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Journal

Embodied Rituals for Skin + Soul

Filtering by Category: Sacred Work

Plants + Ancestral Medicine

Katie Gordon

Hello, Wild One,

For as long as I can remember, I've felt an inexplicable call to a land I've never known. There were times in my life when I felt silly for feeling so homesick for a place to which I've never been...

Ireland. 

I've always known my ancestors came from there, but there were no stories, no anecdotes, no books, I had never even seen photos of them. All there is is an intense desire to be in a place, breathe that air, and hear its sounds.

Lately, I've been spending time reading about old world plants. The ones grown and used by my ancestors for food and medicine. The ones they gathered, dried, brewed, poulticed, and used to heal. 

One thing I've been coming to understand as I dig deeper into my ancestry is the sense of shame that comes with abandoning a place. My great great grandparents came here from Ireland and never talked about it. As far as anyone still living remembers, nothing was spoken of about their own lives, what it was like there, how it was to leave, and what they missed from their home land.

What I do have is a very old music box that still works. I have facts about where some were born and where they lived. And I have the knowing that exists in my own blood as it sings through my body.

But I now know the sense of shame, of grief and heartbreak that comes with leaving a land you have deep roots in. A feeling I never understood but often felt as deep seated as the stories written in my own bones.

With this realization comes another one: my love for plants and the medicine (physical, spiritual, and emotional) they provide is intimately tied to this grief and the need to heal from that particular wound of disconnection from the land.

That is my Why. 

I could go on and on about natural skincare and herbalism, the importance of using substances our bodies can recognize. And I often do. But the real why is that plants and their medicines bring me back home. 

When I use the plants of my ancestors {Rosemary, Yarrow, Thyme, Mugwort, Wormwood, Calendula} I remember who I am. And my hope is to inspire those same connections and remembrance in others.

So, with that I'll leave you with two of our newest products, inspired by the plants, the land, and the souls that call to me...

Rosemary + Lavender Shower Lotion Stick

A lotion stick crafted with Calendula, Mugwort, Plantain, Rosemary, and Lavender-infused oil that's been sitting for nearly a full moon cycle, hemp seed oil, cocoa butter, shea butter, and Northwest beeswax. Wonderfully healing for eczema, sensitive + irritated skin, cracking, psoriasis, damaged skin, sunburn, chapped skin, and even diaper rash. Shop now >>>

Awaken: Ritual Room + Body Mist

A fresh, enlivening room + body mist to use ritually to banish the "blahs" and move stuck, stagnant, uncreative energy.

The oils in this blend are intended to be stimulating in a good way. In the way that helps awaken creativity, and transform + transmute places within that are wound up, tight, and inaccessible. Awaken helps unwind tension, bring you back to your center, and remind you of your own healing potential. And it smells gorgeous! Shop now >>>

Wisdom Within: What is embodiment?

Katie Gordon

Often when I teach public classes, I see people going deeper and deeper into a stretch or into a pose as if there was a place to get to. In many movement practices, we view the deep stretch as the opening we need or the opportunity to explore intensity.

The more I observe this happening, the more I realize we often lean into physical sensation, desperate to feel something other than the intensity that's already there: our emotions and thoughts. The things we may actually need to feel and acknowledge.

As cliché as it may sound, you've got to feel something to "heal" it. And while the physical sensation may feel oh-so-good in the moment, most often it's a distraction from real embodiment. From presence. And from the scariest thing of all: our own power.

Our bodies can lead us right into the heart of our own light, our beauty, our shadows, our innate wisdom, if only we'd stop pushing and pulling, and simply feel how exquisitely intelligent the human body is. How much we can learn about our souls when we pay attention to what is already deep within us, waiting to be seen.

When I work with clients, we may explore some of those same things that bring you to yoga: tension, chronic pain, injury recovery, building strength, and flexibility. But that's not what this work of Embodiment really is.

You'll discover strength and space within yourself that you never knew you had! But it won't come from "hip-openers" and finding ever-deeper backbends.

 Photo by  Zé Zorzan  on  Unsplash

Photo by Zé Zorzan on Unsplash

You'll dismantle paradigms and transform the way you relate with your body and soul. But it won't come from doing a 20 minute headstand, getting into the perfect heart-opener, or finally learning that one stretch that will relieve that tension in your neck. 

It will come from committing to tending to your body + soul. It will come from presence. It will come from deep listening, learning how to translate the innate wisdom of your body, trusting and, most importantly, taking action around what this incredibly wise body has to tell you.

It will come from feeling the way every single bone in your body is in motion and where that motion gets stuck.

It will come from feeling the way grief has settled into your left ovary and before it will unwind, a story needs to be told.

It will come from exploring your boundaries and what it actually feels like in your physical gut to say no to things that are not for you.

The transformation that comes from embodiment only comes because you are constantly choosing that which will bring you from the old into the new.

How do the sensations speak to you?

This is the journey I've been on for 10 years now. 

Join me.

Embodiment vs. Listening to your body

Katie Gordon

When someone says, "Listen to your body," what does that mean to you?

Do you notice physical sensations? Emotions? Do you notice what you're thinking about? 

Does it give you helpful information?

Despite the title of my previous post, as someone who's studied and taught movement and various modalities of healing arts for a long time, I find that instruction to be mostly unhelpful. 

Why?

Because often when we listen to our bodies, we're listening with our brain, with our projections, with our insecurities, and with a disconnection from the language our bodies speak in.

And that isn't wrong! We just need to be taught HOW to listen to our bodies.

 Photo by  Dave Contreras  on  Unsplash

Here's a story...

For years now, I've been experiencing pain in my hips in poses like Warrior 2 where one leg is externally rotated. I thought stretching would help. It didn't. Then I thought heat would help. That actually made it worse, plus created even MORE inflammation in my joints. I've worked on my alignment, I've used herbs, ice, essential oils, rest, bodywork, etc. Nothing worked to actually address the issue, which I couldn't even pinpoint. 

Now, if someone had asked me to listen to my body, whether in a yoga class or not, to inquire within about the pain, I would've been left feeling frustrated and like a total failure. As would a lot of people! Because as students of yoga and spiritual practice, we're "supposed to be" sensitive, intuitive, and self-aware. So if we don't get a direct answer from our bodies, we must not be listening well enough. Right?

Wrong. 

Instead, I asked one of my teachers about it. He had me come into Warrior 2 on my Right side (the side that hurts less):

"Which way is your sit bone rotating?" he asked. "Internally," I said. "Good. Switch sides."

I switch to my Left side.

"Which way is this sit bone rotating?" he asks. "Holy sh*t! Externally!" I said, totally shocked. "Yep. There's your problem. Also, if you look at your femur, does it look straight?" 

Me: "Hm. No. It looks twisted."

Him: "Yep." After which he showed me how to unwind my thigh bone. (Yea, I get to unwind bones for a living.) 

How much more transformative, helpful, and mind-blowing is that than simply telling me to, "Listen to my body."

Why am I telling you all this?

Some of you who are reading this are yoga instructors, and it bears reminding that people coming to your class desire you to hold space for them. This means offering an opportunity for inquiry AND an actual container with substance and guidance. If they wanted to just "listen to their body" they could stay home. They're looking for answers within or at least to learn HOW to find answers within. This is a chance to educate people on HOW to listen, what to listen/look/feel for so they can walk away feeling like they have greater understanding of their body and its inherent wisdom.

For those of you reading this who aren't yoga instructors, inquiry within the container of movement can be potent work. While the symptoms, tension, injuries, and even pain you experience in your body might be maddening and confusing, it's a beautiful opportunity to go within.

Your body has answers.

That realization in itself can be incredibly empowering! No one knows your body like you do. While there are people out there who are more highly trained in anatomy, physiology, etc., YOU are the one who gets the ultimate say. You are the one who holds sovereignty over this human form you're currently embodying. You don't need to give your power over to anyone (yoga teacher or otherwise) to tell you what you should feel.

Seek out tools and teachers who provide guidance and encouragement to have your own experience in and with your body. Don't frustratingly settle for anyone or anything that tells you to "listen to your body." Your body speaks in a language all its own, but there are those who can teach you how to see, sense, and translate that language into something you recognize and can work with.   

 

What happens when you listen to your body?

Katie Gordon

Have you ever noticed what it feels like to completely ignore your body's wisdom?

Some of us feel that disconnect in our emotional body. For others, that disconnection is manifested in their physical body as tension, pain, and injury. Often we forget we even have bodies. Many of us go through our lives as if we're simply talking heads, floating in space with no feet to touch the earth. This isn't to say that ALL tension, pain, and injury is a result of either not listening or ignoring our bodies' inherent wisdom, but for many people, it's definitely a contributing factor.

I got really good at ignoring my body. Here's a little back story...

For awhile after finishing up my first yoga teacher training, massage school, and beginning my journey with Visionary Craniosacral Work, in the process of trying to figure out how to actually make a living doing my sacred work, I thought I needed to be some kind of "coach" in order to help people AND make money. 

I thought all my hours of training, practice, and experience had to somehow fit in and under the title of "[insert descriptor] Coach." I spent so much energy trying to figure out how to define myself and my work in a way that was approachable and made people want to say, "Yes!" to working with me.

Along the way, I worked with some business coaches who advised me to play on people's fears, pain points, and insecurities. Yuck! Even thinking back on it NOW it feels icky. I couldn't do it. It felt gross, inauthentic, and completely missed the point of what I was trying to create. 

Not only was there the ick factor in trying to market myself inauthentically, but the whole time I was trying to force this role, this construct on myself, my body was rebelling. Weird digestive issues, tension in my belly, odd recurring injuries. I even kept losing my voice!

Finally, I gave myself permission to let go.

breath of life.jpg

To surrender what I thought I should be doing and how it should look.

And it was a huge relief! It's exhausting pretending, isn't it?

It takes so much energy. I had done so much healing for myself, but there was a crucial piece I hadn't dug into yet: this idea that my work had to fit someone else's idea of being worthwhile or something people would pay for. 

So, instead of doing all the time, I started listening. Without even knowing what to listen for. I had to trust whatever it was that wanted to come through me. Just like I do when I teach group yoga classes. Trusting the words to come out, and that the students will receive what they need from the class. 

I stopped trying to "figure it out." I trusted that what wanted to be born from my unique combination of skills, gifts, study, and experience would make its way earthside. I trusted that I'd find the words to talk about it. That I didn't need to play off people's pain and insecurities. 

Instead, I'd trust my words to speak to the ones I could serve and be of benefit to. Trusting my words meant trusting my body (just like I teach others to do), as well as...

+ Beginning to notice when and where I was holding and letting that tension be an indicator of where I was trying to "make something happen."

+ Acknowledging that I didn't actually want to be a "coach," and I didn't have to be in order to be of service.
 
+ Believing that my gifts of holding space, of seeing energy, and of inviting people back to their bodies are worthwhile and even necessary.

+ Knowing that the healing people experience through these sessions I guide them through is and would continue to be profound.

One of the best things about these Embodiment Sessions? They're done virtually! 

Some people wonder if virtual sessions can offer the same benefit as my in-person, hands-on sessions. They ask if this work can be as potent if we're not physically together. 

I'd say, in some ways, they can be even more powerful. I used to leave therapy or healing sessions feeling light and somehow changed. But once I got back into my own space, my home, my ordinary reality, it felt like the magic faded. 

But when you're already in your space, the magic is more easily integrated into your reality. You come out feeling rooted, at home in your body and in your extra-ordinary reality. 

If you want to learn more about these Embodiment sessions, a blend of therapeutic yoga, guided journey, subtle-body healing, and visionary work, come visit me over here.

Labdanum: ancient medicine + sacred perfume

Katie Gordon

Labdanum is one of those scents that has been haunting me for the last couple months. It had come as a sample with an order of essential oils. As soon as I opened the tiny bottle it came in, I was transported to an ancient temple, surrounded by sacred smoke curling up from ritual censers. It smelled both familiar and foreign at the same time, as if it was waking up memories from long ago held in my bones rather than in my brain.

censer.jpg

Something about Labdanum ignited a new curiosity about botanical perfumes, which I'm already enamored with, but this was different. It was almost as if this oleoresin brought a piece of me to the surface that had long ago been buried and forgotten. 

So I started getting curious about Labdanum.

What is it? What plant is it distilled from?

Labdanum, not to be confused with Laudanum (a tincture of opium), is a dark, stick, brown resin that comes from a couple species of the shrubs in the Cistus genus, otherwise known as Rock Rose. These beautiful + aromatic members of the Cistaceae family grow primarily in temperate areas of Europe and the Mediterranean basin. 

Labdanum has an ancient history of being used in various cultures from Hebrew, Assyrian, Arabic, and Greek traditions. Egyptians used it in their Kyphi mixtures and it's even referenced in the Bible as the Balm of Gilead. It's said the Ishmaelite caravan coming from Gilead to which Joseph was sold, was transporting labdanum.

Then they lifted their eyes and looked, and there was a company of Ishmaelites, coming from Gilead with their camels, bearing spices, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry them down to Egypt. - Genesis 37:25

It's believed the "myrrh" in this verse actually refers to a mixture of Myrrh resin and the resin of Rock Rose.

Similarly, the combination of Myrrh resin and Labdanum oleoresin has been documented as a food supplement to support the immune system, protecting against bacteria and fungi. Even Hippocrates prescribed it for sores, and the Romans used it to treat worms, the common cold and cough, and various infections. 

The fragrance itself is incredibly complex with balsam-like notes, with hints of oakmoss, leather, amber, smoke, and plum. Earthy, green, and woody. It's said that this complexity is one of the reason for Labdanum's strong affect on the subconscious with its grounding, warming, and sensual aromatherapeutic actions. 

Labdanum mixes beautifully with Lavender, a combination featured in the Imbolc Wild Medicine Bundle, as well as other green and earthy fragrances.