Nature

With a little help from our (plant) friends...

You know those days when trying to focus is like herding cats? When you’re feeling disconnected, discombobulated, like your head and your body are floating on opposite sides of the room? 

Whenever that happens to me, I go for the nearest flower, open window, bottle of essential oils, stick of incense, or richly scented cup of tea.

Why? Because scent, baby. It’s a powerful ally when we're trying to shift our presence back to the present. 

The infusion of scent into my awareness coaxes me back into my body - where my fierce lives.Then I can focus again. Be who I choose to be. Do what I choose to do.

What’s so special about a cluster of invisible fragrance molecules? 

“Good question!” says the aromatherapist. (Hang in there with the upcoming nerdy science stuff if that’s not your thing. I promise it all makes sense in the end.)

As you inhale an aroma, the odor molecules dance across your olfactory receptors - tiny nerve endings just behind the bridge of your nose. The receptors identify the scent (“Ooohhh chai!”), and nerve cells send this information directly to the brain’s limbic system. In fact, the sense of smell is the only sensory pathway that opens directly into the brain. All other senses are filtered in some way.

How fast does this happen? FAST! Some theories say your brain registers aroma twice as fast as it does pain. 

The limbic system is a cluster of functions throughout the brain. It’s networked to your autonomic nervous system - the part of your nervous system that controls stress responses (among many other things) - the “fight or flight” or “rest & digest” reactions.

Once scent reaches the limbic system it can trigger memories and influence emotions and behavior. 

See? This is why scent - and aromatherapy - can be such a great ally when we are trying to change patterns or interrupt behaviors we’d rather not be doing.

The limbic system also works with the nervous system, respiratory, circulatory and immune systems of our bodies. All places where the physical repercussions of our emotional beliefs show up. More goodness!

Everyone has a unique response to scent. 

It may be related to our spiritual tradition, many of which include scent of some kind. (White sage in some Native American traditions, Frankincense incense in the Roman Catholic church, Sandalwood in Hindu traditions…)  Our reactions to fragrance can also be related to scents we have experienced in our past. Remember, scent is one of the strongest triggers of memory.

One of the things we tend to forget is this: our sense of smell is one of our most primal survival senses. We once used it to find food, to sense predators, to predict weather changes. Infants still use it to find their mother’s breast - their source of food and nurturing.

During the nearly 30 years I’ve been teaching and practicing aromatherapy, I’ve witnessed people experiencing states of unity consciousness and feelings of deep presence brought on by inhaling a scent. I’ve witnessed anxious people teaching themselves, with scent as their ally, to find their center, and seen people immobilized by depression work with scent to rediscover their inner fire. I’ve seen women terrified to speak in groups find solid ground and take a stand.

Because of how it works on the brain, scent touches us back into our wildness -- into our pulsing, beating, breathing, hungering, sensual bodies. And who wouldn’t want to experiment with that?

Curious? Have a groovy scent-related story? Please share! Have questions about how to do this for yourself, connect with me.

Understanding what I need to stay vibrant

Today, I find myself using my oh-so-vivid imagination, hovering high above the terrain of my life looking into and across the threads of events over the last six-ish months. The view is .... well ... very instructive.

It's an exercise inspired by a wise woman friend who invited me to do the same with the physical terrain of this ecosystem where I live, so I could better understand this land and her needs.  

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Understanding what I need - what this crone-woman body/soul needs to stay vibrant and vital - feels urgent.

As if the promise I made to Life to place thoughtful, heart-kernel, bone-truth words into the hands/hearts of the world will go unfulfilled if I don't get better at spotting patterns, nourishing myself, and defending my time, space and energy. 

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From this hawks-eye perspective it's so clear that the events/times/moments where I have been connected with truth, willing to see and listen deeply, are as solid as stepping stones.

When I lose track of the pattern-making threads - usually because I've let go of the willingness to see clearly and listen from my bones - that's what causes ruptures in my truth/clarity continuity.

That's when I see myself tumbling in murky water at the mercy of "should" and "must" and assorted other absurd external or internal expectation currents.

That's when nature-informed, flight-borne, rebel crone words come second or fifth or twenty-seventh to everything else.

That's when my joints hurt and I stop sleeping and I crave sugar and I stop moving from joy and start moving from restless emptiness and ache.  

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What I'm realizing from my cloud's-eye perspective -- discerning patterns is where our crone years truly shine as a gift. We've lived a lot of life. Had the chance to see those longest threads used by nature weaving. Watched as they appear again and again. Noticed patterns, even if we didn't know we were noticing.

As introverted women, we've likely spent time in solitude with what we've noticed, integrating it into our worldview. Making new, more thoughtful meaning with it. 

As highly sensitive women, we've not only been observing and integrating events, we've also been picking up subtle, non-verbal information and processing all of that deeply. As Elaine Aron says about how we make decisions, "HSPs simply process everything more, relating and comparing what they notice to their past experience with other similar things. When we decide without knowing how we came to that decision, we call this intuition, and HSPs have good (but not infallible!) intuition." 

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As sensitive, introverted, crone-women, we've essentially spent our lives honing our pattern recognition and intuition, whether or not we realize it. Using these skills, we're resourced to choose for ourselves and be decisive in implementing those choices. So, the best ways to nourish ourselves, creating boundaries, initiating creative habits....these move from "wouldn't it be nice" wishes to doable practices.

Being body-wise

I believe being body-wise is a state of being anyone - HSP or not - can cultivate.

Most importantly, it's a state of being, like being highly sensitive, that can feel both deeply beautiful, and deeply vulnerable. 

The beauty...

Those days when I'm holding space for a client or class (this works virtually and in person) and I feel like a tuning fork ringing my unique tone ... alternately leading, following and harmonizing with the other tone(s) in the room ... creating a symphony of insights and shifting perspectives. 

The vulnerability...

The days when I feel as if the world is ringing my body like a giant cathedral bell, knocking me off center, leaving me wobbling and swaying along a path of someone else's making. And that’s so disconcerting…

A body-wise womxn knows how best to support herself because she feels it in her bones.

  • But, what if the world is so loud you can't hear your bones?

  • Or what if you're sick, or overstretched, or overwhelmed? 

  • What if you wake up and realize you're wobbling along a path not yours?

Nature, once again, is solace and companion.

Anchoring our tuning fork bodies into an earthy port opens space for being and belonging. For knowing we are innately interwoven with our ecosystem, part of a planetary system of support, never alone with the intensity of how we perceive.

And, once anchored, we are more resilient. More resilience means more experiences of body-wise beauty.

Finding belonging off the beaten path

Wherever I am, whether it's a shopping mall or a local park, I notice how I look for places where people are not, and go there. How often I am literally off the beaten path. How I simply have to be in the places that other people don't go.

Today, I am on a muddy trail running through underbrush full of new young poison ivy. Five yards to my right I can see a nicely paved trail. But, not two yards to my left the broad creek is murmuring. A pair of Mallards are floating past, chuckling softly to themselves. And I can see, through the sparkle of sun on water, algae-furred rounded stones lying on the muddy bottom.

Yesterday, I almost lost a shoe in that mud's cousin out here on the bank. And it didn't matter. Because the experience of the creek from here is magnificent. The experience of the creek from here reminds me that I'm alive.

There is such infinite peace here. My edges soften and blur and take on the contours of tree and stone and murmuring water. I am, simply, home.

This desire to be off the beaten path…

…rises from so many parts of me. Rises from my multipotentialed curiosity, from my highly sensitive self needing the space and the ease of natural spaces to recover, from my introverted self for the same reasons, and for my Crone-woman self.

The more years I spend on this Earth the more aware I become of how essential these spaces and experiences are to reminding me of why I'm here.

I am a being of experience and senses. For me in particular, translating those experiences into words and sharing them…

that's part of why I'm here.

I'm rambling on muddy trails so other people will be inspired to do the same. I'm laughing about almost losing shoes in the mud, so other people will laugh about muddy near misses, too. And so people will fall in love with this place, with this Earth. Perhaps we can rediscover our sense of belonging, and work to ensure that all species, including humans, thrive.

But it's not just to be in service to the Earth that I am here off these beaten trails…

It's also to be in service to women like me.

Women who have walked so much of their lives feeling like they were skirting around the edges. Like they didn't belong. Like they didn't quite fit.

When I wander a new trail, even if it's only new to me, and share that experience, I like to think that it inspires women like me to do the same. And when I share how these out-of-the-way places, these trails that are often unpeopled, help me to find a deep sense of belonging, then my hope is that women like me - women like us - will recover their belonging and start to share their own off the beaten trail experiences.

But it's also about courage. It's also about developing our capacity to navigate unknown terrain despite being scared, or worried, or anxious. Unknown external terrain and unknown internal terrain.

Because, if we're being ourselves, if we're following the urge that takes us to these off the beaten path places, there's a lot of unknown terrain to navigate.

Can you imagine how much richer our culture would be if women like us shared our experiences rather than discounting them?

Terrified and hopeful

Recently, driven by a restless yearning for thinking of substance and concern for the future of this country I call home, I've been drinking in great gulps of Terry Tempest Williams' "The Open Space of Democracy."

It started because I’ve been trying to stay present and engaged in the events of this world and that’s tumbled me like a river stone and deposited me into a space both terrified and hopeful. I’m qware of systems - natural, social, and political - collapsing. I can smell the salty tang of evolution in the wind.

My wild she-who-remembers-her-interconnectedness self understands what’s happening. My indoctrinated-in-separateness human self wants to panic.

When I take several steps back and look from the outside, this divisive and chaotic mess looks like the decay it is. In our collective ecosystem, diseased old trees are beginning to fall. Space in the canopy is being cleared for sunlight to reach through. Soil is being made. Fertile places are being prepared for new systems to set their roots. It’s death so rebirth can happen.

Seen through the eyes of one fragile human who depends - or thinks she depends - on the collapsing systems for survival, it's hard to remember this. Hopelessness and apathy stalk me, snarling softly.

So I turn to the words of one who has walked this trail before me, finding both solace and warning.

"Expect anything.
Patience is more powerful than anger. Humor is more attractive than fear.
Pay attention. Listen. We are most alive when discovering.
Humility is the capacity to see.
Suffering comes, we do not have to create it,
We are meant to live simply.
We are meant to be joyful.
Life continues with and without us.
Beauty is another word for God."
- Terry Tempest Williams "The Open Space of Democracy"

Image credit: Unsplash


The Answer to Upheaval

Spring - any seasonal or life transition really - brings it's measure of chaos. 

Facets of life are being shuffled and redistributed. Whether by your hand or by the fine fingers of the Universe.

Chaos, while productive and essential, can become frustrating…annoying…exhausting. Sometimes, you just need the craziness to give it a rest.

I get that…so much right now.

When I need life to give it a rest, I plunk myself down in the middle of the mess, take deep breaths (lots), and counterintuitively open my heart wide. I become a well of stillness and compassion in the middle of the spinning life facets. I just refuse to spin with them anymore.

And then I listen for the rhythms, synchronicity, patterns that will weave everything together into it's new form.

Once you see the pattern it's much easier to deal with the lolloping looniness. It may not all settle into the pattern(s) you've discerned, but you know it will. And that helps. A lot. (For me, anyway.)