Cultivate Connection: Shining your light with Judy Apicella
I sat down with my friend and teacher, Judy Apicella, to talk about cultivating connection to things we really yearn for- connection to the planet, with ourselves, our spirit and also with the community around us. I wanted to speak with her because Judy is a shining example of someone who has created a lifestyle for herself where she can delve into these relationships on a daily basis; she is a farmer, herbalist, forager, yoga teacher, healer, homeschool mom, wife, sage, etc, I could go on!
I’m sharing with you some of the best gems from our conversation, let’s dive in shall we?
MP: When we look at the state of the world today, particularly the environment, we can sometimes feel powerless to fix it. We can feel small and like our actions aren't big enough. How do we connect to others to make big sweeping changes happen?
JA: I think it's important to think about when building community, that it doesn't have to be a big community, it doesn't have to be a grand community. You can still change the world by touching somebody with even a sentence, even a thought...
I always like to say, we don’t remember Ghandi’s teacher- but Ghandi surely had a teacher. We don't really know who Martin Luther King Junior's teacher was, but we know Martin Luther King Jr, and many of the other people who have changed the world, but we don't know their teachers...This idea started a whole new path for me... I started teaching at Kent Prep School [in Kent, CT] because I love kids and I wanted to be sharing healing and yoga with the younger generation. I really created the job for myself... I left a letter for the head of the athletic department and I said I wanted to teach yoga to the students, and he called me back right away…it all unfolded so beautifully. I usually have about 30 kids in my class and it rotates every trimester. I started teaching them, and I thought, “I don't have to change the world- they do!”
If I could vibrate in my community, teachings- if I could gather wisdom and share it with them, they could go on to be someone who changes the world- or maybe they'll be a teacher to somebody who will change the world. This community will vibrate on to a wider community, and little by little, step by step, big changes will happen...that's beautiful too.
MP: Can you tell me a little about what 'living seasonally' means to you, and how it can help us connect to the planet?
JA: I love living seasonally. We really have to unite with what we are given. We have to go out in the winter and take those walks in the snow, and appreciate the beauty of the snow. And then appreciate spring when all the dandelions and violets come up. It breaks my heart when I see people putting weed killer on dandelions. You should be eating those dandelions, I make dandelion wine, I harvest the leaves and put them in salads- (ask the plants if you can use them first, they are energetically there!)
In the summer, I love the heat, and to just sit and feel the sun on my body. I don’t have air conditioning in my house at all, and I think it helps me unite with nature more, when I go outside in the heat, it doesn’t bother me. And to go out in the rain, even sing, and feel that- bond with it.
Then in the fall is really when I do a lot of my herbal preparations; I really start to gather. I’ll dry out my lemon balm, and harvest my mullein- mullein is great for if you have a cough, or a bronchial problem. You can make a great mullein tea. Nettles too. In my house I have a shelf in front of a big long window, and I love in the winter to just look at my shelf, filled with my tonics and the different remedies, and feel that energy, which is really keeping me going, and my family going through the winter.
Appreciate every season and enjoy it, instead of fighting it, and unite with it- and be out there, don’t stay inside because it’s raining, don’t stay inside because it ’s hot. I have a farm and I’m with the animals, and you see how they deal with nature.
MP: You moved from Manhattan to New Milford, CT about 10 years ago, and you now own and run Bella Alpacas, a Farm Sanctuary, with your husband Salvatore and son Nico. How did you know that moving to the country was right for you and your family?
JA: I want to say that if you do live in the city, it can be a challenge to find those connections to nature, but you can find them. When Nico was born, it was even more of a challenge, if you will, but we’d go to the park or play near a window in the sunshine. I was very lucky that in Manhattan we had an outdoor deck... and at one point we needed repairs on it, and I wanted to get Nico away from all the repair work... A friend of mine lives close by here (near New Milford) and we went to stay with her, and as we were there, I started to see Nico more peaceful. Nico is definitely a little energy guy, and he would feel the energy and the movement of the city… and he would be up every hour and a half. He had a different energy when he got here- all of a sudden he would have peace; he would sleep through the night!
JA: Yeah that was amazing because he was two at this point, it wasn't like he was a little baby! And I noticed it was a different energy with him, and I noticed it was a different energy with me.
MP: You speak a lot about "sitting with Self" as a way to find our true nature. Could you speak more about that?
JA: A lot of people say I don't have time to take time for myself, but if you don't take time for yourself, who are you taking time for? And you're also sitting down, with the earth. You feel it through your red root chakra, like red roots connecting to mother earth... and feeling that energy from mother, the fire, the air, the water, all the elements you should feel them coming up through you, through your center through your chakras out the top of your head, connecting to the divine and back. And you start to sit instead of running... See what the practice of sitting can bring up because it starts to unfold layer after layer after layer after layer.... so we can get to the core, which is "the light," the true light in all of us... Albert Einstein didn't have an iPhone- he had a menial job so he could think! Look what came out- if he had had an iPhone, well, I don't know if we would have all these wonderful things...
So we don't know what will unfold from our thinking and from removing all those layers and distractions. You could be the next Albert Einstein, or you could just have peaceful thoughts (like I want to grow flowers!) or it could be just finding your true self, and I think that is truly an important thing.
MP: Sometimes I think of yoga as exercise, where I can have silence and peace and connect to my body. But it's also a strong spiritual practice- can you speak more about this?
JA: When you get rid of all these layers and shine your light... brighter and brighter... then we are one with the divine. Yoga and meditation and chanting and herbs and combining your energy with mother earth, that's all part of it. You're shining your connection to the divine, and that's yoga.
Yoga IS physically healing the body through a series of ancient postures that heal every organ, every muscle, every bone, that keeps our physical body in a state of being where we are not thinking about pain or disease. It's keeping us physically healthy, but it's also releasing our mind, our emotions, so we can find our light. You are uniting with the source, so yes it is a spiritual practice.
MP: Do you have any advice for us to deepen our practice?
JA: Well they call it "practice" [starts laughing] 'cause you’re not going to sit down and get it all at once! Just... do it. Just do yoga, chant, let it unfold, meditate, sit out with nature.
MP: You have a rich friendship with Mother Anastasia and the nuns of the Regina Laudis Abbey in Bethlehem, CT. One of my favorite teachings you speak about from them is the concept of 'Work and Prayer,' meaning every task is an opportunity. Can you explain what this means to you?
JA: If you separate your life from the Divine, it is a very materialistic existence- but if you think of all you do as Divine, you will find the Divine in all you do. I can look at my chores in the morning as hard work, or I can look at it as a beautiful journey because I am connected to something higher.
MP: I love that. Thank you.
To learn more about Judy's herbal remedies and alpaca products, her Hatha Yoga classes or a farm stay at the farm, please visit www.bellaalpacas.com.