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how attachment to comfort swallowed me whole

We know that the only constant in the human experience is change. As Octavia Butler writes, “God is change.” How can we embrace that truth rather than fight against it? How can we prepare our relationship with ourselves, with others, and with spirit for a life of constant and drastic change?

The story

Right now, my partner and I are trying to buy our first house. We are working within the system we inherited - one of private property, limited resources hoarded in the hands of the elite few, one of realtors and house showings and mortgages and interest rates and inflation and competition. Even as we squeeze ourselves into approval-worthy boxes and put all of our inherited and “earned” wealth upon the sacrificial altar as an offering for this basic human right, the rich get richer from this insane, dehumanizing process. Banks earn interest, older generations cash out on the forever ballooning housing market, etc.

It is so easy to get swallowed up whole in this madness. Some days, I feel it fully swallow me. I struggle to open my computer, engage with the search engines, make basic decisions. The knowledge of how rigged the system is, how many fiery hoops the mind must contort itself into to accept this system where we must work our entire lives to pay the cost of a house, plus interest. To pay the cost of the taxes and the land, especially when so much of our salary already goes to the military and the police. To compete amongst other people for these opportunities to pay for a roof and a place to grow food. There are many, many clever, greedy reasons why our economy and our social systems are built in this way. But that is not what I am here to talk about.

I am here to talk about the insecure nature of attachment vs. the true constant of change.

In this process of house hunting, I notice my deep attachment to comfort. A big part of me wants to support this attachment. I want a house, land, and a place to grow food. I desperately want to feel the comfort of space, privacy, and food sovereignty. I want to feel financially comfortable enough to buy whatever food I want from the grocery store. At this stage, these are privileges of a small class of people. But they are relatively reasonable, and not inherently bad on their own, and I hope I receive these things by working to obtain them in a deeply rigged system. But these attachments also fill me with fear and take away my resiliency.

I must not lose myself in the lie that these comforts will be the antidote to emptiness. It is not the house, nor the private vegetable gardens, nor the delicious food that fill me up with peace, purpose, fulfillment, contentment.

They are only the conduits for the things I truly seek.

What I truly seek is shelter as a conduit for creativity and relationships. I seek a quiet place to have meals with friends, carry on long discussions into the night, to write, to read books with my partner. This can happen in big, small, cheap, expensive, ugly, or beautiful places. One of the times of my life when I experienced some of my most joyful relationships was when I was living in a falling-down camp full of broken furniture. We needed a place, a camp, to hold us. But we did not need it to be fancy, expensive, or tasteful to live fully. I’ve done some of my best writing in a rainforest where I was trading English lessons for shelter. I’ve had some of my most interesting book discussions and intimate moments with my partner in a small rented house with one bathroom shared with 3 other housemates and 4 dogs.

In my desire for my own farm, what I truly seek is a place to work in relationship with the land, to nurture it and practice gratitude for its abundance as it feeds me and surrounds my senses with delightful things. This can happen in a community garden, in a shared project, in a farm I volunteer with, in a collective I start with friends. I would certainly get more help, company, and community that way. What I truly seek when wanting to buy all of the fancy items in the grocery store is a relationship with the land and the abundance she wants to offer but is too neglected or abused to give. I want to nurture a blackberry bush and crush the soft spheres of sticky nectar between my molars. I can find a farm, a collective, a project, a place to do this even if I do not own it myself. Maybe, if I couldn’t afford a place to do this, I could be a nomad forever until settling upon land someone else had bought who had arrived at a better time, or who had more monetary wealth. Maybe they would let me contribute with whatever money I had and build a small sliver of equity. Maybe this would be an equal or more beautiful future than starting this myself.

However, I feel the pull to start this dream of farm and land and community myself, with my partner. Particularly because I have the opportunity, and what I want most is to create a space, for others to join, that facilitates our connection to self, community, land, and spirit. That is a lot of unearned privilege, and also it is a dream bigger than myself.

The practice

Even with this vision, the practice is to not get attached. The practice is to know that what I carry with me and what I seek lies within the aliveness that I bring. I have an interest and a craving to grow food and regenerate the land. I have conflict mediation skills and knowledge of decision making structures. I have training as an educator, and experience as an educator/therapist/coach/event coordinator/curriculum builder in high schools. I must practice not attaching myself to the house, the garden, the value of my stocks and bonds.

I must practice feeling gratitude for the skills, visions, and values that I hold. I must strive towards the dream, but not attach myself to its outcome. I must understand that change is the only constant, god is change. Where I land in the pursuit of the dream is the place where I am meant to be. If I pursue the vision in earnest, my full responsibility is fulfilled.


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