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About the Author
Kate O'Hara is a freelance illustrator currently based in Reno, Nevada. She received a BFA in Illustration from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, in 2014. Her work combines intricate nature drawings with decorative hand-lettering and rich color schemes.
Read an Excerpt
Chickweed sings of bright beginnings, welcoming you to your path. Her tiny starlike flowers whisper, It's time. Not sure you're ready? No worries. Gently, she'll break cells open, renewing energy and life. Chickweed reminds you: wherever you are is a fine place to begin (she'll joyously demonstrate by tumbling from any possible place for new growth, from neglected farmstead flowerpots to abandoned urban planters). She chips away at old ideas on a foundational level, opening your internal windows to let in fresh thoughts, sloughing off what no longer serves. What's keeping you from making the changes you crave? Perhaps you've been hauling around slowly accreted insecurities or anger's quicksilver flame. See who you are without those burdens, she suggests, smiling, as she guides you to begin.
Notice the Microworld
Like many tiny treasures, Chickweed is easily overlooked. In honor of Chickweed, spend time noticing the microworld.
Sometimes it's the smallest things that make the biggest impact.
Broaden your field of attention to include the tiny cotyledons pushing up in early spring and the flecks of mica decorating the face of a boulder. Notice the myriad spots on a butterfly's wings, the tiny seedlike capsules (called sori) on the underside of a fern's leaf, the shifting colors in the sands on a beach. Listen for the small sounds: the rustle of a bird's wings and the click-clack of a squirrel breaking open acorns. In this way, you'll train yourself to pay attention to the subtler currents of not only the world around you but also your own life.
Look for Little Stars
It's easy to figure out the best way to move forward when life gives you big, flashy signposts, but it can be harder when the path seems mundane and mapped by only the smallest of lights. Chickweed reminds you to look for those small lights; her Latin name, stellaria, means "little star."
What little stars are you ignoring as you search for floodlights and fireworks?
What bright beginnings are moldering as you wish for something bigger?
Is the trail unspooling at your feet while you have your eye on a distant horizon?
"That my complicated life could be made so simple was astounding."
Cheryl Strayed, Wild
Be Yourself Daisy
Daisy comes from a huge family. Her sisters — Chamomile, Echinacea, Boneset, Elecampane, Feverfew, and Milk Thistle (to name just a few!) — are among our greatest healers. Luckily Daisy learned early on that the best way to distinguish herself was simply to be herself. So, despite her tomboy appearance, with white petals often tatty or rumpled, and her status as the most common of Medicines (she'll heal a bruise and quiet inflammation, but nothing like her cousin Arnica montana), she's a favorite guest. She persistently finds her way into our homes and gardens to remind us, over and over again, that loving ourselves as we are is the very best Medicine.
Be Kind to Yourself
If you're prone to perfectionism or wanting to be in some way special (more beautiful, more magical, smarter, or the best cook), it's hard to realize that you're already wonderful just the way you are. Daisy can help; this is her specialty.
HERE'S YOUR RITUAL: find a photo of yourself from when you were young. Why use a photo of yourself as a kid? Because it's human nature to have greater empathy for children than for adults. Use this evolutionary idiosyncrasy to your advantage as you work to develop empathy for yourself. It's easy to think kind thoughts — which is what you're going to do — when you see the child you once were. Who could be mean to that little one? Can you?
After you've chosen a cute photo of kid-you, decorate it with daisies! You can cut out photos of daisies and collage them onto the photo or use a marker and hand-draw them. Get creative, because this photo is becoming a shrine to you.
Whenever you feel like you're not enough (not good enough, rich enough, pretty enough, smart enough), pull out your photo, absorb Daisy's easy self-acceptance, and shine it into your heart.
Move toward Your Truth
Do you compare yourself to those around you, questioning your looks, intelligence, ambition, or wealth? When you're in competition with others, you're moving away from your truth and toward some artificial version of success. If no one were looking, who would you be?
GET SPECIFIC: How would you wear your hair? What would you eat? Where would you sleep? Dive deep into Daisy Medicine and unearth your true self.
Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we are.
Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
Center & Ground
This commonly cultivated forage crop feeds horses, cows, sheep, goats, and just about anything else humans keep at pasture. She plants your feet on the ground (two or four, it doesn't matter to her) while encouraging you to run a few miles or dive into that art project you've been avoiding. Red Clover wants you to get moving — in body and in spirit! She loves grounded action and will happily bolster your courage (from the Latin word cor, which means "heart") when you're acting from a strong center, so you can step out and move forward. Bold but not rash, Red Clover gets your blood up so you can show up fully.
Grounded Energy and Flow
"Grounded energy and flow" might seem like an oxymoron, but this exercise will help you feel these two forces working hand in hand.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, your arms held loosely at your sides, and your gaze focused gently forward.
Imagine a string lifting you from the top of your head and two more pulling your feet toward the center of the earth. This is yoga's Mountain pose, which will teach you the vitality of stillness.
Now add breath, inhaling all the way down to your belly and exhaling fully. This is flow.
Finally, picture Red Clover, calling her into your heart as you expand your energy.
Storms make trees take deeper roots.
Often we deplete ourselves with ungrounded bursts of energy — physical, mental, or emotional — instead of cultivating steady flow. Red Clover's gift is grounded action. She helps us harness our vitality so we can move forward with purpose.
REVIEW YOUR PAST WEEK: Can you think of any moments when you were overzealous, manic, frenzied, or overreactive? Maybe you overdid it on a hike. Perhaps you promised more than you could comfortably deliver to your boss or a friend. Maybe you felt a burst of impatience or even rage when the driver in the car in front of you slowed to a near stop before a right-hand turn, or perhaps you were fuming behind your smile as the person ahead of you in the checkout line counted out twelve dollars and eighty-seven cents in loose change.
Now, in contrast, think of a time when you acted from a grounded and centered place — that is, when you were present and measured in your action or response.
Compare the feelings from these two opposite situations. Locate them in your physical body. How does it feel within you when you are grounded, centered, and purposeful?
Look for patterns and then make a plan to keep yourself centered. Having a plan offers you an option other than reactivity!
Sweet, sweet Violet sings of sun and springtime, carpeting meadows and lawns with lush purple petals. But this glorious show is mere flirtation. Her true abundance comes in autumn when, quietly and with little fanfare, she shares her seed with the earth, setting the stage for next spring's performance. Violet has no trouble separating public from private; she knows both have their place and season. She's the gossip-column socialite who quietly works in a soup kitchen on Wednesdays, knowing life's most important work isn't always done in the public eye.
Honor Your Inner Sanctum
In Victorian homes, rooms were divided between those that were public and those that were wholly private and used only by family. In modern times, the distinctions between public and private have broken down, leading us to sometimes overshare or overexpose ourselves.
Violet whispers, Each of us has a sacred heart that needs nurturing and protection. This sacred inner sanctum is like a nursery for our deepest, most authentic self. It's here that new truths are born and, when allowed, grow strong before being armored in rationality and sent out into the world.
Honor the truths being born within you. Create an altar to your inner sanctum. Or honor it with words or breath or song. Make a promise to hold space within to grow into your truest self.
Each of us has a sacred heart that needs nurturing and protection.
Unwrapping Your Truth
Violet understands something that most of us have forgotten: it's okay to have a public face that is different from the one we wear in private. In fact, in order to deeply know ourselves, it's necessary.
You may think that you are being your true, authentic self by fully expressing each thought and feeling out in the world and sharing, well, everything. But overexposure will send truth scurrying. Befriend your truth in the quiet and dark. Become intimate with its contours and inner dimensions before you carry it out into the light.
You learn yourself one truth at a time.
What lives in your sacred heart that is yours and yours alone, or shared only with those closest to you?
Dig past your first answer and maybe even your second — sometimes we protect our inner sanctums even from ourselves.
What do you show to the world and what do you hold back? Do you overexpose yourself under the pretext of honesty?
It's okay to wear a mask as long as you know what's behind it.
Apple has been given grief since "In the beginning ...," when she learned that feeding people and teaching them to know themselves can be a dangerous thing. She became associated with snakes, shame, and fig leaves, and it's been all dance lessons, curtsies, and domestication from there. Apple is the witch of the wild wood forced to clean up and come in for tea. But a skirt and pumps can't hide her knowledge of the circling stars and cycling seasons, the deep loam of the earth and the warm weep of a summer rain. We may think that we've tamed wild Apple and brought her to heel, but even quasi-domesticated, she still gifts us with the sweetness of understanding ourselves.
Apple asks, What have you forbidden yourself?
Step into Sensation
What is self? We tend to define it narrowly as our thoughts, our relationships, or our jobs. But Apple knows that getting to know ourselves is a multidimensional process. The self begins in our physical body and everything it can feel, taste, see, hear, and smell. For this ritual, Apple asks us to focus on sensation.
Start with an apple (or any fruit or vegetable you can eat raw). Use your senses to investigate its taste, scent, feel, the sound made when the skin tears open ... But here's the trick: instead of noting your observations about the apple, note your observations about yourself observing your interactions with the apple. When you hold the apple, how and where do you feel it? Does your body focus on the sensation of the skin on your fingertips or on the weight of the apple in your hand? When you bite into the apple, where specifically on your tongue do you taste its flesh? Does the taste disappear when you swallow? Does your body feel the apple passing down your throat and into your stomach?
When you observe how your physical being interacts with the world — even in something as routine as eating an apple — you can begin to better understand and accept your whole self.
We try to tame things that scare us. Self-knowledge is no different. We hide our deep wisdom, our intuition, our needs and desires, under a layer of enculturation, refusing to acknowledge what we consider inappropriate or grandiose. These hidden knowings and longings are snakes in the garden, the susurrus of knowledge trying to wake us up.
Do you stifle your body when it wants to move in certain ways? Do you choke back your voice when it wants to chant or sing? Do you eat what you're supposed to instead of what your body craves? Do you listen to the quiet voice of your intuition?
Do you have thoughts that feel like snakes in the garden, pointing you toward embarrassing or dark truths?
(If you're having trouble finding what's hidden, start by recalling the last time you felt ashamed, insecure, or out of integrity with yourself.)
Knowledge is a knife that cuts both ways. It can be self-conscious and used to beat yourself into submission. Or it can be self-aware, used to rejoice in the incredible creation you are. How can you both know and love yourself?
Clear the Way
Life can be sticky. Members of the Sage clan have been used in a multitude of cultures for clearing the invisible wisps of energy that cling, barnacle-like, to people and places. Whether you think of those energies as your own spent emotions or the leftover emanations of someone else's, Sage can help you make your peace and move on. Sage is sacred because it clears the way, creating a blank canvas and an open path, allowing you the opportunity to reach your full potential. Sage's appearance tells you that a block needs to be cleared (whether you can name it or not) so you can move forward.
Smudging uses smoke from Sage, Cedar, Palo Santo, Sweetgrass, and other culturally important plants as a blessing or way of clearing negative energy. It does for your energy field what hitting the reset button does for your computer.
The ancients believed that burning released the plant's spirit so it could assist us in keeping the air clear of emotions and emanations of illness. Modern science shows that Sage smoke contains volatile compounds that kill airborne bacteria ... and so the ancient and modern align!
Even if you've smudged a zillion times before, smudge regularly. You can use White Sage or culinary Sage (Salvia officinalis), which both Celtic and Middle Eastern cultures have used for this purpose.
SMUDGING IS SIMPLE TO DO: Take either a bundle or a loose piece of Sage, light it, and then tamp out the actual flame so the leaves are smoldering and smoking. Move the Sage around your body or home so the smoke touches everything. If you're smudging a person, be sure to pass smoke over the palms of the hands, because that's where we make contact with other people.
Modern psychology teaches that we need to understand our emotions before we can release them. In contrast, traditional healing and shamanic practices offer release without conscious, cognitive awareness. When you smudge you're taking advantage of the latter, letting the smoke lift away whatever isn't serving your path in life. Check in with yourself.
Are you willing to release without analyzing?
The Four Elements
When I smudge, I like to use a seashell to catch the ash and a feather as a fan. This allows me to represent the four elements in my ritual:
Sage = earth Feather = air Flame = fire Shell = water
Excerpted from "The Illustrated Herbiary"
Copyright © 2018 Maia Toll.
Excerpted by permission of Storey Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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