Emotions are a subjective state of mind, we experience them, we know they are there, but emotional awareness is still alien to a lot of people. Modern busy lives have us all constantly thinking about a lot of things, but not so much about ourselves. We are slowly losing touch with our origins and intuition, we are forgetting to check-in. Can you tell me of a good ritual that we can practise to remember the wholeness of being human?
Yes, we’ve lost touch, we’ve lost our perception of connection between our body and mind. And so, good way to remember and integrate our wholeness is through touch. A ritual that can cultivate that connection could be as simple as spending 5 minutes in the morning and evening to simply use your hands and touch every part of your body, starting with the feet. Touch your feet, feel the sensation, take a full inhale and empty out the exhale. Move on to the ankles, legs, hips, belly, etc. Make your way up to your head and then finish with your heart. The important thing is not to judge any thoughts that arise, allow the thoughts to come and go, just being with the sensation of touch.
How do we find beauty in the ordinary and make it extraordinary?
Moving slow, being curious and paying attention. When we move slow we allow the body-mind to be open and receptive to new information. We allow the time for our usual way of seeing to expand and feel the beauty that is already there. For example, sitting with a cup of coffee in the morning, that could be a very ordinary thing but when we pay attention to the whole experience, the aroma, the taste, the shape and texture of the cup, the sensation of the warm of the liquid in the mouth as it travels through the throat, passed the heart and into the belly. All of this is exquisitely beautiful. It’s not that we are superimposing a quality of beauty on to it, it already exists. We just need to slow down and pay attention to it.
The world is in need of a lot of love right now, now and always to be honest. What is love? And what can we do, as a community, to translate our love into action?
Mmm. This is everything. What is love? I don’t think I can answer that in words but what I can say is that, for me, it is a dance between yearning and fulfillment. Love in action would look like following a yearning, a yearning arises out of a need, a feeling that something is missing. So, follow the yearning, perhaps it is a need for creativity because you feel that is missing, you follow it by going to a pottery class, this is action. Perhaps you create a simple imperfect bowl and you give it to a friend. This is love in action and the fulfillment of your yearning. And then another yearning arises. It is a dance. Love is presence, so even if you are not dancing, if you are simply present with whatever you are doing, whoever you are with, that is also love in action.
I know you are deeply connected to nature. I feel that, nowadays, we are becoming more and more disconnected from it. We are losing that sense of grounding and awareness. How important is it, as humans and individuals, to go back to basics and reconnect with nature and the elements?
I think of the work of Charles Eisenstein who wrote the book – The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible. We just need to imagine a world that our hearts yearn to live in to see the contrast of our actual reality clearly, that our disconnection from nature is leading towards a world that would risk the existence of whales, frogs, bees, the list goes on. Do we want to live in a world with purified air that is controlled by air purifying machines if it means we have to live in a bubble cut off from a living yet dying world? Do we want to sacrifice swimming in the ocean for swimming in a salt regulated pool? Do we want to eat nutritionally dense substances required for our biological function or do we want to pick juicy peaches and relish in the way it’s taste, texture and colour lights up our whole being? If you have not had this experience then you don’t know what you’re missing and so naturally you feel less inclined to worry about that experience not being available and less inclined to protect and cultivate it.
I’m a big fan of embracing our whole imperfect self just as we are, of celebrating the impermanence of our existence, of admiring the cracks. Imperfections are part of life and part of nature, they make us who we are. They are beauty in its more pure and raw form. What do we need to unlearn to appreciate and live a more perfectly imperfect life?
Yes! Perfectly imperfect. There is just so much to unlearn but I think the most harmful way that we maintain the narrative that we can attain perfection is through control. That looks like tension in the body and rigidity in the mind. And it comes from a lack of safety and trust, it’s not something to beat ourselves up about but rather to practise softening and opening the body. That is why I love yoga, using movement and breath to allow life to flow through me rather than gripping tightly onto how I think it should be. Journaling is also a wonderful tool to see your thoughts on paper so as to gain a more expanded perception. Finally, and perhaps the most difficult, is having open and honest conversations with others in a safe space. The more we reveal our imperfections the more others will too, and then we get to honour and validate each other. Reflecting each others pure and raw beauty.
I love the way you write and how you translate your ideas into paper. What or who inspires you? And why is inspiration so important to human connectivity?
The word inspiration has a key meaning that is directing us to our breath, our respiratory system. To inspire is to literally to take an inhale, to breathe in life. Every inhale is an opportunity to start again, every exhale is an opportunity to let go. And it’s this ebb and flow that needs to be honoured because we can’t always be ‘on’. I am inspired to live simply by walking in a natural environment, hearing the first birdsong in the morning, feeling the sunshine warmth on my skin. Getting into the greater complexities of what inspires me creatively is observing other people who are sharing their own unique gift, art and craft with the world. At the moment that’s my friends who are bravely carving their own path to form their lives into a more animistic way of living. And encouraging others to do the same through art, writing, yoga, dance, community and conversation.
How can plants save us, and the world?
I don’t know the answer to that. All I know is that from my own experience connecting with plants has saved my life, encouraged my will to live and given me drive to advocate for the natural environment. It started as a very young child, this natural connection of joy and love to be alive in this world, but it got lost and forgotten throughout my entire adolescence. The culture I grew up in not only was I not encouraged to follow this seemingly whimsical connection, but it is actively frowned upon to seek conversation with trees and be ‘away with the fairies’. I remember I had one teacher who saw this connection as a beautiful thing and she made me feel comfortable to express it to her. But until I was a young adult exploring the world I had become very numb. The magic and rich history of plant medicine is what opened the door again and that is why I feel herbal medicine and naturopathy are such important avenues to have access to in our society. They are the gateway back to remember and experience our connection with nature, and therefore our love for life. Our love for life translates into reverence for all beings and in this state of perceiving the world there is little room for harm. When you experience that nature is love and acceptance, the only appropriate response is to kneel in humble service to live in love, accepting life as it is, there is only room for healing. In other words, a connection to plants encourages the reclamation of our right to be here, to celebrate and support the wellbeing of all life.
Chantal is a herbalist and naturopath with an anthropological and yogic foundation. She is enamoured with and continually curious about plant medicine, individual and collective rituals, and mindful inquiry into our innate ability to heal.
She aspires to live a simple life. Immersed in nature, practising yoga, writing about the complexities of being human and exploring the ways we live together and alone. Observing the changing internal and external landscapes that teach us about reciprocity and perfect imperfection.
She is the co-founder of Wellington Apothecary, a botanical dispensary, herbal factory, and wellness sanctuary in the heart of Wellington that provides a holistic approach to health and wellbeing.
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