29.5.17

Do Less .

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​D   O        L   E   S   S  .

Rejecting the Cult of Productivity and
Re-defining Success in Late Capitalism


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B E G I N     A G A I N


​In life, we always have the opportunity to begin again. To do it sweeter, softer, and with a greater quality of presence than ever before. I’ve heard it said, there are places grace will take you, that hustling never will.  I wish someone would have told me that at twenty two, but I doubt I could have heard them then, and anyway — better to learn late than never. 

Twenty two is the age at which I began my journey with La Abeja Herbs.  And since that time, nearly every moment of my life has been devoted to nurturing it into what it has become — a company whose success and reach have eclipsed any vision I ever held for it at the outset.  But because of this, something in me had felt lost for a long time — or at least obscured — by the seemingly unending list of tasks necessary for maintaining a steady sense of productivity on the rise. (read :: capitalism) But no amount of productivity is worth compromising the aspects of one’s life which matter most or aspects of self which are most precious.  I felt like there was a growing wall between me and the world; like my body had to move two to three steps ahead of my heart just to keep up with the daily tasks of running the business.  And all of this left little time, and even less emotional space, for the real work —  the sacred work — of simply being with myself and with the plants; sitting in stillness and courting the Muse with such tender care, as was once my singular devotion. The magic in my life felt as though it was waning, and I knew something had to give.

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L I F E ' S    A    T R I P
In late April, I returned home from, almost precisely, one month of travel.  It seems that I am always leaving, always coming home.  For most of my adult life, I have been mostly nomadic, and mostly happy about it.  I have woken at sunrise beside the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean and folded my laundry causally aboard a ferry making my way from island to island amidst the Salish Sea.  I’ve slept upon the Earth for weeks at a stretch with friends and strangers by my side.  I’ve grown sunburnt for lack of shade and shelter, and made love beneath the waning Moon in the wild waters of warm mountain springs.  And now, for the first time in over a decade — I have what could be called a Home.

For years I longed for the distinctive feeling of freedom that came only from driving away from somewhere.  To be fair, I was often traveling toward something as well, but more than that, it was the feeling of leaving that fed me, the feeling of being free from what was.  But now, I don’t want to leave.  I want to be here — in my house, in my garden, walking through the alleys of my neighborhood at sunset and learning the precise location where each feral cat spends its late afternoon hours.  I want to watch the way the sun moves across my porch over the course of the day and note the subtle changing light of Summer into Fall.  I want to linger over long breakfasts cooked slow in my kitchen for the friends I love, and don't get to see nearly often enough.  I want to have something that resembles a routine for once in my life.
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​As my Saturn Return approaches, (oh hayyyy!) the urge and the instinct to settle and to create structure is undeniable.  Nearing the end of my most recent month-long stint of travel, the sounds and sights of Home were what my Soul was aching for.  I wandered through the high desert of California, drunk on the electric buzz of new love and the intoxicating sights and smells of the perfectly-timed super-bloom which coincided with my short visit. And yet, despite this heady, nectar-rich landscape, I felt like there was a palm pressed firmly to my forehead, obscuring my vision in this world and the other. I was unable to see or think clearly, knowing only that I needed rest and solitude in order to remember who I was or what I wanted. My magic was fading, and my sense of self wearing thin.  I could not hear the voices of the cacti clearly and the flowers were shy and suspicious of me.  I was not myself.  Home now, in the cool expanse of my quiet kitchen, I wake to the familiar sound of doves outside my window, the breath of breeze in Oak trees.  The world here welcomes me, and speaks to me clearly once more — but only on the condition that I agree to stay still for more than a few weeks at a stretch.
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​On the final day of my trip, I departed from Marfa, TX after offering my fourth year of Spring workshops in partnership with El Cosmico.  As I began the day-long journey toward home, I felt a great weight descend upon me, originating from I knew not where.  I felt vaguely disoriented after my month of movement; heavy and slow, even as I drove ninety miles an hour down the sunny West Texas highway, lined to the horizon with technicolor primroses and pollen-heavy Acacias.  I saw an unfamiliar tree, laden with yellow blossoms, and then another, and another.  Exhausted, and eager to make it home before dark, my instinct was to suppress my curiosity, ignore the beckoning blooms, and press on toward home. As I neared the highway intersection, however, I saw a final stand of these unknown trees, which refused to be ignored. I pulled over to the side of the road and realized suddenly that I was parched and starving, having ignored not only my curiosity and thirst for beauty but for more tangible sustenance as well.  I gulped what little water remained in my bottle and tore into the leftovers stashed in my cooler before gathering my wits about me and slowing down to approach the tree with a proper sense of reverence.  I admired her branches, heavy with otherworldly blooms, and watched in silence as more species of pollinators than I could count, alighted upon the profusion of her flowers to drink deep their fertility.  I lingered there, inviting the warm desert air to penetrate and soften the rigidity that had found its way into my body.  I sensed the sun overhead and the distant hum of cars on the interstate.  I arrived where I was, and I felt calm and present at last -- in the stillness and in solitude, I needed for so long.
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I drove on through nodding fields of wild oat and thorny mesquite in bloom.  Nearing an empty tank, in more ways than one, I was grateful to see an exit on the long stretch of desolate highway that indicated some sign of civilization.  I stopped for gas at the station and I realized I had there many times over the years on my countless cross-country treks. The bathroom sink glistened with shimmering fake marble and the wood paneling, left untouched since the fifties, told of a kind of easy familiarity and comfort.  The whole place was suffused with the kind of silence one rarely finds on purpose. I walked outside the station to admire the profusion of prickly pear blossoms, the velvety blood red roses covering the peeling paint of the walls.  The fifteen or so feral cats who greeted me had morphed from grey to tabby in the generations since my last visit.  They languished on the warm sidewalk and eyed me curiously for signs of food.  Stepping onto a small patch of lawn, an instant I was surrounded by hundreds of tiny purple butterflies.  They alighted on the moist earth to drink,  opening and closing their wings slowly as they did.  It was a vision so unexpectedly beautiful, I felt moved nearly to tears.  And yet, again I saw the instinct in me arise, to press onward -- to drink in only so much of this perfection.  But instead I chose to stay, to take as long as I wanted; as long as it took.  I wandered to the edge of the dirt parking lot where a large Agave rose up, majestic and on the precipice of its long awaited flowering. I stood perfectly still and silent as I walked another congregation of butterflies dancing around the wine cups and sage below.  I wandered on, taking in the entirety of this highway side paradise and allowing myself to be filled with the cool breath of meadow and milkweed; the deep refuge offered by the thick mulberry shade.  I was just with myself, in the place where I was; watching, listening, breathing and asking myself  -- 
If I cannot allow myself to experience pleasure fully
in this moment -- then when 
will I finally allow it?
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H O N O R I N G    T H E    S A C R E D

Reflecting on this experience as I continued on the long drive toward home, I realized just how a dangerous a thing it is to ignore beauty in the name of efficiency; to prioritize productivity and perfection over pleasure and play.  My heart ached for the countless times I had denied myself what I wanted and needed most - whether it was nourishment, rest, connection, or exploration. I implore you to remain vigilant for this tendency in your own life, for it is this insidious thing which gives rise to a world where fascism is possible and those things which are sacred become commodities rather than forces with which we are in relationship.  How we do one thing, is often how we do everything.

Within each of us exist the same forces which make up the world beyond our own skin and psyche —  as within, so without.  When we see violence, racism, misogyny, destruction of the natural world — we must ask ourselves, how is this war also being waged within my own body, my own heart, my own mind?  What shadowy aspects of myself have I unable or unwilling to bear witness to?  In what ways have I been violent toward myself; toward the people I love? What inner resources am I exploiting?  Because there is no them, there is only us.  The subtle ways in which we treat ourselves and relate to the world around us -- these things matter deeply.  Each act in the this world is coupled with an equally potent ripple in the Otherworld.  By choosing kindness, beauty, pleasure, presence -- we are choosing to orchestrate powerful magic -- not only in our own lives but for the world beyond as well.

I know that I am not alone in recognizing these things and that the recent weeks and months have revealed not only to me but to many, the ways in which we have been acting as our own taskmasters, rather than allowing life to be lived through us with grace. And through this realization, we are offered an invitation to loosen or even remove the shackles that we alone have keep ourselves bound by.


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M A K I N G    N E W    C H O I C E S

​Upon returning home, at last, I was already beginning the necessary steps for planning my next trip to teach at the Spiritweavers Gathering — a favorite moment in the wheel of the year when I get to come together with many of the people I love most.  The Gathering this year would be held in Cave Junction, Oregon -- all the way across the country.  My nervous system recoiled and I wept with anxiety at the thought of leaving my home again so soon.  My body was exhausted, spent.  If I moved forward with the trip as planned, I would bid a reluctant farewell to the new home I'd hardly had time to settle into, get on a plane to fly to the Pacific Northwest, and teach for twenty four hours over the course of two weeks.  I would also, of course, be surrounded by many of my closest friends as well as by twelve hundred other truly amazing women -- but to the body, positive stress is still stress.  And much as “I” wanted to go, something much deeper in me simply would not allow it.

I had been praying for guidance, as my delicate system struggled mightily to sense what was best.  My word is sacred and to not follow through on a commitment I had made to my community felt unthinkable.  Not to mention, how I longed to laugh late into the night and wade in the cool wild waters alongside many of the friends I had been looking forward to seeing since we had parted the previous Summer.  But my answer came quickly as I sat in my favorite medicine-filled field, held in the embrace of a towering Texas Pecan.  The tree was like a wise old woman, clothed elaborately in vines which wove, lattice-like, about her ancient trunk. I arranged myself in a sad heap upon the Earth, beneath her shade, feeling far from everything that I loved.  I felt alone; hollow.  And as I sat there, in moderate distress — my phone rang.  Having sensed the urgency of my current state, a generous and wise friend called me and listened patiently as I told her how depleted I felt — how scared I was about my health, my home, my heart.  When she responded at last to my long-winded monologue of overwhelm, her tone alone was all the permission I needed to listen to what I’d known in my bones all along.  Her care as well as her concern were evident — and they made me realize what it was I really needed. That night, I made the final decision to stay.  To give myself to myself.  To create the space I needed in order to first empty and then re-fill the depleted well of my being.

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​When your cup is full, you cannot receive.
When your cup is empty, you have nothing to give.


Though I had so badly wished to have the energy to attend the Gathering, I knew that the experience of cross country travel and long hours of teaching would leave me feeling, ultimately depleted, and with little to give to myself or community in the longterm.  To offer teachings on Herbs For The Feminine Heart, while so blatantly disregarding the wisdom and communication from my own sacred center would be a betrayal. To guide the Moon Maidens in an exploration of what it means to Walk In Beauty, while my own reserves and life force were dangerously waning would be a lie.  To sit before my sisters and share the story of my Medicine Path, while neglecting to continue to walk it, would not truly serve anyone.  And so, I'm telling the tale from home this year, trusting that life and love both come in waves and that the tides will bring us all back together again before too long.

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​R E D E F I N I N G    S U C C E S S
To encourage vitality and facilitate longterm sustainable growth, we must sometimes make hard choices about what to say no to in the short term.  Much like a hopeful houseplant, searching for light and eager to bloom, we can only grow in so many directions at once without ultimately compromising our overall health.  Recognizing now, the importance of making choices which nourish rather than deplete, I'm no longer afraid to cut my plants or my plans back dramatically, in order to ultimately encourage greater vitality.  And so I am making shifts, large and small, in my life and in my business.  Because I want to be more available for me, and for you as well. I want to return to the deep quality of presence that is needed to offer true healing work, meaningful and embodied teaching, and sincerity in the written word. Everything we do in life takes energy, and each of us only has so much if it -- it is up to us alone just how it will be used and directed.


I don’t believe in progress, as our culture defines it;
because there is nowhere to go; nothing to do; no one to be. 


​I don’t believe in progress, as our culture defines it; because there is nowhere to go, nothing to do, no one to be.  Annie Dillard reminds us, that “How we spend our days, if of course, how we spend our lives.”  Real progress is non-linear.  My teacher, Michael Reed has often reminded me that Humans greatly overestimate what they are capable of in the short term, and greatly under estimate what they are capable of in the long term.  A scholar and farmer both, Michael is a man who sees mountains as waves upon the Earth’s surface, rising and falling with tides which stretch beyond our perception of time.  And there are mountains in our own lives, that we can see if we slow to their pace — they are our life’s work, gradually rising up from the subterranean space of our inner world, until at their peak, they are a thing of true power and magnificence.  But you cannot rush a mountain, for a mountain takes its time.  And sometimes it must pause to linger on its slow ascent toward the majesty of the sky.
A friend asked me recently, speaking in general terms, “What does it mean to live your dream?” I paused, looking up from my phone to glimpse her sly smile, and freckle-dappled olive skin, black curls framing her soft and piercing beauty.  “Dreams change,” I told her, “visions change. When your dreams come true, you are forced to face their imperfections.  You are forced to see how unpoetic they actually are, unless you make the effort suffuse them with goodness from the Otherworld.  When your dreams come true, you realize that it is not so much the outer world which matters, but the feeling in and around things, which comes from another place entirely.  I have been happier in moments of seeming inactivity than I have been upon accomplishing what I held as some my greatest goals.  Most people don’t know what they actually want, what they will actually feel fulfilled by  We learn more, we grow, the next layer of subtlety is revealed to us and once we see, we cannot un-see.”

​Not all growth is good growth.  


So, what does success look like in late capitalism?  In a time when more and more people are waking up to the myth of limitless expansion and endless energy, how can we envision new models of success and remember what it means to truly live well?  I have learned that not all growth is good growth.  And as my "career" continues to take shape and more and more new opportunities present themselves, it becomes increasingly important to clarify what values guide my life and my choices. Is success defined by a higher dollar amount in my bank account and daily visits to La Abeja Herbs website or it is it a life lived slowly and well; a choice to do more with less?  For me, the answer is obvious and has little to do with metrics or external markers of progress, as defined by our culture.  Instead, I define success is having the ability and the privilege to pull over on the side of the road and appreciate the beauty of the world; to bask in the fragrant explosion of spring blooms in the desert. It is feeling safe and at home enough in my body to take my time, allowing myself to be present to the world that is all around me and within me, rather than looking, constantly ahead to my next life goal, or contemplating the emails I have yet to respond to. Success looks like staying with myself through discomfort; choosing to visit my lover in the desert; knowing that the work can wait.


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H E A L I N G    C O M E S    F R O M    W I T H I N

If we want to live in a world where that which is sacred is honored, where all peoples are treated with dignity and respect — it has to begin with the way we treat ourselves.  It has to begin with the way that you treat yourself.  When we look at the world around us, and we see violence, oppression, inequality, destruction of the natural world, exploitation of resources, and so on, we must ask ourselves — what is it within me that perpetuates these things, allows them to exist?  What inner resources am I exploiting?  In what ways am I oppressing myself, perpetuating violence in my inner world, devaluing aspects of my own lived experience? If we are fighting for the preservation of sacred sites, the protection of pristine bioregions, the rights of oppressed peoples — and yet we are depleting the landscape of our own body and psyche through this work — what good are we really doing?   Because there is no them.  There is only us. And our actions speak volumes, not only to other humans, but to the spirits and unseen world as well.  When we choose peace in our own lives, choose kindness toward ourselves -- the whole world responds.  Every action, no matter how small, has magical and non-linear effects which are felt deeply in the unseen world and reflected in this one.  So when you are tired, rest.  When you are hungry, nourish your body.  This is the real and sacred work as well.

It is up to us, both individually and collectively, to reject the cult of productivity, and to rest gently in the knowing that our value has little to do with our efficiency or achievements in the outer world.  We must ask ourselves, what it looks to do less, not more.  And the choices you make from this place might not be sexy, or popular, or lucrative — but they will connect with you something so deeply real and important within yourself.  More than your success, this world needs your sensitivity, your kindness, your generosity and your presence.; and these are things which can only arise from within.

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C O M I N G    H O M E

​So I am home now and the fireflies are out. My hen is laying and the nopales are green and tender, ready to be enjoyed.  The air is cool and I am grateful.  When I sit down to write, I can feel the peaceful expanse of my home around me, the shifting foundation and cracked walls like maps leading to a place I have never been, but would like to go.  It has been a long time since I have given myself Time -- to rest, to write, to be still and go within.  Something in me is demanding this.  For it is the place from which all life springs.  And it is terrifying and wonderful, to trust that I am enough; I have enough; I do enough.  It has been my experience and observation that most of us are so caught up in doing our lives, that we scarcely realize we are not actually experiencing our lives.

Most of us are so caught up in doing our lives, that we
scarcely realize we are not actually experiencing our lives.


By my estimation, the highest form of art and of activism is a life fully lived. A life, each moment of which is tended to with sincerity and presence, alive with curiosity and slowed to a pace that allows for experiencing the richness of the sensory information available to us as embodied creatures. We can access this richness, by softening into and focusing fully on each task we undertake, by sensing with care where every object in our home wishes to live, by allowing the details and subtleties and countless small pleasures of this world to penetrate our awareness. And through this simple slowing down, we become -- without trying -- grace, embodied.

Each one of us has the most profound and impeccable ability to find and set a pace that is all our own. We must only listen to the steady metronome of our own hearts beating, the rise and fall of our breath as it enters and leaves our bodies.  It can begin slowly, with little more than a loving curiosity about our own cycles of hunger and satiety, our own longings for rest and exuberant exertion--because our bodies know, our hearts know.  And as a first step on the long path of cultivating a world steeped in real love and genuine caring, we have a responsibility to begin by tending to ourselves in this spirit first; by committing to care for and honor the precious lives being lived through us, in each moment. 
 And we always have the opportunity to begin again --  to do it sweeter, softer, and with greater sensitivity than ever before.

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