Trash

I used a Swiffer for the first time in my life today.

I don’t know, maybe I’m slipping, or maybe I’m at a place where I’m able to include things in my life that I’m ideologically opposed to knowing that the stress relieved by doing so is more beneficial in the long-run than twisting my way into a strict definition of who I am.

My hunch is that it’s a bit of both, but regardless, it’s got me thinking about trash.

In the Bhagavad Gita, the ancient Hindu text, Krishna, an incarnation of the preserving aspect of the Divine, has a conversation with his beloved devotee, Arjuna. The setting is in the midst of a battlefield, Arjuna about to fight alongside his brothers for their rightful kingdom against his uncles and cousins. Of course the symbolism is that we have to do this: we have to discriminate between the personality aspects that are alive in us even if it means killing parts of ourselves we’re attached to, like Arjuna’s family members. After encouraging him to live his dharma, or duty, and fight, Krishna and Arjuna discuss the various kinds of yoga. Eventually Krishna reveals his true splendour; instead of his dear friend, Arjuna now perceives the embodiment of the Divine.

It is, to put it lightly, a little much for poor Arjuna. He fearfully begs for his friend Krishna to return to his human form. He wasn’t ready to perceive the truth. Not yet anyway.

I think about that description of Krishna in his full glory. There, He is everything. He is gnashing teeth consuming enemies, and a whole lot of other vivid imagery that I can’t remember right now and I can’t find a copy of the Gita.

What else is He? He’s the trash, which brings us back to the Swiffer.

I don’t get trash. I don’t understand buying things wrapped in things that I am not buying. Why this extra stuff? What does it do for me? It goes right to the recycling, that’s what. It gives me something to store in out-of-the-way places until I gather it all up and head to the big metal bins where I can sort it out and hope something better is made out of it.

Can I recycle a used Swiffer pad? I’m going to go check.

Okay, I found proof right on the package: “Throw used cloths in trash.” Complete with a little drawing of a stickman throwing something into a garbage. This doesn’t really change the fact that I still don’t understand it all. I don’t understand the systems as we have them set up in order to dispose of the items we no longer need.

My family has a construction company. It’s based in an area that isn’t populated enough to make sense to have a sheet-rock recycling program, or so I’ve been told. This is unfortunate because, as a drywall company, they create a lot of wasted scrap materials. They’re a relatively sustainable bunch and so they do what they can to reduce waste while still working within the confines of a construction paradigm that doesn’t put environmental rights at the forefront. Last I heard, they stopped using some materials that “are known in the state of California to cause cancer” and—where it is appropriate—they’ve been known to place scraps within walls thereby increasing thermal mass and solving the problem of what to do with trash.

A few years ago I spent a summer working with them full-time. One of the houses contracted out to us was in a beautiful rural area with a gorgeous view overlooking the coulees. One of the neighbours was a town-owned lot, connected off to the side, yet sharing a fence line with the yard of the house. They were making use of these majestic hills, as is done in the area, by filling the gaps between them with trash. This was the town land-fill.

images-2

Regardless of the fact that it was an unfortunate neighbour for a house with such an elegant view, what really struck me was the agreement we made with the town. Instead of the usual giant garbage bin outside to be hauled off and dumped out at a land-fill, we spoke with the operator about emptying the excess scraps right over the fence.

Loading up the back of the pick-up with material to be dumped, we sidled right over to the part of the fence closest to the main section of the drop-off spot. Clambering into the truck bed, my brothers and I began to hurl the pieces of flat gypsum, crushed and sandwiched between sheets of paper, as far as we could.

We were taking out the trash.

It was kind of a surreal experience, really elucidating to me what the definition of a land-fill is.

Our Western society bundles up tonnes of trash everyday and send it off to be piled under layers of dirt and forgotten about. Today, along with all of that trash is a used swiffer mop of mine.

I try to live my life with awareness and allow sustainability to be an undercurrent of what drives my behaviour, yet there are times, like when staying in a house that isn’t my own, that I let it slide and clean with what’s available, even if it is a disposable mop.

On the broader scale I want to be able to see that really, it’s all Krishna anyway. I want to maintain the awareness that lets me see the trash, and the way our society disposes of it, as part of a larger whole of which my little ego is but a speck. If I can bring this awareness in, then it’s likely I’m going to make decisions that are best for the whole. Buying scads of possessions wrapped in things I’m not buying is an unsustainable practice that is not beneficial for the whole.

It gives marketers jobs and feeds the greed of companies who produce items requiring complicated descriptions of what their products can do, but it doesn’t benefit anyone seven generations down the line from us.

What are we left with? We’re left with what we always have: choice. Our own powerful discrimination. I can’t say it’s impossible, but it’s likely I’ll never purchase swiffer pads in my life. And, after my experience of them today, it’s unlikely I’ll ever use them again when a damp paper towel under a foot can provide me with just as much landfill-filling satisfaction at a fraction of the effort.

I’ll continue to choose to fill my reusable almond butter container at the co-op and to rethink purchases that contain a lot of excess materials.

I’ll do this with gratitude that I have the choice at all, and I’ll do it with conviction that really, it’s all Krishna, anyway.

Advertisements

Pearls

images

I found it today. It was hiding under practicality which, sitting, as it does, on the sturdy wooden chair pouring over paperwork on the desk in the corner, was more than happy to be of help in any way it could. While I’m not sure if harbouring a personality aspect that simply doesn’t want to be found is, in all actuality, very practical, I can see where the intention was coming from.

Regardless, I found it.

For one thing, it seems kind of odd that it feels the need to have been hidden. I mean really, what are we but an interconnected web of all of our past experiences combined with the influences that currently exert forces upon us making us behave in particular ways at the expense of other ways. It’s simply there. Within me. Acting upon me like any other impulse that I have that beckons me to act. Except now I’ve found it.

Oh it’s not like it’s some big thing that influences absolutely every single one of my decisions and thoughts and actions. No, I don’t think it’s anything like that. Of course, the more I think about it, the more I think well, maybe it is. Perhaps it holds some sort of ideal or goal in a very tangible way that I’ve been unable to express in any other way in my life, yet is very real and important. Perhaps this is the only way this ideal has managed to manifest itself forth; out of the ether and into the atmosphere. More particularly my atmosphere with its own other influences acting upon it that make it (seemingly) impossible to be expressed in any other way. This makes me even more happy about the fact that I’ve found it.

I found it because I was doing that thing I usually do where I notice my travel backpack and look to see how full it was. I was cataloguing in my head the amount of possessions currently held in the backpack, and how many possessions I knew were strewn around the house I currently am staying at. In this way I, quite abruptly, found the part of myself that doesn’t want to own a lot of things.

Now, there are a lot of obvious positives to this, especially where I’m at in my life right now. Moving every month to ten days makes it a little impractical to be carrying a lot of ballast around with me. Also, I need to keep in mind the fact that I arrived in the place where I currently am via an airplane and an airplane is not the kind of transportation mode that enables one to carry large house-hold items around.

It makes sense that I don’t have a lot of possessions with me right now.

I was talking with a friend recently about the concept of possessions. Oftentimes I am acutely aware of the fact that I do have a (relatively) lot of possessions. It’s just that these items happen to be on the other side of the continent from me, nestled in their various storage places, held at the kindness and obligation of friends and family. What about all those things?

Somehow it feels different, like kitchen utensils and small pieces of furniture are serving a different purpose. They offer me this semblance of security as I flounce around, staying here and staying there, attempting to impose some will and order onto my life. In their existence, they offer this structure and organization that I can’t see.

Yet in the possessions I do have with me, their existence is somehow the very opposite. I want to not have a lot of things, I want them to be small and fit easily in the space of half a load of a car. The fact that there are few of them gives me security: I can flit and fly easily, unburdened in the present and able to lift up and move in an instant. Maybe that’s why my backpack serves as a bureau as much or even more than the chest of drawers it is currently leaning up against.

Not having a lot of things translates nicely symbolically into not having a lot of extraneous matter floating around my consciousness. I’m able to deal with what’s in front of me with little energy seepage to parts that are far away and only effect me peripherally. Everything I have has a purpose. As I work to embed meaning and continuity into my life I can gather it all in my awareness and lay it all out: summer clothes and scarves in a bag or hanging from a hook on the door, altar items displayed prominently throughout the house, extra toiletries and other sundries in the top flap of my bag. It all makes so much sense. If there were more it would flood my brain. There would be too much for me to handle, I wouldn’t be able to keep track of it all. Sure, I know there’s more waiting for me in darkened storage rooms to the west, but for now I’ve got it organized in a way that makes sense.

I see this desire to not own a lot of things as part of my greater desire to scrub off the parts of myself that get in the way for the Light to shine through. I don’t want to feed this fear of being open and vulnerable, I want to open the smudges that force me to hide. I don’t want to yearn onward for an endless version of what “okay” is, I want to accept everything as it is with compassion.

In that vein I take these possessions I own and wrap up the corresponding personality aspects in a warm embrace. I know I’m okay, just the way I am. I know that the things I have around me are my tools, and I know that the Light sustains and holds all things.

I’ve found another part of myself and let her into the open. I gather up these parts of me like strewn pearls, thrown throughout the universe and destined to be reclaimed. Slowly but surely I’m finding them all and stringing together a strand of connectivity—connected to self and connected to the Divine—not knowing where I’ll find one next but knowing that they’re right within my line of sight. 

Perspective

Soft and pink, my hands were warm and moist from the dish-water.

I squished the soapy sponge into a mason jar with an imperceptible chip around its mouth as I turned my hand around, shoving the sponge into the corners. Emerging out of the now-clean jar my warm pink hand began to seep out of the small cuts from my knuckle. It was a slow seep. I finished the dishes and rinsed the hand clear of suds, put a salve on it and forgot about it unless something grazed it.

A few days later I noticed the slightly inflamed patch left a curious set of scabs: it looked like a little screaming face—two small slits for eyes, one for the nose, and a slightly larger one for a mouth. Maybe it wanted to sing some opera.

I have a bad history with scabs. Especially ones on my hands. I tend to pick away at them in their dry attempts at healing and they leave scars. I will always remember the swipe of a rag that caught the edge of the steeped-tea station when I worked at Tim Horton’s years ago. That tiny scar between my ring finger’s second and third knuckle will be a permanent reminder.

This one, however, I’ve been taking diligent steps to help heal. It’s not that the Tim Horton’s cut was very deep, it’s just that my poor circulation, combined with a fascination with these kinds of things and an unwillingness to let them heal created layers of scar tissue.

Since we understand our lives through symbol and metaphor I am, of course, looking at this symbolically. First of all there’s the very interesting notion of a face, looking at me throughout the day. In fact, there it is now, squinting its mournful song as I type. Though by now one of its tiny eyes is almost too faint to see—neither me it nor it through itself, if it ever was capable of sight. Does this mean that I’ve received another perspective in life? Another way to view situations is placed firmly on my hand: this less-than-one-centimetre long new way to face my day.

What am I learning from it? Well, I am experiencing a shift lately. Its the usual yogic thing about taking responsibility for my life. Yeah, I’ve felt this shift before, and, unfortunately, I don’t feel it so acutely when I begin to slide back in the other direction: blame, self-righteousness and complacency. This little face is my voiceless, screaming reminder that I can shift my perspective; I can carve a space out of my life for my life rather than wait for space to be presented to me. I’m learning.

Now, there is also the very tangible fact that I am caring for myself through these tiny, slightly angry looking gashes. I’m very obviously and conscientiously applying salve in order to keep it hydrated and free of infection. This kind of self-care often becomes neglected by me. Not only do I care for a small portion of my index finger’s knuckle with every wash and application, I also symbolically care for my entire being.

To that end, I’ve also re-dedicated myself to my four-year old commitment to drink enough water that has somehow been left by the wayside in the past few months. It’s going well. All of these little bits are adding up into creating a whole being. The ways in which I care for myself can exponentially increase with every small influx of self-love. The result? A healthy and happy me.

Plus, get this, I’ve stopped eating sugar. Yeah. It’s going well, too.

Photo on 1-17-2014 at 12.29 PM

Ch- Ch- Changes

I bought a cell phone the other day.

This despite the fact that I have purposefully not had a cell phone for approximately five years due to the effect holding an overpowering signal receiver near one’s head when carrying on a conversation has on the body.

It hasn’t come yet—they were out of stock of the model I wanted (read: the cheapest one) so they’re shipping it to me—and I plan to use it mostly for text messaging, but my future use of said device will be expressly in order to live as though I were actually living.

“What an odd concept,” you might say, “for aren’t we all indeed living?” Yes, we sure are. But I’ve noticed an—unfortunately—common personality aspect of my life rearing its head recently that tends to put living off into the future.

I watch myself wear the same pair of pants way too often despite the fact that I recently discovered the joy of actually putting effort into my appearance. How it can boost confidence, be a reflection of happiness, and all that. (Also on this cell phone shopping trip I went by the Goodwill and successfully faced the horrendous task of buying new pants.) I would pull on those old khakis and think to myself, “I’ll wear clothes I like more later, when things are going differently in my life, when I feel I have more agency to live the life I actually want.” Oh, Guenevere. That’s exactly when I need to do those little things that make me feel empowered.

So it’s true, I haven’t been feeling empowered lately. I’ve been losing sight of the fact that I am responsible for my life right now and to push away that power through blame or feigned ignorance is an unhealthy expression of apathy. I’m learning.

And, more importantly, I’m changing my ways. I’m creating opportunities where, in the past, there were none. I’m pulling up my socks and following up on doors that have creaked half-way open. I’m doing this with courage, because we all know courage is not the absence of fear, but the the willingness to take action in spite of it.

Buying a cell phone and buying new pants are part of this change, but they’re not the only part. The most important part is for me to be willing to face every day with the wide-eyed wonder that I’ve been missing lately in my shuffling-along-with-my-eyes-to-the-icy-ground attitude, hoping that the sun will come out. Well, guess what? The sun did come out. I can now see the doormat that had previously been hiding under four feet of snow and ice before this week’s rain and warm temperatures managed to root it out.

This means that not only can I get out and walk around in whimsical spring-like weather, but that the fed-ex man will have an easier time bringing me my cell phone when it’s in stock next week. I’ll text you when I get it.

The beautiful day.

The beautiful day.

Dog Run

 

The dog ran with an urgency hindered only by her frequent compulsion to stop and sniff. There had only been one other person here since we had last been. This was after the last snowstorm, the one I walked in beginning in this direction before realizing that the return into high winds on an already biting cold day would not be pleasurable and we walked along the wood-lined road instead.

Back here in the blueberry fields it might not have been true that only one other person had been there in days. There may have been multiple people on the snowmobile as it hurdled itself along the open space swathed in snow as it was. As it is. Nevertheless, she seemed content sniffing out the same patches of grass she’d sniffed before. They were sticking up out of the piles of snow she swam in, and, even more interesting to her, was sniffing out the trail of her old tracks.

The walking eased my mind considerably. I’ve been noticing tension creep up into my body more than usual lately. Given the unity of mind and body, this tension is also snaking its way around my thoughts, around my consciousness. All the omegas-3’s in the world won’t completely assuage my racing mind. I try to consciously relax, I curse the fact that all this dog-walking has taken the morning space previously given to my fledgling regular asana practice, yet these actions don’t replace the unnecessarily engaged muscles with calm, elongated ones. What’s going on? Why can’t I relax?

I realized today that it’s a matter of space. The space that I need for myself to feel held in a vision of comfort and security is hard to muster when I move house every ten days, bopping around house/pet-sitting gigs. It’s not only about a physical place, though. It’s a measure of intended awareness spent on myself. The haphazard, when-I-can-fit-them-in asana sessions simply aren’t enough, I know that. I know that I need regular, dedicated time to listen to my body and listen to my mind. If not, I’m going to be informed of discomfort.

I know the discomfort my tense muscles and tense mind has been feeling can be alleviated, thank goodness, and fortunately, I have another doggy at my current place to lure me out on walks. And I know I can also carve out space and time for asana.

When my mind and body get too rigid I can listen and hope that next time I won’t have to wait until I hear these messages to do something about it.