Why I Didn’t “Get” Crystals at First
Growing up, I couldn’t really understand why people were into stones. I remember poking around with a friend in her gravel driveway, hunting for interesting specimens, and getting bored halfway through. As a dreamy kid who was innately resistant to all things seemingly scientific, geology felt too structured and terminology-ridden to be interesting. But, like most things in our modern world, all that lifeless language was covering up something so much deeper— an incredibly fascinating, and mysterious, life force.
Looking back, I wonder how much would have been different if someone had told me the wider truth of why stones are so interesting— that they are alive. That their consciousness is, in fact, even more ancient than the whales. I wonder what would have changed, if I had known then that stones were actually medicine that could help you connect into the part of yourself that chose to come here. And that it wasn’t so much about mineral composition as how stones made you feel.
As the famous saying goes: when the student is ready, the teacher will come. Over and over again, I’ve found that the very same practices, places or ideas that once seemed inscrutable or dull to me, will suddenly enter my life with such deep vividness when the time is right. When we are ready to receive a new level of awareness, these things will come seeking you. For me and the stones, that time came when I moved down to the Southern Appalachian Mountains— and it began with the most beautiful moonstone you’ve ever seen.
I had moved to North Carolina on a leap of faith. Leaving behind my job, my partnership, and all my friends in NYC, I packed up whatever would fit in my Subaru and hit the road. When you’re young you often assume big moves like this should be easy, because this is what you’re supposed to do. But for all my outer bravado, there was a part of me that was terrified and distinctly out-of-sorts. Soon after I arrived, I checked out the stone store down the street from my new home. I walked in feeling like someone wearing flip-flops in a fancy restaurant. Not knowing the first thing about crystals, it seemed like I had the word “imposter” printed on my forehead. It was a feeling I had been having a lot since arriving in Asheville. In New York, I had been the most “alternative” of all my friends, but down here, in the Land of Weird (as people call it) I suddenly stuck out as being a painfully normal person. I was sinking into this feeling of being woefully out of place when I saw it— rounded like the rising moon, egg-shaped and almost silky to the touch— a perfect, palm-sized moonstone.
I couldn’t say what drew me to it, only that once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down. I brought it home with me that day, and soon that moonstone became my literal rock. I slept with it every single night. I zipped it into my backpack wherever I went. When I was in class, I would put it on top of my notebooks, or tuck it into my shirt. My new friends teased me good-naturedly that it had become an extra student in herbal school. Sometimes I felt silly for toting it around everywhere with me— but I couldn’t help it, it had become my security blanket. I didn’t know what moonstone meant, I just knew that when I had it with me I felt better, more able to trust that I had done the right thing by moving here.
This is often how it begins with stones, they come into our lives at just the right time and begin working on us from the inside out. You don’t have to know anything about stone medicine in order to experience their healing. Sometimes though, if you’re lucky, you might receive confirmation that everything you’ve personally experienced actually has ancient roots or scientific proof. That you weren’t crazy after all, but recognizing something profoundly authentic. That day came for me over a year later.
On a whim at a conference, I wandered into a class about stones with a teacher named Sarah Thomas. Skeptical at first, within five minutes, I was entranced. Warm, brilliant, slightly mischievous and emanating a deep-set kind of wisdom, Sarah was a once-in-a-lifetime teacher, sharing a once-in-a-lifetime kind of knowledge. Arising from an ancient lineage of Taoist stone medicine, a tradition that stretches back thousands of years, the wisdom that Sarah was sharing blew open my world.
I already knew that this was the kind of stone initiation I had been waiting for when the last slide came up— moonstone. After all this time, I still didn’t totally understand why I had held onto my moonstone like a life raft in those early months. But now, it was like the moon was rising over the clouds to illuminate the ground beneath my feet. “In Chinese medicine,” Sarah shared, “moonstone is used to help smooth the big transitions in our life. Whenever we are shifting into a new phase, like moving to a new place, it will help us reorient to our updated environments and surrender to life’s flow.” Looking at me, she said with a twinkle, “Moonstone is a stone for new beginnings.” It was as if she had put into words everything I had ever experienced with this stone, giving it not only validity but a history that was thousands of years old.
I went on to study with Sarah for the next six years. Being able to learn about stones from this ancient Taoist lineage was a dream come true. When I was little, I didn’t “get” stones because no one told me that they were magic. Later, I kept myself away from them because I thought being into crystals was too “woo-woo”. Now, I was able to study stones from a place that was both luminous and grounded, ancient and encouraging of your own experience. Soon, I began working with stones in my healing practice, I incorporated them into my medicines, I recommended them to clients— and I, a seemingly “normal” person, began to access such deep magic in my day-to-day life.
Later, much later, I looked up the etymology of that word “woo,” a word that is so often thrown around as a synonym for ungrounded, silly, or out-of-touch, and what I found completely revolutionized how I felt about both that word, and my connection to the stones. The westernized “woo” comes from the ancient Chinese “wu” which, around the first millennia, meant “female shaman, healer and teacher.” Now I knew why the woo of the crystals called me in—because it was my destiny to embrace my wu. To bridge the magic and the logic, the numinous and the scientific, so I could give my healing gifts to the world. Maybe, if you are reading this, this is your destiny too.