Let Your Life Speak Interview: Becoming A Vehicle For Joy
An interview with Suzanne Johnson- Teacher, Herbalist, Gardener, Homesteader
Friends! It’s time for another Let Your Life Speak interview, in which I interview subscribers to this newsletter about the work they do in the world, their integrity practice, and how the two come together to make an integrated, meaningful whole.
We are lucky to have this growing, vibrant community of folks to draw on for inspiration in our own integrity practice. I know witnessing the diversity of ways you show up in and for the world moves me deeply. I hope it is the same for you.
Talking with Suzanne Johnson— Teacher, Herbalist, Gardener, Homesteader
Suzanne writes: I am a gardener of soil and spirit, working to cultivate a rich, diverse, healthy place for plants and people, a lover of food and forest filled with gratitude at the abundance and beauty that still exists in our world. I am an herbalist of 20 years, an organic gardener of 30, with countless nights spent sleeping in wild places under the stars. I created Wildmoon Homesteading LLC in 2017, fulfilling a longtime dream of bringing food, forest, and gardening together to share with others. I run a 6-month gardening apprenticeship program for women, May through October. I’m currently accepting applicants for the 2022 session. You can read more about the course on my website. Follow me on Instagram and Facebook to see my daily happenings and creations.
Can you tell me who you are underneath all of your professional accomplishments, or perhaps as the foundation for all of them?
Oh wow, what a great question. I am definitely a goofball who loves to dance; a woodland water creature, the otter, that stays deeply attuned to their surroundings while rolling and playing whenever possible; a truth-seeker, questing for balance and connection within myself, the natural world, and with others. I am a wild woman, who has often dreamed of living in buckskin in the woods.
Humor is an important part of who I am and these past few years have definitely been challenging to tap into that joy, but I think it is so needed while we work on challenging issues in our culture. I am committed to practicing living sustainably and following my heart and, believe me, these are lifelong practices that don’t always come easy. Like all of us, I’ve had to make concessions on this path, but I feel it is so important for all of us to stay true to ourselves, to keep turning our focus back to our heart, our dream. It’s how we will help bring this planet into balance.
I’m also a person that gets great joy and inspiration from connecting with others. My work in the natural food retail world really showed me how much this is true. I knew I wanted to be of service, although I didn’t know in what capacity until a dear friend invited me to interview for an owner position in a local, collectively-run co-op in San Francisco in 1995. The more than 20 years I then spent working in co-ops were definitely a foundation for my current accomplishments. Though I left that world before the pandemic, it’s been a really hard part of this time, not being able to make those connections on a daily basis.
What is a core belief you carry – about people, about relationships, or about the world – that you feel really shapes your life? How did you come to believe it?
I believe it is absolutely imperative that we continue to create a culture that allows everyone to find and practice the skill or craft that brings them joy, that maximizes their potential, that connects them to spirit, that brings them bliss. This is the way to create harmony for humanity and the earth. A complete restructuring of what it means to be “educated”, with the primary focus being on healthy self-esteem development, communication, non-judgment, non-discrimination, healthy food, and creative practices that help us find our way.
We all take in information so differently and there is such a narrow perception of what is allowed in our public school system. My first exposure to a totally different way of approaching education was in Joseph Chilton Pearce’s book Magical Child. That book blew my mind and totally resonated with me at the time. I went on to read some really interesting approaches to education from different cultures and saw how much our American method indoctrinated children into fitting into a certain way of existing. It doesn’t allow for individual expression nearly enough.
When I started to see what I had lacked in my development, nurturing, and education, what my parents had lacked, then I saw clearly the level of entrenched ideas, perceptions, and, ultimately, obstacles about myself and my potential that had developed due to our educational structure. I think we absolutely make it more difficult for humans to reach their individual potential within this paradigm.
As a child that experienced family trauma, I also feel “education” needs to be connected to each child’s actual life, issues recognized by attentive instructors, and new methods developed to help tend young humans as whole people.
The larger constraint is the Capitalist system, in which we are raising children to participate. I believe as more of us step out of mainstream jobs and industry and follow our hearts the ripple effect will have a huge impact on our culture down the road. Actually, the pandemic has really shifted people’s priorities in this way, as so many people are quitting their jobs and tending families or trying something new.
Another early book I read that helped concretize this belief was Caroline Myss’ Anatomy of the Spirit. As a medical intuitive she talks about what happens physically in our bodies when we go against what our heart/spirit are longing for, or what we are forced to do due to outside circumstances. She worked with Norman Shealy, a neurosurgeon, trained at Duke, Harvard, and Massachusetts General starting in 1984. She connected to his patients as a medium to help detect what was wrong medically and often advised necessary life-changing actions to help remedy the developing condition. This book provided another mind-blowing perspective that helped me see myself and others more holistically. We are energetic/spiritual beings, unrelated to any formal religion, and that aspect of ourselves needs tending just as much as our physical or emotional body.
What helps you to live this belief?
Creating a space where people feel comfortable to be themselves as much as possible and seeing in real-time the impact positive reinforcement has on people. This is what helps me live this belief every day. When people step into a place without competition, with non-judgment and being truly cared for, it’s like they can breathe more clearly. If people can be helped to feel more comfortable being themselves just with kindness and attention, imagine the possibilities if everyone was treated this way from birth!
It may take many more generations to get there, but I believe we are moving in that direction, and have been as a species for some time. I believe it’s the natural progression. Parents hope that each generation will be more successful than the last, but there is another kind of success, outside of material wealth, that I believe we all long for— for ourselves, our children, and generations to come.
When I see the results of nurturing this belief in all the small ways in my own life, whether that is in the garden, with my family, friends, or acquaintances, I see the possibilities for the big picture of humanity on the planet. This gives me incredible hope.
What gets in your way of living this belief?
Anger in the moment that flares at injustices— in the news and in my community. I imagine us, humanity, as a teenager in our overall development as a species. We act out. We aren’t good at communication. We are addicted to drama and greed. I imagine this as a stage of our development we will grow out of.
I see this capitalist paradigm as something that will pass and something new will take its place again and again. That we will be forced to continue to create something that actually works for all people. This refinement process may take a very long time. In the approximate 4.54 billion years the planet has existed, we have only been here six million years. The modern form of humans only evolved about 200,000 years ago. I see us as having a long way to go, to truly recognize what is good for us individually and as a whole— healthy water, food, community, kindness— but I do believe we’ll get there.
What is the joy, or satisfaction, or benefit, for you in doing the work to live into this belief?
Embodying the knowing of this belief is deeply, deeply satisfying. Literally, I can feel my body fill with endorphins when I feel compassion, connection, and support for my fellow humans to succeed in their lives in this deeper way. When I can approach others with this perspective, it’s reflected back to me. On some level they see me and how I see them and the ripple continues out, like a drop in water.
It’s the whole concept of paying it forward that has become so popular. Talk about an example of my belief! When we feel good, we want to share it in some way, any way, with others. The benefit is so huge. Over time I find myself able to tap into that place of bliss more and more often. To see the world and individual people with incredible love and compassion. It’s certainly not always there, but that state of consciousness increases as I age and continue this practice.
I created my Wildmoon Homesteading Gardening Apprenticeship for women as a way to offer some of this joy to a segment of our population that has been particularly brutalized over thousands of years. The need for non-judgment, non-competition, internal strength, and self-esteem in women is critical to a healthy, vibrant culture. I wanted to create a space for other women to learn ways to eat healthfully, grow their own food, make their own medicine, and have a joyful retreat with lots of laughter.
The joy I get in sharing what I love and seeing it benefit others goes far beyond my expectations. I become a vehicle for joy. When we each practice our passions, I believe we also become this vehicle of transmission. We give others implicit consent to follow their wild heart, passions, and dreams.
I believe women are the progenitors of returning balance to the world. I love how Lynn Andrews expresses it in one of her Power Deck Cards;
The world is bereft of feminine consciousness. To bring Mother Earth back into balance, we must bring back our awareness of her. Language is a barrier between us, but woman has always communed with woman in an unspoken language. Her roots are entwined with the essence of Mother Earth, for she too is feminine. Woman is the Keeper of the Planet and must not let her energy be rerooted by the male systems within woman or man. We are all in need of world harmony. Mother Earth has been misunderstood, but she is the universe. She is the womb for all that lives. Feminine consciousness is the energy that embodies the wisdom you need at this moment.
Thank you, Suzanne, for sharing your work and wisdom and offering a peek at your beautiful homestead. Your work for the world is so concretely important.
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