(this is part 9 of a 10-part series, a life's journey to become an herbalist observing gail faith edward's article on the subject. you can find part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4.1, part 4.2, part 5, part 6, part 7 and part 8 here.)
gail's ninth step in her ten-fold path is to be your own refuge. she says:
"Be your own refuge. OK, the Buddha said this, but it’s worth repeating! It helps to live away from the crowd. Learn to do your own thing. Dance around the rim, live on the edge. Be the center of your own universe. Attract supportive, loving people to surround you. Love them back, but keep your space. You’ll need it. You need to become who you truly are, express what is within you to be expressed. You may want to mirror the plants, but not other herbalists. Learn from others, but develop your own ways, your own formulas, your own path. Practice being yourself.
Get to know yourself. Really well. You cannot know plants or people well until you know yourself. Admit your foibles, acknowledge your strengths, and build upon your knowledge of self to extend help, love, compassion and healing to others."
i've been having a lot of fun with this one this past year! for most of my life, i have stopped short of expressing myself, allowing myself to be who i really felt i was because of disapproval from my family and some friends. over the years i misplaced those friends, most on purpose, if they didn't support me for who i was or accept me for who i was. my family wasn't so easy though.
i put up with comments that were painful, being told i looked like a circus side show or that my style was 'out' and numerous other snide comments. i started suppressing my desires and choices based on how my family would react.
and then, last year, i said, no, i screamed: ENOUGH! i wrote down my feelings in a long letter and sent it off which started a long series of replies back and forth in which nothing but silence was accomplished. but in that year, i started coming back out of my shell.
so now, i embrace myself. i no longer fight with my hair, i let it tangle, dread and love it! i dress in gypsy shabby clothing, go barefoot as long as i can stand it, i wear lots of bones, feathers and other natural objects. my house is decorated with anything we can drag in from outside...limbs, eggs, snake skins, animal skulls, dried flowers, on and on.
even my zine i write is a reflection of me. it's my interpretation of each herb, i express each herb through stories, songs, poems, crafts, recipes and more. i sketch them, draw them, paint them and add my drawings to the mix.
i am becoming my own true wild self, the self i know and love. i share this self with only my closest friends, only those who will love me and appreciate me for who. i. am.
i reject the society around me but not the community. to the community i offer my heart, my time, my knowledge and my experience through the local markets, my monthly study group and soon monthly presentations at the library. the library who asked ME to present, who accepts me, dreads and all for who i am, freely and happily.
i tell my friends and children and partner that i love them all the time. i hug, embrace, rejoice with them. i am still working on keeping that space. i have none in my house, my kids are with me all the time. even when i leave, they are usually with me. showering, using the toilet...never alone. but that will come in time i know. and in the meantime, i am learning about my weaknesses and strengths and working on changing what i want or need to change about myself to become a better person.