A Grounding 75 minute Practice

16 Apr

The Worm Bin Teachings

I’ve started a new daily practice, one I do before washing my face, unrolling my yoga mat, or having a cup of tea: it’s the practice of getting down-and-dirty—quite literally—and it’s every bit as important as any other spiritual practice I do. Every morning, I pop open the lid on one of the five homemade worm bins in the living room, dig around, and get some dirt under my nails. Sometimes it’s just to say hello to our ever growing family of red wigglers and confirm our kitchen scraps are to their liking; other times it’s to harvest their nutrient rich castings for use in our garden.

Now how exactly does an urban, condo-dwelling, clean-freak from way back come to have a number of sizable compost bins in her living room, you might ask? It began quite innocently with this niggling feeling that I could be living a greener life. Sure, I’ve always recycled, used CFLs and followed the “if it’s yellow” rule, but it still concerns me that our North American lifestyles are so resource and waste intensive. Doesn’t it boggle your mind that the average North American consumes 32 times more resources and produces 32 times more waste than citizens in developing nations?

At the moment, our city’s green bin program doesn’t collect compostables from apartment buildings, condos or businesses. As a result, a full two-thirds of our weekly garbage used to be composed of smelly kitchen waste, that we double and triple bagged to avoid leaks. No wonder I felt both sheepish and relieved every garbage day when I put the whole mess in someone else’s hands.

My adventures in worm composting started with a half pound of worms, ordered online, and a rubbermaid container. I drilled holes in the container, for ventilation and drainage, filled it with a generous amount of torn up newspaper and put it out on the deck for the summer.

The moment of truth arrived with the first frost. Left outside, I knew the worms wouldn’t make it through a harsh Canadian winter, but I couldn’t quite fathom having a box of worms and rotting food in the house for six months either. In the end, I grudgingly chose inconvenience over frozen worms, and the worms moved in.

Surprisingly enough, the bins don’t smell. If anything, worm compost smells fresh and clean, like rich, dark earth after a rainfall. And, no, we don’t have worms, fruit flies or other pests in our living room—the worms stay put, that is unless you feed them something they don’t like (they follow a basic vegetarian diet, and stay away from anything too salty, oily or acidic) or forget to feed them altogether, and we avoid fruit flies by burying the sweet stuff deep in the bins. I’m thrilled because we’ve significantly reduced the amount of garbage we put out on the curb each week, including paper and cardboard. And, yes, we do intend to keep the bins indoors all year round.

I think of my earthworm practice as a way to get grounded and set my foundation before getting swept-up in the headiness of a busy day. It reminds me of my oneness with the earth and all its inhabitants, and, as such, it’s a yogic practice in the deepest sense of the word. My time with the worms is a death meditation, an exercise in loving-kindness, and a way to focus the mind on the sweet details of the here-and-now, all rolled into one.

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