Planting Seeds in Spring…

for a Harvest season harvest! πŸ™‚

Similar to my last extended gap between posts, I’ve been working outside of gardens (or meditation centers/contemplative programs for that matter :-|), earning a living by somewhat more traditional means. However this year, those more traditional means–along with being emotionally rewarding–have provided me with the funds to plant new seeds in my garden of grower’s/healer’s skills! πŸ™‚ By the end of this year I will be a certified aromatherapist, a certified doula, certified in permaculture design and have completed the first year of a community herbalism apprenticeship! πŸ˜€ These are all skills/experiences/delights that I’ve wanted for years but previously couldn’t afford or didn’t have the time or energy for, usually because I was trying painfully & to no avail to ground myself in conventional activities like 9-5 jobs, romantic relationships, college, etc.–see previous post about it. But now that I’ve got work that supports my tumbleweed-ish ideal lifestyle, I can study all the holistic-healing, sustainable-growing, “granola-head” modalities I want, so I am! πŸ˜€

My latest healing education began with the essentials–essential oils that is, via an aromatherapy certification course in April in the gorgeously Great Smoky Mountains(!) lead by experts from Natural Options Aromatherapy.

Uncovered uncut gemstones

the precious stones that arose when I went diggin’ at a local gem mine; lots of amethyst– a healing stone πŸ˜‰

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cameltoe strawberry from the local strawberry patch

  
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My new favorite “naughty” fruit

. I chose Natural Options because their courses are comprehensive, teaching students how to make their own blends for specific ailments as well as requiring case studies be done proving the efficacy of our blends before receiving full certification. πŸ™‚ I love experiments! That being the case, it’s taken me until early June to get all three of my required case studies started πŸ˜… and I still have some untested blends I made during the course that I’d love to share and test! Select one below and email me [ healjourner@yandex.com ] your mailing address to see for yourself: 

This blend is designed to promote deeper meditation when diffused during a session

Blended to ameliorate rheumatoid arthritis when massaged on affected joints

This roll-on should soothe joints affected by gout

This roll-on is designed to help heal osteoarthritis when applied to affected areas

This roll-on is blended to alleviate symptoms of menopause when applied to pulse points or meridian tapping points

Sore back massage anyone? :p

A cream blended to soothe aching muscles wherever applied

If you’re wondering why I made so many blends for arthritic pain, I was inspired by loved ones. (And the blend for depression I made works so well I’m keeping it for myself! πŸ˜‰

Most of all though, I’m relishing this opportunity to get to know some of my favorite herbs better. Speaking of herbs, the first year of the Community Herbal Apprenticeship at Centro AshΓ© starts in August! I’ve already started working in the herb garden there, meeting/weeding around more healing plants than I’ve known before: 

Like these prickly tender teasles that help heal from lyme πŸ™‚

And of course, nettles. Can’t have a healing herb garden without’em.

Marshmallow in bloom! How much of this herb do you think is in the puffy cylinder sweet?

Just before and in tandem with that apprenticeship I will begin the Birthkeepers Apprenticeship,

Beautiful

learning to holistically cultivate human babies instead of plant babies and enlightenment. πŸ˜€ Although becoming a doula has little to do with gardening or mindfulness, the birthing process is something I’ve always been curious about. I’m not the type to let mysteries stay mysterious. πŸ˜‰

Also overlaping my apprenticeships will be a permaculture design certification course that I’m really looking forward to led by a man who calls himself “Mangy”. πŸ™‚ Sounds like a man who knows the wilderness well, despite being an urbanite. 

Even though these are all very distinct courses, each one employs concepts or tools from the others: aromatherapy during labor & with infants will be explored during the doula/birthkeepers apprenticeship; permaculture protocols are used in our herb garden classroom; gardening with littles & making herbal remedies for colic will be shared in the herbal apprenticeship, and I’m sure there are other examples of how all I’m learning this year is tied into the same knot of wisdom. All in all, I’ll close the year with a greater understanding of life on Earth, making it easier to be at peace, grounded and feel at home while living rather rootlessly. πŸŒ¬πŸƒπŸ‰ Come tumble along through these nature schools with me!



Doing some gardening yourself and want a ‘bug off’ essential oil blend? Let me know. πŸ™‚


~*A deep, grateful bow to Chelsea Allinger for introducing Centro AshΓ© to me and cooling me down last summer.*~

Falling back to my roots: Sangha as soil, sutras as sunlight

As grounding as getting my hands in the earth is,Β my true ground is in the Dharma. So like the autumn leaves when temperatures (and so many people 😦 ) drop, I dropped back to my cushion to meditate mostly in silence for 28 days straight–aka a dathΓΌn or “moon session” retreat. My regular meditation practice had fallen off in October so by December I was really buzzing with discursive thoughts and distracting habits. I really needed toΒ . Besides, the gardens I had worked in were being put to rest for the winter or awaiting new management. There was really nothing better to do; and what better way to prepare for the new year? πŸ™‚

As is usually the case when I do longer meditative/contemplative retreats, I had some personally profound realizations that needed a bit more than chants, sitting & incense to work through.

Enter the loving light of sutras! πŸ™‚ AndΒ other Buddhist texts. Being in a dathΓΌn, I turned to them when anxiety gave way to depression instead of my previous habits for coping. And like the sun does in early spring, sutra by sutra my heart began to thaw and the clouds of confusion cleared away just in time for 2017. πŸ™‚

This healing introspection was also gratefully supported by the rich soil of a former sanghamate’s sweet houseΒ and bodhi-cats. πŸ˜‰ Just in time for my sanity(!) πŸ˜›

Bodhi-cat Maddie on the cushion during one of my breaks

So although the gardens of life may die back in winter, our roots keep growing. Especially in the fertile medium of a dathΓΌn pot.


Eternal gratitude to 84000.co for translating so many Buddhist texts into English and helping me stay on the path in joy.

Spoiled

I realized recently,

Photo credits to Phil Agar

I’ve been spoiled. Just as these sexually matured lettuce plants are spoiled for harvesting lettuce from, I’m pretty spoiled for mismanaged growing operations. The organizational situation around my organic gardening apprenticeship didn’t quite have every T crossed or every I dotted, but it was organized well enough to over-deliver without burning off people’s goodwill, creating an abundance of waste or cultivating much bitterness. That, and the incredibly rich soil totally spoiled me for working with much less. The soil was so rich and aerated, freshly prepped unplanted beds felt like overflowing tubs of dark chocolate mousse!

In my realization of being spoiled by a well-kept garden, I also realized that the environment surrounding the garden, also known as its container, matters a whole lot. Maybe more than anything else.

Pots matter.

My garden apprenticeship was hosted at a meditation retreat center, which set a contemplative, considerate tone/container for work and learning in the garden. I think that kind of growing medium spoiled me some for the less loamy ones I’ve encountered since then. “Less loamy” meaning less well organized. The clay-packed, stony, “time-capsule” soils I’ve been working with in and around DC don’t get me down until/unless I find out they’re not being cared for as well as they could. Basically, I’m up for the hard work of building a garden from scratch, but I have to be able to see the plan or vision for the garden and what steps organizers want to take to realize their plan.

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Remember this? Every garden could use a crop plan of some sort

Luckily I’ve found a local growing operation with a clear plan and plowable course to help cultivate: ecufaquaponics

as well as the opportunity to study aquaponics in urban agriculture. It’s almost like being an apprentice again. πŸ™‚

I’ll never be too spoiled for that.


Wondering what a “time capsule” soil is? Feeling spoiled? Comment below!

And check out the above kilted man’s blog at https://axisofcharacter.wordpress.com as he heads out into the world to tend unspoiled gardens too.

Family, Karma, Plants & People

I’ve debated writing this post for about a month now, as I don’t want to turn this blog into a soapbox, but I do want to share this perspective and get some feedback and there’s only one way to do that so, …here goes. Please forgive me if ideas presented here seem only nebulously connected. ~*

While getting my hands dirty planting applebaby and harvesting greens, I also spent much of this August cultivating my (human) family tree, attending a family reunion and discovering connections I hadn’t known of previously. In my dharma studies, one thing I’ve become more and more acutely aware of is that as my family grows and evolves, so does the extent of my shared/co-created karma. And as that awareness grows, so does my awareness of the karma I share with all beings, including those I eat. Oh how I love good food! πŸ˜€

click photo to watch!

Some months ago I (gratefully) got to see the above TED talk, scientifically proving something I’ve known all my life and that indigenous cultures have known since the dawn of humanity: trees (& other plants) talk to each other. In light of this, I feel less crazy admitting that trees also talk to me. Don’t worry, I respond, I don’t ignore them–that would be disrespectful just like it is with people. The apple trees I’ve helped raise are the children I’ll never have. I love them like family and I know they care about me. So I personally have never doubted that plants (like animals) are sentient beings. Yet, many Buddhists do. Coupled with beliefs that killing sentient beings in order to feed oneself creates bad karma, the belief that plants aren’t sentient turns vegetarianism and its stricter offshoots into ideal diets. But what if, as science now proves, plants are communicating with each other because they’re just as sentient as us? Then what’s a good-karma cultivating person to eat? And what does all this have to do with having plants in my family? Who wants to eat their relatives? πŸ˜› 

Suddenly, thinning seedlings seems eugenics-esque :-[

 Well honestly, I do. It’s precisely because I know that plants and animals are sentient that I want to eat them. Only sentience can nourish sentience. And believing this–acknowledging all beings as part of my extended sentient family–also nourishes my sense of respect and gratitude for the lives I ingest, as well as those that might or will ingest me (when I die). Basically, recognizing plants’ and other faceless beings’ sentience helps put the circle of life back into proper perspective (by re-including the “I’s”–ourselves), which Buddhist principles encourage us to do anyway.

What of my murderous karma then? Since I see my food as extended family and believe that intention is an integral part of action/karma, I consider my karma stemming from the quality of my interactions. Have I been respectful of this being’s life? Am I demonstrating my respect &/or gratitude? How best can I do that in this moment/circumstance? I believe considering these questions for all my relations–edible and huggable alike–better determines the quality of karma I create than my diet. I could be totally wrong though. πŸ™‚

What do you think? Are you willing to eat fellow sentient beings? Grateful even? Think I’m crazy or gone too far? Let me know in comments below!

Harvest therapy

swiss & rainbow chard for a local CSA
While some of my friends enjoy a little retail therapy after stressful situations, I’ve come to much prefer ‘harvest therapy’, which I was recently invited to partake in at UDC CAUSES Firebird Farm. I jumped at the chance of course(!) πŸ˜€ 

Although I couldn’t stay long, I was happy to get to harvest chard and sweet potato greens (Did you know they cook like spinach? I gotta try’em out!) for their small CSA. It was SO sweet to get dirt in my nails and mud on my jeans again! Volunteering at Firebird Farm is definitely becoming part of my weekly de-stressing routine. πŸ™‚

the view this morning between the hoop houses

Waggei finding chard amongst the sunflowers


The beautiful sunflowers were just a bonus. πŸ˜‰

Along with modes of growing that I’m pretty familiar with, Firebird Farm also has aquaponics(!) which I look forward to learning more about.

huge tanks of tilapia, being cared for…

and the plants they fertilize

Loving how one gardening opportunity leads to another πŸ˜€

How are you refilling the spaces in your life with work you love? Comment below!

Applebaby Returns to Mama!

applebaby in her new home down on the farm


Between breaking up with Shambhala (the semi-Buddhist community) and breaking up with my ex-partner, I had given up on ever seeing either of the applebabies again. Last time I was in Vermont this past January, I asked the surrounding forest to accept that applebaby into its family since I wouldn’t be comin’ around anymore. It was a tearful parting but baby trees should have tree families. 

Thankfully with this 2nd applebaby, I got it back and planted it where I’ll be able to watch it grow: my mom’s tree farm. πŸ™‚ 

It’s been growing about a foot per month since I’d last seen it; what good soil can do πŸ˜‰


Glad to have her back!

What to plant next…..?

Several Layers Later… a year of peeling

As it’s been over a year since my last post, which was about an esteemed onion, and a number of the labels or skins I wore then have since dried and fallen away, I thought the title metaphor appropriate.


Back when I pouted that onion away from its previous owner, I had a morale-crushing cubical job where every surface seemed two-dimensional and approximately the same sterile color as every other, and no one around me seemed satisfied or fulfilled. The onion plant stood out in that environment as it confidently refused to sustain any of those characteristics. The way I’d lived before I got that job. So it was an inspiring onion that gave me hope for a vibrant, more nutrient-rich future. How I would get there from the ocean of powdered milk hued cubes, I couldn’t see. Then in December, the peeling began.

First layer to go of course was the cubed (more like square) job. The office environment had become inhospitable and I really missed getting dirty by actively supporting life. The onion moved to North Carolina to retire in the south. πŸ™‚

The second layer rolled back much more unexpectedly: I left Shambhala, the semi-Buddhist community I’d been actively committed to for four years. The one that trained me in organic gardening & Dharma to begin with! I know–I was as shocked as you are, but to put it lightly in metaphor, I simply couldn’t transplant a sickly seedling into a fresh herb bed and pretend it would produce a healthy crop, then ignore it and praise its stronger growing neighbors. Ok, maybe that wasn’t so light. πŸ˜‰ I’m a bit of a soggy soil about it, because I was in love. Even so, equanimity is never far away.

some can even find equanimity staring at a pole πŸ˜‰ I’m not that enlightened yet

The third and most personal peeling away was of my partner. Some band-aids just rip themselves off and you gotta grow your own scab to finish healing. 😐 

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the applebaby we were raising together

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a haunting carving of our love; those seeds were so delicious!

And the fourth and most drawn out peeling has been the closing of my coaching business. All the websites, business cards, clients and above all my passion have dried up, especially since organic gardening took root in my heart.

So, in all the space left by the peels, I’ve been studying all the Buddhist texts I can get my hands on and volunteering to help build community gardens with the 11th Street Bridge Park and urban agriculture professionals from CAUSES out of UDC. The three community gardens I’ve worked on so far have been the highlights of my summer and I’m excited to help with more! πŸ™‚

remains of another joyfully earned blister

a local school board candidate (L) & the ED of 11th St Bridge Park review the afternoon’s accomplishments

a fellow volunteer helping fill a vertical garden; I’m learning new things πŸ™‚

Victor the gardens architect & his assistant Laura. Shoutout to Dr. Koquinda ND & Ms. Wanda in the background! :p

 

One of the smaller church gardens (11 beds), with herbs waiting to be planted

A larger church garden (76 beds!) with zucchini growing big & mulch waiting to be spread

In the meantime IΒ have been blessed to have a friend with a small herb garden for me to tend while she’s away,

and the space, encouragement and organic ingredients to make pesto,Β 

PicklesΒ 

and pumpkin curry! πŸ˜€Β 

minus the curry–the only ingredient I didn’t have! So…pumpkin stew?? chard, squash and rice make it a meal

Well, whatever it is, it’s tasty. πŸ™‚ It’s been so much fun getting to make organic and balcony-garden fresh dishes by myself! You should try it!

Have you found facets of your life peeling away over the last year? Things changing in big ways you never thought they would? But turning out much better for you after all? Tell me about it in the comments below! If you want your comment kept private just let me know. πŸ™‚

Now that I’m getting back into the dirt and not just the Dharma, I’ll probably be posting here more often. Stay peeled for more as I apply what I learned in the green mountain country to the green capital city. πŸ˜‰

An Island of Peace Garden Building in the choppy Ocean of Groundlessness Β 

Finally! As you can tell from my last two posts, I’ve been pretty anxious to get my hands back into the soil and grow stuff out in the sunshine. Well yesterday I finally washed up on green gardening shores from the concrete & cubical ocean of my life since last month. 

  the blister to prove it

I’ll be brutally honest. I’ve become pretty bitter about my life since I got a 9-5 office job inside the beltway. Business attire and 2-3 hours per day commuting in traffic just don’t have the same appeal to me as compost-stained jeans & tshirts and 5 minute barefoot walks on dirt paths, to put it mildly. I was really starting to lose my cool in the early summer weather (climate change anyone?) and despite my thoroughly air-conditioned cubical. 

What in the world was I doing with this physically groundless job? Looking for ground. 

Dharma

For the last seven years I’ve been so focused on my personal & spiritual development via facing all my fears, that ground in modern social conventions (e.g.: being an employee, dating, seeking entertainment & material possessions) had fallen further and further away from my feet. But now that I’ve faced all my greatest fears, the only thing left to do was plant myself back in Reguland (society outside of Western Buddhist communities/dharma centers) and healthfully integrate my realizations into “real life”. So I took an urban office job with a 401k, a weekly routine, and waited for stability and the comfort of people understanding what I do for a living to roll in like a biweekly paycheck. None of that happened. Instead I found myself just as groundless and uncertain as I’d been when sleeping in tents or on couches, working purely for the joyful experience of it and having no clue how I’d pay for much of anything. Only now I was frustrated because I wasn’t even enjoying my everyday life anymore. My eagerness to get back to gardening turned into desperation for

Dirt.

Gratefully, Xavier Brown of Green Scheme invited me to help start a community garden during:

 I showed up right on time according to Xavier and went straight to work.  

  

 The main part of the raised-bed garden was meant to spell LOVE but looked more like LIVE at first, which I thought was just as appropriate considering this was to be a peace garden dedicated to nurturing harmony and wellbeing in its community. 

Members of the District Running Collective, local kids and I focused on prepping the herb beds  

     

while Green Scheme guys, Vegan In The Hood and mostly men & boys from the neighborhood focused on building the Live/Love peace bed  

        and news media covered the scene. I haven’t had that many cameras flash on me since my modeling days(!) πŸ˜›

In just a handful of treasured hours we had prepped and planted 7 beds of tomatoes, cucumbers, marigolds, oregano, thyme, lavender, chives, peppers, basil and among other things, chocolate mint, πŸ˜‰ all organic and all sprouted on local farms within the city. πŸ˜€  

             

It felt so good to get dirt in my nails, have ants crawling up my arms and dig out so many wild onions,  

  I almost didn’t want it to end, but actually the timing was perfect. Children learned what seasonings are made of, runners learned to love chocolate mint and I learned to make peace with the unexpectedly groundless life I have now. It’s all  

  either way. 

Here’s to my growing as much natural confidence in the office as I do in community gardens.


Feeling like you’re on shaky ground in a seemingly stable situation? Tell me about it in comments below!