What Happens When a Farmer Rests?
Reclaiming Alignment Retreat Reflection
By Cly Samson
When I introduce myself to strangers, I get so excited! Because sometimes, new identities come up for me and I unintentionally reveal to myself just how much I’ve changed. I am constantly dancing with Change. I remember the first time I introduced myself with she/they pronouns. I remember the first time I introduced myself as a farmer. I remember the first time I introduced myself as Cly.
In the beginning of October 2023, I attended the Reclaiming Alignment Retreat co-hosted by Song of the Spirit and Ayeko Farm. On the first day, we all sat in a circle outside and took turns introducing ourselves. This is what came up for me:
I’m a caregiver. I take care of my mom. I love her, but/and we have a complicated relationship.
I’m a traveling farmer. I go around and farm with Black and Brown farmers in the area– if they need help with building a hoop house, I’m there. If they need help harvesting for market, I’m on it. If they need someone to listen to their grievances or joys, I’m all ears!
Very recently, we had a family reunion. I was officially passed down the title of family historian from my Tito Danny, who has been keeping records of our family lineage for many years. Ever since I could remember, I’d daydream about my ancestors and yearn for their memories and knowledge. I romanticize them. Yet, I struggle to keep a conversation with my mom who’s just next door – a living ancestor.
So yeah, I’m also a hypocrite.
I’ve just been so tired from life that I haven’t had a moment to pause and face myself. I want to use this time and space to finally confront this – to learn how to be disciplined in my rest so I can honor my ancestors – past, present and future.
That’s what reclaiming alignment looks like to me.
Reclaiming Alignment Retreat – Song of the Spirit and Ayeko Farm
You must be wondering…what kind of retreat is this? I also had the same question! I really had no expectations. I just knew that Deepa and Victor were co-hosting with folx from Song of the Spirit. They invited me last year, and they are doing it again, so it must be dope! Deepa and Victor are the land stewards of Ayeko Farm. They are husband and wife with two sweet kiddos. My first thought of ever becoming a farmer was actually in 2019 when I first came to Ayeko Farm. I thought to myself – if they can do it, so can I.
Song of the Spirit is a beautiful collective of healers. “Preserving, protecting and stewarding the wisdom, traditions, culture, languages and lands alongside Indigenous peoples across the globe is the ancestral purpose for Song of The Spirit Institute.” B. Anderson, the founding director of Song of the Spirit, reached out to Deepa two months before the first retreat and the rest is history.
There were a total of 30 of us at the retreat – half of us were from Seattle, and the other half were from Brooklyn. The retreat was led by Black healers, specifically practicing the Ifá tradition, and they purposely created this space for Black, Brown and Indigenous folx specifically those who are farmers, land/water stewards, caregivers, and front line workers to simply rest and reconnect with themselves, their ancestors and with the Earth.
A typical day looked like this:
Quiet hours (no talking) till the end of breakfast
7am-7:30am – Early morning practice meditation
7:30-8:30am – Kemetic Yoga
8:30-10am – Breakfast, personal time
10am-11am – Morning meditation/Mindfulness practice
11am-12pm – Clean up
12pm-2pm – Lunch, personal time
2pm-4pm – Special Activity – we did a Capoeira session, created spiritual baths, dumpling making with Leika, farm projects with Victor and Deepa, *
5pm – Dinner, and free time
8-9pm – Yoga nidra
*One of the days, we did a day trip to Mt. Tahoma to do a ceremony/offering.
Here are my takeaways:
We all have a piece of the vision, we must come together to see the whole picture.
At our first opening circle, Deepa explained how amazing it is for all of us to simply be here. We come into our jobs/roles feeling hopeful to make change and transformation, but we get stuck in a loop of endless Zoom meetings, applying for the next grant, organizing the next big fundraiser, and so on. It is the non-profit industrial complex that stops us from doing what we actually are here to do. Deepa said, “We all have a piece of the vision, and it’s our intention to come together so we can see the whole picture”
So when we said yes to this retreat we were also saying yes to clarity, yes to resistance, and yes to evolving together.
As the Farmer Support Lead at RBAC, I meet so many disciplined, resilient, adaptive, beautiful Black and Brown farmers. They all have a piece of the vision. A vision of where farmers are treated with dignity, where there are sustainable, regenerative systems & infrastructure so you don’t have to work 2-3 extra jobs just to keep afloat (or even work at all!), where their children and grandchildren can heal with the plant medicine that they grow, and so on and so forth. But they are so tired by the end of a farm day to even meet up, learn from each other and see the bigger picture.
Just imagine, if all of us, not just farmers, in the world had the opportunity to rest and have the space to breathe and reclaim alignment – the world would heal seven generations back and forward, no doubt. What would the bigger picture look like then? What beautiful possibilities can be imagined further when healing has already taken place?
Every relationship is a reflection of yourself, walk as if the Earth is a reflection of yourself.
On our first full day, we drove 10 minutes to Sacred Land Collective to meet Baba Fasanmi and Iya Omitosin to receive an Ifá reading. Ifá is a powerful, sacred divination system and Yoruba religion. We asked guidance on what to focus on during this 6-day retreat. What are things or actions we should avoid? What should we keep an eye on? How can we make the most out of our time together? The first thing from the reading said:
Every relationship is a reflection of yourself.
I recently left a 7-year relationship, which I’m freshly grieving and coming to accept. What was that relationship saying about myself? Everyone is a mirror. That rude person at the cashier line, is you. Your best friend since kindergarten, is you. The Earth, the birds, the water, is you. If you stomp over a bed of flowers, what does that say about how you treat yourself?
Although I am gentle with flowers, I’ve always had trouble being gentle with myself. As I reflect deeper with the Ifá reading, I never saw myself in the mirror when I am gentle to others or when others are gentle with me. I didn’t even know there was a mirror at all! But now, I do.
The beauty that you see outside of you, exists inside of you. If it didn’t exist inside of you, how would you even recognize that beauty in the first place?
I am Love.
The first thing that our mindfulness teacher, Travis, said to us was, “I love you all. I know this, because I love myself.”
You know, when you read it like that, it sounds a little corny. But! When I heard him say that in the moment, I was perplexed by the simplicity and complexity of his statement. If you really sit with it, you know Travis cracked some code to Life. I sat with him and asked him more about Love.
“Love is a birthright. Love is simple but so mysterious. Love is more than romance. Love is like air,” Travis said to me so eloquently. I’ve always had trouble understanding what people mean when they say self-love. After some deep reflection and lots of walking around the farm, I came to this:
Self-love is simply remembering that you are Love itself. I am Love.
It’s so simple but it goes so deep where words fail. When I embody this statement, I feel infinite. Imagine if everyone lived knowing that they are Love itself. How liberating!
Timo, who I consider is my future mirror (someone who is reflecting who I’d probably be in the future), said to me, “Sometimes it’s not even a matter of understanding, it’s about being.” We are conditioned to try to dissect every little feeling or event and come to a conclusion. Maybe trying to grasp the idea of Love with words is irrelevant. Maybe all you need to do is just be with it.
Have the disciplined curiosity to learn your traditional medicines and remember your language.
Daoud, one of the healers at the retreat, said to me, “some of this healing work was meant to be done in a village, where your healer was there for you since you were born.” We are remembering, reconnecting and making our own villages as a result of colonization, separation of families, and generational trauma. It was such an honor to learn the many traditions that were shared at the retreat.
Farming has been my spiritual practice, but I’ve always wondered what were the spiritual practices that my ancestors practiced before Catholicism took over the Philippines? Who do I even go to for that knowledge? Would I be appropriating my own culture if I learned these Indigenous practices as someone who was born outside of my motherland? Would I be shunned by my relatives because that knowledge is now considered taboo?
Many questions like these have come up ever since I left the retreat. Friendly, one of the amazing food justice leaders that I get to work with, said to me that I must have a “disciplined curiosity” as I reconnect with traditional practices. I’ve always been curious, but not always the most disciplined.
I feel indebted to the healers who showed me what it means to be disciplined in your spiritual practice. It’s waking up early to meditate, giving thanks to your ancestors by making an ancestor plate every meal, it’s the reverence for every little living thing, proactively healing generational wounds and so much more.
So what happens when a farmer rests? A lot of love, clarity and creativity happens. I haven’t had the time, energy to write like this in years! It feels so good.
I am endlessly grateful and honored to have received love, space and medicine from the Black healers who organized this retreat– B., Ghylian,, Daoud, Dashaun, Travis, Kiyama, Liza, Edimbo, Timo, Ahkia, and Daulton. The Black wisdom, leadership and genius you all embody and graciously share is cosmic and divine.
Maraming salamat to the RBAC Food Justice team for sending Beatrice and I to the retreat and also stepping in and helping at Horseneck Farm, CSA prep and deliveries, and farm stand while we were gone – Mawahib, Nurhaliza, Jerrell, Halley, Abby, Kidest, M’Bouilee, Omar and Kerry.
I also want to send deep love and thank you to Deepa and Victor for showing me what is possible.
I will be learning from this experience for the rest of my life, that’s for sure. I leave you all with this excerpt from Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown:
“The Sufi poet Hafiz said: ‘How do I listen to others? As if everyone were my Teacher, speaking to me (Her) cherished last words.’
I am listening now with all of my senses, as if the whole universe might just exist to teach me more about love.”
Keep on listening.
Photos taken by Cly Samson with a Mamiya 645 & Minolta SRT-201