(Please hit the jump to recipe button above to head straight for the Vegan Sunflower Pie!)
I build walls; I actually build a lot of walls. And just so it’s clear, they’re of the inner and metaphorical variety.
While this might seem like a really obvious tactic of evasion, my typical Piscean heart knows it more as a matter of survival. Survival for a heart that feels empathy to the point of pain; pain so painful that sometimes it can take my breath away. And after years of learning how to coexist with this overly-sensitive heart of mine, I’ve found walls to be the most effective means of keeping the despair of others at bay. Honestly, it works pretty great for the most part; life has made me something of an expert bricklayer. But as high and as strong as my walls are, sometimes there’s just no stopping…the breach.
I’m particularly sensitive to the pain of those who are helpless. You know, the ones at the mercy of the other ones who wield the power, or the money, or the gender. My heart has one wall just beyond another, all serving the purposes I constructed them for. There’s the wall up between me and the souls trapped in the animal industry; another between me and the children who suffer abuse; another between me and the women rendered voiceless (and disposable) under the rule of a patriarchal society.
I’m fully aware of what lies just beyond the walls; this isn’t a maneuver of willful ignorance. But what the walls do is give me the space to take action. Because compassion and empathy are only useful if they foster movement and remedies, not when they render me helpless and frustrated at a system that I feel incapable of changing.
Slug of Pain
But let’s face it, walls aren’t indestructible, and sometimes walls break. Actually, at this point I think a dike analogy would be slightly more accurate. I always feel a little bit like the mysterious boy in Hans Brinker, with my finger plugging that small hole–just biding my time until help arrives.
Like recently, when I opened my IG stories and found myself unexpectedly staring at a photo of the horrific practice of foie gras. I felt the intense slug of pain as my heart registered the wretched (hopeless) predicament of that duck. And how much I want to save him–save all of them–but can’t. And my finger instantly plugs the hole, effectively keeping the waters of heartbreak on one side and me safely functioning on the other.
One breach is no big deal; breaches happen. (And I’ve got nine more fingers handy.) But then, not long after the foie gras punch, the same scenario unfolded again. This time showing me a live pig auction where the pigs, still living, are horrifically bound and tied to the point of being incapable of movement. Laying side by side on a concrete floor, trussed, their worth no greater than a price tag; their fear big enough to feel through the screen. And my heart lurches, a little more violently this time, but I’ve got more fingers. Breach plugged.
Facade of Safety
I’m fine as long as I keep moving, keep focusing my attention on what I can fix and not on what I can’t. The walls are usually only needed for very specific things: animals and children are the two that hit me especially hard. Everything else may be ugly, but my heart is able to process it with relative “ease.” But the foie gras and the pigs had shaken my equilibrium and apparently made me vulnerable. Because one after another, holes kept appearing in my carefully constructed walls. And through them leaked pain, fury, disgust, and an overwhelming and abrupt awareness of the suffering all around me, all the time. All craftily hidden under this façade of safety.
This is My World?
Hole: Another kid, another gun, another school. And my mind travels back over the years to the legacy of shootings that we’ve accrued, just one after another. With the desperate kids who can find no way out, save through creating more pain in an effort to alleviate their own.
Hole: The extremely disturbing case of a young man, just the next town over, who–after a series of unsettling events–stabbed his father to death in the wee hours of morn.
Hole: The rising (and horrifying) epidemic of sex trafficking, and how the internet is now rife with articles and posts on how to evade the recruiters.
Hole: Politicians acting no more mature than my five-year-old niece (and throwing just as many tantrums), who arrogantly declare themselves above the laws they have sworn to uphold. Conveniently forgetting about the bigger picture, while they fight and bicker among themselves over invisible lines drawn in the sand.
So the holes kept coming and, yes, they make me feel pretty wretched. But you know what’s worse? How they start to make me interpret the world. How all of a sudden every politician is a miserable, stinking liar. And every old(er), filthy-rich man is a disgusting pedophile. I hate how the distrust stealthily invades my world, and I find myself making sure that the girls have their pepper spray packed as they head out the door. Which is sad, because I think that overall, humans are decent. And even if the majority aren’t necessarily making the world a better place, at least they’re not evil.
But these holes. One or two hits is completely manageable. Manageable until the finger-sized punctures becomes fist-sized gushing holes. And I’m standing knee deep in water. And, oh yeah, I’m all out of fingers.
I’ve drowned in the raging waters once before and daaang, those waters are so cold. Recovery meant a year long retreat from the world while God steadily worked on me, put me back together, offered me my guru, and then pointed me in the right direction. And while another spiritual sabbatical sounds most lovely, I’d really rather not hit rock bottom to get there. So when I feel like the suffering of the world gets too heavy to bear? I wisely disappear into hermit-mode.
Hermit-mode (for me) essentially means that spiritual work gets highly prioritized, and anything that threatens to pull me away from said work gets shoved to the back burner. (Hello Insta hiatus.) Thankfully, I’d seen my warning signs flashing and had already re-prioritized my life when the holes began appearing. And as soon as the silence of Hermitville took over, I started to remember things.
The first was a conversation that I had with a friend a couple of months back. We were discussing the current political state of the U.S. and he told me that his country (and others) were watching what was happening here with great concern. (I assured him that many of us were doing the same.) In the course of our discussion, I told him that I sometimes comfort myself with the thought that evil never wins; it slowly but surely digs its own deep grave.
And then dies in it.
To which he replied in a very kind way, That’s all very nice…but “wrong.” Because doing something is what stops the insanity from growing.
To which I replied that I don’t at all disagree; doing something is critical to changing the course of events: donate, rally, protest, vote, pray. There’s always something, big or small, that can be done. And as I’ve always told my girls, you forfeit your right to complain about the government if you do nothing to change it.
So yes, doing something definitely matters.
But I also firmly stand by my statement that evil will topple itself given enough time. Sometimes it takes much, much longer than I’d like, and I imagine in the days of slavery the enslaved couldn’t see an end in sight. Ever. And as the inmates of the concentration camps were methodically starved and murdered, did they dare to hope that good would prevail in the end? Sometimes hopeful optimism can seem like a weak (and desperate) approach to evil.
But history shows us that things rooted in cruelty will crumble; as soon as they drop their first seed of hate, the end is already beginning. If I look around, there’s always something to support this: the Jeffrey Epsteins are exposed; the impeachments unfold; the dairy industry buckles. Anything built on the pain and heartbreak of others doesn’t stand a chance. And so I believe in the self-destructive powers of evil and greed, even though I also know that they can wreak untold havoc before they crash and burn.
Following closely on the heels of that memory, was this one:
Greater than the destructive force of hate is the compassionate power of love
~ Paramahansa Yogananda
Not less than, or equal to, but greater than. So, in essence, one loving act carries far more power (on an energetic level) than an evil one does. And you know what that means, right? It means that if a hateful man like Hitler can create the perfect storm, than a phenomenal (wo)man like St. Theresa can create a perfect tsunami. How many acts of hate did her feats of love negate? And she certainly hasn’t been the only great soul to make waves of change. Every day, big and small people everywhere are silently counteracting the evil with compassion and love.
So Can We
Remembering that first evil-will-self-destruct conversation helped because it comforts me to think that there’s justice at work in a world that sometimes seems to have lost its f****** mind. The laws of karma are firmly in place and no one escapes the consequences of their actions, no matter how rich or powerful they may be. God doesn’t ever need to punish us; we punish ourselves, on a ridiculously regular basis.
And while the memory of that little chat restored my hopeful outlook, the words of my guru restored my incentive to action. The incentive to do something other than roll over and play dead in the face of such insurmountable odds. Because sometimes the darkness is just so dark. But if a gentle Gandhi can make such enormous gains wielding only the power of love, then so can I. So can we. And if a new evil rises up to take the place of the last? Well then, we’ll just have to slay that monster, too.
As for my busted up walls? They’re doing okay. Luckily for me, I know this really awesome master carpenter who comes while I sleep; filling holes, smoothing cracks, and making my heart safe again. He reminds me that loving my neighbor isn’t always going to be easy.
And I have this really incredible guru who reaches down to me whenever I fall. He pulls me up and dusts me off. He reminds me that he never said this path was going to be an effortless one, and that working (hard) for God is what I came here to do. (So get back to it.)
And I love this really beatific god who’s always here, there, and everywhere. She reminds me that this isn’t my Home, and that the darkness exists only to lead us back towards the light.
So I don’t eat the animals because I love them.
And I don’t judge the broken because I was one.
I don’t hate the hateful because that isn’t what God fashioned this heart for.
Small acts of kindness, each layered one on top of another and another and then another; that’s how the light wins. That’s how the perfect tsunami is born.
Wishing you all a beautiful Thanksgiving. Love & (enormous amounts of) light ~ Melinda
- 1¾ cup water
- 1½ cups sunflower seeds (raw)
- ½ cup oat flour
- ⅓ cup coconut oil (melted)
- 1 medium onion (diced)
- 1 cup shredded carrot
- 3 teaspoons dried parsley
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon dried sage
Preheat oven to 350°
1. Sauté the onion in 1 tablespoon of oil until soft and golden brown. In the last 5 minutes or so of cooking, add in the shredded carrots and a tablespoon or two of water. Cook until the carrots are tender.
2. Add the sunflower seeds to the food processor; process until well ground and crumbly in texture.
3. Add all of the ingredients to a mixing bowl; stir well to combine. Pour the mixture (it will be very runny) into a parchment lined pie plate; bake for 60 minutes or until the top is slightly crispy and browned.
4. Allow the pie to cool for 10-15 minutes before serving for nice, clean slices.
For more of my vegan recipes, please see here!