Om Namah Shivaya, Everyone! Welcome to my blog on Urban Gardening & Composting coming to you from GreenFriends Mexico!
This month we will continue our discussion on Urban Composting; and we will preliminarily conclude the topic in my next blog coming soon in August 2021 with other specific ways to compost if you live in a city or home with limited outdoor and / or indoor (kitchen) space.
Composting Taboos & Fear of Getting Our Hands Dirty. Ewwww! Composting is gross and smelly! Right? Wrong!
If you learn to compost correctly and start your composting experiments off small, there will be absolutely no smell, no insects, no rodents – all false myths about indoor urban composting!
On June 20, 2021, I offered an Amritaculture Live Q&A Session of Red Worm Composting in urban environments with Hugo Bernal. Here is the link to this session and other amazing offerings from Amritaculture Instructors from around the world which can be found in our YouTube channel (please subscribe!): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLEzMbuW04U
After the session on Red Worm Composting, a dear friend of mine called me. She requested that I write a blog addressing cultural and personal taboos which keep people from composting – particularly for the Asian Indian population who may be less likely to compost. I thought it was an amazing idea for a blog!
There may be cultural taboos and personal prejudices around composting. To be quite clear: Indians are not the only cultural group that may be resistant to composting! People from all backgrounds fall into this category. For many people of all backgrounds, compost bins are imagined to be dirty, full of smelly rotting food, and just plain yucky – who wants to touch that or work with that?!
I have a confession to make. I was that guy until about 2 years ago when I began to experiment with my red worm composting bin, and I fell in love with process as well as other composting projects I will share with you in my upcoming August 2021 blog! Stay tuned and watch for it to learn more!
Many of Amma’s children are from Mother India. Also, millions of Amma’s children globally have been heavily influenced by the thought-world and spiritual biases of Indian culture even when they may have grown up outside of India! It is well known that many Indians would be resistant to composting in general as it is a cultural taboo for Indians to handle dirty things, trash, and (possibly) compost.
Saucha (a niyama or observance of yoga delineated in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras) means “purity.” Well-intentioned disciplined spiritual persons from India may be trying to preserve saucha – the conscious practice of inner and outer purity — and that is why they may avoid “dirty work” like composting.
Lord Jesus in the New Testament constructively criticized the spiritual people of His time for being overly concerned about “outer purity.” He smiled to Himself seeing them do lustrations or mikvehs (body washing) before entering the temple (like a devoted Hindu taking a dip in the Ganges three times or more per day prior to doing sadhana).
Jesus pointed out (I paraphrase): “Why are they so worried about washing the outside of the cup instead of the inside of the cup?” By cup, Jesus was referring to the body. We pay more attention to the outside (the body) and not enough to purifying (eradicating) the attachments and aversions which keep us chained to the wheel of samsara.
There is the famous story of Amma realizing the Ashram septic system was failing. None of the early residents wanted to go into the septic tank to clean it and get it working properly. Amma – the Purest of the Pure – jumped in first. Of course, when Amma led by example everyone protested, asked Her to stop doing the dirty work, and offered to do it for Her. Amma reportedly did not stop and did the dirty work of cleaning the septic tank with Her truly Divine Hands…
When we do the “dirty work,” although the hands may become soiled – the more soiled the hands become, the purer the hands become; and, the purer our inner and outer realities become, too.
Doing composting seva (inside an ashram and / or in our homes) will be one of the most purifying spiritual practices we can do to conserve the health of Earth and to help Her to heal from the innumerable injuries each of us has caused Her due to our collective lack of education, lack of awareness, and / or lack of personal effort.
I remember living in Amritapuri. I would sweep the trash and do recycling and composting seva everyday all day long. I loved it! I had the divine privilege of serving Amma by helping to keep Her Body (the Ashram) clean! Most of the people doing these sevas noticeably were not of Indian descent. One of the few Indian people doing the seva (who happened to be coordinating the seva) told me, “Amma often says that she admires Her Western children… because they are never afraid to clean and do ‘dirty’ sevas (selfless service).”
I asked my Indian friend, “What do you mean by this?” She said, “It is a cultural thing. Cleaning and dirty work is seen as unsuitable work for many Indians.” Thus, we see a cultural taboo. This should definitively not be taken to mean that ONLY Indians are averted from dirty work due to whatever reason or philosophy.
I lived in the San Ramon Ashram, which has many Western devotees. It is amazing how many of us avoided or “forgot” to take out the kitchen compost, clean the Temple bathrooms, or sweep the dust and cobwebs out of the Temple… Amma has said (I paraphrase): “He who helps to set up and clean up after a puja attains more merit than he who does the puja.” This means that those who do sevas or tasks they view as “unfavorable” or “dirty” get more merit than those who get to do foo-foo sevas or sevas that may seem to momentarily put them in the spotlight. We must never forget that seva is sadhana (spiritual practice that leads to Liberation of Consciousness from samsara).
Composting is seva we can and should do for Amma and the planet in every home. Those who see no task (seva) as below them quickly rise to the top and are examples for all. Amma is the perfect example of this for all of us. No work is lowly. All work (all seva) is valuable. Whether we live in an ashram, offer seva at an MA Center around the world, or manage our own apartment in an urban environment, no work is lowly or unsuitable.
If we do not believe this, we need to carefully reflect on the topic. In yoga philosophy, attachment (raga) and aversion (dwesha) are the two sides of the coin of desire. Desire, according to Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, leads to suffering, frustration, and lack of spiritual illumination or true spiritual comprehension. If we are seeking spiritual liberation, we must be open to transcending attachment and aversion for the betterment of our families, communities, countries, and the globe.
It is no small exaggeration that if everyone in the world began to compost in their kitchens that we would be well on our way to healing and restoring balance to Mother Nature. To reduce the waste going into landfills should be on the mind of every person (especially if he or she is a devotee of Amma Who constantly is encouraging us to actively participate in source reduction, recycling, tree planting, and organic gardening).
If we are not composting yet because of a negative cultural perception or because we do not want to get our hands dirty, we need to roll up our spiritual sleeves and compassionately observe our egos.
The ego tells us “I want to do only what is comfortable for me. I do not want to do what inconveniences me (composting is time consuming is common false myth). I think it may be smelly or attract bugs or….” We need to educate ourselves, experiment in small ways to see what kind of composting is best for our urban habitats or small modern-day apartments.
In doing so, we will see that if various methods are done correctly in even the smallest confined spaces, there will be no smell, no insects, no rodents, no dirt to speak of. Instead of contributing to the destruction of our planet and the elimination of animal species at a horrifying rate, we can restore Mother Nature’s health and destroy Mahishasura: The Great Ego within all of us.
If any of us truly seeks moksha (union with the Divine), we must go beyond aversion. If we have negative repelling thoughts about urban composting (or composting in general), read about it with a Google search, buy a book on Urban Composting, and learn. What we do not understand we fear or have prejudices about. The world needs you! Let us go beyond all cultural taboos and personal prejudices about composting and give Earth a chance at healing.
The Benefits Outweigh Perceived Issues
Here are some important environmental benefits achieved through composting:
It improves the soil in indoor potted plants and outdoor gardens and green spaces – making the soil “living soil” due to the healthy microbes produced in the compost itself.
* Compost helps to restore and filter local water sources. Compost can retain 5 to 20 times its own weight in water. Adding compost to soil increases the amount of water that can penetrate into the soil. The water can seep all the way down to the impervious rock layer where it wells up and can begin to refill local springs, ponds, and lakes. Via downward drainage through compost, soil, and rock layers, the rainwater is filtered as it makes its way to these water sources.
* Composting Makes Our Oceans Cleaner! All water gradually makes its way to oceans. Compost’s ability to filter water as it penetrates the ground means that the water flowing into the ocean will be cleaner. One of the biggest oceanic pollutants are the nonorganic fertilizers and poisonous chemicals used in farming and gardening.
* Compost reduces erosion of topsoil and “living soil” (that is, soil with compost added to it). One-third of Earth’s farmland has been lost within the last 40 years due to erosion and pollution. Erosion is caused by excess water that is not able to penetrate the ground. Water consequently collects and pools on the surface and rushes down to lower elevations, taking the topsoil with it and depleting the agricultural land. Compost can serve as a sponge and permits much more water to filter down through the ground – thus preserving the topsoil.
* When food waste rots in landfills, it releases methane and carbon dioxide. Organic matter dumped in landfills is the third largest form of methane emission resulting from humans. Composting decomposes our food waste without producing methane emission into the atmosphere.
* Compost reduces carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. To retain microbes in our “living soil,” plant roots will release carbohydrates from their roots to both attract and feed the microbes under the soil. Plants siphon CO2 (carbon dioxide) from the air, absorb water through their roots, and via the science of photosynthesis, turn carbon dioxide into carbohydrates (sugars)! The sugars combined with the microbes that consume them produce humus — a part of the living soil that gives soil its structure, nutrients, and moisture. Humus is largely credited for keeping carbon dioxide beneath the soil.
* Composting saves you money! The average household wastes about $2,200 dollars’ worth of food yearly. When we compost at home, we notice how much food and money we throw away. With this awareness we can buy less and save money; or use the money we have been carelessly wasting to feed the hungry in our communities!
* Composting can create millions of jobs! Advocate in your communities for compost pick up (the same as trash or recycling pick up). When this is successfully accomplished, many people can have good paying jobs while at the same time preserving the health of our local environment!
There are so many wonderful reasons and benefits when it comes to urban composting, they simply cannot be listed exhaustively here in one blog.
Doing an online search or visiting a library is a great way to learn more and to heal the Earth if the topic interests you; or if you need further convincing to get started.
Please stay tuned for my August 2021 Blog delineating “cleaner” ways to compost in small spaces (like indoor apartments or urban homes with little or no green space).
We can make this planet Heaven on Earth. But we must have God’s grace, put in personal effort, and be aware of how our personal positive composting habits can make a big difference!