|I always smell roses when my mom is thinking of me.|
We seated ourselves at a rustic table inside a posh little Noho cafe and displayed African Elixir tea, ginger beer, carrot cake, and feta laden Greek salad in front of us.
My mom and I can't spend much time on small talk. It's boring. We go right to the gritty stuff in life. I love that about her - us.
Most of you know already that my Mama is my first herbal mentor. You can skip this paragraph if you've heard my story before. She began training me when I was very young - encapsulating chaparral powder and hoarding stevia before they were banned from the shelves. I have real-time vivid memories of these experiences which are very much based in my olfactory sense. She taught me how to use bitters for clearing up acne, how to do abhyanga. How to do Maya abdominal self massage and herbs for womb care. She helped midwife my children into the world and counseled me through marital and parental bumps. She taught me transcendental meditation, how to make nourishing soup, kombucha, creams, salves, how to talk with plant spirits, and most of what I know at my bone-deep levels about herbal medicine, potion crafting, and self-care. We continue to teach and inspire each other.
So here we sit, me at 37 and her: ageless. Her unruly red curls light up her emerald green eyes and mischievous yet honest smile. I spill my current thoughts as she listens, nods, laughs. I kvetch about not knowing the next step in my work, and about the uncertainties of life. She reminds me that our Dharma isn't always a one-terrain path ... that we can have three or four or more. That often they even seem 'different' but are actually evolutions of itself, blossoming through time. What was once my Dharma may or may not still look the same as it did, but it is not discarded or useless or disconnected. It was the previous terrain on my very own path - not separate.
Wikipedia says this about Dharma "As well as referring to Law in the universal or abstract sense dharma designates those behaviours considered necessary for the maintenance of the natural order of things. Therefore dharma may encompass ideas such as duty, vocation, religion and everything that is considered correct, proper or decent behaviour."
While Wiki's description seems to infer some degree of martyrdom, my take on it is that Dharma is about us aligning with our most whole sense of purpose and love in life, and are in alignment with our truth, values, and daily actions and spiritual practices. It is not a destination but a flow and a practice of decisions.
Perhaps the "mid-life crisis" time is an opportunity to see where your longing is leading you. Where you have left off and want to pick up. Where you are going and whether you re-commit, or change course, or integrate.
What castles have I built? Are they strong? Beautiful? Functional?
Have I considered my happiness enough?
Am I joyful and satisfied with the results of difficult sacrifices I have made - for my family, my children.... ?
Do I experience love in my life every day?
Do I see myself embracing a future deserving of my energy?
At first, when my Mama asked me (of my work evolution questionings) what in my heart spoke of my truth, my Dharma? .... I answered that I do not know, because I am living a life of choice that is not my first Dharma. That I must be deliberate because of this, and often times this is not a heart-intuitive process at all, but a heart-logical one.
Yet that is absurdity. All my accidents and my choices - even the most heart wrenchingly devastatingly difficult ones - have been rooted in Dharma. And my life is steeped in it even when I have not noticed. When I remember the hours/days I spent as a child contemplating the scent value of every product in one store, and staying up till 2am handcrafting magical herbal medicine pouches for every single girl in my class, it wasn't much less time than I spent dancing or journaling. These are the threads that make up me. And they weave ... different colors, different times, different textures.
Women are shapeshifters. Our titles are fluid, grounded, gritty, and glamorous. One day mother, vomit cleaner, poop changer - another day inspirer, herbalist, soup maker. Another ... artist, lover, dancer, community leader.
These are our fibers .... you are woven of silk and nettle and polyester and wool. I am too. I cannot expect every day to feel like the silk I wove when I was 12, or the nettle I wove clumsily at 22. And I cannot be scared to try the new fibers I see in my life.
Some have resisted seeing me move (away from more simple or common herbal products - which often times *should* cost as much as aromatic items or are one in the same as I often make) into my erogenous zone as an aromatic herbalist (do I *dare* call myself a perfumer?)
Yes I dare.
This doesn't make me less of an herbalist or more of a bitch. It makes me happy. It wakes me up in the morning.
Will I get some flack from the perfumery community? Possibly. But will I give myself less flack? Definitely.
Some may wonder why I don't teach plants and ID and more practical kinds of stuff. (I have. And I'm complete with that at the moment. And I'd prefer to assist you in making your own yarrow & comfrey simples because that's home herbalism - I don't need to sell you that, frankly. My blog continues to offer plentiful ways to make things at home.)
I'm interested in expressive and personal and sensory art. That's always been my lens and my medium. I like the abstract, mysterious, and metaphorical. I like expressing in words but much more than that, expressing what is beyond the capacity of words. I also like dirt and moss and what is feelably real.
Mostly my circumference of community totally gets it, and to be honest most of my fears are me talking to myself. I've had constructive feedback, but pretty close to nothing I would consider threatening or negative. (knock on wood), and primarily the responses I receive are beamingly gorgeous! I am grateful.
So, to dialogue with my own conscience .... I'm not leaving my gritty, dirt worshiping, weedy ways behind for the glamour of elitist perfumery..... I am doing what I fucking love more that anything in life - in this moment - and yet something that I've always done all along in one way or another as I look back through my life and creations, my aromatherapy work, my potions & plant obsessions. I'm simply daring to step into it more deliberately, more transparently, with more devotion. And it weaves beautifully in complimentary contrast to the other things I've done, been, do, and may become again someday. For now, I'm choreographing stories through my senses, stirring magic up with cordials and unguents, taking good care of the women in my memberships, and considering my goals in a much broader capacity for the near and distant future. And I'm still picking weeds on my walks and doing push ups and plies by moonlight.
While we as plant healers need not be formally hitched to letters on our names or whatever you consider to be oppressive licensure .... what we do need is to take ourselves seriously. Consider ourselves as really, legitimately, women with the capacity to be autonomous - creatively and financially.
I am following the muse, evolving, we are evolving.
It is edgy, it is beautiful, and it need not be tame or status quo.
May your path always be guided by your heart compass, fierce commitment, and sensory wisdom.
And thanks, Mama, for your indelible love, inquiring ways, and generous teaching. You inspire me to be the best me I can be, and admire the best in others.
For luscious aromatic herbal treasures, come visit my online Lair: Amrita Apothecary