Myceliating the System and Rebuilding Rot with Olga Tzogas

SA

First off, how are you?

O

Hello! Hello! I’m doing good, busy but really feeling decent these days. Lots going on but the rains are bringing me joy, because they help fruit so many beautiful fungi! It’s been a lovely year for wild mushrooms so far. How’s it going over there?

SA

It’s going well! I agree, the rain is so cleansing. I’m in Brooklyn right now, and there’s something about the weather today that is lending itself to both melancholy and introspection. I’m so excited to talk to you because what you do is very moving to me — teaching people more about mycology — and so I want to know everything. 

Tell me, what was your journey to mycology? 

O

Yes the waters! So cleansing, it feels so much better out there after a rinse I tell ya! Thank you for your kind words! I’m just the messenger of the fungi and it’s been such a treat sharing what I love with people and other folks catching on to the divinity of mushrooms and Fungi. I always loved eating mushrooms, in foods, and growing up, my mother, every New Years Day would make this really simple dish with white button mushrooms, parsley, wine and lots of garlic…mind blowing. As I started to steer my studies in community college away from art to more biology, I had some amazing teachers that were walking encyclopedias, they could see anything outside that was wild and tell you its name and everything about it. It was inspiring and mostly because when we started learning about mushrooms and fungi, we found hundreds of varieties and many of them incredible edibles. I’m super into food, grew up in a Greek diner and that’s the way to my heart. So they grabbed my attention and really, I just rabbit-holed myself into their wonder. It’s vast, as we know, mushrooms are beyond food, but medicinal, therapeutic, ecological healers and ceremonial. They are almost infinite in their abilities and their range of existence in so many fields of study and life. It was indeed the love others had for fungi that was contagious and I caught on as well.

SA

This is so concise, I love how you can track your love and interest in mushrooms right from these formative moments like New Years Day meals… Food is a gateway for me as well. I started gaining more interest in mycology/fungi/ the mycelium network through the work of Paul Stamets and Fantastic Funghi recently really blew my mind… just how intelligent this species is. You say you’re a messenger (and I believe it) so was there a moment that you can remember where you felt you had to teach people about this majestic wondrous plant/medicine? 

And if so… why? I’m really curious how that journey started for you. Did it feel like a divine calling? 

O

It’s funny because I think it just happened naturally. It’s almost like, every person who does know about Fungi is a teacher because we end up having to explain to folks what they’re looking at all the time hahaha. I would be at markets selling some gathered goods, when I first began my ‘business’ with fungi and half the time it was educating folks, because they would be like, “hey! I saw something like that the other day! What is that?” And you end up giving them a little lesson along the way. Really, though, it was the need for the info in the community around here, the desire to bring other teachers, to host, to learn from too. I definitely put lots of my initial knowledge to the credit of incredible fungal mentors like Ja Schindler of Fungi for the People, who really taught me how to grow mushrooms and encouraged me to share the knowledge as much as possible.  

SA

I feel like most people I meet who work with Fungi are teachers, you’re right. I’m also in awe of anyone who dedicates their time, efforts and energy into educating people about this Earth. You’re also right about community — I find there’s something really utopic about Fungi because they have this immense regenerative quality that is so profound — and in conversations even about our ecological future in the face of the current climate catastrophe I believe that Fungi does and will play such a role in how we reimagine the world ahead of us. 

Does that resonate with you? Do you agree? 

O

I want to say yes, but I’m also a bit bitter of green washed models of what our future could be like. I think we know what it could look like, because the models are present all over the world in various pockets of areas left alone from so-called ‘progress.’ Like, that recent Elon Musk tweet he’s offering tons of money to combat the climate crisis and it’s like, JUST PLANT TREES! LOL It’s the Industry fucking shit up, and they just want their little green washed eco campaign to make their other awful practices seem less terrible? Idk im pretty ‘anti civilization’ in the sense that so much is caused by immense industrial frameworks for everything we do and consume, I think it’d be way better if it didn’t exist at all LOL but obvs that’s not reality and we live in the so called late stages of capitalism, do I think mushrooms are going to make greedy jerks not mess the planet up? I don’t think so. I think there’s this boom for profit that just won’t let up. Do I want there to be a better ecological future? Sure do! But until we really see that, the pipelines are still being built, by the same companies selling green energy, giving us the ‘alternatives’ when really Mama Earth provides all. We’re so detached. It’s hard and it’s also just the systems in place, it’s hard to escape the rat race as they say. There’s tons of privilege that exists with this notion of returning to the land, growing food, growing mushrooms, etc because that’s not a reality that everyone can do, and sometimes the folks that were living on the land good, get displaced by giant energy projects, pipelines, developments, hotels etc. I’ll also say that, Paul’s youtube video about ‘mushrooms saving the Earth’ is deflective, it puts huge pressure and hope that one organism is going to save us, a ‘cure all’ if you will and it’s not that simple. I mean it almost is, but most don’t want to have that convo; abolition of the military, prisons and what was it? 70 companies responsible for the rest of the ecological crisis? It puts this personal responsibility on the US when it’s really on THEM.   

SA

Yes, I absolutely feel you. Late stage capitalism is really an interesting beast because it really wants to take the planet down and doesn’t care if it extracts the entire Earth for resources, it’s a devastating reality we live in right now but I guess it’s funny I’ve been thinking about the future a lot as I’m writing my fourth book on the wellness industrial complex (called Who Is Wellness For?) so I’m examining the question of futurity a lot. I absolutely believe we can only have a future on this planet by collapsing predatory Capitalism (though I don’t believe an ~ ethical alternative ~ which I’m sure they’ll try to sell us will work when our planet is literally melting) and that’s really the only way. Because… what happens when power lines go down, or labor workers can’t work — Capitalism relies on cheap labor and the “compliance” of the Earth… and I actually feel her saying NO. Like a big booming NO. And I think she’s going to keep saying NO! NO! NO! Until we are forced to stop and reconsider. So yes… absolutely feel you on the reality we are living, but I think that future relies so much on the hope that we can collapse and reimagine… without greenwashing but by actually collapsing and reinstating new paradigms. I feel like that’s what your work is doing on a community level… by educating people you’re giving them an entry point to their own liberation from Capitalism in a way!!!

So what do you think are steps we can take for anyone who reads this to engage with Fungi in a holistic way? I feel like learning how to be with these medicines is definitely a step toward redefining the right relationship to the Earth. 

O

Study them and all their relatives. Study the trees, smell the flowers, feel plants. Listen to the birds and go outside and see the Earth resisting the concrete and the flowers that make their way to every corner of the city and beyond. We need to listen, and you’re right, Earth is saying, NO NO NO! And we need to hear that and protect Earth at all costs. We need to connect to teachers and folks who are sharing. Obviously that could get tricky cuz the internet is filled with a wide range of info and content. I luckily did start learning about Fungi, kind of before there was much internet content out there and I began learning from folks in local mushroom clubs. It really is a great way to connect and learn. They know their stuff. It is definitely a more colonized approach to Mycology; most mushrooms are picked, identified, placed in herbariums and stored. But it’s a stepping stone to get comfy and maybe find your fungi crew to connect with. It’s a matter of time, we find each other. Sadly, clubs are very apolitical. They won’t talk about deforestation or climate crisis because this older boomer model, ‘leave politics’ out of it’ let me have my club time, when the habitats they like gathering from are under serious attack and gone. Thankfully now though, with the help of the internet, we have found more rad, inclusive spaces to adore fungi and study. I’m grateful to many teachers like the folks over at the POC Fungi Community, Mama Maiz and countless BIPOC Earth stewards leading the way.  Showing me and my community how to navigate with more care and connection. It’s been a journey for me, if we spoke 15 years ago, I would of told you I wanted to be the next Paul Stamets, seriously, now, with the grace and guidance of incredible people everywhere, my growth within the fungal centric world, I tend to be steered away from his model and more of a smaller, diverse, decentralized and interconnected one. I want discussions around water and land rights to be part of the conversation when we talk about fungi, when we talk about mushrooms at the store or in the packets. Where did they come from? There’s tons of mushroom companies out there right now and I’m def in favor of supporting smaller growers and folks making noise for change. Like, I don’t know about you, but I want to give money to people doing rad work, advocating for police abolition, the end to corporate welfare and a real eco centric paradigm.

SA

I think that’s why your work shows the radicality of fungi—because what is it if not a confrontation of death? I’ve been thinking about death awareness a lot as a way to navigate thwarting Capitalism. Everything you’re speaking to as well — abolition of cops, of prisons, of Capitalism, of these industrial complexes that need to collapse — is all a part of the future of Fungi to me, because with that very praxis of mycology there seems to be an intelligent system that though might not have all the answers how they respond and communicate with each other, at the very least, to me, is a radical way of showing how to learn from them. 

Thank you for this conversation. It’s been so healing. 

One last question, I want to know through all of this radical work that’s being done and needs to be done, how do you center and take care of yourself? This journey towards ~ the collective anti-Capitalist future ~ is a long one. How do you harness yourself for it? Do you use daily tinctures? Are there particular blends or fungi you would recommend for caring for yourself and your community through fungi? 

Are there any smaller growers you would also recommend? Folks that you would recommend others looking into? 

THANK YOU SO MUCH!

O

Yes, we definitely gotta decompose, myceliate the system and rebuild from that rot! Rot can be good and I hope we can get more comfy having conversations like this. Here, in the West there is this innate fungiphobic mindset that has stemmed from our fear of death and the unknown and I appreciate you bringing that up. Fungi are mystics and carriers of so much knowledge, bridging all the topics, all the waters, all the conversations and I think we gotta honor that. The medicine that I try to connect with is honoring my one commitment to take a walk in the woods at least once a week. It’s something I’ve been really trying to make sure I do for at least an hour a week. I know that might seem bizarre because I work with mushrooms, but sometimes, the farming and the business side steals the original joy, which was walking around, seeing what was growing, which is just such a delight. It’s new every time. It’s very stimulating and sometimes ya just end up picking berries or watching woodpeckers, heck or getting bit by a tick too, it’s not always a dreamy landscape.  When I do get the need to take medicine, I really like Turkey Tail mushrooms, they are incredible. I could talk about them for an hour on their own. I’m also really excited about growing cordyceps, and playing with different extractions with them. I love all mushrooms, they’re hard to pick. I tend to work with mostly polypore fungi, reishi, maitake, turkey tail and violet toothed polypore. I love chaga but I dont offer it anymore because I’m getting so shaken up by the massive extractive industry that’s just getting bigger and bigger.  The Chaga ‘fruit’ is only found in the wild and it makes me really scared to think how much of it exists on shelves of stores right now. When I am stressing about climate collapse, I tend to take some roses, elder flowers, tulsi, various herbal essences and lots of cannabis. Thank gawd for cannabis. Also lots of water, tons, and with lots of lemon. Hot water with lemon is my go to.  

As far as growers and makers, it’s almost impossible to not find a local mushroom farm at this point. There’s been a boom of mushroom farms and businesses. I def encourage folks to visit their local farm markets and see who is growing what. It’s a great way to get really fresh produce and foods. I love so many people doing so much amazing work, growing and sharing with their communities. Herban Cura does a phenomenal job offering classes and they also have a great line of extracts called BRUJAS that has both botanical and fungi extracts. William Padilla Brown, has an assortment of high concentrated extract of medicinals, very techy, and inspiring. Out West in Oregon, ZoomOut Mycology offers kits and medicinal teas and extracts.  Our fam down in Southern California, as mentioned POC FUNGI Community provides classes, medicine and resources to BIPOC communities to get into fungi.  For any mushroom cultivation classes I really do suggest the school at Fungi for the People, Ja and Val are incredible teachers and you will not regret it. It’s very loaded with info and most folks out there aren’t offering a course for 7 days which includes meals and camping. TBH I took Paul Stamets classes 12+ years ago and looking back, it was not worth it. It’s a bit of a novelty class, there were no real hands-on demos, no interactive way to learn. Very formal, and standardized.  Basically save the bucks and learn from smaller growers, his books tend to leave folks thinking they gotta drop $20k to grow a mushroom, that’s not the case.  They literally can grow on most water streams.  One of my current favorite cultivation books out there right now, is DIY Mushroom Cultivation By Willoughby Arevalo, who is soo talented and hilarious.

Thanks so much for this opportunity. Appreciate you

Decolonizing Astrology with Alice Sparkly Kat

SA
From Vedic to I Ching, Evolutionary to esoteric, there are so many different practices of astrology. Astrology is essentially a tool for transformation. A recognition of one’s connection to the Universe and everything in it allows us to do better by ourselves and the world around us. What is the most popular/ easily accessed form(s) of astrology in the west and what are ways these practices replicate oppressive structures? 

A
The type of astrology that is most popular in the west is modern astrology. When we deal with modern astrology, we have to understand that it comes from modernity and modernism. Modernity was a movement that was all about erecting these neoclassical ideals through modern materials, with glass panes and steel structures. Modernism was patriarchal reordering, where Europe extracted cultural stuff from its colonies while treating the people in those colonies as less than human. The two “grandfathers” of modern astrology—Alan Leo and Dane Rudhyar—were part of modern and modernist movements. They cited India as a source, didn’t cite any Indian astrologers, made up their own ideas about caste structures to reinforce Europe’s race supremacy, and saw Europe and the colonies in this weird, binary gendered dynamic.

So, it’s not just that western astrology uses Roman names and deities and reinforces white supremacy in that way. It’s that this use of Rome is anachronistic—it comes from the 1930s. It’s part of a larger movement in which Europe was trying to revive itself using neoclassicalism, much like how fascists were looking to Rome to unify Germany but then were also appropriating swastikas. If you look at the history, western astrology tends to revive when there is a perceived sense of white loss because it is understood through this neoclassical aesthetic. It became very popular in the American South after the Civil War as well.

SA
What does it mean for BIPOC to decolonize astrology? How do we as displaced people, settler colonists living inside the structures of white supremacy, capitalism and the patriarchy begin to even think about this move?

A
The first thing that we have to understand is that decolonization is not a hashtag. It’s not a purely cultural movement. Decolonization of astrology, of how we understand ourselves and our environment, has to happen with land reparations.

Astrology is about orienting yourself to the world. The language of astrology is completely founded upon cultural belonging. In western astrology, planets that are “dignified” are “at home” and planets that are “in detriment” are “in exile.” This language is not apolitical. If you look at the history of settler colonialism, who was defined as settling and who was defined as transient was racial. White people settled. Indigenous, black, Mexican, and Asian workers were transient and were criminalized for transiency. That isn’t to say that relations among BIPOC are equal—they’re not. It just means that settlerism, citizenship, and cultural belonging don’t come from a question of whether or not you were born on the land that your ancestors come from (indigenous people are also criminalized for being “foreign”) but come from power—white power.

What we have to understand about modernity and also whiteness, since whiteness is often conflated with modernity, is that white people were not the ones who built it. How could they? Settlers did not move to America or Australia to do any labor. They were here to own. The labor that built modernity is slave labor, coolie labor, and indigenous labor on indigenous land. Navajo women used their ancestral weaving technologies to design our first circuit boards. New York City was built by Africans who came with woodworking skills that they learned in Africa. All the interfaces that we use to access the digital world today are made by Asian women. All of the materials that construct modernity—cotton, steel, oil, sugar, tea—are extracted from stolen land and exploited labor. All of the technologies that make modernity come from people of color. Whiteness is not something that was forced on us from the outside but something that we were forced to build.

We built and continue to build modernity. So much of the meanings without modern astrology, with Venus getting its sexual associations through what sex work has historically meant, Mars being wrapped up in the enemy or foreigner or terrorist, or Mercury dealing with the extraction of labor, has people of color already in it since modernity is something that can’t exist without people of color. Nothing in modernity can exist without people of color, not sex work, not labor, not the military industrial complex. We’re already living inside of every modern language, including modern astrology. White astrologers might be able to pretend that there’s a direct line between Rome and the modern West but we know that’s not true due to the stories we hear from our elders and ancestors. We understand that our histories of survival are complicated inside of anything that is modern, including modern astrology.

To decolonize, we have to completely rethink cultural ownership and belonging. The people who are thought to own modernity, to have contributed the most to it, did none of the productive labor and only owned enterprises, plantations, and corporations. These people have the privilege of belonging or settling, even in places outside of the West thanks to globalization. As people of color, we have to figure out how we want to belong and how we want to own. We can’t mimic the vocabularies of white people since they will just perpetuate the same problems. This is the work of decolonizing astrology—it’s the work of decolonizing how we relate to the world, whether that’s through belonging or owning or something else. We have to do this work with the direct action and with reparations. The material and cultural work have to happen at the same time, since neither can happen without the other.

SA
Decolonization is a lifelong process that begins with the individual and is applied to all varying aspects of life. Once on this journey that is undoubtedly not an easy one, we begin to foster a self awakening that allows us to heal past traumas buried deep within us. How has committing to a decolonized practice of astrology and wellness in general allow for an enhanced sense of your own Self?  

A
Astrology is kind of a weird, niche language. The best thing about it is that a lot of queers and a lot of people of color are actively participating in it right now. That’s the best thing about it! There’s nothing inherently liberating about astrology. It’s just as supremacist and capitalist and patriarchal as a lot of other languages, such as art or theory or psychology.

But! We’re here. We’re using it, misusing it, remixing it, and abusing it. We’re making sure that our stories get heard and that we listen to each other using it. When I think about what’s going on with astrology, I think about how there’s so many lesbians in the K-pop boy band fandom. We use these random cis men as our barbies or literary drag skins to turn each other on and comfort each other. K-pop is very much a queer space, of transpeople, nb, and femmes loving other transpeople, nb, and femmes, even though all the images are of cis men. What queers do with K-pop—that’s what people of color and queers are doing with the pseudo-Roman figures in modern astrology.

The best thing about astrology is that I’ve been able to develop a practice where I get to heal members of my community on issues of racial trauma, sexual trauma, displacement, loss—there’s no readymade vocabulary within a lot of therapeutic language to talk about these issues. A lot of the vocabulary that we have to address mental health goes back to Rome (paranoia, anxiety, depression all being Latin words). I chose to use astrology and not counseling because you don’t have to go through the institution to become an astrologer. What you have to do to become an astrologer is to commit to community work. You have to learn your perspective through people and I’ve been lucky to have work where I develop relationships with immigrant elders and kids that I learn through. That’s the only way you’re going to develop your language and your practice. Because this is the way astrology works, I’ve been able to feel supported.

Alice Sparkly Kat is a queer, PoC astrologer. They use astrology to re-chart a history of the subconscious, redefine the body in world, and reimagine history as collective memory. Alice offers sliding scale astrology options

Resensitizing Grief with Sydney Gore

SA
Sydney, how are you holding up?

S
Hi Prinita! These past few weeks activated a new level of exhaustion that I had never experienced before. I’m an empath so I get drained really easily and with this particular situation I can’t really take a break. This is simply my experience as a Black woman and I have to live through it in real time during a global pandemic. I’m doing all that I can to nurture myself and those conscious efforts seem to be paying off. This week I’ve been feeling like the energy in the atmosphere is pushing us toward a fresh start and that invigorates me.

SA
Describe your energy today in three words.

S
I love this question. I had an energy healing session the other day and my practitioner basically told me that my root chakra is out of sync so I’ve been paying closer attention to that area. But back to your inquiry… The three words that describe my energy at this precise moment are: abundant, tender, and rooted.

SA
What does being ‘well’ in the revolution mean for you?

S
THANK YOU FOR BRINGING THIS UP. To me, being “well” in the midst of a revolution means prioritizing emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual health. It’s about turning inward and acknowledging how you’re responding to what you’re feeling. We have to address our internal wounds and the deep trauma that lies buried there. You won’t be fully equipped to do the work that is necessary to help others if you haven’t made the time to take care of yourself. Racism is literally a public health crisis… Waris Ahluwalia once showed me how “healthy self” literally spells out HEAL THY SELF and it blew my mind. The gut-brain axis is so powerful, I hope more people educate themselves about this vital relationship–I trust my gut more than anything or anyone else. Dayna Hunt recently outlined how advocacy, empathy, anti-racism work, speaking up, and holding space for others are all pillars of wellness and I couldn’t agree more. Also, let’s decolonize the wellness industry while we’re at it!

SA
Racial grief is inevitable in a racist world. The Combahee River Collective Black Feminist Statement reports that, ‘an early group member once said, “We are all damaged people merely by virtue of being Black women.” We are dispossessed psychologically and on every other level’ White supremacy perpetuates fragmentation, disconnection and disintegration experienced by all racialized people, particularly by women of color, especially by Black women. Grief can be a catalyst for collaboration, connection and bridge building. How do you navigate your need to mobilize, your need to grieve and your need to heal?

S
I have a habit of channeling my grief into productivity. Perhaps it’s a defense mechanism to distract myself from tapping into pain that I’m not ready to feel, but I always find myself keeping busy. It’s this constant state of “go, go, go” until I drive myself to a breaking point of exhaustion and the only way to avoid completely crashing is giving myself permission to rest. 

Following the murder of George Floyd, a switch went off inside me and for the first time in my life I felt invigorated to act—I refused to be silent about my experiences and with each passing day my voice has grown louder because the messages are no longer being ignored. I felt like it was my duty to raise awareness about the systemic racism that continues to poison the world so I threw myself into sharing resources to educate my network. 

By the end of the first week of protests, I was running on E and took the cues from my body signaling for restoration. I extended deadlines so I could have enough space away from work to process and reflect in real time without being overwhelmed. I’m still healing, but the steps that I take to nourish myself keep me grounded.

SA
Kwame Ture writing about the uprising’s response to the Vietnam war states: (They were) emotionally scarred, spiritually drained from the constant tension, the moments of anger, grief, or fear in a pervading atmosphere of hostility and impending violence. Where some of us channel our grief into rage and collective action, it is still necessary to sit with the mourning, to fully feel it and fully embrace it in order to move with empathy and affect. This concept of embracing grief becomes exhaustive when violence against the Black community is constant, it is daily. To detach from mourning is insensitive, but is it necessary for self preservation? 

S
As a diagnosed empath, I find it very difficult to detach from my emotions. I wouldn’t say that I’m desensitized to hostility, but when certain acts of violence become repetitive you sort of get used to hearing about them no matter how inhumane it is. I’m sure this is even more common for the generations that came before me and have witnessed the same injustices occur throughout the course of their lives. I don’t know how my grandmother is able to digest this material and out of respect for her I never ask because the last thing that I want to do is inflict emotional harm from a triggering topic. I have to sit with my grief in order to deal with it which usually means taking time to be in solitude with my thoughts and purge all the emotions that are bubbling deep inside my gut.

SA
Shock factor has been key in allowing folks on the other side to understand the plight of Black communities. Social media has aided this shock, where folks have been exposed to footage of death in real time. Lately, the amplification of Black death online has combined with the daily updates of lives lost to COVID19. The oppressors tactics of loss, fragmentation and disconnection renders the normalization of violence against Black and minority communities in America a spectacle. Do you think destroying the spectacle of violence is possible in an imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy? 

S
A few weeks ago I had a conversation with my mother where I asked her point blank if there was a moment during my childhood similar to what is currently happening because I couldn’t remember anything significant before 9/11. I didn’t have a political “awakening” until I went to college in 2011 and prior to that I wasn’t paying close attention to what was really going on. She told me that I was correct in my recollection, but pointed out this has become so intense in recent years because of our immediate access to information through technology and the Internet. The exposure that we have to these events on social media allows us to be informed immediately whereas when my mom was my age it would take longer for a report to surface about a non-local tragedy. Obviously, I have no desire to watch this type of footage whenever it surfaces online, but at least I have the choice to scroll past it. The fact that this is what it takes to convince people that violence against Black and marginalized communities is wrong is a bigger issue though. It’s exposure at the expense of our well-being.

SA
Over the past few days, we’ve seen spurts of online aggression towards Black women especially, by men who are not reluctant to give up their standards of toxic masculinity, men who are still attached to their ego and thus, essentially upholding the patriarchy. In her conversation with Boots Riley, Noname said it is difficult to fight the revolution when men who look like Boots are unwilling to acknowledge that they have a role in committing violence against femme identifying Black folks. As a brown woman, I empathize greatly. It’s hard to fight alongside male comrades when you know they are only fighting for themselves. Toxic masculinity renders machismo identity unable to present insecurity and vulnerability. (Most cis/hetero identifying) men often find it difficult to grieve and often this moves them into indifference. How do you think about this as something that needs to be dismantled in order to conquer the larger goal of destroying white supremacy?

S
I find it extremely frustrating and counterproductive that some Black men continue to be so unwilling to hold up their end of the bargain when it comes to protecting the lives of ALL Black womxn. It’s a glaring blind spot that hinders the growth of our community. There’s no progress without the involvement of Black womxn, PERIOD. We can join hands and shout about the evils of the white man at the top of our lungs, but this doesn’t absolve Black and brown men from their part in perpetuating toxic masculinity and committing heinous acts of violence. Misogynoir is a cancer and we need to cure everyone that is spreading it.

Noname was right when she declared that we are the new vanguard in the closing verse of “Song 33.” Weak minds are dangerous because they distract us from executing our mission. J. Cole and men that think like him are getting us nowhere with their half-baked dialogue. In Salvation: Black People and Love, bell hooks writes “It has not been easy for black women to maintain faith in love in a society that has systematically devalued our bodies and our beings.” Oluwatoyin Salau should still be here today–her tragic death could have been prevented. Instead, she’s another name on the long list of Black womxn that were failed. In conclusion, LISTEN TO BLACK WOMXN. 

SA
Reclaiming grief is necessary in recognizing it as a force to challenge oppressive structures. How might we begin to think about grief as a resource as opposed to grief as something that needs to be fixed?

S
My friend Mangda Sengvanhpheng, a certified death doula, describes grief as “the ultimate expression of gratitude for our losses.” I’m someone who struggles with uncertainty which stems from an underlying fear of the unknown, but have had no choice but to overcome my discomfort with death. I feel like this has something to do with being an only child and coming to terms with the fact that you might be completely alone someday. There is nothing to gain when you refuse to accept death as a fundamental part of life, but not everyone will experience death with dignity. By now, I hope history has taught us that oppressed people deserve to be protected while they are still alive. 

When my grandfather died at the end of 2018, I thought a lot about how he spent almost a decade preparing our family for that moment yet I still wasn’t ready for it when it came—I didn’t get to properly say goodbye the way I would have wanted to because my mind didn’t even consider that there would be no next time after that time. I agonized over his passing for six months because I felt that I hadn’t done nearly enough to show him how much I appreciated him when he was still alive. There are so many resources to prepare you for the next big steps in life, but the guide for dealing with the aftermath of death is a mess. 

Now as a way to move forward, I try to focus on finding different ways to honor his memory, striving to make him proud of the person I am becoming. My Pop-Pop once made this observation about me during our weekly phone calls: “You see the world for what it is—good, bad, or in-between—you see the world for what it is and you figure out how to navigate accordingly. That’s why I know I don’t have to be worried about you.” (Let the record show that tears were shed while speaking about this.)

Decolonizing the Wellness Industry with Tony Pham

SA
Hi Tony! How are you doing today?

T
I’m just wrapping up work for my “traditional” job so transitioning out of that “work mode.”

SA
Oh yes, I feel that big time. I also am just ending the day with my ‘job that pays the bills’. What are some ways you ease into that transition?

T
I find it helpful to have markers to delineate beginnings and endings. I find that a lot of folks are having challenges with blurred lines/lack of boundaries with all the working from home during the pandemic. As much as I can, I like to go for a walk around my neighborhood at the end of the work day.

SA
I am definitely learning how to be better at establishing my boundaries with work, it’s so easy, especially while on our devices, to be constantly plugged in. And particularly, I’m finding it increasingly exhausting, as someone who uses social media a lot for work, to be online at a time where there is such an overload of content that requires deep emotional engagement. As a practitioner of meditation, what advice might you have for folks online who are feeling drained by this content overload – particularly, folks who are looking to online spaces for education? 

T
I can relate to the temptation to “zone out” and watch an hour, or two, or more of Netflix at the end of the day. Like junk food though, that doesn’t really serve. Neither does reading 10 articles that all say variations of how we don’t know anymore about the pandemic than we did yesterday. Let’s all give ourselves more permission to unplug and not feel obligated to always be wired. Moving our bodies, whether with exercise, stretching, or walking is a helpful tool for grounding in ourselves. That said, the internet is a powerful tool, and there are ways to utilize it with mindfulness. For folks who are seeking online resources for education and growth, I recommend curating by looking to authentic and credible practitioners (I follow different people depending on if I want to learn about meditation or social justice or the intersection of the two). For example, I study with Arinna Weisman and Lama Rod Owens who both teach with a perspective that there is no true liberation until all beings are liberated. That resonates with me.

SA
It really is amazing how technology has the potential and power to increase our ability as humans to be mindful. When I began my own healing journey, I was heavily reliant on guided meditation apps that allowed me to tap into the present moment. I soon realized that, meditation can be a dissociative space that doesn’t allow for evolution or growth if not accompanied by a more holistic approach to healing. At the start of the pandemic, it was very interesting, and troubling to observe a collective anxiety wrap our community. Understandable, of course at the beginning when we were left with no answers or support from the state, one thing that was coming up a lot for me was how many folks who are committed to participating in the wellness industry, succumbed to this anxiety completely. I began to think more about wellness as it has been sold to us as a self serving tool that teaches us to put up with uncomfortable situations in the moment, but does not foster a sustainable healing experience. What thoughts might you have about this and the commodification of wellness as a whole? 

T
While I rationally understand the commodification of wellness given that we live in a capitalist construct, I don’t believe that is the only approach. The more we look to make meditation or other “wellness” practices into products, the further we get from the real awakening and healing that is the birthright of all beings. Part of my calling to offer and guide meditation is that it is ultimately free. It doesn’t require any equipment. Yes, apps and teachers are helpful. Anyone can practice meditation without having a penny in their pocket. 

When we talk about commodification, I don’t see it in a silo. It also helps to look at it through the lens of colonization and cultural appropriation. The idea that some individuals choose to take a “technology” like meditation and then turn it into a self-help book while stepping forward from a place of “I” ego, without giving acknowledgement and recognition to the lineages and traditions of origin, is disappointing. I do see value in people feeling less stress. And, I think it is limiting to only approach meditation as secular wellness, without applying the dharma/ethics of taking responsibility for how we show up in the world.

SA
I really want to stick with this idea of the colonization and appropriation of meditation, healing and wellness. If a big part of an ethical spiritual practice is coming into alignment and acknowledgement with the fundamental practice of life, our personal traumas are in relation to the traumas of the world. So where you talk about the ethics on taking responsibility for how we choose to show up in this world, I believe that is a pillar of healing work. As displaced peoples, as settlers on stolen land who exist within this system of white supremacy, it is hard for some of us to understand our own colonial histories when we have been traumatized by a system that shames our people and shows little value for our cultures and ways of knowing. When it comes to the initial process of decolonizing wellness, how did that journey begin for you? 

T
Thanks for the question. That’s a lot to cover, let me see how I can provide a snapshot. The process started for me with an internal knowing, a whisper from inside, a nudge from my intuition. When I first sat in spaces that fall under the broad category of wellness, I looked (and not just with my eyes) to see if the space holders were in alignment and integrity. If someone presented from a position of patriarchy, of absolutes, that was activating. I set an intention to connect to communities of human beings that are committed to honoring the truth that awakening, healing, and wisdom aren’t objects that can be bought and sold. To decolonize wellness, we all need to face individual and collective trauma. It can’t just be “love and light” all the time. It takes integrity and resilience to be with our woundings while at the same time acknowledging the ways in which we are complicit in systems of oppression. The story that sharing our truths around experiences of victimization as making us weak is a tool of oppressors to dominate through isolation and shame. There has been suffering throughout human history. I believe that, if we want to transmute suffering, we can’t disassociate or ignore the pain. Feeling the pain, as hard as it is, can allow us to stop identifying with it. And part of feeling the pain is in sitting with how wellness has been colonized and commodified by modernity.

SA
Wow, I never really interrogated the idea of sharing truth/point of weakness as a tool used by oppressors – thank you for sharing that. 

As someone who has recently begun their own journey in unlearning the harmful conditioning imposed by religious dogma, toxic masculinity and the ego state as a whole, what advice do you have for folks who are now embarking on committing to a practice of wellness that is both anti colonial and pro libertory. Particularly, for folks who still have to exist within the structures that oppress, say, young queer, trans, Black, Indigenous and people of color who live at home and are seeking healing yet feeling confined, daily, and might not have immediate access to a community of others on similar journeys? 

T
I have empathy and compassion for folks who do not have the privilege of choice and find themselves living within oppressive structures on the home level, especially young QTBIPOC family (I identify that way, except for the “young” part). One suggestion that immediately comes to mind is to borrow books from the library or to read free literature online. Speaking from my own place of heritage, Thich Nhat Hanh is a teacher with whom I resonate. Vietnam has a history of being colonized by China, France, and the United States. For him to survive the trauma of war, of witnessing spiritual brothers literally setting themselves on fire as spiritual practice, and to dedicate his life to the liberation of all beings is beyond inspirational. I find it moving to know that Thich Nhat Hanh and Martin Luther King, Jr. were in correspondence and held each other in great esteem. And that they learned from the non-violent social organizing practices of Gandhi. Read their words and really invite them into the heart. In that sacred space, remember that you are not alone. None of us are ever alone. Love is what connects us.

SA
Reading about Thich Nhat Hanh and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s relationship has been especially helpful for me over the past few weeks in thinking about solidarity building as fostered by internal transformative work. Thank you for that, Tony.

To end, I just want to ask if you might have some words on the importance of meditation as a tool in the revolution? 

T
For me, meditation is a path towards liberation. As long as we are still conditioned with internalized colonization and other forms of oppression, how can we fully engage in the revolution when our minds, hearts, and souls are still locked up? I have found that meditation and compassion are woven together. I ask myself, if I am committed to compassion, then what is more compassionate than abolition (of the prison-industrial complex)?

Tony is blessed to train with elders and teachers of sacred lineages who authorize him to facilitate safe containers so that others may access their own Truth. Over the past five years, he has guided meditation for hundreds of people across North America. As Tony occupies the intersectionality of being a person of color (POC) and queer (LGBT), he offers up a fiercely compassionate approach based on his own lived experiences, which can especially resonate with members of marginalized communities that seek to stand in the full power of their authentic selves. 

The Importance of Understanding Medicine and Healing for the Revolution with Marisa Hall

SA
Hi Marisa, how are you this morning?

M
Hi, my love! I’m doing well 🙂 A little sleepy, but at my core feeling inspired. How are you? Am I allowed to ask you questions?

SA
I’m good… or maybe that’s my default at this point. You totally are allowed to ask me questions, I want this to be a conversation.  

M
Amazing, I just wanna hear how you are! And I think we all have our default answer. Like, the truth is probably 90% of the time my truth is a foundational exhaustion. Beyond that, there’s life to be lived, so I find fuel somewhere. Like here! I woke up so sleepy but was like I gotta get it together for this interview

SA
Well I accept you as you are, always. Talk to me about this foundational exhaustion. 

M
Yeah, I actually was just talking to Marlee about this yesterday. Like, the reality of what we fight for. I’ve been considering this question a lot. What are we fighting for? And what we’re seeing in this catalyst in the movement is really just advocating for the ordinary. For it to not be exhausting for us (Black people) to do regular ass things (to be in love, to cook, to sit, to open our emails, open books, to take baths, write poetry and letters and get the flu) without the additional weight of fearing for our lives. It’s about the right to exist in the mundane and extraordinary. 

So when I think and talk about foundational exhaustion, I’m talking about waking up and feeling that weight. And I love the ordinary, I love being queer and black because we make life sparkle by way of achieving the ordinary. To live in this body is to exist in transcendence and that is a beautiful thing, in the end. I don’t know if that answers your question. What else would you like to know?

SA
I love this explanation because it’s so acute, it’s something that’s important I think, as a non-Black person, to recognize that weight, to understand this reality of Blackness for Black people, not just an imagined projection. Holistically, it’s an important part of acknowledging white inferiority, to know the history of oppression, and the current weight of it. What I love about you, and the work you do, is that you also are finding ways to shift this energy, to really look beyond it… to find joy, to find healing, to find reprieve. I want to start at the beginning. Tell me about why you gravitated towards making medicine? What compelled you?

M
Mmm this is a question I’ve mulled over at so many points over the last year or so, and I think there are so many multi-dimensional factors that have played a part in my journey into making herbal medicine.

The first and probably most important influence has to do with my ancestry and where I grew up. Some of my most vivid memories from my childhood are in my grandmother’s garden, in the Bay Area, California. My maternal grandmother’s family is Louisiana Creole, and she grew up in rural Louisiana with the norm being growing your own food and leaning heavily on community knowledge and resources to heal. When she moved to San Francisco after she and my grandfather got married, there was a lot of shame in that way of thinking, I think. To live and heal off of what you grew was a delicate balance between leisure (what you wanted to do) and class implications (what you could or couldn’t afford to do). So she was kind of discouraged from leaning on plants for medicine as not to embarrass the family, but did it anyway. 

When I was little, I spent so much time in her garden, mostly when I was home sick from school. I grew up with my mom, and my grandmother’s house was the default when she was working, and I got sick a lot as a kid. So, my grandmother would be doing her thing and I would lay in the grass and eat strawberries while she hung laundry on her clothes line, or sit under her fig tree and eat the fruit, or sit by the fence and eat the berries. The sun and the fruit were so healing for me and we were always outside. I think as an adult, my inclination was, for so long, to lay in bed when I wasn’t feeling well, and it took this re-ignited interest in nature that reminded me that being outside with plants is actually so integral to being well for me.

Plant medicine offers this bridge from the external (the dirt, the wind, the matter), to the internal (the vessel, the body) and I was reminded of this over and over after my grandmother passed away, because she would show up in nature all the time, often right when I needed her. And also when my family has needed her. There was a moment last summer when I went home and had a conversation with my mother and aunt about dandelion (which I was diving deep into) and they started reminiscing about my grandmother making them dandelion tea to soothe their morning sickness when they were pregnant. It’s such a beautiful lineage to uncover.

When I was in college there was a point when I was super anxious and depressed and was on medication for about a month, and it did not work for me. This is not at all to say that medication isn’t essential for some people, but I realized in that moment that I wanted to find other ways of managing without numbing myself out – I wanted to feel everything, just not be overwhelmed by the sensation of feeling everything, you know? Being amongst plants has always felt like something that is so sensory and joyous, but I also feel held. So, I guess there isn’t so much an origin story to my inclination to work with plants so much as there has been a constant presence and slow gravitation toward this way of working with them and being able to share it with people – which has been the coolest, most magical thing I’ve ever experienced and continues to blow my mind.

SA
The idea of you eating strawberries on the grass, or figs under the tree, is so beautiful to me. What a joyous idea. I think for me, though my knowledge of plants is not as expansive as yours, there’s a similar gravitational pull… and maybe a lineage (as you touched on with your grandma, too) that there is this almost inexplicable sensation of coming together with plants. I think that’s why I personally ingest a lot of plant medicine… I access myself through them. Another world, but another more honest self.

I’m also just suddenly remembering the time I put a picture on instagram of my backyard and you pointed out the dandelion, and it kind of made me emotional… because there’s so much beauty we don’t see that’s around us, and communing with plants is almost an instantaneous way of accessing that connectivity. 

Tell me a memory that brings you joy of learning more about plants.

M
Yes! I think it is so ancestral, and that we all have the ability to listen to plants more closely and notice beauty that is offered with no pretense more often. I wonder all of the time what we’ve done to deserve such beauty and an abundant resource and then have to remind myself that something made in and of nature would never ask that question. They just exist and offer. I’m just over here tryna be more like a plant.

I trained with Amanda David (founder of Bramble Collective in Ithaca) and owe so much of my framing of all of this to her guidance. One of the core principles that she focused on is the idea of ‘barriers to cure.’ 

So, in thinking about something like anxiety, one might refocus the lens to consider what the aspirational feeling or emotion or way of being might be, and what is getting in the way. So I realize that I want to feel calm, but instead I feel jittery or agitated or restless — the question that I’d ask myself, is what is between me and that peace or relief? The medicine that I choose would align with the thing that’s in the way. Getting really close with what can be scary brings me joy. A plant like Motherwort wraps its arms around fear.

I remember harvesting motherwort for the first time (which, if you search for a picture of it is this gorgeous, stalky green plant with jaunty leaves and serious thorny buds all up the stalk), and having a conversation with the plant and needing to go so slowly as I cut one stem at a time. It was a moment of collaboration and permission between the two of us, and that intimacy in process has been such a powerful and motivated constant reason to rejoice as I’ve done this work.

SA
So “barriers to cure” is essentially a concept of understanding your bodily response and then learning how to holistically provide for yourself? 

M
Yeah, essentially. It’s searching for the root of something instead of focusing on a symptom. The western medical system is all about treating symptoms. Numbing pain instead of trying to figure out what is causing pain and offering slow, tender care to that place while also finding ways to offer relief. And I think that folk medicine and western medicine can exist and work in tandem, for sure, but holisticism is so central to how I think about care and addressing dis-ease. Our bodies are so intelligent, we just need to pay attention and trust that we’re the experts in our own experience.

SA
Ugh, I love you. Yes, and I imagine this is one of the reasons that during the revolution (and before) you’ve been providing medicine for Black folks to heal and take care of themselves. What do you want people to think about when it comes to holistic medicine? Especially for someone who has maybe been failed by the Western medical system, but doesn’t know where else to look…

M
I want to encourage people to look inward. One thing that being in relative isolation can do is push the individual to pay attention to what is going on for them, which again, can be incredibly difficult and uncomfortable. So you take something like getting home from a protest in the middle of a pandemic where people are met with a lot of anxiety about their health, anger about systemic fuckery (thinking of a different word here), and physical and mental and emotional exhaustion. What tools might be helpful to temper a moment like that? 

I want people to be open to advocating for themselves, for saying no to things that don’t feel quite right, and knowing what questions to ask. It’s all about empowerment, and chipping away at this barrier that is, in a lot of ways, a learned mistrust of self. When we realize that we have everything we need in community, I truly think we’ll be able to be unrelenting in our pursuit of joy. 

The decision to offer medicine to black people at no cost was meant to remove another barrier so that the financial access piece was removed. Everyone should be able to integrate tools that could open a door to a fuller experience of their lives.

SA
I have been thinking so much about the learned mistrust of self, and how that engineers a constant state of anxiety because you never know what to trust (and especially not yourself) which therein creates a cycle of self-sabotage. One of the most helpful spiritual lessons I’ve ever learned is “trust your knowing.” During the revolution we’re learning how to equip ourselves, what are 2-5 herbs you think everyone should have, and why? Whether for protection, healing or self preservation.

M
Ooh, I love this question! I really love the idea of trusting your own knowing, because there is an implicit knowledge of knowing and an opportunity to ask yourself, what do I know? and how can I reach a greater state of knowing?

I’m gonna embed an image of an image of a little worksheet/zine that I made for a workshop a while back, but some of my favorites are:

Tulsi – this is an adaptogenic herb that is delicious and abundant and you can feel it. What integrating tulsi (in tea, tincture, etc) can do is help your nervous system recover from intense sustained stress, and help your body adjust to stressors so that all of your energy isn’t expended in the ‘fight or flight’ wheel that is so easy to get stuck in. When considering the energetic components of a plant, tulsi is one that grows so abundantly and toward the sun, so it’s excellent for fostering a sense of levity and expansiveness. It’s important to keep that in mind while we’re all trying our best not to burn out.

Rose – rose is honestly just the best. I put it in almost all of my blends, and it just feels like a hug. It’s an anti-inflammatory, and is a mild sedative. So if you get hot/flushed when you’re stressed and just need something to soothe you and help slow you down, rose is gentle and effective. Also just delicious.

Bee Balm – bee balm (monarda) has a beautiful flower that is like candy for hummingbirds. It has these trumpet-shaped flowers with the sweetest nectar at the base, and the leaves act as really powerful immune support (better than echinacea). My physiological focus in the revolution has been care for the nervous system and care for the immune system. Sleep plays a big part in my practice, but monarda is something I reach for when I’m feeling like I need something to bolster my system’s defenses.

Nettle – nettle is a superfood, so if you’re looking for something that is nutrient rich (and a neutral base for teas) nettle is a wonderful option. It’s a diuretic, so supports the urinary system which is also really important to take care of in moments of high stress as it purifies the liver, kidneys, and urinary tract. If you’re drinking or eating foods that feel hard for your body to process, nettle is good to integrate for balance. I usually try to have it early in the day for energy.

SA
Marisa, thank you. This is so powerful. Are there any last things you want to add?

M
Thank you! Lemme think…

Ok, two things:

One is a quote that has stuck with me in reference to considering one’s own healing which is in line with the Wise Woman Tradition by Susan Weed (has it’s issues, but there are some principles that can be reframed):

‘The focus is on the person, not the problem, nourishing not curing, self-healing not healing another. A give-away dance of exploration and experience, with no answer to the question “why?” No blame, no shame, no guilt, no reason, no answer ever to “why?”’

The second is this photo of my grandmother harvesting dandelion in San Francisco, in a white dress that she made, which I just adore. Nothing can keep us away from the earth, and that is powerful. To know that as long as you have access to the earth, you have access to healing.

SA
Have you read “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer?

M
I love that book so, so much! That was really the window that swung open for me (maybe 5 years ago when I first read it) in realizing that working with plants was something that I had to do.

SA
You remind me of Robin. The way you write about plants, really evokes a true love and dedication to them. It’s spectacular to witness, thank you. 

M
Thank you so much for offering this space! I love talking to you, always. Plants will always love you back and guide the way. I just want people to trust you can always turn toward the sun or go touch a tree when humans are bumming you out. 

Marisa is a writer, yoga teacher and herbalist from Berkeley, California. Her interest in healing stems from  a consideration of holisticism, to create a deeper relationship with self, and she offers these modalities (whether through making medicine, or teaching yoga) to nurture self-awareness, love and joy for one’s self and community. 

Connecting Ayurveda and Neuroscience and Uplifting the Divine Feminine

SA
Dr, I’ve learned so much from your work. I’m so interested in ayurveda and your practice as someone who not only deals with Indigenous medicine but also works in western medicine. What came first for you, was it the neuroscience or the ayurveda and did it go hand in hand? 

K
When you ask what came first, chronologically, I was introduced to ayurvedic medicine through my mom as a child. But if you have any ayurvedic experience you don’t approach it as, “Now we’re practicing medicine and now we’re not.” It has more to do with the ways that we live, the things that we eat. It wasn’t something overt. If I got sick, my mother would give me turmeric and honey before taking me to see a doctor. That became the backdrop of my childhood. 

When I talk about my professional career, first I went into neurology. I think for so many people who grow up in one culture and are raised in another, you take advantage of the wisdom in your native culture and file it away as something that has meaning but not any significance in the modern world. When I dove into neurology, I was a full fledged believer in modern medicine. It was very, very exciting in terms of the sophistication, how complicated it sounded, all of those things the young mind is hungry for. That intellectual feeding frenzy that happens when you’re in a new field. I came out of neurology not expecting that I would practice ayurvedic medicine. There were still many principles that I practiced although many fell away during my actual medical training because of the nature of that lifestyle. It was once I started practicing as a neurologist that I began getting headaches, migraines. For a neurologist to get headaches you’d think it’s not a big deal, I have an entire repertoire of medications that I could use. I spent about a year experimenting with different medications that I was prescribing as a physician and none of them worked. 

It was at the end of me searching that I actually came back to my mom and asked, “When we were growing up there were these physicians you would take me to, how can I get a hold of them?” She helped me reconnect and that was the turning point for me. When I saw the ayurvedic physician, he spent 90% of the consultation inquiring about my digestion and telling me what I needed to do to fix my digestion. That was a completely novel concept, that my headaches had anything to do with digestion. Nothing else had worked at that point and when nothing else works, you enter a state of humility. After seeing him, in three months, my headaches were completely gone. My energy increased, my creativity increased. Even though I was introduced to ayurveda as a young child, it wasn’t really until after I became a neurologist, and had this personal crisis of debilitating migraine headaches, that I then kind of reawakened and started to look at why my gut health was the underlying cause of my headaches. That just broke the entire paradigm of the way I was treating neurology.

SA
And when that shifted for you, how was that received amongst your coworkers and your clients? How did you begin to integrate that into your practice? 

K
I was working exclusively in the US at Scripps Memorial Hospital which is a very well established hospital system and certainly not a spot where you would think that this young ayurvedic practice would take birth. It was a very pulverized reaction between my patients versus my colleagues. My patients were happy and relieved that they were finally having these conversations with their neurologist. 

I was a well respected neurologist in a well respected institution. The initial response from my colleagues was of complete disbelief and, to some extent, horror. I understand that it came from a place of concern. Over time, as more about epigenetics came out, more about the mind body connection and the impact of stress and the research about the cause of chronic disease, they became more open. They also started to see that my patients were doing better, doing better in conditions that we once believed only got worse. Over time, it went from being just a foreign practice to an understanding of the basic principles: food is medicine and disease is predominantly created through lifestyle choices. Throughout the next decade, more information about the microbiome started coming out and so eventually there was some acceptance, because there was some scientific validity on why and how people got sick through their personal journey. Not just their physical journey. 

When we look at ayurvedic medicine there are so many layers to it. When I first dove into it, I was predominantly focused on what people were eating, the main stressors in their lives and the kind of exercise they were getting. There is a lot of science behind the nature of sound and the vibratory nature of the universe. I would highly recommend mantra and a deeper appreciation for the role of sound in anyone’s life because thoughts are also a form of sound, the words that we use are also a form of sound. What are the chronic thoughts that we listen to? What are the words that we are sharing with other people in the world?

SA
You’re tapping into a higher purpose, higher consciousness, deeper potential for yourself. How do you think about engaging with folks who are reluctant to engage because of the spiritual notions despite the science that shows clear benefits? 

K
It’s a very interesting question. Now that I’m back between the US and India, I will say, it’s much easier to talk and discuss and offer ayurvedic medicine to the American community than it is to the Indian community. Even in India (the center that we went there to help start) 95% of clients were foreigners and many of the local people did not see the value of this medicine because they looked at it as moving backwards because it’s part of our generational medicine. 

Even though we call it ayurvedic medicine in India, or siddha medicine in Tamil Nadu, you see similar ancient forms all over the world. This was the way that we simply healed throughout one point all over the planet. If you go to Latin America for example, they have their traditions, in Russia, they have their traditions. And if you look at the heart of these traditions, the Native American traditions in the US, they’re all very similar. There was a deep understanding of the healing potential of plants. There was a deep understanding of the mind and the body and the community and the body. It wasn’t just for the individual, they were looking at the impacts of group consciousness on health. This was a universal approach to health. I think for cultures that have had that, they are now looking towards the west for material gain, they looked for material gain and in the process rejected their own past and treasure chest of wisdom. I think that’s a natural cycle that we have to go through. 

We go through this inner rejection of our culture as we see some other culture and think it’s doing better. Then, as we see that they are now adopting what we are not doing—and I always joked with my staff in India, because I was going around the world giving lectures on mantra medicine, you know people in China were so receptive, people in all these countries were so receptive—but it was so difficult to get my Indian staff to be receptive. Now the West is adopting what we started and they are starting to shift. I think to understand the global nature of these medical practices, it becomes helpful to separate them from any particular type of religious lineage and you realize that at one point this was how we approached healing.

SA
We have so much to learn from indigenous knowledge, but there is this constant grappling as people who are not living in our ancestral homes, living in the West trying to live up to this idea of Western success. How can we hold both at the same time?

K
What I have found is that you can better accomplish the American dream when you incorporate your ancient knowledge. It’s not like these practices are telling you to give up your home and go and live in a cave somewhere in a forest. Our research is showing the same thing, that when you follow circadian rhythms you sleep really well. Here’s how you solve inflammation – and you see professional athletes such as Tom Brady who adopt certain things that you would call ayurvedic into their lifestyle. And they talk about how they’ve completely rejuvenated their bodies, they feel younger. When we focus on the science of peak performance on life, then people do start to care about how they’re eating and exercising and managing their stress. They begin to approach their life in a way where their mind and body are so in sync that they can perform at their absolute best. So many of my patients were people who were successful at life and wanted to take it to the next level. I definitely treat people with chronic illness, but I had a lot of patients who were also looking into untapped potential. 

SA
I also want to talk to you a little about the ways in which ayurveda, traditional medicine gets appropriated and commodified in a way in which markets pick and choose and in that process there is a loss of holistic healing. I personally saw a lot of this at the start of the pandemic where there was this collective anxiety where people were struggling with not knowing what was happening. It was interesting to me because the wellness industry is a multimillion dollar industry, and so many people invest in it daily, and yet there was this general depressive state. I do think we’re slowly lifting out of it as people have been interrogating this a bit deeply. How do you reckon with that? Is that just a symptom of living in the biggest capitalist country?

K
My general approach to this is first, coming from a place of patience, compassion and non judgement. If a group is embracing yoga, and when we say yoga we’re really talking about asanas – yoga is an entire school of thought and asanas are the body positions – that is people’s ‘in’. They’re at least doing something that is connecting to their body, and maybe had they not been doing that practice, they may have never addressed that there is this darkness that needs to come out. As a country goes through it’s different developmental stages, and this pandemic is part of the developmental stage for all of the different countries, responding to it reflects which stage of development they are going through – from that you start to look further. After this, there is going to be such a different way of looking at mental health because we can’t just put tens of millions of people on anxiety medication, they need something to cope on a deeper level. As that need arises, the medical system needs to mature to help that need. I’ve found that with any relationship, not just as a physician, but with any individual and any organization in the community, that if you don’t first come in from a place of non judgement, compassion and patience, you won’t make much progress. You can sit there and analyze the problems, point fingers and describe the dysfunction, but you’ll never be part of the solution. 

SA
It really is about coming with an open heart and making space to meet people where they are at. 

K
Patience is really important when you’re talking about historical trends, I know the book that I wrote about sound medicine is at least 30 – 40 years ahead of its time, to really be understood. If I was frustrated in doing work that would take decades if not centuries to be really understood then I couldn’t do it. When you’re part of history, which we all are, if you do not have the patience and the appreciation for the historical process you will never contribute anything. You will only contribute that which you can see and reap the benefits of a human lifetime. The human lifetime is a very short span – if you look at how many people in the past, the contributions that they made weren’t really manifested till centuries later. With life in general you need to have a lot of patience and not get so caught up in the timeframe of a human life time because it may or may not be the time in which you see change but that doesn’t mean you can’t be part of the change. 

SA
If the pandemic is a portal, what are your hopes for how your practice evolves post pandemic or in the next 3 – 4 years?

K
I used to be somebody who did that a lot, I would have a one year plan, three year plan, five year plan. I could have never predicted that a pandemic would happen a year ago. I stopped pitching these scenes into the future and I’ve just become more responsive to what life wants at me right now. I’ve become less focused on what I want out of life, but instead, in this moment what does life want out of me. 

I will say that one thing I have felt in general as an impulse is doing more and more to reach out to women to explain more about what many ancient cultures have of the divine femine. It’s such a beautiful way to approach womanhood. There is this idea in ayurvedic medicine, and many ancient traditions, that when there is wisdom held within a woman in a household, the entire household changes. I’ve seen that over and over and over, the strength of women to rebuild the philosophy of the family. 

SA
Wow, I really resonate with this idea of the divine feminine and I’m definitely thinking about this concept a lot lately as well. How do you have those conversations with women in India? What does that look like especially as a country that can be contradictory to the divine feminine?



K
So many of these concepts of the divine feminine come from India, and so much of my inspiration came from India. But when I went to India, I was shocked at the state of womanhood there. I was kind of horrified. It was such a collapse of what we had known. There’s a tremendous amount of pain that needs to be metabolized as a nation. Unfortunately, usually when a place is colonized, women suffer the worst repercussions. I always start with, first of all, let’s heal the body. How do we start teaching women the basics of how to treat this body correctly. How do we eat correctly, what is the manual? You start with the body. Then you look at the mind and the traumas. Being a woman in India is not easy. Having spent two years there, I have so much respect for the amount of freedom, independence and leway I had as a woman raised in the US. I always keep in mind that my sense of self came from that ancient culture. It’s very paradoxical in a way that the reason I became the woman I am in America is because of my Indian heritage but I’m only allowed to ‘flourish’ under the social circumstances of America. As we first start to explore what are the traumas of their experiences, as we start to free people of the heaviness of the body and mind, now we can start to go back to what that means. If someone has gone through repetitive sexual abuse, it’s really hard to talk about something like the divine feminine until trauma has been released. Because for them, being feminine was a huge risk, it’s not something to be celebrated, they had to hide everything that is feminine because it was something that is treated that is a liability in cultures that abuses women. So you have to, again, always approach people where they’re at. 

SA
It’s really perplexing to me how much sexual trauma there is within the South Asian community and how rife it is not only back home but also within the diaspora. Which is such a contradiction to me because I look at tantra and all these ancient texts that really spoke to the divinity of sex and intimacy and yet there’s a complete juxtaposition to the extent that we can’t even talk about it with our families. There is such a taboo around this issue and I really do appreciate this conversation. How can women start those conversations within their diasporic communities? 

K
It’s a challenge and it requires a certain degree of understanding. I was really not prepared to see the level of sexual trauma that happens to women in India. I would say the women that I was around and working with, close to 90% had experienced some kind of inappropriate sexual behaviour. The severity of that varied, but the majority of women were raised in a way where they were constantly having to protect themselves. They were told, never be in a room with a man alone, don’t walk down the street. The first few weeks of being in India, I had already experienced inappropriate sexual conduct just by walking down the street in broad daylight. The culture is really built around secrecy and women having to protect themselves against constant threat, whether it’s midday or in the evening. 

I see a lot of Indian women who now live in other countries, and as we start to do the work, I’m amazed at how much sexual trauma is lodged in their bodies. It could be women in their 30s, 40s and 50s, and even in those ages it’s hard work. You have to have realistic expectations. Could you have groups in their 20s and 30s who are ready to discuss this? Yeah, I think that’s a completely different group, but if that group needs for their mothers and grandmothers to admit what was happening, you’re trying to get water from an empty well. It may be too much. I do think this conversation can begin with younger generations, but even in that conversation, it has to shift a little bit from not just our individual stories, which are of course very important, but what is the conversation of the nation, which puts it into context historically. It helps us understand why this is the way it is, and moves you a little bit out from purely being victimized to understanding this is a national phenomenon. Switching from our individual lives to thinking about the nation and then having dialogue about what we now do as women for our legacy and the next generation, from me it would be to you, we need to start asking what we do with that legacy. That has been a desire, and coming up more and more. I’ve been amazed that heavy conversations like that can be brought up in light ways. You can train women on topics like natural beauty products, and how to create beauty from within and that’s a way to bring them into the body. You can invite people into a very warm and safe environment and then begin to take the conversations a little deeper that way. You don’t need to totally shock them. Natural beauty for example, brings up so many themes in taking care of the body. So many of the beauty products created for women are so toxic and they created hormonal imbalances because of the chemicals that react with estrogen receptors. That is just one way to say, you may not feel that you are strong enough to process this trauma, but let’s start with where you can make changes. Let’s start with, where can you make a change that is honouring yourself as a woman. Let’s have dialogue about what it means to be a woman and then you can lead people as far as they want to go from there.

I’m spending more time in my yoga practice. Doing sun salutations every morning has been especially grounding


Eating a traditional Indian ayurvedic diet, incorporating more seeds that help balance hormones and cortisol levels

Reading:The Power of Now & A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. Eckhart Tolle is a rare person who is a modern spiritual teacher who actually does reflect the ancient teachings. When I read his work, it resonates so much with the ancient texts. It’s not about ‘how you manifest this’ and ‘how you get a big this’ it’s really about what is our work as human beings. To be able to hear the words of the ancient sages translated into modern language has been very helpful.

Reading: Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller. I decided during this time, I wanted to be a better parent. My son and I are separated right now because he’s in India, so now I’m thinking, what is it going to be like when I go back? How do I become a more compassionate and receptive parent? This boy is going to need, really, months of learning how to feel secure again. Attached is a wonderful book on attachment theory. It’s helping me understand better what the impact of this detachment is going to be on for him.

Dr. Kulreet Chaudhary’s combined expertise in both modern neurology and the ancient science of health known as Ayurveda has uniquely positioned her as an expert able to pull from the broadest possible base to treat her clients. She is passionate about raising awareness for the need of a paradigm shift in contemporary medicine that focuses on patient empowerment and a health-based (rather than disease-based) medical system. 

On Weed & Its Articulation

Mennlay Golokeh Aggrey is an incredibly inspiring person to me. She is the author of “The Art of Weed Butter,” an instructional resource, as well as an educator on the ethics of weed. There is something holistic about Mennlay’s approach, and articulation, that is encouraging. It makes me understand the importance of thorough discourse, even about what we consume, and how we consume it. She is also the co-founder and creative director of Xula CBD, the co-host of Broccoli Talk podcast, and the founder of a new benefit pop-up dinner, Cenas sin fronteras. Today we’re talking about her journey through weed, African botanics, her future-dreams, as well as Xula—and what it means to create ethical products.  

SA
My darling Mennlay, how are you?

M
Well, if I’m honest. I’m not doing super well today. But I think this topic of conversation might be a beautiful way to process some of those feelings. Since we’re still in Cancer season after all.  

SA
As a double Cancer (moon and rising) you know I’m all about this. I have a lot of things I want to ask you because I’ve found over the years you’ve just articulated so many of the things that I’ve often thought about weed, and the world of weed… So I’ll start by asking, can you tell me when you first started smoking? Should we start there? I feel like there’s so much stigma about weed and what it represents, and there aren’t enough (especially femme perspectives) of a relationship with the plant and what it offers. 

M
This is a beautiful place to start! When cannabis, weed, ganja, mota first came into my life, I was 14-years-old, a freshman in high school. At that time I was neither cool, nor an outcast. Just sort of floating somewhere in between. I was away at a boarding school for low income kids who might have “white potential” as far as success in school or whatever so I was away from home in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Dairy town USA. Life then was confusing and I suffered from what I know now as depression. Mostly because I was displaced from my family in a white town/space. So anyway one day I was at the roller skating rink with some friends from school. These type of activities were allowed on the weekends. So we were there and some of my friends had invited some dudes to come hang with them. As they were all sort of flirting and kicking it, I was passed a blunt. So I took the blunt and smoked what was my first hit of weed. It was less out of the desire to be cool, but more to avoid having to make-out with or talk to anyone—more so out of curiosity—to finally partake in this thing that I didn’t know much about.

This was that typical first time, this out of world experience where time stretched. My memory doesn’t allow for much more than that. But I know time slowed down and I found myself in a space where I didn’t feel depressed or anxious or awkward. I finally felt like myself (a space cadet LOL). At that point, I think I knew that this experience was for me. This feeling. It helped me connect with just being—a teen—a weirdo —whatever. It suspended time and allowed for me to be whoever and whatever I was.

I kept this a secret from my mother, other adults, and most other friends. My cannabis life was undercover from my first time in 1998 until 2005 when I first started cultivating weed in Humboldt, fresh out of college. For a long time, disclosure was dangerous and unacceptable. There just wasn’t space for me to talk about my experience. But I wrote a lot about it in my journal.

SA
I’m trying to have transparency of my own journey with weed, because I’ve seen marijuana—Santa Maria—to be such an important facet of my own healing journey. It’s kind of wild to me that you smoked your first blunt by accident, in order to not make out with anybody. In that there’s this inherent innocence that I love, it’s so cool that we get to rewrite rhetoric that doesn’t always make space for us, and our relationship to this magical plant. Was this your beginning of smoking weed more regularly? Do you smoke weed regularly? I’d love to know your journey and where you are with marijuana. 

M
That’s a really good question and something I often space out on. No, I didn’t smoke regularly because I didn’t know where or how to buy it. And honestly, I didn’t really yearn (lean on it) for it too much until college. In high school it was a once and a while ritual, whenever the so called bad kids would show up to the skating rink with herb, or if we snuck out. Which is another long ass story.

So, maybe I would consume herb every three to six months. In those times between, it was as if I was still able to hang onto that feeling of open time and space. An open heart and lightness that allowed me to enjoy my youth more than I had been. I think as the eldest child to a single immigrant mother of four, I often was the mother. Or internalized a lot of her woes. And so with weed, even in those few moments I could let go. And that extended beyond the moments of being stoned. 

SA
I wanted to ask about your upbringing. Was your mother strict? Or religious? Sometimes I have a hard time remembering exactly what happened in my relationship to smoking more regularly, but it has been really rewarding to go back to this teen self and try to understand her. Anyway—it’s also interesting to know you were the eldest, because even in your recollection it feels as if you were really mature about your decision to smoke weed (at a young age) and something I feel like is very “eldest child.” What began the transition to actually deciding to smoke? 

M
LOVE THIS QUESTION. You’re right, there is something rewarding about going back to teen smoking baby. To be able to conceptualize or maybe even compartmentalize what and why and how is nourishing. My mother was sort of the black sheep in her family. She had me at a young age and didn’t go back to West Africa with my father when he wanted to send us back. I think she was an outcast in her African community and didn’t take to religion in the same way as other parents might have. I did have a teen bible that I read a lot. 

When I started consuming herb it forced me to digest and question who this white Jesus was and why my family would worship a god that was brought over by missionaries. My mother and I did fight about this a lot and I think once I was regularly smoking in college I challenged her a great deal about my relationship to god. That’s when I became more spiritual and into the idea of something higher than me. 

The transition was fluid. I started school and had more access to herb and smoked a lot more of it. But my family still never knew. I had to set the example for my little sisters who I think still saw me as a next to mother type influence. Someone who made the grades and did the right thing, but someone who was obviously getting weird when it came to my beliefs about the environment and other self-righteous first year of college bullshit.

SA
White Jesus… Damn, the truth. Well moving from this idea of “the colonizer’s religion” (I definitely struggle with that myself, with Islam as well… that colonized a lot of indigneous cultures as well as profiited off the transatlantic slave-trade) but we started Studio Ānanda as a place to have these conversations. 

I feel like with the rebranding of “CBD” there’s this inherent whitewashing that happens, and I wonder how that’s impacted your work—how that question of whiteness—has impacted the way you navigate these spaces?

M
CBD aka diet weed has been (for me) a reluctantly deeper exploration of white wellness for. From its unexpected legalization, to its ability to make other psychoactive cannabinoids aka TCH look “bad.” I was initially really hesitant to start a CBD company, but my business partner (who is Mexican and queer) really encouraged me reimagine what we could change about the CBD space. 

One of the most vile aspects of white wellness is the constant appropriation of indigenous plant medicine. So it made sense for us to sort of reclaim it. To sort of position CBD as a gateway drug to plant medicine for BIPOC people. It is after all ours. Patient’s access to cannabis has unfortunately been left out of the discussion in legal markets For example, as we’ve seen legislation change in California from medical to recreational, we notice that free and or discounted access to cannabis for low income patients, and patients with HIV /AIDS, cancer, and other chronic illnesses have become second thought. Even though these same patients in the past are the reason why we have seen so many advancements in the industry.  One of the most important parts of 1996’s Prop 215 was that it was a law passed for patients, The Compassion Act… Back in the day as a professional cultivator, it wasn’t uncommon to gift or donate herb to folks who needed the medicine the most. That was one of the most beautiful manifestations of the law. 

So for Xula, the CBD brand I’m launching along with my partner Karina Primelles, we’ve been very mindful about ways in which we will offer compassion discounts and donations to people most vulnerable in our communities. 

SA
Yes. I wanted to actually start asking about Xula. What was the reason behind starting it? I mean you’ve obviously explained the need for it, but I’d love to know more behind the decision to start it. Especially during a pandemic (or maybe even more the reason for!) 

M
Xula, as a company, started in 2018 though we don’t officially (legally) launch until the fall of 2020. We initially planned to launch here in Mexico, making CBD available here in the Mexican cannabis market. But as of now according to the Mexcian government herb and all drugs are technically legal to have and use but not to sell, that includes CBD and THC-dominant cannabis. So after a year or so of waiting, we decided to move into the US market since we’re both also US citizens. 

I am not Mexican, though I finally live here legally, she has her papers!! Haha! But the idea of Xula spawned from Karina and I’s desire to give folks access to legal CBD and cannabis in Mexico while also trying to negate the stigma of cannabis initially created by Spanish colonizers. Hallucinogenic drugs like peyote had been used in Mexico for millennia, as you know, but it along with weed became controversial during the colonial era when the Spanish associated them with communion with the devil and with madness. Fucking haters. That vile racist rhetoric crossed the border to the U.S administrators. Mexico’s cannabis prohibition began in the late 1800s years before prohibition in the United States. 

Getting a little off topic, but Xula is a direct response to that. Xula is a direct response to the absence of womxn, queer womxn, and BIPOC people in the cannabis space. We’re centered in Mexico City and honor not what it means to be a Mexican woman, a Latina woman, a Black woman, an indigenous woman. But also it means to be femme, non-binary and desire the feminine, softness that is cannabis herself. 

We fuse ancestral herbal knowledge and modern scientific understanding to create our products. They focus on hormonal balance, cramp relief, sleep and anxiety. We grow our own organic hemp farm in Southern Oregon, and use about 50 additional herbs organically grown and sustainably wildcrafted. Xula’s philosophy is embedded in the idea of bringing our awareness of plant medicine back to its native people and the ancestors of those native people. Our philosophy is to shift CBD from being in a white, basic, vanilla, hetero spaceto a one that celebrates the fluid aspects of cannabis. The indigenous aspects of cannabis, the feminine and non gender conforming aspects of cannabis. 

SA
Also—CBD/cannabis is that a good way to differentiate them?

M
Maybe the best way to differentiate them might be CBD hemp and weed cannabis. It’s such a fucking scam all of it to be honest I hate it. But I think yeah let’s do CBD/ hemp and cannabis.

SA
You’re touching on something that—as a consumer of a lot of different cannabis products—I think is important to question. We need to holistically consider the impact of our consumption. I’ve recently been thinking about ways to engineer radicality in how we engage civically, and what if we started pressuring white owned CBD hemp companies to create a system where they were regularly donating to bail funds, or indigenous groups that harvest CBD hemp/ weed cannabis? Imagine if companies cared less about profit and more on making medicine accessible to everyone. 

I wonder if any of these white owned companies think deeply enough about their responsibility? Because I think if you are white-owned and you have a responsibility to give back monetarily, significantly, and regularly. I wonder and worry about the future of sustainable CBD hemp / weed cannabis, but it sounds like Xula is considering these aspects (and even just how to have integrity as a company) which is really exciting. What are things that you want to see shift in the next few years in regards to how we create anti-capitalist /radical spaces for CBD hemp/ weed cannabis, and we can be dreamy about this.

M
So Xula also owns our hemp farm. And it’s operated by women. That’s been huge and important for us. We also plan on having an access / patient corner where we offer discounts to certain communities. 

But dreamy anti-capitalist ideas for the entire space, for me, would be for all white-owned hemp and cannabis farms and companies to give 25%, 50%? 100%?! LOL of their sales, or harvest to some sort of board that distributes the wealth and or medicine to marginalized and queer Black, Latinx and indigenous communities. 

In 1619, the Virginia Assembly passed legislation requiring every farmer to grow hemp—meaning that it was illegal to not grow hemp in the United States. Guess who were the people growing hemp? Enslaved Africans. Apart from normal reparations for Black folks, the cannabis industry (hemp and marijuana) needs to also pay. The hemp industry, the agriculture industry, the industry of Wall Street all owe M-O-N-E-Y to the families of enslaved ancestors and to the Native people whose land they looted and stole. 

If there was a way for those payments to be made directly from especially corporate hemp and cannabis farms and companies (particularly those with higher gross incomes or whatever smart economists say) need to pay. We already know that only 5% of people in the industry with executive/leadership roles are Black. 81% white, so something radical has to be done to tip those scales. Because equity isn’t cutting it. Donations won’t cut it. They need their assets taken and redistributed directly from the government as a form of reparations from the establishment of the cannabis industry in the US. 

SA
THIS IS INCREDIBLE. We’re in the middle of a global revolution/global movement toward Black liberation and integrity in this sense seems so important. I keep saying this all the time, but we have to evolve as a species. I believe having these conversations, and just dreaming (which I feel like Mariame Kaba and a lot of abolitionists seem to emphasize how dreaming is SUCH AN IMPORTANT part of real liberation) so I’m grateful to be a witness to yours, as it reflects my future and hope to. 

What are things we can learn from the plant itself? 

M
One of the most interesting things about weed is what it teaches us. It’s hands-down the only reason why my curiosity and late night stoner nights turn into hard core albeit half-baked research moments. Some of the research I’ve done on cannabis, plants, food, flora and fauna has brought me to my own self discovery of Africa’s botanical legacy. And my ignorance to it. I think I’ve always had an innate understanding of who and how certain seeds and plants found themselves in different parts of the Americas, but I never considered it to be a legacy stemming from Africa. Like duh of course the original people would have had their hand in every species of plant and animal. Why the fuck it that so radical? Of course cannabis didn’t just show up in Asia and then somehow through magic end up in Europe and the Americas. It was changed genetically, chemically and consumed in Africa and like most plants brought to other parts of the world through trade, voyages and of course the fucking trans american slave trade. What I think we all can learn from Cannabis sativa is its ability to use itself as an example of how white dominant thought has plagued our knowledge of our collective botanical history. It challenges everything we know about plants, nature, healing and who is responsible for that knowledge. 

SA
Thank you for that beautiful articulation. This is the crux of something so major—how deep, and far, the impacts of colonization go—as well as the responsibility we have to rectify this. For folks that are maybe new to this conversation, where would you direct them to think more deeply about weed/the colonization of botanics… as well as maybe more holistic conversations around weed justice… 

Z
Botanics / orgs and readings

Soul Fire Farm 

The Black Farmer Fund

Farming While Black

In the Shadow of Slavery: Africa’s Botanical Legacy in the Atlantic World

Cannabis prohibition + colonization readings

Home Grown: Marijuana and the Origins of Mexico’s War on Drugs ((Spanish))

The African Roots of Marijuana

Digging up Hemp’s Dark Roots

A brief agricultural history of cannabis in Africa, from prehistory to canna-colony

Cannabis Justice:

Cage-free Cannabis

National Expungement Week

NuLeaf

Cannaclusive

Equity First Initiative

SA
Any CBD companies you feel are worth supporting/ highlighting? 

M
Brown Girl Jane

Dehiya Beauty (they only sell a balm but i still covet it)

Elio

Frigg

Confronting the Capitalist and Casteist Appropriations of Yoga with Neha Sharma

SA
One of the most visibly violent wellness spaces is the yoga industry. In the west, this is driven by white capitalists appropriating Indigenous practices for profit, fetishizing and erasing true custodians of the practice. The misinterpretation of yoga is actually a double edge sword. Historically, as a practice Indigenous to South Asia, it has been reinterpreted by upper caste Brahmins as a tool of exclusion towards the Dalit community. Accessibility to yoga is widely spoken about in a Western context in recognition of the lack of space made for Black, Indigenous and people of color in general, yet an unintended supremacy lingers in the ignorance many have towards it’s South Asian roots. From the invisibility and lack of centering South Asian practitioners to a masking of the casteist interpretations of the actual practice. What have your experiences as a South Asian yogi been like in the Western world, and what does it mean for you to engage respectfully with yoga as an Indigenous practice?

N
I could write an entire essay on this, but I’ll keep it as concise as possible. As an Indian-American yoga teacher based in NYC, I have witnessed, experienced, and encountered the blatant ongoing appropriation of yoga in every sense of the word. From studio spaces to merchandises to management, being a South Asian yogi in the western world can often feel like being a foreigner in your own home. I entered the industry three years ago and since then I’ve been taken far aback to find that I have visibly no fellow South Asian yoga teachers or students in the space. I’ve never seen a single South Asian yoga model on popular yoga apparel brand ads like Lululemon or Alo, which are typically completely washed with white women and a token Black or East Asian woman. Similarly, I’ve never seen any South Asian teachers hired to teach at those brands’ studio spaces here in NYC. I’ve been an anomaly in this industry, which I’ve always found odd as an educator of the sacred practice belonging to my own ancestors. I first started teaching in small boutique studios throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, owned and managed by white women who often knew nothing of the practice, let alone had any sense of respect for the Indigenous roots of it. One studio owner said to me once after I did a demo, “we don’t use Sanskrit here”. I thought to myself, “that is like going to church and saying, ‘we don’t say Jesus here’.” Needless to say I didn’t take the job, but somewhere between the insulting kitschy “beer yoga” and “hip hop yoga” trends, it quickly became evident how Western capitalism has violently stripped away the very essence of yoga and what it represents at its core. Western capitalism has robbed yoga of its Saucha (purity) by breaking a core philosophical principle of Asteya (non-stealing). Across the board, it’s clear that irresponsible brands getting a kick out of “Namaslay” and “Namastayinbed” have no intentions for truly embodying the cultural roots of yoga as an Indigenous practice of India. Images of the gods and goddesses I’ve grown up to praying to have become logos for their disgraceful marketing tactics. I’ve seen a Ganeshji tattooed on a non-South Asian girl’s foot — an utter sign of ignorance and disrespect. These realities have been unsettling me for years, and have filled me the same rage I feel when I think of how colonization has historically stripped Indigenous people of their identity, resources, and rich abundance for personal capital gain. I have now transmuted this rage into committing to the radical decolonization of yoga. I teach my classes with Sanskrit names for the asanas. I refuse to teach in a space that perpetuates watered down versions of the practice with trendy labels and unrelated pop fitness branding (what the hell does Cardi B have to do with yoga!?). I often take the time to illuminate the South Asian roots of yoga through my dharma talks while creating an inclusive space for all who are willing to learn with an open mind and ego-free heart. I’ve made a promise to never again work at a studio or with a company unwilling to acknowledge the Indigenous sanctity of yoga. As a South Asian teacher and practitioner, I believe it is my responsibility to engage respectfully with yoga as an Indigenous practice through action-oriented reclamation and raising my voice loudly against appropriation. *Tip* for my fellow SA teachers, an important but often overlooked place to start is to start correcting people on pronunciation. It’s not “Naaaaa-maaaa-stayyyyy”. It’s “Nam-uh-stey”. Don’t allow people to butcher our beautiful language while continuing to call themselves educators of this practice.

SA
A critique of the commodification of wellness is absolutely needed in order to sustain a practice that is genuinely focused on a deepened awakening for the Self, the Community and the Earth. Without challenging the underlying power structures of white supremacy, casteism, capitalism, the patriarchy and colonialism that often leak into wellness platforms, we are reaffirming the status quo and recreating power imbalances. How does your practice approach this idea?

N
Living in a deeply capitalist city like NYC, the commodification of wellness is so insidiously ingrained, it’s nearly impossible to disintegrate from it. It’s a constant work in progress to dig deep into the systems in place and identify the power imbalances. You can drink all the green juice in the world and wear hundreds of dollars worth of yoga leggings, but that does not make you a real yogi. The more of a pull there is towards the material possessions in the wellness industry, the farther it pulls one away from core yogic ethics like Aparigraha (non-attachment). In my personal practice, I make sure to never stop questioning what is being presented to me and how it is being presented. For example, many wellness brands recently hopped on the black square trend on Instagram in support of the “amplify melanated voices” social media campaign. Many brands completely missed the mark, posting performative content which simply reaffirmed lack of authentic reflection on true representation of Black, Indigenous and people of color in their marketing and corporate management. At this point the ignorance or alleged confusion is disingenuous because Google exists. Educators exists. There are endless resources available for those who seek true reformation. Those who are ready to learn, will in fact take the first steps to doing so. When they do, that’s when I’ll make space for them on my radar. In the meantime I continue to navigate the wellness space with just the right amount of healthy, bold skepticism and I support those who are working to dismantle the colonial structures in place. My practice is about tapping into ancestral intuition and resilience to challenge the status quo. Do not believe everything you see or hear. Keep asking the hard questions. Discomfort is how change gains momentum.

SA
How has committing to a decolonized practice of wellness allowed for an enhanced sense of your own Self?

N
It has been liberating. Each day I learn more about myself, my practice, and my purpose. I am undeniably committed to decolonization of wellness and yoga. This commitment has brought more like-minded Black, Indigenous and people of color leaders and wellness educators into my sphere, and I am happy to say I have virtually met more South Asian healers in the industry since. I believe once you sharpen your focus and find what fuels your fire, the tools for stepping into your own power will come to you. There is so much more work to be done, but I’ve discovered a new spark of hope that the decolonization process is underway and here to stay. It truly is a reclamation of Self. I am excited to be an agent for change and a medium for sharing the message.

Combining her training in alternative eastern medicine and healing with a comphrehensive background in healthcare, Neha has come to understand how mental health stressors, diseases, and chronic body pains negatively impact our lives in an increasingly demanding world plagued by external pressures. Through her work, Neha observed many gaps in the system, noticing the lack of emphasis on preventative health care. Witnessing how human behavior and lifestyle choices inevitably impact health and wellbeing at large, Neha figured it’s time to take back control over our mental and physical health without relying solely on medication and doctor visits.

Understanding Disability Justice and Harm Reduction with Chiara Francesca

SA
I’m so excited to speak with you, Chiara. How have you been feeling over the past few days? Can you describe your energy?

C
Yes! I have been trying to show up for community, and for loved ones close to me. While trying not to leave myself behind. Chicago has been a bubbling of activity, of frayed nerves, of hopeful heartfelt moments, and much heartbreak too. I am learning to set boundaries everyday, and to both be present, and not soak up everyone’s feelings, or feel like it’s on me to meet everyone’s needs or asks. There is so much more to it, just finding slowness when the spinning gets faster and faster has been where I try and find myself today

SA
Wow, yes. I’ve been dipping in and out to what is happening in Chicago right now. I can imagine that as someone whose work is so integral to community bonds, creating those boundaries are so necessary to rejuvenate yourself, filling up your cup so that you can provide adequately to both others and yourself. Can you tell me a little bit about what your healing practice has looked like since the uprising? 

C
I don’t know if I feel like my work is integral to the community. I am just a speck. I’ve seen the work of generations of Black and Brown organizers in the city going on for days and weeks and months on end. I want to uplift the work of Chi-Nations Youth Council, BYP100, Black Live Matters Chicago, OCAD, Let Us Breathe Collective and so many others who have been on the frontlines of all of this

I am not sure how I feel about filling the cup. Like how do we move through having cups that have been empty or chronically unfilled for generations? How do we move from a place of trauma and chronic divestment and still find abundance? Still build without using the same tools as racial capitalism and white supremacy? That has been the work.

Since the uprising, and the pandemic I have moved through many different iterations of work. At first it was supporting folks remotely, then I organized wider resources to be used for home care, like the Acupressure for all doc in English and Spanish. In May, I transitioned to seeing patients in person. I have been doing treatments with COVID safety in mind while trying to wrap my mind around what it looks like to ethically prioritize folks on the frontlines, since I cannot see everyone who is asking for/wanting treatments. 

Two other things have been happening: 

1.  Is the organizing-in-progress of a healing justice space with other practitioners to support folks on the frontline with COVID-safe community care.

2. Trying to figure out what to do with using social media platforms as an organizing tool. The explosion of interest that this moment has sparked ideas that are actually long-standing that the wider society is finally shining a light on. I’m trying not to get sucked into lengthy back and forths with folks online that are asking for a lot of labor.

SA
I really admire your humility in articulating that you are merely a vessel for the insight and knowledge that has been passed to you through your practice. I do want to recognize that, as someone with CPTSD, the work that you’re doing has been so transformative for me. The acupressure for all doc especially has been a resource that I’ve been coming back to weekly, I really thank you for all your offerings.

Coming back to this notion of navigating cups that have been chronically unfilled for generations, violence against people like us is not a coincidence nor a byproduct, but a necessity for the systems we occupy to thrive. Healing justice and harm reductionist work holds keys in mitigating centuries of effects of intergenerational trauma, structural oppression and violence. As you have been seeing more and more interest being sparked in these practices, what are some ways long term impacts and healing of intergenerational collective trauma is being centered within these conversations and movement building spaces? 

C
I am so glad to hear the doc is useful! so much work is born out of hope and not knowing how it will land, so it fills my heart to hear that <3

I see that we are coming to terms with the fact that there is no arrival point. Not in healing and not in filling cups. That awareness doesn’t mean that we accept oppression or scarcity, instead we let go of the anxiety of perfectionism, of being “fixed” or “healed.” We let go of the notion that there is a set arrival point. I see us personally and collectively moving like waves. There is always growth, and always death and decay, and they interplay and intermingle. We can use death and decay for growth. We can use our tired or disabled bodies, and the experience they bring, to create new paradigms. In many ways the “perfect” able-body is what white supremacy and capitalism wants us to be so that we can be efficient laborers. The sick body, the disabled body, the traumatized body, is a body that cannot play into racial capitalism. It is a body that refuses collaboration with systems of oppression. It is a revolutionary state on its own.

In terms of how healing is being centered now vs in the past – I have been involved in social justice work for like almost twenty years, it used to be all martyrdom and self-sacrifice. The “stay up all night” and  “the revolution doesn’t sleep.” Shaming comrades for needing time off or even to step away for illness was the norm. We are ways away from that. Healing is being talked about and spaces for healing are being consciously built-in social justice and movement spaces now across the board. Here I want to uplift the work of Cara Page, Tanuja Jagernauth, Adela Nieves Marinez, Charity Hicks, the 2010 US Social forum in Detroit as a place where the architecture of Healing Justice came together (and Healing By Choice is active in Detroit today and part of that legacy) 

SA
Having that intentionally grounded point of no particular arrival point or end goal is something I have been wrestling with. There is something so radical in being open to what comes and trusting that we are equipped with the tools that will allow us to address whatever that is. 

This concept of the “perfect” able-body as the most efficient, productive body in the capitalist and white supremacist system is one I want to stick with. The binaries imposed by the imperialist, casteist, white supremacist modernized world brings with it an ableism that really does render anyone less than fully able, incapable. What does it mean to ‘be well’ and be sick, be disabled, be traumatized? What are some challenges and some successes you’ve seen in the ways that healing spaces have been opened to those who live in differently abled bodies?

C
The first feeling that comes up in my gut is a big old sigh. We are ways away on this one. We are in the baby-stages of disability justice being a framework that is visible to folks. The short answer is that healing spaces, as society as a whole, have not been accessible, and it feels like very slow work. I have been trying to think really hard on this one. To understand why disability justice seems to operate so differently than other movements for justice (although it’s all connected). The best way I can make sense of it is that the continuum and wide difference in experience of what being disabled means—building community, changing policy, and even relating across differences is very difficult. Add to that the fact that for most disabled folks isolation and community-building is already challenging. I want to uplift the work of Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and the anthology “Care Work,” which comes to disability justice from a radical anti-capitalist perspective. Crip Camp is getting a lot of traction right now, and there is a online series of workshops that are up right now, and a really excellent starting point for able-bodied folks to learn about disability justice and for disabled folks to be in community.

SA
Making those lines of connection across struggle are crucial in order for us all to come together in community and solidarity. Can you tell me a little bit about your work in harm reduction? Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about harm reduction and narcissism as incompatible. Although, we live in an ego state. Collective healing can occur when we put our differences aside long enough to realize we are on the same side. Being gentle and compassionate with ourselves and each other, how do you move through this when the systems above us maintain an individualistic, narcissistic conditioning? 

C
There is so much to say about harm reduction

1. It is how I approach my practice and every relationship as an acupuncturist, in terms of honoring where someone is at when they come into the clinic. Honor that they are the expert on their wellbeing and experience and that the tools they are using are valid.

2. I also feel that the experience of growing up/being poor and disabled and a teen mother, makes everything harm reduction at a basic level. In the sense that oftentimes you have to make do with what you have. The tools you have are often imperfect, messy, cobbled together, and the best you can do at that given moment.

3. As a political framework I came to it through doing domestic violence prevention work and on screen advocacy at the hospital. This meant showing up at the ER  to support folks after DV or sexual assault incidences. I was lucky enough to be trained by folks who believed and practiced harm reduction as a framework for supporting people through domestic and intimate partner violence. Right now Just Practice, Shira Hassan’s organization, has a beautiful offering on Transformative Justice coming from a harm reductionist framework.

I think that we need to build up a tolerance for discomfort and conflict, and to build awareness around the differences between unsafe and uncomfortable. I am not sure collective healing can only occur “when we put our differences aside long enough to realize we are on the same side.” I think one of the most important aspects of healing, collectively, as a society, is to be very clear about who we are centering. The idea of “putting differences aside” has been weaponized too many times by white supremacy and whoever already holds power. I am more interested in: Who are we centering? Are we centering the needs, experience and asks of folks most impacted by oppression?

And also, can we have generative friction? What does that look like? Conflict is not bad unto itself, rather it is necessary. The internal work of self-awareness, of healing our personal and intergenerational hurts is vital.

SA
Eek yes, thank you for pointing that out, the constant need to center and recenter instead of pushing aside & homogenizing/monotonization. Generative friction and the need to sit in uncomfortability is really where transformative action and healing begins. The need to embrace and see both individual and collective trauma in order to move from it. Thank you, Chiara.

Before we end, I just want to ask, what are three (or more!) things you are either reading, making, listening to, watching, eating that are helping you ‘be well’ over the past few weeks?

C
Watching:
I May Destroy You. It’s really intense and deals with painful stuff. It feeds me to see those experiences represented, I feel seen as a survivor and an immigrant (although the show centers British-African diasporic folks, there are so many parallels. The way trauma is depicted feels accurate in a way I have not yet seen).
Reading “Rust Belt Femme” by Raechel Anne Jolie. 

Again, it feeds me in the way I feel seen by what is written about poverty and single parenthood, although it is also painful at the same time. I guess the moral of the story is that nothing is simple, and nuance is where it is at.

Dancing to: I have dance parties in the kitchen with my kids very regularly and we just blast music and dance to Ghali, The Weeknd, Santigold, Caterina Caselli, M.I.A., La Tigre 

Originally from Italy, and currently residing in Chicago, Chiara is an acupuncturist, organizer, artist, immigrant, and former teen mother living with a disability. She completed a 3 year Master in Acupuncture at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, earned an MA in Italian Studies from NYU in 2015, and an MFA in Painting and Drawing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2012, where she was a Soros New American Fellow. Her clinical focus is on mental health, trauma, CPTSD and queer/trans health. She is committed to making healthcare accessible and in building collaborative healing spaces. Chiara is involved in the Chicago Healing Justice Network, which aims to promote healing justice from an anti-oppression framework.

Slowing Down for Sustenance, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Cuisine

SA
Hi Zoey, describe your energy today.

Z
Hi! I feel a bit slow today because I am having my period 🙂 

SA
How does your spirit feel?

Z
My spirit is good, positive, inspired, as almost always. 

SA
I’m so intrigued by you and your practice. The way you integrate Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and cuisine is really fascinating and inspiring to me as someone who is constantly looking for holistic paths to healing. How did this journey come about, can you tell me a little about Five Seasons TCM?

Z
Thank you so much! My journey of using food for healing started when I got sick at the age of 17. At that time, I had just moved to the U.S. and the American diet, which was ladened with highly processed foods, added a lot of stress on my body. I was suffering from a variety of ailments—joint pain, acne, irritable bowel syndrome, breast tumours, and rapid weight gain. It got to the point where I knew I had to change the way I ate. After that realization and plenty of hard work, my conditions got so much better and I decided to pursue healing through foods as a career. I took the traditional western approach, getting a degree in nutrition and completing a dietetic internship. However, after almost two years of working in the dietetics field and western healthy cooking, I was very disappointed and bored. It was so restrictive and limited. It was not healing for me. I almost felt I was going to get sick again. That’s when I decided to look into TCM foods and nutrition. And that was absolutely eye-opening. I’ve been doing that since, combining east and west. I was hosting weekly medicinal dinners in New York, calling it Table 81 NYC. We fed probably around 500 guests so far, which we hope to resume doing after covid. 

Five Seasons TCM  (@fiveseasonstcm) is a new brand and website that I am launching very soon, where our audience can find free recipes, knowledge on TCM nutrition, and information on herbs and foods. They will have the option to purchase some culinary herbs and blends as well, or to take a quiz to understand their body constitution to know what foods are better for them, as everyone is unique. I’m very much looking forward to launching it in early September! 

SA
Existing in America where racist, sexist and discriminatory conditions seep into all institutions including the way we access health, wellness and food, what have been some of the challenges you have faced as a practitioner in the west and some of the lessons?

Z
All of my actual clients and patients (the majority of them are white) are very respectful and open-minded. They truly appreciate Chinese medicine and are interested in learning about Asian culture. I am super grateful to have them. However, I’ve definitely experienced racism online, as I have some social media presence. At the height of COVID, under my Tiktok TCM cooking videos were comments that said my dish would cause COVID-19, or looked like “the bat soup”. Sexist comments from white men are so common that I am immune from them already. It seems like, since I am an Asian girl, I am obedient, ‘wifey’, and it’s okay to tell me “you have small beautiful asian eyes.” Aside from these personal comments, the wellness industry as a whole is often discriminatory against Chinese Medicine or culture. Many white-owned brands will use TCM ingredients but never give credit. In my nutrition textbooks (yes, textbooks), “Chinese food” is always the bad example that equals a high-fat, high-calorie, fast-food diet. It is ridiculous to me that the amazingly rich cuisine of my country is just condensed to sesame chicken takeouts. Also sesame chicken as a dish doesn’t exist in China, fyi. 

I am obviously bitter about these experiences, but I think the important lesson is that we as Chinese practitioners need to own the narrative around TCM more. We need to take the responsibility to educate the public, translate the medicine and culture better, and modernize it. We don’t want to be “enemies” of the western way of thinking. Rather, we should be translators and teachers. Once there is more exposure and explanation available from Chinese practitioners, ignorance fades. I encourage brands and media to feature more Asian practitioners to talk about wellness and health. It’s not that hard. You wouldn’t hire a French chef to cook Sichuan hot pot. 

SA
There are so many different aspects of TCM. I had my first acupuncture session in 2018 for vaginismus, and immediately began to feel the energy that was stuck in my pelvic region flow. It allowed me to think about how energy can become stuck physically in the body, but also mentally. The notion of balancing qi is integral to TCM. Right now, we’re experiencing a lot of collective grief, despair and frustration particularly in the west where it feels like systems are not changing but instead, proliferating. I recently learned that the Black Panthers were actually integral in the widespread of acupuncture as a preventive, holistic healing treatment throughout America. How can we think about TCM as a knowledge system that can help transform the unhealthy societies we occupy?

Z
I’m glad to hear your positive experience with acupuncture! It is an amazing modality of TCM, aside from moxibustion, herbal medicine, food therapy (what I do mostly), guasha, cupping, qi gong, tui na (medical massage), etc. When you dig deep, the TCM culture here in the U.S. is closely related to politics, immigration, and social movements. Acupuncture is quite well-known in the U.S. and is included in most health insurance. However, I think only 2-3 sessions are included, which is not enough at all. TCM often requires a long-term commitment and a relationship between the practitioner and the patient. But TCM can also be done at home, easily, and at a very affordable price. The most ideal situation will be that people could moxa themselves at home (heat therapy using mugwort), do self-massage, add medicinal herbs and dietary principles into their everyday eating, and practice qi gong or tai ji as they would do yoga. TCM can be a lifestyle and it is not difficult to do if the knowledge and material (herbs, moxa sticks etc.) is available. I think there needs to be more free resources on TCM for people to practice it at home. This way, their lives can truly benefit from it. 

SA
As a South Asian, I’ve seen the many ways Ayurveda and yoga has been commodified by the west, particularly, white dominated spaces. The wellness industry is a multibillion dollar industry and yet, more often than not because of white supremacy, it makes no space for those of us who are actually indigenous to these practices. As a consequence, what happens is an engagement in wellness that is not sustainable but simply treatment based – people will engage with the body but forget about the mind and the spirit. How have you seen this with TCM and how does your practice navigate the commodification of TCM?

Z
You are spot on with the commodification. I have a lot to say about this. TCM is not designed to be commodified because it is so holistic, individualized, and it requires the understanding of an entirely different “scientific” language and system. My patients or followers will ask “I have xxx, what herb should I take?” because they are so used to the western medication format, where there is a bottle of pills for a certain condition. However, in TCM, it doesn’t work that way. TCM practitioners need to utilize syndrome differentiation, which takes years of school, to figure out the root problem of the symptoms. There are at least 5 different types of PMS and the prescription of herbs for each of those can be very different. I’ve seen TCM companies in the U.S. selling herbal formulas in supplement form without guiding people to differentiate their syndrome or body constitution. This takes out the individualization aspect of TCM and is frankly very irresponsible. Also, people here want a quick fix. They are oftentimes not patient enough. TCM can be a longer process, especially for food therapy. It takes patience to learn, adapt, and change, but the results are well worth it. Imbalances do not just change after a herbal meal or a week of acupuncture, they adjust slowly from lifestyle changes that require time and effort. The process of it is also a learning process of our body. In my practice, I try to guide my patients and audience to be their own practitioner. Forget about the rigid one-fit-all standards or wellness trends, learn what your body is asking for. I offer educational classes and raw culinary herbs and ingredients as “commodity”, rather than an unnecessarily minimal/modern/western-looking box of supplements that make unrealistic claims. However, I do think the commodification of TCM can help it gain more recognition and exposure. And there are a couple of brands that I do like. For example, Elix Healing sells tincture that is personalized for women. 

SA
Food is medicine! There is so much science that shows the important link between the gut and the brain. Caring for our microbiome is so important to overall wellness and yet, unfortunately, modernization through capitalism has resulted in health care professionals who would rather prescribe us with medicines than treat our diets to handle mental health and general nervous system wellbeing. The antidepressant industry is a market in which rich elites profit off the effects of miseducation, poverty, and individualism. With Five Seasons, if and how are you thinking about these concepts when presenting to a western audience?

Z
I have faith in the power of food and I created Five Seasons to guide people to think about medicine, diet, and cuisine in a different way. Healthy food is not the same for everyone. Ginger might be warming and beneficial for John, but it can totally cause excessive heat in Adam. Through Five Seasons, I want to help people to figure out their body constitution and understand what kinds of food are better for them and how their body might react and adjust to different foods in different seasons. I also included a food-herb library online, where the functions of ingredients are listed, so people can browse and seek a more natural “antidepressant” rather than taking pills. There are too many pills in western culture, from prescription drugs to supplements. You will see that on Five Seasons, almost all recipes use whole food and herbs, instead of superfood powder or tincture. I want to show the actual form of these medicinal ingredients and bring people closer to nature. The cooking process of whole ingredients is slower, calming, and fulfilling. It is a different experience from blending all the superfood products in a smoothie for 30 seconds.

SA
What are five different things you are doing/eating/reading/listening to/watching/making that are helping you stay grounded and be well during this time?

Z
Warm tea with hawthorn berry, rose, dried longan is a wonderful beverage to calm ourselves and reduce anger.

I’ve been eating all kinds of different congee that I make. They are really great for the summer and make my digestion smooth. 

I’ve been listening to my boyfriend’s new song (Walk with me, Aging Young Rebel). He was inspired by the BLM movement and created this song filled with positivity and good energy. It makes me want to stand up and walk for justice!

I’ve been painting since Covid started. I use my herbs as brushes to create textures and to transform a classic formula from memory/book to canvas. I simply love the process!

Daily self massage is a must.

With her background in clinical nutrition, professional kitchen, and TCM, Zoey specializes in mostly plant-based Chinese medicinal cuisine and holistic food therapy. She is also a meridian yoga teacher, moxibustion practitioner, and artist.