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Day 4: Gratitude and Sorrow at the Dump

Updated: Jan 9, 2022

As I started my day today, I wondered where the focus of my practice would be today. I found my mind was trying to identify the single task for me to do today, almost as a way to excuse me from wearing the more spiritual identity all day long. Upon noticing that, I changed my focus and have been asking, which each task I have been engaged in, “How would I do this task as a nature spirit?”

The biggest item on my todo list was to go to the town dump. And after a week out of town, plus the dump being closed before Christmas, there was ample trash and recycling to get rid of, and items to donate to the town’s “swap shop.”

At the transfer station, I noticed that my tendency in the past has been to say or feel “good riddance” to what I was getting rid of. I do enjoy clearing clutter, dropping off what no longer serves, unburdening my life in whatever ways I can. Today I changed my energy as I put things in the bins. I offered a thank you to each of the items I donated to the collective pool at the swap shop. Those things - a collection of tea sets, a large oven pan, old glassware - had all been in my life for a time and served their purpose.

In fact, I considered that their life was beyond mine. They were dreamt up by a human somewhere, manufactured by other humans, packaged, sold, and transported by other humans still before they even met me. Now I offered them gratitude and well wishes for their continued journeys.

I also considered this for the boxes and cans and bags of trash I dropped off. With the recyclable material I found myself grateful for the engineers who developed the process of recycling. Trusting that these materials would soon find their way into a new life was comforting.

While I was able to offer gratitude for the items in the more traditional trash bags for what they had offered me in my life, I also found myself very sad at being part of a culture that generates so much waste. So much of that waste will take millennia to fully decompose. I trust that the Earth and her children tasked with composting will do their great work on all of this, but that will happen at a time scale far greater than my life.

I also realized the relative impossibility of going trash-free. Despite my best intentions and actions, it is practically impossible for me to live a waste-free life in this culture. I felt awful for being part of a system - and trapped in said system - that generates so much damage.

Lamenting in this as I drove home, I saw a man on the side of the road with a large garbage bag. He was walking the street which cuts through a swath of woods, picking up random pieces of trash that were strewn about. As much as we live in a culture that sees the Earth as a commodity, there are individuals who live in respect for it.

It was a reminder that from a small perspective, I may be getting rid of the trash from “my” area of residence. But broadening that perspective, considering that my area of residence is the entire planet, I'm simply relocating these items.

I had a more difficult time the rest of the day maintaining a more spiritual, connected perspective. In modern parlance, I didn't want to adult today. I wondered if maybe it was due to feeling complicit in the devastation we've wrought on the planet, or maybe it's the natural backlash of my inner Peter Pan after a couple days of leaning into that more spiritual side of me. Or maybe both.

Feeling more directly what we have done to the natural world with all our waste definitely led me to wanting to opt out. Opt out of tuning in. Connecting more deeply just led to witnessing deeper devastation. If I keep going, will I experience even more? Ugh. That sense of overwhelm and desire to avoid led me to have a rougher rest of the day, and feel a bit the impostor when teaching shamanic healing this evening. Once I got home after work and settled in with my dog, things felt better. Maybe it was the act of the simple love of a dog, or maybe it was that I could withdraw back to my inner sanctum of denial. Maybe both.

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