Plants, interconnectivity, and how to heal ourselves, our community, and the Earth… every time I sit down with Ashley Stokes, the conversation flows without end. As a documentary filmmaker, we first spoke for a new project she is working on. This time, I got to do the questioning as we talking about how to find your flow.
Throughout the conversation, you will hear about our personal experiences finding solace in nature during difficult times and the importance of connection with otherkin to assuage ecoanxiety and finding your role. Ultimately, we both realize the importance of staying true to your True Nature and adapting to new experiences and perspectives while peeling off layers of conditioning to find your place.
We also reflect on the challenges of reconciling societal expectations with personal identity and the continuous nature of finding your Life Purpose.
Ashley Stokes, a distinguished award-winning documentary filmmaker, is unwaveringly committed to amplifying voices and encouraging a fresh perspective. Her dedication to elevating the collective consciousness, advocating for environmental preservation, and weaving intimate narratives takes her passion for storytelling to extraordinary heights. Ashley leverages her multifaceted skillset to not only inspire but also educate, offering audiences new and profound perspectives on the intricacies of our complex and beautiful existence.
I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did. Remember to like, subscribe, and share!
Topics Covered about how to find your flow
- Eco-anxiety and eco-grief, personal experiences and hope for the future
- Flow, synchronicity, and the natural world
- Finding purpose and reconnection to true nature
- The healing power of interconnectedness and Love
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TRANSCRIPT OF HOW TO FIND YOUR FLOW
Welcome to ReConnect with Plant Wisdom. I am your host, Tigrilla Gardenia, Nature-Inspired Mentor and Leadership Coach. In this podcast, I share ancient and modern knowledge, from biology to spirituality, about the wondrous ways plants can help you lead a Naturally Conscious Life.
Hello Hello everyone. Welcome back to Episode 45 of reconnect with plant wisdom. It’s me TJ gardenia and today I am bringing the most inspiring, fresh, invigorating conversation with Ashley Stokes. Ashley Stokes is a distinguished award winning documentary filmmaker. She is unwavering in her commitment to amplify voices and to encourage a fresh perspective. Her dedication to elevating the collective consciousness advocating for environmental preservation, and weaving intimate narratives takes her passion for storytelling to extraordinary heights.
Ashley leverages her multifaceted skill sets and not only inspire but also educate, offering audiences new and profound perspectives on the intricacies of our complex and beautiful existence. I this conversation with with Ashley really just, it just flowed, which is why this episode which is episode 45 is find your flow in the web of life. Because as you will see, once we get into it, there is just so much that changes when you give yourself over to the large cosmic natural flow of life and I hope that actually inspires you, too to move into this to step into this more consciously, just like she did for me. Enjoy the episode. Right everyone, I am here with Ashley Stokes, which I guess I should give you a little bit of background of how we actually got here. So the funny part about this entire episode is going to be that this started with Ashley actually interviewing me.
I was contacted by a mutual colleague of ours because Ashley is working on a documentary film which I will let her talk about whatever she can about it, but I’m gonna and and she wanted to obviously talk about the plants and about the connection to plants and all the different aspects around finding your path of being connected. There was just so many elements and we had such a great conversation that I could not bring Ashley onto the podcast because I feel like I feel like where she’s going and the interviews that she’s doing and her particular path that’s really the most important aspects of her path to getting to the understanding that this was exactly the type of of filming she wanted. To be doing the interviews she wanted to be doing, really, I think is going to kind of give us another aspects of the wisdom of plants in the natural world. So without further ado, I want to welcome Ashley Stokes here with us. Ashley, how are you?
Hi, I’m so grateful to be on your podcast. I really enjoyed our last conversation and just excited to delve further into that conversation today.
Yay. This is gonna be so great. So first and foremost, who is Ashley?
I’m a documentary filmmaker and currently I work for W edu PBS. It’s the local PBS station in Tampa, Florida. And here I produce shoot direct and edit short and long form documentaries. And currently I am working on a documentary. It’s like an environmentally focused documentary and I like to say the short pitch of it is the interconnectivity of all things. And how that perspective can allow us to heal ourselves, heal our communities and heal the earth.
I really love the title. I really love it. I love the little pitch, but we’re not going to go too deep into it. Because I know you’re still in pre production. And obviously this is you know, this is one of those things that will morph and change as it unfolds. What I’m most curious as to how did you get there? Like how was it that you got to the idea that I really need to look at the natural world and and step deeper into it to better understand myself.
Yeah, that’s a great question. So honestly, I started thinking about this probably a few years ago at this point. I’ve been a videographer working in video the video world for a few years, like six years now. And I was experiencing a lot of eco anxiety and eco grief for some of the destruction that were causing the earth. And I was on a personal level. I was trying to find different ways that I could work through that. And I always felt that this was a conversation that one I was having with a lot of people personally, but because I have the capacity to talk to so many different people and reach a wider audience. I wanted to have this conversation on a larger level. And then that kind of led to WEU gave me the opportunity to pitch an idea for an environmental documentary. I pitched the idea mainly on like eco anxiety and that discussion and it kind of has evolved a lot from there and is continuing to evolve as all things do in life.
But yeah, I remember that after we had the conversation, you really got me thinking about the Eco anxiety I actually recorded an entire podcast episode about whether or not I have eco anxiety and really understanding the fact that I feel like I don’t suffer from it the way many people do, because of that connection, because the way that I interact and am a part of the natural world. It’s almost as if there’s a deeper understanding that keeps getting on unveiled over and over again as things happen. That doesn’t mean that I don’t I don’t think the world is changing. I don’t see the climate change.
I don’t experience it differently. But there’s like this kind of a ray of hope in it of that we as human beings are going to understand why this is happening both from our responsibility, but as well as our possibilities. And that yes, the world is going to completely change. Yes, there are so many aspects of this that are going to fundamentally shift the way that we live our lives. But that if we approach it and we give ourselves the opportunity to remember that we are nature it’s as if it’s just going to be different. I can’t ever put it into words it’s more of a feeling than it is a thing. Do you find that as you’re doing this type of work? The fact that so much of this is a feeling a deeper understanding connected to the natural world connected to plants to what you’re learning. Do you find that that makes it different than shooting other kinds of documentaries?
Absolutely, I do. I have like multiple responses to what you just brought up. One I’m really glad that you brought up you doing a podcast about the ego anxiety because I actually just watched that and I was like, Oh wow, I’m really glad that she ended up like going further with that conversation. And I wanted to hit on the fact that creating this like my journey with this has actually helped me evolve how I feel with my anxiety and the grief that I hold. And we can go a little bit deeper into that. But I do want to answer the actual question that you asked me is working on this project with it being more environmentally based, is that different than other projects that I do? And I would absolutely say yes.
Because a lot of the other projects I do well I am very passionate about them as well. I feel the most connected to nature and I have always known that my purpose. Well, not always. But I’ve gotten to a point where I know that the documentaries and the videos that I want to be creating are revolved around the environment in nature. And that has helped me become so much more connected to the project than I have in different other other different projects that I’ve experienced in the past. That’s not to say that like I’m not passionate about those ones as well. But there’s sort of like this synchronistic flow that has occurred with this project that I honestly cannot say I have experienced quite the same with other projects.
And that’s that’s what I find naturally happens there are certain words that keep popping up over and over again as I talk to people as I even listen to you know others people maybe more even more well known and then those lesser like no matter who you talk to, they’re certain words or concepts that constantly pop up and flow is definitely one of them. As a matter of fact, I was working on something today for the next program that I have happening in the naturally conscious community. And when I years ago really was focusing on the word balance. I thought balance was the right thing I was looking for in my life. And in this journey with the with the plants with the natural world. I’ve discovered that it’s not balanced at all its flow. There are times when I will be in balance.
There are times when I will be out of balance and like this flow of being able to take things in and being able to you know do something with it and flow with it and an almost like a like a river you’re swimming in it. And sometimes you’re going to be taken and sometimes you’re actually going to be doing this swimming and I feel like that really connects into what happens with every aspect of our lives when we give ourselves over to our nature nests right our plant nests or humaneness or animal illness and all these different aspects that we have inside of ourselves. So it’s really fun. It’s fun when I hear it from somebody else. Like it’s like yes, that’s that confirmation.
And I make a point actually, yeah. Yeah, I’m glad you brought up the word flow off of what I said because that is a big portion of the documentary without going too deep into that. That’s it’s a you know, really about the flow of the earth of human bodies and like our purpose and so I don’t want to go too deep into it. But I really like the idea of like getting into you know the flow because that does matter in the environment and within ourselves. And of course we’re part of nature. So of course that makes sense.
Yeah, and I feel like that’s one of those concepts that we as humans have really forgotten like, we’ve and even if you think about it from any angle, like even from a spiritual angle, the difference between making your own reality and going with the flow, we tend to think of that word of surrender as something negative.
Sometimes it’s like I’m letting go and I’m not and I’m just going to do whatever you know, whatever the universe wants for me or something like that, but it isn’t that like we implement her use of the term. guiding your synchronicity and guiding your synchronicity means that it’s kind of like a wave you know, that you catch like a surfer you catch that wave and you’re able to then drive inside but it’s not like I can make the wave happen, right it’s not like I’m I know where to position myself and I know how to prepare myself and I feel like when you’re in touch with the natural world, the when you’re in touch with the cycles of nature, when you’re in touch with the understanding of how we ourselves as beings of nature move and operate within a greater timeline, then all of a sudden that flow becomes so much easier to understand as a give and take as a dance as a movement as so many other pieces. So how exciting that that’s one of the elements that you’ve picked up on.
Absolutely nice. You were talking about. Let’s go back a little bit to the Eco anxiety and eco grief because I really want to hear how I would love to hear more about how for you doing this type of work really getting deeper into this connection. And this interconnectivity as you said, has helped you understand better or flow better as you said with the ego anxiety and specifically with the ego grief. Can you tell us a little more about that?
Yeah, so I feel like as I’ve well, um, give you a little bit of context. So back in September, I went on this trip all around like South Florida, and in like a little bit of Central Florida as well. It was really just to get a lot of B roll for in for B roll for people who don’t know, it’s like extra footage to put on top of interviews. A lot of it was just like nature footage. And through that, I went to a few different places and I was really confronted with a lot of fairings. And one of those places was the coral reefs. I went down to Biscayne National Park. And as some of you may know, there is a core there was a coral bleaching event occurring over the summer and into the fall because of the rising temperatures in the oceans.
And as well as like diseases in the coral reef. And it pretty much was like swimming over like a cemetery. Like these coral reefs were on the point of dying like the bleaching. They’re not quite dead yet but it is almost at a point of dying. And I really sat there and I knew it was going to be an emotional experience. But I really sat there and I cry honestly, I’m gonna be honest, like I cried, and it was a very emotional experience for me. And that’s just one example of like, other places, you know, there was other experiences I had throughout that trip that were really devastating.
But on the opposite side of things in maybe not necessarily the opposite, but also like within the environment is that there is so much beauty like the Earth is so beautiful, and like I can’t deny how extraordinary that is. And I think most people would agree with me on that. And being able to see that contrast of death and rebirth and life. Next to each other is really extraordinary. And I think being able to see that, you know, life does go through cycles. And as devastating as seeing some of those environments and ecosystems being at such a detriment to human involved. Climate Impact, basically, right.
And going through that experience, as well as talking to a lot of different people and also being on my spiritual journey knowing that no matter what, like the Earth is evolving, and it’s gonna be okay. And like that, maybe that may be to the detriment of humans. And we you know, we don’t really know quite yet there are alarming signs obviously, you know, that’s part of what I was experiencing the anxiety around, but no matter what, there’s a flow and if we get back to a place where we’re in flow with that, I think that that’s where I got to a place of hope, knowing that I’m at least doing something to help people see this and I’m doing the best that I can and being a part of that flow, to help with that experience.
I know that I personally do not have all the solutions or answers to the problems, and that’s the reality of no one person can and I think I got to a point where it’s like, each person and this is also based off of a conversation that we had together is like each person has their different role within this, both within the climate movement, the environmental movement, and also just within life, and that’s very much like the human body. There’s a ton of microbes within our body and all of them have to function together for us to be living and existing. And that’s much like our entire system as a whole as human. So like we may have different roles and we have different ideas and opinions about things. But ultimately, in order for us to all to work together as a whole we have to function in our different roles.
So no, it’s a great answer. It’s such a great answer because it’s an organic answer. It’s not a mechanical. I read this in a book I you know, or it’s not coming from a mental space, which is not to say that, of course our logic is great, but we know that the human logic is what got us into this problem to begin with. Right?
That’s a logic that’s coming from your deeper connection. As you were traveling around you allowed yourself, permit me for rewarding it in this way. But this is what I see is you allowed yourself to make that deep connection even with those beings that were dying, even with those corals that were dying. And you were able to then experience it to a certain extent from their point of view from this greater understanding and that that like you said, life will continue. I think we can all agree that music is the true universal language. In fact, what we think of as language is actually musicality. And I would argue that plants may be the greatest composers of all.
By using the music of the plants device plants are now able to share their healing and communicate with us in a language we can understand. Music of the plants now has different devices to experiment with. Whether you’re a musician looking to play along with your plant friends, a healer who wants to enhance their practice, we’re simply curious. In the shownotes, you’ll find a link to purchase the right device for you, such as this bamboo M. There are also all sorts of fun extras such as downloadable interspecies music and plant music merchandise, so click on the link to the music of the plants in the show notes to discover how you can start making music with your plants today.
Life You know what we want to do is create the conditions as they say environment biomimicry create the conditions conducive to life. And if we can’t do this life is just going to push us out. And that might seem like harsh. But is it is it I mean when you really think about it. And so really realizing that each one of us has a role to play in this and that’s where, you know, the more connected we are, the more at peace we are with that role too. And I think that that’s the other piece of that element of ego anxiety and ego grief is once I realize my kind of role in all of this both in its positives. As well as in its negatives. It gives you a sense of, of understanding where I’m going, you know how I’m supposed to interact going forward, which way I’m supposed to go and what I find which I think I just made this connection in my head to when you were talking about how the documentary is sort of taking this turn around interconnectivity. I think it makes it easier also for us to reconnect. I mean, makes it at least I found for myself.
Recently I’ve been very much into the world of like, like really looking at limiting beliefs and all kinds of different aspects connected to blocks and such and for me, personally, I spent a lot of my youth feeling extremely alone. And and I wasn’t 100% alone. I mean, I had people around me but I felt it deep down inside. And it was very much connected to this disconnection I had with myself as well as with my my my true nature. Let’s say it that way. Over the years as I have worked, I haven’t. I only spent one period of my life where I was actively working on friendships.
But after that it was more working on myself and the more I worked on myself, the easier it becomes to have friendships, the easier it becomes for me, like you just said to have those moments of profound beauty that are in front of you, those those moments of where you sit somewhere and you just look and it’s the most mundane thing and it’s absolutely stunning and it just hits you with that on that wonder which just perpetuates like, scientifically speaking that augments the feeling of connection. So it’s like this. It’s almost as if nature has given us this regenerating motor, that all we have to do is allow ourselves to plug in, and then it’s going to nourish us and inspire us and allow us to see ourselves as much more than like that single individual but as a piece of that interconnected web that gets created.
Talk about being verbose. That was verbose. Hopefully it came across think to me, that’s the most exciting part of all this journey, you know, even when I when I started working on this podcast, and I started thinking about the topics you know, or it was very easy to try to think of, okay, I’m going to start with plant principle and this and that, but as I go forward, I realized that the plants are such a huge part of the way that I have stepped into my true nature, that almost anything I talk about is, is because kin helped me see and bring that veil down. Did you find that there’s an element of nature that makes it in those moments of difficulty in those stressful days and those times of, you know, horrible reports that come out or some kind of scary thing that happens. Do you find that there’s some limited that makes it easier for you to just automatically connect back into it?
That’s a great question. Um, I feel like it is like kind of going out into nature and neither like sitting next to a tree and I’m meditating with that and like sort of having a conversation in a way. Other times, I can’t say that that’s always something that pulls me back. Cuz I said that earlier about like, it has shifted my way of feeling the anxiety and grief. And that is most of the time, but I can’t deny that there is still like I do experience that sometimes are still bouts of like, Oh my God. There’s so much there’s so much happening. There’s not much I can do. But then I find myself coming back and I’m like, Alright, like, if I just sit outside for a little bit. I’m like, this tree is okay right now, and it’s like connected to the rest of the mycelial network underneath.
That typically helps me and I also will say, having conversations with other people about it. Some people will end up going down a spiral of like, we’re both feeling kind of shitty that day. A lot of other people when I think when it is going back to what you had mentioned like that alone piece. If when you are you’re never truly alone, of course, but I think whether it’s having a conversation with a tree that is also akin or it’s having a conversation with a friend and knowing that I’m not alone and having feelings about anything really. And then I can move through it in whether that is like through conversation. That is helpful for me to at least put my emotions out there. Or it’s just like I’m sitting in meditation and it’s helping me to calm my nervous system.
Yeah, absolutely. And like you said, it’s not a switch that you can easily turn on and off sometimes those feelings that humaneness just get gets to you and it gets overwhelming. And and I also have found that the the sitting the it’s the stillness with another a being a being I always say use the word being because some people want to use species or whatever. But to me, it’s just the being of nature that I feel like in that moment can really help me and sometimes I’m literally calling out to them. I have I have a series right right in front of me.
There’s a series of houseplants and then Gary the silver firs outside and there are times when I just sit here like I don’t even I can’t even go outside I can’t even bring myself to go outside and all I’m like looking out to any of them. I’m like Can somebody please help me like, well, you know, spider plants, you know, or anybody the aloes, you know, jaded and Jaina and Zara and I’m like somebody please I need somebody to pull me out of where I’m going right now. And for me, being a visual person but not really like I’m more an auditory person. And since obviously nature is not going to talk in that way.
Then for me, it’s about softening the gaze and just allowing myself to just sort of almost be like, enter into that veggie Tality as deep as I can go and just imagine myself, that vegetable being like sitting there, rooted, swaying with the wind and then all of a sudden I feel my body starts to move not as a human but more as a as just a movement of you know, wind or something like that. And all of a sudden that brings me like you said it kind of for you. It’s meditation for me. It’s that it’s that let me go through let me just still let me call out for help.
And then let me allow my body to start to move and when my body starts to move, all of a sudden, everything just sort of trickles into place and I feel like that really brings into connection. I also agree with you that it’s really important to have that support system. I mean, I created the naturally conscious community, my online platform, specifically for this. These conversations are hard. You know, I keep saying it over and over again. They’re scary. They’re confusing. They’re contradictory. They’re, they’re also demanding of you because you know, things are changing so much. And we sit in sometimes we try to have conversations with people around us and they might just like you said, either just drag us down or you know, because they get caught up also in the fear so they just don’t know.
They’re not willing to go into that they’re not really willing to explore those topics. So the conscious community was created with the idea of, I want a safe space where we can just in that moment of need or enough curiosity or whatever it might be, or that moment of profound sadness, like the coral bleaching that you were talking about. I want to be able to share this but not to commiserate but more to, to remind kind of the bigger picture in it all. And I think it’s important for all of us to find those spaces that you can that you can ever How do you find or in this journey that you’re taking this this reconnection that you’re doing right now? How do you find where you fit in the world? In it, how has it helped you better understand where you fit in?
It’s a great question. Think that’s a combination of knowing my skill set, like I know that I’m skilled in being a documentary filmmaker, and as well as what I’m passionate about, about the environment and finding flow for that, and being able to weave that together and knowing that I feel within me that I’m in a place that feels right. And I think it goes back to this was part of our conversation last time of it sort of you had given like the example I think of when there’s like somebody that you like, and you don’t know if they like you or not, and you’re like in that in between, should I go forward with it, or should I like pull back a little bit?
And I think you said something. It’s almost like a gut instinct. And I think that’s really it. And it’s really the intuition that feeling within your body of knowing I’m within my purpose and I’m doing what I feel is right for myself, right for my community and right for the environment. And because that all flows together, it goes back to that flow aspect of like, I am putting my role in a place that is helping others while also making like making me feel like I’m fulfilling my passion. I think that kind of answered your question like it did.
It did. I think that that’s a great way of putting it. I think that that’s, you know, I often talk about the fact that the conditioning that we’ve all experienced in our lives, not necessarily always something that was planned or because somebody wanted to do it, but it’s just such a natural way. Of the way we create culture and tradition today is through these, this this conditioning piece has disconnected us from that, that knowing that we have where and also has created almost this fear of trying things where the natural world knows that, you know, a plant knows that I have to try new things.
If not, I’m not going to survive. I can’t just stay exactly where I am, I have to move and I have to experiment and there is no guarantee and so I have to go based on my past experiences and what’s happened over the last few seasons and what direction seems appropriate, like there is a lot of those kind of understandings and calculations but ultimately, it’s I think I’m gonna go this direction type of thing.
And I think sometimes that’s all you can do, but to get to that piece really requires you peeling off those layers of conditioning, peeling off those societal expectations, peeling off those human layers, to then look at them all and say which one of these are truly me to one of these? Do I want to reintegrate back into my being and which of these instead are something that was somebody else’s kind of understandings or expectations of me and I’m just gonna go put those off to the side and then that opens you up to like feeling and being able to make those choices from that that that aspect of reconnection to your true nature. I love that. I love it.
Thanks for listening to this episode of reconnect with plant wisdom, Intro and Outro Music by Steve Shuli and poinsettia from the singing Life of Plants. So join me to give you like our Dania and my plant collaborators next time on reconnect with plant wisdom
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Ancient and modern knowledge from biology to spirituality about the wondrous ways plants help you lead a Naturally Conscious life.