By Nomtita Khatri (Aura)
Over a decade ago, heartbreak was the initiation that marked the beginning of a felt understanding of conscious connection to my body. When knife-like grief took up residence in my sinew and organs asking to be felt, tendrils connecting root-like to other points-of-pain, stuffed away unfelt until then, I could have been wise enough to Listen. But I did not. Not then. Without recourse to the myths and ceremonies that accompany the darkness of life-transits such as this, I resorted to what I knew best, as Eve put it, ‘shrill activism, brutal hours and tight control.’ I did this unthinkingly and automatically, deriving a sense of self when I was crumbling, by living in the confining spaces of the cleverness of my mind. My culture applauds it. And I leaned into that image of Self even as the bigness of my grief, experienced through sensations in my body went largely unnoticed. Until I collapsed, I would regularly and determinedly banish what my body was trying to tell me with crafty logic. I would experience burnout to different degrees over the next decade.
A few years ago, while working on my Master’s while living in a land that felt like home, walking the woods by a swiftly flowing river, I began seeing the patterns of long-held stress in my body asking for release. In healing from a state of almost constant collapse, I unknowingly began the non-linear, unglamourous, downright messy work of forging a relationship with myself by descending into the feminine, my body and my psyche.
Back then and fortunately for me, at the time, the ritual I did practice, was that of stewarding vegetable gardens. Working with kinesiology to listen for how the gardens were asking to be tended meant forging a relationship with Silence, and learning to become a sanctuary of safety within my own body. Working with gardens and the land in this way meant that I had to connect with the wisdom and intelligence of the land itself by making by own body the most static-free instrument of listening that I could. What I now have language for was an experience in learning to trust the unknown, to listen for the breadcrumbs of how I was meant to be in Life as opposed to what I was mean to be doing. "Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate. But when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond." - Robin Wall Kimmerer.
As a former bio-dynamic gardener and in my now-fledgling practice of Intuitive herbalism, I found myself challenged, sheltered, and seen all at once, not by people, but by the plants that have held me in difficult times. By the act of inviting direct experience of the land and working with unconventional ways of thinking and seeing the world I am expanding my capacity for curiosity, resilience and how I belong to it. Here began another chapter in living love. By which I mean, the practice of blurring habitual mental boundaries that Other. Falling in love with my own animal body, I am able to see and live in kinship with the more-than-human-world. To listen for and to re-remember how to live within its laws and with it.
In 2020, I came to the Aura Fellowship having explored ideas of our relationship of power with the more-than-human world, for my dissertation in a Masters in Ecology and Spirituality. Since then, I have had the opportunity to stew in vast quantities of pandemic-brought-isolation, while sharpening my felt sense of the world and the ways in which I have lived in disconnection. I have done this, by learning to pay attention to my nervous system - the instinctual part of my organism that responds to outside stimuli at a pace slower than the clever, overthinking mind. That same felt sense is the practice I lean into, to reconnect with my own animal body, nature, place, and spirituality.
The cosmology of a practicing intuitive herbalist is the knowing that plants need to be honoured not only as a physical beings, but as spiritual ones too. It places personal relationships to plants at its core, to allow a deeper experience of the self, along with the consciousness of the plant that is approached. This means, paying attention to what is mirrored back to me by sifting through the smog of my own conditioning, wounding, and worldview; knowing that each plant has the potential to transform, teach and heal. When we can do the humbling work of changing internally, external reality by extension shifts. It has been a not-always-conscious-commitment in choosing not to abandon myself that has provided connection to myself and my body and consequently a lived, sensuous understanding of my sovereignty.
Nomita Khatri, is a storyteller, researcher, artist and trauma counsellor. An Indian woman of mixed religion, she practices belonging to herself and the world by listening to plants.