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Lessons from Irma for Weathering Life’s Storms

By Ellen Brenner, Certified Aromatherapist


I began the drafting this post from Atlanta, Georgia where I evacuated from my home on the Gulf Coast of Florida, which was located in the path of historic Hurricane Irma. As I finish this blog more than a month later, I am grateful to have escaped all but some displacement, stress and inconveniences.

Others were not as fortunate, and as I finish this blog there are still many suffering not only from Irma, but also from Harvey and Maria.  And, while the East has been drenched, the West has been parched with folks there suffering terribly from the raging wildfires. I want to acknowledge their significantly more serious situations and note that I am simply sharing what I learned from my own personal experience in the hope that it may help should your life’s journey suddenly become stormy. As always, with a life crisis, do not hesitate to access professional support as needed.

While I have been exposed to hurricanes, and hurricane season, for a number of years (a Floridian fact of life) this one felt different. Irma intensified quickly and, then, she didn’t set her compass for a distinct location until the last minute. Instead, she led us on a wild chase as we raced to do what we could and must to avoid her destructive forces from a direct hit of unknown determination.

When you live in certain locations, planning and preparing for the possibility of a hurricane comes with the territory. But, for myself, and for many, the intensity and unpredictability of Irma caused chaos creating a storm within us mirroring the force of nature coming at us.

Two critical lessons I have learned about the healing process after a crisis both start from the inside out.

The first practice is to pause to restore and rebalance. The other is to savor that solitude so I may hear my soul speak.

It is only in this quiet space, with my whole self, that the lessons I seek reveal themselves for next steps in my life journey. What this looks like, for me, is to support mind, body and spirit in a restful and introspective state while opening myself to higher consciousness. In this way my spirit can show my mind the information I need to see through my sense of intuition.

Once I reach the part of my being that is  internal, I am then able to ask of the Eternal,  “What am I meant to learn/know?” After doing so, I let that thought go from my conscious mind, before I drift into a mindful meditation trusting the answer will return to me when I am ready to receive it. Sometimes, it is immediate and sometimes the information arrives much later at an unexpected moment when my mind is again quiet. But, it always comes as a sense of clarity where I can “clearly see” consciously what I couldn’t before.

Here is what came to me.

While Irma was her own event, she also acted as a natural life metaphor bringing me the following message. What worked well in weathering this storm, would also serve well in weathering any other stressful life crisis suddenly blowing in to buffet our sensibilities and our unbalance our sense of being in the world.

In that spirit, here are the Lessons from Irma for Weathering Life’s Storms that I wanted to share. I hope you will bear with me as this blog is a bit longer than usual. Irma had a lot to say.

Looking back, for me, there were three distinct stages of the crisis that sustained intense levels stress over a period of several weeks. Each meted out and merited its own message.

 

The Arrival of Seriously Significant Storm

Prep and Plan But Be Prepared to Change – over a series of hours and days, it seemed that no matter which way I planned to go to get out the way, Irma’s path followed my every move. This required discarding the plan and making new preps sometimes on the spot multiple times in day. When the wind keeps changing directions it is important to be resilient.

 

You Can Run, But Nature Runs It’s Course – at the last possible go time, driving what is normally a seven-hour distance northward and inland to Atlanta seemed the best course of action. And, then, Irma locked in her GPS to follow. We ended up at a safer distance from the intensity and a direct hit, but there was going to be no total escape from the storm. Eventually, you are going to have to turn and face the circumstances.

 

Do Not Hesitate to Ask for Help – there are many people who love me, but assumed I had it handled. What we needed was a place to stay out of the way. When we thought of whom to ask, we hesitated because of the last-minute imposition. Yet, when we called, she was relieved. She had heard we were going in another direction, but that plan had been scrapped the day before while things were moving quickly. She was ready to help. Don’t assume someone knows what you need. Help them help you if they are able.

 

Don’t Take In the Alarm of Others – while busy planning, re-planning and rebooting those plans, I was trying my level best to stay calm and focused. In that time, I received an incredible amount of messages from folks who were anxious on my behalf. What they mostly transmitted, however, was simply a sense of alarm without specific support that was rational, reasonable or doable. Absorbing all that anxious energy finally sent my own anxiety over the edge taking  me off course into a melt down for a short period of precious time. While there a hurricane around you, you do not have to bring the storm into your soul.

 

Choose Your Planning Partners Wisely – it is simply impossible to think of everything yourself. Look to those who know you best, and whom you know will come through with concise and sound information specific for you and your situation. For me, this was my best friend, who was also my roommate, and who was evacuating with me. In spite of the stress, we worked in sync keeping a synergy to our energy so we could do more than we thought possible. My Mom, from across the country, dispensed some insightful advice through the distance to help sort out some simple solutions to smooth the way and sooth the stress. Carefully choose  whom to take along for the ride so you may depend on their ability to help navigate the crisis.  

 

Focus on What is Immediately Important – I always thought I knew everything I would pack and take if we ever had a hurricane on the way. For the all the reasons outlined above this was not my reality. While I did not know which direction I would be heading, what I did know was I needed to be nimble. What that meant was I needed to be able to carry what I brought to manage within my abilities. That realization helped me quickly focus on what was would literally fit into two suitcases, a small tote and my handbag. Turning the lock in the front door, and leaving my car behind as I left, I felt confident I could create a new life from the few things I carried. Letting go of what was helped me lighten the load while traveling toward the unknown. 

Note: As an aside, you may be wondering what I brought from my precious stash of essential oils and supplies.  I wrote about this in an upcoming  companion blog. I thought  the lessons I learned there merited their own mention. Look for this followup to publish shortly. In the meantime, you will find some supportive synergies for this blog below.

 

Find The Time to Keep Your Gas Tank Full – growing up in earthquake country this was a mantra my Dad had drilled into me. You never knew when there would be any kind of personal or environmental emergency and so  it is important to be prepared. Irma’s direction for landfall in Florida became apparent as one day drew to a close. By early the next morning, the gas stations in the local area were drying up. I had just filled up my tank the day before for the week ahead and was never so glad I had listened to my Dad. Just as importantly, it was the close of a holiday weekend. I had spent the last few days relaxing and restoring my body, mind and spirit. Having been rested rather than run down was never more important for being able to take the trip ahead. Taking the time to top off your tank of energy reserves ensures you don’t get unexpectedly stuck or sidelined.

 

What Can Seem Impossible Can Be Possible – if you had told me that we were going to make an arduous trek in the car over 16 hours in one day, I might not have even tried. With my spinal cord injury, and my friend only 8 weeks post major surgery, the notion would have seemed daunting for the two of us. We knew the trip in traffic would take longer than the normal 7 hours and so started out early on a day we hoped we had timed to miss the worst of it. We were wrong. Taking turns resting and driving we crawled forward mostly in middle lane to see and steer around any upcoming chaos coming our way. Staying focused on navigating the road right in front of us kept the fear at bay for how far we had yet to go. After we safely arrived, we were both dumbfounded at the distance we had covered. A significant journey forward happens one step at a time, with lots of stops and starts, and by focusing your navigation on what is immediately in front of you. 

 

Anchoring While Weathering the Storm

Restore Your Power Supply At Every Opportunity – once we arrived in Atlanta, we had two full days to rest, restore and replenish ourselves and our supplies and we took full advantage of the opportunity.  Irma arrived on at our doorstep in the evening of day three downgraded to a tropical storm.

While Florida would have weathered that reduced intensity well, this was Atlanta’s first ever experience which she was not built to withstand.  Predictions that the high winds would topple massive amounts of old growth trees taking out the power lines on the way down proved correct.  (As an aside the dark humor of my mind kept me humming in my head the old Vicki Lawrence song “That’s the night the lights went out in Georgia.”) When you find even small pockets of time, take that time to prepare for the next wave by restoring to shore yourself up again. 

 

Ration Your Energy Between Recharges – the unparalleled force of the storm winds left behind an unprecedented power outage for most of the population of the Atlanta region, as well as other areas of the state. And, backup crews were already handling a one-two punch in Texas after Hurricane Harvey and in Florida following Hurricane Irma.

What that meant for Atlanta was that time and patience were going to have to prevail. For three days we were faced with no electricity to power our sources of outside information including, most importantly, our phones. So, we powered down to battery saver mode and also to the off position so we need only recharge our phones rarely by way of car charger because we also needed to reserve our gasoline. While you are weathering the storm it is important to conserve what energy you have left lest you become totally run down and offline. 

 

Mind Your Mind – sometimes , when we are in crisis mode, our worst enemy is our own mind. We can whip up a host of worries, or we create peace by managing our mindfulness. Repetitive negative thinking creates distress in the mind and stress in the body.  Below are the practices that helped me steer back on course when I drifted toward doubt and worry. Ruminating on what may or may not be down the road is a waste of much needed energy.

  • Draw On Your Inner Reserves –powering down my connection to outside world cleared the way to cultivate calm in my inner world. Being oddly out of touch also created longer time lags I didn’t always take in my day-to-day world. Here was an opportunity for more spacious periods of meditation especially important at this time get in touch with my own innate wisdom.

 

  • Stay in the Present – when I was connected to the TV and phone, what was coming through was a barrage of gloom and doom. This created a sustained sense of anxiety and a stressful sense of needing to know about things I could not control nor deal with at present: Is the power out at home? How is traffic getting back? Did the water crest the bridge cutting off the route home? Is my roof leaking like the neighbors’ homes? These were all important questions, but without answers days in advance.  With the power out I just needed to focus on what was important in that moment.

 

  • Gratitude Helps Get You Through – when my mind did wander to the worst case scenario, I would start to feel overwhelmed. So, I refocused my mind on large and small mercies. I was safe. I had a place to stay. A comfortable bed in my own room. Hot water. Temperatures in the area were cool. My best friend was with me. Folks were looking in on us and helping how they could. My things were insured. I had what was most important with me. I had work I enjoyed and family and friends I love. I could start again.

 

  • Use Your Imagination For Visualization when I found myself imagining the worst, it only created worry. Instead, I would visualize what I wanted to see as a good outcome. I also used my mind’s eye to see peaceful pictures that would soothe the spirit. Regardless of what I would find later, I had to the power to choose to change the channel on the pictures I was seeing in the present time.

 

Small Mercies Can Help You Feel Whole – at one rest stop along the way, I got a good look at myself in the mirror. After three days of panicky prepping, a poor night’s sleep, a quick and early departure and many demanding hours on the road, I indeed looked and felt like an evacuee. My clothes had been grabbed for comfort not style and now felt grubby. My hair was dirty and in disarray. I had been sweaty from the heat and stress.  And, I was exhausted and undernourished from snacks at short gas station stops.

By the time we finally reached Atlanta,  I couldn’t have felt further away from my own sense of humanity. I nearly cried with relief when I discovered there was a tub in the guest bath, complete with Epsom salts and bath gel so I could take an aromatic bath to ease my bones and spirit before sleep. When you are under duress some things, no matter how small they may seem, can contribute to your sense of self when you need it most.

On that note:

  • Little Luxuries Are Important –bringing only things that I could carry meant keeping it simple for my toiletries.  Yet, as I was grabbing to go , I also instinctively popped in two little luxuries that would fit – the sumptuous face serum and cream set I had just purchased. It wasn’t about the money. It was the intuitive need to have something nice to help support my sense of self when things seemed down.

 

  • Pack More Underwear Than You Think You Will Need. Seriously. I’m not sure there is a life lesson here except that your mother was right. I underestimated how long I would be away and what my circumstances would be in Atlanta. When the power finally came back on there in the middle of the night — bringing back to life the washer and dryer — it was literally just in time for me to refresh my supply to shore up my sensibilities.

 

The Aftermath of The Storm

Make Way for Your Own Disaster Relief – After a week away, when I finally arrived home, I found myself feeling like washed up debris from the storm surge. My natural energy flow was spent and my spirit felt scattered to the four winds. My thought patterns were short-circuited making it hard to concentrate and recall things.

With my brain not fully functioning, I had to keep asking what day it was and couldn’t complete thoughts and sentences. Emotionally, I was torn between wanting to put everything away and be back to “normal,”  or to keep everything packed “just in case.” In talking with several others, this shared experience seemed a common occurrence that was taking some time and support to shake off.

I recalled, on our way north to Atlanta, the only vehicles heading south were the convoys of military and power repairmen setting up to be in position for the aftermath of the storm’s wrath. On the return trip home we were again accompanied on the road by more convoys of military and power repair trucks, as well as disaster relief organizations.  Over the next few weeks, they were everywhere getting the population back on the grid and  it was a timely reminder that I needed to do the same to get myself up and running personally. It is vital in the aftermath to take the time to attend to whatever restoration and rejuvenation you need to shore up your sense of wellbeing in your whole being.

Over the next several days, the sky was blue and clear. I slept, took hot showers, ate hot meals, gathered groceries and the gardeners came on schedule. Though I was starting to feel a sense of grounding, I needed a greater sense of support.

As always, aromatherapy can be of great comfort during times of crisis  to support restoration, self care and repair.

Below are the synergies I rotated through my diffuser, during the post-crisis mode, that helped me the most to decompress. For a look at what I brought with my on the road as an aromatherapy crisis care kit, please look for the follow up blog coming shortly.

After the Storm Synergy

2 drops Fragonia Taxandria fragrans
2 drops Eucalyptus Dives* Eucalyptus dives
1 drop Lemon Myrtle* Backhousia citriodora

*These were released as part of Plant Therapy’s Oil of the Month Program. Check back to see if they will stocked for general sale. 

This synergy helped me rebalance in my energy flow, uplift my spirit, focus my thoughts, gently jump-start my sense of vitality, clear the air and my respiratory system, and ward of some threatening scratchiness and sniffle that were threatening.

Additionally, Plant Therapy had just released their new Chakra Synergy line to help create balance in our wellbeing. I chose the following:

Grounded Foundation – this helped me to pull my scattered energy back into my body and rebalance and reground while help to soothe the spirit. I used it with the affirmation “I am safe. All is well.”

Self Manifestation — though sometimes we have no control over which way the winds will blow us, we are empowered in how we deal with the storm. I used this synergy with meditation to replenish this sacred center of empowerment to reaffirm and remember that I can do more than I ever thought possible.

 

My wish for you is that your journey always be smooth. Should you run into stormy weather, my hope is that you will find some inspiration in these “Lessons from Irma for Weathering Life’s Storms.” Knowing our own situations and needs are unique,  I would love hear back from you on what you have learned in working your way through your own life’s storms. You never know who you might help!

Chakra Synergies for Self Care

By Ellen Brenner, Certified Aromatherapist


 

Have you heard about Plant Therapy’s new Chakra Synergies Set?

Wondering what it is all about?

Wondering if it is for you?

Wondering how to get started?

I am super excited about this offering.

The intention of the Chakra Synergy line is to create simplicity and accessibility for those who wish to bring self-balancing practices into our self-care routines for a greater sense of wellbeing.

As with the mind and body, aromatherapy can provide powerful support for our spirit to support a greater sense of  balance from the inside out.

So, let’s get started on learning more about Chakras!

 

 

 

 

How Chakras Impact Our Wellbeing

Chakras are subtle energy centers that intersect with our mind, body, and spirit. The major chakras are located along our spine in ascending order from base to crown. These chakras take in and transmit energy throughout our entire being.

When our chakras are in balance our natural energy flows smoothly, creating a sense of overall well-being. Stress, negative thinking, and wounds or traumas to any part of our being can disrupt this vital balance.

If you are new to the concept of chakras, how they impact our well-being, and how aromatherapy can help, I recommend you start by reading “So What Exactly is Subtle Aromatherapy” for an introduction to the basics.

This is just the beginning, of course. Like aromatherapy, energy work provides a vast path to develop and deepen your learning.  And, like other areas of aromatherapy, there are reputable thought leaders, teachers, and authors specific to subtle aromatherapy should you wish to study this synergy for the spirit.

 

 

How to Choose a Chakra Synergy for Your Needs

These synergies were created with the intention of gently supporting balance in each of the unique chakras.

 

 

GROUNDED FOUNDATION

Chakra: 1ST/ROOT

Location:  Base of Spine

Concerns:  Sense safety, security, and trust in the world, while feeling present and grounded and present in our body.

 

 

 

 

 

JOYFUL CREATION

Chakra: 2ND/SACRAL

Location: Lower Abdomen

Concerns:  Ability to experience emotional security, passion, and pleasure in creative expression and connection to others.

 

 

 

 

 

SELF MANIFESTATION

 Chakra: 3rd /SOLAR PLEXUS

Location: Solar Plexus

Concern: Sense of self-esteem, self-worth, self-respect, and self-confidence while retaining warmth and graciousness toward others.

 

 

 

 

 

LOVING COMPASSION

Chakra: 4th/HEART

Location:  Center of Breastbone

Concerns: Open to love, acceptance, forgiveness, and compassion for self and others

 

 

 

 

 

TRUE EXPRESSION

 Chakra: 5th/THROAT

Location: Center of Throat

Concerns: Ability to identify and speak your true needs while in integrity with yourself and others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CLEAR INTUITION

Chakra: 6th/THIRD EYE

Location: Center of Forehead/ Between Brows

Concerns: Ability to clearly “see” conceptually and symbolically through intuition, perception, visualization, and imagination.

 

 

 

 

 

 

HIGHER CONNECTION

 Chakra: 7th/CROWN

Location: Top of Head

Concerns: Sense of connection to a higher consciousness, higher purpose, and higher self.

 

 

 

 

How to Use the Chakra Synergies

Because we are working with our subtle body — which houses our spirit, our core essence and our natural energy flow — we recommend you use these synergies at a much less intensity than used for the mind and body in order to resonate, rather than overwhelm, the subtle nature of our energy.

 

  • Dilution: Use at 1 drop per teaspoon, or 6 drops per ounce for a 1% dilution. Use a more subtle scent in direct inhalation, or room diffusion. A drop will do for passive diffusion.

 

  • Inhalation: Inhalation from the bottle is too overwhelming to the senses and subtle body. Simply add 1 drop to a tissue or cotton ball, or aromatherapy jewelry. You can also add 5 drops per 100 ml to your diffuser and run for a short period, or add 15 drops to your personal inhaler and breathe in gently. You may also choose to use these at half-strength if the scent is more strong than subtle depending on your proximity. The key is to get a gentle hint of the scent and not to overwhelm the senses.

 

  • Topical Application: Dilute to 1% in Jojoba or other carrier oil of your choice. You may wish to anoint your chakras. Anointing is an ancient practice across spiritual traditions in which an oil is applied with intention. It is often used for protection, to connect with the sacred, to empower, and to support wellness. You may wish to anoint your chakra, pulse points, or nearby areas of the body. For the first chakra, you may use the soles of the feet and/or touch behind the knees.

 

  • Combination: Add drops diluted to 1% to the hands and then anoint the chakra, pulse point, or body area desired. Then, bring the hands up to inhale and relax into a mindful balancing practice.

 

How to Combine Chakra Synergies with Mindfulness Techniques

When working with aromatherapy for the spirit, we can create an even more expansive experience when combined with mindfulness techniques such as these outlined below.  This synergy for the senses can help  bring  balance, harmony, and well-being within our whole being.

Please know there are no hard and fast rules, but rather an artful practice based on intention and intuition.  Allow yourself to unplug from your thinking mind, and tap into your inner wisdom.

To help you on your way, I have outlined some traditionally accepted and accessible suggestions as a starting point. The most important thing is to find what works for your unique needs at any given time.

 

Intention – Setting a clear purpose and using your synergy with that purpose in mind. This is likely the most important aspect when using aromatherapy to bring balance to the subtle body.

Suggested Usage: direct inhalation

 

Affirmation– Replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts. These are always stated in the present tense. And, you might want to consider aligning them with the concerns of the chakra with which you are working. For example, if you are working to bring balance to your 1st Chakra, you might like to affirm “I am safe.”

Suggested Usage: direct inhalation, anointing

 

Visualization: Using your mind’s eye to create a healing image on which to focus. You might choose to focus on a generally soothing and calming image, or you may wish to create a healing image specific to the chakra with which you are working.

Suggested Usage: diffusion, direct inhalation, anointing

 

Meditation: Calming the conscious mind to allow for inward introspection and higher information. This is when you can hear your spirit speak while you are soothing the mind and the body.

Suggested Usage: diffusion, direct inhalation, anointing

 

As you can see subtle aromatherapy is another approach to enhancing our wellbeing by bringing gentle support to the spirit. The synergies are meant to help make the practice of subtle aromatherapy accessible whether it is new to you, or you are an experienced practitioner.

The synergies themselves are created with the intention of resonating with each chakra in combination with the power of your conscious intention. They are not meant to simply apply to “fix a symptom,” but rather to support you in bringing self-balancing techniques into your self-care routines to enhance your overall well-being.

I hope this helps you on your way. Should you wish to explore the chakras and subtle aromatherapy more, you will find some reputable resources listed below. I wish you well on your wellness journey!

 


Sources:

Davis, Patricia. Subtle Aromatherapy. Saffron Walden: C.W. Daniel, 1992. Print

Judith, Anodea, and Selene Vega. The Sevenfold Journey: Reclaiming Mind, Body & Spirit through the Chakras. Freedom, CA: Crossing, 1993. Print.

Judith, Anodea. Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self. Berkeley: Celestial Arts, 2004. Print.

Keim, Joni, and Ruah Bull. Aromatherapy & Subtle Energy Techniques: Compassionate Healing with Essential Oils. N.p.: CreateSpace, 2015. Print.

 

So What Exactly is Subtle Aromatherapy?

By Ellen Brenner, Certified Aromatherapist


It probably has not escaped your notice that when we talk about the therapeutic value of aromatherapy, we often refer to the benefits for mind and body, as well as the spirit.

And, recently, we discussed how holistic aromatherapy helps bring balance to all three aspects in What Does Holistic Have to Do With Our Health. It is this harmony in our whole being that helps us sustain better wellbeing.

Sometimes, though, it is best to approach the specific needs of one aspect of our being, before the rest of our selves can come back into a better state of balance. Most of us are familiar with how aromatherapy can support the needs of mind and our body. But, what about when it comes to support of the spirit?

By nature, this realm may feel more ethereal, but it is no less important. Balance in our spirit in actuality is a vitally important source of our wellbeing.

In The Wonderful Wide World of Aromatherapy, we outlined the many approaches to aromatherapy practice. When we want to start by specifically addressing the needs of the spirit, we turn to the practice of subtle aromatherapy. 

So, what exactly is subtle aromatherapy?

With subtle aromatherapy, we use essential oils and aromatic extracts to support sources of imbalance in our core being with the intention of encouraging wellness from the inside out. Rather than starting with the mind, or the body, we start with what we often refer to as the spirit, but more specifically encompassing our entire subtle body.

From this perspective, we see ourselves as whole beings comprised of the following interconnected aspects of our existence:

  • Emotional/Mental Body
  • Physical Body
  • Subtle Body

Our subtle body includes what we would call our spirit, life force, soul or core essence, our psyche, and our natural energy flow.

It is important to note when we are talking about caring for the spirit, or our subtle body, we are not talking about religion, nor the supernatural. Subtle aromatherapy transcends our own personal belief systems about our core essence and how we individually see and feel a sense of connection to higher consciousness while working with our natural energy flow.

Just as with our mental/emotional bodies, and our physical body, our subtle body seeks balance. Imbalances in our energy flow frequently form as blocks. We can work to release these blocks with various approaches to influence the energy flow in the subtle body. When we are out of balance to the point our whole being cannot compensate, we can seek support from qualified practitioners.

 

How Do We Balance Our Natural Energy Flow?

From an Eastern medicine perspective, there are two traditions of working with energy which you are likely familiar. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) comes to us from ancient China. Acupuncture is one of the most visible aspects of TCM to bring balance to our natural energy flow through the meridian pathways. From ancient India, we have Ayurveda. In this tradition of medicine, our natural energy flows through the chakra system. One familiar aspect of the Ayurvedic tradition is yoga, which helped introduce the concept of chakras to the West.  The flow of yoga helps to open and move our energy through the chakras.

From the Western perspective, we have combined modern studies of psychology and human development with ancient understandings of the chakra and general energy systems. We can create balance in an approach called energy medicine or energy healing by using our hands. There are many types of techniques with qualified and professional hands-on practitioners. Reiki and Therapeutic Touch are two common examples often performed in major medical centers.

My personal training and experience is with the western approach to energy medicine and the chakra system. Before I trained as an  aromatherapy practitioner, I trained as a hands-on energy medicine practitioner. During my clinical internship at a large, urban, bustling teaching hospital, the patients I served during that 6 months reported a nearly 60% reduction in pain overall measured pre- and post-energy therapy sessions.

Because I was grounded in both energy work and aromatherapy, I intuitively longed to bring both together into one practice.  I was delighted to discover others had already done so opening up the path for me for learn and practice both of my passions through the synergy of subtle aromatherapy.

In 1991, Patricia Davis published “Subtle Aromatherapy,” in which she discusses bringing together aromatherapy and chakra balancing into one practice. In essence, she defined subtle aromatherapy as working with aromatic essences to affect non-physical elements of our being.[1]

In 1997, Gabriel Mojay published “Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit.” In his work, Mojay discusses the use of essential oils for healing the psyche and the spirit by influencing energy flow from the perspective Traditional Chinese Medicine.[2]

Both pioneering works put to paper what many had intuitively felt creating pathways to learning that remain relevant and often referred today. Today, there are even more aromatherapy thought leaders, educators and practitioners coming from both systems of energy work to pursue your area of passion.

Depending on your own unique needs, the practice of subtle aromatherapy can be integrated to support other forms of healing while under the care of professionals and it can be approached independently as part of your self-care routine at home.

 

How Chakras Impact Our Health

As part of our subtle body, chakras are wheel-shaped energy centers that intersect with our emotional/mental bodies and our physical body. The chakras take in and transmit energy throughout our entire being working as a system of intermeshing gears.[3]

 When our chakras are in balance, our natural energy flows smoothly creating a sense of overall wellbeing.  Fear, stress, chronic negative thinking and belief systems, repressed emotions, wounds and traumas, or sudden shock can disrupt this vital balance creating either excesses or deficiencies in our energy flow.  Many times, this distress  manifests as  as blockages and stagnation.

Most often, we are working with the seven major chakras located along our spine in ascending order from base to crown. In addition to location, each chakra has an assigned color. And, each chakra is associated with states of our psyche, as well as the energy flow in a specific region of the physical body.

The following is a very brief overview of the seven major chakras:

 

1st Chakra – Root

Color: Red

Location: base of spine/perineum

Concerns: Self-Preservationsurvival, support, belonging

In Balance: Sense of safety, security, and trust in the world, while feeling present and grounded and present in our body.

 

2nd Chakra – Sacral

Color: Orange

Location: 2” below naval

Concerns: Self-Gratificationcreation, emotions, relationships, growth

In Balance: Ability to experience emotional security, passion and pleasure in creative expression and connection to others.

 

3rd Chakra – Solar Plexus

Color: Yellow

Location: 2” above navel

Concerns: Personal Manifestationpersonal power, identity, self-worth

In Balance — Sense of self-esteem, self-worth, self-respect and self-confidence while retaining warmth and graciousness toward others.

 

4th Chakra – Heart

Color: Green or Rose

Location: Center of chest

Concerns: Loving Compassionlove and acceptance of self and others, unconditional love, empathy

In Balance: Open to love, acceptance, forgiveness and compassion for self and others

 

5th Chakra – Throat

Color: Light Blue

Location: Center of Throat

Concerns: Self-Expression/Communication — speaking and hearing truth

In Balance: Ability to identify and speak your true needs while in integrity with yourself and others.

 

6th Chakra – Third Eye/Brow

Color: Indigo

Location: Center of Forehead (between brows)

Concerns: Self-Reflection/Intuition — perspective, insight, clarity, imagination

In Balance: Ability to clearly “see” conceptually and symbolically through intuition, perception, visualization and imagination.

 

7th Chakra — Crown

Color: Violet/White

Location: Top of Head

Concerns: Higher Connectionsense of oneness, higher consciousness

In Balance: Sense of connection to a higher consciousness, higher purpose, and higher self.

 

Working with Subtle Aromatherapy to Balance Your Chakras

As its own form of energy work the intention of subtle aromatherapy is to influence the balance in our natural energy flow by “drawing on the subtle, energetic or vibrational qualities of the oils, rather than their physical properties.[4]

 Many aspects  can go into choosing an oil, or synergy, to help support balance in the subtle body include:

  • Color of plant part used
  • Color of the essential oil or extract
  • Color or quality of the smell
  • Part of the plant used/function of that part
  • Therapeutic function of the oil or plant
  • Nature of the plant – shape, climate, conditions, geography, how it grows
  • Folklore of the plant – how used historically

Below are examples of some more commonly used essential oils to help bring balance to the chakras. This is by no means an exhaustive list, nor will every oil work for every being. This is simply a possible point to start you on your exploration.

 

1st Chakra — Cedarwood, Patchouli, Vetiver

2nd Chakra — Cardamom, Orange, Jasmine Absolute

3rd Chakra – Black Pepper, Pine, Rosemary

4th Chakra — Bergamot, Mandarin, Rose Otto

5th Charka – Chamomile German, Chamomile Roman, Lavender

6th Chakra –Clary Sage, Elemi, Spruce

7th Chakra – Frankincense, Myrrh, Sandalwood

 

When you are feeling an imbalance associated with a particular chakra, or energy center, you can choose essential oils or synergies to incorporate into your self-care routines.

Because we are working with our subtle body, we want to use essential oils and extracts at much less intensity than would be used for the mind and body in order to resonate, rather than overwhelm, the subtle nature of our energy.

Use at 1 drop per teaspoon, or 6 drops per ounce for a 1% dilution. Use a more subtle scent in direct inhalation, or room diffusion. A drop will do for passive diffusion.

Now that we have discussed what subtle aromatherapy is, we can go on to discuss the basics of how incorporate this approach at home. Look for our next blog where we will discuss how we can bring a synergy of subtle aromatherapy self-balancing techniques into our self-care routines.

 


Sources:

[1] Davis, Patricia. Subtle Aromatherapy. Saffron Walden: C.W. Daniel, 1992. Print.

[2] Mojay, Gabriel. Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit: A Guide to Restoring Emotional and Mental Balance through Essential Oils. London: Gaia, 1997. Print.

[3] Judith, Anodea, and Selene Vega. The Sevenfold Journey: Reclaiming Mind, Body & Spirit through the Chakras. Freedom, CA: Crossing, 1993. Print.

[4] Davis, Patricia. Subtle Aromatherapy. Saffron Walden: C.W. Daniel, 1992. Print.

Davis, Patricia. Subtle Aromatherapy. Saffron Walden: C.W. Daniel, 1992. Print.

Mojay, Gabriel. Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit: A Guide to Restoring Emotional and Mental Balance through Essential Oils. London: Gaia, 1997. Print.

Judith, Anodea, and Selene Vega. The Sevenfold Journey: Reclaiming Mind, Body & Spirit through the Chakras. Freedom, CA: Crossing, 1993. Print.

Judith, Anodea. Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self. Berkeley: Celestial Arts, 2004. Print.

Keim, Joni, and Ruah Bull. Aromatherapy & Subtle Energy Techniques: Compassionate Healing with Essential Oils. N.p.: CreateSpace, 2015. Print.

 

 

 

My Top Three Essential Oils for Whole Being Balance

By Ellen Brenner, Certified Aromatherapist


Recently, we discussed the practice of holistic care in “What Does Holistic Have to Do with Our Health.” Essentially, we are caring for mind, body and spirit to bring balance to our whole being for a greater state of wellbeing.

You may recall from “Food for Thought, that our mind, body and spirit are interconnected. Depending on our state of mind, our body and spirit are impacted in chemical messages from the brain created by stress. This distress of the mind, especially over the long-term, can lead to dis-ease due to our body’s inability to compensate and re-balance.

Aromatherapy, in particular, the practice of holistic aromatherapy, is the perfect partner for helping to support harmony on all three levels of our existence. When we can find balance within ourselves and our environment,  we can experience a greater sense of optimal wellbeing.

Each essential oil and extract has its own therapeutic profile and value, often with multiple core applications.

And, often, we blend synergies from a selection of essential oils to create the holistic profile we are seeking as we did to accompany self-balancing activities outlined in Balancing Our Whole Being.”

There are, however, some essential oils and extracts that are just excellent at equally supporting and entire being.

I find myself reaching over and again for three in particular when I want well-rounded and robust support to bring my being back into balance.

The three I love the most for holistic use are: Bergamot, Fragonia and Blue Yarrow. Oh my goodness, do I love the gifts of these oils.

On their own, they are wonderful to bring equilibrium to mind, body and spirit. Mixed in other synergies, they enhance the holistic value. In my opinion, blended together, they create something extraordinary.

Below, you will find why I consider these my top three essences as my very favorites for holistic support on all three levels — mind, body and spirit.

In addition, I have included one of my very favorite blends with the added benefit of a soothing bath. I find this one of the best ways to find balance from within for my whole being.

As always, I  encourage you to consider options that match your own unique needs.

 

Bergamot Citrus bergamia  (bergapten free)

Bergamot is a favorite for its array of uses and its sunny scent. Bergamot is an incredibly uplifting, calming and balancing essential oil.

It is especially helpful when you feel off balance due to nervous tension and when you need to invite in more positive thinking and energy.

Mind:  Balancing to emotions. Uplifting and calming.  Promotes positive thinking while helping to release negative emotions.

Body: Supports the body in returning to a state of relaxation. Soothes the nervous system and smooths nervous tension held in the tissues.

Spirit: Helps to harmonize the spirit, especially when affected by strong, negative emotions. Supports the ability to receive positive energy and helps our natural energy to flow smoothly.

 

 

Fragonia Taxandria fragrans

Fragonia is highly valued for its uniquely balanced composition. It, too, has a wide array of core therapeutic uses and has a soft, refreshing scent.

It is especially helpful for letting go of old emotional thought patterns and negative energy blocks that are impacting your balance and wellbeing.

Mind:  Helps to release old emotional patterns. Calming and uplifting, it helps to reduce worry and nervous tension.

Body:  Balancing to the nervous system. Relaxing and relieving to nervous tension creating discomfort in the body.

Spirit:  Helps to release deep-seated blocks in the energy flow caused by old wounds. Strengthening to the spirit.

 

 

Blue Yarrow – Achillea millefolium

Blue yarrow has been prized throughout time for its ability to support wounds on all levels. Though it provides powerful support, it is gentle in nature.

Its “blue” constituents are especially helpful to bring a cooling sense of balance to  heated conditions of mind, body and spirit.

Mind:  Supports emotional equilibrium. Helps to calm worry and nervous tension.

Body: Calming to the nervous system. Relaxing and relieving for nervous tension held in the tissues.

Spirit:  Powerful support in releasing blocks created by repressed strong, negative emotions. Helps to support a smooth natural energy flow. Balanced between opposing energies, it helps to equalize these energies in our own being.

 

Balancing Bath Blend

2 drops Bergamot  Citrus bergamia

2 drops Fragonia Taxandria fragrans

1 drop Blue Yarrow Achillea millefolium

Mix with 2 T natural, unscented body wash

Add 1/2 c of Epsom Salts and mix.

Add to your warm bath and soak for 20 minutes.

Bringing the best of the abilities from my top three oils for whole being balance. This is an especially wonderful immersion experience before bedtime. 

 


Sources:

Keim, Joni, and Ruah Bull. Aromatherapy & Subtle Energy Techniques: Compassionate Healing with Essential Oils. N.p.: CreateSpace, 2015. Print.

Lawless, Julia. The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils: The Complete Guide to the Use of Aromatic Oils in Aromatherapy, Herbalism, Health & Well-being. New York: Fall River, 2014. Print.

Mojay, Gabriel. Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit: A Guide to Restoring Emotional and Mental Balance through Essential Oils. London: Gaia, 2005. Print.

Shutes, Jade. The Dynamics of Blending: A Guide to Blending . Willow Springs, NC: NW College for Herbal and Aromatic Studies, 2011. Print.

Zeck, Robbi. The Blossoming Heart: Aromatherapy for Healing and Transformation. East Ivanhoe, Victoria: Aroma Tours, 2004. Print.

An Achilles Heel to Healing

By: Ellen Brenner, Certified Aromatherapist


 

We are told “when life gets tough, the tough get going.”

What does that really mean? Generally, we interpret that to mean we “toughen up” to persist in working through adversity.

Most often, persistence is a trait we are taught to admire. But, is it a trait that helps us be whole? What if this persistent state of armoring is actually an Achilles Heel to our healing?

Greek mythology depicts Achilles as one of its greatest warriors during the Trojan War. Yet, for all his armor and strength, he was killed by a poisoned arrow that found its mark on his heel. That vulnerable spot came to be known as the Achilles Heel. Even one who is heroically strong can meet his downfall through a poisoned weak spot.[1]

In the modern world, we are often met with constant sources of stress that can feel like an army of arrows flinging at us. We armor up and soldier on to persist on our path while trying to prevent or push back the adversity coming at us.

By definition persistence is “the firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.” [2]

Yet, when we heroically persist in armoring up, we also create a rigid pattern of holding that can impact our overall wellbeing on all levels. This very armor against stress tends to repress its toxic effects binding it into our whole being and creating our own poisoned Achilles Heel.

Emotionally, physically and energetically, continued persistence can put us in a state of fighting a continuous battle, which can eventually erode our strength and stamina. This unrelenting sense of distress can create dis-ease on all levels by impacting our ability find a healing balance.

 

As we read in “Food for Food for Thought,” and “Take and Breath and Cool Your Jets,” distress of the mind, unchecked, also creates a stress response in the body. In therapeutic bodywork, we say your issues are in your tissues. You know that feeling of discomfort from the knots in your shoulders and neck where many hold their stress. This is the body armored and ready for battle. But, this unrelenting state of distress also can lead to chronic and serious conditions through the stress cocktail that impacts our body’s ability to find a healing balance.

In energy work, we say this sense of armoring, or holding, creates blocks in the natural energy flow of our subtle body. From this perspective, left unreleased, these blocks can become a deeply suppressed source of dis-ease that eventually manifest as physical health conditions, most especially where weak spots have developed.

In my own healing journey, a colleague recently pointed out my persistence in working to heal a chronic lower back condition. In fact, I was so persistent, that I tried pushing forward with the same therapeutic modality for a year.  And, though I made some progress, I wasn’t making a breakthrough.

In retrospect, I needed another approach, but I was not willing to flex to some other options because I was certain this was the answer if I just gave it enough effort and time. Yet, the more I persisted the more frustrated I became with my body leading to some distress in the mind, creating more stress in the body, which affected the pain I was experiencing through a state of dis-ease and back to the frustration and stress of the mind. What a cycle, huh?

The breakthrough came, when I eventually broke down. A few months ago I “suddenly” had an issue with intense acute back pain that impacted my ability to fully function. What I thought had been under management morphed into requiring much more intensive therapeutic work. I had missed the message in my persistence to progress.

What also made itself known was a major jump in my blood pressure into a very high and concerning range indicating I was holding stress under my “can do” persistent armor. My acupuncture physician had also been warning that my liver meridian was way out of balance indicating a holding of anger and resentment. Whether you practice western or eastern medicine (or both like me), the modalities were in agreement. I was holding in frustration that was turning toxic.

The very act of persistence became my Achilles Heel, blocking my continued healing of lingering issues, and creating new chronic conditions.

While we never want to be sidelined by injury or illness, if it happens it is always an opportunity to stop and “take a look.” What I discovered about myself was that I persisted in getting through the last nine years, after the life-altering accident, by armoring up and toughing it out. In fact, those were skills I likely learned early in life and had sourced within to get through. And, they did in fact get me to a certain point. But, now, it was time to let go of persistence and learn something new that would take me farther in my journey.

So, then, what else can we do when the stressors of life are zinging at us?

We learn to bounce through resilience vs. battling through persistence.

Researchers have found that healthy people are more resilient in nature and that resilience is a key factor in greatly improving the healing process. From a wellness perspective, psychologists define resilience as the “the ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.”[3]

As it relates to our wellbeing, researchers have this to say:

Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.” [4]

Key factors identified in resiliency are the ability to keep a positive outlook, manage our emotions, and adapt. “Even after misfortune, resilient people are blessed with such an outlook that they are able to change course and soldier on.” [5]

Rather than pushing forward through adversity with the obstinate rigidity of persistence, the practice of resilience is a softening of our stance allowing us the flexibility to regroup and respond.

Here was a novel concept. I could armor up, absorb the reverberations of the stress I was creating, experiencing holding in as my personal poison — or, I could relax into a buoyant stance, taking care with self-care after the fact to ensure I had not overlooked any arrows to my heel.

Aromatherapy excels in supporting this softening of our being so necessary to a healthy resilience. So often, when I open my spirit to working on a certain place of healing in my being, the absolute perfectly necessary essential oil shows up in my space to support me just at precisely the right time. Blue Yarrow is no exception. It came to me at just the right time to help calm the mind, relax the body and soothe the soul.

Blue Yarrow, Achillea Millefolium, is named for Achilles. The herb was traditionally used in battles for wounded warriors. [6] And, so for those of us who have learned to battle forward through persistence, blue yarrow is wonderful companion in learning to remove the self-inflicted stress poison of own Achilles Heel.

Blue Yarrow essential oil also is considered wound healing for blocks in our natural energy flow created by deeply repressed negative emotions, such as the anger, rage and frustration that so often accompany chronic stress and impact our overall wellbeing.[7]

It can be used when you need greater emotional support and insight during significant life changes, when you feel challenged by your weak spots, and when you seek stay balanced while keeping your sense of integrity.[8] Blue Yarrow has also been used in ancient cultures to promote intuition and divination.[9]

 

If you are having a day, week, month or moment that feels like you are coming in from a battlefield, blue yarrow is a wonderful support to any self-care routine you have that allows you to slow down, soften up and relieve your stress as practice resiliency. If you would like some ideas for some mindfulness approaches that would support steps toward a resiliency practice, to start, take a look at “Take a Breath and Cool Your Jets” and “M is for Meditation.”

Below are two of my new favorite mini-master blends working with blue yarrow to support my journey toward a softer stance and bouncing back. I like them both in personal inhalers to have with me on the go. You can triple the blend to use them that way, or you can use as is in your diffuser.

 

Blue Bliss

2 drops bergamot

2 drops coriander

1 drop blue yarrow

This is a great blend for calming the mind, body and spirit. It is clearing and cleansing, especially for repressed emotions such as tension, frustration and anger, and helping to balance our natural energy flow. It encourages optimism and enthusiasm, while uplifting and calming to mind, body and spirit.

 

Blue Skies

2 drops elemi

2 drops grapefruit, pink

1 drop blue yarrow

I love this blend as support for healing meditation. It is grounding and strengthening while opening our mind to our intuition and the Divine with greater clarity and inspiration. Helps to clear and move deeply held, negative energy blocks such tension and frustration. Promotes a sense of peace while uplifting and the mind and spirit.

 


Sources:

[1] “Achilles’ Heel.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 09 Feb. 2017.

[2] Persistence.” Google. n.d. Web. 06 Mar. 2017.

[3] “Resilience.” Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com, n.d. Web. 06 Mar. 2017.

[4] “The Road to Resilience.” Pardon Our Interruption. American Psychological Association, n.d. Web. 09 Feb. 2017.

[5] “Resilience.” Psychology Today. Psychology Today, n.d. Web. 7 Feb. 2017.

[6] “Achillea Millefolium.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 06 Mar. 2017. Web. 09 Mar. 2017.

[7] Mojay, Gabriel. Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit: Restoring Emotional and Mental Balance through Essential Oils. London: Gaia, 1999. Print.

[8] Zeck, Robbi. The Blossoming Heart: Aromatherapy for Healing and Transformation. East Ivanhoe, Victoria: Aroma Tours, 2004. Print.

[9] Achillea Millefolium.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 06 Mar. 2017. Web. 09 Mar. 2017.

Keim, Joni, and Ruah Bull. Aromatherapy and Subtle Energy Techniques: Compassionate Healing with Essential Oils. N.p.: CreateSpace, 2015. Print.

Shutes, Jade. The Dynamics of Blending: A Guide to Aromatic Medicine Making. Willow Springs, NC: NW College for Herbal and Aromatic Studies, 2011. Print.

 

Winter Solstice for the Spirit

By: Ellen Brenner, Certified Aromatherapist

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The advent of the Winter Solstice is a deeply profound period for me on many fronts. Steeped in the rich symbolism of rebirth and reawakening, it has become important to me to recognize this point in time by creating a restorative ritual that allows me to go deeply inward as a means of continually moving forward.

This year’s Winter Solstice occurs on December 21st marking the shortest day and the longest night of the annual cycle of dawn to darkness. And, for some, this longer descent into darkness can trigger a plunge in spirits.

For many years, when I worked in Chicago, I took the train from the suburbs into the city to work. During the icy, cold grip of winter, I departed in the dark and returned home after dark. A California girl by birth and nature, my spirit mourned the loss of light to the night.

BuWinter Solstice for the Soult, then, I had an awakening and I came to see the Winter Solstice as light at the end of the tunnel. For this longest day of night marked the milestone when we would again march toward the light. I rejoiced that the dawn of a new day meant we had turned again toward the much-needed sun for my soul. Rather than fear the dark, I had faith that every day would be a bit better than the last.

Ancient civilizations recognized this turning point toward the gradual return of the light as a time of reawakening and rebirth heralding a time of new beginnings. Because the coming deep winter months also required preparation for a period of survival on less sustenance, the Winter Solstice was also known as the hibernal solstice, and celebrated as the last joyous feast day until spring.[1]

For me, the Winter Solstice follows my birthday in early December and, what I refer to as, my re-birthday in early February, acknowledging not the trauma of the accident, but the impetus through which I was reborn to my authentic self.  This period, provides the perfect time for introspection – a searching inward toward the innate wisdom of my own core essence in preparation for my spirit to open more fully to receive the coming light.

I create  mindfulness rituals for myself especially focused on restoring, renewing and reawakening my spirit. This involves quieting mind, body and spirit, creating affirmations and meditation. With the arrival of the Winter Solstice, I also take time to express gratitude for where I’ve been, where I am, and the Divine connection that nourishes my spirit and has supported my journey so far. I also set intentions, in my mind’s eye, of where I see myself next and how I wish to be.

 

Creating You Own Restorative Ritual

If the idea of creating time for a restorative inward reflection this Winter Solstice resonates with you, you will find below an array of options below to help inspire your own introspection ritual. The idea is  to pick a practice, or practices, along with an aromatic  approach that works for you personally, or to create you very own, so that you may honor the movement of time and light in support your own sense of reawakening and renewal.

I hope you find these helpful and wish you joy on your journey. As we say at the end of yoga “namaste.” There are many beautiful interpretations. But, here, I will leave you with one of my favorites.

 

“The light in me honors the light in you.”

 

1) Practices for Quieting the Mind

We’ve discussed these mindfulness practices throughout the past year.  For review, some blogs you may find helpful, include:

 

2) Aromatherapy to Support the Spirit.

This is the blend I created especially to support a divine awakening within my own spirit. I share it with you here as an offering if it resonates with your own sense of reflection, restoration and renewal.

Given the purpose, I chose to blend intuitively letting my senses and nose lead. Once, I sensed the synergy connect with my spirit, I checked the implications with my sources on subtle aromatherapy. I am always amazed and affirmed how when I listen to my inner knowing, the messages I need will come through.

 

Winter Solstice in a Frosty Forest

(This blend is KidSafe)

2 drops coriander

1 drop balsam fir

1 drop bergamot

1 drop chamomile, roman

 

Support for the Spirit:

Grounds and promotes a sense of security. Clearing and cleansing, while helping to calm and relax the conscious mind. Invites positive energy and optimism while encouraging confidence and motivation.  Encourages intuition and insight and helps to manifest.

Supports the healing process on all levels, especially wounds of the heart. Helps to clear emotional blocks and supports the transformation of challenging emotions to promote balance.

Strengthens connection to a higher consciousness. Allows us to better receive and communicate spiritual truth.  Encourages Divine love and compassion to move through our being. Connects us to the collective wisdom of the world around us.

 

In addition to the blend’s support for the spirit, it also is soothing to the mind and body. This helpful to keep in mind if you want to experience the multi-purpose effects on all levels of your being.

 

For the Mind 

Uplifts, while calming and clarifying.  Relaxes and soothes, inviting a sense of peace. Restorative for mental and emotional fatigue.

For the Body

Relaxes nervous tension held in the body.  Helps to release and soothe overworked and tired eases muscles. Restorative and balancing.

 

3) Aromatic Applications to Support your Ritual.

  • Diffuser add 5 -8 drops
  • Inhaler – add 15 drops
  • Bath Soak – add 5 drops to natural body wash and mix. Add ½ cup Epsom salts. Add to warm bath. Soak and relax for 20 minutes.
  • Massage Oil—add 18 drops to 1 oz (2% dilution) of jojoba or other carrier.
  • Body Lotion – add 9 drops to 1 oz unscented body lotion (1 %)
  • Roller Bottle – add 6 drops to 10 ml carrier (2%). Apply to pulse points.
  • Room/Linen Mist – add 9 drops to 1 oz (1%) pure grain alcohol, such as Everclear.

 


Sources:

[1] “Winter Solstice.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2016.

Keim, Joni, and Ruah Bull. Aromatherapy & Subtle Energy Techniques: Compassionate Healing with Essential Oils. N.p.: CreateSpace, 2015. Print.

Shutes, Jade. “The Dynamics of Blending: A Guide to Blending and Reference Manual for Essential Oils and Base Materials.” N.p.: East-West School for Herbal and Aromatic Studies. N.d. Print.

 

 

A Cup of Compassion — Part II

By: Ellen Brenner, Certified Aromatherapist

essentialwellbeingheaderimage2


Now that we have some simple steps fill our own Cup of Compassion from Part I, let’s discuss the benefits of practicing a compassionate life when the world around us may not always feel so kind. In the world of natural health, we say “we get a healing when we give a healing.” And, so, we enhance our own wellbeing by working to enhance the wellbeing of the world around us.

And, it is indeed a practice. At times, it can be a struggle. Like any practice, it requires an intention and a striving to stay grounded in that intention with gentle persistence. Without an intention to live a compassionate life, I find I can just get buffeted around by unkindness around me. I absorb that energy and become reactive.

This triggers the fight or flight condition and my stress levels increase. The more I feel unmoored from a compassionate heart, the more negative thoughts are able to rule my mind creating stories about others and heightening my sense of anxiousness as I enter into a sense of defensiveness and self-protection. And, then, I become part of the problem by contributing my crabbiness in a reactive mode as I flail around in choppy waters.

But, when I empower myself, by making the conscious choice to stay in a proactive mode of positivity, I feel much more anchored and sheltered in the calm of potential storms.

If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.” — Mahatma Gandhi

heart-light-web-sizeSo, with wisdom handed down from gifted healers and thought leaders who have been part of my healing journey, I have developed a personal practice of living a compassionate life. Not only does it help me stay well within, I am hopeful it contributes to the wellbeing of the world around me. And, because we are human, this is never a perfect practice. Support is important. And, as always, I find aromatherapy to be my perfect partner by helping to calm my mind and body, as well as inspiring a deep sense of peace within.

Be The Ripple in the Pond

 If I am a pebble in the pond, what is the energy I am putting out there? In Food for Thought, we learned how negative thoughts can influence our wellbeing. How I am feeling inside can affect how I react and interact.

Not only am I balancing the wellbeing of myself, I create the opportunity to positively impact the moment I interact with others. It can simply be that vibe we feel when we cross paths.

A big part of my healing journey is learning to be peaceful within. Equanimity – calmness of mind in stressful situations – does not come naturally to me. It had to be cultivated. In fact, if I allow it, folks who are unkind can really flip my switches from the flow of happy juice to stress cocktail.

In Take a Breath and Cool Your Jets, we learned how stress starts in the mind and contributes to serious health conditions. Am I in the “fight or flight” mode of the stress response when I am out and about? Or, are I am radiating a peaceful energy of calm, kindness, and compassion?

Years ago, When I was an undergraduate in a psychology class, I was assigned to a smile experiment. It involved making eye contact with everyone I passed – on campus, at the mall, in a restaurant, at the store – just in every day life –and smiling and recording responses. I was astounded at the number of people who smiled back with genuine pleasure, and often, with surprise. It made such an impression on me, that it is still a habit I practice today. I am still often amazed at how it changes the energy around me, while it charges my own.

Choose To Let It Go

If I carry around perceived or felt hurts or slights, I am taking on the negative energy put out by others. This can be hard for sensitive folks like me.

Trust me, I can be taken way out of my Zen Zone if I feel my wellbeing is being threatened either intentionally or through negligence. And, I’m not talking about turning the other cheek when it comes to big societal ills. Those are discussions for another time and another approach.

What I am talking about are the everyday concerns. Someone didn’t say thank you. A co-worker was brusque. Your spouse came home grumpy. Your friend was late for a night out. Am I going to react, take on that energy, and let it weigh me down? If I do, I am giving away my own power over my own wellbeing.

I can choose how I am going to react and respond. This is where taking a few deep breaths to turn off that fight or flight stress response can be helpful. That also gives me time to calm my reaction and change the dialogue in my head from “wow she is really being a witch today, to “wow, she is not herself at all today, I wonder what is wrong?” Just that compassionate change in my mindset, creates a more peaceful change in my body. Not only am I letting go of the issue, I am letting go of the tension I feel.

Meet Them With Compassion

This doesn’t meant accepting bad behavior. But, sometimes it means either walking away and discussing at another time if merited, or meeting them with compassion and seeing what happens.

At the health practice where I spend some time, our patients are often grumpy, short on patience, and sometimes, just short of rude when they first come to us. But, I have been on that side of the aisle. They are also hurting, stressed, overwhelmed, fearful and frustrated. I believe their healing experience starts with the energy and interactions they feel when they walk through the front door. So, my goal is to meet them with compassion. A smile when they come in, kindness while they are there, and hug (for the huggers) when they leave. It’s amazing how much most of them relax. This creates a healing environment for their wellbeing, and my own inner being benefits from more peaceful exchanges that can literally change from barking at me to laughing with me.

The point is, we don’t know what folks around us are experiencing and we don’t know their stories. We don’t know if something just happened, or if something terrible is going on in their lives. The day I held my beloved canine companion of 15 years in my lap as she passed over to the Rainbow Bridge was absolutely heartbreaking. As I moved through the world in a dismal fog for days after, who knows what I projected around me and the stories people may have told themselves in reaction. Maybe I didn’t park correctly, or perhaps I accidentally cut someone off in the grocery line. Or, maybe I just didn’t smile when I ordered my coffee in the drive through. What I do remember is the folks who didn’t know my story, but met me with kindness anyway and how much that helped to sooth and smooth my heartache.

Reflect the Glow for Good

 I have always been drawn to dragonflies. And, they seem to be drawn to me. Many years ago, I looked up their symbolic meaning and learned that the dragonfly represents the power to reflect light and energy out into the world for the good of others. This resonated with me deeply as I was pursuing my path in the natural healing arts. I adopted the dragonfly as my spiritual reminder of this message of empowerment for impacting those around me in a positive way. Every time a see a dragonfly, I am reminded I have the power and the choice to reflect a glow for good both professionally and personally.

Yes, there are cranky and crabby folks out there. But, there also those filled with grace and kindness. And, that is whom I choose to focus on and absorb the energy to be redirected for my next interaction.

Recently, I was leaving a store just as the skies opened up in a drowning drenching. Of course, I did not have my umbrella with me and my car was parked across a large lot. Just in the moment I was exiting the store to be confronted by this dilemma, a gentleman was just arriving at the doors with his wife under a giant umbrella for two. As she was passing me into the store, without missing a beat, he said “you go ahead honey, I am going to escort this young lady to her car.” And with that, he had already pivoted toward the parking lot, placed the umbrella over my head and simply said “which way is your car, Miss?”

I can’t even describe the rush of gratitude and goodwill I felt at that moment by such a seemingly simple act of compassion on his part, but I simply smiled (probably beamed) and carried on to my car with my unexpected escort. And, I carried that warm glow the rest of the day, basking in it and letting if affect my mood and outlook on the world as I passed by a multitude of other in my daily rounds. More importantly, I am reminded, no matter how much of a rush I am in, it only takes a moment to extend a simple act of kindness to others who could benefit from an assist. I may be flitting around like a dragonfly, but in that moment, I can still reflect positive vibes and an act of kindness.

So, I admit, living a compassionate life isn’t always an easy practice. But, a practice it is. It is a conscious choice to be the ripple in the pond, let things go, meet folks with compassion, and reflect the glow for good. I mentioned how aromatherapy is my perfect partner, and I’ve created synergies to support these sensibilities depending on the situation. These can be used in a diffuser or tripled to carry with you in a personal inhaler.

 

Balance Blend

2 drops geranium bourbon

2 drops neroli

1 drop orange, sweet

This is my go-to, when I need a little boost to balance my being by letting go of strong turbulent emotions

 

Bliss Blend

2 drops ho wood

2 drops kunzea

1 drop sandalwood

Relaxing and grounding to the mind, body and spirit. This blend is often helpful to set a blissful mood.

 

Zen Zone

2 drops bergamot

1 drop blue cypress

1 drop davana

1 drop sandalwood

Relaxing, centering, uplifting and calming. I like this blend to help me return to a place of peace.

 

I know I feel better by doing better for those around me. It is really my choice. Do I want to continually drink the poison of the stress cocktail, or do I want to bathe my being in happy juice? I know when I experience inner peace, I am more able to transmit that back out into the world. And, I can create that by being the calm in the storm. When I do, while all may not be right with the world, all is right with my world right now. And, perhaps, just a bit of that helps another looking for their own piece of peace.

 

A Cup of Compassion — Part I

By: Ellen Brenner, Certified Aromatherapist

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I don’t know about you all, but I am weary of the level of unkindness that seems to have taken hold in our society. Social media. Political cross talk. Talk shows. Aggressive driving and road rage. Someone could probably do (and probably has) a social study on the level and volume of hostility that seems at times to float in an unholy gumbo around us.

There have been tons written on what is wrong, what can be done right, and why it should be so. Many share a concern for what seems like an erosion and disconnect from not only basic manners, but also a declining level of discourse and what it means for our culture and society in general. These are big issues that can seem overwhelming and out of our control.

cup-of-kindness-webAnd, these interactions can be draining to our whole being leaving us with not much to give. But, the good news is, we can fill our cup of compassion with some really simple steps that, in return, provide positive benefits for our own wellbeing. I’ve outlined some ways we can help our health by helping others. And, I’ve included some aromatherapy blends to help mind our mood.

So let’s all take a deep breath, let go, and take a look at what we can do. Can we change the world? Maybe. But, I know we can change our inner world and how we interact with the world around us.

“If you wish to experience peace, provide peace for another.”

— The Dalai Lama

As gentle souls, when we take in negative energy around us, it can challenge our health and wellbeing. We’ve talked about stress in Take a Breath and Cool Your Jets. Remember, stress starts in the mind and travels to the body through a stress cocktail of cortisol and epinephrine that can have serious consequences to our health and wellbeing over the long term.

BUT, we also have a group of chemicals that I like to think of as our happy juice. These neurochemicals also start in the brain and travel to the body. And, guess what? They have a positive effect on our health and wellbeing.

 Dopamine – The Go Getter

Who loves to make lists and gets a little happy (ok, a lot happy) when you get to make that check mark after the task is completed? That’s your dopamine at work. It is responsible for motivation toward goals and that little happy high you get when you have achieved it.[1] Anyone in the crowd get a little glow from helping others? Kindness also releases dopamine and gives us what is known as the “helper’s high.” In addition to the happy high from helping and doing, dopamine is vital to many functions in our brain such as movement and memory.[2]

 Serotonin – The Mood Lifter

Serotonin is thought to be vitally important for keeping our mood and spirits elevated. Low levels are associated with significant bouts of depression. It flows when we feel sense of achievement, fulfillment and a sense of belonging.[3]

Serotonin is not only vital for keeping our mood lifted, it also affects most of our brain cells impacting everything from sexual desire, to sleep, to our ability to learn. In our bodies, serotonin impacts the functions of our cardiovascular and endocrine systems, as well as muscle movement. [4]

Endorphins – The High Way

These are the big-gun chemicals that give us a sense of euphoria and help us reduce the perception of pain. They actually bind to the same receptor sites as morphine giving us the effects without the side effects.[5] Think of a marathon runner hitting the “runner’s high” to get their second wind to finish the distance. But, here’s a fun fact. Researchers have linked laughter to the reduction of pain and believe it is due to the release of endorphins. The pain threshold increased even more when laughter occurred in groups heartily laughing while watching comedy together over 15-minute intervals.[6]

Oxytocin – The Love Connection

This is often referred to as the “love hormone.” It is believed to create bonding through “emotional warmth.”[7] It is what we feel when we fall in love. Or, when a parent sees their new child for the first time. Hugs and warm contact significantly increase oxytocin levels. [8] And, puppy love? Oh yes! When bonded dogs and their humans gaze into each other’s eyes there is a flood of oxytocin in both.[9] According to NIH, oxytocin “lowers the levels of stress hormones in the body, reducing blood pressure, improving mood, increasing tolerance for pain and perhaps even speeding how fast wounds heal.”[10]

So, with the information from above, here are ways we might fill our own cup of compassion:

  • Put reaching out to help others on your “to do” list and then do it.
  • Participate in groups where you feel like you belong and that give you a sense of fulfillment.
  • Enjoy the company of others with whom you love to laugh.
  • Provide warm, compassionate touch – especially hugs – to your loved ones (cuddling with your puppy love is included).

Now, let’s add aromatherapy to our master blend of happy juice. In Food for Thought, we talked about the impact aromatherapy has on the mission control center of our brain where mood, behavior, and stress are managed. Setting and supporting our mood is an area where aromatherapy excels. If we aren’t in the mood to start, it can be awfully hard to generate compassion.

Here are some blends I find helpful in my efforts to fill my own cup by inspiring a more uplifted and positive outlook.

 Inner Child

This is one of my favorite blends for inviting cheerful energy when my own spirits need a lift.

2 drops grapefruit

2 drops mandarin

1 drop of spearmint

Enjoy in a diffuser, or triple blend for a personal inhaler.

 

Hopeful Soul

Helps to infuse a sense of enthusiasm and emotional warmth, while inviting positive energy and creating calming and centering experience.

2 drops coriander

1 drop bergamot

1 drop copaiba balsam

1 drop sandalwood

Enjoy in a diffuser, or add to a warm bath before bedtime by blending with 1-2 tablespoons of unscented body wash and ½-1 cup of Epsom salts.

 

Sacred Space

 I use this blend to help support a clear, positive and protected personal space and to help maintain cheerful energy when interacting with others.

2 drops bergamot

2 drops juniper berry

2 drops rosemary

It can be blended into a room spray by combining 6 drops of the blend per each one ounce of pure grain alcohol in a mister bottle. Use before or after interacting with others. You can also pre-blend and add a drop to a diffuser necklace to wear throughout the day.

 

So, here, we have some simple steps to fill our cup of compassion with happy juice to benefit mind, body and spirit. For when we give happy, we get happy, and then, we can give more happy to those around us. And, that’s a good thing because, as the saying goes, “you can’t pour from an empty cup.”

With our cups refilled, let’s meet back here for A Cup of Compassion Part II to discuss further the benefits of living a compassionate life.


Resources:

[1] Bergland, Christopher. “The Neurochemicals of Happiness.” Psychology Today. Psychology Today, 29 Nov. 2012. Web. 19 Aug. 2016

[2] Mandal, Ananya, MD. “Dopamine Functions.” News-Medical.net. News Medical. Life Sciences and Medicine, 10 Jan. 2010. Web. 23 Aug. 2016.

[3] Bergland, Christopher. “The Neurochemicals of Happiness.” Psychology Today. Psychology Today, 29 Nov. 2012. Web. 19 Aug. 2016.

[4] Feature, Colette Bouchez. “Serotonin and Depression: 9 Questions and Answers.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 23 Aug. 2016.

[5] “Exercise and Depression.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 29 Aug. 2016.

[6] Welsh, Jennifer. “Why Laughter May Be the Best Pain Medicine.” Scientific American. Scientific American, 14 Sept. 2011. Web. 19 Aug. 2016.

[7] Hamilton, David R., PhD. “5 Beneficial Side Effects of Kindness.” The Huffington Post. The Huffington Post, 2 Aug. 2011. Web. 9 Aug. 2016.

[8] “The Power of Love. Hugs and Cuddles Have Long-Term Effects.” NIH Health in News. National Institutes of Health, Feb. 2007.

[9] Hecht, Julie. “Is the Gaze from Those Big Puppy Eyes the Look of Your Doggie’s Love?” Scientific American. Scientific American, 16 Apr. 2015. Web. 23 Aug. 2016.

[10] “The Power of Love. Hugs and Cuddles Have Long-Term Effects.” NIH Health in News. National Institutes of Health, Feb. 2007. Web. 23 Aug. 2016.

 

M is for Meditation

By: Ellen Brenner, Certified Aromatherapist

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I know, I know… now I’ve gone and used the “M” word. Wait! Don’t run.

Still think that meditation is “too woo woo” and not for you?

What if I told you that by simply calming the mind you could reduce nervous tension and worry, slow the aging process, increase your ability to think, reduce the process that leads to serious disease and chronic conditions, and even change the way your genes govern your health?

Ok, so then you think it is too hard and takes too much time?

What if I told you that you can actually create a positive impact on your wellbeing, down to the genetic level, in just 20 minutes day? And, even small single sessions yield benefits!

And, naturally, aromatherapy pairs perfectly with the practice of meditation so I’ve included some blends you may find supportive.

Still with me?

Let’s start by breaking down meditation’s potentially amazing and effective benefits within your own power. Then, we’ll break down the “how to” into seven simple steps to get you started with your own aromatic meditation.

Previously, in Food for Thought we discussed how the mind, body and spirit are connected. Often, our lack of wellbeing starts in the mind and then imCalm Water Web Sizepacts the body.

Meditation creates the oasis of overall optimal wellness starting with a calm mind that ripples outward throughout our whole being. 

While Eastern traditions of medicine have historically used mindfulness and meditation as part of the overall holistic approach to wellness, researchers across the nation’s major academic research institutions have been busy in more recent years studying the practice to explain why and how it works.

 

Meditation’s Effects on the Mind:[1]

  • Helps preserve the aging brain, as documented by a study at UCLA
  • Helps to quiet an over-active and wandering mind, often associated with worry, according to Yale University
  • It can be as effective as medication for anxiety and depression, according to research at Johns Hopkins University.
  • It can increase the volume of the brain governing learning, memory and emotions and decrease the volume of the brain responsible for fear, anxiety and stress, according to Harvard University.
  • It can improve focus, concentration, attention and memory retention, according to scientists at UC Santa Barbara.
  • It can be effective in supporting those recovering from addictions, including smoking according the American Lung Association.

 

Meditation’s Effects on the Body:

We know from Take a Breath and Cool Your Jets, that chronic stress leads to chronic inflammation and chronic inflammation can lead to serious and chronic health concerns.

Previous research has shown meditation to be effective in helping to improve health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, depression and Alzheimer’s[3]

Now, scientists at Carnegie Mellon University have shown why. First, they found that meditation is even more effective in reducing inflammation in the body than other relaxation techniques.[2]  And, by studying the brain circuitry and blood chemistry, they have been able to link meditation to an improved effect on how the brain manages stress (as an inflammation trigger), leading to reduced inflammation in the body.

Ok, now wait for it …

We know about genetic predispositions to certain conditions that run in families. But, what if our genetic code is not our destiny?

Harvard University researchers found that meditation for 20 minutes a day over an eight-week period can create positive changes down to our genetic level. In fact, meditation actually “turned up the genes that boost immune response, energy metabolism, and insulin secretions, and turned down the genes linked to stress and inflammation.” Even a single session showed a positive result on impacting our health at the genetic level. [4]

So, what is meditation exactly and how do you do it?

 

Meditation in Seven Simple Steps

While meditation has gone more mainstream in recent years, for many of us it can still seem like a foreign and difficult practice. But, here is the thing. Meditation is not necessarily the achievement of an empty mind, but the practice of calming it. I like this definition I recently came across.

Meditation is simply “cultivating a focused awareness on the present moment.” [5]

We don’t  need to retreat to anywhere away from home (although this is always a treat), we don’t need anything fancy, and we don’t need any expensive accessories. All we need is ourselves, our breath, and even some small space in our days. And, of course, aromatherapy is always a wonderful means of support.

And, while a meditation practice is simple, it isn’t always easy, especially at first. So, it is important to be persistent without pushing to be perfect. This just sets us up for frustration and failure.

While there are many, many forms of meditation out there you may wish to explore (guided, visualization, mantras with beads, walking, kinesthetic such as knitting or coloring, etc), we are going to start with  one of the most basic practices — simply  focusing on the breath. In just  a few easy steps, we can learn to quiet the mind and create a healing balance in our whole being in a practice that can be as portable as needed.

Aromatic Meditation in Seven Simple Steps:

  1. Choose an aromatherapy blend. (see below)
    • You can either diffuse or use a personal inhaler.
  2. Find a quiet place to sit comfortably.
    • Note that you can even create calm in the midst of chaos by plugging in soothing music with noise canceling ear buds)
  3. Gently close your eyes.
  4. Notice your breath, without trying to control it.
  5. Breathe through your nose and bring your focus to each inhalation and exhalation like the ebb and flow of gentle waves.
  6. Choose an option to keep your focus on your breath.
    • You can count each breath; or
    • You can select a word(s) to repeat with each breath 
    • (I like to inhale “Calm” and exhale “Peace.”)
  7.  Return your focus to your breath as needed.
    • When you find thoughts coming to the surface, simply notice them like clouds floating by (without judgment) and return your attention to your breath and your counting or words.

Aromatherapy can provide an incredible sense of support in meditation, most especially for helping to quiet the mind. One essential oil traditionally associated with meditation that often comes to mind is  frankincense carteri. Others you may like include buddha wood,  blue cypress, davana, and ho wood.

Here a few of my favorite blends to get you started. If I am home, I like to use the diffuser. But, I can be sitting in an airplane seat, with my noise canceling headphones and personal inhaler (just scale the blends up to 15 drops), and create a calming session for myself that literally lets me tune out what’s around me and tune in to my own internal sanctuary.

 

Reflect blend

2 drops bergamot

2 drops coriander

2 drops frankincense carteri

For a quieter and more balanced state of mind. Inspired introspection.

 

Mellow Mind

2 drops ho wood

1 drop blue cypress

1 drop buddha wood

1 drop ginger co2

Grounding. Supports a sense of peace. Helps to calm a busy mind. 

 

Sangria Siesta

2 drops davana

1 drop lime

1 drop lemon

1 drop sweet orange

Soothing, calming, relaxing and quieting to the mind, while uplifting the spirits.

 

I try to meditate at least 30 minutes a day. More on days where more is needed.  But, I started slow. Sometimes I could only do 10 minutes, then I worked my way up to the 20-minute mark given the results from the Harvard study and it seemed like a bite from the apple I could chew.

Eventually, I was ready to make it a habit, so I challenged myself to practice at least 20 minutes a day for 60 days straight. At that point, I found it was something I was able to fit into my daily routine and actually increased my time to 30 minutes. It has become my time to shut down and recharge both my mind and body and if I miss out I do miss it.

The thing to do, is just to give it a try. Remember it is called a practice for a reason. The vision of the guru sitting high on the mountain with an empty mind is not the goal. This is just another step in our healing journey giving us the power to soothe our selves by calming the mind and minding the body.

 


References:

[1] Walton, Alice G. “7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change the Brain.” Forbes.com. PHARMA & HEALTHCARE. Forbes 2/09/2015. Web. 02/20/15

[2] Gregoire, Carolyn. “Here’s How Meditation Reduces Inflammation and Prevents Disease.” The Huffington Post. The Huffington Post, 08 Feb. 2016. Web. 22 July 2016.

[3] Gregoire, Carolyn. “Here’s How Meditation Reduces Inflammation and Prevents Disease.” The Huffington Post. The Huffington Post, 08 Feb. 2016. Web. 22 July 2016.

[4] Quinn, Corina. “Reset Your Health.” Yoga Journal June 2014: 22.

[5] Walton, Alice G. “7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change the Brain.” Forbes.com. PHARMA & HEALTHCARE. Forbes 2/09/2015. Web. 02/20/15

Slipping Into Slumber

By: Ellen Brenner, Certified Aromatherapist

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Do you sleep like a baby? Or, do you have trouble slipping into slumber?

I admit that lately I have been having trouble drifting off to a good night’s sleep. Left to my own devices, I am a night owl. Yet, I am one who needs my beauty rest to be at my best. And, lately, I have added more to my daily schedule. All good things, but things that mean I need to plan for a more structured sleep schedule so I can create a healthy rhythm to meet the needs of my mind and body.

Lavender Pillow Reduced

There are many reasons for insomnia (inability to sleep). And, if your inability to sleep is serious, long-term, and affecting your daily life and health, you may want to see your health practitioner to discuss your concern.

What I want to focus on here is perhaps one of the most simple sources of sleeplessness. And, that is ensuring that we are properly preparing the mind and body for slumber.

Many of us tend to go, go, go — and, then, squeeze in one more thing until we run out of enough hours for a proper night’s sleep. Then, when we do finally clock out and fall into bed physically fatigued, our brains may still be working overtime. And, if you take your electronics to bed, you have a few more strikes against your quest for sleep. Not only are they stimulating to the mind and body, the light emitted also suppresses the natural sleep hormone, melatonin. [1]

On average, most adults require between 7 and 8 hours of deeply restorative sleep a night to maintain their wellbeing.[2] So, what happens when we get by on six, five, or maybe even less hours sleep? Not only does it put us into the debit column for the next day’s functional needs, lack of sleep begins to have immediate and long-term consequences on our wellbeing.

According to sleep research, effects of sleep deprivation include: [3]

  • Drowsy driving, which slows reaction time as much as drunk driving, after only one night’s loss of proper sleep;
  • Impacted ability to learn, think, concentrate and store memory information from the day;
  • Chronic sleep loss is linked to risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes;
  • Those who suffer from long-term insomnia are five times more likely to develop depression; and
  • Sleep is also required for a healthy immune system.[4]

When we are deprived of sleep, we deprive our body the ability to restore. I first learned of this after injuring my spinal cord. As part of my multi-disciplinary rehabilitation regimen, my physician was intensely focused on the quality and quantity of my nightly sleep. He explained slumber is the vital period required by the body to restore and renew — critical functions to the rehabilitation process. Research has indicated sleep is the time when the body repairs through “muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis and growth hormone release.” [5]

And, then, there is the ability to function mentally and emotionally. Back in 2003, my personal physician was head of the one of the earlier medical school  integrative medicine departments. At the time, I was going through a hellish divorce while trying to balance my responsibilities at work and had reached my wit’s end after enduring six sleepless weeks.

I was not only beyond physically exhausted, I was also mentally and emotionally exhausted as well. At a time when I needed to be sharp, I was foggy, forgetful, moody and emotional. My spirits were down. I couldn’t make thoughtful decisions. I felt dull. I was slow to respond and found myself going in circles while trying to mentally sort things out.

Desperate for sleep and functionality, I went to see my physician to ask for a short-term prescription to get that elusive sleep that always seemed to be just out of reach. We talked about the issues that seemed to be the source. And, then, she had this to say. She indeed had a prescription. But, it was not for a medication.

It was for what she called “sleep hygiene,” a process of preparing the body for slipping into slumber. She exacted a promise from me that I would follow her sleep preparation process exactly as given for exactly one week. If it did not work and I did not sleep by the seventh night (if not before), she would write me the prescription for the medication. I left bewildered and not a total believer, but willing to try knowing there was sleep at the end of the tunnel one way or another.

Here were her instructions:

  • One hour before bedtime, shut off all electronics – TV, phone, radio, computer – everything
  • No reading – even things that seem relaxing, because the act of reading and thinking still stimulates the brain.
  • Drink a large mug of warm, chamomile tea.
  • Immediately following, take a very warm lavender and epsom salt bath. Soak for about 20 minutes.
  • Wrap the body in warm robe, or pajamas and immediately get into bed.
  • Shut off the lights, put your head on the pillow and close the eyes.

It was not easy. To get the appropriate amount of rest, I needed to be asleep by 10:00 p.m., which meant I needed to start this regimen at 9:00 p.m. each night. That meant missing TV shows (back before DVR) and letting friends and family know I would not be available for phone chats. Fortunately (to make things easier), it was before smart phones and tablets that put computer communications in the palm of our hands. I also lived alone, which meant I could create a silent sanctuary. This might be were soothing spa music or white noise could come in handy to create a sound-filtered space.

I have to admit, the first several nights, I just laid there. But, since I was training my body for a new regimen, lay there I did.  At least, I was resting. After several nights, I started to get drowsy and would eventually drift off. By the last few nights I was drifting off soon after getting into bed.

As it turned out, slipping into slumber was within my grasp after all. In my case, regardless of what I was going through, the source of my sleeplessness was my lack of preparation, especially under trying circumstances. I never did need that prescription.

What I understand now was that I was not only creating conditions more conducive to signal sleep, I was also resetting the button to create a new pattern to signal my sleep rhythm. And, while I have the best of intentions, like most of us, I can drift away from healthy practices. When I find myself having difficulty drifting off, I realize it is time to bring out the regimen to, once again, retrain my mind and body.

I was blessed to have an integrative medicine physician who not only advocated natural remedies, but also who understood the benefits of aromatherapy in this remedial and relaxing routine. I had already been using aromatherapy for a few years at this point, but was amazed to find it provided such a simple, yet significant, means of support as part of my physician’s care plan for sleep deprivation relief.

Lavender  has been well documented to support relaxation by reducing stress hormones and increasing neurotransmitters that promote improved rest and mood.[6] Roman Chamomile has long been used in aromatherapy for it’s relaxing benefits. The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) identifies its therapeutic value for relieving tension and worry as well as supporting slumber. [7]

In addition to the relaxation routine outlined above, I have incorporated lavender and roman chamomile essential oils into some blends below to support your efforts to better slip into slumber.

 

Relaxing Bath Blend

Relaxing to both mind and body

2 drops lavender

2 drops roman chamomile 

1 drop sweet marjoram

1 – 2 T natural body wash

½ – 1 c Epsom salts

Add essential oils to body wash to disburse. Mix in Epsom salts. Add under running very warm running water.

 

Clear and Calm Diffuser Blend

Clearing, cleansing, clarifying and calming.

3 drops lemon

2 drops lavender fine

Diffuse for 30 to 60 minutes for a clearing and calming experience.

 


Sources:

[1] Hatfield, Heather. “How TV, Internet, and Other Electronic Devices Impact Sleep.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 19 July 2016.

[2] “Adult Sleep Needs at Every Age: From Young Adults to the Elderly.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 19 July 2016.

[3] Peri, Camille. “10 Surprising Effects of Lack of Sleep.” WebMD. WebMD, 2014. Web. 13 July 2016.

[4] “Why Sleep Matters.” Healthy Sleep: Understanding the Third of Our Lives We So Often Take for Granted. Division of Sleep Medicine, Harvard Medical School, 2008. Web. 19 July 2016.

[5] “Why Sleep Matters.” Healthy Sleep: Understanding the Third of Our Lives We So Often Take for Granted. Division of Sleep Medicine, Harvard Medical School, 2008. Web. 19 July 2016.

[6] The Therapeutic Foundations of Essential Oils. Robert Tisserand. Tisserand Institute. Tisserand Institute, June 2015. Web. 19 July 2016.

[7] “National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy.” Most Commonly Used Essential OIls | . National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy, n.d. Web. 19 July 2016.

 


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