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04 Oct

Journey into Permaculture: Composting the Shadow

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A new 3-bin composting system is built, and a new existential take on composting is born...

Last week, Creation Flame friend and Gardening Guru Sam Arnold helped us create a badass 3-bin composting system which we installed in front of our veggie garden. This project was in the works for a long time, and finally replaces the assortment of kitchen-scrap filled bins that have been hiding behind our house attracting chickens and generally looking and smelling nasty. We are super grateful to Sam for his wisdom and effort in bringing this new system online!

I have been meditating on soil and compost ever since the PDC last August. For those who don't know, compost is a mix of decomposing organic matter that creates humus, or living soil. The forest naturally creates humus through fallen leaves, decaying plant and animal matter, etc, but we can also recreate this process by mixing together the organic waste that is the byproduct of our daily lives. Compost can be made from a diverse array of stuff such as kitchen leftovers, food scraps, leaves and brush, livestock manure, paper, cardboard, and even old clothes that are wool, hemp, or cotton. So, essentially, we already have the power to create New Earth, literally, just by knowing what “trash” that we are creating to mix together. It's almost as if trash is Treasure! And since living soil is the foundation of plant growth, you can literally turn your leftover coffee grounds, old jeans, and junk mail into organic food for you and your family. Zomg!

But there's more...

There are two sides to compost- brown and green. The brown is your carbon material: paper, dried leaves, old clothes, cardboard, and straw. On the other hand, the green material is nitrogen rich, and commonly includes food scraps, rotting vegetables, manure, coffee grinds, egg shells, and fresh cuttings of grass or plants. It is also important to have a proper balance of these two ingredients. Too much brown will yield a compost pile that is inert and slow to decompose. A pile with too much green will be much like the bins that were behind our house- stinky, slimy, anaerobic, and gross. Only a well balanced pile will yield a hot reaction of microbes (bacteria and fungi) that will create rich, living humus that will boost the growth of your plants.

Since creating New Earth and growing delicious organic food locally is very important to me, I meditated on how neat it was that I could take my “waste” and turn it into new life. All of a sudden, a great parallel emerged into my consciousness. We too, as part of all Life, are made anew and revitalized the same way, by integrating the different aspects of our Selves, and seeing no part of our life as waste, but rather fodder for new growth.

Let's take this metaphor further and call the “brown” our light side, the part of us we love and are proud of, and the “green” our dark side, the sad, hurt, indulgent, and fear-based aspects of our self we often hide from. If we focus only on our “brown”, our proper and rightful aspects and actions, and we reject our dark half, repressing it and being afraid to look at it, we will suffer from what some call “Lightworker syndrome”, a form of denial that do-gooder's can run into when they understand Who They Want To Be, but are still rejecting the darkness as “bad” or “evil”. A person with too much brown and no green will be exactly like a compost pile like that- an inert, milquetoast pile of cardboard, not hurting anybody but not creating any new growth either.

A person with too much “green”, however, will definitely be offensive. This would be anyone overindulging in their lower self, being hedonistic, disrespectful, and rejecting their benevolent side. People like this are often described just as a compost pile like this would be described- a pile of shit. This overabundance of green and lack of brown does not create any new life either.

So what does create new life and new earth most efficiently? A balanced mix of brown and green. When the highest self is in charge but the lower self is forgiven, investigated, and integrated without judgement, we catalyze the heat of decomposition, and we turn all those things we were afraid to look at into fuel for new Life.

What have I learned from compost? For one, a 3-bin system is great for your new pile, your finishing pile, and your completed compost. Pallets make a great, readily available building material, and it is important to place your pile in a good spot that is easy to access and near where you will want to use the finished product.

But I have also learned the importance of not rejecting the baser elements of myself in order to appear or pretend to be righteous, pure, or without foibles. It is so important to integrate the pieces of ourselves that remain unloved or judged. How else can we be healed? How else can we transcend our past “mistakes” and our lower aspects but by facing them head on and subjecting them to the light of our awareness and compassion? Fear not, for there is no “trash” in your life or in you, just fuel for new Growth.

Look into your darkness and bring Light. Integrate your highest wisdom with your lowest moments, and your greatest dreams with your worst fears. Compost your shadow, and the result is rich new Life, the soil of the New Earth.

Wesley Thoricatha

Creation Flame President and Co-founder, Permaculture Designer, Artist
Biography: Wesley Thoricatha