The Soil Holds the Key
When I first embarked on my personal journey towards holistic well-being over 8 years ago, it began with an initial and oddly abrupt awareness of my environment. I felt acutely sensitive and conscious of the products that filled my home and my life closely following my 23rd birthday. I took charge, vigorously and with a serious conviction purging my home of toxins and chemicals commonly found amongst us in this modern day.
It started with bath and body products. I found myself tossing almost every product I could find after carefully reading the labels and undecipherable ingredients lists that accompanied them. This then led me to the kitchen, where I removed BPA's from our inventory of useable items and began making simple switches to more reusable and sustainable options. And the movement trickled on and on in my life and household from that point forward.
The repercussions of my newfound awareness led me to so much time spent educating myself on topics such as the effects of our global consumerism, the many products unsuitable for human consumption, the disconnect between animal rights and empathy in our capitalist economy, and the irreversible damage done to our oceans, waterways, atmosphere and ecosystems, amongst so much more. The list really does go on and on when you begin to open up to the lesser-known, and often hidden, realities of our complex society. There is without a doubt, endless material to consume as you begin to awaken to these difficult truths.
Finding a New Foot Forward
My actions for a more sustainable, holistic approach became rooted in a need to very literally "clean up" my act. To forge forward as a human with many needs and desires, while looking to tread as lightly on the earth as possible. Sacrifices were made while at the same time new doors opened to ideas and possibilities that were never on my radar before. Decluttering felt like a breath of fresh air while I practiced traveling lightly through my days. My husband and I even tried our hand at living off-grid, building a tiny house in the Rocky mountains of Colorado. And so much clarity came through in that time of immense change and challenge. The discomfort that arose out of living in a way that was foreign brought me to my limits. Yet my burden felt lighter each day and my soul found greater purpose along the way.
I now focus much of my time learning the ways of food and how our dynamic with food has shifted over the decades past. How we as a people have lost the ancestral ties of food as medicine that has held the key to health and vitality for thousands of years. It can be a struggle to find this nourishment and a clear understanding of what serves us in this modern world. A struggle that I am truly familiar with. And one of the biggest factors aiding this struggle is the health of our soil.
But the tie to our own individual health and that of our soils goes so much deeper than just our food. Our soil is most literally the building block upon which we build our lives, and that of the natural world that has come before us. It honors and supports the robust forests and the nervous system-like pathways that keep it thriving. It informs the fungi that build and distribute the unique microbiome that exists beneath the earth's crust. It feeds our human race and nourishes the flora and fauna that share our world. It supports the trees of the Amazon which magnificently help dictate the weather patterns and rainfall on the opposite side of the globe. From birth, our children build a learnt immunity based on exposure to the soil and the microorganisms that reside within it. It is both micro and macro, serving a truly holistic purpose. It is what connects us on a deeply, fundamental level. And it is diminishing at our hand.
Our Soil & Our Well-Being
Mainstream industrial farming and agricultural practices have depleted our soils to the point of uselessness. In some cases, we have created deserts where lush lands of plenty once stood. Each year, right around this time of spring, farmer's begin to til the land which they rely on. A "tried and true" method that has been learned and used for generations. Little do they know that this releases an immense amount of C02 into our direct atmosphere, which is at its greatest density during this process. Our top soil is disturbed and released into the wind through the process of erosion, which has had such immensely damaging effects as causing natural disasters of its own kind, such as the Great Dust Bowl of the 1930's. Whats left is merely dirt. A substance void of all nutrients and fertile possibility. And this, ironically, is where the majority of our sustenance and "nourishment" on this planet derives from.
On top of this degradation, conventional farming of all kinds, as well as manufacturing processes such as the production of clothing and furniture, lead the way to their own kind of devastation. This is done through toxic substances used in production and harvesting being released into the soils and the direct surrounding environment, most commonly things such as pesticides and toxic dyes and glues. This often goes unmanaged and unregulated – hence the term conventional. These substances end up in our waterways, harming the animals and organisms that rely on them to thrive. It even ends up in our own drinking water, as has been proven time and time again. After my recent time in Sonoma County, I became aware of just how detrimental that precious and beautiful land can be to our own health and futures with so much use of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and the like being sprayed constantly with grapes and profits in mind year round.
And no being is left unaffected. This dirty water makes its way to the crops feeding the cattle and other farm animals, and the water keeping them alive. Even those following a plant powered diet are not free of this toxic load, as much of today's produce comes in direct contact with these chemicals leaching into the earth they grow from. Then we as consumers, purchase and ingest these products without a thought in the world to where it came from and what it was exposed to throughout its lifespan.
This process also raises concern of the all too real effects of climate change each of us are becoming acutely aware of in real time. And the soil plays such a vital role here as well. It may just be the answer to bringing our earth back into balance once and for all.
You see, the earth and her many organisms have the unique ability to harvest things that may be harmful when wrongfully exposed, and transform them when reabsorbed into that which they originated from. Our existing problem with carbon emissions is no different. If we rebuild the soils we have depleted, if we begin to foster a connection to this vital substance once again, we can heal the earth, heal the atmosphere, and we can begin to heal ourselves.
Learning practices such as dry farming, composting, reintroducing diverse crops and microorganisms into the land through regenerative agriculture and farming practices, and cultivating food forests in place of aesthetic landscaping, will begin to form and rebuild these pathways of deep wisdom that have been lost in so many places. Planting native trees has been proven to collect and contain C02 gases that have already been released into the atmosphere, and store them deep within the soil, where they can do no harm to our ecosystems. As we care for this new growth, we can harness the damage already done and tuck this C02 away for safe keeping. The collected gases even feed the trees themselves, allowing them to fulfill their purpose and release oxygen in return.
Although, the act of planting alone will not complete this cleansing cycle. The health and durability of these trees is directly related to the sustained effects of this work, and we must be their keepers. Once they are cut down, the repetitive cycle continues of releasing what has already been collected. Therefore we need new and sustainable methods to the devastation we have grown so familiar with. Radical sufficiency of our own needs as consumers as well as efficiency of the processes used to extract and create will be a winning pair.
We can also do our part on a more individual level through our own consumption and daily choices as well as cultivating lifestyle practices that support nourishment. Begin small by growing your own food or herbs in as big a capacity you have available to you. At-home composting is another beautiful way to bring that nutrient density back into your food and fortify your own garden for healing.
When sourcing your food, choosing organic over conventional as well as humanely raised and sustainably sourced meats and seafood sends a distinct message to those who grow our food, and those who hold the greater power in their hands on a large scale. Using our dollar to raise our voices is the easiest way to change the course of an industry. In many ways, this all wraps up into conscious consumerism. Whether it be represented in the food that we purchase, or our undying need for more – more clothing, more electronics, more decor...more stuff. In this sense, minimalism and the concept of essentialism and mindfulness has been an incredible tool in my own life to begin to witness the desires that arise, find their root, and move past them in a more productive and gratifying manner. One that will serve not only myself, but our planet and the well-being of all who share it. It is a difficult task – to look within. But has become necessary as our population continues to grow and our resources diminish.
You see, it is all connected. We are all connected. Nothing is isolated in nature. And we are all of nature.
A beautiful way to begin rebuilding this connection, or perhaps building it for the first time, in your own life is by simply removing your shoes and stepping onto the soil with your bare feet. How often do we get outside with the soles of our feet exposed to our surroundings anymore? As a child, my parents couldn't get me to keep shoes on, which resulted in countless stubbed and bloody toes. My other favorite past time was making mud pies on the bench alongside the house. And somehow, this simple way of entertainment was purely wonderful in my young mind. This is because my inner child knew something that I so often forget now as an adult. That this bond is sacred and essential to our well-being. And I found wonder and joy on a daily basis as my imagination grew amongst the other plants and life rooted deep within the soil. I was not unlike them. I was very much sprouting up from a connection with the earth and the simple pleasures it holds. And this is a bond and understanding I long for and wish to cultivate now more than ever.
We all depend upon the well-being of the earth, of our great mother, to flourish in this life. For our children to flourish and thrive down the road. And it is up to us to rebuild for a greater future. Let's start by getting our hands dirty and work our way from the ground up.
If you would like to learn more about how to foster your own connection to the earth and her rhythms to regain balance and well-being in your life, I encourage you to subscribe to my newsletter, as I will soon be taking coaching clients for Healing Nutrition & Holistic Wellness. The change begins within. And the greatest investment you can make in this world and your community is to become the change you wish to see. To embark on the path less traveled with courage and hope and lead by example.
I deeply encourage you to begin your own research of how we can each do our part to care for the precious limited resources we know and love in this time of growing need and begin to find wonder in the nature that surrounds you.