Saturday, March 29, 2008

Social Networking

When is a friend a friend and when is it a manipulative way to make a business deal? Paul and I aren't hip to "social networking", the latest way for marketing over the Internet. In fact, we don't really understand "networking" as business strategy at all. Although, I, at least, have been told time and again I really should.

Making "friends" with the ulterior motive of making money from other people is confusing to me. There's nothing wrong with creating bonds of mutual support. If it wasn't for a couple of my friends pulling a few strings I wouldn't have gotten my foot in the door of a couple of places my perfume is now selling today.

But here's a list of steps a so-called "professional blogger" posted on his blog site to show people how he purposely uses social networks to promote his own business. Notice the calculated steps he takes to ingratiate himself and get the person he's targeting to let him in:
  1. Pick several social media users who might be interested in your content. Make sure that they have some influence or clout in the community.
  2. Confirm that your content is relevant to their publicly declared or observable interests by studying their usage of the social site.
  3. Make first contact with the user by sending a ‘hello’ or ‘thank you’ email/message while introducing yourself.
  4. Gradually develop a relationship by talking about common interests or the social community.
  5. Do some small favors for the user, but do not ask for reciprocation of any sort. Avoid pitching the user at this point.
  6. After determining that your content is a perfect fit with the user and perfectly understanding the interests of the user, make your first pitch.
  7. If successful, continue to pitch the user but do it infrequently and only for excellent content. If unsuccessful, pull back a little and re-pitch after some time has passed.
  8. Deepen your relationship with the user till the point where he or she will automatically monitor and share your content with the community or when its legitimately possible to co-opt the user by offering compensation.

And there you have it, a complete guide on how to leverage the influence and popularity of social media users, in order to benefit your own website or business.

I'd hate to think someone deliberately courted me like that. It's almost Machiavellian and kind of creepy.

And yet it's not like I haven't benefited by social networks on the Internet. I joined some Yahoo groups to see if I could find people who could teach me things that might help me get my perfume business off the ground. And it was great! I've learned a lot of things and have even found as time went on that I could contribute enough in return for it to feel like a reciprocal relationship. I pick and choose what email posts I want to respond to. I don't have to add checking some site on the Internet as part of my daily routine. And occasionally opportunities for my business have actually come my way. Clients, referrals, sales of my perfume. And there was nothing Machiavellian about it. I actually like these people! (At least what I know about them.)

Recently I got a newsletter from someone promoting the idea of posting comments on other people's blogs in order to bring business coming to your own. The advice was to find a blog on a similar topic of interest, read the first page, say something nice like "Great post! I feel the same way. In fact, you can find x, y, z resource on my website at http://www. . . "

A benign way to make living? Maybe. But the very same day I received this newsletter someone did the exact same thing with me. She read my first page, wrote a "nice post" comment, then proceeded to say that she would never do what I was recommending because she was doing something she learned in this great book by the person she was paid to sell. How do I know she was getting paid? Paul got a very similar email and then looked up her Google ID, susanchap21. He found 143 entries saying similar things and found one entry in which she actually said that the best thing she ever did was get paid for "surfing the net"!

So much for breaking the ice and making friends. Isn't that what "social networks" were originally supposed to be about?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Stroke of Insight Video

http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/229

"Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor had an opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: One morning, she realized she was having a massive stroke. As it happened -- as she felt her brain functions slip away one by one, speech, movement, understanding -- she studied and remembered every moment. This is a powerful story about how our brains define us and connect us to the world and to one another."

Way interesting! Very unexpected and shockingly spiritual. The physiology of spirituality? Or what? Check it out!

Video Spiritual Counseling and Healing Worldwide

We recently signed up for Skype and did our first Voice-Over-Internet call a few weeks ago. It worked great! And the price is so low (free to call other Skype users) that we can absorb the cost of the call into what we charge for sessions. No long distance charges to our clients anymore! Yippee!

And here's something even cooler. If you have a video camera and microphone attached to your computer -- our Mac has one built in -- we can do face-to-face video sessions with you no matter where you live all over the world.

We went nationwide with our sessions via telephone many months ago after much worry and discussion about whether it would work out. We had an out-of-town person INSIST on having a session with us long distance. She knew we were the ones for her and didn't take our hesitation and concern for an answer. It was great and we've done sessions with lots of other people that way as a result.

My friend Vanessa told me about Skype. She has great fun talking to her children who travel a lot that way. She even has done yoga with her daughter who lives in Milan.

If you want to try a video session with us check out our phone and video page for more details.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Aromatherapy Is Not Just in Your Head

I belong to a Botanical Perfumery newsgroup that includes a lot of aromatherapy practitioners as well. Someone posted an angry bit about the L.A. Times who used a press release directly from the synthetic fragrance industry to write a large article saying that aromatherapy is just a marketing ploy and that the effects reported are just in people's heads. This is just infuriating because most of us wouldn't even be in this industry if we didn't have first hand experience with the healing benefits of the ingredients we use most.

One member of the group, Harry Roth Ph.D., wrote to the L.A. Times directly and posted his letter online. This is what he had to say to the L.A. Times:

Please try not to be such a shill of the fragrance industry. I refer to your article today alleging that the effects of lavender are bogus, this assertion coming directly from a mouthpiece of the fragrance industry onto your pages. You should have at least checked PubMed for recent peer-reviewed journal articles on the efficicacy of lavender in stress reduction instead of scarfing down fragrance industry pap. Here are a few articles from JUST 2007-2008--that's right, ONE YEAR. There are many, many more:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18317288?ordinalpos=4&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum
Nurses working in intensive care were less stressed when they used lavender

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18201946?ordinalpos=11&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum
The scent of lavender lowers blood pressure in mice

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18053656?ordinalpos=17&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum
Lavender bath oil reduces stress and crying and enhances sleep in very young infants.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17894152?ordinalpos=23&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum
Treatment with lavender aromatherapy in the post-anesthesia care unit reduces opioid requirements of morbidly obese patients undergoing laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17689755?ordinalpos=29&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum
Relaxation effects of lavender aromatherapy improve coronary flow velocity reserve in healthy men evaluated by transthoracic Doppler echocardiography.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17654092?ordinalpos=33&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum
Positive effects of aromatherapy massage on blood pressure and lipid profile in Korean climacteric women.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17482442?ordinalpos=45&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum
Anxiolytic effects of lavender oil inhalation on open-field behaviour in rats. Shows lavender also sedating at higher doses.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17388768?ordinalpos=50&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum
Positive effects of lavender aromatherapy acupressure on hemiplegic shoulder pain and motor power in stroke patients

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17361051?ordinalpos=53&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum
Lavender relaxes women having electrocardiogram in Japan

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17342790?ordinalpos=54&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum
Lavender calms agitated behavior in people with Alzheimer's

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17291597?ordinalpos=56&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum
Lavender decreases the stress hormone cortisol

Have an informed day.

Sincerely,

Harold A. Roth, Ph.D.

I use Lavender in my Doing New Things with Confidence and Renewed Faith and Optimism flower essence aromatherapy oils specifically because of its calming, mood-balancing effects.

Thank you, Harry Roth for refusing to stand by quietly while people with a lot to gain from
spreading misinformation in order to destroy public confidence in alternatives to their products run free!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

First Day of Spring

All these images are copyright protected.
Please don't use them for ANY purpose without my expressed written permission.



Sunday, March 16, 2008

Bringing Flower Essences Out on the Public Scene

More from my book...

In 1996 I had a spiritual crisis that led to an uncontrolled psychic opening that terrified me at first and permanently changed my worldview. Intuitive capacities I used to think were the realm of psychics and mystics became my everyday experience and I had to learn a new way of dealing with life and the part I wanted to play in it. I studied medical intuition and various forms of energy healing and practiced using those skills with clients on my evenings and weekends. During the day I worked in the healthcare system as a family consultant for people taking care of family members with Alzheimer’s Disease or other incurable brain-impairing illnesses.

Many people fearfully talk about an impending healthcare crisis tied to the aging baby boom population but anyone who works with eldercare issues today can tell you that the crisis is already here. People are living years longer with chronic health conditions they would have died from before but the cost of that care is astronomical. Meanwhile, the amount of time a doctor typically spends with a patient has decreased while the number of pharmaceutical drug-related illnesses has gone up more than 30% in the last year (2004) alone.

All day long for six years I heard stories about how people’s lives were being devastated by the financial and emotional burdens of 24 hour caregiving and time and again I heard the same stories of how these illnesses appeared to take hold. “Grandma was ok until Grandpa died.” “Auntie has lived alone for years and she has always been anxious. We didn’t even know she had dementia because she’s always acted this way. It’s just worse now.” “Dad was just fine until he was forced into retirement. He didn’t know what to do with his life after that and then everything started to fall apart.” I heard these stories so often that after awhile I deemed it a miracle when I came across a patient whose symptoms did not appear to result from an emotional trauma or a history of isolation, anxiety or depression.

Most of these people were so far into their illnesses that neither conventional nor alternative medicine had much to offer them. Yet doctors would prescribe medications at $100 and up per month that sometimes had serious side effects for many years at a time even though widely available drug trials had shown that, statistically, these drugs were only effective on the average of 6 months to a year. Some patients were taking 5-6 equally expensive medications at the same time for symptomatic relief of a wide variety of other health concerns.

Meanwhile at home I was experimenting with using flower essences to reverse long-standing emotional problems that I believed could lead to disease and was having interesting results. My remedy combinations never cost more than $10-20, I rarely had to take them for long, and except for the occasional short-lived intensification of symptoms just before healing (which can usually be avoided—I’ll show you how) they had no side effects whatsoever. Yet I couldn’t get people to try them. I wasn’t allowed to recommend flower essences within the confines of my day job, and even though my evening clients appeared to trust me they were too frightened to try a formula their doctor had not prescribed. Besides, who ever heard of using flowers in brandy and water for emotional relief? They didn’t understand it and from my own life experience I understood why and I knew I wanted to do something to change that.

The things that make herbal remedies a solid choice for people dealing with physical complaints could make them an equally appealing choice for people seeking help with emotional problems. However, the vast majority of Americans have little or no idea of how a physical plant substance could possibly be used to help in this way. My book will address these issues and take it further by delving into the world of psychoneuroimmunology to explain from a physiological point of view how health can be affected by emotion through its connection to immune response.

There are times when accidents or exposure to toxic chemicals or air- or insect-borne illnesses make us sick. But it has been shown repeatedly that our susceptibility to illness and our ability to recover has more to do with mental attitude and emotional well-being than any other factor. I believe that if we not only acknowledged the intimate connection between our emotional and physical well-being but gave people tools to work with their emotional distress we wouldn’t have as big a medical crisis today and most people’s medical bills wouldn’t be nearly as high. Dr. Edward Bach, the immunologist and medical doctor credited with originating Flower Essence Therapy, I’m sure would agree. He developed his flower remedies for that very purpose and intended that they be used as a system of self-care accessible to anyone without the need for extensive medical training.

Our society has changed in recent years to the extent that people use aromatherapy without fear because they see it on TV. It’s no longer a strange cult-like hippie trait to meditate in the morning before going to work. We learn yoga and Tai Chi at the local gym and drink herbal tea by the gallon. If all these practices could become mainstream why not Flower Essence Therapy?

Part of how I make my living is by selling flower essence formulas in an aromatherapy base. Mama Love Perfumes were designed specifically to make this modality accessible. No need to memorize what essence is used for what purpose. No need to take on an extensive course of study or consult a practitioner (I'm putting myself out of business in that respect :->). And the cute colorful packaging makes them fun, a gift item even. And yet Mama Love perfume is just an introduction.

For me, flower essences are not just a tool for increased emotional and physical well-being. Oh sure, I still use them for that. But because I have been studying every flower and have the ability to feel the energetic effect of every essence I use within seconds, they've been teaching me more about the intersection of spiritual and physical existence than I may ever be able to adequately explain. They've been an entryway into spiritual growth and discovery, showing me things viscerally I might not otherwise have believed. While I hope my book will help people become more comfortable with what has been (in this country) a pretty esoteric form of healing I also want to talk about these spiritual connections. Ultimately, I think that's what this form of healing may really be all about.

My First Flower Essence Experiment

Dealing with Shyness and Depression-based Social Isolation

After the experience with my cat I decided to devise an experiment to see what using flower essences might do in the case of an emotional distress for which I was no longer receiving any other treatment. The idea was to do nothing different in my life except take the remedy at mealtime with my normal vitamins and herbal supplements every day for a month. The issue I chose was shyness and social isolation.

I was extremely shy as a child, never spoke in class, and spent most of my time alone in my room or in the woods drawing, reading or lost in fantasy. I deliberately worked on this issue in counseling for many years, made friends, joined communal groups, and in my early forties had more community in my life than I ever dreamed possible. Yet every year at Christmas, and periodically at other times of the year, I would fall into old patterns of depression and social withdrawal.

The pattern stemmed, partially, from my experiences growing up Jewish in a predominantly Irish Catholic community south of Boston. While I never experienced overt anti-Semitism, I was constantly ridiculed and ostracized for being “different.” I tried everything I could think of to be liked until the day a group of popular girls feigned interest in me to trick me into innocently saying something they knew would infuriate a developmentally disabled girl I didn’t know was in earshot. As soon as they left this much older and stronger child attacked me and tried to strangle me to death. I escaped but that was the end of my attempts to be part of my peer group. I just gave up and withdrew into myself for the rest of my elementary school education.

By the time I did my flower essence experiment I had given up counseling on the subject. It seemed hopeless after so many years and deliberate effort so when I decided to choose this issue I really didn’t expect significant change—I just wanted to know if it would do anything. I resolved to mix up a dosage bottle, use it for a month, and change nothing else. I didn’t write in my journal, set intentions, do affirmations, have counseling sessions or talk about my experiment with friends. I knew that just by using the essence combination I would be bringing some conscious attention to the problem regularly so it wasn’t a perfectly designed scientific experiment, but it was as close as I could get without a frontal lobotomy.

The essences I chose were Baby Blue Eyes (for a renewed ability to trust other people), Borage (for courage and optimism), Yerba Santa (to heal deeply buried grief), Goldenrod (to heal the hurt of not being accepted by my desired peer group), and Zinnia (to lighten up and feel more joy).

Within a couple of weeks the skin of my chest and throat itched like crazy but I had no rash. Also, a morning cough I've had since childhood appeared to get worse. The Flower Essence Repertory said that the grief Yerba Santa addressed was supposed to lodge in the chest and throat and my housemate had told me that sometimes symptoms temporarily get worse just before they get better so I had a good cry, gave myself some extra loving care, and a day or two later the itching and coughing were gone. A week later I spent a weekend lost in fantasy, something I hadn’t done for years. I also had repeated dreams in which I heard a song comparing me to a shooting star. This was disturbing to me so I checked the Flower Essence Repertory to try to figure out what to do and discovered that Shooting Star flower essence is for people who suffer from profound alienation from the human race and earthly life. I added that to my formula and the compulsion to daydream immediately went away.

Then the truly unexpected happened.

As I said before, I hated Christmas time. I cringed at the sound of Christmas carols and avoided shopping centers like the plague for the entire period between Halloween and New Year’s Eve. But this year on the day after Thanksgiving—the biggest Christmas shopping day of the year or “Christmas Hell Day” as it’s known around here—I woke up with an intense desire to buy a friend a Christmas present.

And then I got the most outlandish thought: wouldn’t it be great to decorate MY house for the holiday season using purple instead of the obligatory red and green? Off I went to go shopping for Winter Solstice-like “Christmas” decorations with throngs of other people and found myself thoroughly enjoying the experience. I made small talk with other shoppers about what would look best on their trees and found myself happily singing along to the piped in Christmas carols.

Then suddenly I woke up. "What's going on here? I'm singing Christmas carols and enjoying it! I feel connected to everyone in the store! I’m talking and joking with people I don’t know! I don’t do that—this isn't like me at all!" My bottle of flower essences flashed into my mind and I became teary as I realized a deep transformation had occurred that I never would have anticipated.

Once -- A Musical Movie Masterpiece

Paul and I rented the movie "Once" last night. wow, wow,wow. That's all I can think of to say. It's fiction but it feels so real you'd swear it was a documentary. And that's an amazing thing to say about a movie that calls itself a "modern musical." One of its songs won an Academy award and it's not even my favorite song from this movie. I want to buy the soundtrack. (I just did.) I don't think I've said that about a movie in my life. The official website where you can listen to all the songs is http://www.foxsearchlight.com/once/ . I downloaded the award winning one to upload here. Maybe it will work. We'll see. Nope, sorry, it didn't work. But it's the movie I wanted to talk about. An uplifting vignette of two people who seem Divinely brought together to change each other's lives. . . or at least to touch each other and the world with their trying. Paul and I felt inspired.

Here are a couple of video clips with scenes from the movie featuring two songs I really liked. The first one is the Academy Award winner. The second is one of at least three others that could have won.



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.)

Weathering a Recession

Recession, recession. That's what everyone's talking about and it's hard to watch the news these days and remain calm. I woke up today wondering what Divine Guidance would tell people about this situation.

"Well, it would depend on the specific set of circumstance they were in. For one person now is the time to trust the old adage "Buy low, sell high." Let the bargain shopping begin! Hee-hee! And have some fun. This is a bargain hunter's paradise galore.

Still it's also not time to bet the farm.

Have money to burn? Be frugal but consistent in your investment. What trends and problems do you see? Temporarily weak American dollar? Think global marketing. High cost of gasoline and dwindling supplies? Think green. A large and growing elder population (the parents of the Baby Boom generation are living longer with many more chronic health problems PLUS the Baby Boomers and Boomlets are coming!) Think health care, long term care. Invest in medicine, alternative health, long-term care housing you'd want to live in yourself. Think self-help, alternative living, and how to create solutions nobody has thought of yet. Think of solutions and problems become opportunity. Financial successes will follow."

Above is the guidance I received. It's also common sense.

Come to center. Settle down. Keep your head above water by letting go of any baggage weighing you down, trust that you can find a solution, and look for higher ground.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

PSYCHIC in Santa Cruz

Several years ago, when I was just starting out in the work I do now, I attended a pagan festival in Western Massachusetts. In addition to the Mama Love perfumes I brought to sell I intended to do psychically-assisted spiritual counseling sessions. I had a small sign in my booth, a brochure, all the basic stuff. . . or so I believed at the time. I even had my sister along to help out so I wouldn't have to worry about doing sessions, signing people up and selling products all at the same time. It didn't matter much. Not a single person even asked about doing a session with me, at least not that time out.

Across the way from me was a single woman working alone doing psychic readings. She had a HUGE sign on the top of her tent screaming PSYCHIC in large black letters. The festival was in a space about the size of a football field and you could read her sign all the way from the other side. And, unlike myself, she had a line of people waiting for their turn to get a reading every time I looked in her direction.

Was she better at her work than me? I don't know, nobody bothered to find out. But she did have something I didn't have. She knew who she was and she wasn't afraid to proclaim it.

Wearing the "psychic" label is something Paul and I struggle with. Nobody told me growing up that my sensitivity and ability to hear things on the psychic level was a "gift," a natural thing, an inherited trait I could make use of to help others, something to feel good about. No, quite the opposite. My mother, who was frightened out of admitting to her abilities as a child by a doctor who told her she'd wind up in a loony bin if she kept it up, freaked out when she saw the same traits in her oldest child. Not to belabor the point but she passed on the same fears she experienced to me.

Add that to the New England intellectualism that poo-poos anything spiritual and I might as well have lived in Salem at the height of the witch-burning trials.

And yet it's an essential piece of how we are able to do what we do.

Granted, it's not the only thing. Sometimes a session with us is like a counseling session, sometimes we teach, sometimes we get people on the table for healing work. But the psychic part helps us get straight to the heart of what a person needs, sometimes before we even meet.

If we had grown up in devoutly Christian households we wouldn't use the word "psychic" to describe what we do. We'd do exactly what we do at the start of every session--say a prayer, get into a meditative space and listen for guidance--but we'd put it in a Christian frame. We might provide spiritual direction at a Christian retreat center, maybe lead a spiritual study group or do "laying on of hands" in a church.

But we're not Christian. We're not a part of any organized religious faith. We've both studied a wide variety of religious teachings from many different faiths, we both meditate, both have had spiritual awakenings, and now apply an interfaith approach to all the spiritual counseling work we do.

For the longest time we downplayed the psychic aspect of what we do. Barely mentioned it on our website. And I don't know if we're ever going to want to slap big signs on our heads proclaiming PSYCHIC in big block letters. We're more about spiritual growth and development. Or helping people with all kinds of things -- health, relationships, career -- by looking at their lives using a spiritual frame. The psychic component just gives us a way to begin.

SPIRITUAL COUNSELING AND HEALING by Sheryl Karas, M.A. and Paul Hood.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

All Good Things Come in Threes



I have shamrocks on my mind lately. Paul and I went on a photo shoot at the UCSC Farm & Garden project in Santa Cruz the other day and we saw some beautiful examples. Have you ever seen the variety of clover in the picture above? Isn't that prominent triangle spread across the leaves amazing? It made me wonder more about the symbolic significance of triangles and three leaves and whether it had anything to do with the shamrock's association with good luck and prosperity.

It does! Here's the scoop:

The number three is Ireland's most sacred and magical of numbers. The shamrock associated with Saint Patrick's Day is supposed to represent the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost but the mystical significance of the shamrock and the number three go much further back than that.

According to several sources I found on the Internet the triad or trinity represented the unity of body, mind and spirit. In Ireland it also represented many other things: Crone, Mother and Virgin; Love, Valour and Wit; Faith, Hope and Charity; Past, Present, Future; and Earth, Sky and Underworld. It also likely that it is associated with the ancient Celtic triple Mother Goddess √Čire, Banba and Fotla. And other trifold goddesses associated with the harvest, fertility and prosperity.

Clover has been used since ancient times for its medicinal qualities. Red Clover is used for a wide variety of women's reproductive complaints and may protect against heart disease and have some benefit against cancer. In Flower Essence Therapy it is used for helping a person maintain self-awareness and calm. (I use it in my Mama Love for Doing New Things with Confidence perfume). In particular it is useful in situations where people are infecting each other with fear (mass hysteria and other forms of group panic which can arise during natural disasters, war, or economic crisis).

The mass media is doing a great job of whipping up such a frenzy right now spreading worry and fear about a "probable" recession. It's ONLY probable if people believe it is and become afraid to do business as usual. Yeah, gas prices have gone up (to less than half what Europeans have paid for many years now) and yeah, choices were made in funding bank loans for people with insufficient income to pay for the high-priced houses they wanted it for. The housing market became seriously inflated in recent years. That's being corrected. But, there's no reason to panic! For every person losing their "shirt" now (they're not, just their illusions) many, MANY more people made a killing in the housing market not long ago and are enjoying more prosperity than ever in their lives. Where's the media attention on that?

The American economy has been propped up by optimism since the end of the gold standard in the early 70s. What's a "recession"? When something happens to shake that faith. People get conservative with their spending, merchants and others who depend on that spending feel the effect of that and pull back themselves, and the whole economy slows down. It's a mass created domino effect. And yet, let me emphasize again, MOST people are doing better now financially, not worse. The economy is growing at a slower rate. Many people think that's reason to fret. The smart ones are just waiting for the best time to jump in and invest.

Paul was telling me last night that at least three points are needed to create a stable base -- hence the three legged stool and variations on that. Ancient texts say God is One. From one came two --duality, Yin and Yang, man and woman, night and day. From two comes three - the man, woman and child. And from three comes all the manifestations of the physical world.

March is the third month in the Christian calendar. Keep the shamrock and the number three in your heart this month and believe in the power to manifest what you want. Can't we all use a feeling of faith, hope and prosperity?

Feeling Sick, No Longer Afraid

Did you know February is the peak of flu season and California, at least, has had a bit of an epidemic this year? Despite our best intentions, everyone in our household eventually succumbed to it, one after another, like a pack of dominoes. Yeah, healers get sick and, even though we can frequently heal ourselves of various ailments, for some reason when the flu hits it takes the same path with us as it does for the people around us. That might be a function of belief-- the power of consensus reality (if everyone around you is losing their head, can you keep yours?)--but for some reason I feel compelled to speak about the good that can come out of it.

As I lay flat on my back, unable to move or get anything done, I found myself in a bit of an emotional freak-out. "I can't get anything done!!!! Aaaagh!!!" Ummmm . . . what's this all about? I don't have a deadline for any of the things I do. . . or do I? What kind of "evil" thing have I been trying to ward off by working so hard in recent weeks?

9-5 doesn't exist for people on the self-employed healer path. At first you revel in that. Woo-hoo! I can sleep as late as I want! I can take a break whenever I want and no one can tell me I can't! Then reality sinks in. Oh-oh. Now I have to do all the things I would do on a regular job (if I could find one in the fields Paul and I are in) AND all the things a boss of mine would have to do. I certainly have to think about the things a boss needs to be aware of. Cash flow, balance sheets, where to find the best supplies for my Mama Love business at the best price, where to advertise our healing practice, how much can we afford to pay for it, is the advertising we paid for already working, etc., etc.

Ow! All I really want to do is DO the work Paul and I love. Why do professionals charge so much? Now you know. Some people find out the hard way that they can't charge enough.

So back to getting sick -- 2 weeks of being totally out of commission followed by a week or more of slow improvement. I had no choice (WE had no choice) but to slow down and take time away to dream and think and look at what's been going on.

Good thing, too! We dealt with some issues that had been pushed into a dark corner where I thought they should stay. Mustn't have a single negative thought in the work we're in! Hah! It doesn't work that way. You have to see things as they ARE. If you've attached a negative thought pattern to a situation, that's one thing. Yeah, you have to tease the negativity away so you can look at things objectively. But if you confuse the situation with the negative thought you've attached to it and push both things aside, then you're not looking at reality square in the face.

What scary things do you push away? Finances, your relationship, your relationship to the world we live in? Global warming, for instance? It doesn't matter what it is. If we confuse our fearful or depressing thoughts about these things with the reality of the situations themselves and, consequently, push the situations away along with the negative thoughts, we can't heal these situations in our lives. Maybe it feels like there isn't anything you can do about it. Maybe the approach you've been taking to a situation you're in isn't acceptable in some way but you've been going lockstep forward anyway because you're convinced it's the only solution. In that case your negative beliefs might be running the show but you can't tell anymore because you're not looking at it.

In February every year the groundhog comes out of its hole. If it's frightened by its shadow (and it often is) it dives back down and we have several more weeks of winter while it deals with its fears until spring. Think about it. The groundhog's shadow will be there when it comes out again. But by that time, according to our folklore, it will no longer scare the poor creature half to death. What does that say?

Don't be afraid to look at your shadow. On a spring-like sunny day--when you have the right attitude-- it has no power. But the information you need to deal powerfully with your life might very well be what you've left behind in it.