Sunday, August 29, 2010

I've Got a Kindle Book

Well, it took awhile but I got my first book on a Kindle -- "Changing the World One Relationship at a Time: Transformational Listening for Mutual Support & Empowerment." It's a guide to learning how to exchange useful support with another person, including basic peer counseling skills, information on how to create a support group, and lots of tools for creating a good life. And it's already been reviewed with 4 stars. Cool, huh?

And, if you'd rather have a REAL BOOK, you can find this one and a few other choices here:

It's probably terrible advertising to say that I'm not impressed with the Kindle. It's basically just text that runs on with a minimum of formatting, style or grace. Just words, just black and white. I'm sure there will have to be improvements on that someday. But I know people who LOVE them! So it's great to be up with the times.

 Want to know what a Kindle reader looks like? Here's a picture of one:

Kindle Wireless Reading Device, Free 3G, 6" Display, White - 2nd Generation 

It's about the size of a small paperback book so you can put it in your totebag and bring it to the beach or read on the subway or wherever you'd bring a book. But you can download LOTS of books to it. I guess people like that it's like taking your whole library with you. Except it works best for books that have no pictures or graphics. It's kind of interesting. But I really will be excited when you can view the books as the author and book designer intended with beautiful type, colorful photos and graphics, the whole nine yards.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Musing On What I Do with My Writing about Flower Essences

Of late I've been using my life experience to elaborate on what I've been learning about flower essences. Nothing wrong with that. But it's starting to feel-- and Paul started to comment about it -- that I may be relying on the "here's a flower essence for you" tag ending too much. It starts to feel like every post is a natural "drug" ad and it wasn't intended that way. It's just that I do use the flower essences to work with spiritual and emotional lessons in my life quite a bit -- not as a "drug" addict but as a teaching tool. I use the flower essences to examine my life in a strange but inventive context.

What do flowering plants have to offer as a teaching tool and where would I ever get the idea that they could? At a Flower Essence Society training.

You see, I've always been interested in how indigenous people discovered which plants to use for their health and well-being. And, for that matter, how does my cat know? That's actually even more interesting. How do chimpanzees in the wild know to eat a particularly unappetizing plant they usually avoid to rid themselves of parasites? Trial and error is, of course, the usual answer from those in the scientific community. But there's a lot more going on than meets the eye -- especially when you talk to human beings in those indigenous tribes I mentioned.

When people live deeply connected with nature they pay attention to relationships and draw conclusions based on characteristics they notice over time. Professional botanists are taught to recognize the same things. What do yellow flowered plants that grow in specific types of locations with a particular characteristic leaf structure have in common? Could they be called a 'family"? Could aspects of that same family be used as an indication of what the plant is used for? Yes, it seems to be true that if you recognize a pattern in nature repeated over time often enough you can fairly well expect that in many cases similar properties will hold. That's a scientific testing it out point of view. . . and it's hubris, I think, to think that native people, our ancestors, didn't have the capability to do the same--especially if that was their particular talent and role in the community.

Of course, native peoples didn't have the scientific instruments (and mindset) we currently hold in such high authority. We attempt to understand how something ticks by breaking it apart. We separate an entity from its environment, dissect it in a lab, isolate its chemical constituents in a beaker, and attempt to use what we discover as the basis of our understanding alone. It's sort of like isolating a group of people on a deserted island with a particular task in order to win a prize and calling that "reality tv" when the parameters of that experiment have all been artificially constructed in the first place! It's not reality tv—it's constructed, "limited reality" tv. And that's not the context native people even have the opportunity to choose when determining what plants to use for their health and well-being.

© Copyright 2009 Sheryl Karas
Instead they look more for associations that repeat, and include the context--the environment, for example, or the belief system the person holds as another -- as indications to help them decide how to proceed. So, for example, folkloric associations have been made for certain types of yellow flowered plants like the Dandelion. The most simplistic explanations focus on how the color appears to mimic the jaundice yellow in the face of a person with compromised liver function. So, folklore insists you can use Dandelion for liver health. That happens to be true, by the way! But there's a lot more to it than that. The yellow color does seem to indicate one thing but the entire structure of the plant, how it grows and how it adapts to its environment is even more essential. The Dandelion doesn't just mimic the color in the person's face who needs it most. Its whole way of being--its tenacity and ferocious style of interaction with other elements in its environment— can be seen as reflection of the emotional//physical patterning the person with a tendency towards liver issues tends to adopt! (I did a talk on this topic where I go into a lot more fun detail. You can watch a video of that talk here.)

I realize as I'm writing these blogs that I haven't been spending nearly enough time getting into the heart of that and that has to change, I think, over time. I was skeptical of this point of view at first. Of course I would be -- I didn't grow up with this sort of belief system at all! But after seeing it proven to me over and over and over in that first Flower Essence Society training, and then proving it even more directly through exploring it myself, I came to the conclusion that we need this kind of understanding back in our lives. We're disconnected from our sources of health and empowerment in so many ways in our current society. But if I could pass on the concepts needed to help people make informed and enlightened choices I think I'd be doing more than just selling flower essence aromatherapy products. I'd be a teacher, I guess—a book writer—which, when it comes to coming up with items for this blog, is much more of what I had in mind.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Learning to Pace Oneself -- Elm Flower Essence

"Work smarter, not harder." That's my partner Paul's motto. But I always think that there's too much to do that we haven't even attempted yet. Work more, persist harder! Isn't that what we were taught? No pain, no gain? That the people who persevere are the ones who win? That if you haven't succeeded, try try again?

Then why did I feel SO tired when I faced yet another revision of the packaging I use for my Mama Love perfume simply to avoid using what I perceived as an overpriced print shop? I did my research--I checked out the competition and they insisted they could do it for the price I expected. So I dutifully revised my layouts to fit their parameters. . . only to find out that they didn't know how to do what I needed. Sigh!

Luckily Paul saved the day from being a total loss by reminding me to work smarter, not harder. I figured out how to make a template for my design and did the five product package revisions I need right now in less than half the time! It may be for nothing THIS time but I'll have the template ready next time and that might be enough.

It taught me something else as well: PAY ATTENTION TO THOSE INTERNAL SIGNALS THAT I'M ABOUT TO TAKE ON WAY TOO MUCH. My job was done--I could have taken it to the overpriced high-end print shop in the first place. But I wanted the best price, not keeping in my mind the price of my time. Several hours in this case and that cost me a fair amount of another sort--especially since it didn't work out and I have to go to the GOOD print shop anyway!

And that reminds me of Elm Flower Essence--an essence that probably should remain my theme song for awhile. Elm is for highly ambitious, some might say "driven",  people who overestimate their abilities, push themselves too hard, use up their inner reserves, and collapse (psychologically) into an acute state of overwhelm and feelings of inadequacy. It calls upon first chakra energy (base level strength and well-being) to replace one's tendency to rely on 3rd chakra drive and ambition to create that feeling artificially. It allows a person to pace him-or-herself, accept what is possible and proceed on their way without giving up. More fundamentally, it's about allowing help—assuming you can find the appropriate assistance without excessive effort--and knowing you CAN be supported by one's life experience as well. Like a duck just expects to be supported by the water it swims in while it hunts for its supper. It doesn't concern itself with the BEST ways to be fed or work really, really hard to "get ahead". It floats on the water, paddles around, and eats.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Power of the Etsy Daily Picks

In addition to my own Mama Love website I sell my flower essence aromatherapy products on a site called Etsy which is especially for handmade products and the people who love them. Here's a link to my Etsy shop.

For me, joining Etsy was a total experiment. I rarely sold my work online. My business started as a wholesale operation selling to retail stores, mostly small boutiques focusing on handmade items or natural products. But when the recession hit hard I lost half my stores! Almost that many went out of business, a terrible fire crippled my biggest customer, and all the stores I had left cut back on reordering. I went from seeing how step by step I was increasing sales every month to losing most of my income through no fault of my own.

So, as part of my survival strategy I decided to find out how to sell online. (This, of course, is an ongoing process.) Etsy was the first site other craftspeople in my area suggested to me. As I said, I already had a website, but the power of a place like Etsy (or or eBay) is that it's like going to your favorite shopping mall. It's far easier to find a store you like that way than to hunt around for random places on the internet. It's the same strategy auto dealers use when they line up on the same street. You would think it a mistake to situate your shop right next to your potential competition but it isn't. If a person is looking for a car they know exactly where to find you! If a person loves handmade products they go to Etsy.

Setting up a shop online isn't easy. There are a lot of considerations to think about but Etsy makes it easier with tools to help you create a shop pretty much immediately with their shop-creating tools. Then any items you put in your shop are promoted through their online marketplace. If a person is looking for fuzzy bunny slippers they can type those words into their search engine and if you happen to make some really cute ones (and tag them with that name and have excellent photos to show them off well) you might make a sale. Not only that, if those adorable bunny slippers wind up on the Etsy home page -- which they will do at least for a few minutes every time you add an item to your shop -- your typical Etsy shopper will say: "Ooooh! Cute! What's that?" If they click on that item they'll get directly to your shop and voila! They know who you are and can make a purchase right away.

Occasionally an Etsy editor might feature your item on the homepage for a longer period of time. Or they might feature it in their Daily Picks email that gets sent directly to the email inboxes of those shoppers who request it. Then you're in for a treat. Front page advertising at your shopper's favorite site can't be beat but for most Etsy shopkeepers those moments of glory are few and far between. In fact, it's never happened to me. Until last week.

I sell maybe two or three items through Etsy a month. Yes, you hear me right! This is NO get rich quick scheme -- especially for a person who sells aromatherapy perfume. You can't smell my products online! (I have testers available in  all my retail stores.) But last week my Inner Strength and Protection formula was featured at the bottom of one their long Daily Picks emails (where only the most interested shoppers might look) and sold 10 items in about 24 hours through Etsy and made $175 (or so) simply by opening my email.

Some Etsy shop owners have this experience every day of the week. I hear if you sell art supplies that's nothing. But for me it was eye-opening. I could make a living at this alone if I sold that many items a day at my retail price.

Of course, how do I get my business to that point every day or better? The Daily Picks selection was a random gift. But I'm thankful for it because it's getting me to see the power of positive exposure to an interested audience.

My Mama Love Website
My Mama Love shop on Etsy

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sustainable Living in Mormon Country, Eastern Arizona

Interested in sustainable living? Think the majority of people thinking like that with you are left wing liberals? Could be. But if you really want to know how to live off the grid you might want to check out ultra-right-wing eastern Arizona! Snowflake / Taylor, that is.

I was in the relatively tiny Snowflake public library today. Small but not nearly as tiny as you might think for a town like this. There's so little to do in Snowflake that people were lined up at the end of the day on a Friday night to pick up their books and videos for the weekend. I was there to keep cool, but because I'm having trouble with the Airport card in my laptop I kept losing my connection. I decided to just wander and check out what this library has to offer.

It's Mormon territory so there is, of course, an extremely large part of the library devoted to Mormon history, Mormon fiction and Mormon-approved family videos. A lot of them! And that's pretty good since there isn't a Mormon-approved movie theater in this town. Which is my very diplomatic way of saying that because they couldn't censor what movies could be shown here there is no movie theater within an hour of here, where I live, about a half hour out of town. The city council refused to approve it. Even the video stores have to cater to this mentality. There's a large selection of "edited" movies in a special section just for their Mormon customers.

But what caught my attention today was the really wide assortment of books and videos and DVDs devoted to self-sufficient sustainable living. MOST of the rest of the library, in fact. Entire rows devoted to building or retrofitting a dwelling for solar living. An even larger section devoted to raising chickens, cows, pigs and...oddly.... cockatiels. People do raise all kinds of animals for all kinds of purposes here. There's somebody attempting to sell turtles from the back of his pick-up in town lately.

Then I found the natural healing section of the library. It was AMAZING! As many books or more than I've seen ANYWHERE on herbs and natural remedies, eating for health, even the mind-body connection. Nothing on flower essences, of course. Leave it to me to be attracted to one of the tiniest, most esoteric-seeming, niches available in the healing market. (Sigh)

But it reminded me of why I got into natural healing in the first place. If you want to promote sustainable ways of living, having the tools to maintain your health and get better without expensive and invasive medical interventions is essential! Not that I'm promoting avoiding medical attention when you need it. But not getting sick in the first place and having the tools to help yourself ought to be the first and foremost line of defense.

Out here they think of it as common sense.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Rains Have Brought the Wildlife Out

The recent Arizona monsoon rains have brought some amazing changes. One, the grass is green! Two, there are frogs in the desert and we saw a HUGE one sitting at the foot of our stairs last night. Lots of tiny tadpoles in the cow pond that is full now but stayed almost completely dry last year. Fresh antelope tracks with mountain lion tracks a short distance behind. All within a very short distance from our back yard. Here's a photo of a frog Paul took in Port Townsend, Washington. This one was miniscule compared to the one we saw last night but both times I found it an amazing sight.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Healing From the Inside Out

In modern medicine we see illness as something that occurs to us from the outside in. Germs or bacteria infect us, an accident from outside of ourselves occurs and we're injured. Doctors admit that there may be internal tendencies due to "heredity" or "stress" that influence us but, again, notice the emphasis on it being separate from our own thoughts and habitual reactions. It is extremely rare for a western medical doctor to suggest that we might create the conditions in which we are much more likely to get sick or get hurt and even more rare for them to assume that we might have any ability to shift our mental state in such a way that healing might initiate spontaneously.

But this was not the case in earlier cultures. Hippocrates (ca. 460 BC – ca. 370 BC), often referred to as the father of Western medicine, believed that there were four typical psychological states that needed to be kept in balance for health and that it was an imbalance in those "humours" that led to disease. That approach to looking at health was later discarded by germ theory, etc. but it should be noted that eastern physicians held on to it and took it much much further.  In fact, Ayervedic (Indian) and Chinese medicine depend on an extremely well-mapped understanding of the mind/body/spirit interrelationship and the fields of homeopathy and flower essence therapy do as well.

In our work as spiritual counselors and alternative healers Paul and I frequently meet people who take great offense at the idea that everybody in every situation should be held responsible for their own physical condition. "You can't afford a single negative thought" is the irresponsible New Age siren call and we forgive people who mistake our belief in the ability to heal from the inside out as the same thing. We certainly do not believe that we or anyone else can heal themselves in all cases. In fact, we send people to their doctors for further tests and treatments all the time! Even, John of God, probably one of the most famous and celebrated healers in the world does the same. People die. People do get hurt through no fault of their own, children are born with birth defects. They even can be infected by a disease in the womb or through toxic physical conditions in their immediate environment.

But that said, we know we have healed ourselves and have participated in the healing of numerous other people simply through the technique of changing a single, persistent and firmly believed thought.

How can that be true? A lot of amazing information has been coming out of the field of psychoneuroimmunology, the science of how psychological states and the resulting brain chemistry affects the functioning of the immune system and, consequently, multiple other physiological functions. The very most simple way to explain this is that the brain produces a cascade of chemical interactions for every thought. Specific types of thoughts trigger emotional reactions and those emotional states trigger neurochemical reactions that affect every function of the human body. Over time, if the state is repeated often enough—and especially if it becomes somewhat chronic—genetic switches shift from "on" to "off", immune responses become heightened or dampened, and significant changes can occur in a person's physical functioning.

Dr. Edward Bach, the modern inventor of flower essence therapy, was first a highly respected immunologist. He was the first modern Western doctor to not only suspect that a person's emotional state had a significant impact on their ability to heal, he identified specific overgrowths of bacteria that seemed linked to specific emotional states. He first created vaccines for these bacteria and later, after switching to the field of homeopathy, created homeopathic remedies using the same research. The Bach flower remedies came later still when he left his highly successful medical practice to pursue his interest in creating safe herbal remedies to work specifically with mental and emotional states. He was so convinced by that point that emotional well-being was a significant factor in physical well-being that he devoted the rest of his life to that research. And, until he made the mistake of promoting his work as a safe home remedy with no physician-assistance needed, his discoveries were hailed by the conventional medical community of his time (the Great Depression) as a breakthrough and amazing achievement.

The key to success, however, with both spiritual healing and to using the Bach flower remedies effectively, is to correctly identify the underlying difficulty or set of difficulties. Sure, it's possible for a healer to wave their magic fingers and presto, chango, appear simply to take a person's pain away without the client having any conscious involvement at all. The placebo affect is AMAZING, especially in conjunction with a firm belief in God. John of God absolutely depends on this and is first to explain that faith is the key to his work. It is possible for a highly adept healer to override a client's lack of faith temporarily at least. But what happens when a client doesn't have the context for this level of faith? They struggle with it, they negate it, frequently they undo it. After all, we live in a very secular society, and the more educated a person is the less likely they are to believe in miracles. You can't mess with consensual reality very well—it doesn't "make sense!"

That's why I talk about psychoneuroimmunology. The science is the proof and that does make sense. Paul and I focus almost exclusively on helping people identify the underlying issues to their physical, emotional and spiritual well-being when healing does have to happen from the inside out. Even when outside-in measures are essential to the process (getting a new job, finding a great surgeon, etc.) a series of sessions with us (and sometimes only one) can help a person achieve a greater ability to complete that healing and take it forward.

Gifts for Quilt Lovers

Featuring MY original designs! See all the quilt designs available in our Zazzle shop by clicking here.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Picking Flower Essences

A lot of people tell me they have trouble picking flower essences -- there are just so many available! For example, one person wrote to me recently saying: I have such trouble making decisions but should I choose Cerato or Scleranthus? Cerato is good for people who don't trust their inner truth and, therefore, invalidate their own thinking and depend too heavily on others for advice. Scleranthus is more for the person who tends to be out of sync within themselves. The heart says do this, the head says do that. What on earth is a person to do? They're similar issues, obviously, but not exactly the same. In one case, Cerato, the person feels cut off from knowing what really would be best -- too much early criticism, pressure to make the "right" decision, fear of mistakes. The same issue can be there for the Scleranthus person but these people do know what they want frequently. . .  if they weren't terrified of the consequences!

For me, the main key is gaining insight into the distress BEHIND the presenting symptoms. The distress behind the distress -- the reason why the issues exist. Family of origin stuff is frequently an issue. Sometimes belief systems we've inadvertently picked up. Paul and I do intuitive spiritual counseling and healing. Flower essence consultation can be part of this.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Calla Lily Flower Essence for Healing Issues Around Gender Identification

Those who are confused about their sexual identity or gender are in a great deal of pain. A young boy who feels trapped in a girl's body, a girl who feels like a man, never feels at home in their own bodies. People work with this in various ways; some choose a sex change. But even people who don't need to take such enormous measures to feel alright sometimes go through periods of distress around the gender they happen to be.

As a child and young woman I always was a man in my daydreams, fantasies and night dreams. I felt like a girl; I didn't feel like I was born in an inappropriate body. But the dreams I wanted for myself did not -- do not -- jibe with the dreams young girls of my generation were taught to expect for themselves. "Get a man, don't be one!" And "It's okay, Sheryl, you can be an artist or a writer or anything you want, just make sure you marry a nice man with enough money to support you!" But what if you don't wind up getting one of those wealthy millionaire types?

I was never a popular enough kid to expect my father's dreams of me marrying a rich guy who would take care of me might ever be reality. And today I have to struggle with the internalized messages I got in this weird backhanded way. "You can be ANYTHING you want / (just make sure you have a guy who can support you if you do)"


In my daydreams and often in night dreams as a girl and young woman I was always a man. Star pitcher for the Red Sox. The gold medal male Olympic athlete. A Star Trek hero, a cowboy hero. Always a hero and always a man. The song "I Need a Hero" comes to mind. Dad said I was going to need a man to play that role if I was going to be and do what I wanted most, so I must have internalized that if I was going to make it without a rich man to take care of me I was going to have to be the man for myself.

At a key point in my life I did a healing that resulted in my image of myself as a woman and my dreams of myself as a man merging. I never have dreams in which I'm a man anymore but I've never forgotten that the healing incorporated both male and female in my personality. It didn't throw one away.

That's what Calla Lily Flower Essence is for. It helps a person create a healthy and appropriate orientation to their gender by increasing one's spiritual awareness of our inherent connection to all genders. Our true identity embodies both male and female—it's only societal conditioning that attempts to limit the expression of all we can be. When we can embrace all of who we are and what we are capable of bringing into our lives regardless of gender our souls can relax and settle a lot more easily into the gender we happen to be.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Life Can Be Surreal In Eastern Arizona

Hebrews Cafe, Snowflake, AZ
Paul and I spent the afternoon and evening at HeBrews Cafe. They're no longer in the building shown on this blog. They moved to a much larger place but it still has a very similar feel.

Anyway, we went there because they have air conditioning and a fast internet connection and because we keep thinking it's relatively quiet compared to home.

But when we got there I decided to make a change to our spiritual counseling website that resulted in ALL my websites becoming inaccessible. Then my email was inaccessible, too. And after quite some time fussing with that, the quiet at HeBrews disappeared because a country rock band walked in and started playing. They were actually very good so, theoretically, if I had been in a better state of mind that might have been enjoyable. But I just wasn't in sync with that until I got the internet issues worked out.

Then I started to notice what a very strange place this cafe really is. . . not that I haven't noticed before. But this time I had a sense of humor about it. Directly across from me was a big American flag covering half the wall with red, white and blue stars next to it and plaques reading FREEDOM and LIBERTY. Like all places in Snowflake and Taylor it's extremely important to establish before anyone walks in just how full of patriotic fervor you are so that's the first impression anyone might have of the place.

But it's also a CHRISTIAN cafe (also extremely important in Snowflake) so the next thing you notice is the menu. Everything is named after something in the Bible. There's a Holy Moses Chicken Wrap, the Goliath Panini and some kind of sandwich called The Ark. Particularly funny though was today's special: The Stones of David (two small hamburgers and fries). I thought they were referring to a different sort of "stones" and couldn't believe my eyes. It took me a minute to remember the story of David hurling stones at Goliath. Paul says it takes great stones to put David's stones on the menu. Ouch. Of course, this is supposed to be an espresso cafe with cappuccinos and other specialty coffee drinks. But Paul, who is a true coffee geek, claims that the coffee here isn't drinkable at all so he had a lemonade and I had a pina colada smoothie. (The food is really good, though.)

Are you getting the impression that this is a mix of California "hip" and Arizona kitsch? That would be about right. The owners came from California not that long ago but they have to make it in Mormon Christian right wing cow town! They picked one of the most Western looking storefronts there is and bring in local country western and Christian rock bands to play every weekend. You half expect someone to come in with a cowboy hat on his head, a cross around his neck, and gun on his hip. I saw cowboy boots tonight but most people wear black t-shits and  baseball caps instead of the full on cowboy regalia. Full-on cowboy is what happens at Trapper's. This place is really a hybrid so this is how it turns out instead.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Proposition 8 Ruled Unconstitutional

The look of my Facebook page yesterday was something to celebrate in itself: gay and heterosexual friends celebrating this ruling from top to bottom. Hooray for Marriage Equality! Yay Judge Vaughn Walker! So many happy expressions of joy and love and Paul and I were delighted to join in.

One thing mostly missing was the understanding that this ruling does not, of course, mean the battle is over. The opposition has already filed an appeal and intends to take it all the way to the Supreme Court. But even gay marriage equality advocates who have been fearing that the Supreme Court may still be overly-conservative can't help but feel hope at how Judge Walker handled this very important ruling. Higher courts might refute his interpretation of the law on appeal but they can't overturn his judgment on the facts of this case—something he did extremely well. Click here for an article from BeyondChron: San Francisco's Alternative Online Daily that goes into more detail about that critical issue.

But even more positive, from my point of view, is that this ruling doesn't stand alone. Less than a month ago a federal judge in Massachusets declared the federal ban on gay marriage (DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act) unconstitutional. That ruling went by on on my Facebook page without a peep but taken together it sounds a powerful message: don't tread on human rights, right wing conservatives! This country stands for equality under the law. And that's something we all deserve.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

California Poppies on Some Nice Gifts

I think my California Poppies design looks great on this stuff!

California Poppies!

California Poppy Flower Essence

© Copyright 2008 Sheryl Karas
California Poppy, the Official California State Flower, is found along the west coast of the United States from Southern Washington to the Baja Peninsula. They are so prevalent in some parts of coastal California that the Spanish explorers named the region the Land of Fire. When California Poppies appear in early spring they create a dazzling display of brilliant color. Before California became as developed as it is today, the hills were so bright with poppies that sailors far out to sea used them as beacons to find their way home.

California Poppies are bright golden yellow and orange flowers with 2-3 inch long soft shiny petals that close at night and reopen in the morning. They turn their deep cup-shaped blossoms to be filled by the sun—another name for the plant is “Cups of Gold”—but otherwise live in the most unnurturing of environments. With dry rocky soil and very little summer rain, the California hills are “golden” but not lush and green.

Medicinally, California Poppy is a hypnotic sedative used as a non-addictive alternative to Opium Poppy although less potent in its effect. It contains very small amounts of codeine and morphine and is useful for those who have trouble sleeping. Coastal California Indian tribes used it as a mild painkiller, especially for toothache. Native women could be expelled from their tribes for doing it but sometimes resorted to using the poppy to charm an unresponsive lover.

Archetypally, one could say this plant represents people so desirous of heavenly light they neglect to pay attention to the quality of the people and situations that attract them. “All that glitters is not gold”. This is true of  an environment as well as for charismatic leaders, spiritual gurus, Hollywood celebrities (California is certainly well known for those!), or specific spiritual practices. The New Age obsession with whatever is “new” and exotic comes to mind. The person who is over-enamored of such things tends to lack judgment or self-esteem. Like a drug user who might be enticed by the notion of using poppies for their sedating effect,  the person who most needs the California Poppy tends to let an outside influence charm them rather than trusting their own knowing. They substitute the sensational for more mundane, less intense, sustained development acquired over time.

California Poppy flower essence is helpful to those individuals so dazzled by spiritual or psychic power that they lose themselves in guru worship, occult ritual, religious cults or drug use. They may be particularly attracted to psychedelic drugs or other mind-altering experiences. This essence helps one develop the ability to develop an inner-directed spirituality that develops gradually and in balance with one's ability to think and make sense of experience. It helps one develop self-responsibility and judgment in regards to spiritual affairs.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

How Dare You Defend Yourself!

It starts innocently enough. In fact, it starts with compliments: "You're so wonderful! I LOVE the way you're always so nice and welcoming. And smart, too! You're the best friend, counselor, teacher, etc. I've ever had!"

Early in the relationship you hear pointed gossip and sniping about other people but when you say that you're uncomfortable your friend says: "Oh, I'm just being concerned. That's how we figure out how to help people in my family." Loving. Caring. Being concerned. Hmm, that's not how it was done in my family. . . but my family members aren't exactly the best role models. You try to justify what you see in your friend, you try to be loving and look for the best. But you fear that the "helpful" aspect she talked about is never really acted upon directly. . . at least not in a loving way, not that you can see.

Then you hear worse things. "So and so did that, so and so did this. So and so is always doing something 'wrong'." You express concern that your "friend" might be harboring distressed feelings about you but the response starts out the same: "Oh no! You're wonderful! I'd never think such thoughts about someone like you!"

Still, you think to yourself, what is a person like me?  Is there some way I might let my friend down? You brush that thought aside and then you brush it aside again and again. Don't let "your negativity" spoil things. After all this relationship seems to be going alright—why worry about something that appears to be okay?

And then it extends to wide world: "Did you hear what happened on the news today? We have to stop this awful thing! It's awful! It's incest! Rape! Sexist bastards! Rapists! Land rapists! Republican sexist land-rapists! [Assuming the person is a Democrat. . . think of Glen Beck and his cronies if they're not.] The people involved are Nazis. The people involved don't give a damn about anybody. The people involved have to be brought down! They're evil, they're bad. Why isn't anybody DOING anything???!!!"

uhhhh. . . It doesn't feel right and yet. . . how can I say I've never, at least at one time or another, thought the same way?

The individual incidents that start to add up in your mind never seem terribly awful or even intentional taken one at a time. It's hard to point to a single example of destructive conversation (at first) that doesn't make you feel like you're being petty, judgmental or somehow deficient in your loving and compassion about your friend's apparent distress. She came from an abusive family, didn't she? Wasn't she/he abandoned at a young age or virtually abandoned by having lived with an alcoholic or someone who was mentally ill? How could she take responsibility for her own thoughts and actions after a childhood like that? She has a disability! A disability to think positively about anything. . . except about you, of course.

But bit by bit you start to distrust anything your friend says. She was SO nice yesterday but somehow the conversation turned to an acquaintance of hers who is "irresponsible" or "lacking in generosity" and the story told is something she might be able to say about you. "Oh no, you're never that way! And besides, you have a lot going on in your life. If you ever do anything like that it's only because you're going through a rough time."

But the next time you get into conversation it's more of the same.

Then come the underhanded snipes in your direction for supposed infractions the two of you never have discussed. Expectations that haven't been filled that were never agreed upon or even spoken of. If you try to talk about it directly, a phony exaggerated sweetness comes into your friend's tone of voice. "Oh no! I'm not upset about anything!" If you persist the response becomes even more adamant: "I know better than that. You mustn't think that way about me. I didn't mean anything by it. A slip of the tongue, I never think like that about you." And on and on. But there's no mistaking the hard set to the jaw, the narrowed eyes and distant feeling of angry superiority coming from your friend's direction.

But it goes away. A few days or weeks later everything is going along swimmingly again. It's comfortable enough, you stop thinking about it.

Until the day you walk into the room and overhear your friend on the telephone telling horrible lies or twisted half-truths about you to whoever she was talking to. Worse, it was about something she had insisted for months wasn't something she was unhappy about at all! In fact, she had told you to stop trying to do anything about it. She was happy with how things were.

That's one example. A worse one, by far, is the person who might be given the label of having borderline personality disorder. That person puts you on a pedestal only to knock you off later for some misunderstanding but it doesn't stop there. If the pattern repeats of you needing to say "no" or to call them on their behavior often enough, they decide that you are the evil Nazi, the rapist, the next person that needs to be "brought down". The tone of sweetness is replaced with angry vindictiveness. Suddenly you're faced with a person with a vendetta. If you're unfortunate enough to look like a person with some authority—a therapist, a social worker, someone who "should have known better"—well, suffice it to say I worked at a social service agency where a patient with this disorder attacked. If she hadn't left a deranged 20 minute message on our answering machine that showed the lack of clarity behind her thinking we would have wound up using enormous amounts of time and resources attempting to defend against the lawsuits she was threatening in a court of law.

Back to the title of the blog: how dare you defend yourself?!! You see, the incident that sets this behavior off is when your ability to be nice and welcoming is superceded by the need to set limits, to say "I don't like this behavior anymore", to say "no", or even end the relationship by choosing to shut the door. It might even be a casual conversation—a thread on Facebook, for example— where you express the opinion that saying no to this type of personality might be a good approach for someone else. "How could you say that?" the borderline (or somewhat borderline) person will say and suddenly the perceived trust in the relationship is tipped on the floor.

The incident at the social service agency I worked at has haunted me ever since because of my own family history and, more frightening, because I didn't have the experience at that point to see it coming. The borderline person is attracted to people who try to be helpful—the "good" people, the ones who would never hurt them or let them down, the ones who were trained at birth to be so responsive, the ones who adopted highly functional, super-responsible, take-care-of-others patterns to survive. And to tell you the truth, they tend to pick therapists and well-meaning teachers specifically because of this. There's a strong element of perfectionism and codependency that comes from having lived in fear of the consequences of making mistakes. The healers among us are especially prone.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Re-release of Changing the World One Relationship at a Time

I'm finally getting around to re-releasing my second book Changing the World One Relationship at a Time: Transformational Listening for Mutual Support & Empowerment which came out in 1998 through Crossing Press. The book went out of print years ago but copies were still available through Recently, though, I've heard that those copies have become hard to come by, people still ask about the book from time to time, and the rights have reverted back to me. So today I'm announcing that it is in print again both as a print-on-demand book for $16.49 or as an e-book download for $8.59 through Healing Communication Press. Read on to find out more:

Want to change your life? Get together with a trusted friend and spend an allotted amount of time each week focusing on truly listening to one another. “Changing the World” teaches readers the needed skills for connecting with others, starting on a personal level and advancing to the community and the world beyond. —Sandra I. Smith, Midwest Book Review

I highly recommend this book. Karas provides tools we need to improve the quality of our lives. Her examples, exercises, and meditations teach us how to listen constructively which leads to improved health, happiness, and a sense of well being. —Barbara Hoberman Levine, author of Your Body Believes Every Word You Say

When the cost of counseling is higher than ever and insurance is less likely to cover it, when people are searching for community and healthy practices to sustain it, the need for simple easy-to-do peer counseling and relationship skills are more important than ever. The re-release of Changing the World One Relationship at a Time: Transformational Listening for Mutual Support & Empowerment could not have come at a better time. Spiritual counselor Sheryl Karas M.A. has written a clear concise and highly readable book to help couples, families, friends and communities help each other through troubled times.

  • Basic attentive listening skills
  • Approaches for effectively working with emotional issues
  • How to stay centered around other people’s emotions 
  • How to work with personal and societal projections 
  • Techniques for working with racism, sexism and other societal oppressions 
  • How to create your own support groups 
  • Exercises, guided meditations and more

Author Bio: Sheryl Karas M.A. has a Masters degree in Transpersonal Psychology and 30 years of experience providing informal counseling in a variety of settings. From 1984-1998 Sheryl was a practitioner of Re-evaluation Counseling, a form of peer counseling (co-counseling) where participants learn to exchange mutual support. She taught co-counseling classes and later went on to teach the teachers and certify new ones. When Sheryl developed a more spiritual perspective some of the practices of Re-evaluation Counseling no longer seemed to fit. Changing the World combines some of the most accessible techniques from Transpersonal Psychology with the peer counseling instruction she taught before.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Foggy Santa Cruz Wharf

Here in the very hot and sunny Arizona desert, I've developed a GREAT appreciation for rain. The temperature drops 20 degrees. In Santa Cruz, CA I developed an appreciation for fog.

This photo is a departure for me. I normally prefer very bright colorful art. But I've always wanted to do something with this one. Fog has a subtle appeal. It's like stepping into a dream world, very quiet and serene.

Floral Acupuncture

I remembered yet another book on my Flower Essence bookshelf to recommend. Floral Acupuncture: Applying the Flower Essences of Dr. Bach to Acupuncture Sites by Deborah Craydon & Warren Bellows. This is really of specialized interest to acupuncturists and flower essence practitioners who have a good understanding of the acupuncture meridians and the mind/body/spirit connections associated with each one. But what's interesting about it is that it uses flower essences to stimulate the acupuncture points instead of needles. This could be invaluable for practitioners interested in offering needle-less acupuncture or who want to extend their complimentary healing practice further.

I have worked with the acupuncture meridians extensively using energy healing and intention alone with great results. But I frequently want to use a modality that will support a person's growth over time through daily practice. That's why I created my own flower essence aromatherapy products at all! So when I first saw this book a lightbulb went off. Could I use one of my flower essence aromatherapy formulas with the acupuncture meridians and what would be the results?

Amazing success, that's what!

I started doing this with a custom formula I created to deal with breast pain and tenderness I used to experience before my period every month since I was 11 years old. In recent years -- perimenopause -- this pain had gotten intense, couldn't sleep on my stomach or side, and it developed into a chronic thing that lasted in some form all month long. I was fairly miserable so I finally decided to address it.

Using medical intuition I identified that the main problem had to do with early childhood bonding problems and fear and grief associated with my mom in the womb. I could say a lot more but the most important thing to know is that the body produces a cascade of neurochemicals as a result of emotionally laden thought. My mom actually participated in a medical research study with the famous reproductive endocrinologist Luigi Mastroianni while she was pregnant with me that showed quite conclusively that babies in the womb respond to their mother's emotions. Suffice it to say, if a pregnant mom has sufficient reason to be concerned about bringing a child into the world or whether that child is actually okay her child will sense it.

I used my spiritual guidance to help pick flower essences for my situation and then felt inspired to use it every day in a skin cream I like to use after my shower. I was drawn to use it on the Kidney meridian as well as on my breasts and over my liver area. There are multiple reasons for that -- you'd have to know more about acupuncture than I want to get into here -- but the upshot was this:

After one month of doing this every day the breast pain I had experienced my whole adult life was gone -- not improved -- GONE. I continued using the formula for a couple more weeks, then "forgot" to use it anymore. The breast pain has not returned. It's now several years later.

I honestly can't recommend Floral Acupuncture for beginners in Flower Essence work. And I certainly can't say that flower essences and acupuncture alone will be sufficient for healing a physical or emotional disorder in every case. But it's a powerful combination and for those ready to deepen their holistic healing practice further or add Flower Essences to their acupuncture or acupressure work, I highly recommend it!

Monday, July 26, 2010

More Flower Essence Resource Books

After I finished my last blog post about Flower Essence books I realized I had several more that I depend on from time to time. I also have several that were extremely instrumental in being a useful introduction to Flower Essences for me that I don't need anymore. But that doesn't mean they wouldn't be truly valuable to someone else, especially if they were just starting out.

The first books that stand out are those written by the inventor of this kind of healing work, Dr. Edward Bach. Dr. Bach was an immunologist and homeopathic physician who devoted a good part of his life to researching and developing the Bach Flower Remedies. His works "Heal Thyself" and "The Twelve Healers" are great introductions. I also found them invaluable in understanding the mindset and beliefs that fueled his work. Both of his relatively short books plus one by F.J. Wheeler, M.D. called "The Bach Remedies Repertory" are included in The Bach Flower Remedies, shown at the left.

On the other hand, I received my initial introduction on how to use flower essences from Patricia Kaminski and Richard Katz of the Flower Essence Society. Patricia's book, Flowers That Heal, takes the work of Dr. Bach and brings it into the realm of psychotherapy and spiritual growth. It also includes the pioneering work she and her husband have done in expanding the original Bach repertory to include North American flowers and includes very clear precise step by step instruction in how to choose flower essences and use them in a variety of situations. There are lots of photographs and case examples.

 Another introductory text on my shelf is The Encyclopedia of Bach Flower Therapy by Mechthild Scheffer. Scheffer's book has beautiful full color photographs of every flower in the Bach Repertory but not the North American, Australian, or any other ones. However, it does have some extraordinary-looking illustrations (aura photos?) that indicate energy patterns of the flowers themselves and very helpful descriptions of when to use specific Bach remedies. I recommend it to anyone wanting to work within the realm of the original Bach remedies alone.

My favorite book for people who want to dive deep into the psychological significance of the archetypal patterns Bach was addressing in his original remedies is Advanced Bach Flower Therapy: A Scientific Approach to Diagnosis and Treatment by Gotz Blome, M.D. As a person with a degree in Transpersonal Psychology this book truly hit the mark for me. It helped me see more clearly the underlying life history and resulting patterns that would lead to certain dysfunctions. For anyone who wants to be a professional in the world of Flower Essence Therapy I would consider this to be a required text!

Holbrook Dinosaurs - Route 66

Holbrook Dinosaurs-Rte 66 print
Holbrook Dinosaurs-Rte 66 by paulnsheryl

Holbrook, AZ and Route 66 are about an hour from our house. We rarely go but think it's a lot of kooky fun when we do. Near one of the major intersections in town stands this collection of larger than life dinosaurs. That's because there's a famous national park nearby called The Petrified Forest where you can see prehistoric logs of old trees that have turned to stone. I believe dinosaur bones were found there as well so now dinosaur kitch is all the rage in that part of Arizona.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Centaury Flower Essence for the Caretaker Blues

Illustration © Copyright 2010 by Sheryl Karas
Codependent caregiving has been a theme in many of our spiritual counseling and healing sessions. Paul and I work with a lot of spiritually-aware people in our work but there's a sticking point that seems to be prevalent in our society: How to be loving, kind and compassionate without throwing yourself away? Learning about Centaury Flower Essence can give us part of the answer.

The plant Centaury (Centaurium erythraea or Centaurium umbellatum) is a native of Europe and North Africa and can be found in dry pastures and on chalky cliffs. Its form varies considerably depending on its circumstances but it tends to stand erect, about 3-12 inches in height. The leaves are pale green, smooth and shiny and the stems branch at the top into many sprigs with deep pink five-petaled star-like flowers.

Medicinally, this plant is famous as an aromatic bitter, being used in vermouth and other bitter apertifs and liqueurs. Internally it is used as digestive tonic, as a liver remedy and blood purifier. Externally, it is used to clean wounds and cool rashes. It is also used as an antidote to snakebite.

The greatest clue as to the use of this flower for emotional purposes, however, comes from the name itself. Centaury comes from the word centaur, a mythological half-man half-horse, and it is specifically associated with the most famous and powerful centaur of them all— Chiron the Wounded Healer. The Erythraea  genus was originally called Chironia. Chiron was famous for his skill with medicinal herbs and is said to have healed himself from a poisonous wound using the herb Centaury. Chiron was also known for his exceptional kindness and wisdom. Unfortunately, he was accidently injured by one of Hercules' poison arrows and lived in great agony until he volunteered to save Prometheus by taking on the punishment he was enduring. Prometheus was the hero who stole fire to help mankind. For that transgression he had been chained to a rock and was being horribly tortured by having his liver pecked out by an eagle every day. It would heal at night just in time for the bird to eat it again the next day. By volunteering to save Prometheus in this way Chiron was giving up his immortality, thus releasing himself eventually through death from the unending pain of living with the poison from Hercules' arrow. But imagine the cost! That's why Chiron is such an intense archetype.

Those who need Centaury allow themselves to be abused in their efforts to help others. They try too hard to please other people, neglect their own needs, and can't say "no" even if they wind up sacrificing themselves. People with this pattern are often unconsciously seeking validation outside themselves. Centaury helps them develop a deep sense of self-respect and inner strength so their desire to help others is tempered by the ability to say "no" when appropriate. Centaury flower essence helps people balance their love for others with love for themselves so their healing comes from a more grounded stable center of well-being.

All Moms are Queens

Mommy Rhapsody
by Church on the Move

Mommy Rhapsody from Church on the Move on Vimeo.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Flower Essence Books I Use the Most

Keep in mind, of course, that I'm writing a book and spend lots of time researching every flower I'm attracted to so I have lots of great reasons to be referring to these books all the time. But if you're as interested in the intersection of spiritual and physical reality as it is expressed in the natural world as I am you'll find these books an interesting read.

 Flower Readings: Discover Your True Self Through the Ancient Art of Flower Psychometry
by Suzy Chiazzari

I’m not sure why she calls it flower “psychometry” but this book is an unusual and interesting exploration of flower archetypes as they correlate metaphysically with archetypes found in human nature. Chiazzari talks about how to use attractions to specific flowers as an indication of archetypal patterns operating in one’s own life.  I came upon the importance of attraction as an indicator of what flowers might be helpful to me naturally and quite by accident. (See this earlier blog post about my encounter with Scotch Broom.) I've been fascinated (and amazed) by the topic ever since.

Bach Flower Remedies: Form & Function
by Julian Barnard

If the description of Suzy Chiazzari’s book aroused any curiosity, dive into the world of flower essences. Julian Barnard has devoted his life to studying the Bach Flower Remedies. In this book Barnard explores how  Bach may have made his discoveries and helps the reader understand the archetypal qualities expressed by each plant as it grows in its natural environment. Very in-depth, not as woo-woo as Chiazzari’s explanation, and I haven't come across a book that explains it better. Highly recommended and a truly fascinating read!

Flower Essence Repertory
by Patricia Kaminski, Richard Katz

This is one of most well-used books on my shelf. The cover has fallen off, the pages are dog-eared —I need another copy myself! A great reference book. In addition to providing a complete overview of flower essence theory and practice and a comprehensive listing of the most commonly available North American and Bach flower essences, this book provides a way for choosing essences using a wide assortment of treatment categories. Highly recommended!
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