MUSE :: Lauren Abbey Stauber

In each MUSE interview we take time to explore the lives + creative processes of the folks who inspire us to live each day most wildly and authentically, close to the Earth and to our own Spirits.  In the latest MUSE interview, below, we are pleased to introduce you to Lauren Abbey Stauber-- skilled community herbalist and educator, musician, writer, visual artist, and all around wise woman.  Read on to step into Lauren's world--a place rich with scents and sounds both familiar and exotic, layered with the earthy sensuality that seems so central to all she does...

"Today came in waves, rushes of people, the fast pouring of herbs and clinking of measuring tools-- the shop filling again and again with people, old and young, faces always softening as they enter, opening...inhale...the smiling exhale... These rushes came all day, and we moved and danced with it. Then, the sudden quieting down, a moment to stretch a back, dust off a counter, remembering something left half done in the kitchen, noticing the music playing, something of the inner voice, the quality of light coming through the open door on this unusually warm October day... Then another rush. Today was a day of nourishment and warmth. A day of mineral rich greens and tonic roots, mushrooms and spices. And also, people seeking support for their friends - teas for the overworked, and the lingering cold, aromatherapy for the "joyful".  Many little conversations between blending and rushing and filling and pouring. Faces I really enjoy, and intimate exchanges of heart truth at the register. Today, I felt the warmth of our community, the love that comes into the shop, the support of neighbors, and the sense that we are all growing together.

Sun // Taurus
Moon // Virgo
Rising // Gemini

Where do you currently call Home?

I live with my husband and son in a trailer in Boulder, Colorado. Boulder has been my home since 2003, the year I left my first home and place of birth, New York City. I've created homes in a few places over the years, but I'm not a traveler by lifestyle. I prefer to root down. Yet I also have a restlessness, because no one place seems to fully satisfy all my quirky curiosities. My imagination wanders...

How would you describe the work that you do?

I work as an herbalist at a beautiful apothecary called Rebecca's Herbal Apothecary & Supply. I often pinch myself because I enjoy my job there so much! I love the feeling of the place, the people I work with, the customers, and the work itself. We carry a couple hundred bulk herbs primarily from Western herbal traditions, with a handful of Chinese and Ayurvedic herbs. We also have a beautiful line of products that are made in the shop in small batches, and lots of raw ingredients for medicine making. I'm involved in herbal sourcing and quality control, which has been a fascinating and ongoing learning experience. There is an intellectual piece and a very sensual piece.  I also work directly with customers for much of the day and do a lot of over-the-counter education and formulating. I've become passionate about blending teas for people. It can be a very intimate exchange, and it's always a creative process. People come in with all sorts of questions, from the very usual to the very unusual. And no two people are alike. When I blend for someone, I am tuning into them on a very personal level, and creating something just for them. I also do a bit of teaching and writing, and hope to do more of both in the future.

Can you tell us, briefly, about the path that led you here?

As I mentioned, I grew up in New York City.  It was an extremely urban environment, but even there, I was captivated by nature. Weeds intrigued me, wherever they grew. Sky colors, rain hitting asphalt, wind howling through the streets, pigeons and squirrels on fire escapes...  I remember being deeply moved by trees. The rare occasions that I got out into a countryside, I was enchanted. But truth be told, I found enchantment in the concrete jungle, too--in a different, but very powerful way.  

I delved into holistic healing in my late teens after almost destroying myself, living on the street, abusing my body and mind, running recklessly about.  In my early twenties, I worked in a funky little health food store back before they were easy to find. I read books about nutrition and herbs, tried stuff at home in my kitchen, followed crazy fads trying to figure things out--and I guess I figured some things out. I've explored many forms of healing over the years: touch, movement, kitchen medicine, the creative process, ritual. 

I ended up studying bodywork, and later herbalism, very intensively, and found that these were ways I could help others. I went to some great schools, including The Ohashi Institutewhere I studied shiatsu, The Swedish Institute where I completed a degree in massage therapy, the North American Institute of Medical Herbalism, now known as the Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism where I got certified in clinical herbalism and nutrition, and currently, The Dogwood School of Botanical Medicine where I am studying traditional Ayurveda. I seem to thrive with immersion and the guidance of good teachers.  But there is a depth and heart of understanding about healing that I’ve only found outside of schools, in the grit, beauty and wildness of the world, and the struggles and transformations of my own life. Mentorship has been part of that journey. But also, just living life and opening myself to the teachers all around me. The plants are high on that list.

What are your favorite ways to bring healing + self care into your daily life?

Spontaneity. Gardening. Play. Dance. Homemade tea. Touch. Laughter. Connecting with my son and husband. Ritual. Mindful breathing. Cooking something slowly. Scent. Stretching. Exploring wild places. Writing a song. Drawing a picture. Opening myself to someone I trust. Acceptance of what is.  

Time in nature. Time alone. Dance. Leaning on trees and breathing. Sitting in candle light. Listening to rain. If I had more time, I’d write more songs and poems, draw more, journal. I’d wander more. Wandering, inside and outside. I'd let myself get lost…

Baths are deep therapy for me. Not only for warmth, but for letting go into the yin, for allowing myself to receive, to become passive in the water, sensing, being, becoming the ripples that gently caress me.... I tend to like it as hot as I can stand it. I sometimes bathe with herbs wrapped in cloth, squeezing them into the water, massaging myself with them. I've done many blends, but one I come back to again and again is a combination of Juniper Berry, White Sage and Rose Petal.

If I am deeply honest, I have to tell you that music saved my life.  Not to be overly dramatic, but more than once I came to the place of "write a song or die".  It is a huge part of me, and for many years it was the central fire that everything else revolved around.   I used to run open mics so I could create a safe space for others to share their own creative truths, which are not always easy to reveal.  Since becoming a mom, I haven't had as much time to tend to that fire, but it is in my blood, and it still burns.  And when I pick up my guitar or open my voice to sing, something awakens in me that is very core to my soul.  I hope to write a body of music inspired by the plants some day, but this is a long term vision...  You can find some of my older music here.

When you wake in the morning, what excites you most about rising for the day?

The bright light in my son's eyes, and just being alive in this body with so much left to do in this life. I am a person of many burning passions and interests, and there is rarely enough time in a day for me to nurture them all. I suppose that burn is part of what wakes me up in the morning. It doesn't hurt that I love my job.

Do you do anything to observe + honor the cycle of the Moon?

I sometimes do rituals to mark the full and new moon, but not always. And that is because of the nature of my busy life as a working mom. But whether I do formal rituals or not, I tune into the moon. I feel her cycle and I notice the way I ebb and flow with her. I've written many haiku about the moon (see below).  I find myself a bit smitten for our one beautiful moon and her dance of veiling and unveiling herself in the heavens, month after month. Such a gift to the senses! Such a deeply primal rhythm!

taking a moment
to sense the vast sky, endless
gift of this dark moon

+   +   +

as if being born
first an edge of rounded light
full moon emerging

+   +   +

the arc of her arm
opens a way to the moon
still deeply rooted 

Can you share with us a short list of the books or other resources you have you found most precious in your own education as an herbalist and healer?

Some of the herbalists and teachers who have directly shaped my path along the way are Paul Bergner, Matthew Becker, Kiva Rose, Jesse Wolf Hardin, Sean Donahue, Ann Drucker, Charles Garcia, Darcey Blue, Todd Caldecott, Brigitte Mars, and Rebecca Luna (the owner of Rebecca's Herbal Apothecary). And there are so many other incredible herbalists whose work I follow, I could not possibly name them all. Regarding books, I have most of the classics and probably a good chunk of the modern herbals, and they all get opened at some point. I have a long list of favorites, and it's really hard to answer this question, but I will say, when I'm doing research, no matter what books get pulled from the shelves, I almost always open The Earthwise Herbal by Matthew Wood, and my current favorite new book is The Wild Medicine Solution by Guido Masé.

I also very much appreciate Learning Herbs and Herb Mentor as a hub of high quality online information that leads to many other great resources. It's a fabulous starting place.

What three plants are nearest and dearest to your heart?

Three that have touched me in unforgettable ways are European Wood Betony, Rose (wild and cultivated), and coniferous evergreens. Betony has helped me with healing trauma in my body, and has also been a magical sort of friend to me. Rose has taught me about the balance of softness and strength in my heart. And the conifers bring me to reverence, remind me to breathe, and help me transform grief and fear into connection. There is so much more I could say about these three. And I love so many others as well.

All images included in the interview are Lauren's own

Is there anything more you'd like to share with our readers?

Sometimes, a customer comes into the apothecary who is called to work with the plants, but who has some kind of fear or insecurity holding them back. They don't know how to begin, they feel overwhelmed by the vastness of herbalism as a path, they question whether they could ever really do it. Well, I know that feeling intimately myself. And this is what I always tell those folks. If you are called to work with the plants, do it. Don't let anything stop you. Don't let any story in your mind about what a plant person looks or doesn't look like get in your way. Don't let where you live get in your way. Don't let how much money you have or don't have get in your way. Don't let cultural stereotypes get in your way. Just begin. See what's growing around you, what catches your eye, your nose, your heart, and begin a conversation. Notice what herbs and spices you tend to pull down from the spice rack in your kitchen, and begin a conversation. Learn more about a plant that you find interesting, or beautiful, or tasty, or that for some mysterious reason calls your attention. Just start, wherever you are. There are as many ways to be an herbalist as there are herbalists. So, find your way.

What is the best way for those who might like to do so to contact you? 

Email me at lauren@rebeccasherbs.com or find me on Facebook

Visit the Archives to read all of our past MUSE interviews!

1 comment:

  1. Hey there, I've just come across this blog and this particular post is just beautiful. Lauren's world appears to be quite wonderful. I am always so happy to hear about people who have found their life's work and wake each day happy to do what they do. Thank you ... ~M