Personal Background and Family
My name is Layla Kristy Feghali. I grew up as part of a diaspora, born to my two immigrant Lebanese parents on Tataviam/Tongva lands of Turtle Island (this is the Native identification of what is colonially referred to as the Southern California area of the US). I come from a family of dedicated health practitioners, traditional food pros, and naturally skilled plant-tenders rich with village wisdoms and traditional values. Since a young age, I have had a calling to restore connection to my ancestors, our lands, and stories. Over the course of the past decade, unveiling familial histories and traditions, transforming unresolved intergenerational and personal wounds, learning from the intersecting wisdom offered by thriving indigenous traditions across the globe, and rekindling other forms of embodied ancestral memory have been critical aspects of this journey of ancestral healing and reconnection for me, and the offerings I hereby extend to my communities.
Education, training, and mentorship
After working as a community organizer for several years, in 2010, I returned from living in Lebanon to complete a Masters in Social Work at California State University, East Bay. My concentration was in Community Mental Health, with a special interest in healing trauma and its related emotional-spiritual-somatic impacts and the utilization of folkloric, traditional, and ancestral therapies in recovery from mental health imbalances.
In 2011, I initiated personal healing and ongoing study with Mexican curandera (traditional healer), Estela Roman (thanks to the offerings of Atava Garcia-Swiecicki/Ancestral Apothecary). I also pursued formal herbal study in the Mt. Shasta area in the spring of 2013, where I attended the Energetic Herbalism program at Blue Otter School for Herbal Medicine, under the leadership and training of Karyn Sanders and Sarah Holmes of KPFK's "The Herbal Highway" show. In 2016, I had the honor of participating in the Intensive Ancestral Herbal Medicine training at Nichim Otanil in Chiapas with traditional Maya-Tzeltal herbalist and curandera, Doña Lucia Perez Santiz. I have also been honored to receive formal and informal herbal and ancestral teachings from Karen Rose, Janeh Tawk, Olivia Chumacero, Grandmother Marie Alice Campos Freire, Yeye Luisah Teish, Awo Fashegun, Samuelin Martinez, and other traditional, folkloric, herbal practitioners, ceremonialists, and village elders throughout the SWANA region, the diasporas, and Turtle Island alike.
My training and spiritual development has been also supported by a regular discipline of folkloric spirit-based and ancestral dance practice rooted in the folkloric and sacred traditions of the SWANA region and the African Diaspora (especially Cuba and Brazil). It has involved regular visits to my ancestral region and study of my ancestral stories, history, and cosmologies, and consistent dream, divinatory, and deep genealogy and personal healing work for over a decade, and being in direct relationship to the plantcestors themselves. In addition to the anchoring support of my own ancestral lineages, I especially acknowledge the profound guidance and wisdom granted to me by the traditions of Ifa, Curanderismo, and Indigenous medicine ways shared with me from various Native tribal communities of Turtle Island and the generous teachers and elders of these lineages who have helped me re-member and revive pieces of my own ancestral medicine through sharing theirs.
The Story of "River Rose"
"River Rose" is an intentional healing compass. Below is a description of these significant elemental symbols and some of the reasons they were chosen to represent the spirit of the work being co-created here.
* The sweet waters of the river are the nourishing force of life itself, which the whole Earth depends on to survive!
* The river is an ever flowing journey, always moving towards it's destiny. It never moves backward, and never stagnates. It is a metaphor for life.
* It is perfectly sensual, immerses fully in everything it touches and then keeps moving on forward. It embodies fullness of presence, and the graceful ability to let go, flowing fully thru each curve and obstacle and blessing as it continues along its own special journey.
* The water element is associated with the emotions, the spirit, the dreams, intuition, and creativity, the intangible and real in our human experience. The deeper layers of our being which connect us to who we most essentially are, and what we already deeply know, our inner compass and our inner authority. While it is the physical source of life in human physical form, it is also the primordial essence of life's unseen mysteries and the miracle of its fundamental life-instilling power. Water IS life.
* The river water is reflection, nature's original mirror... looking into one's self deeply to find truth, developing clarity especially in moments of stillness, and realizing the interconnection and ripples that are born from each moment.
* The river is what heals and purifies, forgives and guides, blesses, creates, and cleans. Sometimes deep and raging, other times trickling and gentle, the river demonstrates the currents of life itself, and the vital current pulsing us thru the ebbs and flows. Our ancestors all around the world have healed with water alone. Water is medicine.
* Our bodies are made of 76% water, connecting us deeply to this element which we depend on for sustenance. The river can be compared to the veins thru which our life blood flows, connecting us to our DNA, the truths and histories of our ancestors, and pumping always through the portal of our ever-beating heart. Our pulse is the ever-moving river of life in our own bodies, the microcosm thru which the river's power lives inside us. For womb-carrying bodies, this includes menstruation, and empowers our direct creative ability to manifest and nourish new life thru the regeneration cycle we experience each month.
* My maternal great-grandmother's name was Rose, and my paternal great-grandmother's name was Wardeh, which means "rose" in Arabic. "Rose" is the feminine ancestral lineage which has created and guides my own life and blesses the path of my work. It is the heart felt connection of my own dedication to that of my ancestors, of the women of my lineages, their labors of love, their traditions of medicine, and the healing of our collective hearts, wombs, and ways as all people walking this earth. I humbly accept their presence as a guiding force to support the labors lovingly offered here with their own wisdom, and the connection I share as a physical extension of them.
* Roses are universally recognized as a most powerful medicine of realizing true love, purification and healing of the heart, and restoring the sanctity of connection in all its forms.
* A rose blooms upon its own perfect timing, each unique layer of petals unfolding slowly and beautifully to reveal its core. It slowly and intimately starts from the truth that lives within so that it can better share and express the heart of itself to what (or who) is without.
* While delicate, gentle, and generously fragrant, the rose is also hardy and resilient, practical and grounded, wild and mysterious.
* The rose teaches abundant self-worthy gracious love with clear boundaries, fiercely protected by its thorns which guard it when its mishandled or approached with neglect or carelessness, and simultaneously confident, tender, and self-contained in its own expressiveness and beauty.
* Rose teaches of life's sweetest pleasures that can and must flourish beautifully, even amongst the inevitable thorns and tribulations of life, of resilience and beauty which is sometimes born out of struggle and life's roughest edges, and of our ability to transform, persevere, and express the well-being of our own hearts and the beautiful truths there-within despite our challenges.
* Rose is a powerful medicine of body, mind, and spirit alike, and one which has been used as such natively in my own ancestral land and globally for thousands of years. Physical medicine of the nerves, womb, heart, skin, eyes, and more, its uses are multiple and profound, and holistically so!
* Rose is the medicine of self-love which teaches of love for others, of true embodiment and authenticity of expression, and of deep, intimate, and whole connection which starts from deep within. Rose shows us this inside-out beauty and encourages us to take the space to truly savor, honor, and enjoy life's sweetness, and the righteous ability to uphold its sacredness, with tenderness, generosity, and grace.
These are some of the principles that live at the very heart of healing transformation, and the sweetest and most universal truths of the human experience that are hereby inspired to support our collaborative efforts towards wholeness.