Season 2 Ep#58 New Moon in Aries: What Running a Retreat Taught Me
I know I said that I would be dropping episodes every other week to honor spaciousness, but I felt so called to share my experience of facilitating my most recent retreat with you that took place in Joshua Tree, CA - land of the the Serrano, the Cahuilla (Kuhweeah), the Mojave, and the Chemehuevi people prior to settler colonialism..
And it just so happens that our retreat took place when Aries entered the New Moon. While I’m no astrologer, I was told that the significance of this time is that it’s a transition or closure of events that took place last year in June and July.
As we sat around the fire, tears welled in my eyes reflecting on what my life has been like in these past nine months, like a baby literally being reborn.
Because it was last year in June where I was in Hawaii for a month with my dear friend Rathana for my 34th birthday, and where we dreamed about one day hosting a retreat together. Here we are several months later actually making it happen since I brought her on as our private vegan chef. One day I’ll need to bring her on the podcast to share her story about how she went from houseless to living in Hawaii, and from flipping bacon wrapped hot dogs on the streets of Long Beach during the pokemon apocalypse to opening up her own vegan catering business.
Rathana held so much space for me at that time, as I was uncertain of whether or not my mother was going to become an ancestor. I couldn’t do much since the doctors had her in isolation and prevented visitors from coming because of covid restrictions.
It was also when I was uncertain of my relationship’s fate after ten years of being together, where I felt like a growing plant in a small pot and was so afraid of letting go.
In July, I returned home and hosted my very first daylong embodiment retreat in Long Beach, where I connected with a sweet family that allowed me to borrow their home - and of course, their daughter was studying to be a midwife, so they were excited to host a group of healers in their home.
And while I was holding space for a group of nearly 20 people as we shared our stories and dreamed about the expansion of our offerings, what people did not see was how much I was carrying..
I remember packing all of my retreat supplies up that evening in my small silver prius, and when I arrived back at my parents’ home I was so exhausted that I fell asleep in my car, on the driveway.
That was the same week I was also moving things out of the home I shared with my partner for ten years, and I was not looking forward to seeing the piles of both my business and personal life intermingled into my childhood bedroom that I had been absent from for so long.
It took me several months to sort through those memories, even hiring a decluttering coach to support me with releasing and moving through things because there were days I was so sad that I thought my room would swallow me.
You can listen more about that time in my life in my solo podcast episode, “Decluttering: Letting Go Of Old Stories” released in August of last year.
Fast forward to April 2022 - and my room is a mess, AGAIN.
But this time, there is joy as I reflect on my growth.
I have an awareness of where things are supposed to go. I have a better compass of where I’m headed. Even when it feels uncertain, it’s full of excitement with possibilities ahead of me. I am so proud of myself and how far I’ve come, and if I can make it through this then I’m better equipped at holding space for whatever is next. And most importantly, my mom’s health has improved.
Even amidst my grief, my financial coaches told me that I doubled my business revenue. And to be honest, I wasn’t counting. My sole focus was survival and creating a community that could walk through these fires with me. That money went on to create jobs for several women and healers that helped me to carry the weight.
As we are halfway through my current six month group mentorship program, Bud to Blossom, I’ve learned a lot.
I also have further evidence of how this journey of reconnecting with our ancestors can reward us with a life and relationships beyond our wildest imagination.
In December of last year, I was actually on an airplane headed to Tulum for a retreat I was participating in with my business coach at the time, Melissa Ruiz. Even then, I was unsure of the fate of my own business and whether or not my program would be filled. On top of that, I had just gotten news about my mother’s declining health again and I spent the whole plane ride crying, listening to the song “Louie Bag by Yebba” on repeat.
Her lyrics said…
“They cut my palms with paper, made from her autumn leaves. I’m bleeding our disclaimers into my family tree. Fuck the interviews to enterprise, I’d rather look into my mother’s eyes and let it be.”
(Btw, didn’t I tell you I wanted to bring more of my artist identity back this year?)
I needed SOMETHING to look forward to, and so just when I got reception while still on the plane, descending into Mexico, I found this beautiful new venue on AirBnB in the heart of Joshua Tree and immediately booked it - uncertain of whether or not I would be able to pay it off by the time the second half of the payment would be due.
While in Tulum, I received my very first frog ceremony facilitated by my dear Mercedes, also known as The Aquarian Priestess on Instagram, which cleared a lot of self-doubt that was weighing me down as i purged it all into a bucket. Kambo, or frog ceremony, is when the venom of a poisonous frog from the amazon is burned into the top layer of your skin. It's NOT a hallucinogen, but it does make you throw up alot, and basically question what it means to be human. It was terrible and insightful all at the same time, and I would not recommend it to everyone. (i’ll tell the story another time.)
But when I returned home a week later from this trip, I was able to fully detach myself from whether or not I would get any clients, and somehow in that surrender my program filled up.
One person who signed up actually saw me putting together the gifts for my clients in the kitchen of our shared office space, and she was so inspired that she wanted to be a part of whatever I was creating. Hence why you never know where your people might be hanging out.
So that same day I enrolled my final participant into my program, Bud to Blossom, when the owner of the air bnb venue in Joshua Tree personally texted me to ask if I needed help with marketing, which has never happened before from an air bnb host! I thanked her for being so kind and told her we are actually at capacity, but went ahead and asked where her ancestors are from.
She responds to me with, “I was born in a thai refugee camp - but my ancestors are from Cambodia. However, I’m not as connected to my roots and hope to one day tell the story of my ancestors.”
She has no awareness of who it is I am, where I’m from, or what it is I do.
Not only are my ancestors from Thailand, but Rathana, our chef who I retitled as our House Doula, is also Cambodian.
And I happen to have a Ted Talk called “How to Connect With Your Ancestors.”
As our retreat date approaches, we continue to exchange messages and she invites me and Rathana to come a day early for a sleepover so that we can get to know each other more.
As I’ve been cultivating a relationship with plant medicine, I was also curious about what it might be like to one day facilitate journeys for future clients so that they can experience some of the ways it has supported me in my own healing.
So it is two weeks before our Joshua Tree sleepover AND my retreat. I am shopping at Daiso for supplies, and end up going to several locations to find these cute green placemats shaped like leaves. If you don’t know Daiso, it’s like the dollar tree of Japan - except everything is $1.50 and you’ll find things you didn’t even know you needed in life. It’s also where I go for shop therapy.
So I’m at my third Daiso, and the same isle where my placemats are is where another Asian American woman is shopping with her son. She asks her son to look out for funnels, and so I start looking for funnels too and find them for her.
This sparks a conversation about what we both do, and it turns out that she happens to make psilocybin psychedelic chocolates. She proceeds to tell me that she accidentally started the business during the pandemic to cope with her own stress, and needed to explore additional income as a single mom. And next thing you know, her chocolate business blew up with testimonials about how it was helping other mothers with their own mental health.
When I asked her where her ancestors are from, she told me, “Vietnam.”
And here I am in awe of meeting another Southeast Asian woman, whose name is Marianne, that's a medicine woman, entrepreneur, artist and overall badass that's breaking all the stereotypes - like me and the other woman I’m calling in.
So I invited Marianne to join me and Rathana for this sleepover in Joshua Tree with May, who is the owner of the Air BnB venue, before the arrival of my students - and she sponsored my whole retreat with her chocolate.
I could literally feel our ancestors rejoicing at this reunion of other southeast Asian women.
Our sound healer that I hired for the retreat happens to be Filipino, a Pinay woman, named Ramona of Joshua Tree Sound Alchemy, and we also had my friend Kati join us as our ceremonialist. (kati was also a past guest on our podcast where she talks about healing with the elements, so you can give that episode a listen if you’re inspired to.)
I even hired an amazing photographer, Karissa of Olive la vida, who also happens to be a doula and a reiki healer.
I wanted my students to embrace how multidimensional they can be while releasing the need to compartmentalize their different passions or identities, while witnessing examples of others who are doing just that.
This was the first photoshoot for many folks, and I asked people to pick an outfit in honor of their ancestors.
One of the most special moments for me is when I went with Rathana to rent a traditional Cambodian wedding dress, and she told me afterward that this was so symbolic for her since she never got to have her own wedding. Instead, her previous husband gifted her an iPad with the words inscribed on the back, “This is better than a wedding.” It was also the first time she had been ever pampered by other women in her 40 years of life, and she used this day as a way to reclaim her own love. Shoutout to Rumi and Sara, both students in Bud to Blossom who were a part of her impromptu glam team.
And it’s people like Marianne and Rathana that inspire me to continue this journey of entrepreneurship as sacred activism, where I can invest in my friends and where we can uplift each other and our community through our medicine- where competition is nonexistent and we all have a place to contribute. Rathana had spent the whole week cooking 3 healthy meals a day for 13 people without a single complaint. Because it was both of our first time doing something of this nature, we learned so much. For example, we both need a personal assistant, but we are celebrating that we are resourceful with what little we have to work with - just like our ancestors.
And I’m also so grateful to Kati, our ceremonialist, for breaking out of her role to help with washing dishes, taking out the trash, and resetting the room when I was in 5 places at once.
And as I reflect back on where I was even 5 years ago, I didn’t know of anyone else in my community of artists and activists that were actively talking about entrepreneurship or money.
In entrepreneurial spaces, I didn’t see anyone talking about social justice, decolonization, or ancestral healing.
I also didn’t know of any other Southeast Asian Americans like myself who were feeling called to do this kind of work - especially when our immigrant or refugee parents prefer us to fit the model minority mold where we are primed to become doctors, nurses, lawyers, engineers, or teachers to make their sacrifices in this country worth it.
I like to tell my mom that while I may not work in hospitals, I’m still a healer - but in a different way.
And while I’m not a teacher within the classroom, my job is to help others unlearn so much of what it is we’ve been taught.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that today most of my clients happen to be doulas, therapists, educators and professors who are on their own journey of unlearning and reclaiming their ancestral wisdom. We are also doing so much to heal our money wounds, because it's something we were never taught.
We laugh together because my clients are basically who my parents wish I could have been, and here we are as each other's medicine.
I remember a time where I would volunteer freely for retreats that other participants paid up to $20,000 to be at. I often felt like the cash poorest, youngest, and most politically radical person in the room. Since I couldn’t afford to be a participant, any opportunity I had to be in those spaces I took because of my craving for a new story. I also knew that I’d be in the room with others who had a lot more financial capital and wealth of wisdom - so I was willing to give my time in exchange for what they had to teach me.
I had to heal this story that I told myself that people with a whole lot of money are greedy or bad, when in reality I learned that people with a whole lot of money are just people. And those with good hearts and good intentions had the ability to be able to give more.
I took on any role: time keeper, note taker, kitchen prep - until I knew the retreats and curricula so well that my mentor, Lisa Nichols, hired me to become a lead coach, teaching her students how to tell their stories.
It took me several years hiding behind my mentors and coaches before I said enough is enough. Your dwindling bank account is reflective of how much you're still hiding. This season of consuming information is done. It’s time for you to be that person you’ve been praying for…
To where I am now, I do have a business that merges entrepreneurship, social justice, healing, storytelling, and pleasure. All of my life experiences are brought into my offerings, and are a merging of the things I desired in the other programs that I was a part of. It hasn't been easy, but it has felt more easeful over time.
Oftentimes, when we are in the muck of our despair, it’s so challenging to see what’s at the surface, just like a lotus in muddy waters.
My friend Jayda, a Thai American sex educator and farm girl in training, taught me something valuable from her time in the garden:
Some seeds can only sprout upon being scorched by fire -
And yet, how many of us are afraid of getting burned?
Pain is inevitable on this journey, but your fire can be the spark. Pleasure and the sun that beckons us above the darkness can be the compass.
And yes, there is so much medicine and growth that takes place underneath the soil.
This is why I say to celebrate the seeds you’ve planted and what they’re blossoming into, knowing that it takes time to sprout.
We have our seasons of stillness, of regeneration, of compost and of growth.
And before we can even dream about our offerings or how much we’re going to charge for them, we get to tap into our why.
When people ask, “What do you do for a living?”
Do you freeze or say something along the lines of “it’s hard to explain”?
How many of us are also hiding behind our marketing, branding, other coaches and mentors before giving ourselves permission to share our story medicine?
It’s why the foundation of my work is supporting people with reconnecting with our ancestors, as well as tapping into the ones we are becoming.
When we can envision that, and the kind of legacy we'd like to leave behind, we can begin dreaming about the services and offerings to share our stories through.
Our medicine is not just what we do, but who we are in the world and how it is we make people feel.
And that feeling begins with how we are emanating this love and fire from within.
Several weeks ago I facilitated a free online workshop called How to Connect with Your Ancestors, and this month we’ll be hosting a workshop called Finding Clarity in Your Medicine - which you are invited to, of course.
In this 1.5 hour ceremony, you will:
𓆸 Learn how to clearly articulate what it is you do in the world with confidence when people ask, “What do you do?”
𓆸 Reclaim the medicine of your ancestors, without the fear of cultural appropriation
𓆸 Plant seeds to begin sharing your story medicine publicly so that you can call in your soul-aligned people
𓆸 Move from information-junkie into integration and implementation of your wisdom. Those certifications are more than centerpieces, wall flowers, and trophies collecting dust!
𓆸 Call in your chosen ancestors for guidance, and embody the future ancestor you’ve been praying for.
What are the stories you’re telling yourself that may be holding you back from unapologetically embracing the medicine you’ve been called to share?
All you need is a journal and something to write with.
Because this is an interactive experience, you will be invited to participate in a breakout session to practice sharing your medicine in small groups.
This is a continuation of last month’s workshop, “How To Connect With Your Ancestors.” 🙏 Live participation is highly encouraged, though replay will be sent out to registrants.
This will be a taste of my 12 week program, Roots to Rise, with applications opening in May - and it will be the last time I run this program this year - because of spaciousness.
Otherwise I encourage you to go to www.yourstorymedicine.com to binge on the other episodes, where we've now categorized them based on topics, so that you can begin your journey of remembrance and reclamation today.
I hope to see you at our workshop, and otherwise keep a lookout if you're on my email list for the other ways we can deepen our roots … in the meantime,
May you be a lotus that blooms amidst darkness and the fire that sparks other seeds to sprout.
Download my free guided meditation on how to connect with your ancestors bit.ly/ancestorinthemaking
Join us for our FREE workshop on Finding Clarity In Your Medicine on Thursday, April 28, 2022:
Plantberri’s Instagram Page (Rathana): www.instagram.com/plantberri
Karissa of Olive La Vida Photography:
Joshua Tree Sound Alchemy: