Guest post: Harm reduction and the community herbalist

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INTRO–Hi, readers! welcome to the first ever FWF guest post.-Traci

Harm Reduction and Herbalism

By Rippy, herbalist and owner of Riptide Herbs

*This is based on my experiences in the field. I would like to state that there are many methods and principles out there that work for folks; these are some that have resonated with me as a community herbalist*

 

The Principles of Harm Reduction are most often applied to folks who misuse substances.  However, these principles can also be applied to interfacing with folks in general. What brought me to this topic has been my own work with active drug users and folks who have misused drugs in the past.  Illicit drug use is commonly associated with drugs like heroin, meth and crack, but it’s important for us to think about drug misuse happening with prescription and non-prescription drugs as well. I think this is an important caveat as with the recent opioid epidemic and health crisis in New England (and other areas)– often times the misuse has started with prescription drugs. If you want to read more about this please check resources listed below.

 

The Principles of Harm Reduction as distilled from The Harm Reduction Coaltion.org

http://harmreduction.org/about-us/principles-of-harm-reduction/

 

“A set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences…Harm Reduction incorporates a spectrum of strategies…to meet [folks]“where they’re at”. Because harm reduction demands that interventions and policies are designed to reflect specific individual and community needs, there is no universal definition of or formula for implementing harm reduction.”

SO FUCK YEAH TAILOR IT, MAKE IT YOUR OWN AND APPLY IT!!

The Harm Reduction Coalition has come up with these evolving principles:

Work to minimize harmful effects rather than simply ignore or condemn them

  • Establishes quality of individual and community life and well-being-as the criteria for successful interventions
  • Calls for the non-judgmental, non-coercive provision of services and resources to people
  • Ensures that folks have a real voice in the creation of programs (protocols) designed to serve them
  • Affirms folks themselves as the primary agents, Seeks to empower folks to share information and support each other
  • Recognizes that the realities of poverty, class, racism, social isolation, past trauma, sex-based discrimination and other inequalities effect both people’s vulnerabilities to and capacity for effectively dealing with their health

 

How can these principles be applied to Herbalism?

 

  • Let us broaden our scopes, suggest that any momentum, movement, is good and implement a client-focused model.
  • Let us adhere to the notion that folks coming to us are knowledgeable about their bodies.
  • I often hear conversations about accessibility, especially when applied to the sliding scale model. Instead, I want to hear conversations about approachability. Let us ask ourselves, how do we as herbalists make herbs “approachable?”

 

My thinking is that most folks do not want to hear everything they have to cut out of their life; everything they have to give up and stop doing. Often I hear the rhetoric of “no alcohol, no sugar, no coffee, no grains, no wheat, no fun? Let us NOT draw a hard line. The first step to bridge the gap, rather, should be how to use food as medicine, and how to integrate herbs (especially with no contraindications) into a person’s CURRENT lifestyle.

 

I want to encourage herbalists to meet folks “where they’re at” while remaining aware of their own internal biases and dialogue and applying the principle of cultural humility. Cultural humility is the idea that one’s cultural lens and perspective is not superior to another’s, just different.  Cultural humility allows us to approach cross-cultural situations with a humble attitude and to have an openness to the reality of others.  Cultural humility is sometimes referred to as cultural competency. However, ‘competency’ has weight and gravity; that we are finished; that we have learned. It’s never learned as in complete/competent—it’s a lifelong learning process (Tervalon, Murray-Garcia, p 118).

 

A part of this process has been learning from the folks I interface with daily, in a polluted city, with limited resources. I work with folks who are living on the street, not sleeping, not eating, living with co-occurring infections, misusing substances and facing limited resources and socio economic barriers that include classism, racism, sexism etc.

 

Question: When folks are going through active withdrawal from opiates, will they listen to your opinion on what they should do and what they shouldn’t do? Will they listen to you if you tell them how to live their life?  Hell no!  Folks are attempting to manage their life in the best way they know how.

 

Instead, harm reduction can come in many forms. It can come in the form of a cup of tea, a sweetened cold brew, ramen noodles with some freeze dried shitake mushrooms, creams to help with track mark scars, ginger chew candies to help with nausea.  It’s important to offer options, a smorgasbord, and encourage folks to try different options and experiment.  Ultimately, it will be their choice to take it or leave it and I encourage folks to do so and experiment. I encourage herbalists to think about these principles and ideas and experiment with integrating it into their own practice.

 

Below is a list of resources that I have found helpful and inspiring:

 

  • The Harm Reduction webpage including the Guide to Getting off Right and Harm Reduction Newsletters specifically Witch’s Brew articles that feature herbal remedies
  • Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs by Johann Hari
  • Chasing Heroin, Frontline Documentary, PBS
  • Cultural humility versus cultural competence: A critical distinction in defining physician training outcomes in multicultural education by Tervalon, M, & Murray-Garcia, J. (1998). Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 9, 117-125.
  • Health Food Junkies: Orthorexia Nervosa, Overcoming the Obsession with Healthful Eating by Stephen Bratman
  • Donna Odierna, herbalists, MPH, Harm Reduction, Herbalism and Needle Exchange
  • Motivational Interviewing, read about it, go to trainings

 

Questions or comments? Please contact Rippy at: emkmoulton@riseup.net

Maybe It’s Your Boo-tay

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“Any time you see multiple factors contributing to dysfunction do NOT think ‘Wow, that’s complicated’,  instead think ‘Look at all the potential issues I could address.'”-Brent Brookbush, A More Sophisticated Approach to Correcting Knee Dysfunction

Hey, you know where your glutes are, right? Your Gluteus Maximus? Gluteus Medius? And, maybe you can guess, the Gluteus Minimus, too? Stand straight, arms by your sides. Slowly reach around the back of your body, and see if you can find them. I’ll wait.

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So now you know where your Glutes are, but did you know that they play an important in keeping us well? Did you know that weak or underused Glutes may be contributing to pain all throughout the posterior chain, including the very common lower-back pain, knee pain, even foot pain?

Yes.

Many times I hear the question “what can I take for my ____pain?” And I do think we can address, say, mild knee pain with an herbal soak or rub. But is that a great long-term solution? Or can we stop it from happening so much by focusing on….the booty!

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A movement practice that focuses on the Glutes is one possible solution for building a resilient posterior chain that may help prevent the injury and pain that comes from poor alignment, “Gluteal amnesia” and overreliance on the 3 Ps: padding, products and pathologizing.

Padding is overbuilt shoes, chairs, and support garments that we use.

Products are painkillers, various natural remedies for pain and (ugh) ice.

Pathologizing means adopting the attitude of “I’m just broken” or “I just have a BAD___insert body part here and there is nothing I can do about it.”

Here I must say that OF COURSE some people are differently abled. OF COURSE there are people who have serious health challenges, and these people should ALL seek professional help and not take their health advice from this blog. OF COURSE, there are times when using a rub or soaking in the tub make sense.

But please, let’s consider the booty, and its place in preventive care and rehab. As practitioners, we may want to check out people’s Glutes. (No, really.) When someone asks “what can I take for ___” we may ask what their movement practice looks like, and if their butt is working for them.  Let’s learn a few basic Gluteus exercises, how to activate the muscles, how to get them engaged in our daily movements, for ourselves or for those we advise.  It just might be a joy for herbalists to recognize how the glutes affect our whole system, to feel them working and to build up the strength and stamina that comes from strong buttocks!

(Too  nerdy?)

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And these movements can be integrated into our lives easily, from standing in a better position (feet pointed forward!) to squatting daily, from doing glute bridges while catching up on TV to band exercises while internetting. Multi-task!

I use stretchy bands which are widely available, cheap, portable and small, (They’re like Heavy Metal guitar riffs–use the heaviest you can stand) a slightly fancier band called the SlingShot, still pretty cheap, a large kettlebell for deadlifts and hip thrusts and the rest is mostly bodyweight –so the barrier to entry is very low.

I have listed my favorite exercise books in other posts, including Glute books. And yes, I’d be delighted to show you my favorite Glute moves.

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Oh, and one more DO NOT for you today:

 

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Ethics for Herbalists part 1: Confidentiality

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The existence of groups and forums on the internet have given many people a place to discuss their health issues. In some ways this has been helpful, and in many ways this has not.

In a social media world, where employers, lawyers, insurance companies and exes can find out a lot about us, there is a new level of privacy concern around information about our mental and physical health.

It is important for us  to openly discuss the importance of confidentiality and to maintain privacy around the details of our own and others’ health information. What we may see as a private group is NOT really that private. What we may see as harmless chatting, the discussed person may see as a breach of trust.
Whether or not we use a full name,  (and sometimes people do), it is quite easy for others to make connections and know who is being discussed. This can lead to awkwardness at best, legal issues at worst.

And it is straight-up unethical.

People are vulnerable when they share their intimate details with us, and by keeping it confidential  we honor the exchange. This includes recognizing the various power dynamics that may exist within any  client/healer relationship.

So before we write up a case study or ask a question in any type of forum–online, in a class, speaking with any other people or practitioners, let’s ask ourselves  a few questions:

Am I respecting the privacy of my client or loved one?

How can I do this better?

Would it be better if I used less identifying details, called them person X or “a client” perhaps?

Am I telling their story or my story?

What is my responsibility to this client?

Is there a level of trust here that I am responsible to?

Would I be OK with this person knowing what I’m sharing? What if the roles were reversed? Would I be OK with this?

Do I really know who else can see this, and/or if anyone in this forum now or in the future is trustworthy?

There may be, occasionally, reason to breach the trust of a client or loved one, and that is when serious harm to oneself or another is possibly imminent. But an internet forum is not the place for this. Seek actual help.

And there may be a person who consents to their information being shared, and that is OK.

But ultimately I think it benefits all of us to examine our ethical obligation to keep the details to ourselves, to honor the trust put in us and to  remember the expectation that exists that–whether we are practicing herbalists or just people into herbs–we won’t compromise anyone’s livelihood or future by making their personal information available to others. Privacy around our personal information is a RIGHT.

It is not–not, not, not–about calling people out, not saying “you are doing this wrong”. It is only about saying maybe you didn’t know, and that is OK. Let’s consider, going forward, the implications of all of this sharing for the good of the whole community.

For more information about this, please check out the AHG statement on the herbalists’ code of ethics:

http://www.americanherbalistsguild.com/ethics

and Sevensong’s great handout on community herbalism, with a section on ethics:

http://7song.com/files/Community%20Based%20Herbalism.pdf

 

As well as HIPAA, the Health insurance portability and Accountability act.

http://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/index.html

 

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Standing in the road alone

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This morning, very early,  I stood at my window and watched a man park  his large lumber-delivery truck on a very steep hill. It’s a blind curve, too. He put down the stabilizers and climbed onto the roof of the cab to check how close the powerlines were to the giant motorized metal claw. (Answer: really f-ing close.) He jumped down and put out some orange cones, then got back up and started to unload the pallets of lumber with the giant metal arm.
I noticed he was smoking the whole time.*
And why not? Here you are, literally standing in the road alone, behind/on/next to your giant, heavy, fully-loaded lumber truck. Here you are, one inch from the powerlines. Here you are, jumping 5 feet off of the cab of your truck into a ditch.

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Herbalism and “alternative healthcare” suffer from a common perception of being only for a certain type of person.

I hear a lot of talk within our community about making it more accessible. Accessible is  often presented as making the products or care more affordable. That which stands between working class people and an herbalicious lifestyle is often seen as money. But is that it? **

Wellness advice, marketing and media seems to focus on certain people too. I often observe health writing , books, podcasts geared towards people with desk jobs–it’s not that anyone is purposefully excluding the working class. It’s that the people who are creating this content are DOING SO at a desk, and their writing and, often, their whole life experience reflects this. We have a whole class of people today who are totally protected from daily experiences of workplace danger and elemental hardship, from childhood to death.

 

Do we, in order to break down some barriers,  need to also remember how the social determinants of health shape our individual and collective attitudes around self-care? Do we need to consider how herbalists  are presenting ideas about wellness, how we talk about it, how we view health disparities?  Whose face represents us? It may not be someone’s current income that determines their attitudes about health. (For example, a lineman is doing blue collar work but could be earning more than a desk-based worker.) It may be, for example, that  doing dangerous work creates a different feeling about health and mortality compared to doing a desk job. It may be that simple pleasures like smoking, even if we know they could harm us eventually, pale in comparison to working on live wires. It may be that we don’t actually expect to live long enough to deal with the consequences.

So what if it’s not just the money that determines our choices but our values, the IDEAS around health and wellness that we have been forming our whole lives, that come from our family, our friends, our co-workers, our community and the media we consume.  We all have a lens through which we see our selves and the world, and this lens is shaped by many factors, including class.

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Our state of health doesn’t occur in isolation. History of choices create a target audience.  Our behaviors occur on a continuum, and in a context. When we are exposed to very real hazards every day, we may not give a shit about gluten, about emotional release, about our posterior chains. We may just be relieved when our boat pulls back in, when we don’t get run over or impaled or beaten to death. Or if we are actually  interested in creating change, we may get so much negative social pressure  from those around us that we give up.  We may be unable to find a practitioner that feels welcoming or some writing that we believe speaks to people like us. We may have the money to spend on a tincture, but feel repelled by the way it is presented.***

So basically health decisions don’t occur in a vacuum, and our outreach should not occur in a vacuum either. We have to live in the web of interconnectedness, and take a systems approach to improving health disparities. Ultimately it is possible for working class people to thrive when we feel supported and integrated and heard, even in the face of work and life that tries to chew us up and spit us out. This is empowerment– NOT someone charging in and  saving people from themselves but a community giving people the tools to create change.

Leadership from within can help create shifts in the values and behaviors that improve health outcomes. This includes understanding that risk does not look the same to everyone. To me, making these shifts is about breaking cycles that keep us in one place and building bridges that let us cross to another. I have observed amongst beloved working class family and friends a certain air of capableness and sturdiness that just crumbles into brokenness over time, and I do believe that this is not entirely inevitable.

So our challenge is: how to make our ideas about herbalism and wellness approachable while still respecting the dignity and intelligence of our brothers and sisters who are doing dangerous work every day, grinding away in all kinds of weather, getting up with the sun and coming home in need of support.  How can we help transform that capable strength and youthful resilience into a lifelong wellness, physically and mentally?
Perhaps seeing our place amongst a lineage of survivors is a start, coming at this work from a place of deep respect for our brothers and sisters and the work they do, a willingness to start from a harm reduction model and listening. Lots of listening.

*please note that I am merely observing this smoking, and judging the behavior is NOT my intent.

**Not to say it’s never about money, of course.

***I’m over-using we because I identify with both herbalists and working class persons.

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Relevance,discomfort and what are we actually doing here?

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“It’s much more about an approach than it is about a topic.”-Brooke Gladstone

I’ve been writing this blog for a long time now. Years. It’s interesting, slightly painful, for me to look back on some of my earliest posts. I see them as naive, poorly written. But I have decided to leave them up because it speaks to the evolution of my voice, the path I have taken is clear and transparent to anyone curious enough or bored  enough to read every single post.

And I leave these posts up because this says “people change”.  I’m not afraid to say I was wrong. I see this as valuable, the idea that we evolve as practitioners, as writers, and as a community. My biggest issue around herbalism is the incurious– those who cling tightly to what they learned once, read once, to their lists of this-for-that, their binaries and first impressions.

“Measure this, add that, shake once a day, I read somewhere that ____cures everything.”

I prefer to kill and eat my old ideas for breakfast. It is interesting to me, seeing how herbalism has evolved since I first got into it, both in my own life and in the broader community–and also how it has not.

Recently I wrote a post about sex-positive herbalism and the reaction of a few people was telling. My favorite feedback was “I see no value in the subject matter, it’s not necessary in terms of medicinal value of herbs.” (I’ll let the author remain anonymous)

Amazing! I love to hear things like this because it drives me, it lets me know I am in exactly the right place, asking the right questions. It tells me I have a role in creating the evolution of herbalism. And so do you. What is relevant to herbalism, anyway? What is necessary to be a healer?  Do I need to leave the fact of my sexuality out of it?  And yours? Should all writers and teachers stick to creating dry, factual  lists of herbs they have used to treat health problems?

I’d freakin die. This might be the most boring path I can personally imagine.

Because this doesn’t excite me, but also because herbalism isn’t happening in a vacuum. It’s happening in a living system. Herbalism is not “plant + disease”. It’s just not. Herbalism is human+ their life experience+their cultural beliefs and practices+their movement, nutrition, rest+their class, occupation, gender+environment+disease+standardized medicine +plant medicine.

And maybe some other stuff, too!

“A lot of daily reporting and news commentary just reinforces everything we already think about the world.”-Ira Glass

And this is true of our social media circles.

A trained monkey can hand out tinctures to people. A robot can dispense this for that. Marketers generate shitty “factual-ish” memes and blog posts to sell their product every darn day. But my mission is to spark a different medicine–the medicine of asking WHY are we doing this, the mission of helping to create more, better, more interesting and more challenging paths for all kinds of healers and plant lovers. I’m 5 feet of why, all night long.

We talk a lot about finding our voice, finding our “calling”, and I am not sure I believe in any one right path. Sometimes the right path is the one you can actually get done, the one that pays for groceries, the one that hangs their help wanted sign out when you need it. But within that calling, we may carve out space for ourselves, slowly and methodically, one action at a time, with  the sharp spoon of our words and actions, until our voice finally emerges.

Every time we say WHY, what are we actually doing, what is the goal, where did you get that information from, let’s think that through, let’s try it, let’s look it up, how, how, how. Every time we say please stop reducing this beautiful complexity to a meme. Every time we say correlation is not causation or my body is not a petri dish or just because it’s written down doesn’t mean it’s truth.

In other words, people may say that challenging  ideas are irrelevant, not necessary, uncomfortable, inappropriate. And I guess I don’t know who is reading this, and maybe you are indeed full of crap. But on the other hand, maybe those that cling to narrow ideas of herbalism, those who cling to binary thinking and easy fixes, who avoid challenges and get up and give the same spiels over and over again forever, are the ones who need these irrelevant and unnecessary words the most.

So rock on with your questions, you sexy little body-owning, messy and complex non-binary, neuro-queer, differently-abled, weed-loving, obnoxious, traumatized, foul-mouthed, fat-ass, skinny-ass, heathen, non-conforming, too-much-or-not-enough askers and seekers. Find your voice and don’t let anyone tell you it’s not relevant to herbalism.

“It’s about challenging people who know.”-Jad Abumrad

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Book Review: Deskbound

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I just got my copy of the brand new book Deskbound by Dr. Kelly Starrett, with  Juliet Starrett and Glen Cordoza. Finally! Before I get into the book, I have to say, I am biased– I am already a fan of the Starretts–I like their giant quads, their cheerful, funny approach  and their seeming lack of douchiness.  And I already like the books Becoming a Supple Leopard and Ready to Run and Mobilitywod. To me, Kelly Starrett stands out amongst the many people talking about bodies in that he’s not waxed up, he seems to be respecting ladies, he and the others in his books and videos seem just like regular people. It’s like Yep, here’s a strong lady lifting stuff and it’s no big thing.  Here’s my kids,  here we are just running around. Refreshing.


OK, so Deskbound. It is about the sedentary life that is very common in our culture right now, why it matters, and what we can do about it. It is definitely about sitting, but, you know, it’s like 300-something pages, it offers a lot of information and solutions. Sitting is an issue that affects herbalists because 3 of the most common complaints we get are pain, digestive issues and “stress”/sleep issues. ALL of these issues may be helped by our changing the ways we move and live, so every time we hand out a product to fix something caused by a behavior, we are participating in, we are co-creating this cultural imbalance.

Yes, we are part of the problem, too.

So throughout the book, they are not afraid to say ” ____is a problem, here is why, move away from ___, here is how.” It is a format that actually makes sense, feels do-able and practical to me.

There are a lot of visuals, both photos and drawings, that help to make the concepts clear. The approach feels like systems thinking, where we identify and unravel underlying causes, make connections, which excites me. I’m seeing lots of focus on standing and walking, which might sound boring but IT’S NOT–basically, how can we do these better, and how  will that support our overall health.

And the concept of “environmental loads”–  everything from shoes to chairs– is one that may be useful in talking about what makes us unwell–often we hear, in the alternative health community, about fears of chemicals or radiation, GMOs or “toxins”, from people wearing heeled shoes, sitting all day who don’t lift heavy things. HEY! It’s not the “toxins” that are going to get you, people! Go for a walk!

I also appreciate that there isn’t a diet section. I’ve experienced reading a book about movement or health which suddenly shifts into what to eat, or some pseudoscientific or religious views, or both, and it’s an immediate buzzkill for me.

My only complaint about this book, and much of the media around sitting, heck all fitness, is that they seem to be speaking to “white collar” office workers first. My personal background, community and family are filled with factory workers, farmers , cleaners and carpenters. While this information definitely applies to nearly all types of workers, some interpretation will need to be done to make this feel super relevant to much of the working class.

So go get this book, and learn how to perform basic maintenance on your bod. Bring it to your own community, bring the concepts into your practice, your teaching, or your way of thinking. The next big shift in our culture is out of the chair, and this book shows us how and why.

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Survival Skills

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So, survival. Is it about stockpiling water filters and number 10 cans? MREs and ammo? Or is it about saving ourselves, emotionally, from the onslaught of the world which seeks to beat us to death, emotionally, figuratively, to block our flow and steal our heart?

Not to be all freaking overdramatic here but I am about to move BACK to the city, back to the middle of the damn city which I love, where I’m from, which I miss terribly and which nearly killed me.

Mixed feelings much?

So I am making myself a special box to take out when I am in need. A self-care box, an emotional first-aid kit. I am old enough now to recognize that it takes work to be well amongst the rust and rubble, to stay well as a supersensitive kind of person amongst the screeches and wails, the pavement and the traffic. Work to nourish the organism, to build resilience and to value the inner self over the latest social activity.

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And you MIGHT wonder, perhaps, what is in this box? What does a grown-ass woman need to survive the city life?

Of course I am about to make a list. Cause otherwise all this buildup would just be weird, right? So here goes:

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-Mantras. I am a huge dork for mantras. I am a person who struggles with my lack of a Mother figure and have finally decided to just Mother myself. I am currently really loving Kirsten Hale’s mantra “I did such a good job of surviving!”  and yes, I am still obsessed with “What if there is no problem?”

I firmly believe that our own self-talk sets us up for the day, for the night, giving us the juice we need to get shit done–or the opposite.

So mantras are in my box o’ love.

-Movement   Of all the things we (able-bodied) humans can do to feel better, just moving around is the most obvious, cheapest, easiest and last-chosen option. Just go for a damn walk. A run. a stretch session. Sweat.  Lift something heavy. It really really works.

-Mindfulness Meditation, whether sitting or moving, has officially proven to actually change your brain for the better. Start small, people. And just make the idea that you can take time for your brain to just chill your own narrative.

-and a little stone to hold OK, OK, so I don’t believe in the miraculous vibration of crystals but I’ll be darned if holding a stone while meditating, or any object of focus, a bone, a root, whatever, doesn’t really help me get into the practice.

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-Wild things It’s about noticing. I was concerned about leaving the bird noises, the insects and the plant diversity I love here in the country. But then I remembered that time I saw a skunk trotting down Broadway. Oh, and the crabs that hang out downtown in the river. And the seagulls. And crows. And pigeons, I love pigeons. And the Mugwort. And the Leopard Slugs in my yard. And and and and…nature is everywhere. Note to self: Don’t put nature into that rural box. Go find it, anywhere, everywhere, all the time.

-and the Actual Wild. Super straightforward: time spent outside of the city. Camping, hiking, swimming, walking dogs, hitting things with a stick.

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-Sleep I remember the intensity of the desire to get a good night’s sleep when I lived in the city, and the relief of sleeping in total darkness here. But there are tools to help urban dwellers get good rest, and these are going into my box– great dark curtains which block light and muffle sound. Smushy mattresses, relaxing herbs, great snuggles and doing enough physical activity to feel physically tired.

-Community A big part of why I want to be in the city again, anyway. Socializing with people I find interesting and who are interested in me is a great survival strategy. It sounds obvious now, but I know how easy it is to withdraw when one should really be reaching out and asking for support.

-Plants, inside and out This should come as no surprise to plant lovers, but just having plants around increases my personal well-being by like a thousand.

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-Symbolic nature OK, stay with me here. It’s a little abstract– But in my experience, bringing elements of nature into my home helps me to stay grounded in what is important to me, what I love and need. A dried flower? A feather? A bone, a drawing or photo, a stone? Maybe it is just the visual, maybe it is the reminder that nature is a force I love, but it helps.

-Actively seek out inspiration A reminder to myself to actually open up this literal and figurative box and feed myself.

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-Notebook I love to have an outlet to record my thoughts and ideas, to make sketches and process scenes from the day which may be disturbing or inspiring or just confusing. A real pen and a real paper, more so than a notes app, helps me to unspool that day and let go. It is the build-up of one after another of indignities, of weird shit that I have to ignore, of other people’s energy that I’ve had a hard time letting go of in the past, and which I choose to deal with better now.

-Herbs I guess, since I am an herbalist with a fabulous apothecary, that I shouldn’t leave out herbs. I do leave it for last though, as I love them but cringe at the idea of herbs as our first line of defense against the world. It is not about suppressing our tension but about managing it, and there are some plant medicines that I find helpful for this. For example, there is Scullcap, which is my #1 let-it-go herb. A blend of Milky Oats, Rose, Tulsi and Hawthorne which is an every- evening  cooldown for me, a way to nourish my nervous system.  And there is Blue Vervain, my precious tension diffuser for the clenching, teeth-gritting, can’t stand it kind of mood.

Plus bitters, Sweet Birch rub and Black Haw….

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My main goals are to stay grounded, stay connected to that which keeps me going. I don’t really believe in ____ makes me happy, I think happy is overrated and even a bit boring. I want to be OK, I want to be creating, I want to be curious. That is my version of “happy”.

It is so easy to think we can just buy something, just get an object or make a consumer choice to solve the abyss of angst that comes from living in the world, that is just a byproduct of cities and media and too much information, things which I love but which also cause me harm. But I feel like the tension I feel in a city isn’t just my bad consumer choices. It isn’t the feeling that I lack the right crystal. It’s normal, it’s reasonable to sometimes get overwhelmed by this complex life.

So what I am excited about here is a long-tern strategy for self-management in the face of that structure  which doesn’t give a shit about our humanity. In the face of a system, a design that was not built to maximize human delight but to sell things or move goods or create the best real estate.

And I just want to share that we DO have the tools, we DO have the means to support ourselves through these changes and struggles–make the time when we feel good to put these systems in place and they will be there for us when we feel in need.

Find your little pleasures, friends. Find your moments of bliss, steal your quiet time and forge your own sacred space.

Concrete can’t really block the flow.

*ps yeah, it’s not really a box.

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