Becca Piastrelli is a writer, coach, and podcast host. Her debut book, titled Root and Ritual: Timeless Ways to Connect to Land, Lineage, Community, and the Self, is a beautiful guide that offers a pathway back to connection and wholeness through rituals, recipes, and ancestral wisdom while it encourages us to access our intuition, tune into our bodies, and awaken our “wild woman” within.
IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL HEAR ABOUT THINGS LIKE:
- Becca’s sense of loneliness and unbelonging throughout her life.
- The growth and Rebirth Becca experienced while she was writing her book and became a new mother.
- Why the current time we are living in is called The Age of Loneliness.
- The reasons our adult friendships are often difficult to create and maintain.
SOME QUESTIONS IRENE ASKS BECCA:
- What is the difference between sharing with integrity and sharing outside of integrity?
- Why is it important to take a thorough and lasting look at our relationship with our own self?
- In what ways can we awaken the “wild woman” within each of us?
Listen to the podcast here
Becca Piastrelli: Why Is The Current Time We Are Living In Called The Age Of Loneliness, And How Can We Awaken Our “Wild Woman” Within?
I’m delighted to welcome writer, coach, and podcast host, Becca Piastrelli, whose debut book is titled Root and Ritual: Timeless Ways to Connect to Land, Lineage, Community, and the Self. Root and Ritual is a beautiful guide that offers a pathway back to connection and wholeness through rituals, recipes, and ancestral wisdom while it encourages us to access our intuition, tune into our bodies, and awaken the wild woman within.
Becca will be speaking to us from San Anselmo, California, where she lives with her partner and child. I’m looking forward to talking with Becca about how her book was inspired by her own sense of loneliness and unbelonging in life, why the current time we live in is called The Age of Loneliness, the ways women have rebirthed themselves from grief and loneliness through her work, how we can each awaken the wild woman within us, and more for what promises to be a highly engaging and inspiring interview. Becca, a warm heartfelt welcome to the show.
Thank you so much for having me. I’m happy to be here.
It’s my pleasure, Becca. I enjoyed your book, and it’s so beautifully done. It’s a beautiful book.
I can’t take credit for the illustrations. That’s Amy Grimes, a UK-based illustrator.
She’s talented. She’s wonderful. I loved it. Let’s start by you explaining to everyone how your book, Root and Ritual, was inspired by your own sense of loneliness and unbelonging throughout your life. Describe the growth and rebirth you experienced when you were writing the book and became a new mom.
I didn’t have the words for it until maybe the last ten years. The book came out of a lifelong existential ache or a real sense of not belonging. That’s more than just not fitting in with a friend group. It was not feeling at home in my body and not feeling like I lived in the right place. Sometimes I didn’t feel like I had the right family, like the black sheep syndrome in so many ways. Even at times being like, “Am I supposed to be on earth?” It’s this interesting feeling of being displaced.
That has a deep historical context that I talk about in the book. Many of us feel versions of that. The book is something that I created as a way to show the path I’ve been taking to feel more rooted, more connected, more grounded, and more here at home in myself in the natural world where I live in my family, in my community, and in my body. It’s organized in land, lineage, community, and the self. It’s the four areas that I have found to be the most effective at looking at in these times we live in. I wrote the book, pregnant with my first child, in the early days of lockdown.
At least you have things to do. You weren’t too bored while you were going through lockdown.
That’s true. It did give me something to do. Although, I talk about loneliness as a profession. Being pregnant in lockdown was peak loneliness. I needed people to come to touch my growing belly, talk to me, and bring me ginger ale. None of that was happening. This was the time when we were afraid to be near each other. That informed the book. I added a death chapter because the pandemic was so informing me of this deeper need we all had to feel connected to each other.
I also write in a chapter in the community section about the importance of rites of passage. It is the sense that all of us as human beings go through these massive radically transitory experiences. The ones we’ve kept in society are getting married and having a baby, but everyone has them. These moments of, “You’re changed.” There’s no going back.
I was going through one of mine. I was becoming a mother and I gave birth. A month later, I edited the book. A year later, I launched the book. I completely changed. I’m a new being in so many ways, and I’ve been grieving the person I was before, and I’ve been wanting more community people to witness my change. I’m writing about it. At the same time, I’m writing during a time when I wasn’t getting that from a community perspective. It’s a big underlying highlight of the need that I’m speaking to affirm my work in life, but also showed me the pain that I’m talking about that so many of us are experiencing in so many different ways. It is a sense of being alone and lonely at a time when we need each other most.
I’m wondering how in a way, coming out with your new book, it’s part of celebrating the new you and the ways you transitioned and transformed. Why do you call the current age we’re living the Age of Loneliness? How is loneliness different than solitude?
I did not come up with that term. That’s a term being shared around by certain great thinkers. I heard George Monbiot say it. He is an environmental journalist and activist based out of the UK. Another term is that we are living in the Eremocene or some called the Anthropocene. We’re living in a time where the effects of history on the planet are being made by humans. This Eremocene is also seeing this time that we are lonely. That is what it means, the Age of Loneliness. When I heard this term, it lit up my whole body and I thought, “We are more technologically connected than ever before.”
You and I can message over 25 different platforms. Yet in recorded history of human mental health, which is recent over this expanse of humans on earth, there is a rapid increase in a sense of anxiety, depression, and loneliness. We can all tune in to the difference between loneliness and solitude. One is a pain state and one is nourishing.
I have many introverts who challenge me, “I like being alone.” Yet, as a human animal, you may be alive in 2022, but your human animal body still has origins in the fact that we need each other to survive, to protect each other, to feed each other, and to get through moments when we’re sick. We truly need each other. We’re in this interesting moment in history where this individualist-minded thing of making it on your own is the peak way of being, particularly in the industrialized world. It harms us in a lot of ways. When do we feel that? We feel it in a deep rite of passage like death, grieving, sickness, and having a child.
You’re enjoying your solitude, but then all of a sudden, something happens and you need that community.
You need people to show up for you.
I get that. Tell us about your book because this was fascinating. When you talk about the reasons our adult friendships are often difficult to create and maintain, aside from COVID time when you can’t even talk to each other beyond your mask. I related to that, but let’s share that with our audience. Why are adult friendships difficult to create and maintain these days?
I’m in it with you too. From a historical perspective, over time, there have been developments in industry and mobility that have taken us away from each other. The advent of cars made it so that we wouldn’t run into each other on the streets of the village, the city, or the town. Before then, there were communal structures. Now we have this thing where we all live in our own homes instead of sharing dwellings, or instead of even having our homes positioned so that they were all connected to each other. This is the whole concept of the village that is talked about a lot in the zeitgeist or the collective.
We are alive in a time where we’ve got our inboxes constantly filling, and we’ve got social media constantly going. There’s always something to do. We have this sense of busyness. It’s quite a radical act to choose to slow down and to choose to be less busy. Meaningful friendship can happen when we choose to make our lives smaller. There’s a way that as human beings, we have been stretched so thin by what has happened in technology and industry.
You and I are talking on the Internet right now. There are so many blessings to it that have made it so that we are emotionally infantile. We have an emotional immaturity with what it takes to put energy into connection. There’s also the fact that we change and grow over time. I’m having this experience being in my late 30s of being different from the woman I was in college and in my 20s where there’s a different conversation I want to have.
I want to walk away from criticism. I want to walk away from gossip. I want to walk away from these things. Some friends moved with me and other friends couldn’t. You and I can relate to a massive life experience that changes who we are, and that changes our spiritual awareness. There’s this sense of, “Who are my people now?”
People can be changing depending on their circumstances.
We also don’t have a lot of modeling from particularly our parents’ generation, you and me both, of what it means to be in disagreement and to be in conflict. I don’t about you, but I’m conflict-averse. There are ways in which we are needing to build the skills. I talk about that in the community section. What does it take to build the skills to create depth in our friendships and to create a tight-knit community that we can grow with?
You’re helping people to change and become conscious of how they can change their lives for the better. It’s wonderful. You talk about establishing boundaries that protect and honor our needs when we engage with people of differing backgrounds and perspectives. We’re talking about reaching out to people and creating our tribes, so to speak, but then sometimes, they have different backgrounds and perspectives. How do you handle that? What is your advice for handling that?
From a nature perspective, a healthy ecosystem is one that is diversified. It’s one where the healthiest soil is not where all the same plant is grown in it. An ecosystem of which we are a part is healthiest when there’s a diverse amount of plants, beings, microbes, animals, feces from birds, little crawling insects, and then the roots of trees. That is going to be the most fertile, life-creating, and life-giving environment.
This is what I remember when I find myself in an echo chamber, in a space of sameness, which is a response to wanting to feel safe. We feel safest when we’re around like-mindedness. Yet, is that the healthiest way to move forward in a culture? Now, this is all intellectualized. I want to have more diversified ecosystems and then comes the moment of conflict and disagreement.
I’m going to go back to what I said before. That’s where we have to have some grace and compassion for the ways in which we don’t have the skillset yet to navigate those kinds of conversations. I certainly don’t think they should be happening on Facebook walls, Instagram posts, and Twitter. They need to be happening where you can read body cues, breathe together, ask for space to integrate, cry, and feel empathy. There’s the way in which we are animals. This is what I’m going to keep saying. We are animals.
We’re part of that whole system.
I bring up boundaries so we can lean into this discomfort. A lot of us, particularly people pleasers or caretakers, are so caring about a harmonious interaction. We can forget ourselves. The fact that we can say this is a no-go or even calling upon it spiritually, “I protect myself. I call upon the strength of my ancestors to walk away if things don’t feel safe.” There are ways in which I’m asking us to stretch and create more diversity of conversation. I also think it slows down the conversation. There’s something about the internet pace that makes us think we need to respond. What if we took a week to integrate and feel before we responded?
When you’re with a group of people these days, what are they doing? They’re not even making eye contact. They’re looking at their phones.
It’s been engineered for us to look at. It’s a tough thing to move out of.
I wonder sometimes if kids are going to lose social skills.
That’s what’s being noticed.
You give these wonderful examples of rituals, recipes, and ancestral wisdom that can serve as pathways back to connection and wholeness, which is a lot about what we’re talking about. I’m going to tell our audience that your book has wonderfully varied ways that people can connect to plant those seeds. Would you like to give us some examples of that?
When people hear ritual, they might think of church, some religion, or something ornate. It might feel a little bit scary. When I talk about rituals, I talk about something that all of us have a right to do in our lives, and probably a lot of us already do and don’t even know it. The ways in which we make our morning coffee or the ways we greet our neighbors, there are so many little rituals and idiosyncratic things we do in our lives that bring us comfort and meaning. That’s what a ritual is, something that brings you meaning.
The one that I often tell people who start me with something is your morning shower or your evening shower, whenever you shower. We’ve got to shower. Instead of seeing it as something you got to do to get clean, what if you can look at the water, the element, this tool of life that flows around? Where I live, it’s a precious resource. How can we see it as a way to have a cleansing, clearing, and purifying nature? Getting in your shower and thinking, what is it you want to cleanse off of you or move off of you? Visualize that as the water pours over your head and down your back and across your body. There is a ritual right there.
In the early days of motherhood when I was sleep deprived and the coffee wasn’t doing it, I was so tired. I had a friend say, “Use your morning shower to call energy into your body.” I remember I would get into the shower. It was the only ten minutes I’d have to myself. I would ask the water to clear me of the fog of the night and to pour into me energy from the water, the earth, and the skies. I would say, “I’m calling on whatever I can get to get energy into my body so I can meet this day.” That’s a ritual.
It worked. It helped.
It got me through.
That’s a ritual. Give us an example of what you call a recipe or ancestral wisdom.
I offer some recipes in there. We saw this in the early days of the pandemic when everyone was making sourdough starters. Seeds and baby chickens were selling out. There’s this way in which we haven’t forgotten how to work with our hands. Most of us are tapping and working with our hands. Particularly my generation and even younger have lost that. I like this busy hands and quiet mind. Many of us have anxiety, stress, and overactive monkey minds, the way in which you’re working with your hands.
I give recipes, not just for food. I talk about food preservation, making ancestral foods, and all that stuff, but I tell you how to make certain crafts. I talk about working with salts and herbs. I talk about making fragrant flower water like rose water. I walk you through it. It’s not to be like, “Here’s another recipe to know.”
It’s not another to-do list. It’s to help you connect.
There’s a purpose here. Connect with your hands and make something to remember that you can create at any moment.
That’s wonderful. How does bringing what’s sacred into the mundane of our daily lives improve our mental health? God knows we can use improvement of people’s mental health these days.
I was going back to what I was saying that we probably already have rituals in our lives that we’re not even aware of. There are tasks we do every day that can bum us out. That can feel unadventurous or Groundhog Day, “I got to empty the dishwasher again.” There’s a way we can shift our perspective on that to bring the magic into the mundane. What did our ancestors do before podcasts? Home music speakers and TV get them through the day.
Would they sing as they swept their floors? What would they call as they drink their drinks? Think about that. When you make your morning coffee or you drink water, you mop your floors, or you clean out the old stinky food in the fridge. I do think a nice primer here is bringing in and clearing out. That’s so much of what we do every day. It’s emptying the dishwasher and drinking. What are you bringing in and what are you clearing out?
You’re talking about people even doing the mundane in a conscious way. First, intentionally, not taking anything for granted, and seeing that. Tell me the difference between sharing with integrity and sharing outside of integrity. You talked about that. I love that.
I’m talking about gossip. That’s how it comes up for me right now as someone who is recovering gossiper and has given myself a lot of grace in the fact that that’s me looking for connection. What I mean by sharing with integrity is that check-in. I notice when I feel the urge to gossip if I check in and say, “Is this an integrity to share? Is this my story to share? Is this the moment to share it?”
Many of us are moving so fast because the machines that we work on have this pace. What if we could slow down and check in on the moments that we are reacting, responding, or sharing a story of someone else’s? We can have that moment. I’ve even stopped myself mid-sentence, “I’m going to have to reroute us to another topic because this is out of integrity.” What if we all did that?
That would be wonderful. Sometimes, people gossiping and doing that are so boring. They need to create drama in their lives. It goes in some of that emptiness.
It can be a way to fill the void or divert from pain. It can be a way to feel more connected when you’re feeling quite lonely. I used to be pretty harsh on gossip. As a former gossiper, I have a lot of compassion for my former self for what need I was trying to fulfill in a misdirected way.
That’s honest of you to say that about yourself. You’re exposing your vulnerability and being so authentic. This is so important, Becca, and this is what I think you’re getting down to with everything. Why is it important for each of us to take a thorough and lasting look at our relationship with ourselves? Why is it important to be patient with ourselves and so many people? There’s no self-love and patience for others and for themselves. Would you like to talk about that?
The fourth section of the book is all about belonging to ourselves. That’s a pretty foundational piece. We are looking so outside of ourselves for a feeling of validation or worthiness, which is what a lot of us do because our culture teaches us that. Particularly, if we have certain feelings about the way we were raised, which a lot of us do, and the culture around us, particularly women, we don’t have a lot of affirming models for loving ourselves. It’s changing now. Taking a deep and honest and truthful look at our relationship with ourselves can be quite confronting. I do have some activities in the book that have you take a look at our self-talk.
I always like to ask this, “The way you’re talking yourself, would you talk to a child that way? Would you talk to a beloved pet that way? Would you talk to a best friend that way? Why do we talk to ourselves that way?” Getting honest is a way to shift the story. The patience part is key. Real change takes time. Sustainable change takes time. I am a baby-step person because I find baby steps and keep at them. Even if you fall off, come back and keep going. That’s the way we actually change.
I agree with you. A lot of people in their upbringings are not taught to respect themselves. They were taught to take care of everyone else. You’re talking about people consciously transitioning and becoming more conscious of their behavior to themselves. This brings me to my favorite question. In what ways do you suggest we awaken the wild woman within each of us? Let’s talk about that because a lot of our people do not know they have a wild woman inside of them.
You do. This is along the lines of what I was saying that we’re all animals. I don’t mean you’re a wild wolf person who wants to howl at the moon and tear your clothes off.
That doesn’t sound so terrible.
I don’t mean that either but it could scare some people. There is this way we have forgotten our true nature. It makes sense given the course of history that we are of the earth, we are of the stars, we are of the trees, we are of the animals, and we are of the soil. We will go back to it. This is our true nature to be waxing and waning with the moon, to be highly emotional, and then quiet. I talk about seasonal and cyclical living in the book.
There’s a way in which our culture wants us to be static and not have highs and lows. That is the human experience. You talking about grief know this more than anyone. I want to validate that parts of ourselves that maybe we feel are unsafe or not welcome here or are going to be judged. That reminded us that it is our innate way. When I say returning to the wild woman within, I am speaking to those of us that identify as women but I also speak to everyone.
We have a wildness within us that we can return to, whether that means tearing off our clothes and howling at the moon, or bucking the system when it tells us to not have our emotions when it tells us not to grieve deeply, not to celebrate wildly, and not to have moments of real internals or what I’d call an inner winter and the opposite, to have a wild, expansive summer, whenever that is in your life, to not age, to not bleed, to not have all these parts of ourselves that are so innate. There’s a way in which our culture has made it wrong and it’s not wrong. The best way we can do it is to talk about it, to gather together in person, to sing the songs, to eat the food together. The internet is great too. Accept each other for exactly who we are.
It makes so much sense. Could you share 1 or 2 real-life stories of people you’ve helped through your work so that people can get a real idea of how much your book will help them and how your ideas can work in their lives?
In the lineage section of the book, I talk about my identity as a White woman and how there is a real sense of being raised in the modern-day United States and not being a child of immigrants. My ancestors immigrated quite a while ago and had a real experience of feeling culturalist, of feeling like an orphan who didn’t belong. I live here. We all live on stolen land. Where do I belong?
I started doing ancestral pilgrimages back to my ancestral lands in Ireland, England, and Scotland. I took a bunch of women to Ireland two years in a row who also identified ancestrally with having lineages that track to that part of the world. We had such a powerful experience. I remember so many of the women by the end of the trip crying tears of feeling, “These are the soils that fed my ancestors. These are the soils that contain the composted bones of my ancestors. In these mountains and these waters, there’s a real sense of connection.”
We all flew back home to our homes, wherever it was, which was not in Ireland, but there was a sense of, “This is a place where I come from.” It reweaves the tattered threads that happen through assimilation and colonization that tear us from where we’ve come from, whatever our story is. There are many of them because we have millions of ancestors. I remember witnessing this moment. We had a grieving ritual. Do you know about the Irish grievers? They’re called Keeners or Keening Moaners.
Tell us about that. You talk about cultures in which death is treated as a communal experience. That’s an example.
That’s something we’ve lost here in our modern culture but it’s not lost everywhere. I speak to the Irish Keeners because I remember watching a YouTube video of this woman keening outside of a church. She was hired by the family to moan and grieve for the whole community. I thought, “What?” First of all, the way in which we are such a death-phobic, grief-phobic society of wanting to let everyone have their private experience, I don’t want to bother them. They’re having their private experience and flipping it on its head. When one member of the community dies, the whole community grieves and how we’ve lost that.
I remember we went into this forest in this part of Ireland. I invited us to grieve if we wanted to sit with the rocks. It was a held sacred container of crying onto the stones and trees and moaning, maybe not even knowing what we were grieving. Some did, some didn’t. To have that communal experience of as much as we love a dance party and cheering to a celebration, to all hold hands and grieve because grief is just as present, death is as present as birth. They’re equal sides of the same coin.
People are afraid of the other side of the coin. They don’t want to talk about it.
As if it’s contagious.
I’ll never forget that once, I was with a group of women. I deal with grief and rebirth and it’s part of life. I made a comment about we’re all going to die. One woman threw up her hand and says, “Don’t say that to me.”
As if it was a secret.
You can’t mention it. Make it happen. In that spirit, what would you like to tell everyone about how we can be helpful to someone who is grieving? In society, people don’t know. I remember when I lost my husband. Some people brought me soup. Some people called me, “Can I help you?” What are ways that you think that people can do that? Since they’ve lost the art of connection in that situation?
This is something I feel strongly about. Death touches me more and more as I get older as it does. The first thing I want to say here is you are not going to do it perfectly because no one can. Grief is a horror at times. If we take a perfectionist view of this of doing a good job supporting the grief or the grieving ones, you got the wrong idea here. Be willing to bring the wrong lasagna. Be willing to say, “What do you need?” The person says, “I hate that question. I don’t know what I need,” but keep showing up. That’s what all my friends who have experienced deep grief say, “It was great that you showed up. I threw the casserole away because it was gross. Thank you for bringing it,” because it’s the energy.
Also on a practical level, clean their toilets, empty their dishwasher, help them, open the password-protected phone of the loved one who’s died, and help them call to get the death certificate. Do the unsexy things. Take their kids for a day so that they can sit and cry. It doesn’t always look like holding their hand in silence in a garden. It’s often the unsexy things that matter. This is one I love, which is texting someone and saying, “I’m heading to the grocery store. I’m going there anyway. What can I pick up for you? I’ll drop it off.” It’s these little things
That’s great. Becca, what are the best ways for members of the audience to connect with you? We know your book is on Amazon and they’re going to want to get that book, but if they want to reach out to you, give us information.
I have a podcast too. If you’re of the podcast kind, it’s called Belonging with Becca Piastrelli. It’s a red graphic. You’ll look and you can see that. I send out a newsletter called Slow and Seasonal. I send it out slowly and seasonally. You can go to BeccaPiastrelli.com/Subscribe if you’re interested in that. If these topics of conversation are interesting to you, check out my book Root and Ritual. It’s available everywhere.
That’s wonderful. What is the Becca tip for finding joy in life?
Slow down. Let me tell you what I mean. It’s going to be challenging at first because it counters all of the cultural things around moving quickly and needing to meet deadlines. We are giving each other permission when we allow ourselves to make our worlds slower and smaller. I do think that is the antidote to the loneliness, suffering, anxiety, and burnout that so many of us are experiencing. Remember that we are animals of the earth and the earth operates at a pace much slower than our cellphones do.
Becca, I love this quote from your book Root and Ritual. I find this inspiring. First of all, your book is so inspiring and wise, but this quote is great. It says, “Dare to color outside the lines of life in shades of you because that is how you welcome the parts of yourself that feel like they don’t belong. That is how you heal.” That’s such a wise quote.
Thank you from my heart for this enlightening interview, so filled with healing guidance for the burgeoning wild and wise women inside each of us. Here’s a loving reminder, everyone. Make sure to follow us and like us on social at @IreneSWeinberg on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and especially on YouTube. Like, subscribe, and hit notify to make sure you’ll get inspiring new interviews like this one with Becca coming your way. Thank you so much. As I like to say, to be continued, many blessings, and bye for now.
- Becca Piastrelli’s book: Root and Ritual: Timeless Ways to Connect to Land, Lineage, Community, and the Self
- Becca Piastrelli’s Podcast: Belonging with Becca Piastrelli
- Subscribe to Becca Piastrelli’s Slow and Seasonal Newsletter
- Becca Piastrelli’s Website
- @IreneSWeinberg on Instagram
- Irene Weinberg on Facebook
- Irene Weinberg on Twitter
- Irene Weinberg – Grief, Rebirth + Healing Podcast on YouTube