It’s an honour to introduce Leslie St. John who is featuring in this months Women of Sensual Seed Conversation. Leslie is a self-expression muse, helping people get “unstuck.” Using the modalities of yoga, Qoya, and writing, she helps people unshackle creativity, feel their bodies as allies, and cultivate more self-intimacy. She is creator of Prose and Poses, a practice of yoga and writing to open creative channels, and offers workshops and retreats along the Central Coast of California.
Where do you live & what do you love about living there?
I live in San Luis Obispo on the central coast of California. One thing I love about living here is that my love lives here! We are creating a life together, one that is “loving, supportive, passionate, and easeful,” the very words I journaled about and put on vision boards for years. I’m originally from the South, and like many southern girls, I married young. When I divorced at 27, I moved to California and spent years getting to know myself, and more importantly, learning to love myself. Dating in a small town is not easy. But at 35, I met Ryan at a Health and Wellness panel discussion. I was speaking about yoga; he was speaking about fitness. I remember thinking he was handsome, confident as he spoke, but also humble, which I found sexy. I gave him my card and invited him to yoga. Six months later, he came to class. That’s the beginning of the story. We met in the middle of our lives, each of us doing our own thing. We are now writing new chapters together. Other SLO desirables are easy access to the ocean, hiking, mountains. Our community is health-conscious. We have amazing farmers markets. Not to mention wineries and coffee shops. I grew up in coffee shops, working as a barista from age 15 to 23 when I went to grad school. I was a Doc Martin wearing, journal writing, Cranberries listening Reality Bites girl, ha! I’m grateful for our coffee house culture. I appreciate arty intellectuals and homemade almond milk.
How do you start your day?
Ideally, I start my day slowly. Coffee, reading, journaling, simple movement, meditation. I love ritual. Whether it’s reading and writing morning pages, drawing an Oracle card and meditating, or doing simple yoga or Qoya movements, I try to connect with myself before I go out and connect with the world. Sometimes this morning ritual is elaborate and luxurious, and sometimes it’s simply 10 minutes of stillness and intention setting. Currently, I’m on the Infinity Call, which is a daily live guided meditation with teacher Kelly Morris. I love it. It grounds my energy like nothing else. And it helps me cultivate self-intimacy, so that I’m zipping up my own energy and not leaking it throughout the day, which is very easy to do as a University professor interacting with many students. The simple answer: Ritual. My mornings begin with Ritual.
Your favourite season?
All four! I’m originally from AR, so I saw the light change, felt the temperatures rise and fall, sensed the psychological shifts from season to season. I miss that. Living in California has so many wonderful benefits, including year- round sunshine, but we don’t exactly experience the full bloom of seasons. If I had to pick one, it would probably be Fall. All those gold and copper coins falling from trees, the way everything releases and surrenders and takes a long exhale. My energy can be big and outward. I love Surya! I thrive in summer (more freedom then as well), but I can also burn out then. Fall is a beautiful reset.
One thing that might surprise people about you
I’m not sure what to call it, but I can describe it. My superpower is purple. It beats like a heart and draws you underwater into a dark, cool space. It is part diving bell, part butterfly. When feared, it isolates; when accepted, it connects. It smells of jasmine. Place it across your chest and it’s light as a paper snowflake, heavy as a hymnal. Bite into its dark chocolate, drink its pine needle aloe. No one can destroy it completely. It can only be given as an invitation. Call it Feeling. Call it Depth.
Your favourite Sensual Seed card, and why?
Again, I can’t pick just one. I pick two: Grounded and Beauty. “Grounded” because I love the rich emerald colours and her strong legs reaching into the earth. It reminds me to ground into my self-worth, so I can make wise choices; it reminds me to ground through meditation – the beginning of self-intimacy – before engaging with the world.
“Beauty” because I see so much depth in the indigo, and so much lightness and vulnerability in the butterfly wings. Beauty motivates me. When life feels lacklustre, I seek beauty to elevate my soul. By certain cultural standards, this might seem superfluous, but after going to the South of France this summer and experiencing beauty as a cultural VALUE, I can appreciate how important it is to me; after all, “It is you.”
More on Beauty – Beauty. In all its forms. What is crafted and what is broken. I recently saw a photo of an abandoned roller coaster and found its creeping vines of wooden helixes, twisting and turning into ruin, the most exquisite beauty many of us will never see. I think people are like that. Shaped by stories written and rewritten. I’m inspired by how people hold space for their wounds and use that pain and sometimes circuitous understanding as a source of healing for themselves and others.
One defining moment in your life
When I was 17, I attended a Christian music festival outside of Bushnell, Illinois. On the Fourth of July, I was dancing at a ska concert when the band members started tossing food, T-shirts, beach balls, and CDs into the crowd. A CD case struck my right eye. After rushing to the first-aid trailer, driving to the ER in Chicago and undergoing a 4 1/2 hour surgery, 42 stitches, three eye patches, and two other surgeries over the next six months, I lost my right eye. I now wear a prosthetic. I now have a piece of art in my body. This moment is significant for many reasons. It changed my body. It created an entire dynamic in my life around the theme of loss, a source of wounding that eventually became a source of healing. It change the way I see things. Literally and figuratively. While I lost 95% of my depth perception, I gained depth of personhood.
What does self-care mean to you?
Honestly, I’m still trying to figure it out. There are plenty of people out there who can give you “Seven Steps to Self Care” or beautifully branded self-care action steps, and those are all valuable, but I find self-care to be more dynamic, changing according to seasons and jobs and family and art, etc. At its root, self-care means caring for the self, which implies valuing the self. So many of us don’t do that. Self-care is any thought, feeling or action that is self-affirming, self-valuing. Some days a warm bath, other days chocolate. Some days learning how to say “no” to an opportunity, and “yes” to quietude. Some days shaking it off, other days standing up for yourself. Self-care is the daily practice of loving yourself.