Friday, May 21, 2010

Moving on

For me this is a time of endings, a time of nostalgia, a time for farewells.

My next blog posting will be written in our new rental forest home and between then and now lies a rather daunting to-do list, not to mention an exhausting list of concerns and anxieties about the move. We’re not just moving 500km away to a new town; we’re actually moving an eternity away to a whole new reality.

Suddenly, after all the months of talking about it and preparing for it, the time has finally come for us to start creating and living this new reality we have dreamed of for so long. Although there is a great deal of uncertainty and some fear about our new life, we have already mostly disconnected ourselves from our old life and we find ourselves in a rather unsettling place, betwixt and between.

As this weekend will be our very last in the city, we had planned to enjoy the best that city life has to offer. However, when we sat down to plan the weekend, we both realized that there was absolutely nothing we wanted to do other than stay home and cook a quiet meal, to be eaten amidst the piles of boxes. Just as well, I suppose. It would have been rather problematic if we still hankered after the city life.

However, there is still some attachment left to the old life. It’s quite amazing to discover how very closely I have identified myself with my home and I find myself experiencing periodic anxiety about whether the new owners will take good care of the pool, the garden and whether their furniture will look good in “my” home and worrying about whether they will repaint the walls which I so lovingly and painstakingly painted myself with specially selected textured paint. I know I have to relinquish my attachment to this house. I guess I’m really experiencing first-hand the suffering caused by what the Buddhists refer to as “attachment to form”. It’s been so interesting to note that every single possession I have released, from my home to my car to my clothing to my furniture etc was something that, once upon a time, I specially chose and loved very much. However, there comes a time when we have to release every last thing, including ideas and thought-forms and abstractions. And our attachment to those things, our identification of ourselves with those things, is what causes us pain and suffering.

I suppose mostly what I am having to let go of right now are the final vestiges of the previous ideas I had of myself; the go-getter, the yuppie, the “successful”, busy, upwardly mobile career person. I don’t really know who the new me is, but I need to create the space for her to come into being and the only way to do that is to finally discard all of the old.

I am suddenly acutely aware of the fact that I really am taking a leap into the complete unknown with only my heart to guide me home.

During the past few weeks, as I’ve said my final goodbyes to friends and family, I have been aware that several of these goodbyes will, in fact, be goodbye forever. My journey is taking me in a certain direction and I know that, despite their good intentions to visit, many will find that their own life journey simply makes this a remote possibility. So there’s been a lot of sadness and grieving for what was, but also a lot of reflection and many beautiful memories of journeys undertaken with some very special people.

So, now… here I am… standing on the edge of the cliff, with a very thin bungee cord attached to my ankles… waiting for the moment… heart pounding with excitement and a touch of fear….

Three, two, one… BUNGEEEEEEE…….

Next: First 10 days in Paradise

Friday, May 14, 2010

"Eating Animals"

I’ve been struggling to complete this blog posting for over a month now. The main reason for this delay is that I have found it very difficult to describe my own experiences and choices without appearing to be either prescriptive or judgmental of the choices of others. So please read this posting in the knowledge that I am aware that I hold the truth for no one but myself. Also, please accept that my personal choices imply absolutely no judgment of the choices of others.

I’ve recently finished reading the book, “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer (author of 2 previous books, which I enjoyed immensely: “Everything is Illuminated” and “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”). Jonathan undertook the research, which eventually led to his writing this book, because he wanted to make informed decisions about the food he would choose to feed his infant son. Despite the fact that three years of intensive research into farming practices went into the writing of this book, I also undertook a personal mission to verify for myself, as far as possible, some of the practices described therein.

I have always had a terribly uncomfortable feeling about the keeping and slaughter of animals for human food and this was something that I hid from myself in order to continue partaking of all the foods I enjoyed - a dirty little secret that I avoided looking at. Now that I have the cold, hard facts about factory farming, I find that I am unable to justify for myself the continued consumption of most of these foods.

Although I have called myself a “vegetarian” for almost 3 years, I have still enjoyed the occasional seafood and I have continued to eat free-range eggs and r-BST free milk, cheese, butter and yogurt. After reading what is actually meant by factory-farmed “free-range” eggs I find that I am unable to give my permission to the cruelty involved. A simple e-mail to our retailer of choice clearly indicated to me that I am condoning the most horrific cruelty by eating even so-called “free-range eggs”. Try it. Ask your retailer exactly what is meant by free-range (specifically how much space each chicken actually has to walk around in and the life expectancy, health and holding conditions of even free-range chickens). Also ask what happens to the male chicks… When I discovered the sheer criminal wastage of so-called “by-catch” associated with modern fishing practices and the pollution and cruelty associated with fish farming, I found myself unable to partake of seafood any longer. It simply isn’t financially viable to farm in a more humane fashion, as we require ever-increasing amounts of food at relatively cheap prices.

But, as Safran Foer points out, I vote 3 times a day with my fork in favour of the continued cruelty associated with modern factory farming practices. Until I stop…

We are all, in the words of Wendell Berry, “farmers by proxy”. What am I prepared to condone in the name of “taste”? I agree with Safran Foer that it’s in EXTREMELY bad taste to torture animals in order to gratify my taste buds. I wonder how an advanced race of beings visiting our planet would experience the human race if they were to be shown the unbelievable cruelty and wastage associated with animal factory farming and slaughter?

But what do I do with this information I now have about farming practices? How does this affect my future food choices? Do I become a dreaded “food fascist”? And what do I do about my leather shoes, belts and jackets? Do I wear out the clothing I currently have and then purchase only made-made fabrics in future? But how about the destruction of natural habitats caused by the production of such synthetic fabrics and do I look deeply into the practices involved in the production of these products? Where do I draw my own personal line? Do I try and change the world by becoming an activist? Do I wish for THIS to become my life’s purpose?

Some of the things I can immediately do include searching for a local family farmer that can provide us with eggs and milk products that I can consume with a clear conscience. Certainly I will personally visit the farm and make sure that the animals are treated fairly and humanely. Until then I no longer eat eggs and I have severely limited my intake of milk products (alas, for me, cheese is the hardest thing to give up!) In the last few months I have discovered that it’s definitely not necessary to eat vast quantities of animal protein, as I have become increasingly aware of the multitude of beautiful, nutritious and absolutely delicious foods that are available to vegans. I have already, and continue to reduce my wasteful consumption of consumer goods. But, are these measures enough?

Eating food is an incredibly intimate thing to do - taking the body of another living being into my own body as a means to continually re-create myself. It stands to reason that each decision I take about every mouthful I take is a decision about how I wish to create myself. Here, in this moment, NOW, I decide who I will become in the future.

I am not advocating veganism, even though I think that I will probably end up making the choice to become a vegan myself (if I can possibly find a way to give up cheese, that is!) What I AM advocating is becoming conscious of how I vote with my fork (and with my wallet); to become consciously aware of every choice that I make. Then I think that I can allow myself some grace, some time to find alternatives to the food and other animal products I currently depend upon.

A commitment to being consciously aware and to continuously improve is what I have come up with for myself. I find that I can live with this... for now.

And so the journey continues…

Next: Moving on

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Spiritual guidance

I have been rather resistant about writing the following blog posting. The main reason being that I know that several of my regular readers will find what I have to say rather “flaky”, to say the least, and may perhaps have some concerns for my sanity! However, I have undertaken to chronicle my ongoing journey toward discovering my life’s purpose and each week I write about that which is top of mind for me at the time of writing. And, after all, this is MY blog and I don’t compel anyone to continue reading it! So, here goes:

I have had quite a few people lately asking me versions of the following question, “But, Lisa, what is it that you DO all day?” I think this is mainly because I have always been such a busy, active do-er that it is difficult to comprehend that I have spent the last 4 months doing nothing much at all! However, these questions from friends and family, and my own uncertainty, have led to some anxiety and I have started to ask myself whether I have progressed at all in finding my life’s purpose, which is what I set out to do at the start of this adventure. As I was unable to answer this question with any degree of clarity or certainty, I decided to hold the question in my mind whilst meditating and specifically request input and assistance from my spiritual guide.

Until 3 or 4 years ago I had a guide called Elizabeth. She had a very warm, nurturing energy and she simply held me in her unconditional love until I was able to find love for myself. After this I became aware of a “changing of the guard” and I knew that Elizabeth had moved on to do other tasks, her work with me complete. I was assigned another guide about whom I knew very little. He had a far more “masculine”, sometimes rather intimidating, energy and I always experienced his presence as a vast cloud of intense blue light. I had a sense of immense integrity, clarity, truth and trustworthiness about my new guide. This was a far less personal relationship than the one I had enjoyed with Elizabeth and I was led to understand that this was a “grown-up guide for a maturing soul”. I haven’t really felt the need or the desire to find out more about my new guide during the past few years. However, my question about my life’s purpose led me to directly ask for his assistance for the first time this week. Below is the conversation that ensued.

Actually the conversation did not take place in words at all, but rather I was immediately presented with fully formulated concepts (some of which were rather surprising to me!) every time I held a question in my mind. I subsequently “translated” the concepts into words (losing a great deal of the richness and meaning in the translation, I might add). However, even the final version in words, below, offers a great deal of insight and value to my current situation.

Lisa: Am I “on course” in my life; am I doing what I am supposed to be doing?

Guide: Do we really need to regress to childhood again at this point?!
You KNOW that you are exactly where you should be and doing exactly what you should be doing. It is artifice and counter-productive to pretend that you don’t know. Life is not served by your acting small or ignorant.

Lisa: OK, I guess I do know, but it seems to be taking so long to find my life’s purpose. What is it that I need to be learning right now?

Guide: Patience and humility.
You are done with accomplishments for now. It is your partner’s turn to shine. You need to sit quietly in the ever-expanding knowledge of who you REALLY are without constantly feeling the need to remind everyone of who your ego thinks you are.

Lisa: But isn’t this a terrible waste of my talents and abilities?

Guide: Do you really believe that your greatest talents are associated with the personality, called Lisa? Your greatest talents lie in your BEING, not in Lisa’s DOING. In this lifetime you chose to have the potential to be or do anything you wanted. However, NOW you have to realize that your true value and worth have absolutely nothing to do with Lisa’s achievements, talents and potential.
You have been viewing the finding of your life’s purpose as yet another achievement to add to your long list!

That is why I tell you that, until you can sit quietly in the knowledge of who you truly are and relinquish your ceaseless hunger for achievement, affirmation and sense of accomplishment, you will not find your true life’s purpose.

Purpose can never be about ego. So, sit still and BE.

Lisa: OK, I accept all this because I know it to be true. But what should I DO in the meantime?

Guide: In every moment, ask yourself, “How best might I serve Life in this moment?” Then, do that.

Lisa: How will I know what that is? Sometimes I feel so alone. Will I receive help and guidance?

Guide: Again, this is the question of a spiritual child. You are fully aware that you receive absolutely all the assistance you require whenever you need it.

Well, I guess it couldn’t get much clearer that that! I can tell you that my ego didn’t like this conversation one little bit! My ego wants to have big and important and serious stuff to do and patience has always been one of my weaknesses. So, I guess that is exactly why I am in the perfect place right now to learn this lesson.

And so the journey continues…