Monthly Archives: June 2012

Fire Within

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“Holy Fire” by Alex Grey. This is an excerpt from a larger piece. See the complete work http://alexgrey.com/a-gallery/h-fr.html.

In my ongoing search for enlightenment, I seek balance through aligning  myself to the rhythms of the earth and the natural world around me.  The solstices and equinoxes offer me an excellent opportunity to reflect on the cycles of nature and my place within them.  By tuning into these rhythms of life, I’m more aware of myself as a piece of nature, subject to my own unique cycles and rhythms.  It makes sense to me that my search for harmony and balance must include placing myself in balance with the world around me.

I celebrate the summer solstice for its abundance of sunshine and energy.  Today’s weather certainly cooperated with that ideal.  It was the first real scorcher of summer, and it came right on cue for the summer solstice.  I stood outside in the sunshine this afternoon, eyes closed, palms opened toward the  light.  I bathed in the light, feeling it penetrate my skin, sparkling fragments of light sinking into me and setting each cell of my body alight.  My solar plexus glowed with an inner sun that grew brighter with each breath I took.  I strained every fiber of my being to embrace the light until I glowed.
(Note: I found the accompanying artwork by Alex Grey only after writing this description, but it looks like the artist and I had the same experience.)

I limited this sun bath to about five minutes, for although I’m clearly a sun worshipper, I also have huge respect for how swiftly the sun can harm my fair skin.  This is part of the reason I pay homage to the sun.  We are totally at the mercy of the sun, and utterly dependent upon it as well.  There would be no life as we know it without our sun.  It is of vital importance to our lives.  I try to remember this, but in the day to day bustle of life we sometimes forget fundamental truths, so the summer solstice is the perfect opportunity to remind myself.

As I stood in the sun, I imagined myself on fire.  (It was about 95 F, so the image came to me easily.)  I pictured flames dancing within me.  Everything – heart, lungs, muscles, veins, blood – all on fire.  I was a forest fire, flames consumed all the dead underbrush of my soul, clearing the way for new ways to grow.  I was incandescent.

After my sun meditation was over, I decided to commemorate the solstice by blending a new essential oil perfume for the occasion.  I wanted it to be fiery.  I wanted it to be bright and spicy.  I wanted it to support my confidence as I emerge from a long period of uncertainty.  I pulled out my oil boxes and got busy.

I decided to use seven different essential oils to correspond to the body’s natural energy points known as chakras.  Some oils fit their assigned chakra better than others, energy-wise, but I let the oils choose themselves and just attempted to guide the process.  Here’s how it turned out:

I have over eighty different essential oils to choose from when blending a custom perfume.

Fire Within
1 drop Sage (Crown)
3 drop Hyssop (3rd Eye)
1 drop Holy Basil (throat)
1 drop Clove Bud (Heart)
3 drop Lemon (Solar Plexus)
2 drop Ginger Root (Belly)
2 drop Ylang Ylang (root)
Diluted into 1 oz. fractionated Coconut oil.

Sage  is one of the sacred herbs associated with wisdom and longevity, and warding against evil. It is renowned for its spiritual cleansing and purification properties, dispelling negativity and cleansing the aura.  Its aroma is herbaceous, sharp, and bright.

Hyssop is an invigorating oil, recommended for melancholy and pessimism.  Its strong, pungent aroma opens the chest and helps us to face the world, counteracting the urge to withdraw. It can strengthen one’s sense of personal boundaries, and defends the individual from negative influences. It can sharpen awareness and consolidate the aura. Its aroma is sweet, warm, and bright.

Holy Basil may aid with anxiety, hysteria and nervous depression. It is a stress reducer without being a sedative. Some sources indicate that, like other basils, it enhances clarity of thought and aid memory retention.  It is sweet and spicy in aroma.

Clove Bud: This herb has been used in various ways, including protection and purification. This Sun scent can help create a feeling of safe warmth and thus a sanctuary in which to do inner work. Clove’s Elemental Fire aspect encourages action and achievement. This botanical fragrance is good for building confidence and unlocking the chains of old ways of thinking. The oil of clove smells just like the cooking variety, sharp and spicy.

Lemon has a clearing, refreshing effect and is particularly useful in the aftermath of emotional storms.  It brightens the mood and helps to restore a sense of optimism and good cheer.  It smells sweet, bright, and citrusy tart.

Ginger root oil is warming and invigorating. It activates will-power, stimulates initiative, and restores determination.  In addition, it can help to boost confidence and morale, making it the ideal catalyst of the Will.  Invoking and enhancing the vital fire, ginger can restore the exhilaration of achievement.  Its aroma is spicy, pungent, warm, sweet and woody.

Ylang Ylang has a calming action on the heart.  It harmonizes the mind while calming the nervous system.  The oil relaxes, uplifts, and helps to reunite our emotional and sensual natures.  It soothes and entices, opens and centers us.  It allows us to inwardly unify and so outwardly merge.  I especially chose the heavy sweetness of ylang ylang to balance the spicy heat of the other oils.  The intensely sweet perfume reminds me of tropical flowers that bloom in the heat of midsummer.

This blend could carry one less drop of lemon, but an extra drop slipped into the bottle in spite of my plan. I always allow for serendipity in my blends. After blending this oil, I immediately tried it out, even though it can often take a day or several for the oils to fully integrate in a blend.  The first scents that are revealed in this blend are the sweet lemony top notes.  As it dries down, the spicier notes are revealed. It felt warming and energizing, exactly as I had hoped. It is my intention that this oil blend will help me in situations when I need to feel my connection to the summer sun, shining brightly in my heart.


Note
: My oil descriptions come from the notes I’ve taken as I’ve studied essential oils over the years.  My notes often synthesize the information I got from several sources, and although I tried to make note of where I learned what, my notes are not complete in that regard.  Still, much of the information on how essential oils can be used spiritually come from Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit: A Guide to Restoring Emotional and Mental Balance Through Essential Oils by Gabriel Mojay. http://www.amazon.com/Aromatherapy-Healing-Spirit-Restoring-Emotional/dp/0892818875

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Affirmations: Programming Language for the Brain

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I’m old enough that when I think of affirmations, I think of Al Franken’s character of Stuart Smalley in Saturday Night Live, and I laugh. With a big dopey grin, he affirms, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darnit, people like me!”

And yet, I know from personal experience just how powerful and transformative affirmations can be. Our brains are a bit like computers, and our thoughts, shaped by language, does the programming. With a steady application of affirmations, you can reprogram negative thought patterns that are holding you back, and even manifest into your life things that will bring you greater joy. Affirmations are a powerful tool that are often underestimated.

Affirmations can be used in the context of a wide variety of issues. Got love problems? Try affirmations. Battling depression? Try affirmations. Trying to find a job? Try affirmations. Want to lose weight? Be more peaceful? Want to lucid dream? Meet your spirit guides? Be less shy around people? All these kinds of things, and more, are suitable subjects for work through affirmations.

About 20 years ago I was in a professional development workshop through my job, and the workshop presenter offered a method of applying affirmations by using index cards. I used his method daily for about a year, tweaking the instructions until I found a method that really worked for me. That was a year of tremendous growth for me, with deep-seated issues that came unstuck for the first time in my life. I saw first hand the power that affirmations can have, and have been a devoted follower of this method ever since. The affirmation cards were an important tool for helping me reset my thinking into more healthy channels. It’s a great tool for manifestation as well. I have used affirmations ever since. I offer this method below:

The deck of affirmation cards I used are easy and fun to make, and very simple to use. I used a package of regular 3×5 index cards for my deck. (I later used unlined cards and a printer to make them even more colorful, but you can make these by hand as well.) Each card will contain an affirmation of a new reality you want to manifest in your life. Nothing is too big or too small to be worked on through affirmations. Emotions like anxiety, fear, depression, anger, loneliness, etc. are all excellent fodder for this tool. So are more tangible goals like career, family, finances, home, car, etc. And before you pooh-pooh the idea of affirmations like I did, give it a shot for a few weeks. This is a powerful tool that did really deep transformative work on areas that I had been stuck on for years.

So, put one affirmation per card. Use colors and/or images if you like, but the words you choose are important. Each affirmation needs to be phrased in the positive. Our subconscious brains are very literal and latch onto action words, not the smaller parts of speech. For example, if you want to work on anxiety, don’t say “Don’t Panic” because the subconscious will focus on the word “panic” – that’s counter-productive. Instead, use a phrase like “Stay Calm” which gives the subconscious an action that it can work on. Focus on the present tense – the subconscious mind operates in the eternal now; instead of saying “the perfect job for me is coming” (which keeps this perfect job somewhere in the unreachable future) say “I am ready for my perfect job”.   I’ve found that inspirational quotes can also make effective affirmation cards.

Create as many or as few cards as you like. Once you have a “deck” of cards, you can also add more or take away cards that are no longer as relevant. Once you have your deck, simply flip through them and read them once a day. (Or more often if you like, but once daily worked for me.) You can do this at any time, any place. I often flip through my affirmation cards while waiting in line at the bank or the grocery store. That’s it. Just read your affirmations to yourself daily. It usually only takes 2-3 minutes. You don’t need to meditate on them (although focusing on your affirmations in a meditative state is another very powerful technique.) You don’t need to particularly “work on” these things. The daily read-through is the work. The brain is like a computer and will program itself with whatever instructions it receives. Your affirmation cards are the programming instructions. Input daily for best results.

Here’s a partial list of affirmations that I use or have used in the past:

¯ Expect joy
¯ I am guided from within.
¯ My spirit shines brightly
¯ I am open to receive
¯ I have the strength I need.
¯ I radiate peace.
¯ Laugh daily.
¯ Listen within.
¯ With one deep breath – let it go.
¯ Pay attention.
¯ Play with abandon.
¯ Practice wellness.
¯ Seek peace.
¯ I love going to work.
¯ Stay calm.
¯ My heart is filled with love.
¯ There is always a reason. Each result serves me in a useful way.
¯ There is perfect abundance.
¯ Trust the process.
¯ I see the next step.
¯ My memory improves with each passing day.
¯ I am stronger than my temporary cravings.
¯ I can easily resist temptations.
¯ “Expect your every need to be met, Expect the answer to every problem, Expect abundance on every level, Expect to grow spiritually” -Eileen Caddy
¯ I am motivated to accomplish all that I have to do.
¯ At all times, I have unlimited access to my Inner Wisdom.
¯ I look forward to the challenges each day brings
¯ I say YES to opportunities
¯ I deserve to be successful
¯ My joy in life is clearly apparent for all to see
¯ I express myself freely and easily
¯ I am confident of my abilities
¯ I am good at saving money
¯ I love vegetables.*

*My favorite example of an affirmation that worked for me is the one that says “I love vegetables”. This was never true for me. As a kid, I avoided anything that resembled a vegetable with very few exceptions. Lettuce and corn were about it. As an adult, I learned to eat at least a limited few vegetables, but I still didn’t like them. I wanted to love vegetables, but… ick. So I put this issue into an affirmation card and worked on it. Every time this card came up, I chuckled with dubious amusement. After all, affirmations are good for some things, but this? Ha ha. But I kept the card in the deck. Month after month I laughed at my “vegetable affirmation.” It took about a year or so before I noticed that I had gradually begun adding more and more vegetables to my diet in ways that I hadn’t been conscious of. I’d go to a restaurant with a salad bar, and instead of lettuce and a few pieces of shredded carrots, I’d come back with my plate loaded with all sorts of things that just sort of “looked good” to me at the time. I gradually became aware that I was looking forward to such voyages into veggie-land. That was a long time ago, and now I can say without a hint of my former reservations that I really do love vegetables. A lifetime of revulsion was transformed into a much healthier attitude.  Go figure.  My silly “veggie affirmation” worked.

Affirmations can be created around any issue you want transformed. Just read through your cards daily, and, as one of my affirmations reminds me, “trust the process.”

Lost & Found

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Although normally an optimistic person by nature, there are days when the relentless little disappointments of life wear me down and leave me feeling discouraged.  When this happens, my instinct is to do what has always brought me comfort: retreat to nature.  Whenever I am feeling lost, I can always find myself again in the woods.

Throughout my childhood, my family used to spend the summer on a small little island in the middle of a fairly large lake in Massachusetts.  There were about a dozen families that owned cottages on this little rock in the pond, but the island isolation helped to create our own little paradise.  It was very rustic; there was no electricity, running water, or flush toilets.  We floated tanks of propane over to the island to run our refrigerator and stove, but otherwise, there were no modern amenities.  Water was pumped by hand from the well and hauled up a hill where our cottage stood overlooking the lake, and our outhouse was, well, it was just something you got used to.  When it rained, we entertained ourselves with endless card games.  When the weather was nice, I was out in the woods.

I could hardly help it. The island was heavily wooded from shore to shore.  Just being there meant being among the company of trees.  I learned to climb them, and run among them in the dark without breaking my toes on the roots.  (That lesson took a few years and many broken toes.)  I learned to listen to their whisperings and tell when the weather would change by the sound they made.  I watched trees grow up, and sadly, I watched trees fade, fail, and die.  Summer after summer after summer, it was me amongst the trees.  I watched birds build their nests, and squirrels raise their families.  I watched bats roost among the branches, and a legion of insects make their way in and around the leafy canopy.  Trees were ever-present, and although it may sound unusual for a child, I counted the trees among my friends.   I was a woodland creature as much as any squirrel.

I still am.  Now, as an adult, I find myself returning to the woods again and again whenever I need to find comfort and peace.  Our family no longer has the cottage on the island, but I still live in the extensive woodlands of upstate New York.  I do not lack for woods or trails to hike through them.  So when the going gets tough, I grab my walking stick and instinctively head into the shelter of trees.

I was feeling discouraged and depleted this week.  I needed to find my internal reset switch.  So I took up my walking stick, filled my knapsack with what I would need to sustain me, and made my way to the nearest trail head.  I started my hike with a bit of yoga stretching.  Sun Salutations became a moving meditation as I used them to get grounded and open myself to being present.  Then I sat at a picnic table and took out my journal, where I wrote for a bit to clarify my intention to cultivate peace.  It’s hard to drop baggage that you don’t know you’re carrying, and I find journaling to be a good process to identify the things that are weighing down my journey.  This wasn’t just a random hike, but a journey to find myself again.  Thus prepared physically and mentally, I entered the woods.

I chose a path through the mountains above my home on a trail that crossed over many streams that carved their way through the landscape seeking sea level far below.  The trail began at a waterfall splashing down merrily among the fossil-laden limestone, evidence of an ancient inland sea from a time so long ago my mind boggles.  Meditating upon the presence of a clamshell fossil up in the mountains is a great way to find perspective.  It’s hard to stay trapped in the fleeting fears of the moment when confronted with time on such a vast scale.  Humbled, I rambled on, more peaceful and reflective than before.

Everywhere I look, the stones preserve the memory of the inland sea that this mountain used to be.

I walked steadily, but as silently as possible, pausing frequently to peer through the trees to see what wildlife might be sharing this trail with me.  I’d walk, and pause, and listen, then continue on.  I paused at another waterfall, and sat for awhile letting the sound wash over me.  I went further along the trail and found a fallen log in a sunny spot off the beaten path, and sat there for awhile and listened to the trees and birds exchanging news of the day.  I watched a spider reinforce her spiral web against the wind.  I saw a millipede hunt along the log where I sat.  Farther along, I found a large flat boulder and used it for another seated meditation where, anchored by the stone, I allowed my thoughts to become untethered and roam freely on the breeze.  I was hardly aware of myself as I rose and continued my journey.  As I continued my solitary drift through the woods, I allowed thoughts to form and pass.  I noted them, followed them, and let them go.  I spoke to the trees about what was in my heart, and let the breeze carry those words away.  I opened all my senses, and received the grace of the woods.

I thought I’d hike for an hour or so, but when I finally emerged from the woods, four hours had passed.  I felt a bit like I had slid down Alice’s rabbit hole.  I couldn’t possibly have been gone that long?  But it was time well spent.  I emerged from the woods feeling more settled, peaceful, and hopeful again.  I was pulled from my own petty worries back into a place of timeless beauty.  I dipped the ladle of my soul into a deep well of peace, and was refreshed.

Where do you go to restore yourself and find peace?