Grassroots Healing, Musings, Reflections, Spirituality

Into the Heart of the Wounded Healer

There’s a place not too far from where you live, you might know it. In fact, you probably know it quite well. You visit it in your dreams, when you look in the mirror, when you turn on the TV or lose yourself deep in the pages of your favourite book.

It is the place of Myth.

Often dismissed but closer to your own belief systems than what you may care to think or be entirely comfortable with.

And within this place of Myth live the archetypes that meet us in the street, at our place of work or study, and within our own families. Acquaintances, friends, and loved ones become caricatures of themselves.  Myth and archetype formed the world’s first mirror as we glanced into its still, glassy waters and caught our own reflection looking back, larger than life. And in our confusion, once upon a time, we called these reflections, ‘gods’.

One such archetype that might meet us in the mythic landscape is the Wounded Healer.

We all know it, maybe we ourselves embody this archetype. The story of the woman with an abusive husband who beat her senseless every night until she managed to escape, and then decided to devote her life to saving other women from the same pain and burden that she knew. Or the one where the intrepid firefighter risked life and limb to rescue others only to end up losing a limb, and now works with disabled kids who were born without limbs of their own. Or the psychologist who went through a nasty divorce after he found out his wife was having an affair, and now he specialises in marriage counselling. The majority of healers who do the work that they do began so because they themselves sought healing.

In Greek Mythology, the centaur Chiron was considered a master healer. Yet he received the moniker of the Wounded Healer when he was unable to heal himself, and instead gave up his immortality for the life of Prometheus(you know, the guy who thought it would be a good idea to steal fire from the gods. Not the prequel to the Alien movies. Although some people think we were seeded here by aliens. Maybe they were. But I don’t think so.).

This side of the archetype also plays out in the waking world. Numerous people, themselves prominent healers have succumbed to the very illnesses that they were seeking to treat in others yet were ironically unable to help in themselves.

One is reminded of the admonition: Physician, heal thyself.

And so I began to ponder on the archetype of the Wounded Healer, and I pondered that perhaps we are drawn to this work because we really seek to save ourselves, or perhaps we think that because we know the pain of our particular suffering then we can relate to a similar pain in others – and so it becomes a relational thing, a thing of understanding because of shared experience.

But then I pondered some more, and my heart rested upon the feeling of empathy. Ah yes, empathy. That ability to feel within one’s own heart what the other person is feeling in theirs. It is so much more than just walking alongside the person in their grief, as I was taught in Holistic Counselling 101 all those years ago. And so, I have to wonder with this sense of empathy guiding my thoughts, is the core of this healing that is facilitated by one who has been wounded lie not in the offerings of their own wound (which as the archetype implies, the wound remains), but instead in the vulnerability found in not allowing it to scar and harden

their heart?

 

The following is an excerpt from my soon-coming book ‘Luminous Immunity: An Elemental Paradigm’. I leave it here to hang my questions on. Is true healing thus found in that sacred space held by the vulnerable? And in this vulnerability, are we healers not merely conduits for the healing, for the Love from the Divine to flow through us? What then?

Perhaps we should look at the Heart….

 

The traditional view of the heart as a pump was engineered out of the nineteenth-century fascination with steam engines. It is merely a mechanical model of the heart and its function that reflects the reductionistic, linear thinking of Euclid and Newton…..But deeper contemplation shows, and did even in the nineteenth century, that the heart, as powerful as it is, is not really the pump it is supposed to be.—— Stephen Harrod Buhner

Perhaps it is best to examine the heart within its own light, not as a muscle that pumps but rather a very complex yet elegantly multi-tasking organ which helps circulate blood by generating pressure waves by a rhythmic spiralling ripple that moves through its musculature and sends them on throughout the body. And in this movement, it also generates electromagnetic frequencies, it makes and releases a number of hormones, it interacts with the central nervous system – as a brain in its own right, and it reads and sends information regarding temperature and pressure to the brain and the rest of the body. Rather than the homeostatic view of the machine that performs one linear function, the heart is a nonlinear biological oscillator that exists in a constant state of homeodynamis. This is reflected in the variability of the heart rate, a rhythmic oscillation that varies from one moment to the next, and the fluctuation in blood pressure.

All other organs and tissues throughout the body are also constantly analysing information from their environment, to which they alter their function to accommodate or strengthen themselves against. They then communicate this information to the heart through relaxation or tensing of tissues, and the heart then adjusts it’s beat, timing, and strength of its own contractions accordingly.

While it’s true that the heart’s pump-like rhythm does produce enough pressure to shoot water at 6 feet into the air, it doesn’t actually produce enough pressure to pump blood around the entire circulatory system. Interestingly, the blood actually moves around it of its own accord. This phenomenon has been observed in chicken embryos. The blood begins flowing in the pattern of regular circulation before the heart has developed enough to pump it around. The blood, flowing through the vessels throughout the body, forms a twin-stream spiralling vortex, inside of which is a vacuum. The blood vessels themselves are also formed in a spiralling pattern, which creates a spiralling movement that further enhances this flowing vortex of blood. If you’ve ever seen the umbilical cord when a baby is born, it looks like a spiralling twisting rope – much like the liquorice twists of my 80s childhood. When the blood is still moving through it, for up to 20 minutes, after birth, you can see and feel it’s pulsation as the blood continues to flow inside along this beautifully sculpted organ.

This spiralling motion, along with the electromagnetic charges produced by the blood cells themselves not only influence blood pressure, but how the blood circulates throughout the entire body to the furthermost limits. The heart then serves to synchronise itself with the circulation and match its own pulsating, pumping, and spiralling rhythm with the rhythm occurring in the blood, thereby stabilising and regulating the flow. The result of this harmony between the blood and the heart therefore ensures that around 7.5 litres of blood flows through a circulatory system nearly 95,560 km in length every minute.

It is said that we have three brains. The brain itself, the brain in our gut (called the Enteric brain) and the Heart. 60 – 65% of its cellular make-up is neural cells that are the same as those found in the brain. These cardiac neural cells also function in the same way as their sister cells in the brain. Heart neurons are directly connected to the Central Nervous System, and this connection cannot be interrupted or cut off. A continual flow of information occurs between the heart and the brain – in particular with those areas of the brain concerned with emotional memories and processing, sensory experience, memory and meaning attached to environmental sensory input, and problem solving, learning, and reasoning.  The heart forms memories and stores them, which has been observed in heart transplant recipients who experience food cravings or personality traits that were characteristic of the donor and not previously experienced by the recipient.

The heart also produces at least five different hormones that affect the physiological function of the body as a whole, but particularly target the functioning of the heart itself, and also the brain and the gut. These hormones include: ANF (Atrial Naturetic Factor), BNF (Brain Naturetic Factor), CNP (C-type Naturetic Peptide), HPVD (Heart-produced Vessel Dilator), and CGRP (Calcitonin Gene-related Peptide). It also produces dopamine, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine. All of which are crucial neurotransmitters involved in mood, memory, fat processing, and arterial health.

I think this is absolutely fascinating. The heart is the overarching guardian of all bodily function. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the heart is seen as the ruler of all the other organs. It houses the Shen, which is best described in English as the spirit or soul of a person which also encompasses the mind, the essential nature of our being.

As an electromagnetic generator, it forms a torus around the body. Think of a torus as a donut shaped emission of energy that radiates out from a central point or points. You may have seen illustrations of the Earth’s electromagnetic field that emanates from the north and south poles as it’s loci. All living things emit an electromagnetic pulse in this fashion.

In humans, this field generated by the heart has been measured to extend up to 10ft and beyond from the physical body, and it is through this field that the heart performs its most extraordinary feat, and that is of perceiving and decoding the information contained within the electromagnetic field of everything we come into contact with – people, plants, animals, and environment. The heart therefore, is a very elegant, very specialised organ of perception. And whilst it’s performing the function of helping the body to become oxygenated through its roles in circulation, and monitoring the electromagnetic frequencies of the other organs and tissues, and producing hormones, it is simultaneously and continuously perceiving sensory and intuitive input, decoding it, and communicating the information from outside of the body and through its own neural network, to the brain in a two way dialogue that processes it and forms an effective response.

In TCM, this is also the function of the Shen housed within the heart. It does this without any conscious awareness from you, and it does this long before your brain is even aware of whatever external stimuli the heart is perceiving.

The language that the heart speaks is then through feelings,  or physical sensations felt in the body. These feelings are representations of the feeling that the heart has perceived in whatever it has come into contact with. And although this may sound a bit strange, we have all consciously experienced it. It’s what happens when you walk into a house or a restaurant, or a building and you can feel something about the nature of the place. It’s intangible. You might not be able to put your finger on it, but you know that maybe something about the place doesn’t feel right. Or a house might feel homey, cozy and lived in. Other houses might feel cold and sterile, and others may feel busy. We talk about the ‘vibe’ of a place or a person. This is the heart at work, perceiving the feeling of the place, and in that moment, you are aware enough to listen to it. The heart then sends this information to the brain, which then processes these as emotions, attaches a thought to it, and both the brain and the heart then work together to activate the rest of the body to respond accordingly – either healthily or unhealthily.

This electromagnetic field that the heart generates in order to perceive the feelings of the outer world then enables the heart to do something truly extraordinary. It allows the heart to become coherent and invite coherence in others. Coherence in communication is to be on the ‘same wavelength’ as the other person. Or to have clear and mutual understanding. This is quite literally what it means to the heart as well.

As I mentioned previously, the heart is a biological oscillator. It creates a frequency. The gut and the brain are also major biological oscillators. When all of these biological oscillators are coherent, that is – they are all oscillating or producing frequencies in harmony, then the whole body/mind/spirit being that make up who we are exists in a state of harmony.

This internal coherence corresponds to our personal integrity. There is no internal conflict (which can be equated to hypocrisy) and we feel calm, at peace, and love is able to flow through us. Optimum health requires internal harmony.

The human heart, by way of the electromagnetic field is able to enter into coherence with other external electromagnetic fields. This is why we literally ‘resonate’ with some people, and not with others. (Why not with others? We’ll get to that.) This ability of the heart is most beautifully illustrated by the relationship of the mother and her baby. While the baby is developing in the womb, it is constantly hearing, or more accurately, feeling the mother’s heartbeat. This is soothing, comforting, but also vital in how the mothers heart begins to teach or ‘entrain’ the baby’s developing circulation. At birth, there is a separation from this. If you have had children of your own, or have been around small, very new babies, you may have noticed that their breathing pattern is a bit irregular. So is their heartbeat. When a baby is held close to its mothers (or fathers) chest after birth and in that first precious few weeks and months of life, when they are breastfed, when they are carried, and when they are slept next to, the mothers heart begins to entrain, or teach the little one’s heart and subsequent breathing pattern how to regulate. The two hearts become one again until such time as the baby’s heart can fully take on guardianship of its own body.

This phenomenon has been observed studied in the most basic form in the lab. Researches took the heart cells from a rat and placed them in two separate petri dishes. While all the cells beat in unison when they were together (even when separated by glass), when one of the dishes were moved much farther away, the cells in that dish became irregular and quite erratic in their pulsation. When they were moved back next to the dish with the heart cells that pulsated in coherence, then the previously separated cells began to entrain and resumed pulsing in coherence as well.

This ability to perceive and form coherence, to engage in relationship at this most basic level gives us the heart-felt ability for empathy. To have empathy is to feel within your own heart, with your own body what another person is feeling in theirs.

When we experience this heart to heart coherence with others, when we care for or receive care from others, the heart releases a different cascade of hormones and neurotransmitters. One example of the effect this has is by stimulating more IgA (Immunoglobulin A) to be released, thereby boosting the immune response in mucous membranes throughout the body. And when we come into coherence, or entrainment, with the oscillations of the electromagnetic field of the Earth, this is reflected in the harmony of our Circadian rhythms.

Although we all have this ability to engage in coherence with others, most of us are unable to use it. The majority of us have cut ourselves off from it. The majority of us have cut ourselves off from simply being able to feel. And it is something we do to ourselves, because we alone are responsible for our feelings, thoughts, actions, and behaviours. Even if others treat us unfairly, unjustly, cruelly, or just plain evil, we still are solely responsible for our feelings, thoughts, actions, and behaviours in response. This may be a bitter pill to swallow for some, because at the end of the day, feelings such as the desire for revenge are simply a desperate and innate need to receive empathy. To know that the perpetrator of the hurt inflicted on you, also feels your pain. Ironically, this is rarely experienced, because people with hurt hearts are the ones who inflict hurt on others. And this brings us back to dealing with unresolved emotions and the ability to receive and give love.

“The heart is desperately wicked, who can know it?”

How can a creation that was called ‘very good’ be then referred to as ‘desperately wicked?’ This utterance from the Divine, when seen through the lens of Puritan prudence and ‘enlightened’ reductionism, presented and perpetuated the idea that we as physical beings – the ‘natural’ man, are base creatures and inherently full of sin. If we look at things through this lens, we misunderstand the heart, it’s capabilities, and its true purpose in our life. And as result we fail to open our hearts and actualise our full potential. But certainly, when a heart is hardened by emotional scar tissue from by the pain of trauma, or anger, or fear, or grief unresolved, and as a result cut off, who can know it?

“By their fruits you shall know them.”

The memories of trauma that the heart stores can stagnate or cause emotional scarring. Particularly if the related emotions were not allowed to be safely and healthfully expressed. This closes our hearts down to being vulnerable, to feeling things, so we no longer feel any pain. As a result, we can become afraid of being close to anyone or anything. It can cause us to lack empathy and compassion for others, and make us become inflexible, rigid, controlling, and judgemental toward others. Signs of a hardened heart include:

* self-absorption and narcissism
* manipulative or controlling behaviour
* emotional distance
* judgemental and lacking in sympathy
* arrogance, conceit (self-importance), and egotistical behaviour

* intellectualises everything, disconnects from their emotions
* justifies their behaviours

Does this sound like our current society? Steven Horne notes that this is a disease of civilisation. As people’s hearts become hard, they lose the ability to experience subtle emotions. Their emotions become coarse and they require more and more crude, violent, bizarre, and even cruel stimulus to get them to feel something. Because in spite of the reluctance to not feel anything, we do have an innate and overwhelming need to feel something. This increasing crudeness and violence of the entertainment that our society enjoys reflects this hardening of the individual, and the collective, heart. Much like the Roman empire and its gladiatorial games. And look where that empire ended up.

It is worth reflecting on why heart disease consistently remains among the leading causes of death in the world.

The purpose of the heart is therefore a portal of sorts, a communication device, to receive and to give love. And love is the feeling of connection. To the Divine, to the cosmos, to nature, to each other.

But what is Love? Briefly, it’s probably not what you think. The English language is limited in how we encapsulate the feelings of the various types of love in this one word. Although to be fair, there really is only one word for the truest definition of Love, but we use it indiscriminately for just about everything.  The ancient Greeks at least differentiated their various ‘degrees’ of love by different words. There are;

* Eros – represents desire, or an ego driven love. It’s all about me and what I want.

* Philia – refers to the love of familiarity. There is a sense of shared equality or reciprocity.

* Agape – this is the love that is unconditional and is reflective of the Divine. It is the level of mercy. It is not something we ourselves can generate, but the love that we can transmit through a heart that is open to receiving it. It is through this love that we actualise our purpose in life, expressed through our unique gift. Heart coherence allows this love to flow through us.

Divine Love is really characterised by the following;

–  it cannot turn into hate

–  it is not blind – it sees the truth of people and situations very clearly

 –  it exists in freedom. It does not force, bribe, or control.

–  it does not indiscriminate, it is universal in its gift.

 it becomes an innate response.

So how do we open our hearts to bring harmony into our life? We can begin to effectively use the deep breathing tools given previously to begin to feel and release unresolved emotional pain, and we can also use more heart-specific techniques. These may include meditative practices, vibrational remedies such as flower essences, or more specific techniques such as those developed by the HearthMath Institute. We can practise gratitude, and we can pray.  Perhaps the most basic step is to simply become aware of your heart. Take a quiet moment and turn your attention to it. Really focus all of your conscious awareness on it.  What feeling do you find there? Then begin to breathe into your heart and out from your heart. Do this is a squared pattern of inhaling for 4 counts, holding for four counts, exhaling for four counts. The chatter in mind will quieten, and you just begin to feel.

…………………………………..

Bleeding heart flowers

I want to reiterate that again, the heart in all of its exquisite complexity, is much more than the steam engine we call a pump. It is a guardian of the body, an organ of perception, a conduit for receiving and giving love. A direct line to the Divine.

In the Scriptures, King David was referred to as a man after Yahuah’s* own heart. A reading of David’s writings will give you an understanding of why. David sought to entrain his heart to the Father’s. He speaks of his love for Yahuah’s instruction (Torah), he meditates on it during every waking opportunity, and like a newborn yearning to hear his mother’s heartbeat, David seeks the Father’s counsel in all things. But the ability that David had to do this, to seek this coherence, was in the vulnerability with which he continually allowed his heart to be in. He allowed himself to fully express his feelings, in healthful ways and when life became too overwhelming, he took those feelings and expressed them to his heavenly Father, his creator Yahuah. He didn’t hide them or bottle them up or allow his heart to become scarred and hardened. And he wasn’t ashamed of them. Even when he made mistakes and he became aware of them, he allowed himself to grieve and then move forward, refocussing on maintaining that heart coherence. The fullness and actualisation of this heart coherence with the Divine in its most perfect form was embodied in David’s descendent, the Messiah Y’shua. And in his embodiment, we were shown the real meaning of what true, deep empathy really is.

 

It is through the heart that the Divine speaks, and heals. If only we are willing to allow our hearts to soften, to become flesh rather than stone, and to listen to its perceptions.

Physician, heal thyself.

So, we leave the limited archetype, that gossamer reflection of the wounded healer behind, and my ponderings brings me to this;

Perhaps the gift of the wounded healer is not just that there is a shared experience, but that their wound has healed through coherence with the Divine, and the healer can now bring the client into this sacred space. The healer’s role then is perhaps inherent in the willingness to live with an open heart, and to simply feel, to perceive, and to give Love.

 

Many Blessings,

Michelle

 

 

 

 

 

*Yahuah is the ancient and everlasting Name of the Almighty. Contrary to the mythology of Christianity, it is not a family name applicable to multiple beings. It is the Father’s, our Creators own personal Name which He refers to in Scripture around 7000 times. And it doesn’t mean, “I Am that I Am”. It is also revealed in the names of His prophets and of His son’s name. But you wouldn’t know this, because when you change the meaning of words, or blot them out entirely, or appropriate language and idiom and try and fit it into your own, you change the culture. And we find ourselves back in the land of Myth.

 

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Grassroots Healing, Reflections

Loss, Grief, and Transitional Herbalism.

(Or The Life and Times of an Itinerant herbalist and her Well-Travelled Aloe.)

 

Some people have a T.A.R.D.I.S and a short-lived companion. I have an ever-growing entourage of books and pot plants and the steadfast loyalty of an Aloe vera named The Kraken that accompany me on numerous adventures around the small contained universe that is this vast sunburnt land.

As well as my husband and children, of course.

We are currently once more in Transition, that wonderful state of being neither here nor there, not entirely sure where we’ll end up but optimistic that our leaps of Faith will somehow land us on stable, solid ground. Seven or so weeks ago, we packed up our possessions, hired a dubious-looking removalist with which we reluctantly entrusted our stuff, and in two fully-loaded cars (including packed-in children) made the great journey north from Melbourne back to the Sydney basin. We have landed just north of Sydney, on the rugged sandstone headlands of the Central Coast. Our stuff arrived safely, although in somewhat lesser volume than what I had packed, largely because Husband went on a last minute unsupervised culling rampage. Thankfully, all of my books and plants were accounted for. And the children, of course. I can mark them all as Safe during The Great Exodus of 2018 on Facebook.

Moving house is said to be one of the most stressful experiences that the modern human in the Western world has to endure. I’ve endured this roughly around 30 times or more in just over 40 years. Once, when I was a teenager,  my parents even moved house while I was away on holiday. You think I would be used to it. I am not – particularly when children and multiple bookcases and acclimatized pot plants are involved. Although I enjoy the travel, the opportunity to live in various places, I don’t enjoy the upheaval. I don’t enjoy the attempt to settle and find some stability only to be uprooted again not long after. I also don’t enjoy the uncertainty of where we’ll be living. Will it be a tent, a mouse-infested shed, or simply couch surfing in someone’s living room? A garden would be nice. We had just over two years respite in a house we were only meant to live in for 6 months in Melbourne. It was wonderful, and it was finally our own space, but for the first 6 weeks of moving in, a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder appeared. Have you ever noticed how the body does that? You can be running on nothing but adrenaline in order just to get things done, but as soon as it’s over, you crash and burn. It feels completely disorienting. Focussing on gratitude helped me to settle down, establish new friendships, deepen older ones, acquire more plants, get the kids into a good rhythm, and get working again. Working with the plants is my passion and my coping mechanism, making medicine is my own personal healing regime as much as it is to facilitate healing in others. Melbourne was good to me in that regard. In spite of my constitutional aversion to the cold, autumn and winter were my busiest seasons. My Winter Immune Zoom Elixir was my most sought-after product.

Yet the winds of change blew once more, and we heard the call to bug out and move back to be closer to our family. We had six weeks to pack up and move on. I paced myself, made lists of what needed to be done and when, and managed to get the whole house sorted and packed, and I was feeling pretty confident. This was the first time we had to pack up a whole house full of our stuff in about five years. I could do it. For someone who doesn’t have great stress coping ability, I was feeling pretty calm about the whole thing. We were literally giving up everything we had settled into in Melbourne and jumping headfirst into the Void, but I could do this. I was grateful for the respite that we had been given. I was grateful that I had been able to move forward in my work and settle into a more stable form of practice. I was grateful for the opportunities that we had been given. So, I could do this. I had come to accept that we were sojourners. That some of us are given the job of traversing the globe sprinkling magical pixie dust here and there, hopefully bringing some form of encouragement to people’s lives only to then move on again. It was all going to be okay. But then a week before we had to move, I got an early morning phone call. My Nanna had died.

My Nanna – my paternal grandmother – and I were made of the same stock and we got on well. She was a voracious reader – I think she must have been the local newsagents most loyal customer. The latest copy of New Idea, Woman’s Day, and Woman’s Weekly, AND TV Week could always be found somewhere within reach at her house, although she would say that she got them for the puzzles and the crossword at the back, not so much for the celebrity gossip. She was a farmer’s wife, and always seemed to be working. Even when she watched Days of Our Lives and Young & the Restless late at night when everyone had gone to bed, she’d be ironing the clean laundry. Getting the VCR was probably one of the best days of her life.  She also loved her garden and was a quiet conservationist. When my aunt died at the age of 22, my Nanna began planting a forest of natives in her memory on an unused one acre paddock on the property. She started that project in 1986. Now the paddock is a dense woodland full of mature trees. Stepping into that forest that my Nanna planted is like stepping into another world. It has its own climate. It’s soothing, calming, and refreshing. It’s an amazing legacy and a testament to a woman with a quiet, yet strong determination to just get on with things and do the best that you can, and with the faith that everything will somehow work out.

Sadly, around  12 years ago, she was diagnosed with dementia. Ten years ago was probably the last time I had the opportunity to really converse with her, and for her to recognise who I was. The grief of her loss, partly for this reason, has been profound. Suffice it to say, that the last week of living in Melbourne, attempting to complete the packing, figuring out if I could get to the funeral, and say our goodbyes to dearly beloved friends was like wading through a gelatinous fog. I didn’t make it to the funeral. It was 1500kms away, moved forward to literally 3 days before we needed to be out of our house and when everything had already been booked, and would have cost over a thousand dollars in flights, only to be there for an hour and have to turn around to fly back and then drive north two days later. In short, I just wanted that week to be over.

So, we moved, and found ourselves back in familiar territory. Our possessions are back in storage, and we are couch-surfing in my in-laws living room.

Grief is interesting. We go through stages in our grief. First there’s a sort of foggy disbelief, then numbness, then anguish, and anger, and then at some point, acceptance. Sometimes it’s not so linear. Sometimes it’s all over the place. Different things trigger it. Random things. Stress and perimenopausal hormone shifts, and sometimes you think you’ve got a handle on it, but really there’s a huge swell building up behind the dam wall. And when it bursts,  in the flood of tears and emotion you realise that you’re not just grieving the loss of a loved one, or not having closure, but you’re grieving the loss of stability, the loss of income, the loss of some form of security, of a life that you had started to rebuild for your children, and for your own legacy. And it makes you feel a little redundant. Why am I here again? So in this current state of Transition, I am grieving more deeply than I have ever grieved before.

There are numerous herbs, flower essences, essential oils, and homoeopathics that one could use for grief. But I am reluctant to use these in ’fresh’ grief, although gentle nerve nourishing herbs and calming scents can be supportive, particularly when shock is involved, or the person has difficulty coping with stress in general. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) and Milky oats (Avena sativa) are staples in my personal stress support toolbox.  If someone was having trouble expressing grief, or if the grief was old, suppressed and unresolved, the specific grief remedies are more appropriate, but by and large fresh grief needs to be expressed immediately and as it arises, and ideally in a loving and supportive, and therefore safe, environment. This can be around family and friends, and perhaps even a good support group, but it can also mean the physical environment.

I am fortunate that our current residence sits atop a hill in a very quiet community overlooking the ocean. There’s a large picture window at the back of the house that takes in this sweeping vista. The ocean and the beach are everchanging and no two days are the same. Some days the sea is as still as a millpond, other days, particularly if there is a storm brewing, the waves are rough, forming turbulent towers before they crash and pound into the shore. If I walk on the sand or gaze out the window, I can’t help but reflect on the analogy of the sea and our emotions. My grief has been as tumultuous as the stormy sea, and as calm as a clear, still summers day. But the first week we arrived here, it rained heavily, and it rained nonstop. The weather perfectly reflected the release that I needed to express. I find solace in this. We are fractals of a greater creation, connected to a greater consciousness.

“For everything there is a season …..”   

 

The three primary ‘negative’ emotions we experience are anger, grief, and fear. Where anger is very dynamic, an expression of the fire element, yang-like, and about pushing away, grief (or deep sadness) is more fluid and therefore an expression of the water element, has more of a yin quality, and is about the need to hold on but then being willing to let go. Grief has traditionally been associated with the lungs, and it might be of interest to note that people with long-standing unresolved grief issues also experience asthma or other chronic respiratory complaints. Oftentimes grief can be coupled with fear, (the energetics of which is somewhat neutral and lies between the outward movement of anger and the inward movement of grief, this gives rise to the ‘fight, flight, or freeze’ response) and this will often show up in kidney/adrenal issues. Our emotions are designed to move us, to motivate us to make a change. We can choose to respond to them by listening, reflecting, and acting (what is the emotion telling me about me and my needs?), we can choose to vent it, express it and let it out at other people as our targets, or we can choose to supress it, to bury it deep inside of us, ignore it and hopefully it will go away. In venting, we often project it onto other people and try to make them responsible for how we feel, but this isn’t really healthy and won’t help us find peace within ourselves. If we bury or supress and hide the emotion, we are largely in denial, but our bodies store it. To bury an emotion, we literally tense our muscles and hold our breath. To effectively listen to, reflect on, and act (ie: to respond appropriately, to allow our emotions to flow in grace) it helps to understand what the emotion is about.

In his rather extraordinary training program on Emotional Healing (which I am currently working through), American herbalist and natural healer Steven Horne discusses the significance of grief, it’s energetics, and it’s physiological and anatomical associations. He says that in order to understand grief we need to understand Love, or rather the various types of love (which I covered in my previous post). Love, like grief, has a very yin quality. It’s about drawing in, receiving, and expanding (or giving). But we don’t and can’t control that which we love. (The desire to control comes from a place of fear and sometimes anger, which drives love away.)  Grief then, is the recognition of this – as painful as it can be. Grief is actually about the process of letting go. In order to fully let go of that deep pain (whether fresh or supressed) we need to fully engage with it. Holding onto it only prolongs the pain and can lead to not only physical pathology (disease processes) but also to seeing ourselves as victims. This victimhood in turn sets us up for a feeling of powerlessness and the need to be rescued, manipulation of others to have this need met, and will attract further situations in which one plays this role. And in the long term, it can lead to bitterness if these needs aren’t met. This isn’t healthy either. Again, we look to the patterns inherent in nature and see that life flows in an ebb and flow of polarities. With inhalation comes the exhalation.

Steven gives some useful tools to facilitate the flow of grief and the process of letting go. I’d like to share them with you here, as I have found them quite useful in my own process;

  • If possible, find a safe space where you can be free to express your feelings without disturbing others (if you don’t feel free to express yourself in front of others or you don’t have any loved ones around who can hold the space for you). Turn off all distractions and just sit with your feelings. This is why I find solace in nature, whether it is in a secluded spot at the beach, or in a woodland. It allows you to focus and reflect more easily. The fresh air and negative ions also help with the next point..

 

  • Start with your breathing. Each emotion has a particular breathing pattern. The pattern of grief is a forced and shallow, difficult inhalation (like gasping for air, such as when one is sobbing), followed by a long, slow exhalation such as is heard when someone is sighing, wailing, or moaning. My children reminded me of the phenomena that excessive sighing is often a sign of unresolved grief. “Mum, you’re sighing again!” I sighed a LOT when we were packing up our house. One of the keynote symptoms of the homeopathic remedy Ignatia is excessive sighing, and this remedy is often given for unresolved and deep-seated grief. The normal breathing pattern follows inhalation, exhalation, rest, inhalation, exhalation, rest, and so on in a cycle that energetically reflects expansion, contraction, and equilibrium. We can shift our emotions and allow them to flow through us by tuning into the pattern that is expressed by our current emotion, and then allowing it to shift with awareness into a more balanced state. To do this with grief, we allow ourselves to fully tune in to the hurt that we are feeling and as we breathe in, feel that pain and acknowledge it, and then as we exhale, we seek to empty our lungs as fully as possible. Sigh with it and imagine the hurt and the pain flowing out of you. This will help to not only connect us with the feeling but also fully release it. When we empty our lungs fully, we release endorphins and interestingly, this occurs in both grief and laughter.

 

  • Express your pain. If you feel the urge to cry, don’t hold back. Grieving involves wailing, weeping, and sometimes even screaming. Again, these are all ways in which your body intuitively is attempting to let go. When we cry, stress hormones are also excreted in our tears. To hold onto these will also prolong pain and can lead to physical pathology.

 

  • Grieving takes time and you can’t rush it. There will be sunny days and there will be rainy days, but we can also use rituals to externalise what is happening internally. Creating a ‘letting go’ ritual may be helpful, particularly when we need some form of closure. To do this, we start by creating a symbol of what’s been lost, and then taking this symbol, letting it go somewhere.

 

It has also been said that because much of the pain of grief is about regret, because we didn’t fully appreciate what we had, experiencing grief fully allows us to be therefore fully in gratitude of all the blessings that we have now, as well what we had before. There is also a divine opportunity within grief because it has the capacity to open up our heart and allow us to surrender. To fully surrender to it empties that inner space and makes room for Light, Love and Joy. It doesn’t mean that we forget our loved ones, but it does mean that life goes on and with every ending, there is a new beginning. If we have lost a loved one, we might use their legacy to inspire the unfolding of our own.

In the time since we moved, several of our friends have also lost loved ones. This reflection on grief is as much for them as it is in expressing my own process. Grief, if we allow it to flow, is a deeply communal process, as much as it is a personal process. A burden or sorrow shared is lighter, the collective heart opens wider, the love with which it is shared grows deeper.  As much as I find solace and comfort in the cycles and patterns of nature reflected back to me of my own inner journeying, I also find solace in knowing that grief is a shared experience. Even the Divine knows grief. Out of all Scripture, perhaps the one that is most poignant and speaks the most to this process, simply says;

Yahusha* wept.  (John 11:35)

If we meditate on this, it is deeply profound. It is also deeply comforting.

 

When we moved here, it rained nonstop for the first week and a half. It ended around the time of the Spring equinox. Almost overnight, the jasmine blossomed, the wisteria exploded in a shower of purple, and a very special shoot emerged from a pot that was seemingly devoid of a plant. A pot I had with some far-off vision of a future hope brought with me on that long trip from Melbourne. Last summer I bought a young Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum biflorum) plant. It was beautiful and green but come autumn, it suddenly died. I thought it was lost because of the schizophrenic climate that Melbourne is infamous for. Before I found out that it goes dormant in the autumn and winter, I did frantically check to see if the rhizome was in fact dead. I dug my fingers deep into the soil and felt a fleshy new bud. All was well. I’m not a cold climate person, and so I suppose that my plants – being, in my mind, subtle extensions of myself – would feel the same. By the end of winter, and when the almond and the English daisies and everything else was sprouting and blossoming, the new shoot hadn’t yet appeared. I despaired that I had lost the plant entirely. So, when it came time to take stock of my plants and pot them up for the journey ahead, I re-potted the rhizome in a smaller pot, hoping that perhaps God willing, it would come back to life and it would deal with the humidity that Sydney can experience. I think I may have even prayed over it.

My heart filled with insurmountable joy when I saw that tiny new shoot peering out of the bare soil. It almost exploded when the second shoot appeared a day later. Over the next week and a half, the tiny shoots grew with a fervour I’ve never seen in a plant before and within the space of about eight days, it went from two ½ an inch shoots to two 2ft tall elegantly unfurled and fully blossomed stems of verdant green. Eight is the number of renewal and new beginnings, but what struck me the most, is that the plant needed that deluge to begin again. Much like my grief. We are fractals of a greater creation, connected to a greater consciousness. My grieving process was being echoed by the creation itself. Grief is a deeply spiritual process, if we allow it. It reconnects us with Life, and the source of Life. And for this I am truly grateful.

One aspect of my grief was the sense of loss I felt around being able to practice, to have access to my already dwindling dispensary, to be able to make medicine, and ultimately to help people in need. I felt a bit redundant. But there will always be people in need no matter where one finds oneself. And there is always bench space somewhere for a jar or two of macerating tincture or culturing kefir. And I do have access to a stove to make deep decoctions. And on my sojourns, I’ve often found that the plants you need will be found growing around you when you need them most or appear through almost divinely inspired connections with others of like mind. I am practicing again, but I am in truth always practicing, whether it’s dealing with my child’s fever, another child’s wart, my husband’s ingrown fingernail, or coaching a friend through lifestyle changes, or dealing with my own stress. And sometimes a new client comes along, at just the right time, who just happens to need Solomon’s Seal.

 

Hope springs eternal.

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The following are various herbs, flower essences and essential oils that you may find useful in supporting your nervous system, helping you to express your grief, and allowing your heart to heal.

  • Nerve nourishing herbs (as teas or tinctures/glycerites, or added to baths)

lavender, skullcap, milky oats, ashwagandha, tulsi (holy basil), linden blossom, hawthorn blossom.

  • Flower essences for grief

Bleeding heart (for release, grief over an ended relationship or death of a loved one),

Borage (uplifts and gives the heart courage, a balm for grief),

Dandelion (helps with releasing stuck grief or emotional pain),

Fuschia (for helping to acknowledge and express grief that may have been repressed),

Golden Ear Drops (helps to release tears that may have been held back in childhood),

Honeysuckle (helps to let go of the past, to appreciate the here and now so life can go on),

Loveliesbleeding (for profound anguish and deep grief felt in isolation),

Sagebrush (helps to work through the pain and emptiness of any kind of loss),

Star of Bethlehem – calming after the shock of any death, loss, or tragedy.

Wild Rose (for people unable to accept the tragic events of life, when there is numbing or withdrawal during grief)

Yerba Santa (constricted feelings in the chest due to deeply internalised pain from repressed grief, often accompanied with melancholy)

 

  • To Help the Heart to Open and Heal

Rose (flower essence, herb, essential oil), Hawthorn (Flower essence or herb), California Wild Rose (Flower essence)

 

  • Essential Oils (to use in a diffuser, as a massage oil, or a roll-on on the pulse points, or adde to the bath)

 

Frankincense

Helichrysum

Honeysuckle

Jasmine

Lavender

Lemon Balm (Melissa)

Lily of the Valley ( a fragrance oil)

Rose

 

 

For those of you interested in exploring the significance of our emotions and how to heal them, whether supressed or vented, I highly recommend Steven Horne’s Emotional Healing Training Program. He has made it entirely free and is available to watch on Youtube. Search Steven Horne and click on his 2018 Emotional Healing Training playlist for all modules and lessons. There are four modules that cover the spiritual foundations of emotional healing, understanding emotions, understanding the heart, and tools and techniques to help us heal. He has also put together two gorgeous charts for ease in identifying stored emotions in the body and the relevant flower essences and essential oils to address them. These are available from his website www.treelite.com I am not affiliated in any way with his practice or school and I receive no kickbacks. I have been going through the program and have found it to be quite profound when incorporated into my own holistic practice with my clients as well as for myself. I am more than happy to pay it forward. We are all in this together.

 

Many blessings,

Michelle.

 

*Jesus. Yahusha is his Hebrew name, within which is the revealing and proclamation of the Father, our creators Name – Yahuah. The Son’s name literally means ‘Yahuah is our saviour’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Musings, Reflections, Spirituality, Reflections, Spirituality

On Transitions & Accountability – An Equinox Recipe

It’s impossibly early. Its dark, and cold. There’s a storm blowing outside and I’ve been woken by the sound of sheet rain pummeling relentless onto the tin roof, while overhanging branches slap against the shed in rhythm with the wild dance. After an apparently unseasonable run of hot, humid weather, these are the winds of change that herald the final birth pangs of summer giving way to autumn. It is a welcome relief.

The equinox looms. If you are in the northern hemisphere, the first appearance of snowdrops signals the beginning of new life, new hope with Spring and there may be a welling up in you, an urge to clear away the cobwebs of winter and do a Spring clean. Sure you could hire someone to do it for you, but there is no personal catharsis in this, and with the coming lighter energies of Spring this is something that we all seem to need to do. Here in the southern hemisphere just now, the Hawthorn berries are in full swing, pomegranates are ripe with their precious ruby jewels, and  the leaves of deciduous trees are beginning to turn on their show of gold and crimson hue. And as many plants do, Autumn also invites us to begin gathering our resources for the cooler months, to turn inward on preparing ourselves and our homes. Both experiences of the Equinox draw us to focus on the hearth – both of our homes and our souls. The Equinox elicits a stir to change, to reflect, to set new goals, to learn and to grow.

In less than five weeks, the Passover season will be upon us. I’ll be de-leavening my home and clearing out the physical remnants of bread that I don’t actually eat, and generally decluttering the accumulated flotsam of the previous year. As I do this, I also reflect on the lessons that I have learnt over the past year. What have I learnt? Have I grown, in my character and my spirit? Is there anything that I should have done differently? Is there anything lurking in the shadows that I still need to overcome? How is my relationship with my Creator? This is a time of deep soul-searching and accountability.

An important component of the Passover meal is the bitter herbs. The inclusion of the bitter herbs represents the bitterness of being in the bondage of slavery while we were in Egypt. After the sacrifice of the Messiah (the Passover Lamb), this bondage of slavery in Egypt came to be synonymous with being in bondage to the slavery of this world, to the system that is run by greed and narcissistic lawlessness. The bitter herbs however, are not the focus of the meal, if they were we’d be stuck in victim mentality, and we wouldn’t be able to move forward. This would then become a root of bitterness in our being that keeps us stuck in slavery, often not to the system but to our own negativity.

You see this is the funny thing about bitters, the bitter principle whether it be in a plant, or in life, invites us to change. It stirs us up and ignites a fire deep in our belly, our own personal hearth. Physically, this helps us to digest our food properly, so that we can absorb it and utilise it’s nutrients for our growth and repair. Spiritually, if we allow it, it spurs us to draw closer to the Creator, whose Light helps us to reflect on what we’ve been through, learn it’s lessons and then grow or begin to heal from it.
Many of the bitter herbs are also blood-cleaners and anti-inflammatories.

My last post eluded to the ability of Rosemary (Rosmarinus off.) to stir up change. I wanted to make use of the beautiful stately bush growing where I currently live, while it was at it’s peak, so I developed the following bitters recipe based around that. It can be used before meals or whenever you’re feeling a bit stagnant. Take between 1/2 tsp to 1 Tbs depending on taste, and the heaviness of the meal.

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Last of the Summer Bitters

Raw, unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar with the mother.

2 parts fresh rosemary, flowering tops
2 parts dandelion root (raw – dried or fresh)
2 parts burdock root (raw, dried or fresh)
1 part fennel seeds
1 part dried orange peel.

(optional: add a 1-2 Tbs raw honey or sustainably-sourced vegetable glycerin to add a touch of sweetness.)

Mason jar large enough to hold all of your herbs. (I used a 475ml jar).

Fill the mason jar with the herbs and pour over the ACV. You will need to stir as you pour to loosen the herb so it becomes completely saturated. When you think you’ve filled the jar with ACV, let it sit for an hour and you’ll see that much of the herb has absorbed the ACV and there’s exposed herb left on top. Pour on more ACV, stirring as you go, until you absolutely can’t get any more in the jar. Cap tightly, and let sit for up to 6 weeks. Give it a shake every so often. After 6 weeks or so, strain the mixture through a nut milk bag, and rebottle. I like to use 50ml bottles so I can take some with me wherever I go. It also makes a great gift.

Bitter is a taste that is often missing from the Standard Western Diet, much to our detriment. I encourage you to explore the world of bitters and Be the Change.

Many Blessings,
Michelle x