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Rhythm / Devotion of Elizabeth Gross

Rhythm / Devotion is a series of interviews intended to illuminate the connection to ritual & rhythm in our daily lives. This series explores the intimacy of routine, the magic of the ordinary, & how these small acts of devotion set the stage for larger workings in the world ~

What is your name & where are you in the world? My name is Elizabeth Gross and I live on the Kingston/Rosendale border in Ulster County, in the Mid Hudson Valley, New York.

How do you define yourself & your work?

I love helping people who are experiencing major life and death transitions feel comforted and cared for during their time of need. My main intention is to support the people I work with to experience major life transitions as rites of passage, where they can experience the gifts that come from moving through challenging times with support. Though I work with several modalities including herbalism, Thai yoga bodywork, somatics and end of life doula care, I mostly define myself as a selkie.

Will you walk us through what a day in your life looks like? Begin with how you greet the morning & how you close off the day in the eve ~ 

I wake up around 6:30a and connect with God in my mind and heart, which soothes any worries or fears that may have emerged upon waking. After opening the blinds, making my bed, and getting outside to greet the day I make myself a warm beverage, which is generally a grounding brew of some kind. By 7a I’m sipping said brew and writing three freeform pages in my journal. I try to be as honest with my journal as possible, with a focus on what’s alive in my heart. By 7:45a I’m on my yoga mat to practice an hour of asana, which is my main movement practice. I then head to the kitchen to prep a warm, veggie and protein rich breakfast for myself. After cleaning up the kitchen I clean myself up by taking a shower and getting my face, hair and body cared for nicely for the day.

From 10-1p my focus is client care. I’ll see clients for intake or follow-up sessions, and write up protocols or session notes afterward. I do research for their care, make herbal formulas, or communicate with them about their care outside of session time. I eat a veggie and protein rich lunch and typically spend some time outside reading a book, checking emails or social media, or chatting with my mom or a friend on the phone. From 2-5p I work again, but in the afternoons I focus on either promotional or administrative tasks. This could be anything from writing a social media post or an e-newsletter, to writing a workshop description or updating my website. I write a to-do list at the beginning of the week that keeps me focused, so it’s clear to me what I’m setting out to do before I go ahead and do it. Throughout my day I’m always dipping outside for a few minutes to let the sun touch my body which is crucial, especially when working on a computer or phone. 

When 5p comes along, I head outside to move my body in nature. I usually meet up with my hunny or a friend and take a walk or a dip in a nearby stream, or spend some time in the garden. Then we usually make dinner together, which again is some kind of protein and veggie filled meal. I also love nights when I date myself. I’ll make a nice meal for myself and take an herbal bath, give myself an herbal oil massage, or go all out with some kind of herbal facial treatment, with steams and masks and the like. 

I wind down for the night by cleaning myself up and usually reading a bit before bed, which is around 9:30 or so. Before dozing off I re-connect with God in my mind and heart, which helps to soothe any worries or fear that arose during the day. 

On Sundays, I always rest and never work. My Sunday focus is connecting to God, spending time in nature, napping, eating well, and spending time with my hunny, family and friends.

You are an herbalist, bodyworker, yoga instructor, and end of life doula ~ how do you prepare yourself &/or your space to enter into these practices? 

I started doing this work very young. I began teaching yoga at 21, and opened my private practice when I was 22 years old. So for the past 15 years, I’ve been living a life that’s very intentional, so I can do the kind of work that I do without feeling drained. I feel that as a caregiver to others, if I don’t fill my cup I won’t be serving my community well.

I see my work in the world as a great responsibility, and I don’t take it for granted. That’s why I have really taken a lot of clutter out from my life, so I can feel prepared for my healing work as a natural response to who I am and how I move about my life. It’s become clear to me regarding the state of the world that if I can keep things simple for myself and focus on serving my community in a way that’s spiritually connected and trusting of my heart’s voice, that’s the best way forward. That’s why I also think it’s so important to pause and listen in a way that’s woven throughout the day. I weave in ample time for connection into my days and week as whole, rather than just a few minutes before a session begins. My life as a whole is one big rhythmically breathing and pulsating, expanding and contracting thing, where everything seems to be working together in a way that’s alive and relational. 

What do you do/not do if you are feeling stuck around your work?

I don’t often feel stuck when it comes to my work because I take a lot of time off and lean into the expansive/contractive nature of it. I also weave pauses throughout my workday. I work for a focused period of time and then get outside and breathe for a few minutes, and I do that on repeat. That helps to welcome the natural rhythm of focus and surrender that is essential to the creative process. My Sunday rest days and time for morning and evening practice away from work also helps me to process some of the things I feel confused or unsure about. Writing about it in the mornings, or working it out during my daily walk or time outside helps, too. But the thing that supports me the most is my time in daily prayer. I’m constantly chatting with God throughout the day, asking for guidance and offering up any confusion or worries I may have regarding work. I also find that remembering the love that’s present, even inside of the stuckness, helps tremendously. That little pulsation that’s alive within the blockage can slowly expand to create more space if I let my breath and some physical movement into the moment. 

Do you have a movement practice? Everyday I move intentionally, and mornings are my favorite time for yoga. My practice changes based on the season, and where I’m at in my menstrual cycle. In the winter or when I’m bleeding, I’m mostly practicing restorative or yin yoga. In the summer or when I’m ovulating, I practice strong vinyasa. Relating to my yoga practice in this way helps me to maintain a healthy relationship with it because I’m always moving with natural cycles, both inside and out. Moving in nature everyday is also important for me. With that said, I give myself rest days often, like on Sundays or when it’s raining outside. I don’t force my movement, but rather strive to listen and respond to what’s needed in the moment. 

What does structure mean to you, or what is your philosophy around ritual/routine?

I’m in love with structure (which I think of as form), because I feel that I can expand and relax into it. When I fall into a daily routine, it helps me to turn my attention and experience back to my focus again and again, and deepen my ability to carry what I need to through the rhythm of my day. I find it tragic to move en route or absent-mindedly… when intuition is absent from structure. I always relate my structure to intuition, so they dance together. The form and the formless is a mystical dance that holds life together, and I think allowing it to be graceful and non-rigid is key. 

I also find that in having a daily routine and rhythm I’m not as devastated when things go awry, because I have something to come back to when the dust settles. I don’t spend too much time away from my rhythms, but when I do I’m so glad to fall back into them when the time comes. I find myself at home in rhythmic routine. 

Basically the form is changeable, and what matters is the essence that underlies the form… which intuition knows a lot about. The form is something I’m devoted to, nonetheless. So if I’m practicing yoga devotionally to help energy move more freely through my body as the essence of why I’m doing it, I’m in it for the long haul. But when a day comes when I can’t practice yoga, I don’t bug out about it. I can adapt the form to accommodate where I’m at, like perhaps a breathing practice instead, while maintaining its essential intention of promoting energetic fluidity. That’s when intuition and devotion can communicate in relationship to form.

What are you listening to, reading, or watching these days?

I like to go slow with what I take in because I find that if I absorb too much too quickly, especially on screens, I get disconnected from myself way easier. But typically speaking, I listen to Democracy now! throughout the week so I stay connected to what’s going on in the world. I also have a handful of favorite playlists made by a few herbalists that I listen to when I want some background lightness while cooking.

I watch a movie about once a month so I can contemplate its message and unpack it in my mind over the course of the next few weeks. I just watched "Portrait of a Lady on Fire"… what a masterpiece. I’m reading a book called Heart Centered Business as part of a book club right now, which I’m finding really helpful in its suggestions about how to work from an inwardly connected place. I just picked up The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels from the library, but haven’t opened it up yet. 

Any last words of wisdom? 

Everyone is struggling so much. Show your people that you love them through your kindness and compassion. 

Life is short, and we don’t have much time here. Keep things simple, and don’t let the small things get to you. The big surrender (i.e. death) is where we’re all headed, so practice letting go of the small stuff everyday in preparation for when that mysterious day comes. 

There’s so much wisdom inside of you, waiting for you to pay attention. Slowing down, getting less busy, and listening more is key. 

How can we find your work? Instagram @selkiemedicinals 

Thank you so much, Elizabeth, for your inspiring work in this world & for sharing your rhythm devotion with us ~

I connect the essence of Witch Hazel as a companion to Elizabeth Gross, her rhythm/devotion, & her work in the world.

I made my Witch Hazel flower essence (Hamamelis virginiana) on a sunny late October afternoon in Redding, CT just before setting out on a long car ride. I collected Witch Hazel flowers that arch over a stone threshold in the forest beside a quiet, trickling creek.

Witch Hazel essence helps us sit in the in-between places in our lives. It gives us the grounded support we need when it seems as if the world is moving too quickly, when we are in the midst of change, travel, or transitioning from one place to another. This essence allows us to gaze upon & reflect with the change as it is happening, to iron out the details, & make clear decisions before setting out on the next leg of our journey.

Witch hazel has a soothing & truly uncanny ability to pull our awareness into the moment, to draw us into presence with ourselves, so it is perfect for daily use in meditation or for those who tend to jump from one thing to another without allowing adequate time to process, digest, & absorb their experiences.

Witch Hazel arrives within our consciousness like an old friend, the comfort of smelling an old book, something familiar that we recognize... but from where? Its energy sits with us as we sit with ourselves, which is often the medicine we most need.


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