During my recent travels here in the U.S, I had the opportunity to live small and think big. My temporary home was a small off-the grid trailer. Having limited belongings to distract me, I was able to gain quite a bit of mental clarity during this experiential endeavor. I gained some wisdom that I’d like to share with those of you interested in receiving it.
Warning: graphic images are in the content of this post.
1. ” We can never live in harmony with each other unless we can first live in harmony with nature, which shockingly includes plants and animals.”
I recently visited a place where I witnessed vegetables being polished. They were radiant, healthy and delicious to eat. It was the kind of food that you didn’t know existed on Earth. I felt like the grocery store tomato that I had previously known needed to be renamed. It seemed unfair to use the same word to describe such a different experience with food. It was clear that time, energy and love were put into producing these beautiful food items. There was a loving energy surrounding the people that tended to these crops, but a few hundred feet away a very different story emerged. This story included a depressed, sickly and underweight dog and a bunch of diseased and dying chickens living in filth.
This is the opposite of living in harmony with nature. I am skeptical of anyone who tells me that I can expect to be treated with dignity and respect by a human who doesn’t see the value in caring for any innocent creature that doesn’t have a voice of its own. An eggplant is not more important than a dog or a cow or a chicken. All of these animals are just as alive as the food that is grown from this precious Earth, each with its purpose and role as a part of a greater ecosystem. In my personal opinion, undermining the value of the animals that tend to and protect our land is the opposite of sustainability. In this new year, I invite you to bring a new level of mindfulness into your life. Many of us have pets in our homes. We will say that we are not advocates of animal abuse and that we will protect our pets at any cost, yet we purchase our eggs from places like that which I describe above. We use body care products daily that are tested on animals, packaged in bottles that can’t be recycled, yet we choose not to know the impact of these chemicals on our water systems and our land where we grow our food, raise our children and where our cattle graze. We get upset when we take a hike in nature and see a piece of trash in a stream, yet on a daily basis we don’t connect the dots of our own footprints of abuse, which are often chronic and deeply hidden in our lifestyles. The good news is that I am hopeful that most of us will do what is good and right given the knowledge and the opportunity to be empowered. I challenge you to start connecting your own dots, to keep asking why and where until your questions are answered and your own hypocrisies have been revealed and released.
2. “Actions are more important than words.”
It’s easy to speak pretty words. The exchange of pretty words can literally cause chemical reactions to occur in our brains that make us feel loved and at ease in a moments time. Words are most beautiful when they are backed by actions. Backed by actions, words can be the ultimate foundation for growing trust, respect and loyalty, which have the capacity to blossom into love and love is a beautiful thing. Yet, it is easy to be confused by beautiful words in the absence of action to support them. It will take you a moment or in my case a year, to remove the veil and realize that words are just words unless they are backed by actions. The abundance of all of the delightful feelings listed above start to dwindle and sap our energy when words and actions start quickly traveling down opposite paths. If you see this happening, remove the veil and move on from these relationships. Words as words are a waste of energy and time.
3. “What is right is right, even if no one is doing, what is wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it.”
First, we should define what it means to do the right thing. What is right, is what is respectful and honest. Doing what is right is not always comfortable, fun, or rewarding to anyone except for ones conscience. Doing what is right can be lonely, sad, and empowering all at the same time. Doing the right thing allows you to sleep at night. Doing what is right, will almost certainly eliminate what is wrong and will guide you to your ultimate truth, even if that means it’s just you and your truth on that journey. Previously, I always thought that everyone wanted to reach their truth, to get to the core of ones wisdom, leading to clarity, mental and physical wellness, and joy. In my travels I have realized that some people do want to reach their truth and there are others who will eventually do what is right, but will do so only after repeatedly doing what is wrong becomes unbearable. I’ve realized that there are other humans, that might be good and well in their intentions on the surface, but when they are ultimately challenged to make honest, loyal decisions, they will be the first to encourage you to continue to do the right thing, but on a personal level they are ashamed to do what is right, so they default to doing what is wrong. This particular scenario is the most painfully shocking to witness. To see a person full of right, committing wrong, out of fear and pressure to conform truly breaks my heart. In this new year, I hope you can take the time to re-assess your values and your dedication to being true to yourself.
4. ” This is what I know, so this must be the only way.”
This truth is slightly different from what I describe above in bullet number 3, because in this particular circumstance, what is right and wrong is most likely buried in belief or assumption. In this situation, we are all lemmings, blindly following each other off of the cliff. For example, yesterday I walked to the dumpster in my friend’s apartment complex. When I arrived, there were many bags of trash outside of the dumpster. Now, it would be easy to assume that the dumpster was full, right? Why else would people place trash outside of an empty dumpster? This would defeat the purpose of a dumpster in the first place. I could have placed my trash outside the dumpster as well, but instead I opened the dumpster to find that it was almost empty. One person had put their trash outside, only to cause a cascade effect of people that weren’t willing to look even slightly below the surface. I think most of us engage in mindless following more than we would like to admit. My next example, again involves the treatment of animals within the culture of farming, as I deeply feel it is a culture that needs to be exposed, unlearned and offered healing.
I recently had the opportunity to travel to a farm. There seems to be this mentally that creeps up within the culture of farming, particularly in the mid-west and west, that believes that animals are simply around for profit, not to love, or treat kindly. The mentality is that every animal that lives on a farm can “fend for itself”. The trouble with this mentality is that farm animals are not wild animals. As humans, we chose to begin the process of domesticating these animals thousands of years ago. For example, the domestic dog, is not the wolf and when we take on the responsibility of having a dog in any capacity, we must protect, guide and care for that dog’s emotional and physical well-being. It seems strange and quite bold that we would expect a dog, steer or a chicken to provide us delicious meat, eggs or protection in the name of neglect. It always baffles my mind that people can’t see the full picture and understand that by investing in the mental and physical well-being of your farm animals, you will be saving tons of time, money and frustration in the future. Also, bonding with these animals whether a chicken, dog or steer, will create a foundation of trust, decreasing stress and increasing the ease of working together for both parties involved. As humans, it is our duty to have kind and respectful interactions with all living creatures, regardless of if that creature will eventually land on our plate as dinner. Neglectful and abusive actions such as yelling at animals and failing to provide sanitary living conditions resulting in disease or death is unacceptable. We must also remember that neglect is a form of abuse. If your chicken dies because you beat it to death, it is no different than if it dies because you allowed it to suffer in unsanitary conditions. The end result is death. If you can’t provide the financial, emotional and physical support to your animals, then you have no business having animals. An animal that provides food, protection or companionship, should do so as a result of our respect toward that animal. When I spoke with the farmers in this area about my concerns for the welfare of their farm animals, I was told that what I was seeing was the norm. I was told that farming was an abusive line of work for the humans and animals involved. I challenge this view and I challenge these farmers to seek out the opposite. While there is certainly a prevalent culture of abuse in farming and in rural communities in general here in the U.S, I know there are many farmers who embrace a delicate, loving approach to tending to the land. I challenge you to seek out the opposite of these negative stereotypes. You might uncover a new and beautiful truth.
5. “If we omit self-care, our actions will never be sustainable.”
You might be asking yourself, “what is self-care?” Self-care is a practice of nurturing and loving ones self by simply becoming more attuned to meeting ones basic needs (nutrition, sleep, exercise). These are the basic needs that sustain us in life. These basic needs are often compromised or completely neglected in today’s world. In fact, neglecting self-care practices may be the norm. Self-care allows us to create a strong foundation to live a healthy life where we exit survival mode and can fully participate in the process of meeting our basic needs in order to serve ourselves, thus the people we love. When we practice self-care, we gain mental clarity and physical strength. We begin to fully thrive instead of survive. When our minds and bodies are cluttered with toxic thoughts or chemicals, it is impossible for us to be advocates for the well-being of our fellow humans, animals and the environment. Our society has taught us, especially as women, that the needs of our children come before our own. While we all have busy days and moments, it is important that this way of being doesn’t become habitual. We often neglect feeding ourselves or even the act of elimination because we have been taught that it is selfish to make sure our needs have been met. This is not a sustainable practice and this mentality needs to shift. Constantly ignoring self-care practices as basic as elimination, eating and sleeping can lead to chronic and irreversible health conditions. If we want to be healthy and strong for a long time for our animals, children and family, we must take care of ourselves first. This is not selfish, it is selfless, sustainable and a powerful model to teach sustainability to future generations. Furthermore, if our basic needs aren’t met, we will have very little attention left to give to our Earth and our Earth is desperately calling for our assistance.
May we all invite truth, compassion and wisdom in our lives in the new year. May we continue to think big collectively for the betterment of Earth, our home that sustains us and all that we love.