Slowness as a sacred act of resiliency, homecoming, and pleasure, has reminded me that my worth is not tied up in my work, my productivity, my success or my failures. It’s bound up in relationships. Yes, work can be one way of creating relationships, but it shouldn’t replace relationships, or be a measurement by which to determine if you are worth relating to. Some of the earliest lessons and knowings my Pagan Witch path was tied up to the idea of being in harmonious relationship with myself, the elements within and around me as well as the community of people, creatures, and kin that I was part of. I remember learning “a Witch is only as good as their word” and, being people of spoken charms and incantations, listeners of plants and animals, and storytellers of lost myths, how important this felt for me. How filled with a sense of worth I was knowing that the world might be telling me one thing about how my worth was determined, but I knew that it was these sacred relationships that were the true reflection of my worth.
But it was really hard to take the first few steps of slowing down. So I turned to my relationships with my plant kin for guidance. And if you’re feeling resonance with what I’m writing, I hope that the following recommendations for both flower essences as well as herbal remedies help those of you who are trying to slow down in order to do less but be more. More in love. More in life. More in your wholeness and relationships.
Milky Oat (Avena sativa): All of the herbs I recommend are nervines because our nervous systems are overworked when we use work as our marker for our worth. Milky Oat is a beloved of mine and a true friend to those of us who have crispy and frayed nervous systems. This is a daily long-term (multiple months) sort of remedy to really take root. Along with nourishing and restoring the nervous system to balance, Milky Oat softens us up. Overwork creates a state of rigidity brought on by tension and fear. As we learn about how to be internally nourished from Milky Oat they help us to seek out similarly nourishing relationships with the people, creatures, and places around us.
Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata): Neck and shoulder tension, stress headaches, and a being tightly wound or type A, are all indicators that Blue Vervain may be a helpful ally to you. The herb is lovingly relaxing and tension-reducing as well as alleviating inflammation. As a temple herb - a plant that is well-suited to sacred rites - Blue Vervain helps us to figure out what is sacred in our life and how much space we want to gift to our sacredness.
Rose (Rosa spp.) Flower + Essence: I’ve written about Rose quite a bit, but in particular for overworkers and folks struggling to place their worth in a framework that is healing instead of disruptive, Rose helps us to reconnect us to our heart presence. As a symbol of mystery and complexity, Rose helps us to embrace our own complexity and ability to adapt. And adaptation is not just another excuse for running yourself ragged (i.e. I can adapt to only 4 hours of sleep a night and maintaining a toxic relationship to social media, it’s cool) but real adaptation means we know when to step up, step back, and step into the arms of support.
Elm Flower Essence: I resisted taking Elm flower essence because I didn’t want to recognize myself as someone who tied up so much of their worth to their work. But immensely patient Elm said, “That’s fine. I’ll wait.” Here’s the description of Elm from Dr. Edward Bach “Those who are doing good work, are following the calling of their life and who hope to do something of importance, and this often for the benefit of humanity. At times there may be periods of depression when they feel that the task they have undertaken is too difficult, and not within the power of a human being” (The Twelve Healers and Other Remedies). Elm is an excellent ally not only for the “work as worth” dynamic but for when burden outweighs hope in one’s life, remembering that burdensomeness in one’s life can manifest as persistent anxiety. This is a great pre- and post-therapy session essence, too.
Oak Flower Essence: The essence for folks who don’t know when to sit down and rest. We all know how strong you are - you don’t need to prove it to anyone. It’s time to believe it yourself and rest up before that resiliency runs out on you. This essence is great for folks who feel a sense of duty to set the world right at the cost to their own health and wellbeing. Stubbornly resisting slowing down even thought there is small but persistent inner knowing that it’s just what you need? Make friends with Oak. Oak is one of the most beautiful teachers of interdependence and a longstanding embodiment of wisdom with a root system even more extensive that then vastness of its aboveground presence - which should tell us something about longevity. Again from adrienne marie brown’s book this time quoting Naima Penniman:
“When Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, almost everything lost its footing. Houses were detached from their foundations, trees and shrubbery were uprooted, sign posts and vehicles floated down the rivers that become of the streets. But amidst the whipping winds and surging water, the oak tree held its ground. How? Instead of digging its roots deep and solitary into the earth, the oak tree grows its roots wide and interlocks with other oak trees in the surrounding area. And you can’t bring down a hundred oak trees bound beneath the soil! How do we survive the unnatural disasters of climate change, environmental injustice, over-policing, mass-imprisonment, militarization, economic inequality, corporate globalization, and displacement? We must connect in the underground, my people! In this way, we shall survive.” (Emergent Strategy, 85)