I have grown to love the sentiment of the New Year.
In my adolescence I was fervently against what I considered the absurdity of the Gregorian calendar, and celebrating a day as seemingly arbitrary as January 1 as any sort of New Year's Day --
Luckily, I am continually learning to shed my attachment to fighting battles that are of little importance, in the grand scheme.
I would rather welcome in this acknowledgement of New Beginnings, and allow the day and the sentiments surrounding it to remind us of something meaningful and useful.
Each day is a new day.
Each moment is another opportunity.
With every single breath, we are blessed with a chance to Begin Again. To find our way back to ourselves and the intentions we bring to our lives.
The Winter Solstice may be my favorite day of the year. As time passes on, I grow ever more grateful for this day which calls us to honor stillness, darkness, quiet and reflection. In a hurried world, slowing down is a powerful and deeply needed medicine.
It as with honor and gratitude that I share this yearly ritual with friends near and far so that we may all take time to align with the rhythm of the season, and allow ourselves the gift of The Sacred Pause.
On the 21st of December, the Northern Hemisphere celebrates the darkest, longest night of our year.
As this season flows, we acknowledge the circadian rhythms of our sacred planet, and how our body, mind and spirit respond and reflect to the patterns of our universe.
In our present times, we are often encouraged to abandon these natural tendencies.
We feel busier than ever; with such heavy, demanding loads in direct opposition to what the world calls for, many of us fall into illness, and seasonal emotional fatigue and sorrow.
The earth sleeps beneath a blanket of snow and the thin veil of cold air.
Tonight, let us honor the stillness and the darkness; let us, too find rest, respite and quiet, in communion with the web of life, knowing the sun will soon make our days long and our energies high once more.
"To be wise, we have to examine our intention to ensure that it is free from delusion. The ends do not justify the means. If our actions will bring harm to others, even in the service of some 'good', they are almost certainly deluded. If our actions do not come from a kind heart, from loving courage and compassion, they are deluded. If they are based on a distinction between "us" and "them", they stem from delusion. Only to the extent that we act from the wisdom of no separation, understanding how we are woven together, will our intention bring benefit." (Jack Kornfield, The Wise Heart, 264)
When I first became a formal student of plant medicine over a decade ago, I immediately fell in love with the medicine of burning plant material -- smudging, as it was introduced to me. I was transported into one of my childhood memories of building and burning a fire made of hard and soft wood, pinecones and dried needles, and the feeling of comfort, protection and purification that accompanied the warmth and beauty of smoke and flame.
As I embark upon my 33rd revolution around our sacred Sun, I am overwhelmed by the many feelings that accompany me at the beginning of another journey. 33 years feels like a long time as I weigh it in my human mind -- then again, I feel, for the most part, in better physical health than I can ever recall feeling, and although I am blessed to have experienced some incredible things in my time on this planet, I certainly don't feel very wise or particularly accomplished. As I assess the reality of this miraculous existence, and that 33 years is, really, not very much time at all, it seems perfectly understandable that, to quote one of my favorite songs by Railroad Earth, "I still got a long way to go"...
That said, I have been meaning, for quite some time, to sit down and provide my loved ones with an update on what I've been up to over these past adventurous 12 months, and just where it is I am headed. I'm not sure I have answers, but I'll try....
While out on a medicine walk with my canine companion, Güstav and I crossed paths with this beautiful Coyote...
Her behavior struck me; though I have the utmost respect for one of the most adaptable species on our planet, and have always known Coyotes to be curious, inquisitive and fearless, this one seemed to be carrying a very important message with a sense of urgency and deliberation ...
Iśvara Pranidhana :: From the Yoga Sutras, one of the Niyamas -- inner observances to carry us along our path toward union -- meaning "from dedicated devotion to supreme consciousness". Surrender.
This practice of surrender, of turning ourselves toward dedicated devotion to supreme consciousness, is not apathy. It is not giving up, or ceasing to care about or to act in support of the matters that are important to us. Rather, it is an acceptance of that which is beyond our control. It is a willingness to see beyond our finite understanding. It is an offering of trust, of faith, of hope. It is not easy.
Life is made of fleeting here and nows
Joys and sorrows
Valleys and summits
Questions and moments of clarity
Through it all, the river flows
Drop by drop into the miraculous vastness of eternity
I remember standing on the water's edge
Then, dipping my toes in
Slowly I learned to submerge myself, inch by inch
One day, perhaps, I will understand that I am the river; the river is me.
We are alive at a time of great change; a time of great struggle, and immense opportunity. Humanity is faced with many challenges, and we possess within ourselves and within our communities unfathomable abilities suited to steward in a time of tremendous happiness, health and harmony for all of life.
This month, I was honored to be featured in the teacher spotlight for Dabble...
I was honored to be invited to lead a donation based workshop geared toward providing simple steps each of us can take to boost our own immunity. Inspired by the overwhelming incentivizing of the influence vaccine, along with substantial evidence to suggest it may not be worth such incentivizing, I have been asked to offer some other solutions before jumping on the vaccination wagon.
I do not wish to participate in fear-mongering, judgement or shaming on either side of the debate; I encourage everyone to do their own research. Here is an example of the pro-vaccination platform. (The earlier link I referenced is on the other side of the debate). Seek out many sources, compare notes, and make your own decision; after all, I am firmly rooted in my belief that we as individuals are responsible for our own health, and the more we know, the more empowered we become.
Whether or not you opt in for a vaccination this year, time tested earth medicine is undeniably effective, when used properly, and there are a lot of steps we can take and botanical allies we can enlist to improve the quality of our health and overall wellbeing flu shot or not.
I prepared a short handout, complete with some recipes revolving around 7 staple botanical allies and the delivery methods we can use to receive their benefits. Here is what I put together:
Molly Jo Stanley
Educating for Mindfulness and Sustainability