Earth Rx - Elemental Reading List

Botanarchy Herbs + Acupuncture

Earth House Hold: The poet laureate of the Archaic Revival

Pharmako/Poeia: On the poetry + power of poison plants. Dale Pendell is Gaia’s consort, and he sampled every psychotropic plant upon her vast countenance so that you don’t have to. #yourewelcome

Apocalyptic Witchcraft: The witch was created by the land to speak and act for it

Queer Ecologies - Sex, Nature, Politics, Desire: Queer interrogations that subvert + transform heteronormative nature relations

The Alexandria Quartet - Bodies and landscapes colliding in the Alexandrian sun, sumptuous word-drunk fiction to be read in the blaze of a late summer repose

Tao Te Ching: A 2500 year-old manifesto on rewilding (and the entire basis of Chinese medicine) that reads like a Taoist handbook for crafting a temporary autonomous zone with feminist flourishes from Le Guin

Treatise On The Spleen + Stomach: Digestive medicine from Earth School Grand Magus Li Dong-Yuan, written over 800 years ago but still r-a-d-i-c-a-l

Healing With Whole Foods: Elemental nutrition for balancing the internal ecosystem

In The Realm Of Hungry Ghosts: Rewiring the maladaptive compulsions of human cravings + addiction

How Much Land Does A Man Need: My best friend + Slavic Soul Brotha #borisdralyuk translates Tolstoy’s tiny folktale on the impossibility of satisfying desire

Borderlands/La Frontera: Transcending cultural tyranny within a topography of displacement, a Chicana activist’s reflections on borders both geopolitical + conceptual. Now, more than ever. 

Caliban And The Witch: The enslavement of the female body via capitalism + the enclosure of the common lands

The Parable Of The Sower/Earthseed #1: Adaptation + working together in the throes of the slow apocalypse we are all ensconced in that barely reads like fiction at this point

Deep Ecology: Living as if nature mattered

Walden and Civil Disobedience: A stodgy old white dude contemplates nature and writes loquacious earth porn about resistance + simplicity, both ‘meh’ and ‘still good’

Earth Rx - Elemental Mixtape

Botanarchy Herbs + Acupuncture

An ode to Gaia and her golden kin, this elemental mixtape is a cosmic etching upon her great countenance, an alchemical distillation of sunflowers and saudade, a solemn soliloquy to the receding waves of summer and how we make *home*upon her grand facade. Bop bop bop bop, bop bop bop bop, this is planet earth, you’re looking at planet earth.

Invitations for use: Use this mixtape to nation-build with the elementals, forming coalitions with the air, water, and soil (vow to protect them with your magic!). Play it whilst reposing under a taciturn tree, watching the interplay of golden light and shadow upon your skin. Use it to ruminate upon the inter-connectedness of all life at the close of a boozy picnic at dusk (you drank too much AGAIN). Fan yourself on the porch during an Indian summer heatwave while this wafts through the willowy curtains. Make like Dylan Thomas and use it to rage against the dying light. Link to Spotify playlist here! ⼟

Earth Rx - Elemental Acupressure: Spleen 21 The Great Enveloper

Image: Kyle Thompson

Image: Kyle Thompson

Debra Kaatz, in the resplendent ‘Taoist Tales of Acupuncture Points’, translates Spleen 21 ‘Da Bao' 大包 as ‘A Vast and Extensive Containment’ or a ‘Big Cuddling Embrace’.  This is the point I choose when my patients need to remember that they are nourished, safe, contained, and held, supported by both the vast reserves of their bodies and the grace of the all-encompassing tao. The energetics of some points are subtle, but this one has a rich, warm, spreading sensation, almost as if Earth herself was holding you close in a bower of leaves and mulch. I liken it to the arms of a lover around your waist as the sun crowns in a late summer meadow, except better, because romantic love never lasts but the ardor of Earth is eternal.

Located on the mid-axillary line below the holy hallows of the armpit in the 6th intercostal space, you can rest your palms here whence engulfing yourself in an embrace of devotional self-love. Or, you can declare your body a safe space + sovereign nation by activating this point with self-qigong, rubbing your hands together until you feel flickers of electric qi shooting betwixt them, and then placing them upon The Great Enveloper whilst ensconcing yourself in a gravity blanket of protective Earth qi. If you want to hear me wax poetically on the hot tech of Spleen 21, I lead a guided acupressure meditation on its majesty at the close of my episode on the @magickvibes podcast, which you can find in the ethers here.

Kaatz sermonizes on the services of Great Enveloper, describing it as the point where “we can dive deep within the wonders of our Mother Earth and feel her vast and extensive containment. It is here the spleen enriches us with all its great vitality and dynamic movement, the place that everything within us is connected to the Mother Earth with her great care, stability, warmth, and nourishment. In this great enveloping embrace we can feel secure and come back into balance to receive the warmth and care that we need.” Acupressure re-parenting, anyone?

Earth Rx - On Dampness

Image: @archillect

Image: @archillect

Dampness is humidity in the internal ecosystem, manifesting as things that are puffy, sticky, and heavy… think lethargy, lumps, bumps, boredom, brooding, bloating, mucus, phlegm, water retention, accumulation, and aggregation. It likes to perturb the Earth element with such illustrious foes as diarrhea, sticky stool, nausea, and loss of appetite.


Per my oft-quoted dude Lonny Jarrett, “dampness is an accumulation of everything that should have nourished us but has instead transformed into burden.” Think of a tree holding onto rotten fruit, or a fridge hoarding exotic condiments past their expiration date whose monetary and utilitarian value have long since soured (Earth Rx bonus ritual - clean your fridge! I’m sure my shui sorceress @meghan.wallace.james would approve). Dampness slows things… thoughts, processes, metabolisms both psychological and physical. This is how Late Summer is distinct from Early Summer, which is marked by its speed, joie de vivre, and robust quickening.


Dampness often rears its heavy head in folx that find it difficult to say ‘no’, continually ensnaring themselves - begrudgingly, yet brusquely - in the projects, dramas, and predicaments of other people, taking on an excess share of the collective weight of the world. And dampness also calls into question resource hoarding + guarding. Have you ever watched your dog lament over its bone? Transfixed by its power, they become unwilling to let it out of their sight even for a moment to entertain the basic, joyful needs of the body, like going for a walk, jumping on the bed for head scritchies, running to the door to greet strangers. It becomes a talisman of inertia, a burdensome object that impedes joy + flow. So many of my commitments were once this very thing.  


Do you hold onto things because of their perceived value, but feel the weight of these ephemeral widgets is actually slowing you down? RELEASE THEM UNTO THE EARTH. It’s day 1 of Autumn, the season of droppin’ leaves and sickle-bearing reapers - shedding excess weight on this cusp is part and parcel.


Earth Rx - Communing With The Gut-Mind

Botanarchy

If you’re feeding your Earth responsibly and still experiencing digestive duress, or feel like old tricks ain’t working, I leave you with a slew of #earthelement reframes for intuitive eating that can separate the proverbial wheat from the chaff, and guide you in the direction of waking up your receptive and instinctual gut-mind:

Are you allowing the Earth to provide for you? 

Are you approaching her bounty with reverence, slowing down to receive it, tuning in to how it may support or hinder the unfolding of your Tao? 

Are you sublimating unmet needs through compulsive corn chip consumption (I’m guilty as charged)? 

Are you looking to food for sympathy? 

Do you have stable rituals around food, feeding yourself in congruence with the needs of your day so that you can provide for your emotional and physical labor? 

Are you warming your center, keeping your earth warm like a swaddled child?

If any of this resonates and feels like it needs further unpacking, you might want to enlist the wisdom + wiles of your acupuncturist to work on fortifying your center. I’ll also be sharing some DIY acupressure treatments for boosting Earth mojo later this week.  

Earth Rx - On The Spirit Of Food

Image: still from the film Daisies (1966) Director: Věra Chytilová

Image: still from the film Daisies (1966) Director: Věra Chytilová

It is not easy to recognize and choose good nourishment of any kind if the spontaneous and receptive instinctual part of us is numb and neglected. 

- Jean Shinoda Bolen

As someone who has the privilege of tending to bodies and secrets, I know how deep and vast our wounds with Earth run, expressing themselves through disordered and dysregulated eating. Let’s get something straight - If we are eating outside the boundaries of Monsanto-fied foods that feed corporate egregores whilst robbing bodies and Gaia of their legacies, there are no inherently ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods. Where food falls on the spectrum between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is completely relative, and is one of the myriad ways we fall victim to internalized prejudices informed by a slew of various cultural conditionings that impose false hierarchies on things. Most of this has more to do with socio-economic biases (and sophisticated advertising both overt + covert) and less to do with nutrition. That said, food CAN support or negate our thriving, but this is different for everybody and informed by the climate of each person’s unique ecosystem, personal history, and stew of inflammatory predispositions that can take a lifetime to understand. This is where the Taoist approach to nourishment diverges from most modern nutritional practices… we think seasonally and contextually, focusing on the relative truths of each person, and not a supreme truth, acknowledging that reality is in a state of process. Everything changes, nothing is constant, and sometimes things flourish best when left alone. We don’t need to obsess too much about these things (but I still do from time to time, it’s a hard knot to undo).

Which is to say… the following ruminations on digestion aren’t about diet in the sense of DON’T EAT LECTINS, LECTINS BAD, but more about the SPIRIT in which you eat your food. The query of Earth is ‘what is your relationship to nourishment in general,’ so this work can be aided by understanding the ways digestion is supported in Chinese medicine, gentle pillars to reinforce the Earth element.

~Earth is stodgy and likes monotony, ergo having stable rituals around food is a way to encourage digestion + assimilation. Chew slowly, eat regularly, try not to eat when angry, tired, or rushed (impossible, I know, but worth stating as your ever-concerned aspirant granny doc).

~Following the meridian clock, the qi of the Stomach is at peak energy between 7 + 9 am, and the Spleen qi between 9 + 11. If you loooove syncing up with your biorhythms, eat a big, sexy breakfast between 7-9, and then carve out a swathe of Spleen time between 9-11 for meditation.

~Earth gets soggy + slow with damp and cold foods, and digestion gets sticky, curdled, and congealed like when excess dampness turns the earth to mud. The process of warming up cold foods absorbs a fair amount of your precious qi, energy that you could be using for far more interesting things. In some internal climates, too many foods of this nature end up damaging digestion over time, so it’s worth examining if ice cream, dairy, iced drinks, and smoothies might be curdling your innards and impairing flow.

~Science experiment: try not drinking water with meals (puts out the digestive fires + dilutes your precious gastric juices!) and removing iced drinks from your repertoire for a hot minute. See if your center feels more fortified.

~Keep the Earth strong + nimble with warming foods and spices. Warm grain bowls, pumpkins and squashes that embody the golden color of the Earth element in her prime, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, soups + stews, parsnips and root veggies, baked yams drizzled with maple syrup, think like a harvest goddess and what she might eat.

~An out of balance Earth element craves sugar, but often does’t respond to it well (oh, the pathos!). Sweets that get those neurotransmitters all a’gaga whilst also nourishing the Earth are molasses, dates, rice syrup, warm fruit compotes, rice pudding. Think sexy macrobiotic restaurants from the 90’s.


Image: still from the film Daisies (1966) Director: Věra Chytilová 

(Have you watched it yet?! Punchy czech feminist new wave cinema with a proto-punk Earth element flair. Food fights!)


Earth Rx - On Nourishment + The Earth School

Image: still from the film Daisies (1966) Director: Věra Chytilová

Image: still from the film Daisies (1966) Director: Věra Chytilová

One of the legendary Chinese medical physicians of yore, Master Li Dong-Yuan, founded what would come to be known as the Earth School in 1200 C.E. The Earth School believed that disorders mainly originate with damage to the Spleen + Stomach, and helped to contextualize how disease could be engendered by lifestyle and emotions, and how both these things are shaped by oppression and poverty (hello, radical). I was going to write a whole swoony love letter to the Earth School, but everything I would have said, acupuncturist Sharon Sherman said better in this article:

As Chinese medicine evolved, practitioners began to realize that patients did not live in a vacuum and they could not be treated as such. Every patient affected by an ailment needed to be treated individually because many factors beyond just physical disease were playing a role and required attention. For Master Li Dong-Yuan, lifestyle was a major factor in the preservation of a patient’s well being. He felt that patients’ emotions could heavily influence the qi’s integrity and that physical illness could be eroded by the socio-economics of a war-torn society plagued with famine, epidemics and poverty.


Li Dong-Yuan believed that the cause of damage to the stomach and spleen occurred as a result of three main factors: intemperance in eating and drinking (especially consumption of excess amounts of cold, raw, fatty or unclean foods), overwork which leads to exhaustion, and from the effects of excessive and habituated emotional expression — excessive emotions agitate the body and consequently weaken digestion. When the conquered people were left powerless, poor and unable to access proper nutrition, opportunistic disease processes were able to also overcome and vanquish health physically, mentally and spiritually.


In honor of the Earth School and Late Summer, I invite you to to do a hot little inventory of nourishment, and how that might be supporting or thwarting your tao.


Earth Rx - On The Spleen + Stomach

Image: still from the film Daisies (1966) Director: Věra Chytilová

Image: still from the film Daisies (1966) Director: Věra Chytilová

"Every Microcosm, every inhabited region, has a Centre; that is to say, a place that is sacred above all.”

- Mircea Eliade

In order to discuss the majesty of the Spleen + Stomach, we have to understand the central metaphor of digestion through the lens of the Earth element. Both our center and our alchemical furnace, the Spleen + Stomach are paired as the organs of our internal Earth, and their transmutation and transportation of nutrients provide the context and structure for how we support ourselves. These digestive organs nourish and nurture, providing stability and serenity (or when out of balance, worry, obsession, and self-doubt). They are responsible for the efficient digestion of all we encounter - both food AND experiences - churning and turning the manna of life into qi to fuel the body’s processes. ‘Neutral Good’ in alignment, the Spleen + Stomach are concerned with how we meet our own needs and the needs of others. Providers of comfort, they are the embodied  Nonna’s in all of us… worried with how we are fed, perhaps a little needy, often overbearing, imprinting our relationship to food for life, for better or for worse.


Earth Rx - On The Earth Element Within + Throughout

Late Summer

Whilst in the throes of a love affair with Earth In Her Season, I stumbled across this quote from the lusty tome The Deep Ecology Movement:

“The photograph of earth taken from outer space by a satellite that shows the whole blue orb with spirals and whorls of cloud, was a great landmark for human consciousness. We see that it has a shape, and it has limits.”

I remember a story I heard about the writing of my favorite song - Terra - an ode to the naked curves of Earth by Brazilian musician + anarcho-provacateur Caetano Veloso. It’s the most beautiful f*&%ing song that ever graced our hoary hobgoblin ears, and we are surely not worthy of its majesty, but regardless - go listen to it right now. Veloso wrote the song from the depths of a jail cell, doing time for protesting police brutality during a period in which Brazil had suspended habeas corpus. From his captivity, he witnessed those very same photographs of Earth taken by the first astronauts on the moon. Gazing at her, he distilled her celestial grandeur into an swoony, sparse, seraphic ode to Her supernal shape as witnessed from above —

From where, neither time nor space

May the Force send courage

For us to treat you tenderly

During all the journeys

That you carry out in the nothing

Through which you bear

The name of your flesh…

Earth! Earth!

However distant

The wandering navigator

Who could ever forget you?

The song is sung entirely in Portuguese, but its message was never lost on our english ears; Despite our various freedoms, we are ALL longing heretics trapped inside a prison of our own creation, calling out to Her to hold us. Earth…Won’t you re-parent us? Give us what we never got? Shell out something sweet to take away the pain? Teach us about enduring beauty? Won’t you be our lover AND our mother? (Esther Perel would have a bona fide field day with all this).

The Earth has always been fetishized as a talisman of unconditional love and generosity. She connects and unifies us in our differences as inhabitants of her home, mediates conflict, and soothes with her boundless breast. We call her Mother and she gets our needs met gracefully with silent aplomb. Sympathy, in the Chinese Five Element tradition, is the emotion of the Earth element, and you can feel it in her liberal charities and licentious largesse. As if by the grace of a hidden hand, our Mistress of Eternal Empathy anticipates our needs, placing the medicines we seek for the plague du jour smack dab in the palm of our hands. Toxic oil spill!? Here’s an oil-eating Oyster mushroom to devour the poison miasma! Malarial outbreak?! Here’s a heap of Artemisia Annua growing in the garden path! Her body is sustenance for the entire swathe of terrestrial enterprise. She endures abuse, and continue to provide for us. Think of the Amazon. 

In the cosmic re-parenting, an out of balance Earth element in our own bodies is reflected as an insatiable neediness, a loss of connection to source that is dealt with by compulsive consumption, eroding our digestion of both food and experience. We may even feel the need to over-give ourselves, equating self-worth with the ability to caretake for others at the expense of our own flowering. When our internal Earth is shaky, we may find ourselves resisting change or avoiding choices that might jeopardize security and stability. Working on the Earth element in acupuncture and herbal medicine pulls us back to our center, empowering us with feeling at home wherever we go. Cue ‘This Must Be The Place.’

Though we often debauch her narrative by casting her as bruised and battered, a hapless victim of patriarchy that needs our saving, Earth is QUEEN and has been self care-taking and evolving solutions since time immemorial (learn from this). Her timeline is not one of minutes and years, but of centuries and millenniums, and us Children of Earth often miss how she regulates and repairs. She didn’t need a #selfcare hashtag with a jaunty blonde in a bathtub to teach her how to patch her wounds. If she needs a solution, she creates one, quite literally (hello, #evolution). This is something to consider when we work on healing our inner Earth element. I think of the incantation I have from @deedeecheriel hanging in my home - You Have Everything You Need. Late summer and the gentle work of nourishing our Earth element imparts this sense of sublime security + abundant bounty, much needed to combat the chaos of culture that is insistent that we never have enough. 

In Her season, perhaps more than ever, the umbilical connection to Earth as home + navigator is paramount as we float through deep space untethered + astray. The advice for those floating comes again from The Deep Ecology Movement:

“We must find our way to seeing the mineral cycles, the water cycles, air cycles, nutrient cycles, as sacramental—and we must incorporate that insight into our own personal spiritual quest and integrate it with all the wisdom teachings we have received from the nearer past. The expression of it is simple: gratitude to it all, taking responsibility for your own acts, keeping contact with the sources of the energy that flow into your own life, i.e. dirt, water, flesh.”

This is why I write to Her daily like a provincial taoist Carrie Bradshaw. Earth! Earth! However distant, the wandering navigator. Who could ever forget you?

Fire Rx - Seasonal Summer Alchemy

Photo @shelbygordonphoto for @wellnessofficial

Photo @shelbygordonphoto for @wellnessofficial

Central to the core of Traditional Chinese Medicine is the concept that the moon, stars, and sun invest destiny in our jing, qi and shen, and as their cosmic influences assert their will upon the tides, so are we unfolding in cadence with their heavenly mandate. Each season brings its own expression from our particular perch in the solar system, finessing a distinct merging and meddling of the elements in the swirling, hurling Milky Way we call home. As we find ourselves at the close of summer, in an open-armed embrace with the sun from across the sky, certain archetypal energies are awakened in us, the same energies that force the buds to blossom, the cicadas to sing, the antlers to grow, and the squirrel to seek shade in the towering Oak. As above so below, and so on and so on, and scooby dooby doo.


One of the poet priests of the 20th century and my guide in the Great Work likes to say that “wild nature is the ultimate ground of human affairs.” That is the poet Gary Snyder, and much like the Taoist sages and doctors of yore whose work this divine medicine is based upon, he is a seeker of universal truth, of the cosmic ties that bind us all together in process and purpose while supporting and sustaining the discovery of our own unique divinity. I’ve always considered poets to be the stewards of the seasons, the cartographers of the cosmos, the score keepers of the human unfurling. As the Taoist sages discovered a template of medicine in the balladry of earth shifting, their poetry fleshes out the collective consciousness in language, mirth, and metaphor. “The fertility of the soil, the magic of animals, the power-vision in solitude, the terrifying initiation and rebirth, the love and ecstasy of the dance, the common work of the tribe” - these are some of the ways the most archaic and elemental values on earth are expressing themselves in summer, the season of the fire element.


As we move from the freedom of fire season to the clutches of earth (more on that later), I’m throwing atcha a series of rituals + ruminations (and also mixtapes and book recs) to make the most of the death rattle of summer so that we have juicy fruits to harvest come earth season.

Seasonal Alchemy: The Waking Of The Insects

Lorie Dechar’s Spring Altar at our Alchemical Healing Retreat

Lorie Dechar’s Spring Altar at our Alchemical Healing Retreat

“If you listen closely, you can hear the daffodils open”

My teacher Lorie Dechar whispered this incantation into the circle on the eve of our Alchemical Acupuncture retreat, and morning brought this bellowing bouquet of awe to our altar. Where there were silent stalks, loquacious lemon florets arose, punching the clock for their job as heralds hearkening the shift from stillness to aliveness. Etheric high fives all around - we are the lucky ones that survived winter.

Yesterday marked an exquisite pivot in the Taoist alchemical year, the stirrings of Water into Wood. The shift from the chthonic consolidation of winter’s watery repose, to the courageous leap of wood bursting through dark matter, is in full effect. It’s a moment known as The Waking Of The Insects, signaling the burgeoning aliveness that happens as we collectively wake. Any and every thing in nature that has become stagnant will be re-energized by the unexpected. If you eavesdrop a little on your psyche + soma, you can hear the sap rising, the insects finding their hum.

This seasonal shift is related to Hexagram 51 of the I Ching - The Shock of the Thunderclap. Thunder brings arousal, stirring the primal forces from deep within, waking up the senses and bringing heightened awareness through the medicine of fear and the unexpected. Truly auspicious that those of us that live in the plastic pastures of LA were greeted by a thunderstorm as the insects roused from their slumbers. Do you feel the stirring?

I’m offering my patients an alchemical treatment to align with the seasonal shift - waking up the stagnant slumbering + coaxing forth the juicy sap from within to initiate momentum and moxie for the season ahead. Let’s play in the verdant field of qi together!

Botanarchy on 'That's So Retrograde'!

Botanarchy

Thank you to the budding Botanarchist babes of @soretrograde for having me on their podcast this week!  Such a pleasure to while away the afternoon discussing Botanarchy and how to 're-wild' medicine by waking up to the wonders of internal and external nature, reminding ourselves of our ferocious latent powers and reconnecting with the seeds of our quieted magic. If you long to hear me natter on about dismantling cultural conditioning and accessing our true natures through traditional Chinese medicine, have a gander on iTunes or the That's So Retrograde website!

✊🏻