Maria Rivera was born in the pine forest, on a mountain twelve hours outside the nearest town in Michoacan, Mexico. “There was absolute green everywhere,” she shares. “Living in an isolated place, I felt fully accompanied by my surroundings… by the wind, the sun, the corn, the plants in our home garden. We spent our days in the open, harvesting verdolagas, nopales, quelites, plums, plátanos, y todo del jardín.”
Midsummer, I had the immense pleasure of interviewing Maria about her life and somatic therapy practice with the Botanical Bus Mobile Herb Clinic. Maria moved from her mountain home of Buena Vista to Santa Rosa, California when she was 15 years old.
She smiles as she reflects: “Just a few days ago, I was walking down the hallway at work and I placed something on my head to move it from one office to the next. I was reminded of carrying water back home from the spring in the mountains, one bucket on my head and two in my hands. I was born drinking that water from the source. I was completely cared for by nature.”
We sit together in the shade of a fruit tree in the community garden. She continues, “I was a nervous child. I felt alone when I was not outside collecting plants or gathering firewood. I used to lay in bed at night unable to sleep with the feeling that I was disappearing, diminishing to nothing. I would place my hands on my chest, line them up there and I was able to calm myself. I see now that I was offering myself love and kindness.”
“As an adult, I continue being anxious. But something led me back…the realization that we all know how to nurture ourselves. The knowledge is in all of us, in slightly different ways. I found my way back with breath. My breath brought me right back to earth, right back to where I began. And that continues to be a source of strength, a source of peace, a source of love, a source of grand understanding.”
At the Botanical Bus Mobile Herb Clinic, Maria leads Reposo en Respiración [Rest in Breath] workshops, in which she guides small groups in breathing practice that connects each of us to our unique sense of wellbeing. She encourages us to follow the craving to feel the wind, to sit in the sun even for just a few seconds, to listen to ourselves.
“We all crave connection to nature. The craving, the calling to be back home is with us all. The challenge is silencing ourselves long enough to hear that clearly and rest our hearts on it. It might be in prayer, desperation or joy that we take a deep breath in. That is the source. The source is within.”
Maria affirms, “We all have breath. It’s accessible to any of us at any given moment. It may be when we are sweeping the floor, smiling at a loved one, or claiming a moment alone.” Her practice centers access and self-knowing. She asks, “What about those things you do in your everyday life that somehow feel right and good, where your heart feels at ease? Stick to those, dig through those, discover those. We all are walking through life with an abundance of those connections.”