This time last year, I was beginning a week-long meditation retreat. As I look back at that time, I can see the rapid decline of my health that was to come shortly thereafter. The space of that retreat also mirrored the space that was soon to come to fruition in my life. In that retreat, I can also see the beginning of a radical transformation in my relationship to myself.
2013 has been a year of powerful lessons, of tremendous growth, and of passages. It has been a year of shadow-reckoning and humbleness. I have felt myself become a wholly different person, my body shifting and becoming unfamiliar numerous times over. Much of my personal life has been rocked this year, honing me into a more subtle instrument of the universe’s desires. I am seeing need where it exists and trying to find the words to ask for what sustains me.
This body delights in floating
on the surface of water,
feeling sun against skin, imagining
itself part of the sky–
This body enjoys the burst
of a fresh-ripe blueberry, that moment
of tasting the only moment that matters–
This body recalls the tenuous
attachment to this living, breathing
form and remembers joy in breeze on skin,
the cold of the ocean’s bite–
As my body has become at times unfamiliar, I have had the opportunity to examine what it means to live in this form and how I might, indeed, be nourished. I found simple joy in the feeling of the ocean’s salt water enveloping me, my arms and legs becoming like seaweed lapping in the waves. One of my favorite activities is to float on my back and look up at the sky. I have been rendered speechless by the sky here in Maine, and often have the feeling of being part of the sky, which, of course, I am. Just the other day, on the Solstice, the water and the sky were nearly one, and I found myself filled with the desire to dive into the oneness of watery beauty. My body is relearning how to trust itself, and the simplicity of these moments is a form of training for the times when more is required to maintain grounding or integrity. All in all, I have noticed my deep connections to the sensuality of the natural world. Just a ray of sunshine on my cheek is enough to make life worth living. I do want more, of course, but we’ll get there!
This year was one of deep reflection, and I had some lovely opportunities to explore my relationship to plant medicine and to think about my lineage as an herbalist. I found myself tracing my passion for herbal tea back to my days of working in a little tea house in Philadelphia. I had really forgotten this link, and it was only in talking to a class about herbal medicine that I was reminded of how I was introduced to rose tea. It’s hard to believe now that I haven’t always passionately brewed tea with rose petals, but it was really through the tutelage of Charlotte Lin that I learned about rose and magnolia and other Chinese herbal teas. From there, I dove deeply into herbal tea, and have come to realize this year just how important tea is to my practice as an herbalist.
Looking back, I see major shifts in so many areas: I have become fully committed to my work with plants and came to clarity that part of my work as an herbalist is to help people to heal their hearts. This feels amazingly life affirming and exciting, and I’m calling into being a practice that will benefit many. I connected in the deepest way to the importance of living with intention and fullness after my illness showed me that my life is absolutely impermanent (a fact I knew but didn’t understand before). I have defined the ways that I want to show up for people and what I expect from others in relationship, which is devastatingly hard, but so necessary. I have begun to live with a much more determined sense of gratitude for what I have cultivated and have been given. All of this is amazing, and yet the thing I struggle most with is still my creative life. Yet I know that in order to fully live, I must create. I continue to find myself stalled by judgement of my work, to the point that I halt pretty much every project because I begin to hate it or question its value. I have been thinking about all of the opportunities that I have passed up just because of self-doubt, and it’s really heart-breaking. I do not want to continue on this way, so I am writing here to seal my commitment to creativity. Poetry and painting have been my saving influences so many times, and I need to reconnect with them, whether I think my work is presentable or not. It is difficult to think about this right after receiving a rejection for a residency application that I felt quite confident about, but I have no choice.
I will make the coming year one of creativity, sensual pleasures, and deep connection to the divine in all things.