We're in the seed blessing time, just about to go into planting.
I find starting plants from seeds to be one of the strong teachers in my life. See, people think it's just popping seeds into the ground, watering, keeping warm and providing light, and bam! But my seeds have not been like that.
I have herbs that are like that. Some hesitate to grow so long, you think they're dead, then they finally make a decision and pop out of the ground at full life, even casting off the shell of the seed in the process at the ends of their leaves. Some finally make a decision and come up slowly, still timidly. I can relate to both of these, but the seeds I relate to more are the tougher ones. Interestingly, most of the plants I have a relationship with and those that are closer to totems are more like these. These seeds are often powerful medicine.
Some plants, such as the heart healer and overall nourisher Hawthorn, require suffering to have a chance. They require periods of cold and either drowning or wounding to grow. This is done by soaking seeds for a day or two before planting, or a process called scarification in which the seed is actually cut with a knife before being planted. Hawthorn requires not only drowning or wounding to grow, but it also requires a period of cold- generally being left through the winter- before it can sprout. I think of my childhood and adolescence when I look at this plant, and how this was necessary for my heart to become who it is. I think of the last few years and my heart, starting with scarification, then drowning, and a long period of cold. Hawthorn has, in studies, repaired all heart valve damage even in cases of heart attacks with daily use within two years. The plants don't give a damn if you think you're unhealable or that you'll never recover. They'll heal you anyway.
Another plant, Datura, will actually die in seed form if it's exposed to light. This plant I start by drowning or scarring the seeds, then putting in the dark, damp soil in a starter pot, then putting this in a plastic bag, and keeping it away from light in a cardboard box. If light gets to it, the seeds struggle and sometimes die. Hope kills Datura, who must be in the dark to remember that in her is the light. Datura, a poison plant having to do with vision (and one I am legally required to have a license to have in my home), requires time in the darkness, groping around, before she can even consider letting the world see her or being bothered with the effort of seeing the world. The pain of the light is here. With my pituitary problems, I can relate to this as light is generally painful for me.
I think of the way humans are, how we cry bitterly when it hurts, when we scream out when we drown, when we flinch when we're cut, when we panic when we grope around in darkness in places where there is no light, how we hesitate to make decisions. It is interesting to me that we forget that the trying grounds are our nourishment, that suffering is as good as joy, that this is not about finding the light or being broken to let the light in, but the wearing away and the wounding so that the light can get out. Depth and height build each other, support each other, feed each other.
I feel that I am in a place where I enjoy the suffering as part of the human experience, and yet I find hesitation in my heart, fear even, around joy. Someone in my life has been bringing me joy, and the amount of fear in me for this is incredible. True to my nature, I'm taking my time in my sick room to fill the barrel full of fear and hold my head under. Where there's fear there's an opportunity for growth and I am not afraid to drink deeply or eat my own fear for breakfast.
I sit with this fear of joy, pain of light, in my dark room because the treatment for the infection has flared up my pituitary and I can't handle the light (the screen to write this is probably all I'll be able to handle today), and I think- what does Datura have to say about when she first reaches and experiences the light?
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On Sleep and Food....
If you’re interested in discovering your personal relationship between food and sleep, here are a few pointers:
1. Timing: There is no definitive research as to when people should and shouldn’t eat in relationship to sleep quality, but the National Sleep Foundation has stated that it’s best not to eat anything within 2-3 hours of bed. This is enough time to avoid sleep disturbances from gastroesophageal reflux as well as indigestion. There are also guidelines out there about when to eat certain things, as you’ll see below.
2. Protein: One of the biggies with food and timing is protein, which you probably shouldn’t eat too late. Heavy protein foods will often keep a person up at night because they take a long time for the body to digest and because they promote the synthesis of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that promotes wakefulness. One of the best things you can do for your sleep schedule according to science is exercise in the early morning in the sunlight and follow that with your protein-based breakfast. Doing this the same way daily is perfect as it trains your body to learn when the day begins and promotes body chemistry that helps folks stay awake and alert through the day.
3. Blood Sugar: Blood sugar is another consideration. Everyone has experienced that ‘food belly sleepiness’ after a giant meal. According to 2007 research from the University of Sydney, this is due to the amount of carbs in a heavy meal which produces a surge in blood sugar and a spike of insulin levels that promote a feeling of sleepiness. That same research demonstrated conclusively that high glycemic meals consumed four hours before bed resulted in a shorter time requirement for falling asleep than did a low glycemic meal. If you find you are kept up from a feeling of being hungry (pointer #4), grab dried fruit or cereal. These are high glycemic foods that can help promote that sleepiness once the sugar is processed.
5. Melatonin: Other good options for late-night munchies are foods that are high in melatonin, which helps a person sleep. My personal favorite is tart cherry juice, though the fruit works just as well. Walnuts are another favorite if you don’t want the sugar or sweet of fruit.
6. Tryptophan: You’ve heard of tryptophan, right? It’s part of the concept that the turkey over harvest meal is what makes you tired (due to pointer #3, you know that this is not actually accurate). Tryptophan can help people sleep better because it’s used as a building block when the body makes melatonin. Game meat is a good source, but for the aforementioned reasons protein close to bed is generally not a good idea. Try chickpeas instead. These have similar nutritional benefits (including a high level of tryptophan) but don’t stay in your system or promote wakefulness like meats do.
7. Minerals: Your body also needs a portion of calcium and magnesium to get proper sleep. Think almonds, kale, dark leafy veggies, other nuts and seeds, and legumes. If you are exhausted all the time you may need nutritional support for your adrenals (tip #8) which means higher levels of calcium, magnesium, potassium and natural sodium. If you’re missing one of those then you won’t be able to absorb and use the others. My favorite adrenal supporting food (for healthy sodium) is celery, but cucumbers are preferred by some.
9. Things to avoid: Besides getting the right foods at the right times, if you have a sleep problem, you should seriously consider removing alcohol and caffeine from your diet until the problem straightens out. Both these substances stress out your body and lead to adrenal problems. Nicotine is also a problem (it both keeps you awake and lowers sleep quality once you’re asleep). If you are going to partake in any of these, the half time of any of these substances in a person’s body is up to 12 hours. On caffeine, a study by Tom Roth in 2013 demonstrated that consuming caffeine up to six hours before bed lowered the amount of sleep participants were getting by an hour. Tea (non-herbal) and chocolate have similar results with this as does coffee. Alcohol worsens the quality of sleep, is related to more wakings during the night, and worsens night breathing problems including snoring and choking. If you’re using alcohol as a sedative, seriously bro, there are better options.
10: Herbs: If you need help falling asleep, many people find herbal tea helpful. Herbs are no joke and you should check with a doctor if you’re going to take them at any medicinal grade level, but most people are okay with a single herb as a tea at one to three cups (mixing herbs can lead to interactions, including both herbs being made toxic or stronger- check with an herbalist if you want to do that). Top favorites in my family are catnip, lavender, passionflower, valerian, chamomile and rose. These are pretty safe plants (the valerian carries the most risk) for most people, but again, check with your doctor if you’re not at average or better health or if you are using any medications. You can also consider diffusing the essential oils of any of those plants while you sleep (cedarwood is also good for this purpose). Just make sure your diffuser doesn’t make light in the room (a major sleep disruptor) and make sure the oils are high quality because, since harmful compounds in the oil can attach to the helpful molecules as they bypass your natural defense systems against harmful substances, using poor quality essential oils is a really easy way to get hurt.
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Schizophrenia is hitting my various feeds pretty often this week. It's a particularly personal topic to me as I happen to be a diagnosed schizophrenic.
I have to be honest, even after working as a direct care professional in mental health for several years, I'm not convinced that most things we label mental illness are mental illness. Yes, there are people who are in need of help, drugs, various treatments, whatever. But who are we to define that as an 'illness'? To me, schizophrenia is one of the best things that's ever happened to me, though it took me decades to get to that point.
For me, my diagnosis finally gave me a name for the difficulties I had- the worst parts being my adolescence- but it also took away any hope I had at being 'normal' or being 'okay' or being powerful, free, capable or successful.
I'm pretty lucky and exceptionally blessed. I got into shamanic work and learned that my auditory and visual 'hallucinations' indicated illness in the body, was often a perception of organs trying to communicate with me, and other frankly wonderful things. I've also had privileges of things like assisting police with finding lost persons and bodies, which my 'hallucinations' led me to. As I was trained in shamanic work, the 'hallucinations' began to tell me of the past, the future, and personal things about people whom I hadn't met yet. These have all been very useful things for me. I also learned that whereas mainstream western 'treatments' (which had taught me there was something wrong with me and that I had to fight the thing) had only made me worse, shamanic training accepted that these things were just part of a sensitive person who could directly experience the spiritual world (where such 'hallucinations' are believed to originate). I learned that the more shamanic training I had, the more stable I became and the better I could use my 'illness' to help people, which is literally what I do for a living now.
I question the ego of those who feel they can comfortably diagnose differences like bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia as 'illnesses'. What do we mean by illness? Isn't it a helluva illness to think so highly of one's own judgement that one can define how another's mind should work?
I'm a creationist, and frankly, I think God made us as we are for a reason. I don't think mental illness, even the dangerous cases I've seen over the years, are evil, wrong, or something to be ashamed of. That of course doesn't mean that a person doesn't need help and if they do, they should certainly get it- even if that means mainstream care that didn't work for me.
It is my opinion that holistic care, the only treatment I have had in a decade, is the best route for me. It has empowered me and led me to out performing the average person and I have my 'mental illnesses' to thank for that (I'm also diagnosed bi-polar and have diagnosed depression). I feel that my 'illnesses' are really the blessings that enable me to do what I do.
Of course, earlier this week when I told a nurse that I think schizophrenia was the best blessing god ever gave me, her face told me all I needed to know about what she thought of that. You know what I'm sayin'.
Being grateful for the privilege of how my mind works doesn't mean it's not hard sometimes. Some nights it's too loud to sleep. Sometimes there's music. Sometimes things are repeated in a rhythm or rhyme and I can't get it out of my head. Sometimes those beats are strong enough to keep me up, and I've even been awoken from dead sleep by a sudden increase in sounds (which even my former therapists were amazed at, some not even believing me).
My whole life I've struggled with the intense urge to smoke (and depending on who you ask, between 80-90% of diagnosed schizophrenics smoke). My spirits (I mean, my 'voices') forbid smoking when I was a child, saying my abilities would go away if I broke that bond, so I've never done it. Recently, a study came out showing that brain differences (which I was found to have in an MRI when I was 14) associated with schizophrenia can be altered with nicotine (http://neurosciencenews.com/schizophrenia-nicotine-brain-activity-5995/). Sometimes I marvel at the body's wisdom in defending itself or in innate ability to seek self-treatment even when modern medical science doesn't yet understand it.
Curious as to what it's like to be schizophrenic? These tapes are alright at depicting it, but I have to be honest, mine's more like playing four of these at once on 'bad' days (and not all the voices speak English), and more like two of them playing at once on not as bad days. I believe my razor sharp ability to focus and my incredible discipline is due to cutting through the sound all my life.
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Why yes, indeed, that is one of my favorite plants and though there is no plant I use every one of the 365 days of the year (as this is unwise in herbal medicine), I definitely use this one more of those days than not. I chew and eat the gum, I make tea from it, I burn the resin, and I use the essential oil regularly.
I'm planning another trip to London, probably for September of this year. I had a fantastic experience there last time with some frankincense gurus. We spent long hours talking about health, politics, plants, spirituality, and Ramadan. When you're willing, people are so anxious to share the things precious to their hearts. For these folks, it's meditation, Islam, and their favorite tree- something we had in common!
Here's the 20 or so minute video of some of our conversation as the fellow showed me his goods with the frankincense resin. Enjoy!
Pine Needle Tea
Pine is one of my favorite plants (I admit to having many favorites!). The tree was protective of me in a chronic and bad situation when I was a child, so it has come to have a meaning of safety and peace for me. All parts of the tree are useful- assuming that you're not using a poisonous pine, of which there are a couple (and make sure you're not mistaking a yew tree for a pine tree as yews are poison too!). The pine needles are particularly high in vitamin C and have been shown to help improve immunity when made into a tea. Drinking the fresh tea through the winter can support the immune system, the kidneys and the adrenals, helping you rebuild your strength and energy stores for the whole year while helping prevent the flu and colds! Though it's not as straightforward as pouring boiling water on the leaves/needles (both are correct in common usage), this can be an easy, helpful, fresh herb to use during the summer. Here's how to do it:
1. Identify your tree. Notice how many needs are stuck in each fascicle- that's the name for the thin membrane structure surrounding and separating each bunch of leaves- this is key for identification. Notice too the color of the bark.
2. Collect needles and take them home.
3. Bruise them. They need to be bruised to release the vitamins that make them useful. I think this is easiest with a mortar and pestle, but there are many ways to bruise plant matter this soft.
4. Bring water to a boil and let it cool a bit. DO NOT PUT THE NEEDLES IN BOILING WATER. If you boil the needles, it doesn't only destroy the benefit of them, but for some pine species this releases toxic compounds from the needles that otherwise are not released.
5. Pour the warm but not boiling water over the bruised needles and let them sit for 5-10 minutes.
6. Strain and drink or reduce for salve or cream making.
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You've probably seen all the various posts about bras being bad for your health, but is it true? Here are some things to consider to make the best health decision for you:
What exactly is witchcraft?
This post had 3,000 reads the first two hours after it was posted! I like to think this was due to it being shared amongst families with many practices and faiths to get more people on the same page.
You can still get a free PDF download of this book through the Facebook group or, if you're more into paper and ink, it's on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Talking-Stick-Diaries-Embody-Power/dp/1505526655/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1477235501&sr=8-1&keywords=embody+your+power 10478202_10202455379811845_8515049069755405410_n
There is a new free class on the holistic view of essential oils at the online learning center! This course combines mainstream science with Ayurveda, historical application, and alchemy to give you a more full picture of essential oils and what they mean for you.