The end of the outbreath

She arrived in a snow storm. Carefully carried home by my sister as the roads slickened with ice. I found her by the grace of god and internet searching. What a world we have been brought into. Quiet as a church mouse was the description the shelter gave her, and a sweet, sweet demeanor. No physical abuse, only abandoned. Her brother, too.

My beloveds backed my readiness for raising this young pup of 3 months. With muddy paws and seal whiskers, she was called Bella. Beauty. Like the way the autumn sun hits the bright red leaves at the most beautiful angle illuminating the ordinary. She was extraordinary. All love this one precious soul.

Placing her paws one at a time into your hands as she greeted you. Person, oh, yes, let’s connect. She pulled people into her love and wrapped them with soft nose kisses. Intelligent as can be. She learned to sit, down, stay, and come in less than two weeks. She was hungry for more ways to obey my voice, which was an invisible leash, or a bond between us. When she listened to me, she was safe. When she ignored my call, it was only for a short while because she knew her importance in the pack of us wild wolves of Windy Hollow.

Two days before she knew me there was Greg and 15 other pack members, maybe 20 including the other dogs. She stayed in the pack, hiking over streams and thick meadows, smelling the life inside each rodent hole.

I dismantled the crate and lay down a sheepskin at the foot of my bed for her. She did not cry at night any longer. She was home, with me, and we found each other, and that is all that mattered. I woke in the morning with her little nose nudging the side of the bed. She never jumped up, only wanted to be the first spirit to greet me for the new day.

It took her several weeks to learn to love walks. To trust that walks out back meant we were going for pleasure, always to return home. She gathered dozens of ticks, dug up holes, leaped over the brook not always making it entirely, her hind legs sopping wet. She shook off the water and sprinted up the hill to the greening pasture. She always knew the path home. And when she was ready, she would take it regardless of where I was, waiting in front of the barn. I learned to love her love for the comfort of home.

Bella Luna was the name she grew into during a visit with family. Only a few minutes with her light and they heard her name in full. Beautiful Moon. We joked that when she’s gone someday we’ll look up at the moon and there she’ll be. We did not know at that time she would make that departure sooner than we’d like.

She taught me to open my heart even when I could not bear the imminent pain of her leaving. She taught me that healing does not mean cured, it means loving the way I know how and listening to the one who has come to my door. When the root of illness is nothing I can touch, I can still offer comfort, full body strokes, kisses on her forehead, my song. Plants are powerful allies, and they do not always cure the root cause of illness. They can offer comfort and ease the body’s suffering as it disintegrates.

Bella Luna was born with a small deck of cards and her time was limited. Her light burned twice as bright for her short time here. The archetype and size of her kidneys would not support her body as long as we’d assumed. “Hope for the best, expect the worst,” was the motto she gave us. “My spirit will always be here with you even if my body fails me,” said this most enlightened little being. Her brave soul did not fear the transition. She lived in the present. Therefore, each moment was an opportunity to love her even more.

Loving someone or something is a risk because they may die. I am willing to take that risk. The heart breaks are always worthy of feeling, rather than closing down, swallowing the fear of abandonment. Deep down I knew she was destined to depart much sooner than I could imagine. She was a puppy, less than one year and still so much ahead for her. And her destiny was out of my control. Regardless, she and I, and Papa Andrew did our best for one another. We loved each other and did not want to be apart.

We boiled strong brews of herbal tea, we formulated tinctures, we made castor oil packs, we cooked every meal from scratch, we grounded vitamins into her food, we harvested nettle seeds, we sourced local meat, we read books, we gave her shiatsu and cleared her chakras, we sang, we brought her to healers, to veterinarians, to gatherings, to rivers, and we prayed.

She lived two months longer than her prognosis. During that time she was allowed to be in any room on any soft surface of the house. She slept in our bed, she cuddled onto the couch, even had her own little throne near the kitchen so she could keep her eye on us while we cooked for dinner parties. She wanted to be part of it all. She knew she belonged. Bella Luna claimed us, she claimed her space and allowed her body to be as it is. She never gave up, as we say, she surrendered to the essence of Being. I called her Baby B, and she truly knew how to just Be.

As part of letting go, we also stopped using the word, “No.” Our puppy training morphed into only love, only positive affirmation. My need to control her dissipated. I wondered why I ever felt like I had to be in charge all the time? I wanted to protect her from harm.

I wanted to write this story of miracles. I prayed the doctors were wrong and that I could heal her with herbs. I bow to the truth of healing. I bow to the false guidance of right and wrong. I open to the impermanence of bodies. I forgive myself. I honor the wise woman inside who is trying to her best. I honor the brave partner I am blessed to experience it all with. Andrew gave it everything he could to care for Bella Luna. When I was hopeless deep in despair, he stepped in. When he was grief struck and questioning everything, I stepped in.

Our strength grew and Bella affirmed us each time we embraced. Andrew recalls the moment we learned how ill she was. We lay on the couch weeping. She came over and nudged his hand into mine. Wagged her tail and walked away. She knew our love. And she praised our love.

Baby B took her last breath inside that frail aching body during a monsoon of rain. The winds howled, calling her home. The foliage broke free and whipped through the air before landing on the earth to decompose. The sound of water pummeled our windows as if the ancestors were cooing her back to the mystery.

While I slept by her side, I dreamt she morphed into a giant blue whale and leaped over my head, diving deep into the ocean. Upon waking, we sang her the song, Baby Beluga.

I gathered mullein, yarrow, dandelion, red clover, sweet birch, tobacco, goldenrod, and white sage for her grave. A tennis ball which she loved to fetch, too. While placing each item to form a soft bed for her, I called in each direction. The wind responded with a force greater than my mind can comprehend, but I felt it in my bones. The rain soaked my coat and seeped down my vertebrae. Who am I but a river flowing down into this deep hole where the earth will soon hold my sweet B?

She went fast and with grace. Dignity, courage, strength, power, forgiveness, light, playful, tender, vulnerable, trusting, she returned. I surrendered as her spirit rose, trusting the heaven and earth will hold her now.

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10 Guidelines for a Balanced Approach to Life & Career

IMG_3120I attended a wonderful class with herbalist, Brittany Wood Nickerson yesterday afternoon. She shared her stories and key insights into running an herbal practice for the past 10 years.

It was one of those experiences that showed up at the perfect time. Brittany offered messages I need to hear in regard to where I am currently standing as I begin my fourth year in business. Her gentle, yet to the point wisdom, and honest reflections as an herbalist inspire me to not only become a better businesswoman, but also a more balanced human being.

At the very beginning of the class Brittany said, “Trust when you take care of your own needs, your business will unfold.”

Read that line again.

This is so contradictory to our fast paced, capitalist society that constantly screams, “The harder you work, the faster you will succeed! There is no time to rest.”

I would much rather embrace Brittany’s wisdom and trust that my needs will be met if I prioritize self care by setting up my days to work for me. Part of why I love being self employed is that I can structure my time with enough space to walk the dog, sleep in late, spend time with family and friends, take spontaneous trips to beautiful places, and give my relationships the attention they deserve. When I set up my business taking into consideration my health and stability, I am much happier.

Imagine that! Makes sense, right?

These are the lessons I have to learn over and over again- the beauty of being a human who sometimes forgets what really matters. Thanks, Brittany, for reminding me about these important pieces of running a business. I think they apply to many aspects of living on this Earth at this time, not only if you are self-employed.

dsc0004510 Guidelines for a Balanced Approach to Life & Career

wisdom from Brittany Wood Nickerson of Thyme Herbal

1) Connect with mentors you trust.

2) If you feel resistance, take it as an opportunity to look deeper into yourself. What is the red flag telling you?

3) Refine what you love to. What are your strengths?

4) Always go back to what really makes you happy. Don’t let these slip away, and if they do, come back to them.

5) Let go of attachment to outcome.

6) Take risks and the universe will send clear messages along the way to support you.

7) Live in the abundance mindset. Let go of fears about scarcity.

8) Market yourself, nobody else can offer your unique gifts.

9) Saying “No” often means you are creating space to say “Yes” to something else you may not even be aware of yet. (I’m still learning this one, but it does get a bit easier with practice).

10) Ask yourself in regard to decisions: “Does it make my heart ping or thud?” Listen to your body, it does not lie.

IMG_4266This spring, I am taking these 10 guidelines into my heart and planting them like seeds in the garden. I look forward to seeing what grows from this wisdom!

In Balance,

Hannah

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Protect What Is Sacred

The New Moon in Aquarius last Friday invited us to look deep within at our core values.

  • What is sacred?

  • What would I die fighting to protect?

fullsizerender_3As the Nation faces an uprooting of core beliefs and structures, now is the time to really stand up for what we believe in. Here is what my heart says about the current instability since a new leader has taken the oath one week ago.

1) Get crystal clear on what is sacred to you. Drop into your heart and be quiet to hear the answers. Write them down.

2) Self-care is crucial. A well-rested, well-fed warrior is far more effective than an exhausted, burnt out warrior. Tips: How to Stay Outraged Without Losing Your Mind.

3) Feel emotions. Welcome grief, anger, and despair just as much as you welcome joy, happiness, and peace. Everything moves in waves and if we ignore how we feel, we are operating from a place of denial. Move through the emotions so you can make decisions from a place of stability and truth.

4) Love yourself no matter how you show up in each moment. Whether you feel inspired to attend a rally and call congress, or you want to stay in bed all day- be compassionate with yourself. Learn to love all the parts of you, even the darkness.

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Women’s March in Washington, D.C. January 21, 2017

5) When taking actions, start by committing to one movement. They are all equally important. LGBTQ rights are just as important as protecting the environment. Comparing the worthiness of social movements is not helpful. There are millions of people working on projects to ensure more peace and justice to all. Pick one that you can fully show up to. Do not divert your energies too much as this can dilute your overall impact.

6) Balance your attention. Remember to laugh and have fun together! Take a break from organizing to go for a walk, read a book, dance to your favorite song, whatever you do to get back into your body in the present moment.

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7) Listening is powerful medicine. Ask each other how we’re doing and really listen. Healing happens when we know someone is listening to us and cares about us. Offer your ear to a friend without interruption. What may seem like small actions are actually immeasurable. Peace and justice ripple beyond the mind’s capacity to compartmentalize.

8) Be aware of tendencies to fall into the trap of “us” and “them.”  Explore the parts of you that feel unlovable. I challenge you to meditate on having compassion for Trump and those who voted for him. I am not saying you have to love and accept anything he is doing. Experiment by bringing your attention to the parts of you that hate another person. It’s juicy in there.

“Dehumanization is a predecessor of war. When you see your opponents as subhuman in their morals, conscience, or intelligence, then you will have to defeat them by force.” – Charles Eisenstein from This Is How War Begins

9) Tell people how much you care about them. Love cannot be defeated. Real present moment human connection is powerful.

10)  Sing your song. Be loud, be visible, make your voice heard, run for political offices, write a letter. However you contribute toward building a more peaceful planet with justice for all, go for it. This may mean going on a silent retreat for weeks at a time.

There is No Peace without Peace Within.

11) Trust in the Divine Orchestration of the Universe. Kali is here.

kaliimwithher

 

 

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My work is loving the world.

img_6973My alarm woke me at 4:30am. This is not one of the noisy, beeping, or musical sounds. This was my internal alarm, an inner voice saying, “It is the time to pray, and there are a multitude of reasons to pray on this bitter cold morning.”

Rolling over, I pulled the covers filled with goose down around my shoulders. I ignored the call to pray. The slightest grey light peaked over the hills, beckoning me to listen. So I did.

This was one of those moments when deep down in my bones, I knew something brutally wrong was happening to my people, my planet. And, sadly, there was. Our brothers and sisters in North Dakota were faced with military force in response to protecting something that cannot be owned- water.

img_7016My internal alarm woke me from dreaming about a beautiful green and brown turtle moving slowly along a path. My sister and I watched the miraculous being for a moment before a car crushed the turtle with its tire. The whole creature was flattened. When I woke, I couldn’t help but relate the turtle in my dream to the creation story about Earth. In the story, we are all living on the back of a great turtle, our Mother Earth. Could it be that this dream was revealing a message? How can we stop the killing of the turtle? How can we protect Mother Earth and its beautiful creatures?

I have felt a whole slew of emotions since early November ranging from excitement, hope, grief, sadness, despair, inspiration, motivation, rage, anger, fear, peace, and joy. All with the looming question, what can I do as one person?

As Mary Oliver writes in a poem, “My work is loving the world.” How can I love the world despite the terrifying events directed at people because of their race, heritage, gender, class, or cultural choices? How much more can I love and recognize the beauty of each moment when rage fills my body to the point of wanting to blame and destroy one old white man who’s face fills the media coverage while the Indigenous Peoples of this land called the United States of America are being mistreated, yet again?

And again, I come back to love. I choose Love over fear. I feel compassion for those who’s actions are brutally fatalistic because, you know, they must have been mistreated so poorly in order to oppress other human beings this way. I pray that they receive the support needed to re-evaluate their actions so that love is their motivation instead of hate. I am one of those people. Who doesn’t have parts inside that can relate to these patterns of oppression, whether internal or external?

With compassion, I turn to all of our nation’s leaders, and ask them to look deep inside and ask themselves, what does my heart really want?

To you, dear one, I ask, what does your heart really want?

Write it down, speak it to a friend, and whisper it to the water.

Someone is always listening.

img_6976What I really want is peace inside and out. In moments of rage, I let myself feel the pain and despair that runs deep. After letting go of the feeling, I gather the gems for my heart. What my heart knows to be true:

The beauty, love, support, compassion, and generosity I have witnessed most recently is a powerful force. The power of connection, to one another, to nature, and to ourselves is more powerful than any other force. I am here to love. This moment, right here, right now, this is the moment I was born for.

Another message that feels crucial to share: DO NOT WAIT FOR A LEADER TO TAKE ACTION. You are the one you’ve been waiting for. If you have a voice, use it. If you hear or see injustice, speak up. If you have a pen and paper, write. Waiting for the right leader to come around is another way of choosing to live in fear.

Thanks to all the people who have delivered supplies for the Water Protectors at Standing Rock: winter gear, cash, ceremonial skirts, white sage, flat cedar, Tulsi tea, vitamin C packs, warm clothes, glasses, tarps, hand warmers, sleeping bags, toilet paper, and blankets. Although I have made the difficult, yet true to my heart decision to stay in Western Mass as of now, I have already passed along your prayers and contributions to my brothers and sisters traveling there this week.

Each morning I pour water for the Earth and Water Protectors. I pour water for you. I pour water for our nation’s political leaders. I pour water as an offering of gratitude for my beating heart, breathing lungs, and clear mind.

fullsizerenderThis is a special moment we are living in. It is a moment when the darkness is no longer hidden inside a closet to never be opened. A light has been switched on and all of the monsters many of us had the privilege to pretend no longer existed are actually thriving. If we bring light into the darkness together, united in love, the monsters will have nothing to do but fall in love with us. Love the darkness. Kiss your fears. Let’s transform the world together. I vote for love.

May these prayers travel on the backs of the winged birds, through the breeze in the tall white pines, within the ripples of the sacred waters.

When I Am Among the Trees

img_7008 When I am among the trees, 

Especially the willows and the honey locust,

Equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,

They give off such hints of gladness.

I would almost say they save me, and daily.

 

I am so distant from the hope of myself,

In which I have goodness, and discernment, 

and never hurry through the world

            but walk slowly, and bow often.

 

Around me the trees stir in their leaves

and call out, “Stay awhile.”

The light flows from their branches.

 

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,

“and you too have come

into this world to do this, to go easy, to be filled

with light, and to shine.”




-Mary Oliver

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We can help this troubled world

“We all have the inborn wisdom to create a wholesome, uplifted existence for ourselves and others. We can think beyond this troubled world. Not only will our friends and families benefit, but even our “enemies” will reap the blessings of peace. If these teachings make sense to us, can we commit to them? In these times, do we really have a choice? Do we have the option of living in unconscious self-absorption? When the stakes are so high, do we have the luxury of dragging our feet?”

– Pema Chödrön

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In a moment when it seems the very worst possible thing could happen, and it does, I turn to the water. The water has wisdom no person can fathom to understand. I bow my head to the mystery beneath the surface.

The power and strength of water can pull us under its current, and it can also burst through blockages, releasing patterns of withholding the truth.

That very same power and strength is inside each of us.

dsc00055I turn to the water to remind me which dams are ready to be blown through, revealing that nothing, absolutely nothing is stronger than my capacity to love.

Let your love flow today as strong as the deep dark waters.

dsc00098I am sending big prayers to the earth and water protectors of this great continent. I stand in circle singing, sounding, breathing, and praying with women today. Bound to a lineage of love, compassion, peace, forgiveness, and And every day. I feel blessed to be part of a vibrant, awake, nurturing, and fiercely loving community I call home.

dsc00096Let the sacred waters wash away all fears, doubts, and deceptions- giving rise to the truth that resides deep within every cell of our bodies. Do not fear what’s beneath the surface. Bring light to it. Breathe it into life. Scream it into life. Name it. It’s your God-give right to speak. Don’t fall back to sleep. Because the sun, it always rises again. And the moon, it always waxes and wanes. And the children of the Earth dance barefoot in the damp grass kissed by the delicate dew of the morning.

frame-04-11-2016-02-04-04-copyBlessed be. Aho.

For resources on how to support Standing Rock #NoDAPL click here.

*All photos were taken by Kristen Avonti

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Planting Seeds of Love

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As I sit in my safe, comfortable home watching the sunrise over the hills, fog blanketing the farm fields, birds singing sweet morning songs, I ask my tender grief-struck heart: Why is there so much violence in the world and what am I doing about it?

Once the thoughts of self-judgment pass, I listen. I am here to heal and assist others in healing. I explore the root of disease by inviting balance into the body with herbs, whole foods, and energy work. My definition of disease is when there is anything but ease in the body. Dis-ease.

I believe one of the most pressing diseases to investigate in the world is violence– internal and outward.

Why does anyone choose violence? FEAR. We live in a fear-based political and economic system that destroys communities in the name of profit. Greed fuels separation and separation invites disconnection. Disconnection from self, from God, from truth, from one another. What happens when society is rooted in disconnection? Isolation.

Isolation is a breeding ground for dis-ease. It can feel so lonely that a person in deep isolation may not believe anything they do matters or will make a difference, which can lead to choices that cause suffering. Isolation is death. Humans cannot survive in isolation. We need each other. We also rely on the Earth for sustenance. Believing we are alone is believing we are not loved. Ouch. Feel that. It makes my heart hurt.

How does the cycle of separation impact you? Have you ever felt isolated?

There is another path. Even though it feels impossible and the discouragement is as terrifying as a large truck plowing through a crowd of people. You will not be defeated if you choose another path. And you will not do it alone, either.

You have to choose it, though. You have to wake up every damn day and say yes to LOVE. It is a decision. And you have the power to choose. Put your attention on love. Because love, just like fear, is energy. And when wherever we put our energy, is what we invite into the world.

Each and every one of us is creating our own reality. We have a lot of responsibility as human beings. One of the primary responsibilities, which they don’t really teach us in grade school, so hopefully it’s shared at home, is to love and accept ourselves. This cannot only be taught. It must be experienced.

If you choose not to be love, I accept you and love you regardless. Bless your journey.

Love is powerful and so are you.

Choose love when you witness the shootings of innocent Black people. Choose love when you are faced with men cat-calling you on the streets. Choose love when your place of worship is burned to the ground. Choose love when the sacred land that your tribe called home is taken in the name of “development.” Choose love when you look in the mirror and see your inevitable mortality. Choose love when love feels like the last emotion inside your body because anger, rage, hopelessness and despair run deep. Feel the anger, rage, hopelessness and despair. Then, choose love.

Love can be tender and love can be fierce.

When the shock wears off after watching the videos of innocent people being murdered or whacked onto the ground, I grieve. Grief is underneath everything. Grieving is a choice I make because if I don’t grieve, I hold the weight of all the injustice inside of me. Grief is one of the ways human beings show love. As I grieve, I am present. I am not numb. I am fully there, with the pain and suffering. I am not taking it on or bearing the weight, I am releasing it back to Source to be recycled. Grief is a gift to the One, the Divine, God, whatever you call it. Grief is love.

When we grieve, we honor the lives of those who have died.

Grief transforms hatred and fear into love and acceptance. When I grieve, I am also grieving for all the un-grieved. I am grieving for the police officers. When I grieve, I am grieving for the “terrorists.” What do they hold onto that manifests into violent behavior?

What do you hold onto that manifest as violence towards yourself?

What would the world be like if everyone released the pain held in their bodies through grief, rather than violence? When we use violence, we are using a force based in fear. And the cycle continues. Violence interrupts energy from transforming into the ultimate underlying truth: Love. If we are to heal from and eradicate racism, homophobia, sexism, and all other oppression, we have got to grieve.

To be brave is to take off your armor and grieve.

Your grief does not have to look a certain way. My grief probably looks different from yours. Grief can be loud and it can be soft. It may be different every day. From the lion’s roar to the puppy’s weep, all grief is welcome.

When grief is witnessed by another person, there is even greater capacity to heal. If no one is around who you trust, then grieve anyway. If we grieve in the arms of another, we are contradicting the deep seeded patterns of isolation. Grieving together is loving together.

Loving together is making peace.

The power of love in connection with other human beings, with nature, with self, is invincible and unending. Love is a force. Even when we end relationships or someone dies, the love does not die. It flows into other spaces seen and unseen. When we grieve the loss of relationships or someone who has died, we are spreading love everywhere.

IMG_5483Love is a seed. It is inside all the seeds that grow into plants, which I transform into medicine for healing those in need. The medicine I make is for everyone regardless of age, race, class, gender, or religious beliefs. It is what I do and how I be.

With Fierce + Tender Love,

Hannah

 

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Tulsi- praising the sacred Mother Earth

“Tulsi reawakens our inherent longing in humanity to honor the divinity of Mother Nature.” – Tulasi Devi by Savarga

IMG_5540 (1)Yesterday, I was embraced by Mata Amritanandamayi, known as Amma, the hugging guru from Kerala, India. My dear friends who I journeyed around northern India with last March ventured with me to Marlborough, MA where Amma visits every summer.

Amma is the guru I had hoped to visit in India to receive Darshan (blessing in the form of a hug). However, due to logistics (or maybe the Divine orchestration), I was not graced with her physical presence.

This left me feeling sad upon returning to the States. Like, “Hey, I went all the way to the other side of the world and I didn’t get to see Amma?”

I wanted to bring home Tulsi seeds blessed and grown at her ashram for the herb farm in my hometown. As the results oriented person that I am, I was a bit disappointed.

IMG_5537 (1)Then, what happened the first week I was home was beyond belief. Read the story of how my disappointment turned to gratitude in an earlier post.

This week, Amma visited Massachusetts to offer Darshan and prayers. My friend Jiyanna, who grew the Tulsi for the event, asked me to deliver the plants to the Green Friends table, which sells seeds and herbal products blessed by Amma.

When we arrived, I watched as Amma began a five hour-long session of hugging hundreds of people. As I followed my friends to sit closer to the stage, I suddenly felt my body being pulled in the opposite direction, back toward the table where I delivered the Tulsi plants.

The seeds- I remembered! Sure enough, there was a basket of Tulsi seeds blessed by Amma at the table. Sarvaga, the woman I handed the plants to earlier, recognized me and we began talking. I told her I am an herbalist and love to grow and use Tulsi in my practice. Sarvaga lives at Amma’s ashram in Kerala and grows the Tulsi. “When you come to Kerala, come work with me in the gardens!” she said.

I had no words, just a wide beaming smile. “Yes, I would love to,” I replied. “We will grow Tulsi together.”

IMG_5594I purchased a few Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) plants from her, the Krishna variety grown at the ashram in India. Sarvaga explained how to care for them in the New England climate and wished me the best.

“Here, take these,” she said, “I will give you a big bag of seeds for you to grow next spring,” she said.

“Thank you,” I said. “This means so much to me. We will plant a garden of Amma’s Tulsi at the farm and I will bring you more plants next summer.”

I am deeply humbled by the experience of receiving Tulsi seeds directly from the grower in Kerala. Again, the spirits of the plants work in mysterious ways, always showing up when we are ready. How can I dare to feel anything but joy when I am surrounded by an abundance of Tulsi flowering at the farm this summer? Continue reading

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