Nice Girls vs. Kind Women

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This post is a bit of a departure from my normal blog material (namely— nature, plants, poetry, ecology and metaphor), but with the coming march on Washington this weekend, and the potency of so many women standing in their power across the county— proclaiming, in hard set voices and many-faceted hearts, that we will not stand by and see any section of the population belittled — has me thinking of the old ways that are ready to die. The tired ways of seeing that are about to expire. It has set me thinking, most particularly, about a concept in our culture that is utterly, and completely, worn out.

The nice girl.

You know what I mean. You might even be one yourself.

>> Nice Girls <<

At some point growing up I internalized the idea of needing to be a “nice girl.” It was never something my parents proffered, it just seemed to permeate the very walls of our culture. From early on I recognized that life as a female (and an empath to boot) would be easier for me if I just became unreservedly nice.

Pleasant; agreeable; satisfactory. This is how the dictionary defines nice. And on a subconscious level this is how I fashioned myself to be in the world. I became someone who always put others needs first, defaulting to an attitude of cheerful mildness. Even as I empowered myself with education, knowledge, life experience, starting and rocking my own business, there was always the impetus to be a nice girl. Which meant, among other things, agreeing to situations that didn’t always feel comfortable or resonant. Saying yes when I wanted to say no. Going out of my way to make sure I didn’t step on any toes. Apologizing for things that I had no need to feel sorry for, like speaking my mind or just enjoying my life. Heck, I’ve lived (and ended, thank goodness) entire relationships that evolved simply because I couldn’t immediately say “no” to someone else’s interest. I had focused on wholly on tending to other people’s feelings I couldn’t even trust my own.

f3fff6f77693e1e7e33b785675caade2Yellow Rose -Daniel F. Gerhartz

Sometimes, niceness takes you so far down the rabbit hole that you lose track of how to even understand what it is that you need on a deeper level. When we spend so much time securing other people’s comfort, we lose connection to our innate desires. I remember a partner who used to get deeply frustrated with me because, whenever he asked where I wanted to go to dinner or what movie I wanted to see, I never had an immediate answer. When posed with the question of what I wanted I consistently drew a blank. At the time this partner thought I was being purposely elusive, but the reality was that I actually had no idea what I wanted. I had spent so long being a nice girl in my relationship that I lost track of the woman who had forthright interests and desires.

In our country being a nice girl is such an ingrained expectation it is painful, and sometimes shocking, to realize that we’ve cultivated so much pleasantness that we’ve dulled our own power. But as daughters and descendants of what feminist historian Max Dashu lays out as over one thousand years of oppression, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that this is a defense mechanism a millennia in the making. For our mothers, our grandmothers, and the many women who came before us, being a nice girl didn’t just make the world more friendly, it literally kept you alive. For many women living in the world today this is still the case.

But becoming, and remaining a nice girl, is a kind of malnutrition to the soul of a woman. To remain a nice girl means just that. To remain, in the eyes of the world, a girl. And it is clear that the world, our aching world of imbalance, is starving for something different.

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Woman on a Riverbank – Ferdinand Heilbuth

I remember being part of a panel once where every presenter was introduced with a short mention of their work, and the medicine of their character. I was one of the last speakers to be introduced by the older gentleman who ran the mic and the central tenant of his speech, offered to describe me and entire body of my work, was this: Asia is sweet. I stood on stage and felt as small, and hard, as a candy in someone else’s pocket.

When we devote ourselves to being nice girls we give up both agency and power. At its root, the very world “nice” is something that is defined by others. One does not declare oneself to be nice. Nice is a title that is bestowed upon you by those you have pleased, a reward for agreeability. Your skill at fulfilling this role is wholly judged, decided and anointed by others. As nice girls, we don’t have the power to decide whether or not we are good; this lies directly in the hands of those who judge us to be nice.

Looking around at the distorted media that surrounds us, a dimness that we swim in as if it were most natural of waters, I cannot help but have a righteous wave roll up to break in my heart. Is it time we reclaimed our own ability to self define. To take back our self representation. Time to flesh out the image of women everywhere and be shown in our fullness. It is time to let go of the mild poison that is nice.

Let’s endow ourselves, our daughters with a more empowering way of interacting with the world. Let’s bring wholeness back to our own souls, and balance to this earth.

Let us be kind.

Asia on winter walk

>> Kind Women <<

Instead of teaching our children to be nice girls, what if we raised them to be kind women?

Women whose goodness depended not on how others saw them, but how they decided to carry themselves in the world?

Merriam Webster defines Kind as “wanting and liking to do good things and to bring happiness to others.” In short, kind is something we own. Something we enact, instead of something we fulfill. Kind is something we can decide about ourselves.

Kindness is benevolence. It is the grace of our care, a gift that we can decide to bestow. Nice is mild and forgettable. Kind is a power unto itself. Kindness is a bigness. In many cross-cultural myths, we hear of references to the ancient Goddesses as being kind (though, just as often, Goddesses chose to be deeply wild, sharp and severe). But we never hear of a Goddess being nice. Goddesses simply aren’t nice. Nice isn’t big enough for the vastness that is feminine energy, compassion, and care.

It is in our nature to be kind. Kindness is something we can give. Nice is something we must mold ourselves to be.

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Sophia Rose of La Abeja Herbs (photo by Jonah Welch)

How many times have we reacted to injustice by being nice, agreeable, mild, when we could have been kind? It is kindness, not niceness, that truly makes difference in the world. How would this world change if we all were raised to be kind women? Nice girls are quiet when injustices happen, especially to their own selves. Kind women take into account what is best for everyone’s health, which means standing up to those that caused hurt and recognizing that calling people out on their shit, their shadow, is important for the healing of the whole word.

It reminds me of a time in my early twenties when I was at a hot tub party. A stranger, who several friends of mine had been chatting with, invited me to come sit next to him to be closer to the conversation. Once seated next to him, he surreptitiously stuck his hand down my bathing suit bottom. I was in shock. And my immediate reaction, what I felt was the safest reaction, was to be nice. To sit stunned for a moment, move away without comment, get out of the tub to gather my things, to tearfully find my friends and leave post haste.

To this day, I wonder… what would have happened if I had been kind? It would have been a kindness, to everyone involved, if I had spoken to the man’s transgression on the spot. Kinder if I had been able to look him in the eye and tell him that his actions were inappropriate and hurtful. Kinder if I had been able to face him, not as an oppressor to whom I needed to keep myself safe from by neutralizing the situation, but a seriously misguided person who perhaps doesn’t understand what it is to make a healthy connection. To look him in the eye and ask him why he thought it was okay to touch me without my consent. To explain how broken and powerless and triggered I felt. To leave space for him to confront his own demons.

Now that would have been kind.

millaMilla Prince of The Woman Who Married a Bear

The other night I had a dream. I was in a terrible knock-down drag out fight with my friend Claire, one of the absolute nicest women I’ve ever met. Claire, who unreservedly puts herself last, and is sweet to a fault, is about the last woman I ever expect to see in a fistfight. In reality this friend and I have never had a single argument (we are, after all, both very nice girls!) but in this dream we were terrible. Nasty, mean, angry without knowing why. In one big burst, we lit it all up. We literally tore each other apart in a storm that seemed to rip through our souls. Afterwards we lay on the floor in a haze, holding each other in gratitude and feeling lighter than ever before.

When I first woke up I was confused, why on earth would Claire and I want to destroy each other? And then I realized. We weren’t fighting with one another— we were, in the most direct way possible, destroying the nice girls that lived inside us.

And it was about time.

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Sylvia Linsteadt of Wild Talewort

The feminine, the divine feminine, has been starved from our earth. Kindness, and truly bold-hearted compassion, is the food that will reawaken balance once more.

So next time you feel pressure to say yes when you want to say no. Next time your truth feels uncomfortable. Next time you feel subservient or small. Look in the mirror and tell yourself that you are a Kind Woman. See how quickly the Goddess inside of you is nourished, grows.

And next time your daughter does something sharp or misguided instead of saying “be nice” try, “be kind.” Because one day she will become a woman, and that kindness might just save the world.

mothers-loveMother’s Love by Phoebe Wahl

(All the photos featured in this section of the piece are women I look up to as fiercely kind, and changing the world with their bigness. I highly recommend checking out their work)

 

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Try Being Curious

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The new year has dawned like a thaw. These first few days of the year have always felt like a special, liminal space to me. A crack in the long ice of winter, a small window to bask in the glow of self-reflection and nuturement. A kind of hot spring for the soul in the dead of winter.

In our culture, New Year’s is often a time when we make massive lists of scheduled self-improvements. Shoulds and wills and musts, the desire to shape our lives in a time of soft indefinition. Sometimes this can feel empowering. And sometimes it feels like donning a coat of stones.

So what if, instead of beginning this time with a new set of rules to hone the selves we know, we began with a fresh curiosity about our deeper unknowns? What if, instead of making decisions about who we are and what needs improving, we simply begin with a curiosity, a willingness to peer over the thaw edge and deep into the inner mystery?

Perfect snowflake

There are endless fascinations in the world. The electric rainbow of the northern lights. Octopus ink. Orchids that stretch like long raindrops from the trees. But the densest and most fascinating mille feuille we will ever encounter is our own selves.

I recently ran across photographs of the massive waves that collect and swell at the heart of Lake Erie during the winter winds. They were stunning. We have this preconception of lakes as still and placid entities, but anyone who has ever lived beside a great lake knows— they are ever-changing, powerful and dynamic beings. There was something about seeing these photos that shook loose a swell inside of me. A kind of recognition. This is what it feels like to step off the shores of the known and go deep into the heart of my own being. I am that changing, tempestuous, mysterious and deep.

Because the truth is this: of all the endless depths in this world, the most surprising of all has often been my own self.
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A friend once shared with me a mantra that, growing up, her Mom seemed to repeat to her almost daily. Whenever you are faced with mysteries, let downs and catastrophes, Try being curious. When life seems to fall apart at the seams, or you make a long life of New Year’s intentions and each one is like a skipping stone that misses the mark completely, instead of berating yourself or looping back into a familiar pattern of thinking, Try being curious.

Curiosity is at the center of all growth, all invention. It is that pure inquisitive wonder that causes photographers to paddle out in the middle of a massive lake just to know what waves look like in the winter. It is the drive to experience, unfettered by judgment or shoulds. The sheer desire to understand what is and, of course, what could be.

So this year, instead of setting specific intentions for shaping or dictating what comes next in my growth, here is what I’m placing at the center of my altar: Curiosity. Curiosity as to what kind of foods my body needs to feel healthy. Curiosity over why I might feel joyous in one moment, and crushed in another. Curiosity about the way things unfold in my life. Curiosity about why I desire the things I desire and why my heart asks me, over and over again, to swim into the unknown.

Each and every one of us is a lake unto ourselves. Complex, changing, part of everything, and yet self contained. And the journey of our lifetime is the one that begins when we step off the shores of the outer world and wander within. When we can meet the creatures that lurk in the deep and instead of turning away or paddling back, we embrace them and be transformed. Because you are not a lake that can be traversed in a leisurely day of kayaking. You are an inland ocean with its own deep mysteries and awe-inspiring waves. So be inside the country of your own self, and let curiosity move you as lusciously as the moon guides the waves.

And remember that the word ‘curious’ means both a marked desire to know, and an occurrence that is unusual or out of the ordinary. So as you cross into this new year be open to the unintelligible, the complex, the puzzling, the odd. Because each mystery you encounter is your sign that it is time to plunge even deeper.

Go bravely. Go curiously.

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Tending the Embers: Chaga + The Creative Spark

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In winter we stir the embers. A motion of both caretaking and stoking, a gentle coaxing and potent remembering of that which lights our fire. Every winter, as color fades from the outer world, we are invited to journey into the vibrant tableau of our deepest self. To rekindle our inner colors with a gentle dedication to feeding our own sources of warmth. This wintertime enliven your inner embers by simply nourishing yourself, deeply and daily. Take a long bath. Sip good broth. Wrap yourself in quilts and go to bed early. Tend your inner hearth by feeding yourself fuel that burns clean and easy. Good food, warm slippers, laughter. With a bed of good embers, even the soggiest logs can catch fire. In winter we realize that self-care is an act of preparation, a gentle gestation for transformation itself. To tend our embers is to lay the groundwork for bringing new flames to life. Even the smallest acts of self nourishment are like breath on the coals, bringing our inner hearths to active possibility once more. Any good fire begins with a well-tended coal. In order to realize our wildest dreams we must be expert caretakers of these innermost fires. This winter, embrace this lush opportunity to nourish the embers, and by doing so create a warm bed in which any vision can catch fire.

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Sometimes the easiest way to restart your fire is to reintroduce a creative spark. The cold months are deeply generous with the space given to creation. Traditionally, winter was a time for luxuriously slow and meditative tasks. Winding wool and knitting scarves. Carving spoons, dipping candles and hand penning letters. Winter was devoted to the kind of tinkering and creative rekindling that can only happen when ones sole employ is to keep the fire going and stay cozily indoors. This winter, allow yourself the gift of rediscovering an art, or idea, or creative pursuit that brings your own spark alive. What was it that excited you as a child? Poetry or painting? Studying sea creatures or playing make-believe? As the cold months clear the landscape of leaves, give yourself the imaginative space to rekindle your creative spark. Engage in the sheer joy of moving by the unhurried torch of curiosity and experimental living. Use your creativity like a flint box, bravely striking into new creative pursuits to light something anew. With a slow burning curiosity and a house cat’s dedication to comfort, let yourself absorb gradually, learn in-between hearty mouthfuls of hot soup and a long nights sleep. Accept the natural pardon given by a world gone cold to withdraw from the quickness of doing and rest by the warm woodstove of your innermost interests, those things that make you sigh and bring you alive.

There is an alchemical altar inside all of us that aches to be fed. In winter, we are invited to pay homage to the sanctity of self-nourishment and our individual creative sparks, to become devotees of our innermost glow. Winter is an invitation to rediscover our light, for when we give our inner selves the care and attention we need, that ever present altar can burn bright enough to throw light into even the darkest corners of our wintertime world.

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>> Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) <<

A living embodiment of both the darkness and spark of wintertime, Chaga is a rich and mystical cold weather medicine. In natural hue, this medicinal fungus looks like a hearty slab of rough volcanic stone or a wet hewn chunk of wood. In our area, Chaga flourishes on Yellow Birches (Betula alleghaniensis) but in other northern corners of the world it can be found on White Birch (Betula papyrifera) and Gray Birch (Betula populifolia) as well.

Dense and woody, Chaga needs to be decocted to receive its full medicine, and so is best drunk in the long months of winter when the windows are happy to be fogged by the warm breath of the stove. Chaga is a rich addition to your daily routine of self-nourishment. In the winter I like to keep Chaga in a pot on the woodstove for days, or sometimes weeks, at a time. On first simmer, Chaga will turn your tea dark cacao colored, but you can use the same chunk in your decoction until the brew turns a light caramel.

Medicinally, Chaga is a deeply nourishing immune tonic. Antiviral, immune modulating, and adaptogenic, Chaga has been an indispensible wintertime decoction in the far northern climes of Russia for centuries. I often like to add Chaga to a wintertime adaptogenic tea with Reishi (Ganoderma tsugae, G. lucidum), Eleuthro (Eleutherococcus senticosus) and good handfuls of cardamom and cinnamon for taste. I sip a cup of the tea every morning and the fortifying nourishment of it seems to spread throughout every limb. Chaga tea is also rich in antioxidants and most excellently paired with bitter dark chocolate. Traditionally used in Russia for cancer, Chaga has been shown to have an antitumor effect in contemporary clinical trials.

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Often referred to as a mushroom, Chaga is actually an outgrowth of the mycelium of the fungus itself (mushrooms being the “fruiting body” of the mycelium). Mycelium, or the vegetative aspect of fungi, extends underneath the soil of our entire world. Indispensible and vast, mycelium is the unseen web upon which the entire living world is woven. Over time, this magical root-based system works to break down massive amounts of organic material, turning winters leaves into the fertile humus of a forest floor. Mycelium is so adept at breaking down organic compounds that many think these organisms might be the first to adapt to the new chemicals of our world, transmuting radiation and pollutants into something more benign. Mycelium is an undertaker of sorts, turning the opportunity of death into the rich possibility of rebirth. Mycelium also functions as a vast network of organic interconnection. Some scientists believe that trees and other plants are able, not only to communicate, but also send vital nutrients to each other through the infinite strings of this mysterious web. With each sip, Chaga invites us to step into the nourishing weave of interconnection, helping the entire complex system of our being to receive sustenance and opening up new threads of communication between all layers of our self.

Also called tinder fungus, Chaga is as an excellent ally for catching coals of fresh-drilled hand-fires and holding the spark for a miraculous amount of time. Used as tinder for eons, it was even found in the pouches of Otzi, the Copper age man who lived and died in the Alps around 3,300 BCE and was discovered in an ice flow 5,000 years later. A vital companion for sojourners who need to bring the spark of new life with them wherever they go, Chaga is an embodiment of tending our inner embers. This rich medicine reminds us that even in the bleak of winter we can strike new and nourishing sparks to flame, and that it all begins with the slowness of putting a pot of tea to boil.

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Chaga Maple Hot Cocoa

Recipe makes two mugs of hot cocoa

½ oz Chaga

1.5 cups water

2 tsp cocoa power

¼ – ½ tsp cinnamon (or to taste)

2 oz coconut milk

2 oz maple syrup

(Optional) Vanilla Extract

 

  1. Decoct Chaga. Combine Chaga with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and let churn for at least 20 minutes (or until your tea turns to the shade of dark wood). When your decoction is done, strain the tea into a separate container.
  2. Sir in cocoa + cinnamon powder until all lumps are dissolved
  3. Add Coconut milk and Maple syrup
  4. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and make a toast to mycelium!

 

Interested in up-leveling this recipe with stone medicine? Check out this post for to learn how Chaga + Hematite like to work together

 

// post originally published in Plant Healer Magazine, Winter 2016 //

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Journey to Santa

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Artwork – “Fly Agaric” by Amanda Clark 

This past week I had brunch with a dear friend. Over scones, she started talking about how difficult it is for her to get into the holiday spirit. As someone who grew up in a family that never celebrated this time, she shared that she is having trouble really feeling the magic. Now that she has young children of her own, however, who are independently jazzed about Christmas (and begging her to get on board), she asked me point blank “how do you get into the magic of the holidays?”

And my answer was — to become a child once more. In so many ways, our ability to feel that holiday cheer is directly tied into our inner resources of child-like wonderment. As children we believe anything is possible. The world of the invisible, the benevolent, the mystical that is just around the corner. It is flying up in the sky with a team of reindeer, lining our stockings with candy canes and leaving us notes of love next to cookie crumbs. As children it is easy to believe in magic. And, in turn, great magic comes about when we can be in such a state of belief!

So if you are having a hard time feeling the magic of the season, it may be time to reconnect with one of the most magical fixtures of our collective childhood imagination — Santa Claus! One of my favorite meditations this time of the year is to undertake a shamanic journey to meet Santa Claus, and the starry-eyed little girl who believed in him so strongly. When we have a hard time feeling the wonderment, sometimes all we need to do is reconnect with our inner child and her wild, imaginative, untethered connection to the magic of Mr (or Ms. Claus).

I love journeying this time of the year in particular because from reindeer to Fir trees, many of the symbols and icons we associate with Christmas celebrations are actually derived from the earliest Pagan traditions of the tribal peoples of per-Christian Europe. Our traditional Santa Clause, in fact, is an amalgamation of characteristics from the early European Shamans of the far North. With coats carefully stitched and tanned from reindeer hides, these ancient mystic, of the frozen north traveled easily between the between realms. From the tundra of snow to the star filled heavens, these profound mystics were accustomed to truly galactic sojourns.

To undertake this journey I suggest starting with this gateway: Imagine yourself in a gorgeous snowy landscape with a single reindeer (or a whole sleigh if that suits your fancy)! You will begin the journey by approaching the reindeer and asking for a ride and then, just let them whisk you away to Santa’s abode. Be open to how this spirit of the season (known as Santa) wants to appear to you and your childlike imagination. Santa might be a dryad, a Goddess, a stag, a pillar of light. However Santa appears to you, just ask him or her to help you reconnect to the deeply believing child inside of you… and open back up an understanding of what this season is truly about!

For me, every time I undertake this journey, I am shown just how precious this season of gratitude + light truly is— and what magic arises from giving in its purest forms.

Try it for yourself! If you’ve never done a Shamanic meditation before, check out my simple guide to journeying. And say hi to Santa for me…

Infusing Mysticism into the Holidays

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In between the hours of gift buying and cookie making there is a pause.

Can you feel it?

Between the time spent navigating family politics and trying to get the tree to stand straight in its stand there is a stream of quietude that runs just beneath the surface.

Can you hear it?

Across the world this time has been marked in sacred observance. With monoliths of stone and underground caves, geometric earthworks that all align to the same mystical compass — The Winter Solstice. For thousands of years people have built structures to memorialize the power of this event, the longest night of the year before the return of the light.

To this day we can still watch the dawn flood the underground chambers of Ireland’s Newgrange, the grass-topped temple built over 5,000 years in the past. Or witness the first rays of Solstice light run down the center of the Eqypt’s carefully calculated Temple of Karnak. The lightlines of the Winter’s Solstice still run throughout our lives, with its earth deep promise of rebirth and renewal.

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Winter Solstice at Stone Henge

Today, however, we are called to observe and invoke the stirring magic of this time in perhaps the most profound temple of all – our own selves.

It is easy to tap into the mysticism of this season when sitting in front of a candlelit cathedral or watching the stars wheel like a choir across a pristine sky. It is much harder to feel into the ancient magic of this time when we are in the full-on hustle that is the carpooling, present wrapping, event planning and people pleasing that seems to define our cultural celebration of the season.

The complexities of this time can feel scattering, but this is also their gift. For many of us there may be no central sanctuary (tradition, or church, or otherwise) in which we place our belief during the holiday time, and so we hear the call to become a temple unto ourself. A place in which light is anchored, tended, given as much celebration as the first ray of sun at the temple of Karnak. With each complex fractal of modern life the light becomes, not broken, but multifarious, proliferate. A flame scattered amongst many hearths. An ancient flicker of hope and renewal that we each tend in our turn.

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Solstice Sunrise at Newgrange

And so this video blog below is about tending that flicker, that inner light. Because no matter what tradition we come from, we can all tap into the magic of this time to re-infuse the holiday season with mysticism, meaning and life. Whether it’s with earth magic elixirs or rituals of reconnecting with the natural rhythms of light and dark— it is within our power to reignite our ancestral connection to this time.

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.

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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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// 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.

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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.

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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.

Fog on late eden

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.

Midnight hole 1

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/