Becca Piastrelli is a writer, facilitator of women’s gatherings, and the host of the Belonging podcast. She teaches virtually, speaks on the nature of belonging, and runs retreats to help women reconnect with their rooted sense of self. Becca guides us to understanding true belonging—to each other, to the earth, to our lineage, and to ourselves. As the author of Root & Ritual: Timeless Ways to Connect with Land, Lineage, Community, and the Earth and through the Belonging podcast, Becca supports us through the isolating effects of the modern world. She prefers she/her pronouns and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her partner, child, two cats, and five chickens, where she gardens, cooks, mothers, and gathers with the ebb and flow of the seasons.
I’m pretty fascinated by loneliness, especially living through the pandemic, in which many of us may have experienced true loneliness for the first time. As we begin to reemerge and navigate a world that looks and feels different, do you have any advice for overcoming lingering loneliness, or the effects loneliness has had on us?
I know the pandemic has had some devastating effects on our collective mental health, particularly when it comes to isolation and loneliness. I think it’s important to realize that, even in a post-pandemic world, we are living in a time that is inherently isolating in the way it has set us up to live. I subscribe to the idea that we are living in the Eremocene (or The Age of Loneliness) and that even though we are more technologically connected than ever before in human history, we are more disconnected from each other. So my advice for overcoming lingering loneliness is to first look it in the face and name it. Name it to your friends, to your colleagues, to your parents, and to your community.
One of the lies so many of us are choosing to believe is that we are alone in our homes doing life wrong while the rest of the world has it “figured out.” That’s one of the unfortunate side effects of posting the highlight reel of our lives on social media. We scroll through our feed and our brains cannot distinguish one person’s happy moment from everyone else’s, and it creates a collective sense that we are bad and wrong for feeling lonely.
My next piece of advice is to go out into the natural world. Leave the 4 temperature-controlled four walls of your living or work space and go out to be with the trees and the stones and the water and the air. Breathe deep and remember that these two are living things that are always available to you.
Another lie our society has perpetuated is that we are separate from the living world—that we don’t have a home in the wildness of the forests and the rivers and the deeply rooted trees. When, in fact, that was once our home that our ancestors knew. You can simply start by stepping outside, taking off your shoes, and putting your bare feet into the damp earth.
I’m so intrigued by the idea of bringing what’s sacred back into the mundane of our daily lives. Can you share an example of what that looks like for you?
It took me a while to really take this understanding of every action we take being sacred and infusing it into my life. Like, am I supposed to be more conscious and spiritual as I’m taking out the trash or changing my baby’s diaper? And the answer I have for that is yes, if it feels enlivening to you.
Recently becoming a mother has helped me realize the power of bringing ritual into aspects of my daily life that I can find to be particularly boring or even hard. It is brushing my hair and thanking the past versions of me that are ready to be released as the bristles of my brush catch them. It is breastfeeding my baby in the middle of the night and seeing myself as a deeply rooted ancient tree—nourishing my daughter with all that she needs to grow and walk this life in a good way. It is pouring my morning coffee into my favorite mug with silent reverence and setting an intention for the day with my nose hovered above its warm froth before taking my first sip.
You’ve said, “we live in a culture that defaults to isolation, rejection, and fear of judgment.” And this really resonates, especially in light of a difficult past few years for many of us. Can you elaborate on this?
I tend to look at the hard parts of life from a long view, historical lens. it is not a new phenomenon for us to feel isolated, rejected, and judged by each other (or for us to be doing the isolating, rejecting, and judging for that matter). If you track the history of humanity, there has been a great severing of us from our communal ways. This is commonly referred to as “the village.” We once knew how to be together and rely upon up each other for all things. For our hunter-gatherer ancestors, this was the only way to survive.
Over time, powerful people made a concerted effort to sever us—first from the wild lands we inhabited and then from our communal ways. Now we are encouraged to live in our single, nuclear family homes purchased by our own individual merits and to not rely upon each other for anything. If we need help or support, we are seen as weak or not working hard enough.
It has been incredibly damaging to our society as a whole to live this way and keeping that in mind helps me in my mission to return to more communal, regenerative ways. It helps me to log off of social media and have more conversations in person. It helps me have more compassion for the ways I am still new to being in community and developing healthy ways of being in long-term friendships. I forgive myself for the ways I was a spiteful, judgey person in the past. It was the water I was swimming in. But I’m now determined to shift the tide for the generations to come.
Has becoming a mother changed you in any ways that have surprised you? How do you plan on raising your child to understand true belonging?
Oh my goodness, becoming a mother walloped me in deep ways. I’m a year in and still very much feel like I’m in the liminal space between childless adult and capital M Mother. It was something I worked many years for and deeply wanted, but I also really couldn’t prepare myself for the ways it completely shifted my identity. It is a deep and meaningful rite of passage that I think will take a few more years for me to fully form words around. And I’m learning to let it take me with the wind and trust where I’ll land on the other side.
I am definitely mothering my child with true belonging in mind. What’s on my heart right now, in this time of changing climate, is giving her a real and meaningful relationship with nature. I want her to feel at home with plants and in the garden. I want her to feel a deep love and kinship with the trees and to be able to name the tracks of animals. I believe her life will be more challenging in many ways than mine will. So I want her young years to be filled with awe, wonder, and love for the natural world. It is her home.
If you are willing, walk us through your journey to conceive as I know this was not an easy path for you. You also mention “invisible” health burdens, can you elaborate on what that means?
Thank you for asking that. It is deeply healing to be asked, instead of it being “respectfully avoided”. I had three pregnancy losses on the journey to conceiving my child—each one different and hard in its own unique way. I had to really contend with my body and desire to have a child. In a way, it helped me refine my yearning for a child. She was very much consciously conceived and called in by the time I gave birth to her. But I also had to look at the ways my body was responding to conception and pregnancy, which included discovering I had an autoimmune disease related to my thyroid. I had so many doctors look at me and my bloodwork and say I looked fine (which is why it all felt so invisible and crazy-making to me). But it was an adept acupuncturist and naturopath who supported me with nutrition, medication, and lifestyle (I had to slow way down in my work and life) that ultimately led to the birth of my daughter.
You have a new book coming out, Root & Ritual, what can you tell us about the process of putting pen to paper and sharing your wisdom and vulnerabilities in this way?
Goodness, what a spiritual journey it is to write a book. What’s interesting about this book is that I got the publishing deal with the publisher, Sounds True, and got pregnant a week later. Then I saw that my manuscript and baby were both due the same week. So I wrote the book while I was growing my baby, making the two very much interconnected to me. I was also writing when Covid hit so I was cocooned in quarantine writing about all the intimate discoveries of my life. In that way, the vulnerability of it all felt easy. It is in the launching and publication of the book a year later that I’m realizing just how big this is for me. I am putting so much out there for folks to read and absorb into their daily lives. It is like a spell I cast in a pivotal moment in my life. I’ve released it into the hands of the readers and hope that it serves in all the best ways for them.
In your book, you share rituals, recipes, and activities to support the reader in feeling a deeper sense of connection and meaning in your daily life. To bring our conversation full circle, can you share an example of what that looks like for 1., someone experiencing loneliness and 2., someone on a difficult journey to conceive?
For someone who is experiencing loneliness, I offer the simple practice of making connections by complimenting someone in public. Make an effort to be genuine and look into their eyes as you praise the beauty of their name, the power in their artwork, their display of courage, or their devotion to a cause. Be unattached to the outcome—they may smile and say thank you, they may look away, they may not be sure what to say. Be committed to the authentic, positive interaction. I try to offer this kindness once every day and find that it helps alleviate any anxiety I may have around connecting with others. If you are in the position of being complimented and you find it difficult to receive, practice taking deep breaths and pausing to let the compliment fully land in your body before responding. And if you don’t know what to say, practicing a simple “thank you” does wonders.
For something who is on a difficult journey to conceive, I offer to you what was offered to me during a particularly grief-stricken time when I was losing hope and losing steam. Write a letter to your child. Let your heart break open and your tears flow and write to them. Tell them how much you are longing to meet them, to kiss their head, to smell their neck, to hold them in your arms. Let them know you are ready and waiting for them to join you. Keep that letter somewhere sacred—maybe under your pillow to call them in your dreams. You don’t have to tell anyone about it if it’s too tender. This can be a sacred connection between you and your baby.