Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Indeed, violence starts at home—in the soul, where we cut ourselves most deeply. This is where we must begin if we are to find peace.

I am the most violent with myself, the most unforgiving. I dislike criticism, not because I cannot accept that I have done something poorly, but rather because I already KNOW that I did, and, frankly, I’ve probably excoriated myself much more thoroughly than anyone else can.

the principle of non-violence.
It begins with the self.

It begins with accepting where you really are, not who or what or where you want to be, but where you really, truly are.

It begins with being gentle with yourself and forgiving yourself for being where you are. You didn’t begin by jumping into a race, but rather with a few tentative steps as you learned to keep your balance and walk.

I live in a broken body; a body that limits both my physical and mental movement, so it is probably of little surprise that my spiritual practice also begins in my body.

I have been doing yoga for several years now, and I have learned how to stand, to walk, to let go and find strength. I’ve learned to find grace, balance, beauty, and relief. I have learned to begin—in my bones, in my muscles, in my exhaustion…and accept my body where it is, even if only for an hour at a time.

I have learned to forgive it for being there—for being in insufferable knots, for being stiff and heavy, for the exhaustion that feels like it goes into the marrow of my bones.

...and then to find compassion for myself.

The world is often a hostile place—so many things hurt or make the hurt worse. And my suffering is invisible.

So young! So healthy! What do you know about pain!?

…I know that I’d like to take the next person who says that to me and put his/her head through a wall--

The principle of non-violence begins at home—in the soul…with acceptance of the truth of reality, with letting go of the harbored anger, and with compassionate movement toward something better.

My teeth still grind between my clenched jaw with anger that my life is work and trying to survive work.

Hatred and depression arise when I am filled with certainty that no one will want to spend her life with someone as broken and lame as I.

Hatred that I have no discipline.

Hatred of the slowness.


“Be not afraid of growing slowly, be only afraid of standing still.” (Chinese proverb)

Easier said than done.

Two hours of yoga and stretching only to be able to stiffly shuffle about, and I still feel like there is a golden eagle riding on my shoulders. It’s hard to not get depressed and resentful. It’s hard to come home and have to do it all alone (except for the kitty, who certainly helps my cause a-plenty).


The gentle returning of oneself home to oneself.


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Why is this place called Rough Branch?

Rough Branch is a reference to Wendell Berry's "mad farmer" poems. Berry is an agrarian populist poet, and advocate for sustainable agricultural practices. I don't agree with every position he takes, but his reverence for the beauty and balance of the natural world, for the preciousness of the life that runs through it (including our own), and of the community that sustains both the land and each other, speaks to my heart.

Over the past few years, I have sunk myself into the soil in my back yard, and into the community of neighbors that surrounds it, and it has begun to restore me. My garden is not just a plot of dirt providing vegetables for the salad bowl, it is an act of love, a place of profundity and awe. If you knew about the ecosystem that lives in but one gram of good earth, you would be humbled, literally, to the ground.

Berry's poems are passionate calls to live--deeply, profoundly, fearlessly. To step out of narrow-minded egotism, to secede "[f]rom the union of self-gratification and self-annihilation, [to] secede into care for one another, and for the good gifts of Heaven and Earth."

And so I have made my own nation small enough to walk across. I have named the small corner of the earth I steward Rough Branch. I have declared myself free of ignorant love, and I secede...

From the union of power and money,
from the union of power and secrecy,
from the union of government and art,
from the union of science and money,
from the union of ambition and ignorance,
from the union of genius and war,
from the union of outer space and inner vacuity,
the Mad Farmer walks quietly away.

There is only one of him, but he goes.
He returns to the small country he calls home,
his own nation small enough to walk across.
(From "The Mad Farmer, Flying the Flag of Rough Branch, Secedes from the Union")
The Mad Farmer challenges us to reconnect, to resurrect our land, our communities, and our souls.
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion -- put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
(From "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front")
All quotes from Wendell Berry.