Hi there. I'm Leilani. I'll share my story - and then I'd love to hear yours.
I have ancestors from lands of rice fields and water buffalo, and of rolling green hills and silver fir trees. I was raised among palm, orange, and eucalyptus trees, manicured lawns, and a whole lot of asphalt and concrete.
Having grown up with chronic respiratory issues, in high school I sought help from a naturopath. I was able to stop using my inhalers after learning about food triggers, herbal medicine, and stress. One day, my naturopath told me to eat more raw food.
As I was speaking the question, "You mean, straight out of the produce section?", he was saying the words, "Straight out of the ground."
I was definitely disconnected from our web of life, but also deeply concerned.
At age seven, I'd heard about pollution and the ozone layer, and started a branch of the club Kids for Saving Earth. We picked up trash. We collected dimes to buy an acre of rainforest. In high school I led the environmental club, collecting signatures and pulling "invasive" weeds. At sixteen, excited about addressing my own health challenges holistically, and seeing the connections between personal and global health, I knew my work was going to be in natural medicine.
I began a medical degree to become a naturopathic physician, but quickly became enchanted by the world of Classical Chinese Medicine and martial arts. This wisdom resonated in my bones.
I thought about studying every healing art I could -- but when I heard the saying, "If you dig a bunch of shallow holes, you'll never reach water," I felt its truth. I chose to dig deep into the journey of Chinese Medicine. I earned my Master's Degree in Oriental Medicine from NUNM, and have continually practiced martial arts and qigong through the North American Tang Shou Tao Association.
This is where I've found water.
This is where I've found my greatest personal growth and aliveness, and found the most thorough way of understanding the human being I've ever come across.
And yet, there was a moment when I considered giving it up. The martial arts piece, at least. I was about 21, going to school in the land of cedar trees and salmon. I came home hungry from gongfu class one night, and prepared to eat a second dinner. Suddenly horrified by the packaging I was about to throw away, and all the life and resources that went into this food, I thought maybe I'd better stop training. Stop burning all these calories, so I wouldn't get this hungry.
That's when it hit me: if I would give up gongfu, something so good for my body and my soul, so that I wouldn't be as hungry, I was basically trying to exist as little as possible.
I thought the ecosystem's needs, the needs of my physically abusive then-boyfriend, and my future career's needs, were all more important than my own body and soul. I even pursued better health not simply from a desire to feel good, but from a desire to fix myself, to correct what was wrong with me.
I'd been diving not only into martial arts, but into books like Daniel Quinn's Ishmael, and studies of Political Economy at Evergreen State College. I was enjoying long conversations with my many radical classmates, and my one conservative friend (in which we always found common ground, eventually). Everywhere I looked, I saw the harm being done by people, to other people and to the web of life we rely on.
For a while, I was passionate about the idea of a sustainable society. But, coupled as that was with the idea of depriving myself, I couldn't sustain this passion. At some point, I lost hope that we'd ever get there on a mass scale.
It was the youth leaders of the last few years that called me back. I'd never abandoned my love for life on Earth, but by the time I moved to this permaculture homestead in a tiny, remote town, I'd switched my goal from "sustainable society" to "somebody surviving."
The younger generation said, "We need more from you."
And rightly so. It was time for me to reconnect with my ancestors, who always wanted us to exist. (And, judging by the way so many of our grandparents spoiled us, wanted us to have a lot of fun with existing.) It was time to reconnect with my love for the next generation, and all the future beings.
Shortly after this, two things happened. One, I pursued my own healing in a new way, including prioritizing my pleasure and joy. I fell more in love with being alive than ever before, and I can serve from a sense of overflow -- rather than a sense that I’m wringing out every last drop. Two, a dear friend introduced me to the work of Joanna Macy. This completely reoriented me and revived my flagging determination to protect the web of life.
It's now more than 30 years after collecting those first dimes. I'm living in a yurt in the land of cottonwood, piñon and juniper trees, with my husband and two kids, growing food (straight out of the ground), practicing Chinese Medicine and dreamwork, and hosting conversations with all kinds of healers, activists, visionaries, and changemakers.
We’re not off the grid, we still drive cars, and we buy things wrapped in plastic, but our hearts are full and we’re rising to our own roles in The Great Turning.
I serve the community here in my clinical practice, offering acupuncture, herbal medicine, and teaching self-care tools. I help people tend to their physical and emotional health - and the connection between them - through practical wisdom from Chinese Medicine, and insights from their own dreams. I work with people who want to feel so well-filled that they can bring their gifts to the world from a sense of overflow.
To keep me heartened, actively hopeful, and honoring my pain for the world, I turn regularly to the work of Joanna Macy, who's been bringing her incredible heart and brilliant mind to meet these times since before I was born. "The Great Turning" is a term of Joanna's, and refers to one of "The Three Stories of Our Time." You can hear more about all three stories, and perhaps find yourself in them, on Turning Season Podcast.
I look forward to getting to know you.
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