Author Archives: Ayla Nereo
If we live in a system
where medicine is a commodity,
a band-aid to the underlying root,
symptoms treated instead of causes,
and all of it only available
to the ones who have enough money —
then perhaps it is time to look around us
to see what is growing on our streets
in our hills
and see what we can grow in our backyards.
The plants are the most generous beings,
and they hold such powerful medicine
that business owners want to make them illegal,
knowing that their potency
could rival the synthetic products that can be patented and profited.
The plants are our healers.
In these times,
when healthcare systems are being cut back
when the government prioritizes profit over true health
treatments prioritize quick relief over deep healing
and the industry dispenses addictive symptom-covering pills
while plants that can can cure cancer
are labeled ‘drugs,’ made illegal, privatized, or clear-cut,
and the root of the reason we have cancer anyways
is not even examined…
in these times,
we must take our health back.
In every single community, across this entire country, there are healers, medicine-women and medicine-men, herbalists and alternative doctors who have dedicated their lives to the original knowledge of the plants and medicines that grow around us.
It is time we lift them up.
Because we need them in our communities, in our villages, more than ever.
I woke with a vision one day last year of creating Herbalism Action Days to help us all empower ourselves to be our own healers
to know the edible and medicinal plants growing around us and the medicine-makers that live in our communities.
These days happen after a show night, directing the amazing fan-energy toward giving back to that community
putting out hands in the earth, connecting with the local teachers, leaders, and healers, and building resiliency and self-reliance as a village in those places I visit and share music.
In Topanga Canyon, CA, we gathered under the great oaks and learned about rosemary and sage and rose and others plants that grow around us, how they can heal us and how to make medicines.
In Boulder, CO, we had over a hundred people learning about plant identification, fermentation, conscious gardening practices, herbal infusions, energy medicines, plant communication, and more.
Teas and remedies shared, medicine-makers bringing their medicines, community connecting with one another.
In Paonia, CO, we learned about biodynamic gardening, soil treatments, how to make herbal medicinal tinctures and oil infusions, flower essence medicine and how to create it, and the amazing way herbs and ‘weeds’ can be made into treatments that help support the growth of edible plants and trees so that our farms and gardens can produce twice as much food and it can be even more potent as medicine.
Bit by bit, we empower each other.
And this is just the beginning.
It is time to reclaim our bodies, our health, and our health-care. And to honor the plants, and all the incredible gifts of healing they carry.
Thank you each and every one of you who came out to the Herbalism Action Days so far! Especially the teachers and hosts of each space— thank you for sharing your wisdom.
I am so excited to do more and more Herbalism Action Days. If you have ideas or want to join in helping create the next one in your town, send me a note.
How far can our leaves reach?
How deep can our roots go?
(And by request….
Here is a short list of some of my favorite books on herbalism / herbalists to learn from:
The Complete Medicinal Herbal
Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs
(and all other books by Rosemary)
The Country Almanac of Home Remedies – Brigitte Mars
(and all other books by Brigitte)
I’ve found a rhythm lately of rising before the sun crests, to have an hour or so to myself before the busyness begins. The still and yet risen pre-sunrise time is by far my favorite time of day. Yet it is so easy for me to sleep right through it. There is that moment of decision each morning, remaining cozy and comfortable with where I am, or moving the dream-heavy limbs to meet the rising curtain of light. Reaching for awakeness.
So far, something I know about this little microcosm of experience, is that I have never, not once, regretted waking up.
Many mornings I have to remind myself how glorious is the stillness, the sound of the birds’ first conversations, the delicate openness of thought available. On those mornings, when the bed feels especially enticing and eyelids extra heavy, it requires a summoning of a deeper commitment, to meet the childlike wonder of being awake in a dawning world, and to overcome the lethargy of limbs and mind that want to remain in the ease of the sleep state.
But when I choose it, and rise… the wonder of the day awaits me, and the sweetness of experience is itself a cord to encourage my future self, lethargic and sleepy in some moment to come, to rise and awaken.
There is more than one layer to this seemingly small act of choice each morning.
Amidst the fractal nature of this incredible universe, perhaps my rising signals a greater Carpe Diem to the cells in this body.
And I listen. For the early hours hold blessings of spaciousness, when the collective psychic field of neighbors and town nearby is not yet in to-do-list overdrive and left-brain activity.
If I can become receptive within this quietness, the unknown insights are given an opportunity to arrive. If I can make space and time for listening, then I am attempting to meet that which wants to come through.
In our current political and mental climates of fast and highly-charged times, I’ve been really feeling how easy it is to just react to what is most immediately pulling at our attention — tasks and actions, emails, the commentary of ‘friends’ in an ever-widening virtual social space — and how I can forget to give even a little time to the nurturing of relationship with Soul.
If we are aiming for a life in which our creative Soul essence is leading, then this relationship is the most important part of our day, a higher priority than any item on our to-do list, and definitely higher than checking facebook.
For some reason this feels like a crazy radical idea, to actually give as much or more time to the soul’s calling than to other tasks that I feel pulled to attend to. And sometimes I can actually convince myself that there isn’t even space in my busy life for such a luxury as tending to my creative soul. But that space is always available. We just have to choose it.
We can’t wait passively for our creativity to show up. We must reach for it. Like all human relationships, we must carve out time and space to be together.
Perhaps it’s a walk alone in nature once a week with a notebook, ready to catch any words that want to come through. Or saying no to a party so that you can actually practice the instrument you’ve been wanting to learn. Or using moments alone in car rides to try out singing or speaking in a new voice. Or even waking up a half hour earlier than normal each day, to meet your creativity in that early morning spaciousness.
More and more, I am questioning my beliefs around any kind of scarcity of time or space for doing what I love, and realizing that it is actually more about re-arranging time, and having a different orientation toward choosing what fills those spaces.
Two months ago I was dreaming about writing again. But my life felt so busy and full with touring, managing my business, answering emails, errands, to-do list’s, and all the life-bits that go along with homesteading on and stewarding land, that I had no idea how to fit another project in, even though my heart was calling for it.
But one day I simply committed to forcing my heavy eyelids open an hour and half earlier than I normally wake up.
And exhausted as I felt at first, within 5 minutes of putting on the tea and looking out the window at the electric blue-grey spectrum of light in that early dawn, I had forgotten all about being tired.
Because like all wonderful rendezvous with a beloved, there is a tingling energy of excitement about what might unfold when we meet our creative Soul.
In that magic of the unknown, all lethargy can simply vanish. And in the space that’s left over, we are ready to catch whatever wants to pour through.
When we choose how we are directing our life-force, giving ourselves to that which we truly love, and loving what we are giving to the world… perhaps then our actions become ripples, spreading out in wider and wider circles, able to touch the shorelines of another’s awareness. And not because we are trying to send a signal, but because our own love for life is a contagious wave that can catch others in wonder, leaving them marveling suddenly at the beauty of their own precious lives.
And if one day they choose to rise early to meet that muse calling to them, and the awe of what is born there creates a new ripple to radiate outwards and ignite the inspiration of others… well, I hope my toes may be lucky enough to feel the sweetness of that tide coming in.
May your days be filled with choices that ignite your inner-light, more and more each moment.
In some ways, a birthday is just another day. But it also feels special, a return to that placement of angle and direction we were born into, our relationship with the shining sun. And it feels like a special opportunity to listen. To see where the life-force is moving, and where it wants to direct itself.
This year I was lucky enough to be on the garden island of mama Kaua’i, amidst her rich life and untouched wildness, her slower pace and heart-centered culture. Reminding me how to deepen into a whole new level of grounded living, connected to Nature and her rhythms and life more than the ever-running human pace of mind and doing. Shifting the priorities. Walking my talk more deeply. Barefoot and listening.
My only wish for my birthday this year was to be offline, connected to the earth, and in sunshine. So David and I drove to the Waimea Valley, where we were welcomed by the vast expanse of cavern and forest and river-valley and open wide sky. Being greeted by a rainbow, it only felt right to sing back.
Heading to the lookout over the Kalalau valley, we then began a steep hike out across the thin arm of earth, the rising valley wall. We were two tiny ants walking along the spine of her great body. The winds were blowing something fierce that day, and as tiny ants, we felt it was entirely possible we might be blown right off the cliffside into the great valley. But something kept enticing us onward… and with little word-offerings on our lips, singing praises to the wind to blow gently and keep alive our precious little bodies, we kept walking. Finally, when the winds had blown every last strand of hair into a tangle, we stopped and admired the meeting of wide valley into vast ocean. It went on forever, that sea of peace and storm where no land exists for thousands of miles.
After scrambling back up the spine of land and bundling into the car, we drove to one last spot, where the river ran through red earth, bubbling a water song to the last setting rays of sun.
There, drinking in those final beams of light, I felt my heart speed up. No matter how many sunsets I see, I almost always feel that five-year-old awe and glee, like I’m seeing a sunset for the first time, like that one is the most beautiful one.
And then, as the sun dipped down into darkness, Venus appeared.
I watched her face shining, more brightly than I’d ever seen her. And I waited, not sure for what, just sensing I needed to pause and keep looking up. I had been joyfully snapping photos this whole time too — but even that needed to pause. Just letting that quiet place inside me get even quieter. Listening, in these last moments of birthday light.
As we drove back down the mountain, wordless in peace, I felt how deep is my love for the sky.
I am infatuated by each cloud, those roaming ever-changing warriors, and by the face of every star-ancestor, shining their wisdom to us as a pin-point of light each night. Always, looking up, I feel that desire to listen more often, and longer. To give more time to the canopy of colors. To give more of my awareness to the grandmothers of root and bark-branching sureness, more breath to that great rising face of morninglight, beaming us with information and warmth and consciousness each dawn and eve. To give this ear to the songs of the rushing creeks, the staccato over pebbles and even-tempo of the waves. To give my limbs to the dancing of the breezes as they court the graceful green skirts of the willow leaves.
Most of all, to give my attention to that which feeds Love.
And to make offerings of beauty, word and voice, handwoven and danced and spoken and sung, to that which feeds us Life.
Ending one day, beginning the next.
Always a new opportunity, to choose our way, our walk, our thoughts, and where we direct them. To keep offering our beauty-ways to the many ones who give us breath and bones and sight and taste and touch, all around us.
In these times that can feel like chaos, perhaps the greatest revolution will happen in our own minds, when we choose to stay centered, to stay grounded in our hearts, alert and awakening, with our thoughts pointed surely at what is possible in our lives, in our evolution as humans. Keeping our visions strong, and clear, and knowing that that is where we are going.
The arrow goes where we aim it.
So, Great Spirit and Holy Life, may I aim with awareness, and fly with Love.
In the movement toward that which lights up the creative spark, I am embarking on a new experiment here, sharing words and images and sometimes videos of various encounters with Life.
I have always loved words, reading and writing stories and thoughts, ever since I could shape sentences. And though many don’t know it, I have adored taking videos and images since I was 11. At age 12 I was actually positive I would grow up to be a writer and film director. But with the busy breathlessness of high school and then university, the creative fires did not have my breath to continually stoke them, and these creative loves lessened their presence in my day-to-day living. Then, somehow, without intending to, I found myself at age 22 hearing songs. And bit by bit, I learned how to let them through. Music found me, and in a completely unpredictable turn of events, has become my career in life, for which I am endlessly grateful.
But those deep creative parts of Self have been returning recently, and one day suddenly, they spoke clearly to be rekindled.
It began the moment The Code of the Flowers was released. The album had arrived with such a clear theme, so entwined with the earth… and with that theme, a sort of command for me to live in closer connection with nature. And although many, many magical attunements happened during the creation of the album, the release of the album on 9/9 was a moment of crystal clarity. It was as if all the songs, in being released to the world, turned back toward me and whispered, “Now the real journey begins. Now you will live these words you sing.”
There isn’t enough space here to go into the depth of what that sentiment means, or the many directions that challenge has called me toward. It is a vast thing, to feel the call to act in alignment with ones beliefs and truth. To walk ones talk. I have a very long way to travel. And even more vast, to feel the unraveling of old ways so that new footsteps can take clearer steps.
One of those steps, as inexplainable as it can feel, is to write words like these. To share my photographs and videos. To share whatever is being asked to come through. Just because I love doing it. It is for the joy in the process of creating that I wish to share.
For once in my Western productivity-centred cultural upbringing, I will do something that has no desired outcome. No goal, no product. Nothing to buy. Just the delight of these hands in putting word to page, the utter joy of looking through lenses and marveling at the beauty of life all around us, and the excitement of choosing to vulnerably and transparently share ones self with others.
In these times of chaos and great change, I am learning to ground myself in that which illuminates the beauty and inspiration of life. In the midst of seeming madness, wonder feels like a lifeline. And perhaps it also a solution.
So my hope is that these posts offer some inspiration and wonder to your life. The kind that makes us want to turn away from the screen and go be outside to catch the final warming rays of sun. The kind that makes us curious about what it might be like to sing to the river down the hill. The kind that makes us want to pick up a paintbrush or guitar or pen or shovel or whatever calls to our hearts with that child-like excitement, that whispering voice. Come play.
For perhaps one medicine for the poison of greed is a generous sharing of whatever our heart is calling us to create.
Perhaps one antidote for the sickness of hatred is the creation of more and more forms weaving the story of Love wider and wider.
And perhaps one tincture for the ache of separation can be found when we choose to not see ourselves as separate, to not hold ourselves back, to not dim our light… but instead, to let ourselves Be as we Are. We might find the long-forgotten joy of our inner child. We might find the grief of thousands of years of unwept ancestors. We might find dawn. Or darkness. But whatever we find, we choose to love whatever is within us. And we allow it to come through us as something that can feed Life, and feed Beauty. We choose to shine brightly that which is deepest in our hearts. To create in whatever way our wonder and inner listening guides us, and ignite in each other a connection to the many forms of life we are all part of.
I don’t really know at all!
And the not-knowing is what lets me breathe, and try on the new experiment of each day. Cause why not?
So I will share bits and pieces, as the Listening guides me to.
And if my pieces should strike at the flint of your own hearth, all the better, for it is time the fires be lit.