Your Power Can Change Everything

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Bloodroot emergence horse knob closer

I remember the first time I heard the term “healing crisis.” I was in the depths of chronic pain, one of those crushing waves that comes after a period of breakthrough sunshine and the hope of light. And that phrase, that one phrase, kept my head still faced to the sky.

A healing crisis looks like sliding backwards. It looks like your worst fear realized. it is a return of every ghost you thought had been banished. A load too heavy too handle. But the gift, the unbelievable gift of a healing crisis, is what it signals—an end.

That last flash of pain, that last engulfment of fear, that final wave of panic is truly just the die off of what was. It is an echo. A clarion call that asks us to recommit, just one more time, “Are you serious about facing the darkness and coming into contact with the unbelievable power of your life?” And you say yes, I’m serious. I’m serious about my life.

So today, this week, in this time, we are saying yes. We are serious. We are serious about healing the darkness of racism, misogyny, bigotry and fear at the heart of our history. We are serious, and we are recommitting, right here and now. Because our country is in the midst of a profoundly healing crisis. And just as our own bodies send up flares of pain and sickness when an inner wound needs to be tended, so is the larger body of this common humanity speaking in tones we cannot ignore.

There is a sickness that is asking to be healed, and the only way to tend such a cavernous hurt is to go deep. To lean into it with love, and with our own incandescence and power. When I was experiencing chronic illness I remember how badly I wanted to simply push away the parts of my body that were in pain, push away from my own self. But one of the deepest gifts of chronic illness is the way in which it initiates us into our own power. Because the truth is, when we can face what hurts, head on, we bring ourselves to the most powerful place of all— right here, with all the gifts of our talents, intuition and determination.

 A few weeks ago, while preparing to launch my course Herbs for the Otherworld, I was ruminating on the experiences in my life that have brought me most deeply in contact with magic. Those profound moments that seemed to dislocate me from the limited perception of the day-to-day, and catapult me into a more ultimate reality. And it suddenly dawned on me, that the most powerful threshold experiences of my life have always been the most unlikely—  pain, hurt and loss. I remembered that, in devastation, when I’ve been torn from the outline of what I thought was life, I was always brought more fully into contact with the boundless possibility and magic of the Otherworld. And it is in these most difficult moments, when we can access a vision of Another world, that we can bring back lost bits of our own visionary power.

Here in Appalachia, the world is very literally on fire. The hills are burning because of a long and unseasonably scary drought. Forty thousand acres and counting. Smoke fills the air with fear, and there is a lit sorrow that is too great to put out. Our country is similarly ablaze, with a wildfire of hate crimes, of passionate protest, of panic.

And underneath the part of me that feels crushed, irrevocably crushed, by what is happening, there is another part of me that feels liberated by it all.

Because when your nightmare becomes a reality, there’s nothing left to be afraid of anymore.

Photo of the wildfire here in our mountains by Adam Clayton Banner

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And so it ends— the time in which we were scared of our own power. And so it begins— the time to wield that what moves through us to create real change. Because it is time to unleash the collective, mythological ethos of our inner dragons. It is time to recognize that true power never came from money, positions, and polls. True power comes from being connected to that which animates all of life, the sun source within, the divine. And make no mistake, real power is being called back into the world, and back into each one of us who aligns our heart with the shining heart of all of life. It is time to reclaim the rights of true power in this life.

And so it begins. With each of us saying yes to feeling the empowerment of being ourselves. To being potent. Being worthy. To recognizing the weight of our own magic, the profundity that spins out of aligning our consciousness with our actions. It comes from harnessing the power that moves through us, and seeing that all power leads us back to the same source. That true power is love, and it is unstoppable.

So make the decision to become charged by the same power that has surged beyond the sea walls of the sane, the same power that has torn down every lighthouse built along the shore. Because when we align our selves with true power, the power of our innermost hearts, the power of the living world, we are unstoppable as well.

So power up your magic dear ones, because we are being asked to channel in a torrent right now. A torrent of love. A torrent of solidarity. A wave that stays together and only grows stronger as it approaches the shore.

Because, though we may feel adrift, farther adrift than we’ve ever been, another world is truly possible. In fact, the other shore is right here. So as Clarissa Pinkola Estes says, set out your sails.

Remember to be radiant in what you know to be right. Love, togetherness, recognition of the sacred in every corner of this world.

Because your power can change everything. Your power can heal this earth.

Whether or not we realize it, we are all with her—our mother, the earth, and all that she dreams into being.

And she is with us.

And I’m with you.
And we are with one another.
And, truly, is there any greater power on earth?

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M E D I C I N E S    F O R     E M P O W E R M E N T

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Saint Joan’s Wort

(Also called St. John’s Wort || Hypericum perforatum)

Growing at the height of the summer Solstice, and speckled with deep glands of red that turn any elixir into a garnet ambrosia, St. Joan’s Wort is a powerful remedy for reclaiming personal strength and solar power. Often associated with the feminine empowerment of Joan of Arc in contemporary circles, traditionally this herb was used to ward off the evil eye. Saint Joan’s Wort can help us to invite the brilliant radiance of our inner light, and knowingness of what is right, releasing any attachments to that which stagnates our gifts and our growth.

I prefer to use Saint Joan’s Wort as a flower essence, or externally as an oil (as it has contraindications with many medications when used internally). I find it particularly powerful to rub the infused oil in my solar plexus and practice rolling my shoulders back to stand tall.

As both a protective talisman and herb of empowerment, this is a potent herbal ally to bring with you in the midst of mobilization.

Interested in ordering? Check out the medicines of my sister Amber over at Aquarian Dawn. She makes all her wildcrafted SJW oil by hand and is donating 10% of all proceeds this month to support the water protectors at Standing Rock.

Bloodstone

Bloodstone is a powerful ally for bringing your blood, the vigorous life-force of your own power, pumping back through your veins. An important remedy in Daoist stone medicine for releasing “frozen blood,” the traumas that live inside of us and have stagnated our life force. Bloodstone reinvigorates our inherent essence, lending courage in times of adversity and mobilizing us into movement. Nashia Ashian calls it the “stone of the spiritual warrior.” So bring it.

(Are you interested in learning more about the Chinese medicine concept of blood, trauma, and ghosts? Check out my most recent Youtube video)

Potent elixir: Put a piece of bloodstone in 4-8 oz of water overnight and drink first thing in the morning for two weeks.

Bloodroot gathering

Stand in solidarity

One of the easier ways to become empowered is simply to stand in your own power as an ally. No matter what the next four years actually looks like, the hate rhetoric spoken throughout this campaign has stirred up a hoard of bigotry and violence in our country. So stand in solidarity with those who will be made vulnerable by this administration, and use your power to protect All your Relatives.

1. Step in and deescalate a situation when you see hate crimes  + harassment

2. Donate to non-profits that protect the rights of women, people of color, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community. (Planned Parenthood, The ACLU, The Trevor Project etc..)

3. Join a movement and bring your heart to a local march, fundraiser event or peaceful protest. Check out  The Million Woman March happening across the country this January 21st.

4. Call your Elected Representatives and let them know your thoughts. This may feel a bit out of your comfort zone. If it does, know that I feel you. (I was literally terrified every time I had to pick up the phone to make a playdate growing up) but calling is so much more influential than just signing a petition or sending an email. I think we will all be asked to move out of our comfort zones in the coming times and it is a good thing because it is a sign of deep growth.

Walking with Ghosts

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Autumn has fallen here in the mountains. The trees are turning inwards, curling their leaves into colors of copper, ember and dusk. The canopies empty in a thick caramel of fire, and suddenly that which felt obscured or far away is close and able to be perceived.

There is a kind of haunting that comes with the arrival of autumn. Aches and old wounds, nostalgia, seeking, and the feeling of the veils between the seen and the unseen growing thin. It is no accident that Autumn is considered the season of the otherworld. A time of magicians, spirits, ancestors and ghosts. Most of us grew up hearing ghost stories, tales about past energies that linger on to wreck havoc in the living world. And if you were anything like me as a kid, then maybe these scary stories kept you up way past your bedtime. Unlike living people, ghosts do not play by the proper laws of living. Their presence cannot be prevented with locked doors, swords, or even the presence of a hero. Early on in life I learned that once a ghost appears in your life it cannot be ignored.

Little did I know the truth that every grown-person knows in their bones— that to be an adult is to walk with ghosts.

Several years ago I was introduced to the Daoist concept of ghosts and it was as if some keystone clicked into place, shifting the gears to provide entrance into a long locked tomb. It just made sense.

For the ancient Daoists, ghosts were anything that haunted you.

Past relationships, old traumas, hopes left behind, barbed nostalgia. Within Daoism everything on earth is considered to be animated by consciousness and energy. Unlike in Western culture where we consider the past to be history, in Daoism events and interactions carry their own energy, one that can attach to our own spirits, linger on.

Ghosts are created anytime there is a resistance to what is. When a trauma is too great to bear, when we cannot accept the hurts endured, when a word spoken was too painful to let in. For the Chinese medicine practitioners who work with releasing these energies the phrase “ghosts of the past” is literal. When something powerful gets to the core of our being— whether it be a belief system, relationship or ache— part of its power is left there. It changes us.

To be an adult is to have experienced your fair share of ghosts.

And even though we’ve all been indoctrinated with scary stories of ghouls and poltergeists, ghosts are truly just a natural part of being alive.

Ghosts are here for a reason. They remind us of the integration that still needs to occur and they give us a golden opportunity, to face those things that haunt us the most. To set them free. Because, in truth, all energy aches to be recycled, to move. And just as psychics will bridge the energy of a person left behind into the light, the ghosts of our own past want to be released from their duties of haunting and sent back home, back into the creative vortex of energy that they came from.

As autumn begins its extravagant display of copper and death, we are asked to do the good work of releasing and composting what has fulfilled its purpose in our lives.

So what are your ghosts? What events or people from the past do you still dream about? What memories would you rather avoid? What makes you feel listless, nostalgic, depressed? Because in autumn, even the oldest ghosts can be released.

Ghosts are a natural part of being alive, and so is the process of letting them go. As we tip headlong into this season of embered forests and wood-stove glows we are also blessed with a cabinet full of medicines that can help aid us in our journey of releasing.

Check out the video below to learn about the medicines that can help us do the work that autumn so empowers us to invoke. To release, to compost and, finally, to let go. Because dying can be exquisite, and every bit as freeing as being born.

 


p.s. Are you intrigued by these energies of the Otherworld and the practice of releasing ghosts? Come listen in on a brand new online class, Herbs for the Otherworld. Learn the contours of the Otherworld in this online course. Explore the plants + fungi that can help you to open the portals to this realm of mysticism and experience a meditation to bring you over the threshold.

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Belonging to Wilderness

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Land of desertscape and amber-scented pine. Canyons carved by rain and meadows lit by flower and fire. In the Gila of New Mexico, deep wilderness still exists. Named for the river that gathers its headwaters in the heart of its land, The Gila is home to the first designated wilderness area ever set aside by our country, and the very last major undammed river in the west. It is a land of untold wildness, and untold gifts.

For a week this past month I lived in the Gila and came to know its rare facets. The javelinas that go by in packs, soft snouts to the ground. Stars that gather in a druzy cluster across a center crack in the sky. A canvas of peaks and valleys only traversed by those with wings. Hillsides quilted with dark delphiniums and the candlestalks of mullein. Life— flowing, growing, twining, sprouting, continuing. With its four gentle seasons, this place has been a sanctuary for human, and the more-than-human world, for eons. Cliff dwellings curl like shells into the hillside, dotting the river valley. Homes of clay and stone built underneath a ceiling already darkened by 10,000 years of fire. For a long time the Gila has been giving people life.

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Formed from the explosion of a super volcano 30 million years ago, the exquisite power of this place echoes like memory in the bones. The Gila feels to be something from the before-time. More of a devotion than a destination, the Gila is a place that is willing to welcome you back into a remembrance of what the before-time, the all-of-time, the wilderness of being alive, can truly feel like.

One day, camping along the hot springs of the valley, I pushed my way through the willow thickets and found the tracks of single grey wolf, soft in the riverbed.

If you let it, the Gila will heap you with gifts, take you on a journey. Here are a few of the treasures I came home with.

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>> Once upon a time there was no Wilderness <<

Sometimes you walk into an unknown place, a landscape you’ve never seen before, and despite all odds, you feel at home. It’s a kind of settling, a softening in your very nervous system. I haven’t felt this in many places in the world. But the very first time I drove into the Gila I knew I was home.

Nestled at the center of over two million acres of protected land, being inside the Gila (for there is no other way to be there but inside) pulls at a bone deep-knowing, like the last haunting note drawn from a canyon or flute. It ignites a remembrance inside of us.

The aching memory of a time when there was no “wilderness,” only every thing that was.

Once upon a time we lived and soaked in the wildness of the world, it was who we were and how we knew ourselves. We have forgotten, but all it takes it one swift steep in a place of wilderness like the Gila, and something rises into remembrance. Like a hot spring, surfacing from the deeper, more eternal underworld. Once you step into the arms of a world that flows on its own accord, then you will find yourself submerged into something wholly miraculous, mysterious, and comforting to the very core.

asia-pretty-basket-gila

photo by Juliet Blankespoor

>> To Belong to the World <<

For the week I made my home in the Gila, I seemed to forget everything but the wild gifts of the day-to-day. I set up my tent by a creek whose bank grew thick with yarrow fronds and an extravagance wild spearmint. I climbed cliffsides of gamble oaks to visit with lichen-rich stones. I woke up in the middle of the night to watch the moon move inside the sky. I immersed myself in the home of the Gila, and in turn the Gila flooded me with the kind of longing that cannot be ignored.

Being in wilderness brings us back into our bodies with such force, we become aware of a bone-deep ache that lingers around our heart like seed in Fall. The ache to belong once more.

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Belonging is part of the birthright of every being in this world. It is something that goes unquestioned by every other creation under the sky, except for human kind. After centuries of distancing ourselves from the web of the living world, so many of us struggle to remember how we fit in at all. In our communities, in our culture and, at the bedrock of it all, in this world.

We have lost the central gifts that arrive to all beings that are earth born. The ability to relax into being blessedly small, to see that we are held in the arms of a greater power. To know that we taken care of by free-flowing waters and free-falling fruit. To have a place in it all. At the center, all of us ache to know this once more. And wilderness places bring such yearnings to surface as swiftly as spring water.

This longing is sacred. Once noticed, longing carried us like a small stream, back into the headwaters of remembering.

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To long is to remember what it felt like to belong.

To long is to let loose the marrow-deep sorrow of our separation, and begin to remember what it felt like to belong as wholly to this world as a hawk to high skies, or a wild rose to canyon walls. Like the Otherworld of the Celts, this world of belonging is not far (it is right here) but it does require us to drop everything else and learn the simple things once more. Like how to bathe in a river. Or how to suckle on rose hips and plant a new year of flowers.

We ache to recover our sense of the belonging because, at our hearts, we long to step back into relationship with all of life. And because, despite all odd, life continues to yearn for us as well.

We long, in short, to be a part of the co-creation once more.

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>> Remembering the Co-Creation <<

For a long time many humans on this earth have been preoccupied with being the sole manufacturers in our environments, owning the act of creation as if it were only ours. But this is not the truth of the world, it never has been and it never will. Our world is a co-creation.

And as much as we ache to know our place again in the making of things, so does the world ache to create with us once more.

In some creation stories it is said that at the beginning of time humans and clouds and animals all spoke the same language. There was one tongue, and that one mother language made all of earth.

And to say we spoke the same language is really just to say we all knew the one truth: that we need the life of this planet, and this planet needs us. That the world is one dream, and we are dreaming it into being, together.

Once, all humans understood that the rain needs the sound of poetry, every bit as much as a forest needs the unseen network of mycelium. We understood that we were not the sole artisans of our life. But co-creators, dreaming with all other living beings in this world.

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In one of her books, Sandra Ingerman, a shamanic practitioner in the southwest, talks about a time when we she asked her students a pivotal question, If every being on earth has a sacred purpose, a gift to give this world, why are humans here? She was greeted by silence. Like so many of us in this world, her students didn’t know how to respond.

I know how they feel.

All you have to do is open your eyes to see the destruction following in the wake of humanity. Pavement where once the meadows ran free. A mountain-size grave that was once an elder of rock and stone. Pipelines through sacred lands, in sacred waters. But in that moment of guilt and confusion, Sandra Ingermen asked a question that shook everyone, including this dear reader, to their core, “What if human beings are here to bless this world?”

We may not be like the ants, who bring rubies to the surface of the earth in their building. Or the prairie dogs who aerate the grasslands with aquifers. Perhaps we are not as important as all of that, perhaps our role is much humbler. But what if our gift arises from our very ability to know what it is to not belong, and so have the sacred aptitude to hold gratitude for it all. What if our role as co-creators is to bring prayers to this world. To witness, to sing, to give thanks. To create untold beauty in the simple act of being grateful to belong.

Because when you step into true wilderness, a place that has gone on in the richness of its own co-creation, realize your life has been, and always will be, in the hands of the wind and the water. In the footprints of the family of javelinas that travel with noses close to the ground. In the stars that wheel above you and make you gasp when you leave for tent for brief moments to sit on your haunches in the night.

To step into the wilderness is to see that it is a gift. It is a gift to be here on earth. It is a gift to alive. And that gratitude is the beginning of remembering how to co-create once more.

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>> Be like a Child, Learning <<

To say a wilderness is a teacher is really just to say that the whole world is a teacher. And we are learning again how to be humbled and accept its wisdom and care.

The day I left the Gila I cried. Not because I was sad to be leaving, but because I had been so held. We humans can forget what it feels like, to be embraced by the world around us. But the world has never stopped holding us, even as we forget that our very lives depend on the love this planet has for our being.

Wild places are the first teachers. They show us how to live, how to be human. How to be of this world again. But, perhaps the most important thing of all is that they show us is how to re-join co-creation. How to recognize our gratitude and pray, bring a change of weather once more.

Because we have always been a part of the pattern of things breaking, healing and changing. And the teacher that is the wilderness wants to help us to remember how to be forces of regeneration once more.

And all of this is important, so important. Now, as the residents of New Mexico continue to fight off the damning of the Gila. Now, as the people of standing rocking and 7,000 others from tribes across the world gather together to stop a pipeline from being built across sacred lands, across the largest aquifer in our country.

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One day I was checking out maps in the small Gila visitors center when a mainstream-looking older couple walked in. The woman went right up to the clerk and began asking him questions about the forest. How long has this been here? What kind of trees are those? When was this protected? Before he could get a word out she rushed into an explanation “As soon as we drove into this place I cried.” She seemed shocked by her own emotion, and shook by the power of it all.

I knew exactly how she felt. In the wake of all the devastation on this planet, the world has gone on, Loving us. It is enough to make anyone cry.

And so for this week in the Gila, I let it in. And maybe, in the reading of this, or in your own quiet experience in your backyard, the woods, or meadows, or sands of your homes, you can too.

In the Gila I learned that it is okay to be a child again, a child of the world. To realize that you are taken care of. To allow yourself to delight in the experience of being alive and, also, to know that it is okay to make mistakes. It is okay to have been an unconscious part of the hurt, to be unsure how to heal the world. That it is okay to go on halting steps as we go about making it right, tending all the wounds we have created on this earth. We just have to keep trying.

And it is okay, to try and try and try again until we can stand in the web of co-creation once more. The wild spaces remind us, that just by trying with the wholeness of our hearts, we bring beauty back into the world. And that the co-creation will never stop being here to welcome us home.

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>> The Pitmine, The Prayer <<

On the road into the Gila, if you go by way of Silver City, you will pass what was once the largest pit mine in the world. The Santa Clarita mine. Mined mostly for copper it is a sight that makes one sick to the stomach as acre after acre of stripped land steams by your window. This is what the Gila could have been, if not protected early on in our history. It is enough to make one want to stop the car and double over.

When I was in town I stumbled across a small piece of chrysocolla in a thrift shop there. Like many stones, chrysocholla is often discarded as the by-products of mining. This piece of chrysocolla was straight from the heart of the Santa Clarita mine. I purchased it and brought with me to the forest. On a clear day I hiked up to the top of these grandfather rocks and I gave it back to the earth in ceremony.

It may seem small, but it is the small things, like the tiny ceremony of a cricket creating music from its own body, that creates the chorus that defines the night’s sound.

chrysocolla

And so places like the Gila teach us how to follow our gut to become a part of the co-creative force of healing once more. How to set things right, stone by stone.

They remind us that we are in a time now when, even amidst the seemingly smallness of our voices, every one is needed. Our ceremonies, so matter how humble, are a part of the blossoming co-creation or a healing world.

And that the way exists. It is right here. We just have to open our hearts. Open it even wider. Be like the caramel scent of the ponderosa pines, opening in the bloom of midday heat. Or the datura blossom, so open you might just fall headfirst into the velvet folds. Be like the Gila that fans out over six hundred miles of desert.

Undammed. Undammable. Open your heart, open it even wider.

And remember. You are here to bless this world.

So bless your home with every word.


 

Give your voice to keeping the Gila free

Stand in Solidarity with Standing Rock

 

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You Contain Multitudes

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Each lifetime contains multitudes. A multicolored collection of insights and experiences. A many-hued menagerie of dusks and dawns.  Each lifetime is not just one thing, but many. Like a field that blooms in wildflowers and golden grass from spring to fall. And each one of us is not just one thing, but many, too.

The child whose imagination created shapes from shadows and knew that a summer was also a slice of forever. The teenager who could get lost in poetry and wasn’t afraid to fall head over heels in love. The new parent who experiences the ecstatic largeness of existence in the absolute smallest moments of life. The elder who can take the wide view. The wise one who knows exactly what to say to soothe a wound, and how to laugh at the silliness of living on earth.

supergirl_asiaAsia at age 3 channeling Superwoman

When we need clarity in our lives we often look to the exterior for guidance. Seeking outside support from your community can be absolutely vital, but we can also be empowered to seek council directly from the complexity of our own being. The deep diversity of our own selves.

As humans, we tend to turn a critical eye upon our past (and present, for that matter). Picking over ourselves with a fine-toothed comb, we lose ourselves in the subtle imperfections, and cease to remember the gifts and talents that we naturally possessed throughout so many moments of our lives. And we forget that those aptitudes, those wisdoms and insights, still remain somewhere deep inside. Within all of us is a real-life confederation of superheros, with specific powers to share.

So next time your heart aches for guidance, consider the possibility that there is a version of you that knows exactly how to heal the wound. A self that can give you a perspective that will transform it all.

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Authentic medicine people recognize that true healing comes from within. That all healing originates from the self. Even when we have the support of an incredible therapist or herbalist, the alchemy that releases us from dark places is a magic that originates inside. Plants, too, are simply allies that bolster our natural abilities to heal. Even an immune stimulating herb like Echinacea doesn’t bequeath us with something entirely new. It bolsters and supports what is innate to us. It ignites the potential within. All healing is born from the cauldron of your multitudinous self. We just have to be open to the diversity inside.

There is much pressure in our culture to package our own identities, to be easily encapsulated in 140 characters. But the real truth is that within each of us is a diversity of different personalities. An entire kaleidoscope that can be experienced in the span of a single day. We are both, we are all.

The person who drinks midnight margaritas and goes out dancing until dawn. And the person who wakes up at first light to sip tea and simply listen to the birds.

We, all of us, wild and meditative. Carefee and conscientious. Confused and completely clear.

We are wounded. And we are our own most powerful healers.

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There is a part of you that is reaching out right now, with a magic balm to help.

So keep reading to learn how to access this multitudinous self. Develop a deep relationship with the medicine person that you are, and the healer that you have been and will become.

It’s all here. You are here. And so everything is possible, beginning right here.

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self-heal-mica-mandala

// M I C A //

A vastly abundant mineral flecked in field and stream, Mica is a glimmer of light in our journey to see ourselves. A supremely multilayered stone, Mica brings us into a uniquely celebratory relationship with our multifaceted self. Known in Chinese medicine as a sacred mirror, Mica works to reflect back to us our inherent worthiness and inner-brilliance, encouraging us to recognize ourselves for the divine beings that we truly are. Mica acts as a magic gazing glass, through which we can see all the goodness that exists within.

// S E L F  H E A L //

A profound ally for healing, Self heal (or prunella) reminds us that everything we need to change, transform, and grow is already within us. Added in essence form to any formula, Self heal is considered a potentiator, a flower that helps all other elements of the formula to harmonize and amplify in healing. A central essence in my own practice, Self heal is vital for both the healer and the healing. This sweetly nurturing essence reminds us that everyone deserves time for self care and rejuvenation. And that, in truth, we do not have to look beyond our own selves to experience the most profound healing. At the deepest level, we are always whole.

>> Visit our Self Heal + Mica elixir in the shop <<

// Healing Selves Meditation //

 

We are, in truth, our own spirit guides. Listen to this spoken meditation to open a dialogue with your inner healer and multitudinous self. Re-integrate the gifts of spirit from your inner child, and invite the wisdom of the elder you have yet to become.

Be guided from within.

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// Journey to Yourself //

From a shamanic standpoint we aren’t just a self, we have a self. Part of the gift, and responsibility, of this lifetime is to learn how to care for the selves that we are actively creating. Self care can look like many things: baths, baking, taking half an hour to work on a puzzle. Simply put – one of our most central, and unique tasks, is to learn what our selves need in order to feel supported and cared for.

One way we can begin to understand our needs is to journey to a quiet aspect of ourselves and ask. Shamanic journeying is a kind of meditation, combined with focused intention, to enter an expanded state of consciousness. It is a great way to connect in and receive guidance for those of us who have active minds. Next time you are needing support, or are wondering how to engage in more meaningful self care, try a journey with the intention to meet an aspect of yourself that is here to help.

Not sure how to journey?

Check out this blogpost for a guide.

 

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Feeling Grief + Dreaming Another World

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Grieving is an innate part of being human. It is as natural as springs that seep upward in heavy rains. As a species, we have always made space for grieving. In song and silence, chants and wails. Grieving not only had a space in a healthy and functioning existence, it created space. To be in grieving was to be in a state of separation, a place unto itself. A time where you weren’t expected to make any great changes, or birth your next brilliant idea. Grieving was a space where you could retreat behind the veil and simply be in the sacredness of your sorrow.

To grieve is to allow a veil to come between you and the world. To give yourself a time of close gazing and swaddled softness. A period of simplified perspective and inward healing. A sacred sanction to withdraw until you feel safe enough. Strong enough. Clear enough to engage with the world again.

In the past month this country, and this world, have been shaken by violence. Orlando, Istanbul, Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, Dallas. The continued unmasking of racism, extremism, the still fresh ripples of colonialism, slavery and greed. And if you’ve been listening, then you are probably hurting. If you’ve been thinking, feeling, engaging with what has been flashing across the news, then grief has most likely descended upon you like a curtain, with very little knowing of which way to move.

Grief manifests in many guises. Anger, fear, numbness, rage. It can even manifest as guilt. Guilt that you aren’t doing enough, guilt that your own family is safe, guilt because of your privilege, or the color of your skin. In truth, guilt is just grief about our own selves— our smallness, our perceived ineptitude.

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If you are an empath, a sensitive, a feeler in any sense of the word, than you probably have felt a potent cocktail of all these emotions. Something fiery and devastating, halting and heavy at the same time. Whatever you are feeling, it is valid. More than valid, it is vital. Because the only way to heal through grieving is to feel it, deeply. When we open to the naturalness of our grief, in the face of violence, in the face of fear, we open ourselves to the healing that has to happen within. We are invited to tend the innermost wounds, the ones that are normally ignored, in order to be effective agents of change in this world.

Emotions do not lie, they are intimate portals into what is preoccupying our hearts and minds. If we want to understand where we are, and what our deepest selves are trying to communicate about our needs for healing, all we have to do is embrace our emotions honestly. Our feelings are our deepest guides. When we feel our feelings we begin to crack open the shell of our thoughts, the beliefs that have become too small for us. We have breakthroughs, we ignite our ability to radically change. We awaken the DNA of what is possible. Grief will break you open like an acorn and make it possible to become an oak in the strong and healing reforesting of this world.

Quartz on equinox

For the past few weeks I’ve been struggling to heal from a deeply mysterious bout with bronchitis. No one I know has been sick and I honestly cannot remember the last time I was taken so low. It began the same day I heard about the shooting of Alton Sterling. And then Philandro Castille. And then the five officers in Dallas, the then the three officers in Baton Rouge. And then… Soon I felt helpless, strangled by everything I couldn’t say. Couldn’t fix. Couldn’t feel. For the first time in my life I literally, physically, lost my voice.

In Chinese medicine grief is thought to be held in the lungs. Like the everglades surrounding the palace of our hearts. When we grieve, our lungs are flooded with heaviness and emotion. They are the swamp lands through which we process everything on its way to be released. And as I languished in bed day after day and day. Glued to the news, glued to my computer screen, glued to the dark shutters of this world I finally felt I had something constructive to give to myself, to share with all the sweet kindreds who read this blog.

Bloodroot emergence horse knob

I’ve always been a feeler. A deeply emotional person from my earliest days. Maybe you are too? And if you are, then I hope what I’m about to share will be helpful to you. This post is for my fellow HSPs (highly sensitive people), introverts and empaths. All those who have felt stymied, shipwrecked, devastated by the deep upwelling of grief in these times.

This post is for those of us who are allies. For those of us who aren’t necessarily on the front lines of trauma and loss. For those us that don’t necessarily experience daily prejudice just because of who we are or what we believe.

What I have to offer is this, a sacred task for myself and an invitation to join me. A call to feel the sweep of sadness that has blanketed our world. The racism and ecological destruction, the fear and hate. To feel our sorrow fully, fully and deeply. To say look at everything it is asking us to see, shift, and healing within ourselves, and then release to it. To move past the grief in any way we can, to become strong for those that are hurting even more. To become strong enough to hold each other. And strong enough to begin to envision, and be a part of birthing, another world.

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In Celtic lore there is a world just beyond our perception, just beyond the thin filament that separates all things. This world is the Otherworld. As in many rich spiritual societies, in Celtic philosophy the world that we actively experience is seen as only a single facet of reality. Just beyond what we think of as “the real”, are entire universes of other possibilities. In traditional Celtic stories it is said that the membrane between this world that we experience, and the Otherword, is as thin as a veil. Normally, in our day-to-day existence we walk around willingly veiled. Unable to perceive what lies just beyond. But on special days of the year, during times of powerful movement and transformation, the veil can be lifted. And we can access a vision of an other world.

We are in one of those times right now. All of the pain, all of the tragedy and horror has created a kind of tear in the universe. A powerful moment in which another world can be glimpsed. Can be dreamed into existence. Can be felt.

And so I truly believe that this is what we must do. Those of us who have the privilege of safety. Those of us who have the privilege to day dream and create whenever we feel. We must move through the grief, that grief that helps us to see just how much we care about the healing of this earth, and begin to actively envision another world.

My dear friend Milla recently turned me on to a speech by legendary sci-fi writer Ursula Le Guin at the National Book Foundation’s award ceremony last year. At the ceremony, she said something that struck me deeply: Now, it is the task of the young writers and sci-fi creators is to start dreaming up a new reality. We need writers who can remember freedom. Not the dystopian future we all dread and that fuels box office funds. But a bright future, a healed future. A truly utopian future. This is the task at hand. To begin dreaming it into existence, starting with every small detail.

It is up to us, those of us that have the immense blessing to be able to bridge out of grief. Who have the immense privilege of being able to hold space for those who have actively lost so much. It is up to us to move beyond the veils that separate this world from the next. It is up to us to use the power, and privilege, we’ve been handed to actively dream into a new world.

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Anyone who has followed this blog for a while knows that spirituality is at the heart of how I think, what moves me and ignites my passion for being alive. In the past few weeks I’ve seen a deep struggle in the spiritual community. An inner tension of that central allegiance to a perspective of positivity and love coming into direct conflict with the reality of the violence that is perpetrated in this world. I sat with this every day for the past several weeks of being shuttered in with bronchitis and, for me, the truth is this:

We are here to live in both worlds. Both are equally valid, both are important. We must actively hold and acknowledge this world where racism is incredibly real. Where injustice is incredibly real. Where fear explodes out into violence again and again. We must acknowledge this at the same time that we continue to grasp the reality of the otherworld. To inhabit the bone deep knowing that there truly is no “other.” That we are all waves in a single vibrant ocean. That love is the ultimate reality.

To see beyond a veil isn’t to leave one world behind for another. It is to take away the separation and see that it is all real. To do the sacred work of confronting the needs for inner healing your own grief illuminates, and hold this world in even greater compassion, in even greater care because of the ways you have said yes to your own wholeness. To give of yourself, in action, in words, in prayer, to the healing of the wounds that are bringing sickness to us all. And to dream and invoke and actively envision ANOTHER WORLD.

Because another world is possible. It is being created, right now.

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So if you are ready. If the grief inside you has fulfilled its purpose, I invite you to send it back home. To release your grief and start envisioning, in every detail, what another world could look like. To use your connection to what is beyond the veil to call it into being. To take action in both worlds.

If you would like a small sailboat to help bridge you into this work, keep reading for my simple grief releasing ritual below, and for the links I’ve complied that offer some ways to connect into the waves that are moving through this world. As always, find your own way. Trust where your inner heart leads you and begin, right now. Today.

Start dreaming.

Start envisioning.

Start creating another world with every fiber of your deeply creative being. In movement or action, or writing. In music, in speech.

Remember that simply through the innateness of who you are, you can become an emissary of this other world.

Move into solidarity by beginning to dissolve your ideas of what is possible, and take into the center of your being the radical hope that healing is the collective destiny for us all.

Let it start right now. Because, truly, it has already begun.

“ Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
– Arundhati Roy

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<< Grief Releasing Ritual >>

Find a quiet day when the heaviness in your heart feels ready to be given back to the earth as good compost. When you have faced all the inner mirrors that this grief has asked you to gaze into, and you are ready to enter a new era of personal strength and power. Engage in this ritual when you are ready to become an active part of seeing and creating another world.

1. Find a cloth that you are willing to bury. Choose one that feels particularly sweet or close to you. I love to cut up old, much adored, dresses for this purpose.

2. Collect pieces of paper, or other biodegradable mementos, that can hold the tragedies, people, feelings, and events that weigh most heavily on your heart at this time.

Write down names. Get personal. If you are grieving the deaths or oppressions of those you do not know, weekly magazines often have pictures to clip so you can connect on a more personal level. If this kind of acknowledgement feels powerful to you, collect these photos in prayful care for your parcel.

3. When you have collected everything you want to acknowledge, put everything into a basket and bring it out to a private place in nature. (the edge of your backyard can work wonderfully). Feel free to include any stones, herbs, or small gifts of healing care and love. In the same moment that you will be releasing your grief you will also be amplifying a deep prayer of transition and healing for all those you hold.

4. Dig a hole. If you are feeling particularly raw you might even want to dig with your hands. Let this be a cathartic process.
As you dig let yourself experience every single swing of emotions. Every edge of realness and sorrow. Feel it all, all over again.

5. When the hole is ready, place your cloth on the ground and one-by-one, place each item into the center of the bundle and speak to every grief. Call out the names, the places, the wounds.

And with every item you place in the center of your cloth, give a prayer….

“Philandro Castille. I honor your life by releasing this grief to go home. I release this heaviness in my heart so I can be an active part of creating a new world”

“To the people of Nice. I honor your lives by releasing this grief to go home. I release this heaviness in my heart so I can be an active part of creating a new world”

“ For the non-human communities who are devastated by strip-mining… For the three officers who were killed in Baton Rouge… For anyone who preaches hate and division… I honor your lives [or the lives that have been affected by your wounds] by releasing this grief to go home. I release this heaviness in my heart so I can be an active part of creating a new world ” etc.

6. When you transitioned every item from your basket into the bundle, when you have cried enough, prayed enough, sung enough, wrap your bundle up with a piece of natural string and place into the ground. Feel free to place any last offerings to help these emotions and prayers move to where they need to go, and cover the hole back over with dirt.

7. When you are done take some time to lay like a child for several minutes over the burial spot. Curl up into yourself and imagine the earth moving into you with an endless well of support. The earth never forgets how to forgive, how to transform. Give everything over to the soil. Run the dirt over your face and arms. Feel yourself becoming empowered with a new strength and whenever you are ready, move on. Lift your face to the sky and walk back into your place as an active dreamer in the coming of a new world.

 

<< Links to Learn + Be a part of the Healing >>

http://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/
http://blacklivesmatter.com/getinvolved/
http://www.thehoodwitch.com/blog/2016/7/7/coming-back-to-life-healing-through-crisis
https://asaliearthwork.com/2016/07/09/walking-through-fire-a-gathering-of-survival-strategies-by-communities-and-allies/
http://www.wortsandcunning.com/blog/black-lives-matter
http://www.marieforleo.com/2016/06/marianne-williamson-spiritual-healing/

Become a Shaman of Your Life

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For a long time I equated shamanism with esoteric antiquity. Something practiced in the far past, or only pertinent to those who were born and raised in an indigenous culture. As an anthropology student in college, I was trained to see shamanism as an isolated practice of healing, one that was far more rooted in a dream of the past than the reality of our modern-day world.

For most of my early adulthood I understood shamanism to be naturally inaccessible for a westerner of no particular origin.

Then, the dreams started.

Soon after I moved to the mountains I began to have nightly dreams in which I was studying with teachers who called themselves ‘shamans.’ Every evening I was being taught things that defied the framework I’d been handed in life: like how to move through space and time, or heal with snakes, or sing to the soul of plants. When the dreams first began I had no idea what they meant, except that I woke up with the word “shaman” imprinted on my mind.

Just like our ancestors might have brought an important dream to the village oracles, I eventually took my dreams to the Google oracle, and when I typed in “shamansim” I found, not an isolated or ancient cultural oddity, but a vibrant, living practice that was at the heart of a new healing movement in our world. Soon, every idea I had about shamanism, imprinted from my anthropological education, began to dissolve.

 

 

Shamanism, a spiritual practice that can be traced back over 40,00 years, is, at its root, a way of seeing. The word itself “shaman” comes from the Evenki people, a Tungusic tribe in Siberia and meant one who sees in the dark. Commonly considered the ancestor of all religions, shamanism is, today, a global phenomenon predicated on the idea that everything is alive and has a spirit. That every aspect of this world is interconnected, and that our earth itself is a gorgeous co-creation. A living dream we spin together.

Shamans are those that can see the living in-between, who can peer into the worlds of the invisible, the universe of the unseen. In truth, shamanism is a practice of exploring and expanding consciousness to perceive wider reality. In traditional cultures, a shaman’s job was to interact with the wider world of the invisible for the healing of the entire community. Depending on your tradition, these worlds may be called alternate realities, parallel universes, the Otherworld, the Dreamtime, the spirit realm, or simply non-ordinary reality.

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We all experience spaces of non-ordinary reality— every time we dream, or get lost in the maze-like beauty of the forest, or fall in love. Non-ordinary reality happens when we have a brilliant flash of insight, or feel the heart-calming presence of a loved one who has passed. It happens when we follow the threads of our intuition or when we have a bird swoop overhead and we get a shiver because we know— this has meaning. Shamans are fluid interpreters of meaning in the world. Traditionally, a shaman was someone whose life work involved interacting with the meaning hidden behind illness, blight or obstacle. When meaning is retrieved from the realm of the unseen, true healing begins.

So what does it mean to become a shaman of your own life?

It means that you practice seeing beyond the obvious, beyond the physical day-to-day to peer into the subtle mystery behind it all.

It means opening yourself to a wider meaning, to the possibility of what is hidden beneath the confusing, diluting or painful aspects of your life.

It means connecting with the spirit of the world. Talking to plants, and communing with waterfalls, and recognizing that you are a part of it all.

Over the years I’ve come to love this term shaman. It has helped me understand, in so many ways, the work I am drawn to. It has helped me describe my experience of being alive, and all the wonderful depth and complexity of healing that is available on this earth. And it has helped me locate myself in a vast history of humanity. To see that the desire to seek meaning, to move gently through a world of consciousness, and to perceive magic in the ordinary is not a new age concept at all, but a shamanic one.

Interested in going deeper? Join us for for a local class on Shamanic Self Care next Thursday June 13th at the apothecary with the radiant Julie Travis, the practitioner and shamanic healer of Stone Flower healing.

Also, check out our most recent post for a guide to Shamanic Journeying, and begin to plumb the depths.

So explore on, find the gateways that speak to you, and expand your perception of what is possible because there is a wide wide world of magic out there. And this is just the beginning.

Shamanic Journeying

Big Bend pond

Shamanic journeying is a kind of meditation, combined with focused intention, to enter an expanded state of consciousness. In journeying, a Shamanic practitioner enters a kind of “trance state.” If you have ever had one of those moments of being lost in thought, like following the fading lines of a beach trail onto the shoreline of sand, you know how a trance state feels. Trance states are common in meditation, prayer, or intense life transitions—including birth, orgasm, and death. Trance states can be as light as a deeper feeling of awareness or as deep as the seemingly comatose bodies of deeply seasoned Shamans.

When we undertake a journey, part of our consciousness is able to detach itself from the body and explore realms that the physical body cannot perceive or move through. The object is not to escape reality, but to venture deeper into it. Many people who journey for the first time expect to have completely out of body experiences, but this is most often not the case. I often liken it to a branch of a river tree breaking off the main trunk to join a stream. The tree stays put, but an aspect of its being is free to travel. The tree still feels the gentle sway of the water over its roots, sustaining it crown, allowing it be what it is, a tree— it has simply chosen to send part of itself downstream.

Shamanic experiences are different for everyone. Some people liken it to the sensation of being in a dream. Some people have vivid imagery, tastes or smells, others simply have a feeling sense. Above all, try being curious. In his book The Way of the Shaman, Michael Harner likens Shamans to scientists. “Both shamans and scientists,” he asserts, “personally pursue research into the mysteries of the universe, and both believe that the underlying causal process of that universe are hidden form ordinary view.” As you work with connecting to expanded states of consciousness, you may have experiences that are odd, unexplainable, or peculiarly striking. Instead of casting off such experiences or images, save these perceptions as bits of evidence or data. You may not understand their importance now, but catalogue it for later evaluation. Surprise is an integral part of the shamanic experience. Consciousness often speaks in metaphor and we are continually learning how to be better readers.

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Traditionally, most Shamans worked through the power of spirit guides. These guides can also be called transpersonal forces. Guides can take the face or image of many beings; plants, animals, stones, or even other people. Many traditional Shamans worked specifically with what we call “power animals.” A person’s power animal is a guide that represents the overarching spirit or soul energy of an animal group. Each being on earth has its own essence or being, and thus has its own power. Animal guides are often called “power animals” because they bring certain abilities and innate powers to their work in guiding you. In this way they are thought to actually impart their power to you for use in your healing work.

One of the first journeys many shamans undertake it to connect with their spirit guides. Many people say working with guides in the world of the unseen is essential. In my way of thinking, each and every one of us always moves with a guide. For, in a way, our own wider selves are our spirit guides. I think working with guides, however, can deepen and enrich your journeying experience in profound ways.

For your first journey try connecting into an animal who is ready to guide you at this time in your life.

 

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Steps of the Journey (How to Journey)

1) Find a comfortable and quiet place where you can relax. Before I enter a journey I like to take some time to call in my guides, the four directions, ancestors, or any personal divinity that has meaning to me. This is a time to get clear on your intention. Let your wider consciousness know: You would like to meet an animal guide.

You are setting the stage for a safe and guided space of journeying. If it helps to relax, try some gentle yoga, dancing or deep breathing beforehand.

2) Most people like to journey in near darkness. I suggest turning out the lights and closing the blinds. Some people light a candle at the beginning of their journey, as symbolic gesture of keeping an aspect of their consciousness in the here and now.

3) Drumming can be profoundly helpful for journeying. Find a Shamanic drumming CD you like (or track on youtube) and use it to deepen your journey. When you are ready to begin, sit in a comfortable position or lie down (if you aren’t in danger of falling asleep!) and begin the drumming.

4) Many people like to envision an entryway for themselves. For meeting with a spirit guide traditional people usually went into what we call the “lower world,” deep into the earth. I like to envision traveling down through the roots of a tree, but you may prefer a staircase, a tunnel or a cave. These gateways can often be a signal to our conscious minds that we are transitioning in our consciousness and that it’s okay to let go.

5) Once you “step into” the journey itself just let yourself explore. Images, feelings, sounds or smells should come spontaneously. Shamanic journeying is not about conscious control, it’s about allowing yourself to have an experience beyond your rational mind. During your journey you will stay conscious in your body. You can expect to hear cars passing down the road or feel any itches or bodily sensations. Many people liken journeying to a powerful daydream. You remain conscious and aware, and yet another aspect of yourself can travel. If you feel any distractions in the here and now, forgive the intrusion and simply let yourself drift back to the journey.

It’s always okay to ask questions. So if an animal comes to you in your journey don’t feel shy in asking, “are you my guide?”

6) If you are listening to a soundtrack of drumming the end of your journey will be indicated by a series of rapid rhythmic beats, followed by several slow thrums. Now is the time to “come back.” I often like to retrace my steps, going back through the entryway I have chosen. If, at any time, you wish to end your journey early just retrace your path and head home. When I arrive back into my body I like to imagine my spirit sifting in from the top of my head and settling down firmly into my heart and all my limbs.

7) Take some moments before you move to deeply breathe and feel yourself completely in your body once more. Once you are ready, I highly encourage writing down an account of your journey. Consciousness most often speaks in metaphor and sometimes the deeper meanings will be made much clearer once you take time for reflection. If only a few sentences, jot down some impressions from your experience and close your journeying time with some gratitude for your guides and for the perfection of this particular journey.
Did you give the shamanic journey a try? I’d love to hear about your experience! Leave a comment at the top of this post to share about your journey.

Your Life is a Poem

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We think of our lives like a timeline but, really, they are poems just waiting to be experienced.

Poetry has always fascinated me. Like moonshine spirits, poetry holds an essence that is both distilled and incandescently free. It belongs to no one but itself, and it captivates you totally.

In poetry the true magic happens in the unseen.

There is a Zen saying that I stumbled upon once that has always stuck with me.  A good poem is like a fishing net. It is not the well-twined rope that makes a net so effective, but the emptiness that exists inbetween. Unlike a longer fiction, each word of a poem is thoughtfully placed to reference an even greater meaning. A good poem offers us a single lotus flower, floating in an empty pond, so that we are invited to dive into an understanding of the unspeakable gorgeousness that lies just beyond.

True magic happens when we begin to view the events of our own days as droplets of meaning in a much wider lake. When we can sit in wonder of the day-to-day. When we can experience our lives as poetry, an opus that is ultimately pointing towards something inexpressibly grand. Just like when we are given a book of poems, and asked to find the meaning, sometimes it can seem as though the days we’ve been handed are just a collection of disconnected memories. But open to your life with a poetic mind, eyes trained on the unseen, and you will find a stirring gateway of meaning.

Live in the midst of poetry.

The first poppy blooming in your garden. The way warm honey dissolves in your tea. A chipped dish, the flecks of mica in concrete. Every gesture, every small movement in our life has the ability to point our gaze towards the ineffable, the magnificent, the intangibly radiant.

In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor and Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, postulated that the ultimate driving force behind humanity wasn’t the search for security, affirmation or luxury… but the ache for meaning. And that the need for meaning doesn’t just belong to the poets and professors of the world— it is part of the longing of every human being.

When we can connect to the experience of our lives as a poem, we naturally sink into meaning. All we have to do is leave some space in-between. Whenever you can, however you can. Summer, with all its bustle and fullness, is a clarion call to simplify one’s life. To let go of all the million details of plant, harvest and seed and take long moments to just enjoy. Read a book for an hour at sunset. Go swimming on a Tuesday. Spend a whole weekend trying out new popsicle recipes or create a fairy altar with your kids. There is a reason why summer is the season of vacation. It’s meant to be a time of ease.

As John Keats so beautifully described, “A poem needs understanding through the senses. The point of diving into a lake is not immediately to swim to the shore, but to be in the lake, to luxuriate in the sensation of water. You do not work the lake out, it is an experience beyond thought.”

Your life is a poem, allow yourself to experience its beauty.

Cycles of Healing

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Healing is about communing with the cycles.

Like the circles of sun and tide and horizon, our lives are intimately guided, nudged and nurtured by cycles. Winter, spring, summer and fall. The dry season, the monsoon. The cycle of seed, flower, fruit. The wheel of constellations through the night sky. Maiden, mother, crone. In native north American belief systems, as in many indigenous cosmologies, everything was seen to be moving in a circle. Our lives, the heavens, and healing itself was part of the interconnected wheel of death and life. And some of the most profound medicine on earth arose from simply recognizing which cycles you were moving through.

Any imbalance asks us to make a change in the unconscious patterns of how we live our lives. True medicine begins with recognizing the subtleties of our own cycles. Noticing that every time you push yourself a bit too hard you are laid up with a migraine. Or that you always seem to get a chest cold after Christmas spent with the family. Or simply knowing that some days you will wake up sad. And it’s okay, it will pass.

As a woman, my path into holistic healing was intimately tied to recognizing my own personal cycle. Publicly, I’ve kept a bit quiet about the details of this initiation. But the first gateway to my medicine path opened when I began experiencing chronic yeast infections as a teenager. Over time, those chronic infections led to chronic muscular and finally nerve pain. It was journey of five years and some of the deepest healing came when I became an apprentice to the wisdom of my womb.

I dismantled all the things that kept me from courting a deeper relationship with my own hormonal, emotional and spiritual cycles. I quit birth control, I began fertility charting (a practice I still maintain now, over 100 cycles later), and I started studying herbs and natural healing. Instead of resisting the cycles of inconvenience and discomfort, I embraced them. I began to see my own hormonal cycle of budding, flowering and fading as a deeply important aspect of my identity and my healing. A homing beacon, always reminding me of what was important (rest, self-nurturment, gentleness) and inviting me back home.

 

For centuries, women in this culture have been unduly alienated from their natural cycles. Whether through the oppression of female folk knowledge, midwifery or herbcraft. Or simply through the demeaning, downplaying and disregarding that characterizes our society’s approach to bleeding today. But this alienation hides a much deeper fact– that our cycles themselves are healing

As Nayyirah Waheed so beautifully captures, “I bleed every month but do not die, how am I not magic?”

When women begin to connect into and honor their cycles, something pretty amazing happens. We stop working against ourselves. We let go of the paradigm of self-abashment, the patterns of belittling. We tap into a deeper and mystical understanding of just how incredibly powerful we are. In some cultures women were considered so potent while they were bleeding that they chose to separate themselves from the normal day-to-day workings of society and rest in a ceremonial space. Today, this power often remains unrecognized, but not unfelt (Case in point: A pretty kinetic friend of mine had to stop touching electronics when she bled because everything she touched would literally blow a fuse. This stuff is real).

leah dorion vessel

artwork by Leah Dorion

In celebration of all the powerful women connected to me here, I wanted to offer some of my cherished gateways to help you nourish and connect: a peek at my go-to herb for helping women to heal their cycles and an invitation to join me this upcoming moon for She Cycles. An e-course created by Falan Storm (with contributions from some truly rad women, myself included), She Cycles is a deeply thoughtful gateway into a new relationship with yourself. With insights on charting, herbs, diet, ritual, history and womencraft— She Cycles is a rich resource in every sense of the word. She Cycles is only open for a limited about of time so if you are interested in joining this year’s moon cycle, skip over to the website before June 20th.

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S H A T A V A R I

Asparagus racemosus

In Sanskrit, Shatavari translates as “she who possesses a hundred husbands.” A gentle medicine, shatavari is a nourishing hormone balancer, immune tonic and adaptogen, as well as an aphrodisiac. This sweet and highly nutritious root has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for over 5,000 years as a rejuvenative— encouraging physical strength, youthfulness, fertility (especially in female bodied people) and improving memory. Classified in Ayurveda as a “rasayanic” herb, shatavari encourages energy, vitality, peace of mind and a deepening of love and compassion.

Used extensively for minor hormonal imbalances, shatavari can help relieve the symptoms of PMS, menopause, and pregnancy, and increase fertility.  Shatavari has a soothing and overall moistening effect— this root will get your proverbial juices flowing. Shatavari is a wonderful remedy for people with fatigue, poor appetite, and anemia. This root has a long history of use as a galactagogue (or plant to help increase milk flow in lactating women). Considered a yin tonic, Shatavari is also a soothing demulcent for any digestive, urinary or respiratory irritation.

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Food is the first medicine. And this medicinal aparagus root is one of the most nourishing medicinal foods on earth.

Shatavari is the first herb I recommend when women are looking to bring some gentle attention to their cycles, to nourish their bodies and rebalance their hormones.

Try 1 powdered tsp of this sweet plant ally in your daily regime to help bring glowing health from root to tip.

Need some recipe inspiration? Try some Golden Moon Milk…

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GOLDEN MOON MILK recipe

A sweet and fulfilling evening beverage to ground oneself in the numinous and nourishing after a long day. With shatavari and turmeric powder, this Golden Moon Milk is a delicious way to incorporate gentle hormone balancing, healing anti-inflammatory compounds, and overall nourishment into your daily self-care rituals.

 

1) Measure out milk (cow, goat, almond, rice etc.) into large mug of choice

2) Pour milk into small saucepan on the stove

3) Heat on medium until shimmering. Whisk in 1 tsp Shatavari powder and ½ tsp Turmeric. Stir for a minute.

4) Pour golden brew into your cup and add honey to taste. If you like pepper add a few cracks of fresh peppercorns (pepper makes the anti-inflammatory compounds of Turmeric more bio-available)

5) Sit back, sip and enjoy

Note: If the milk tastes too bitter for your taste try using more milk and honey.

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What’s in my Medicine Bag?

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Medicine Pouch

Whenever I travel I always pack a medicine pouch. Over time this has evolved. From bandaids and salves to flower essences, stones and talismans. As the years flow by my very definition of medicine changes, grows, and transforms. From the sturdy resiliency of the western medical breastplate, to the more ineffable healing of the natural world— quiet and effective as the swoop of silent downy owls. Whenever I travel I like to carry medicine with me that helps me connect into the deeper, less tended sides of myself. The underground streams that are only healed when I untether and take myself away from it all. When I travel my medicine pouch is more than just a stockpile of first aid herbs, it is a reminder of the transformation that is possible.

Traveling itself is a deep kind of medicine for me. It is a time when I am allowed a kind of shaman’s-view of my life. I slip out of the confines of my day-to-day and journey, meeting strange and wonderful allies, encountering obstacles, seeing life from an expanded perspective. Every time I travel I come closer to home. I am able, with distance, to see more clearly – what is feeding me, and what isn’t? What newness would I like to call into my life? And what can I let go?

{ Photo by Juliet Blankespoor }

For the next few weeks I’ll be traveling to California and back again to share earth medicine. This week I’m headed to the Spirit Weavers gathering, nestled in the heart of the Redwoods, to teach about plants and stones. And when I return I’ll be heading straight for the Firefly Gathering here in western Appalachia with several classes in intuitive plant medicine and dreamskills!Every single time I travel my medicine pouch looks a bit different. In preparation for this journey I’ve spent several dreamy weeks slowly feeling my way into what medicine should be brought along for these particular travels. Herbs, talismans, tinctures and stones. Sometimes the medicine that decides to come into my pouch is a mystery to me. Just like ocean waves, and the contents of my own dreams— I may not grasp the fuller picture, but the meaning stirs me . Each medicine, subtle, ineffable, irreplaceable, brings me closer to embracing the medicine of the journey itself.

 

So dear friends, come with me and take a peek into my Traveling Medicine Bag. Read on to discover the elements, herbs and medicine I always carry with me when I travel, and find inspiration to create your own medicine bag as you journey into the season.

 

 

<< What’s in my Traveling Medicine Bag? >>

 

Flower Essence Bowl

 

A Flower Essence

 

Every time I travel I choose one core vibrational elixir to imbibe every day.

Traveling is a unique time of stepping out of your day-to-day life and embracing a more potent experience of being alive. As Rick Steves says, Traveling is living intensified. And so when we travel, the deeper emotional and spiritual healing in our lives is intensified as well.

In the days or weeks before my trip I like to sit down in my apothecary of flower essences and intuitively select a blend of one to four flowers based on my intention for the travels. I let my hands and my heart choose, allowing my brain to be quiet for once. When each element has been selected I combine them into a dosage bottle and give the mixture a name. For this journey I called my formula, “The Heartwood.” The name helps me to remember and reconnect into my original intention for this time of inner work and outer travel. I find that taking a step out of my normal life can help me tune in even more sharply to the workings of subtle and vibrational plant medicine. And when you take such medicine every day of your trip, the journey itself becomes a true passport to a new era.

Try making a blend for yourself before your next trip. One Willow’s Flower essences (like most essences you purchase in the store) are all stock bottles, so you can begin to collect your own stock apothecary of flower essences and create literally hundreds of dosage bottles (for you, your mom, your dog… no joke, the use of flower essences in veterinary practice is booming).

(Not sure what stock + dosage bottles are? Or how to make them? Take a gander at our handy Flower essence FAQ )

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A Stone

For every trip I choose one stone to be my talisman. Journeying out of your normal, everyday routine provides you with an incredibly rich opportunity to enter into a time-out-of-time space and tap into a meditative state of receptivity. This is often my favorite time to go deep with a particular stone, letting it potentize my journey.

I let the stone choose me. I visit my stone drawers or the crystal shop or the creek beside my house and see which stone waves or sparkles at me. I particularly love when I know very little about the stone, and so I can start with a blank slate in which to learn through my experiences. Either way, my relationship with a stone deepens dramatically when we travel together. I will often sleep with the stone under my pillow. Hold it in my hands during stressful moments and bring it out to bathe in wild waters or under the moonlight with me.

 

Two stones I often love to travel with are:
Lepidolite

Deeply calming, soothing and lithium-filled this stone is my go-to for airport anxiety and travel insomnia. I particularly love finding tumbled pieces and holding them in my left hand while I practice deep belly breathing or EFT tapping to refind my peace.

 

Black Tourmaline

Like many black stones, Black tourmaline creates healthy psychic boundaries as well as protects against negative energies. As someone who identifies as unavoidably empathic (sometimes detrimentally so!) I value the companionship of this stone deeply. Known to help those who hold a lot of energy to “decharge”, it is a vital stone for anyone who facilitates healing work. Tourmalines in general help us to understand that it is okay to go within, to bring your energy down into your personal self and refill the well, a sacred reminder that cannot be repeated enough when we are in the midst of travels.
(Want to learn how to select the right stone for you? Check out my new online course, How Stones Communicate! )

 

Passionflower essence square

My Top Three Tinctures for Travel


Spilanthes (Acemlla oleraca) – I always bring an immune stimulating herb with me whenever I travel. When we journey out of our comfort zones it’s common to be a bit more susceptible to passing colds. Having an immune stimulant in my pouch has often meant the difference between a day of feeling gunky and the full-blown flu. This zesty flower is one of my all time favorite immune herbs. Stimulating and antimicrobial, I take a couple dropperfulls of the tincture whenever I feel the icy approach of a cold or illness. It is particularly helpful when you are wanting to avoid airplane plagues. Spilanthes is easily adaptable to a wide variety of garden soils and such a curiously fun plant to grow.

 

Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum)- Traveling is wonderful and exciting … and it can also be downright stressful! To help downgrade the overwhelm, I always travel with at least one adaptogen (an herb that helps your body, heart and mind deal with stress gracefully), and Tulsi is my absolute go-to. A student once asked me if I could bring only one herb to a desert island, what would it be? My answer was Tulsi. In the realm of the multitudinous, the complex and the mysterious manifold, Tulsi (or Holy Basil) reigns queen. A sacred herb of the Ayurvedic traditions, Tulsi has one of the longest lists of herbal actions I’ve ever seen. Along with being an adaptogen, it is also considered an anxiolytic (anxiety reducing herb), anti-depressant, nervine (an herb that relaxes our nervous system) antimicrobial and immunomodulator. It is calming and focusing for the mind and can even lower blood pressure. Tulsi embodies so many different medicinal properties, it is considered a virtual panacea in some traditions. And as such, Tulsi is a brilliant ally for helping us to integrate complexity within our own journey, expanding out into the possibility of all those open horizons.

 

Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) – Traveling to strange and foreign lands often means eating strange and foreign foods, am I right? I’m normally pretty on point with my diet but when I travel, well, sometimes the best laid plans get thrown out the window! Whenever I journey I never leave home without a digestive bitter. Largely eliminated from our modern diet, bitters are a cornerstone of traditional eating. Bitters, which often accompany food that is difficult to digest or even potentially toxic, send an important signal to our digestive system to stoke the digestive fires. Taken in small doses before a meal, bitters can greatly increase our digestive powers, aiding absorption of essential vitamins and minerals and eliminating bloating, gas and indigestion. Bitters also help bolster the liver, thus increasing the elimination of toxins. Recent studies have found an inextricable link between our brains and our guts. When we improve digestion we can actually improve our mental health and mindset.

 

Bitters are often chosen by constitution. Do you tend to run hot or cold? Would you be better benefited by a cooling, simple bitter (like dandelion)? Or by a warming, aromatic bitter (like cardamom or sassafras)? I run on the cold side so I always gravitate towards aromatic bitters. And Sassafras is simply my all time favorite. This important Native American medicine is an aromatic and delicious medicinal. The root (or more specifically the root bark) is one of the most traditional spring tonics, due to its blood cleansing and stimulating nature. It is also strongly anti-inflammatory, carminative (gas relieving), and diaphoretic (warming, sweat-inducing and helpful in breaking fevers). I take 5 drops 20 minutes before a meal to stimulate and warm my digestion.

 

Smudge sticks

Medicine to Give Back

It is important to me to bring offerings whenever I travel. Hand-harvested sage, tobacco from my garden, stones I found and greatly love. I like to leave offerings wherever I lay my head– at the roots of trees, on the banks of rivers, and with friends who graciously offer to host me. Medicine is a moment of exchange, so give back to the people, places and friends who have gifted you such essential experiences.

 

Blessed travels everyone!