Become a Shaman of Your Life

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

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

Then, the dreams started.

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shamanic Journeying

Big Bend pond

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Steps of the Journey (How to Journey)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Life is a Poem

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

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

In poetry the true magic happens in the unseen.

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

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

Live in the midst of poetry.

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

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

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

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

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

Cycles of Healing

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Healing is about communing with the cycles.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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artwork by Leah Dorion

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

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S H A T A V A R I

Asparagus racemosus

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

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

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

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

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

Need some recipe inspiration? Try some Golden Moon Milk…

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GOLDEN MOON MILK recipe

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

 

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

2) Pour milk into small saucepan on the stove

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

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

5) Sit back, sip and enjoy

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

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What’s in my Medicine Bag?

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Medicine Pouch

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

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

{ Photo by Juliet Blankespoor }

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

Flower Essence Bowl

 

A Flower Essence

 

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

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

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

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

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

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A Stone

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

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

 

Two stones I often love to travel with are:
Lepidolite

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

 

Black Tourmaline

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

 

Passionflower essence square

My Top Three Tinctures for Travel


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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Smudge sticks

Medicine to Give Back

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

 

Blessed travels everyone!

Clear Quartz Initiation

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True medicine is wild, abundant and free.

This truth, plucked from the stone medicine soliloquy I released several weeks ago, pretty much sums up the bedrock of everything I believe. It explains why I make medicine, why I write, why I teach. Because I’m passionate about helping people to remember that medicine isn’t something we need to earn. It isn’t something that is given to us by any guru, or something only understood by the elite. Medicine, true medicine, is wild abundant and free.

If you asked indigenous people around the world what they considered to be medicine, you would get many different answers. Plants, stones, stars, words, chants, water. But you would see one commonality – many things are medicine, and everything is medicine. Medicine, by definition, is something that helps us heal. Fresh picked strawberries, first kisses, kitten purrs and a thick night of stars. All of this affects us deeply, our inner hearts, our sense of well-being. Opening new layers of meaning, comfort, security, belonging, profundity, inspiration and expression. All of this is medicine.

Since I posted to my video, Stone Medicine Grounded, to Facebook a few weeks ago it has gotten more views than anything I’ve ever released. Over six thousand, to be exact. Since that time I’ve had a serious outpouring of support, camaraderie and questions.

And of all the good questions I get asked, the most prevalent is: Where do I start? This is one reason why I created my new online course How Stones Communicate, because the best way to begin is to learn how to listen. But we all need initiations in our life. Bright moments of new openings that are supported by the very teachers we are eager to learn from.

Quartz crystals

So if you are looking to begin your journey into the stone realm, then look no further than Clear Quartz. Clear Quartz is a master initiator. It is often the first stone people are drawn to, and for good reason. This clearing stone is a vast vault of energy, and can direct Qi (or Chi) accordingly. Known to “take on” the energy of your emotions and intentions, Quartz helps to increase the power and clarity of any given affirmation or thought. It amplifies and opens our intuitive understanding, and holds space for our prayers. Quartz is what lies at the center of all our technology, including this computer upon which I type (and you read).

Clear Quartz is also one of the most prevalent minerals on earth.

Talk about wild, abundant and free.

If you’ve been looking to open a new era in your medicine practice and journey of personal healing, let Clear Quartz open the gates. Read on to learn more about the medicine of this bright stone and how to undertake a self-designed Clear Quartz Initiation.

{Photo by Luminosity Crystals}

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C L E A R    Q U A R T Z

I N I T I A T I O N

 

Are you ready to cross the threshold and begin working with stones?
Let clear Quartz initiate you into the realm of mineral medicine + magic.

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Known as the “master harmonizer” in Chinese medicine, Clear Quartz is a powerful cleanser and amplifier. On the physical level Clear Quartz (Ying Shi, The Brilliant Stone) is thought to increase and regulate the Qi (our life force), bringing vitality to all areas of the body. It can help tame rebellious Qi, which includes nausea, vomiting and coughing, and was traditionally used to clear heat in the blood.

Clear Quartz is highly “programmable,” it can carry and amplify the energy of our intentions. The highly structured composition of this powerful stone enables it to store and record vast amounts of information— it is no coincidence that quartz technology is what enabled the creation of all our computers and cell phones!

In traditional Daoist medicine, Clear Quartz was often used to draw and store energy from other stones, animals, elements or lands. By pointing quartz at a certain celestial body, for example, the stone inherently absorbs some of the energy of that entity and can become an emissary of that medicine wherever it goes.

Clear Quartz brings invigoration and clarity. Quartz can help us to become aware of the thoughts that create “stuckness” and help us recognize the seed of truth in any situation.  Clear quartz can also help enhance psychic communication, meditation and visioning. It aids us in establishing a clear connection to our higher guidance.

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How to begin?

  A Self-Designed Clear Quartz Initiation

Start your journey into the stone realm by finding a piece of Quartz you resonate with. As one of the most abundant minerals on earth, you can find Quartz in any stone store. There are also ample deposits of many different kinds of Quartz around the world! Check out your backyard and you might be surprised to find some some Quartz varieties right outside your door.

 

In cultural anthology and religious studies all initiations are seen as rites of passages with three distinct stages: Separation – a marked moment of leaving the world or experience of reality you previously knew. Liminality – an inbetween state or threshold where you have left behind the old but haven’t yet stepped into the new. And Incorporation – where you return from the journey, integrating what you’ve learned about the world and your deeper self, entering in a new reality or worldview.

The following are three stages of a self-designed initiation rite to help open you up to the incredible magic of the stone world.

1. Meditation + Intention

You will begin to “separate” yourself from the world you previously knew (with its more rigid definitions of medicine) using an age old technique of shifting consciousness: meditation. Choose a day to begin this self-designed initiation and setting aside 30 minutes to sit in meditation with your stone. If you’d like to cleanse your Quartz beforehand simply place it in running water for half an hour. When you are ready to begin, put on soothing music, relax with the stone in your palm and notice any sensation, images or memories that arise. Clear Quartz is a record keeper, so you might pick up on impressions or information that is already stored in the stone. When you feel you have made a connection with your Quartz, ask it to become an initiator for you, a gatekeeper for the opening of this new world of seeing and experiencing a diversity of medicine. Program the Quartz with your intention, whether that be a desire to widen your consciousness or simply to receive deeper healing from the stone realm. The Quartz will hold and amplify this intention for you and open the doors to begin down this new path.

2. One Week Quartz Elixir

Venture into the liminal zone, this transitional state of awakening to the mineral realm, with seven days of Quartz elixir. Begin the night before you wish to start by placing your programmed Quartz in a glass or cup. Any size will do but I tend to select smaller glasses or teacups as I’ll be drinking all of the elixir water at once. Cover the stone with water and fill within a ½ in of the top of your glass or jar. Cover the mouth of your jar with a paper towel or lid and let sit overnight. Drink your elixir first thing in the morning, before breakfast or coffee. Imbibing your elixir on an empty stomach will help you to notice and feel the effects more potently. Remove the stone from the cup if you are worried about swallowing. Otherwise you can just drain the elixir from the cup and then put your stone aside on a cloth to dry. Repeat for seven days.

 

Keep a journal to notice any shifts during this “in-between time.” As we self-initiate into new levels of awareness stuff will come up to be released. Outdated ways of thinking, old patterns of interacting or limiting thoughts. If you re-experience any old fears or worn out doubts, just know that they are coming up because they are moving through your consciousness and asking to be released. You didn’t want to take that self doubt with you into this new era, did you? This can be a challenging, yet wonderous, time. Stay with it and give gratitude for the entire experience. You are moving into a new era of seeing.

 

Note: Clear quartz is one of the safest stones to drink in water, but some stones should not be used in elixirs at all. Please do your research if you decide to try this with any other stone.


3. Dream with your Quartz

Close this week of initiation by spending the night in the dreamtime with your Quartz. Place your Clear Quartz under your pillow before you sleep; this will be your ceremony of incorporation.  When we go to sleep we tap back into the vast reservoir of our deeper consciousness; we rejoin our wider selves.  Every morning we wake up with a more complete memory of who we truly are. And every morning is an opportunity to enter a brand new era. So allow this last sleep to be a ritual of integrating all you’ve learned, on the deepest levels. Before you put the stone under your pillow thank it for all the beautiful work you’ve done together, and feel free to ask the stone to show you what comes next. Put a pad of paper beside your bed and take note of any dreams, feelings or sensations upon awakening. Initiations can be subtle, but they are always profound. Give yourself time to reintegrate and notice this new world.

Honor the stone you worked with by burying it in the ground for an evening to rest. And know that, on the deepest level of your being, everything is crystallizing exactly as it should.

Stone Medicine, Grounded

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetFor me, it began with the plants. By which I mean that it was the plants who first helped me to see that the world is alive with medicine. It started slowly, with noticing how blackberry blossoms can dust a hillside like snow. With seeing the dandelions sprout between the pavement, the plantain flourish in the driveway. With hearing the way two maples will rustle together in full leaf, like grandmothers in conversation. A sound that wasn’t just a sound, but a whispered realization of the aliveness happening all around me. The Anishinaabe people have a whole word, just for this kind of conversation. “Si-si-gaw-d,” the sound trees make when they talk amongst one another.*

It began with the plants. They were the ones that first taught me to recognize this world for what it is— a living tapestry of consciousness and connection. But once I opened to this reality I was able to remember what all our ancestors knew intimately. That this entire world is animated by energy. That there is no “it,” no “things”— only beings. And that every being has its own medicine.

And so it was that I opened to our earth’s most ancient medicine— The Stones.

* For a beautiful and storied reflection on si-si-gaw-d and the richly languaged world of the Anishinaabe (Objibwe) people check out Ignatia Broker’s book Night Flying Woman

Stones have been considered emissaries of healing, power, and creativity for millennia. From the Egyptians to the Celts, the Central American empires to indigenous societies throughout Australia and North America — stones are foundational to a diversity of medicinal practices and spiritual beliefs. Stones and crystals are mentioned in many ancient religious texts, including the Bible, the Hindu Vedas and the Koran. The oldest written reference to stone medicine comes from a hieroglyphic papyrus dated in 2000 B.C — but the recognition of stones as medicine can be traced much farther back in human imagination. Stones are an intimate part of humanity’s relationship with the more-than-human world. They are gatekeepers for our interaction with divinity, and with mystery. Stones are part of the fabric of human history. Like the blue stones of England’s Stonehenge, transported over 150 miles to their final resting place, or the quartz crystals found in burials throughout the world, including a California grave dating from as far back as 6,000 BC.

In Chinese medicine, stones have been a part of medicinal prescriptions for thousands of years. In fact, they were used as the original acupuncture needles and are still an integral part of Chinese materia medica today. We hear the term “crystal healing” and we have a tendency to write it off as new age. But stone healing isn’t new at all (unless you count the crystal technology that fuels all our cell phones and computers). Calling upon stones for healing is as ancient as humanity itself. Whether we were marking our handprints with ocher on cave walls, or burying our dead with serpentine. For millennia human beings have recognized stones as medicine

It isn’t that stone healing is new. It’s just that we’ve forgotten.

 

Cueva de las Manos (The Cave of Hands) in Argentina, 13,000 to 9,000 years old

 

Learning to engage with stones as medicine is a way of expanding our consciousness beyond the bounds of what we’ve been handed, opening our hearts to perceive a deeper, more complex reality.

How many of us grew up thinking of rocks as the very definition of an inanimate object? When we can see stones as alive — elements of our world that have been most rigorously denied their behinghood — we can truly transform our perspective of life. We can begin to engage with a reality of the world that is much more life giving, life recognizing. If stones are alive, then absolutely everything on earth is venerable, powerful, and worth honoring.

If stones are alive, how could we deny beinghood to any other life form? If stones are alive, how could we condone strip mining a mountain or building a wall between us and our neighbors? When stones come alive, all the divisions that have created so much strife in our world begin to dissolve. When stones come alive, a true revolution in thinking can take place.

 

Over the past several months I’ve developed a class to help open the gateway to this kind of transformational thinking and medicine making.

How Stones Communicate is a course about beginning to work with stones, and opening up to a more luminious world. Grounded, de-mystified, practical, and story-rich, this class will help you open a dialogue with the stones. To hear the si-si-gwa-d of the stone realm, and find a new language for understanding the medicine inherent to this world.

The class is yours to keep forever and is available to you whenever you are ready. In the meantime, check out my impassioned video about this stone medicine revolution below. Hear about the history of “Woo” and why embracing stone medicine is an integral part of the healing on this earth.

Three Creative Spring Cleanses

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It’s spring and the whole world is cleansing. Tender greens are rising like a blush in the woods. The song birds have returned to flit their wings on the surface of cold ponds. And the forest bathes itself in blooms.

Every spring there is a feeling in the air as if everything can be made new again. That reinvention is a birthright. That we too can slough off what has felt winter-heavy within our bones and burst like a dogwood into full bloom.

Fresh winds, cold springs, and translucent forests of green. In spring we are invited to join the world in a deep and soul-full cleansing.

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Our bodies are like tuning forks. They are as sensitive as a willow switch divining for springs. As human beings we are in constant motion of picking up moods, sensations, chemical compounds, and feelings. But sometimes we accumulate experiences that feel like toxins to our systems…

Inner smog. Overwhelm. Words that stung when they were said, and hung in the air like smoke. Overly processed foods, chronic stress, too little time spent dreaming. All the tiny accumulations of stagnation, moments spent sitting when you needed to move. The seemingly inconsequential self-judgements that build up like wrappers left out in the street. Every time you drank or smoked or snacked or sucked it up when what you really needed to do was soften and cry, receive nurture or be acknowledged.

 

In Ayurvedic medicine there is a term for such accumulated toxins— Ama. When we experience ama we are not just encountering the physical impediments of sluggish organs or overworked lymph, but the stagnation of negative thoughts, stressful environments, and limiting beliefs as well. In Sanskrit the word ama literally translates as “undigested.”  In truth, ama helps us to understand that toxicity is more than just a build up of metabolic residue, it is everything that comes into our system and doesn’t move.

And so the fresh winds of spring bring an opportunity. To clear house. To tend the inner wells and make them bright again. To compost anything that doesn’t serve you and replant the garden of your innermost self with something more life-giving, more authentically you.


We hear the word “cleanse” and we feel that it’s a dictate to scrub away some aspect of ourselves that is unclean. But I think this way of thinking causes more toxicity in our culture than anything else.

True cleansing, real cleansing, is about creating new space inside of ourselves so we can expand.

It is a spiritual practice, one that can be creative, connective and soulful. Cleansing, at its heart, is a radical act of self care.

 
In this blog I offer three week-long creative cleanses to invoke gentle, spirit nourishing spring cleaning. Have fun, be imaginative and implement as you need. Read on to discover these three easeful gateways, and invoke a spring inside yourself.

>> Clear Waters Cleanse <<

A cleanse to invoke a rush of new vision and to refind your inner flow

+ Drink 64 – 80 oz of water a day

The easiest way to make sure you drink enough H2O is to designate a quart-sized mason jar as your water bottle for the week. Drink one quart between breakfast and lunch. One between lunch and dinner, and one in the evening hours between dinner and sleep. (There are 24 oz in a quart mason jar). Don’t sit down for a meal until your water portion has been emptied. Try to eat as cleanly as possible and keep snacking between meals to a minimum. When you get hungry, try a big gulp of water instead. Oftentimes we feel hunger pangs when we are actually thirsty. Make water your decadent treat and notice how much more juicy, energized and enlivened you feel.

 

+ Infuse every cup with good intentions

Water has the ability to take on and be infused with a wide variety of impressions, energy, medicine and intention. Don’t buy it? Try making a cup of tea and see how much that water takes on the color, taste and characteristics of the herb. Or check out the transformational work of Dr. Masaru Emoto. Infuse your water with your intentions for this cleanse. Try leaving a glass of water out overnight with a love note tapped to the bottom. Or hold your cup first thing in the morning as you sing one of your favorite songs. Get creative with how you infuse and your body will become a vessel of new healing.

Quartz spiral

+ Drink a Clear Quartz Elixir every morning

Known as the “master harmonizer” in Chinese medicine, clear quartz is a powerful cleanser and amplifier. On the physical level clear quartz is thought to increase and regulate the Qi, bringing vitality to all areas of the body. Clear quartz is one of my favorite stones to work with because it is so deeply versatile. In traditional Taoist medicine clear quartz was often used to draw energy from other stones, animals, elements or lands. By pointing quartz at a certain celestial body, for example, the stone inherently absorbs some of the energy of that entity and can become an emissary of that medicine wherever it goes.

Program your quartz with healing. Take it with your favorite medicine places. Let it infuse in a spring. If you have a specific intention for this cleanse, hold a clear quartz in your hands and gently ask the quartz to take up the power of this medicine. Speak your intention clearly and imagine that everything you need to heal is infusing directly from you into the stone. Clear quartz will hold this intention for you.

Make an elixir by putting your programmed clear quartz in one cup of water over night. Cover the lid with a cloth or piece of paper and let sit. Remove the stone upon waking (or leave in, if you’d like!) and drink your elixir water first thing in the morning.

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+ Take Lymph moving herbs

The lymphatic system governs the waters of our bodies. A network of tissues and organs that help our bodies naturally cleanse itself, the lymph is like the wetlands and tributaries of our entire ecosystems. The primary function of the lymphatic system is to transport lymph, a cleansing fluid that contains our protective white blood cells, throughout our body. When we get sick our lymph nodes work double time, hence why they often become swollen. Lymphs don’t have musculature, and so they don’t move on their own. This is why yoga, dance, and lymph tapping or massage can be so invigoratingly vital for full health. Herbs can also be deeply moving for the lymphatic system. Spring weeds like cleavers and chickweed are lovely lymph cleansers added to tea or a smoothie. For southwestern folks look into the power-filled Ocotillo (check out this wonderful article by Rebecca Altman about the waters in the body and its resonance with this desert dweller)

+ Bathe, Swim, Sweat, Shower. Go for walks in the rain.

+ Cry. At anything and everything.

+ Fresh Sap Elixir

Take 1-5 drops of this essence blend made with fresh tree sap first thing in the morning to start your day with a rush of new beginnings

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>> Quiet the Hum Cleanse <<

A fast to help detox from the buzz of technology. A cleanse designed for sensitives and introverts to refind the nurturing shores of their inner worlds.

+ Turn off your computer, TV and phone

As much as you can. For the entire week. Turn them off. Take a break from glowing screens and all the toxicity that comes with procrastination, comparison, self-doubt and overwhelm. Turn off everything as soon as you arrive home. Or before you even leave home, if you can. When we quiet the outer buzz it is truly remarkable what we can hear within.

 

+ Give yourself permission to be in your own world

Read a fantasy novel. Color in an adult coloring book. Play with stones, wander the woods alone. Give yourself complete and utter permission to tune out of other people’s needs and create an inner world of vision, dreams and fantasy. Practice allowing yourself to be in your own world for at least a 1/2 hour every day.

 

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+ Smoky Quartz

This dark variety of quartz is revered for its ability to help clear EMF, radiation and environmental electronic fog. In Chinese medicine it is known to help clear “pervasive Qi,” or any energies that feel chaotic and invasive. This is a wonderful companion for a technology fast, and can help us deprogram ourselves. Letting go of the accumulated impressions of the digital world so we can clear space for a more engaged relationship with our own inner landscapes.

Keep a piece of smoky quartz on you all week. Or try making an elixir to drink first thing in the morning (see notes on elixir making in Clear Waters Cleanse).

 

+ Cherry Blossom Flower Essence

Take 4 drops 4x day directly on the tongue to reconnect into the joy of the living world.

 

+ If you have a question go to a living source

When you have an inquiry about something this week, practice going to your neighbor, a plant or (most importantly) your inner sage. Ask a living being for guidance, tune into your intuition rather than  Wikipedia, and see what kind of embodied magic happens.

>> Wildness Cleanse <<

Recall the wild within. Let the natural wilderness of the world return you to your most authentic self.

+ Eat something wild every day

Spring is the richest season of wild greens. Wild edibles tend to have much higher vitamin and mineral content and are infused with the complex compounds and ineffable magic that only comes from living wild. Chickweed, cleavers, dandelion, violets. Most of these greens are growing right outside on our lawn.

Check out this blog post for more insight

And don’t miss this lovely guide from Sophia Rose of La Abeja Herbs

 

+ Go outside. Every day.

Even if just for 10 minutes. Start to shift your perception of the “outside.” Instead of seeing the out-of-doors as separate from your day to day life, allow yourself to embrace nature as a home space that nurtures your wildest self. Find a patch of green and literally stretch. Or jog. Or lay on your back and let the rain fall on your face. Listen to the birds, follow squirrels into the trees. Climb a tree. Find as wild of a space as you can. And act wild as you can let yourself be.

 

+ Eat only whole foods

Only imbibe foods that come fresh, wild, or from the pasture. Cage free eggs, organic whole grains, clean pasture meat, farm fresh vegetables and fermented foods. Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients on the label. Better yet, don’t eat anything with a label at all.

 

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+ Improvisational Movement every day (10 minutes)

As Mary Oliver says, let the “soft animal of your body love what it loves.” Put on music that digs up something raw and unfiltered inside of you. I love this song by Glasser (I call it “cave dance party” music). Put on a song that ignites you, let yourself be alone with your body, and allow the animal in you to move.

 

+ End the day by Candlelight

Turn off your electric lights and spend at least the last hour before bedtime by candlelight. I normally like to end this week of rewilding and cleansing with a bonfire and long hours spent gazing, remembering what it means to be a human being.

 

+ Go on a shamanic journey to meet an Animal spirit guide

From time immemorial people recognized that the wild beings that surround us often hold great medicine for our deeper spirits. Bears come when we need courage. The meadow lark when we need to sing. When we connect back into the animal realm, we ignite an understanding of ourselves as wild co-creators in this world.

Shamanic journeying with the aid of the drum is an ancient method of shifting ones consciousness. Try this meditative practice to meet an animal guide that wants to work with you at this time. When you meet your animal bring them back into your day-to-day life through a drawing, a written story, an altar space or some kind of totem in your life. (Stuffed animals are totally allowed). Interact with them every day and let them be your guide into the wilderness of this deep cleanse.

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Not sure what a shamanic journey is? Check out this wonderful talk by Sandra Ingermen or read on for my own guide to journeying below.

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

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

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

 

Pintura_Trois_Freres

Cave painting from Trois-Feres, France (13,00 years old)

Steps of the Journey (How to Journey)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7) Take some moments before you move to deeply breathe and feel yourself completely in your body once more. Once you are ready, I highly encourage writing down an account of your journey. Consciousness most often speaks in metaphor and sometimes the deeper meanings will be made much more clear once you take time for reflection. If only a few sentences, jot down some impressions from your experience and close your journeying time with some gratitude for your guides and for the perfection of this particular journey.

Matrilineal Magic

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kabyle woman weaving

A Kabyle woman weaving Algeria 1973 (credit National Geographic)

There is a thread that runs through the long tapestry of time. A line that connects us back to our grandmothers and great grandmothers and the lineage of womyn who came before. On a loom, each downward string is called a warp. Like time, these warp strings are the backbone that holds the weaving in place. But it is the generations of mothers and aunties, the horizontal weft woven in-between, that fill the loom with life. It is these weft strings, the threads of connection that travels across the space and time, that pulls everything together.

It is from this continuing weft of women that we each come into life.

Science has shown all the follicles (unripened eggs) a woman will ever produce are already present in her body when she is in the womb. The spark that is you was born long before you came into the world. And if you quiet your blood, you can feel a flame that reach back even further. Inside every one of us is a long and often unsung history of women. Fire makers and clay shapers, priestesses and caretakers, those who walked long miles and withstood many centuries of silence. Those who kept the old songs alive.

Asia basket Gila

Photo by Juliet Blankespoor

Connecting back into the power-held lineage of our female ancestors isn’t simply a flight of fancy or genealogical curiosity. To remember the women that came become you, and call upon that distinctly matrilineal magic, is an act of deep reclamation. By calling back we continue the weaving begun from the fingers of our female ancestors, that very first spindle-spun weft.

Long before the tides of Christianity swept across southeastern Europe, there was an ancient Matrilineal network of cultures called the “Old Europeans.” Matrifocal (woman-mother orientated) civilizations with sacred script and professional ceramicists. Cultures that planted seeds and built temples several stories high. Peoples that wove sophisticated lives and prayed to the Goddess(es). According to archeologist Marija Gimbutas, the threads of these largely egalitarian, peaceful and female-centric societies stretched across much of what we now call Europe.

cucuteni-tattoos

A fired clay Cucuteni figure, from 4050-3900 B.C (credit Marius Amarie)

Archeologically speaking, the memories of these cultures are found in whispers. Empty temples and old village sites filled with ritual ceramics. The famous Venus figures and surviving burials. Each unearthed item, a thread that help us to understand what it would have been like to live in a culture in which women held the chalice of their own power.

In our own blood, however, the remembrances of this culture still rings like a temple bell. We can feel it when we pick berries with our fingers or when we are kept up late at night by the moon. We feel it when we dance, uninhibited and when we sing together. We feel it every time we plait back our hair and squat low to build a fire on the ground. We feel it in the fierceness that surges up through us and the bone-deep anger as well. We feel it when we look in the mirror and see a new wrinkle a gray hair, and we think “Good.” When we welcome growing older because we know a Crone is a woman who has come into her power.

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Though it has been a long time since matrilineal cultures flourished in our world, everything moves in a circle, like the round of a harvesting song or the curve of a well-coiled vase. A world in which we value the power of blood that flows with the moon as much as blood that flows from a wound has already seen its wane and its new moon. Now, we are in the time of the waxing.

It has been many generations since every woman was recognized as the vessel of power that she is, but even now our women ancestors remain close, whispering to us of the waxing to come. Matrilineal magic is a deep and ancient kind of craft. One that will never be forgotten as long as we continue to seek and honor the threads that connect us back.

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From the House Painters in Zalipie

<< When the Grandmothers came to Visit >>

The grandmothers never disappeared. They are with us, still. They are helping us to weave the new weft.

Several years ago I set out to make an ancestor altar in my room. A space in which I could honor those that came before me and give thanks for my life. Earlier that day I had spent a totally unexpected sum of money. I was in the midst of a challenging health issue that was asking me to face some pretty overwhelming feelings of isolation and scarcity. On this evening, I tried my best to simply set my worries aside and breathe. I began by reaching up into a worn wooden box for one of my grandmother’s old handkerchiefs, a delicate and lacy swatch of thin cotton. I was shocked when my hand settled upon a softly folded piece of paper. Nestled in the box was an envelope with my name on it, and inside that envelope was a stack of bills– almost the exact amount of money I had spent that day. It was such a moment of unseen assurance; I sank to my knees for a few long minutes to weep.

Many months ago I had kept a small stash of cash in this envelope. But I had since spent every penny, I even had a memory of throwing the empty envelope away. But here it was, full again. In a place before words I instinctively felt my grandmother was there. She was there, cradling me, supporting me, assuring me that I have never, not once, been alone. As I folded onto the floor, time creased as well and I realized that my grandmother has always been here. And the grandmothers before her. And those before her as well. I could feel them, surrounding me in a circle, blessing and cherishing, holding me like the women of old used to do around their wells.

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Our female ancestors and the cultures of magic they created has never left.

The grandmothers are here in the shape of my eyes, my long flat feet, the yearning drum I feel in my heart when I hear throat singing, or the way I might pause to touch the first opening cherry blossom. They are here – in childbirth and summer fields, in breasts full of milk, a faded envelope of bills, and flower bulbs.

Matrilineal magic never died.

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<< Weft Vessel >>

Every once in a while we meet a woman familiar in our life who reminds us of our own strong heritage and the profound magic that can be sparked between two sisters who are seeking their own Weft. A few years ago I met Sylvia Linsteadt and such a flame leapt into life. Ever since the beginning we knew there was important work to be done together. Medicine to be realized, experienced and offered together. A thread we were meant to weave.

Now, after a year in creation. We are delighted to offering such a sister-woven creation to the world…

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WEFT is a journey through plant, stone and word back into the long threads of your matrilineal line. Across ancient Europe there were ceremonial spaces created just to initiate women into the mysteries of life and regeneration, places that held the rituals of remembering and the sacred pottery of women who knew how to heal with their hands. With Weft, we offer both a thread and a vessel. A spindle-spun way to connect back into the powerful lineage of the women from which you came, and a richly embroidered place in which we can remember how to initiate ourselves.

Like a coil pot, WEFT was woven throughout many cycles with a single thread. It began in the spring softened hills of Appalachia where Asia Suler, of One Willow Apothecaries, created an elixir from the shades of ancient medicine there. Crafted from violets, wild iris, aquamarine and feldspar– the elixir was brewed from a spark of insight and a feeling of the women ancestors rising to be heard.

Once created, Asia sent the bottle of Sylvia Linsteadt of Wild Talewort. There, over many moons, Sylvia created the story portal that makes up the landscape of Weft. Ignited from her own experiences with the elixir, and from the kind of synchronistic magic that springs up every time two hedgewitches call back to the ancestors, the story unspooled itself over the course of nine months, a full gestation in which archaeological research, a ceramics class and a table loom all played unexpected parts.

Now, a year after the first spark caught, the first Crone song was sung—we offer this WEFT vessel to the world.

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Comprised of….

The Grandmother’s Elixir: Crafted from the spring-softened medicines of Western Appalachia, Grandmothers is an elixir to invoke the initiatory magic of the womyn ancestors and our collective matrilineal line. Once upon a time we were all born from women who understood the mysteries of herbs and roots and death and beginnings. This elixir is a gateway to help remember our place in this continuum of hedgewitches and healers.

Hand gathered from the early April coves of these grandmother mountains— some of the oldest on earth— this medicine contains the seeds of findings ones destiny as a power-filled woman and recognizing one’s place as a vessel of wisdom in the lineage of all things to come. Created from slow simmered violet syrup, wild iris essence and an elixir of aquamarine + feldspar stones, this alchemical medicine is an invitation to open ones womb-deep intuition like the first folds of spring. An elixir of becoming, remembering and embracing your destiny— this purple hued medicine helps you to realize that the wisdom of the ancients still lives in your blood. You must only quiet yourself to find the inner song.

Weft: A Story – The tale of a girl, a drought, an underworld, and the most ancient roots of the Baba Yaga, set in partly historic, partly imagined Neolithic Transylvania around 6500 B.C.E. At this time, settled agriculture brought by small bands of Mediterranean travelers (and their grains, goats and sheep) was taking root across southeastern Europe, woven relatively peacefully into the framework of indigenous Mesolithic hunting and gathering tribes. Out of this union, a matrilineal network of cultures called “Old European” flourished across southeastern Europe, leaving behind temples and villages full of an astonishingly beautiful array of ceramic work that was largely ritual in function. These ancient village sites full of offering jugs and sacred ovens, at the edges of mountains and woods, feel like indigenous ground in me. On a pathway of my own ancestral blood through Austria, through Hungary, through Poland, through Russia, I can follow a part of myself back to a source, a place of balance, a set of ancient lifeways to look to for wisdom, for strength, for wholeness.

This story is a celebration of the deep beauty and power of ancient women’s work: weaving, spinning, pottery, child-bearing, plant-tending, medicine gathering. It is a hymn to the dying we undertake every moon in the underworlds of our own bodies, even if we no longer bleed, and the process of being reborn. Imagine that it is an ancient clay vessel, dug up in a dozen shards from the earth. These are the warp, the structure, of the telling. It is you, the reader, who must weave the weft of their meaning over-under, over-under, using the shuttle of your own soul to make out of it your version of wholeness: the offering jug left out at the edge of the known field, full of milk.

Ancient Vessel Meditation: An audio journey to guide you deeper into receiving the medicine of this matrilineal weaving.

Weft Voices: An audio soundtrack of the songs and sounds that guided our creation of this vessel, from Hildegard von Bingen to the folk songs of mountainous Bulgaria.

<< Order your WEFT >>

 

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A Windowless Room in Brooklyn

I shared this story of my journey into herbalism in my most recent newsletter and was floored by the like-hearted responses from people across the globe. So many of us are feeling the call to follow an instinct of deeper healing, to get to know the plants by name, to reconnect with the multidimensionality of our world. Once upon a time all I had were my dreams, and a vague notion of what “herbalism” even was.  The start of any path is always the hardest but most transformative part, and when I look upon my own humble beginnings in one of the toughest cities in the world I’m filled with something close to awe.  If you’ve been feeling the bone deep ache to immerse yourself further into the green world, read on. Check out this free Handcrafted Herbalism course (that I am simply delighted to be a part of). And just know– that you aren’t alone.

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I was living in a windowless room in Brooklyn when I first heard the call to study herbs. At the time I was taking care of office plants in Manhattan. I was technically considered a “plant technician,” and to this day I’m convinced this job only exists in a place like New York City. I spent most of my days dusting, watering, pruning and engaging in 30 second conversations with the people who worked in the offices. The job itself was grueling, but I was happy to be close to plant life, any plant life, amidst the concrete jungle. I made it my personal mission to rescue every sad land-fill destined pothos and marginata and bring them back to my tiny apartment to nourish them back to health. Thinking of that one kitchen window, filled with plant light, still makes my heart sing (see picture below!).

I knew I loved plants. I knew I wanted to be close to the earth. I knew there was something inside of me that was aching. But beyond that, I had no idea where to begin.

{actual picture found in the BK archives from my apartment circa 2009. How cute is this?}

They call the kind of apartment I lived in a “railroad”, one skinny length of space with a middle room that was more a hallway than anything else. But the middle room was my room. And even though I didn’t have any windows, or doors, I did have a very dark place in which to sleep and dream. And dream I did.

I can’t remember whether it was a single morning, or a wave of mornings, or even a cascade of nighttime insights, but one day I woke up and just knew – I needed to study herbalism.

At the time, I didn’t even really understand what that meant. If someone had asked me what a tincture was I probably would have drawn a blank. But I recognized a kind of wail inside of me, a high keening sound that was a call to deepen my relationship to the world around me. An insistence upon deeper healing that gnawed at me day in and day out.

{Another one from the archives. Young Asia with dirt on her hands from her backyard Brooklyn garden… they exist you know… and a serious dream in her heart}

And once I had the dream, I couldn’t stop dreaming it. I wanted to know what it would be like to step outside my door and be able to see medicine everywhere. What it would feel like to be able to gather healing from hilltops, to interact with the world from a place of such reverence and interdependence and knowing. To understand how to heal myself with the things that were wild and free. To touch medicine with my own two hands.

If I’ve learned one thing in my time on this planet, it’s that the scariest, most dangerous, most thrilling thing on earth is to say YES to your dreams.
But it’s the most rewarding, too.

After many months of scheming, dreaming and searching I found the website for The Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine and I just knew— this was where I wanted to learn. So a year later I closed an entire chapter of my life, leaving behind work, friends and a long-term relationship to begin anew down in the mountains of Appalachia. It was terrifying and thrilling, but I never looked back. Because ahead of me, lining the path, and underneath every step of the way was a new plant to be met.

When I began to study herbs in earnest, my entire life changed.

Fresh perspectives, profound healing, a whole new awareness of the world. But perhaps the most revolutionary aspect of my education was what it changed within me. I often say that plants are gatekeepers, and when I started to study herablism in earnest I began to understand myself on such a deeper level— who I was, why I was here, what I was meant to be a part of.

I become an herbalist and the gateway to the rest of my life swung open before my eyes.

For the past two years I’ve been a part of helping the Chestnut school to create an online training for those who feel the same call (so you don’t have to uproot your entire life to study plants!), and I am so deeply excited to announce that their in-depth Herbal Immersion Program is going live next month.

In celebration of this monumental offering, the Chestnut school is offering a FREE online mini-course called Handcrafted Herbalism where you can learn about the three foundations of herbalism: Botany, Wildcrafting, and Medicine making.

If you’ve ever felt such a nudging, an inkling, a dream or a wail, come join us for this free mini-course and say yes to that ever-knowing aspect of yourself. On a deep level, we always know what we need to expand and heal. Come begin your studies and let the plants open a new gateway in your life.

Thank you for witnessing me in my story. May your own green path be BLESSED.

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