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....
Year 32 felt like a significant turning point in my life; I came into a rhythm of steadiness and stability that I hadn't experienced since the deaths of my mother and my Kramer dog, and leaving the community and work I had come to love and rely on when my Americorps position ended in Athens County, Ohio.
Those series of blows contributed to the 5 years in which my loving partner, Robert and I struggled (to say the least) to find any semblance of security. Work, and lack thereof took us from Arizona to Ohio to Colorado to Ohio to Yellowstone, and then back to Denver. (I tell that story in another post, The Ever-Flowing River).
Our time in Denver was a powerful and relentless teacher -- it felt a lot like running an Ultramarathon. We were constantly asking ourselves, "why did we do this?", "what were we thinking?", and wondering if we would make it through. It was a fitting home base for us to train for two 50-mile Ultramarathons. But like most trail runners, we were bound and determined to push through the discomfort and grow from the experience. We turned our urban rental home into a sanctuary -- we were stewards to incredible yields of delicious produce, eggs and medicine; we adopted an amazing cat and (later) a dog; Robert went to school with help from the GI Bill and graduated at the top of his Aviation and Aeronautics class; I was actually earning a good income from donation based Yoga classes, homesteading and fermentation classes I taught at our home; and we grew to become part of an amazing network of caring, inspiring friends, local businesses and teachers. Through patience, diligence and belief, we found and cultivated pieces of comfort and familiarity. Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of all, our love for one another grew stronger than ever as a result of supporting one another through the uncertainties and challenges.
On a personal level, learning to really honor and practice patience, diligence and belief brought me through a time of severe depression and fear for my professional future. My work in Mindfulness and Ecological Education has always been deeply important to me, and there were many moments I wondered if I had lost my chance to teach in the capacity I used to.
I tried my best to have faith that I was on the right path. As is so often the case, when I really set down my expectations, a series of doors opened to me when I needed them. I was accepted into a Masters of Education program at Antioch University New England where I could combine my passions into a self-designed degree, "Educating for Mindfulness and Sustainability". This incredible program somehow guided me toward an opportunity to work with Breathe for Change, an organization which empowers educators to enhance well-being in their lives, classrooms and school communities through Yoga Teacher Training programs based in Mindfulness and Social and Emotional Learning. With the help of one my dearest friends and colleagues, Erin, we expanded and increased our Yoga, Mindfulness and Wellness events in Ohio, growing the work and the scope of Adventures in Nourishment.
After almost a decade of resistance to the transience that my life seemed to necessitate, I embraced movement as a means toward homeostasis.
In the summer of 2018, with Robert's incredible carpentry skills to facilitate my comfort and safety, I turned a Ram ProMaster City (a relatively small cargo van) into a home in which I joyfully traveled from California to Ohio to New Hampshire, then back to Ohio, Colorado and California to go to school; to teach yoga, herbalism, and environmental education; and to play music. I visited friends and family along the way, and worked toward my goals of ecological mindfulness and zero waste with the help of amazing farmers markets, cooperatives and recycling and compost facilities that allowed me to eat seasonal, local, sustainability produced food; refill containers of organic soaps, nut butters, herbs and grains; and ensure that I gave organic matter and energy back to the sacred soil.
As I rest my attention on hopes for my future, I admit that I still feel a lot of fear and uncertainty.
My work continues to be an act of faith -- that my Masters work will be accepted and I will get a degree, and that it will increase my ability to grow in my career; that I will be a valued and contributing educator with Breathe for Change and the other organizations I partner with, and have the opportunity to keep sharing the work I love with the world; and that people will believe in and find resonance with the work I do, and trust me enough to support and guide them on their own journeys.
A lot of it requires my own growth. It's hard for me to admit and write about, but I have to learn to believe in myself enough to promote what I do. As I embark on an entrepreneurial path, my success is inextricably linked to my ability to ask people to take a chance on me. That's really intimidating and, quite frankly, super scary. If I could offer all my services for free, I absolutely would. That's what I have done for most of my life, and admittedly, I can't sustain that any longer, at least not for now. I love teaching, and I believe plant medicine, mindfulness, yoga, nutrition, wellness, sustainability, music, creativity -- these are universally important aspects of livelihood that I feel a certain measure of guilt charging for, but that's the reality of our current situation, isn't it? A recurring theme in my Masters work and in my teaching is that, in order for us to serve the greater good, we must nourish ourselves, first and foremost. My 33rd year is as good a time as any to internalize my advice.
So.. this is what I am up to, reader; my 33rd year is going to be filled with my own continued growth, and my commitment to sharing the fruits of my growth with the world. I will immerse myself in the medicine of the Earth, the plants, of mindful movement and meditation, of music and creative expression, of delicious, healthful food, and gratitude and reverence -- and I will share the gift of this medicine with the world.
If you're interested in giving me a gift (beyond the gift of your time to read this lengthy post -- Thank You) to support this 33rd revolution around that beautiful ball of fire we call our Sun, here my wishes ::
1) I want the first Adventures in Nourishment retreat to be as amazing as possible. Erin and I have planned an incredible weekend of reflection, renewal, nourishment and delight -- all we need are people to join us. We've made it extremely affordable (really); we aren't in the get-rich business -- we believe in what we have to offer, and we want people to invest in a truly valuable experience. If you feel the call to join us under the vast blue skies of the Mojave and sink into 3 days of self-love, then please register. If this isn't the right time//the right place//the right price, let us know what you are seeking, and how we can help you find it. If you know someone who might hear the call, please spread the word. We are new to this whole marketing thing, and your help would be deeply appreciated.
2) I would love to know what difficulties are coming up for folks in living a Mindful, Sustainable existence. Are you struggling to start your meditation practice, show up for yoga classes, stick with your exercise routine, prepare healthful food? Is it difficult to find access to local/organic food, recycling or composting facilities? Are you interested in zero waste grocery shopping, but don't know where or how to go about refilling containers? Is navigating the world of ecologically sustainable food, wellness and other products overwhelming for you and your family? Are you interested in using herbal medicine to compliment your path to wellness, but unsure where to begin? I am committed to offering my services for the benefit of the people and the world I love, so please, let me know if there is anything I can do to help.
3) Writing is a big part of my life, and I want to be more diligent and consistent with it. I enjoy the process of writing blog content, but the world wide web is full of incredible, beneficial writers and blogs, and I am not interested in competing. I want to know what people are looking for and unable to find, and what they want more of. What do YOU want to read about? Please, tell me.
4) Speaking of writing, I want to dedicate more time and energy to my music -- to writing music, but also recording. I've thought about starting a kickstarter or go fund me project, but again, asking for money is scary stuff. What do you think? Have you heard my music? (You can find samples on my music page, or on my (very amateur) Bandcamp and/or YouTube pages).
Okay, last one -- and this one is my most important wish ::
5) Take a deep breath. Stretch your shoulders up to your ears and roll them down your spine, expanding your chest and opening your heart. Close your eyes. Take a moment to acknowledge something you are grateful for -- your breath, your body, a nearby plant, a ray of sunshine, a drop of rain, the smell of a flower, the song of a bird, the sound of music, a loved one -- repeat, as needed, today and every day. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Each moment is a chance for us to make peace with the world, to make peace possible for the world, to make happiness possible for the world. The world needs our happiness."
Though in the grand scheme of universal time, 32 human years is but the tiniest drop in the vast ocean, I look back on my life thus far with gratitude and wonder. I have lived long enough to find that there is so much beauty, and so much hope, and that although it isn't always easy, we have the capacity to create the reality we wish to see. I truly believe that when we make choices that nourish ourselves, we nourish the whole of existence. In my 33rd year, I set to the task of cultivating more nourishment and more happiness for myself and for the world through the practices and teachings of Mindfulness and Sustainability.
Thank you for reading and for supporting me on this journey.
With gratitude and lovingkindness,
Molly Jo Stanley
Educating for Mindfulness and Sustainability