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  The Daily Rituals That Fuel William Padilla-Brown
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The Daily Rituals That Fuel William Padilla-Brown

How the mycologist (and subject of the latest MUD\FILMs short film) prioritizes his well-being

Liza Monroy

MUD\FILMS’ new 'Rituals' series shines a spotlight on the morning routines of some epic, inspirational people. Narrated by our best David Attenborough impersonator, we join our subjects at the crack of dawn to see how they rise in their natural habitats. Launching November 4 on mudwtr.com and YouTube.

As a self-taught mushroom expert and citizen scientist who runs his own laboratory and farm,
William Padilla-Brown has a lot more on his plate than only fungi. He’s studied permaculture design, frequently travels to teach workshops on foraging and mycology at events and festivals, and has a partner and two young children. He’s also the subject of the latest MUD\FILMS doc, The Fungal Fortunes of William Padilla-Brown. The film follows him on a mushroom-foraging expedition to Puerto Rico, where he hopes to discover a new species of fungi.

His calendar is a lot to manage, but Padilla-Brown doesn’t credit self-care or taking vacations with why he’s so energized and capable of taking it all on. Well-being for him is about how he lives each day: He’s built a life around doing what he loves most and connecting it with his family and community. Here, Padilla-Brown speaks about the rituals that allow his whole-systems approach to thriving.

1. Water Cleanse

“Whatever things accumulate in my body overnight, I want to rinse them all out,” he says. He starts the day with a glass of spring water he collects at its source in Carlyle, PA. “Twice a month, we go to the spring and collect 50-plus gallons of water to bring back home. Fresh living water out of the mountain.”

First thing upon waking, Padilla-Brown drinks his spring water with “a pinch of sea salt for electrolytes, with the intention of flushing my system from anything my body was processing in the night.” His partner consumed this spring water exclusively for the pregnancies of both their children, and they’ve never experienced a water-born illness. “We don’t do anything to it,” he says. “If anything, a basic filtration, but I value whatever mineral content is in there. Distilled water doesn’t quench me the same way these spring waters do.”

2. Hash

Following the water, he enters his workspace and performs a hash ritual. “I have a really nice glass [piece] made by artist friends that I like for my hash rituals,” he says. “I have laser thermometers set up with appropriate stainless steel tools for application of my hash. Everything’s temperature monitored and the right kind of material to make sure it’s not toxic and vaporizes at the appropriate temperature to not release carcinogens. That’s a big part of my daily ritual.”

3. Vitamins and Supplements

Padilla-Brown consumes mushroom tinctures daily: “cordyceps, lion's mane, reishi, turkey tail—all the ones that we make” at his company MycoSymbiotics, he says. “I literally just have to follow my intuition and listen to my body for when I want each one.” Through lots of experimenting, he has learned to identify what his body needs each day, whether “a cordyceps tincture, a goji berry and some shilajit (a trace mineral/micronutrient), astragalus and fermented kimchi,” he says. “I know exactly what my body wants and that comes from years of trial and error.”

4. Food and Foraging

When traveling, Padilla-Brown finds that foraging for local wild mushrooms helps him acclimate to new places. He seeks “local foods, wild foods,” he says. “I’m a big proponent of the appellation of origins; different regions having their own flavor.” He eats wild mushrooms in meals as often as possible. “In my breakfast with eggs is a super easy way to go about it,” he says. He also prepares them in soups and tacos, and mixes it with the meat his family eats twice weekly, noting, “It’s easy to mix [mushrooms] with meat to reduce the amount of meat you’re eating; they take on the flavor really well.”

5. Un-Rituals

What Padilla-Brown doesn’t do ritualistically is as impactful and key as what he does. Unlike seven out of 10 Americans, he avoids coffee entirely. “I saw everyone addicted to it from the time I was really little,” he says. “I don’t like it and don’t want to end up having to need something to wake me up after I already slept.” He turns to MUD\WTR instead, “usually in a community setting,” he says. “I have a big bag of it and drink it if I’m teaching a class or having an event. We’ll make a big crock pot of MUD\WTR and share it at my events.”

He treats social media much the same in order to steer clear of addictive platforms, only checking in once a day. “For myself and for my children and partner, I didn’t want to be distracted,” he says. And in the larger scope, he prefers to lead by example. “In this life of becoming a leader I don’t want to carry habits that I wouldn’t want other people to carry also,” he says. “I don’t want people to see me doing things that I don’t want to keep perpetuating in the world.”

Rituals don't have to be perfect to work long-term, and Padilla-Brown will miss a day or change up his routine without qualms. If he relies on the same foods, he says, “After a while, my body’s like, I have enough of this, you don’t need that for a while,” so he’ll switch for variety. He also knows when it’s OK to let go of a ritual that’s no longer serving him. He used to meditate daily, but it has become infrequent as he’s gotten busier. “I value meditation,” he says. “I’ll close my eyes and flow into my own mind for a little bit. I hike a lot which gives me time for reflection. But my lifestyle is conducive to a healthy life. I don’t need to do much more. I meditated a lot to get here.”

Liza Monroy is a writer based in Santa Cruz, CA. You can find her collected books, articles, and essays on lizamonroy.com and follow her on Instagram.

Read more: William Padilla-Brown Wants to Empower the World Through Science

Read more: Eat One Wild Thing Every Day

Read more: How Do Mushrooms Communicate?

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