Tuesday, 27 December 2011
There are so many pressing issues that I cannot begin to list them all. They include (in no particular order) deforestation, climate change & peak oil, bee decline, loss of biodiversity, social and economic injustice, animal welfare, the banking system, the power of the multinationals, soil degradation, GMOs, pesticides, pollution…..the list goes on.
Having run around like a headless chicken for many years trying to help raise awareness of most of the above, I decided a few years ago to try and focus on the issues I personally feel most passionate about. This doesn't mean I don't care about the others, or that I think they are less important or pressing than those that I choose to focus on.... it just means I believe I can be more effective with my time and energy if I follow my own heart rather than someone else's heart. I also believe I can be more effective if I work in my own way, with my own skills.
We have all been gifted different skills, personalities, abilities and world views, so it stands to reason that we are going to have different ways of doing things. This is just wonderful because it means that, collectively, we can appeal to a much wider range of people. However it means also we will not always agree with each other!
Some of us are politically minded, some are not. Some put their trust in science; others in spiritual or 'alternative' practices. Some are only just waking up to the fact that there are problems to be dealt with whilst others have been campaigning for decades. There are those who choose to 'be the change' by quietly living low impact lives and there are activists who are prepared to face injury and even death for what they believe needs to change. In fact, we probably have as many different ways of 'thinking' and 'behaving' as there are issues to be dealt with. To my mind this is a positive thing.
However, I have noticed recently that some groups, organisations and individuals spend a great deal of valuable time and energy trying to persuade others that 'their' way is the 'best' way, or the 'only' way. Or... that their 'issue' is the most important issue.
Surely this is counter productive? I don't think there is a 'best' way, or an 'only' way, or a 'most important' issue. There are many ways to effect change and many important things that need to change - and they are all equally important.
We are all just tiny little cogs in a huge giant wheel and it has NEVER been more important for us to work alongside each other..... to co-operate, to communicate, to support, to respect and honour our differences and to stop picking holes in each others belief systems. It's time for us to drop both individual and organisational ego. This is not a competition and there is absolutely no place for ego if we are to make headway.
So, whoever you are, and however you choose to 'Be The Change', remember that you are a wonderfully unique and amazing being…..so please, keep on doing what you do in your own special way!
Thank you for all that you do
Monday, 12 December 2011
As this is a conclusion I have only fully come to realise, recognise and understand through the experience of living in my own skin, I thought the easiest way to explain it would be to personalise it. Although what I write here is very personal, I'm hoping it might just resonate with others who are in a similar place to me....
Being Human/Human Being
For most of my life I have been aware that as well as having multi faceted personalities, human beings are also composed of, and operate on, a number of different energetic levels. It's easy to recognise and understand the physical, mental and emotional aspects of being human - and I known how important it is to keep these aspects as balanced as possible. However, I have often struggled to understand why my inner self (soul, spirit, essence?) seems to be pulling me in so many different directions. This has never been more apparent to me than during the last ten years or so - a time during which I have made a commitment to dedicate my time and energy to help raise awareness of the important environmental, ethical and ecological issues facing planet Earth and its inhabitants at this moment in time.
I imagined, rather naively, that once I had made this commitment, the way forward would be obvious. But it hasn't been. In fact quite the opposite; I have found myself absolutely torn between...
'getting out there to learn and share as much as I can, with as many people as possible, about how they/we can all be the change'
'staying quietly at home, living the lowest impact life I possibly can, and 'being the change' all by myself'.
As there is no reason why these two ways shouldn't be mutually inclusive I have attempted to follow both paths at the same time. But this has not made for an easy life. It has at best caused some degree of inner conflict (not to mention confusion) and at times has resulted in me feeling I am in danger of losing my sense of direction. Which is not good!
So what have I got wrong - and what's it all got to do with spirit and soul???
Being a Busy Bee
Until recently I have spent most of my waking hours traveling from A to B, meeting people, doing talks (mostly about bees!), campaigning, writing articles and blog posts, sharing information on social networks and generally buzzing with energy and the extraordinary life force that comes with knowing you are following your chosen path. This is all fine on one level, because I absolutely LOVE doing what I do, but it's not really sustainable. It leaves me little time for friends and family, even less time for myself, and is, ironically, pulling me away from the very path I write and talk about. I know that if I don't find a way to bring some balance back to my life I'm in serious danger of losing touch with all that I hold sacred.
A few years ago, in an attempt to find a way to recharge my batteries and stay in touch with that which nurtures and sustains me, I came up with the idea of going 'Off-grid' on Sundays. I've written a few blog posts about this so won't go into any detail about it in this post, but basically it means that from Saturday evenings till Monday mornings I try to 'switch off' - both literally and figuratively.
The idea is that after spending 24 hours or so without using electricity, gas, car, mobile, computer, car money etc - and having used this time to immerse myself in nature, I'm ready to start afresh all over again on Monday morning. And it works!
It is typical of human beings that we don't always notice ourselves losing our balance. Our bodies give us warning signs (sleepless nights, headaches, lowered immune systems etc) but we have become past masters at ignoring and overriding these signals.
For the last five years or so I have been promising myself a little break, but I never actually get around to taking one. As I've already mentioned, I absolutely love what I do so it doesn't feel like work, as such - BUT - I am extremely aware that I'm treading a very thin line and that if something new, difficult or unexpected is added to the pot, I could easily fall over.
So, bearing all this in mind, and given the fact that this is a great time of year for reflection and inner spring cleaning, I recently took some time out from 'doing' and spent it instead just 'being.' I had no preconceived idea what I would do with this time out and, as it happened, I spent most of it sleeping. But, with rest comes clarity and, for me, this clarification came in the form of an awareness of the difference between spirit and soul....
My spirit is full of passion, joy, anger, rhythm, life, wonder... It is the spirit of an activist, a communicator, an explorer, an adventurer and a pioneer. It wants to be free, to be wild... to walk the hills, to dance on the moon, to swim amongst the stars, to play, to sing, to love, to laugh... and to stand, arms outstretched, on the highest mountain top in the world and ROOOAAAAAR for the Earth!
For reasons unknown to me, my spirit has lain dormant for most of my life... hiding in the shadows whilst life's ups and downs have formed my human self into what I am today. Since it has made itself known though, it will not be repressed and fills me with boundless energy so that I, in my human form, may fulfil its aims.
I can hear my spirit speak as I write this blog post. It says.....
"Tell how I shine! Explain how I hold the key - AM the key - to some of the most amazing, vast, untapped source of energy in the universe and how - if you allow me - I will shine my light so brightly that darkness will be no more!"
My soul is quieter than my spirit....much, much quieter. It yearns for peace, solitude, a sense of place and a deeper connection with the earth. It is my anchor; utterly steadfast and constant as it nurtures and sustains me whilst it, in turn, seeks to be nurtured and sustained by nature and by source. In line with what I recognise to be the most basic needs of my soul, I have been drawn to spend more and more time outside in nature. When I am at one with nature I quickly become lost in time, invisible to the world and completely absorbed in the moment. It feels like I have come 'home'.
Sensing, at last, that I have 'Come Home' is the most amazing feeling for me. Having spent my entire life moving from home to home, never living in the same place for longer than four years, and mostly for less than two - I have never before had such a sense of 'place'. The problem recently though, has been that it feels so wonderful to have this newfound sense of place that I find it increasingly difficult to come back to the world of campaigning....
So, you see, I have been torn between my soul's deep, primal craving to just 'be' and my spirit's burning, driven desire to 'act'. At times it has sometimes felt like I'm two different people living in the same body, but now that I understand - I have regained my inner peace once more and know exactly what I must do.
It's simple.... I must nurture my soul because it is the core of my very being - and - I must nurture my spirit because it is the essence of who I am. Most importantly I must make enough time to honour the needs of both in equal measures.
So, as the future gallops towards us with all its magnificent unknowns, I know that by honouring and fulfilling the needs of both 'spirit' and 'soul' - in equal measures - I will reinforce my inner strength and be ready to take on whatever the universe has in mind for me!
I hope, whoever you are, that you also find your own peace and strength to sustain you through these incredibly challenging times - and that our souls/spirits/beings/selves all meet as one to rise to those challenges.
I just want to add that what I have written here is personal to me and my own world view. I know that many people believe there is no such thing as 'soul' or 'spirit' and I fully respect these views
With much love,
Update. Dec 2014, 3 years after I wrote this blog post: Until earlier this year the Off-Grid Sunday routine worked beautifully for me on every level, but I needed a bit of a 're-think' for a number of practical reasons.
1. I am increasingly getting bookings to deliver workshops on Sundays.
2. I am fortunate enough to be in a wonderful, loving new relationship and am no longer living on my own. I don't feel it is right to ask someone else to live by my precepts when they have family who they need to see and communicate with on Sundays.
3. My father died earlier this year and I am now responsible for caring for my mother who is elderly and disabled. I don't live in the same house as my mother, so wouldn't want to switch my phone off in case she needed me.
However….. as Sundays are no longer completely my own, I find time during the week to switch off and connect with the wild world instead. I am also increasingly taking whole chunks of time out to refresh and revitalise. I still struggle to get the balance right. I guess that's because I'm human :)
Thursday, 8 December 2011
The lorry engine was running but as there was no sign of the driver, I pulled up and got out of the car to have a look. I was absolutely shocked when I realised that the boxes contained thousands of creatures that I knew to be chickens, but which didn't look like any 'chickens' I'd ever seen before.
The image that remains ingrained in my memory is one of thousands of poor, sorry looking hens looking like they had already been plucked ready for someone to cook. Their combs were as pale as their white, featherless skins and many of them were covered in growths and open sores.
Whilst I was still standing looking at them the lorry driver came out of the 'farm' so I asked him what was wrong with the chickens (I assumed they must have some kind of disease to be looking the way they did). "Nowt wrong with them" he replied. "other than the fact that they're past their best. They're off to be slaughtered now."
Still in shock, and unable to get my head around what I was seeing and hearing, I asked a few more questions to try and get a grasp of the situation. I soon came to understand that these chickens were what we refer to as 'ex-battery hens' and that having spent a year living in cramped, dark conditions, laying eggs for the Great British Public, they had now been written off as 'unviable' and packed into these crates to be picked up and taken away to be slaughtered.
I had a cardboard box in the boot of my car so I asked the lorry driver if I could take some of the hens home with me. He agreed that, so long as I didn't tell anyone where I'd got them from, I could take three.
This was my first experience of rescuing ex-battery hens...but it certainly wasn't my last. The pleasure our family had from watching Felicity, Flora and Freda (these were the names we gave our first three girls) blossom into fully feathered hens - each with her own personality - was immeasurable. They soon learned how to flap their wings, scratch in the grass for food and dig dust baths to cleanse themselves...and they came running to the back door every time it was opened o the off chance that there might be some left over cake, bread, or, best of all, spaghetti! The thing that always grips me most about ex-battery hens though, is that after having suffered so horribly at the hands of other human beings, they are still completely and utterly trusting of whoever rescues them. Extraordinary creatures!
I've lost count now of how many ex-batts our family rescued over the years....and therein lies a big problem. In thirty years you'd have thought things might have changed - it's not as though there haven't been countless awareness raising campaigns - but sadly, the miserable conditions that these and other factory farmed animals are reared in have barely improved at all. Shame on us.
I am in awe of the fact that my reason for writing this blog, nearly thirty years after having rescued those first three ex-battery hens, is that millions of hens in the EU still live in cages.
We are told that conditions are improving....and that new legislation that came into effect on 1st January 2012 should ensure better welfare in the EU for battery hens. However, the issue is far more complex than it first appears...
Ignoring the fact that these 'improved' conditions are nowhere NEAR adequate for the basic needs of a living creature...there is also a danger that the costs of implementing the changes will be so huge that farmers in the EU who have made the switch to 'enriched' cages are now likely to have their eggs out-priced by eggs from countries outside the EU where the conditions hens are kept in are, heaven forbid, even worse. Bizzarely, there is going to be very little in the way of 'enforcement' from the powers-that-be to stop this from happening (link to government document explaining why they can't enforce this below)
So what can we do to help?
Well, first of all, and most urgently, you could rescue some ex-battery hens. If you think you can re-home a few hens PLEASE contact the 'BRITISH HEN WELFARE TRUST' - link below
The other thing you can do is to buy eggs only if you are absolutely sure that they have come from organic free-range flocks. This will cost you more, but it is the right thing to do and is the only way we can send a clear message out to supermarkets, producers and governments that we will not tolerate current animal welfare standards.
If you have no space to house hens, perhaps you could make a donation to the 'Battery Hen Welfare Trust' or 'Compassion in World Farming'.....
And buy Jo Barlow's wonderful book 'A Beginners Guide to Caring for Ex-Batts'
One last thing. I know times are tough and that most of us are feeling the pinch, but if you are still able to afford the odd bottle of wine, or beer, with your meal - then you are able to afford to spend a few more pennies buying meat, eggs and dairy from a source where higher welfare standards have been met.
IF YOU KNOW ANYONE WHO COULD GIVE SOME EX BATTERY HENS A HOME PLEASE CONTACT THE BRITISH HEN WELFARE TRUST FOR FURTHER INFORMATION......
British Hen Welfare Trust - http://www.bhwt.org.uk/cms/
Many thanks for reading, and even more thanks for acting.
What our government are doing to stop the import of eggs from dubious origins outside the EU (not much) - http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-vote-office/8-DEFRA-EU-ban-on-keeping-of-hens-in-conventional-cages.pdf
British Hen Welfare Trust - http://www.bhwt.org.uk/cms/
The Life of a Battery Hen - http://www.viddler.com/explore/euthanasiabrigade/videos/2/
My friend Jo Barlow's lovely blog abut Life With Ex-battery hens - http://lifewiththeexbatts.wordpress.com/
Compassion in World Farming charity - http://www.ciwf.org.uk/