Rhythm / Devotion of Jennifer Patterson
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?
Jennifer (Jennye) Patterson, so-called New Mexico–up north in a tiny mountain town nestled into the side of a mountain and surrounded by Junipers, Ponderosa Pines, and Pinons with the Picuris reservation just beyond the mountain. After living in NYC for 16 years, I landed here in September 2020 with my girlfriend Rose Blakelock and her cat Mariah and my dog Lou. Those two fur friends both unfortunately passed, both suddenly, in the first year we lived here which is a heartbreak every day still because they loved being able to be a part of these incredible high desert mountains.
New to this place, and as a white person whose ancestors are complicated, to say the least!, I’m in the deep work of learning forever learning how to be in a non-extractive relationship with the land, the plants, the people. Trying to tread lightly, give as much as I take, know who tended these lands before me and who are still tending them now. Rose and I have a sweet trade based relationship with a few of our neighbors whose family have lived in this valley for lifetimes. I feel good about that, it feels like building a community in a generative way.
How do you define yourself & your work?
Because my self-definition is hmmm a little outside of language most days, I’ll share about how I define my work. LOL.
I am an herbalist who makes remedies and has a consultation practice, facilitates 1:1 and small group breathwork sessions, and am a (published) writer and writing workshop facilitator. I have the most fun when all of those things come together to support people in their unique healing process. My practice supports people of all genders who are looking to address trauma, grief, loss, depression, anxiety, substance use & misuse, c-PTSD and PTSD and more. And, really, anyone who is looking to invite in more embodiment, clarity, purpose, aliveness, intentionality, joy, connection to themselves and/or spirit, and ease into their lives.
I’m very committed to working on a sliding scale as much as possible and deeply believe in creating more access in the often very disturbing unwellness world aka the healing industrial complex. I am a person who owes all their healing to the generosity and intention of other sliding scale practitioners and working this way helps me feel connected to a long lineage of people who work outside the violence of so many systems–well, as much as one CAN work outside of these systems. I’ve really carved my own way through in that I’ve not ever taken business classes, marketing classes and all that crap. I’ve been much more interested in building something sustainable, something intuitive, something that has heart and a pulse, something that can grow and change as needed, as we and our world continue to change.
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 ~
My day to day is quite different depending on the day and week! But happy to share a little peek into what one day might look like.
I wake up somewhere between 7am and 8am, really, depending on the season. In the winter it is much harder to get out of the bed. The house we rent is wood stove heated only and quite large so we wake up to very chilly temperatures. We keep heated blankets on the couch, the day bed, and our bed. Can not have too many heated blankets in the mountains, I will tell you what!
Upon waking, I take our new pup Pluto, a 52 pound muppet of a dog, out for a run in the fenced in area in our yard and simultaneously set myself up facing the light to get the first rays of sun. My girlfriend Rose gets the wood stove going while Pluto and I are outside. From there I come in, make Pluto breakfast and have a glass of water, take my herbs, take my supplements, take my mushroom or LSD microdose (trying for 2x a week for a bit). From there, I pop under a heated blanket for some meditation and breathwork. And then after–some caffeine and then herbal teas throughout the day.
From there it’s emails and whatever phone calls I need to make. And then depending on the day, I’ll be in the apothecary filling orders or creating new formulations or maybe I’ll be sitting down to a day of sliding scale, virtual 1:1 breathwork sessions or maybe I’ll be sitting down to write and prepare a playlist for a sliding scale, virtual breathwork group or maybe I’ll be hopping on some Zoom calls to plan some exciting offerings I’m creating in collaboration with others for this coming year or every once in awhile, it’s a writing day and I’m joining a writing workshop or working on this beast of a book I’ve been tending and writing since 2013...
If it’s warm out, you can find me taking a break to take a hike and hop in the mountain stream for a little cold therapy. Or maybe I’ll bop over to the garden to gather some veggies for dinner or herbs for some formulas I’m working on.
Since I’ve moved from the city, I’m now more intentional about ending my work day around 5 or 5:30pm. And again, if it’s warm out I close the day (and honestly, open it too) sitting on the porch looking out over some of the most beautiful land I’ve even seen, let alone lived on.
From there it’s making dinner with Rose and sometimes even for/with a friend or two. We live about an hour away from grocery stores and restaurants so yeah, every night we cook together. Rural mountain life requires a lot of planning and also living with what we have access to.
In a lot of ways my life feels a lot more quiet and easeful which is truly something I don’t take for granted. As someone who has navigated the ongoing aftermath of violence and abuse from childhood through adulthood, I’ve had to work hard for well over a decade to allow myself the necessary slowness, solitude, and quiet I really do require to feel ok. But that does not mean that I’m not also in near constant rage and grief because of how hard and violent this world is and continues to be. I’ve never been very good at shutting out the world–instead I’m often consumed by it and I find myself needing to carve out these moments or days of quiet so that I can keep showing up to myself, my dear ones, and my work.
I’m 41 and as someone who has experienced life long bouts of insomnia, sleep is incredibly important to me. I try to be in bed by 10:30pm and have all kinds of rituals around sleep. I like a epsom salt and St. J’s wort oil bath, a little tv or reading to wind down, and I take tinctures, a homegrown/homemade edible, and like to sleep under a weighted blanket with a heated blanket on top. I also wear an eye mask and ear plugs and take long, slow, deep breaths to help bring my nervous system into a place of receiving rest. As someone whose brain is sooooo busy, I need to literally shut it all down and shut it all out.
You are a writer, herbalist, & breathwork practitioner ~ how do you prepare yourself &/or your space to enter into these practices?
You know, a lot of it is just prioritizing what I was talking about above–letting myself have some quiet, a hike, my meditation practice and all that. When I have structure and support of my practices I am, of course, far more able to show up fully for others. When the pandemic began, my work became busier than ever. In March 2020 I had been living in a tiny studio in Brooklyn for about 7 years. A few months before the pandemic began, Rose and I had started considering what it might be like to move away from NYC even though it was (and is) a beloved home. When the pandemic began and my work exploded, it became clear to me that I needed to have a better quality of life in my day to day if I was going to be able to meet the massive crisis we are living in, if I was going to be able to be resourced enough to hold others in this crisis, I knew in my gut I had to leave. Neither Rose nor I are very financially resourced–there’s no generational wealth that would have made a cross country move in the height of the pandemic easier but we were extremely lucky to find a beautiful, rural, mountain house to rent. We took a big risk, changed our whole lives, and I am trusting the rewards that are plenty.
But I share all of that to say that moving made so much more possible for me as far as how prepared I feel for being in what are often deep, murky, grief filled waters with others.
In the day to day though, I call on my altars, my plant friends, and my own breath to help usher me into a space in myself where I can extend a container to hold others. I can not imagine doing anything else–I really am doing the work I feel most called to do and am most skilled at doing. Counting my blessings for sure.
What do you do/not do if you are feeling stuck around your work?
With my busy brain and really, endless ideas LOL I don’t often feel stuck. I think what’s been more present for me these last few years has been finding patience with my changing capacity. While I’ve navigated disability throughout my adult life, I’m currently in the ocean of long covid and in collaboration with some unexpected injuries and surgeries over these last couple years, it’s forced me to get more honest about what I can actually complete in a day.
Anyone who knows me knows I go real hard, real fast. I like to move, I like to be in the process of making, I wear many hats, I like to be in connection others and also, my body has been desperately asking me to slow the hell down for a long time and the asks have been coming in increasingly catastrophic ways. I’m finally listening even though that listening and that slowing is quite hard to do in the face of late stage capitalism.
Do you have a movement practice?
As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been navigating lots of body shifts in the last couple years and my movement practice has changed and shifted alongside that. At the moment, it’s deep winter here in the mountains–snowy and muddy and icy depending on the day. I’m also recovering from a long-needed, medically necessary septoplasty and turbinate reduction so I’ve been letting my body be more at rest.
The last couple winters I’ve had high hopes to get out to do more hiking but my body has had other plans! A year and a half ago I shattered my 5th metatarsal within minutes of a heartbreaking moment of death and loss of my pup Lou. I was unable to a walk for nearly three months and since then, the plate put in my foot broke too. LOL SOS! But really, that I can now hike again is nothing short of a miracle. I’ve had surgeries the last two winters so I’ve really had to accept where my body is at–I’ve needed to slow and curl up under heated blankets.
But on the sunny, warmer days you can find me hiking in the backyard of the house I rent, soaking and swimming in the stream, and sometimes maybe even doing a short pilates practice. Hiking into the backyard is one of my absolute favorite things. I’ve found a lot of joy in scrambling up the mountain, in a cold plunge into the “jacuzzi” as Rose and I call it aka a pool by a tiny waterfall, and in learning who the new to me plant friends are, the ones that have been here on this land for far longer than I have been.
What does structure mean to you, or what is your philosophy around ritual/routine?
Ooof. For better or worse, I love a routine. As a person who has been self-employed for about a decade and even before that, a freelancer, I’ve been the primary person creating structure in my life. Structure allows me to show up in my life in a more contained and intentional way.
I have a Gemini moon, a Libra sun, and a Libra stellium so my brain is very very busy. I can shoot off into outer space pretty easily. Structure helps me bring myself back down to Earth, to the here and now.
Work wise, my healing arts practice is multifaceted and requires me to build in a lot of structure so that I can remain a consistent and present practitioner.
On a personal note, I’ve experienced a lot of abuse and violence in my life and so navigate the underworld realms of complex PTSD. For me, structure is deeply grounding and supportive. And simultaneously, I can also get rigid and very set on how something will go and then when life does it’s life thing and my structure gets shaken–I can really struggle with that. Though I do think I’m getting better at loosening the reins a bit. I think the last few years of unexpected death and loss and changes in capacity in my body has forced me to soften a little bit.
But funnily enough–outside of work I struggle to implement the same routine or ritual day after day. I’m more interested in setting aside time to take care of myself and then in the moment, choosing what kind of practices or tools feel right for the day.
What are you listening to, reading, or watching these days?
I’m the kind of person who has about 200 books in a stack next to my bed, another by the day bed, another down on the coffee table, another in my office. Bookworm through and through. But I’ll just share a couple I’ve recently finished and/or am currently reading:
We All want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman–I laughed, I cried, I just thought this book was so moving.
Liberated to the Bone: Histories. Bodies. Futures. by Susan Raffo–Omg where do I start. I’ve been reading and deeply respecting Raffo’s work for a decade, honestly, and to have so much of her brilliant work in one place is a huge gift. I recc this book for anyone but most especially if you are a person working in the healing arts worlds and are a person who knows we can not separate individual healing out from collective healing. What a stunning bounty of a book.
I am also a big lover of music and not only that, a repeat song listener–if I love a song I will listen to it about 100 times a week. “Snake” from Sadurn has been on heavy rotation, you can alllllways find me listening to anything by Emily Wells, and this fucking song from 2Pac I’ve been crying to and listening to for nearly 30 years–this song in particular, has been riding very deeply in my heart and ears.
Any last words of wisdom?
The older I get, the less I know, I do know that.
How can we find your work?
My website is corpusritual.com. My instagram is also @corpusritual. I have a newsletter that shares about what’s happening in my healing arts practice. I also have a Substack newsletter and essay offering called LOVE WHAT SURVIVES.
I also have two books in the world– I am the editor of the anthology Queering Sexual Violence: Radical Voices from Within the Anti-Violence Movement (published in 2016) and The Power of Breathwork: Simple Practices to Promote Wellbeing (published in 2020).
I’m also trying, so desperately trying to finish a hybrid/ creative nonfiction book called Assaults + Rituals– trying to get those edits done and maybe even get an agent since I didn’t have one for the last two books.
Oh and if you aren’t sick of me yet and want to learn a bit more about my work, this piece I wrote is a good entry point.
THANK YOU CHANELLE!
Thank you so much, Jennye, for your beautiful work in this world & for sharing your rhythm devotion with us ~
I connect the plant essence of Willow Leaf as a beautiful companion to Jennifer Patterson, her rhythm/devotion, & her work in the world.
I made my Willow leaf (Salix sp.) essence during the weekend of the Pisces full moon in September 2019 in Leicester, NC. This essence was made in a grove full of Willow, beside a stream & a sauna. I gently brushed the leaves of an old & sacred Willow tree into a bowl of water, then added some leaves from a younger tree beside it, & finally placed it on the stump of a tree whose rings were shaped like a heart in the center, while a few friends & I stepped into sauna together.
Willow essence carries us through rites of passage, through loss, grief, & all manner of goodbyes. It gives us a sense of connection to the other side, allowing us to honor & respect our relationship to what once was, as we walk towards who we have become. There is a bittersweet element to Willow & its medicine--a swan song of sorts.
Soft, flexible, & water-loving Willow gracefully allows us to dip into our emotional realms, so we are able to appreciate & experience the full spectrum of them in kind, especially if we are in the midst of grief or loss. And in this way, it helps us to nimbly move, to lean into it all instead of resisting. Willow softly whispers to us: surrender. Reminding us that the body & spirit knows how to move through each moment & challenge it is greeted with.
Willow is peaceful, wise, & full of easy, generous movement. In its message, it reminds us to take up space, to take as much space as we need to process, listen, remember, laugh, cry... like a beautifully woven basket, Willow holds us within its draping branches, giving us the space to simply be & to release into the unknown safely.
Willow knows where there is water & it will grow there. Even if there is none to be seen, Willow will tap in deeply to find a source. Willow knows the importance of being in touch with the waters: the emotional body & as such, it keeps us rooting into our feelings, our deep inner resources, our inner knowing. It draws strength from this vastness & resilience, & teaches us to do the same. Willow reminds us that we are all stronger & more beautiful when we live in harmony with our own vulnerability & sensitivity vs. tamping it down.
Call on Willow if you tend to intellectualize your emotional experience, to carve out time to simply connect with how you feel, or when you are in the a liminal space between life & death--sweetness & sorrow--catch & release.
Find a bottle of Willow leaf essence for yourself or a loved one here ~