Saturday, March 15, 2008

How I Got Into Flower Essence Therapy

What is this crazy stuff?

Many years ago when a friend introduced me to the idea of using flower essences to help heal emotional or spiritual problems I thought she had lost her mind. I was actively exploring alternative philosophies and systems of healing but this idea was just too much: collect flowers and let them float in water in the sun until the water absorbs the flowers' "essence." Then dilute that flower water down even more, shake it up, add brandy to preserve it and take 4 drops of the solution three times a day for a month to help resolve your problems. Right! That was a load of snake oil if I ever heard one. How could anyone be so gullible?

My friend explained that they were like homeopathic remedies where a tiny amount of a substance inspires the body’s natural healing response to come to the fore and, better yet, they were far too dilute to be toxic and had no significant side effects. This was intriguing to me because I was already using herbal remedies for medicinal purposes. But then she started waxing poetic about the soul qualities of the plant working synergistically with the human spirit and that’s where she completely lost me.

My housemate was also a person who believed human beings were descended from a star constellation called the Pleiades and put a copper pyramid in my herb garden to “purify the energy.” The books she gave me talked about attuning with the “over-lighting devas of the plant kingdom” to make one’s selections or spoke of spiritual ideas I had never heard of before. I wanted to understand—there was something about this method of healing that called to me—but it made no sense and, as much as I like to think of myself as a spiritually open-minded individual there are places my intellect just won’t let me go.

So I went away shaking my head and went on with my life until a few years later when I went through a period where I felt overwhelmed by the terrible state of the world and my place in it. I didn’t find my profession as a graphic designer fulfilling anymore and couldn’t figure out what else I wanted to do. It felt imperative to do something that would make the world a better place but I had no hope that anything I could offer would actually make a difference. I was very depressed and pessimistic and decided that, since I didn’t think I could do anything about the big picture, for the time being I would just give up on it and focus on incremental changes like making improvements in my garden.

That’s when I became obsessed with Scotch Broom.

Scotch Broom is a hated non-native shrub with yellow flowers taking over most of the hillsides where I live in Santa Cruz, California. Nobody in this part of the world wants it in their gardens because it’s a terrible allergen and highly invasive but I not only wanted one, I wanted to put it right at the doorway of my house so I’d see it first thing every day when I went to work and at the end of the day when I came home. I scoured garden centers for weeks until I tracked one down only to discover that my husband was violently allergic to it and needed me to take it away.

I spent a lot of time touching and smelling the plant, trying to drink in my fill of it, before returning it to the nursery. A few weeks later I felt a lot better about the world and got busy putting a plan in place to get the training I needed to become an educator in the field of psychology.

Months went by. Then, while clearing out space for psychology textbooks, I came across the pamphlets my old housemate had given me about Flower Essence Therapy. I idly thumbed through one to make sure there was nothing worth keeping in it and the words “Scotch Broom” popped out at me. It was described as a North American flower essence used to help people who are depressed about the state of the world and their ability to make a difference in it. That caught my attention!

I looked up all the other flowers I had been particularly attracted to and found other interesting correlations to my personal life. The “coincidences” were more confusing than seriously impressive to me but I became convinced that perhaps there was more to the emotional and spiritual power of flowers than I ever expected.

Still, I had not successfully used flower essences for myself when my vet recommended them for my cat. Chloe was a pound kitty who was held back from adoption repeatedly because of her tendency to pick up every illness and insect infestation brought in by any animal at the SPCA. She saw her mother disappear and all her littermates adopted before her, and spent six months alone in her cage before I fell in love with her sweet nature and brought her home.

Poor Chloe was a neurotic mess. She desperately wanted attention, and followed me around meowing pitifully. Yet when I would reach out to pet her she would yelp in terror and run away. I had tried everything for several months to no avail so I decided to follow my vet's advice.

I looked through the Flower Essence Repertory published by the Flower Essence Society, tuned into my inner guidance and finally chose Mariposa Lily. This essence is supposed to help heal the hurt of early childhood abandonment and difficulties with mother-child bonding. Chloe loved taking it and asked for more long after I thought the remedy had done its work. It had a dramatic effect. The very first day I gave it to her she stopped chasing me around the house and let me pet her while she relaxed in her bed. A week later she curled up in my bed with me for the first time. I still had a neurotic cat but she was much happier and relatively calm.

An unexpected result was that within a month her coat, which used to be greasy and full of dandruff, became fluffy, thick and beautiful and her tendency to wheeze and cough disappeared. My vet couldn't explain that but, according to Chinese medicine, skin disorders are sometimes related to undischarged grief lodged in the Lung meridian. I was not giving Chloe any other special treatment during this time. My theory is that the essence helped her release the emotional stress of her time in captivity so her physical health could return. Her immune system became much better as a result as well.

This experience was the first real evidence I had that there was more to flower essences than a placebo effect. After all, a cat could not know what the essence was for. So I decided to put them to a real test in my own life.

And that launched a journey I have never come back from! (I'll share more as time goes on.)

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