is that I hadn’t ever dedicated myself to anything 110%, and it showed. All around me projects laid unfinished and ideas were left unpursued; I could start anything, but following through all the way to the end seemed impossible somehow. I was losing passion for life even. It just seemed like there was an endless array of problems without easy solutions. I couldn’t feel the beauty of the grass waving in the sweet smelling wind anymore. Finally, pushing myself to get the cabin done in a sort of haze of self-loathing and dehydration, I fell off some scaffolding and bashed up my ribs and arm, sending me to bedrest for a month. Everything seemed fucked up in some way; my body, my mind, my heart, my relationships, my work, my home. I let that assumption control my mood and actions, believing I was a perceptive pragmatist, when in fact I was bucking responsibility for my life and actions. All my problems are out there, right? No way are they all within me.

Winter didn’t improve my outlook. Only as spring brought forth life and my troubles began to overwhelm me was I pushed out of the nest into the reality of what taking responsibility for myself meant.

I think a lot of us in our 30s are still hanging on to some of those dreams we had in our 20s. Either that or we try to leave our options open, so that we can feel like we are free from being stuck in one thing forever. I have come to the conclusion that real freedom resides in dedicating yourself to something outside of your self. When we live inside our heads we’re stuck in a dark prison of our own making. When we live inside our heads we can’t take care of business very well – whether that be baby turkeys that need bedding and water, or a restaurant that needs freshly baked breads, or even just sweeping our home. Inside our heads, we’re stuck in a feedback loop that never lets us act without fear.

For me, it came to the point where I had to consciously stop the inner dialogue as that feedback loop was going to drive me totally nuts. I stopped and looked around and just saw and felt where I was. Who am I, I asked? Who do I want to be, where do I want to go, what do I want to do every day, and how do I want to make my living? At that point I may have felt in my heart that I would rather be traveling the world, or even be employed and get a paycheck so I could homestead comfortably, or that I wanted to be a yoga instructor, chef, cartoonist, social worker. When I listened to my heart, it thrummed back at me with the warm tones of love for farming. I looked at my beaten up hands lined with dirt and felt the goodness that comes from being a craftsperson, someone who uses their body, mind, and heart every day to increase the quality of their discipline. Stepping outside of my mind allowed me to actually see everything around me, including myself, and to imagine a vision for the future that wasn’t all tied up in my immediate fears. At that point I said out loud,”I am a farmer.” And it was true.

I breathed a sigh of relief, standing by an old barbed wire fence that was always tripping me up because I never took the time to do anything about it. I went and got a wire cutter and cleared those sharp obstacles from my path.

Each farmer must farm something every day. My wide intellectual focus is on the relationship between livestock and perennial crops. My narrow practical focus is on actually raising pastured pigs . Each day I have this big picture understanding, and each day I strive to further my understanding and skill at farming.  I let my own self get in the way of my work for quite a while, but even so, there is no point in looking back with regret. As my old landlady said to me as I drove away from my old apartment to start farming, “Onward and upward!”

Ropes

Hardship constructs the skeleton of homesteading, of farming, or of running a small business. Hardship is all the stuff we consider bad, stressful, and full of difficulty. These past few weeks have been so filled with hardship that I’ve actually had to laugh at it all. How ridiculous, I thought, how unthinkable that as I began to live my dream in earnest, I would be overwhelmed with hardship at the precise point when things seemed to be  getting better.

I’m not going to go into detail right now about my specific hardships because it really doesn’t matter. In a lifetime, hardships are ready to introduce themselves at the drop of a hat. What matters is that what I consider my personal problems bunched up into coils around me that seemed about ready to squeeze the life out of me. But at this point in my career as a human being I’ve seen these ropes before – I can also see how often I reach out and wrap those ropes around myself and wonder why I am all tied up. Setting forth on a path that includes homesteading, farming, and running a business will break you down into your component parts. There are so many rules and regulations to follow, and so many dangers lurking around every damned corner, that one wrong step and down you will go, kicked in the chest by a seemingly cruel and uncaring world.

Time to get back up. I’ve found that I have to start by untying the ropes that wrap me up, seeing where I really am, and probably taking a few deep breathes, or moments, or days to come back to reality. Here I am, full of troubles and hardship, but also full of life.

And life is incredible. The marrow of life is joy – as we grow in wisdom from the pains we suffer and the hardships we go through, at the center of life is the sweet marrow of living and breathing in this world, at this moment, with a sip of coffee and the smell of woodsmoke in the air.  No better gift, to be able to pause and take a breathe of fresh air.

Let go of the ropes.

Big Mess

One day you feel good, the next day you feel bad.

We search for oracles to give us some guidance on this roller coaster. What sage words can guide us through the bad and back to the good?

Amazing how our imagination creates pressure and stress where there is nothing at all. We create patterns out of the waves of the past. We wander a desert of our own making. We are thirsty after drinking. Nothing is very unusual, but in all ways we are unsatisfied.

Dukkha. The inevitable unsatisfactoriness of existence. It is a way to understanding life – Buddha and Jesus couldn’t stop talking about it. Sukkha – satisfaction, the joy of just being alive. Here we are, up and down, but it is obviously our confusion about dukkha that creates the Big Mess. Perhaps also our confusion about what satisfaction is.

What do we truly need to be happy, alive, and satisfied? What are some of the erroneous thoughts that we have been programmed to think that leads us into dukkha?

Watchin my animals, I see that they have a simple way – they are unsatisfied if they are thirsty, hungry, uncomfortable, sick, or alone. They have urges to run, fly, roam, be alive, and breed. All in all, same as us, but we’ve added layer upon layer of complexity to our lives within our complex cerebrum.

Is there a code to crack here? Does happiness lie in cessation of dukkha? Or is sukkha and dukkha simply the crest and trough of the waves we call life?

Another Wabibito

Solitary, we stand rusting in the winds of time.

But the inverse is also true. Everything is so interconnected there is no “I”. As the rust forms molecules are born that spark the next cycle of life.

Stand or sit in silence for a minute. What happens?

Nothing, or everything, you choose. Within us, we are busy being born and dying. Each “thing” reflects that truth.

In any case, what is today all about? A broken camera, piglets eating hay, drinking rich coffee? Or is it about rushing around, trying to make sure your life isn’t a waste of time? Or is it simply making ends meet?

Being awake is seeing the rust, is being the rust, is loving the rust.