Poems to my Younger Self

Poetry and I go way back. For as long as I can remember I’ve been practicing some form of writing including journaling, essays, and poetry. I’ve had one poem published. And have written at least a thousand more. Whenever I feel the need to decompress, I turn to poetry. It has been one of my truest friends. It has provided safety when I’ve felt most alone. It has given me countless lifetimes of inspiration. And it has continually brought me back into alignment during moments of imbalance. Poetry is a major part of my self-care practice. Through every cycle, shift, and transformation. But I didn’t always see it this way.

“turning at last

on a stem like a black fruit

in my own season

at last.”

—Lucille Clifton, turning

Poetry and self-care both require a lot of tenderness. There is a process of peeling back the layers. Uncovering things that are uncomfortable. And sometime, as a result, we come undone. Often, when we show up for the work, we are healed in ways we never imagined were possible.

“Moon marked and touched by sun

my magic is unwritten

but when the sea turns back

it will leave my shape behind.“

—Audre Lorde, A Woman Speaks

To celebrate the summer solstice, and give honor to the #MyYoungerSelf campaign, I re-read through some of my favorite poems and poets, and am sharing five that resonate with me the most. These are the cornerstone works I’d give to my younger self, as encouragement to love and trust myself more.

Poem age 7

For the little girl who was bullied, and developed severe anxiety.

“I’ve got a magic charm

That I keep up my sleeve,

I can walk the ocean floor

And never have to breathe.”

—Maya Angelou, Life Doesn’t Frighten Me

Poem age 14

For the teenager who yearned for rites of passage in order to understand her place in the world.

“You.

On Purpose.

Running home after all this time.

Bring yourself in full light,

Shine magnificent in the dawn

The crown of you is beaming

Beyond human structure.

Shine magnificent in the day

A stroke of insight

You are.

You are.”

—Christian Totty, You, On Purpose

Poem age 21

For the young woman who didn’t trust her intuition; who followed along and didn’t question.

“You do not have to be good

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.”

—Mary Oliver, Wild Geese

Poem age 28

For the woman who slowly began to listen deeply to the songs of her ancestors.

“That’s when the rain begins,

and when the mouth of the river sings,

water flows from it

back to the cellular sea

and along the way

earth sprouts and blooms, the grandmothers

keep following creation

that opens before them

as they sing.”

—Linda Hogan, The Grandmother Songs

Poem age 35

For the woman today who continues to lean into loving herself whole.

“To pray you open your whole self

To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon

To one whole voice that is you.

And know there is more

That you can’t see, can’t hear;

Can’t know except in moments

Steadily growing, and in languages

That aren’t always sound but other

Circles of motion.”

—Joy Harjo, Eagle Poem

May this solstice bring you and yours deep abundance.

 

In solidarity,

Christian

 

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Notes on Adaptability, Survival & Emergence in a Time of Earthly Transformation

My grandmother was a collector. A curator of ideas and stories. Before starting grad school in 2013 my mother, partner and I were put to the task of cleaning out her house. She and my grandfather had walked on to the realm of the ancestors a year prior, and everything in their house went unchanged during that time. I learned a lot about her through the process. I realized how deeply her readership had shaped her worldview. She was an avid reader. She held on to piles of magazines, including an original copy of the 1968 TIME magazine issue headlining Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. death, featuring Coretta Scott King on its cover. She had loose archives of recipes, many of which were hand written. There were notes with freestyle thoughts beside cards from family and friends. And at least two unfinished journals lingered, sparsely filled-out with fragments of details. Among these mountainous memorials were a few CDs, including a Mixtape I put together for her back in the day. It was full of jams by Sarah Vaughn — her favorite vocalist.

“There are notes between notes, you know.” — Sarah Vaughn

Every year around her birth week, I remember this experience. In many ways it provided a way for me to heal from her passing. She was, and still is such an important part of my life. At 4’11”, her small frame contained such an amazing life force. My grandmother was a Gemini. She was curious and full of ideas. She was inspiring and inspired. She was adaptable. And she loved to share in good, meaningful conversation. Her life was imperfect, and beautiful, and heart breaking. And she lived it as best she could. This New Moon in Gemini, occurring Wednesday June 13th, paired with the memory of my grandmother and the idea of adaptability, rests strongly in my mind.

In a story published last month for Medium, Nexus Media journalist Marlene Cimons delves into a relatively new area of ecological research — how plants survive climate change by taking naps. Plant intelligence is a topic many scientists are beginning to lean into in the face of a global climate crisis. In this study, researchers found 114 species, mostly perennial varieties, with this particular adaptation trait. In essence, plants that remain dormant underground will forgo reproduction and photosynthesis, in some cases for a decade or more, for the possibility of survival. While this type of plant adaptation is by no means a new phenomenon, the research does provide a fresh perspective on how species evolve through adaptation. And we don’t usually think of plants in this way; hunkering down into the earth for the unforeseeable future. We recognize our relatives by their impetus to emerge and grow. But when conditions are unfavorable for life to thrive, other solutions become more urgent.

We live the best that we can. And that doesn’t always mean that we live our best lives. Sometimes the most resilient aspects of our character come alive underground. And at some junction a decision much be made — to remain safely beneath the surface, or to emerge forth into unknown circumstances.

In her work on shaping lasting movements for justice, adrienne maree brown writes:

“Emergence is beyond what the sum of its parts could even imagine.”

In Chinese medicine, the Wood element is concerned with emergence, growth, and benevolence. The desire to not only unfold skillfully, but to do so with compassion. This requires an exquisite practice in imagination and, ultimately, love. Because, if our most profound, flexible moments happen when no one sees, such wisdom may remain unknown until after we are gone. So, what do we need from each other, in the present moment, in order to emergence as safe and whole beings?

As the summer solstice approaches, I will continue to explore ideas related to adaptability, survival, and emergence. In honor of the New Moon and solstice, I’m offering, CORE Consultations: Sustainable Self Care Strategies, designed to guide you toward greater resiliency, and deeper self love. I look forward to delving in with you.

April 2018 Full Pink Moon

Dear friends,

I hope this letter finds you well, post Full Pink Moon in Scorpio intensity.

The month of April proved true to its character. Full of showers of all sorts. Rainy days give way to momentous blooming. Truth spilling over from the depths of shadows. Spring asks us to toe the line between what we believe is possible, and what we have yet to imagine.

Spring is associated with the Wood element in Chinese medicine. Wood connects, networks, sets boundaries, lends benevolence and generates the warmth that fuels the element of Fire. By nature, spring holds the energy of both rooting and growing. Seeking to move in all directions. Willing to unfold again and again. Spring is the seed manifested. It is the presence of intention. Every year we have the honor of witnessing the regenerative force behind life itself.

This season, I’ve had the pleasure of joining Lima Sprouts, an inaugural Urban Farmer apprentice program in Lima, OH. I’m really proud of the work my cohort and I have been able to accomplish in our short time together.

One of my goals in joining the program (besides learning about agricultural theory, farming/food systems and sustainability!) is to highlight the connection between soil health and human health. This work has been done by many before me, especially the work of female farmers and farmers of color. I know the work ahead will continue to require consistent advocacy and education. I’m really looking forward to delving into more research—if you have any materials or resources on the topic, feel free to leave me a note!

Another part of this process has called me to lean into my intuition and creativity. And the shape of that leaning has actually led me to new opportunities. To possibilities I could not have imagined. One opportunity has taken the shape of TCM based consultation services. It was something that was on my heart for a while, and once I started to work in farming the call grew louder. Intuitively, I think this work organically nourishes the advocacy and education work and I know it will help me develop more clinical dexterity.

I am equally excited and a little nervous for what is to come. This moment has helped me to trust the learning, the development, the complexity. It is teaching me that with all cycles, generation after generation, there is a world of magic waiting and wanting in the depth to be loved. If you’d like to schedule a consultation, head over to my booking page.  I’m offering a deep discount for the rest of May—$40 for an hour with me over Skype or phone conference to rap about Chinese medicine + Self care, and together we’ll dive into your health + wellness goals. If you’re looking to develop sustainable strategies, earth-based intuition, and next level insight. This offering is for you!

May blessings to you + yours.

xo, Christian

 

 

 

A Year of Restoration

Dear friends,

I write to you from my (current) bedroom, a space filled with the aroma of warm coffee and the quiet hum of morning. Outside the sun glows bright on a blanket of snow. Trees extend their joints to the blue sky. Everything around me seems to be in prayer. This moment calls for a commitment to memory. I will need to summon it again and again because I am human and, sometimes, I forget. This moment calls for a commitment to action, as Maxine Hong Kingston taught us, “In a time of destruction, create something”. And if prayer is the act of creation, then I will pray harder than ever.

The transition between “new” and “old” does not start or end when the clock strikes midnight. It is ever-changing. It is the sloughing off of that which is no longer of service, and the integration of habit in hopes of creating a more sustained self. We are alive during this moment of transition for a reason, and there is no better time to continue the work of healing.

Staying accountable to personal healing is possible if we decide to keep coming home to ourselves. Seeking to remember that we are flexible, resourceful, creative, and resilient beings manifests greater humility and courage. In order to make room for whole-self and whole-community liberation we must tirelessly return to the work that is bone-deep. cropped-file_000-7.jpegThis deep work takes a level of clarity, compassion and consistency that we often forget we have access to (I’m raising my hand over here!). To level up in 2018 while embracing whatever fears may accompany struggle, is to hold space for restoration of personal and communal power.

A few years back, I shared 10 Ideas to Unplug (and Reconnect), and today I’m revisiting that initial work with a reiteration which provides more detail and structure. As the coming year unfolds I’ll be harnessing this vision as a navigation guide. If this resonates, feel free to utilize it in whatever way feels good to you.

Schedule health checks and self-care

The end of the year proved to be challenging health-wise. It was a good reminder to make sure that I prioritize my healing and well-being. By scheduling wellness check-ups and self-care dates early on, I hope to maintain a healthy awareness throughout the whole year.cropped-dsc_0809.jpg Organize staycations and road trips

Being back in the Midwest has allowed me to see how much I don’t know about Ohio. I intend to learn more about my home state by planning as many getaways and staycations throughout the year as possible. I will definitely be writing about these adventures in the new year, and will post on the site. 

Wake up (early)

Waking up early in the morning is one of my greatest pleasures. I find peace in the still moments when sun the rises. On snowy days it is barely seen, but the brightness that gleams from the earth lets me know it is there. Even though I love waking early, there are days when I struggle to move my body from the warm, soft sheets. One new ritual I plan to incorporate is to place my phone across the room from the bed, and set the alarm to a gentle, uplifting song. The transit time and music will be a good muse to help motive me to stay woke. One current ritual that I will be keeping in 2018 is planning nourishing and exciting meals for breakfast. I’ve loved making my first activity of the day something that involves creativity and self-care.DSC_0938 Create something

Writing, like reading, is a means to deepen our understanding and experience. I’ve written about creativity many times before on the blog. In the past I’ve often tried to set too many limitations on myself when it comes to creative expression. A practice that has been an ally to me is writing my ideas down first. Whether I have a vision for a photo shoot, poem or wellness workshop, jotting it down helps to bring the idea for fruition.

Prioritize literacy

Literacy is a privilege. It affords opportunity. It connects us to the legacy of storytelling. It reminds us that we stand on the shoulders of our ancestors. Literacy reminds us that we are resourceful beings. While in grad school, I spent a lot of focused time reading, studying, and integrating information from both classical and modern medical texts. It was deeply nerdy and humbling. It helped to root the knowledge in a profound way and supported my practical application in clinic. The experience shaped me as a reader in ways that I will spend a lifetime learning from. Visiting libraries, museums, independent art shows, and attending classes are common ground ways in which we can cultivate literacy. Learning with others in community provides ample opportunity for consciousness to grow. It also gets us out into the world, which can be a sweet retreat from the constant pull to be online all the time.dsc_0823 Cultivate mental dexterity

There are times when my work requires that I spend a significant amount of time online. It’s difficult to avoid the internet altogether, but setting appropriate boundaries is just the remedy I need to keep my mind supple. We can always give ourselves the gift of planned time away during the day, week, month, and year. Carving out space to dream is critical sustenance for survival. I wish to grow mental dexterity in the New Year through more prayer and meditation.  Taking a walk around the neighborhood, or in the woods. Being in group with others. Cooking a new or favorite dish. All provide an opportunity to move beyond the limitation of patterned thoughts, to reorient toward less stress and more flexibility.

Redefine exercise

Movement teaches us about the complexity of life. The stretch of muscle fibers. The graceful open of a wing. We crawl and stand. We sit motionless, and jolt quick as a lightning bolt. Every creation on the planet has a signature, which is eloquently expressed in the way that it moves. There is power in movement—be it physiological, an expression of solidarity, or the shifting force of tectonic plates. In redefining exercise, I’m also considering what it means to be empowered. In the coming year I seek to strengthen my power by refining my Qigong and Taiji skills. I look forward to breaking down each movement and form into small digestible components. I have a feeling this process will allow me to unfold in unexpected ways, and remind me to work toward right relationship with the earth.ChristianTotty_DyshaWaites I’d love to hear your tips on how to embrace restoration in the coming year. Thanks for reading mine. 

May we continue to remember who we come from. May we uplift our unique cultures and traditions. May we grow in capacity to love more deeply. May we be unafraid to make magic that is rooted in profound gratitude and imagination.

New Year Blessings.

In solidarity,

Christian

 

Listening for the Sound of Change

Dear friends,

Chaos engenders a multitude of things: darkness, disorder, unknown boundaries. A spark in the woods where wilderness is always. There is something to be said of this origin from which we all come from; though cataloged by imaginary lines drawn in the earth, deep down, we know there really is no such thing as a border.

During yesterday’s Full Moon in Taurus, planet that governs the physical, I could sense the dance of molecules on my skin–the largest of all bodily organs ruled by the respiratory system. Breathing deeply at this moment is intuitive, so I do what comes natural. In and out gases quickly exchange, as the sun in Scorpio compliments this earthly energy; a final water before the grand consolidation of solstice.

I look outside a large window in my small apartment noticing that the land is mostly dry after an evening rain. It occurs to me that this view will soon change. In a month time, the place I’ve called home for four years will no longer be what I awake to each day. This light brown carpet that has come to comfort me will be torn up to make way for laminate wood flooring. The wall color, an oddly muted shade of terra-cotta, will shift to light grey. The home we’ve made out of tangible and intangible things like fabric, plants, and intention, will be put away in boxes. There will be a fair amount of letting go, sorting to be done between designated piles, “donate”, “keep”, “gift”. I’ve been here so many times before, and I know that experience can ease the awkward pain that comes with transition. I admit my intimidation this time around. The process of moving always proves that it is possible to be clear and confused about something at the same time.

When faced with the chaotic hum that often becomes more distinct when making big life transitions I find some reprieve in listening more deeply. To turn my senses in and toward, instead of out and away from the sound of change. When I do, all sorts of guidance finds me from diverse sources. Recently, I’ve found comfort in the following. Perhaps you’ll find something you need here, too.

Season 2 of the Fortification Podcast  hosted by Caitlin Breedlove.

Joan Didion documentary available on Netflix.

PBS American Masters documentary series celebrating Maya Angelou.

A panel discussion with Tara Houska, Alicia Garza, Jidan Koon-Terry.

Chani Nicholas’ astro-offering for the November 2017 Full Moon in Taurus.

 

In solidarity,

Christian


Credits // Model pictured: Dysha Waites

Notes on the 2017 Full Harvest Moon

Dear friends,

How are you? October is here, and autumn has settled right in. I hope this note finds you settling well into the season, too.

The Full Moon in Aries is here, serving as a conduit to culminate the work put in over the last cycle. In this replete state the moon delivers a steady focus on relationships. Behavior is shaped by and in relationship to others and the planet. This relationship is far too easy to forget. It gets muddled, and silenced far too often. Avoidance and complicit ignorance only digs a deeper hole.

The essence of autumn imbues a much-needed moment to gather thoughts and feelings in order to consider what must be consolidated and carried moving forward. The process can manifest all the mire yet unaddressed. Yet, to honor it in the midst of destruction is an act of courage. How else can relationships evolve unless there is a willingness to get vulnerable and messy. To be called out, and to call out with compassion. It’s difficult to know where to begin, when to change, or how to let go. It is also necessary, hard as it is, to try.

Anymore, the only sense I can make out of everything happening in our world—from environmental destruction to community devastation—is through poetry. Here is a recent poem I wrote, the weekend before the mass shooting in Las Vegas. The poem was inspired by a friend, who always reminds me how important it is to build a fire that will sustain for the long run.


The words cannot always be pretty

Sometimes just need said

Even better done

Sometimes syllables come out harsh and heady

Vowels creep up unsteady

Sentences seem to tango on the tongue

The speaker must go on

Move beyond the thunder-clap of sound

To the lightening bolt of truth

In that moment come through

Reaching toward new meaning

In solidarity,

Christian