Alex: What A Trash Spear Can Teach You About Community

As part of my year-long adventure of intentional living, I bought a trash spear for the Ruka. Picking up trash around the neighborhood is a great way to commune with nature, spruce up the area, and get some steps in. It also helps you get to know your neighbors. In addition to the usual suspects (broken bottles, candy wrappers, plastic bags drifting through the wind a la Katy Perry’s “Firework”), I have picked up a Costco-sized uneaten bag of grapes, a love letter, a straw hat, hacky sacks, malt liquor, Vineyard Vines clothes, a jar of banana peppers, a car bumper and some corn on the cob.

I like to think David Sedaris would be proud.

Sometimes I listen to podcasts while I pick up trash. Today I listened to Embodied Philosophy’s Jacob Kyle interview Anodea Judith about chakras, body armor, and global transformation. In December, Catherine bought me beautiful chakra beads for our Ruka holiday gift exchange to support me in my yoga practice. Embodied Philosophy’s podcast series Chitheads is helping me put those beads to use. In this episode, Anodea Judith explains how Western culture devalues the lower chakras (root, sacral, solar plexus) that focus on the body in favor of the higher chakras (heart, throat, third eye, and crown) that focus on the transcendent. Judith argues that there are seven chakras for an obvious reason: we need all of them to cultivate wholeness.

Judith’s work on the chakras fits nicely with my time in the Ruka this year. We are now in our eighth month together and reflecting back, I see how our shared commitment to intentional living helps me cultivate wholeness for myself and for my relationships. By asking us to create a space of authenticity, trust, intellectual rigor, respect, and love, the Ruka Fellowship challenges me to live out my ideals in little ways everyday. This fusion of passion and action has, more than any single course I have taken, changed my life. It’s much easier to be a critic than to envision an alternate reality and take steps to achieve it. Complaining about garbage strewn on the sidewalk is easier than picking it up myself. Cursing people who litter is less taxing than asking what might bring someone to a place in their life where they could disrespect or devalue their own community. Wishing we had a recycling bin with a lid to prevent our recycling from being blown about in the slightest breeze requires less effort than calling the City of Memphis ourselves to request the change.

If I don’t invest in my community through both word and deed, how can I expect anyone else to? In just seven weeks, I will be moving to Atlanta for my new job at a fundraising consulting firm. It will be up to me to find new communities through work, yoga and my neighborhood. But I won’t be alone. I’ll be carrying the love and lessons of my Ruka community (and my trash spear) with me as I go.




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