Growing up on farms.
Growing up on farms.
Hi Sidra I really appreciate your reply. This is such a big issue for me and you’ve made it feel more normal and safe for me . There is/was something scary about it. It is like the Circle of Life from the Lion King we live in. Our capitalist societies are like this too, and so would have been the hunter gatherer societies, people against people always as well as against other animals. It is the world we live in. I do wonder if there was a mistake and it isn’t supposed to be like this. It is a cruel world really…
I want to see more of the beauty from my eyes and be less focused on the cruelty. Unconsciously I always have awareness of the cruelty of the world and its people and animals… I can’t get away from it.
Your reply has been so helpful for me, thank you.
I suppose we all have the ability for both such things as destruction and such things as competition. I think if we do not embrace these within ourselves the world outside can seem cruel when there presence is there in the world and within other people and animals, as they will be.
I like the story of your friend and your mentor. I agree with both people, that God is the butterfly and also that God is not only the butterfly because otherwise the butterfly couldn’t be eaten (one point I take from the story).
I am reading a book on the Gnostic gospels at the moment and will share a quote from Jesus which I think fits well with what I said above, and what I said above was in part inspired by this quote. I love the fact that Jesus here could be speaking of shadow. But also if he wasn’t, I love what Jesus says here.
Yes, those are some good words from Jesus. The term “bring forth” is key, I think, and if speaking about shadow, that term might be interpreted a little differently depending on which kind of shadow we mean. As applied to “dark” shadow, I would interpret the meaning to be to “bring forth into consciousness;” that is, to observe/witness and acknowledge the shadow element (be it cruelty, violence, whatever) with as little judgement as possible, without needing or having to act on or from it, but integrating it within the body of knowledge we have about ourselves. As applied to “golden” shadow, perhaps the meaning is more liberal, expansive: to bring it forth into the world. Is this akin to how you interpret it Julia?
Hi LaWanna, thanks for your reply and question on the distinction between bringing what could be seen as the negative shadow into consciousness and the enacting of negative shadow.
With dark shadow I think there is always a positive side to it too - e.g. a positive of destruction could be letting go. I think if we push away destruction we can cling too much because we never want what has once been important to us to ever dissappear, ever be destroyed to any extent and change from what it was. I think embracing the energy of destruction allows for this more. It becomes less painful to let go because of the embracing of this energy. This is how I am viewing this energy anyway.
But also one’s warrior side - this is also in inclusion of destruction, even if in self-defence. We want to destroy the other person’s attempts at hurting us.
I think when all the potentially negative energies are embraced they then become healthy. I think if someone in anger who did want to cause harm were to lovingly embrace their negative emotions and energies they would actually no longer wish to destroy - if they did the embracing fully enough.
I think there is golden shadow in all our shadow really. There are hidden gems even in what might seem demonic.
I’d be interested in your thoughts on this, LaWanna, if you have any more and would like to share .
I think we agree on most of this.
What I was getting at with my statement “…without needing or having to act on or from it…” is that there is always, or at least often, particularly in our ordinary lives in ordinary situations, choice. We do not have to enact everything, every ‘negative’ or disowned or dissociated shadow element that we have reclaimed or brought forth into consciousness (or embraced, to use your term) about ourselves. (And I know you know this, of course).
But becoming aware, becoming conscious of these elements within ourselves and accepting their existence is important, not only for our own greater wholeness and as a ‘check’ on our tendencies to judge others for some of the same qualities that exist within oneself, but so that we might have some understanding, and empathy even, for those who do choose (consciously or unconsciously) to enact some of their ‘darker’ urges or drives of shadow material.
Destruction is a part of life, of course, along with creation and sustainment. In fact, destruction can be seen as making way for creation, and in that sense, could be a transformative act. Every time you or I tear up a poem we’ve begun, and start over, we’ve let go, as you say, through that act of destruction, and we’ve made way for a new creation. So yes, destruction can have a “positive” implication. And in this way, destruction and creation can be viewed as a polarity, not just as a good/bad pair.
But I can also speak of destruction in another sense: for instance, Hitler and the Holocaust. Did Hitler push away destruction, or did he embrace it? He definitely enacted it. There seems to be, minimally, some moral if not sanity considerations around this type of destruction. While you and I can accept destruction in the abstract, or as shadow tendencies in ourselves we have reclaimed as part of how we know ourselves and as a way of making ourselves more whole, and can accept destruction as part of the creation-preservation-destruction cycle within life and consciousness–and Hitler too apparently saw his destruction as making way for a new creation–I think Hitler probably had other shadow material (his ethnocentricity, for one thing, and perhaps his drug abuse and overall mental state) that permitted his enactment of such destruction.
I appreciated your comment in the context of your statements about self-defense and one’s warrior side that “we want to destroy the other person’s attempts at hurting us” (rather than necessarily, the person). My definition of the true (and perhaps ideal) warrior is someone who is in heart and mind basically peaceful. I know this goes against the typical thought-stream around warriorship, where we think of fierceness and brutality or as you say, destruction, or killings on a battlefield. But warriors have a lot of tools, or weapons if you like, in their kit that do no physical harm to the opponent. Things like communication and negotiation, strategy and strategic planning, perseverance, sobriety, courageous action, patience/forbearance, elements of surprise, even trickery, and of course, retreat and surrender. It all depends on the context what elements might be most useful.
But I will share that twice in my life, I have been surprisingly and seriously threatened with a violent death at the hands of another, both of those situations lasting for more than an hour (loaded guns being held on me). I can honestly say that destroying the other person or destruction in general of any kind, was the farthest thing from my mind. And yet, I was a good warrior. I was courageous (though not without fear), persevered with patience for the situation, maintained self-control, used my communication skills, and retreated inside myself while maintaining conversation, and I surrendered in a sense by repeating silently my meditative mantra. Both situations resolved without any physical harm to anyone.
Of course, that was those situations, and I’ve also defended myself and my space from an intruder by confronting them head-on with a fury from hell. That worked too
And P.S. For what it’s worth, I eat meat now, but like you have been vegetarian off and on. My very long-term practice when consuming meat is to acknowledge the spirit of the animal and saying to it “one day I too shall die.” I do this when I intentionally kill a bug or spider too. Works for me, acknowledging the sameness about us, and the oneness of Spirit.
My daughter had a chicken that had a status somewhere between human and animal.
It wasn’t a farm and my daughter wasn’t isolated the rest of her life, but she was about 2-3 or so and this was before her first human friend.
At some point as a teenager she did go vegan as she was working out her own individual identity. She also participated in animal rights protests and so on. I think she now has amore balanced diet that is plant centered. I think she does eat meat, but not very much.
I’m pretty sure we didn’t eat that chicken and it’s corpse went on the compost. I’m not 100% sure (it was in the care of her grandpa) but I think he knew what she felt about it and I guess he’s had similar food pet friends in his lifetime.
I think isolation affects us negatively no matter what, and then it would be a bit of a briar patch to try and figure out what negative effect was isolation itself. Humans are social creatures and not having that social interaction has repercussions. I tended to self-isolate most of my life, but went into the imaginary world instead of befriending animals.
In human social interactions by and large we generally do not kill and eat other humans, but we do betray and are betrayed. We objectify others, both males and females. We may psychologically “cannibalize” - consume another’s mental health until it is used up. Such people I’ve heard called “psychic vampires”. We exploit other humans including children, either directly, or indirectly such as when we purchase that Iphone. We vote for laws to keep the homeless out of our line of sight.
Whether to recognize this or not is usually a subconscious choice. We know child labor is used by name brands, but we subconsciously decide not to think of it. We also all know animals suffer to provide us meat and dairy, and also generally choose not to think about it.
If we make the conscious effort to think it, we then have two further choices:
1 - to go through the denial - anger - bargaining - sadness and likely as not get stuck at some level on that route or
2 - to go straight to acceptance. Acceptance doesn’t mean condoning or supporting. Just accepting.
Regarding the spiritual aspect, I don’t follow any Christian tradition and I chose to avoid that tar baby.
I have the opinion that many Buddhists and certain other traditions cling a bit overly much to Veganism. I’ve heard many a Buddhist express anger or feelings of superiority regarding those who do not embrace 100% veganism. Ironically their Veganism hinders their progression. Of course there are also 9/10 who just quietly practice it, but the vocal minority draws the most attention.
In regards to spiritual matters, I mostly see the functional utility of having an empty stomach while pursuing the spiritual, and meat and dairy linger longer in the guts than vegetable matter. So eating vegetables produces superior results to eating meat to achieve meditative states, but is also in turn inferior to just not eating anything for a few days. With the understanding (but not guilt) that I am just as culpable wearing manufactured clothing and using technology devices and petroleum products made possible by countless murders as I am also eating a hormone and antibiotic laden steak, my choice to not eat the same steak depends on what I want to accomplish within the next 72 hours - achieve a state of meditative bliss or hike up a snow bound mountain? The more I need to have that dead life force fueling my body to exert some kind of mundane force on my environment, the more likely I will eat that steak. The more I want to establish connection to others and the mystical, the more I will be likely to not eat at all for a period of time and then eat some fruit and veg. I think there is a risk in attempting to force oneself 100% on the latter path before one is naturally ready. I’ve noticed that going without food is easy when it is naturally time to do so, as is going without other consumer items. If I have not done the preparatory work, it’s almost impossible.
Hi LaWanna, I hope you’re well today. I’m so sorry about these experiences you’ve had. They sound terrifying. I’m so glad you made it out of them with no physical harm, and it’s amazing you found ways to cope in the situation in which you were trapped - chanting your mantra, and managing to keep self-control, keep patience and use you conversational skills.
I agree there are of course terrible things that happen in the world, and perhaps when people are doing their own personal shadow work around the darker aspects, the words can have limited meanings, where everything is only the very light, like with an abstract thinking around destruction being letting go.
I am never blind to all the horror in the world, though of course I can’t know all of it. I have always been very aware of it. I had nightmares from an early age and so often felt very wrapped up in it. I’ve also been the victim of violence as a child. This has affected me, I’m sure. I never wish violence on anyone.
Shadow work is complicated. I think we can use words such as destruction and use them more metaphorically. But also of course it is important to acknowledge the terrible destruction and violence that happens in the world and be clear what is meant when using such words, so people are clear one is not okay with the violence of the world, and also that one is not saying one is committing this kind of violence or any violence.
Thank you for your reply and sharing LaWanna. You have helped me see I need to more careful with this kind of language to be clearer with my meaning. People can and do sometimes think I am condoning what I am not condoning at all when I speak with this kind of language that I’m trying to be less fearful of. And of course one should be fearful of it in a sense. In most senses.
But I am also trying to let go of all fear. Because things like destruction happen all the time in all our lives in lighter ways, and also in ways that can be harmful, but less harmful than such things as physical violence, torture, or mass murders such as the Holocaust. Of course these are extreme examples. I wish to be less afraid of the damage people can cause just through everyday cruelty or lack of awareness of the feelings of others. There are so many feelings people have which many people find it difficult to understand at all or fully. I fear people. I wish I could become less fearful of other people.
Beautiful commentary, Julia. And thank you, yes I’m well today.
Yes, destruction (and death) happen all the time, in both lighter and heavier ways, in our personal lives and in the world at large. They are a part of life, no getting around that. I return frequently to that paradoxical statement “everything’s perfect, now let’s get busy changing it as fast as we can.” The first part, the “everything’s perfect,” tells us acceptance (and a degree of non-attachment) of how things are is necessary. The second part tells us to work towards what we define as betterment. In the context of cruelty and hurtful behavior and violence and destruction, “betterment” to me means they can, and they need to be, reduced, in ourselves if they are overaccentuated and in the world, and that we shouldn’t give up on that idea, on that possibility that they can be reduced. People can grow numb, become desensitized to cruelty and violence and destruction when they are commonplace.
I see you Julia as a sensitive person, and actually, sort of as a delicate flower in fresh bloom (and that is meant to be taken as a compliment ). But I also see you as a flower that can withstand strong winds; I’ve observed as much in some of your posts in the past, when, for instance, you were not avoidant, but asserted yourself and your values and effectively confronted some people whose perspectives were demeaning and cruel and based on false information and essentially misogynistic (even though they denied that). Maybe you remember this? So there is a strong verbal warrior in you that comes into play at times, so kudos for that!
To feel, to sense, to be sensitive, to be or feel vulnerable, and to be kind or loving and relational are not weaknesses, per se. We live in a world where certain things are weighted more heavily, valued as more important, than other things. More people can support a Donald Trump or his ilk in general, for instance, than they can, say, a Marianne Williamson. Certain things are foregrounded over others: individualism over interconnectedness, for example, or ‘toughness’ over softness (as if there is no strength in people or things that are soft; silk, by the way, is the strongest natural textile in the world).
One piece of the work of the Integral project as I see it is to bring more balance to such things, and we each participate in that by bringing more balance to ourselves and also speaking to these things in whatever arenas are available to us. I recognize that you perhaps see your personal work as needing to maybe “toughen up” some, and to be less fearful of people. If you want to share more about that–the form your fear of other people takes (is it social anxiety? or emotional sensitivity (feelings easily hurt)? or a subtle sensing of energies that is uncomfortable and feels threatening? or something else?)-- I’d be glad to continue the conversation if you choose, but I don’t want to intrude, or overstay my welcome in this interaction.
You have a great day!
Gotta say Ray, you really know how to flesh out a conversation. I particularly liked your comments about the “functional utility of having an empty stomach…”. I agree with you.
Thanks for your reply. I mean, it’s very normal for children to befriend farm animals. Most children do even though those animals will be eaten. But I think some children are more sensitive than others. Both my brothers were this way too. We also had many many pets that didn’t get eaten. I think it’s also being unable to ignore it. One of my brothers was vegetarian from the age of eight even before we moved to the farm. Being aware of terror in the world brings greater heartbreak but it also shows greater sensitivity.
Most adults still turn a blind eye but we never did. My parents were like this too. They hated the suffering of animals, and they made an organic free-range chicken farm purposefully so the animals had a good life. They are both vegan now and they never ate non-free range meat when they did eat it. Greater sensitivity I think makes you turn toward the suffering in the world and want to change it.
I am no longer vegan as my health was and is quite bad at the moment, and I get low on energy. I think it is far more moral and loving to be vegan than not. But it is often a balance. And like you say, it can be too big a challenge when people aren’t ready for it.
Glad to hear your daughter had a positive relationship with an animal growing up too. I think these experiences are helpful and beautiful things. Perhaps this experience also swayed your daughter into becoming vegan. Seeing the sentience of animals can often do this
Animals people? More like we are all creatures with much in common. Over personification is something that bothers me. All the adds that say treat your dog and cat as family. Yes, and no. Once we “acquire” them whichever way, we are responsible for their well being and care. However they do not necessarily need an expensive human diet. etc. or being treated like children. Dog parent??? Give me a break!
I feel a strong affinity and love for all creatures, 2-legged, 3 legged, 4, 6, 8, and winged, crawlies and slitherers. They all deserve to be appreciated and thanked for their service .
Thank you, LaWanna. I don’t know. I think for me it’s an oversensitivity to the energies of others. It’s not that mentally I’m frightened. It’s more like a physical overwhelm. I’m okay with it Thank you for your being supportive
I love this . I agree all creatures deserve to be appreciated and thanked for their service. I feel a strong affinity with all too, humans and animals