I have sat here for months, starting to type this, starting to get out what I know I need to, from what I feel you have shared with me through presence and attitude alone. The last few days, for some reason, I have felt you ever stronger, just spontaneously arising in my mind, in my space, and in that way, I know it is really you and not just me thinking of you on my own.
This story starts before you passed, as I attended the second funeral of my life for a dear friend’s father. It was a ‘traditional’ funeral, complete with preacher who did his thing to a group of seriously affected and mourning people, all stunned by the sudden death of a man who could have had many years more until old age. I just found this, of which I wrote the day after the experience:
“The reverend reads from a dead book, not a microwave cook book, but not far from one, telling us that our emotions are ‘ a bit off right now’, that life isn’t fair for the reason of death and for a parent to bury their son. That all we have when someone is gone are memories to cherish. Through this, he effectively tried to sever the magic of maintaining the sacred… whatever that may be between people and their kin. Explaining about a reality he didn’t seem to understand, he taught me so much as he preached to those who mostly never asked for it: that I will die and be celebrated and sung over, danced around by friends and family, and all emotions allowed to be fully felt. That it will last as long as it does and not a single preservative chemical will enter my being. No burden and no price tag. The Earth is my coffin and that is all. ”
Fast forward to the end of May 2016, and I wake up from a dream that I must call a friend. I call her, and hear the news, that Thomas Fekete had passed away. It took me some time to process, and I don’t think I cried for a few days, and then it suddenly hit me very hard. I met Thomas back in 2009, and had heard of his skating back before then even, in the South Florida circuits. Yet he was more legend then, as I didn’t know him well, but I got close to him due to a dear friend of mine, Lindsey Mills. Through her, I was permitted to enter into his life in a more profound way. I was visiting him in the hospital, sharing healing songs with all the machines hooked up to him, Jessica, his wife, standing by, feeling it. It was then that David Winston’s “anything that changes your mind is medicine” took full evidence in me… watching his heart rate and breathing normalize after singing. I visited him in his home with nourishing foods and herbs and knew that I didn’t know enough, but still could offer myself in some way.
(Picking back on up on this now, 7/12/18)
This was the last post that I had started to write out, and so it feels right to finish it.
I witnessed so much with Thomas, in the few times I had shared with him. I remember one time, bringing a flute over to his apartment, and thinking it would be a better application of working his healing lungs, by simultaneously activating his breathing and making harmonious sounds. I realize the benefit of music to a musician is obvious, but at the level of energy he had, I remember it hard for him to hold the guitar and do his thing. So, as he played the flute, working his lungs, I played chords in key to that of the flute. Just to simply jam back and forth like that, it was like magic illuminating his being. To his request, I left the flute at his place.
“ I really do love myself. What could make me love more is if I could get other people to feel that way about themselves before they fucking die”
I don’t think there is a higher one than this view. It really speaks volumes about the way we run around in our lives, distracted from drama to drama that we convince ourselves is somehow more important than recognizing our humanity, and from there, becoming more kind and compassionate from knowing we don’t have forever. Thomas surrendered to this truth, and he reminded me by presence alone.
Thomas has me often reflect, especially after he passed, how there is a major difference between being healed and being cured. There is no cure for dying, no cure for losing all the things we will lose in this life. Yet, through his illness that took him, I feel Thomas was gifted a compassionate perspective that allowed anyone to come in contact with him to become immediately self aware of anything they might need to be aware of. In this way, he was healed, to me, of a closed heart, the most prominent sickness I encounter. His love continues on in the stories we share about him and the love the world showed him in his crisis.
“Suddenly, I have this circle of actual brothers and sisters and we are just going through the motions together, in heavy hitting profound ways that mean a lot, mean a lot to me. I could cry over it. The scariest thing now about death, is not feeling these things anymore. Where as before, I didn’t really give a shit, I guess I wasn’t really feeling anything at all anyways. Well, now when my cousin sits down and gives me a foot rub just to be nice, you know I want to cry because she is so sweet, she doesn’t have to, and I’m gonna do that now to somebody… I sound like a kid again, learning things the way they should be learned.”
“Dad was finally agreeing to something that maybe I should’ve offered myself, but we know how those things go, too close for effective measure. So, after hearing about the discomfort and distention in my Papa’s belly (around his heart and stomach), our friend offered him a Thai massage session to which Papa agreed on.
We huddled into the spacious yurt and allowed the room to be set; my brothers and I sat on the couch, one of their partners sitting with us, and we observed the beginning of any regular body work session. Warming up, getting comfortable, and gentle movements.
Only Papa is a bit different. Ever since I was a young kid, I would watch him on the chiropractor’s table getting an adjustment and moving his body in a way that seemed like he was having a sort of epileptic experience, convulsing with his arms outstretched at his sides, palms up, eyes rolling back, and breathing intensely the whole time while letting out deep outbursts of sonic release. After many years of now witnessing people discharging emotional turbulence and stored traumas of the bodies, I know that he has learned a skill that is nearly unteachable. He refers to it as somatic breath work, a practice he learned when I was just a baby. His body undulates like water and he breathes through it in a trance-like state with nothing stimulating the process besides his own volition and attitude.
As our friend starts to work on him, within minutes, Papa moves into this state of deep exchange of breath and movement. He then, out of nowhere, rises up off the floor and breaks out into the most deep and guttural cry that I have ever heard from my own father since I have been able to remember. I had been in a relaxed state prior on the couch, but upon witnessing this break through, I calmly dipped down to the floor to level with him and started to focus more intensely on relaxation. I called upon my plant teachers and my nervous system lets me know when they come, of which all did.
Some of my family members were concerned in these intense minutes of vulnerability. I mean, how often do we see each other in such a delicate place and feel safe in doing so, from either vantage? It seems very rare to me. Yet, working with ceremony and the daily checking in of myself and others through community, it is of no shock to witness a very necessary human experience, one that most of us have learned to stifle to our very detriment.
If grief has a way in, then it definitely needs a way out. We are capable of carrying and holding onto things for such a long time that we forget why the music of our lives has been so harsh and strangely out of tune. It takes a safe space and deep trust to know that we can even express what needs to be expressed, for fear of judgement and being fully seen can totally block such a catharsis to unfold naturally, as it should.
My family member returns back to the room after a few minutes outside to calm himself down. I explained to him quietly but directly that if he wants to help my father, he must only empty himself and pray. I look beyond him and my family has begun instinctively chanting mantra in an effort to assist.
As we all formed a semi circle concave to my father, our hands guided by the Thai massage practitioner started to gravitate towards my papas hands and legs and I landed my gentle hand on his chest. I began to pray in Spanish, quickly rolling into a spontaneous feeling based thought-less connection to All That Is. I am working with tobacco at this point, blowing it on myself and my fathers hands and heart and head, cleaning him up. I then come back to his heart, and I recognize how close it is, and so I connect to my own space and feel him. The grief is heavy and I erupt in tears, I flow like a river, I cannot stop myself for that would be the failure of the entire session! I cry so hard with him and many of us start to at this point, purging the tension through our eyes, grieving for life herself and the hardships that come of Samsaric dancing. The intensity rises between us all,; the drumming up of an inevitable breakthrough on the horizon.
After a minute of intense crying it starts to slow down and I open my eyes and lift my head off the floor to see my father smiling through tear soaked cheeks, bringing me to recognize the clearing of his chest, the blockage unblocked. We all come up to him on as he is on the floor, one by one, and kiss him and tell him our love. We rise up from the grounding ground and hug each other proper, just like anyone would after a vulnerable release.”
– Listen to grief and praise talk by Martin Prechtel
– We are not usually accustomed to one releasing emotions… How do you react to this experience when it happens around you? How can it get better?
– Do you have a regular way of safely releasing what has been accrued?
c. 1200, “contemplation; devout preoccupation; devotions, prayer,” from Old French meditacion “thought, reflection, study,” and directly from Latin meditationem (nominative meditatio) “a thinking over, meditation,” noun of action from past participle stem of meditari “to meditate, think over, reflect, consider,” from a frequentative form of PIE root *med- “take appropriate measures.” Meaning “discourse on a subject” is early 14c.; meaning “act of meditating, continuous calm thought upon some subject” is from late 14c. The Latin verb also had stronger senses: “plan, devise, practice, rehearse, study.”
“The term meditation is difficult for some people to grasp because it may connote exotic Eastern cults or Christian monks who spend most of their waking hours in monastery cells contemplating God.” – Dr. Herbert Benson
~~who are you, meditating one~~
Meditation is more often than not, utterly confused. Much like the words God and Love, it has been so over conceptualized and misinterpreted of which in some ways has created a near unbridgeable space between the word and the actual lived experience.
Take the etymology of the word meditation in English. There are elements within this breakdown that give evidence to me (thought, think, plan, devise, etc) that it may not be the right word for the action it is attempting to represent. Is this just the inherent dissonance of the modern languages we are living with? Smiling may help.
To understand this set of strung together letters a bit more, I can paint a scene. Meditation is at first like setting a dirty pot in the sink full of warm water and soap; It is doing ‘nothing’ but the pot is releasing all of its debris because of that water and soap. It is passive work, a result of the natural arrangement of being in body. Meditation is like the water and soap and we are that dirty pot. We are dirtied from an untamed and childish mind yet these daily movements are training us to live better if we can learn to see them as such.
The origin of meditation, if we can say such a thing, is thought to be come from the East.
The methods that have been preciously passed down and preserved from these Eastern traditions are beyond valuable and I practice them daily. It may be how you found meditation too. However, if we believe that it was existing just there based solely off documenting then we should also look for evidence of when we started to breathe through our noses… My feeling is that meditation brings us to a universally shared state, one that is beyond all creeds, classes, sexes, and colors. That because many popular formal practices come from the East, I personally conceptualized this tool as an Eastern one, sort of distancing myself from it in a way for I wasn’t from there and didn’t feel allowed to be so interested. Yet, can we see how foolish this is? All beings have the inherent connection to the truth of our nature. It has been shown to me that this our birthright and cannot be boxed in as much as it may be tried to. Indebted to all those before us, we are connecting to the Source of which is the heartbeat of all that is.
There were a good few years where I may have meditated 10 times a year, and yet told everyone and their mother to sit, because I knew it was good for them. I remember being so intent on sharing this amazing piece of information, yet I myself at that time had never truly committed to the practice and therefore had not yet actualized it! How many people listened to an idealistic experience-less me? N o n e.
I feel this to be a commonality in the world now a days. We read some article (like this one, :)) and then think that we know something and share it with the people in our lives. Sure, our intentions are prime and we want others to do better, but it is not in the most skillful way. Our efforts could be focused in on our development first (inner landscape) and then, for the most part, we really don’t need to say that much. People will come to you and ask what it is that you do in order to achieve wellness.
There is something undeniable about the way meditation affects me. It truly began as a practice while living in Peru for almost two years, studying the plant medicine and ways of the Amazon and Andean mountains. It was quite a journey in the beginning! I actually remember the first night that I attempted to sit as long as I could… it was something like 45 minutes. I remember after a mere several minutes my legs being foreign pieces of immovable steel, my mind wandering and wandering, and just being impressed that I didn’t fall asleep. As I type this, I smile in recalling how I would intend to sit and meditate in the night and would suddenly catch myself, completely in a different position on my bed! So much work it took just to sit there and do nothing.
I guess that is the first part of this magic. There is this space that is attainable from trying at nothing, and attaching nor rejecting nothing. It is insanely simple, yet increasingly profound as I continue on this path. It is also something intrinsic to our very nature as beings: beingness is our natural state. We can experience this state that is right under our nose and our nose too, a place that allows for the life force to effortlessly do what it does; flow!
In connecting to the river of energy that is us and surrounds us, a few things can start to become noticeable. We may realize that the thoughts have been wrongly deified and overly paid attention to, leaving the knowing whispering heart to be suffering from unconscious neglect. In a culture that focuses almost entirely on just the cerebral existence, the guilt or sadness of being so headstrong can only be an impetus to rise above our conditioning. We may realize that we are not the endless stream like ticker of thoughts, and start to recognize the identity with something that encompasses even the ticker, for the thoughts in and of themselves are not bad or wrong; we are only readjusting our focus from the thinker to the feeler.
In this culture, it might be radical to renounce something when it seems all we are geared for is to want more of everything. Renouncing doesn’t always mean that you shave your head and move to Nepal and sell all your ‘extra’ organs and nice guitars. We are making a trade; the delusions of our head full of thoughts and judgements and wonderings for connection to peace and well being. It can be as small as taking ten minutes out of our day to sit and meditate. Renouncing the potentially mindless activity of scrolling on the internet or flipping through the strangeness of television and instead working on our inner development.
Some may still wonder: What does this really accomplish? How about this: Most of us, I would say, are trying harder and harder to avoid the chemical onslaught of our corrupt food systems. We purchase the best that we can, or we eat from our gardens, or we pick fruits from where we can find them. Yet, if we get biological about it, the body itself produces a pretty harsh array of chemicals when it goes into fight or flight mode, of course a necessary process when it is actually needed (to fight or fly, lets say) but not if we are constantly pushed by the normal ebb and flow of daily life. So it is not our natural expression of emotions that we are trying to change, these are actually human and should not be suppressed! It is more so the over reactions where these tools help us so greatly in seeing ourselves where we may have been blind.
If we want to prove something, because some of us like these sort of things, we can see here: “In an analysis of the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial, Matthews et al. (2004) found that IHAT ratings above the sample median were associated with a 60% increased risk of cardiovascular death over a 16-year follow-up, compared to men with lower hostility scores…”
That is a significant increase in the risk for cardiovascular disease, is it not?! So, we can start to see that the tools that are available to us are invaluable to begin working with our basic human systems, so as to prevent unnecessary catastrophe and strive to live life fuller and happier. Meditation is a foundational tool, an internal technology that is fueled by your breath and costs nothing but your time.
Another example of practical measure, although extreme and likely to never occur, this group of Thai students and their teacher, stayed present and conserved energy, following the lead of their teacher who had studied for 10 years at a monastery.
~~on setting up a space for meditation~~
There are perhaps 1000’s of meditations to choose from. Styles range from all of the ways of guided meditations with the voice of someone helping to create an atmosphere or environment in which you travel to, to the completely simple ‘calm abiding’ meditation, in which the foundation of every practice can be said to come from.
I like to do this practice either after I wake up and get settled or near the evening… I have found that doing it on a stomach that has already digested its food (or even an empty stomach) allows for easier stillness. Yet, go with whatever you can!
The space can be your room on the floor with or without a cushion, on the bed, or even in a chair. If in a chair, if possible, try to allow yourself to be on the edge of your seat so as to not let the spine rest against the back of the chair. Altar pieces and bells and whistles are great, but are not necessary to really attain what is being desired, especially if they are just ornaments.
It can be as simple as ridding yourself of distractions in the outer worlds like a cell phone and also the inner distractions of the thoughts and plans of the busy mind. This takes awareness and skill of which develops over repeated practice, just like anything else. Someone once told me, “thoughts will come, but they don’t need to stay for tea.” There is no battle to have against our brains as thinking is natural. It is the constant engagement that we are learning to relax.
Deep stillness could be said to be easy to attain when sitting in a room full of incense and with altar pieces abound, but is that where the meditation stays? Of course not. The real practice is to bring the meditation to all the aspects of our lives, most especially the challenges that we may face everyday. The meditations we do will prime us to have less reactivity and more peace. This is where we can start to see the benefit of working with our mind, with our inner development. We can come to recognize that this work is essential and maybe even arrive at questions like, “Why didn’t we learn these sort of things in school?”
This is not a contest. Quality will always top quantity. A perfectly not moving body doesn’t mean that the mind is tame. Also, forcing the thoughts to stop or the scrolling to cease just calls on will power which further entraps us. This is a process of allowing. Experience points the way, as the screen can only inspire one to eventually put it down, at least for a little while.
Meditating with someone else, consistently, is a great way of both reminding each other of the commitment and also a wondrous way of mirroring the baby steps in growth of such a shockingly simple and monumental practice.
Through my experience of finally coming to a practice of meditation, I can say that if we have no time to set aside to do nothing, than something is not right. It is also pivotal to remind ourselves that although some of the more common practices are Eastern in origin, the essence is human and inherent and our birth right to be able to experience.
A very important aspect to meditation within the tradition that I have learned so much from, speaks to the motivation behind our meditation and our spiritual practice in general. It is done for the fact that others are suffering, and which therefore brings us to want to better our out of control minds to therefore affect the space in a beneficial way. If our realities are truly intertwined like ancient wisdom knows and of which quantum physics echoes, then the goodness I achieve can only last as long I am extending it beyond myself.
As with all things on the path of wellness, this is just a piece, albeit an important one! To focus entirely on mediation as the sole medicine may work for some, but of course nutrition and healthy relationships and so on are all integral for most of us in being (fully) alive.
Although there are many ways up the mountain, here are a few articles explaining a bit more than what I have here. Folk might say to find a teacher in order to have guidance in this way, but I would suggest in at least starting as soon as you can and in becoming consistent and dedicated to clearing your life of delusions, the teacher will appear. Of course, if you feel called to find one, please do!
“Prayer is when the mind is one-pointed and man talks to Infinity. Meditation is when the mind becomes totally clean and receptive, and Infinity talks to the man.” – Yogi Bhajan
“Your Infinity is you when you stop thinking. Have you stopped thinking? That’s the end of it. Awareness takes these things away from you: thinking, reason, logic, argument, fantasies, planning, scheming, knowing and worrying. These nine things must go before you can say that you are on the path of awareness. Do you know why? Because the One who rotates the Earth can take care of your routine. These nine things you do are unwanted. They only satisfy your ego. Where there is ego, there is no Amigo.” – Yogi Bhajan
A baseline anxiety seems to exist in many of us. Like a low buzzing sound that isn’t noticed until its finally turned off.
And one may wonder how it was ever even not noticed for so long, for sometimes years, like it was for me.
The essence seems to be in continual releasing of tension, accumulated through various experiences throughout the day and night, eventually becoming 1st nature to be spontaneously relaxed and aware. It’s like the muscle of presence gets so tight and can cause so many issues until it is finally allowed to rest. For me, meditation has played a crucial role, as well the path of reconnecting to plants and nature. Meditation is so often misunderstood and overly conceptualized when it is shockingly simple: imagine allowance, nothing to do but be, nowhere to go but here, nothing to achieve besides breathing and being. This tool allows us to be able to become quiet enough to listen to the subtleties of communication that surround us. Let’s call them synchronistic spaces. The mystery reveals itself slowly but surely, and for some, rather quickly. All is a process. Patience is key. Keep flowing!
Everything in your life is for something. Nothing is for no reason or chance, ever. The family we have, the relationships we enter into, all are birthed out of something that is beyond language although some have brought it through as karma etc. If we haven’t already begun to look at those closest to us as great teachers of something profound, giving gratitude especially to those that are difficult, then, we can start today. No matter what, thank you mom, thank you dad, I am here because of you and I have work to do.
I have been eating for some time now, you know, for at least 29 years. Food is beautiful. Food is fuel. It nourishes us, it allows us to continue living our lives and hopefully benefiting the others near and far through our virtuous actions.
Food can also be painful. I didn’t know that discomfort wasn’t normal with food until I started to really pay attention to switching around foods. My brother and I came to this saying that, “the pleasures of the mouth aren’t worth the pains of the body.” I suffered digestive issues ranging from stomach ache to severe pain.
I went through many dietary changes, from vegetarian, to vegan and now back to eating a varied diet including the best meats and dairy/egg products that I can sanely afford. I can say, looking back, that the biggest change I made, with the most lasting effect, is controlling the amount of food I consumed in a sitting. This was done through pure intuition, to eat only one plate or bowl of food, or just not to eat until I was ‘full’. For the past few years, I would teeter on the edge of balance in finding out how to gauge this mystery level, but it was difficult to navigate and I would sometimes still land in stomach upset (especially when it was something that I loved to eat!)
Then, a few months ago, I had the sudden inquiry to ask what the simple act of burping really meant. Why do we do this? Is there any meaning to this beyond what WebMd says? Within a few minutes of searching, I found my answer. It was a simple blog post by a student of Dr. Vasant Lad, shared her learning here. It was simple enough.
The basics: There are three kinds of normal* burp. The first, is the clean burp, a burp that will release no taste in the mouth, and this signifies that it is time to eat, the digestive system is ready for you. Mangia, come, vamos. The next burp is the burp while eating, that signifies the stomach is good and you can stop now. It always occurs, even if you have never recognized it before (watch). The third burp occurs when we are considering to eat another meal maybe that a friend prepared for us, or shows a plate of something great and we burp and taste the meal that we had last consumed maybe only an hour or so ago… it means we are still digesting, and to lay off consuming still.
In doing a bit more research for this post, I came across points that I had failed to consider on my own because I don’t usually partake in them, points that would alter the burp scenario. These included drinking a lot during the meal (especially carbonated beverages) and excessive dialogue (maybe distracting the person from the presence for the burp) and too much air intake
So, as of practicing this in real life and not just blog life, I have of course committed to it, for the most part. There are some times where I just go over the burp, but I always know now, what to expect (bloating, stomach ache, etc). For example, at a recent wedding I attended, my partner and I looked at each other and sternly shared that we are not listening to the burp in order to fully love all the wonders of the evening, gastronomically speaking.
Who even cares about burps, ya freak-o? Well, this is a free measure that our intelligent organism presents to us. In the world of capitalistic gains, it is quite something to find the ways that are naturally ours to know and utilize. With diseases of excess being rampant in our surroundings (see diabetes ), we can learn to consume what we actually need and not just what we want. In this way, we can see how we can start to take control of our dietary habits (at least in this way, through quantity, not referring to quality) and hopefully begin to recognize our own power through choice.
Like anything else in the world of healing and finding balance, it can take time. This took me quite a while to stick with, because, flavors. I would say that finding a partner to have this practice take place with makes it fun and interesting and also keeps you accountable to the holy burp of completion. Happy eating my friends!
There are also instances where burping can be excessive, and can be caused due to fermented or undigested carbohydrates. Burping can also occur from air being released during exercise, where the digestive organs being massaged have the tendency to release stagnant foods.
I may add, this is all new to me… how does this actually work? Is it the air ratio of the stomach finding some sort of balance and then releasing a reminder? Also, I would love to hear of your experiences in the coming time, or if you already have been working with the burp as such! 🙂
Common Name: Albizia, Persian Silk Tree, Mimosa
Latin Name: Albizia julibrissin
Parts We Love: Flowers, Bark
Native to: Southwestern and Eastern Asia
Indications: Depression, Anxiety, Stress, Grief, Bruising, Amnesia
Contraindications: Pregnancy (moves blood)
This beauty was first documented in the 2nd century, in the Shen Non Ben Cao, a collection of oral traditions that included the relationship to 365 different plants. It was utilized for it’s effect on the mood and calming actions. Flash way forward to the mid 1700’s, when Italian naturalist Filippo del Albizzi introduces the tree to Europe for cultivation. Then famed botanist Andre Michaux brought the tree to North Carolina in the late 1700’s, and now, it is everywhere (sounds simple, doesn’t it?)
Y Ahora, Donde Vive?
It has naturalized as far North as New Jersey, and down to the tip of Southern Florida as well as west to Texas. It’s vivacious desire to live can be seen here…”One study showed that 90% of the seeds were viable after five years and, for another species of mimosa, a third of its seeds germinated after 50 years in open storage.” Woah. It is considered a highly invasive ‘alien’ species, and this always has me consider our human ways of being highly invasive and alien… and most people you can’t tincture or make tea of for mood lifts and calmness. I am not one to plant invasives and destroy natural habitats, but while the sun shines… let’s get some flowers.
I am driving in a borrowed car and heading towards a client, to help her ease the woes of postpartum depression. I found myself meditating about her life before I met her, and feeling into what plants may come to me. I then look up to the left and catch a stand of trees with bright pink blossoms waving in the wind. “Mimosa!” was my first thought. I had yet to see the tree with the knowing that it was what it was. I pinpointed my location with local landmarks in the town I didn’t know so well, and promised to return to see…
On the way back, I stopped, finding a shady spot under a tall pine tree to park the car. I got out and was engulfed in the scent of what one may think could only come from synthesized perfumes. It is the most incredible scent! With the help of an online plant identification group, I was able to make sure it was Albizia julibrissin (I must get on my botany, i know, I know).
A brown paper bag in the car knew to be there for me. I grabbed it and also my shaker and went out and under the branches, close to the trunk. In the distance, I could feel the intensely intrusive sounds of a factory. I decided to employ one of my favorite pastimes, to resonate with the sounds that you can do nothing about. I sang spontaneously to the stand, in deep gratitude to finally be able to convene with them.
Once connected and in, I started to harvest flowers. I saw so much life in and around the blooms. Two different butterflies, silk worms, and ants were coexisting. I could not stop smiling. I sang and sang and sang and felt such gratitude to find this stand of 1000 plus pink blooms.
I have a deep way of wanting to personally know plants before I administer them to others. It is so easy to google a condition and find anything to pass on to someone… yet, how does it really work? In finding out for myself first, testing them on yours truly and others that are dear to me, I can cultivate communication and confidence in befriending such beings. This is the living way, and although books and the internet are so useful, they can never replace the direct transmission from Nature herself.
Update: This tree came to me for the first time, hours before the Pulse shooting in Orlando. In working with the Orlando Grief Care Project, it is unreal how much Albizia has come in from all over the country in the form of flower essences, tinctures, and elixirs. I really feel these plants make themselves available when we are truly in need, and that we are.
Thomas Easley of the Eclectic School of Herbal Medicine advised me to make preparations of the bark and flowers, separately, for how they both affect in different ways. The bark is felt to ‘anchor the spirit’ while the flowers ‘lighten’ it…
I worked with 190 proof grain alcohol for the bark. I cut it up fresh, into pieces and used the ratio of 1:3, bark to alcohol. For the flowers, I tinctured in organic vodka, 1:2, and also made an elixir, using half brandy and half honey, covering the flowers completely.
As I glean from the tinctures and elixirs of both bark and flowers, I will write more about my experiences and the experiences of others. For now, check out the writing of other herbalists that I have found useful:
I want to remind ourselves that nothing will ever replace the deep need to do work on ourselves. These plants and these practices are tools along the way to self discovery and can aid us greatly in making the changes we need to in order to fully come into our highest potential. So, of course, take into consideration dietary changes, lifestyle modifications, and emotional healing in conjunction with herbal protocols.
if it makes a sound it can teach you music if it has a root it has a reason if it has a voice it has a truth if it makes skin rise then its the spirit’s eyes :listen on in:
I have made it a practice to go with the flow as much as I can remember to. Making it a habit, to replace the complaining and whining with gratitude and acceptance is quite a shift in seeing. It is most evident in situations where the sounds may be so inescapable, that one wants to shut them out or be agitated about them. Yet, there is another option at times.
I would find myself while working in a kitchen with loud fridges housing all of the prepared produce, humming tunes relative to the pitch of the buzz that it put out. It taught me (and I’m still learning all the time) my first intro to harmonizing and feeling my body resonate the sounds.
So, when something is overpoweringly loud and there is no way to not be with it, try embracing it by engaging with your voice. Sing your way through it.
You may have heard this phrase before, it goes something like this…
“I am sorry.”
However, are you really? All those feelings in there, all those bones and tissues and fluids and juices, and you are naming it all, sorrow?
This was pointed out to me in immersing myself in the Spanish speaking language. I started to see in translating the phrases that we use, that these words can be traps, or not. For example, in Spanish, we say, “Lo siento” when expressing “I am sorry” yet its literal translation is “I feel it.” How profound! Instead of calling yourself or someone else an entire emotion, we only claim the temporal nature of feeling it, which is not forever. It passes. It is allowed to leave.
In the same way, there are two forms of saying “to be” in Spanish, Ser and Estar. Ser is the way of permanence, like, “Este arbol es un roble (This tree is an oak)” or “Yo soy Italiano ( I am Italian).” Estar is used with temporary conditions, like “Esta lloviendo (It is raining)” or “Estoy feliz/triste (I am happy/sad).” Do you see what happens once again? They don’t claim to be an emotion, which like the weather, is in and of itself a fleeting and never permanent experience. Que wow, no?
Watch how the words you choose to empower can be trappings. You are not your emotions, yet you do feel them as they come and go, in time. Maybe we can start to use “I feel…” instead of “I am…”. Gentle awareness, like usual, is key in even knowing that these things occur.
I am in a hospital room with a dear brother, who is very ill. He is on bags of liquids that are streaming into thin plastic tubes that run into his body, seemingly keeping him alive. He is being fed through a tube that goes up his right nostril and into his stomach. He has had his colon rerouted to have his feces empty into a bag, and a catheter to go along with it. He is inundated with Dilaudid, an opiate 7x stronger than morphine, whenever he chooses to push the button connected to his PCA pump to wash his pain away, if only for a short while.
A doctor walks in as I am sitting beside his bed, and he says,
“Not looking so good today, are you?”
A short while later, a nurse outside speaks to his mother in law and says
“He is deteriorating…”
There is confusion and the strongest lack of communication between the multiple doctors and medical workers. One doctor walks in and suggests the use of a suppository while our friend here is with a colostomy. Another doctor comes in and begins to order a CAT scan, when he didn’t know our brother had gone through one 2 days ago (each scan is worth about a year of environmental radiation). Another doctor speaks to him and tells him he will be leaving today. The previous doctor tells him he can’t leave today and will leave tomorrow. Up, down, and all around.
This is a small taste of what it can be like in the chaos of a disease process in our current medical system. There are of course, the multitude of beautiful and kind souls who practice perfect patience and share their hearts… and this is not to be overlooked. Yet, it can pale in comparison to the strange and toxic relationship that some have experienced while in this cold building.
I walked into our brothers room and prior, I prepared myself. I had gathered myself in the car, centered and focused, I began to walk into the hospital. A maze of lefts and rights and elevators to here and there, I finally enter the room. I notice his heart rate is at 157; extremely high. His blood pressure and oxygen levels were also at extreme levels, rising and dropping into the red zones multiple times, letting out a disturbing electronic signal.
I brought a lot of things with me, unaware of his true state of health and consciousness. After feeling out the space and knowing that its potential benefits outweighed whatever strange judgements might come at me from the staff, I decided to ask his permission to sing a medicine song for him. He agreed, maybe a part of him hoping that anything will help him feel a bit of ease.
The shacapa is a bundle of leaves that is collected from a plant in Poaceae family (grass family) in South American traditional medicine. It may be Pariana radiciflora, but I am unsure as most local curanderos don’t know the latin names of the plants they are born knowing (and latin names seem not to affect medicinal potency as much as they help us to classify plants). Regardless, it is used in the ceremony space as a sort of shaker, keeping the rhythm going and also employed at times to touch the person being sung to directly, the leaves themselves having the reputation to wipe away negativity and densely stored emotions. Depending on how it is maneuvered, the energy can be experienced as a blend of cleansing, soothing, revitalizing, and lifting; something like a bird’s wings taking off very close to you.
I pulled a shacapa out of my travel bag and started to bring presence to our brother. I whistled in an icaro, a sacred medicine song, and began to shake the shacapa over his body, bringing myself more and more into a state of deep presence. Dancing the shacapa just over his body, going in circles, I sang like this for about 10 minutes.
When I was done, my body was buzzing and I knew it to be a good sign that I was connecting with what heals. I opened my eyes just as he opened his eyes and seemed to return back to his body… I looked up at his vitals on the LED screen. Everything had begun to normalize. His energy was returning to his face, he was calmer and relaxed. Verification of the invisible can be nice sometimes.
David Winston says “Anything that has the power to change you is medicine…” It can’t be any more true. I am still always moved by the simplicity of finding my center and singing a song that comes to me in that moment, and how effective it can be to myself and those who are in the space of such sounds.
So, do we need to all go out and learn medicine songs? Does everyone need to grab a shaker or make their own bundle of leaves to shake over their friends? Not at all. Coming back to Winston, he speaks to anything that has the power to change someone is medicine… Yes, and even before we start to analyze which gift is the one we can share in our lives, we can remember that there is a foundation! This foundation is presence, and it doesn’t matter what it is that ends up being our tool of transferring such a space, be it singing or speaking or even better, just listening, but just that it is not forgotten.
These doctors that I had experienced with their rushed and anxious energies… it could be that they have forgotten the primary act of their practice; Presence. It is how we do what we do that matters so imperatively! I don’t know that much about cancer. I don’t know that much about surgery or intense health conditions to begin with. Yet, I do know that how I feel and what I decide to say when I am around someone affects the space inevitably, in one way or another. We have a responsibility in this to manage ourselves in a conscious way, taking into consideration how we may influence those who are so very sensitive, and especially in times of illness or distress.
How will I choose to hold myself in my daily life, knowing that even my own thoughts affect the space all around me and inevitably, the world at large?
Two shacapas, freshly bundled and ready to use in ceremony.