A Flower Portal

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Every spring is a kind of portal. An opening where absolutely everything has the possibility to change. When what was dormant can become activated in an entirely new way. Every winter I forget something of what it means to be alive, and every spring, in the softness of the mud and rain, I remember.

A portal is something that brings you through, beyond, helping you to move past what was once a boundary and step into the subtle winds of a new threshold. Portals deliver you into a place that has always existed, but that you haven’t yet glimpsed. They open gateways to other worlds, and deeper universes inside of oneself.

In the riotous, hopeful gateway of spring there are pockets of transcendence everywhere you look, but the most powerful portals of all are the ones that open anew every day— the flowers.

As humans we are innately attracted to flowers, we plant them and tend them and get lost in their scent. We eat them and admire them, they cause us to stop in our tracks and lose ourselves in memory, reverie and awe.

Flowers are portals that bring us deeper into this world.

 

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Have you ever tried gazing at a flower until it became a mandala? Until it transformed before your eyes? Until it was no longer an “it” but a being who waved at you, who reached into the wind, who knew something you’ve been aching to remember?

Until you saw it for what it was, a gatekeeper to a reality that you haven’t yet touched. But that you can feel, close by, almost here.

Gaze long enough at a flower and something will happen to you. You’ll enter into a portal of interconnection that feels like true bliss to our human-cloistered hearts and stirs a remembrance of a seed planted long ago.

When we come into relationship with a flower we come into the same rhythm of being that the rest of the living world follows, a rhythm that the still-wild place inside of us aches for intimately. We notice things we never saw before. The ants bravely climbing in the duff. The bees with pollen on their knees. The way the petals on every single flower will curve slightly, differently. Each petal, too, its own being.

We begin to notice the subtlety of our own being as well. Flowers teach us how to cherish the wild growth of our own selves with just as much sanctity.

 

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It is a relief to come back into this knowing. This remembering, of the many worlds inside of this world. And that we are a part of this great, soulful, multiplicity.

Flowers have made me cry. They’ve sung to me, they’ve held me, they’ve taught me. They’ve called to me. Maybe a flower is calling to you too?

Now, I know that every time I am drawn to a flower, there is a reason. That the flower is opening itself as a teacher, and I am the same as the bees: eager, drawn, unknowing, but so open to receive. Over the years I’ve learned how to listen, how to drop away from the worries of the day, and hear what is being shared. And what I receive always brings me into a new understanding of who I am, and what I am a part of here in this world.

Flowers are heralds of that great opening, changing, co-creating we feel inside of ourselves in spring. And they are waving at us (from roadsides and forgotten garden beds and river banks) to come back into our own medicine.

 

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Are you ready to open the portal?

Come join us for Intuitive Plant Medicine. Find the flowers that are speaking to you, and develop the tools to listen. Be guided to begin practicing with Flower Essences and learn how to create them, play with them, and use them in healing and on-the-body treatments.

Registration for the course closes this Friday April 28th, and then we begin as a group on Beltane (May 1st) a traditional holiday of blooming and beginning. Come join our rich circle.

Be sure to read on for more portals into flower medicine, including a video guide to my Top Three Flower Essence for spring !

And remember that all blooming first happens in the unseen, deep within the seed of your beginning. It’s happening, it’s unstoppable. And you have everything you need in order to blossom fully.

 

My Top Three Flower Essences for Spring

When Violets Speak

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I first moved to these mountains in spring. Early spring, when things are still raw with beginning. It felt fitting. I had left behind my entire life in New York City— my relationship, my community and career— to start anew in Appalachia. I brought only what would fit into my car, leaving space for the bigness of what I was carrying, the dream of what life could possibly be like moving forward: To live in daily communion with the natural world, to come into the vividness of my being, to open up the doors of self-initiation that had only been hinted at previously.

I knew something important was aching to unfold, and that stepping out into the great unknown, on my own, was important. And so I did. I started those first lonely weeks without a single piece of furniture or any connections in town. It was exhilarating and terrifying, and some days I wondered how I would handle the bigness of it all.

I was still sleeping on a pallet on the floor of my room when the violets arrived. It started with a few small handfuls of violets, scattered here and there, like tiny daubs of lavender amongst the winter-flattened grass. And then one morning I awoke and the entire hillside was alive with grape and hyacinth. Stretching for almost an acre, I was living amongst a sea of Viola. It was spectacular, and often stirred me to tears. When I looked at them I had the distinct feeling that I too was being seen. 

I didn’t know it then, but this was one of my first initiations into Intuitive Plant Medicine.

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Like most denizens of mainstream culture, I grew up seeing violets but never really seeing them. Suddenly, at this pivotal moment in my life it was as if I was experiencing violets for the very first time— and I was drinking it in. I munched on the flowers and leaves in every salad. I made violet tea (a gorgeous amethyst-hued brew). I candied the flowers and tried my hand at violet syrup. I sat amongst them, drew them, spoke to them. I walked past them and felt them reach out to me.

I had a hard time communicating what I was experiencing but it often brought me to tears. They were healing me. I was in herb school at the time, learning the ins and outs of plant constituents, but there was something lacking from all the violet material medicas I read through. It didn’t capture the sunlit spectrum of what I was experiencing. There was something more, something singing. I could hear it in a place before words.

So I stepped out of the textbook knowing and into my direct experience and I was given something absolutely life changing, a shift in the deepest well of my being. I began working directly with Violet and everything I had been hoping to embody, approach, and initiate through my move to Appalachia came to fruition.

A solidness in my sense of self. A slow removal from the pattern of people pleasing that had defined my life before. An ease in my aloneness, when once there was fear of disappointing others. It turned the tired stereotype of the shy violet on its head, so I could understand (finally) that my long-begrudged inwardness and empathy was a powerful strength indeed. I saw my unique sensitivity for what it is— a gift.

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I began to experience myself, and the world, in ways I had never accessed before. And I realized that this was the kind of medicine I came to the mountains to practice. The kind of medicine that brings you to your knees in profundity, the kind of medicine that helps you activate the medicine of your own being. This was Intuitive Plant Medicine, and this was what I was here to learn, teach and share.

Since that time I have had violets come up again and again in my practice, and I am always amazed by how it continues to appear in people’s lives during such similar transitions and big moments of finding one’s medicine.

This kind of direct, multidimensional experience of healing is what Intuitive Plant Medicine truly is. And this is what we (the plants and myself) are so exited to be sharing with you in the new Intuitive Plant Medicine online course.

Packed into this eight week online experience is a deep wealth of such aha moments. Big gateways of inner-growth, self-understanding and truly luminous connections to the plant realm. If you have been waiting for the time to ignite your own inner knowing and profound direct relationship with plants, come join us!

Registration closes on April 28th and we begin as a group shortly thereafter on May 1st. See you in the field of dreams!

<< Come Learn more about the course >>

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>> The Medicine of Violets <<

Viola spp.

As a physical medicine, violets are rich indeed. Both violet leaves and flowers are edible, and are some of my favorite additions to early spring salads. The heart-shaped leaves are highly nutritive, subtly flavored, and a wonderful source of Vitamins A and C. They are also quite mucilaginous. Herbs that have mucilage are deeply soothing for our stomachs and internal mucosa, helping to ease inflamed throats and impaired digestion. Mucilage is also chock full of soluble fiber, so it can be helpful in easing constipation, feeding our beneficial digestive flora, and lowering cholesterol levels. The mucilage of violet leaves can be a lovely addition to thicken soups or a batch of pesto. I like to take a walk-about every spring morning and gather a small handful of wild greens like chickweed (Stellaria media), dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis) and violets to have with my morning eggs.

Violet flowers and leaves are considered to be a blood purifier, or alterative, and are often used as food medicine in spring cleanses. High in both Rutin and Vitamin C, the leaves help to strengthen the blood vessels, lessening varicose veins and the tendency to bruise easily (which can be particularly helpful if you like to ramble in the springtime woods). In clinical trials violets have been shown to be a rich in antioxidants (just look at the color! of course they are!), as well as anti-inflammatory and blood thinning compounds.

The Viola genus has around 550 species, including Johnny jump ups, hearts ease and pansies. Many violet species are used similarly to our familiar lawn-native, Viola sororia, but there are always differences between plants, and some woodland species are endangered so always use your head, guidebook and heart when harvesting. Violet leaves also have some toxic look a-likes so make sure to harvest when the plant is in bloom if you are in any doubt of your ID.

Violets actually have two different flowers. The characteristic purple flower we notice in spring, and a hidden white-blanched bud that flowers just underneath the surface of the soil later in the year. The common above-ground flower is what we use as food and medicine.

 

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As a flower essence, Violet opens a space of deep self-acceptance, contentment, and individual wellbeing. Calming, steadying and maternal, the flower helps you to feel comfortable and supportive of yourself as an individual. Letting go of negative attachments and patterns of relating (especially to oneself). Violet helps us to foster good connections that come from a deep recognition of self-importance. It is often helpful during breakups, major heart transitions, or in times of self-exploration. The essence can be indicated for those who tend towards shyness and introversion as well as those who would do well to spend more time in quiet reflection and reverence of their lives.

Violet helps us to appreciate stillness— mindful observation, moments of silence, and the important joy of just being. It can expand your abilities as a listener, both to yourself as well as to others, and open you to a powerful place of acceptance. Violet encourages a commitment to be warm and generous towards oneself, it can help separate the negative feelings of loneliness from the incredible gift of alone-ness. It is sometimes within such still spaces that we recognize just how joyful it is to be ourselves, a being in springtime.

 

Visit our Violet flower essence in the shop
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Opening Earth Intuition

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At some point growing up I adopted the belief that to be spiritual was to be un-intellectual. That intuition, even though it sounded lovely, wasn’t grounded or practical. And even though I was always a sensitive and dreamy kid, at a young age I was set to prove that I too could be smart, rational, based in physical reality, and above all, “realistic.”

And so it wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that I started to believe in faeries. It wasn’t until I become an adult that I started talking to trees in earnest. It wasn’t until I experienced chronic illness and understood, for the first time, that I existed on many levels (and that healing, true healing, happened on every single one of those levels) that I accessed a layer of magic within the world that is real, tangible. It wasn’t until this point in my life that I realized— the world, this world that I live in, is animated by sentience and consciousness. And so anything is possible.

I learned how to eat flowers in the spring. I unlearned my incredulous Northeastern disbelief, and lost myself in a forest of leaves.

And I found the piece I had always been missing: that to be spiritual is not to be able to connect to some far flung star. It is to become a part of the earth once more. That intuition doesn’t exist in the ethereal heights, but down in soil, at the roots, ankle deep in the ocean at the source of the spring.

When I finally connected to my own earth intuition, the knowing that lives in my connection to the living world, untold doors began to open before me. And I stopped looking for the portal to understanding my life path because, suddenly, it was right before me.

Over my years of teaching and seeing clients I’ve connected with so many folks who have a similar ache, a yearning to re-open the gateways of their own intuition and reconnect to the magic of living right here on earth.

And so I decided to create a free video series to help you open the gate.

Join me for the Opening Earth Intuition mini-course!

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Learn how to harness the gifts of your own intuitive abilities and become receptive to the vibrant guidance of the natural world. Throughout the course I’ll be offering specific tips, tricks and exercises, with a whole lot of personal stories and inspiration along the way.

I’m excited to connect with you there!

(Back to regularly scheduled content soon!)

Awakenings can be Gentle

a·wak·en·ing
Coming into awareness, a shift in consciousness, appreciating previously unseen aspects of reality, enlightenment.

In our culture we have an enduring belief that awakenings, in order to be profound, must be hard won. That awakenings always tangle with struggle. That they will be dramatic, epiphanic, and arrive like a bolt of lightning. And while it’s true that struggle can lead to great revelation, there are as many paths to these big a-ha moments as mice trails in a large wood. Awakenings can also be subtle, incremental.

Awakenings can come quiet as a whale to the surface of the water, immense and gentle, breathing once before slipping back under the radar. Awakenings are not just the orchestral finale, where every trumpet comes on board. Awakenings can be an oboe floating on a single note. And they are happening, as sure as birdsong, within you every day.

Like many places in the country this year, we’ve had an odd spring. Pear trees blooming in February. Daffodils budding long before the winter coats were put away. The cherry trees, surprising me, with one early bloom at a time. Then, this past week, we got snow. An overnight dusting that curled the daffodils into themselves and quieted the rising tulips, dimming the newfound green. Every spring there is something in me that yearns for a more solid marker of winter’s completion. A fanfare in colors of quince and forsythia. Great banners like trumpets proclaiming, Spring is here! But the more I learn to pay attention, the more I see that spring’s awakening is ever subtle.

It is hard, and confusing, to see spring come and then, seemingly, go. But this is simply the nature of awakenings. They surface, they disappear, they are gentle in their coming. And when we learn how to relish these subtle awakenings, we open a gateway to understanding how revelation truly works.

I first heard the world “revelation” broken down by Bill Plotkin in his book Soulcraft. By definition, a revelation means to “re-veil” once more. It is a numinous moment glimpsed, an awakening (for an hour, a day, a week) that shoots lightning through our veins, and it is also the moment we slip back into somnolence once more. We all bemoan these moments of falling back into what was, because they can feel like such a step backwards. In the midst of a revelation we are so sure that this luminous state of knowing and inner-balance will surely last forever! But the truth is that these moments of re-veiling, falling back asleep, are the very essence of what makes a revelation a revelation.

With any true revelation the path will, at some point, be obscured once more.

In the morning sometimes I wake up briefly at dawn. Just long enough to see the sun streaming through my window to warm the hardwood floor. And then I fall back asleep. And, truth be told, it is the most precious part of my day. Because something happens in that brief moment that I have awakened, a subtle exchange. I receive something that will never be given back. And when I fall back into sleep I bring it with me, to puzzle, to wonder at, to explore. Insight streams in through the windows of my mind, in small wisps of dreams, one ray at a time. And I rest knowing I will awaken, subtly changed, in due time. The revelation was both the moment of awakening and the time spent slumbering, and both are transformational.

So embrace the idea this spring that your own awakening could come in such gentle tones. That it could be as subtle and humble as the tiny map of bittercress beneath one’s feet. Or as slow as the cup of a tulip opening to the sun. That it may be as incremental as the tiny centimeters of chickweed growing in infinitesimal stretches across the field. That maybe, you don’t have to do anything at all. But naturally awaken in moments of light, and instead of resenting it, relish the motion of falling back asleep once more.

Because you do not need to worry about awakenings. They are unstoppable. Sleep is a natural part of our cycles, we need it to keep being human, but we will always wake up. No matter how tired we are or how much comes in that seems to keep us under, we awaken. As Pablo Nerudo writes, “you can cut all the flowers but you cannot stop spring from coming.”

So worry less. Relish the morning spent sleeping in. Trust that the revelation is burgeoning. And that you are in, fact, awakening right now. You are like this spring. Tiny buds blossoming before the eye can even tell. It is happening, it is coming. And it can be gentle.

Something Small & Bright

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Last week I took a legitimate vacation. An honest to goodness, leave-the-computer-at-home and pack a sun hat, vacation. Those just don’t happen all that often for me, I can probably count on one hand the amount of real vacations I’ve taken in the past decade. But something inside was tugging like a sailboat in wind to be cut free so I loaded up my pack basket with my camping gear, weighed my car down with snacks, and headed to the wilds of Florida for a week.

I’ve been in a love affair with Florida for years. An entanglement that never fails to set my heart aching whenever I think upon that pastel stretch of earth whose very name, the land of flowers, is a droplet of poetry. Florida, wild Florida, is a dreamscape in hues of tropic— hibiscus, emerald and aquamarine. There are roadside thickets full of tangerines and crystal clear springs so deep, blue and clean that they’ve been likened to the eye of an angel. Upwellings of water straight from the heart of the earth that form entire rivers, clear as glass and warmed to a perpetual 72 degrees.

Florida itself is something small, and infinitesimally bright. A disappearing peninsula gifted from the sea, submerged, revealed, shaped and changed countless times over the eons by the touch of ocean waves. What we know of as Florida is just a tiny flicker in the monument of time. A coastline that will always return, sooner or later, to the sea. It is a place of microhabitats, hammocks filled with dwarf-sized trees, middens made from shell fragments, and springs that glitter in the shards of a thousand crystals.

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I went to Florida to remember, in blessed relief, what I truly am – something small and infinitesimally bright. And it was a kind of bliss. To strip down my thoughts to simple, light-filled things. Like how far I wanted to paddle for the day or when to feed the fire with palmetto fronds. Noticing how much closer to the horizon the north star is this far south, the tiny diamonds of the Pleiades. Small things, like the whole constellation of seeds in a single wild tangerine. Or the tiny bits of Spanish moss the cormorants carry, beak by beak, back to their collective rookeries.

I gathered seashells, one at a time, and at night I gazed up at the sky, remembering that there are more stars in the universe than grains of sand on all the beaches of this earth. Before sleep I found myself repeating, I am cozy inside this world. And every morning I woke up, clear as quartz.

When we become small, when we acknowledge that we always have been, a truly incredible thing begins to happen. We can allow ourselves to be cared for. We remember that to be on this earth is to live in a cradle of nourishment. And Florida, land of flowering abundance, is a place that shows you how very deeply we can be cared for when we cherish our minuteness.

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The Calusa, the native people who built a complex and enduring civilization across Southwestern Florida, lived inside this knowing. The Calusa are unique among the large civilizations of native North and South America in that their vast society was never sustained by agriculture, but by the sheer bounty of the ocean. With nets and boats and vast estuaries, they lived solely off the shoals of the sea. The water teemed with such life there was no need to spend much time cultivating fields of sunflower, corn or squash. They ate heartily, with their hands, from what was offered. Which was, in short, everything.

It is a luxury that is hard to imagine these days, but it is also not a luxury at all. It is what it means to relish the seed of one’s being, to embrace one’s smallness in the wider orchard of this world.

Our perceived bigness in this time of human history is a burden that ripples out devastation in its wake. A cultural ethos of primacy and grandiosity that is a heavy weight indeed. So what a relief it was, for a week, to put aside being anything but tiny, being anything but me. To let go of the feeling like I must always be wide enough to hold all the responsibilities of the world. As if it were up to me to change the unchangeable, to shift the tides.

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Like many indigenous peoples, the Calusa believed in reincarnation, but their hue of rebirth looks very different than what has become our common vision. For the Calusa, reincarnation began with being human. And instead of getting larger, wider, and more expansive with each go around, our selves, instead, got smaller. Once you shed the skein of being human you could become a jaguar, an alligator, a deer. From there you might pick through the marsh as a heron, run under the waves as a pinfish and finally, alight upon the world as a mosquito, the ever-present wetland companion that is known to those who live here as swamp angels. Until, one day, you became so small and so bright you simply disappeared into the vast light.

There is something so liberating about this to me. Instead of the pressure to become larger, what if we are actually here to get smaller?

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This one idea has helped me so much upon my return. To let go of multitasking, the impetus to be always expanding my attention out to what will be, what might be, what I should make happen. Instead, since I’ve come back, I’ve let my attention be small and bright. Alighting only on the task at hand, moving like an egret, one foot at a time, through the pond of my day.

I let go of big ambitions, the need to be grandiose or successful or even seen. The endless scrolling and complexity. I let it be simple. I let it be… just me.

So if you are feeling overwhelmed, join me in this place of the small and bright. Give yourself permission to take on tiny tasks, one at a time. Go outside to feel the sun on your face and remember how deeply you are cared for.

It is a blessing to be a grain of sand with you here in this wide and wondrous world.

 

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Past Life Herbal Work

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Belief in reincarnation was common throughout the ancient world. It is found in the oral tradition of many tribal societies, including the cultures of Siberia, Greece, the Celtic Druids as well as many peoples in Western Africa, North America and Australia. Reincarnation is a central tenant to many world religions including Hinduism, Jainisim, Buddhism, Taoism, ancient Kabbalistic Judaism, and certain sects of early Christianity. Take joy in exploring your multi-hued self!

Interested in going deeper? Check out light-hearted video guide to exploring the lake of time.  Connect with the herbal realm to access other lifetimes + imaginative aspects of your inner self.

Let it be light

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The world has felt a bit overwhelming recently. Every day my news feed refreshes itself and I feel one spade deeper into disquiet. The skies here have been gray and there has been a general feeling of downtrodden timelessness. Mornings that look like evenings that look like the beginning of night.

I have a tendency, especially on gray days, to take things pretty seriously. Human rights, the environment, the state of things. But perhaps the thing I hold with the most seriousness of all is my own self. The sacred crux of my personal work, my responsibility to grow. The knowledge that all change begins on an individual scale, with my agreement to continue to examine, to dismantle, to expand.

And it’s good, it’s needed. But sometimes I get so serious about the path of self work and personal responsibility that it begins to feel as if my growth is also my greatest confinement. Even my self care regime (yoga, meditation, reading, repeat!) starts to feel like just another To-Do.

That’s when I know, it’s time to just let it be light.

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I hear, often, the idea that self care is a kind of activism. And I agree. Tending the inner wells is a practice that nourishes a much larger reality. But what about the idea of self care without an end goal? Self care for its own sake, without it needing to be political, radical, or even useful?

What if, sometimes, taking care of ourselves doesn’t need to be utile at all?

What if, instead, you gave yourself permission to engage in a totally luxurious sabbatical of self joy? Now clearly, I’m not suggesting a whole scale permanent check out from the waves of the world, but sometimes our hearts need a great shock of goodness, of levity and joy, to be able to become a part of things once more.

So, for this week, ditch the various To-Do’s of self care, of being a good person, the  right person, for this world and just try cultivating self joy.

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In the midst of a hard week last week I started doing something revolutionary. An hour before bedtime I turned off my phone, my computer, my work mind and just felt into what I truly wanted. I even let go of my normal routine of what-I-do-in-my-down-time (yoga, mediation, reading, repeat!). And instead I just let, as Mary Oliver says, the soft animal of my body love what it loves.

So I ended up taking a lot of baths, a ridiculously luxurious amount of baths. I ended up eating chocolate tarts. I danced for a long time in front of the mirror and tried on different outfits for fun. I watercolored, a practice that feels so liberating simply because I have no idea what I’m doing.

My dreams have all been pointing me in this direction as well. Even though we are moving through such deep times lately, every night I’m dreaming of dinner parties, and strolls on the boardwalk, easeful gatherings and wine. Of pleasure as an important part of life. And every morning I wake up with the same quiet voice whispering… you are allowed to let it be light.

So many of us worry that if we let something be light (anything!) we’ll somehow fall off the bandwagon of our responsibility to reality. But what if our ability to respond to the world is intricately tied to our capacity to find, and ultimately embody, the light?

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To let something be light is to recognize the full spectrum of its identity, its essence and personhood. To let something be light is to allow the source behind all things to shine through. To allow the nature of nature to make itself known. To notice possibilities, to be open to the divinity that wants to glimmer up from within the deep. Whether it’s funny political commentary, or the way the winter sun feels warm on your face. Or your desire to put on a witch-cape and dance to Stevie Nicks.

Let it be light.

Let it be fun. Roll around in the yard and make pancakes. Wear something goofy for a day. Build a blanket fort in the living room and spend the night reading in there by flashlight. Get take-out. Open a fortune cookie. Remember what joyful living feels like.

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Shadow work may be active, but the only way we can truly stay sane (and potent) during this time is to remember the truth — that the shadow is simply a by-product of the light.

So take a vacation, even if it’s only for an afternoon.

Because isn’t this the very preciousness that we are working so hard to preserve — the dream that all beings may be free to experience the joy of their aliveness?

The ultimate goal of a vacation is not to whisk us away, it is to help us to return. So take a vacation of self joy this week. And you will be surprised how very bright, and powerful, you will feel when you come back.

Shadow Work is Active

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Shadow work is light work. The two have always gone hand in hand. You cannot walk into illumination without activating the shadow. It is impossible to stand, in daylight or moon-remembrance, and not cast a darkness at your own feet. Having a shadow is part of the bargain of being here on this planet. It is as integral to being a human being as the marrow that runs through the canyons of our bones.

Shadow work means digging up oil. Hard, crude stuff that feels like poison to the upperworld. And though we demonize it, and the damage it brings to our above-ground selves, the darkness is natural. It is the organic accumulation of so many ancient wounds. The sediment of death untended.

Our shadow moves beneath us. And when it rises to the surface it is then that we know— it is time. Time to listen, to heal, to open our eyes, to get creative, to act.

There is no longer any doubt. Our country has entered a shadow time.

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You know you are dealing with the shadow when domination, misinformation, diminishment and division reign. When you are made to feel small in the presence of something larger, rather than expanded by the reality of such magnificent bigness. Shadow work is hard work, and dredges up the least refined, and most raw, aspects of humanity— depression, bitterness, anxiety, blame.

Like ducks wading in a spill so grand it coats all living beings, when we stay still in shadow work we become drenched in something toxic. But when we move, when we transform, when we respond to the upwelling with passionate action, true miracles can happen.

We are in the midst of an unbelievable opportunity right now in the U.S. Unbelievable being the operative word. It seems that everything we hold dear, the basic tenants of what our country was purported to be built on— equality, refuge, opportunity, inalienable rights, democracy—are crumbling.

The upside down is right side up, and the highest office in the land is ruled by a circle of shades. Half-people so haunted by their own wounds that they come bearing the only gifts they can carry— the ability to illuminate our nation’s darkest places. The trading of life for personal gain. Crudeness, bullying, the swallow-dark of greed. Everything that has happened on a national level in the past week was done to make way for profit and the consolidation of power and attempts, in no uncertain terms, to cut off our hearts from connecting with one another.

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Isolation is the biggest tool of the shadow.  And so shadow work is often done alone. In the deep of night, under the milk of stars or wrapped in blankets on dark thresholds. Such personal work is solitary by nature because the ultimate goal of the journey is to integrate all aspects of our individual selves.

But when shadow work is attempted in the greater body of humanity it inspires, not division, but history-altering reunion. It brings us together, perhaps for the first time. It ignites unprecedented integration and collective revolution. It makes us stronger. In the heart of our country we have a unique opportunity to realize the kind of union the U.S has never quite upheld. To move, not alone, but together.

This blog, my work, is not normally political. But this is not political.

What is happening on a national scale in our country is no longer political.

It is human.

And it is about healing on the deepest level.

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Cross-culturally there are many different concepts to describe this moment of confronting the shadow. In the archetypal myth of the hero’s journey, Joseph Campbell calls this time the belly of the whale. In shamanic traditions is it the arrival of the near-death experience, a moment when we are dismembered so we may be put back together. In herbal circles we call it the healing crisis, when things fall apart so utterly that the next step, the only step you can take, is towards wholeness.

These are important initiation experiences. To be swallowed in darkness. To stew in the belly of something unknowable. To be locked in fear, grief and sorrow. But this is just the beginning of a revolution known as deep reunion, as re-creation.

Throughout the world, myths of darkness and dismemberment abound. Of all the variances, however, there is one common theme. You must be willing to work. You must be willing to travel. You must walk fearlessly to the edge of the abyss. You must dig through mud. You must ride on the back of dragons. You must be buried lower than you ever thought possible. You must find steel in the earth.

You must find your power. And use it. You must re-devote yourself to what is the natural goodness of the world: togetherness, wholism, compassion.

And we must work together.

Read on for a ritual of both action and support. And know that I am with you.

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<< 15 Minute Ritual for Daily Action >>

When you make something a ritual and it becomes a sacred part of your every day medicine. This is my own 15 minute ritual to enact compassion + bring my love into action.

1. Spend Five minutes catching up on the headlines.

There is a fresh batch of overwhelm every day, but staying aware of what is going on is important. Don’t dwell, but stay informed with at least five minutes catching up with a reputable news source.

2. Make Five phone calls to your representatives

Calling is the most powerful way to make your voice heard. I’m an introvert by nature and have always been shy of the phone (I remember having a near-panic attack every time I had to call a friend for a play date when I was little) but when I came to the realization that it is my representative’s job to represent me, and it is my job to tell them what I care about, so much of my anxiety shifted.

5 calls is an awesome website that makes calling super simple. I love it. And if my socially-anxious self ever needs any extra support I always feel soothed by this great cartoon.

3. Take Five minutes to breathe + anchor the light

Your dreams, your envisioning is important. And so is the strength of staying in your light. Take five minutes after your calls to simply breathe and reconnect to your source. Envision the best possible scenario and imagine sending light to everyone who is in need of loving support, beginning with your own self.

Pine + The Dreamtime

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Every year is a cycle of living and dying, and every transition is medicine. In winter we approach that beauty of endings. As the cold pushes life back to the roots, the land enters a kind of dreamscape. A stretch of consciousness that carries us into death, and then beyond. (And could this year’s winter be any deeper of an initiation into that death journey?)

The sheer depth and length of darkness in winter’s tilt creates a perfect cocoon for a season of dreaming. With only the faint milk of a winter’s day and a preciously guarded stockpile of wood, many traditional people spent much of the wintertime in intermittent sleep. With the hours of darkness dominating the luxury of light, winter was a time to explore one’s dreams. It was a season of recognizing what continues to exist despite the waning of all outward life. Just as dreaming helps us explore what lies outside the boundaries of our day-to-day existence, winter takes us on a journey to see what lies beyond the door of death. Even as our eyes perceive the fading of the aboveground world, streams still continue to flow, owls swoop quietly from bare branches, and evergreens remind us that the realm beyond death is flecked with ever-present life.

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In many cultures, winter is considered the realm of the ancestors and the shaman alike, those who are the keepers of this beyond-death realm. With the hold of the physical world loosening its grip, it was a time of inward journeying. An exploration of pure being, without the fetters of such a physically oriented routine.

In sleep science there is a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping called hypnagogia. Termed a “threshold consciousness,” in hypnagogia our mind dwells in a borderland, not fully in waking alertness and yet not entirely in the amnesia of sleep. We rest, instead, between the worlds. During the long hours of the night, with few distractions to keep us occupied, people would traditionally slip in and out of sleep for many hours. With darkness quilted around you, there is little distinction between the mystery of dreams and the mystery of night.

When we allow ourselves to rest in this in-between state of hypnagogia we interact with our own inner muse. According to some researchers, this hypnagogic state is some of the most fertile time for creation within our brains. A time for connecting to new thoughts, inventions, feelings, and directions in our lives. This winter, allow yourself long hours to simply lay in the darkness, rest by candlelight in the minutes before bed, or allow yourself slowness upon waking in the morning. Let yourself slip in and out of deeper states of consciousness, and see what harvests lie there.

In many ways sleep itself is a small death, as our consciousness escapes from the confines of daily life. So, too, is wintertime. When we engage with our roles as sleepwalkers in the dream state of wintertime, we can more fully enter the hypnagogic mind. Hypnagogia is a literal brain wave state, one that allows us to slip into deep stretches of meditation, inward exploration, and richly embroidered dreams. In wintertime we realize that we are, in truth, the dreamers of our own life. That we have the ability to create our own lives. In winter, we can dream our lives anew. To figure out, as Mary Oliver so eloquently posits, just what we would like to do with our “one wild and precious life.”

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>> Pine (Pinus spp.) <<

Evergreens have been a symbol of sacred continuance as long as people have been living in the deciduous world. Emblems of eternal vitality and the possibility of life beyond death, evergreens like Pine show us that there is a flicker of consciousness that continues on even after the wide scale sleep of aboveground life. Evergreens are the master of sustaining. They remind us that we can live through anything, even death. Traditionally all evergreens were revered, but none so legendarily as the Pine.

Pine is a deeply versatile and abundant medicine. There are varieties of Pine in almost every corner of our world. The best way to begin to ID your local Pine is to count how many needles grow in a bundle. Here in our Western Appalachian forests we are dominated by Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus), but you may be graced with Ponderosa (Pinus ponderosa), Jeffrey Pine (Pinus jeffreyi) or Red Pine (Pinus resinosa). Our Eastern White Pine has five needles per fascicle (or bundle), but others will have a different count. This winter, treat yourself to a botany date with a tree ID book and introduce yourself to your neighborhood Pine variety.

Pine was an important medicine and resource for the people of this continent for as long as memory can reach. Traditionally the bark and sap was utilized as an important anodyne (pain reliever) and antiseptic. It was also a prized medicine for disinfecting wounds and staving off wintertime colds and flus. Boiled in a decoction, Pine bark was a foundational remedy for cold weather aches and rheumatism, as well as dispelling coughs and lung troubles.

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Bright Pine needle tea is one of my wintertime treats. As an excellent source of vitamin C, Pine is an indispensable beverage for those who have little greenery to eat throughout the cold months. In the early days of the colonies, Indigenous peoples showed European settlers how to avoid scurvy by drinking an infusion of the needles throughout the long winter season. Just make sure to brew your batch of Pine tea with branches straight from the tree, as the vitamin C is best preserved in fresh needles.

Traditionally, every part of the Pine was used as a means of survival. When collected and distilled, Pine’s sap lends its volatile oils to create turpentine, an important solvent and cleaner in the early American colonies. Its rosin, the sticky byproduct of distillation, was often used in waterproof glues, sealing waxes, and to grip the strings of bowed instruments like fiddles to make them sing. Today, we can interact with this aspect of Pine’s medicine by collecting previously fallen sap droplets (a reminder that wounds are often our greatest source of medicine) and melt these antimicrobial gems over low heat on the woodstove or in a double burner to combine with salves or apply directly to the skin to heal fungal infections, burns and abrasions. Pine wood itself burns fast and bright. It is a choice log to begin any fire and often the first tinder to be thrown over the coals to get the hearth flaming anew.

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Once upon a time there was a forest of Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris) that ran the entire length of the south, 140,000 square miles, from Virginia to the edge of Texas. Over harvested to create pitch and to carve the masts for navy ships, today there are only a few patches of these mighty Pines left. But organizations like the Long Leaf Alliance are continuing to bear the torch of this majestic species, replanting forests and embodying the very essence of Pine itself. Life continues and regeneration is always possible, even in the face of seeming extinction.

As a living embodiment of everlasting life throughout the wintertime months, I like to spend time sitting and meditating with Pine to connect into the aspects of my own consciousness that continue on past the borderland of death. For centuries, Pine has been a gateway into the realm of the eternal, that dreamspace where all things continue and are created anew. This winter, try brewing yourself a cup of Pine needle tea before bedtime and see what dreams may come.

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>> Pine Needle Tea <<

1 handful of fresh Pine needles (chopped)

1 quart H2O

Put your chopped needles into a large mason jar or French press. Bring your water to a boil and pour over the herb. Let steep (covered) for 20 minutes.

Press (or strain) and sip to revive and stay resilient throughout the long winter months!

 

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

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Bringing Giants to their Knees

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There are two kinds of growth. Either we grow so slowly we are like mountains gaining a centimeter a year, or we grow as fast as kudzu covering an entire valley in one summer. No matter which path we take, however, growth happens. It cannot be stopped. Like the roots of a tree breaking through city concrete, the burgeoning of what the earth deems as good is unstoppable. Diversity, intricacy, the flourishing of all of life.  There are two ways to grow, quickly and incrementally. And we, as a country, have decided to grow at the most rapid gait.

When growth looks like death it is then that we know— we have chosen the most accelerated of paces. Death, darkness, the shadow are all precursors to the most transformative swing of change. They show us what needs to be stripped away, what has reached its expiration date.

As a populace we have elected a man who is a helpful emblem of everything that is not working, everything that must be dropped from this earth. The narcissism of a culture that cannot see beyond the welfare of the few, ego that hides deep wounds. Hierarchy, division, disregard for the unbelievable gift of simply being on this earth. On a subconscious level, it is always our brave choice to face the shadow that initiates us into a space of darkness in our lives. And as a country we have elected to do this heavy work, and embrace the rapid evolution that exists just on the other side.

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I have been steeping myself in much commentary about this upcoming inauguration, this dark death and large growth. And from so many big-hearted, strong-hearted, bright-hearted authors I am hearing the same word— resist.

Resistance, of course, has its place. It is powerful to put up boundaries, to say no, to decide to actively block an energy that has hurt you or others you love. It is an important place to start, to go from passivity to resistance. And yet… hearing this word something inside of me shrinks. And when I explore this feeling of inner smallness, I always come back to the same truth– that resistance, at its heart, restricts. In resistance, our energy is defined by what it is we oppose, instead of what we promote; what we negate rather than what we affirm. It narrows the range of energy that we operate within, and it is often as effective as trying to beat back Kudzu in mid-summer. Resistance is an initiating tool, one that can help us begin to redirect our energy flow, but we were never meant to dwell in this place. It simply isn’t potent enough. Instead, it is time to learn how to use the power of what is. Like harvesting Kudzu roots to make baskets and brew tea, or feeding our animals on its abundant acreage of leaves. What if, instead of resisting the encroachment of destruction, we started harnessing the power it brings?

The earth does not spend time resisting. Not because our planet does not acutely feel the damage of pollution, deforestation or development, but because it is far more powerful to just keep dreaming a bigger dream. The earth does not define herself by our waywardness, but by an energy of growth and goodness that expands far beyond our concepts of right and wrong. The earth is aligned with the Dao that runs through all things. And as compassionate, caring, and powerful earth-tenders, we can connect into this eternal spring of strength by finding our Wu Wei.

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A guiding principle in martial arts disciplines such as Tai Chi, Wu Wei is a state of being in which you are so fully immersed in the Dao, the natural way of things, that resistance drops away and all actions become effortless. In Wu Wei, you merge so completely with the innate river of energy, the creative soul that runs through all of life, that every movement is a manifestation of the greater movement, and so you are supported in every stance. To be in Wu Wei, you must first stop resisting the small currents, and start aligning yourself with the wider ocean of creation.

In martial arts we see Wu Wei in practice when a 100 lb woman is able to throw a 300 lb adversary off their feet. Instead of fending off the attack, the master of Wu Wei aligns herself with the energy of the moment and, with the flick of a finger, is able to redirect the incoming force, effectively undoing it with its own power. When we step into the flow of energy that is coming at us, instead of resisting it, we can bring even the greatest giant to his knees.

By connecting into the deeper sources of goodness, naturalness, and growth in this world we become unstoppable conduits for change. We bring ourselves into alignment with the wider dream of the earth, and her ability to fold all energies into the one truth– anything that is not a part of the flowering, is already part of the dying. And this cycle is what makes all growth possible.

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There is a lot of energy being inaugurated into our world at this moment. Use it. Instead of resisting it, harness that energy and actively begin to re-imagine. Start dreaming into another world, collect that energy to propel you into creation. Actualize a new reality by being your full self, by standing in your compassion. By making your art, and stirring your herbs, and by knowing that you are strong enough.

Because all this energy is arriving at your doorstep to feed you. And when you step into the Dao of growth, of regeneration and recovery, the force of the entire world will step right behind you.