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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


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


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,




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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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Ghee Stories, part III


The golden doors of the Dalai Lama Temple, Dharamsala

On the new moon, my friends and I arrived in Dharamsala after a long journey in planes, trains and taxis. This is where the Dalai Lama and many monks live since being exiled from Tibet. The energy of the new moon set the mood for visioning and sharing intentions around the ghee journey.

“I think we need to knock on doors and ask people about ghee if we really want to learn the traditional way,” said Matsya. He was a salesman back in the States before traveling to India.

First, I scoffed at this idea. Knocking on people’s doors in a distant land while I was still adjusting to the time, culture, and lifestyle was asking a lot of myself. However, if this project of learning the culture of ghee was going to happen, it had to start somewhere.

So, we laced up our shoes and headed toward the nearest home with a few cows. We paused and greeted the beautiful cow and her calves. Matsya and Ani encouraged me to lead them toward the home.

IMG_3178“Namaste,” I greeted a woman. “My name is Hannah and I am here with my friends to learn about ghee.”

The woman looked at me with kind eyes as she said, “No English.”

I thanked her and turned back toward my friends as we moved on to the next house. In that moment I wished we had a translator (or knew how to speak Hindi).

At the second home, we were advised to walk up the hill to the green house where the cows were. The woman’s confident head nodding and pointing assured us that we may find someone who makes ghee.

On the way uphill, we crossed paths with a group of young men who inquired about what we were doing. “We’re here to learn about ghee,” I said.

“Ghee?” they responded with a tone of confusion.

“Yes, ghee,” said Matsya. “We make it at home but would like to know how it is made here.”

Very enthusiastically, they invited us to meet their grandmother because she makes ghee. Our new friends were partying all week celebrating a family wedding, which we could hear across the village all evening. (Thank God for earplugs). After taking lots of group “selfies” together, their grandmother came downstairs to feed her two cows.

She did not speak English but her grandsons communicated our intentions of learning about ghee. Grandmother was not making ghee today. She only makes it on special days when she has accumulated enough curd to make the butter for ghee.

IMG_3208The group of young men very willingly explained the process: ghee is traditionally made from curd (cultured cream), similar to yogurt. The milk is collected each day and is added to the previous days batch of curd as the culture grows. The lactic acid in the cream ferments slightly giving it a tangy flavor. Once enough curd is gathered, it is churned by hand or with an electric machine that looks a little like an eggbeater.

Now we understand how the healthy rich fats from cow’s milk was preserved before refrigeration- fermentation!

We thanked the young men and their Grandmother as we continued on our journey.

Feeling like we had made some progress, we treated ourselves to a cup of chai at a nearby café. This is when it all began. The chai was flowing, the ghee Gods and Goddesses were watching over us, fresh mountain air of the Himalayas filled our lungs with creativity. We were ready to embark on a journey into the cultural wisdom of ghee.

We began searching the Internet for ghee producers in India because it felt important to visit both home scale and production scale facilities. Ani suddenly shouted, “You know what would be a great name for a ghee company? Holy Cow!”

We laughed, and sure enough, the company already existed in Delhi. I emailed the Holy Cow Foundation and heard back right away. They invited us to their Holy Cow Festival the following weekend and connected us with several nearby ghee producers. Yes! We finally had an “in” to the golden ghee river.
In those next couple of weeks we spoke with Ayurvedic doctors, attended cooking classes where we made ghee from cultured butter, visited several dairy farms ranging from 3 to
30,000 cows and ate delicious curries and Dahl graced with generous servings of ghee.

At sunset, while Matysa and Ani were at a yoga class, I joined a ceremony along the Ganges River. There was beautiful music and singing around a small fire. This ritual of burning cow dung with ghee, known as Havan, symbolizes gratitude to the Gods and Goddesses, in particular, the life giving waters of the Ganges River. Lanterns full of ghee burn to purify the air- this is the transformation of the impure to the pure.

When the fire dies down, the ashes are placed on the third eye, throat chakra, and then tongue, to symbolize the purity that arises from the burning of the impure. After the sun sets, families participate in “puja” or prayer, as they light candles on small boats made of leaves and flowers to send down river. “Puja” is a way of showing our love to the Ganga (the holy river).

Ghee is sacred oil in India. It is the purest essence from the holy cow made by removing the milk solids while heating the butter. As we clarify the butter, we are removing what no longer serves us.

During satsang on the first day of spring, Sri Prem Baba of Brazil said, “Flowers are the enlightenment of the plant. The scent of the flower is the soul, the essence.”

He suggested today, that we “burn anything that does not allow us to align with our heart.”

What is left when we clarify our minds, hearts, and bodies?


Ghee, in essence, is love. The vibration of love is held throughout the entire process- from how the cow is raised to clarifying the butter in the home. Women bathe and wear clean clothing to prepare for making ghee. It is a sacred act honoring the life-bearing Mother Earth.


Dr. Vibha Sharma demonstrating ghee 

Ghee is offered to the Gods in the form of Halvah, a sweet pudding made with semolina flour, cardamom pods, almond meal, sugar, ghee and raisins. I had the honor of learning to make this tasty treat with Dr. Vibha Sharma in Rishikesh. She taught me that ghee is the medium for medicinal herbs. When ghee is cooked with herbs, it forms a union with the medicine. Ghee delivers the medicine to the organ systems that need balancing and repair.

I believe every plant, animal, insect, human, EVERYTHING is sacred.

Nourishing ourselves with the purest oil from the sacred cow is an act of honoring our divinity. The more I honor myself, the more I can offer and be of service to others


Holy cow on Holi Day, the festival of colors held on the spring equinox 

Exactly three months later, as our most recent batch of ghee made on the Strawberry Solstice Full Moon sits in jars beside me, I commit to burning away anything that holds me back from sharing my love and passion with my village.

Here is a quote from my journal while in India, “Separation is only an idea. The truth is infinite love. A union of ghee, herbs, yoga, medicine, and love. If I find union inside myself, aligning to my soul, then I am one with all.”

Namaste. Blessings on your Summer Solstice.

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Ghee Stories, part II

IMG_3069The journey began the moment I decided to go to India. My focus swiftly drifted from daily herbal projects to all the hurdles of receiving a visa from the consulate. I recommend giving oneself at least two months to apply for a visa, and contact me about the process because I wish I had someone guide me through it every step of the way.

One week before my flight, the visa was delayed and it did not look hopeful. So, I decided to go to NYC where the visa application center is located to move the process along. I became extremely stressed about the entire procedure and was close to canceling the trip. On my way back from the city, I caught a virus that had me in bed for 3 days. Now, I was really looking for a way out. I couldn’t imagine boarding a plane in four days half way around the world to a country where I would more likely than not, get sick again. Oy vey!

My friends told me to read the signs as a test of my dedication to this journey, not as a deterrent. If I was meant to go to India, they assured me, I would get there. They believed it would all work out and told me not to worry.

IMG_3019Without a visa in hand, I took a train to NYC the night before my flight so I could be at the visa center as soon as they opened the next morning. I carried my lightweight backpack with only the bare essentials for the month to the visa center and prayed that my visa would be waiting for me. If it was ready, I would be boarding a plane to Delhi in 4 hours. If not, I would be discouraged and angry about the whole ordeal. Plus, a lot of money right down the toilet.

The doorman recognized me as the anxious woman who came last week. He asked what my departure date was. I replied, “In 4 hours, my friend.” He sighed and told me to wait a moment while he checked upstairs.

While he was gone, I saw an email on my phone from the visa center. Sure enough, there was a status update on the tracking of my visa informing me that it had arrived from the consulate at the center, however it had not yet been sorted. Thirty seconds later, the doorman came running downstairs and told me it had arrived but they had to paw through 1,000 visas to find my passport and visa. Yes, they had my passport, too!

Fifteen minutes later, I check out of the office and caught a cab to the airport. I called my mom, of course, to tell her the fantastic news: I am going to India after all!

IMG_2995After a relaxing 14-hour flight, sensory overload became my new best friend. Coming from the quiet back roads of Western Mass where the air is pure and solitude is at my fingertips, Delhi was a shock.IMG_2981

My friends and I (AKA “the chooches”) rejoiced in our reunion after many months. It is a
term of endearment. We recalled stories of the past and excitement for our month of traveling together. But, in the present, my lungs could hardly get a full breadth of air. The pollution made my eyes burn and my lungs ache. How can people live here? Grief penetrated my lungs as fast as the particulate matter.
Nothing lasts too long and everything is temporary, I learned early on in the trip. In an instant we were in a taxi racing around all the other vehicles on the road. My attention shifted from my lungs to my gut, the place where I hold fear of death. I took a deep inhalation through my scarf and as I exhaled, I released all fear and expectation. Surrendering to the divine orchestration, I felt held amidst all the chaos surrounding. A small voice inside me rose again saying, “trust that you are safe and held in the arms of the universe.”

Like meditation, the entire trip for me was about trying to be present with what is happening now. Not only were the internal sensations quite uncomfortable at times, but the external could not always be relied on for relief. Among the momentary discomfort, I made a choice very early on in the trip: I chose to set my mind free, to surrender.

IMG_3066“It’s good to be back in India,” said Martin and Colette, who had just returned from a month in Cambodia. Their positive outlook was reassuring as I watched women with babies nestled to their breasts beg for food and money. “I never hand them money,” said Martin, “only food.” I watched as he bought coconut slices from a man and then handed them directly to the woman.


At breakfast the first morning, we called upon our ancestors and spirit guides as we embarked on a journey together. We asked for safety and guidance. We expressed our gratitude for the opportunity to come together, the three of us, in India. We opened our hearts and minds to all the possibilities.

IMG_3030Colette and I shared a similar vision and the mountains were calling. Through a series of circumstances including there being no trains available, we booked a flight to the province of Kashmir and Jammu for a few days of rest and recuperation. We stayed in a houseboat on a lake. Bottomless pots of Kashmiri Tea were provided along with as much rice and curried vegetables we could consume. Finally, I could rest and adapt to the 10.5 hour time change. The calming affect of sleeping on top of water was exactly what my body needed. As I dozed in and out of sleep listening to the sounds of boats paddling by, again, I felt held by something much larger than myself.

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Ghee Stories, part I

ghee copper pot

After the New Year arrived, I received a phone call from former roommates who are like family to me. I’ll call them Matsya and Ani in these stories. Since October, they had been traveling abroad in India and surrounding countries. My heart was filled with joy to hear their voices after several months apart.

When the excitement of speaking together simmered down, they said, “Hannah, we have to tell you something. Each night in the ashram, everyone participates in a ritual called Havan. We chant mantras over lanterns fueled with ghee and cow dung. We are seeing images of you here with us.”

Tears welled up in my eyes. My connection to Matsya and Ani felt so strong despite our physical distance apart.

“The ancient Vedic texts refer to ghee having its origins in India,” they continued. “If you travel here we can learn about the traditional and medicinal uses of ghee to inform your new company. What do you think?”

ghee products india

I laughed. How else could I respond to that invitation? I told them that was highly unlikely considering I have responsibilities running a business- I can’t just take a month off to travel around India learning about ghee. There are newsletters to write, classes to plan, labels to design, meetings to attend, equipment to order. Dropping everything to go away until spring seemed absolutely ludicrous.

Then, I paused. I closed by eyes and took a deep breadth.

I heard a small voice from deep within. I listened. The voice had a different response. It did not react or resist. Instead, the voice responded with a deep wisdom from the core of the Earth. It said, “Go.” This was the voice I listened to that day.

hannah tuk tuk red

One month later, I picked up my passport and visa in New York City, hopped in a cab to the airport, and boarded a non-stop flight to New Delhi.


This is part I of a series called, Ghee Stories. 

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Violet + Dandelion Oil for Breast Massage


Dried violets + dandelions ready for infusing into oil

I am falling in love with violets right now.

The heart shaped leaves and royal purple flowers remind me that love is more powerful than any other force. Given that you and I are a force, energy, or Qi, then why not choose to be love?

Chewing on the demulcent leaves I have a vision of this plant’s properties soothing any excessive fire inside my body. I place a royal purple flower into my mouth and feel my tongue tingle. The mild spice invigorates my digestion and moves out the old making space for the new. My liver softens as it releases constraint.

The liver loves bitter and sour tastes. I reach for dandelion leaves and flowers as I crawl beneath a flowering plum tree. Each time a bee travels over to the potent plum blossoms, I imagine miniature dustings of pollen falling on my face. So delicate and sweet, I want to capture this moment in a bottle.


Violets leaves and flowers can be eaten in salads, too!

This spring one of my visions is to listen to my body and honor its cycles. One of the ways I take care of myself is abhyanga, which means self-massage with lots of warm oil. While in India last March, I had an abhyanga massage at an Ayurvedic clinic. The woman covered my entire body with lots and lots of warm herbal infused oil- she probably used a cup of oil during the massage. It felt amazing! To read more about the benefits of self-massage, check out this article.

Our lymphatic system doesn’t have its own pump like the circulatory system has the heart, therefore its important to help it do its job by exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, drinking herbal teas, and massage. Because the lymphatic system is below the surface of the skin, massage is a highly effective way to get it going. Abhyanga is one of the ways I practice self-love.

The spring is bursting with flowers and leaves known to herbalists as lymphatics, which assist the body in eliminating metabolic waste.

I am creating seasonal inspired herbal infused oils to craft blends for different areas of the body: muscles, breasts, hands, and face. The first batch will be Breast Massage Oil– ready in about 3 weeks!

Here’s a recipe to make your own oils. If you would like to purchase any from my company Sweet Birch Herbals, come by the Tuesday Market in Northampton in a couple of weeks when they are ready!

IMG_4729Herbal Infused Oil:

Materials: Wilted fresh herb and Oil (grapeseed, olive, sweet almond, sesame, coconut, jojoba…NOT soybean, vegetable, or canola)

To make: Harvest fresh herbs and let wilt them in the shade for a day to allow some of the water in the plant to leave. Fresh plants are 75% water and sometimes oils can grow mold if there is too much water in the plant, so this process allows for higher quality oils. Plants lose about 10% of their water content each day they are left out to dry. You can also stick them in the dehydrator for a few hours to wilt them. Or place them in a brown bag in the car with the windows cracked- your car can be a large dehydrator that uses zero electricity!

IMG_4698Chop up the plant and loosely pack a mason jar. Cover completely with oil of choice and gently press our air bubbles with a spoon to ensure all the plant material is coated with oil. Be sure the plant material is covered at least one inch with oil so it does not get exposed to the air, which lessens the chance of bacteria to enter.

Place out of direct sunlight for about two weeks. Then, strain the oil through a mesh strainer without squeezing or pressing the plant material to avoid residue. Store up to a year outside of the fridge, or longer inside a fridge.

Uses: external use only. I like to combine them with beeswax to make salves. For hot skin irritations & insect bites I make a salve with calendula oil, comfrey leaf, plantain, violet leaf, & chickweed. For sore muscles I use arnica flowers, sweet birch bark, cayenne pepper, ginger, St. Johnswort, and sweet fern leaf. For face creams I use lavender and rose.

Would you like to expand your knowledge and wisdom of everyday herbalism?

Check out my upcoming workshops. The monthly course series, Backyard Herbalism: a course in grassroots medicine for the people, starts Sunday May 15th at Full Kettle Farm in Sunderland, MA .





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Tulsi Dreams: The medicine we need always shows up when we are ready

IMG_3627One of my intentions for traveling to India was to see Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi), known as the hugging Guru. She travels all over the world giving talks of peace, healing, and love for each other and the planet. She has offered darshan, known as the motherly embrace to over 36 million people worldwide.

The first time I saw her on tour in central Massachusetts, I was delighted to note that her non-profit organization had Tulsi seeds and plants for sale. Tulsi Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) is calming to nervous system, aids digestion, invites focus and clarity, treats respiratory issues, and it is used widely in India for ceremonies and Ayurvedic treatments. Tulsi grows as an annual in  North America. As an herbalist, I immediately felt drawn to this passionate woman who has a huge impact on the world. Amma’s story is remarkable. She inspires me to offer selfless service (seva) through the medicines of herbs and spices rooted in love, inner peace and acceptance.


Four years later, as I prepared for my first journey to India, I remembered that Amma’s organization sells Tulsi seeds to raise money for all their humanitarian efforts. I felt inspired to set the intention of making a pilgrimage to Amma in northern India with the hope of purchasing Tulsi seeds for herbal gardens back home.

How beautiful will it be to have a garden of Amma’s Tulsi, I imagined. We could build a small structure in the center for meditation! This would be the centerpiece of the farm where we held ceremonies to honor the plant spirits that offer us deep wisdom and healing. The ideas kept flowing as excitement grew in my heart.

DSCN4110Amma Guru, like many spiritual teachers, works in mysterious ways. She reminds me of the plants because I believe they offer us the medicine we need when we are ready to receive it. Ready to fully commit to the journey, I bought a direct flight to New Delhi and prayed my time would overlap with her tour.

Twenty-three hours passed and I discovered Amma’s tour schedule online. Sadly, it looked like I would just miss her! I panicked and called the airline because sometimes they allow you to change the flight within 24 hours of booking. I called and yes they were willing, but something inside me said not to change the flight.

“Ma’am,” the man from Air India said on the other line, “you have four minutes to decide because it has almost been 24 hours since your booking. Would you like to cancel and reserve a different flight?”

A pit formed in my throat. My mind went blank and I couldn’t find an answer for him.


“No, thank you.” I said and hung up the phone.

Doubt and fear loomed all around as I starred blankly at the computer screen. I gazed into the loving eyes of Amma on her website. A tear fell down my cheek. Deep disappointment crept into my body. I felt angry that I had not researched this sooner. It was such an important part of my trip. Why did I neglect it? Blame, blame, blame, a downward spiral took me over.

Then, I gazed deeper into her eyes. I felt her playfulness and began to laugh. The schedule was from 2015, not the updated version for spring 2016!

“Oh, Amma, you are so funny. You almost had me there! I’m not giving up, I’m determined to see you and the blessed Tulsi.”

IMG_4271With that, I let it go and surrendered to the idea that nothing is in my control. Then, the phone rang. It was a woman from Amherst who I met at the farmer’s market last summer before I made any plans of traveling to India. She was interested in purchasing Tulsi. I remembered her very well.

At the market last summer, we talked for a while and shared a similar vision of growing Tulsi to sell to local cafés. She had been to India and brought home seeds from Amma’s ashram in Kerala with the hope of starting a garden here in Western Mass. That way, when we had only just met, she looked into my eyes and said, “You must go to India, Hannah.”

You think I’m joking, right? No. I swear- it’s the truth. I have chills thinking about it.

My travels to India were primarily focused on studying how ghee is made for traditional and medicinal uses. And, sadly, I did not visit Amma during her tour. I almost booked a flight to a nearby city where she was offering darshan, but when I acknowledged the logistics: (time, money, traveling alone, more flying), it did not feel right. Plus, my friends and I were already making appointments to visit nearby farms that produce ghee.

So, I found a quiet place on the ghat by the river and I asked the spirit of Amma what to do. First, she encouraged me to relax. Stay where I am, sit by the Ganga, sip chai, drink papaya mango lassies, and visit the ghee producers who have generously invited us to their farms.

IMG_3732Amma’s spirit reminded me one of the most important lessons as a medicine woman: the medicine always shows up when we are ready to receive it if we remain open. Her spirit reminded me that she is already everywhere. Plus, she will be returning in physical form to central Mass in the summer. Be patient. Come back to India again and go to Amma’s ashram. The Tulsi seeds will be there because that is where her gardens are located.

With a deep breadth, I let go of my attachment to the incredible story I would tell you all about how I went to India and brought home Tulsi seeds from Amma for a garden here. Wooosh! It was gone.

A few hours later, my friends and I had a smooth, easy experience making travel arrangements to New Delhi for ghee demonstrations. Everything felt like it was lining up beautifully in regard to one of my main intentions of the trip: gather knowledge and wisdom for my new company, Full Moon Ghee.

During our visit to a diversified herb, vegetable, and dairy farm, the owner, Aparna, offered me seeds from her garden. She was going to offer me her Tulsi seeds, but apparently the plants had not survived the winter. So, she gave me Thai Basil and Lemon Basil seeds instead. I am very grateful, but still, they are not Tulsi. Shucks! I was so close.

IMG_3955Our next stop was a café and store called Navdanya, a women’s collective of seed savers that was founded by Vandana Shiva. We had a delicious meal of native beans and grains, but alas, the store did not sell Tulsi seeds. The search was starting to feel less authentic as I hit more dead ends. I decided to turn my focus to gratitude for all that I had been offered on this soul-nourishing journey to the great land of India.

I admit, even after returning home, I still held on to the disappointment about the Tulsi seeds. One last string of hope led me to email a friend I met in India who mentioned she might go to Amma’s tour in Delhi, which was 5 days after I left. However, she did not make it there either. Here was another opportunity to let it go because, as you can see, I never really let it go.

When I have a vision, I want to bring it into manifestation- like the seeds our farmers and gardeners plant each spring.

IMG_4269IMG_4250The warm moist greenhouse air filled my lungs as I seeded the Thai and Lemon Basil into narrow flats of potting soil. I remembered how sowing a seed is full of magic and mystery. Will it grow? Does it have enough fertility and water? How does it hold its genetics inside that tiny little vessel full of potential?

As I watched the small black seeds absorb their first tastes of water and nutrients, gratitude and hope filled my heart. No longer was I thinking about what I did not have. These precious little seeds will grow into plants that enliven us all season. The gift of life is a miracle. To be present with this miracle eliminates all distractions. Thank you, India, for showering me with love and abundance even when I doubted your divine orchestrations. Thank you.

IMG_4243IMG_4238“Hello.” I heard a women’s voice outside the greenhouse door. “Helloooo,” she called again.

The door opened slowly as a woman with soft blue eyes stepped inside. I smiled and we greeted one another. I remembered our paths had crossed about a year ago at a Tulsi Rose Ceremony on a dear friend’s land where they were breaking ground for a medicinal herb garden. In Jiyanna’s arms, she held a gallon bag full of Tulsi seeds she saved last fall.

“Oh! You’re planting Tulsi today, how wonderful,” I said. “I just returned from India where I brought home Lemon and Thai Basil seeds which I am sowing today, what a beautiful synchronicity!”

“Yes, I always plant more than I can use,” she replied, “and this year I may start planting them all over the place because the more Tulsi, the better.”

I looked down at her table and gasped. There, right in front of me, was a small bag of Amma’s Tulsi!

“Hold on a minute!” I shouted, “You are planting Amma’s Tulsi?”

“Yes, and I also have a few seeds from a friend who visited her ashram. She wants me to plant them to keep the genetics alive. The extras I sell at the central Mass location where Amma visits every summer. All the proceeds go to her non-profit.”

IMG_4277A vibration of light filled my entire body as if I was being embraced by the divine maternal. Jiyanna smiled peacefully having no idea what this meant to me, yet. I eagerly told her the story, which brought both of us to tears of joy.

“Amma works in mysterious ways,” she said. “I would be happy to sell you plants, Hannah.”

“Thank you. I am honored and humbled by your offer. Of course, I will accept.”

Let us remember that we are all truly held by the divine maternal even when doubt creeps in. Blessed be the garden of Amma’s Tulsi for all the souls seeking sweet serenity of miracles.




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Water. (Kidneys/Bladder)

IMG_2670Water time has arrived according to the 5 element cycles in Chinese Medicine. Water is associated with winter. Do you feel more tired and want to sleep more? Of course! Water time is all about refilling and replenishing our deep core reservoirs of Qi (life force energy).

If we don’t slow down and take care of ourselves, imbalances can occur in the body. What does an imbalance look like? It could be coming down with a cold or flu and not being able to kick it out, frequent urination between 3-7pm, feeling exhausted especially in the late afternoon, coldness that invades your core, anxiety, depression, and emotional blocks that feel as if a dam is holding back the river (tears).

IMG_2675Our bodies are about 78% water. When our water is balanced, we may feel free and capable of going with the flow. Water wants to flow! Think about the river’s natural tendency to flow. Even when there is large tree in the middle, water will find a way to flow around it. What happens when water gets stuck? It can turn into a boggy, putrid smelling pool where bacteria like to grow.

IMG_2676In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the organ systems associated with Water are Kidneys and Bladder. Our kidneys act like the bogs that filter out wastes so they can be eliminated through the urine. Our urine is stored in the bladder, a vessel designed to partner with the kidneys to aid in regulating our water metabolisms. Excessive sweating and frequent urination are all signals that there may be an imbalance in someone’s Water Element.

IMG_2664There are herbs to regulate and rebuild our water systems. Red clover, burdock, dandelion root and leaf, red root, calendula, and cleavers all aid our bodies in cleansing the blood and detoxification. Nettle leaves are some of the best because they are extremely high in minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Like spinach, nettles are naturally salty. I don’t mean like potato chip salty, I mean mineral rich salt like seaweed.

DSCN6443The journey to rebuilding deficient water involves consuming food and herbs that are mineral rich and highly nutritious. Dark green leafy vegetables, walnuts, black beans, seaweed, adzuki bean miso, beets, berries, and nettles all contribute toward strengthening and building a solid foundation of kidney energy.

Here are tips for refilling your core reserves to give you even more energy in the spring when its time to take action and continue building the life you want!

1) Sleep at least 8-10 hours per night. Early to bed, late to rise. Go ahead, give yourself permission! If you feel tired between 3-7pm (Water Time), take a nap rather than reaching for a cup of coffee.

2) Be gentle with yourself. This is the time of year to DO LESS and BE MORE.

3) Dream deep. With all the watery energies flowing freely, ponder what kind of visions you have for the year to come. What seeds do you want to plant? Allow your subconscious to flow. Who knows what you might discover if you give yourself permission to dream deeply.

4) Write in a journal if that feels freeing. Question worth pondering: What is possible when I stop denying myself what I truly want?

5) Nourish your roots. Consume whole, organic, highly nutritious foods, mostly cooked, served warm, lightly spiced, and chew slowly. The first part of healthy digestion is chewing. What’s the rush?

6) Find a body of water to sit by. How can you be more like water?

7) It’s OK to say, “No” to commitments. Instead, say “Yes” to staying home, reading a book, cooking dinner, practicing yoga, watching a movie, cuddling on the couch.

8) UNPLUG! This is the most challenging one for me these days. The sense of urgency and replying to emails feels real, but actually, it’s mostly false. Be aware of when you may be using the devices to escape the present while fostering a false sense of connection.

9) Face your fears. Water time is about diving into your inner depths to explore the gremlins and trusting you can rise again. The roots of trees are storing water until the sap rises in the spring. Trust that what goes down will come back up. Let the tears flow, they are just water after all.

10) Keep the water flowing by adding a little fire: exercise, shoulder rotations, forward bends, backbends, and always wear enough layers to stay warm outside, especially the midsection and back of neck. I tuck my shirts in and wear scarves.

11) Drink plenty of clean water. Sometimes I forget when it’s cold outside to drink enough water. I strongly suggest finding a source of spring or well water if your tap is from city water.

How do you honor the water inside of you?



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High Potent-C Recipe

thumb_IMG_2134_1024The Earth never ceases to amaze me with all the abundance surrounding us each and every moment. Even at the end of November, I still wander out in the forests and fields in search of medicine.

I believe that everything we need shows up if we are open. After coming down with a cold last week while grieving the death of my Grandfather, I asked, “What medicine will help soothe my worn out lungs and weepy sinuses?”

While resting in the discomfort of not knowing (ironic how an herbalist can’t remember how to take care of herself when she’s sick), an image came to me. I saw red and frosty blue berries mixed with pine needles. They were soaking in vinegar and honey. I mustered up enough energy to grab my basket and clippers and headed out to the backfields behind my house. Within a few hundred feet, of course there were all three of these plants growing together: wild rose, juniper, and white pine. It was as if they were calling to me!

thumb_IMG_2142_1024While gathering wild rose hips and juniper berries, I felt a reddish pink color of hibiscus tea washed over my body. I knew after filling my jars I would have to top them off with dried hibiscus flowers adding this brilliant color to the liquid. All the medicines that went into this cordial recipe are loaded with Vitamin C. A cordial is a mix of herbs, honey, and either raw apple cider vinegar or alcohol to extract the medicinal properties. Try it on your own so long as you can positively I.D. the ingredients.


thumb_IMG_2139_10241) Loosely pack an empty mason jar with:

1/3 Wild Rose Hips (Rosa multiflora)

1/3 White Pine Needles (Pinus strobus)

¼ Juniper Berries (Juniperus virginiana)

¼ Hibiscus Flowers (Hibiscus sabdariffa)


2) Fill the jar ¾ of the way with raw apple cider vinegar and top off the last ¼ with raw local honey. I use Red Barn Honey, which I buy from Dick at the local farmers markets in Northampton. You can also substitute apple cider vinegar for brandy.

thumb_IMG_2164_10243) Cover the mouth of the jar with wax paper before screwing on the metal cap. Shake it all up with intentions of immune support and anything else you want to infuse into this cordial!

4) Label your jar with the ingredients, date, and location where it was made. Shake weekly as you let the jar sit for at least 6 weeks, then strain out the plant material through a sieve or cheesecloth. Take 1-2 tablespoons up to 4 X daily whenever you need an extra boost of vitamin C.

thumb_IMG_2168_1024Rose hips (Rosa multiflora) are high in vitamin C and their sweetness is said to heal a wounded heart. When I sit with the plant, I feel its protective boundaries from the thorns, yet the sweet smell of the flowers and divine taste of the hips draw me in closer. Wild rose invites us to be gentle and easy on ourselves while also holding up boundaries that keep us from giving over our power to others.

Juniper berries (Juniperus virginiana) dry out damp congestion in the lungs. They are carminatives, therefore warming to the digestive system. Contraindicated for ulcers, gastritis, and inflammatory kidney disease. Do not take while pregnant.

White pine needles (Pinus strobus) are higher in vitamin C than citrus and very abundant in the Northeast. I like to imagine them as the citrus trees of the north, though I can’t say they will ever replace my love for a juicy orange in the dead of winter. We are fortunate to be surrounded by all the vitamin C in white pine needles! Like I said, everything we need is already here!

Hibiscus flowers (Hibiscus sabdariffa) are widely grown in sub-tropical climates. The flowers are sour, therefore cooling and astringing to the body. They get their wine-red color from anthocyanin constituents. Rich in vitamin C and high in antioxidants, hibiscus is a great addition to tea blends. It is often served in Mexico as a highly sweetened tea called “aqua dejamaica.” The red color is also indicator of it being a cardio tonic and may reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

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