1-9-17 Post-Christmas Slump (whether you celebrate it or not!)

Has anyone else noticed how people tend to have a big dip in their energy and mood after Christmas is over?  Anyone?  A little rally around New Year’s, some new commitments, then bleh…

Dr. Edward Bach, a London physician in the early 20th century and creator of the Bach Flower Essences had a keen sense of observation.  After all, he was not only a physician but also had specialties in homeopathy, bacteriology and immunology.  He noticed a phenomenon among his hospitalized patients that intrigued him and set him on his path toward the creation of the Bach Flower Essences.  He noticed that those patients who had flowers in their rooms seemed to recover at a much faster rate than their flower-less counterparts.  (Of course, we have to acknowledge that those patients also had people who came to visit them, bringing flowers, or cared enough about them to send flowers.  That certainly helped as well!)

Essential oils, another gift of nature quite different from flower essences yet no less powerful, also have special talents for improving well-being.  One of the “super powers” of essential oils is their ability to pass directly from the olfactory bulb (nervous system smell receptor) to the amygdala (part of the limbic brain related to storage of emotion), which can also affect the equilibrium of the hypothalamus.  This is why an aroma can instantly stimulate a memory or shift a mood.

So what does this have to do with a post-Christmas slump?  One of the signals for the start of the holiday celebrations for many who observe Christmas is getting and putting up the Christmas tree.  The procurement of the tree, dragging it home, setting it in the base, trying to get it leveled, putting water in the base, pulling out the ornaments from their storage place, arguing the various merits of different ornaments or different decoration styles.  These are all memories that, for me, go way, way back.  Maybe yours are different.  But what permeates this event is the “evergreen smell.”  Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas or don’t put up your own tree, you can’t escape that smell if you shop anywhere during this time of year.  Depending on where you live you might smell firs, pines, spruces, or cypresses.

Pine Bach Flower Essence is for those who feel guilt, who feel they “should have done more,” “should have done it better.’  Or if you look at your January credit card bill and think: “I shouldn’t have spent so much!”  It helps us to look more objectively at the situation, make right what we need to and release the rest.

The essential oils of fir, pine, spruce and cypress have several things in common: they are antibacterial, help the upper respiratory system (which is vulnerable when the adrenals are tired), the skin, the adrenals and bone.  The adrenals and bones are ruled by the yin meridian of the Winter: Kidney.  That makes these oils excellent choices for this time of year.

If the holidays are already a tough time for you, you may be saying: ”why would I want a reminder of something that’s painful?”  Of course you wouldn’t.  And this approach may not be a good one for you.  Maybe I’ll tackle that next November in another blog post.  Then again, you could try the uplifting evergreen scents and see if they make a difference for you.

If you’re pregnant, nursing or under two years old, these recommendations are not for you right now.  (If you’re under two years old and reading this, you are precocious.  If you’re under two years old, are reading this and know what precocious means, you’re a unicorn.)  However, maybe next year, after your baby has been born, you’ve stopped nursing, or you’ve grown up a little, you can try this.

And if you live in the Northern Hemisphere: The Light Is Coming Back!  Yay!

12-21-16 Winter Solstice

Beauty is truth, truth beauty, - that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” — John Keats from Ode to a Grecian Urn

The Sun has, whether we deserve it or not, ended his sojourn in the south and is returning to us here in what we call the Northern Hemisphere, bringing Light and the promise of renewal.  The possibility that the world might come alive again and feed us.  It’s been my habit to celebrate this miracle every year and this year is no exception.  What is the exception is that this year I’ve chosen to start a practice that will last the whole year.  At least I’m aspiring to that, and I hope that putting it in writing will help me stick to it.

This year I will be engaging in a practice that I’m calling 365 Days of Beauty.  I’m looking at it as a very practical gratitude meditation.  (I have always had an eccentric definition of meditation that includes a great many things.  My definition draws from the Latin source of the word meditation, mederi, meaning "to heal.”  In whatever activity I find healing, I find meditation.)  Every day I will take a photo of something in my day, in my surroundings, that I find beautiful.  Because what could be more healing than Beauty?  The photo will be a visual prayer of thanks and an opportunity to, at least once a day, be utterly present and in a state of wonder and appreciation for the appearance of Beauty in my life and for the capacity — eyes to see, safety to observe, leisure to contemplate — to celebrate it.  (And another plus is I get to examine my ambivalent relationship to technology at the same time!)

I invite you to please join me in this simple practice.  If you’re reading this after the Winter Solstice (and it’s likely that you are) start your 365 days on an ordinary tuesday.  Or your birthday.  Or start on March 17th in honor of St Gertrude of Nivelles, patron saint of the fear of mice.  Any day will do.  Just start celebrating the Beauty of this world in large and small things; reminding yourself why it’s important to be who you are in support of the remarkable place we live.  Reminding yourself that what the Internet says is not always true — there is Beauty and Goodness in the world.  We see it all around us every day.  Let's celebrate that.

I will be posting my photos on Facebook and Instagram.  Join me!