“Do you have daily rituals?”
Sitting together in her car after our first lunch “date,” my newest friend popped the dreaded question: How do you stay so grounded? Do you have daily rituals?
I cringed. I’m a Gemini, after all— we don’t do daily anything except breathe, and even that is optional. But when you do the type of work I do in the world (back me up on this acupuncturists, massage therapists, and earth mammas) there are perceptions to either live up to… or not.
They go kind of like this:
You wake up at 5:30 AM to meditate.
You say 3 things that you’re grateful for before going to bed at night… every night.
You never eat without a prayer.
You’re vegan (or vegetarian or paleo depending on what the pre-conceiver thinks is the “right” diet).
You smile beneficently when someone treats you horridly.
You focus on the positive and only see the good in everyone, especially the person who just rear-ended you and is proceeding to scream both at you and some poor soul on the other end of his cell phone. No, you don’t maul him with your super wit. You smile beneficently, picture him in the light, and send out prayers for his highest good.
Here’s my secret:
There was no master plan.
I didn’t visualize herb shops in two states, a couple of books, and a vibrant online community (online??! says ten-years-ago me, that’s crazy-pants!).
The year destiny wrapped me ‘round her little finger and tugged my life into a new shape, I was happily renovating my 1870’s Sears and Roebuck kit house, spending evenings rocking on the wrap-around porch, and making gluten-free mulberry-peach pies with berries fresh from the trees in the back yard. I loved my house somethin’ fierce and swore they’d carry me out in a coffin.
I was 33. Thirty-three is three 11’s, the number of visionaries and dreamers, ideologues and spiritual seekers. Think about your own thirty-third year (and if you’re not yet there, pay attention when it comes!).
I hit my thirty-third birthday and life got officially weird.
My teacher in Ireland used to say:
Use the tools until you don’t need them anymore.
“The tools” are things like essential oils and flower essences, teas and tarot cards, crystals, malas and rosary beads. They are the candles you light to hone your focus, the breathing exercises that calm your mind, and the shells and stones on your altar which remind you what you are made of.
These spiritual tools help our physical selves connect with our inner-wisdom, our energy bodies, our souls.
This Jewish girl has owned rosary beads and Kwan Yin statues, citrine points and oracle decks…
… because they help me to connect with the deepest parts of me. (more…)
All right Empaths, I need you to repeat after me:
It is not my job to absorb the energies of the world.
Say it out loud, even if you don’t believe it:
It is not my job to absorb the energies of the world.
Why is this so very important?
Because when you are taking on other people’s grief and loneliness, when you are pulling in other people’s pain, you are attracting and attached to those feelings.
And you pulling those feelings toward you neither serves you nor anyone else.
Burn it off.
Sage it off.
your aura, your skin
will not be breached!
Otherwise you are swaying in the wind, pulled by the highs and lows of every creature on this planet.
It’s pretty tough to hear the small, still voice of your inner divinity while juggling a job, two kids, and a mortgage.
That’s why my first spiritual teacher— who insisted that I was a modern-day priestess— admonished me never to get married or have kids or dogs or even fish!
Okay, I’m exaggerating on the fish; I’m sure she thought some koi in the pond would be good for meditation. My point is she felt pretty strongly that I should avoid decisions which tempted the noise of everyday life to pull me off my center.
And let’s face it: even for the most grounded of us, the ups and downs of daily living exert their own gravitational force.
As modern-day wisdom-warriors, our primary fight is with our own wandering attention, keeping it focused so that our energy goes where we want it to and not to the gazillion other places that are happy to have an infusion of our light.
My herbal teacher started every class with a recitation of lineage:
My name is Gina McGarry. My teacher was Rosemary Gladstar, whose teacher was Juliette de Baïracli Levy, whose teachers were the Romani gypsies.
I carried this opening recitation into my own teaching, working backwards through the generations of people who had refined and nursed the knowledge that allowed me and—through me—my students to step into deep relationship with the medicine plants.
In over eighty hours of herbal training, it was this five-minute recitation which cracked open hearts and most prepared students to step into the work ahead. Knowing they were part of a lineage of Medicine Keepers created a profound sense of trust and belonging.
For many, at odds with their families and out-of-sync with religious codes, this was the first time they felt a part of something which stretched back through the ages, anchoring them to ancestral energy.
At my first herbal conference, I briefly met Juliette de Baïracli Levy. I was awestruck not because she was a world-renowned writer on herbs and veterinary practices but because she was the twice great-grandmother of the Medicine I carried in my heart. I would not be the woman I am today if Juliette, whom I never knew personally, hadn’t shared her wisdom.
Within the herbal community, a deep reverence is nurtured for lineage and the lessons only many years of living can distill. The wisdom keepers who carry and pass knowledge, teacher to student, generation to generation, are honored and cared for. The elders at that first herbal conference had trails of young people refreshing their tea, bringing them chairs, and running countless errands.
As I watch the influx of new healers and baby shamans on my Instagram and Facebook feeds, a large part of me rejoices. Knowing that this knowledge—seeded by so many hands over so many generations—is in full burgeoning bloom brings tears to my eyes.
…one which we’ve worked so hard to establish. When we don’t link ourselves into the chain of knowledge passed hand-to-hand we lack a sense of support, of groundedness, on our path.
We lose the awe and honor of being a trusted keeper of hard-won medicine passed generation to generation.
And perhaps most importantly, we lose the person who gently chides us to work harder, to learn deeper, and to explore the vast reaches of our consciousness and come into a better way of being.
It was late autumn in Ireland when I began seeing dead birds in the cow’s field. I was gathering hawthorn berries and noticed the small black bodies under the power line. I remember coming in the back door, shucking hat and boots and delivering a basket of berries to Gina.
There are dead birds under the power line, I reported. Maybe we should call the power company.
Gina looked up from where she was sorting the berries. You left them there? she asked.
Um, yes? I said wondering what the heck else I was supposed to do.
Take care of them, she instructed. It’s time you learned to deal with death.
Building a cairn for small broken bird bodies was as much a part of my studies as memorizing the Latin names of the members of the Rosaceae family.
These universal metaphors and symbols are powerful stuff. They awaken ancient knowings within us by mere exposure. Your teacher needn’t have decades of knowledge: if she shares with you a bit about the patterns of nature, your own inner-knowing will spark and you’ll find your way to deeper relationship.
This allows for democratization of wisdom: those who are but a step further on the path can turn back and help the next person in turn.
It is beautiful and a bit miraculous: the symbols are the keys and anyone can pass you a set.
When I look at gorgeous photos of herbal mandalas on Instagram or hear a friend’s excitement about learning essential oils from the Sales Team Leader at Big Name Essential Oil Company, I can’t help but wonder:
Who will insist she bury the birds to learn the lessons of life and death?
Who will call her to task when she steps out of integrity with herself?
Which ancestors will whisper secrets as she moves into the dark forests of her calling?
How do we assure connection to the lines of lineage and pass on the tradition of honoring the elders of our sacred tribe?