The Pace of Nature

 

Increasingly so I experience the world as loud. As a mama, I am reawakened in my senses through the eyes of my child. I can see just how big and loud and overstimmulating the world is.  

Yesterday at the toy store I watched Olive find her way over to the wall of plastic music making toys. On the one hand these toys are wonderful. They engage sensory and motor coordination. They focus attention and keep said child entertained. Which is good for mama. But I also watched her increasingly become literally crazed by this toy. It not only captivated her. It consumed her. The louder the toy got, the louder she became. Together they made a cacophony that surpassed the delicate and precious features of delight and entered into some kind of manufactured stimulus-induced mania. 

This is our world. increasingly built less on the natural elements of wood, metal, clay, attention, contact, drum beats, wind rustles, thunder and gesture, and more on silicon, virtuality and synthesized noise. 

I should mention I have also observed Olive be equally as entertained by dirt and rocks. A quiet, present, embodied delight.

The difference?

When she play with a natural material she is in her body. Rhythmically engaged in play.

When she plays with plastic and manufactured noise she leaves her body.

But this is not a post about the toys you choose for your kids. Thats not really my business anyway.

What this is about is our innate sensitivity that is bombarded on a daily basis by a world that is quick, loud and aggressive. A world that people built. And perhaps that is the fundamental distinction. 

The world as it is has us a simple integral feature to the whole picture. We are no less or more important than the willow and the prairie dog. We are equal in importance to the bees and the burdock. And I would even wager we might be less important. We are part of a system that sings and harmonizes because it does. There is nothing virtual about it. But the world we have built is based on buildings and screens and recordings. A masked and mutilated self-important dominance-over instead of that sweet and simple humble cohabiter.

And through the eyes and nervous system of a tiny human being I see just how magnificent what is Natural is and just how self absorbing what is Manufactured is. 

None of us are immune from the addiction of feeling smooth plastic in our hands. Or the pseudo support of the light of a screen.

The world is loud if you listen. The sounds of the wind and the birds and thunder.

Loud. Present. Immediate.

The sound of the grass and the aspen leaves.

Gentle. Subtle. Magic.

The world is fast enough if you witness it.

Rushing waters. Pounding rain.

Sliding Mud.

Flash of lightening. Darting squirrel.

 

We were designed to move at a pace in step with nature. All rhythms are found in the Earths capacity.

 

Quick. Slow.

Thumping. Slithering.

All the rhythms of all the beings.

 

When we reclaim rhythm and movement, we reclaim the pace of nature. We embody the natural world.

 

To Be A Mother

I have been searching on what I could say about being a mama since Mothers Day last week. I guess maybe I felt compelled to say something. (Oh the joys of social media in the back of your mind). I suppose I want you to know the truth. That it is the most amazing, joy-filled, heart bursting thing I have ever experienced. And it is so insane. So crazy making. So painful some days.

Sure, I feel grateful to be a mama and overcome with joy for her. But if I am honest I also find it incredibly hard. My birth story with Olive was empowering and profoundly awakening. And I have bits and pieces about the postpartum I am still releasing. I am so far from the perfect mom ideal and I understand my own mother so much more now. I cannot believe what she did for me. Its unfathomable actually. And yet, somehow I do it to. And I feel incredibly grateful to my baby daddy and partner. For sending me into a journey I never could have imagined. But all of this feels still banal. What I really think is worth sharing is this, that just dawned me this morning....

~~~~~~~~~

I am sitting here, listening to the Hanuman Chalisa and am overcome with a sense that perhaps the Ramayana is actually the story of motherhood.

And in that way the myth evokes all parts of ourselves, you as the mama, are every character in the story.

You are beloved and lover, you are the valiant helper, you are the demon, you have magical powers.

You lay yourself on the thin line-the razors edge day in and day out. You need to be reminded of your greatness.

You have been stolen away and locked up. You are searching and looking.

You are the one who holds the image of your child in your heart always. Your heart graciously and unequivocally breaks itself open, tears itself open, reveals itself to be of your child.

In dignity and service.

To the one.

Living outside yourself.

Always in your heart.

Motherhood is the great the Leap.

Some do not make it back. Some stay locked up. Some stay demonized forever. Some get twisted and confused. But if you can do the journey, the great leap, with your broken heart wide open, reunion happens.

Inner Gardening

This commentary is a reflection on Elliot's recent piece called The War on Weeds. You should and can read that here.  I wanted to expand upon his writing about the travesty of pesticide use on the bounty of natural goodness. I find this a deep metaphor for understanding our bodies and psyches. 

You see, I believe that your yoga must elicit some kind of action in our world. Yoga for the sake of yoga does not really exist in my book. Let your yoga make you passionate about something that makes the world better. I know that means mixing politics with yoga and opinions with yoga and some people really want that to be separate. Thats not what I am doing here. Its not what my family is about. And thats not what I teach. My husband has a deep passion for the Earth and for protecting her, relishing in her beauty and bounty and serving her deeply.

But what he has deeply in his psyche which many of us have lost is this...

Trust In The Earth.

You see, my husband trusts the earth is inherently good. He looks for the good in every weather pattern. He sees the bounty where others see weeds. He sees power where others see problems. He experiences awe where others experience fear.

These are guiding principles in his life and psyche. And ones we could all use to learn. This field of re-establishing a deep trust in the earth and the metaphor of the earth for healing attachment wounds and so much more is often called Echo Psychology fyi.

Anyways...
Reestablishing trust....

I often see people practice yoga in a way that is deeply untrusting of their body. The body is a problem. The body is uncomfortable. The body is lacking. The body has too many weeds to count. The body is aggravating.

And so the practice of yoga becomes a kind of pesticide if you will. A way to kill everything you dont want. A way to force out the mental and physical believed toxins. A way to control the garden you want.

But the body of your earth is far more intelligent than you think. There are some patterns that exist that ultimately enable the great magic to come through.

For example, my bodies design allowed me to carry my baby girl for 10 months exactly. Some doctors were alarmed by this and they wanted her out. The did not trust my body or hers. Ultimately, with a little coaxing, like the way you might need to manually go in and sort your garden, she got the memo and my body got the memo to come on down and out.

So you see, if you want to fight the War on Weeds and let good growth happen as it needs to, to be a little wild, then stop making your yoga just another product to cut, destroy and eradicate.

(Well and maybe consider the grass underneath your feet at your next yoga festival. Ironic right?)

To continue this metaphor further, weeds are weeds when they aren't what you are trying to grow. So take meticulous care in your practice. It takes time and effort and tender loving attention to pluck the weeds from your mind.

I know this because I have to constantly pluck those buggers. Yoga makes us more sensitive. And that sensitivity can allow neurosis to grow. Like the dandelions that spread their seeds in the wind, the sensitivity cultivated in yoga can spread in the wind of your breath. Meaning, sometimes you get things you don't want. So spend some time weeding and pruning. Maybe use some of them in another way, like a tincture for the mind and spirit.

I recently went through an intense narrow around fear. And as it turned out tasting a bit of that bitter and pungent weed in my mind helped me move through with more ease and awaken me to a more clarified understanding of purpose. Thank you fear. I don't want you overtaking the garden but, I'll use you as medicine.

The War on Weeds is real people. Not just for the dandelions and burdock. But right inside your own body. Everything in our culture wants us to buy products and services to fight these weeds...but thats not really what is attempting to be eradicated. It is actually a war on the deep trust in the earth--the inner and the outer earth that is your human birth right.

The War on Weeds

Spring is in full-swing here in the Rocky Mountains, and what better way to celebrate the return of Earth's verdant bounty after the dormancy of winter, than with poison. Yes, that's right, all across America--from suburban lawns and golf courses to grassy knolls outside office parks, town halls and even schools--little yellow PESTICIDE APPLICATION signs are popping up instead of little yellow dandelion flowers. Perennial bulbs, tubers, taproots and rhizomes have stored precious energy reserves all winter long for this singular moment--the chance to sprout new leaves at the start of spring and to live another year--but before their tender young (leaves) ever have a chance, they will be chemically stunted, starved and asphyxiated by herbicides.

herbicides

The annual culling of unwanted, unloved and misunderstood plants by tens of millions of Americans each Spring vis-a-vis the residential, commercial and agricultural application of herbicides and pesticides, may unwittingly, be the single largest, coordinated attack on biodiversity in human history. Certainly there are more violent and visibly destructive acts of environmental degradation, from mountaintop removal and open-pit mining to clear-cutting old growth forests and dumping toxic-waste in our oceans, lakes, rivers and estuaries, but few are as ubiquitous (and useless) in their silent destruction as the pro-forma application of herbicides.

America's obsession with botanical hegemony (which like other forms of hegemony, we export globally) amounts to a corporate and state-sponsored rein of bluegrass, ryegrass and bermuda grass no matter the climate or ecosystem. There are no fewer than 556 pesticides approved for use in the United States according to the Pesticide National Synthesis Project (and a staggering 17,000 products containing those pesticides for sale, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention). These chemicals span the alphabet from from 2,4-D and Abamectin to Ziram and Zoxamide; and like pharmaceuticals, they are increasingly branded with happy sounding names like "weed and feed". Taken together, over one billion pounds of pesticide active ingredient are used annually in the United States.

The state of California alone applied no less than 200 million pounds in in the most recent year where data is available (2013). Of that, roughly 15 million pounds were applied in residential and commercial (non-agricultural) settings. This is worth repeating: 15 million pounds of pesticides applied in a single year in a single state for no reason other than aesthetics. For what is the purpose of pesticides in a non-agricultural setting where there is no competition with food?

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 10,000-20,000 physician-diagnosed pesticide poisonings occur each year among the approximately 2 million U.S. agricultural workers. How many more are subject to chronic, low-level exposure and the associated elevated risk for certain types of cancer, birth defects and reproductive hardships? And for what? It is one thing for an experienced farmer to judiciously apply insecticide to protect a season's harvest, but it is quite another for homeowners, property management companies and city maintenance crews with little or no training, to casually and regularly apply broad-spectrum herbicides to land that is not cultivated for food nor any other productive use. It is economic and moral nonsense: allocating scarce resources to buy synthetic chemicals to put our families at elevated risk of illness for an increased yield of nothing.

To be sure, there are many different classes of pesticides, from Carbamates, Organochlorines, and Organophosphates that disrupt central nervous system functioning, to synthetic Pyrethrin, which is far less toxic, and common to thousands of household products. But few have been tested rigorously (or at all) for safety in human populations.

It is a tenant of American jurisprudence that all people are innocent until proven guilty, but we need not extend equal rights to synthetic chemicals. It is only logical that chemicals invented in a lab must be proven safe and effective before being introduced into our homes and the environment. Sadly, and to the detriment of our health, U.S. environmental policy does not follow the precautionary principle as does the European Union. So like asbestos, leaded gasoline, and DDT before that, we will continue to allow untested chemicals to be produced and applied everywhere and anywhere until the evidence of their damage is too damning to hide or refute.

Short of an Act of Congress (which seems about as likely as President Trump nominating Michael Pollan as the head of the USDA), we must change the social norms that govern the casual and cavalier application of pesticides and herbicides in our communities. We must be vocal in our opposition to neighbors and businesses that apply chemicals to their lawns just as we might if they were handing out cigarettes to children. We must be especially vigilant in public spaces--schools, libraries, parks, playgrounds, ballfields, and the like--for children are the most vulnerable population segment. 

Perhaps the greatest irony of all is that the direct victims of the 60-year war on weeds are both nutritious and delicious (that is, if you can find some that have not been sprayed with herbicides). Toasted dandelion roots steeped in hot water make a wonderful tea; their young leaves can be cooked up like spinach; their flowerheads make a spicy trail snack. Curly dock and lemon sorrel can be tossed in lemon and olive oil for a simple summer salad, while older leaves of the same taste best steamed or sautéed. And then there is clover and alfalfa, which any free-range cattle rancher can tell you are important sources of nutrition for their livestock. Humans are no different. You can graze on red clover flowers as you hike through an open meadow; or better yet, stash a couple in your pocket and make tea when you arrive home. And don't forget about burdock or stinging nettles or yarrow--powerful medicinal herbs that are commonly (and arbitrarily) designated as weeds. These are just a few of my favorite things. 

Indeed, on any given day May through September, I can find a dozen wild, edible and medicinal plants on the urban-wilderness periphery of they city where I live. But that is no accident. I am fortunate to live in a place where the protection of open space is enshrined in the city charter for all future generations. Without such protections, I would likely only find manicured lawns and chemically-induced monocultures. When wild plants are out-of-sight, and out-of-mind, we forget about the natural bounty that is yearning to grow--if only we let it.