Spiritual Practice

No, no, no – seriously no.

Posted on November 13, 2014. Filed under: Path of the Healer, Seasons and Climate, Spiritual Practice |

It’s Fall.  Despite any denial to the contrary.  We’ve had the calendar shift, the clock change and the weather, despite New England’s always amusing dance of the many temperatures and weather patterns, is shifting toward Winter and away from Summer.  Except there is still that part of us that is pulled by society’s busy, busy, frenzy into working as if it is not.  And that struggle makes life more stressful than it should be.  So not a surprise. 😉

Like many of us who know better, I slip into that mind set too.  Keep doing more.  Produce.  Accomplish. Strive, etc.   So I decided it was time for some harsh medicine.

What did I do?

  • I took the week off-line essentially.  The bare minimum that needed to be done.  No real social media, web surfing, etc with its pull to consume more and stare more a the monitor doing nothing profound.
  • Arranged with my day job that while there was too much going on to take time off, that I would be occasionally come in a bit late, leaving a bit early, taking a slightly longer lunch.  Not too much – but enough (and they didn’t need to know the reason why) that I could pause on the way to and from work to look at the world around me.  Take in the trees, the sky and the stars.  To sit by the river after eating lunch.  To live in a time, even if to a small degree that wasn’t quite as bound by the rushing pull of the clock, etc.
  • I set aside the non-essential things.
  • I set aside the herbal work that I thought needed to be done and could wait.
  • I read fun things, I watched silly movies.
  • In my off time, I RELAXED.  I PAUSED.  I REFLECTED.
  • I laughed.
  • I shifted the time to being rather than planning, thinking and such.

Of course, it wasn’t easy but I find it an essential part of the seasonal transition that we neglect and a great prelude to the change of seasons.   Shifting from running about to delving within.

Fall Beauty in Boston - (Image by Michael Blackmore Mad Crow Herbalism)

Fall Beauty in Boston – (Image by Michael Blackmore Mad Crow Herbalism)

Stopping and looking at the trees who show us the change with deep beauty, but build on the reality of changing for the new season.

Learning from the Herbal Kitty

Herbal Kitty Sunshine Therapy (Image by Michael Blackmore Mad Crow Herbalism)

Herbal Kitty Sunshine Therapy (Image by Michael Blackmore Mad Crow Herbalism)

That sitting in a sunbeam on a chill Fall day is the best medicine.

I say go and:

  • Break out that cup of Linden tea.  Or Tulsi Tea, or Chamomile.  Perhaps some Lemon Balm, Mint or whatever nervine friends best sooth your being into greater harmony with yourself and to be less driven by pull of a societal life out of balance.  Sit and drink.  By candlelight if you want – or pull open the shades and look a the Moon as you drink at night.
  • Draw a nice hot bath, light some candles, mix in some Epsom salts and throw in some herbal teas to sooth your body and your mind.
  • Dance, sing, make art and beauty.

It’s not like the media is going to say stop watching the news, ads, buying things and go relax and be at peace.  That’s the opposite of what helps them sell things to you that you don’t need to appease that hole you feel when you are disconnected from what brings you joy, calm and connection to self, other people and nature.

So you have to pause and do it for yourself the hard way.  Even if it is in small bits within the sea of your ever flowing life.

It’s Fall, make peace with it and yourself.   I feel better after doing it myself

Just my insane .02  🙂

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Perfectly Imperfect – Letting go judgements

Posted on September 23, 2014. Filed under: Random Musings, Spiritual Practice |

I needed an acorn for a talk I’m giving and that quest ended up reminding me of an important lesson or two.

Imperfectly perfect acorns (Image by Michael Blackmore - Mad Crow Herbalism)

Imperfectly perfect acorns (Image by Michael Blackmore – Mad Crow Herbalism)

I ventured forth on my journey hunting the less then elusive acorn.   This time of year is better than average for finding acorns and there was no shortage of acorns trees about (generally Red Oaks in the city here.)  As I went to my favorite tree haunts I, of course, found a bounty of them.

And that’s where my problem began.   Had I seen just one – the deed would be done and I’d have my acorn.  But the more I saw, the more the illusionary perfect acorn that arose in my mind.

The more I pursed that delusion, the more inadequate any of the acorns in front of me seemed.  I started going to other locations searching more and more deeply.  Still not realizing that the more I searched the further I went from my goal.

Finally, I realized I had been caught in the most human (and consumerist) of traps.  The more choices I had the less able I was to choose.   And the more I followed the mythic ACORN – the less I truly saw and appreciated the many ones right in front of me.

So I closed my eyes and grabbed a handful  – and these were the acorns I held clenched my hand.   I looked them over carefully, as if they were the only acorns in the world, and saw them with openness.   They were all different and yet all perfectly imperfect (or imperfectly perfect!) in each of their own ways.   And I’ll show them all off during my talk.

So the “humble” acorn reminded me of a powerful truth or two.   And at the very least consider this a gentle nudge to remember to  spend some time out in nature finding some truths for yourself. 🙂

 

BTW – it is only through the sheerest act of willpower I didn’t call this post Acorny (A-corny) story…

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Pondering the Finger or the Moon

Posted on September 13, 2013. Filed under: Path of the Healer, Random Musings, Spiritual Practice, Yoga |

I’ve been thinking a lot about a Zen teaching concept – “Finger Pointing at the Moon” – and just how valuable a lesson it is in so many aspects of my life from my yoga practice, in herbalism, etc.

MoonThe short version of the it is that the phrase points out you can obsess about details while losing sight of the bigger picture or end goal.

Or more elaborately when you overly focus on the minute details of the teachings and practice as if they were the point but instead they are just the finger pointing the way to the moon (goal.)

This shows up for me in yoga practice far too often where I can overly focus on those nagging Pitta Perfect Self questions like am I doing this asana right, etc.  And tending to forget where the practice is pointing in general.   More often than not this shows for me in not letting go enough by aiming for a non-existent “just right” asana – instead a looser spiraling exploration of myself in the journey of asana.

But occasionally I have funny moments of letting go like when I was kicking up into headstand the other night and did it with a bit too much gusto and instead of obsessing/panicking as I fell – I just let myself fall and enjoying my butt whopping into the bed and my feet whacking into the workstation sending the keyboard and mouse of my computer into their own lunar exploration!   Then I laughed, and set myself up and did it again! 😉

In herbalism, this is part of the reason I’m not big on leading plant walks.  There’s always something that has bothered me about going around just categorizing (identifying) and talking about how you can use things.

Mind you, I love me a big old fact filling info buffet as much as the next geeky herbal sort, but it seems too using and ungrateful.  I think I want to create a plant (un)walk where instead you go around thanking the plants and sharing how you have worked together with them.

Kind of like how one Thanksgiving instead of doing the normal nonsense we do that day in America.  I wrote thank you letters to the people in my life.   Giving THANKS!  Which is the point of the holiday isn’t it? -Rather than all the other stuff which just points to that goal.

One final way of looking at this all is how I explained cooking and life to a friend once.  I’m one of those folks who can just throw things together and yummy magic happens.   I said recipes are great but you really learn how to cook once you get to the point of letting go of them and playing in the inspiration of the moment and ingredients you gather.  And you really start living when you let go of the idea of a path (recipe) and starting playing/living your own way.

  • Just like in yoga when you learn enough to really play in the asanas, then you’re on your real path as a full yogi.
  • Or in herbalism when you learn enough to play with the herbs in ways that inspire you then you’re on your way to true herbalism.
  • There are no recipes/paths in your life.  A path is what is formed in your wake as you go forward.   Following others paths too closely never lets you create your own way.

Ponder the finger but let go of the finger once it helps you find the Moon.  Then you can dance in the moonlight.

Just my insane .02

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Make Someone Happy

Posted on August 16, 2013. Filed under: Healing, Random Musings, Spiritual Practice |

I was thinking about happiness,  spirituality, herbalism, yoga and living in general recently.  Call it a confluence of thought leading to an a-ha moment.

English: Emotions associated with happiness

English: Emotions associated with happiness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Part of it came when I was flipping through a couple of volumes of an annual anthology of best spiritual writing and I was struck by something.   Not one of the essays was about helping or even dealing with other people.  They were all about turning in or at times about connecting with nature.  Nothing wrong with that but I was bothered by how not one essay was about spirituality and helping others.

Then I was thinking about a friend whom I would call a self-help addict.  She was always a bit lonely and unhappy, always broke and chronically “busy” running to seminars about improving herself and changing her life as well as  buying books about the topic – while never truly connecting with others or actually seeming to find her own happiness since she was so busy in quest of it.    I could only help but think how much her fuller and richer (in many senses of the word) her life would have been if she channeled that money and time away from her “self-help” and into connection with others.

In herbalism, one of the most popular requests is about herbs to help with emotional issues that really could be said to stem from being lonely and/or unhappy.   And folks go to yoga to often work on themselves in similar ways as well.

While I do think these are valuable tools and great parts of one’s life, I look at some folks using them and think how they are still so aimed just at themselves and change eludes them.

Sometimes, I think when you focus too much energy on yourself and changing yourself it becomes almost like a black hole continually sucking your time and energy inward allowing little light to emerge.  There has to be a balance of energy connecting you out and to others. And, as you do, you get positive energy back from them as well.  And it becomes a wider web of support and connection supporting you rather than a hole growing ever deeper.

Practicing acts of kindness and connection to others is powerful and profound and should be a part of one’s “self-improvement”, spirituality, yoga and other practices.

I think parents can touch upon that magic with their children (and many folks can with the animals in their lives as well) which is of course why it is so easy to spoil them too. 🙂

In other words, make someone happy.

There’s actually a lot of wisdom in that song, which is why I’ve always been fond of it.

So, of course, it is good to be self-aware and work toward changing yourself though whatever modality you are drawn to but try to balance it with energy toward being kind, helping and connecting to others as well.  For that is an important part of your practice and growth as well.

Perhaps in finding the balance of that is where happiness can be found.  🙂

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Mind your mind – or it will mind you!

Posted on June 26, 2013. Filed under: Healing, Spiritual Practice, Yoga | Tags: , , |

While in my usual “I can’t” story, I forgot for a moment I couldn’t and so I did.   Wow, that sounds like the usual bad facebook picture meme with an inspiring picture – so let me try explaining that.

Sometimes our minds can be bullies,

Not always working together (Movie still from Fiend Without a Face)

Not always working together (Movie still from Fiend Without a Face)

and instead of us minding our minds, they mind us.  I had a nice example of this last night in my yoga practice, when I was working on handstands.

I’m at an interesting cusp in my work on handstands.  While I can kick up into handstand more often than not but still need a wall to prop my feet against to hold the pose once I do.   Not quite as developed as say my headstand where I can almost always kick up and I can balance without a wall.  But given that not too long ago I couldn’t kick up in either – the journey is definitely underway.

There’s a story in my head that I can’t balance in handstand without the wall yet, and when I try, I tend to fall down.   But since I don’t always kick up successfully to the wall, I have a moment in between that is really interesting.

There’s a point where after I kick up my mind makes a decision that either:

  1. Yes, I’m going to be able to get my legs up the wall and keeps going to do it
  2. Or, I’m not and slows things down so I fall back to the floor.

But then something happened.  I kicked up and my mind couldn’t decide which of my two “stories” was true – and I just paused neither falling nor touching the wall just balancing.  So as my mind was balanced in indecision between the stories, it lost a certain hold and I found balance that it thought I couldn’t have.

Of course, once my mind realized what was happening the pose fell apart. 😉

This is where a yoga practice is a great microcosm for how we are in life.  Sometimes our minds have stories of what we can and can’t do – but when we let go of those we can find more possibilities than we thought we had.

Remember to mind your mind and not let it run your life too much…

Good doggy (Movie still from Fiend Without a Face)

Good doggy (Movie still from Fiend Without a Face)

Or at least try to get it to stay off the furniture!  🙂

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Opening to Possibilities Throughout the New Year

Posted on January 3, 2013. Filed under: Healing, Herb(s) of the Week, Spiritual Practice |

Happy New Year! Finally it’s time for my first, of hopefully many, posts of 2013. Given it is a new year I’d thought I’d share my New Year’s tea blend and thoughts about the meaning of New Year’s.

I was going to post this on New Year’s Day for the symbolism, but I realized that, paradoxically (bonus points for actually using the word properly!), doing it afterward has much greater symbolic value. Because here’s where the work really begins.

Most of us have made resolutions or have thought about goals/hopes/dreams for the new year. Some have done rituals, prayers and/or meditations.

New Year's Altar (Image by Michael Blackmore - Mad Crow Herbals)

New Year’s Altar (Image by Michael Blackmore – Mad Crow Herbals)

While others chose just to have pie and forget about the whole darn thing! Mind you I’m never dismissive of the value of pie in one’s life -but pie in lieu of making the changes in your life that you want to make, not so much. 🙂

New Year’s is a classic marker time (like birthdays and anniversaries) to pause, reflect and dream. I think it is very valuable to do something at these times, whether it be:

  • Write in a Journal
  • Perform a ritual
  • Pray
  • Meditate
  • Doing a Tarot, I Ching or other divinatory reading
  • Journeying
  • Make resolutions

No matter what, the point is to pause, reflect, make clear and focus your intentions. All of which is valuable any time of year.

Part of it also is opening yourself up emotionally, spiritually as well as just opening your metaphorical heart to the possibilities of positive change.

Here’s a tea blend I like to drink during these times to aid that:

  •  Damiana (Tunera diffusa): I have periods where I’m inordinately fond of Damiana because of its many wonderful abilities. It’s a bit of Nervine as well as anti-depressant, stimulating as well as restoring for the nervous system. Just a great tonic in general for long term stress and folks weighed down with worries. While traditionally seen as a men’s herb for support with sexual problems it is equally supportive for women since its real magic is in its nerve and stress support. Damiana is also known for its spiritual support and is helpful in journeying and guided meditation. The down side is it is a bit bitter. When I don’t use it in tea blends I make a smashing Damiana infused blackberry brandy.
  •  Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.): Not only a bit of Nervine but a classic heart tonic helpful for the spiritual, emotion and physical heart. Useful for heartbreak, sadness and grief. It helps with insomnia and works best cumulatively. You can use the berries but in this case I prefer the flowers and leaves in mixes that are mostly flowers and leaves because I like the synergy of it. It combines well with ginkgo as an aid to memory and concentration so you can remember your resolutions.
  •  Jasmine (Jasminum grandiflorum): Not only does Jasmine smell wonderful it is calming, relieves tension and is a bit of an anti-depressant. I use it as a gentle lift to the spirits. You could use Rose or Lavender for the same effect.
  •  Linden (Tilia spp.): Linden is another classic Nervine like plant with its calming and emotionally supportive talents. It helps with stress and panic as well as relieving tension and helping you sleep. Think of it as a hug in a cup.
  •  Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca): You know what the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz needed? I mean other than a good ab workout. Motherwort. It’s herbal courage and helps drive melancholy away and learn there is no place like home (sorry couldn’t resist that one.) As well as a classic anti-anxiety herb helping with frustration and stress it is a cardiac tonic and aid for insomnia.
  •  Cinnamon & Licorice: Both have some pretty nifty properties which I talked about before (B.O.B. Blend) but frankly they are mainly here to help moderate the bitterness of Damiana and Motherwort. If you don’t want them you can simply add some honey to the tea as desired after it brews.

If you must have a name for the blend, let’s call it Opening to Change…

I find the combination of these herbs helpful in that opening up process and drinking the tea is part of that process as well. I’ve said it before and it deserves to be said again and again. It’s always best to brew your herbal teas for a while (covered preferably) and spend the time while it brews meditatively and calmly. Then drink the tea slowly and with full presence. It’s part of the healing and opening process. Really and truly.

This blend is potent for alleviating stress, worry and negative emotions – all of which tend to shut you down when you think of, and try to, change your life for the better. Them helping to you to open your heart, mind, spirit (and heck sexually) – makes focusing on the future and change in a positive way far easier.

But just a gentle reminder – it’s one thing to focus your intentions this time of year, it’s another to actually take action about them throughout the year in the face of the ups, downs and grind of everyday life.

While, hopefully, you’re starting off strongly now – it always gets harder. So I’d recommend making some dates in your calendar to regularly pause and drink this tea blend and go back to what you started here and now. Look at your list, pray, meditate, etc.

In other words plan scheduled rest stops during the year to recharge, renew and reorient yourself for when life tries to drag you off track. Whether it be weekly or monthly doesn’t matter. Schedule it now to remind yourself then.

Now go and make 2013 amazing!

 

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Spirit, Spirituality and Intention in Practice and Working with Herbs

Posted on August 14, 2012. Filed under: Path of the Healer, Random Musings, Spiritual Practice | Tags: |

The other day I saw a post online where the author was complaining about not finding yoga spiritual as part of a tirade about how corrupted the US is and pure India is.  Yada, Yada.

But it did trigger an “a-ha” moment for me.


Here’s a secret of searching for spirituality in practice – you won’t find it in Yoga, Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, etc. You find it within you and how you approach things. That’s the commonality in all these teachings. But yet we see people like the author continually looking for it there and then complaining when they don’t find it.

The whole “chop wood, carry water” trope in Zen has actual meaning. If you approach chopping wood and carrying water spiritually you will find it a spiritual practice. If you don’t, it isn’t. The same applies to Yoga, all religious practices and so much more in life.

Intention is so powerful and key with so many activities.  Heck it is a powerful underpinning of Karma for Hindus and Buddhists.  And, IMO, it is also so potent in working with herbs and making medicines with them.

I’m actually pretty good at tincture making and get some nice extractions to the point that I routinely get asked about how I did it.   I’ve even had folks make things from the same sources in the same official way but not quite have as good a result as me.

At one level, I do have a powerful instinct for proportions and mixing probably honed from my cooking skill.   But I think it comes down a lot to intention as well.  I believe there are a couple of main ways ways to make herbal preparations:

  • Mushroom style making – keep them in the dark and mostly ignore them
  • Mechanically make it following the instructions, mixing and shaking it as needed
  • Sending prayers, good intentions, energy into things

I basically fall into the last camp, but in a different way, since I think it is way too formal.  Many people’s  spirituality is oh so serious – while mine is funny and joyful.  Laughing spirit rather than somber spirit.

Plus I believe just sending prayers and energy as making what you’re working with into just an object to be used.   I don’t believe that when you’re asking for healing,  treating as object is the way to to do it.  Anymore than treating someone as object is the way to ask a favor of them.  I think it is far too easy to treat plants as just another thing to use and I’d rather work with them as partners and in relationship.

For me, I like just talking with them plainly.  That’s right…I talk with my brewing tinctures and herbal products!   Everyday.  I also talk to growing plants too.  I say hello in the morning, goodbye when I leave for the day and goodnight when I go to bed.   And in between I talk to them, praise them, joke with them, etc.   🙂

Important FYI, Nettles hates fist bumping.   Don’t say I didn’t warn you….

Inspired by this  I did an incredibly unscientific and mostly biased experiment where I made both Goldenseal and Hawthorn berry tinctures but in three different ways each.  One of each in my usual talkative way, one of each in the more formal herbal way, one of each mix and ignore for a while.  All were made with the same sources and mixtures levels.

The unscientific result?

The first two Goldenseal ones were pretty similar with slight differences that could be more imagined than real, while the ignored one simply didn’t extract as well.

But the Hawthorn berry had quite the difference.   The regular way was fine, extracted reasonably with no problems.  My talkative one extracted better in my view and tasted far better.  The ignored one was the most dramatic result – it didn’t extract well at all and tasted awful with a sharp edge to it.

Concrete proof?   Perhaps not, but very interesting to me.   I suspect different herbs react in different energetic ways and need appropriate care energetically in making them.     And I think intention plays a role in how well you work with herbs and healing.

That’s just my insane .02.  😉

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Herb(s) of the Week: I Dream of Mugwort

Posted on July 17, 2012. Filed under: Herb(s) of the Week, Plant Friends, Spiritual Practice | Tags: |

Ah, Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) so awesome and so loved.

Mugwort Fans

See that’s how people react with hysterical joy at seeing Mugwort.

Okay, not really. That’s how herbalists react then.

You don’t buy that either?

Alright…that’s how I react. Happy now?

I love Mugwort. I sometimes get a little too excited about Mugwort on plant walks and can ignore the plants herbalists are supposed to be excited about because they aren’t as common. And since Mugwort is so common it is easy to take for granted.

The fact that it is so common, especially in urban areas is part of the magic for me.

Mugwort—Artemisia-vulgaris (Image by Michael Blackmore, Mad Crow Herbals)

Mugwort loves being near us and supporting us like few plants do. New herbalists are often surprised to find it appearing at their door when it wasn’t there before. It’s just Mugwort’s job to be the herbal welcome wagon and welcome you to the plant friend community. 🙂

Personal Connection and Journey:

In the photo above was the Mugwort that welcomed me when I first started studying herbalism formally. It appeared in the doorway of an abandoned garage that I walked by every day on my way to work. It eventually grew to be more than eight feet tall and was the first plant I dreamed about. That specific plant appeared in a dream of mine, inspiring me to make a tea of its leaves and drink before I went to bed that night – leading me to a very life changing dream of reorienting my life to a healing arts path.

Early on in my herbal training I chose Mugwort as the first plant I explored in a journey. From my dream/journey journal of the time:

“I had the image of the green side nourishing me and the silver side protecting me by reflecting harmful energy away. I also saw it reflecting me so I could truly see myself. I felt it entering me and shifting my hormones and re-balancing them.”

At the time I didn’t know how accurate most of that was but it was my first lesson in the value of such explorations in working with plants in addition to actual study (never neglect formal study!)

So Mugwort has been a long time plant ally and even now I pick a leaf and chew it on the way to work each morning.

One of the most poetic summations of the wonders of Mugwort comes from the book Herbal Rituals by Judith Berger (Buy It! Read It! Love It!):

“Mugwort’s renown among common folk as a powerful systemic healer reaching into the reproductive, digestive, urinary, and respiratory tracts has earned this Artemisia the nickname cronewort. Like the old woman who has passed through many moons, harvesting wisdom into the folds of her wide skirt, this common weed, denounced and torn up recklessly by the ignorant, truly walks and lives amongst the people. As the village midwife once nurtured the heart of the community with compassion, knowledge, common sense, and magic, cronewort has soothed the pain of childbirth, eased the tenderness of aching joints, comforted bellies, and instilled vision among human beings for centuries with her knowing medicine.

Intractable and sturdy as a hag, cronewort stretches its roots amid those urban places humans tend to scurry rather than wander in, their hurried pace forgetful of the very existence of the natural world. Affectionately referred to in Russian as zabytko, which means forgetful, cronewort’s strong camphorlike oils, when inhaled, open up chambers of ancient memory with the brain, bringing one’s dream life stirring visions of past and future that overflow with magical imagery. The symbols which dance through our cronewort-touched dreams pull out the cobwebs of our forgetfulness and assist us in remembering old, unwritten ways of healing and living that attend to the needs of the spirit and soul.”

Just beautifully written and it really captures the magic of Mugwort.

Some of the Spirit Properties:

  • It is thought to help with fairy antics and to strip away illusion.
  • Generally considered magically protective.
  • Used for divination – use Mugwort for several nights in a pillow for clairvoyant dreams.
  • Believed to enhance spiritual vision, dreams and meditation.
  • Aids with connections to self.

I have to admit I tend to use it more along these spirit lines than anything else. But it, of course, has health uses as well.

Some of the Health Properties:

  • A bit of nervine and generally calming to the system.
  • It’s a good digestive bitter and a Mugwort vinegar will support and improve the digestive system and increase appetite.
  • A gentle diaphoretic and warming.
  • A strong traditional ally to women, hormonally balancing and an Emmenagogue (do not take during pregnancy.)
  • It can also be used as an external remedy with strong infusions helping with Poison Oak, bruises, ulcers, etc.

Not often the go to remedy for any of these conditions, but it is a shame because I think it is a wonderful supporting herb when used in combinations with the other herbs along those lines. Even by itself it is effective and has more gentle action than the first choice herbs used for similar ailments.

It has a variety of fun older common and folk names including: Artemis Herb, Cronewort, Felon Herb, Gypsy’s Tobacco, Mother of Herbs, Naughty Man, Old Man, Old Uncle Harry, Sailor’s Tobacco, St. John’s Plant, Witch Herb.

Here some of my favorite things that I’ve read about but never tried with it:

“Bruised Mugwort leaves mixed with fresh butter is a good remedy for sprains and dislocations. Boil 1 tablespoon Mugwort in wine and water, and take every two hours for gravel and bladder complaints.” – Brother Aloysius

Conclusion: Mugwort is a great plant ally, abundant and helpful. A friend to herbalists too often passed by for flasher herbs. Talk about the girl next door the hero ignores and shouldn’t – that’s Mugwort all over. Spend some time with Mugwort and learn to love it as the Ambassador of the Herbal World that is all around us.

References of Note:

Comfort to the Sick by Brother Aloysius
Healing Magic by Robin Rose Bennett
Herbal Rituals by Judith Berger (most poetic)
Backyard Medicine by Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal (best write up)
Magical Herbalism by Scott Cunningham
The Magical Lore of Herbs by Marion Davies
A Modern Herbal by Maud Grieve
The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants by Matthew Wood

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Spirits Away – Plants and Your Spiritual Self

Posted on July 2, 2012. Filed under: Healing, Spiritual Practice | Tags: , , |

I have to admit that I’ve been dithering about this post for a while, which is why I took longer to post it – wow a whole week later (of course it has also been busy lately which is another reason!)

Why?

Because it has some serious Woo Woo. How serious?

Janice from the Muppets

About Seven and a half Janices. 🙂

So let’s dive in…..I’ve been thinking about the ways I use plants spiritually. Sure we talk a lot of about the physical healing properties of the plants and sometimes the emotional ones especially with flower essences. But I was thinking more specific about spiritual support and healing.

Mind you, there can be a very fine line between spiritual and emotional which I’ll cross, erase and ignore it as needed. 😉

Some of the classic ways plants have been used along these lines include:

  • Burning as incense or resins to create opening to spirit, invoke spirit – i.e. Copal, Myrrh, Frankincense, sandalwood etc.
  • Cleansing spaces and self as in smudging – i.e. Sage, Cedar, Lavender, etc.
  • Using smoke or ingesting and food/tea to alter consciousness

All of which are good general tools but I was thinking of, and tend to work with them, in different ways as well.

For example here are a couple of my favorite herbs spiritually and how I like to work with them.

Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) is, amongst its other uses, a classic cleansing plant ally with its strong anti-microbial and anti-parasitic properties. Those are primarily its physical effects, but I also see it as being able to operate on another level.

Wormwood—Artemisia_absinthium_-via_Wikipedia

I often use it singularly, and in formulas, for spiritual/emotional cleansing and helping to remove toxic energies. Sometimes when I’m feeling a vague malaise or blockage along those lines, I will use it to help pinpoint the problem. Where I drink a strong infusion of it and lie down and observe where it seems to be concentrating the most. And those areas are the ones I need work more on energetically.

Another plant I turn to a lot spiritually is Lavender.

Lavender_flower-via-wikipedia

I find it as particularly powerful for healing and strengthening weakened areas spiritually or energetically. I’ve often used it in a 1-2 punch formula with Wormwood. Where I use Wormwood to cleanse and Lavender to heal and rebuild, which I’ve found a very potent combination when I’m in need.

Those are just two strong examples in my own life (I’ll also give an honorable mention to Hawthorn which I often use for heart and heart chakra spiritual and emotional work.) Any number of herbs can work very effectively depending on your own affinities and plant allies that work best with you.

If you have a main plant ally (plant you work with particularly well or closely) that might be a good place to start. Or see what calls to you or look for physical healing actions that can parallel the ones you look for spiritually, emotionally and energetically.  Then experiment with how they might work energetically for spiritual work as well.

There are a number of techniques you can use work with plants on a spiritual level for healing instead of just physical, but for me I find simply asking them for help and taking the time to be present with them is most powerful and direct.

In other words, don’t just take them and go about your day. Pause, reflect and be. Doing that is really some of the greatest spiritual healing magic in itself!

I think I kept that just below 8 Janices…

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Saying Goodbye to The Lone Tyranny of The Mind

Posted on April 17, 2012. Filed under: Random Musings, Spiritual Practice, Yoga | Tags: , , |

My mind has been a semi-benevolent dictator over myself and my life pretty much as long as it can remember. In the past, my body and spirit have been quiet, placid passengers on my mind’s adventures.

(Still from the movie The Brain From Planet Arous)

Actually, sometimes it feels like my mind is that big and hovering over me like that….

But thanks to yoga, paired with spiritual practice, that is changing.

I really felt the shift more powerfully in my daily yoga practice recently, where more and more I let go of watching the timer. (My mind really likes the timer, and clocks, not only because it wants to rush through those icky non-mind activities, but because time is information and a way to organize things. Measuring, counting, judging is one of the mind’s great tyrannies and ways to control.)  And more and more I simply find the joy of exploring the asanas and my body’s actions and presence while doing them.

Bit by bit in my practice of yoga my body has been waking up. Parts of my body long tight, invisible and ignored – loosen and awaken. Connections long severed, or at least underdeveloped, grow. And slowly I feel present in my body and enjoy being active in it. I continue to surprise myself by learning what I can do and striving to do what I couldn’t before but can now or what I can’t do yet but now have faith I will be able to do in the future.

While at the same time I’m experiencing a subtle awakening of my spiritual self as I develop different spiritual practices in complement to my yoga ones. Since I’m not studying under any particular teacher like I am in yoga those explorations are varied and haphazard but nonetheless growing dramatically in their impact too. Meditation, journeying, energy work, prayer and more all becomes delightful tools for unlocking new treasures of the spirit and heart.

Sometimes traditions emphasize practices aimed just at quieting the mind and ignoring the body to develop the spirit. But I’ve never been one for that because I believe we have bodies and minds  for a reason and part of the experience of life is developing them and working with them. You can achieve a balance and a quieting of the mind’s control by also strengthening the body and spirit. Then you can have a partnership.

In the brave new world that I’ve been entering via yoga, I’m finding that my body and spirit want to do things for development not just the mind desires.. My mind wasn’t happy at first, but learning that doesn’t have to run the show and that nothing bad will happen has been part of its growth too. 🙂

I can’t say it is always a beautiful symbolic blending of mind, body and spirit…more often it is very much like the Odd Couple wrought with amusing and bemusing pulling in different directions, but I know I’m having way more fun with all the new things in my life this brings.

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