The guy next to me on this flight is dressed in a white tee shirt, blue jeans, well-worn boots and a black billed-cap with an airplane on it. I can’t quite make out what the airplane is doing. He tells me he’s farmer from “H’ntsvull” on his way to Snowmass for his annual ski vacation with his buddies. He looks past me out the window and complains about the problems the very early spring flooding is creating for his farm. He goes on about how he has to use more fertilizer and pesticide every year to get the same yield from his cotton crop. Ultimately he has to take about a third of his land out of cultivation and plant clover for three years to bring it back to life. He laments that it’s harder and harder to make his living farming. So he got into the crop dusting business, that’s why he has the airplane on his hat. He needs the extra income dusting brings in and he saves money by dusting his own crops.
In spite of my differences with his farming practices I like this guy. He’s very down to earth, sincere, and engaging. While he orders another Jack Daniels I suddenly feel some anxiety. What if he asks me what I do for a living? Is there any way I could explain radical men’s work to this man?
I’m just returning from a weekend retreat with a group of men on the East Coast and I made the point with them that doing men’s work is a lot like organic farming. I invited them to take all the so-called “shit” in their lives: their dysfunctional relationships, money problems, health issues, bad habits, and unwanted parts of themselves and treat that as potential compost.
When you give that so-called “shit” in your life some airtime, keep it moist with feeling, and turn it over now and then, you can use it as amazing natural fertilizer for your lives.
Now in the face of this real farmer I’m not sure my metaphor will be understood or appreciated. As I’m building up my courage to take a shot at it, the guy in the seat across the isle chimes in with a lecture on hydro-geology and flood patterns. Pretty interesting stuff but the cotton farmer falls asleep in the face of it and I go back to reading my article on permaculture.
That brief encounter kept me churning for days. Could we have had a conversation about the relationship between his work and mine? I’m not sure, but I am certain that we are allies in a very deep way.
We both need to find a ways to create sustainable ways of living and growing. Soil and soul are really inseparable. Neither farms nor individuals, families, and communities will survive if we continue to push beyond sustainable capacity. That farmer knows he can’t continue to pump his fields full of pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizer indefinitely. Since his fields have now gone beyond their sustainable capacity, he needs to rebuild and renew by organic means.
I see so many of us men doing similar damage to our souls just as the farmer does with his soil. We keep pushing beyond our healthy limits through our infinite distractions, compulsions, addictions, and workaholism. As we avoid facing our “holy shit” we ignore the very resource that can nourish our soul and soil life and create a sustainable world for ourselves, our families, and communities.
What about you? Are you ready and willing to honor your holy shit and engage in radical composting at both soul and soil levels? Below are a few suggestions to get started.
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When “holy shit” (anything that troubles you) shows up, could you be willing to face those issues as opportunities for change and transformation and the possibility of turning difficulties into beneficial fertilizer for your life?
Remember to go easy on yourself. Radical self-care is more about allowing your deeper truth to emerge rather than more pushing to fix one more problem.
Make time to appreciate your inner and outer resources. Remember what you are grateful for. Then ask yourself what holy shit is showing up in your life. Pick one issue and ask how that particular one could be the perfect compost to call forth the next step on your evolving soul path?
Take time to explore the feelings associated with that particular holy shit. (In the other posts I’ll offer some suggestions for dealing with those feelings.)
Join or create a men’s group. Men’s groups are the best way I know of to turn your inner “holy shit” into healthy, healing compost. If you aren’t yet in a men’s group find one other man and start there by checking in once a week. For a guide to starting a men’s group see the suggestions on the Men’s Leadership Alliance website. www.mensleadershipalliance.org
Create a garden, no matter how small. Eat something you grew. If you have no garden space of your own, search for community gardens in your area. There are many more now even in urban areas. http://www.vegetable-gardening-online.com/small-vegetable-garden.html
Compost. Small scale composting is easy. You can even do that in your own home with red worms. http://whatcom.wsu.edu/ag/compost/redwormsedit.htm
For opportunities to compost your inner “holy shit” consider attending:
Attend the twice-monthly Men’s Leadership Alliance True North Open Men’s Group.
For one to one Radical Wisdom Coaching and Mentoring contact me at: 303-530-3337 or firstname.lastname@example.org