The Subversive Nature of Being

“You were born with wings, why prefer to crawl through life?” Rumi

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We live in a predominantly homogenized society, despite the fact that a large percentage of the younger generations are acting as a unified force to counter this form of social conformity. Although, throughout history the majority of brilliant scholars, artists, musicians, philosophers, and mystics were all focused on living non-conventional lives due to their awareness of the confining aspects of homogeneity. The most brilliant minds of even today, use the faculty of discrimination, critical thinking, and even intuition to assess and weigh what is accurate and what is not.

Even Einstein was a great advocate of using one’s intuitive faculties,“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. We will not solve the problems of the world from the same level of thinking we were at when we created them. More than anything else, this new century demands new thinking: We must change our materially based analyses of the world around us to include broader, more multidimensional perspectives.” Albert Einstein

In essence, through the intellectual and intuitive faculties which we all have a certain degree of access to, we should be able to discern what is of relevance and what is not. Yet, how many of us actually question the relevance of certain social patterns that most people blindly follow. 

The act of being subversive is a tactic that is used everyday by numerous people who have the awareness that becoming fully homogenized within society is not a true representation of imbibing their highest potential, nor a clear representation of what they would like their lives to emulate. The act of living a life that is based on subversive actions; to have the awareness to contest even basic issues lacking in transparency, reveal our basic need to know the truth of what is going on in society and the larger global world.

Through all of our actions and words, when we choose to questions certain patters in society and go against them, there can be repercussions. I recently experienced this phenomena, in which a certain individual launched an attack against the conceptual discourse and content of the discussion related to the social, political, and ecological importance of choosing organic food, over the other choices available. I realized instantly, that when people are highly homogenized, or when they are faced with concepts that they view as subversive, or even intellectual discussions that question the pattern of their ‘normal’ social conditioning; they become highly defensive. 

I first experienced this when I became a vegetarian 23 years ago, during a time when it was not mainstream or even remotely cool to practice this form of dietary choice. I was actually a vegan vegetarian, due to reading John Robins “Diet For A New America”, and several other related books. Given the information I was able to assimilate on this topic, I made a very clear choice to eat a diet that did not cause harm to animals, supported a holistic principle to health, and was more viable within the parameter of being more ecologically sound. Even though the choice was mine to make, I found myself constantly running into people who would become immediately confrontational and defensive against the choices that were inevitably affecting me, not them. I found this phenomena rather interesting as I realized that people’s deep seated fear of others doing something that is considered subversive triggers massive fear, defensive mechanisms, and can make people very confrontational.

In todays world, most of us are homogenized to some degree within the cultural norm of our social milieu. Therefore, the use of subversive action can be a mechanism to create small circles of change through discussions, or it can occur on a much large scale, such as being highly aware of the social economy of what we inevitably support with our time, money, and actions. To this day, I have lived my entire life attempting to liver more subversively than allowing myself to fall into the homogenization of becoming en-mass, like a drone in a vacuous society devoid of any depth of meaning. To live a life bound by social conformity, accepting everything at face value, and without questioning the larger social and political paradigm is to be completely asleep. “Some people live as though they are already dead. There are people moving around us who are consumed by their past, terrified of their future, and stuck in their anger and jealousy. They are not alive; they are just walking corpses.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Today when I meet people who become defensive and confrontational over the choices that I make, I clearly state that if they don’t like what I write or how I live my life, its absolutely fine, as the actions I make only affect me, no one else. Thus, “my only true belongings in life are my actions.” Thich Nhat Hanh

To choose to live a non-conventional life one must be very strong, strong enough to confront others ignorance in a non-confrontational, grounded, and calm way. Ironically, many things that were seen as subversive at one point in time, soon become mainstream. Several of todays trends were once limited to much smaller subcultures and seen as highly subversive. A few of these are: organic food, vegetarianism, other heath based dietary regimes, yoga, meditation, consuming herbs or health supplements, etc. Yet, today it seems most people have some awareness of all of the above topics.

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Food Sustainability & Community Gardening

“The battle that we are waging to defend the biodiversity of the planet-from vegetable species to animal breeds-is a battle for civilization. The right to own land and seeds is a sacrosanct right for all the world’s vegetable growers. The pesticide-and genetically modified organism (GMO)-multi-nationals are implementing policies incompatible with the environment, that stress Mother Earth, that humble the food sovereignty of peoples, and that jeopardize the freedom of farmers and growers” Carlo Petrini (originator of the concept of Slow Food)

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Many people who are interested in becoming healthier and living more of a holistic lifestyle begin to have greater discrimination in their food choices, often choosing to eat organic foods. However, the politics and factors around various organic labeling is often highly ambiguous. For example, in North America most certified organic produce is allowed to be sprayed with certain pesticides that are allowed. Of course, the specific pesticides and fertilizers are much safer than regular mechanical agriculture produce, which is literally saturated in extremely toxic chemicals, not to mention possibly being GE (genetically engineered) food.

“Globalized industrialized food is not cheap: it is too costly for the Earth, for the farmers, for our health. The Earth can no longer carry the burden of groundwater mining, pesticide pollution, disappearance of species and destabilization of the climate. Farmers can no longer carry the burden of debt, which is inevitable in industrial farming with its high costs of production. It is incapable of producing safe, culturally appropriate, tasty, quality food. And it is incapable of producing enough food for all because it is wasteful of land, water and energy. Industrial agriculture uses ten times more energy than it produces. It is thus ten times less efficient.” Vandana Shiva

When we shop at large corporate stores like Wholefoods, we are purchasing produce that has been grown via large scale organic mechanical agriculture. In addition, all of this produce has been shipped to vast areas of the continent to be sold. I have found a large percent of the produce that I have purchased from Wholefoods has not tasted fresh or vital. Hence, the food that I purchase from the farmers market is fresh, nutrient dense, rich in flavor, and has contains almost no carbon footprint.

In addition, I have a community garden plot, with the City of Vancouver, which fosters a large city wide initiative of turning unused urban land masses into organic community gardens. The entire garden area is organic and each member is suppose to uphold this standard of gardening, through composting, soil integrity, and only using organic fertilizers. Thus, I have a small plot that is around sixteen feet by ten feet wide. I only use half the space to grow vegetables, as the other half was not constructed to allow enough soil to be laid down. Therefore, on my small growing area I usually grow a combination of flowers, a multitude of greens for salads, some herbs, and one root vegetable. This year my garden consists of all organic seeds: cilantro, endives, yellow beets, arugula, kale, mustard greens, and two other greens that came in a green combo package. I also planted two rows of mixed organic flowers.

I find that being able to grow even a small portion of your own food significantly assists in the quality control of the food that you eat. Tending to the soil to create a fertile ground for your seeds is the kind of work that is very satisfying to me. In addition, to planting the seeds and watching your food start to grow is even more wonderful. I do all of my gardening in a very quiet and focused manner. I chant my mantra silently through all of my actions, yet I also feel love and appreciation for the plants growing in my garden. Perhaps, this sounds a little ‘new age’, yet it is actually not. My own mother has been organic gardening over 40 years, since before I was born. Throughout my childhood I learned the relationship of interacting with your garden like it is a living entity; which it is.

The one thing that I noticed, through gardening in a holistic manner of respecting your plants, sharing energetically with them, and acknowledging that they are a living vibrant entity; its amazing how healthy and abundant the garden will grow. There are numerous examples of this type of energy gardening, one of the most famous examples is Findhorn in Scotland, also known for growing gigantic vegetables, produced in close cooperation with nature spirits (devas). In ancient India, traditional planting was conducted as a worship to the Divine Mother, as the entire earth and all of the natural world was not seen as separate from the Divine.

“New seeds are first worshipped, and only then are they planted. New crops are worshipped before being consumed. Festivals held before sowing seeds as well as harvest festivals, celebrated in the fields, symbolize people’s intimacy with nature. For the farmer, the field is the mother; worshipping the field is a sign of gratitude towards the earth, as mother, feeds the millions of life forms that are her children.” Vandana Shiva

To have the opportunity to connect with the earth and plant a portion of my own food complements my holistic paradigm of living. However, to have a space to grow not only food items but also flowers and herbs is a wonderful adjunct to my own spiritual practice. I try to live in such a way that the essence of my inner practice is utilized in all areas of my life, as a flowing force of going about one’s daily activities with grace, awareness, and sharing the essence of mantra and love.  

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Vandana Shiva

“Nothing should be able to push human life to indignity, degradation, and extinction. We are being pushed into, and in many places living in, a food fascism. Food has become the place for fascism to act. This fascism is seen where the seed is patented and turned into the monopoly property of a handful of corporations-95 percent of genetically modified (GM) seeds are controlled by one corporation, Monsanto. Monsanto then uses the fictitious democracy that created the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the financial conditionality’s of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) to force us to give up our seed freedoms, to give up our biodiversity, and to deny the richness of our resources-reducing us to biodiversity serfs” Vandana Shiva
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Vandana Shiva is one of my greatest mentors, in relation to my interest in exploring the concept of holistic and how we understand our relationship to the food that we are consuming. Through the discourse of her work, she forces us to assume a stance of critical thinking and use our discriminative powers to fully understand the reality of the global food economy and how this impacts every one of us. She presents the reality of food fascism in its most transparent representation of hegemony and domination by corporations like Monsanto. Through her literature, numerous interviews, and lectures she has been advocating seed freedom and biodiversity for over 25 years. Thus, Vandana Shiva is truly a pioneer in this domain of life.

The Political Dynamics of Choosing Locally Farmed Organic Food

“In the act of eating, we are already participating in production. By eating organic, we are saying no to toxins and supporting the organic farmer. By rejecting GMOs, we are voting for the rights of small farmers and people’s rights to information and health. By eating local, we are taking power and profits away from global agribusiness and strengthening our local food community. Eaters are, therefore, also co-producers, both because their relationship with small producers is a critical link in creating a sustainable, just, healthy food system and because we are what we eat. In making food choices, we make choices about who we are”. Vandana Shiva

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In many ways, one of the pivotal aspects of living a holistic lifestyle is through our conscious awareness of the food that we are consuming. In my opinion, the first most important precursor to really embodying a lifestyle that is Whole, is to first use discrimination in determining where our food originates and what costs are associated with each of our food choices. I mention this point, as when you go to Wholefoods to purchase your ‘organic’ vegetables what you may not think about is that almost all the produce has been imported, picked partially unripe, and transported to each of their stores throughout North America. Therefore, the carbon foot print is immense. I also realize that it is not possible for everyone to plant their own garden or to find a farmers market, yet we live in such an extremely unconscious world, that if you are attempting to eat more organic food, or even attempting to make healthier food choices then it’s important to be able to discern what that means.

One of the reasons why its important to understand what constitutes making conscious food choices and the cost associated, is because there is a huge political cost that each of us contributes to when we go to our local farmers market and directly support our own community of small organic farmers, rather than supporting a massive corporation like Wholefoods. Almost all of the organic farmers who sell their produce at local farmers markets are really not profiting much more than being able to keep their small farm functioning. Therefore, its important to take into consideration that if people do not support theses small farmers through purchasing what they have to sell, they will eventually no longer exist.

In addition, each small organic farm that no longer can continue to function, opens up more opportunity for large corporate agriculture to take its place. In addition, with the loss of small organic farms we then see price increases for the organic foods available. In support of what I have already stipulated, for those of you who have been consuming organic foods for the last ten years or longer, there has been a steady increase in prices of all certified organic food items. One example is the cost of organic almonds, which has shot through the roof over the last several years due to the fact that the high demand for organic almonds far outweighs the availability. Thus, there are far too few farms producing organic almonds to meet the high demand, therefore the price will continue to rise. I have used this particular example to outline the necessity of supporting the local organic farmers that are living within our communities or near the cities where we are living. When we support those few people passionate about organic farming, we not only contribute to supporting our local economy, but also this ensures the survival and longevity of the local organic farmers to keep producing organic foods that are  available to us. In this way its a form of food sovereignty, that many of us are most likely unaware of.

In my experience, the majority of my life I have been eating ‘organic’ foods, first coming from my mother who was organic gardening way before her time, over 40 years ago. I have also lived in several countries in my lifetime and had the opportunity to experience different ways food is made locally available or not. One of the  countries that I live in was Switzerland, where  in the small villages the local grocery store sold almost all locally grown produce from around the area. In England I lived in Totness South Devon, which is one of the riches organic small farming areas of England. I was blessed with locally grown produce, even the organic wheat used in the locally bakery’s bread was grown nearby. However, when I lived in Japan for three years, I realized that attempting to find food items that were unrefined a problem. There was a small company that sold some ‘health food’ items, yet organic food was very difficult to find, although I did mange to find some items at a very small local vegetarian restaurant that also sold some organic fruit and other products.

When I came back to Canada I was very much in awe of the vast array and choices of ‘organic’ food that was available, yet I too went to the local health food store to purchase my produce. It was not until I went back to University in 2006 as a mature student and started to study Anthropology. I took a course in Anthropology and Food, one of our guest speakers was a huge local food activist, who made me realize that the city I had been living in was teeming with local famers markets throughout the year. This was an astounding find, something that I had never really thought about all that much, as I had been conditioned over the years of going shopping in health food stores to find ‘organic’ food.

During my time studying Anthropology my interest was based in medical anthropology, yet for one of my methodology classes of a 400 level we spent an entire semester working on our own Ethnography, which is essentially how anthropologists do their research in the field, as apparent ‘observers’ to formulate a theory. I chose the local farmers market, where I would spend long durations of time talking with the farmers, interviewing the local shoppers, and just watching the dynamics of the market ambiance. It was a fascinating and extremely eye opening experience that further propelled me to make the farmers market the topic of several research papers.

After conducting four months of research, I realized that the majority of the people who shop and frequent their local farmers market do so out of political reasons mainly; such as to support the local economy, to support the local farmers, to obtain the purest and highest quality food available, and to connect directly with the farmers themselves who have grown the food. I found there was a deep understanding embodied by many people regarding the impact of political economy, which stipulates that how you spend your money has a tremendous impact through directly supporting whatever you are purchasing. 

I have spent my entire life intrigued and absorbed by holistic health in all its aspects, from various paradigms of holistic medicine, diet therapy, herbal medicine systems, dietary supplements, and how the quest for health and balance is inextricably tied to the environment, our society and cultural norms, and the overall hegemony of the powerful corporations that exist. I realize that the MOST important aspect of holistic health is to have extreme awareness and discrimination when discerning how we care for our physical bodies. Thus, the quality of food that we eats directly affects not only our physical health but also our mental and emotional wellbeing.

Moreover, in my opinion we need to embody enough awareness to inquire where our food is coming from and what we are inevitably supporting by purchasing from these particular venders. I personally purchase everything I can from the local organic farmers, as I appreciate the high quality produce that they are selling. I am also aware that if we do not support our local organic farmers, then our only organic food choices will be from Wholefoods, where they offer organic produce from mechanical agriculture that is devitalized, in comparison to the fresh produce from a local farm. In addition, when I go to the farmers market I feel like I am part of a large community of people who are actively supporting our local organic farmers through continually purchasing produce and other good from them, sharing recipes, and having a friendly relationship that has been built up over the many years of continual interaction and support.

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