A Promise to Myself
"I see life as an alchemical process - full of magic - creating and transforming by combining one's own unique elements in search of the universal gold or elixir...."
Feeling Free in Costa Rica - photograph by Scott Church
This started off as a short and sweet announcement to share my excitement about signing up for classes at the Herbal Academy last month. Then it turned into a long short story about a promise I made to myself years ago. So if you want the quick story, I’m excited to have just signed up for classes! If you want to know how that relates to the promise, the broken promise, the positive side of cancer, overcoming fears & obstacles, conditioning, and moving forward, feel free to read on..............
My Backyard - Bee Balm, Spider Webs, Mountains, & Fog
After many years of self study, practice, and experimenting, I’ve decided to take the plunge and sign up for classes at the Herbal Academy! I love learning - It's how I "try" to stay sane - continually challenging myself to grow and evolve. There is always something to learn, regardless of how long or how much you study.
My interest in herbalism began many years before I even understood or knew what that word encompassed. I am now drawn to formally study for a number of reasons. One of those reasons being that when I am ready for change, I need structure and deadlines to really focus and gauge my progress. The other is the way it relates to, compliments, and pulls together my other interests and experiences with food, art, nature, & travel. Right now I’m studying botany which is interesting and honestly a bit challenging for me but nicely balanced with drawing, wildcrafting/plant ID, and working with my summer harvest.
So......are you going to "become an herbalist"? How to answer this question? I don't care for labels and I don't care to classify myself with one word - be it artist, chef, gardener, business owner, mom, or herbalist. This method of labeling an individual in a singular manner is one of the reasons I have hesitated for so long to go back to school. The pressure to BE something - a label - intimidates and has caused me to feel somewhat anxious and confused.
My messy kitchen
Along with the pressure, confusion, and hesitation, I also feel, rejection, dismissiveness and exclusion deep in my soul. Why? Because I’ve allowed myself to be influenced by conditioning causing me to question many of my decisions, goals, and dreams. I hear the voices that have now become my own telling me I am too old, I should be focusing on one thing, I have too many interests, I keep changing my mind, I’m not following through, I don’t have the proper credentials, I'm not privileged enough. Asking questions: Where is this going?, What are you doing/thinking? Why do you feel, think, or act that way? You are too much of this and not enough of that; You should be this or you should be that; If you would have or have not done this or that - mistakes, regrets, lost hope and dreams………You get the picture right?
Although these words & thoughts are weights that hold me back, they are also catalysts for pushing me forward. Many times it’s painful, but I am grateful for these experiences because they have made me stronger and more determined to continue pursuing my dreams & goals. The voices and actions of others do not define me; they are only projections that I have translated into obstacles which can transform into motivation to accelerate moving forward and listening to my true self.
After many years, I am finally coming to terms with accepting this part of myself. The part of me who thrives on variety, learning, changing, creating and sharing from multiple interests and experiences. Although I still struggle with self-doubt and the "what ifs", I realize this IS who I am. If I want to continue moving forward, I have to embrace all of me.
Love is Everywhere
What if I would have just focused on that one thing - stuck to IT and not followed my heart/intuition/gut? Would my life have been easier? Would I be wondering “what if” I had listened to my intuition and tried something else? Well, it doesn’t really matter. It’s not who I am, so I would have never been able to sustain that lifestyle anyway.
Although others may not understand, I see the connections when I shift from one interest to another. I see the overlap, and pull inspiration and knowledge in gathering information from multiple disciplines. I see the connection between my gemological studies (many many moons ago) and studying plants. I see the connections between culinary, gardening, herbalism, wild crafting creating recipes, tonics & elixirs. I see how my art and design background relates to appreciating and creating beauty in nature, the garden and in the kitchen.
In all of these disciplines, I see the relationship to physical, emotional, and spiritual growth & healing. I see life as an alchemical process. If we listen and are aware, it can be magic........creating and transforming by combining and mixing one's own unique blend of elements to create a golden elixir of life; beauty, love, and joy .
This is my path and although I may not fully understand it, I hope to continue to listen and follow my intuition wherever it may lead. I trust that I can apply and share these elements (including future education and experiences) into creating my life, work, and most importantly - myself. I trust that I can share and hopefully inspire others to create, believe, and trust in themselves as well.
Follow the light
Sometimes I think I developed this mindset after I was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 23. A topic I don't usually talk about but decided it's time to start. At this time, I was working at a job I hated but making great money. I had finally worked up the courage to put in my notice and quit but thought it wise to utilize my benefits and get a full physical first. Ironically, because of that physical, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I ended up staying at the job until after my surgery and follow-up then immediately quit and changed my life for the better.
It was challenging financially, but I happily downsized my life. Everyone told me I was crazy to quit, “why would you quit? You make such good money AND you have benefits. They’ll pay for your education and you can have a great retirement plan.” Listen....this is conditioning, this is fear, and it takes great strength to overcome it. We “live” in denial or purely exist until we are able to break through the conditioning. Yes, I am still paying student loans and do not have a 401K but I never regret that decision (others maybe but not that one ;))
The World Upside Down
After this experience, I made a promise to myself. I promised to never stay in a situation that makes me unhappy or uncomfortable. I promised to trust and take care of myself by making a change if I found myself unhappy or discontent. I promised to stay true to myself and not feel guilty (Catholic upbringing) if I said NO to taking a path others thought would be best for me. I promised myself to always follow my dreams regardless if others told me they were not possible, I was being irresponsible, or foolish. We are all dying - every day. So why not follow our heart and be happy? Because we are conditioned and breaking through this conditioning is tough as nails.
I know because numerous times over the years I have forgotten about the promise I made to myself which has at times caused me great pain and suffering. Despite my past experience with cancer I’ve still allowed myself to become trapped in conditioning, uncomfortable situations, and circumstances based on fear; while the memory of that promise from a 20 something young woman faced with mortality is diluted and fades far into the background. The challenge becomes greater as we grow older, have more responsibilities, higher stakes, more fears.
My backyard - moon, mountain, tree sky, bird
But then…… the calling becomes so strong that it just can't be ignored. Being extremely sensitive to my surroundings and environment, I literally become physically and mentally unable to function if not in alignment with where I need to be; learning, growing, changing. This is the way my body/mind/spirit works - discontent, disappointment, dis-ease (and I’m sure your’s too). I'm usually slow to get started and sometimes it takes being knocked over the head multiple times or extreme circumstances - like developing cancer. That was a wake up call. I often wonder if I had followed my passions from the beginning would I still have ended up with the cancer? Who knows.
When I left that job it was one of the most liberating and memorable experiences of my life. It felt like pure freedom. I was naive and did not realize I could make choices that felt right for ME. I still remember the day, the place where I was walking down the street, and even what I was wearing when I experienced the feeling of liberation - pure bliss, confidence, joy. I’ve experienced that feeling 3 other times in my life because unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, I forgot about that promise I made to myself.
More backyard, mountains, sun, spiderwebs, fog
You see it is so easy to feel trapped and afraid to make changes and not follow your intuition, especially when the outline of what your life SHOULD look like has been engineered; engrained and conditioned into us as a culture. It has become a solid part of our western belief system. For most, it can be challenging to make changes; leave a job, end a toxic relationship, relocate, end or start a new adventure. Voices & questions arise: WT* am I thinking? Am I really capable of doing this? How will I pay the bills? What if I get sick? What about the kids? What if this is the wrong decision? What about retirement? I think these are some of the main fears for many of us and yes, they are realistic concerns.
However, the funny thing is, once you set the intention for change; you will begin to feel a shift as your soul slips into alignment with the your authentic, unconditioned self. Opportunities will begin to surface, it’s a matter of trust - in yourself and your purpose in life. And yes it is not always easy and it can definitely be frightening but it can also be very simply a matter of making a choice.
That being said, I’m still learning, relearning and reliving, many experiences and lessons. However, each time I break through a fear or barrier, as uncomfortable as it may feel at the time, (like putting this writing out there), I feel much closer to mastering the art of trusting and self-love; which I believe is the key to true success, and happiness.
Again, like alchemy.....if we combine and mix the perfect blend of ingredients; our passion(s), self-love, and trust; perhaps we can create some magic and transform our life into a beautiful golden elixir of peace & happiness; thriving and sharing that joy and beauty with others.
If you've read this far thank you. I hope in some small way this story may inspired you to take that step forward, try and push through the voices and doubts and believe in yourself and your dreams. It doesn't matter if it is focusing on one idea or passion or pulling together many..........it's more about acknowledging, listening, and BEING you.
What are some of the ways you have overcome obstacles in your life? I would love to hear your comments and stories : )
You can read more about my background, upcoming retreats and workshops on the website. I will also be posting more "stories" soon so if you're interested, feel free to join my mailing list at the website or follow me on Facebook at Luna Chica or Insta lunachica7.
❤︎ Luna Chica 🌙