The medicine you need is the medicine you offer
In shamanic traditions, they often say the harder the journey the more powerful the medicine.
We each have a medicine to offer that’s unique to us. I believe each of us is on a personal journey of reconnecting to nature, our true nature, as well as the awareness that we are nature and everything we feel and experience is the Earth experiencing herself, becoming more conscious every day.
This is the story of how I began to uncover my medicine and how I am now committed to helping you discover your medicine.
If the work resonates and you’re ready to do it yourself, check out the invitation at the end of this essay. But first, a story:
My journey started in third grade, even though I didn’t realize it at the time.
All of a sudden I started getting intense, debilitating headaches. My mom had found a tick on my wrist that had been lodged under my watch when I got back from Girl Scout camp so we thought maybe it was lyme disease. But the lyme test at the time was negative. So I also went to the optometrist and the ophthalmologist and got CAT scans. No one could figure out what was wrong with me. I learned to live with a constant headache. It became my new normal. My mom says my personality changed around that time – I went from being an easygoing, happy go-lucky kid to being irritable and cranky.
I kept most of my suffering to myself (as best I could!) and kept up an appearance that everything was okay. I got straight As and was the captain of the cross-country team. I was involved with student government. I was even profiled as “The Superstar” in Alexandra Robbins’s book about my high school called The Overachievers. But on the inside things were getting worse.
Instead of honoring my suffering, I resented it, which made it doubly painful. I didn’t know why my hair was thinning or my hormones were so off. I felt tired. I felt like screaming. No one was listening. I went to so many different medical specialists around the Washington, DC metropolitan area. I cried in so many doctor’s offices as I told my saga. There was something wrong with me, but no one could figure it out.
Eventually I was diagnosed with chronic lyme disease. Lyme is a mysterious disease with all sorts of horrible and vague symptoms, everything from vision changes, mood changes, heart problems, rashes, joint pain, cognitive decline, flu-like problems, sleep disturbances, and fatigue. It’s worse than the plague. According to the CDC, it’s also the fastest growing vector-borne infectious disease in the United States. There are half a million patients in the US struggling from long-term, late-stage lyme.
I spent four years of college on an intense antibiotic protocol to get rid of lyme. I don’t know if it worked but I do know it completely decimated all the good bacteria in my gut. I felt like a shell of myself.
The gut is tied to intuition but with all my good bacteria gone, I lost my sense of intuition. I was robbed of my own gut instincts and became more anxious than ever. I couldn’t eat anything without feeling sick. What starts as anxiety in the mind may not be real, but then it manifests as sickness in the body.
During winter break of my freshman year of college, I cried and didn’t want to get out of bed. I was brought to a psychiatrist who put me Zoloft after I cried in his office. I didn’t want to be on antidepressants but I didn’t know I had another option. Still to this day I remember the Zoloft-branded clock in the psychiatrists office and often wonder, “How much money do these pharmaceutical companies pay for doctors to prescribe their medicine? Do they know the real truth — that real healing comes from the Earth?”
It’s still painful to remember this story. I’ve journeyed back in time to the eighteen year-old version of myself and apologized to her. Told her that I honor how hard she is trying to be healthy and fit into society. I wish I had known at the time that it wasn’t me that was crazy. It’s the way we are living that is crazy and is making us sick as well as the planet. But back then I didn’t know that I was tapped into Mother Earth – that I feel what she feels. That my pain and anxiety was caused by a disconnection from nature and was the Earth’s own pain. I’ve gone back in time to acknowledge and honor the pain of those years to help heal myself today.
One day I decided I was done with this mess. I decided I had a life to live and I didn’t want to be a patient anymore. I told myself that anyone who touched my head was healing me — whether I was getting a hair cut, a massage, or a kiss.
This subtle shift in mindset from being sick to being on a healing journey started to change everything. Instead of limiting foods that my body could not digest (sugar! gluten! dairy! alcohol! caffeine! meat!), I focused on foods that could heal my gut. I began to focus on all the herbs and potions that had healing benefits, from turmeric to bone broth. I started to meditate, read each book that someone recommended to me, and finally began to open up to the idea that the universe did have my back.
For many people, western medicine and antibiotics work to heal lyme. But it didn’t work for me. I tried every alternative healthcare option under the sun, but it wasn’t until I fully took my healing into my own hands and stepped into the forest that I began to heal myself. True healing comes from within. A true healer teaches others to heal themselves.
The biggest a-ha moment of my life up to now was when I realized that it was disconnection from nature that was making me anxious and sick and that so much of our societal anxiety and depression comes from a disconnection with nature. It’s this disconnection that spurs over-consumption and addiction, that feeling of trying to get something but never being satisfied. It’s what makes us agitated and short with each other. Nature-connected people just don’t scream at each other on the subway or honk aggresively.
Being in nature makes us more content. It’s scientifically proven to calm our stress and restore our wellbeing. Hospital patients with views of nature heal faster. Nature increases creativity, sense of awe, and ability to collaborate. It wards of sickness and disease. Nature makes us grateful and opens our hearts.
For over decade I had thought that my health issues were holding me back, but then I began to see that they’ve been subtly propelling me forward — bringing me into contact with spirituality, conscious beings, and ultimately — nature. I learned so much about how the body works and the soul talks through my own healing process.
By now I’ve come to understand that lyme disease is a last ditch effort from the Earth to get us to wake up and connect back to nature. In some Native American traditions, a spider bite is considered an initiation and ticks are considered spiders. It’s an initiation to a movement known as the Great Reconnection, the worldwide, grass-rooted movement that is popping up all around the world. The ticks are telling us to pay attention. And it’s often those of us who are most sensitive that get the bite, literally or figuratively. We are the Earth’s immune system kicking into gear at a time when she needs it the most.
I finally healed from lyme by going into the forest and spending time just being amongst the trees. At first I thought it was just me, but I’ve since connected to many others who have healed from lyme by forest bathing and reconnecting to nature.
I’ve had a hard journey up to this point but I’m so grateful for it now. It’s taught me so much and has become part of my medicine that I can now offer to you. Some might call it a calling. The tick was literally a call from the Earth. An obnoxious call that wouldn’t go away but rang and rang and kept getting louder until I could no longer ignore it. When I finally listened to it, I started to clue in to my purpose.
We are each other’s medicine all the time — that smile, that advice, and that love you give is giving medicine. Every time you give — cook a meal for a loved one, listen to a friend, share your truth, or extend your heart and hands in service of something outside yourself, you are offering your medicine.
But what is the medicine that’s unique to you? It’s a journey of a lifetime to figure it out. It’s the journey of reconnection.
Sometimes we don’t like to look deep within — it can be scary and emotional — but it’s the way to discover your true power. If you’re anything like me, you’ve blocked out the bad stuff in your life because it’s so painful. But like Frou Frou sings, there’s beauty in the breakdown. The medicine that’s you’ve needed to heal is the same medicine you’re now able to offer.
There’s a reason you were born on this planet at this time and once you have clarity around that, you can begin to do the work you’re meant to do. That work is always relational and in service of something greater than yourself. When you live in accordance to your medicine, you live a life of service and devotion — which I personally believe is the highest form of being alive.
To begin to discover your medicine, take a step into the forest with this intention to discover who you are. It takes some time to disconnect from the story we’ve been living to connect to a more profound story, one that is just for you and is being written in real time.
Your medicine might not look like a job title that exists. It might be a multi-hyphenate of a few things combined in a way that’s just perfect for you. You might decide to call yourself an “artist” or “designer” or “healer” to encompass all that you truly are. You might make up a new word or keep it to yourself. It might change every week as you get more and more clear on who you are. You may never have the exact words for your medicine and it will continue to grow and evolve with you.
I am grateful to have been introduced to the vast and varied concept of the medicine wheel. Each direction stands for an element. It also stands for a part of the life cycle. I believe the secrets to the universe are hidden in the medicine wheel and the knowledge it contains — knowledge that’s been patiently and quietly passed on from generation to generation through people who have never lost their connection to nature.
As part of my own explorations, I designed a tool according to my understanding of the medicine wheel to help myself and others discover their true medicine.
Be aware that this is deep work that can trigger release of stored up emotions. Take time in nature with each of the elements of the wheel and hold sacred space for yourself and you answer these questions. The deeper you dive, the more you uncover. Even better — do this with someone who can hold sacred space for you. Email me. I’ll be there for you. For free. That’s how much I believe in this work.
For creatives and entrepreneurs, I’ve found that nothing propels work more than the clarity and groundedness that comes with reestablishing connection to the Earth, that invisible umbilical chord that connects your heart to the deep heart of the Earth. When you’re clear on your connection and your medicine, everything else begins to flow.
If you’re ready to transform your story and offer your medicine to the world, I’m honored to be holding space this June during the Forest Bathing Club’s first nature consciousness accelerator.
We’re limiting this first immersion to twelve participants and it costs no more than the cost to put it on. I hope this is just the beginning and that there will be many more. My vision is for a world where each of us are living our medicine and healing each other and the planet. I want everyone to learn to transmute their pain into their power. The world needs all of us to be working towards the highest good.
If you feel the call, apply here. I’d love to hear from you and get to know your medicine.
Julia Plevin is a nature-centered designer and author. She is the founder of the Forest Bathing Club and author of a forthcoming book on forest bathing (Crown, Spring 2019).
She is on a mission to bring HEART and SOUL back to Silicon Valley and inspire people to reconnect to nature as a way to heal themselves, their communities, and the whole planet. Find her leading forest baths around the Bay Area or surfing wherever it’s firing.