Friday, May 30, 2008

Rosemary is For Remembrance

"There's rosemary; that's for remembrance.

Pray, love, remember."
~Shakespeare, Hamlet

Paul's mom sent us a nice article about aromatherapy that she clipped from Prevention Magazine. In it was reported that a study with college students at the University of Northumbria showed a significant increase in memory and feelings of alertness for those who used rosemary essential oil as compared to a control group. Oddly, the Prevention Magazine article did not report that the study also showed that rosemary slowed memory recall for the same test subjects. In other words, the students outperformed other students in two different kinds of memory tests (and felt more awake doing it) but took a little longer to come up with the results. Hmmm. Could it be that if we stay awake and slow down our brains function better?

I took a quick look around the internet to see if I could find more about this. According to research done by the Burnham Institute for Medical Research there are ingredients in the rosemary herb that protect the brain from the injurious effects of free radical production. Free radicals are thought to contribute to a wide variety of neurological conditions such as stroke and Alzheimer’s in addition to what is considered "normal" age-related memory loss. You can read more about free radicals in another blog I wrote here. In that post I was talking about antioxidants such as those found in blueberries that have a useful effect in counteracting free radical reproduction in the human body. It turns out that the carnosol and carnosic acid found in rosemary are powerful antioxidants. In addition to having a significant effect on memory loss they have been shown to have a protective effect against cancer.

Scientists are hard at work trying to use these findings to create powerful drugs which could be used for the same purpose. Meanwhile it couldn't hurt to add a little rosemary into your life. I like it in my garden--I can't seem to resist picking a little bit and rubbing the leaves between my fingers whenever I can. The smell is irresistible. I use it in my Mama Love for Focussed Attention flower essence aromatherapy formula.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Stop Slams on Effective Alternative Medicine

If you care about accurate and fair consumer information about homeopathy and flower essences please join this internet campaign to protest the recent hack job done by Consumer Reports. Their recent report on homeopathy uses a now debunked and inaccurate "study" from 2005 to claim that people should "read the label" of any medicine they take and stay away from it if it uses a homeopathic ingredient. Significant evidence shows that homeopathics are a safe, inexpensive and very effective alternative to standard drug therapy. It has been used for generations and is the most popular form of healthcare after allopathic medicine in many parts of the world. Yet someone at Consumer Reports was fed a line of hogwash and, rather than do more extensive research, took the bait. Now, this report has been picked up by the "news" media and the misinformation is being spread far and wide. Who pays for the vast majority of advertising on network TV besides the automotive industry? You know who-- big pharmaceutical companies, the people with the most to gain from this kind of slanderous activity.

Learn more and take action:

More Guidance from the Synchronistic Universe

These last few days there has been a wildfire blazing out of control in the Santa Cruz Mountains, far enough from where we live that we're not in any danger but close enough that we can see and sometimes smell the smoke. An entire mountain community was evacuated and a few of them are now returning home to find their homes literally burnt to smoldering ash. One family in Corralitos found their house and all their possessions burnt to the ground, not a single thing left except for a random metal box. Opening the box they were shocked to find an old T-shirt with a slogan printed on it, memorabilia from some event the couple had worked on. The slogan said "We're not dead yet."

Things like that touch me and Paul to the core. You just KNOW that family needed to see that message at this particular place and time. It's enough to give even the least faithful among us a reason to hope.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Guidance from the Synchronistic Universe

Today Paul and I were walking home from the beach via our favorite route through Neary Lagoon. We were having a conversation about the cut-throat practices of another entrepreneur we know and were sorting out our feelings about it when we saw an injured baby duck wandering across the path in front of us. I was just wondering how a duck with a hurt foot like this one's could survive when a blue jay swooped down from the sky and grabbed the duckling by the throat. We thought at first that the adult ducks would try to save it but they seemed to be afraid of the jay. After letting the baby bird go for a few seconds it snapped its beak around the duckling's neck and flew away with it. A pretty gruesome way to die. Cut-throat.

When we returned to the conversation about the entrepreneur with cut-throat business practices we realized this person was so miserable as a result of the clients they attracted with these choices that they hated their work. In a way they had best succeeded at cutting their own throats. If we had any doubts about the choices we sometimes think we have to make, this synchronistic reaction from the world around us gave us a graphic illustration of the effects such a choice would create. Remembering other things we knew about this person did the rest.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

How to Handle Difficulties with Kundalini

A number of months ago Paul and I put up several videos on Youtube. It was kind of an experiment and we didn't know what to expect. To our great surprise some of the videos we've done have gotten very little interest (325 and 350 hits in 8-9 months) but the one I did by interviewing Paul about his Kundalini awakening experience has gotten 12,700 hits in the same time period.

We get a number of comments in the comment section from people having trouble with Kundalini and it's hard to even think about having this discussion in an open forum like that--especially when Youtube limits the space to 500 characters or less. And it is difficult to address issues such as this in a responsible way without being able to have a dialogue. Still it's important enough to address so I'm going to give it a shot.

Meditating without a teacher used to be unheard of. Now it's commonplace so strange and/or difficult experiences a teacher would have been able to talk someone through are now something people are experiencing -- on rare occasions--without information or help. The average person does not have difficulty with Kundalini. The average person does not have their Kundalini awakened by casual spiritual practice and some people who practice their whole lives trying to have a Kundalini awakening fail at it and never achieve any equivalent experience at all. But I have had difficulties with Kundalini and have gotten through to the other side.

Rule # 1. Get help. You don't need a guru. You don't need to join an ashram. But you shouldn't try to go it alone. If you're having what you think is a Kundalini experience, you first need to rule out an actual physical illness. Many of the people who have written to us about "Kundalini" describe symptoms that easily could be something else. There are also chemical imbalances that can create symptoms that mimic Kundalini distress. Psychosis of all sorts can result from this. Without medical or psychiatric assistance you could be in trouble. Don't assume that because you were sitting on a meditation cushion when your symptoms started that they must be spiritual in nature. Get help. Check it out and then continue from there.

Rule #2. If you're not physically sick, learn everything you can about spiritual emergence, spiritual emergency and spiritual awakening.

Rule #3. Work on your fear, get help with it, find a meditation instructor who knows something about psychological issues that come up in meditation, or find a Spiritual Psychologist who knows about this stuff. Paul and I have been able to help some people with these problems but we prefer to work with these issues in-person in an official spiritual counseling and healing capacity. People frequently ask for answers via email, and we do the best we can on a case by case basis, but usually an actual Kundalini opening requires focussed individual attention.

Rule #4. Find support for your spiritual awakening process and, when you've cleared the fear enough, let go. Surrender. Go with the flow. Literally. Kundalini flows to whatever point it can reach in your energetic system without blockage. If there's no resistance it just goes right on through. But if there is resistance at any level due to past fears and conditioning you will experience difficulty unless you release those concerns, address the issues, and/or learn to surrender and trust the process of Kundalini power to do its work. That's why people recommend finding a teacher. It's easier with the support of someone who knows what this is all about.

I didn't have a meditation instructor, and even if I had one most meditation instructors these days know little or nothing about Kundalini anyway, so I don't know who to recommend to those of you wanting to find the right guru or set of meditation practices to see you through. (Please don't write offering your services in this regard. There are lots of charlatans out there and if you're not Jack Kornfield or someone equally reputable I won't print your comments and recommend you.) Oh, did I just recommend Jack Kornfield? Uh, yeah, I guess I did. He wrote a book called A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life which I found immensely valuable in seeing me through the worst of my problems. I didn't go to Spirit Rock and work with him in person but if he can't help you directly he, his books, or the staff at Spirit Rock most certainly will put you in touch with someone who will.

Still, even though I didn't choose to have a meditation instructor (I was afraid of meditation by that time), I did have lots of other help:

First, I was in school getting my Masters Degree in Transpersonal Psychology and took a class in Spiritual Emergence and Spiritual Emergency. This gave me a context for this experience, a wealth of useful information, teachers and friends who understood what the process was about, were not overly frightened, and gave me ideas of what to do. I did not take all their advice at first-- the common approach was to surrender and let the Kundalini do its work but I was too frightened to do it. I didn't want to lose my mind. Because my Kundalini rising experience manifested as both energetic (not scary to me) and psychic effects (very scary--I was hearing voices), I was very afraid of going crazy and refused to do anything I feared would allow it.

I did, however, consult with a Transpersonal Psychologist because those of us with degrees in Transpersonal Psychology learn at least a little bit about Kundalini experiences as part of our training. I also had a team of trained peer counselors who gave me emotional and peer support through the whole thing; two psychic friends who gave me several techniques for working with spirit guides and differentiating between spiritual guidance and reflections of my own fear; I worked with both a hypnotherapist and an acupuncturist to help me learn to be more grounded; I stopped meditating; I ate red meat; I concentrated on physical labor; and after graduating from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, I got a job that kept me focussed on helping other people instead of obsessing endlessly and needlessly on myself. I also worked on the fears about psychic and spiritual experience that had been purposely instilled in me in my childhood and discovered that this was probably the key to the whole thing having happened in the first place. The descriptions I read of both psychic and spiritual awakening frightened me and those of you looking up Kundalini on the internet certainly have come across enough crap to know what I'm talking about. I was concerned (and yet curious) about what might happen before I ever took up meditation. That's why I didn't join a class -- I didn't care to reach "enlightenment," it scared me. I just wanted to feel good and meditation is nowadays touted as a tool for stress reduction.

My intention with the approaches outlined above were to shut the Kundalini down. I more or less succeeded at that but it took a lot of very committed, concerted effort over several months to get the worst of it to stop to several years before I felt completely whole again.

But that wasn't the end of it. (Now comes the good part.)

Many years later, I met Paul Hood. In the course of our relationship he sent me a healing long distance (we lived in two different states back then) and I felt the rush of Kundalini come through like a freight train. By then I had learned a lot, I knew better than to get in the way, and I did what people in my Transpersonal Psychology program originally tried to recommend: I surrendered, let the energy move all the way through and out the top of my head.

And then I had the most wonderful awakening. My consciousness followed the energy until I couldn't feel my body and instead experienced myself as infinite, free and at peace. I liked it but then I had a concern that I might not be able to get back to my body and I wasn't ready to be done with it yet. As soon as I had the thought I was back in my body and it felt constricted. I also felt tight areas and pain that I knew I lived with all the time but just accepted as my normal physical state. I didn't like that at all and wanted to get back to the expanded state . . . and I did.

I realized then that this experience we call earth and the alternate experience of infinite being was simply a matter of consciousness shift. I was amused-- this thing I had been so terrified to experience was no big deal. It was peace. It was also endless nothingness. And yet in that state of complete being all I needed to do was intend returning back to physical experience and I was back again. I practiced going back and forth over and over again until I fell asleep.

I haven't fully chosen to let myself return to that infinite state since. I don't really want to yet. For me it was peace and quite wonderful in its freeing effect but not bliss. It was infinite nothingness and while today I believe that from that endless void everything could be manifested into existence it didn't occur to me to explore such a thing then. All I knew is that despite how peaceful and pain free it was I didn't want to stay in the state of infinite nothingness for very long. For me, at that moment and that time in my development, I thought my earthly life was more entertaining, interesting, and enjoyable. Today I think there's probably more to the infinite state than I realized. If I were someone else I'd probably join a Buddhist sect and practice the art of meditation so I could return to that infinite state and practice using my intention to see what other experiences I could create. But I'm not someone else yet. As I said, I don't think I'm quite done with this form of manifested existence just yet. . . although I would like to add a number of improvements.

By the way, Paul does not offer shaktipat (Kundalini awakening) services. He didn't intend for that to happen with me—he intended the healing be for whatever benefit I needed and that's what it turned out to be.

So there you have it. I hope it's useful to you. Here are a few other books and resources I can recommend:

The Spiritual Emergence Network --This is the place to check for spiritual psychologists and and other resources who specialize in spiritual emergence and spiritual emergency. It was founded by Stanislav and Christina Grof who were pioneers in the field. The network originally was housed at Esalen, later at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology (where I went to school), and then in Santa Cruz (where I worked with them as a newsletter editor). Last I heard it was being sustained by the Association for Transpersonal Psychology

Spiritual Emergency:When Personal Transformation Becomes a Crisis
by Stanislav Grof, Christina Grof
Essays by Roberto Assagioli, John Weir Perry, Ram Dass, Lee Sannella, Holger Kalweit, and others about the experience of spiritual emergency and how it differs from the traditional medical worldview that would otherwise label these experiences psychosis. Stan Grof and his wife are considered pioneers in the field. This is a helpful resource for anyone in spiritual crisis who fears they may be going "crazy" and for their families.

A Sourcebook for Helping People With Spiritual Problems
by Emma Bragdon
This book was considered the "Spiritual Emergency Bible" when I worked at the Spiritual Emergence Network (SEN). Frances Vaughan, PhD., author of Beyond Ego and Paths Beyond Ego calls it "a valuable resource for anyone interested in spiritual experiences and their relationship to psychological health and pathology." Useful information about the nature of spiritual emergencies and preferred treatments.

Trials of the Visionary Mind: Spiritual Emergency and the Renewal Process
by John Weir Perry
John Weir Perry was a pioneer in the field of spiritual emergency and, with Stanislav Grof, was one of the first people to distinguish this condition from a state of psychosis. Perry founded Diabasis, a safe haven in San Francisco where individuals in spiritual emergency were helped to go through the process in a caring environment without medication. In this book Perry shares the lessons learned and insights he gained from this experience.

A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life
by Jack Kornfield
This book was my earliest introduction to meditation and was a life-saver when I experienced the psychic/spiritual opening that permanently changed my life. It has a practical, down-to earth approach peppered with lots of personal examples and insight. One of Kornfield's great gifts is his honesty. Most books on meditation skirt the issue of the difficulties that may arise. Kornfield dives right in and guides the reader to helpful solutions.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

We're on Myspace Now

Join our Myspace "Friends" network! Our myspace page is at

Neary Lagoon, Santa Cruz

Paul and I go for a walk nearly every day. Neary Lagoon is a nature preserve just a few blocks from our house. I suspect not that many people in Santa Cruz know about it. It's very peaceful.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Great Article About Natural Cosmetics

Most people think the skin acts as a barrier between us and the outside world and that we don't need the same kinds of regulations for what people put on their bodies as we do for substances (foods, drugs) we put in them. But any good aromatherapist knows that nothing could be further from the truth!

Pores! Remember pores? Our skin is not an impermeable barrier. It's semi-permeable. And it's not just "pores" that let things in and out. If something has a small enough molecular structure or interacts with our bodies in certain ways (for better or worse) it soaks right in.

That's why medical patches for birth control, nicotine addiction, and others work. And that's how essential oils work, too. Aromatherapy is kind of a misnomer. Essential oils do not always work strictly through the sense of smell (although that's certainly a key factor). They work by being absorbed into the body where they can be used—like a food or herb—for beneficial use.

Some essential oils don't smell very good. Some people (like me, for example) think chamomile and yarrow, spikenard and angelica are positively wretched! But I use them in conjunction with essential oils with scents I do like because when used in the right amounts their healing qualities are unsurpassed.

Notice I emphasized the words "in the right amounts." This is important because in excess or used undiluted directly on the body even the most beneficial substances have toxic effects. That's why I made my Mama Love perfumes to aromatherapy standards, not to what is considered reasonable by most perfume manufacturers. Typical perfumers use such high quantities of essential oils they make therapeutically-oriented aromatherapists cringe.

But back to the article above. It's a great introduction to the importance of regulation in the cosmetics industry, natural alternatives and the like. Well worth taking a look.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Alternative Health and Healing Resources

Came across something interesting today—a list of reputable organizations, universities and foundations doing research into the use of intuition, Reiki, and other alternative (and very alternative) approaches to healthcare without excessive negative bias running the show. The University of Minnesota, for example, has an educational and research program called the Center for Spirituality & Healing where healthcare professionals and people studying to become healthcare professionals (among others) can take advantage of a wide range of classes, workshops and special events centered on such things. They also have a website for consumer use about integrative healthcare and alternatives that is very informative. It's called Taking Charge of Your Health. I looked at the Intuition section and liked most of it very much. The section on Aromatherapy is quite excellent and I recommend that as well.

Here are links to some of the other websites I found: