Mara is the volunteer coordinator for this year's Telluride Mushroom Festival. Additionally, Mara will be giving a presentation on women in mycology! We're so thankful for Mara's organization and oversight of the volunteer program and are extra excited about a history lesson on all the groundbreaking mycology work being done by women. Make sure to check out her blog where she interviews female leaders in the field.
“As you think, so shall you become.”
There is a lot of discussion in mycological and activist communities about utilizing fungi to clean up toxic pollution in the physical environments that surround us. One example of how fungi do this is by growing their hyphae (the branching filaments that make up the mycelium of a fungus) into a polluted area, where they “transform organic matter into fresh healthy soil, contributing to the carbon and nitrogen cycles of the earth and creating life out of death in the process” (for more info on this, Radical Mycology provides a great overview of mycoremediation and the fungal life-cycle).
Beyond embracing the natural processes of fungi, plants or other organisms to clean-up pollution found in the environment, it is important that we (as active human contributors to pollution) learn how to heal our own toxic environments, whether they be emotional, spiritual or physical in nature. In this way, we can learn how to navigate our lives more mindfully, prepare ourselves to respond to positive and negative events more effectively, and build healthy, lasting relationships with the human and non-human people that make up our collective ecosystems. By working towards these or similar goals, we can together address the foundation of our actions that enable us to perpetuate toxic behaviors within ourselves and our communities, and transform them into healthy and life-nurturing ones.
Utilizing the model of how mycelium grows into an area and transforms organic matter into nutrition, I propose that we can map the toxicity found within our own bodies and allow the mycelium to transform us. Below you will find an activity that I call the Mycelial Mat of Healing. With few materials needed and easy to follow step-by-step guidelines, I hope this activity opens up a new way of thinking and exploring your personal healing process.
Please remember that the healing process is unique to everyone. You can adapt what you find below to fit your own needs. Moreover, this activity can be short or long; the details are all up to you! Most of all, just enjoy the time that you do spend with this activity and please share any feedback you have with me here.
Setting your Surroundings
Healing activities work best if you are in an environment that is comforting and feels safe to you. Try to create a space that is grounding and that cultivates your sense of comfort and safety by choosing music that relaxes you, have a cup of water or a warm beverage (I really recommend healing herbal or mushroom teas during this activity), light a candle or dim the lights, and finally try to engage with this activity during a time when you know you will not be interrupted.
Please know that these are just suggestions and if you have grounding practices that are different from what is outlined here, feel free to do those in addition to, or instead of these.
4. Draw your starting point (mycelial node) at the center of this circle with 4 main hyphae branching out from it.
By the end of this activity, 2 hyphae will represent a broad look at your negative charge (ex: triggers, past experiences, fears, attachments, etc.) and 2 hyphae will represent a broad look at your positive charge (ex: coping skills, your network of support, opportunities, ways to ground, etc.).
5. Take a few moments to breath and reflect on main themes that contribute to your negative charge. When you have decided what two things you want to focus on, label the hyphae.
6. For each main hyphae, spend 10-15 minutes branching and mapping your negative charges. Start simple and allow yourself to get more detailed if it feels right.
7. Now that you are finished mapping your negative charges, take a 5-minute break to breathe, reflect and ground before moving on to the next step.
8. When you are ready to move on, begin focusing your attention on the positive charges in your life. The goal here is to identify ways that work for you to transform the negative charges in your life into healthy and nurturing ones. Again, these 2 main positively charged hyphae will represent broad ideas and themes (ex: coping skills, your network of support, opportunities, ways to ground, etc.). Take your time to label these life-sustaining hyphae.
9. For each main hyphae, spend 10-15 minutes branching and mapping your positive charges. Start simple and allow yourself to get more detailed if it feels right. Remember to think of things that you already do that help you and also think of new things that you would like to incorporate into your healing practices and into your life. Mapping out your positive charges will help you to identify tangible actions you can do to transform the parts of yourself that you are trying to heal.
10. Now that you are finished mapping your positive charges, take a 5-minute break to breathe, reflect and ground before moving on to the next step.
11. Starting at your mycelial node, it is now time to take all of the transformative energy that you have been building and fruit a healthy mushroom body to represent your healing self! You can get as creative as you would like here, what colors and patterns represent the healed and healing you?
12. Now that you are finished fruiting, you should have an outline of tools that you can refer to whenever you need. As time moves on, you can share these parts of yourself or these tools through your healing, nurturing and resilient spores.
13. Take a final 5-minutes to breathe, reflect and ground. Smile and be kind to yourself. Healing takes a lot of energy and it is important to give yourself the time to rest and re-energize.
Sue worked for 5 years in land conservation for The Nature Conservancy managing a Northern California Coastal Dunes Preserve where she also conducted her graduate fieldwork. She moved to Belgrade Maine in the mid-eighties and worked as Director of Land Conservation and Stewardship for Maine Coast Heritage Trust. For 18 years she taught biology and environmental science labs at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY and currently works as the Chief Mycologist for a new Green Tech company, Ecovative Design in Troy, NY.
Sue will be presenting at the 2015 Telluride Mushroom Festival!
Workshop: Grow it Yourself with Ecovative's Mushroom Material
Please join Ecovative's Chief Mycologist Sue Van Hook to create your own Myco ... bowl, ball, toy, animal, robot, dinosaur, key holder, or ???? Consider bringing a specific mold or form to grow that special something. Sue will have ducks and bears and balls to fill too. Limited to 20 people. Cost $12/ person, children under 12 free accompanied by an adult.
Presentation: Mushroom Mycelium as Natural Resin
Ecovative in upstate New York has pioneered fungal mycelium as a natural resin used to bind plant waste products into packaging shapes, particle boards, automotive parts, surfboards and buoys. All it took was beginner's mind and eyes of two young engineers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to see the elasticity and network of fungal hyphae as a new biopolymer. Join Sue Van Hook, Ecovative's Chief Mycologist for a look at the science of mycelial resin
Sue Van Hook: http://www.suevanhook.com
Telluride Mushroom Festival Blog
Various members of the Telluride Mushroom Festival community contribute to this blog.