Anna Palechek’s Journey from ‘Just Existing’ to ‘Living Purposefully”

Posted by Anna Palechek on 1/11/23 8:00 AM


I was overweight, mentally drained and an emotional eater (and drinker). My own traumas and dramas became my triggers. After five years of struggling through starvation and rationalizing my circumstances—I realized it was all due to my own insecurities and bad decisions. Choices that I made while my self-worth was lacking, oh who am I kidding, it was non-existent. I was not living purposefully; I was just existing. At the time I had no idea there was a place called Southwest Institute of Healing Arts (SWIHA).

All my life, I had compared myself to others. I compared my life to how others were living, and I believed that I was not living life as I should have been. I felt as though I was not giving my children the life that so many others were giving theirs, therefore I was a bad parent.

I needed to make a change. I believed that if I were to lose weight, I would feel good about myself, and my inner struggles would be over. I would feel beautiful and more attractive to my husband and my children would be proud of me. Man, that did not work out the way that I had hoped it would. Of course, my family saw things differently than I did, and they loved me for who I was. I believe I was just broken and no one could fix me, except me.

I moved to Arizona in August of 2013. I came across the California-Arizona border with a medical situation that I believed would be a quick fix—I was wrong. No doctor wanted to see a weight loss maintenance patient. So, my situation became an emergency. My ability to eat and maintain weight became very hard within three years. By the fourth year, I made a promise to my children that I will try to find another doctor. It took me another year or so to get into an office and get the process rolling. I was in a dire situation and yet I had survived those five years, and I knew there was a reason—maybe even a new purpose in life. I found a mystical connection that I had never known before. I had no idea what to do with it or how to control these newfound abilities.

February 22, 2018, a doctor finally released the fluid in my Lap band (the medical device for weight loss) allowing me to eat solid foods and swallow fluids without choking or throwing up—my healing journey began that day. After surviving years of living between life and death every day, my past beliefs became my lessons in life. Now was the time to fix where my broken self-needed fixing. I became focused on becoming the best version of myself.

I wanted to help others reframe the story that they were telling themselves and move into their future, unburdened by their own negative thoughts. What if we stopped comparing our lives to others, and began feeling grateful for the life we have? Maybe we would find what ignites our spirit and fuels our passion for life. I knew that to do this, I needed guidance, a mentor, or a teacher. I went to Google and searched for holistic ways to heal, and Southwest Institute of Healing Arts popped up, and I knew it was a sign—this is where I need to go to find my way forward.

I am now a graduate of the 2019 Mind Body Wellness Life Coaching program. After graduation, I started a small business offering group Yoga Nidra’s, Reiki, and Life Coaching. Within two months, COVID hit and I lost my momentum. After a few weeks, I began to feel like I couldn’t breathe, I wanted to be outside in nature. I wanted to get back to feeling normal and grounded. I started a garden, putting my hands in the soil grounded and relaxed me. We built a Pergola to shade the southwest side of our house and the temperature in our family room dropped. What a difference shade made. We, my husband, and I started making changes to our property, not knowing, or expecting we would see positive changes to our energy bill, and water usage—Score!

My drive to succeed in holistic healing began to waiver, quarantine changed my outlook and caused a shift that became less about helping others begin their healing journey and more about healing Earth. I found my balance, my breath, and my calling. I was going to become an Herbalist! Hah!

When I called SWIHA and said I wanted to come back, they asked why? I told them, “I want to become an Herbalist, this is what I have been called to do—my new life purpose! I need to be in a garden, growing my own fruits and vegetables to feed my family, as well as grow herbs for healing teas and ceremonies”. The admissions consultant said, “It sounds like you might fit in the Urban Farming Program”. I said, “Yes, that sounds like what I need”. Of course, there was a little more conversation, essays, and phone calls, however, the summary is that I fit in the Urban Farming program, and I am so happy that I did. My goal was to find my purpose, my breath, and my direction in life. I began to recognize that my purpose would consist of using permaculture techniques and growing trees. I may not have become an herbalist, yet I know that I will grow some herbs under trees.

My goal during October 2022, is to partner up with like-minded individuals and present a plan to the members of the City and Natures Conservancy board. Our aim is to receive a grant to plant trees for heat mitigation in the Phoenix-Metro area. The next goal that I have is to complete a grant proposal for an Educational Community Forest Garden. A subsequent goal is another grant proposal for an Emotional Healing Forest (in the Phoenix area). A healing space offering the sights and sounds of nature in the large trees, while relaxing, gathering thoughts, and balancing emotions. I envision enjoying this space through the lull of a swaying hammock.

In the past year, I have stepped out of my comfort zone and recognized that feeling of “what if” I fail or say the wrong thing, or I don’t have all my facts correct? Then so be it! Failure is just a lesson to learn from. There is no going back to the feelings of not being able to breathe or feeling like I have lost my purpose when it is never lost - it is transitioning to the true purpose of the journey. I will continue to move towards my goals and trust the thoughts that come from my heart with love and compassion will carry me forward to reach each goal that I set.

How do intention and mindfulness show up in my life today? Intention is the direction that guides me. I step out of my comfort zone with the intention of doing good things. My need to help heal the Earth is also the intention to help others begin their healing journey. If we cannot breathe in the air, then we are not breathing in healthy healing energy. My breath carries passion—from my Root through my Crown Chakra— and speaks my thoughts of balancing ecosystems from Earth to the air, to the physical body and emotional mind.

During my time at SWIHA, I became aware of the concept of mindfulness. Sitting with, listening to, and hearing my thoughts, is one way that I would explain mindfulness. When I am mindful of my thoughts and grateful for my surroundings, I appreciate all things. I am grateful for my ancestors who were once stewards of our Earth, water, and the air we breathe. The stewards before us left this planet in our care. Therefore, my intentions are to help heal the damage we have inflicted, in return, I believe our ancestors will also heal. As we find solace in our actions, we also find comfort in knowing that we are healing Earth’s future generations of stewards.

Become an Urban Farmer

Topics: Southwest Institute of Healing Arts, western herbalism, SWIHA, Urban Farming, Arizona, Tempe, mind body wellness pracitioner, integrative healing arts practitioner, Herbalist, National Be on Purpose Month 2023, Self-worth

About the Author Anna Palechek

Anna Palechek is a graduate of the Mind-Body-Wellness Practitioner program as well as the Urban Farming Program at Southwest Institute of Healing Arts. After years of suffering from health issues, Anna turned to the holistic healing arts at SWIHA to help others get through what she went through. After enduring the pandemic, Anna’s passions turned towards healing the earth through urban farming. Follow along Anna’s journey of living on purpose!

Anna Palechek

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