Embodied Elements Series: The Earth Element & Nourishing Our Dark Centers
35:14The migrating birds know. The slowing, dying bumble bees know. The gnarled, wild pear tree knows, its fruit thumping to the earth. Something has been released, a heaviness is settling into our limbs, the tree’s limbs, the earth’s limbs. The cosmic axis has shifted, moving us into what is potentially one of the most challenging transitions of the seasonal wheel. In this episode we explore all things Earth Element: in our bodies, in our minds, how have we been digesting our world? We also wonder... What do our animal bodies know about this time of year. How does the Earth element live in us? How can we take our cues on how to live from the more-than-human beings around us? How might we be more discerning about our digestion and what is truly nourishing? How does looping, excessive thinking, or worry act as a psychological knottniness, not only in our minds but also within our bodies? How does the Earth element help us better know how to love, nourish, and mother ourselves? What does soul soaked deep nourishment feels like, and how do we really get ourselves full? Mentioned Book: Braiding Sweetgrass (for Young Adults) by Robin Wall Kimmerer, Monique Gray Smith, Nicole Neidhardt Five Element Resources: Rhythms of Change by Mary Saunders Five Spirits by Lorie Dechar In Our Element by Lindsay Fauntleroy Earth Element Resources: Mindful Eating by Jan Chozen Bays Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life by Thich Nhat Hanh Radical Compassion: Learning to Love Yourself and the World with the Practice of RAIN by Tara Brach Fire Spirit Question: The spirit question of the Earth element asks: What does it mean to nourish ourselves well?
Ecotherapy & Reclaiming Our Wholeness: A Conversation with Beth Stephens about Holding Ourselves in All That it Means to Be Human [Episode 29]
1:05:58I’d call it Beth Stephens superpower: creating spaces that help women cherish the messy, mucky, imperfect wholeness of themselves. As an Ecopyschologist, Beth guides women through journeys of deep self-inquiry, working with nature while remembering themselves as a part of nature. Our conversation beautifully weaves through questions such as, why are we humans the only species who seem to have forgotten their essential completeness and what does it mean to get out of our own way so that mystery can dream through us? These inquiries were quite slippery, but I felt like Beth did a beautiful job allowing them the complexity and respect they required. Here are a few more highlights from our conversation: Beth grounds us in place at her home in Suffolk, a land of flat marshes, vast skies, salt-licked trees and raw coastline. One of the reasons she loves this place so much is because “it is a land that does not give up her stories easily.” Mystery and melancholy palpably linger in the many layers of battle history and suppressed sacred sites that live deep in the ground of Suffolk. Ecotherapy is “a journey that invites people to reconnect with their wholeness, exploring all that it means to be human and reclaiming any parts we may have banished in order to fit into Western culture.” Ecotherapy may involve eco-somatic practices, creative expression, dream work, conversations with other-than-humans, or working with archetypes and deep imagery. Returning to the muck and the mess of our earthly entanglements is a relief; we can finally relax into our lives as they are. What a relief to stop all of the striving and instead allow ourselves grace in the disordered complexity. Here there is a deep honoring of the authenticity of nature and of ourselves being a part of nature. When we court Mystery, we see everything as an expression of Earth’s dreaming. Perhaps we can practice getting out of our own way and allow Mystery to dream through us, the same way it dreams through Oak, Snake, Thrush, and all of the rest of life. More about Beth Stephens: Nature in Mind: Beth's website Ecotherapy: 1-1 ecotherapy for all humans Rewilding for Women IG nature_in_mind Natural Academy: accredited training in Ecopsychology (and Beth's alma mater) Resouces: Kendra’s Book Recommendations Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche by Bill Plotkin Wild Mind: A Field Guide to the Human Psyche by Bill Plotkin Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind edited by Theodore Roszak
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The Embodied Elements: The Fire Element & Deepening Our Intimacy with All of Life [Episode 28]
33:27It may be the longest journey we ever take- those 18 inches between our heads and our hearts. Here in the Fire elemental season, we can find new dimensions of healing through heart connection and widening our sense of relational intimacy with everything around us. But summer themes of full unfurling are mixed with emotionally-intelligent discernment so that our hearts are able to use their deepest sense of knowing, responding well to each individual moment. This prevents the over-extending, boundary-leaking, or over-consuming that can sometimes happen when we are swept away by the natural enthusiasm of summer spell-making. In this exploration of the Fire Element / Summer Season / Heart Energy, we wonder: What do our animal bodies already know about summer? How does it live in us? How do we embody the archetype of Fire in all of its expressions of peak aliveness? How can our hearts open more fully in eco-adoration, waking us up through joy and relatedness? With a healthy Heart spirit, our authentic self moves us to honestly communicate the needs and knowing of ourselves to others. There is even more heart-deliciousness in this episode as I tell a story about enormous ladles, starlight and our cosmic essence. Oh, and the kindled magic of fireflies is in there too. It is my hope that in these explorations you are reminded to love and love and love some more and in doing so, remember to let everything love you back. Mentioned Books: Kigo: Exploring the Spiritual Essence of Acupuncture Points Through the Changing Seasons by Lorie Dechar The Secret Teachings of Plants: the Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature by Stephen Harrod Buhner Five Element Resources: Rhythms of Change by Mary Saunders Five Spirits by Lorie Eve Dechar Heart Element Resources: Deep Listening Heart Coherence Meditation Integral Anatomy with Gil Hedley: Look for the video called "Unwinding the Heart Center" Fire Spirit Question: How are you expressing your truest self, and in turn, your truest joy?
Regenerative Partnering with Nature: A Conversation with Chara Armon about Moving Beyond Eco-Anxiety [Episode 27]
1:02:42Perhaps our human worry is the last thing the earth needs at these trickster crossroads. This is the core inquiry of Chara Armon, PhD., founder of The School for Humans and Earth: how can we actively move from eco-anxiety to eco-inspiration? Because how we view life on this planet and our place within it as human beings, directly determines how we choose to contribute or not. With a dash of neuroscience, a sprinkling of informed optimism, and a wallop of animist celebration, our conversation is an exploration into how humans might still be good medicine for this planet. Here are a few of the highlights: We explore some of the mysteries of what it means to “feel at home,” and how it’s entirely possible for home to be small, local, and delicately close while at the same time varied, vast, and shared by many places, even the entire planet Earth. Our nervous systems are entrained to the earth and vice versa. In this way, our individual flourishing is intertwined with the Earth’s flourishing. Perhaps one of the most radical acts we can make is to use our love and creativity instead of fear and extinction-mongering to lead us forward. When we feel hopeful about our future we are more likely to take action or feel motivated to explore how we can hold a frequency of regeneration. It is from the seeds of animism that all world religions have grown. When we feel into our animist roots, it’s surprisingly pleasurable and intrinsically sane. More about Chara Armon, PhD.: The School for Humans & Earth Podcast Courses & Programs Resources: Kendra’s Book Recommendations Christian Kyriacou- the House Whisperer Gaia Alchemy: the Reuniting of Science, Psyche, and Soul by Stephan Harding Animate Earth: Science, Intuition and Gaia by Stephan Harding Native Science: Natural Laws of Interdependence by Gregory Cajete *I don't love supporting Amazon but at least these links offer all of the book's information so that you might find them elsewhere.
A Wild, Undomesticated Heart: A conversation with Jen Hudziec about the Intimacies of Summer [Episode 26]
1:07:57In celebration of the summer solstice, End of Life Doula, Ancestral Lineage Repair Practitioner, and Ritualist, Jen Hudziec is back on the podcast to talk about the unabashed sensuality of summer, the joy of loving and being loved back by the living world, and using pleasure as an essential earth-honoring skill. Jen also shares some of her insights and experiences as a Fire Walk instructor, working with fire as an ancestor who demands our full dedication and attention. At the end of our conversation, Jen guides us in a beautiful summer solstice meditation. Here are the highlights: Skin of the earth, skin of our bodies, skin on skin, Jen’s body-felt sense of summer and its sensorial pleasure arises in liberation! Not just a freedom from all of the layers of winter clothes but also in deepening her relationship with the fluid, floating, levity of water. Co-opted by our hyper-sexualized culture, Jen describes her experience of freeing pleasure from only being equated with sexuality. Her personal shift came through a relationship with the Divine Feminine, when she began to experience true intimacy as beginning from within to then be shared outwards. Jen describes the pivotal moment in a Fire Walk ritual when an essential inquiry comes forward: Who is going to help you make it across? Are you going to try and go it alone or are you going to invoke the help of the people in your lineage who know fire intimately? Peering into their erotic inner worlds, flowers bring forward a certain kind of glorious witchery this time of year. Now we better understand that flowers aren’t just attracting bees by their colors and smell but also by their electromagnetic fields. So the really exciting part is when we start to tune into how our fields and those of the beings around us come into coherence with each other. Having descended from ancestors who were domesticated, who taught us to domesticate the land around us, domesticate our food growing methods, domesticate our bodies, even domesticate our hearts, Jen explores the question of what it means to have a wild, free, undomesticated heart. More About Jen Hudziec: Ancestral Pathways Solstice Fire Walk Dreaming into Death- 6 week series Resources: Kendra's Book Recommendation List The Secret Teachings of Plants: the Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature by Stephen Harrod Buhner Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good by Adrienne Maree Brown Matter and Desire: An Erotic Ecology by Andreas Weber
Ecofluency: A Conversation with Saskia von Diest about Co-creation & Communication with Nature [Episode 25]
1:05:16In the latest episode of the Woman Who Rubs the Mountain, Nature communication consultant, teacher, and facilitator, Dr. Saskia von Diest, shares her story of shifting from her PhD in plant pathology to postdoctoral research investigations of intuitive farming. With the guidance of the living world around her, she created a term to describe a deeper way of knowing - Ecofluency. Perhaps it is the most critical skill we can develop as humans, the ability to sit in dialogue and ask the Earth directly: what is needed at this moment on the planet? Because it's only when we ask and listen with more of ourselves, that we really begin to understand what nature truly needs. With eloquence and thoughtfulness, Saskia shares her love of Ecofluency with us. Here are the highlights from our conversation: Saskia begins by introducing us to the dramatic thunderstorms and mountains where she grew up in South Africa, where she felt most at home nestled up with warm rocks, “cuddling the landscape.” When she lived in the UK later as an adult, she learned to find a different kind of intimacy with the forests, springs, and stone circles, engaging the plant kingdom for help in creating new kinds of relationship with Nature. After a personal experience with animal communication rocked her world during her PhD studies, she embarked on postdoctoral research into how farmers use intuitive communication with nature to inform their practical management decisions. This is when she began to discover the power of two-way dialogue: with open-hearted communication, we can negotiate agreements, create treaties, or set plans of intent, even with more-than-human beings that we consider problematic. Saskia explains the etymology of Ecofluency as ‘eco,’ coming from the Greek for ‘house’ or ‘habitation,’ and ‘fluency’ coming from the Latin for ‘free-flowing’ or ‘relaxed.’ Ecofluency has a quality of gentle fluidity: how relaxed can we be with ourselves and on our home, planet Earth? Without even realizing it, we are ‘enmicrobed' (von Diest) by the landscape where we live, swapping DNA with the microbes and on a cellular level becoming part of the land. When we travel or share space between many places, we can adjust more quickly by drinking from local (clean) waterways, eating native greens or herbs, making physical contact with the soil and trees, or consciously allowing our energy field to be grounded to that place. The changes that are needed in the world require innovative thinking, or as one of Saskia’s academic mentors says, “The only way we are going to know where the line between possible and impossible lies, is by venturing into the impossible.” Saskia describes some of the challenges she encountered being in an academic environment as she became more interested in plant communication and how these interests seemed to threaten the core worldview of some, especially in academia. Taking up American psychologist James Hillman’s inquiry, Saskia explores the open-ended (and vast) question of “where do I begin and end?” While acknowledging the necessity of having boundaries, she considers the many ways we might expand our ideas of self and other. More on Ecofluency: Ecofluency Website Upcoming Courses & Teachings Resources: Other voices in the field of Nature communication Dr. Patrick MacManaway Jim Conroy & Basia Alexander Stephen Harrod Buhner Lyla June Johnston Subtle Agroecologies: Farming with the Hidden Half of Nature by Dr. Julia Wright Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm by Stephen Harrod Buhner The Secret Teachings of Plants by Stephen Harrod Buhner Kendra’s Book Recommendation List
The Stories of Everything: A Conversation with Carina Lyall about Hearing the Many Truths [Episode 24]
57:12It was a joy to lean in with the host of the Becoming Nature podcast, Carina Lyall. Our conversation easily flowed between squirrel games (spoiler alert, they want all the walnuts), how certain stories come straight from the Earth, and the relief of physically/mentally de-centering ourselves when we are outside. My favorite part of our conversation was when Carina described storytelling as the “wildest sense of truth-telling.” Even when we don’t know the old stories of the land where we live, we can know the many smaller truths of the beings around us. Sparrow has his truth, Violet her truth, Hawthorn has their truth of what it is like to be in the world. We can practice letting ourselves be opened wide by more truths than answers. I really appreciated Carina’s thoughtful presence and the way she resists rushing through to simpler answers. Here are some of the highlights from our conversation: A closeness stirs in the mornings as Carina and her family watch papa Pheasant and his family from their window. An intimacy is created as they know his routine and he knows theirs. Games with squirrels! Carina leaves them spirals of walnuts and chestnuts just to playfully explore what they love the most. Some stories were never man-made. Stories that arose directly from the Earth bring forth the “wildest sense of truth-telling… Just as we can’t hurry to tie nature down, we can’t hurry to tie a story down.” Carina’s class, ‘How to Become Invisible in a World that Demands to See Everything’ was created through the inquiry of “what might happen if I become part of the land and just shut up for a moment. What else in me or around me would have a chance to speak?” Only 2% of the land in Denmark is undomesticated, but even while laying on this domesticated land, acts of wildness are happening everywhere, becoming a great mirror for what wildness we humans might allow within ourselves. Carina talks about the tension of needing to always be an expert or have something to say online while also sometimes needing to close her window into the world. She grounds herself with the inquiry of “where can I actually have an impact?” “The environment doesn’t need our protection, it needs our right relationship to it.” This quote from Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio seemed to sum everything up for us in the end. Carina Lyall: Website Becoming Nature Podcast How To Become Invisible in a World That Demands to See Everything - Free Course Resources: Kendra's recommended reading Emergence Magazine Smoke hole by Martin Shaw The School of Mythopoetics
The Land Knows You Better Than You Know Yourself [Episode 23]
56:44Paths lead us forward in acts of collective mark-making, while also leading us backwards into memory, as well as inwards, deeper into ourselves. In this one-year anniversary episode of the Woman Who Rubs the Mountain podcast, I reflect on this sense of pressing into the place where we live, all the while exposing overlapping intimacies between personal story and land story. This episode brings a deep curiosity to why we live where we do (out of all the places on the planet, why here?) And in what ways does this land already know who we are, what we could be, what we are moving towards? I never seem to tire of these inquiries around place and how the land itself is dreaming us into being. Here are a few of the highlights from this episode: I begin with a little storytelling about the namesake of the podcast, and how the constitution and personality of this Mountain where I live seems to expose quite a bit about my own. Every place I’ve lived has taught me a lesson or guided me in some way. “Places, above all, reflect us back to ourselves. More than this, they teach us the many ways we might become in the world.” (Blackie) What does “rubbing” mean (this has been the most popular question about the podcast so far). We explore experiences of eco-intimacy, practices in call-and-response, and noticing all the overlapping closeness, all that is trying to rub against us. Just by moving our bodies in space we are pressing into the places we live, path-making in a way. We explore the rich history of creating trails, wondering what we are leaving in our wakes. And in return, how are the landscapes where we live pressing on us, living through us, creating passageways through our hearts and psyches? "Thin places" draw me, places where the borders grow delicate and porous and we might feel a little closer to something much larger than ourselves. Let us make a continued effort to invite the land, fungi, trees and so on, into the conversation, conversations about everything, but perhaps particularly about what matters most at this moment on this changing planet, matters of harm and reconciliation, matters of bone level meaning. May we love and be loved in this continued homecoming with the place where we are. And you can keep this podcast healthy and well-nourished by leaving a review or subscribing to the podcast on-goingly from whatever your preferred listening source is. Please spread the word. You can always listen to past podcast episodes, send me a comment or story, or learn more about my work in general by going to kendraward.com. Resources: Mirrors in the Earth by Asia Suler Thin Places: A Natural History of Healing and Home by Kerri ni Dochartaigh The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot by Robert Macfarlane Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature by J. Drew Lanham
The Embodied Elements: Indulging Our Chlorophyll Reveries [Episode 22]
34:44It’s been an entire turn of the seasonal wheel since the podcast began and I am excited to spiral back to the Embodied Elements Series with you. By embodied elements I am wondering, how is the season and its corresponding change in landscape arising within your inner landscape? What energies are rousing in the land where you live and how are they emerging through your heart and psyche? Right now we are smack dab in Liver energy/ Wood element/ spring season and our clever body knowing doesn’t need to be an expert in theoretical ideas about the Five Elements because it already knows spring. We know spring's musk of hope, its innovative shades of green, the optimistic potential it brings in every blooming flower. And we feel this in our flesh: a desire to move, to shake off the accumulated heaviness of winter, and to let a vulnerable hope penetrate the spaces between our ribs. These explorations blend the old knowings of the Five Elements (specifically the Wood element), observations of local vegetative expressions of spring, and honoring the mysteries of our fleshy wilds. Some of the themes we contemplate are: the bright awakening of our senses. Suddenly our noses and ears work again after the endless low tones of winter. the essential push-pull nature of spring which shows up in the weather but also in the tension between hope and hopelessness, or knowing when to rest and when to risk ourselves. the exuberance of spring as it tries to convince us of a requisite industriousness, but when we move like a sprout, entering the archaic wholeness of life, growth occurs with less efforting, less squeeze, more shiver. the simultaneously longing for the growth, freedom, clear vision, and healthy initiation of spring while also feeling the pressure and fatigue of needing to accomplish another personal re-birth. how our bodies already know bark, sprout, bud, chlorophyll longings and wise rootlings. Bark seems so hard, so permanent, but it is growing, malleable, porous, kind of like our own bones. Both our bones and bark hold scars and memories of a life lived. None of these explorations are done in a vacuum by us as single individuals but instead we are enmeshed within a wider community of support. So instead of trying to go it alone, we reach out for help, initiating conversation with the wisest teachers of the Wood element: the Tree families where we live. My hope is that these inquiries into our inner and outer terrains allow us to feel increasingly woven into the verdant fabric of the living world. Tree Books: Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake Conversations with Trees by Stephanie Kaza The Forest Unseen by David George Haskell The Songs of Trees by David George Haskell Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard Five Element Resources: In Our Element by Lindsay Fauntleroy Five Spirits by Lorie Eve Dechar Liver Element Resources: Shaking Qi gong Ho’oponopono (for release and forgiveness) All kinds of breathing exercises Wood Spirit Question: How do we grow through our lives and into our soul’s full expression? "Our bodies are pieces of wild earth that never leave us." Robert Macfarlane
Protecting Our Inner and Outer Wilds: A Conversation with Vanessa Chakour [Episode 21]
47:33From a young age, author and herbalist Vanessa Chakour was struck by the archetype of Artemis as the original land protector and environmental activist. In her book, Awakening Artemis, Vanessa skillfully tells her personal story through a healing mandala of herbalism, plant lore, and eco-warriorship. In this latest episode of the Woman Who Rubs the Mountain, Vanessa further explains her draw to Artemis and all things misunderstood in nature, particularly weeds and wolves. Vanessa also gives us all of the exciting details of her burgeoning love affair as the land steward of a place called Mt. Owen Forest Sanctuary, which will be a refuge for plants, wildlife and humans alike. Here are some of the highlights from our conversation: Vanessa speaks to the affinity she has had to wolves since she was young. Supposedly dogs are “man’s best friend” and yet we persecute their ancestors, denying them their place as ecological stewards in their own right, upholding an essential balance within the landscape. Our culture maligns so called “weeds” because they are everywhere and no longer hold any perceived value for us. Vanessa speaks to one of her favorite weeds, Mugwort (or Artemisia Vulgaris), its connection to Artemis, as well as its talents at inciting labor and enhancing dreaming. Mugwort also subversively loves to grow as an edge-walker, acting as a boundary between wild and more domesticated spaces. There are love affairs all around us in plain sight, such as Chaga and Birch or Monarch and Milkweed. It takes a certain courage to be that vulnerable, to feel like we can’t live without that other being, whether we are human, animal, or plant. Are we brave enough to let ourselves be consumed, let go and fully fall in love? Many United States history books still promote an idea of “pristine wilderness:” that much of the US was untouched and free for the taking. This myth of intentional erasure not only denies the existence of the First Peoples but it also ignores the on-going relationship building they had with the land: tending, gardening, pruning, planting, using fire, etc. Instead of further promoting this idea of “no impact on land,” we can tune in to our essential role as humans and the positive impacts we might have. In certain landscapes there is a growing tension between nostalgia and how the land wants to evolve. By listening better, we can adapt to the way the land is shifting instead of clinging to nostalgia or our unconscious agendas. Vanessa Chakour is an author, visual artist, herbalist, naturalist, former pro-boxer, and environmental activist. She is the founder of Sacred Warrior whose mission is to deepen relationships with ourselves and the environment. Her recent book, Awakening Artemis, shares her journey of healing through the lens of 24 medicinal plants. Her new book, Earthly Bodies: Embracing Our Animal Nature will be published by Penguin Life in 2024. Vanessa Chakour: Awakening Artemis: Deepening Intimacy with the Living Earth and Reclaiming Our Wild Nature Rewilding Through Writing: A 5-week online workshop Weeds, Wolves & Wild Women substack Mt. Owen Forest Sanctuary Resources: Vanessa's book recommendations at Bookshop.org Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes If Women Rose Rooted by Sharon Blackie Reclaiming the Wild Soul: How Earth’s Landscapes Restore Us to Wholeness by Mary Reynolds Thompson The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World by David Abram We Are the ARK: Returning Our Gardens to Their True Nature Through Acts of Restorative Kindness by Mary Reynolds