5 Energizing ways to Revitalize your Health and Wellness practices with Rosemary Oil
Our ancestors knew the power of Rosemary to help with everything from Memory to to Massage to a little Mmmmm in the bedroom.
In a Nutshell:
A Little Rosemary Legend and Lore
Rosmarinus Officinalis has played a role in the human story since ancient times. Officinalis is a latin word that indicates that a plant is of medicinal use. Rosmarinus comes from the Latin for dew (ros) and of the sea (marinus), reflecting the origin story of Venus, the Goddess of Love. The myths tell that she was seeded from the stars when a phallic-looking object (apparently from Uranus) fell into her mothers womb, the Sea. Venus emerged fully formed from the waters, her neck draped with rosemary. It is a gorgeous image of feminine beauty, power and love, born of both the stars and the earth, beautifully captured by Sandro Botticelli in his painting, The Birth of Venus.
The common name rosemary comes from a legend that Mary, mother of Jesus, while fleeing from Egypt, sheltered one night next to a blossoming rosemary bush. When she threw her blue cape over the bush, its white flowers turned blue. Like the sacred woman she is associated with, Rosemary's energy is loving and soothing like that of a caring mother. It is subtle and fragrant, yet grounding and supportive.
But our love story with Rosemary does not end there. Its medicinal properties have benefited humans for centuries. In Ancient times, it was burned in spaces to clear the air of toxins, bacterial or spiritual. The Greeks hung rosemary bunches in study spaces to help scholars focus their minds for clear thought and inner vision. And legend has it that Rosemary oil was part of an immune system boosting blend that protected grave robbers from getting sick during the Plague.
Rosemary Essential Oil Health and Wellness Benefits
Back in the day, Rosemary was used to treat respiratory issues, melancholy, gout, epilepsy, arthritis, memory problems and nerves. It was also part of regular body maintenance, both inside and out. Thats a lot of awesome wellness in one plant!
Today, rosemary essential oil is used to boost the immune system and ease breathing; relax muscles and stimulate circulation; calm the mind and hone focus. It can help eliminate harmful bacteria and fungus, soothe an upset tummy, minimize a skin breakout, uplift mood and revitalize hair.
Now you have even more reasons to use Rosemary Essential Oil! But how will you put that precious elixir to use? Here are 5 suggestions for how you can put the benefits of your Rosemary essential oil into personal care rituals for yourself and your loved ones.
Diffuse Rosemary Essential Oil to Improve Memory and Focus
Rosemary is a strong cephalic essential oil, which means that it has properties that work on the head. Recent scientific studies show that Rosemary Oil can help improve memory, focus and concentration for students, as well as dementia patients. It can also reduce the level of harmful hormones released during stressful experiences.
Does your child have an exam to study for? Having trouble focusing on a project? Or a loved one experiencing short term memory loss? Try a few drops of your lovely rosemary oil in an aromatherapy diffuser. Place it in the room and let Rosemary work some of her magic.
Worried about stressing out in an exam or at work? You can also take Rosemary essential oil with you on the go in an aromatherapy inhaler or in aroma jewelry. No matter what stressful dragon you might be facing down, Rosemary has your back!
Make a Rosemary Massage Oil to Relieve Aches and Pains
Rosemary is fabulous for relaxing tight overworked muscles. Its anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-relieving) properties work wonderfully on headaches, muscle soreness, rheumatism or arthritis. Its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal properties are knock out foot and armpit odour. And its stimulating properties put a little zing back into your blood flow. Get your Rosemary Essential oil to work by creating a multi-purpose massage oil that can be used to massage your aching head, sore body and tired feet.
To make the massage oil, choose an organic, skin-loving carrier oil - like almond, rice bran or sunflower. Next, dilute your Rosemary essential oil into your carrier oil. The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (USA) recommends using 2.5% to 10% essential oils in a massage oil formula. Your carrier oil will make up the rest. Combine both oils together in a bottle. Cap it, and gently shake it thoroughly to mix the ingredients.
Heat your Rosemary Massage oil just a little before using it by placing your bottle of oil into a mug of hot water. Thats an Ayurvedic massage trick, to improve oil absorbability and fluidity. Ayurvedic self-massage has been used for centuries to keep the lymphatic system flowing smoothly, while working on acupressure points and stimulating your nervous system. Your Rosemary Massage oil is perfect to use, as Rosemary will help stimulate muscles and nerves, provide pain relief as well as clear up that brain fog!
Use Rosemary as an Aphrodisiac
Rosemarys association with the Goddess of Love explains the traditions of employing Rosemary in matters of the heart. Back in the day, it was used to make love charms. Both bride and groom would wear it in ceremony as a symbol of their love and devotion to one another. It would be placed between the sheets on the wedding night as an aphrodisiac and to ensure fertility. And planted outside the house for protection. Thats a lot of Love blessings!
Today, Rosemary and Love still go together. Valued for its aphrodisiac properties, it has the ability to stimulate both mind and bodyâhelping you to be more present during love-making. Increased blood circulation heightens sensitivity to touch; a relaxed body can lean into an orgasm with some abandon; and a focused mind is more able to pay attention to physical and emotional needs in the bedroom,.
Arouse your partner with a sensual massage using your Rosemary Massage Oil. Diffuse some Rosemary essential oil in the bedroom. Let Rosemary carry you away to your bliss.
Use Rosemary to Zap Zits
Rosemary Essential Oil has astringent, anti-bacterial and anti-oxidant properties. That makes it particularly good at deflating the most angry of zits. You can make your own Zit Zapper Oil by pairing your Rosemary essential Oil with a lightweight, easily absorbed carrier oil that supports your skin sebum production while repairing ruptures. That gift from Nature is is Evening primrose Oil.
Put 30ml Evening Primrose oil in a dropper bottle. Add 10 drops of Rosemary Essential Oil. Cap the bottle and gently shake to thoroughly mix the ingredients together. At bedtime, complete your usual face care routine. Instead of using your regular moisturizer, apply your Zit Zapper oil blend. Place a drop or two of the oil on the affected skin area. Gently massage the oils into your skin. Leave the oils to work overnight while you sleep.
Condition and Strengthen your Hair with a Rosemary Essential Oil Treatment
I come from a long line of women with amazing hair. Truly! Even as I turn 60 this year, I have a full head of hair with some light silvering. The secret? Coconut oil and Castor Oil. Having an oil treatment was part of a weekly routine in my youth, one I still indulge in today.
Washing, brushing and styling your hair can cause damage, leaving it looking frizzy, broken, and dry. Coconut oil can help treat split ends; its anti-bacterial properties can fight dandruff causing fungals; and its cooling feel is calming to scalp itchiness. Castor oil strengthens the hair shaft, helps smooth the hair cuticle and adds shine. Add Rosemary Essential Oil to this magic mix and you get a scalp stimulant that studies show may help slow down hair loss and graying.
To make this lovely hair treatment, heat together 2 tsp Coconut Carrier Oil and 2 tsp Castor Oil in a small pan. When the oils are melted and blended, remove from heat and add 5 drops Rosemary Essential oil. Using your fingertips, massage the oil blend into your scalp. Leave it in for 30 minutes to an hour. Shampoo as usual.
I hope you feel inspired to include Rosemary Essential Oil in your daily self-care practices. How are you planning to use It? Please leave a comment and let us know!.
Lessons from the Trees
On Mindful Meditation, Journaling and letting go
Fall is the season for learning how to let go. And the trees are our teachers. As we come out of the summer and into the fall in the Northern Hemisphere, plant life gradually dies away and becomes dormant. The dead matter folds back into the soil and provides nutrition for seeds yet to be planted. It’s all preparation for coming back to life in the spring. We humans are also a part of this yearly cycle of life, death and rebirth. But what does it mean for us?
In the fall, the trees give us the most amazing colour show as they gracefully let go of the leaves they have outgrown. When it’s time to let go of a leaf, they simply LET GO. There’s no fight, no doubt, no struggle. It just simply IS, an inarguable truth. Leaf’s dead. Time to let it go so that it can be recycled into the soil to feed future growth.
Letting go is our work this season, too. In order to make space for rich new growth experiences in our own lives, we, like the trees, have to let go of what no longer serves us. This could be people, habits, limiting beliefs, a job that no longer fits, clothes that no longer fit. The list goes on and it is as individual as you are.
How do we know what our dead leaves are, what we need to let go?
Identifying your Dead Leaves with Mindful Meditation
Ever thought you might have to Mari Kondo your inner world? Yeah, me neither. But it’s actually a useful approach, believe it or not. It is about identifying that within your life that sparks little or no joy. And these feelings point to or actually ARE your dead leaves.
Your first step is to identify them. No need for any big moves. Remember that a leaf dies slowly, turning from green to gold or red. The tree has time to prepare to let go of the leaf. It stores its energy for the winter, hibernating and resting in readiness for spring’s growth.
Here’s where mindful meditation comes in. According to Mindful.org, “the goal of mindfulness is to wake up to the inner workings of our mental, emotional and physical processes.” Meditation is a way to explore, venturing into the inner workings of your being as expressed through physical sensations, emotional reactions and random thoughts. “…Your head doesn’t become vacuumed free of thought…it’s a special place where each and every moment becomes momentous” Mindful meditation, then is a practice of being present within yourself, and observing each of those moments, without judgment and with curiosity, warmth and kindness.
The steps are easy and gentle, as described on Mindful's website.
Mindful meditation allows you to become like the tree. A tree does not judge itself for letting go of its leaves. Nor does it beat itself to a pulp with guilt and shame for shedding. It just does what it must do to take care of itself so that it can continue to grow and do its part in its ecosystem.
Mindful meditation, when practiced with consistency, has the potential to rewire your thought, feeling, behavioural patterns--and your brain. It allows you to be present in any situation, observing your own inner reactions and discerning what is working for you and what is not. It gives you space to observe your belief systems so that you can review and revise as needed. And it helps you connect with the sacred in yourself, so that you can plant the seeds of your hopes and dreams, and then nourish them lovingly into being.
Journaling it Out, One Dead Leaf at a Time
Once you have come out of your mindful meditation, give yourself an extra 10 minutes. Set an intention to identify that which no longer serves in your life--the dying leaves. Pull out your journal and write the first things that come to your mind. Don’t judge them. Notice what emotions you are feeling about each list item. Write these emotions down. What sparks joy? What doesn't? Notice any body sensations that come up in response to your intention. Write these down. If anything more comes up—random thoughts, feelings, ideas, write them down. Don't judge them or analyze yet. Now get on with your day.
Keep adding to your list of observations. Over time, you'll begin to notice connections and patterns. You'll begin to understand what your being is saying to you through thought, emotion and body sensations. You'll be able to determine what relationships, beliefs, situations or stuff is sparking joy, working for you, supporting you to be the best you can be. And you'll be able to see which ones don't. That's your official Dead Leaf List.
Again, like the tree, don't rush into anything. give yourself time to determine the best course of action. Use your tools--mindful meditation and journaling--to break it down for yourself, in terms of thought, emotion and sensation. When you think about how to end a friendship, say, or draw boundaries around it, observe your thoughts, emotions and body sensations. Use the same techniques as you did to identify the Dead Leaves to find a way through for yourself that feels calm and even. Remember to be kind, loving and as non-judgemental with yourself as possible. Guilt and shame have no place in your healthy ecosystem.
These tools really helped me through some of my darkest times. Mindful Meditation allowed me to explore my inner world, one thought, feeling and body sensation at a time, without judging or drowning in shame and guilt. It allowed me to discern which thoughts were coming from the voices or experiences in my past and which ones were truly my own voice; which ones made me feel light and buoyant and which ones sunk me like a stone; and which ones led to feelings of joy and happiness.
Journaling allowed me to figure out the thought, emotion and action patterns I had developed as coping mechanisms in joyless situations. It also allowed me to discover and honour my inner treasures, parts of my being that I felt good and sparkly about. And it gave me, literally, a blank page on which to visualize the reality I wanted to experience. This is still a work in progress. Not because these tools don't work but because Life doesn't stop until you do. It is is simply an unfolding process that does not stop delivering learning moments and opportunities to refine your experience until you are driving mostly in the JOY lane.
So This fall, take some time out for yourself to go on a profound inner journey. Uncover what is ready to die away in your life, and let it go. Fully embrace your uniqueness and be the fullest, most authentic best you can be.
Flower Power, part one
The psychology of flowers and why they make us so happy
These days, as our lives go through ups and downs due to the changes we are living through, more self care is called for. We may need more exercise, a healthier diet or more sleep. We might find peace in moments wandering through nature or in meditative quiet time. And we might receive a much needed emotional lift from Flower Power.
In 2005, the Department of Psychology at Rutgers University conducted a 10 month behavioural study, looking for links between flowers and life-satisfaction. They found that “Flowers have immediate and long-term effects on emotional reactions, mood, social behaviors and even memory for both males and females.”
“What’s most exciting about this study is that it challenges established scientific beliefs about how people can manage their day-to-day moods in a healthy and natural way,” said Jeannette Haviland-Jones, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and lead researcher on the study.
In the study, subjects received deliveries of flowers and other gifts such as fruit, candles and pens. While most deliveries of gifts received a positive response, the highest response rates came from receiving flowers. The studies showed that these positive responses lasted two to three days.
But honestly, we didn’t need a scientific study to tell us what our bodies intuitively know (though confirmation is sometimes nice). According to the Rutger’s study, the presence of flowers:
Why do Flowers Make Us Happy?
Flowers are connected to the release of some seriously happy-forming hormones in our systems.
Dopamine, the feel-good neurochemical, helps regulate movement, learning, motivation, attention and emotional responses. It is released by the expectation of a reward. Flowers, back in the day, were a huge reward signal in our brains because they promised abundance after a hungry winter. While we may not link flowers so directly with food anymore, flowers can still trigger that sense of anticipated excitement.
Oxytocin is a neuro-chemical often called the “love hormone”. It creates feelings of social trust from mother-infant bonding, to romantic connection to group cohesion and belonging. These bonds are crucial not only to our survival as a species but also to our capacity to thrive and grow. When we give each other flowers, oxytocin is released. Flowers then serve as talismans, communicating the strength of our bonds, and our intention to invest in caring for the relationships that form them. Because of the evolutionary connection of flowers to physical survival, we are also underlining the importance of social connection to our well-being.
And then there’s serotonin, the neuro-chemical crucial to mood, well-being, happiness and our spiritual lives. Scientists have found that serotonin receptor activity in the brain correlates with a capacity for transcendence or bliss. From the lotus to the rose, lowers have long been associated with spiritual paths since ancient times. It is both the colour of the flowers AND their scent that trigger serotonin and lift the Spirit.
That brings us to the Chromotherapy and Aromatherapy. That’s part 2 of this blog post. Stay tuned. But in the meantime, here's a lovely bouquet to help your happy.
Happy Solar New year, Hello Spring!
Reflections on the past year; reality check from Krista Tippett in conversation with clinical psychologist Christine Runyard; and imagining a future based on cooperation and care
Happy Vernal Equinox, 2021 everyone. In my culture, this is actually New Years Day, called Navroz. Traditionally, it’s a time for communal feasting, dancing and letting go of all the unnecessary and dark while calling in light, peace and prosperity for the new year. And Dancing...did I mention dancing? This year’s Navroz has gone slightly differently than in the past. All the feasting, dancing, letting go and calling in has been more contained, more personal “bubble” sized. Such is our current reality.
The other day I was reflecting on the past year and the pandemic situation, with my friend and artist, Norma Jean McCallan. One of her observations was that this year has felt like tiptoeing around an abusive relationship. In such a situation, we are in fight or flight and survival mode, rolling from one crisis to another until such time as we have a moment of relief to process, and make choices as to how we want to proceed.
One of those moments came for me in January of this year. While my head recognized that “normal” is not something I can (or want to) return to, the rest of me needed some time to catch up. I disappeared into a bit of Cave Time to deal with the depression feelings that seemed to overtake me after the holiday season. My physical energy was low, I slept a lot and tried to focus on facing the fears with some heart tools - like appreciation, grounding breath work and visualization.
It was more challenging than I thought it would be. Then last week I came across an interview with clinical psychologist Christine Runyan on Krista Tippett’s On Being podcast. Here’s the blurb that introduces the interview.
“The light at the end of the COVID tunnel is tenuously appearing — yet many of us feel as exhausted as at any time in the past year. Memory problems; short fuses; fractured productivity; sudden drops into despair. We’re at once excited and unnerved by the prospect of life opening up again. Clinical psychologist Christine Runyan explains the physiological effects of a year of pandemic and social isolation — what’s happened at the level of stress response and nervous system, the literal mind-body connection. And she offers simple strategies to regain our fullest capacities for the world ahead.”
Christine Runyan put words to what many of us around the globe have been feeling this past year. Her coping strategies are simple yet effective. It was a valuable hour spent. I realized that I use many of these strategies already, but it was really necessary for me to have them confirmed and validated. Equally important was the confirmation that I’m not crazy or alone in this experience. Naming it, talking about it and doing the work to come back to a grounded, balanced center, are crucial to moving forward.
It all comes down to the story we tell (meaning believe) about ourselves, each other, our world and our place in it. When I was at school, Science taught us a story about the earth and the relationships between all living beings. It was essentially that the earth is based on competition, the survival of the fittest, a win-lose story. If you think about it, this is the story upon which our world, our economies and our lifestyles have been crafted in the past few millennia. But we are seeing that story crumble around us as our impact on the Earth has exacerbated the climate; as our economies are slowly failing, as the nation state system created by conflict slowly falls apart.
Science is revising its approach. It is now saying that the earth and the relationships between all living things is cooperative. In this model, one that aboriginal peoples all over the world have known for millennia, we all survive, thrive and evolve when we cooperate and work together. Its a part of Nature, right down to our very cells. According to evolutionary biologists, without cooperation we wouldn’t be here.
It's easy to see how we might flourish in such an environment. The stresses we experience of survival and isolation just wouldn't be a thing. Within a cooperation model of human organization, our individual talents and gifts would have more chances to be expressed and flourish. See it as a group of intersecting circles, as in the Flower of Life design, as opposed to a pyramid scheme model. In the pyramid model, there is only one peak, one “best” of anything. But in the intersecting circles model, there would be more opportunities for sharing and collaborating. Every circle, or community, would have a possible place for your specific talents and gifts and many places and opportunities to be your best self in what you do.
Imagine a human world in which cooperation and care of self and others was the governing principle. Oh but wait! We’ve had glimpses of what that world could be this past year. Health professionals pulling together in crisis situations to help others, often at personal cost; entire cities of people following masking, distancing and other protocols to help flatten the virus curve; many people sharing their skills online to help others in various areas of self-care and personal growth--from online courses to exercise programs to Arts experiences; the growth of online communities that transcend borders; governments releasing funds to its citizens and cooperating on vaccination acquisition; communities of people doing the very difficult work of naming points of trauma that need healing in our society so that we can do the repair work needed to come together; the continued commitment of so many of us to repair the damage we have done to the Earth; and the Earth herself showing us it wouldn't take much time for her to repair, if we would only stop our destructive behaviours. There will always be those who have difficulty cooperating. As oceanographer Danny Grunbaum says, “Cooperation never means the absence of conflict of interest. It means a set of rules for negotiating conflicts of interest in a way that resolves them.” I would add, “for the highest good of everyone involved.”
At the start of this Solar Year, we are on the cusp of huge changes, which can be both exciting and scary. How we meet them will depend greatly on how we change the story we believe about ourselves, our relationship with the planet and with all living things. I, for one, hope we continue to choose the win-win options.
Why being grounded is so important right now and some Essential Oils that can help
A few days ago, an artist friend of mine posted on her social media wall, wondering how the rest of us were dealing with pandemic depression. Those that replied weighed in with helpful suggestions and loving support. In the current social distancing scenario, social media is serving as a window we can lean out of to talk to our neighbours and maintain some kind of human connection. That's a very good thing.
But social media is also the site of many fearful, traumatizing stories that can put us off balance. We are in such a deep transition, and it is not clear how it's going to turn out. Being mindful of our thoughts and feelings is important to our mental and emotional health right now. It's also useful to remember that thoughts and feelings become things. This is how we create our collective reality. Metaphysics for Life explains:
"Thoughts become things when they are given substance with feelings in the Mind.
Thoughts are the DNA of the Universe. They contain the information that gives form to our physical life experience. Without feeling or substance, we would not be able to perceive the thought-forms in our Mind.
The feelings we use to give substance to the thoughts in our Mind come from one of two sources: fear or Love."
Our thoughts and feelings affect our body's pathways, creating hormone release and affecting our energy flow. Fear thoughts will release stress and anxiety hormones and prolonged stress can lead to dis-ease. Love thoughts will release endorphins and happy hormones which leads to sustained health and well being.
The collective consciousness is also affected by the predominant thoughts and feelings of any group. Studies have shown that group meditation, for example, can do things like reduce crime rates and promote peace. How does this work? According to Thrive Global:
"An experiment conducted during the Lebanon war in the 1980s showed that when 1,000 people in Jerusalem meditated on world peace, war deaths in Lebanon went down by over 75%. Not only did war deaths go down, but crime and other destructive happenings also went down on the days the group meditated. There are many such experiments and given such huge positive social changes brought about by group meditation, it is very much possible that large meditation gatherings will become very popular very soon, just as meditation has become mainstream."
So for the good of ourselves, each other and the planet, choosing Love over Fear, following our hearts and inner guidance, seems critical at this time in our human history. Aromatherapy can play a huge role in helping us maintain our sense of rootedness on the earth in these winds of change.
WHY IS BEING GROUNDED SO IMPORTANT RIGHT NOW?
Being temporarily ungrounded is a pretty common experience these days, especially in our current, fast paced, rapidly changing world. We are constantly bombarded by fear thoughts, and feelings of depression or anxiety. We worry about what's going to happen in the future (anxiety); we miss how it used to be (depression). Yet we are all being called upon to dream a new future for ourselves and the planet, individually and as a species. In order to make the best choices for ourselves, we have to be able to hear our own inner voice, our own personal creative muse. This is where being grounded comes in. When we are, we are choosing to place our trust in something much older and wiser than our fears. We are choosing to love and honour our soul's journey and this beautiful planet we call home. She's been here a lot longer than we have; and this too shall pass
Being grounded refers to being physically, emotionally, mentally, energetically and/or spiritually rooted. This doesn't mean staying rigid or unchanging; it means that, like trees, embracing the flow of the breeze; following the sun and growing while being energetically connected to the earth. The emotion behind being grounded is Trust--in the unconditionally loving connection between ourselves and the earth. People who are grounded are fully present in the moment, alert and aware of their physical experience and boundaries. They tend to be solid, clear and comfortable in themselves. This is a useful way of being, especially in the face of the unknown. Aromatherapy is an effective tool for helping us get back into our bodies, anchoring us so that we can manifest our dreams for ourselves and our planet.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I'M GROUNDED?
It's my experience that our bodies have a way of telling us. Here's how you can get ready to listen. First, become present in your body. Take a deep, cleansing breath in. Fill up your lungs and hold it for 5 seconds; then exhale out. Take a couple more deep breaths and begin to notice sensations in your body. When you feel relaxed, pick up your essential oil bottle and bring it to your nose. Inhale. Hold your breath for a few seconds and notice any sensations you might be feeling, primarily in the your chakra system, from the base of your spine to the crown of your head. Grounding oils usually speak to your Root Chakra, found at the base of your spine. When you inhale, you might feel a drop in your lower pelvis area--that's your Root Chakra responding to the oils. Or you might be aware of an energy sensation running down your legs to your feet. You might also sense your feel feeling solid and firmly planted. These are all messages from your body that you are anchored in the present moment. If you don't feel the Root Chakra drop right away, inhale again deeply. Repeat until you feel grounding sensations in your body
Now take a minute to notice your feelings. If you are grounded, you will notice an overall feeling of calm and relief, as though you just put a big burden down. You might also notice some feelings of hope in the space between calm and relief. That is the feeling of trust taking root.
MY FAVOURITE GROUNDING ESSENTIAL OILS
My blog post, Aromatherapy, Memory and the Art of Creating Scents explains the science behind how aromatherapy works in your body. The entire process from the moment of breathing in the oil aroma to the corresponding gland secretion in your body, takes place in a matter of seconds. This is one reason why Aromatherapy can be so powerful in effecting change to your mental, emotional and physical state.
Essential oils that are grounding tend to be derived from tree bark, needles and resin. Or they come from the roots and rhizomes of herbaceous plants. No surprise here. Nature is wise that way, creating what we need to ground with her quickly, leaving clear clues for us to find it. She literally seems to be saying, "Make like a tree and get rooted."
Here are my favourite essential oils that provide grounding and the Free Lion Scents that holds each one
Cedarwood has been used traditionally by Native Americans for its spiritual energy. It is grounding and centering while also helping to open the upper chakras. The Druids believed Cedar to be a relative of the Tree of Life, holding an energy that is deep, ancient, and protective. Cedarwood essential oil brings forth feelings of safety, grounding, support, love, and comfort. Its fragrance is purifying and safeguarding. It powerfully facilitates deep connection to the wisdom and sacred truths of the earth.
I use this one a lot. You'll find it in our Rose Garden, Sandalwood, Citrus Cedarwood and Tofino Breeze blends as an anchoring base note.
Fern is a staple of Native American self-care preparations. Spiritually and energetically, Fern helps build an earth-sky connection between that in you which needs to soar free, and that which needs to stay anchored and stable so that you don't lose your way home.
It's a much lighter scent, leafy and herbaceous. a "green" sort of smell. I use it in our Namika scent blend to give some grounding depth to green tea and jasmine.
Juniper Berry is the oil of transitions and new beginnings. Its warm and comforting smell evokes feelings of safety and security, like being in the presence of tall trees standing guard. Juniper berry is a powerful tool to purify, cleanse and detoxify the body, mind, spirit and environment. It supports us during times of stress, works to calm negative emotions and facilitates communication between the heart and mind.
It has a slightly fruity note to its otherwise woody smell, giving it a gentler presence. You'll find it in our Rain City and dancing with the citrus notes in our Citrus Cedarwood
Pine instantly connects on the deepest level with hundreds of years of tree wisdom with its restorative assistance and present-time perfection. Revered by Native Americans as the "Tree of Peace," this nourishing oil expands the chest as you inhale the fresh scent of revitalizing evergreen. I use it in our Rain City blend.
Frankincense is said to hold the wisdom of the universe, reconnecting you with spirit. It is elevating yet calming and grounding. It helps remove blocks and negativity to support faith and trust, creative vision and concentration. Frankincense was used by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks as an offering to the gods. It is said that it was gifted to Jesus by one of the three wise men.
The scent is less woody and more resinous. You'll find it in our Citrus Cedarwood and gently grounding the sweet, warm tones in our Mombasa.
Oak Moss evokes the scent of the wet forest, truly connecting you with the earth. It helps us connect with the earth plane, and to realize that we are on earth for a reason. I use it in our Tofino Breeze.
OUD or AGARWOOD
Oud or Agarwood is known for its spiritual and calming properties. It is used to clear the negative and destructive energies that surround the human aura, while increasing mental functionality, and a feeling of harmony and contentment.
I have a huge attachment to the smell of Oud. It reminds me of sacred ceremony. You'll find it in our Mombasa, in a sacred dance with Frankincense.
Patchouli has a comforting yet stimulating scent that supports both creativity and sensuality. It is both balancing and grounding, helping with manifestation of earthly matters. Basically, it helps you ground your creative intention. You might be able to feel this one in your Sacral Chakra too, just below your belly button. You'll find it in our Sandalwood blend.
Sandalwood evokes sacred, wise energy. Both grounding and spiritual, it is a wonderful aid in mediation or to create a sacred space. Sandalwood is an aroma that is said to stretch out into the universe, into the hallowed space between heaven and earth, connecting you with your divine presence. What a way to meet your inner voice! You'll find it in our Sandalwood blend
What are your favourite Essential Oils to use for Grounding?
A chance for change: Three Thought-Provoking Podcasts on understanding and unlearning Racism
Resmaa Menakem on healing black and white trauma; Austin Channing Brown and Brené Brown on the humanist work of anti-racism; Brené Brown on shame and accountability
This week has been a bit of a roller coaster ride--again--as our human story unfolds. Things are opening up a little as we venture into Phase 2 of the COVID response plan. As expected, new case numbers have spiked in various locations, causing adjustments in the plan. I am grateful to be living in BC where Dr. Bonnie Henry has been so pro-active about maintaining our health protocols.
Truthfully, I have enjoyed the "sheltering at home" period, the quietness in the world, the songs of the birds being so audible in the city, the decrease in traffic and road rage, the care people have shown for one another. This pace feels "normal" to me, what life should be like so that we can stay grounded, connected and not lose our minds in stress frenzies. My neighbours have been echoing much the same and are not eager to return to how things were. They've enjoyed the experience of being at home with their families; homeschooling; taking classes online; working from home; having the Canadian governments use taxpayer money to bail Us, the citizens, out (for a change). They, like me, are wanting a revisioned new normal.
Ignited by the anti-racism protests currently occurring all over the world, my desire also extends to wanting to write racism (and every other divisive "ism") out of our new normal. As a person of colour, anti-racism work, in all its complex nuances, has been a part of my life since childhood. It hasn’t been easy or fun. It’s actually been exhausting--but necessary. Without standing up for myself as often as I have, I'm not sure I would still be here, self-value more or less in tact. Along the way, I have met amazing people of colour who have been willing to do the hard work of standing up against relentless systemic behemoths, only to be beaten down time and time again, but relentlessly rise up and do it again; and white people, who have been willing to do the hard work to unlearn racism and become an ally, standing in that interstitial space between the oppressor and the oppressed.
In my walk so far, I have found that we are more alike than different. We are a human family, as Dr. Maya Angelou has said, albeit a dysfunctional one. But as in all dysfunctional families, repair is possible with a lot of hard work. It seems to me that in order to revision a new normal, we’re going to have to dismantle the old one, its inequities and systemic abuses. Its going to take a lot of honest introspection and perspective shifting grounded in a vision of unity, equity and love. For in the end, fear isolates; Love liberates.
1. Resmaa Menakem: Notice the Rage; Notice the Silence
First, a perspective-shifting interview with Resmaa Menakem, trauma specialist and author of My Grand Mother’s Hands. In his examination of why anti-racism work hasn’t taken root, so to speak in the last 20 years of equity movements, he speaks about the trauma of Racism as it lives in both the oppressor and the oppressed. I’d never thought about it this way before but as soon as he said it, I thought, “Of course, it makes sense.”
Trauma, he tells us, is stored in the DNA for generations, it’s role being to inform our survival reactions in the here and now. So a trauma that might have terrified an ancestor becomes recorded in our DNA which, in turn, triggers our own survival mechanisms. In order for us to heal division in our human family, we have to heal that trauma that signals danger, causing us to fight or flight. Resmaa Menakem is working with old wisdom and very new science about our bodies, our nervous systems, and all that we condense into the word “race" to offer us the possibility of change, beginning at a cellular level.
Using a gradual process, we can learn to take our survival reactions off autopilot by observing and noticing the trauma reaction, moving the body itself to unlock stored trauma, and then choosing to replace the trauma reaction with mindful, loving responses (not reactions) that fall in the realm of what Angel Davis calls Radical Self Care. Menakem shows us the possibility of being able to change and let go of our collective traumas.
Having been through trauma recovery counselling myself, I can tell you that this method--slowing down, noticing and then making a choice to respond rather than react on the survival fight or flight autopilot--is crucial to transforming traumatic experience into lived wisdom. It takes time, but once it's done, the effects are far reaching and profound. And without diffusing trauma reactions, we will have trouble hearing each other rationally.
2. Brené Brown with Austin Channing Brown on I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
Brené Brown’s podcast interview with Austin Channing Brown, I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, is an exercise of witnessing one way in which hearing each other across the race divide gets done. Austin Channing Brown is a writer, speaker, media producer, thought leader on racial justice in America is invited to share the Brené Brown mike. They have worked together on the issue of race before and have a lovely back-and-forth banter.
Their conversation raised a crucial point for my exhausted Social Justice worker self: The work of un-learning Racism is about being a better human. That’s it, plain and simple, period. It’s not about shaming or blaming or maiming. It is simply about the will and desire to be a better human being and to make sure that everybody, regardless of colour, has the space to experience and just be without fear, dignity and self-worth in tact.
3. Brené Brown on Shame and Accountability
In another podcast about unlearning racism directed mainly at her white audience, Brené Brown continues on, examining the role that Shame plays in accountability, through examples from her own life. One of the main nuggets is that being held accountable or called out on Racism is not the same as being shamed, even though one’s ego’s survival self-defense mechanism might get triggered. As a shame expert, she unpacks this part of the human psyche in a way that is succinct and easy to follow; and she shares her strategies for bringing her thinking brain back on line after a survival trigger has gone off. She's also echoing much of what Resmaa Menakem is saying about defusing trauma reactions.
I share these resources because they put into words some important tools that can help us navigate times of flux and change. For it’s not just racism that is falling apart as a system of control right now. All other "isms" are up for review too: sexism, homophobia, trans-phobia, casteism, cultural phobias, and the list goes on. In short, any difference that has been exploited by power hegemonies to ostracize, divide, conquer and control segments of the human family. My hope is that if we can actually transform some of this division trauma in ourselves, we might actually be in a place to collaboratively revision and reinvent our world from a place of love and not fear, a place where there is enough for everyone, where the dogs no longer have to eat dogs. The new normal.
How’s your week been?
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team
May 22nd, 2020
THE BEST PARENTING STYLE FOR HOMESCHOOLING SUCCESS
I was gifted two precocious and intelligent children. When they were younger, school was important to them primarily for social reasons. In the learning department, they were both bored out of their heads. My eldest was on the gifted learning spectrum. My youngest tested as “bright”. In order to help facilitate their learning needs, I part-time home schooled them through the lower grades of elementary school. They are now 27 and 23. I can honestly say that homeschooling has made a difference to their lateral and critical thinking abilities, depth of empathy, and desire to collaborate with others in meaningful ways.
I know many of you are facing the homeschooling challenge right now. I encourage you to not be daunted. It’s not as difficult as it might seem, because you are actually your child’s first teacher. Your child learned how to eat, walk, talk and navigate the world from you. So you’ve actually been homeschooling from the moment your child was born. In short, you’ve got this.
Don’t think that you have to replicate the classroom in your home. See it more as an opportunity to bond with your kids and teach them not just classroom curriculum but a model a set of values, ethics and tools that they can carry with them all life long. See it also as a opportunity to re-evaluate and hone your own way of being, life tools and parenting style. This is actually a great time to decide what is most important to you and your family, how you want to be in the world.
AUTHORITATIVE PARENTING FOR THE HOMESCHOOLING WIN-WIN
Homeschooling is a little different than conventional schooling. While schools set curricula and have expectations about children completing learning modules, these can be incorporated into a homeschooling method. But is not at the heart of it. At the heart is your child growing and learning how to be in the world. Homeschooling becomes a testing ground for his or her capacities, skills and talents, explorations guided and facilitated by you in a loving, safe environment.
Homeschooling as a methodology is based on a concept called “child-led learning”. What that means, practically, is that the course of learning is set by your child’s interests. The method of delivery is set by your child’s learning style. And you work with your child to determine areas of interest and corresponding projects. There are a lot of differing educational theories out there, to be sure. But I will say from experience that if your child is interested in the subject, and has a feeling of ownership of it, he or she is going to be more invested and inclined to stay with it. It is a really effective way to cut the boredom factor off at the knees.
So what does that have to do with your parenting style? Well, in order to really understand your child’s needs and interests, you have to be able to hear them, observe, and then problem solve with them. The way you parent will affect your ability to do this effectively. I’ve learned that one from experience.
According to Bright Horizons, there are 4 main parenting styles. As a side note, their website mentions that their research is based on North American culture. Having been raised in North America by Muslim parents, I can say that these styles are cross-cultural with differences in expression. While authoritarian parenting, for example, may look one way in North America and another way in Africa, the essence of the attitude and goal behind the parenting style remain the same.
If you’re not sure what your parenting style is, click the link to get to know parenting styles. Most of us parent in combinations of these styles. There’s an ebb and flow to it that depends on so many things. The challenge is to maintain balance between allowing your children to explore, learn and grow while providing a safe, non-judgemental space in which to do so.
From my experience, I would say the Authoritative parenting style is the Gold Standard in homeschooling. Authoritative parents are reasonable and nurturing, and set clear expectations for their children. The parenting goal is for children to be the best they can be, to thrive, grow and expand with all the support they need to do so. It’s parenting that comes from love and trust, rather than fear, guilt or punishment. In this style, children are seen as people who need care and guidance to grow into their fullest and best selves. Children with parents who demonstrate this style tend to be self-disciplined and think for themselves. And it’s thought to be most beneficial to children.
The Authoritative parent:
You don’t have to know everything there is to know in order to facilitate your child’s learning. You’re not expected to be a genius or an expert in every subject your child studies. But being a parent who observes, nurtures and responds to your child, who can communicate with them eye to eye, at a level they can understand, who sets boundaries consistently, who sets realistic goals and problem-solves with your child, and who engages in self care so that you can be calm and present for your child is a definite set up for success in both parenting and homeschooling.
Remember, You’ve Got This!
These Homeschooling blogs contain my experience and opinions. They are not meant as professional advice.
March 18th, 2020
CHOOSE CALM AND CONNECTED THROUGH COVID19
As the COVID19 story unfolds, many of us are feeling a little stressed out and scared. The words "lock down" have a decidedly negative, trapped feel to them. I came across a wonderful, positive alternative today in my internet travels: Safe Harbour. We are currently anchored in the safe harbour of our homes until the storm passes.
Humanity has an amazing ability to rise above adversity and be our best selves. I see so many examples out there of people pulling together and reaching out in different ways to help and support each other, often without even being in the same room. I’m feeling hopeful.
Here are a few some resources to help you and your loved ones keep stress levels down and some feel good articles to keep your spirits up.
TURN OFF THE NEWS FOR A WHILE
Words illicit feelings which in turn affect our bodies and frame of mind. So in a time such as this one, it can be a good idea to download less negative information and open yourself up to more positive messages. Happiness hormones really help us on the health front. So turn off the news for a while. That doesn’t mean you have to completely ignore what’s going on in the world. It just means give yourself a break from stressful mass media messages. Check in once a day for a short period of time just to be updated and then get on with the rest of your day.
SING, SING OUT LOUD
According to Uplift Connect, “The neuroscience of singing shows that when we sing our neurotransmitters connect in new and different ways. It fires up the right temporal lobe of our brain, releasing endorphins that make us smarter, healthier, happier and more creative. When we sing with other people this effect is amplified”.
People in Europe know the score on this one. Here are some feel-good stories from Europe of people joining in song together. In Italy, people have been singing or jamming together across balconies. In Milan, a DJ played music for the neighbourhood, while in Florence, a tenor gave a beautifully moving concert of Nessim Dorma.
Inspired by the singing in Italy, Bono has written a new song called Let Your Love Be Known. The song was released on St. Patrick’s Day so that people could continue celebrating despite not being able to gather in the same room. It was posted on U2’s Instagram page.
SHAKE YOUR GROOVE THING
Get yourself and the kids moving. Random acts of dancing (my go-to) can be really helpful in times of stress. From Arthur Murray Dance Centers, “...dance has the ability to act as a stress reliever stems from the idea that when the body feels good, the mind does, too. Any type of physical activity releases neurotransmitters and endorphins which serve to alleviate stress. Neurotransmitters are chemicals within the brain that help communicate messages throughout the body. Endorphins are the body’s natural painkiller to reduce stress and improve the mind’s perception of the world. Thus, after a good workout the endorphins cause the body to feel calm and optimistic. The endorphins also aid in improving the quality of sleep, so that a few sleepless nights due to stress can be avoided after dancing!” So put your favourite tunes on and let ‘er rip!
In Seville, Spain, a fitness instructor led a workout for quarantined citizens. Closer to home in Vancouver, Canada, VYVE is hosting a virtual dance party on March 20. Turn up the tunes and have a romp around the living room.
PRACTICE PEACE, GET GRATEFUL AND HELP WHERE YOU CAN
Meditation and deep breathing techniques are really useful right now. These are practices that allow us to connect with our intuition and inner knowledge. It also helps keep us calm. This would be a great time to teach these tools to your kids. According to the Chopra Center, meditation gives “…kids the tools to help them fend off negative thoughts and behaviors, build self-confidence, focus, and treat others and themselves with respect and appreciation is a gift they will have for the rest of their lives.” They offer three kid-friendly meditations to try.
Practicing gratitude in times of uncertainty is a really great way to stay focused on the positive. Try journaling, writing down all the people and things in your life you are grateful for. Take the time to expand your list with why you are grateful for them. When you feel anxiety, return to your list to remind yourself of what’s most important to you. And when its possible, share your gratitude. Let people know what you appreciate most about them.
In Spain, people felt it important to express their gratitude for their hardworking, dedicated health professionals. They came out collectively onto their balconies at 10pm to applaud and thank them.
There are many of us coming together in the community to help each other out. In Vancouver, Canada, a FaceBook group, Caremongering YVR - Vancouver Community Response to COVID19, offers a place for people to connect and help each other. A similar one has been set up in North Vancouver, COVID19 Coming Together. Look for similar groups in your neighbourhood. I’m sure they are out there. Because kind and giving is just who most of us really are!
Don't feel like you have to help in a big way right now, unless you feel called to do so. Every little thing helps, like calling your friends and family and checking in with them; and observing self-isolation protocols and your self-care rituals. Don't let fear over take you, even in the grocery aisle. Take only what you need and leave some things for others, even the toilet paper! Be as considerate and loving as you can.
As for me, I’m at home looking after my loved ones, checking in with family, friends and neighbours and helping where and how I can. At home, we’ve divided up chores and responsibilities and we’re doing a lot more cooking (also a time for Kitchen Dance Party and Sing A Long). Davida and Zak just made a most beautiful, tasty braided cheesy garlic and herb bread. Thom and I are spending time in the garden. He needs those Vitamin D rays; I’m getting ready for planting season. I find it reassuring that despite all this, Mother Earth just keeps going. If you pull the camera out a bit, you might see a silver lining: all of us staying at home is giving the Earth some space to clear up some of our mess. Let's not get in her way.
I wrote a poem that I want to share with you, if you don’t mind.
Birds have come to life in Wuhan
Singing the earth back into health
Swans and the dolphins frolic in the canals
loving the earth with their joy
Smog rolls away in Shanghai
Letting the light back in
Neighbours sing to each other from balconies
Reminding us that we are in this together
Families dance around the living room
Snatching fears back from the unknown
This love that powers our planet
This is who we truly are.
Stay healthy, stay calm and keep singing! We are in this together.
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team
April 10th, 2019
SEVEN THOUGHTS ON BEAUTY
I've been thinking about the word Beauty recently. Not a big surprise, given what I do for a living. What does it mean exactly? Is it a noun, a person place or thing? Is it a feeling? An action? Is it learned? Why is it important anyway? And what does it mean to me, as an artisan and a formulator of natural skin care products? Okay, I know, too many questions. But it's how I figure things out for myself. Ask, and ye shall perceive.
BEAUTY, THE THING
Physical Beauty is a thing, I suppose, a phenomenon viewed objectively, almost instinctually. How do we humans know what is beautiful? Funnily enough, this one comes down to math. Yep. Math. And geometry.
Geometry is at the core of all things natural, from flowers to fauna and beyond. Humans were quick on the artistic uptake and have been using geometry for proportion and beauty in art and architecture for centuries. Studies show that humans consider a person to be beautiful based on how perfectly symmetrical the face is. Itâs an innate thing, something evolutionary we have encoded within us, that seems to transcend training or opinion.
Leonardo Da Vinci believed that all creation was part of a universal plan. He ambitiously aimed to embrace the whole universe in his a life-long study to discover its rules and mathematical principles. Drawing and painting were the means to an end, his method of communicating his findings. Remember his Vitruvian Man? It is a symbol that depicts balance and harmony as represented in the symmetry and ratios coded within the human form. To me, it's more than that: it's a metaphorical map of how to live a harmonious and balanced life, in alignment with nature's blueprint for continued growth and evolution. It indicates the need to consider all of ourselves--mind, body and spirit-- in this equation.
BEAUTY, THE FEELING
What does it mean to âfeel Beautifulâ? Ever looked in the mirror and had that moment of âyouâre beautiful?â Did you track your thoughts before you had the beautiful moment? Often the thoughts and feelings that precede are loving, joyful or compassionate ones. You could have been thinking about someone you love, or have just come back from a great hike through the forest or had a fulfilling interchange with someone.
Human experience is messy and physical beauty fleeting. Qualities of the heart, mind and soul come through the face, enhancing beauty. These include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-command. They also include curiosity, excitement, challenge, growth.
Inner beauty is reflected in many ways--through our thoughts, compassion, friendship, giving to others and ourselves, and the very choice to engage our lives, full-on. I think this is what it means to be beautiful from the inside out. When one feels engaged and fulfilled, it sparkles in the eyes. It shows on the face in a radiance that face make-up just canât approximate. It is the flush of happiness, the excitement of adventure. It's the glow of a life well lived.
BEAUTY AS SELF-CARE
I know that when I am tired, stressed, anxious, angry, depressed, these all show on my face in dark, scowling brooding measure. So, not a moment when Iâm inclined to say, âHey, youâre beautifulâ to my mirrored reflection. This is why balanced self-care is such an important thing.
All that wisdom you hear about eating healthy, exercising, not bottling up negative emotions, experiencing gratitude, setting healthy boundaries? These are some of the actions that precede feelings of love, joy, oneness that become expressed in your face as beauty. Hokey as it sounds, beauty seems to rest deeply in the act of loving yourself. Being loved in return is a residual benefit!
BEAUTY AS CREATIVE PROCESS
Then there is the creative process, a source of beauty all its own. It requires you to have a connection to your spirit, a sense of purpose and a desire to express your Self. Okay, I know that's centuries of Art Theory distilled down into one sentence, but I've been thinking about this for a long time!
The urge to create is like a compulsion or a calling that flows through your being, pushing you to make, write, paint, compose, garden or whatever your art medium asks of you. It is a playground on which mind, body and spirit meet to play. In this case, the product of that meeting is secondary to the sheer will and audacity to put yourself out there, to say, "I am here and this is how I experience my world." Creating a beautiful object becomes the happy by-product of this beautiful act.
Weâve been trained by Big Beauty, by way of fashion magazines, movies and a myriad of other media to understand beauty as something that is physical, young, thin, with perfect skin, perfect curves, perfect you-fill-in-the-blank. As a woman who turned 55 this year, I no longer fit that stereotype. In fact Iâm not sure I ever did.
Iâve had sensitive skin for most of my life. In my twenties, I experimented with make-up, as many of us do. The killer for me was foundation. It clogged my pores, choking and irritating my skin. The matte finish felt fake, muting my natural skin glow. So despite the best efforts of many advertising executives, foundation was not a staple in my make up bag.
Mascara was quick to follow. It made my eyes go into watering overdrive. Eyeshadow became something only for special occasions, as it would dry out my eyelids, making them itchy. The only things that worked for daily wear were eyeliner and lipstick. So be it.
My Big Beauty training in âthe lookâ was irreparably interrupted by my body just saying NO. It was a call I had to hear and so I found myself looking for natural solutions, way before it was trendy to do so. And I learned to love my look, no matter what magazine covers screamed at me from the grocery checkout line!
WHAT BEAUTY MEANS TO ME AS A NATURAL SKIN CARE FORMULATOR
Beauty, to me. is about what emanates from within. It's in the glow of the skin, the sparkle of the eye, and the joy in the heart. How could i possibly bottle that? I canât. But what I can do is formulate natural blends that will help support your skin and self-care rituals. And if you feel even a little happier using something natural and non-toxic on your skin, thatâs going to show in your glow! If I can help you achieve that, then my job is done here.
WHY IS BEAUTY IMPORTANT?
Quite simply, its an external indicator of your overall health and wellness in mind, body and spirit. If youâre feeling beautiful, it means youâve likely been taking some good care of yourself, having some loving thoughts and feelings about yourself and others, setting healthy boundaries, nurturing yourself inside and out, exercising, believing in yourself, feeling your fears and doing it anyway. Youâve likely been walking in your own authentic natural self. Now THATâS beautiful!
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Body Care
What are your thoughts about Beauty? What makes you feel Beautiful?
March 25th, 2018
THROW OUT THOSE LIMITING BELIEFS THAT NO LONGER FIT
Spring is finally here! I look forward to this time of year, like most people who live in northern climates. The snows thaw, temperatures warm and nature begins to come back to life. It’s time for the fresh and the new; and it’s also time to let some old things go. Yep, Spring Cleaning time! Pull out, dust out, clean out, throw out. Works great for our outer stuff. But what about our inner stuff?
Our inner worlds are also cluttered with old emotional habits and patterns that no longer fit. If we were to analyze our negative internal dialogue, for example, we would likely find that underneath all its layers lies a fear of some kind that holds us back from being or expressing our most awesome selves. The question is: how do you throw that fear stuff out?
STEP ONE: RECOGNIZE YOUR FEAR AND HOW IT EXPRESSES ITSELF
That’s not always an easy thing. The tell-tale, fear red flags are anxiety or worry. Our bodies are really good at carrying these signs. You might feel your stomach turning or butterflying; you might have a headache; you might feel down or like you’re carrying a heavy weight; your heart might literally ache a little or be beating a little too fast. These physical sensations are usually quickly followed by some self-talk, usually judgemental, mean and self-deprecating. Yep. That be Fear going on inside you.
Here’s a little story from my Life’s Safari to help illustrate. When I began Free Lion, I was making Vegan Leather bags (available through my Etsy Store. I still make them to order). After graduating from Architecture school, I had been a stay-at-home and then part-time working Mom. After my divorce, I had to focus on making a full-time living. I had always wanted to work for myself as an artist/artisan, selling what I made. But, I was broke and terrified, with no real confidence that I could run my own business.
When I sat to work at the sewing machine. I would feel that knot in my stomach and my heart would race a little. Then the thoughts would start. “You’ll never succeed. You think that’s even good enough? No one is going to buy that! Everyone is going to see you have no talent.”
I would argue with those voices in my head to hold them at bay while I sewed. This went on until I noticed that it was taking me forever to make a bag because I was spending more energy and time focused on fighting with the voices than on sewing. That was the day that I started questioning the voices in my head.
STEP TWO: QUESTION THE VOICES IN YOUR HEAD
I was working with a counsellor at the time who introduced me to Byron Katie and The Work, a meditative approach to opening to your heart’s voice and your personal truths. The goal is to be who you ARE, not what others think you SHOULD be. The process is not to simply replace a negative thought with a positive affirmation, a la Louise Hay or The Secret. It goes much deeper than that. It helps you become mindfully aware of your thoughts and the effect they have on you, so that you can change your relationship with them.
Most of us react in situations on auto-pilot, using stress survival habits we learned as children. Katie lays out 4 questions to ask yourself in the face of negative thoughts or fear feelings. My counsellor added one more, which helped me to stop taking on other people’s stuff by identifying which beliefs/thoughts were mine and which belonged elsewhere. Asking yourself the questions gives you a moment to slow down, witness, analyze, evaluate and choose how to respond. It takes you from reacting on auto-pilot to responsively using your own agency.
Here are Katie’s questions, plus the one more from my counselor. Sit with each question one at a time, in order. Go inside and listen for the answers that come up, paying attention to your internal dialogue, body sensations, etc. As in, "What comes up for you?" I found it useful to record my answers in a journal so that I could go back over them, analyze and re-evaluate.
So back to the story of me struggling at the sewing machine with vinyl and voices in my head. Care to walk through the Katie questions with me? Ok. Close eyes. Deep Breath. And then another one. And one more. Blow it all out. Now, take one more. Breathe.
The Statement under question,
"You’ll never succeed."
1. Is it true?
Hmmm. I don’t know. I’ve never run my own business before and actually, I’m just fricking scared right now.
2. Can you absolutely know it’s true?
Meaning do I have Actual Factual, tangible evidence that it’s true, that I won't succeed? Uh, well no. I guess i don't. I haven’t done it before so i have no concrete experience or numbers to prove I won't succeed. So it might be possible, right? I might actually be able to do this.
3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
I feel sick, my stomach turns; i feel anxious, scared, like a loser, helpless, crippled, disempowered, unworthy, alone, kinda abandoned. Yeah. This sucks.
4. Where did you learn this idea?
Hmmm. My dad, rest his soul. He was a talented artist who wanted to be a graphic designer. In fact, in 1964 he was all set to start a job with an advertising firm in Nairobi, Kenya. Due to family circumstances, he had to join the family restaurant business. He quietly set aside his dreams, and never talked much about his own disappointment, or how he lived with it. He was, however, the voice of doom in all of our own career explorations. Sadly, Dad didn’t have a Byron Katie to help him out. But I do.
Ok, so this isn’t my own belief at all. I learned it from Dad. It's a limiting belief that comes from his experiences and fears. His idea of success was a professional career, not one based on craft or manual labour. I have professional credentials, but I haven't worked in architecture for 11 years. I'm behind on the career track. and the industry has become computerized. I would have to retrain, something I don't have time for. Besides, I would rather run my own business, designing, making and selling my own work.
I am not my father. I don’t have to listen to his fears and values anymore. I don't have to let them hold me back. "Thanks for worrying about me, Dad but I'm not a lesser person for enjoying designing and working with my hands. I am not a lesser person for not meeting your expectations."
This is huge! I can give myself permission to make another choice. I can work at wiping Dad’s broken dream from my inner dialogue, without shame or guilt; I can listen to my heart’s truth; I can shift my perspective; I can focus on bringing my own dream to life, one step at a time. And if I get stuck, I can ask for help. Hell Ya! A hallelujah door just opened up in the sky (cue choir of Angels)!
5. What happens when you believe something else?
When I believe that success is possible, the way that feels true to me, I feel more relaxed, grounded, capable, determined. While I am looking at a mountain to climb, I feel scared yet excited, hopeful. Maybe I WILL be able to do this after all. Woohoo!
STEP THREE: CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE
The beauty of this process is that you can CHOOSE your own beliefs, your own feelings, your own adventure. You do not have to be weighed down by beliefs that are the projections of someone else’s broken dreams or expectations. Nor do you have to be wracked with guilt for not living up to them. It doesn’t mean that you won’t ever feel fear or have limiting beliefs ever again--you will. But now you’ll have a method to face each one, break it down, shift your perspective and choose something else.
Did you notice that the answer to the question involving my Dad was the longest of all the answers? That’s not an accident. The stuff that we inherit from childhood is actually the most complex stuff to dismantle and throw out. But it is possible to do. Just go slowly, layer by layer. And be kind with yourself.
Just remember that you were born with abilities, predispositions and talents written right into your DNA. That’s your nature. How you are raised and taught (that's Nurture) can sometimes wreak havoc with your inner balance. So, it’s down to you to honour your own nature and nurture yourself back into wholeness
STEP FOUR: FLY!
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team
How do you overcome fears? Do you have a process that works for you?