2021 was a hard year for many people. The pandemic has taken many things from us and has caused much stress in our lives. As we continue to move forward through it, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on what 2021 meant to me, and what it brought me in terms of my journey.
The biggest challenge I have faced in 2021 is finding a balance between the herbal path that I have been trying to cultivate for myself and the pagan spirituality that I have also been attempting to cultivate. Luckily the two are by no means mutually exclusive, but I had been trying to separate the two in my practice with the thought process that I would be more accepted as an herbalist if the spiritual aspects of my practice were not as public. I have found that thought process to be unsustainable, and I am currently working on finding some balance between my pagan spirituality and my herbal practice. Of course, herbalism can be practiced without the spiritual aspects involved, but herbalism at its root is a very pagan endeavor, from building relationships and connections with the plants to working in relationship with the plants to heal aspects of the human. To separate these aspects is like cutting off the head of an organism; it just doesn’t have the same type of life (or any life at all) without that part of itself.
This blog was created so that I could write about aspects of my herbal practice, but will also now include aspects of my spiritual journey as well. That is one of the ways that I am striving to be kind to myself moving forward in 2022. And that is what this blog is all about, how we can be kind to ourselves.
Big Take-Aways from 2021
I had several instances of “lightbulb moments” in 2021 that helped to shape my views moving forward. The biggest one was:
In the end, when you strip everything else away, the only thing that matters is this soul, and the only thing left is nature.Spirit to Me, 2021
This came to me a few months ago. At different intervals throughout my spiritual journey, I have had this vision of different systems laid down upon this thing we call life: the system of politics, the system of economics, the systems of religion, and many other systems that are out there. Underlying those systems is life. If any of those systems were to collapse, life would go on. Our souls would still live.
These systems have affected nature by beating it down, trying to bring it under submission to humans. But the reality is that if any of these systems collapse, nature will spring back stronger than ever. We saw evidence of this when the world went under lock down in 2020, when humans retreated into their homes and nature took advantage of the fact that humans were not scurrying around like ants to uphold those systems.
Recently I found myself sitting at a stoplight on my way home from work one evening. While this scenario does happen every day, on this particular day the fact that it was completely dark outside became the focus of my thoughts. I live pretty close to a shopping center, so of course the streets are lit pretty heavily with street lights and there is a lot of traffic in the area. I found myself imagining the area without any street lights, how dark it would be. If it were that dark, would all of the people would be out? I had to think that they probably would not be, that they would all be in their homes with their lights and their comforts. And it brought into sharp focus how much we humans have worked to shape the world into the image that we want it to be, and how much of a role that capitalism has played in that shaping. We attempt to stave off the dark as much as possible, to make our day last as long as possible so that people can buy and sell and productivity can last as long as possible each and every day. I was struck by how much we have moved away from the natural rhythms and cycles of the earth by putting artificial lighting in as many places as we can. Is it any wonder that people experience problems sleeping at night when you take into consideration how much we have tried to banish the darkness from our lives?
Everything In Balance
Our capitalistic economic system tries to get us to buy into many ideas so that we will spend our hard-earned money on perpetuating them. Ideas such as what constitutes beauty in the male and female form contributes directly to the diet, health and wellness cultures, as well as the cosmetics industry. The idea that you must be productive at any cost contributes to upholding our capitalist economy as a whole. I recently stepped onto my soap box at work and voiced dismay that the pandemic has not eased any company’s policies related to productivity and the employee’s attendance at their job. My day job is in child care right now, and there are so many parents out there that face the risk of losing their jobs because of exposures to COVID. I feel for those parents because no one should feel that helpless in the face of something that they have no control over. In the child care field, one exposure by a teacher or a child can close down an entire classroom and affect many families for days. Since their child can’t go to daycare, they lose money from not being able to work and also risk losing their job. Rather than companies working to change policies or rethinking how people work in this culture, we are looking at decreased quarantine times that could potentially run the risk of exposing more individuals. (I’m not an expert on COVID contagion times by any stretch but as someone who has worked on the front lines this entire time, a change of quarantine from 10 to 5 days feels kind of risky.)
Balance is something that I have been striving toward in my own life ever since I went through burnout. I have noticed so many areas of my own life where balance was needed. Being of our culture, I had that “productivity at any cost” mindset for much of my working life, and even worked to make myself as “marketable” as possible during the first part of my child care career. I have since become more in tune with myself and my body and have recognized the need for breaks and rest in order to help cultivate balance in my life. I have also shifted my focus so that work is not the top priority in my life as it once was. I am much more focused on home, family, and my herbalism studies now (and I also make sure that my herbalism studies are not commanding all of my attention like my early childhood studies once did).
I have found the concept of balance making its way into my herbal medicine making practice as well. I tend to be very liberal in my use of herbs in my tea and I have begun to see how that can be detrimental to the herbs being able to do their work in the body. Herbs can help bring balance to a body out of balance, but if too much of an herb with a specific energetic profile is used, it can pull the body out of balance and make illnesses or conditions worse. So that concept of balance is working its way through all aspects of my life, from my work to my spirituality to my herbalism practice.
My Life and Social Media
In 2019 I started to intentionally spend less time on social media. I immediately noticed that my anxiety and overall stress level went down. I stopped scrolling incessantly on Facebook in 2020. But I was still incessantly scrolling through Instagram.
I noticed that when I was on Instagram, I was focusing so much on what other people were accomplishing that I was not able to concentrate on what I wanted to accomplish. I love Instagram and looking at what other people are accomplishing, but not at the expense of what I want to accomplish. So I took an extended break from Instagram as well. Since ridding myself of social media distractions, I have been able to focus on the things that I want to accomplish.
I have so many plans and goals for 2022. I want to finish the herbal course that I started this year. I want to learn about several new herbs that I can add to my herbal toolbox. And I want to grow in my spirituality, marrying it with my herbal practice any way I can.
In the tarot, 2022 is a Lover’s year (2+0+2+2=6; The Lovers is the 6th card of the Major Arcana). Typically when people think of the Lover’s card, they think about relationships with other people. This is not a realistic way of looking at this card, though, because someone may not have a romantic relationship with someone else to base this card on. The Lovers is about showing yourself love and compassion, giving yourself care when needed. It is about paying attention to what we are projecting onto other people, because that can give us clues about where we need to make changes in order to live a more fulfilling life. That will be the theme of this year, and will serve as a starting point for forward movement and reflection this coming year.
Happy New Year to everyone. I hope that 2022 is a year of growth and fulfillment for everyone.