Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Positive Touch

It's obvious, yet sometimes forgotten: giving positive touch for those who are rehabilitating and healing from physical trauma can be powerful medicine.

This touch can be so simple: holding a hand, giving a shoulder rub, sweeping hair away from a face, brushing hair, placing a hand at the small of a back, scratching feet.

Just over a month ago my dad returned from the hospital (after a horrible 35-day stay). His body had been poked and prodded several times each day. By the time he was well enough to come home, his body had turned inward to protect itself: his shoulders were turned inward, his neck and head bent forward. In addition, he didn't recognize his own body: he was 20-30 pounds lighter and scarred. To a significant degree, I don't think he relates to his own body even still.

So, what can we do for our friends and loved ones who are in this place of healing? It is clear to me that positive touch can help the healing process in tremendous ways. I have given my dad Reiki and massage (and do so regularly), but I also try to just touch him when I am with him. I place my hand on his back or I connect with him by holding his foot while we watch TV.

And sometimes, I get a bit more elaborate. Last night I gave my dad an herbal foot scrub. I mixed Dead Sea salt with dried spearmint and lavender and gave him a little spa treatment in the comfort of his own living room. He had never experienced anything like this and was quite tickled (literally and figuratively) by the treatment.

Offering my dad some kind of positive touch whenever I see him is my goal. It's sometimes mysterious how my touch is contributing to his sense of healing and re-integration, yet other times the effect is clear. Sometimes I notice he smiles more or he becomes more thoughtful or his body doesn't crunch up so much.

Receiving touch enables us to connect to our bodies in profound ways. We realize we have fingers and toes after all! Being conscious of our bodies helps us learn to understand them better and listen to them more keenly. Just last night, my dad spent 10 minutes focusing on how his toes involuntarily curled when the bottom of his feet were touched! What a wonderful way to spend 10 minutes!

And remember to ask for touch when you need to focus on your own healing. You can initiate it yourself or simply ask for a close friend or loved one to help you reconnect to yourself by brushing your hair or holding your hand. Notice how this type of nurturing makes you feel.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Archetype Cards

I just purchased Caroline Myss' Archetype Cards. This colorful 80-card deck includes 74 archetype cards and six blank cards (for you to place your own archetypes).

A few days ago I chose my twelve archetype cards. The first four are universal cards we all have according to Myss: The Saboteur, The Prostitute, The Child, and The Victim. The next eight are archetypes I chose based on how I perceive myself. These eight cards represent aspects of myself that I can trace from childhood to the present day. After much contemplation, I chose the following:

The Healer
The Poet
The Artist
The Mediator
The Rebel
The Shape-Shifter
The Rescuer
The Hermit

I have these cards spread across my mantle so that each time I walk by them I can reflect on these aspects of myself. Just today, when I felt my mediator energy go astray, I looked at The Mediator card and read the words, "Respect for both sides of an argument." I felt my body relax. My shoulders dropped. I knew that I didn't need to force the mediator part of me into a certain situation. I just needed to feel respect for both sides. I love it when that happens. I felt a shift inside me without feeling the impulse to take action to "make things right" between two others.

I purchased my deck at EastWest Bookshop in my neighborhood, but I'm sure you can purchase this deck online or perhaps even at big box bookstores. If you do purchase a deck, let me know what you discover!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Bit of Emotion

When I was a student at the Brenneke School of Massage, I had the opportunity to work with Heida Brenneke, the founder and then-president of the school. I took a class from her in Autogenics, which is a relaxation technique using visualizations. Not only was the experience of Autogenics powerful for me personally, but so were Heida's words.

I remember a particular moment in the class when a student was describing neck pain and Heida guided him through some Autogenics techniques. She asked the student to make the pain bigger so that it was as large as it could possibly be. The student breathed and imagined his discomfort as a balloon getting bigger and bigger. As balloons are apt to do, it burst when it hit its limit in size. And so did the student's pain: it burst and the pain lessened.

Then she asked the student to notice any emotion residing in his neck. The student described a feeling of anger lingering in his neck and some frustration, too. As before, Heida then asked the student to imagine this anger and frustration getting bigger and bigger like a balloon. The anger was like a big red balloon, and like the pain, when it expanded to its limit it burst in a therapeutic release.

When Heida asked the student how he felt after these two exercises, he noted feeling lighter and centered. His neck pain had reduced so much it was only a tiny sensation of tension, no where near the discomfort as before. Heida then said (and I remember these words so clearly):

"I believe there is always an emotional component to physical pain. Even if there is just a little bit, only a tiny emotion there. But there
is something."

Next time you are experiencing some physical discomfort, try tapping into what emotions might be stuck in an area of your body. Does your ankle hold inflammation and also sadness? Do your shoulders hold tightness and also a feeling of burden? See if you can identify a bit of emotion hiding inside your body and attend to those emotions. See what they have to tell you, and care for them just as you would your sore muscles or achy joints.

Art piece above: "A Giving Heart," mixed media collage by Courtney Putnam.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Spring Special: Renewal

I seem to be herb-centric these days. I hope that you don't mind. I have herbs and plants on my brain and sunshine in my heart. It's no wonder then that I chose to create an herb-themed spring special called "Renewal" for this season's two-hour special.

So here's the low-down of this special should you care to partake (or even just imagine partaking):

The session begins with an herbal foot spa in my jet-powered, temperature controlled foot bath. Really, this thing is the best. I would use it every day if I had the time. A mixture of herbal essential oils of your choice may be added to the water.

While you pamper your feet, you may relax, sip some purifying lemon-water, and nibble on a healthy snack.

After this quiet time, you will receive an herbal body scrub with the use of Israeli Dead Sea salt and a combination of dried herbs (you have your choice of dried rosemary, lavender, spearmint, or rose petals). These dry elements mixed with oil create a most lovely scrub for your tired winter skin. The scrub is both invigorating and relaxing, and gives your skin a soft, healthy-looking glow.

Following the scrub, you will receive an integrative massage (with the use of herbal essential oils of your choice, of course!) to fit your needs.

Cost: $110.

I must say that offering this special is self-fulfilling in some ways: I get to smell those wonderful herbs and receive the healing benefit of the essential oils on my own skin when I scrub and massage. Just thinking about it makes me want to drink some spearmint tea and apply some lavender lotion. Perhaps that's just what I'll do right now.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Herbaceous Essential Oils

I send a big thank you to Juliet who provided such great information about herbs that grow well here in the northwest (see her enlightening contribution in the post below this one)! While I enjoy growing herbs and cooking with them often, my deep love for herbs truly emerged once I began using herbal essential oils in my massage practice. I use many of the herbs from Juliet's recommended list in the form of 100% essential oils. (Note: It's important that you use 100% essential oils if you wish to experience the therapeutic and healing effects of the herbs. Products labeled as "aromatherapy" aren't necessarily naturally derived, and while they may smell yummy, they won't affect your body in the same way as oils created from the plants themselves).

There are ma
ny ways you can use essential oils, from experiencing their therapeutic effects during a massage session to taking a bath infused with a few drops of oil to calm you before bed. An essential oil is a concentrated oil from a plant, so that little bottle you buy at PCC or Whole Foods packs a punch. You only need a small amount to experience positive effects. If you put any essential oil on your body it is important to dilute it in a carrier oil (such as grapeseed oil, olive oil, jojoba oil, etc.). Now a drop or two straight from the bottle placed on your skin in an area smaller than a deck of cards should be fine. For more information on safety using essential oils, click here.

So, now to the juicy stuff: healing properties of essential oils! I've taken three herbs from Juliet's lis
t and created a sort of "herb profile" for each based on the physical and emotional healing characteristics. I chose three herbs that aren't often chosen for my use in massage sessions. If you want more detailed information about each essential oil from Juliet's list, I recommend reading Roberta Wilson's Aromatherapy: Essential Oils for Vibrant Health and Beauty.

• • • Bergamot: The bergamot tree, a result of cross breading a bitter orange tree with a lemon tree, produces small white star-shaped flowers. The essential oil comes from pressing the rinds of the fruit. (See third picture.)

Physical healing:
  • astringent properties (great for skin problems like acne, eczema, psoriasis, shingles);
  • useful for urinary tract infections (use 3-4 drops in a bath)
  • boosts immune system for colds and flu
  • soothing for chronic fatigue syndrome
Emotional healing:
  • refreshing & uplifting
  • equalizes emotions by balancing the activity of the hypothalamus gland
  • helps relieve fear, anxiety, panic, sadness, and depression

• • • Marjoram: A bushy herb that produces pink or white flowers. Its smell is sweet and a little woody or peppery. (See second picture.)

Physical healing:
  • Soothes arthritis, muscular aches and spasms
  • increases circulation and dialates blood vessels (helps with high blood pressure and other heart conditions)
  • stimulates appetite
  • soothes upset stomach, relieves gas and constipation
  • helps with insomnia and headaches
Emotional Healing:
  • relaxes body and mind and relives anxiety
  • eases obsessive behavior and negative thoughts
  • supports during times of loneliness, sadness, or grief
  • strengthens confidence

• • • Scented Geranium: The whole plant (leaves, stem, & flowers) is steam-distilled to produce the essential oil. (See first picture.)

Physical he
  • balances hormones by stimulating the adrenal cortex
  • improves immune system function
  • helps treat gallstones and kidney stones, diarrhea, and urinary tract infections
  • eases sore throats and tonsillitis
  • helps with PMS symptoms
  • decreases fluid retention and edema
Emotional healing:
  • antidepressant effects
  • decreases anxiety and stress
  • increases sensitivity to pleasure and sensuality
  • simultaneously calms and invigorates
Feel like expanding your essential oil palate now? Essential oils work great in combination, too, so feel free to experiment to find the right balance of sweet and earthy or pungent and fruity! I'm quite fond of geranium, lavender, and marjoram together. It's soothing to the heart chakra and feels heavenly.

Happy growing, clipping, cooking, bathing, sniffing, and massaging!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Herbaceous Green Thumbing

Alright Seattle green-thumbers, it's time to think about happy green growing things. I tell you, even on gray days, playing with plants and dirt lifts my spirits. So even if the Seattle sky doesn't want to part its clouds for us right now, we can still find light and life in the abundance that's beginning to sprout from the earth.

I am lucky to know a very talented and enthusiastic green-thumber who inspires me to play with plants. Her name is Juliet Anderson and she is an architect and a master gardener in training. She is also my friend and neighbor, and she has kindly agreed to be a guest blogger for this post. I asked Juliet to write a bit about planting herbs in our region. Many herbs thrive in the northwest and they can be so easy to cultivate for use in cooking or for healing/medicinal purposes.

Without further ado, take it away Juliet!

For a gardener living in Seattle, there is nothing more rewarding than growing herbs—our climate is perfect for herb gardens. Seattle is considered a Mediterranean climate… believe it or not. Our climate of cool, wet winters and dry, warm summers is rare in the world, found only in the Mediterranean, Chile, South Africa, Eastern China, New Zealand and Western Australia. And lucky for us, most herbs are natives of these regions.

Herbs can be grown for ornamental reasons, but they are typically grown for their concentration of scent and flavor in the leaves and flowers and for a multitude of uses from aromatherapy to cooking. However, I have to reel back a beginning gardeners expectations here just a little: any herbaceous perennial will live for more than two years but doesn’t have the life span of a shrub or tree. So, snip away! Herbs respond well to regular pruning and reward you by putting on new growth. These plants will give generously but may eventually need to be replaced.

Most herbs in the garden require full sun, well-drained soil, and moderate watering. They can also do well in pots—perfect for those herbs that tend to spread like mint. If you need to use a pot saucer, fill saucers with gravel so that roots don’t sit in standing water. For plants in pots, let the top of the soil dry out between each watering (you can test this by sticking your finger in the soil). Protect your plants from desiccating wind and support tall plants by staking. And my best gardening tip: locate your herbs near a door convenient to your kitchen or near your home’s entrance for the admiration and joy of your houseguests.

Recommended species:

bee balm or bergamot (genus Monarda)
calendula (Calendula officinalis)

echinacea (genus Echinacea)

lavender (genus Lavandula)
lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)

mint (genus Mentha)

oregano/marjoram (genus Origanum)

rosemary (genus Rosemarinus)

sage (genus Salvia)

scented geraniums (genus Pelargonium)

(Stay tuned for my next post when I'll list the healing properties of these herbs and how you may incorporate herbal essential oils into your massage sessions and into your daily life!)

More about Juliet:

Juliet Hebert Anderson has held a private practice as an Architect in Washington State since 2004. A Colorado native, she has lived in the Roosevelt Neighborhood since moving to Seattle to attend the University of Washington. She is committed to volunteerism and community-building. Juliet trained to become a King County Master Gardener in 2006 and has lead the U-District Farmers Market Plant Clinic since 2007. She tends her own organic vegetable garden at the Magnuson P-patch.

Please visit Juliet's website Juliet Sketches and her burgeoning blog.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Henna and Wax and New Friends

Last night I hosted another art show at Rising Bird Healing Arts, and it was quite an event!

Kara and Hawk Jones joined me for the festivities, providing the henna entertainment. I had learned of Kara --the 1000 Faces of Mother Henna author--in the blogosphere and last night we were live and in person!

For a more complete review of the night and some pictures, visit Quiet Girl Gallery.

Thank you, Kara and Hawk! We had a marvelous time!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

What I Did During 15 Minutes of Sunshine

During a brief bit of sun yesterday (meaning about 15 minutes), I managed to plant a few spring things in the pots along my fence. Since I don't have much of a garden space where I live, I must rely on container gardening (hence the picture above).

Even in those 15 minutes of getting my hands soiled (I should call it "potting soiled"), I noticed a shift in my mood. I felt more light, open, and connected. I had forgotten how therapeutic gardening is for me, and then I read Clea Danaan's piece on spirituality and gardening on her Intuitive Gardening Blog. I find there is something very transformational about playing with earthy things and this feeling is deeply rooted in my experiences playing in the woods near my house as a kid.

Gardening is also so very physical. When I garden, I crouch and kneel and lean and thrust and balance and lift. It's hard work! In the process of planting, I feel more connected to my body and more in the present moment.

Take a look at Clea's post and perhaps you'll be inspired to think about how you feel when you work in the earth. And maybe you'll also be inspired to plant a few things during the next 15 minutes of sunshine.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

April Happenings

April is finally here and with it comes many lovely, creative opportunities and events (not to mention the general fabulousness of spring)! I hope to see you at my art show and hear from you in the form of your art and/or writing.

peace and green sprouting things,

Thursday, April 10, 6-9pm
Next week, I host my Spring Art Show here at Rising Bird Healing Arts (my home business in the Roosevelt District). The multi-talented Kara Jones will be offering henna body art to decorate your hands or feet!

I'll be showing my mixed media originals and we'll both be selling cards and prints of our work. For more information about the show (and the artists), click here.

* * * *

April 15 is the submission deadline for my next "Healing Nest" e-newsletter. Please consider submitting your writing and/or art for my spring issue. Here are the prompts:

Art Prompt: “Inner Critic”
Create a visual depiction of your inner critic. Using the art method of your choice (painting, collaging, drawing, sculpting, etc.), give your inner critic a form. Does your critic look like a human being? An animal? A pattern of some kind? When I did this exercise in my college days, my inner critic looked like a stern baseball coach. In my crayon drawing, he was blowing a whistle and pointing at me. It was freeing to see this voice of criticism in visual form; in many ways my critic lost much of its power because I “unveiled” him. I wonder what form my critic takes today. What about you?

Writing Prompt: “Dreaming Big!”
It’s time to dream big dreams. Let’s bypass those teeny-tiny wishes for now and dig up some of those Big Kahuna desires--the ones that you’ve been keeping in the back of the pantry next to the cream of broccoli soup. Dreaming big helps expand your mind, enabling you to see yourself as the marvelous, ingenious person that you are. Imagine there are no obstacles to your desires; imagine that you are free to actualize whatever it is you wish. Now freewrite for at least fifteen minutes without stopping. Let your pen move across the page with wild abandon. After your fifteen minutes are up, scan your writing looking for important key words that surfaced for you in your process. Circle these important words and re-write them on a fresh piece of paper. Feel free to post these words in your bathroom mirror or at your desk as a reminder of your deep down hopes and dreams.

Writing Prompt: The History of a Scar
We all have scars. Well, I think most of us do anyhow. Choose one of the scars on your body, whether this mark on your skin is wide and deep or microscopic in size, and write its history. Start with how the scar came to be. Recall the moment when you received this mark on your body. Record not only how you physically felt, but also what emotions or thoughts came with the experience. Remember to write down your sensory experience, too -- sight, sound, smell, taste, touch.

Now, document the life of this scar. How has it changed over time? Has it faded? Stayed the same? Are there emotions still hiding in the creases of your skin or in the depths of your heart?

Submission guidelines: Submit your art in .jpg format via attachment or as a link to your blog or Flickr account. Submit writing in the body of an email or as an attached Word document. Email submissions to cputnam@rising-bird.com and write "Spring Newsletter Submission" in the subject line. Thanks!