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Put Your Gas Mask On First

On grief and activism; practical reflections on the horrors being perpetrated on the people of Palestine, and what we can do about it.

I'm gonna cut straight to the point. It's been a horrifying few weeks and your nervous system is fried.

Here's what I recommend:

1. Take care of yourself.

2. Take action.

And in that order.

An Activist Perspective

There was a time when I ran through city streets, out of tear gas clouds and away from the police. I’ve been handcuffed under bright lights, shot at rubber bullets, exposed to a "flash-bang" and spent a night in jail. I did all this in the name of "activism." I wanted to make a difference. I was angry and I was fighting to change the system.

Time after time of putting my body on the line, I became disillusioned with the idea that I was making any change. This is why I became an herbalist. I wanted to facilitate deep and meaningful shifts for people so they could live happier, healthier lives. I wasn't facilitating shit when I was sitting overnight in a jail cell.

Chanting in the street is one way to be an activist (and if this is a way you can show up, I encourage you to do so!). And this is not the only way. Not all of us can, or are willing to risk it all.

After fifteen years of various forms of activism, I deeply believe that the first step of taking action is taking care of ourselves. We must put our gas mask on first.

Take Care

Just like in the airplane demos, when they tell you if the plane is going to crash, you must put your own mask on before helping others to do the same, we must first support ourselves in this big moment of intensity, so that we are able to support others.

As Audre Lord said in her book A Burst of Light (1988), during her on-going battle with cancer, "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare."

Some ideas for self care activities are:

  • Journal

  • Make art

  • Take a bath

  • Stay hydrated

  • Eat vegetables

  • Take your herbs

  • Do some movement

  • Take time to rest or nap

  • Get a full night's sleep

  • Check in on your people

  • Find some time for your self

  • Say "no" to things you don't have capacity for

Which of these is out of balance for you right now? Pick one or two things from the list that you can focus on doing really well this week.

Take Your Herbs

There are also many herbs that can be helpful in allowing you to have more capacity when grief stricken:

  • Chamomile or Catnip: Helpful to wind down after a stressful day.

  • Holy Basil: Supports feelings of stress and overwhelm (not recommended if pregnant or nursing)

  • Rose: Supports moving and processing grief.

  • Lemon Balm: nourishing to the nervous system (not recommended if pregnant or hyperthyroid)

Try making a tea for yourself or a loved one with any of the combination of herbs above. A hot cup of tea can be a true balm to the worn-out spirit.

Take Action

Please, be gentle with yourself. But don't stop there. We must think of our community. Right now, our community is as big as this planet, and our neighbors are Palestine.

Ask yourself,

What can you do to support a ceasefire?

Got 3 Minutes?

Call congress. Can you find 3 minutes in your day to call your congressional representative? Call today, call tomorrow and call Friday. And then keep calling until there is a ceasefire in Gaza.

You can call everyday. It is truly important that you call because the more calls our representatives receive, the louder our voice gets, which puts pressure on them to take action.

You can also email congress, and the New York Times to let them know we, The US, need to stop fueling a genocide. Share your name, where you live and ask them to support a ceasefire now.

Vote with Your Wallet

As discussed in last week's newsletter, healing is a process that involves repairing after harm has been done, often by systems of oppression. This is a moment to take action to prevent more harm and oppression on the basis of racism, islamophobia, and hate. The Palestinian people need our support. They are asking us to speak up. You can donate money via these organizations:

You can also start a fundraiser or spread the word in your community, workplace, or neighborhood to raise a specific monetary goal and donate to your aid organization of choice.

Continue to Take Action

Other ways to support Palestine are:

  • Remind or ask your friends to call Congress, daily.

  • Join Black Lives Matter and Kahlani in a phone call hour - TODAY 10/25 at 12pm PT

  • Learn about or continue the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement to end financial support of Israeli products and corporations including HP, Puma and SodaStream.

  • Attend a protest or rally in your city.

  • Put a sign in your window showing your support.

  • Make an announcement about how to take action in your classroom, workplace or community.

  • Temple of Earth Apothecary is offering space for people of color to create an altar for Palestine. 536 Grand Ave in unceeded Oakland.

The time is now. Speak out and stand up for Gaza.

As the activist adage goes, your heart is a muscle the size of your fist; keep loving, keep fighting. Keep in mind, the only way you can do that, is to first take care, then take action.

Did you enjoy this article and want to learn more? Are you curious about how local herbalism can support you leading a more embodied and authentic life? Consider joining my newsletter.


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