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Total Health: Author Becca Piastrelli On How We Can Optimize Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing

Be Still with the Earth — Take some time to consciously go outside and be quiet and still with the earth, whether it’s at a park or just outside your house. Take off your shoes and socks and place your bare feet on the earth beneath you. Breathing in the fresh air, listening to birdsong, and giving your body a restful, physical interaction with the soil is a simple and accessible way to ground you energy, reduce stress in your body, and feel a deeper connection with the natural world.

Often when we refer to wellness, we assume that we are talking about physical wellbeing. But one can be physically very healthy but still be unwell, emotionally or mentally. What are the steps we can take to cultivate optimal wellness in all areas of our life; to develop Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing?

As a part of our series about “How We Can Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Becca Piastrelli.

Becca Piastrelli writes about her life experiences, facilitates women’s gatherings both virtually and in person, and is the host of the Belonging podcast. She is also the author of Root & Ritual: Timeless Ways to Connect to Land, Lineage, Community and the Self. She teaches and speaks on the nature of belonging and runs retreats to help women reconnect with their rooted sense of self. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, child, two cats, and five chickens, where she gardens, cooks, mothers, and gathers with the ebb and flow of the seasons.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I grew up in suburban northern California watching Nickelodeon and eating boxed Mac n’ Cheese. I wasn’t particularly drawn to the wild ways of the living world. In fact, as I grew older I was more interested in the growing popularity of the internet and going to the mall. Nature felt dirty and scary and like it might poison me if I wasn’t careful. But there was always a teeny tiny part of me that felt the mystery and excitement of the trees and the stones and the mushrooms. It just took me until my mid-twenties to return to them. I had to go the prescribed path of hustle and burn out to get there.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

It was calling more than anything else. I was doing the corporate marketing thing in tech in San Francisco in the ’10s but found myself feeling more drawn and excited by plants and ancestral ways than I did by big bonuses and new technology. I started a blog in 2013 where I would make things like nut milk and sauerkraut and cucumber eye cream and bone broth and it got big on Pinterest. Clearly something I was doing was resonating because I got lots of comments from people who wanted to work with their hands again too. From there, I got certified as a transformational life coach, went through my own healing journey to understand my own struggles with feeling belonging, also did a heck of a lot of unlearning of the programming that shut off my connection to my body and the natural world, and fast forward to now — I’m a podcaster, retreat leader, and published author.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

First of all, I’ve had to do a lot of looking at how I define the word “success” as opposed to how our society defines it. I used to think it meant how hard I worked, how exhausted I was, and how much money I made. But I did all of that and ended up burned out, depressed, and lonely. I’ve very consciously had to look at the ways I’ve been primed to be and act and actively choose to create new neural pathways in my brain to do it differently. Because we only have this one “wild and precious life” to quote Mary Oliver. We are only guaranteed one and we have no idea that one life will be. What’s helped me feel better in my body (literally digest food better, sleep more deeply, and feel more fulfilled in my relationships) is slowing down. Like WAY down. Walking away from being the person who did all the things and looked like it was effortless. I have made peace with having a cluttered inbox where I don’t get back to everyone. I have found joy in living my life cyclically and in alignment with the seasons. I am doing so much less and *ta da!* I feel more fulfilled and joyful now than when I was much more of a conventional “success”. It took digging deep and asking myself the hard question of “what am I REALLY doing this for?”

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

For many years, I “performed” the life I was guiding people in living. I know we often teach what we need to learn but, in retrospect, I was completely out of integrity. I was preaching self-care and skipping lunches. I was talking about the harmful effects of technology and was completely addicted to my phone. I was guiding my clients in the ways of sisterhood and community while I was isolating myself on my laptop at home not returning texts from friends. I am so grateful to the friends who fiercely and lovingly pointed this out to me. I learned that the greatest way to teach is through embodying the teachings and reporting in from the journey.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I am a voracious reader, and I have to say Sylvia Federici’s Caliban & the Witch was (and still is, to this day) a powerful book that helped release me from the spell of capitalism. It is a rather dense book so I read it slowly and with facilitation, but ultimately it lays out the history of how we as a society got to where we are today. It will initiate you into a new way of being.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

The one I swear by is: “The only way to it is through it.”

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

My book, Root & Ritual: Timeless Ways to Connect to Land, Lineage, Community and the Self comes out November 16th and I’m so excited to finally be sharing it with the world. It is filled with tools and reflections to guide you on a path to wholeness in the age of loneliness. It is also very visually beautiful, so I hope it will go on people’s coffee tables and altars to remind them to pick it up and reflect deeply on the areas of their life where they lack meaning and purpose.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In this interview series we’d like to discuss cultivating wellness habits in four areas of our lives: Mental wellness, Physical wellness, Emotional wellness, & Spiritual wellness. Let’s dive deeper into these together. Based on your research or experience, can you share with our readers three good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Be Still with the Earth — Take some time to consciously go outside and be quiet and still with the earth, whether it’s at a park or just outside your house. Take off your shoes and socks and place your bare feet on the earth beneath you. Breathing in the fresh air, listening to birdsong, and giving your body a restful, physical interaction with the soil is a simple and accessible way to ground you energy, reduce stress in your body, and feel a deeper connection with the natural world.
  2. Be Sure to Schedule in White Space to Your Life — I’m talking about blocking out time in your calendar without any agenda or plan for how you want to fill that time. Total white space nothingness is the ultimate gift for us modern humans who are taking in more information by the minute than our brains and nervous systems were designed to handle. We need space to get bored. From boredom comes creativity. From creativity comes meaning.
  3. Practice Firm Boundaries with Your Phone — What’s been most effective for me is utilizing screen time limits, putting it into airplane or Do Not Disturb, and sometimes even putting it in the other room. You can break the cycle of phone addiction and your brain will thank you for it.

Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.

Having recently had a baby, it’s hard to find the time (and energy) to devote to meditation these days. I have found it most helpful to slowly savor the making of my coffee or tea each morning. I lovingly fill the kettle with water. I take my time to smell the coffee beans before I grind them or graze over the different teas until I find just the right one. I feel the mug warm under my hands as I pour my beverage in. I raise it to my face and breathe in deeply before taking a sip. In that way, I am using my powers to lengthen time.

Thank you for that. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum physical wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Touch Your Body — In the fast paced, modern world we live in, we can forget that we have a body with needs. The best way we can break that cycle and re-establish a relationship of trust and love with our bodies is to put our hands on it. A practice I suggest in my book, Root & Ritual, is to give yourself an oil massage where, as you touch all parts of your body, you say aloud gratitude and positive affirmations. For instance, if you have a hard relationship with your belly, you could massage it and say, “I appreciate all that you hold and do to keep me alive.” Regularly touching our bodies engages us in a deeper, more loving relationship with them.
  2. Hydration — Yes, we all need to drink more water. What I’ve found to be an encouraging practice is to envision all the cells in my body welcoming the water into them with gratitude. I close my eyes and envision my body filling with healing blue light as I take sips of water. It really helps.
  3. Get More Sleep — As a culture, we are exhausted. We resist rest, seeing it as a sign of weakness when so many of my friends and community are walking around working too much telling me how tired they are. I’m tired too, I get it. What if we prioritized rest before work? How might that change our health and relationships with work and each other?

Do you have any particular thoughts about healthy eating? We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

It comes down to this: we’re moving too fast. So many of us are busier than we want to be and resist slowing down. The truth about digestion is that it cannot be rushed. We must make our food with love, take time to eat without distractions and be present with our food, chew thoughtfully and thoroughly, and swallow fully. I’m still struggling with this, to be honest. But whenever I consciously focus on it, I feel better.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. It’s Safe to Release — How many of us (consciously or unconsciously) hold in hard emotions like grief, sadness, or rage? The more we can allow ourselves to move through emotions, the more we can heal in our lives. Make space to moan, to sob, to scream, to wail. It is deep medicine.
  2. Be Witnessed — When I refer to “witnessing” what I mean is allowing yourself to be fully seen by another human being without them needing or wanting to respond or fix or give advice. It can be vulnerable but, over time, the simple act of someone being fully present to really hear what you share can heal so much that is holding you back. It’s why I have a regular practice of circling with women on the new moon. We each share in sacred witness and are healing emotional wounds.
  3. See a Therapist Regularly — I believe all humans deserve to have their own therapist. Someone to listen and provide feedback and offer support in the ways you most need it. I see one every week and it is the kindest gift I can give to myself.

Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.

I certainly love smiling — particularly with a stranger.

Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Connect with your Ancestors — The term “ancestor” can mean so many things, whether it’s known relatives or far ancestors from a certain land or the rocks and the trees and the mushrooms. You are alive today because millions of being lived before. You have a connection to that and drawing upon their strength and their wisdom is a spiritual tool you can access at any time.
  2. Welcome and Share Your Dreams — Keep a dream journal next to your bedside so that you can immediately write down everything that happened right upon waking. The longer you wait to remember it, the more likely you are to forget, so keeping a journal next to you is the best way to not let it slip away. Write dream records on only the right side of the journal, keeping the left side blank, so you can go back later and make notes and connections after integrating in the waking world.
  3. Align Your Life to the Natural Seasons and Cycles of the Living World — When I talk about slowing down and finding a new way of living that has more meaning, I mean starting with tuning into how you feel during spring versus fall. Then I invite you to tune into how you feel during a full moon versus a new. From there, you can shift your life and your activities to align more with the natural seasons and cycles of both nature and your body.

Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?

What’s interesting is the term “nature” is a colonial concept, rooted in a devastating history of severing humans from the wild landscapes they once knew as home. It has us convinced us that we are separate from nature when we are of nature. In these modern times, humans on average spend 90% of their time indoors at a temperature between 68–72 Fahrenheit. We must make a practice of returning to our innate ways of being of the living world. It takes time, but it’s important. Our nervous systems depend on it.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

The simple yet radical movement of slowing down and resting more.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them :-)

I would be honored to have tea with Jungian psychiatrist and author Jean Shinoda Bolen. She wrote The Millionth Circle — a book about women’s circles that has been revolutionary for me and I would love to give honoring and gratitude to her for it.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

RootandRitualBook.com

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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