Thursday, January 26, 2012


“…the psychological problem of our age is a spiritual problem, a religious problem,” (C. G. Jung Speaking:Interviews and Encounters)
Some many years ago I was invited to a potluck at a friend Jan’s home. Jan had made a dish that was one of her eight-year-old daughter’s favorites, and when Kayla saw the dish, she quickly dipped into it, asking her mother how much she could have. Most of us would probably have told her, followed up with that’s enough! But Jan said, “Honey, see how many are here, and then you decide.”

This is a surprisingly difficult question! —How much is enough? It is also one of the more important questions we can ask ourselves, and sadly, a question most of us in the western world ignore. How many resources should we take, considering how many of us are on the earth (and this includes the not-human), how many resources are available, and then the impact of our taking on everything else?

Unfortunately, we have become addicted to easy access to cheap possessions and energy. To ask these questions means using less! Standard of living is not based on an experience of wellbeing, nor on how much our actions are in balance with everything around us.

A new ethic is in its infancy, incubated not only by necessity, for we cannot all live on this planet at the lifestyle we aspire to for very long, but also by the strange unhappiness that appears to be plaguing the so-called affluent. This ethic is one of reconsidering wellbeing. In a University of Sheffield study, "The Happy Planet Index" (Resurgence, No. 269, p. 20-21), three goals were considered: high life satisfaction, high life expectancy (which appears to go with a sense of overall happiness), and one-planet living. United States is well down the list, 114th place out of 143. European countries were somewhere in the middle. Latin American and Caribbean nations have the highest score of any region, an average of 59.

Another UK study found that self-evaluated happiness does not increase beyond a very modest income (about $30,000 USD a year or less) (Resurgence, No. 269, p. 29). Radical ecology (of which I would place David Abram as a thought leader, —order your tickets for our dialogue February 10 in Berkeley) draws on this, separating acquisition from wellbeing once basic needs are met. There is a growing push for decreasing economic growth as a way to support sustainability— and well being.

What in humans drives us to use more than is our share?

I return to C.G. Jung’s quote from his 1934 interview, “Is the World on the Verge of Spiritual Rebirth?: “…the psychological problem of our age is a spiritual problem, a religious problem.” He continues, “Man today hungers and thirsts for a safe relationship to the psychic forces within himself. …Science has told him there is no God, that matter is all there is. This has deprived humanity of its blossom, its feeling of well-being and of safety in a safe world” (C. G. Jung Speaking:Interviews and Encounters, p.68).

If "matter is all there is", then is "matter" the only answer for our appetites?

When I consider this issue of using less, I remember a three week backpacking trip co-leading a group of teenagers through the high Sierra. I started with 40 pounds on my back (too much for my knees!), but I was surprised at how little I actually needed. Many of the days were hard, and I was exhausted. Yet still, these many years later, for I was 26 at the time, I remember each day. I can return to the evening I watched the sun paint granite boulder mountains pink and orange and to the anticipated afternoon treat of powdered lemonade over snow. I remember how we ran low on food and had to share, knowing this would mean we each got less than we needed. Yes, we lost weight! Yet it was a time that formed my life, honing my ability to do hard things while introducing me to the ruthlessness of Sierra wilderness, an early experience of relationship to Self (as in Jung’s concept of Self as central organizing principle of the individual).

It seems in the absence of abundance of food and possessions, I acquired an early experience of abundant inner strength and an ethic of interconnectedness.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

On Grumpiness and Biodynamic Certification

Records: not my cup of tea!!
Each year about this time we are confronted with accounting for our farming practices over the last year and reporting our plans for the next. This is no small matter! In Biodynamic organic certification, we annually update four (long!) documents, two for Demeter Biodynamic certification, two for Stellar Certification Services organic certification, plus an assortment of forms for inputs, labels of inputs, crop plans and production reports, and seed search reports. Each year we submit to a rigorous regimen and pay for the privilege as well! — in inspection costs, certification costs with Demeter and Stellar, and royalties, as well as licensing costs and royalties with the County of Napa and with the California Department of Health.

We are asked: How much compost have you made? What is in it? How do you make your pile? How hot does it get, and for how long? What kinds and numbers of animals do you have? Do you haul manure, and if so, how far? (Demeter considers the energy cost of doing so.) How much compost is enough for your land? too much? How many vines/fruit trees are enough, given the land you live on? What is the impact on the larger environment of what you do?

And this is only for the compost! Every detail of farming is questioned!

I will be honest: it is a real drag to answer these questions. It puts me in a grumpy mood! A real whiner in me wonders why we have to do this, and, on top of it, pay to do so, and with three different entities!— while farmers up and down the valley are dumping toxic chemicals disguised as herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, and fertilizer ( as much of 55% of it leaving site, according Pesticide Safety, University of California Publication 3383)) and get by without paying for the larger damage they are causing! (Okay, I know this is a rant!)

One hundred years ago, these certification questions would have been easier to answer, before quantity, efficiency, and profit outpaced balance. Farms were diverse; crops were rotated, animals, a given, necessary part of the operation. But the 1970‘s brought a revolution in which monocropping and “industrial” practices for animals were touted as more efficient, and we all bought into it. It is the Faustian bargain of our age: to use whatever we can get our hands on regardless of the impact on anyone/thing else, with profit as the highest value and motive. This makes sense to the majority of the population!

Demeter insists that we consider the impact, and I suppose in the long run, this is why we keep “putting up” with this discipline. Farming in this way is similar to a psychological analysis. Who in my analytic practice has ever come because they enjoy having to look at all the ways they contribute to being out of balance within themselves and with others? Yet necessity dictates: a relationship fails, depression wraps its dark wing around the soul, the unconscious floods the night with dreams that waken.

Carl Jung said that “the psychological problem of our age is a spiritual problem, a religious problem” (C. G. Jung Speaking: Interviews and Encounters). I would say this is also true of farming and more generally, of our relationship with the earth. When we treat the earth as an object, we rationalize our exploitation of it as a right. But when we consider the Earth as a community of living beings, a symphony of spirit, ourselves only one part (and, as the Lakota say, a younger part as well!), we are opened to the connectedness of everything. Respect becomes a part of the interaction. Our environmental crisis would look quite different through the lens of respect for the other, even the not-human other.

This is one reason why my husband and I continue with the discipline of Biodynamic farming. These certification questions remind us of our interconnectedness with our farm and all that resides here, as well as with the larger ecosystem of which we are a part. It is one small way we can personally address the larger environmental imbalance we are facing.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Two Announcements!

Two events: a Radio interview and a Dialogue.

Radio Interview:

Check out Gray Scott’s radio interview of Patricia Damery on
Serious Wonder Radio



What is biodynamic farming? Can we heal our bodies, the earth and raise our awareness by using this method? Gray Scott talks with Jungian analyst and author Patricia Damery about her book FARMING SOUL.

Dialogue: February 10, 2012

The Environmental Crisis and the Living Quest of the Embodied Psyche

An Evening of Dialogue: David Abram in Conversation with Patricia Damery

Friday, February 10, 2012, 7-9:30 pm, The Brower Center, 2150 Allston Way, Berkeley.

An event of the C.G. Jung Institute of San Francisco.

Tickets available at Availability limited. $15 students; $25 general public.

The morning I was to meet David Abram in preparation for the February dialogue with him, strong winds shook the chimney in the Truchas, New Mexico adobe in which we had been staying over the past week, playing songs whose words only the heart knows. A storm was coming. By the time we were packing up the car to return to the airport (David and I were to meet briefly in Santa Fe on our way), the snow was blowing horizontally. We feared for our safety on the drive down the winding mountain road. When we reached Santa Fe, unseasonably heavy snow had accumulated and the electricity was out citywide.

If Air has the capacity “to provide awareness, thought, and speech,” as Abram asserts the Navajo hold, then that morning Air began the dialogue! “For the Navajo… the Air has the properties that European, alphabetical civilization has traditionally ascribed to an interior, individual human ‘mind’ or 'psyche,’” Abram writes. As humans created the alphabet, moving from oral traditions toward written word, our relationship with the natural world changed. Whereas once we knew the at-oneness of dialogue with the landscape, now the written page and its words intervened, effectively removing us from the liveliness of communication with the natural world. In the hubris of apparently harnessing outer forces for our comfort or sustenance, we have become inflated. Being in relationship-with the not-human world no longer feels necessary. We no longer consider the rights of Nature. But Nature has not lost Her voice!

If Air began the dialogue, with Snow and Electricity chiming in, then where will this dialogue proceed? What awareness might come, what corrective action? What is the impact on our embodied selves of such disconnection from our environment?

Please enter this dialogue with your presence! Never has it been so important to renew our conversations with the not-human and the natural world. David is a lively and thoughtful speaker, and we are very fortunate to have him this evening in the Bay Area.

David Abram, is a cultural ecologist whose lyrical evocations in his books, The Spell of the Sensuous and Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology, have captivated a generation of readers. Patricia Damery, an analyst member of the C.G. Jung Institute and a Biodynamic farmer, explores the interconnected fabric of consciousness through her books, Farming Soul:A Tale of Initiation, and novel, Snakes. She and David Abram will discuss the challenges as well as the evolutionary potential to the current ecological crisis.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Epiphany: Three Kings Preparation

The Magi 6th Century, courtesy of
At the turning of the year, each January 6, we do a "gift" spray on our ranch: The Three Kings Preparation. It is a time of gratitude to the land for its gracious abundance and of renewed promise to work with the land and all that resides there in the coming year to the end that we all thrive.

The following is an excerpt from Farming Soul: A Tale of Initiation, describing this process.

Natalio arrives at 1:30 pm, just as I am beginning to stir the Three Kings Preparation. He comments, “I hope the Three Kings are light!” His unintended pun strikes me as apt.

He hopes that the Three Kings are not heavy, as he is about to carry two gallons and two cups of the preparation around the perimeter of our property, a good bit of the way quite rugged. Every fifty feet he will spray the prep outward, forming a “magic circle” of protection. This spray is called a “sacrifice” spray, which offers the energies of homeopathicgold and the resins of frankincense and myrrh at the turn of the year, an invitation to the spirits to return to their plants and animals here.

But I also see a second meaning to Natalio’s words, as I hope the Three Kings Preparation brings the light of illumination to all of us on this land and to all humankind, that we may live in accordance with our inner wisdom, knowing that life on Earth is sacred.

As usual, Natalio wants to talk. I was planning on silence. The instructions state that “the person stirring be fully conscious of and focused on the purpose,” and I was hoping to spend the full German stirring hour contemplating the energetic task at hand. Now Natalio informs me that he plans to stir, which somehow feels right. He also lives here and is connected to this land. He sacrifices his good energy to keep the plants growing and thriving. He should also be part of this offering.

So I try to explain the purpose: We are making a magic circle around the property for protection against the workings of opposing forces, within and without. In a certain way, by attending to the energy bodies of all that live here, we are farming soul: if not of the plants, the animals, and of the land itself, then of ourselves.

Natalio studies me. “Is this the work of the bruja?”

I look up at Natalio, frowning. I take a deep breath. “No, Natalio, this is biodynamics.”

Natalio points to a picture of the three rather robust kings arriving at the nativity scene, part of an article from a recent biodynamic newsletter. “The Three Kings did not bring protection,” Natalio says wryly. Then he adds, joking, “And they do not look thin.”

We laugh together. Again, I try to explain the theory, that this preparation is for the return of spirit to earthly life: gold symbolizing wisdom; frankincense, the cosmic ethers where the spirit resides; and myrrh, the survival of death. “We are warding off anything that could stop that,” I say. “We are making a promise to the spirits of our land to take care of the land and all the plants and animals that live there.”

Bruja!” Natalio nods. He is not joking now, and I give up trying to convince him that we are not concocting a witch’s brew.

As I stir, the heady aroma of the frankincense rises. We are in the sacred circle. Our laughter is part of it. Take nothing too seriously! While Natalio stirs, I dig potatoes. Donald loves potatoes, and these are very sweet and tender.

We take turns stirring, repeating fragments of our conversation, over and over, Natalio hoping that the three kings are thin, and then contemplating: Is this bruja work? Meanwhile, through stirring first one way and then the other, we throw the water into chaos so that it may receive the energies of the Magis’ gifts. To these gifts, we add one of our own, laughter. Donald comes to the kitchen door to observe us. The dogs also watch for a while and then, bored, go to sleep.

At 2:30 pm, Natalio strains the preparation into the backpack sprayer and takes off. “If this is a magic circle,” he says, now quite serious, “then it is important to end where I begin.” I wonder if he knows the layers of meaning in his words. He walks first to the valley oak from which the spiral of stars appeared to me several years ago, then proceeds west with determination. He stops and sprays once outwards, then walks ahead 50 feet and sprays again.

I open and stretch my heart to encompass the meadow as the energy of the meadow swells to meet me. The mist from the backpack sprayer catches the sun, shimmering with rainbows, then fades into a golden arc. As Natalio disappears into the forest, I imagine the arc of light becoming a sphere that contains all the living things on this land, my family and me; the animals, birds, and insects; plants in abundant variety; and even the spirit realm, where devas and deities reside.

In my vision, we are all thriving.

I picture my teachers living and dead, and those family members who have also passed, and I give thanks for them. I feel their love. Everything is a part of the web, inextricably connected to everything else. I remember Pansy’s sweat lodge prayer: Mitakuye oyasin.

All my relatives.

The world feels larger as the new year begins.