If this schlock is clean, I’d rather be dirty.

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Perhaps you have seen the word clean thrown around a lot lately. It is having its moment, again. Heck, clean living hasn’t enjoyed this much popularity since the graham cracker saved us all from masturbatory hell!

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There are a lot of books on Amazon such as Clean Food, Clean eating, Eat Clean, Live Well, Oh She Glows (eyeroll), Clean Food, Amazing Body, Pure Food, Food rules and Clean Start. There are products too: a Clean Energy patch, Clean Energy Pills, an Amazing Miracle Cleanse And Runa Clean Energy drink.

Fun fact: some people who bought these items also bought a family-size box of disposable latex gloves. Infer what you’d like from that information.

So this brings up two of my very favorite issues. What is energy and what is clean. The energy piece makes me wonder why we have this cultural expectation that we are all supposed to live in this energized cheerful positive hell, never stopping or napping. It is a depleted state which is based on delusion. Real energy comes from rest, nourishment and a movement practice.

There is nothing inherently better or “cleaner” about using a caffeine patch or Guayasa tea for energy compared to a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee.

“Clean, focused, balanced energy”…sounds like buzzword bullshit to me.

Now, the deeper issue is what is clean. The whole concept is based on our viewing ourselves as dirty, as broken. Because CLEAN implies that what is not clean is therefore  DIRTY. Religious concepts of original sin, body pollution and pleasure-phobia have seeped deeply into our culture to the point where we often don;t see them. We tremble in fear of being dirty in any way, from body odors to buttholes and go to extremes to avoid what we see as germs.

The result is a judgmental, holier-than-thou approach to diet and a bonus to the book industry.

The result is a heck of a lot of “othering”.

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So now all these things have been labeled as dirty: meat, grains, coffee, spices, sugar, salt, processed foods, alcohol, GMOs, all non-organic foods, cooked foods, alliums.

These foods make you less spiritual, less sexy, less glowing, angry, lusty, fat, stupid, un-evolved.

I think it is time to talk back to the overuse of “clean”, people.

I think it is time to admit that we are all dirty, and we like it.

We are setting up a binary that doesn’t exist. There does not have to be labels of clean and dirty on people, on foods or on your colon. We don’t have to put others down in order to raise ourselves up.

I do support all people in making healthy changes. I support your spiritual practices, your weird-ass teas and label-examinations. I support choosing sobriety, if needed.

BUT.

Let’s not let the marketing people manipulate us into judging each other as dirty. Let’s not loathe our own body parts and processes. Let’s not forget to delight in a sweet, sticky, meaty, lusty, sweaty life.  Let’s not hate ourselves for choosing a shot and a beer over a nasty-ass raw green juice on a hot summer night.

If we are the people being marketed to, if we are the people being represented by these products and concepts then it is up to us to say HEY, WORDS MATTER!! It is easy to dismiss words, to decline the debate. “Oh, words don’t matter.”

But they do.

There is no magical level of cleanliness that will save us from ourselves, no pure space that lives above marketing and critical thinking and debate, and perhaps that is for the best.

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Book Review: Yoga–Fascia, Anatomy and Movement

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Disclaimer: I have a love-hate relationship with Yoga. I am a big fan of moving around, and Asanas are one interesting way to do so. But I find some Yoga to be extreme. I love inner journeys, but I cringe at “Namaste”. And ultimately, I am turned off by the Yoga industry, by the strong association I find with positive thinking and by what I feel is the cultural appropriation and/or misunderstanding aspect of Yoga’s roots.

But Yoga is, at this moment in time in the West, many things and some of them are worth hanging onto, and I believe we can acknowledge these issues and move on.

So this is the personal context in which I was searching for a book to add to my movement-book-collection. I found that the majority of the Yoga books were either focused on looks, such as weight loss or the mysterious concept of “glowing”. Or had a spiritual angle, which I prefer to avoid.

I found Yoga-Fascia, Anatomy and Movement by Joanne Sarah Avison on Amazon. There were no reviews and only 1 copy available, and it was expensive compared to the other books I looked at, about 50.00. I’d never heard of the author, who according to her bio teaches in London, and it felt a little gamble-y to spend that much money on what I considered a longshot. But the foreword was written by Tom Myers, author of the book Anatomy Trains which is a groundbreaking and intense tome so I went for it.

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The result: the book is a masterwork. It is written for an audience of Yoga teachers–and I like that because I believe that if you want to really get into a subject, try to read books written for teachers of that subject. It’s got a whole different tone compared to books written for the masses–it’s an assumption that you, too, are passionate about this subject. There’s no feeling that she has to sell the tickets, cause you’re already on this bus.

Fascia is a newish subject, and one that I haven’t seen a lot of books about yet. I’d love to see a short, snappy, funny and photo-rich Fascia book with easy infographics that appeals to a wide audience…maybe it can come with a tennis ball and a  mat…but until then, we have to accept the challenge of more advanced works.

There are a few moments where I feel like she knows her subject so well that I am not quite getting it, but I suspect that is more my fault for not actually being a Yoga teacher. I haven’t been able to sit down and read it cover-to-cover, I keep jumping around from chapter to chapter, getting up to try things, taking time to think her ideas through. The book is as dynamic as the subject, which says a lot about her depth of knowledge.

I particularly liked that there are drawings and photos but no photos of very well-dressed super-perfect glowy people doing Asana on their stand-up paddelboard.

I particularly liked the back third movement section, and found that more accessible for entry-level people than some of the (albeit super interesting) theory.

And I appreciate that there is NO diet advice. At all. I have noticed many otherwise great movement or exercise books, such as Barefoot Walking and Strong Curves have large  sections on the authors’ ideas about food. Eat more, eat less, eat raw vegan, eat Paleo, eat this not that. Listen, writers, if I want a food book I will get one. Thank you to those who deliver movement content without assuming I need a diet!

Ultimately, I believe this book is going to be like the Velvet Underground, in which it quietly changes the world, becomes a favorite of those who are teaching and writing about t he subject and inspires a million people to start a band.

I am going to go ahead and suggest that if you have any interest in Yoga, movement, fascia, bodies or theory around these subjects you seek it out immediately.

Un-Woo the flow state.

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***Disclaimer: This piece is written in the spirit of inspiration, NOT judgement. Please take that into consideration. Thank you.***

Have you ever been outside with someone who is profoundly uncomfortable with their own body? Have you ever heard parents yell “Don’t run, you’ll fall!” “Keep your shoes on!”  “She’s clumsy, just like me.” “We don’t want skinned knees!” “Don’t get muddy!” “Don’t touch that, don’t eat that, don’t get sunlight on you, don’t breathe that smell!” “Sit still!” Oh, my heart.

Yikes. We put our bodies in ‘casts’ then wonder why they don’t move right-or at all.

We say “you’ll fall”, then look smug when it happens. I told you so.

We hit each other over the head with fear of the world and mistrust of a still semi-wild body.

It isn’t our will to do harm but our own baggage, our own  inner wounds that create this paradigm.

What have we turned off in order to survive, and what is it doing to us?

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We may split ourselves into little parts and pieces, boxing things off and shutting bits down in order to fit into a broken culture-without even realizing what we are doing.  Messy! Jiggly! Dirty! Aaaahhhh!!

Let’s look at it, let’s examine it. Let’s un-woo the vital force, friends, because the flow state is a real thing not hippie jargon. It is the moment when your body and mind are aligned. When your circulation is pumping, you’re building muscle, moving lymph, sparking thoughts, feeling free. And it is great.

As parents, as caregivers or teachers or just citizens who give a shit we can set an example. We can look at how we feel about our own bodies and shine some light into the dark places we have created. We can, at the least, stop passing this body baggage down. We may even join the next generation in unraveling the shame spiral and begin to re-connect!

What can we do?

We can examine how we rely on products and, rather than use them all because they exist, choose only those which serve our needs and use them lightly.

For example, when someone tells us they are bored, offer movement rather than products, snacks, devices. Free movement such as dance. Walking, running, skipping. Stretches. Use your body to act like an animal or a plant or a force of nature. Give kids a piece of rope, a ball, a hoop, a bucket of water.

Show them how to squat or balance or climb or grapple or forage or just make noise.

I call it imaginative self-inhabitation and it used to be known as PLAY.

We can stop thinking we aren’t doing it “right”. It is about getting free from the idea that there is one right way. It is about finding our own darn right way. It is about laying down the burden of the perfect body, the perfect form, the perfect expression. It is about the journey, the discovery, the practice.

We can stop with the fear. It’s unlikely that you’ll die from a skinned knee, bug bite, splash of mud or grass stain.

We can stop shaming bodies, no matter how they look or what their skill level is.

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We can use devices like strollers and chairs much less, and just let kids (gasp) walk around.

We can stop over-using those damn carseats.

We can stop handing kids our iPhones!!!!

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We can let kids (and ourselves) go barefoot at times, let them feel their body touch some actual earth. Sure, you run a risk by taking off your shoes. Assess it. But hey,  how were you planning to teach risk management? Looks like a great opportunity.

We can give our kids and ourselves an outlet for physical expression rather than sedating-via food, meds, technology and tv-every emotion that comes up. This is a gift.

“Keep calm” is overrated-let’s also give ourselves the space to actively seek release.

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Boredom is a catalyst, a chance to transform yourself, your moment, your outlook, not something to fear and avoid at all costs.

It is never too late to shift this course we are on. It is never to late to look at our bodies from another angle, to untangle our feelings about our bodies and their history, to notice that we are NOT inherently “clumsy” people but maybe just insecure or under-practiced and that it’s totally solvable.  We can experience moments of revelation right up until our last breath, friends, so don’t give up. Movement does not  belong to someone else.

Because living in a state of fear is just exhausting.

Because we haven’t evolved out of a need for movement.

Because we are missing out on a great opportunity.

Because we can re-inhabit ourselves, and inspire others to do so, too.

Because we aren’t going to get another body.

It is not too late.

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Herbal Citizenship 101

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What does it mean to be a good herbal citizen? Does it mean that we are all love and light? Does it mean we never disagree or debate? Oh heck no. That’s just repression. But it does mean that we try our best to show each other the basic respect that all humans deserve.

It means we always share stories with an eye to others’ privacy. It means we maintain our own and respect others’ boundaries.

It means we keep racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, body-shaming and other outright harm out of our safe spaces.

And it means we learn to give and receive critique properly.

If we see another herbalist make a mistake-whether it be, for example,  a spelling or grammatical error, a mis-identification, a health claim we disagree with or an incorrect citation we can approach them privately, in person, via phone or e-mail, and discuss it.

And that is before we write a blog, make a Facebook post or tell all of our friends about it.

Because finding other people’s mistakes is not an opportunity to prove how smart we are, how right we are, how cool we are.

They’re just that–mistakes.

And they are an opportunity– to create mutual aid, to help someone who needs it, to shape our community and our future.

True leaders in the herbal community do not need to harm others to get ahead but use their example, their influence and their–dare I say it–LOVE to show how it’s done, not their cheap shots and low blows.

We are all fellow workers, we are all on this ship together.

What we do to others, we do to ourselves.

And is there ever a time for debate, critique, even  anger within the herbalist community? Sure. It ain’t all sunshine and Basil. But  direct that critique,  think it through, make it count. Keep it honest, keep it fair.

And when you make your own mistake, as I certainly have, when the critique comes down on you, you can hold your head up knowing that you tried your best, and maybe they’re right or maybe they’re wrong, but you’ll get the opportunity to change, too.

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Electrical Fires

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Train blasting the horn, warning

speeding along under

Ozonated air

Humidity 101%

Thunder loud enough to blow your

pants off

Sending the little birds out of the nest

Unprepared.

Snakes  on the ground.

“This is how we learn to fly.”

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What am I going to do with all these roses?!?!!?

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I love roses. I adore them. Especially the old roses, the wild roses, the un-pruned and un-prunable, the hardy, hardier,  the hardiest, the climb-y, overgrown, slightly improper roses that smell fabulous, host a million bees and come in shades of pink that could make a biker blush.

I  very much enjoy rose time, which is right now.

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I have baskets of them all over the house, drying or waiting to be processed, jars of them macerating, liquors, honeys, elixirs melding, piles and piles of lovely roses.

And maybe you do, too? And what are you going to do with all of these roses?

IMG_5543There is the extremely minimalist approach, which is just straight-up sticking your nose in there. grabbing a few petals and eating them. Or drying for later use, come as you are.

There is the basic tincture and elixir, which honestly are nothing to sneeze at. A very good rose plus a very good liquor needs absolutely nothing else to be endlessly delightful. A tiny bit of honeycomb can add to the elixir but I don’t feel like it’s a must.

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And then there are combinations–I am a fan of mixing my roses with raw cacao paste. This is my very favorite, and I make a Rosa Rugosa/Heartblood Cacao elixir called Rosestorative that I’ll say, with bias, kicks ass.

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I mix rose with Peach-flower, leaf, bark and fruit–for a cooling elixir that  clears summer heat like nothing else.

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I have been experimenting with a Mint-lime Rose elixir called Rose Julep that is surprisingly delicious.

I like it with Skullcap tops for a soothing and calming tincture, and Hawthorne for a gentle heart tonic.

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I combine Rose with Linden, Passionflower, Milky Oats, Tulsi, Skullcap and Peach for what I call my “summer 9-1-1 blend”.

I have made a blend of Roses with fresh cherries and vanilla beans for my personal secret Winter elixir stash.

I put it in other elixirs like the Angelica-based Foothills elixir, the Motherwort and Ashwaganda-based Lionheart elixir and Mugwort-based Little Sugar Dream Nectar.

And I adore Rose mixed with all types of Basil, especially Lemon Basil,  for a focusing, clearing blend that tastes great.

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So the rose has these medicinal properties, these actions, and this is all very nice. This is great. But Rose also has a certain symbolism. A very, very long history of relationship with humans. Songs, poetry, art, sacred and profane, ancient, evolving over eons, handmade precious scents which we might make as an offering to the gods and goddess of pollination, human and animal, shades of pink best described as “revelatory”, rosy distillations that grace our most sacred spaces, sugared petals that speak of celebration and ritual.

The rose, if nothing else, suggests things.

Dreamy things.

Deeply human things.

Roses symbolize first dates and a night of passion and decades of abiding love. Roses grace births and deaths, rituals and dinner tables, gravestones and biceps.

Oh, and then there are the thorns. Where I am from, Rosa Rugosa forms protective stands along the Atlantic Coast, keeping drunks and/or tourists off of the delicate dunes and helping hold together the beaches which are subject to erosion from constant winds and water. So Rose speaks to us of boundaries.

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And Rose can be the spark that helps us light our own inner fire.

The plant we use, sensually, to create a moment of intimacy, of heart-opening, of connection. Rose can help us to create a space, to build trust, to mourn a loss.

The special medicine of roses is that they don’t last, they bloom and they fall, and then they are gone, they bring us into the moment, clearing away the crap, they say be here now, they say gather roses while you can, they say get yourself into this moment as fully and as magenta-ly as you possibly can and when it’s all over let it go.

The rose connects us–to each other, to our lineage, to nature, to ourselves.

And, listen– the rose is damn fine in a little shot glass on a summer evening.

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Report back from IHS 2015

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The main theme of my IHS experience this year was stories. The stories of people I met.  I had the opportunity to listen to so many truly interesting people here. And with nearly 1,000 people, the International Herbal Symposium really is a little village. (My current town features a population of about 1,000!)

It is easy to get overwhelmed at herb conferences, especially large ones.. And especially if you don’t know any or many people. The first IHS I attended years ago is where I learned that I might need to just walk up to strangers, to just be open and go for it. Cause I don’t want to eat lunch alone.

If you find yourself in that position, remember: just ask them about their story!

I do go there to attend a few classes, but I am really there for the moments in between, before and after, the stolen moments and deep discussions. Like this:

Jim McDonald and Orna Izakson

Jim McDonald and Orna Izakson

I will say that I’ve gotten a little prickly about some aspects of herb conferences, which I will rudely call “the woo”, but I have come to realize that it doesn’t matter. As I get older I am less concerned about making sure everyone agrees with me.

traci and jim

traci and jim

Gary is a treasure trove of stories. He is a native RI-er like me, and lives with Lovecraft’s ghost. Well, lived. He put H.P.’s name into a “radionics machine” to get rid of him. I wonder where it went….

Gary Katt and Lesley Wooler.

Gary Katt and Lesley Wooler.

This is Agnes Adler. She makes art that cracks my heart open. Her passion is a joy to behold.

Agnes Adler

Agnes Adler

This photo speaks for itself. There is no word that can express how delightful this moment feels to me. OK, maybe one: boots.

Matt Wood and Kathi Langelier

Matt Wood and Kathi Langelier

This is Thomas Easley. It turns out that I like him–and his lovely wife!– more than I thought I would.

Thomas Easley

Thomas Easley

My favorite part of the work-study program is working the info booth–with and without these amazing ladies. Stories abound here. Problem-solving and connecting with people makes me very, very happy. And a shout-out to Bonnie Kavanaugh for her commitment to our mutual respect-which is a story that I carry with me.

Melanie, Bonnie, Laura, Helen

Melanie, Bonnie, Laura, Helen

To my surprise I ended up bonding with Susun Weed over our shared dislike of the last century’s story of anti-sex food movements such as Graham and his stupid crackers and the fearful, sex-negative Kellogg. (this fear-based paradigm is not over.) Sorry about your goats, Susun!

Susun Weed

Susun Weed

And thanks to Howie Brounstein for taking about 1,000 brilliant photos of me, which helps to illustrate MY story, for being an all-around neat guy, and for wearing the perfect shade of purple.

Howie!

Howie!

Thank you to all the people who worked together to make this happen–this year and every year. And thank you all for sharing your stories with me.