In Native American cultures, The Great Spirit is a deity intertwined with the fabric of the Universe itself on the large scale and yet personally engaged with the web of living things and the world on an earthly scale. I am creating a spiritual practice by borrowing a little from the Buddhists and the practice of mindfulness, but mostly from the strong connection I feel for the worship of Earth as taught us by our first nations. For those who hunger for the connection of a spiritual practice from someone who is learning to braid her own.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Listening to healing sirens from Mother Earth


I was the only aging suburbanite in the group of six urban dwellers, sitting on a pillow on the floor of the 2nd story, the woody smell of coffee infusing the space from the shop below. The rest were 20-somethings, engaged in banter with our teacher like they were old friends. I was the rookie in a collective who had come to study song and singing, how to lead others in song, and how to connect song to the Earth.

Our instructor was a forty-something man who smelled of patchouli and sweat, his frizzy hair pulled back in a short ponytail. His clothes were baggy, from the mountains of Peru. He was a delightful combination of mellow and enthusiastic, and quite inspiring leading his passion work. His talents were singing and mandalas and theater. Leading singing requires an ability to interact with the audience he reminded us. One of my favorite visitors in this year-long “certification” (which disbanded after 5 months) was a caucasian singer of Indian music with her odd notes and inspiring practice—a day I learned more about my voice and what it can do than in all the rest of my life. During our 3rd weekend together one of the women asked the group, “Do you have plant? Like, are there plants that connect with you in a way other plants don’t?” She looked around the room at us.

I listened to answers from others, hoping to discover the reason she'd asked. Others mentioned basil, lavender and rose. “I might have a thing for frankincense," I hesitated. "But I’ve never seen a plant. Is that the same thing?” 

“Yes, frankincense is a plant, I think in botanicals it is considered magical,” said another student.

“Hmm,” I responded, then ventured off in my mind to the Episcopal church on 13th and Pearl in Eugene, where I was baptized and confirmed to support my husband at the time who decided he wanted to seek a career in the priesthood. The pastor and his assistant were adored. I learned the lessons, passed the test and in the meantime fell in love with the “high” church I found there. My favorite services were Sunday evening gatherings, most often filled with a plainsong choir and what we called “smells and bells.” The priest, wearing a white satin cape and skull cap, would stride the center aisle around the narthex shaking a brass thurible filled with burning frankincense, leaving a stream of smoke that dispersed and hung in the air long after the pass. I scrambled to attend smells and bells as often as I could.

On the other hand I never really liked nor burned incense at home because most of it made me sneeze, or nauseous. When I moved and left the church I left behind my craving for frankincense.

Fast forward to the past year when I was introduced to botanicals by a student-turned-friend who sells oils and other health care products by doTerra. Of course the first time I looked through the catalog and saw I could order frankincense to slather on me any time, I was ecstatic. It is not cheap, but opening the small brown bottle for the first time made me know I will never be without it again. Since then I have learned a lot about oils. I read about and practice with them, and attend informational gatherings when I can. Most of what I have learned thus far have been remedies, for allergies and for preventing seasonal flu.

Last month, however, I ordered a botanical oils book that to my surprise arrived with a CD. Luckily the CD had exercises that forced my more systematic route through the material, rather than my normal pick-and-choose-method. The narrative spoke an unwavering belief in the connection between mind and body and the healing power of nature’s own medicine—plants. On the CD the narrator talks about the oils we are attracted to, their properties and an inevitability that healing properties of our favorite oils match our long-seated emotional needs. The first activity asked me to pick 3 favorite oils, read about them (in the accompanying book) make a plan to use them for 30 days, and journal about the experience.

I couldn’t wait to test the theory so I searched and found the page on frankincense that summarized its uses. What I read sealed my belief about the healing power of plants. As it turns out frankincense supports a body to create a healthy attachment with one’s father (his death when I was 5 left behind unresolved grief). It helps an individual feel the fatherly love of the Divine (curious my draw to the church and God and the fragrance all wrapped in one experience). When one has felt abandoned or forgotten, frankincense reminds us that we are loved and protected. While this oil is incredibly powerful, it is also gentle, like a loving father who nurtures, guides, and protects (a healing tonic for a kid who often ran home from school crying after school mates taunted me for not having a dad). 

Heal thyself, with the therapeutic sirens calling from Mother Earth. Do you have a plant?

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