Lessons from a Year of Emergence - Becca Piastrelli

Lessons From a Year of Emergence

For the past several years, I’ve had a ritual of sitting down and taking stock of the last year: the highs, the lows, and the lessons learned.

The first two times I did it, I wrote specifically about my experience and adventures of being a new business owner (you can read year one here and year two here—it’s a bit of a trip seeing how far I’ve come!).

Then, last year, I decided to expand this ritual and talk about all the areas of my life that impacted my physical, emotional, and spiritual growth. You can read that post here.

I had planned to write this year’s post several weeks ago. I even had a deadline of the winter solstice to publish it. But winter hibernation always seems to overtake me in a puffy cloud of duvet covers and tea, and I found myself physically unable to do much but rest, blow my nose, and stay off the computer.

But now that we’re past the hairpin turn of energy from descending to ascending with the solstice and the new year’s full moon is shining bright through my bedroom window, I’m finally able to put words to the powerful lessons of this past year.

So here we go: lessons from a year of emergence.

January - I received the medicine of the Lioness

Lessons from a Year of Emergence

Tim and I kicked off 2017 by flying to Kenya to visit my best friend, who lives in Nairobi, and travel around.

I’ve always been drawn to African lands. The animals, the sweeping landscape, the culture of its people living in harmony with the land, and the wildness of it all spoke to a deeply raw part of me that craved that level of wildness within myself.

It was the wisdom and medicine of the Lioness that moved me deeply.

The female lion was my greatest teacher on this trip. She kept appearing (almost daily) during my time there. In one morning, we came across 40 lions from 5 different prides.

And every time I saw her, something stirred deep inside my belly—a quivering reverence for this noble being. I would immediately get chills and my eyes would fill up with tears. My whole body was telling me to pay attention and listen to her.

I shared about this experience (including a video of some lionesses and their cubs) in this post.

I also fostered two elephants from this amazing organization in Kenya that rescues elephants wounded by poachers or lost from their herd and nurses them back to health in their orphanage before releasing them back into the wild under care of a new herd. I highly recommend participating and fostering one of your own.

Ohhh, and this happened too. Giraffe kisses make everything a whole lot better.

Lessons from a Year of Emergence

February - I went all in on being part of the resistance

Lessons from a Year of Emergence

I arrived home from Kenya and immediately headed to San Francisco City Hall to march in the Women’s March. Despite the pouring rain and jet lag, that moment changed me. My whole system was activated as I felt the millions of women around the country (and world!) marching with me.

And what I realized is that I had to dig deeper. To understand all the different reasons we were all marching. To understand and use my privilege as a white woman in this country to boost the signals of those who have been marginalized by an unjust system. To check the ways in which I was contributing to a system of patriarchy and white supremacy.

This was the catalyst, the moment where I decided it was time to really listen, to research, and to step into new and potentially uncomfortable conversations so I could be part of the resistance.

March - I miscarried a baby

Lessons from a Year of Emergence

It’s been ten full moons since I woke up with a cramping womb and tears in my eyes, and it’s taken a few deep breaths to share about this even now.

My beloved and I created something magical, and then something went wrong and my amazing body helped that little soul be released back into the ether. It was painful. It was devastating. It was powerful. I’m grateful it all happened the way it did.

The day after I miscarried, I wrote a poem about my experience (and shared a bit more about what happened). You can read that here. I also shared the aftermath of the experience on Instagram using the hashtag #scenesfromamiscarriage.

You may be wondering what’s happened in the months since our loss. The answer is complicated and much of it must remain private to Tim and I. It’s been a beautiful way for us to deepen our partnership and we trust our child will manifest in this world when the timing is right.

Thank you to everyone who wrote me with words of love, encouragement, prayers, and stories of your own. It was such a comfort during a time when a lot of women feel deeply isolated. I felt part of something bigger: a circle of women who had walked this path before me. That comfort still lives within my being to this day, and I intend to pay it forward to the women who come after me.

April - I reclaimed magic

Lessons from a Year of Emergence

In April, I received an email from a reader of mine critical of my use of the words “magic” and “witchy” in my writing. Her email made me realize how important it is for me to clarify the language I use—because, as we see in the media every day, language has a major influence in this world.

Here’s how I responded:

I use the words "magic" and "witch" sometimes...two words that carry a lot of power and may be off-putting to some.

For most of my life, I've been drawn to the age-old folk traditions of my ancestors—practices of working with my hands and in nature to cultivate healing and a deeper connection to myself and the planet (which feel like one in the same to me).

These practices are ancient and deeply sacred work passed down from powerful women for thousands of years—women who were a threat to the growing patriarchal system during the times of feudal land ownership and were labeled as witch.

Many millions of women, children, and even some men were brutally tortured and murdered over many centuries because of their role as healers and their connection to the wildness of nature. It is a deeply saddening part of humanity's history that I encourage you to look more into.

It is my belief that the term "witch" needs to be taken back by the people and seen as another word for a powerful woman who is deeply connected to the earth. I wear the term proudly and see the "magic" of my work and life as simply meaning being in relationship with everything around me.

Patriarchal culture has been very effective in cultivating fear around these terms, which couldn't be further from reality. The more I get in touch with the old ways of my ancestors, their folk methods of making medicine, and my connection to the natural world, the more me I feel.

It's a beautiful thing and an honor to call myself a magic maker.

May - I gathered a lot (and then messed up at my own gathering)

Lessons from a Year of Emergence

May was filled with gatherings to welcome spring, honor the moon, and work with my hands. I hosted a very special gathering at my home for ten women where we shared deeply in sacred sisterhood, made botanical smoke cleansing wands, infused thyme oil for the solstice, and blended an essence from sacred waters. Much of the sisterhood communities I facilitate are online, so to be able to be in person was so enlivening to me.

But then...I messed up.

I shared some moments from the gathering on my Instagram stories, and one of the participants felt like I compromised the sacredness of the space. And you know what? She was totally right.

I care about belonging above all else. As someone who has struggled for the first 25 years of life with feeling like I belonged, I am constantly tuning into ways I can make a space or experience feel safe for us to unravel and heal. And, in that moment of excitement on social media, I lost sight of that night.

I was so grateful to that woman for sharing her experience with me, because it was such a valuable lesson and showed me just how important safety in a gathering experience needs to be. She thanked me for receiving the feedback so well (she almost didn’t share it to spare my feelings!) and we are both more grounded in knowing we can share and receive hard truths because of it. That’s sisterhood right there. It’s so good in the way it heals.

June - I let go of The Dabblist and stepped into a new phase of leadership

Lessons from a Year of Emergence

This was a long time coming and felt massive in my whole system when I made it happen.

I left behind The Dabblist and re-named this space as my own.

It was a claiming of myself and what I stand for in this world in a big and bold way that I’d never quite allowed myself to do before. It felt brave. My hands were shaking, my dreams filled with anxiety, and my heart was beating fast and hard as I pressed publish on my new website under a new name.

Some backstory...

Five years ago, I started a blog called The Dabblist, and I took on that pen name as well.

The Dabblist was born out of the intention to hold myself accountable to working with my hands and awakening my creativity after years of suppressing it. It provided all that for me, and also quickly became a community for fellow creative women on the path to overcoming perfectionism and deepening into their relationship with nature and themselves.

And, as I went deeper, my community came with me.

This space has been such fertile ground for me to share my voice, my creative expression, and provide support to so many women seeking out sisterhood and a deeper connection to their inner power.

It's under the name of The Dabblist that I've been able to come into my true purpose in life, and build a business holding space for growth and exploration, facilitate sister circles on retreats, privately mentor women who want to go deeper, and create a beautiful virtual space for exploration of creativity and sisterhood {The Creative Sisterhood} which is thriving in its second year.

Beyond the business growth, The Dabblist gave me identity and meaning at a time when I really struggled to know my true self. I was so addicted to outside approval that it was difficult for me to quiet the noise of my inner critic to hear the whispers of truth that lie right beneath the surface.

Dabbling saved me from a lifetime of numbing and doubt. It was a powerful archetype for me to embody, giving me the courage to transform like a butterfly, finding the truth of who I am and why I'm here again.

But I no longer need the identity of this particular archetype to show up in the world as myself anymore. That’s why I reclaimed my full name here in this space: to share the full range of my expression through.

I share more about the change and my direction going forward in this post.

July - I loved my inner little girl

Lessons from a Year of Emergence

While going through a box of childhood memories my mom gave me, I came across a page from my journal when I was 14 years old and immediately burst into tears.

I faintly remembered the pain and pressure this young girl constantly put herself through.

She was growing, in body, mind, and spirit, and it was hard.

She had become aware that her body wasn't going to fit into the conventional ideal of a beautiful, sexy woman presented to her by the patriarchal beauty industry.

She found food to be the comforting friend who would embrace her no matter what.

She was tuned into the order of things in a capitalist society, and the very real stress of competing in the "money game."

She had felt the vicious wound of insecure sisters banding together to make her feel "other" and that she didn't belong.

She was her harshest critic, seeing her struggles with math and her boredom in Spanish class as further evidence of her chances of success being bleak (a direct quote from my 12th-grade math teacher).

Yes, I remember her pain and her confusion.

But I looked at this journal page and was also so proud of this girl.

She is expressing her emotions with such poignant beauty. She is radiant in her truth. And she is working through the shadows of her journey with such raw honesty.

I love her so much.

I talk to her frequently, giving her hugs and letting her know that everything is going to be okay. That she grew up to be strong and beautiful and a sister to all womxn.

August - I committed to my own decolonization

Lessons from a Year of Emergence

In August, Charlottesville happened and, probably like you, I was stunned and confused to know that out-and-proud white supremacists were marching with torches on a college campus and someone had died because of it.

I watched in horror. I raged, I wept, I shut up and listened to those who were not as surprised as I was. And then taking a good hard look at how I am playing my part for the better (or *gulp* keeping the status quo).

I started thinking critically about how I could be part of dismantling white supremacy for good.

Me—a woman descended from European colonists living on land stolen from the indigenous people of this place (the Coastal Miwok...I highly recommend researching the original inhabitants of the land you live on too)—who experiences the privileges of being white on a daily basis.

And I pledged to take meaningful action to be part of the solution. I donated more money than ever before to organizations on the ground doing the good work: organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, a salmon restoration project for native communities in northern California and a diversity fund for a local herbal and indigenous medicine school, to name a few.

I started going to local meetings talking about race, privilege, and inclusion in my own community. I plan to go to even more in 2018.

I pledged to not stay silent out of shame or confusion or discomfort. I am willing to be called out. I am willing to listen. I am willing to get it wrong for the sake of healing this wound that has been festering for hundred of years, since the founding of this country.

I spent less time on social media (specifically Facebook) to preserve my own nervous system and not fall too far down into the groupthink mentality that has contributed to feelings of helplessness and fear.

I’ve been spending the past year looking into my own European ancestry to understand my own roots (I am descended from the first settler colonists of Maine on my matrilineal side) and indigeneity and earth ways of my Celtic, Pict, Nordic, and other ancestors.

It is through this work that I’ve been able to grieve the parts of me that have been both the oppressor and the oppressed. I have found this work to be deep and powerful but, most of all, fuel for being on the right side of history during these times of dismantling a culture of white supremacy.

September - I journeyed to one of my homelands

Lessons from a Year of Emergence

It all began with a dream back in April. I saw myself standing on a misty green hilltop by a ring of stones wearing a white cloak, with a crown of hawthorn on my head. I was surrounded by 13 other women and we were participating in some ancient ceremonial rites that I did not understand. I awoke from that dream knowing I was in Ireland, and that I must go on my own ancestral pilgrimage.

Traveling alone in the home of my matrilineal ancestors (on the autumn equinox!) was a powerful experience.

Ireland is such a special place that still holds the magic of the ancient world. The country is covered in protected sacred sites that date back to thousands of years before Christianity hit the scene in Europe, a time when the land was the people’s source of divinity and mystery. Their devotion to the goddess, the fae (fairies!), the sun, the stars, and the moon is so very present even today.

Even on the rainy days, I could really feel myself in that place. I could finally hear myself without any background noise of life. It felt really good.

On the autumn equinox, I climbed up the steep and muddy hill to Loughcrew Cairns to be with the spirit of the ancient ones of that land. Sitting on an old stone overlooking the east of Ireland with the wind lashing about me, I found a deep stillness in my breath and bones. I felt the winds in my hair and gripped my fingers around the rocks beneath me as if they might shake me off at any moment. I kept breathing, reminding myself that I've come from all those who have survived the passage of time. We have survived. In that moment, in the great balance of dark and light, I felt the gossamer light threads of my ancestral mothers still woven through me.

I came back from that pilgrimage knowing I was going to bring a group of women back with me this spring to be in circle together on that sacred and beautiful land. We travel there at the end of April, just in time for Beltane. I’m so excited!

October - I felt my lands burn

Lessons from a Year of Emergence

Early one morning in October, I awoke to the smell of smoke, learning there was a small fire a few counties north of me. I went back to sleep and woke again at 5:00 am and the news had worsened. There were now fires all over Sonoma and Napa counties. Our precious lands were burning—and fast. Schools burned down. Hospitals evacuated. Ash dropped like snowflakes from the sky. My nostrils and throat burned, and I knew I had so many friends and family far closer to the flames than I. Our precious land was burning.

I spent the next week in constant fear and grief, checking Twitter and communicating in text chains sharing updates. We housed some friends that evacuated. We donated food to the firefighters who were giving it everything they had to contain those fires. We walked through the ashen air in our face masks, trying not the breathe in the collective cremation of our community.

The fires are all out now. Many houses burned and the community is working to put itself back together again. But that week really helped me realize just how powerful fire is. It taught me about humility, impermanence, interdependence, regeneration, and gratitude. And, in this era of climate change, I know it won’t be my last close encounter with burning land.

November - I saw the ripple effect of my work

Lessons from a Year of Emergence

Over the summer, I taught a new program called GATHER to a group of 9 incredible women who were committed to creating inclusive community and healing the wounds of sisterhood where they lived.

We spent eight weeks in sacred space together. I taught them everything I know and was in circle alongside them, sharing vulnerably and witnessing them each unravel old stories and rise in their own power. We had such an incredible experience together that we extended our weekly calls through the fall until the winter solstice so we could keep journeying.

Above are screenshots from my weekly teaching calls. So fun to look back at—I was so alive during this whole experience.

Lessons from a Year of Emergence

And then I found out that four of these women (who had never met in real life) had planned a weekend trip to Salem, MA to gather under the new moon and deepen their roots on such historically devastating land.

When they posted this picture in our private Facebook group, my eyes filled with tears and clasped my heart in utter delight. To see the ripple effects of my work in each of these powerful beings (and the rest of the GATHER crew—each and every one of you inspires me so so much) has provided me the deepest level of joy in my work I’ve ever felt.

If you want to join us in this next round of GATHER (coming very soon!), you can sign up to be first to be notified right here.

December - I completed a year of ancestral folk magic and medicine work with my teacher

Lessons from a Year of Emergence

Over the past year, I have been learning about European folk magic, medicine, and working to decolonize my own ancestral history with a magical woman named Liz Migliorelli.

Every month, I would drive the three hours north to the small seaside town of Mendocino to sit in a circle of magical womxn to dive deep into the indigenous folk medicine of Old Europe and the ways we engage with ancestral medicine on a daily basis. I studied the folklore and herbal medicine of my people, did some intense and powerful dream work, connected more deeply with the stories of my ancestral lineage, and worked with the traditions of each season - making and drinking the medicine of the plants to have a more direct experience of the wild. It was a beautiful experience and I have emerged feeling so powerful and knowledgeable and so dang ready to make and share this medicine with you all.

Liz and I sat down next to the wood stove in her cozy workshop to chat about connecting more with our European ancestry and thriving through winter. If you missed it, you can watch my interview Liz fireside in her workshop right here.

Lessons from a Year of Emergence

As we gently enter into 2018 (marking the Gregorian new year, but not necessarily that of the natural world—I felt that more at the end of October, but I still appreciate thresholds and moments of newness—but I digress…) I want to make sure you know just how much I appreciate you for being part of this community.

Thank you, sister.

If you emailed me this year to introduce yourself and share your stories, left a comment or DM’d me on Instagram, commented on Facebook, participated in the Awaken Your Creativity challenge, came to one of my virtual seasonal gatherings, or been in one of my programs, know that I see and feel you here in this space. And I thank you from the bottom of my heart for seeing me.

In love and joy and bone deep knowing that we’re meant to be on this path together.

Love, Becca

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