Creating Connections with Compassion and Integrity

I’m feeling really lucky today, having spent a wonderful weekend visiting the Sandy Spade Farm. It was so inspiring to see how Brandie and Bradley have put so much of themselves into getting this farm going. They are well into their many projects of raising rare breeds of livestock (ducks, sheep, chickens, cows soon) and important species of plants, bacteria, fungi, etc.

It is clear that their mission drives them to build soil and support biodiversity as they grow food and raise animals. What does any of this have to do with counseling?

It’s all about connections. One of the reasons that the Sandy Spade Farm exists is to help people understand more about the connections that we have to our world. The world runs on food, yet we don’t have much of an idea about how it gets in our bellies. For the farmers, the loop from growing the plant, raising the animal, harvesting, cooking, and eating the fruits of their labor is much smaller. Putting so much work in gives an intense appreciation for the sustenance that they receive.

Just visiting for a couple days I feel quite a bit more knowledgable about what it takes to provide the food that I enjoy. This is a favorite mindfulness practice of Thich Nhat Hahn’s as well. While eating, he encourages us to contemplate the sources of what we enjoy, building our sense of gratitude and awareness of our independence.

We are much like the conifer old growth trees that grow in Rockport State Park nearby the Sandy Spade Farm. Bradley pointed out that the trees don’t have a single large taproot but “rely on their buddies” by interlocking root systems to create stability on craggy mountains. In my work at Counseling on Capitol Hill, I see the same principle at work in people’s lives. Lack of connection to community and our selves increases anxiety, fear, depression, etc. and recovering from these scary places begins in connecting with compassion and integrity.

All of these connections at the Sandy Spade Farm are signposts we Seattlites can follow to feel a greater sense of gratitude, belonging, and support in our communities. By building our awareness of important things like where our food comes from and what is in it we can build the connections of gratitude. This helps us have greater compassion and integrity in the way we relate to the world, not to mention it’s a whole lot of fun.

I will encourage anyone to take a day trip out to the Sandy Spade Farm, and will still be remembering my trip, the people, plants and animals I met there fondly when I have some roast chicken for dinner tonight.

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