: 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 Iruka Maria Toro.
I am originally from Puerto Rico.
Right now my feet are planted in Upstate NY.
But it feels like timeless liminal space.
How do you define yourself?
I am a femme and an artist. I work largely within the world of painting and collage, but those objects are supported and enveloped by my daily devotions to ritual offering, poetry, sound, movement, ceremony, and the medicine of herbs, flowers, and stones. Water, Sun, Sound, and Tea are all big themes right now. So is dancing.
Will you walk us through what a day in your life looks like? Begin with how you greet the morning & guide us until you close off the day in the eve ~
No day is exactly the same, but I find daily practice very soothing and grounding.
I just returned from a long journey that took me from Big Sur to Joshua Tree, and it was interesting to watch myself organize my time and daily rituals in ways that honored the practices I have at home, while still leaving room for play. In Northern California I was studying tea ceremony and meditating everyday.
It was a rigorus schedule, so I developed a super strict rhythm where I would wake up everyday at 5am to soak in the hot springs and see the sunrise. I would shower at the baths and then hike out to meditation at 7 am. Every night when dharma talks ended at 8:30pm, I would go to the baths again, & soak under the stars, before sneaking into my bed and getting up in a few hours to do it all over again. The rigor provided a looseness. There was a schedule, but within that I had many spontaneous moments. Some of them pretty wild and beautiful.
These days with the situation we find ourselves in, I am on an interesting wave. I tend to wake up early, and come downstairs to light a candle and set an intention for the day. Sometimes I pull some cards or make a small offering.
I drink tea in the morning. At least three cups from the leaves of wild, old growth trees. I do this practice in silence. A moving meditation that I learned from my teacher.
I then put on some music. Something magical, soft, and maybe a little trippy.... I check in with my hunger and either prep food, or dance a little bit. Feed my animals, drink more tea, dance and stretch.
Next, I map out the day, which is usually dedicated to both my art practice, and the season/what the plants are doing. The quarantine hasn't affected my life as an artist much, with the exception of all of the generous offerings that are now being offered online. I have never taken so many dance classes, breath-work workshops, and sound baths!
Last week I was so sore from all of the movement workshops, that I took a few days to just read, do a lot of body oiling and self massage. I am experimenting with hair rituals during this time. Many of these have ancient roots that go back to Egypt and I find them very enchanting.
After I have worked all day and done my little chores, (with snack and tea breaks) I tend to have a big dinner. Lots of fresh vegetables, whole grains, and little pickled things. A baked pita with garlic and olive oil. I love avocado, and nourishing plant based fats and oils.
Lately after dinner I have a strong cup of ginger tea. It helps boost my immunity and also aids in digestion. I have been eating some very special chocolate I brought back from my travels in the evenings. I sit by the woodstove and do a little divination and eat sparkly chocolate that makes everything feel super romantic.
Evenings tend to include a lot of candles, books, chats with friends, writing, & meditation/sound journeys with headphones on. I love a good long bath, while listening to a lecture or strange audiobook.
I like to honor my dreams and think of sleep as a special time to go really deep.
It is a big time of transformation, and many new ideas and possibilities in work, life, relationships, and everything in between. The stillnesss feels ripe and powerful.
It seems important to sit with the sorrow and the loss of this moment while holding on to the very real joy, beauty, and magic of what is possible in the future that we will be co-creating together soon.
You are an artist & creatrix in so many ways ~ how do you prepare yourself &/or your space to enter into this practice?
For the ritual practices that are a part of my life, there is a lot of preparation and reverence involved.
I have to be in a certain state and so does the environment.
My studio practice has elements of this, but there are some days that I just have to drag myself in there by any means necessary. Much of the work of making art is grounded in the dense material realities that are necessary in order to physically construct something.
Other days, much like when it comes to ceremonial magic, I have to show up in a different and elevated way to seal the spell, arrange the elements, crack the code, and surrender to something more powerful than me.
What do you do/not do if you are feeling stuck around your work?
If possible: adventure, love, romance, time in nature, a ritual cleanse, a starting over, water, sunshine, time away in a new setting, exploration and learning something new.
Sometimes there are deadlines, or other commitments and I can't do this. Or even more importantly, there is something calling out to be born through me and there is no other time. I will lose it if I let it go. It will never return.
Sometimes powering through, and REALLY showing up in spite of everything trying to stop you is a fierce and powerful medicine. I recommend it. Keep showing up. Breathe through it. It will pass, and you will be transformed, light and shimmery with your new found faith in yourself.
Do you have a movement practice?
I really like experimental movement. Even though I can be shy about it. I am currently going pretty deep with exploring my own practice, and learning about the history of dance as both a healing tool and an art form.
I am learning that my body has an ability to think and communicate things to me that might be in direct opposition to the rational and linear patterns of my conscious mind. That maybe sometimes this physical deeper knowing is wiser, primal, more ancient, and true.
I am learning listen to that. It is a kind of surrender. A joyous death portal into another dimension.
What does structure mean to you, or what is your philosophy around ritual/routine?
Structure means freedom.
Like the bones of a beautiful house that are sturdy & strong.
Built with love.
Slowly, over time.
You can do anything within a structure that strong.
When the great storm comes, you will still be safe.
My structures look like ancient pyramids.
There are many wonderful paintings inside.
These structure are living prayers.
Prayers in service of beauty, creativity, generosity, and love.
What are you listening to, reading, or watching these days? Picture me sitting in front of a strange old record player where a Dorothy Ashby record is spinning. I am eating ginger cardamom chocolate. There are lots of little poetry books written by weirdos, freaks, and hermits scattered about the floor. There is water boiling on a clay charcoal braiser for tea. While we wait, I am arranging little stones and flowers on your body.
That is me these days.
Any last words of wisdom?
One chance. One encounter.
How can we find your work?
In order to keep up with my (soon to be) website, workshops, upcoming exhibitions, and new experimental offerings, follow me on instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/iruka_maria_toro/
Thank you so much, Iruka for your beautiful work in this world & for sharing your rhythm devotion with us ~
I connect the flower essence of Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) as a beautiful companion to Iruka Maria Toro & her work in the world.
I made a flower essence of Boneset with two of my dearest friends in Caroline, NY on a misty morning in September, 2018. This essence brings about divine balance & perfect tension; connectivity & collaboration; being open to ceremony in the everyday, in the unexpected. There is a lot of duality married within the essence of Boneset, & if you have ever seen it move ~ like a metronome, or have seen it leaves ~ hugging, clasping together around the stem, then perhaps you know this very well, indeed.
Boneset reminds us to go slow & steady, that the journey is both in arriving & in having arrived. in its lesson we are reminded to relax where there is tension & resistance. It allows us to be like the silk of a spider’s web or the bone: both hold together, give form & structure—they are what allow for connectivity. Though we think of spider’s webs as delicate & easy to destroy, their silk is actually stronger than steel. Though we think of bones as hard, solid things… they really are porous, always forming, quite alive & warm & flexible; they are at their very core vulnerable. It is here where the secret medicine of boneset lives: that Spirit lives within & that we are holding our own selves as we move & grow & break through the world. Boneset brings alignment, & it is perfect for when one is in the midst of a transition, or when one's structure has shifted/changed but the Spirit has yet to catch up.
Boneset helps us remain open, porous, & vulnerable in a world that too often demands of us otherwise. Boneset is truly wonderful with guiding us to find & build relationship with ceremony in the little things, almost stumbling into them, acknowledging that the mundane is ceremonious, & that it is this type of intentional awareness that connects us to the divine within & without. Thus, this essence helps to us to set daily acts of ritual in motion, strengthen them with a gentle grace, ground & connect to them deep within, at the bone level.
Find a bottle of Boneset essence for yourself or a loved one here ~