You Are Your Own Healer


It’s been a mercurial spring for us here in the mountains. Sunlit days of short sleeves in January and snow whirling alongside the blossoms of late March. The weather, like our own healing paths, seems to be always moving in a spiral. Within the steady progression of the seasons, there is always a non-linear circling back. A revisiting of the same winter barrens, a sudden and all-too familiar freeze in our growth, before learning once more how to keep on blooming.

In the past I’ve tended to be pretty harsh on myself when the same tired issues or blocks (the ones I thought I had left behind for good) reared their heads yet again. Even among the proof of all my inner hillsides teaming with blossoms, the sudden snow of self-doubt seemed to blot out every evidence of newness and growth.

But the more time I spend with the living world the more I realize that such spirals and seesaws, two steps forward and one back, is just the way the world likes to dance with itself. That no matter how many chills come in before the final thaw, spring will always arrive. The crocuses will pick up their heads again after the snow. The cherry blossoms will put out new blooms. The life of things will go on, because we all have access to one singular stream of medicine that will never abandon us— our own inner healer.

Each of us was born with the ability to heal ourselves. It is as innate to our being as tree sap and the audacity of a daffodil patch.



When I first began working with plants I felt like I had found a wonderland of redemption. Elders who could heal me from all my wounds. But as I learned more about plant constituents, consciousness, and how these medicines actually work inside our bodies and spirits, I realized: plants don’t heal us. They awaken within us the ability to heal ourselves. Whether that is through supporting our own bodies natural processes of elimination and rejuvenation or through the ineffable ability to shift our hearts and minds.

Most days I think this ability to help us remember who we really are is the greatest gift from the plant realm. And that when we realize that we can truly be our own healers, we can invite in an unstoppable spring of rebirth.

Some mornings, the hard ones, I sit by the creek for a long while, singing a tuneless melody and simply asking for help:

May I be cleansed of doubt. May I let go of worry. May I release the shades of anxiety so I can see the bright canvas of my life in the vividness of gratitude that it deserves.

And the creek speaks to me, not to give me new thoughts, but to help me change my own mind. To help me learn how to breathe and heal myself through remembering that I can choose to be whole again.

 



In early spring we ache to be cleansed. To be awoken again to the wonder at the center of all things. To heal.

And the secret that the birds sing as they flit from thicket to tree. The knowing that the creek murmurs as it touches the mossbraids of green. The promise that the daffodils hold, surviving the cold, is that all the healing in the world is meant to be a mirror, showing you just how powerful of a healer you truly are.

And once we realize this— that we hold the same thimble vessel of magic that lives in the crab apple blooms and the liquid pour of a wood thrush singing in an early green wood—support will rush in like a spring-thawed stream.

For me, learning how to trust my intuition, my inner knowing, has become integral to this process of self-healing. Like the wisdom of the earthworm, sensing just where to dig. My connection with the natural world has helped me to come home to my own inner guide.

Next week I’ll be offering a free online class called Opening your Earth Intuition to help you make these deep and lasting connections. If you want to make sure you are on the list go ahead and hop over here to sign up.

Until then, check out my new video guide to two of my favorite allies to embrace self-healing (below) or this post from the archives to explore three creative spring cleanses for gentle self-renewal.


Shift, Dissolve, Embrace


Sometimes, when I feel at a loss, I just gaze at the earth. Watching the way a child might observe an elder move about their life, quietly imprinting myself with the way things are done. As spring comes, with all its opportunity for newness, I find myself in this humble motion of observation almost daily. And the more I watch, the more I realize that the world, awakening, goes about things much differently than us humans.

Just a few weeks ago the creek was covered in ice. Today it is rushing with the mud-water of rains. The tiny daffodils along the driveway have begun blooming where the snowbanks were once piled and there is an distinct saturation of green at the edges of things. It is, all told, a seemingly radical change. But most days it happens so slowly, so naturally, it is hard to call it change at all. It is an incremental awakening that comes, not by force or push or even planning, but by its own natural softening.

Often, when we sense the need for newness, we reach for the power tools of change— those that work fast and hard, altering the surface of our landscape as quick as possible. Like taking a weedeater to a hedge of blackberry brambles or digging laboratory-made fertilizer into worn out soil. When we finally face the overgrown garden or reach the bottom of our wells, we ask ourselves— how can I beat this back? Where do I begin digging for an answer? How can I, through sheer determination, coax the flowers to bloom again?

But if we look around, at the rainsoaked beginnings of spring, we don’t see a story of force, or will, or even radical change. We see a world, shifting, embracing, and dissolving into a new beginning.

Seeing the subtle unfolding of spring is like watching a being heal itself from all wounds. Where once the ground was hard as stone now the crocuses are blooming like drops of paint flecked across the landscape. The frozen ruts from the truck are softening into mud and chickweed seed. The bare and broken stalks filling with tips of green. It is a healing that blossoms from a space of pure allowing, an acceptance of what is.

The arrival of spring teaches us a new story of how to approach transformation in our own being.

Instead of changing what doesn’t work, how can we shift our relationship to it? Like soil naturally settling to the side to allow the daffodil greens to push through.

Instead of chipping away at what feels heavy, how can we just allow it to dissolve? Like ice on the cover of the creek.

Instead of resisting the unexpected trials, how can we simply embrace what is? Like the cherry blossoms, bloomed a bit early, weathering a night of unexpected snow.

I remember hearing once about a Chinese medicine practitioner who specialized in working with cancer patients. Instead of talking about shrinking or vanquishing the tumor, he asked his patients to imagine the possibility that it could simply dissolve. Like ice in a warm bath. That we could create landscapes of such love, acceptance and allowance inside of ourselves that the tumor would want to let go of its boundaries and melt. Gentling itself into nothing, after all.

As spring arrives I find myself replacing the old words with new ones, given to me by the living elder of this world, and it brings a balm to ancient wounds.

It is healing for the part of me that often feels weighted down by the heavy responsibility of making myself as whole, woke, bright, and “enlightened” as possible. The part of me that feels I must constantly rev up the power tools to weed out what is preventing me from being in a state of grace.

Instead, I am allowing grace to come to me. Repeating, as if it were a mantra, the origin words of spring: Shift, Dissolve, Embrace. 

Knowing that my own body, like the good soil of this earth, knows the way to bloom.

And that yours does too.

If you are looking for some gentle guides in this time of shifting, take a peek at our flower essence gallery for some of my favorite early spring allies for awakening.

And if you’d like to study with a warm council of humanfolk who have learned, and honed, so much from the wise teachers of the plants come join me at the Shift Network Plant Summit— A free online event exploring the intersection of medicine, ecology and spirituality in the plant kingdom.

The Shift Network is the home of gentle transformations and I’m honored to be among such a luminary group of speakers (including David Winston, Jill Stansbury, Mary Bove and Michael Tierra). Registration is free and the summit begins on March 19th. Just follow the link here to get signed up and see what shifts.

No matter what is speaking to you this spring – snowdrops or summits, crocus essence or cardinal song – know that what you are hearing is a kind of incantation unto itself. An invitation to remember that you have everything you need to heal already within. Just be like the daffodils. Shift your face to the sun, dissolve the worry of not being enough, and embrace all the gifts that are arriving here to greet you now.

 


A Hymn for Optimism

I’m what you might call an “enthusiastic celebrator.” I can’t help it, I just get a kick out of life a lot of the time. I recently sent my friend a funny gif of Will Ferrell in Elf playing hopscotch with the white lines of a New York crosswalk and she immediately texted me back, “Asia… you know that’s you anytime you go to the city, right?!” And I realized… she’s probably right. That’s also me the exact day (December 1st, in my opinion) that it becomes “appropriate” to start playing holiday music. And also when I get into the kitchen to whip up some homemade tea blends, cordials or cookies. And anytime anyone mentions Santa…ever.

I’ll admit it, I’m a rich optimist. I believe in things like miracles and magic, and the good in people. I believe in peace on earth— even if it was never supposed to arrive all at once, but meant to cycle like a constellation, sometimes hidden, sometimes obscured, and sometimes appearing over the horizon just as you thought to look up. A momentary grace that you realize, remarkably, was there all along.I believe that no matter how bleak things appear, somehow there is a greater wave of good moving through it all. Like cinnamon marbled through dense pound cake. Sometimes it just takes a few forkfuls before you can taste it.

 

After my grandmother died my mom was the one who carefully went through all of her things. There were lots of treasured items, but the most unexpected of all was just a little slip of paper. Written in my grandmother’s hand and tucked into the back of her day planner, the small note card said “everything is always working out for me.” My mom donated many things, but the note became an heirloom. Since then, it’s become a kind of mantra in our family, especially when things seem like they are decidedly not working out for us (try this when you are in the gutter and I promise at the very least it’ll make you laugh at the ridiculousness of it all). And it’s been a beacon for me in a world, and a time, where the news seems to foretell doomsday, everyday.

What if, actually, everything is working out??

I believe that even in the absolute darkest times, there is light. And so did our ancestors. They believed it so fully, that they placed their festivals of light (Yule, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa) directly during the time of the year when the nights were the longest, and the days short and bleak. The reason why we celebrate the myriad of holidays that mark this time across the Northern Hemisphere is because our ancestors were, in truth, wild optimists. Not only did they trust that the light would return, that the soil would warm, that life would continue again, they truly believed that their rituals were an important part of keeping the earth’s magic alive. And maybe it’s true… what if our optimistic engagement with this living planet is an actual part of the sun continuing to rise? I would be surprised. After all, we know already how deeply important it is for our own inner sunshine.

New scientific studies have found that believing in the good things coming feeds something incredibly important inside our beings. “Dispositional optimism,” a mindset where you simply tend to expect positive outcomes for the future, has been shown to have a wide variety of health benefits— reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, infection, and even a longer life span! Optimists literally live longer to see all those positive projections for the future unfold.

Optimism isn’t frivolity or naivety. It’s is a life saving, world saving, sanity saving magic. And I truly believe that it is what will help us rescue the grace of our collective destiny as humans on this miraculous planet. To be able to keep on believing in the possibility of magic, generosity and healing.

 

 

I have always loved this time of the year for the rich storytelling and spices simmering on the stove, the twinkle lights and togetherness. But what truly makes this season come alive for me is the way in which, as a collective, we come together to shelve our heavy skepticism (if even for just a few weeks) and invite in a truly altruistic optimism.

No matter how dark things get, I continue to believe. I mean, you’re talking to someone who defended the existence of Santa Claus wayyyy longer than most of my classmates. I mean, I heard their arguments, I just didn’t buy it. (“Thanks for your input Steve Wunderkund, but I’m not convinced!”). Because what’s “real” isn’t always what is physical or tangible. Sometimes the “realest” things— like love and relationship, the interconnectedness of a landscape or the life force of an evergreen tree, can only be experienced.

Real optimism is about trusting that there is more, so much more, than what our limited human eyes can see. And that we can believe, and trust, in all the magic of the unseen.

If you are wanting to reclaim the bright embered light and optimism of this season come join me online for one of my favorite all-time classes: Holiday Magic + Medicine Making. It is seriously chock-full of cheer as well as an exploration of the history and lore surrounding this time. Come meet my favorite holiday herbs and learn how to make a whole host of herbal gifts. Also, sign up now and you’ll receive the *brand new* bonus guide to Stones for Solstice: Minerals, Rituals and Elixirs for the Darkest night of the Year. I’m so excited to see you there.

Real Witches See Possibility

 

I stood before the old cabin with a stone in one hand and the wind in the other. In winter the trees on this land shiver to bareness and the old structures become visible once more. With so much openness the wind whistles clear through the quiet forests, and the old stories return.

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{{ Loss and Chestnut Trees }}

Once upon a time the slopes of these mountains were covered with American chestnut trees (Castanea dentate). Magnificent giants that sustained entire communities with their good wood and bountiful food. Just over a hundred years ago American chestnuts were the monoliths that defined Southern Appalachian forests. Ecologists say that one out of every four hardwood trees in these mountains were chestnuts. Today, all we have left of these giants are hand-hewn homes and memories.

The woods that the first Europeans walked into were vastly different than the thickets of tulip poplar and oak and undergrowth that cover our ridges now. The hills surrounding most homesteads in Southern Appalachia today are burred with a thick tangle of saplings, shrubs, the leggy heights of first succession trees, and cat briar thorns. But once upon at time, these forests were cathedrals, wide spaces of grace defined by the giant buttresses of ancient trunks. Nurtured, protected, and given domain over these hills— the Chestnuts of the indigenous Appalachians were called the “redwoods of the east.”

chestnut-cropped

For centuries it must have seemed incomprehensible to imagine an Appalachia without her magnificent columns of chestnuts, the open churches of the woods.

But today, only saplings remain.

In 1904 a tiny stowaway arrived from a nursery in Asia. A handful of spores from a fungus called Cryphonectria parasitica, a relatively common parasitic fungus for the Chinese chestnut, that proved fatal to our indigenous Castanea. Entering through wounds to the bark, C. parasiticia slowly kills the cambium of the tree, effectively girdling it. In a span of forty years, almost our entire population of North American Chestnuts, four billion strong, was decimated. Appalachia was irrevocably changed.

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The cabins built on the land where I’m living this winter are a testament to this time of life-altering change. Locked and left for decades, to swing open the door to these old cabins is to rush like a pendulum into another era. The insides of some structures are made from Chestnut boards that are unpocked, over a century old, perennial and strong. Others were crafted from the wood that stood for a long while after the blight struck them down. Wormy chestnut, this kind of wood is called. Chestnuts are so resistant to rot they can remain for years after their death, strong and utile to their core despite these damp, damp woods.

Standing before this cabin, a relic from a time when the Chestnuts once defined this land, with a stone in one hand and wind in the other, it would be easy to fall into the sinking feeling of endings. Of epochs that close, life snatched away, accumulated years of grief. It would be easy to get lost in the gravity of sadness that seems to cling to the hem of time like burrs.

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But there is another way of seeing. One that acknowledges both what was and the mystery of what will be. One that recognizes each fallen tree and also greets the mystery.

The women ancestors of my heritage were persecuted for being Witches. Ones that could work with healing possibilities beyond what was immediately perceived. These women were oppressed, silenced, demonized for their connection to the unseen. But above all, they were feared.

What is at once most threatening, and most powerful, about these witches of our collective ancestry, was their ability to see.

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{{ How Witches See }}

Witch is a term as shifting and volatile as mercury. Over time it has been an accusation, a slur, a fear, a story, a fairytale, and a costume. But in the beginning, a witch was someone who was recognized as working with healing. A person who had a direct relationship to the medicine of those things we cannot immediately see.

The etymological roots of the word witch are mixed, murky and a bit mysterious. But some scholars argue that witch can be traced back to the Indo-European world weid – which means both “to know” and “to see.”

Once upon a time all witches saw that healing is a multidimensional activity. In order to heal the body we must perceive the deeper needs of the spirit. For shamans and witches, or those who were simply called “medicine people” in the old communities, it was understood that illness and injury held important communications about what, in a wider way, was asking to be seen. For a healer, the ultimate goal is not the alleviation of a symptom, but for the deeper message of the imbalance to be recognized, integrated and perceived.

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To be a medicine person is to understand the direct link between perception and healing. Traditional healers knew that the way in which we perceive gives shape to our direct experience of reality. If we wish to change our reality, or the concreteness of loss or devastation that we’ve been handed, we must first begin with what we are open to seeing.

And Real Witches see possibility. They understand that sometimes the most profound healing does not come from the physiology of a specific medicine, but from the life-changing alteration of our core vision and belief. To be a healer of any kind is to recognize possibilities. Where there is pain, there could be relief. Where there is death, regeneration can be leased. When we open our minds to perceive possibility – including the possibly of healing itself – we open our consciousness to an entirely new way of seeing.

At the heart, to be a witch doesn’t mean that you manipulate reality to your liking. It means that you can see and call forth manifold possibilities. It means that your perception of reality goes beyond what has been handed to you. And that you can perceive the presence of freedom, and healing, in all things.

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Real Witches know that anything is possible, and this is why they were persecuted. Possibility itself is inherently decentralizing. It places the power of what can be in the domain of each and every being. It can be very revolutionary, indeed, to nurture a belief in possibility.

We do not need major initiation rites, long periods of pilgrimages, aestheticism, or trials in order to become such magicians in our own lives.

All we must do is open ourselves to the possibilities.

When we can engage with the presence of possibility— that, perhaps, nothing is set is stone, nothing is irreparable, nothing is truly lost— does not all of life become infused with magic? And is not magic, in its essence, the recognition of limitless possibilities?

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{{ Change your Perception, Change the World }}

What happens when the small succession forests that cover our hills now are no longer seen as the seconds of what was, but recognized as a form of perfectly worthy reincarnation? What happens when we can gaze at the precious inner contours of a Chestnut cabin and cease to only see loss, but also recognize the raw and humble blessings of a new beginning?

If we want to change the world, we must first shift our minds to perceive a wider, more fluid reality. One that is steeped in possibility.

Our earth doesn’t know endings. Only change. Only possibility. Every time a tree falls in the forest a raucous growth of understory flowers, shrubs and saplings rises up in its wake. Every time a bird dies, a field floods, a drought strips the leaves from the trees, new life and lifeways are diverted, nourished and invented. In nature, there is no good or bad. Simply different, changing.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

 

Possibility is the language our very planet speaks. Real witches perform magic because they are so aligned with the earth they cease to see the black and white of death and life— they see possibilities.

Traditional witches were not only emissary of healing within the human community, they were bridges to help bring humans back into balance with the more-than-human world. Historically, the act of healing itself was seen as a process of regenerating ecology. Witches do not lose themselves in what we see as death or endings. They align themselves with the wider truth of an ever-changing world. That every wound, every loss, every illness opens new possibility.

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{{ Possibility is Magic }}

There is a Taoist story that goes like this…

An old farmer who had worked his land for many years has his horse run away. When the neighbors hear the news they cry “What bad luck!” To this he just replies, “maybe…”

The next morning the horse returns with three wild ponies in tow. “What fortune!” the neighbors exclaim! To which the farmer once again says, “maybe…”

The following day the farmer’s son tries to ride one of these new ponies and is thrown, breaking his leg. The neighbors once again come to offer sympathy. “What misfortune,” they say. And the farmer reflects, “maybe…”

The very next day the military comes to the village to conscript all young men into service. Because his leg is broken. the young son is passed over and allowed to remain at home. Everyone in the village congratulations the farmer on what, it seems, was supreme luck. The farmer just replies with a smile, “maybe.”

The beginning of recognizing and invoking magic is being able to question our automatic beliefs. What if we could turn any situation over in our hand like a stone and say… maybe.

 

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Just last month we had a team of tree cutters show up to fell some of our most majestic and long-lived trees on the property. Ordered by the owners of the land, they set about cutting down a handful of 100 year old tulip poplars and some of the very last enormous Hemlock trees (Hemlocks were yet another giant who used to define these forests, and who are slowly succumbing to a different foreign invasion—the wooly adelgid). Each magnificent limb that came down shook the house, and shook loose an old and worthy grief.

Now their trunks lay beside the gravel driveway. Every time I walk to put my hands to their open places they radiate a loss, but they also hum a deeper tune— one of non-judgment, forgiveness and possibility. Though they are no longer growing trees, but they will become the walls of a home, tables to eat from, mulch to nourish the garden. They will be a nursery for medicinal reishi mushrooms and mycelium. Their bark may tan hides, becomes cordage. When we believe in possibility, life continues on.

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In Chinese medicine it’s said that a person only dies of old age because their heart stops believing in possibilities. As the possible paths one may have taken in life seem to concretize or disappear, our heart slowly looses its elasticity, turning to stone and ceasing to beat.

But what happens when even death, the ultimate ending in our cultural mindset, becomes just another possibility?

The ancient Daoists sought eternal life through the full alignment with their Dao or Tao (which can be loosely defined as their path, ultimate selves, or the underlying principle of the universe). If we can continue to believe in all possibilities, then it becomes possible to live long past our deaths – the small ones, and the large ones as well.

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Inside my own home the old Chestnut paneled walls are warmed by a long-embered fire in the woodstove. Elsewhere on the land old Chestnut china cabinets have become nests for wood mice and squirrels. Window frames slowly dissolve in the rain. Entire structures have fallen and softened into the earth and the vast networks of Chestnut roots, those that ran throughout the entire breadth of these woods, are now composted into good humus. They have given up their previous form to become the soil that nourishes thousands of acres of forestland. They live on.

Living, truly living, is an act of embracing possibility. It is standing in front of the old structures, with a stone in one hand, and the wind in the other. Grounding oneself in the solidity of what is and inviting in the touch of the unseen. Recognizing that life itself exists somewhere in the numinous in-between. And seeing, really seeing, that to believe in possibility is to set yourself free.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetp.s. In the vein of miracles and resurrection, check out the incredible work of the American Chestnut Foundation, an organization that is working on restoring our great American Chestnut through an ingenious belief in possibility

Autumn is the Dying

Thistle down in Autumn

If Winter means death, then Autumn is the dying.

In our culture, death is often synonymous with dread. Like late blight to tomatoes, it seems devastatingly final and achingly unfair. But the idea that dying is an event to be feared is a very human story, and one we have only recently started telling ourselves. To our ancestors death was an inevitable heartache, and an inevitable liberation as well. For most of our predecessors, death was never considered an ending. Rather, it was a transition into mystery itself.

This Autumn, allow yourself to experience the deep liberation of dying.

Autumn Road Revere

Life itself is a cycle— a circle, a wheel, a constellation turning and fading and appearing once more. Anytime we want to remember the truth, all we need to do is look around us. Turn our gaze to the harsh eloquence of the natural world (which is to say, the entire world), and witness how everything in existence both lives and lets go in the same motion of welcoming. Every day that the sun rises and dies beneath the humus of the horizon, the earth will remind us that even dying is an act of life.

Dying can be exquisite, and every bit as freeing as being born. In autumn the earth shows us just how soul-quakingly beautiful the act of letting go can be. As the sun moves lower and lower into the bed of the sky, the life force of the deciduous world buries itself in the roots. Fruit bursts open and feeds the earth. Seeds are carried away on the rapture of wind. Each leaf, having lived their own lifetime of cupping their faces to the light, flames and in a singular burst of ecstasy, dies.

Autumn canopy

In autumn, the world changes before our eyes. The background blur of green dropping away so that we can no longer sleep walk through the sameness of our days. In hues of sunset and ember, ocher and flame, the earth demands our full attention. The maples set themselves on fire and ask us to find the parts of us that are aching to be alive— and the parts of us that are ready to be thrown on the pyre.

When we let go of everything that is ready to decompose, we make space inside of ourselves for newness to be born. Dying has never been a finale, it is only a brilliant bridge to a new section of life. Like compost turned to rich and seed-ready soil, dying prepares us for a new phase of living itself.

Though our smaller selves might dissolve, dying has never been an ending at all. It is, instead, an ecstatic transformation into a wider self.

Autumn color

Rose Hips and Hills

A time of harvest and longing, celebrations, endings and melancholy, autumn is a potent mixture of all the exquisite fulfillment and color that accompanies the ritual of dying. It reminds us that dying is, in truth, a time of the deepest abundance and celebratory release. Blush-colored apples and pumpkins left glowing like lanterns in vine-withered fields. Gourds and sunflower seeds, cracked black walnuts and hickory nut milk. Hardy chestnut cakes and food literally falling from the sky. As we lose everything from the crown of the trees down to the weeds, our forest floors fill with nourishment. Our tables are heaped, our pantries plentifully lined, and we are left with nothing but thanksgiving and the luxurious space to wean ourselves off of that which actually robs our sustenance. To let the aspects of our life that aren’t feeding us die.

And this, after all, is the beautiful truth of dying. That if we can see beyond the waning and our own fear of ending we will notice that the burial ground itself is one of abundance. And a feast of great fullness is what awaits us on the other side.

Marshall Train tracks

Autumn is often a nostalgic season for many people. A time in which we look back on what was, the moments that have flickered and passed. The different versions of ourselves that were born for an era and then were snuffed out in the winds of time. Nostalgia is a potent draft. It can make your mind spin with just a sip. Sometimes nostalgia can even stretch to include the entire sensation of living itself. As if we are looking back from our elder years to feel that sweet and painful thanksgiving for the very opportunity to be alive. In autumn we experience the nostalgia of a well-seasoned soul in the warm blessings of their death bed. Autumn gives us the permission to simultaneously love it all, and say goodbye.

For if autumn is the dying, then winter is the death. And in autumn we prepare for that space of deep reunion and soul quiet that accompanies the soft banks of winter nights. In autumn we are invited to a unique banquet. A table laid with sassafras tea and pumpkin pie, wild nut butters, acorn pancakes and rich apple tarts. And all we must do to enter such richness is shed our old clothes at the door.

Autumn SIlver and Gold

This Autumn, let something die.

A worry, a relationship, a project that has run its course. Let go of anxiety over the future. Let go of guilt.

Let go of other people’s dreams for you. Let go of the fear that happiness or success or love or joyousness somehow isn’t for you.

Let go of feeling unwanted. Go outside, can you feel how deeply your presence is craved here?

Let go of the small and burdensome things. Gifts never opened. Keys without a lock. Broken earrings, old love letters, the ephemera on your fridge.

As David Whyte writes, “Anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.” This Autumn, let go of all the clothes you have outgrown.

Let go of comparison.

Let go of doubt.

Let go of the feeling that you are somehow not good enough.

Because every imperfect apple that lays soft in your hands, and every ray of low Autumn sunlight that warms you through woolens will tell you a different story, a much truer story. The story that you are more, much more, than enough. That you bless this world simply by being alive.

Barn view

Now is the time. In the knobbed hands of the wind, the antique scent of dried leaves and the warm cinnamon feeling of fire in the trees. Now is the time to let the dying enter you as clean and beautiful as the stone that was forgotten and then exposed in the wheat gold of fading weeds.

Allow in the beautiful melancholia and heart-throbbing abundance of life itself. Let every day end like a cello on its last note. And relish. Relish, relish this season of profundity and release. Because, despite what we have grown to fear, dying is a beautiful thing. For then, we can rest. For then, we can embrace the unbelievable joy of what comes next.

<<  Practices for Dying >>

Death Mound

A Death Mound

Autumn is an important season of reflection and ritual for me. It is often a time when I look back and take stock of the year’s harvest. The ways in which I have grown, what has been gathered, and what burdens I am ready to lay down.

A potent ritual for me has been to build a death mound. This time of the year the forest and any wooded areas are filled with a bounty of leaves. They give us the perfect opportunity to create a ritual around enacting a much-needed release.

Take an afternoon this autumn to reflect and write down everything you are ready to let die. Gather this piece of paper and any other earth-friendly items that represent those aspects of your life that you are ready to shed and find a quiet spot with a lot of leaves. Dig a small hole and bury your bundle. Then heap over the spot with the leaves to make a mound. You can get creative with colors or patterns or simply toss them over and let your release be messy and complete. Make this pile as high as you dare. If it is a private space, try burying yourself as well. Close your eyes and imagine all of the heaviness dropping from your body like fruit, eager to be given as good compost to the soil. When you are ready, emerge as if you are truly leaving a layer of yourself behind. Cover over the hole with more leaves and say goodbye.

If you can, take a walk by this place on a later date and when you see that the leaves have scattered in all directions (or been carted away), you will know that what was buried in your mound has been released.

Mushrooms

Expose yourself to Wildness

Each season holds its own particular medicine. The best way to imbibe this medicine is simply by getting outside to experience the shift. Go for a walk underneath the changing trees. Jump in your neighbor’s leaf pile (when they aren’t looking, of course). Collect your favorite leaves and hang them temporarily on your wall. Place them back outside when the trees are bare and make a wish with every one.

Eat wild food. Whether its rose hips, or a cracked black walnut, or an apple from a feral tree. Get a bit of autumn’s wildness within you. In the presence of wildness death becomes just another beautiful variant of living itself. Allow the wildness of autumn to teach you how to die.

Ask the season to guide you to new medicine. Autumn is often when I begin to shake up my herbal routines of the summer months. Sometimes dying requires a new medicine, and you will know what you need because you will encounter it and a part of you will spark to flame to say “Yes, I am still alive.” For me, this was a life-altering combination of Ghost Pipe Flower Essence + Carnelian last year. You can read more about their medicine in this story.

Cow Skull

Recognize the Otherworld

Honor the memories. Honor the Ancestors. Honor the ghosts. With Samhain drawing so near, that traditional holiday of influence from the otherworld, autumn is an important time for engaging with the beyond and righting your relationships with the unseen world. Visit more of these potent autumn rituals in this Samhain reflection.

Autumn Road

Above all, give yourself permission, every day, to both die and find the way beyond death. Let yourself live. Spend an afternoon this fall on your back on the forest floor. Make yourself a nest and watch the sky. Follow one leaf from its first brave leap all the way down to the forest floor. Give it time. And one day you will wake up and feel as deep and complete as a maple flame extinguished in the compost of rich soil. You will feel, innately, how very good it is to just let go.

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p.s. If you’d like to hear the soundtrack that created this blog piece, take a listen here