Annapurna Woman April Miller McMurtry
How do you start your day?
It is necessary for me to tune in and set the tone of my day, otherwise I become lost in the whirlwind of life and parenting. I have resisted routine most of my life – it feels too rigid. Yet when my tendency towards chaos and burn-out was making me not reliable or fully present, I knew I needed to find a new way to establish a morning practice. Nowadays I set a calm alarm on my phone for 5:40am. I get up, use the toilet, brush my teeth and go sit at my altar space. I light a candle and make some notes in my moon journal about the previous day. I use this to help me locate myself within the cycle of the ebb and flow of constant change. For the first eight years of motherhood, having children and a morning spiritual practice seemed incompatible. I was in survival mode and I knew I needed something. Being a part of the Fierce Grace Collective really helped me flip the switch to start doing what I had previously thought impossible.
What do you do when you are overwhelmed or stressed?
Observing the expansion and contraction of my breath as a microcosm of the cycles in nature. Mindful breathing works, it’s free! and is just a matter of bringing presence to something I am doing all the time anyway. Less acute stress: I imagine “What would the Moon do?” She would flow and trust that everything is just a phase. More acute stress: The reality of getting kids to school on time creates quite a pressure cooker situation for my mornings. There are times I yell out of frustration, or withdraw. It is an ongoing dance, and sometimes toes get stepped on. When I snap, I apologize and address what is causing the overwhelm. I must come back to nature, nature, nature. The more grounded I am, the more I can flow with the challenges life presents. It’s not always possible to go on a hike or to the beach, but it is possible to watch bees on a rosemary bush, touch the bark of a tree, notice the sky reflected in a puddle.
What gives you the feeling of true bliss within?
I know what gets in the way of experiencing bliss: feeling separate, fear, comparing and grasping. I may feel blissed out after a yoga class, but how do I feel at the stoplight or talking with a difficult neighbor? In my experience, bliss comes from being completely present with what is. Not labeling certain experiences as good or bad, but experiencing the teaching at the core of each one. It’s cultivating the awareness to live in that state of presence. This is the challenge, to not escape from reality through distractions or rush through things that seem mundane. Opening a door, brushing my hair, lighting the stove, making eye contact. There is no other place to go to find bliss.
What are you currently reading?
Awakening Shakti by Sally Kempton. Every time I open this book I have a revelation about how to connect with the divine feminine. She comes in so many forms and this book offers beautiful and practical ways to work with particular goddess energies and expressions. And not just working with them, but becoming them. It makes me want to live a long life just to explore all the dimensions of the Goddess.
What are you listening to right now?
I recently made a playlist with songs and chants to Saraswati, goddess of knowledge, music, arts, wisdom and learning. My desire to awaken the connection to creative source has lead me to invoking the support of muses. Music helps with that. There are days I listen to woodpeckers and the wind. Other days it’s the garbage truck and leaf blowers. I take note of the soundtrack of my life – it’s a good indicator of where I’m at and what I need change to find more harmony. When I’m solo in the car I like to listen to podcasts: On Being, Invisibilia, TED Radio hour, Raise Your Hand, Say Yes! and Bridging Realities. When I’m with the kids we listen to the Trolls soundtrack, Kirtan Kids, Un Bosque Encantado and Audio books from the library. Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman is a great one. I’ve started playing Snatam Kaur’s Jap Ji during my morning practice so I can absorb the sounds, it still feels daunting to learn it myself.
What does nourishment look like to you?
Purple yams, hazelnuts and feta cheese, maybe a little parsley. A long shower after not bathing in a couple days. Handmade pottery with nettle and red raspberry leaf tea in the morning. Bedtime stories. Anytime someone shares poetry by Hafiz on Instagram. Having an evening or weekend with my husband and no kids. The moon in any and all of her phases.
How do you make space for play?
Under-scheduling and allowing space for play to arise. Play feels like curiosity and surprise, finding magic in the everyday. It’s a way of being and approaching each moment. It’s sparkly, it cleans the cobwebs of dullness. When I say YES instead of NOT NOW, I can follow my daughters’ lead into the zone of play. I started taking my kids “off leash” after school. This means going somewhere we’ve never been and just exploring – not a park – but the hillside behind the post office parking lot or an abandoned lot. It has brought an incredible sense of wonder and play without any special requirements. Mostly sticks and rocks, and pinecones. It can be hard for me to make space for play outside of the role of Mother. I’ve got a serious streak and actually have to ‘work’ at playing. Impromptu dance parties in the kitchen, friends who help lighten me up, giving myself permission to not hold the world on my shoulders. Shaking my head back and forth helps disperse heavy thoughts. And sometimes I just have to stop what I’m doing, smell the rose geraniums and just laugh at myself.
What are some favorite mantras you cling to?
The path is made by walking.
If it’s loving that you want the most, it’s loving that you do the best.
Every moment beauty, every moment disaster.
What you seek is seeking you.
Please share some words of wisdom you've learned as a direct result of soulful and embodied living.
Discover what connects you with divine mystery, however you define that. Build a practice around it. I am drawn to things that keep me in tune to the cycles in nature and the idea that life is an unfolding work in progress. For me, the moon reminds me of my connection to all this. I keep returning to her for guidance about how to flow with impermanence. Ask for signs, the universe will provide them. Trust. Trust. Trust. Listen to the body. Three years ago I was in major burn-out mode. I had too many irons in the fire. I had to start letting go. This was around the time I began creating the New Moon Calendar/Journal. Connecting deeply with lunar rhythms helped me break old patterns and know when to rest and when to move forward. Find your medicine and share with the world, we need each other!
April Miller McMurtry is an artist, educator, mother, and creative lunar coach. She seeks to empower women to cultivate a personal relationship with the moon, their intuition and creativity. Her work reflects a passion for nature-based cycles, personal mythologies, and symbolism.
April created the New Moon Calendar/Journal, a beautiful and simple tool for women to connect with their physical, emotional, and creative selves within the context of the phases of the moon. Her wish is to help shift the tides and bring lunar time into public awareness as a way to support healing practices. She lives in the town where she was raised in the foothills of Mt. Diablo with her husband and two daughters. April is grateful to be a part of a loving family of four generations in the San Francisco Bay Area.