Natalia Karoway answers the question:
What is the nicest thing a non-family member has ever done for you?
Well, Phil, thank you so much for the question. I've really loved this series. It's been so uplifting. And even before you asked me to sit with you, I was watching the series myself and just feeling so happy about all the stories I heard. And I kind of started to think myself even before you asked me, "Oh, what's my life been like?" And maybe it hasn't been the most remarkable, but I'm really grateful for my life. And when I look back I think a lot of small things have touched me in really, really big ways. I think back to... I've studied a lot so I've had a lot of really wonderful teachers that have helped me along my path.
Of course, one moment stuck out to me though when I was doing this sort of life review. About five years ago I was living in Massachusetts and I went to study herbalism in this two-year apprenticeship outside of Boston. And I had a teacher named Madelon and she was really lovely. and the whole apprenticeship was just beautiful. It was very folky in this “wise woman” tradition — a lot of passed-down information and it was a really hands-on approach to plant medicine. And it was just really... it was like exactly what I needed in my life at that time. And it really opened up my world and just empowered me in so many ways.
But at one point, I met with Madelon for a health consult and towards the end of that we were just chatting about life. And as things were wrapping up, we got to talking and Madelon's a fan of Jean Haner's work and she had been studying her work and she'd actually gone to study with Jean Haner. And we even studied a bit of Jean's face reading as part of our apprenticeship and our consult skills, learning about the wonderful path that is everything we can see in the face about people and personality and things like that.
So Madelon had been working with Jean... it was like a new book she had come up with at the time, her energetic archetype work and the 9-Star Ki, and Madelon was just really lit up about what she had been learning. So she asked me if I wanted to know a little bit about my life using that insight. And I was at this place in my life where I kind of didn't know what I was going to get up to next, which was kind of like a common theme for my life at that point. And so of course I was all in, I was like, "Yes, give me this information."
So my path had been meandering a bit… just interested in a lot of different things. So it had been hard for me to really commit to one thing and I was always like, "What is my purpose and what am I supposed to be doing with myself?" I have a degree in fine arts, and I worked as a textile designer, and then I became really obsessed with healthy food. And so I started down this amateur chef’s path, and then I found shamanism and I spent a lot of time creating ceremonies and I wrote a couple of books. And here I found myself on this herbal path and I was still kind of like, "Well, what am I doing with my life?" So when Madelon offered this little bit of insight from a new perspective, I was all in.
I just felt like at that time, like from the outside looking in, I looked like I might've been that kind of person that was just like all over the place. Like, what is she up to next? So, Madelon asked me a few questions, and she started to review things, and then she came back to me in this moment when we were still together and she said, "Oh, your purpose is to create beauty." And instantly I was like, Whoa, is that a thing? Like that's a purpose? That can be my purpose? And I'm not the kind of person who like goes for readings and says, "Oh, I need you to tell me about myself." But when she said that, I had this clear, full-body and full-spirit, "Yes, my purpose is to create beauty."
It was a simple moment... we were sitting together and sharing, and still, it shifted me at my core. It was like this huge granting of permission. And not that I felt like I needed permission to be who I was, but it was like this self-permission and this self-acceptance that came about from just those few simple words. Creating beauty was a theme I never really could put my finger on. I kind of felt like my work had been disjointed. It was just, oh, I'll do this and this and this, and hop all around, because it was fun, and I was learning new things, and I loved it and I'm really passionate.
But of course, through art and design, a goal, of course, is beauty, and also through healing foods and plating food and creating food for other people — what a beautiful creation. And when I sat in ceremony through shamanism and placing flowers in these beautiful Andean despacho ceremonies and just with the utmost care and the utmost attention to that detail, making it the most beautiful thing possible. And then, when I would work with clients and do healing work, it was creating this space of beauty for healing. And I really found that theme was this thread that had gone through my work, and I was doing this review all in the moment when she said that and I'm like, "Yes, yes!" Like it was just my whole core, my whole self was just so feeling this complete "Yes." And that moment was just such a gift to me.
Though my self-expression is ever unfolding, the idea to hold onto this little gem of creating beauty is like a timeless thread that can connect everything that I do. And I carry it forth to my work here at Shift and holding space, and my own projects in herbalism and ceremony. I feel so complete that I can carry that thread and that kind of overarching umbrella to everything that I do. So I, of course, have great gratitude to Madelon for opening that door for me and to you, Phil, for the opportunity to just reflect on the beauty of life and share this simple but profound gift that I was given.
Natalia Karoway is a lover and practitioner of shamanism, herbalism, and sacred ceremony. She has trained extensively in Andean shamanism and Western herbalism and merges the wisdom of the two lineages in her offerings. She is the author of Living Sacred Ceremony: Earth Inspired Practices for Transforming + Celebrating.
These days, you can find Natalia managing and hosting courses at The Shift Network and whipping up plant magic goodies for ceremony, healing, and beauty at Sacred Botanica!
Catalyst is produced by The Shift Network to feature inspiring stories and provide information to help shift consciousness and take practical action. To receive Catalyst twice a month, sign up here.
This article appears in: 2019 Catalyst, Issue 17: Sound Healing Global Summit