7/10/2018

Interview x Lauren Haynes

I discovered Wooden Spoon Herbs about a year ago and was instantly drawn to the brand for their incredible packaging and well, vibes. When I began my research I discovered the woman running the business, Lauren Haynes lived in my home state of Georgia and was crafting herbal medicine and creating an entire apothecary line from American grown herbs with a specific focus of using traditional Appalachian plants. I was so intrigued by her niche and process I started following her on social then reached out to learn more.

In our interview Lauren shares advice for new business owners, how she stays motivated, her self care philosophy and some amazing resources for those interested in deepening their herbal knowledge. Lauren is super busy these days building out her new lab in the Georgia woods (amazing right?!) and I am grateful she took the time for this interview.

Side note, I am obsessed with her Sunshine Cider. It’s been a huge immune support!

Looking back to the beginning, what advice would you have given yourself when you started your business? 

Buckle up ’cause it’s gonna be a wild ride. I really didn’t know what I was getting into at all! So thankful for the naivete of just going for it.

Do you have any additional suggestions for women starting their own creative business?
Devote time each day to do the part of your business that is your passion,even if it’s only half an hour. It’s a great way to avoid burnout and remind yourself why you do what you do.

What are the most popular Wooden Spoon remedies?
Anxiety Ally
Moontime Magic
Super Green Protein Power
Rosy Cocoa

What is the philosophy behind how take care of yourself? 

Keep it simple and that everything can be medicine, those are my philosophies. A nourishing meal, a five minute break, taking time to put a nice outfit on – all those things can be medicine. I try to take it slow and connect to the present as best I can.

On tough days what keeps you motivated? How do you get unstuck?
I try to remember that life’s a trip! It’s such a strange miracle that we’re alive at all, and I shouldn’t waste too much time in a funk or overly stressed. I can stop, put on a happy record, take a couple drops of CBD and move on. I also like to walk to the creeks and river behind my house and hang out.

Biggest insecurity and how you’re moving through it.
My biggest insecurity is related to navigating all the regulations of herbalism and business. It freaks me out. I just have to take it one day at a time, knowing how many people I am helping and that I’m never out of options moving forward.

Share three books on your nightstand.
Southern Folk Medicine by Phyllis Light.
Hippie Food by Jonathan Kauffman.
What the Plants Know by Daniel Chamovitz.
Also, stacks of old American Herbalist Guild journals.

How do you strengthen your intuition? 

Taking risks and working with tarot.

Something about you that will surprise us. 

I used to play bass guitar in an all-womyn Ramones cover band called the Hormones, but my real dream is to be in a psych folk band.

When are you the best version of yourself? 

On a lazy day strolling through the woods looking at newly-emerged flowers with a hot tea in hand.

Who would you love to meet for tea? 

Hildegard of Bingen, a radical nun, herbalist, composer, visionary who lived in Germany in the second century of the current era. She wrote heady music, drew insane botanical mandalas and channeled so much magic and herbal knowledge through migraines. Amazing. Ok, also I’d love to do an herbal consult with Solange over tea.

What are you most grateful for?
I’m so thankful I found herbalism! It has truly changed my life for the best. I’m also super grateful for the amazing piece of land I live on, the feral cat that adopted me, and my wonderful family.

Photos x @brookebragger

7/6/2018

10 Incredible Books for A Holistic Pregnancy + Birth

I’ve been researching pregnancy and birth for the last five years to support my clients and to eventually prepare for my own pregnancy. As you can imagine there is so much conflicting information out there it can be overwhelming to know where to begin. Pregnancy and birth choices are also often very polarized which can leave you feeling like you don’t know where to turn.

I am fortunate to have an incredible doula and CEO of LOOM, Erica Chidi Cohen, as one of my closest friends and I’ve taken extensive prenatal yoga trainings over the years. Having access to such invaluable resources and the time to devote myself to them is a privilege that I am acutely aware of. Just a few Google searches on the standard level of care for pregnant women in the U.S. is terrifying, and it only gets worse for women of color and trans men wanting to carry children.

Making the decision to have the least invasive pregnancy and birth possible has been one where I have felt somewhat isolated. Even in the holistic minded circles I spend much of my time in, the desire for as close to a natural pregnancy and birth as possible is rare. I recently attended a pregnant mamas gathering in L.A.. Before the yoga class the teacher had us go around the circle and share our name, how far along we were and where we planned to deliver. Out of nearly twenty women I was the only one who planned to birth at home. It was such an odd experience saying that aloud as many of the women looked at me completely shocked. I had a brief moment of thinking, Oh god, is this a bad idea? Thankfully, I have enough practice working with my body and my intentions that I was quickly able to let their shock go and enjoy the rest of the class.

And there are my parents who believe that I need a ‘real doctor’ and not a midwife team. One of our midwives graduated with a nursing degree from Yale and Ivy league schools carry serious weight in our family. That fact coupled with the reality that women have been pregnant and delivering babies for eons wasn’t enough to calm their nerves. I love my parents, this isn’t about that at all. Throughout this pregnancy the choices I am making around this particular type of pregnancy and birth experience are often viewed as hippie or unsafe in my family. This is where having a solid birth team (I’ll journal about that soon) and foundation of supportive and factual literature has proven to be a huge assistance to this process of becoming.

Before I diving into the books, I want to share that there are many ways to have a natural pregnancy and birth. Natural birth is a widely used term that means something different for each mother or parent. I like to think of it more as lifestyle choices than the nitty gritty of a specific diet or birth plan. Pregnancy and birth are intensely personal for the individual and there is not a one size fits all plan.

There are many approaches in the books I’ve recommended and different types of suggestions to help you navigate each humbling and rewarding experience that is part of becoming a mother or parent. My go-to advice when reading is take what you like and leave the rest. Some of the books have food suggestions that will feel more aligned with you and some will seem over the top. Being pregnant is a time of honing your intuition and connection to your body, spend time cultivating those relationships and allow them to guide your process. My motto with everything during my pregnancy has been soft, softer, softening. This has been key to keeping me present for everything that has surfaced and given me room to dismantle the judgment around my experiences and simply be in them.

Also, there is frequently a missing piece in our culture around the actual babe that is growing inside of us and how that sentient being is on their own journey. We can plan as much as we want to and it is imperative that we stay open and flexible for whatever reveals itself. We are co-creating here and the more time we spend tuning into the little one in our bellies the stronger that connection will develop once they are out in the world.

My biggest takeaways from all of these books is that pregnancy and birth can be a time of profound change, deepening intuition, psychic and physiological reorganization and empowerment provided we have the necessary support to do this life altering job with as much love, care and grace as possible. Being pregnant has brought me to my knees, especially in the first trimester and simultaneously been the most healing and grounding experiences of my life.

There is no way to know what our experiences will be during pregnancy or birth. What I am sure about is that having substantial and nurturing education is a key piece for supporting ourselves through this massive transition and upgrade.

Spiritual Midwifery

The classic on home birthing, natural childbirth and birthing stories. It takes the mystery out of birth while keeping in heavy doses of hippie. It is on the mystical side which of course I love. If you’re considering a home birth or are just curious about it I highly recommend this book. It was one of the first birthing books I read years ago and still stands to be one of the best. The stories in the book are very empowering to read and there is a plethora of collective wisdom in its pages.

The Natural Pregnancy Book: Herbs, Nutrition and Other Holistic Choices

Another one of the first books I read about natural pregnancy and it still stands up today. It’s a classic handbook if you’re seeking a safe, organic, eco-friendly and integrative approach to pregnancy. It’s full of medical, herbal and nutritional information that is presented in a clear way. It is also a great resource for natural solutions to many common pregnancy symptoms.

Nurture: A Modern Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, Early Motherhood and Trusting Yourself and Your Body

A book that speaks my language. It’s a beautiful blend of research backed wisdom and intuitive guidance for every stage of pregnancy and the birth process. Nurture is an all-in-one book for mothers and parents seeking approachable information on fetal development, making choices for a hospital, home or birth center birth, the basics of breastfeeding and tips on what to expect postpartum. It also has recipes, remedies and exercises for each stage of pregnancy as well as tools for getting you and your partner prepared to become parents. Also, the feelings wheel in the communication section of the book is beyond life changing.

Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year

An accessible and easy to read book full of herbal remedies for fertility, pregnancy, childbirth, lactation and newborns. This book is part of a series of herbal books for women and I recommend them all. It is packed with easy to follow recipes, information and loads of herbal allies for a range of issues including high blood pressure, morning sickness, emotional changes, anemia, muscle cramps, bladder infections, and preclampsia.

Birthing From Within: An Extra Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation

This is a great book about self-discovery and the rites of passage that take place as you become a mother or parent. It offers many insightful journal prompts, meditations and painting exercises to help you get clear and come to terms with this next phase of you life. Looking back I felt pretty clueless about how deep the transformation would be during pregnancy and to be honest was taken aback by how much came up for me emotionally. This book was really helpful in that area. It also offers techniques for techniques for coping with labor pain without drugs, baby basics and glimpses into the postpartum process.

The Female Pelvis: Anatomy and Exercises

This book is a must for learning about your pelvis and how it changes during pregnancy and childbirth. I’ve been studying anatomy for years and the explanations in this book are gold for seasoned teachers like me and for those who have little or no knowledge about their pelvis. The series of practices in this book are well written, very effective and gradually build on each other so that by the end you have increased flexibility, strength and coordination of your pelvis and how it functions.

The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Childcare

Prenatal nutrition is a huge topic and this book is a dense yet accessible reference guide. It walks you through nutrition for fertility/conception, each stage of pregnancy, postpartum and babies and children. It’s a fascinating read, especially the pregnancy sections. Learning when certain organs are developing and what to eat to support their growth is such a wonderful way to connect to your body, babe and overall experience. I will say this approach isn’t for everyone, I for one have had a great deal of difficulty eating organ meats while pregnant. I have however, gained tremendous insight from these pages and have implemented many of the suggestions including daily bone broth, extra fats (butter/ghee) and green veggies.

Bountiful, Beautiful, Blissful: Experience the Natural Power of Pregnancy and Birth with Kundalini Yoga and Meditation

This is basically the text book for one of the prenatal yoga teacher trainings I took four years ago. Parts of it are very woo (which I love) and much of it is super helpful. There are loads of great yoga postures and poses that are very simple and effective to help prepare your body and mind for birth. There are also many beautiful meditations and songs for connecting with the growing babe in your belly and your partner.

HypnoBirthing

This is an invaluable book for explaining why it’s important to learn bring ourselves into a state of calm throughout the labor process. It is one of the recommended books for the child birthing class we’re taking and shares many tools to support you being calm at each different stage of labor. The tools in this book are a wonderful addition to any breathwork, yoga or meditation practices you already have in your back pocket.

Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering: A Doctor’s Guide to Natural Childbirth and Gentle Early Parenting Choices

Fear of labor has been a big challenge for me to lean into. This book walks you through all of the choices available so that you and your partner and support team are clear that you are comfortable with . It has incredible depth and insight into understanding the labor process, sharing what the body does and why which I found very grounding. So much of my fear has been around the unknown and this book helped me settle into the fact that my body knows what to do and even if something difficult happens I have agency.

 

Photo x @mariellevchua

6/13/2018

Navigating the First Trimester

Navigating the First Trimester x Ashley Neese

I’ve been wanting to share about my pregnancy here on the journal for some time. This year (how is it June already?) has flown by in a blink. As I sit here typing this at my dear friend Lacy’s house in Los Angeles my mind is nearly flooded with memories from the last six months and I am pruposely slowing myself down so that I can share some of it with you today.

At the beginning of this year, I set intentions as I’ve done for the last twenty years around what I want to create, how I want to show up, and where I want to grow. This year I had some very deep intentions and planned to write a journal post about each one. I got through three of them (here’s my favorite) and then stopped as I got pregnant and landed a book deal. The journal had to take a back seat.

I set out this year to manifest a child and a book and came through with weeks of each other in late January. It was such a magical and incredible few weeks. I felt like I was in the flow in a way I had never experienced before. It’s like my body clicked into another gear and I was aligned with a frequency I’d been longing to align with I just didn’t know it consciously until then. Within a week after learning I was pregnant the book deal was sealed (I will post about that I promise!) and then for the next three and a half months I became incredibly sick, exhausted, anxious and unhinged.

The first trimester was one of the toughest periods of my life in recent years. I’ve been through a great deal with my body and health but this was next level. I sought out the support of the amazing team I have including my friends, acupuncturist, midwives, homeopath and partner. The nausea was so debilitating for so many weeks on end that I ended up taking a western medication for a couple of weeks just to get through my book deadline. Feeling that ill shook me to my core. I had so many moments of questioning if I was strong enough to be a mother. Could I really show up for this?

I felt terrible for taking the medication, something I swore I wouldn’t do even before I got pregnant. After talking about it at length with my amazing doula and epic friend Erica and my acupuncturist Amy it was clear that it would be best for me to take it to give my mental health a little reprieve. I was getting so depressed from feeling as sick as I felt that we collectively decided it was better for my health and the health of the growing fetus for me to not be so sad. I agreed. I kept up with acupuncture and herbs while on the medication and sought out the help of a homeopath to help me get off it it after a few weeks when I was ready.

My homeopath (bless her) said in our first session that extreme nausea is right up there with vertigo and chronic itching in terms of how it effects your mental health. It was really helpful to hear it in those terms. It gave me space to go through the experience feeling more supported. The nausea really took a toll on me and it got worse before it got better. I closed my books, cancelled client sessions, stopped teaching and spent my days in bed trying to eat anything I could get down and when I had the energy and wasn’t on the verge of throwing up I worked on the book. I also pulled a away a bit from friends and family, so much so that my mother became concerned about me. We’ve had a great deal of communication since then and she knows now I am good and am on the other side of it.

I’m one of those people who doesn’t fair well with ongoing physical discomfort. I can handle quite a bit mentally and emotionally, but when it comes to the physical, I am very challenged when my body doesn’t feel well. Last year when I went through the experience of having to unplug and slow down to heal my body on a deeper level it seemed like the toughest thing I’d gone through. I can’t even begin to explain how this first trimester made last summer feel like an afternoon in the park. And I know much of it had to do with all of the added pregnancy hormones. My hormone levels were so high in the beginning of the pregnancy that we were speculating if there were two babes growing in my uterus! To be clear, there is just one ;)

Part of what was happening for me is that I had this idea, thanks to the media, that pregnancy was supposed to look and feel a certain way. I saw countless images of pregnant women talking about how great they felt and how their skin was glowing. In my first trimester I looked like bloated ghost with sunken in eyes and pale skin. I lived on bagels and cream cheese, totally not the bone broth, veggies and nourishing foods I envisioned myself eating. I drank ginger ale, ate chocolate croissants from Tartine, and at my most humbling point ate organic macaroni and cheese out of a box. I prayed that this baby would be built of the previous nine months of deep nutrition I consumed and felt like I was already being a terrible mother.

I felt like something was wrong with me after I talked to a few people who said they didn’t feel that bad and were living on greens healthy foods. Thankfully I didn’t stop there and I got a hold of one of my best friends who is a mother and she told me point blank the first trimester can be so tough and that nothing I was experiencing was abnormal or wrong. That initial conversation brought me a great deal of relief and it also allowed me to let go of my expectations of how the first trimester should feel.

Being able to talk to her through this process has been huge for me. I’m not always great at receiving support and being pregnant I’ve learned how much support I actually need. This pregnancy is stretching and strengthening my capacity and willingness to reach out and ask for help. We were joking about how the first trimester is worse than getting sober and that totally feels right to me. I would quit drinking several times over, it was cake compared to this.

And then there was, and continues to be, all of the mental and emotional reorganization that is taking place as this babe grows inside of me. As my brain chemistry receives a massive upgrade to becoming a mother it’s so much to flow through. In those first three months it became crystal clear that my life as I’ve known it, is no longer going to be the same in any way. The dreams (especially as they relate to my career) I have been oriented toward are shifting with such speed. I’m finding myself each month in a place of editing, refining, letting go and making more space to welcome in this tiny teacher who has already become a major and very literal part of my life on a spiritual and cellular level.

I learned some major life lessons in the first trimester, one being that I have got be more gentle with myself. When ate a chocolate croissant in front of my midwives in one of our early appointments they laughed and told me not to worry. They said that the fetus was growing from the nutrition stores in my body and that I would know when it was time to stop eating bagels and get back on eggs, greens and avocado. And they were right. They encouraged me to be patient with the process and to trust my body, it knows what it needs.

Just writing that out brings a sigh of relief again today as I type this entry. The gentleness is such a big piece for me. As is the slowing down and trusting the process. Learning to trust what my body is telling me has been a practice I’ve been in for years. The first trimester was an invitation after invitation to be in the process of transformation and all of the aspects that come along with it.

Sitting here at 24 weeks (tomorrow!) it’s amazing how different I feel, how much more centered I am and how I am able to lean into the joy of these experiences even when the nausea pops back in for a visit. Two weeks before my annual breathwork retreat in May I started to feel better and like this new and improved version of myself. My energy levels increased, the nausea got dialed down to a manageable level and I decided to step out of the cocoon I’d been living in and connect back to the world.

Coming out on the other side of the first trimester I feel like I’ve really been through something huge. Not only did I touch into the depths of my physical body, I visited areas of my psyche that needed to be explored and expressed. Being pregnant is such a teaching in expansion and in order to expand what was hanging out in my body, the fears about being a good mother, the questions of am I strong enough to do this and can my relationship handle this, all of this has to become unearthed in order to be integrated and eventually upgraded.

Revisiting my experiences in the first trimester has been such a healing process. I am reminded of how much I have been through over these last five months and it honestly blows my mind. I wrote this entry for myself as a way to remember and see the shifts spelled out in front of me. I also wrote this for other mothers who are navigating the tender space of the first trimester. The word that keeps showing up is gentleness. Being gentle with ourselves as our bodies expand and the subconscious comes to the surface for digestion and assimilation. And the trust that grows roots when we allow ourselves to sink all the way into whatever we are experiencing.

Here’s to showing up for it all.

Here’s to slowing down long enough to fee it.

Here’s to all the mothers out there raising their consciousness and doing their work in the world.

Here’s the the people who support the mothers and give us space to take care of ourselves.

Here’s to the the practice of gentleness. May we soften, may we expand, may we love, may we share.

 

x

Photos x @mariellevchua

6/1/2018

Friday Feels 27

I’ve been off in pregnancy land and writing my first book so the journal has been on the back burner. I am happy to share today that I am back here and will be posting at at least twice a week until the baby comes in October. It feels really good to be back and grounding into this space right now. I’ve got some personal essays in the works, inspiring interviews and of course my weekly favorites series that I am going to share today. Thank you for tuning in and more coming next week! x

 

The must see documentary film of the year.

Revisiting this summer playlist.

These slightly frumpy but cute maternity overalls.

The podcast I’ve been waiting for.

Learning how to fight.

The face mist I am totally obsessed with.

Been wearing these everyday at home.

A new addition to my at home work out.

Manifesting my next retreat here.

What I’m looking at for fun.

 

Photo x @ariellevey

5/17/2018

Protected: Breathwork Basics Day 6

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© ASHLEY NEESE 2018