• Thank You, Negative Mind

    Here’s one of the handiest mental tricks I’ve ever learned.

    I was taking an Introduction to Kundalini Yoga class. In one
    session we learned about the 12 bodies. Three of them were mind-bodies. They were
    the positive mind, the neutral mind and the negative mind. Each of the three could
    be excess, deficient or in correct proportion.

    • Somebody with excess positive
      mind sees opportunities and possibilities everywhere, even when they aren’t there. Someone with deficient positive mind
      can’t see opportunities that are right in front of them.
    • Someone with excess negative mind is too focused on dangers and threats. Someone with deficient negative mind doesn’t perceive real
      risks and can be endangered as a result.
    • Someone with excess neutral mind is too preoccupied with measuring and evaluating to act. Someone with deficient neutral
      mind acts without properly evaluating the situation.

    A person who has the three
    mind bodies operating in balance and harmony can accurately perceive
    opportunities and risks and can evaluate, plan well and take action accordingly.

    Suddenly the value of the negative mind became clear within
    that context. I was already suspicious of the idea that negative is always
    negative. This framework gave me a great way to understand the importance of the
    negative. I had already come to believe that gratitude can ease most anything (even when it requires a little bit of lying-to-self.) Combining that idea with the insight I learned from this class, I learned to be grateful for my negative mind.

    “Thank you, negative mind, for looking out for me. You are a vigilant
    protector, scanning for risks and threats. I appreciate that you are taking
    care of me. Right now, I am safe. It is time for you to take a break and relax
    after all that hard work you did on my behalf. Thank you, thank you, negative
  • general principles
    Many years ago I was flipping through a magazine (I honestly can’t remember if it was a fashion magazine or Playboy or Parade or what) and there were short bios of a few women – a photo, a name, a hometown, some likes, some dislikes and a motto. I remember wondering how one comes to have a motto. I wanted one. I wrote in my journal and tried to come up with something. It didn’t work. I would write some pithy statement, but it felt like wearing someone else’s shoes, ill-fitted.

    Several years later, I realized I somehow, organically, had grown a motto: “Life is very long, there is no need to hurry. Life is very short, there is no time to waste.” I had written it unconsciously, I reminded myself of it often. It became a mental touchstone for me.

    Now I realize I have quite a list of mottos and general principles lurking inside of me. Some are crystal-clear, fully-formed. Others are still wispy, still pre-verbal concepts that don’t have just the right words yet. So I’ve given myself this writing assignment: to make and add to this list of mottos and principles that guide my practice and my understanding, and to elaborate each one. Please let me know if you want me to write one of these sooner rather than later. Eventually this post will link to an entry for each of these:

    Treat everything
    Herbs can always help
    Use what you have
    Stay in the training zone
    It’s your body
    Ask how it makes sense
    Gratitude and Loving Kindness are balms for all wounds
    A body is an ecology
    The future will come
    Check the other side
    Strengthen the observer
    Healing is an active process
    Sometimes you just need a little green noise
    Favorite metaphors: lenses
    Favorite metaphors: music
  • Newsletter
    At some point most gardeners realize they’ve planted a long-lived perennial in the wrong place. So what do you do? Prune it back, dig it up, and move it. It’ll look dormant above ground for a while – maybe even a full growing season – while it works on its roots. If it’s in a better spot, though, it’ll come back strong and be better off than it was before.
    That’s exactly how I feel right now. In 2014, I sold my house, pruned back my possessions, and transplanted myself to Berlin. I spent an entire growing season in apparent dormancy while I worked on my roots. Now I can speak and read German, more or less, and feel established in my new home.
    All spring I felt a sort of push/pull that I imagine must be how a plant feels as it buds. A tension was building inside me. I could feel myself wanting to get back into the world, but at the same time I was holding back, not quite ready yet. Then, all in a rush, I bloomed forth and quickly began to set fruit. Marketing stopped feeling like less like an onerous chore and more like an opportunity to send out a beacon, to connect with people who share the desire to make the world a healthier, happier, more nurturing place. In that spirit, I’ve made a website, a meet up group and gotten a practice space. I’ve got marketing materials and chair massage gigs. Now I’m tying it all together with that most basic of marketing tools: an email newsletter.
  • My Dream
    When I was still in Austin, my working name for it was “Lindheimer Apothecary” but now I think of it as “Berlin Herb Studio”. It’s my dream for how I’d like to focus my life’s work.

    It’s based on a place called Wesleyan Potters. From the time I was about 5 years old until after high school, I took classes there. My passion was pottery, but they also offer classes in jewelry making and weaving for adults and various arts and crafts for children. The classes are usually 8 weeks long. A student in an teen or adult class has access to a wholesale shop for supplies, a storage cubby, one class per week, and then 12 hours per week of “bench time” when they can go and work on projects independently, using excellent equipment. There are sometimes workshops, where visiting teachers share something in their area of expertise. There are also “key members” who have a key to the building and space for their own equipment. There’s a shop where members sell their work. And every year there is a winter show and festival, when the whole place gets rearranged and opened to the public for a few weeks.

    I imagine the same thing – but with herbs. It would be a certified commercial kitchen, with all of the equipment herbalists wish they had – a grinder, a tincture press, good drying racks, a label printer, a copper still. We would be able to order our supplies in bulk and save on shipping. We would build relationships with local farmers to supply us with herbs, and provide them with a dependable market. We would inspire each other and weave a web of connection between herbalists. We would offer a cost effective way for people interested in herbalism to learn and to stock their home apothecaries. We would create opportunities for budding herbalists to start their own herbal product business. We would foster a flowering of creativity in our local herbal arts. We would be multi kulti in action, sharing what we learned from grandmothers around the world. We would promote sustainable health care. Our shop would offer a dazzling array of herbal potions, infused with the collective artistry of our beloved Berlin.

    I can’t do this alone. I need lots of help. There will be a lot of paperwork involved, and I don’t want to do it. I don’t know when or where this plan will happen, but I know I have to tell the world the vision before it can come true.

    Can you see it? Does it dance before your eyes like it does mine?
  • The Cult of the Obvious
    A wonderful late summer evening on the porch, beers in hand, a friend and I chatted late into the night. I don’t remember what I’d said, but it cracked her up. One of those things that’s obvious, but that you aren’t supposed to say. “Well, I AM the high priestess of the Cult of the Obvious!” I said. Her eyes got big. “You really are, aren’t you?”

    “Are you joking?” Well, the nature of reality is hilarious. So.

    Everything is hiding in plain sight.

    I worked at a pagan shop for several years and I noticed one of the many ways to break everyone down into “two kinds of people”. There are those who are interested in the secret, arcane, hidden magic. And there are those who see wonder in what is right in front of them. Magic’s not far away for me. It’s here and here and here. It’s loosening the grip of false consciousness. It’s letting go of the lies you’ve been told, squeegeeing the third eye.

    When I was in high school, going to doctors, I remember being told “what you eat has nothing to do with acne” and “when someone has mono, there’s nothing to be done but wait” and I KNEW these things were wrong. I remember being told in science class that children don’t start to develop sexual desire until they are about 13. Am I the weirdo? No, it turns out everyone I ask says they had sexuality when they were quite young, too. Over and over, the cultural myth does not match the reality. We are constantly being gaslighted by society – made to feel crazy, alienated from ourselves, taught that our own perceptions are wrong. Most people have had some kind of mystical experience – seen a ghost, had a premonition – but we are told that these things aren’t real, that we are crazy if we experience them.

    Yes, it started as a joke, but it summarized so neatly something I’ve long felt about myself, so it stuck. It never stopped feeling right. My job is to shine a light on what is right in front of you. This is why my favorite medicines are water, honey, cinnamon, garlic, chamomile, lavender, sleep. Too obvious? Not obvious enough? Why always searching for new and improved? That’s the sickness.

    My mantra is “duh”.