I wrote a blog series over the winter of 2019- 2020, about my perspective on herbalism as an herbalist, which was really a catalyst to me embracing my whole-body wellness beliefs and doing a deep dive into the pelvic floor work I shared throughout 2020.
I want to share some of what I wrote back then with you- especially part 2, and that ending in part 3.
Now, it’s time I updated my position. I’m not just an herbalist, I’m a whole-body wellness teacher. It took me a long time to really blend my 2 things- call them passions, call them skill sets, whatever. My whole life I’ve been interested in herbalism, plant medicine, and taking care of your own self. 15 years ago I took a job as a pilates teacher because I needed a change, and it sure changed everything!
Movement- like pilates, pelvic floor support, foot mobility, and the myriad other physical-related conversations we've had online- is a major part of how I see and practice health. Our bodies are designed to move, a lot, and we're not taught how to do that. This is important to me.
Herbal medicine- whether practitioner-grade with consultations and protocols and upkeep, or food-grade by seriously increasing the quantity, quality, and variety of the fresh foods and spices you eat daily- is another fundamental component to my vision of whole-body wellbeing. Your body is only as good as the resources you give it to build itself, and choosing those resources on purpose is at the core of how I understand herbal medicine to operate.
From the outside, working with both movement practices and herbal medicine is a modern wellness “hybrid” approach. From the inside, though, they’re both exactly the same! Plant medicine helps move things in your body at micro levels, and movement acts like medicine at macro levels.
I understand that this hybrid style is a new experience for most people. It’s this blending that you’ll hear me discussing and elaborating more in the coming months.
I’d love your feedback and questions- what do you want to know about, in regards to a more truly holistic approach to wellness? What do you want to understand, learn, or ask questions about?
It's time for me to introduce myself again, and I've been thinking about what to say. There’s lots of things to know about me. I’m passionate about integrating your wellness, inside and out. Movement and plant medicine. Logic and proprioception. I like to read- fantasy, mystery, history. I knit, garden, ferment, and drink tea by the quart-sized mason jar. I love baths and naps.
There’s also lots of NOTs to know about me. For example, I don't like waistbands or shoes, faffing around with my hair, or having wool right next to my skin.
Also: I don’t do guilt or bullying. Don’t try it on others in my presence, and don’t try it on me. That will be a short-lived relationship. I don’t often like the stories we usually tell ourselves, because they’re usually born from fear or shame or some other trauma. Get ready to be asked to examine them, and to try on alternatives for size.
When it comes to working with me, there’s another big NOT to understand right away:
I'm No Guru!
My first herbal teacher used to say “Don’t put me on a pedestal- we’ll both get hurt when I fall off.” At the time, I hadn’t yet had the experience of either admiring or being admired like this, and my too-logical brain imagined a human-sized statue falling off a Greek column and squashing someone below. I knew that wasn’t what she meant, but I just didn’t get it.
Now, it makes more sense. And here’s what I say to people who want to look to me as some sort of authority over themselves- Everybody knows something that someone else doesn’t.
Yes, I know some cool stuff about the body that you might not, about how it works and how to fix some things. It’s amazing, and I want to teach you what I know. But that doesn’t make me any higher up the human food chain than you. You know lots of things I don’t know, first and foremost about yourself. Everything I teach you has to be filtered through your experiences, and I’ll learn just as much from you and about you, as you will from what I can teach you.
Moral of the story is- when you work with me, it’s truly a “with” situation. If this is the type of exchange that you prefer, let’s get going!
My 2021 Word(s) of the Year
Every year I choose a word of the year (WotY) to guide me through, and I’ve realized there’s 2 indicators of success in keeping my WotY inspiring me well into the year: 1. Pick a good word- one that is broadly meaningful, not just to my current circumstances but to my bigger dreams and vision 2. Keep the WotY displayed prominently, so it remains part of my weekly ‘groove’ past February or Marc
Now that I’ve done my New Year’s planning, I also spent some time considering 2021’s WotY. This is a practice I’ve done for almost a decade, and for the first time I have to try something new- TWO WotYs. Yikes!
My first WotY is CONNECTION. I’m naturally an introvert, and for years and years I maxed out my ‘people time’ by teaching my pilates classes. They’re fun, rewarding, and a lovely group of people, but I didn’t have much bandwidth leftover for anything else.
Over the last few years I’ve been scaling back, and the pandemic prompted me to return to the studio this summer with a positively tiny class schedule. While this gave me plenty of time to minimize any potential spread at pilates (we’ve not had any, thank all the things), it also gave me time to REST, for the first time in my adult life. That’s not an exaggeration.
So now, as we step into both the great unknown of a pandemic winter and our new, ongoing normal, I’m ready and eager to explore connections. It’s a big word, with big implications, and I’m excited to see where it leads.
When I was thinking through the potential of a connection, I considered that it doesn’t have to be a two-way thing, or even an external thing. Years ago I read a blog post that taught me a new word and I haven’t been able to shake the memory of this, especially when I was thinking through my WotY.
It’s a French word, Flâner, and it means “to wander aimlessly, randomly, for the pleasure of watching.” I’m familiar with this idea, because as a child I could either wander or read. I lived far from anything, including people, and I spent a lot of time just looking at my little slice of the world. (I wrote about this in a blog post once.)
I want to re-learn this skill, in nature as well as among people. FLÂNER is my second WotY for 2021.
This pair of WotYs is setting me up for a BIG year. But 2021 is also a “big” year, culturally, for birthdays and I’m ready to leave what’s typically considered the first half of my life with this kind of energy- Connections and the ability to Flâner. These are the parts of me I’d like to nourish in my second half.
Planning the New Year: 2021
Let's start 2021 already, shall we? I won't rehash why- we know 2020 has been a dumpster fire. You were there. I was there. It wasn't fun.
And January 1, 2021 isn't going to be some magic date when suddenly everything that made 2020 such a nightmare ends! So I decided to end my 2020 right now, and move ahead with planning my next year as if it's 13 months long.
I know, these might be fighting words for some people. But I have a history of doing my "new year's review and planning" work at various times of the year, so it works for me!
This is a process, and it takes me several days to go through it all so I don't wear myself out. I want to share my tools with you so if you decide to follow my lead and move into your next "you", you've got somewhere to start.
Step 1- Wrap Up 2020
First- I pull cards.
You don't have to do this. I don't always do this when I plan, even. But this year I did, and I think it really helped me.
I used this deck and asked 4 questions:
Next, I look back over 2020. Years ago I saved worksheets from Jamie Ridler Studio, about "Celebrating the Season that Was" and "Imagining the Season Ahead". Since then, she's expanded and refined her work into a "yearbook", but her original sheets still serve me well.
I also use an out-of-print New Year's Workbook by Maia Toll, I think from an early iteration of her Witch Camp. I've written more about the journey she took us on in previous New Year's posts, like this one.
Other tools you can use are Susannah Conway, Martha Beck, Hannah Bullivant, Tara Mohr, and more. This year I also plan to do Maia Toll's Winter: Journey of Inanna course again- it's an intense dive into shedding what you think you are and what you want to be, and laying your actual soul bare. I haven't gone through it in a few years, but I'm absolutely feeling it this year.
Step 2- Look Ahead
Much of the work I do to look over 2020, that I described in step 1, has looking ahead work built into it. Especially the New Year's Workbook- that's when I choose my WotY (Word of the Year)! This is one of my favorite exercises. The years when I've hung onto my WotY have been the most impactful for me. In full disclosure, I don't remember what my WotY was for this year, and only have a vague idea about where to even look for it...
Anyway, once I've wrapped up these structured practices, I start a writing journey. Many people call it a "painted picture"- simply, you imagine every detail of your life in one day of the future.
My step 3 will be detailed planning for the coming year, so I'm going to explore a painted picture of my life three years from now, in 2023. Three years seems do-able to me- five years is too big a leap, and I'm already planning out one year, and I like the number 3. None of this is an exact science!
I'll also go through Racheal Cook's Plan Your Best Year Ever challenge. It's a 5 day event, but I've done it a number of times now so I can skip over some redundant or extraneous (to me) bits.
The point is, by reviewing the details of 2020 and dreaming ahead to 2023, when I start to work on 2021 in the next step I'll have really grounded myself in the reality of where I've been, as well as oriented myself towards where I'm trying to go. I've spent a lot of time, as my business coach describes it, like an octopus in roller skates- going nowhere furiously. This is how I put myself on rails and pre-set my direction going forward.
This might be the best time for me to highlight one of the quotes I live by:
In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.
It is IMPORTANT that you not be too precious about all this! If you don't make a plan, you won't get anywhere. But making a plan is really about just starting your journey- don't get attached to the steps of the plan, because I can guarantee you that they will diverge from your expectations almost immediately.
This isn't cause for cognitive dissonance. We contain multitudes, including the ability to both make beautiful plans and allow them to be composted at any time. We have to make the plans and allow for change. We're not machines- we are nature.
Step 3: Get Specific About Next Year
Having said all that about planning, it's about to seem like I'm contradicting myself. Remember, we contain multitudes. Let's wade in.
Now that I've looked back and into the farther-off future, I'm ready to dig into what's immediately in front of me. I'm doing this with Racheal Cook, my business coach and mentor. In preparation for her Q1 CEO Retreat coming up, she's given us a bunch of steps to break it all down. Essentially, the steps are:
At the end of the retreat, I have a pre-planned quarter in front of me! I usually end up changing my mind or switching things around- remember, don't be too precious. The important thing is that now I'm not randomly or spontaneously making it up as I go along, and I can be confident that these are the right steps for me to take. I planned them with an eye to my bigger picture, even if week-to-week I'm not zooming back out to re-examine that picture.
This process will take me a few days, so I have time to rest and clear my head before diving back in for the next bit.
It's not the same every year, and sometimes I do it more than once a year. But In some capacity, at least every winter, I cast my memory back and my imagination ahead, then I stare down the upcoming calendar.
I know we're not going to talk about, you know, the dumpster fire. But I will say that adding in that last step, where I drill down into the immediate future and reverse engineer my goals into weekly tasks for my next quarter, saved my game this year.
I did her Best Year Ever challenge by myself in late January 2020, then joined her Collective and her virtual retreat in March. That means the Q1 retreat coming up will be my 5th run through for these steps, and all I can say is I can't believe this guidance and information has been there for years and I didn't know!
I usually don't regret not learning or experiencing something earlier than I actually do because I recognize that I wouldn't have been ready or accepting earlier- but not this. If you need to get your business in order, start with her Best Year Ever work today. This isn't an ad, I'm just that inspired by it!
So this is my New Year's Plan for 2020-2021, starting now. By December 1 2020, I'll be living in 2021 already. Wonder if that means I'll learn to write the correct year faster? But '2020' is so easy to type! If you have your own routine, or if you try mine and like it, I'd love to hear from you.
Note: some of the links in this article are affiliate links, though most are not. Thanks for supporting me.
Chronic Stress Recovery
It's awkward to talk about selling my services. On the one hand, I want to keep reading and learning and digging into this anti-racism work since I'm late to the party. On the other hand, if I do make sales I have income that I can use for donation-based and purchasing-education support as well.
So I decided I'm not selling the Chronic Stress Recovery program, instead I'm donating it to those who need it most, and I will be selling the Foot to Forehead Fix again soon. More on that later.
First though, one thing I hear consistently from anti-racism educators is how exhausting it is to simply live in this system. This might be something I can help with.
From my Chronic Stress Recovery page:
Hopefully this service helps ease some of the physical consequences and complications that come from chronically trying to survive in high stress environments. If you are BIPOC or LGBTQ+ and are interested in this free coaching program, read more and schedule a clarity call with me here.
Inequality is rampant, and I'm finally doing my part to help.
Anyone who has benefited from this system (spoiler alert, that’s everyone who’s not a person of color) needs to be doing the work to dismantle internal and systemic bias, not just overt and blatant racism.
This is truly a “for us or against us” issue. Retreating into a familiar position of life as usual, relying on your very ability to not deal with anything uncomfortable to shield you from the daily reality of others lives, is rubbing a “too bad for you” attitude in the faces of those who can’t turn away, who live on the receiving end of racism.
This is systemic. This is serious. And it takes listening to and learning from the very people who have been oppressed, whose voices have been suppressed, to learn to do better. Being actively anti-racist means acknowledging my own complicity and places I’ve benefited, at the expense of others.
Don’t come to me to learn how to do this. I'll always be a student of anti-racism, because I can never speak or teach from the position of someone who has always known injustice from racism. But you can come to me to find out where I'm learning, and to learn alongside me. The rest of this post is a list of what I'm learning and working on right now. You can work on these too.
Don’t come here for a performance, either. I’m not going to tell you stories about what a good job I'm doing or wave my receipts around to show what a good person I am. I’m doing public anti-racism work on my platform and I’m doing private anti-racism work to change my inherent biases and habits, and I’m sharing some of that here so that you, if you’ve also benefited from this system, have a lead to follow to help take it apart.
Here is some of what I'm doing, and what you fellow white people can do to:
Steps Every White Person Should Take With Me
Set up regular monthly donations to support this work, and set aside extra cash for extra donations
Here’s how I do it, since my income is inconsistent:
Read. Watch speakers on their own sites, on YouTube, on TedTalks, on streaming sites in documentaries. Listen to podcasts, follow educators on social media.
And pay educators for their work. Maybe that’s a regular donation, or a quick Venmo when you’ve taken in something they shared. Maybe you pay for a training, or a coach. Buy their books, definitely don’t pirate them.
Actively change the social media algorithm that follows you around by seeking out others in your professional communities that you didn’t know about, since those algorithms reinforce our biases. Reach out, and develop new relationships in your industry.
There are SO. MANY. resources and lists of resources out there. Here is just one of those, by Waste Free Marie.
I've invested in books and group learning experiences in anti-racism practices for both personal and professional development. I've found new social justice, herbal, and movement accounts online, and I'm making a commitment to not simply follow them but to reach out, interact, and learn from more of these teachers.
Elevate Black voices
How can you share your platform (the people who see you online, at work, at home, anywhere really) with the voices, experience, teaching and wisdom that have been ignored, excluded, and suppressed in your communities?
Here's one specific example shared by my business coach:
Are you asked to speak or participate in events because you’re an expert at something? Ask who else is invited, and if all the experts look like you, turn them down and specifically suggest Black or other POC experts who would also be good fits, but weren't invited.
I am committed to learning from and sharing the words of new teachers who are not only not white, but are not working in the traditional Western/European Herbalism model I am already familiar with. I'm doing this on my social media and in my in person classes.
Audit your own team- this means everyone you pay money to, including all those monthly subscriptions and fees. As a business owner I have a bunch of these, from my email system and my web hosting to my online meeting software and even that budgeting app I mentioned before. One by one, check out their boards and employees. How many Black, POC, and for that matter women are in major roles? Let this guide where you spend your money.
I have added this step to my weekly CEO Date, and will work my way through all my vendors and subscriptions in the coming weeks.
Additional Steps I Can Take Myself
I will elevate the work of non-white herbalists in my DIY Herbalism course and workshops beyond mere mentions of the fact that much more than the white, European history we’re usually taught exists.
I will seek out education by Black and POC herbalists and healers, and encourage my community to share in those opportunities.
I will work on a method of providing my personal Foot to Forehead Fix program to Black and POC students at reduced rates- perhaps through sliding scales or scholarships or another means.
I am also offering my Chronic Stress Recovery online program for free to BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people right now
These Are First Steps
Taking apart the system I'm part of, that I'm so familiar with, will take a long time, a lot of practice, and many many mistakes. This is just my first draft of a "manifesto to do better" and it will evolve over time as I learn and grow with this work.
Fun Fact: I'm an herbalist and a movement coach. Not a doctor, or a pharmacist, and not pretending to be one on TV.
This is a public space, so my writing reflects my experiences and I try to stay general enough so it might relate to you. This does not constitute medical advice, and I encourage you to discuss concerns with your doctor. Remember, however, that the final say in your wellness decisions are always yours- you have the power to choose, you are the boss of you.
And, some of my posts may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through them I'll earn a few cents. Thank you for supporting my work.
This website is provided for educational and informational purposes only and is not medical, mental health or healthcare advice. The information presented here is not intended to diagnose, treat, heal, cure or prevent any illness, medical condition or mental or emotional condition. Working with us is not a guarantee of any results. Paula Billig owns all copyrights to the materials presented here unless otherwise noted.