I took these photos last week, while in the midwest visiting family. To me it was an incredibly healing trip, completely unexpected & both a sad & joyous occasion. My aunt Jan has been dealt an incredibly difficult hand (several really)- having had cancer four times & i was called home to gather at her bedside in a circle of love. She was expected to only live a few days.
When I arrived she was curled up in her hospice bed, pale, almost white in color, with this incredible glow around her-she was very much on her way out. I felt incredibly honored to be that close to the dying process. I cant quite describe how she looked-- if it had been appropriate i would have taken a photo. She was so incredibly beautiful- achingly similar to the incredible bunch of white roses by her bedside-- pure, holy and ephemeral.
A friend of hers, put our family up in her home- where she had a small garden, with some gorgeous echinaceas, referred to in the midwest affectionately as "coneflowers"- considered an ornamental. What struck me about seeing one of my favorite plant allies line the urban landscape is that medicine is all around us. And while i give many thanks for the possibilities that have been given to my Aunt that have helped her live an incredible life-- I feel even stronger in my convictions that I want to help people be WELL and celebrate life... and know good health.... from the ground up. It starts now... by honoring our land. Honoring our bodies and nourishing & supporting LIFE.
------------------ Meanwhile, I post these images, as a prayer and as a tribute to my beautiful Aunt, whose health has improved dramatically in the past few weeks and who is still shining bright. Please hold her in your hearts- and the spirits of all those who are sick and suffering. May they feel the depth of beauty and peace... and feel deeply loved in and beyond life. May the power of earth mother never be forgotten and always honored, as we are born of and return to her.
For the past three seasons I have been making my own sunscreen & I have come up with a formula that I really like. These last two seasons I started testing it out on others. I was kinda nervous- like maybe it wouldn't work- but ALL have reported great success. One friend even compared it by putting spf 30 on one arm & my cream on the other with equal results... (though she doesn't strike me as a person who burns easily). I would rate it at more of an Spf 15-- but i think it needs to be applied OFTEN.
either way... i am putting it out there for you all to make (and share feedback)- especially since even the "natural" stuff on the market, is loaded with ingredients i wouldn't put on my skin. my rule is: everything that goes ON my skin, can go in my body-- and though i haven't tried it yet, i could definitely eat this stuff! :) hooray!
as a warning, I did burn some delicate parts one day during a full on naked adventure-- but just those that were mighty pasty and probably shouldn't have been quite that exposed so early in the season. i did farm a whole summer using only this as my sunscreen- and no burns!
i am also including the basic recipe here for Rosemary Gladstar's Perfect Cream (I use her proportions to make most creams) & the sun cream recipe is based on Dina Falconi's "Sun Butter Face Cream" in her kick-ass book "Earthly Bodies, Heavenly Hair" by far the best DIYbodycare book out there. You can also find Rosemary's Cream recipe from her website. The sunscreen is a combination of the two: Rosemary's amounts with many Dina's ingredients, as well as some of my own additions.
Waters: *2/3 cup distilled water (or hydrosol water) *1/3 cup aloe vera gel *2-10 drops essential oil of choice (optional)
*3/4 cup apricot, almond, grapeseed or shea oil (aka the liquid oils) *1/3 cup coconut oil or cocoa butter/or shea butter (or combination of) (also known as the solid oils) *1/2 to 1 ounce grated beeswax *optional: ¼ tsp lanolin *optional: vitamin a and e as desired (in oil form or you can pop open a vitamin capsule or two and squeeze in)
Directions Combine the waters (they should be at body temp). Heat the oils just enough to melt them and stir well. Put them in a blender and let them cool 'til they're thick and creamy and approximately body temperature. Put the blender on high and slowly slowly drizzle water into the center vortex of the oil mixture. When the blender coughs and chokes and the mixture looks like thick, white buttercream frosting, turn it off. You can slowly add more water by hand, beating with a spoon but don't overbeat! The cream will continue to thicken as it sets. Pour it into jars, store in a cool spot. I have had friends make batches that grow mold. To prevent this make sure you are storing your cream in well cleaned or sterilized jars, away from heat. If you are using a reused container, make sure to remove the inner cardboard ring. Also I prefer to use only distilled water over tap or well water, which has been evaporated then recondensed to remove bacteria and minerals.
“What makes it perfect?” by Rosemary Gladstar
What makes our skin dry out is a lack of water, so a good moisturizing cream contains a large percentage of water. The oil you put in the formula coats, soothes, protects, and most important, holds in water. A perfect cream is an approximately equal balance of water and oil. If the oils and water separate. it is most likely because they weren’t at the correct temperature; the waters must be at room temp. and the oils must be completely cooled. If they separate, you can begin the process again to emulsify.
For the suncream, I basically follow the same proportions (though i like to add more "water" part to make the cream lighter) with some or all of the following ingredients. I have switched it up a lot-- feel free to experiment with any combination of oils and waters.
Water Parts: *Distilled h2o *rose water or lavender hydrosol or both *aloe vera gel
Optional: I am now experimenting with other infused oils: in my current batch I am infusing the sesame oil with green tea, holy basil, gotu kola and rosemary-- all either anti-oxidant or UV-protective herbs. Also for folks who already have or are prone to skin damage/cancers- adding an infused oil of chaga may be helpful for its anti-tumor effects and preventing excess growth.
Sun ProtectantSolid Oils: *Coconut Oil *Shea Butter *Cocoa Butter
Optional: Warm up the distilled water and stir in 1 tablespoon PABA powder. Let the mix cool down before blending. *see notes below
All other ingredients are the same: i.e. don't forget the beeswax & aloe vera! Just mix and match as you please using about 3/4 cup liquid oils and 1/3 cup solid oils, and approximately equal "water" parts-- as long as you use some liquid oils, some solid oils, some "waters" including aloe vera gel-- in the proportions given in Rosemarys cream recipe. For example, this year I made mine with jojoba and sesame as my liquid oils and coconut and cocoa butter as my solid oils,though I really felt it was missing the extra protection of the shea butter. Combinations of oils, seem to create more protection that just one or two mixed.
* There was a lot of hoop-la in the 80s/90's about folks being allergic to PABA. While i won't deny that some folks may truly be allergic to it, I have tried this cream on folks who thought they were, with absolutely no reaction. PABA is a member of the B vitamin family and increases the skins ability to resist burns and sun damage and protects specifically against UVB rays. It is thought my many (the author included) many of those people were more likely reacting to the all the other shit in sunscreen, though i would certainly exercise caution if you believe you are sensitive to PABA. I have made the cream without it, but really think its better with it, and PABA's effects are increased by combining it with other sun-protectant oils. Having said all that, there are mixed reviews about its sun-protectant qualities. It is well proven to protect from burns, but the newer sunscreens are more "broad-spectrum" focused meaning that protect from both UVA and UVB rays and both types are now thought to contribute to sun-cancer, whether or not your skin actually burns. Seems PABA was taken out of sunscreen as well, due to one study proposing its effect as cancer-causing, because its absorbs UV rays, rather than reflecting them. This study is poorly sited and there have been no others like it, but I wanted to give you all the facts for your own research. The solids oils in this recipe are said to reflect UVA rays, though I haven't confirmed that with research. In the end I am still searching for the natural sun-screen solution, but am pretty pleased with this recipe in the meantime*
With a growing awareness in the honey bee and pollinator population and their recent decline- we have been called to ask questions about how our current way of living is impacting all living beings. We ask if cell phones or genetically modified organisms or mono-cropping are to blame for the disappearance of these magical and vital creatures? But, the evidence has been inconclusive. My opinion is that it is the asking of the questions that is most important and not the answers. That fact that we have to ask these questions says something HUGE about the way we are living. How would these things not effect us all? How could they not influence all health and well-being?
The same can be asked for us-- how is our culture of fast paced, toxic and oversized, mass produced living affecting our our own health and vitality? Our own bodies? How is it creating its own sickness? The question "what is true health and wellness?" leads us to look outside of ourselves and question that around us. My interest in the bees-- is my own question and also my own reminder of what is true health: to savor the sweet, the beautiful, and the profound. It is my own path to well being.
with this abundant, beautiful and momentary beauty! precious, precious gifts of spring: violets!!!!
my deepest love, only second to roses (oh & holy basil.... and... well... you know how it goes). but violets were truly the first plant that really FOUND me & touched me-- on both a deep and subtle level. violets sprung up in abundance in my life.... in a time of beginning loneliness and isolation a few years back. as they popped up all over... i truly began to feel soothed and surrounded by these new friends, by their energy and love.
and i so rejoice in seeing them return spring after spring-- a little message of hope and partnership --- the gifts of the earth.
when i set out to share in blog-style, i really did envision something more "scholarly" or informative on a plant medicine level... but as you may already have gathered and i am really coming to define, to me, the spiritual is medicinal. and this is how i perceive plants. so willing to offer themselves, their beauty, their love, their knowledge & medicine. their spirit. we are so blessed. spring provides that reminder in so many small ways......
-----------------------------so, i'll pretend to formally educate you for a bit.....
*my favorite way to invite violets into my self and healing (beyond just praising their name as i joyfully pass of touch them about the land) is as .....food.
i love nothing more than putting a spring salad together. young garden greens with wild additions-- my favorites are both the violet leaves and flowers as well as mild mustard flowers and dandelion greens. Violets are a good source of vitamin c as well as flavonoids.
*violets make a delicious tea-- made as a cold infusion (pour room temperature water over the (chopped up) leaves and flowers and let steep for several hours) to retain the mucilaginous properties in the plant. This tea is soothing for a sore throat, cough or upset belly. I also love infusing a handful of violet leaves and flowers in honey (let it sit several weeks, before straining out) to use in the same way. The combination of violets and honey is particularly soothing to the throat, and can be added to teas.
*Freshly dried or wilted violet leaves and flowers also infuse nicely into oil. Violet infused oil makes a great massage oil for the breasts, especially those with fibrocystic conditions. Violet has a traditional use as a lymphatic decongestant- and this sweet little plant has been used traditionally to treat cancers.
-------------------- & back to my woo' business.... i think of violets as healing to the emotional heart (wonder why?).... nice in formulas for heartbreak and for soothing sadness of the heart. Last summer, an herbalist friend described using violets to help give softness & sweetness to folks who had started to "harden" or tense in their bodies as a form of protection from emotional pain......awwwww. violets help to ease us open to love and tenderness.
"Health is more than the absence of disease; it is our individual undoing and continual unfolding as we strive to awaken the heart of consciousness."
mother maya tiwari
fair forewarning: this post is about to get personal. real personal.
i am about to introduce you to.... my vulva.
(another fair forewarning: damn, this post is long (beats my first post). perhaps, ever evolving. I started it weeks ago and then life got busy, but i wanted to go ahead and publish it in its raw and incomplete form-- and let it evolve on its own.) -------------------------------------------
now, i hate to start this off with so many tangents and prefaces, but a few must be made.
first off, the topic of language.... I like to use a variety to words to describe my body and my processes. vulva isn't actually one i am all that fond of-- but is more anatomically correct and is more accurately what we are generally referring to when we say "vagina". you probably know by now, that "vagina" really only refers to one part of the body and not the wholeness of place, the entire shebang-- strictly speaking, vagina refers to just the vaginal canal or opening. it is a word rooted in latin, meaning sheath for the sword. insert your own critique here. 'nough said! its not my favorite word.
though, in thinking about it lately, i thought we could really radicalize and take back the word-- perhaps as.... a place in which lies our secret and most powerful weapon-- the creative power and strength of the spiritual warrior. hmm.. it could grow on me.
a word that i especially like is... yoni. but this needs its own introduction. Yoni comes from sanskrit, Indo-Aryan language, one of many languages of India, meaning "cosmic gateway or womb; source of creation". while i generally have strong feelings come up in regards to "borrowing" language-- as an extension of cultural appropriation, I really like this word and feel alright in my use of it. First off, the english language seriously lacks a good choice of positive and accurate words for this deeply spiritual, meaningful, sacred place; and secondly, i truly see my yoni or my vulva as such-- a source of creation and deep power. i feel really aligned in knowing there is a good word to describe that, that came before me and can move on in time.
as a final preface: I like to also use the word womb-en for "women". In part, I think the word provides more accurate meaning and symbolism and because I am striving to make this conversation as inclusive as possible. womb is the closest word we have to yoni (though its tied in with a lot of cultural connotation that could be dropped, implying that it is a "reproductive" place) and greatly expresses the inherent potentiality and power of housing a creative source. Also, i use the word womb-en hoping to include anyone who really resonates with having a womb, or a creative force- a place from which ideas, feelings, creative process and growth are born. Not all "women" are born with "female" bodies and genitalia, and not all people who are labeled as "women" identify as such. This is meant to include people of all stripes: tranny men and women, intersex, men with wombs, women who weren't born such or labeled such at birth. If i end up excluding or offending anyone, please let me know. it's hard to deprogram so much cultural training, but i'd like to try to start by opening up the conversation and language.
now... where were we? so, you've been introduced to my yoni. i am currently in the process of really getting to know this cosmic place myself. inhale.
i will attempt a more recent time line.......
a few weeks ago, i was persuaded by my school's free clinic to go get a check-up and perhaps a diagnosis for some of my chronic yoni troubles. Specifically I have been having extreme ovarian pain on one side of my body when i bleed-- that is much different than the usual cramping that accompanies my cycle, much more consuming and frankly, worrisome. simply put, it fucking hurts and i really want it not to. My usual pain relieving techniques don't touch it-- and i usually spend the first day of my cycle, curled up in the fetal position, praying to anyone who will listen, or pacing around my house with my hot water bottle and sipping calming herbal tea.
Also, I have been trying to identify and heal two tiny wounds (fissures- or non-healing sores) that appeared on my perineum, almost two years ago. They were incorrectly diagnosed as herpes- twice !!!! until blood tests revealed negative results. These wounds appeared just weeks after a difficult breakup-- and contributed greatly to its further complication, pain and messy aftermath-- and I couldn't help but observe the auspicious timing of self-manifesting wounds in one of the most vulnerable place on my body. I always acknowledged this-- but, on some level knew I wasn't ready to heal. there was a lot of healing work to be done that I wasn't yet ready to fully engage in- wasn't ready to OPEN myself that much, when all I wanted was to feel safe and protected. So, I had been more or less ignoring them or cursing their name, with intervals of applying herbal remedies-- but, no dice.
My most recent appointment with the gynecologist was overall, surprisingly positive. It can be such a dis-empowering experience to have some random stranger stick their shit up you, while you're lying in the worst position ever (not even reserved for lovers) and stripped down to paper thin (sometimes, actually paper) medical gown. then you have to listen, while this person tells you about YOUR body-- and often can't tell you much at all anyway- or like from my past, can give false or inaccurate information. shiiiii-it!
but i really liked this woman- she was very respectful and really validated my own inner knowing. i was very clear i was only there to get a diagnosis so that i could fine tune my herbal treatments- and she was in full support (more often perceived as a threat to the doctors' role) and she was pretty honest that she'd be unlikely to give me much diagnostic information without a series of other costly and invasive tests. She gave me some great suggestions and said we could check back in and look at further ideas if things didn't improve, including the ever pleasant trans-vaginal ultrasound (i.e. camera up your crotch).
So I came home, feeling empowered with a healing agenda and I wrote all my herbal girlfriends for advice and support. and damn, did i get it!!! I can not understate the role support has in healing. it feels so good to know that all these amazing goddesses are putting their prayers out in the world for me.
The night before my appointment, my lover asked me if I was worried about having something "serious" and i said i might be if i weren't so damn excited about all the studying i'd get to do on new conditions!! *As a side note if you are interested in learning about addressing or just gathering information about herpes and herbal healing (the medical world is full of misinformation and pessimistic news, oh and drug-pushing)- please contact me-- i was living and breathing this reality for several months, when I thought I had it. the research was the fun part- the onlyfun part. * So, I've started seriously doing my homework (and felt like sharing).....
For now, I am treating the pain as some form of stagnation (perhaps cysts?) and trying a variety of approaches with the fissures. I am very lucky for not only support, but good resources. I am loaded with good herbal healing books (i will list some throughout), not to mention an incredible love & belief in plants. Plants are how i usually the path i walk to my own healing-- but I know, not everyone has this amount of access. I hope to share ways to heal without very many external tools.
But for me, herbs are at my fingertips. It is our exchange, our reciprocal relationship that draws me to using the plants that grace my life, for deep healing- i love them and they love me. and truly i am beginning to see more and more--- it is the loving spirit embodied in the plant that does the real healing. this deeply embedded knowing -told from stories of the soil, stories of the earth, the earth which knows great pain, regeneration and deep healing- simply awakens and touches my own internal healing spirits. the plants just give momentum to the forces inside of me, like a gentle shove and reminder:
you can heal. you are whole. you are beautiful.
i think this can happen for folks through any calling and pathway of their choosing. i truly believe you can heal on your own- without tangible or conceptual "medicine. " Love, prayer and support- are truly the ultimate recipe for healing.
So in the midst of my researching and excited planning.... I started to receive all sorts of messages- particularly in dreams. The night after the appointment, I had one very specific, violating dream about an ex, who i had shared myself with in uncompromising and damaging ways. I have many mental and emotional scars and de-programming yet to do in regards to this relationship and felt really upset to have that energy reappear in my life in any way at all, even in dreamland. It was a comfort to wake up- and choose another reality & it brought up all sorts of tucked away feelings-- about all the many negative, abusive relationships I have had in my life, particularly as a womb-an.
I realized this comes in the form of any suppression of my creative self and inner truth-- not giving voice to those inner messages. I started to make connections to all sorts of specific events, in which my beauty and meaning and creative willingness-- deepest love from within- was misused, mistreated or denied. This is its own abuse. I had always felt my love and openness were my purest, sweetest gifts-- and I started to see in what ways this vulnerability and willingness in me had been damaged.... how i had held myself back in certain ways, patterned by fear and pain.
the next several nights, I dreamt of other lovers- all bringing with them, their own personal message and meaning. I had started down the path of self-healing and what I wasn't considering during the day was presenting itself at night... like, oh you think you're on to something?!! don’t forget this! :) My dreams were revealing my less rational, and more embodied depth of feeling--i count my many blessings.
Part of why I think I am feeling so open to all these messages, is that one week ago I started to do "the Artists Way-a Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity" by Julia Cameron. I had seen the book for years, but never really inspected it. I think in part because I never really considered myself an "artist". but in my first committed week of this several month journey (sorry to sound all sales pitchy)- i have already (re)discovered so much about myself and really tapped into my creative potential. Auspicious timing, I'd say. I have particularly enjoyed the "morning pages"-- three pages of free write, every morning. They can be used in a variety of ways, but one general idea is that this format allows for space to let go off all the shit that intersects and blocks our creativity. for me, it has really served well in this way. I look forward to this morning ritual, where sometimes I just write about what i want to do that day, and how stressed I am that I am just sitting there writing and not doing; but I am certainly exploring; giving voice to my whispered thoughts!!! it helps put me in order. it helps set routine and purpose to my activities.
this is huge for me!!!! I have been traveling for so long, and moving around from place to place and never really letting myself create "home" and I am only now really feeling how routine serves me. As, I add more things in: create healthy habits and make good choices, I make space for more; its an incredible cycle, and truthfully there's nothing more motivating than feeling good. This includes a more serious commitment to incorporating all my healing practices into my daily life- making and taking medicine, taking baths, praying, making artwork, moving my body. Its amazing....the number of ways we can stand in the way of our own healing process! lack of routine was a huge barrier for me that i keep recreating in my life.
The writing also allows for a lot of self-exploration- of any silly, insignificant or huge topic....spiraling of story. including the explorations and insights of my yoni healing. Not to mention, that I have come up with a huge list of suppressed (stagnant?) creative interests that I wasn't even in touch with. Picking up on any parallels yet? I am excited to see where it all goes-- and truly value this assignment I have given myself, as a tool in healing and redefining my creative womb-en-hood. amen!
So, I've started to slowly (baby steps... there's so much to do on the path of healing & there's nothing quite like trying to do too much and becoming discouraged enough to not do any of it) and am remaining open to the messages. I won't get too too specific about herbal treatments-- especially since I as of yet to put my disclaimer out there for this site (basically says "herbalists are not allowed to treat, diagnose, prescribe or cure any disease. this advice is not meant to take the place of your medical providers." but really, more simply put, do your research. the best advice i think is to check in with at three books/resources and compare information about a plant you'd like to take, plus check for contraindications or warnings. and and and, make sure your resources are written by real herbalists-- by this i mean, people who actually work and engage with plants and aren't just information gatherers or researchers. experience counts!!! and research both historical and traditional use of the plants to see how they compare to modern use. also just to say, this is my story and my approach that i happily share-- but seriously, do your research. empower yourself. do what feels best for you. and don't underestimate when you need more help than you are able to give yourself- and even when you think you don’t - ask around, get ideas! get feedback! share!)
------------------------------------- so...here are some of the more specific ways I have begun to heal my yoni and my creative self, and how we all can:
1. allowing space for process-- through prayer, artwork, asking for support, writing!!!, journaling, listening to my dreams, getting in touch with old wounds, joining a co-counseling class, using my voice, words, and my body to share my stories. i try to do a little dancing every morning. just cause. Some of my inspirations for artwork, which have really evolved in this process, include:
*creating prayer flags (for myself and for my loved ones)--- including specific prayers on how i want my healing to look and feel, prayers for my continual creative blossoming and unfolding and prayers of healing for all people who are suffering & especially for our earth mother.
* writing a letter to my yoni-- i actually got this idea from some of the homework from the artists way. the specific instruction was to "write out one happy piece of encouragement. mail it to yourself or to the long-lost mentor." hmm...
*creating an altar or shrine for healing. here, i have included some of my healing oils, tinctures and photos of plants that are very sacred or protective to me. I imagine this to continue to evolve over time. other things could be: more visuals- pictures & artwork, letters, poetry, a prayer box, tokens and sweet whispering of friends, and of course, elements from nature: shells, dried or fresh plants, stones, water.
*i have taken a renewed (what used to be supressed) interest in pottery, creating with my hands!!! earth touching manifestation. this also came out of my homework from the artists way when i let myself explore the number of ways in which i myself or people in my life had discouraged me from pursuing the things i love or am drawn to. so this week, i am doing research into local potters and classes--- and looking to incorporate this form of creative expression into my life. coincidentally, bowls are said to symbolize mother earth and the womb.
*also i am working on the final stages of a tattoo i have been planning for years- a very symbolic and permanent expression to remind myself of my truth, beauty and inner path. when i went to meet the artist/tattoo-er the other day, i found out by the time my work is done, she will have moved her business into an herb shop!! oh my bliss-- i get to get inked, amongst my friends- the herbs. how perfect is that?
2.healing baths and vaginal steams!!! (insert joyful noises here) the bath is somewhat self explanatory, but can be as simple or complicated as you like: as long as it's intentional. very basic idea: fill a tub with warm water, add flowers, herbs and oils of your choice (perhaps in a muslin cloth) and set aside this quiet time for healing. let the spirit of the plants embrace you. adding some salts to the bath is also nice, because they draw out toxins-- both physical, and i would extend that to mental, impurities and things held in. one of my favorite pre-bath activities is self massage-- the oils actually penetrate further into your skin, in the hot water. this is so deeply healing and calming. sesame oil is a nice choice for people who are nervous or agitated--warming and calming- and you could infuse some with lovely herbs of course to make it extra yummy (see: previous post on decadent coconut rose oil, my favorite creation ever!)
other forms include using specific herbs for deeper healing-- from infections, wounds, abuse, etc. this could be done in the same way, or by making a strong decoction of herbs of choice (simmered for 20 plus minutes, covered) and add it to a bath half full of warm water and squat over the tub, inviting healing water inside yourself by basically squeezing your butt/muscles. Hold the water in and release. Repeat several times. rest in the warm water. I would also like to state in the case of really trying to emotionally or physically release (specifically from any trauma or pain including rape, miscarriage, abortion, deep emotional pain, etc) some folks would rather "bathe" my pouring healing water over themselves, and watch the water drain away while letting go and releasing memories & feelings.
on to my new favorite… yoni steams!!! oh my goddess!! this is decadence at its finest! my roommate and i had "ladies night" a few days ago-- and we tried our first yoni steams ever, while we hennaed our hair, and luxuriated in clay facials. yuuuuuum.
here's how it's done: boil water and add to a big bowl or pot with a handful of healing herbs and/or oils. Make yourself comfy-- take off those clothes and find a relaxing way to sit over the water steam (with a towel wrapped around you to keep in the warmth). Warning: lower yourself slowly and carefully over this- and make sure the water is not too hot! Some suggestions include sitting on a futon frame without the mattress,rather just over the slates or remove some slates from a wooden chair to sit over. I have also heard of folks resting the bowl of steaming water inside the toilet and sitting comfortably over it on the seat...... or perhaps 5 gallon buckets (your local food co-op would probably have extra to give away or sell for a low price). My roommate and I are hooked!!! we are planning to devise yoni steam seats-- perhaps toilet seats over cute painted wooden boxes?! maybe they can live in our garden- and we can do moonlight steams!
some of the herbs i chose were:
roses --of course! for love and spiritual healing. also an astringent & toning to the skin and wounds.
calendula --i like this plant and its relation to the yoni, as a flower that opens and closes with a daily rhythm. it also is a lymphatic decongestant, anti-microbial, reduces inflammation and promotes healing.
mugwort or artemesia vulgaris-- related to the goddess Artemis, associated with lunar energy, fertility, menstruation and childbirth. also warming and stimulating.
ginger --warming, stimulates movement and flow.
and yarrow- wound healing & protective.
I steamed for about half an hour-- (really, I couldn't get enough !) then wrapped myself up to protect my exposed body and got cozy for the evening.
All three of these water-healing techniques can be used for any of the following: menstrual pain, infections, sores, stagnant conditions, sexually transmitted infections, trauma, loss, and just for giving yourself and your yoni some damn good loving!!!
A lot of my ideas around these therapies come from a few books including:
"Women's Power to Heal Through Inner Medicine" by Sri Swamini Mayatitananda or "Mother Maya". This book is kind of the Indian/Ayurvedic equivalent to Christiane Northrup's "Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom" (also an amazing book)-- both so moving and so profound. She covers all issues of the yoni, in a wonderful cultural, spiritual and holistic context, as well as given in depth definition to the yoni. I am specifically very touched by her thoughts on how our relationships to our yonis are connected to our relationship to mother earth- as a whole. What we do to the earth, we do to ourselves.
In some ways this is a very scary thought, considering the damage that's been done on our planet and the land, but absolutely there is a conscious shift that's taking place and so much we can do by holding the earth with deep reverence, gratitude and respect. Christiane Northrup also brings this up in her books, saying that when world disasters strike-- her well woman clinic is overwhelmed by folks coming in with nonspecific pain and deep, wounded conditions: they feel the pain of the earth in their bodies. There's so much work to be done here but one place I believe we can start is by seeing our own bodies as temples: places of beauty and divinity and deep love. and extend that outward. your body is your home. and so is the earth. plant a garden, tend a little plot of land, observe animals, walk in the woods or even just observe that powerful dandelion bursting up through the sidewalk cracks, get to know your plant friends, vote for environmental protection of land and rights for first peoples of this nation and all nations.
"Herbal Healing for Women" by Rosemary Gladstar. I cannot say enough good about this book or this amazing woman. She has probably done more than anyone in this country to really bring herbalism from a broken lineage back into the hands of the people. This book is a healing classic- and so very empowering. She has many other publications, but this is geared specially towards "women's" bodies. I will say here, that all three books listed above, are not specifically trans-friendly, but do offer incredible stories and information.
The work of Dr. Rosita Arvigo, who studied under Mayan medicine man Don Elijio Panti, who gracefully shared his lifetime of work. Her website includes all of her books including "Satsun" (the only work of hers I have actually read-- but moved me beyond words. it chronicles the beautiful unfolding of her apprenticeship with her Mayan mentor, and is a small window into an entire culture and practice of spiritual healing.) She also wrote "Spiritual Bathing" and trains practitioners in a specific massage technique: "The Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Massage” founded on the traditional Mayan form of abdominal massage, "an external non invasive manipulation that repositions internal organs that have shifted, thereby restricting the flow of blood, lymph, nerve and chi." I know of many folks who have used and praised this wonderful healing practice. Practitioners are listed on her website.
3. Herbal Techniques-- including teas, poultices, external powders, washes, tinctures, flower essences, healing oils, essential oils, the list goes on and on......
this post is getting pretty long already but just to say, I am using a lot of herbs on a daily basis to assist in my healing process. I would love to write some future posts about specific forms and specific herbs in yoni healing-- but want to say too, that it's a very personal, individualized process (let me know if you need more resources or want another heart and head to fine tune your herbal approach). Many of the herbs I use are strictly based on intuition and heart feeling. Many I use because they appear again and again in my research. Others I dream of....
A few years ago, while I was dating the man whose breakup proceeded the fissures, I had a dream that he showed me his garden of "teasel". I had heard of this plant in passing, but never seen it. My herb mentors had always said to pay attention to the blessing of having an herb show itself to you in a dream. I felt honored but did not think much of it until last summer at the herb farm where i was working, when I was finally introduced to this plant. From first view, I knew this was a special plant. in my initial week, we hosted a public garden tour, led by the farm's herbalist, who told stories and insights about some of the plants in the garden as we walked through winding paths of fragrant and beautiful spirits. I had been waiting to hear what she would say about Teasel. When we got to it, I was sitting on the earth, and listened as she told the story of watching a bird with a broken wing, hop over and drink water out of the teasel plant daily for a summer, until she was healed and flew away (its leaf nodes form little bowls where water pools). She went on say that she eventually learned about using teasel to "heal that which has been broken" a translation of the Chinese name (often used specifically to heal broken bones). I really could only laugh: sometimes my life is so serendipitous and amazing, its all I can do. breath it in deeply. i felt so blessed to recieve a message through my self, through a plant, and through a person whom i had experienced deep unresolved pain with. I was absolutely enamored with this plant the rest of summer; felt strong around it and blessed to have its healing power. I was reminded of this again recently -- my dream and premonition of teasel, and was wanting to find a way to incorporate it in my current healing process-- I wanted a dried teasel flower to put on my altar, but had spent my recent travels doling them out to friends, like a healing fairy and didn’t have one left for me. I was feeling in a funk today, a bit sad, and went on a walk- and found a place near an abandoned garden to rest and meditate. I was sitting in one very specific place for about half an hour before I noticed-- a few dried teasel plants under the weeds. I took a few home to love and be with me, and remind me to stay open to healing.
4. developing a healthy relationship with our menstrual cycles- including menopause. or if you don't bleed- allowing space and gentleness for the ebb and flow of your self and your creative process. we all have a flow and a rhythm: work with it. nurture it.
I have been working on a healthy relationship with my cycle for so many years that it was almost overlooked in this process. this can look like a lot of things, but i would encourage all of us to look at the ways in which this life process is so undervalued and mistreated in our culture. Anatomically speaking, there's an entire industry of profiteers, bent on trying to make us think our bleeding doesn't really happen and should be hidden (intense pain killers, tampons, SCENTED! tampons and pads- all loaded with chemicals, prescribing birth control for folks who don't want to deal with the mess or their emotions!!!!) fuck that! fuck all of it! and don't try and tell me that those chemicals aren't doing any damage, when they're hanging out a regular basis in one of the most vulnerable places in the body. and those chemicals are ending up in our soil and in our drinking water.
there are so many ways in which healing from this negative programming can look like. i'd like to share two here, that I am well versed in, only because i feel i can speak more strongly from my experience. there are so many ways to resist! and rise up & reclaim our bodies!
one)commiting to honoring myself and my process & the feelings that come up in my cycle. I wrote a more extensive post about what this looks like to me, and really honor the ways in which it looks and feels to you. What i will say here is: be kind to yourself. be gentle and good and sweet. this is a very vulnerable and sometimes fragile process. treat yourself well. hell, treat yourself to whatever you need. and be mindful of what is truly nurturing. I have been known to take this to the extreme: I am feeling grumpy & premenstrual and I just wanna hole up and drink wine and eat chocolate and cry, and goddammit, no one is gonna stop me! but this only serves me so much. indulging in this once a month, feels fine, but days on end... well... that doesn’t really serve me in the long run.
what serves me and what I do when i I am more in touch with the my true needs… I do things like: take herbs in advance that I know will help my grumpiness or my cramps, schedule time off from activities that pull too much energy from me, and eat good nourishing foods. also, I chart my cycle and pay close attention to where I am at, what it feels like, noting patterns and energies that repeat themselves. there’s so much to learn from this. often just knowing that I am premenstrual, i am able to honor myself more and give myself more love and tenderness. this really feeds me.
make a list of things that feel good at that time. share it with friend and lovers. reference it when you're feeling at a loss. be brave: ask for support. i dream of a menstrual phone tree- with friends cycles' and corresponding comforting/nurturing desires listed. we could take turns pampering each other when in need.
the same goes for any let down or block or release of any creative process. nobody feels that aligned all of the time. you are allowed to lack inspiration, create less than ideal pieces of work, have bad days. but really, has giving yourself a hard time about it really served you in the past? it certainly hasn't worked for me despite the number of times i think to grab this from my toolbox of techniques. really love yourself in whatever way that looks like, in all your forms. remove judgment from feelings; just feel!
two)get involved in your cycle- look at it, touch it, examine it, know it. I thought of this the other day when I was washing out my (reusable) cloth menstrual pads. I feel so lucky to see and feel my own blood. I have been bleeding on these organic cotton pads almost half of my bleeding years. I fucking love my cute little menstrual pads. i have a thing for going into new co-ops and health food stores & perusing for the locally made blood rags. some people collect stamps, i collect cute things to bleed on. :)
They can seem like a big investment up front, but hear this: I've been using mine for so long, that means, except in case of emergency (oh and the token really cute locally made pad I just can’t resist), I haven't spent a dime on shit to bleed on since my initial investments over five years ago. not to mention, the money is going to support small, often women-owned companies, who likely care more about your body and the earth than some high-up on the corporate ladder, pondering how else he can profit on the natural processes of half the population. when i was building up my collection, and working on a budget I went so far as asking for some for Christmas- and santa really hooked it up.
There are a number of companies I like a lot: Gladrags and Lunapads --- check em out; they also make other amazing menstrual products like the diva or luna cup, and special period underwear, as well as have extensive feedback and tips on how to clean and maintain their products!!! and don't forget to support your local artist. and shit! be your own local artist!! they are so simple to make. i suggest finding one that's your favorite and modeling after theirs. search online for patterns.
As a final note, another barrier for folks can be the care and dedication of dealing with your mess-- it is not as easy, as throwing it all away, and certainly a bit more complicated without your own washing machine--but I do it and i am here to tell you: it can be done... those pads have seen many a laundry mat. I often do a nice hand wash first and at least a soak to draw out the blood (plants love this water!!) and so enjoy getting to be involved in my own bloody mess.
5. Putting belief, energy and prayer into healing This can not be understated, and absolutely has the the ability to cure, without any other modality. there are a lot ways this can look from simple to complicated, as long as it's personal. it only requires commitment. in the few days that i have been working on this post and really examining all this, my fissures have all but disappeared. how's that for energy work? Its not to say, they won't come back-- there are some things I know i must do first- on a spiritual, intuitive level- but damn, my yoni is loving the attention and responding positively.
Affirmations are a beautiful way to put our prayers into action. My yoni is a healthy, whole, spiritual vessel for my love. I commit to healing my body. I am capable, able and strong.
6. Healing our sexuality Damn, this is such a huge topic and i won't tell you how to do it... but it seemed silly to leave out. perhaps, deserves its own post as well. For my current healing in this area, I have been just talking a lot more about "sex" and working to define my sexuality: wants, needs and desires, processing wounds & trauma, sharing stories and listening. As its one of my favorite topics, I also joined a new friend to create a supportive group to continue exploring sexual topics. last week we met up to define and discuss our ideas which I am sure will evolve, but for now we are a "Radical Sexual Health Study Group" aspiring to become an active group to discuss, share and explore topics of our choice with. This can be in the form of writing papers, creating music, art, dance, theater, zines, teaching classes, creating handouts or in the case of my new my lovely new herb friend, sewing gigantic ovaries and fallopian tubes to help teach the workings of the body. there is also talk of sex-positive porn and popcorn night!!! i am so in!
7. Commiting to Creating Access Not to be excluded, healing is never limited t0 our own selves. Healing others, healing land, healing relationships..... this energy benefits all who suffer, all who are in pain.
and I am absolutely blessed to have access to resources, money, work, information, classes, plants, medicine and a spread of healing techniques. There are so many who do not have this. I recognize the privilege, power & advantages I have been given. Where I once felt mostly guilt around this, I realize this doesn’t serve me or anyone and am choosing to accept it as blessingand use that power to create radical social change in the world. i refuse to turn a cheek to this issue.
this is an huge topic of it's own, but i have hope for herbal medicine as an accessible and affordable healing modality. as its stands, The World Health Organizations states that over 80% of the world uses herbal and traditional medicines for their primary source of health care. this is real medicine of the people! first off, as of yet, there is no patent on herbal medicine- you can and should make your own healing products (look for posts in the future). to quote hip-hop artist, talib kweli- "medicine is big business, so my remedies is herbal."..... man, how long have i been waiting to reference someone who raps about homebirth and herbs!!??
Also, you can grow and wildcraft your own herbs for medicine. you can buy seeds with food stamps- this sometimes excludes the "medicinal" plants, but definitely includes the culinary herbs: thyme, oregano, marjoram (all warming, anti-spasmodic, antiseptic), cilantro (pulls heavy metals from the body) and basil (anti-fungal and anti-bacterial). Herbalism is founded in empowerment- getting involved in your own healing- listening to yourself, being listened to, making radical change within yourself, mind, body and spirit.
There are a few free/sliding scale herbal clinics across the country (contact me if you are looking for one in your area) which offer not only affordable (or free!) consults and medicine, but empowering and informative classes. If you are a person of privilege and wider access, considering donating on the higher end of the suggestion to help support these organizations and to help those who have less to offer. hell, start your own free clinic, or offer some of your time to an already formed organization that offers affordable medicine in your area. Buy an extra community garden plot to donate to a family in need. donate your garden extras to your local foodbank and food not bombs! If you have a skill- share it- either for free, or barter your services. Teach classes for free (if this seems daunting, considering asking for non-profits to donate for the costs of supplies. My old food co-op paid for the supplies, advertising and handouts for classes I would teach, as well as give me an amazing discount in trade for my services.) Join organizations like TimeDollars, and extend your services to areas that are underserved. and don't just feel good about putting your money or time into deserving places; really engage with the needs of people and what they want and ask for. Educate yourself! it's easy to be green-washed: but it goes sooooooooo far beyond supporting labels like organic and fairtrade-- who are the real people behind your purchases? support your local homegrown, companies when you can. Know where your food, medicine and water are coming from. these are but small steps and i recognize their hypocrisy and imperfections including access to travel, access to land, general access to education and resources.
Lack of access and support, can especially become barriers for folks of color, minority of any kind, genderqueer, LGBTQI (Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex. i have never seen really seen the "i" here, but where the hell is the "i" for intersex?), homeless, youth, elders, impoverished, disabled and a variety of folks on the whole wide spectrum for a variety of reasons. question this. Be mindful-- of your own choices, thoughts, language and actions that may further contribute to racism, classism, sexism... all the isms. consider how you be an ally.
a few lgbqti resources: Third Root Community Health Center in Brooklyn, NY-- an herbal healing and yoga center working to end oppression through education, healing and inclusion. Their site has great links for accessible health care for the queer and trans community, elders and people of color. (Let me know if you need more info on access to trans-specific care providers-- i have a small list from Third Root.) Also, from here you can email herbalist Jacoby Ballard, for his amazing zine called "Trans-Care. What to eat and supplements and herbs to help prepare and heal you around surgery times!"
a great resource, for herbalists and other health-care workers wanting to be more inclusive to the trans-community and other vulnerable populations, is a hand-out put out by the Transgender Law Center-- "Ten Tips for Working with Transgender Individuals"-- which can be found here, amongst their other amazing publications.
Creating access is a priority in my life and in my healing. I chose my school program, because it's foundation is self education and free medicine. I don't take either lightly- and think its all meant to be shared, accessed and available.
8. Support-- don't be afraid to ask for this. people love you. and want to see you healthy, whole and happy. and frankly most of us adore being asked to play a supportive role to folks we love. support could include a good group of friends who you can call on, a specific group that meets to exchange health dialouge- in real life or online, or a verbalized commitment from lovers and family to support health and healing as a priority.
this extends to sharing. let your stories be known. this has obviously been a huge and perhaps risky and revealing way for me to do such (the scorpio in me worries I have no more secrets to tell) --- but i have recieved SO much positive feedback and support to keep pushing me on, and my story has so evolved and spiraled into its own form. I know myself so much better because of it, which is immeasurable to my healing process.
I am still not sure how to blend all this together-- when I read through it, it feels a bit all over the place-- bit of this and that- tangents and sub tangents-- perhaps, a bit like me and my process: gathering all the pieces and inspirations and trying to make something of them. trying to share. trying to give meaning. it's a lesson in self-acceptance, vulnerabiltiy... and willingness.
whew!!! damn. um, what else can i possibly say? thank you for reading. and let me know your stories in healing your creative selves.
i have this incredible love and appreciation of seeing plants in all their forms and incarnations. I especially feel a tenderness in putting plants to rest in my garden at the end of their growing season. The perennials, I can trust with great faith and respect, will come back around, after their time of deep slumber and darkness. and the annuals, i ceremoniously compost, sometimes with sadness and longing in my heart, but knowing that they will shift, morph and tranform into some dank richness, something to build from, wisdom and knowing, rooted in possibility . i love what plants teach us. god, how many metaphors could i make here?
i feel so blessed to have such beautiful teachers. when i am quiet enough, i hear their voice within me.
i took this picture of burdock, in a field near my house on a dreary day last week. i was struck by how radiant it felt-- a little expansive ray of light- beauty to behold in our own dark season.
plus, i've been too busy with school-work to be a blog-star, so i thought i'd tide you over with a visual.