Vipassana – Seeing in the dark.

Vipassana, a 10 day silent meditation retreat – I don’t know when I first heard about it, or when I first committed to doing it.

I was working at a retirement home at the time. I was 6 months split from my ex, and just wanted something challenging, insightful, and new. Perhaps abit outlandish, someone who had barely meditated felt ‘called’ (obsessed, convinced, hopeful, gambling, etc.) to try it out. So I went, to 10 kilometers from a small Northern BC town called Merritt. I had to take a rideshare to get there. I recall the drivers were speeding the entire drive. What a way to go, I imagined, if we crashed. A car accident en route to a silent hippie retreat..

The property was wide, quiet, and had a giant hall where everyone lived and stayed. The facilitator was named Goenke, he was speaking over videos each day about Vipassana. On day one he said “if you are feeling like leaving then you definitely should stay”. I can’t remember how he supported that statement, but somehow it did inspire me to really try and go for it. I’m sure everyone in some point of their experience at Vipassana second guesses it. I confronted many moments where I just wanted to up and leave. 10 days of watching paint dry is how you imagine it at times. It was remarkable how an environment of silence, lack of stimulation, can bring about so much restlessness, disorder, and chaos within. Yet I chose to be here, along with probably 40 other people who were mostly young and split evenly between men and woman. Clearly I wasn’t the only willing to try something out of the ordinary. Clearly I wanted this for a reason…

The idea of Vipassana is to mimic a monk life. Typical scheduling for those in Asia would be getting up around 4.30am, meditating nearly 10 hours a day, with short food breaks and rests in between. Putting a Westerner into that lifestyle can feel overwhelming, and much too restrictive, and the commitment to meditating so many hours can be daunting. Yet, when I experienced glimpses of doing it, of succeeding within this crazy schedule, I would feel very capable, hopeful, and surprised.

Vipassana had moments of real astounding insight. It was dead silent – and I learned I really loved that. At times that was the best part. To just not be distracted, or interrupted, it felt like the newest form of liberation. We are free in the city, sure, but are influenced, and co existing with many forces. Here it felt like we had committed to all practice existing in this environment, and the ability to live in that container was very serene at times. It snowed during my time here, and being in a meditative state watching the snow, and the outdoors, was very magical. I felt I had nothing else to do but appreciate it. That was the value of this – the capacity to be fully able to experience something.

This meditation method is not new. It is claimed to be the same technique used by the Buddha 2500 years ago. To detail it briefly, its intention is to be focusing on sensations, witnessing them, and not reacting to them. The application of this ancient method however I had a considerable amount of struggle with. It sounds easy enough, yet I found myself overrun by backpain and thinking about all the things I could be doing instead. I don’t know what was worse, the physical pain, or the thoughts of better things I could be doing. How unfair and conflicting it can be to have so many ideas and options, meanwhile not choosing them. FOMO or ‘what if’s’ were like coping mechanisms. Justifying my lack of focus. So many places I could go. Micro sensations felt unimportant too, overshadowed by true pain, and never ending thoughts. Pain > sensations felt like an undeniable hierarchy. I think on that and realize at times I simply endured the retreat, rather than experienced it, or thrived in it. I prided myself on being there, but I wasn’t able to consistently integrate to the goal at hand. I ended up just experiencing the silence and my attempt at their meditation. I feel I didn’t get the benefit of the technique, more so just survived the challenge of adapting to this new environment.

Despite that, I for sure had some profound experiences. I remember in the span of moments, seconds, switching from struggle, mental fatigue, and unacceptance, to total calm, effortless blissed serenity. There were no “outside changes” to spark this shift. The same silence and nothingness facilitated both reactions. Who knows the what or the why behind why these emotions come and go, but there it was, happening undeniably before my eyes, within me, for only me to feel. Still it seemed more like I was watching this experience rather than making it, and there was a sort of powerlessness of sitting in a meditative state for so long, witnessing whatever arises. A false sense of creation, it happened in me, but I didn’t create it, it just bubbles to the surface automatically. It showed how much is invisible internally even to ourselves, and not caused by what’s outside of us, and perhaps not even chosen by us.

Then that would switch again, feeling the mayhem of restlessness rising slowly in this quiet, safe place, with its stimulus devoid environment. Then few hours later everything would click again, and I’d be feeling like I’m in a Zen oasis. Then out of nowhere, suddenly I was riding a rollercoaster. The transitions were impossible to predict. All of a sudden I’d be in something new. It was so hard to brace oneself for it. To control, predict, or expect it. Reality can give checkpoints. When work is over we can ‘transition’ emotionally, from responsibility to rest. Or when vacation begins. Yet those aren’t always true. Many can go on vacation still stressed, get off work rattled for traffic. The checkpoints, and indicators to shift emotions, how real are they? They are hopes, intentions to change. Not true places of shift. With always meditating, there was no checkpoints. Just enduring constant silence, and my inconsistency.

I felt simultaneously more responsible and less responsible after that.

When I feel the same things in the city, the ups and downs, how much of it is because of the city? Are the addictions, bad habits, things I love, things I resisted, are they the cause of my highs and lows? Without any stimulation or sensory, I still felt the high and lows.

To what extent can we blame our circumstances for our suffering? And when does the scale tip? When is it our internal world more responsible and less so the external?

That gave me empowerment, trust, to focus within, after seeing how much of the same feelings came up during those meditations in new environments. Yet, in me things were happening unexpectedly, seemingly uncontrollably, and invisibly. Emotions are a purely feeling based reality. I felt a bystander to my own subconscious, only a tourist to my reality. It all felt like such a mysterious nothingness. Eyes closed 10 hours a day. Yet, I was finally looking in the right place. In the dark of space within, searching for answers.

I talk about at the beginning how I was inspired by things with my ex, and how that gave me courage and hopes to show up here. During Vipassana I got deep levels of gratitude about that history between us. Thank you’s, and real feelings of luckiness and appreciation for good times we had and moments we shared. I felt I was looking for inspiration and new ideas to see our past, but really that insight summed it up. All the processing and thinking was just hoping to eventually get to that. Gratitude.

I finished Vipassana, I lasted the 10 long days. I think by day 6 or 7 I knew I can do it. For me, if you can make it to 7 you can make it to 10. It’s easy to look at it like a marathon rather than a moment by moment experience. I have a lot to learn in that sense. To enter something like that and to really experience it, rather than only complete it. I may go back, id actually like to volunteer, however lately meditation feels so inexistent in my life. Ironic too, to be able to do that, and then live the same as if you never even went. The impact and results were short lived. It didn’t make ‘lasting’ changes in my life. Who I am today has no relic’s of Vipassana. Perhaps subtly, but not definitively.

When day 10 came and we could finally talk it felt so unfamiliar. I stumbled and forced those first words. Slowly returning to the world I’ve spent my whole life in. Small chat felt so big. I recall speaking with another person there who was planning to be there for months. He wanted to do a mix of volunteering and being there as a sitter (term for someone who is attending the Vipassana), and I imagined what a vision of peace he must be chasing. This event was a challenge for me, and for a lot of people who haven’t gone it is unthinkable, yet here was this young early 20’s guy, with every option before him, choosing this. What a rare story people like that are. I never kept up with him, but would have loved to know how he changed, grew, learned. What he found in his internal journey.

The ride back from Vipassana to Vancouver was glorious. Never have the mountains along the Coquihalla highway felt so high and large. Even returning home, sitting and doing nothing felt so fulfilling. It’s so hard to understand that feeling, just a looming afterglow. After living in the dark for so many hours the past 10 days, everything was so huge. That stayed for many days. I was the topic of questions at my work for next few weeks. People were really curious how it was and I shared my experience.

I think back during Vipassana that during the ‘high’ moments I wished everyone could feel that. Yet during the everyday life I live now, I see no natural gravitation towards that. Feels ironic. For me to sign up today for a sit would feel shocking in ways. My back pain is still hard at times and I’m sure would feel very painful there again. They also encourage you not to do yoga, read, or write while there. The philosophy is nothing but meditate and rest. No distractions.

I remember the food being delicious. I also realize food was one of the few places where I felt I had individuality. I could eat what I want, and as much or as little as I want. I would emotionally eat if I had a bad meditation, or I would lightly graze if suddenly I felt complete and little need for food. They encouraged no one to fast, and to try to just eat a healthy diet. Nice to only focus on food for once, rather then check email and eat. Read and eat. Watch something and eat. Finally it was simply eat.

I don’t know what else to say about it. There are Vipassana centres all over the world, and they can be booked months in advance. We are the civilization who in part craves comforts, all inclusives, food deliveries, and at the same time is willingly going to sit in silence and strict scheduled meditations for 10 days. It’s a duality we may learn more about, but shows comforts aren’t the only remedy to struggle or suffering. Clearly too much comfort gets uncomfortable.

Writing this today, the idea of spending so many hours in the dark sounds so mystical and mysterious, but at the time was just the next step I took. How our perception of meditation changes over time. Back then I was just following the next idea, maybe times haven’t changed all that much. I remember returning home from Vipassana around December 22nd, the darkest days of the year, and some friends and I went to watch the new Star Wars movie. It felt like the most overwhelming cinematic experience after living in my head and a room for the past 10 days. It was such a theatrical way to imagine the struggle of bliss and suffering, easy thoughts and hard thoughts. It was all so symbolic. It felt ironic and funny to have that as a first initiation back to civilization. To create Star Wars probably costs millions and 1000’s of people, and to delve deep into the abyss of my mind felt like such different extremes. But there was a unified journey there. The struggle was grueling, but any journey worth walking is. Vipassana and its story are steeped in everything. Star Wars, relationships, work. Different contexts for the same thing. Reflecting on this has given me more appreciation to revisit things. If I were to do Vipassana now it would seem like a whole new person is going. Finishing it once doesn’t give me much more confidence that I can do it again. But, I think if I went back today it would be in a state of wonder. Watching a dark screen inside my mind’s eye for 10 hours. To choose that channel, it’s so contradictory. Nothing itself was the greatest freedom. How has my subconscious changed over the past 4ish years since going? How do we evaluate that? Sometimes the only way to see is to close ones eyes and go to the place inside where all you see is black. To really listen maybe it helps to spend time in the room where there is no sound. To find ourselves only when we are in an environment that is the most unfamiliar. Maybe that’s Vipassana, maybe that’s what I was chasing.

 

 

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Old poems and raps from past decade.

Every other post the past few months has been travel writing. This is a more creative and experimental blog post, showing a unique side of myself and keeping it fun. Enjoy!

 

In second year university, nearly 10 years ago, I had a huge passion for writing raps and poems. This phase continued for many years until I got back from Australia maybe 5 years ago. Most of these are more from around the Australia time.

 

 

Romantic

 

Candle lit, we can do it glamorous

you know I cant resist

these tango dances

how romantic

how old fashioned

we take these getaway trips

continental weekends

putting back together the pieces,

and everybit we seized of it

how picture perfect, how rightly so

how unlike him, oh there he goes

romeo of radio

do I make seduction rap

every girl I ask say the loving that

 

Together too much

 

Night and day she’s with me

Hand in hand she’s with me

Hard times she’s with me

Getting lost she’s with me

And when I need space she’s with me

 

Dancing together she’s with me

Long nights she’s with me

Bed together she’s with me

Meeting parents she’s with me

Those days long ago

She’s with me

Now I hear someone else say

She’s with me

 

 

Byron Bay hostel poem

 

no car, im in another part of the world

its a rain storm, so were staying in the dorm

playing jay-z’s encore, and laying on the floor

weve all have our dreams,

and I wanna do so many things right now,

thats how we learn about our means

its not just about this its a lifestyle,

thats why its my team

and together we tryna compete

with guys who do this for a living

who raise their kids and succeed

now im writing when im with friends

with roommates, with family

ive had to give alittle bit of life

alittle bit every night

just a bit of it all

 

 

Museum

 

Business is hurting,

and lately people don’t have the time

in the museum

Day to day life

doesn’t compare to history

in the museum

In the city centre

come see life on the country side

in the museum

These colours were so bright back in the day

but the paints have faded

in the museum

Im running out of new art work

and things haven’t changed as of late

in the museum

and I don’t know if anyone will understand it

so I never hung it on the wall

in the museum

theres line ups everywhere else

what happened to true art

in the museum

todays the day

but no one came

in the museum

people want autographs

but don’t want paintings

in the museum

I’ve never felt so alive

those were the days

in the museum

 

 

so close and so far

 

with each impulse, I’m engulfed

I’m lost, I brought us here,

its my fault

but its so soft

 

ive made promises, ive made bad promises

im in over my head, its gonna follow us

its all gonna fall on us

but this is so fun

 

I haven’t introduced ya, but its the two of us

I haven’t owned up, I haven’t opened up

I can’t keep going,

hold me

 

We said last time, let’s give it one more try

Well make a claim, well say well change,

We can go all the way,

unless you want me to stay

 

 

Nice

 

Your there by my side

Holding my hand

Looking at that world outside

Look isn’t it so wide

Isn’t it so bright

 

Adams Rap

Trying to go slow
I got better luck going backwards
Alittle courtesy? Certainly
And people who could barely speak English
Spoke my language perfectly
Bad weather
And we still never sat for dinner
How come I come back in the winter
Well hold my seat for me
Those waisted nights made my story
An ordinary life turned right to glory
Keep going, yet no body seems to know him
Keep growing, I grew up to seize the moment
When I see it I’ll know it
It’s my life I know how it feels to hold it
And when frozen drops
Hit molten rock
I open up
Try to close me shut
I’m so alive I can feel inside
I’ve been rolling the dice my whole
And it’s hard to admit I escaped from home
And I’ll be back cause one day I’ll be gone
And its pay cheque to pay cheque for our day to day lives
Girl to girl, what a taste of the good life
Creationist, remaking this
Innovationist, retracing this
I don’t skim no surface
So hold your breath
Let’s go in depth

Light up the paper spaceships
We taking off from a basement
Now I cheated in geography so…
I ain’t the one to ask where I’m about to go
But everyone who called me brah now says bravo
Those were the days
I said once in a lifetime to many times for my age
Head in the clouds
I’ll come down when I turn the world
Upside down.

 

Reality

 

Ive been waking up to the same music

walking to that same bus stop

same food night and day

im picking up the pace

the knight while hes still young

22 and unsung

healthier then ever, my business circle, is my social circle

whirlwind kids, dont take shit

dont give a shit, 21st century zen

a generation to call home

whats it look like when its going right

blonde hair blue eyes, too many invites, less noons more midnights

a taste of the good life

I couldent understand when she had such a slight accent

Oh ya now I remember it was her anti depressants

those childhoods days were like grand theft auto living life in free mode,

middle class family I entered the world with cheat codes

instant reloads

so ive been drawing wrong conclusions, constantly sketching myself

the brushing it off afterwords, paint you this picture

 

 

 

 

heart-break

 

dear journal,

let me tell you about this girl

the day I loose faith in her she trusts me again

Ive lost it, im now either chasing or re-tracing

im spinning out

angry, and then begging she forgave me

my perfect who eats ,healthy so he can be mouthy

she wants to be in theatre and I dont even see her

but I see the beauty in her she cant see in the mirrors

she got her fears so innocent could practically put me to tears

I never knew foreigners could speak my language

Ill say it again

I never knew foreigners could speak my language

these words were for her, ask me if it hurts

even worse it burns, its burns even more then words

 

 

 

 

motivation

 

to me there is no other choice my only voice

its got me at holding point

my options there dropping I cant stay on stable ground

from laps to raps, to me im running on that same track

my hands are tied, the day I die I burn alive

saying it outright is never my favorite outlet

I dont express through my outfits

dancing I always looked out of it

all eyes are on me, and its me whos gotta face it

people awaiting on me unveiling my show case of creations shit

one more sales pitch ill be alex rodriguez..,jesus

couch surf any more ill be sponsored by billabong..god,

im being pushed around

the food I cant taste no more

the pay I cant wait no more

fuck a wage Ill wage a war,

ill turn the tides, this is animal instincts

pushed my existence to the brink of extinction,

how abnormally, ive become apart of the majority

authority over superiority, horny for glory

so now man to man we stand

one of us pulls through the other goes back

one climbs one collapse

I dont think yall grasp this, magnitude

with a pen and a pad I rewrote the rules

wilderness thats what the hell this is, wheres your willfulness

 

 

 

Freestyle/Tumblr of raps..

(This is just excerpts of one or two lines from different ones, all put together. Not flowing as a song, but just separate lines.)

 

between day light and late night

it slipped into night fall

its early autumn in late October…

sometimes I wonder what it like to be

global

cause Ive only been local

coming up from the coastal, and im nothing but soulful

and ill treat every track like its final lap

I dropped outa class cause all I did was doodle autographs

and I dunno whats the point of free speech if your too scared to speak

you can call me that rare breed/ that, over achieved

as a kid I had vivid dreams of becoming the voters choice

now im a man, growing up to be a poster boy,

started gaming play station, next im playing over the station

kid caesar ringleader, promoting his generation

showboating and kept saying I was taylor-made for entertaining

first place it feels amazing, I finally found my safe haven

and I keep refusing on taking breaks

right on time for me’s still around 15 minutes late

paper space ships

in my basement

make me so flirtatious

i just crave it

I want to make its an understatement

I never was patient

thats why I dropped education

lifting off to entertainment

writing till I collapse was my biggest aphrodisiac

I used to glance up at my poster it said justification for higher education

but I didnt even need the school, I just needed to be amazing

feel the pressure pressing compressing on your nerves

/feeling depressed

/leaning on your perfect mahogany wood cream desk

/feeling the defects

being low key, I unlocked so many doors

My sixth sense was always a sense of wonder

on halloween ill take the costumes off

were getting dirty in the shower

a kid with initiative and look what I did with it

host a focus group

predict on numbers I should hope to do, then overshoot

when I first got into it, before I ever put out a track

I would back to back practice laps, till I got more fast

I kept pouring more gas, writing out more raps

it goes so far back, thats one hell of a war path

thats why I feel, in my field I gotta reinvent the wheel

that authentic classic feel

gaining mass appeal

stop focusing on downsides, hoping for downtime

wishing tonight at the grocery store goes real slow

I wanan throw away these steal toes, plug on the ear phones

you dont need to be broncho

you can ease on the macho

this lyrical pill

was filled to the brim with the minimal

my hometown a gateway drug

half borderline, half born to shine

dont worry ill keep this personal, never let another person know

I promise

stand out among those who sit back,

under bet him get armaggaden

this is robbery

and you took away the most important part of me

all these people keep saying is they aint got the time

but their giving the exact same amount the greats had to find

she gets high whenever she gets low

Neat gin, Mixed emotions

 

 

 

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Aushwitz

I went to Aushwitz because part of my family has been in a concentration camp.  My grandma herself went to Aushwitz, and was a survivor, due to her late arrival there. It’s extremely confronting to imagine growing up in such a world. What happened there, in smaller scales, happened in a lot of other places. It’s a dark topic. Dark theme. But it has a sort of importance that only needs to be addressed a few times to leave a lasting impression. It has a magnitude and gravity which is so encompassing and hard to believe.

I was in Krakow (the big city near to the small town of Aushwitz) and had a sort of emotionless readiness to going to the concentration camp. It’s so strange putting your clothes on that day, getting breakfast, it’s all so frivolous and innocent in the shadow of what you are about to see.

A few times I wondered if I should go. It’ll be too heavy, to unlike the no frills backpacker life I’ve been embarking on. I did go; I would have felt too conflicted to miss it. It was just that hard to go as an observer, imagine being forced to go, during the time many years ago.

Just the historical impact on my family during the war made me feel obliged. So I took the train, to this small town an hour outside of Krakow. The historical site was packed, and you had to have a guide to go in. It took a few hours to get a guide, so in the meantime I walked to the other part of the camp, Birkenau. Aushwitz is a two location camp. One was a work camp, the other an extermination camp /housing place. Aushwitz began as the small work camp, and expanded to the other camp called Birkeanau (It was in this camp where the majority of deaths occurred).While waiting the few hours for my guide I wandered around Birkenau alone for a bit. What a weird, gloomy, toxic place to find myself. The grass grows; the buildings are sparse and ghost like. Hard to believe the lives lived (if you could call it that) and lifelessness created in such a place. What an odd backdrop for an awful history of humanity. Wandering for a few hours, I returned back to Aushwitz to begin the tour. Walking through the office buildings, the housing areas. They had these displays of human hair, since everyone who arrived got their heads shaved. How many peoples human hair you could fit in this massive part of a room. Enough to fill a small apartment. A symbol of the magnitude of people.

When I was in Berlin before this, I remember seeing a photo of some Nazi’s at Aushwitz smoking cigarettes and having some beers. The caption said “Taking a break from mass murder”. Really struck me that moment, they looked indistinguishable from regular people, enjoying regular life. Laughing and having a relaxing moment. How brainwashed the times must have been back then. Really hard to understand.

I captioned abit of this in my journal at the time. It read:

If you imagine a regular prison to be housed with murderers, now imagine a prison full of innocent people, now run by murderers. Aushwitz was a very dark place. At its peak it could execute 4000 people a day. A small town a day, 365 days of the year, for a few years. A total 1.1 million are said to of died.

It was very surreal to be on one plot of land, at one point on the earth, the span of a house, where perhaps 100s of thousands of people have died.

The Nazis were propagandist. Misleading and downplaying every step of the way. “It’s just a shower, bring all your belongings.” It was a reality no one challenged, they had no belief it could be as it truly was. No one said prove those are showers, or prove you won’t kill us. Everyone marched into a room because of the story they were told, the humanity they thought people had to have. If they were told it was a gas chamber, they would riot, so lies were the easiest form of control. 

I couldn’t understand why other countries didn’t bomb the railways, bomb the fences of the camps, and disrupt the flow. It took years to walk onto the soil with the intent of helping. For years, governments felt their hands were tied, or simply didn’t know. I wondered about that.

They had a room, the size of a small closet, where they made people just stand. Where there wasn’t enough room for everyone to sit. Imagine 40 people in a tiny closet. For a few days.

They had German war criminals run these camps. The imagination of an individual like this, able to beat, yell, and practically kill at will, a license to act out his darkest fantasies. What tragedy that humanity let such people indulge like that. In the biggest housing of the camp they would have 5 people to a bunk. The bottom people had sometimes been eaten by rats during the night. People’s feces from higher bunks would fall on these people. It was a mud, blood, feces bath on the bottom bunks. 

Prisons would get cold coffee (I think more like black water), soup made of rotten vegetables, and a piece of bread all day. It sounds like I’m over dramatizing it, but I believe that’s actually what it said during tours and books I’ve seen. My breakfast was more than these people who worked sometimes 11 hour days, with the equivalent of thin Pajamas (not onesies) during cold Poland snowy winters. Since more people were arriving every day, the moment you couldn’t keep up, you were killed. Public killings, hangings, were all common. If you escaped, they would hang 10 of your cell mates and leave them outside for everyone to see. An unbelievable, and really, unthinkable world. They had a shooting wall at Auschwitz. You would be taken to this wall and shot in the head. It’s strange to see this wall. It’s just a wall. Without the story behind it then it’s just concrete. With the details, it’s human, deeply troubling, and a new understanding.

They also had an infirmary where they did medical experiments. How long could a baby go without mother’s milk before it died, what happens if you inject gasoline to the heart. Giving doctors an operating table, endless amount of test subject (aka moms, kids, etc.), money to experiment, tools to use, and permission to go as dark as you wanted. This place really was the bad side of imagination. 

Before going to Auschwitz, I imagined it as a psychology museum. An outward manifestation of the inward feeling of hatred, immense pain, un-regulation, dark indulgences. How much pain inside would it take to do this to people. I imagine in Nazi’s that it was a resentment and anger that was getting unaddressed, building more and more until places like concentration camps began to be their only ways to express that hate. There were no solutions in time for nonviolent ways. The mentality was so vicious.

They say we are a social species and that by nature we don’t kill other humans. How we justify killing humans is by convincing ourselves that they aren’t humans, and dehumanizing another. Once someone isn’t considered human, we don’t have to act with morals of equality. Calling someone a pest, scum, a virus, filth, transforms an equal being to something like a dangerous bug or parasite. How we bend and transform reality with these images and words in our minds. What we see, how we feel about something, is completely dependent on the words we view it with. The propaganda during these times was outrageous. “A loyal worker is a happy worker”. “Tell on your neighbour for reading certain writing, get rewarded”. “Work is freedom”- that was the message as you enter the gates of Aushwitz. Yet people worked to death. How trapped people were. Yet, protesting landed even Germans in Aushwitz. The penalty was so severe; families of political prisoners would be murdered if you escaped. For most, silence was a form of saving themselves and others. How they could march town to town and bring people to these camps shows how high the penalty for resistance was. Maybe they really had that much wealth and power. Guns and a willingness to use them. Companies benefited off of the war. Germany gave tax incentives if you moved to Aushwitz and started business. You could have Aushwitz slaves as your workers. All the gold, the art, and money of these prisoners were sent to the Nazis. They literally kept getting stronger the more they invaded.

 

…….

 

Everyday problems become so small in a world of Aushwitz

In a place of so much death and destruction

Of everyday people loaded up like cattle to die         

What a strange imagination history had

I feel I do so little justice to the true reality and information this place has

How to help…

 

…..

Return to today time:

Aushwitz was a different form of travel. Everything else up to this point was glossy and relaxing. Reflecting back, this was heavy, and a stark counter balance to all I had done before. I was curious, and that was the common theme throughout the whole trip. Aushwitz taught me a lot about the real potential of wrongs that can be done, and have been done. I learned how complex the world is, how strange and unfathomable some events in history are. And worst of all, most unsettling of all, it happened around 80 years ago. There are still survivors alive today. Are we a whole new world? 800 years ago maybe, but 80, I don’t know. The capacity to change from that extreme that quickly, that’s not long ago, we can’t forget that. That to me says a lot. It’s a very intense place. The lessons are still fresh. There are still humans alive today with scars from the times. My grandma passed away a few years ago, and I can only imagine what it was like to start your childhood in such a world, where your family is destroyed before your even a little girl or boy. The topic is relevant even if it’s historical. Hidden from our day to day psyche even if it’s true and important. Thank you Aushwitz for the reality check and the lasting lessons. May we value our lives today. People back then would give anything to be in a café, having tea, enjoying the life and freedom and safety we have today. That’s part two of this post. The confronting that we are so lucky in many ways. That our worst are so small compared to such extreme events and times. It’s a re-evaluation of our daily life. Remembering these hardships of the past is rethinking our hardships of the presents. For me at least it’s an exercise of my imagination, how lucky and blessed someone at the camps in those days would have felt to just wake up one day in my life. I feel more responsible to see that, to value it, to honour it. It’s unfair at times that to value my life more is to compare myself to someone who had it worse. Seeing the light of the world today by exposing myself to the darks of yesterdays.

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Adams local farms journey last year.

Experiences and contemplation’s on farms a year ago.

 

Alot of my posts have been about a big trip I did a few years ago to Europe/India/Nepal. This post is about my experience on farms and with animals whilst maneuvering through BC. I did this a year ago, and this post shares the reflections and lessons I had during that time.

Brief background story.
I was determined to do volunteering and exploring around where I live in Western Canada. Within hours I can explore islands along the coast, or deserts along the interior. It was an exciting plan to mix these destinations with farming and food.

 

I didn’t work at my jobs and did alot of moving around, volunteering in numerous places, trying many different things. Home landscapes, music festivals, food festival, home steads, real farms. It sounded idyllic, but was surprising less tranquil then I imagined it to be. Even the ease of 5 hours a day volunteering can still subjectively feel like alot.

I had high hopes and expectations of where I would be farming. Yet alot of those places I messaged never got back to me in time. So I was on a journey different than the one I initially intended, off to farms I wasn’t seeking, but they needed help, and I needed to work. I was astonished of the delays in responses from some places. That really highlighted I have an intention, and the universe has one, and we got to compromise, and meet in the middle.

 

I was looking for some grass roots, self-sufficiency communal or mom and dad veggie farms, but ended up more at homes just with animals. Some for profit as a business, and others just for themselves to feed their family and friends. I traveled to two places in southern Vancouver Island, then made my way to a place in Galiano Island, afterwords helping a few days in Salt Spring Island. I also volunteered at 4 festivals with a few months, and traveled the interior of B.C., to alot of the towns between here and Nelson. My last agriculture volunteering was at a pig farm in Meritt, then had a final volunteering gig at a local music festival to end the summer. 5 festivals and 5 ‘workaway’ locations, so lots of volunteering projects.

 

To clarify, “Workaway” is a website where you can volunteer with someone in any form they need. Gardening, building, weeding, feeding animals, collecting eggs, etc. It is not necessary to be on a vegetable farm for this to happen.

 

I wrote this post because I was really confronted in many places the reality of raising animals, even in the ‘ethical, small town’ glossy version we imagine. The truth that fatigue and financial strain of the owner directly affects the animals in many ways is sad to really witness. The amount of corners cut which burdened the animal in favour of the owner felt like constant. Everyone had a reason and a pressure going on.

At the time I was mostly vegan, so working around animals was a hope to reassess my values I felt by addressing something more “head on” – my inner conflict about eating meat. My veganism was not based on direct experience of working with small farm animals, so I thought I’d see if that impacted it. There are many arguments that can be made about any diet or lifestyle, for or against it. Some things reinforced my avoidance of meat, and some gave me new questions to ask. On the last days of the farming volunteering project, I took some time to reflect on questions of vegetarianism, local food, and animal welfare. These are questions that came to mind, and thoughts that I learned during my time. Hope something stick out.

  • I hear alot if you had to kill it would you eat it? Well if you had to dig to find the gas for your car would you still drive? Would you only speak a language if you invented it? Fly if you knew how to fly the plane? Wear clothes if you had to pick the cotton and seam every item? Live in an apartment only if you built it? Use the internet only if you coded the website? Have coffee if you had to go to the source yourself and pick it?

 

  • And the wording we use can paint such different pictures. Processing is a lighter way of bluntly saying killing, but that’s too graphic. But then again when I cook my veggies should I just say I am burning them alive? When I chew my carrot am I just stabbing it to death? Is digestion just an acid bath? How extreme can we get with this aspect of labeling and definitions?

 

  • Meat production was no perfect system, even locally, yet I see even veganism has its challenges, especially on a global scale. Huge amounts of land, perhaps endangered land, pulled for mass production of vegetables. With pesticides, mono cropping, the shipping, all the packaging, the heating and cooling, it felt challenging to imagine a very low footprint lifestyle that way. Also, the big near impossibility for full transparency. It’s so hard to know about the soy grown in timbuktu. The workers who picked it, the ones who packaged it, the boat it was shipped on. I thought of another aspect, I’ll call it second degree meat eating. Where I am not eating meat, but the industries I rely on to fulfill that goal is perhaps done by meat eaters. Meat eaters picking food for vegans. It’s like when you see a vegans working at a restaurant that mostly serves meat, probably because it’s just a better paycheque. So I buy soy from half way across the world, and the person who gathered it can now celebrate with a steak, his soy crop selling incredible amounts. The gas it takes to ship everything. That gas and oil industry could be majority meat eaters, getting paid to buy meat off the purchase you made of vegetables. Maybe it seems over thinking, but it was just a thought. I wondered how many people who were a part of me getting my package of tofu were also vegetarian? Did it take 100 non vegans to support one vegan? All the side industries who are kept afloat buy supporting this global food system of veganism. Its complex, and when I see that side effect then nothing is perfect. Maybe veganism is the less of two evils. I believe it surpasses factory farming, but how about local small scale meat production? Is low quality veganism, mass produced veganism, do they outshine proper local meat? Questions to ask. A lot of the negative stats of meat eating are about industrial farming. How about on local farming, where the cow is eating the grass on the land, where the chickens are eating bugs. Will animals exist just in zoo’s or petting farms if the world turns vegan? Again, all different things to wonder.

 

  • During my time I noticed how inequality exists in the small farm of animals no different than in human form. Patterns of fear or scarcity psychology mimic in small groups of animals on the farms I visited. Hoarding food when there is enough to go around thus alienating other animals from getting food, would be an easy example. Literally it’s just a power statement, to create a hierarchy. They would bite and nip at each other just to create a sense of dominance, deciding who got to eat first, even though again there was enough food for everyone to have an equal generous amount. Every animal would crowd around a small pile of food when there was a giant one right next to them. They were in such a tunnel vision and stress mode they would not even notice the other pile of food next to them. There was no human mistreatment leading to this, just nature confused in an unfamiliar habitat. Perhaps no matter how well fed they were daily, there was a looming anxiety to them. They have no influence over if they get fed or not, perhaps that is the stress. They have no independence, and that is their fear. To them it is unpredictable and unempowering. Only my guess.

 

  • The sounds on the farm can be really disturbing. Pig squeals are so high pitched. Cows that are ready to mate can be extremely loud and aggressive. How strange it is for them to feel trapped. I suppose in nature they always felt the possibilities to move, to roam, but they have no ability to explore now, it’s so limited for them (I want to empathize that this was this specific location. I have read about other farms were cows, pigs, chickens, have tons of land, more land than they could utilize, so this is not one of those). When a family owns one cow, it really isolates it from a sense of community. I imagine it’s strange for the animal. Even for myself, feeling like a witness to a lot of these aspects of animal life is very conflicting at times.

 

  • Transporting with local animals is a huge issue. Even if they can spend 99% of their lives on the field in harmony, the last moments of their lives are these shipping trucks, unfamiliar moving environments, and constrained weird places. Rather unfortunate. And that’s not done by the maliciousness of the owner, but the over regulating of the industry. It’s become an unavoidable aspect of those little farms nowadays. Perhaps it’s a tactic used by corporate industry to make it more challenging for the small competitors. That is a detail that owners have no control over, (atleast for the time being), it’s just the laws as they are right now force them to that. Seems unjust people who are trying to do better than factory farms are heavily over regulated, forced to comply to laws that force more discomfort for the animals.

 

  • Another weird industry word I came across when animals were killed and were packaged was called going to ‘freezer camp’.

 

  • I’m feeding and watering the animals, and that’s the easy job. I’m like earth, sharing its bounty. I do not have to be the lion or the hunter, ending a peaceful life. Maybe indirectly I am, doing by association. To a pig who was someone’s mom, someone’s dad, someone’s son, someone’s daughter. Even with it being local and right outside my door, it still felt really uneasy, maybe wrong, that I was doing all of this. Trying to be open minded even with eating local meat that’s right outside my door. I was always mixed with guilt and appreciation. I only felt better when I would force myself to stop thinking. Or devalued it. I was really conflicted because I adored the taste of the meat. It was some of the best tasting experience, and that made it so hard to understand. Thinking made it awful, yet it tastes delicious. If it tasted wretched the choice would be easy, but the taste gets me to rethink if I’m just over critical about a purely natural experience.

 

  • Local use to be a buzz word for me. But I learned local can mean mismanaged, poor animal habitats, neglect for animals, under feeding, isolation of animals, etc. The word used to be a symbol of all the good pure intentions, an award for not having any of the negatives of factory farms. But I was really conflicted to see how challenged some of these farms were.

 

  • It’s rough to think most places are uglier than the public suspects. The messes, animals dying early, the smells, the sounds. The packaging looks so idyllic, yet so few people ever scope into how accurate the packaging really is. The packaging doesn’t tell the story of the piglet who died in the pen and the rest of them started eating it. Doesn’t tell the story of the bigger boy pig raping the other smaller boy pig. All you see is the clean pasture and smiling animals on the label. These small farms had no red barn, no clean area for hay. No nice tractor and horizon view and picket fence family. They can be an over stressed, under payed, under staffed, out of time mentality for some of the places. But beautiful packaging. This is not a blanket statement to put on any local meat producer. This is a testament that one must inspect for oneself what is true and what is romanticism.

 

  • The few farms I have been were hoarder’s paradise, this included one I visited in Belgium. Mess and junk scattered everywhere with no plan to clean it. Always half done many projects. It’s so important and a high priority to start the project, but never to finish it.

 

  • When a family used to farm they had plenty of kids to help. Now new age world we have couples farming of just 2 people trying to accomplish the same yield. Volunteers are the new helpers. The couple may not have kids, but they have someone else’s kid there for a week or month helping out. Funny how that works. It’s like the parents who are too busy to watch their kids so they hire child care workers, and those child care workers have to get someone else to look after their kids while they are with your kids, and how that cycle just repeats itself.

 

  • In the wild, man would catch the weakest animal. The animal was maybe a bit sick, a bit neglected from the group, small – who knows. Also the animal would be considerably stressed, knowing it may be about to die. It can be easy to think that animals don’t die until humans come and intervene. They live forever happily in the hills until humans invade, pillaging their village for bacon. Sure, the animal in the slaughterhouse is stressed and maybe thinks it’s about to die, yet the bison chased by the natives may have felt identical. The deer running from the lion – identical. It doesn’t make it right, but I think it’s important to realize that experience isn’t much different in some ways from the animal in the wild. I think one measure again though is independence. The ability for the animals to feel like it had a chance. The running pumped it with adrenaline and neuro chemicals, yet factory animals are docile at the moment of death. They are given no warning, and maybe that’s a gift, or a curse. That’s an issue we may never know, but it opens the door to questioning.

 

  • Its ironic cause humans are probably the most stressed thing existing on the planet. It can be compassionate to feel for the animals on the farm, when they get anxious or uncomfortable, confused. Yet we can’t even get humans on a mass balanced wave length, so it’ll take a lot to get animals there. Why should I expect the little farms to be perfect, if the farmers are under so many pressures themselves?

 

 

 

Veganism can feel like ride or die (funny idea) at times. All or nothing. Can you be vegan and go to places like this? Veganism is a personal path and choice for each. For me, I was beginning to eat meat when my vegan friends aren’t around. Closet meat eater. Shaping stories with them so meat doesn’t come up. Avoid conversations about how long you have been vegan. I wasn’t “true vegan”, but just experimenting, testing the waters. I ate very plant based, but I was contemplating should I have an open mindedness for local cheese, eggs, meat, etc. Was my veganism a rejection of factory farming practises? In many ways yes it was. Does local meat get my vote? Maybe sometimes, but it takes much more inspection of places, and introspection of my desires.

 

This trip for me was a search for new ideas based from personal experience. To see if being in those environments would allow me to feel more grounded in my perspective, and to see what it’s like out there around me. This post talks a lot about vegan or animals, but I went also to see how it is for local food around me – the challenges and reality of it. I respect the battles these farm owners are up against. Facing the tough situation of being small businesses among big corporate industry.

 

Even with local food, we never know how pure and high quality the product really is. Atleast at the farmers market you can look people in the eyes. The closer you are to the source, the better in my opinion. We act with good intentions and we have no “guarantee” that veggies raised half way across the world, or meat raised across the street is done too our idealized standards. Ignorance is bliss in the food world. It feels like the more homework you do, the less options you have. The common thread here is the value these local farms are doing is putting more options into the world then just factory farms or corporate industries. It’s a place that neighbours can go visit, and is in so many ways, a better step up the ladder. I atleast got to visit these places, good luck trying to see any of the big industry facilities. I think small farm tours will be a much bigger thing in the future, and that may bring more transparency and exposure to where their food comes from. I hope this post offers some new questions and ideas to whatever lifestyle you choose to follow, and where I was at a year ago.

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