Maia Toll
This is How We Heal

This is How We Heal

A few weeks ago, a friend sent me a picture of her son’s hand.

His index finger was swollen, angry, and bruised; painful even through the small screen of my iPhone. Her note said he’d been up most of the night, pained tears running down his little face.

This particular friend is a naturopathic physician. Over the course of the day she used soaks and poultices to begin to pull the invisible infection from his finger. She had no clear idea what had caused it: a spider bite? a splinter? Young boys get into all sorts of things playing in the woods.

Throughout the morning she sent me photos as the inflammation and irritation centralized. Later that day, my friend took her son to a doctor who sent a sample to the lab. They learned it was a staph infection and antibiotics were prescribed. Still, the doctor was impressed with the progress, so poulticing and soaking continued. The knuckle got huge and ugly as the infection surfaced and localized. To the untrained eye, everything looked so much worse.

But there is a secret that healers know: as infections become less diffuse and rise to the surface, they often look worse. Much worse. And, yet, we know this is the path to healing.

Our American culture has been suppressing an infection of prejudice and racism. It’s rising to the surface now, blooming bruised and ugly. In the initial stages, it will seem to be getting worse. The wound will ooze and pus, the anger palpable. It might be hard to see the good in it. It might be difficult to remember that, for healing to happen, the infection needs to be drawn to the surface.

It’s hard to witness an infection drawing to a head. It’s hard not to panic, to instead calmly soak and poultice as my friend did, drawing the infection ever outward.

It’s hard to remember that once things are pulled up, they can be drawn out, and then healing can truly begin.

That’s the work right now: to allow and encourage this horrible infection to come to the surface. It’s not fun or pretty. But, if you look closely, you will see the social body begin the path to healing.

Big Hugs—

Maia Signature

Finding Strength in Our Root System

Finding Strength in Our Root System

Spring brings wind…
…and wind brings change.

I’ve been thinking about the wind. I’ve even re-watched a little bit of Chocolat (remember the voice-over in the beginning? About the North Wind? Yum.).

There’s a romance to knowing the names of the wind. Each name feels like a secret, sweet on your tongue. When you whisper those secrets, they open a portal to a millennia of stories and histories so that when the wind comes, and its name is spoken, unused doors creak open and the world changes just a little. (more…)

The Dance of Duality and Why I (Sort of) Believe in Unicorns

The Dance of Duality and Why I (Sort of) Believe in Unicorns

Do you remember the first time you saw a picture of a unicorn?

Maybe it was one of those pre-Raphaelite remakes with a lovely woman cradling a unicorn’s head in her lap (no layered symbolism there!) or a cartoon in which the unicorn shoots rainbow hearts out of it’s horn. While part of you said “not real,” another part of you said, “hmmmm… wonder if they eat apples?”

There are many kinds of belief. There’s the belief of your mind, a form of believing which wants to be rational and absolute (the brain refuses to remember that it can be faulty or manipulated). The mind wants it’s truths clear, precise, known.

Then there are the beliefs of the heart, soul, or body, none of which are tied to the mind’s rationality. Dreams, shamanic journeys, intuitions, and our spiritual beliefs fall into this second category.

This dichotomy is the difference between what I think of as your daylight mind, which logically navigates the complexities of the modern world, and your nighttime self, which knows life is softer and that shadows are multi-layered. Neither form of belief is “right” and both are valid.To live wholly we must find balance between the two in the same way we balance light and dark, inhale and exhale. (more…)

What to Do When the Madness Overwhelms the Magic

What to Do When the Madness Overwhelms the Magic

Australia is burning, Puerto Rico is quaking, the polar icecaps are melting, and koala bears are reportedly headed toward extinction.

What can we do when the madness of the modern world overwhelms its magic?

We can seek kinship.

Rewind to a cafe in Ireland. There’s a pot of tea on the table, three of us are deep in our mugs…

…. and I’m bemoaning the lack of goddesses in the Old Testament. (more…)

Two Simple Steps to a Sane Holiday Season

Two Simple Steps to a Sane Holiday Season

“Rule number one: Don’t be an asshole,” I announced.

Two hundred people tittered and my teaching assistant hopped up to write Don’t Be An Asshole in big letters on the white board.

In the past few years, the conference I taught at had become a force for social justice issues. The inadvertent side effect was that leading a class there had become a bit like walking through the Fire Swamp in The Princess Bride: one wrong word could erupt a deadly geyser of virulence, and once there was an eruption, it was tough to get the class’s focus back on topic. “Don’t be an asshole” was meant to give me something to point to if I misstepped, a tool to help me get the class’s attention back: “Oops! I broke the first rule. I’m so sorry,” or “hey, remember the first rule?” It was a way to get eyes back on me. What I didn’t realize was that it would quickly become a mantra for the weekend, with people leaving my class reminding each other “Don’t be an asshole!”

We all have assholic moments (even if you meditate, do yoga three times a week, and center and ground daily). The more stressed we are, the greater the chance we’re going to erupt. (more…)

How to Become a Different Kind of Soul

How to Become a Different Kind of Soul

It’s the time of letting go, the season of releasing.

No longer held tight to branches, leaves swirl and twist with new found freedom. At night, the owls whisper of winter; the earth sighs and exhales after a season of productivity…

As the year winds down, we face both forward and back, like the Roman god, Janus. We gather the harvest of the year that’s been—seeing to fruition the things we’ve put into motion—while simultaneously peering into our own becoming, beginning to plan what will be.

This time is in-between, balanced between past and future.

In Ireland, we celebrated the close of the year on October 31, called Samhain in the Celtic tongue. While ending the year now makes little sense to the modern mind, the farmers of old had just brought in their crops and laid in their stores for the winter. The time of life and growth was ending, and winter, the time of death and incubation, was coming. (more…)