How I learned to make crystal and flower essences

22/06/2016 at 7:12 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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The flowers are infused in sunlight

Magical and irrational as this may sound, I first learned how to make crystal and flower essences through a series of dreams. The first ones happened while I was qualifying as a healer, around 2003. In that hypnogogic state between sleeping and waking I was shown, step by step, how to go to particular plants in the garden and gather small amounts for the purpose of bottling their essential signature. I was shown how these essences could then, at a later date, remind us of essential qualities within ourselves.

The garden around the Studio is semi-wild, with native trees and plants co-existing with introduced specimens. There’s a fusion here of what will never be tamed, and what is cultivated. I believe that humans are very like that: each of us is a unique blend of wild and cultivated. Plant essences can help us to get this balance right within ourselves.

The crystal essence dreams came along a little later, after those early plant essence dreams. The most vivid perhaps was the time I was given, while dreaming, a vial of angel essence, with implicit instructions on how to make my own through a blend of crystals, rose oil and rose water.

The crystal dreams suggested to me that while the plant essences addressed the emotions that constantly occupy us, the crystals themselves addressed bedrock aspects of who we are. Furthermore, the weather and time of day or night also had an input.

From time to time I share the garden with other people who’d like to make their own essences. One such event is happening here on Sunday 17th July, during an event I’m co-hosting with Jennie Meek, who will be bringing her own expertise of Qi Gong and therapeutic tapping to share. You can find out more here.

How do crystal and flower essences work?

I do like logical explanations and I am respectful of the scientific principle of finding proof of efficacy. At the same time, I’m happy to find therapy in the process of making.

The essences are similar to homeopathy in that they carry little or no aspect of the original material. One explanation that is sometimes suggested is that water has memory – it records the essential signature of a material added to it. It may also be that the recording is better when the person creating it has uncluttered, open, focused intention.

If any scientists reading this find that explanation hard to swallow, I think it’s possible, very simply, that on a conscious or even sub-conscious level, qualities of the original plant or crystal remind us of qualities within ourselves, and help us to reinforce those helpful, positive aspects.

The bottom line is that when we make an essence with intention, and then take small amounts of it afterwards – either in drops to imbibe, or in fragranced droplets to spray around us – a subtle yet delightful emotional shift happens within us. Dr Edward Bach recognised this when he first made his flower remedies, back in the 1930s, and it’s possible to recognise the exact same thing today.

 

How to gather and cook wild garlic

01/05/2015 at 10:50 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Garlic bud Wild garlic grows in vast, natural fields in damp woodlands in the spring. It’s just waiting for you to harvest it and if the buds are looking like this one above, the perfect time to harvest is right now. Here are some guidelines for you.

Be sure to identify it correctly

Wild garlic, or Allium ursinum, has long very pale green stems. Its leaves are arrowhead-shaped, one per stem. Its buds grow one per stem, and opens out into a loose tuft of pretty white flowers. Every part of the flower has a pungent garlicky fragrance which is best experienced by crushing a leaf lightly between your fingers. There are two toxic plants that must never be confused with wild garlic. Lily of the valley has similar leaves but purple stems, and its flowers grow in a long spray. Lord and Ladies, an arum, has different shaped leaves but grows among the wild garlic and could be scooped up by an over-hasty picker.

Only gather what you need

One spring I went out with relatives and we all went a bit crazy, picking as much garlic as we could carry. Of course it was next to impossible to process all that food, and I’m sorry to say some of the surplus ended up in the compost. It’s a plant that is best eaten fresh, so just gather what you need. If you’re intending to cook wild garlic as a side dish, 20 leaves per person makes a generous portion.

Pick the stems low to the ground

The stems have a more delicate taste and pleasant texture, so be sure to collect them as well as the green leaves. Don’t unearth the bulbs which are very small. The goodness we want is in the aerial part of the plant: the part above the ground.

Vase of garlicProcess it early

It will keep for two or three days in your kitchen, either in a loose bag in the fridge, or in water as shown here.

Eat it raw

Wash, chop roughly and add in small quantities to salads. The open flowers can also be added to salads, contributing beauty and an amazing peppery taste. Wild garlic pesto

Create a pesto

There are many recipes on the internet. My favourites don’t copy the classic basil pesto, but blend ingredients that perfectly suit garlic’s distinctive taste. This is a great example by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall. Blend 50 g of lightly toasted and cooled walnuts in a food processor with around 75 g of washed and chopped garlic leaves, 30-35 g parmesan cheese, finely grated zest and juice from half an unwaxed lemon and around 130 ml of olive oil. Add sea salt and black pepper to taste. Spoon into a clean empty jar, and store in the fridge. It will keep for several days, but probably won’t last that long – too yummy! Mix it with pasta or spread on crisp bread.

Cook it as a spring green

Wash and roughly chop leaves and stems, and simmer for a few minutes in a little water until soft and wilted. Make sure the pan doesn’t boil dry. The flavour when cooked is remarkably mild, making it a perfect spring vegetable. You can also add the washed, chopped leaves to a casserole for the last few minutes of cooking. You can create a soup with onion, a little potato, and lots of wild garlic with seasoning and a swirl of cream. Or you can simply add a single raw garlic bud to the centre of any soup as a peppery garnish.

Garlic bouquet

Give a truly fragrant gift

Wrap some wild garlic up in some brown paper and write some simple instructions on the paper. As gifts go, it’s a definite talking point, and you may even be introducing someone to a great spring ingredient. A jar of wild garlic pesto is another  great foodie gift.

Bask in the health benefits

Wild garlic is antibacterial and antiviral, and of all the allium family it is particularly good at lowering blood pressure. So it’s helpful for your immunity and your heart.

A rose for hard times

31/03/2015 at 7:52 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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There’s a simple meditative technique we can use in hard times. I call it the Rose Meditation. You can do this anywhere: cleaning the house, ploughing through work, undergoing medical treatment, in a high-voltage meeting….

All you do is this: focus, in your mind’s eye, on a rose. The example shown here was photographed after rain, in the sunshine of the Dordogne.

Picture the feather-light, velvety smoothness of the petals. Imagine yourself miniaturised, resting between the scented petals as though they are the softest bed in the world. Breathe in their heavenly fragrance.

Notice the variations in colour between the inner and outer petals. Absorb the beautiful colours with every cell of your body.

Touch the raindrops; taste their sweetness.

Explore the petals, going inward towards the nectar, and outwards again towards the sun and fresh air.

Do this visualisation any time you feel the need. The rose contains powerful therapy, and simply thinking about it in this way can be soothing, and healing.

When nature’s remedy came to stay

03/03/2014 at 3:49 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Betony light leaves

One of the best teachers I ever had was a medical herbalist called Nina Nissen. She taught me the herbalists’ belief that the plants you need tend to grow near you. For example, nettles and cleavers appear in the spring, just in time to help our bodies to flush out winter congestions and give us a multi-vitamin and mineral boost.
I don’t know about you, but I can learn something in my head… and somehow forget to apply it in real life. A mysterious wild flower started growing near my kitchen door. It had serrated leaves like ancient arrow heads. In the summer, pinkish purple flowers grew on long stalks. I kept forgetting to look it up. One day, I ordered some new medicinal plants. When they arrived, I suddenly discovered the identity of the mystery wild flower…

Among my bought herbs was a nervine: a relaxing herb that is particularly helpful for highly sensitive people who may become fearful or worried easily, and who, on balance, find it easier to stay at home. I could relate to these qualities. Although I love being with people, I find I also need long, quiet periods on my own. And I know that sometimes this stops me from doing things that would be helpful in my work. Steven, my partner, says that I am a hermit, and there is some truth in his comment. 

The plant for hermits goes by the name of Wood Betony,  or Stachys officinalis.

As I unpacked the Wood Betony plant I had ordered, I was amazed to see that it was identical to the mystery plant that grew near my kitchen door. Betony had come to me when I needed it, and had waited, patiently, for me to notice it.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So finally, today, I do something that my herbal medicine teacher, Nina Nissen, taught me a dozen years ago. I do an intuitive tea tasting.

First, I study the plant, to notice what I notice. I can see the leaves, shaped like arrowheads or even elongated hearts. I gather a few and bring them indoors. Close up, I can see tiny curved hairs all over the plant. The tiny hairs seem to collect particles from the environment. And yet a rinse under the kitchen tap is enough to clean the leaves completely.

Betony texture

I think, not for the first time, how important it is for any sensitive soul to let go of all that they pick up from their environment. Busy places in particular can make me feel exhausted far quicker than Steven, who thrives on stimulation. If I have lots of old energetic debris still clinging to me, I have to do something about it: a rest, a cleansing bath or shower, a dip in my local pool, a session of gardening. Like Betony, I need to let it go.

I continue to follow the advice of Nina Nissen, who has written about intuitive tea tasting in her classic book, Teach Yourself Herbal Medicine. I sniff the leaves, and  breathe in an earthy, almost musky scent, with fresh green undertones.

The chopped leaves go into freshly boiled water for three to five minutes. Many herbalists suggest ten minutes or so brewing time. If you are trying to get maximum nutrients, that’s probably a good idea. However, I remember Nina saying that you only need to make contact with the plant.

When the tea is ready, I filter it and study it once more before sipping it.

Betony tea

The colour is a fresh, delicate green that begins to fade almost as I look at it. The fragrance is earthy. It makes me think of a cottage, somewhere on a damp moor, with a peat fire creating a simple, peaceful warmth.

As I drink, the soft texture of the liquid reminds me of marshmallow tea. It soothes my dry throat, and the warmth spreads throughout my core. The taste is not a ‘pretty’ taste. It is more like the taste of Mother Earth, with fresh green after-notes.

I am beginning to feel distinctly light-headed. Images of scenes from my childhood and teenage years appear in my mind, one at a time. Alongside these images, there is a tight heaviness in my heart. What would make my heart feel better? Without really thinking about it, I imagine myself as a tiny point of consciousness, able to travel at will within a symbolic version of my body. I go to a control room just behind my eyes. There, I see a mini-version of myself at a big console. She is steering my body.

“It’s no use talking to me,” says the mini-me, who looks very busy. “I have to follow the programmes I’m given. If you want to change your direction, you need to talk to the programmers.” And she directs me deeper into my brain, to the programming room.

There, I find a small team of mini-me’s behind more consoles. These ones look quite boffin-like, with big dark spectacles. I talk to one of them, who is very friendly. She’s happy to write a new programme for me. We decide the words together and she hands me the completed programme. “You can take this to the navigation room yourself if you like,” says Boffin Me, smiling.

So I carry the programme back to the navigation room, and there it is received by the navigator who pops it into her console. “It’ll overwrite the previous programme,” she explains, comfortably. Together, we watch that happen on a big screen. I feel a huge sense of satisfaction.

Gradually, I return to my normal awareness. My heart feels less tight now, although I get the impression that changing course is a slow process that can take days or weeks to complete. I will be making more Wood Betony tea, though I will probably mix a leaf or two with another fragrant favourite such as spearmint, or lemon verbena. These have healing properties of their own.

And what was the new programme that I installed? Here it is, short and sweet:

“I have the power, wisdom and confidence to choose right action, or non-action, as appropriate.”

Warm thoughts about ice

30/11/2013 at 3:11 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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Ice

Meditation word over the coming week is ‘ice’. One of the meditators last week said it made her feel chilly just to think of it. So I thought I’d write a few thoughts for you, Diane, and all of us, to widen the associations. Here goes…

In dreams, ice may often be a symbol of transformation. It can be a symbol of frozen energy: some aspect of the psyche that hasn’t changed and developed, most likely as a result of trauma – something a younger version of ourselves just couldn’t cope with, so we put it in deep storage.

The thing is, there is such potential in this frozen energy. When the ice melts, new power and abilities may course through the psyche. Our lives can transform as we reconnect with aspects of ourselves that we had all but forgotten.

Ice can form the most beautiful crystals. For all who love crystals, winter can be the most transformative time of year as we walk in a three-dimensional crystal world: frost and snow on the trees above us, snow beneath our feet.

Ice can bring out the child in us. What memories do you have? I remember my five-year-old self all bundled up and scrunching through deep snow in the streets of an East European city. I remember stopping by a doughnut stall: watching the little ring doughnuts cook before my eyes; the sweet scent of warm food on a cold winter’s day.

Ice can also help us re-connnect with our inner child  as adults. I have a warm memory from last winter: lying on the snow, side by side with my daughter as we made snow angels, then going indoors for hot chocolate.

Fire and ice are both opposites and natural companions. As Steven’s picture of icebergs in Greenland demonstrates, sun gradually melts the ice, allowing it to flow. It’s helpful to see that process in ourselves. In what areas of our lives are we allowing ourselves to become more open, to flow with greater ease?

Ice is about pause – the pause between two growing seasons. A time when plants dream of all that they are going to be, and our sleeping selves keep files of all that we may become. Who knows how long the icy pause may last? And yet, life may still be there, waiting to emerge. I’m thinking about that incredible plant, the white CampionSilene stenophylla. Its fruits were frozen in the Siberian permafrost for over 30,000 years. Then, one day, Russian scientists discovered a way to propagate them, and the ancient campions bloom again.

 

This moment now

30/07/2012 at 10:25 am | Posted in Happiness, Meditation, Nature, Uncategorized, Wellbeing | 1 Comment
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This moment now is all we ever have, but it’s enough, because it’s everything.

Have a magical day.

Crown chakra flower meditation

17/04/2011 at 7:52 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Cardamine pratensis in a Wiltshire meadow.

Flowers make the best subjects to focus on when meditating. Their delicate and symmetrical beauty are great at quietening the mind. And if you want to do some work on the crown chakra – the place at the very top of your head that may, sometimes, tingle when you are inspired or feel connected with the universal – then may I offer you this image of  Cardamine pratensis, also known as Ladies’ Smock, or Cuckoo Flower?

The thing about Ladies Smock is that the flowers are absolutely at the meeting point between lilac and white – the perfect colour to depict, or represent the crown chakra. And yet it avoids the commonest problem when meditating on this colour: being ungrounded.

The commonest crystal for the crown chakra is the amethyst. And yet, I admit I have a problem with amethyst. Though beautiful, it makes me feel ungrounded, too much ‘in my head’… just too purple. In contrast, Ladies’ Smock is very connected with the ground: it’s long graceful stem leads downwards, to good roots. And the vibrant green colour of the stem and leaves, not to mention the neighbouring countryside, is the perfect antidote to too much purple.

The whiteness – there is more white than purple in this example – connects us more to the universal than the individual, so it’s easier to let go of the ego and all those ego insecurities.

Good enough to eat

And, as a bonus, Ladies Smock does also have very practical health and nutritional benefits – once used widely as an alternative to watercress, the flowers and leaves make a tasty addition to salad. The leaves taste amazing, though maybe a tiny bit chewy for modern taste. The flowers have the same mustard and cress flavour, and are easier to eat. The plant is rich in Vitamin C, and also in mustard oil compounds, so they are pretty good for the circulation and chasing phlegmy winter bugs away.

So, Cardamine pratensis is a beautiful subject for meditation, and you can eat it as well… a small amount is its own flower remedy, warming and reassuring.  Ladies Smock likes damp meadows, in temperate zones. I photographed this close by the Studio, with a lovely long lens to enable us to focus on the flower, and not a cluttered background  – the essence of meditation.

Yellow hearts for happiness

12/04/2011 at 10:28 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Cowslips are beautiful tiny medicine chests

If you are lucky enough to have cowslips growing in your garden or nearby, nurture them. These small, quirky relatives of primroses aren’t so common nowadays, and they carry with them the peace and slower pace of a more rural past – and a few related health benefits.

The garden around the Studio is old farmland, and so the cowslips never really left it. But it’s easy enough to sow seeds in any garden and wait for them to appear.

Just looking at them is instantly calming and relaxing. However, if you have an abundance of them, you can do much more than that…

Herbal medicine

Herbalists use cowslip flowers and roots as a nervine, to relax and calm; to help dispel chesty coughs and nervous headaches; and to promote restful sleep. Collect the flowers between March and May, and the roots before flowering time, or in the autumn. Add the flowers to herbal teas; or make a decoction of the dried root: 1 teaspoonful to a cup of water; bring to the boil and simmer gently for five minutes. Then drink three times a day.

Healthy salad

The tiny, sweet tasting flowers are a really pretty addition to salads; you can eat the young leaves too, though we have yet to try them here. In the old days, many households made their own delicious cowslip wine from the flowers, which helped to clear winter coughs and was a popular night cap.

Flower therapy

But the best reason to grow them is probably just to look at them. Each flower is a tiny trumpet of five connected vibrant yellow hearts. Gaze into one, and take three deep breaths, and you will receive a small but potent dose of happiness, I guarantee.

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