Supporting the Liver in Spring

This article was originally published in Sentire Magazine, Issue 7:March 2019

Writing long form articles for Sentire has been deeply enjoyable, allowing me to expand on ideas of flower essences interweaving with Chinese Medicine and the seasons. This article covers the Spring season, which is joyous, but also with challenges that our flower essence allies and acupressure can help us with. Enjoy!

Is there anything more remarkable than seeing a dandelion growing through a tiny crack in pavement?

A more inhospitable environment is hard to find, yet the dandelion seed manages to strike a root into the earth to grow lush green foliage up into the sunlight. This springtime feat illustrates the power of life force, and provides an example of the energetics of the Liver as described in Chinese Medicine.

In the Spring, the Liver qi rises strongly with all the energy and enthusiasm of the season. When the body and emotions are clear and healthy, this energy can do its job of providing impulse and direction. When the Liver energy is out of balance or blocked, the result is irritability and frustration, even a sense of depression. Without the guidance of the Liver, you cannot plan your future or organize your daily life. It behooves us to support healthy Liver qi in this season so we can ensure good physical and emotional health, and make the most of the year ahead.

The relationship between the emotions and the health of the body is a two way street. Each of the organ systems has a related emotion. Any emotion that is very strong or long lasting can negatively affect an organ, and an organ out of balance may manifest in a disrupted emotional state.

In Chinese Medicine, five of the Organ systems are considered to be homes for spirits, which can each be understood as aspects of consciousness. Each spirit provides a higher perspective on the function of the affiliated organ, and when functioning well, guides the person in the fulfillment of their purpose or life mission.

The Shen is the spirit that resides in the Heart. We can think of this spirit as our consciousness, and our link to the wisdom of Heaven. When the Shen is fully at home and awakened, you will feel inspired and vibrant. Your eyes and complexion will be clear and luminous. This spirit is supported by and gives direction to the other four spirits, and is the liaison between you and Heaven.

The Spirit of the Liver is called the Hun, and provides the Shen with inspiration, creativity, life force and a sense of direction. The Hun (pronounced hoon) helps in maintaining emotional balance by preventing the repression of emotion as well as managing emotional excess. When emotions are routinely blocked or repressed, the qi of the Liver stagnates and disrupts the Hun. When the Hun is disturbed, you’ll feel irritable and angry. This anger is often repressed, misdirected, and may build up into indignant outbursts. Over time, depression may develop.

An important function of the Hun is to support sound and peaceful sleep. My Chinese Medicine practitioner, Sean Fannin, describes it as an anchor which allows the boat of your spirit to float calmly in sleep. Your dreams can then provide insight and guidance to your soul.

Another element of Hun disturbance is a loss of direction in life.

When you are disconnected from your inner guidance and vision you’ll feel aimless and ineffective. When the Hun is in balance, you can think clearly and strategically thereby supporting your ability to make decisions and plan your future. In her book Five Spirits, Lorie Eve Dechar states “…(the Hun carries) the insights and intuitions of the Shen into the realm of matter and manifestation by creating a course of action and deciding on priorities. They give us a sense of direction and a vision for our life.”

Clearing a Lifetime of Stuck Liver Qi

I was raised in a profoundly repressive environment where children were never allowed to express themselves. My parents were members of a fundamentalist doomsday cult, and obedience to authority in the home was strictly enforced with corporal punishment. As I grew up, I was thoroughly conditioned to be pliant and agreeable. I never learned how to set a boundary or express my wishes, and knew into my bones that it was never, ever ok to show anger.

My recovery has been a lifelong process, but I am embodying more and more of who I am every year. Learning to connect to the life force of the Liver, and developing a relationship with this powerful and seemingly dangerous energy, is a significant part of my healing, and is a big part of my work as a flower essence practitioner helping women (and even a few men) to recover their vitality and sense of purpose in life.

While my experience was extreme, many women experience cultural and familial conditioning to repress the life force of the Liver. Women are encouraged to smile, be nice, and placate those in authority roles. Those who don’t obey these unwritten rules are described in extremely unflattering terms and shamed into submission.

Learning to connect to your vital Liver qi, and restoring the guidance of the Hun, has myriad benefits. You will feel relief when years of bottled emotion is allowed to flow, and when you set healthy boundaries there will be space to feel safe, recognized and valued. The miasma of depressive energy lifts, connecting you to your natural vitality and life force.

But first, you must encounter the paper tiger of anger.

Fear of Anger

The sensation of Liver qi rising can feel overwhelming if you’ve never developed a relationship with it. When it has been methodically repressed, it becomes stronger in an effort to break down the blockage. It can feel like a destructive, overpowering force when it is not permitted to flow.

Liver qi is strong and pulsing, pushing all obstacles out of its way. When Liver qi is thwarted the sensation is of profound frustration. When your Liver qi rises, you will feel a powerful force rising up in your body. This force can be channeled into taking action, setting a boundary, or speaking out.

If you have never learned to use this energy, it may feel dangerous.

My clients who had a parent who “blew up” in anger, or who acted violently, recognize this energy in themselves as a threat and prevent it from flowing. They may repress this flow of qi so completely that their Hun cannot provide its qualities of guidance and inspiration.

In order to reconnect with this life force, it helps to develop a better relationship with anger.

I admire Karla McLaren’s description in her book The Language of Emotions. She describes anger as our honorable protector whose function is to maintain healthy boundaries.

I have had many interesting conversations with clients when I’ve introduced this idea of anger as protector, which can seem strange at first. If you’ve always thought of anger as being a negative emotion, it is very easy to judge it as a bad thing. Following this logic, you would believe “good” people would not express “bad” emotions. Many of us have been trained to repress, and deny we ever feel, these negative emotions.

If you start to explore the concept internally, and reflect back on the times you have felt angry, I think you will discover some version of a boundary violation in each circumstance. By learning to use this energy, this anger, in a skillful way, you can stand up honorably and set a clear boundary. Anger gives you the backbone to stand up for yourself and for others when a wrong is being committed.

Learning to Work with Anger Safely

A fear of anger is completely understandable. When it has been unacknowledged and repressed for a lifetime, anger can feel like an uncontrollable and destructive force that, if unleashed, would result in disaster.

Many of my clients cannot talk about their anger, and feel overwhelmed even to think about it. Going very slowly and letting my client set the pace is an essential part of the process. Offering powerfully catalytic essences to stimulate the release of anger would be unethical and inappropriate, and profoundly distressing to the client.

Building up a sense of safety and containment with gentle and supportive essences is a good start, along with gentle reminders that eventually, with support, she’ll be able to connect to this source of vitality and life force. As a component of a structured formula, we can begin to touch and release the bottled up emotions in a contained way.

One useful warning to anyone embarking on the flower essence process is to understand emotional clearings. If a client is unfamiliar with how flower essences work, she may expect that her uncomfortable emotions will dissipate, never to return. This is often the short term result for clients, and when they start to feel unwanted emotions again, they report that the essences have stopped working. I reassure them that the essences have strengthened their system and given them the resources to now allow this emotion to flow, and that this is a process with great benefit at the end.

I explain that an emotional clearing is an intense experience, and may feel overwhelming, like a sudden violent storm. But I was taught, and my experience has shown, that these emotional clearings are limited to a couple of days, and once they have passed, the sense of relief and lightness is dramatic. I recommend having Five Flower formula on hand and to take it, even as often as every few minutes, to aid and ease the process. Other crisis type formulas can be used instead – I love Soul Support from Alaskan Essences and Terra from Bloesem Remedies for this purpose.

Flower Essences for Anger

Holly (Bach) is always a good starting point to clear excess emotion. Whenever emotions become too strong or uncontained, Holly can assist in settling the Shen and supporting the Hun in maintaining emotional balance. Holly is a broadly applicable remedy, and I find it helps to connect to the heart and find compassion for yourself and for others.

Closely affiliated with the energy of the Liver is Dr Bach’s Impatiens. This essence is well known to smooth irritability and frustration, both signs of stuck Liver qi. This essence was Dr Bach’s type remedy, and the description from Julian Barnard’s book Bach Flower Remedies Form and Function states “ The positive aspects: gentle, balanced and relaxed. And the down side of the personality? — tense, irritable and impatient.” This description accurately defines the Liver qi in smoothly flowing state and in a stagnant or blocked one.

Scarlet Monkeyflower (FES) is an excellent choice for a fear of anger. This essence speaks to the balancing qualities of the Hun, that it is neither healthy to repress emotion or to express it in an extreme way. Offering Scarlet Monkeyflower flower essence can help in cases where skillfulness in expressing forceful opinions or creating boundaries has never been developed.

Easing Frustration and Learning to Set Boundaries


Clearing stuck energies is a year round task of the Liver, but the force is particularly strong in the Spring. The flower essence of Trifoliate Orange (Flora of Asia) clears emotional and energetic congestion, along with any stagnant energies or beliefs that prevent you from living in flow. There is an interesting correlation with Chinese Medicine food recommendations in that sour flavors like citrus are considered beneficial for the Liver.

Beech (Bach) helps to smooth out prickly irritability. I find this essence to be very helpful for women who experience emotional irritation around their menstrual cycle, a classic sign of blocked Liver qi. Beech helps to smooth out the jagged edges, helping them recognize the origins of the emotions they are feeling, so they can begin to make internal changes and learn to better support themselves.

Willow (Bach) is indicated when the qi has been blocked and resentment, and a sense of victimhood, has set in. There is a stuckness and inflexibility to the mental state, a heaviness that resists acceptance of what is. The surface expression of irritation may have sunk into the body, flaring inflammatory or arthritic symptoms.

I find Artemesia (Flora of Asia) to be invaluable when life refuses to go according to plan. This essence eases frustration and helps you make peace with what’s actually happening. This is the essence for our inner child’s temper tantrum.

Rock Water (Bach) is often indicated for cases when the Liver qi is not flowing smoothly. The rigidity of the Rock Water type manifests in tension both mental and physical, preventing the easy movement of qi and emotion. The essence is made from naturally flowing spring water, making it a obvious good fit for modeling flow through obstacles.

Setting boundaries is a valuable life skill.

So often, “nice” people are secretly angry that others walk all over them, harboring resentment under a smiling exterior. China Rose (Flora of Asia) can help you learn to lovingly set a boundary. After all, no one can respect a boundary that you never set.

Poison Oak (FES) is an essence for those who tend to set boundaries in a reactive, even hostile manner. This essence can be very helpful in moderating this tendency and helping them feel safer in interactions with others.

Flower Essences to Support Vision and Drive

The Liver gives creative drive, the ability to plan and strategize, and the resolve to execute and achieve success. We can support these aspects of the Liver with essences to guide our intentions for the Spring, and the coming year.

If you are unsure of asserting yourself, and concerned that you could overwhelm the will of others, Golden Larch (Flora of Asia) provides a moderating influence. This essence helps you tap into your will forces, while staying connected to the wisdom of your heart.

To lead wisely, you must be willing to take considered risks. The Japanese Alder (Flora of Asia) helps you connect to inner guidance and take concrete action to achieve your goals.

Developing Courage and Resoluteness

Without the energy of the Liver running smoothly, we become indecisive and easily discouraged. Borage (FES) provides a gentle encouragement to help you meet the challenges of life.

If you have ever lived near wild-growing blackberry, you won’t have any trouble imagining it’s qualities as a flower essence. Blackberry (FES) offers the qualities of resolve and overcoming obstacles. In the garden it grows through, over, and around everything in it’s path, resisting all efforts to manage it.

Acupressure Points for Spring

Giving yourself the gift of regular acupressure will greatly assist your physical and emotional wellness year round.

I find it especially important in the Spring, as any blocks to healthy flowing Liver qi will be exacerbated, resulting in the unpleasant emotional symptoms of frustration and irritability as well as flaring of any physical issues. In Chinese Medicine physical pain is considered to be caused by stuck qi in the body, so helping your Liver qi flow will ease symptoms of soreness or stiffness. Apply your chosen flower essences or formula to your fingertips, or directly on the point, for added focus and intention to your acupressure routine.

Regular acupressure on Liver 3 (LIV 3) can do much to support the smooth healthy flow of your Liver qi. LIV 3 is a calming point that relieves frustration and repressed anger. General irritability and tension will also be eased, and this is an important point to relieve physical pain.

The Gall Bladder channel is paired with the Liver, and it is useful to move the qi in these “downstream” points to help clear the way so Liver qi can flow well. Two points that are easy to find and use are Gall Bladder 21 and 20.

Gall Bladder 21 (GB 21) is found on the upper slope of the shoulder, about 2/3 of the distance from the base of the neck to the shoulder. If you feel the muscles in this area, you will feel a seam between the muscles that run on the front side and the back side between the shoulder and neck. You will likely find a sore spot if you palpate between these muscles, indicating you have found GB 21. Gently hold this area with your fingertips, and allow the qi to flow. Acupressure on this point eases neck and shoulder stiffness and pain and relaxes tension.

Gall Bladder 20 (GB 20) is found at the base of the skull. Reach your fingertips behind your ears, and find the soft hollow right below the bone at the base of the skull. Nodding your head gently will help you find the right spot. Apply acupressure by pressing slightly up and inward to the center of the head. This point is excellent to relieve tension headaches and a stiff neck.

In Harmony with the Seasons

Our modern world and the technology all around us are both a blessing and a source of disconnection and stress. Learning to cultivate your inner landscape in harmony with seasonal rhythms will bring you more ease and smooth challenging passages. Each time I ground my consultations in the reality of the greater cycles of the natural world, my clients find meaning and a deeper connection with Nature.

Drawing correlations with the energy of each season and learning how seasonal cycles affect your inner world help you reconnect to your relationship to Nature.

If you would like help navigating the flower essence process, I welcome you to get in touch. I offer private consultations and custom flower essence formulas tailored precisely to your needs.

Qi and Flower Essences: Through the Lens of Chinese Medicine

First appearing in Sentire Magazine, Issue 6:January 2019

I was delighted to write this article for Sentire to present my ideas and a theory of how flower essences may work, informed by my study of Classical Chinese Medicine. This article highlighting essences for Winter is first of a series discussing the challenges of each season and how flower essences can support us.

What are flower essences and how do they work?

This question has always been one of the trickiest to answer, and many of the existing theories of how flower essences work don’t feel sufficient. Everyone who has experienced the healing effect of flower essences knows they work, but how?

The typical scientific explanations involving chemical interactions with the brain or body chemistry are moot when you are looking at flower essences, which have no chemical components to create an effect. Examining flower essences through the lens of Classical Chinese Medicine offers a fresh perspective and can help create a new theory of the workings of these elegant remedies.

My flower essence practice predates my study of Classical Chinese Medicine (CCM); I became a certified practitioner through Jane Bell and the Alaskan Flower Essence Project in 2008. Later, studying with Diana Thompson, I learned the fundamentals of CCM theory, pattern assessment, and acupressure for horses. Learning to see health through this lens opened my mind to the vibrant interaction between an individual and their inner and outer environments. Ever since, I have been actively seeking points of intersection and finding ways to meld my flower essence practice with my understanding of CCM.

One book in particular gave me an idea of a new theory to explain how flower essences work. Written by Dr Daniel Keown, “The Spark in the Machine” creates a bridge between the thousands of years of observed knowledge of Chinese Medicine and modern Western science. A medical doctor and acupuncturist, Dr Keown has formulated a theory that explains the workings of acupuncture.

One of the foundational concepts in Chinese Medicine is qi (also spelled chi). Qi is routinely translated in English as energy, but this is a simplification that misses a lot of nuance. One of the most challenging aspects for the Western mind to learn Chinese Medicine theory is to think in a non linear way. Each word or concept has many layers, and each element is perpetually interacting with the whole.

I think of qi as life force. Qi moves, energizes, and is intelligent. It guides all the processes of life, from growth to healing and the maintenance of the body. Dr Keown’s theory is that qi is the missing link in the Western scientific understanding of life. Science can observe the healing process, but can’t explain how it works – how tissues knit, how the body can restore itself after injury or surgery. Equally mystifying is the process that guides embryonic development. A body is composed of chemical components and building blocks, but what guides the process of deciding what part goes where? How does the embryo go from undifferentiated stem cells to a fully functional body?

Dr Keown believes qi is this factor, that qi is the intelligence that guides the formation of the body from embryonic stages all through the life span. And, as is well understood to practitioners of CCM, lifespan is determined not by years on a calendar, but the strength or depletion of the qi. When the qi declines, the body declines and lifespan is shortened.

There is a continuum of qi, with the peak qi guiding and energizing the embryonic stage. Qi guides the staggeringly complex process that begins with a single fertilized cell, which develops into a fully functioning infant independent of the mother, with perfectly working organs, bones, tissues, and nervous system. As the child matures into adolescence, to adulthood, and eventually into senior years the qi gradually depletes and the body no longer heals from injury or disease as quickly, and generally loses vitality.

Therefore, qi can be understood as the intelligent force that directs the growth, restoration and healing of the organism, at its peak strength in early development, and declining over the life of the individual. Is it not too great a stretch to think this is the case for all life, including plants?

In the life of a plant, as with a human, the moment of peak qi is at fertilization, where the ovum is pollinated and the embryo (seed) forms. As gardeners everywhere know, this moment is when the plant is in flower. This is the critical moment that determines whether you will have a harvest or not. The attractiveness of a tree or plant in full bloom is undeniable. Perhaps we have always been drawn to the vibrancy of the flowers because we intuitively recognize the energy within them.

The process of flower essence making occurs when the plant is in peak flower, in bright clear conditions that also favor pollination. I have sat with many essence bowls and watched bees pollinate the flowers floating in the water. What if Dr Bach was responding to an intuitive sense of the perfect time to connect with the peak qi?

If this is the case, I believe the flower essence contains and is imprinted with the most potent form of the qi of the plant. This qi carries the vibrational signature, the intelligence and full blueprint of all the qualities of the plant. And, as the qi has intelligence, it can interface with the qi of the person taking the flower essence and promote healing.

The Mind-Body Connection

In the practice of Chinese Medicine, the entire person is considered. Physical symptoms are not more or less important than the emotions or mental processes. Each factor is related, and an imbalance in any part affects the health of the whole. Emotional or mental imbalances negatively impact related organ systems, and unhealthy organ systems can affect the mind and emotions as well.

Dr Bach’s inspiration to connect the state of the mind and emotions with the patient’s physical health was an extraordinary leap for a Western physician of the time. Even today, Western medicine barely recognizes these concepts in theory, and rarely in everyday practice. But for more than three thousand years, Classical Chinese Medicine doctors and herbalists have practiced medicine that integrates the mind and body into one whole.

With this understanding of the interlinked emotions and organ systems, we can see how using flower essences to balance emotions can benefit the health of the body.

Flower Essences to Support the Mind-Body in Winter

Each organ system has a season that is most challenging, and in winter the Kidney needs support from the negative influence of the cold. The Kidneys are the home of your vital forces and of your will to live. The symptoms of aging and lack of vitality are seen as a sign of the depletion of the Kidney qi.

The stresses of modern life also deplete our vital Kidney qi. Exhausted adrenals from chronic anxiety, poor or insufficient sleep, and reliance on stimulants such as caffeine are all challenges to long term health. Consider supporting your health this winter with flower essences and acupressure.

Flower Essences to Support the Kidney

The emotion associated with the Kidney is fear. Like all the emotions, it has a purpose and a place, but any emotion in excess will deplete and cause imbalance in the health. Fear is useful to get us out of dangerous situations, but chronic anxiety or PTSD causes negative impacts on both physical and mental health.

Any essence that helps to relieve fear and anxiety will rebalance the entire system for health. Other flower essences that can influence the Kidney qi are those for exhaustion, adrenal depletion, and the feeling of being “tired and wired”.

Olive (Bach)
When you are deeply depleted, call on Olive flower essence to help you rebuild. This long-lived tree thrives in hot, dry climates, producing large crops of nourishing fruit rich in oil. The flower essence offers restorative energy to counter prolonged exhaustion and overwork.

Mimulus (Bach)
One of the primary essences for fear, Mimulus soothes anxieties that are easily defined. In cases of recurring traumatic response, you are likely to know what triggers you. Taking Mimulus will help to ease the adrenaline spike and your fear response.

Round Leaf Vitex (Flora of Asia)

Modern culture applauds those who work long hours and give 110%. Unfortunately, neglecting your need for rest on a regular basis will result in a deeply depleted state. Round Leaf Vitex soothes dry, depleted nerves and helps you learn to listen to your body, so you can avoid exhaustion and find better balance.

Holly Grape (Flora of Asia)

If a child grows up in an environment that doesn’t feel safe, she will be constantly in a state of high alert. This survival strategy eventually results in adrenal fatigue and exhausted nerves. Holly Grape flower essence resets the alert, signaling a state of safety and activating the restoration response.

Banyan Tree (Jane Bell Essences)
Overuse of mental forces creates a disconnect from the body and with it, your sense of groundedness and safety. Banyan Tree essence helps you come back into your body, rebuilding your roots and connection to the earth. Restoring this sense of connection activates the restorative response and gives your overworked mind a rest.

Strong Kidney energy is also needed for the will to live. Without the direction and wise guidance of Kidney essence, loss of focus and indecision sets in and you will be unable to accomplish goals. Fortunately many flower essences are beneficial for this condition and can help set you back on a path to vitality and connection to purpose.

Wild Oat (Bach)
The flower essence of Wild Oat reconnects you to your sense of purpose. This essence is broadly applicable as so many people lose their way in life and need to find their inner compass again.

Oak (Bach)
One of the characteristics of the Oak personality is to be the one everyone looks to for help. In being everything to everyone, there is a great potential for depletion and over-extension. Use Oak flower essence to develop the ability to delegate authority, helping you find more time for restorative self care.

Shillong Rose (Flora of Asia)

The vigorous Shillong Rose teaches focus and perseverance in the pursuit of a goal. Taking this flower essence strengthens your connection to purpose, and helps you stick to your intention even when it becomes challenging or difficult.

Kobushi Magnolia (Flora of Asia)

The Magnolia family speak to the core issue of incarnation and what you are here to do. The flower essence of the Kobushi Magnolia restores your connection to life purpose when family or culture have forced you in other directions.

Penstemon (FES)
I think of Penstemon as an essence to access fortitude despite obstacles life may put in your way. Taking this flower essence helps you develop inner strength and a connection to will guided by wisdom.

Taking flower essences multiple times a day over a period of weeks or months has long been the standard of practice. When you are working with issues that have been with you a long time, I think a good starting point is Bach’s guideline to take an essence for one month for each year you have had the issue. You are likely to experience relief much sooner, but in order to fully shift and stabilize in a new balance I recommend at least six months use of these foundational essences.

As a practitioner, I often teach my clients to add in benefit by combining their formulas with self-help acupressure techniques. They find acupressure to be easy to integrate into their routines and offer one more tool they can use everywhere they go. You can forget your flower essences at home, but you won’t forget your fingers.

Acupressure – How To

Qi flows through the body in known pathways called meridians or channels, and each one carries a certain quality of qi affiliated with a particular organ system, such as the Kidney or Liver. The qi comes up to the surface and can be influenced at these locations known as acupuncture points. These points are generally found in little dips or hollows in the skin. Descriptions of how to find a point are guidelines to direct you, but the precise location of the point will vary from individual to individual, and even may move a little on a person over time.

To learn to feel for a point, imagine yourself at a farmstand choosing ripe peaches. As you pick up a peach, you run your fingers gently over the skin to feel if it has any bruises before you buy it. Using this same type of touch over your skin will allow your fingers to drop into the little hollows of the points, which can feel a little like a peach with small bruises. The points may be very small, often smaller than a thumbtack, but you can learn to feel them with a little practice. If you slowly run your fingertips over the area where the point is expected to be, you may find your fingers stopping in the same spot more than once. It is as if there is a certain magnetic factor to the points your fingers will connect to without your conscious knowing. Trust this and begin acupressure.

Using the Three Regulations

I was trained in a Classical style of acupressure with the focus on connecting to and influencing the qi, rather than the use of actual pressure intended to activate nerve endings. Using a type of qi gong process called the three regulations improves the quality of your acupressure and enhances the benefits. The three regulations are of the body, the breath, and the mind.

Regulate your body simply by finding a comfortable position to practice your acupressure. If you are straining to hold a point or in an awkward pose it will be very hard to breathe and your body cannot relax. Either of these situations do not allow free flow of qi.

Regulate your breath by breathing continuously, deeply into the belly, and releasing fully. The breath should be steady, without holding at either the top or bottom of the breath. This type of breathing will help the qi of the point to flow smoothly.

The most challenging regulation is of the mind. I find that by paying attention to my breath, and noticing the sensations under my finger as I hold the point helps me to keep my mind from running off and going through my list of to-do’s. Of course, some days this is easier than others.

Acupressure Points to Support the Kidney Qi

Kidney 1
Kidney 1 is called Bubbling or Gushing Spring, and is the first point on the Kidney channel. This point tonifies (strengthens) the Kidney qi and calms the Spirit. This point is very helpful for anxiety and over-activity of the mind.
Find Kidney 1 on the sole surface of the foot. Flexing the foot, find the hollow just behind the ball of the foot, on the line of the second toe.

Kidney 3
Continuing with the water imagery which describes core qualities of Kidney qi, Kidney 3 is called Great Stream. The source point for the Kidney channel, this point is the place of the most pure and high quality Kidney qi. Acupressure on this point strengthens the Kidneys and is helpful in resolving any of the anxiety issues related to depleted Kidney qi.
Find Kidney 3 on the inside of the ankle. Locate the most prominent area on the inside of the ankle bone, and slide back towards the achilles tendon. You will find a hollow between the ankle bone and the tendon.

Governing Vessel 4
This point, called Vital Gate, is one of the most important points in building up the strength of the body and general vitality. It is used to strengthen the Kidneys and essence. This point is very useful in maintaining health and strength during the challenging winter months.
Find Governing Vessel 4 on the line of the spine, on the lower back, at the level of and just below the navel. You may use the cupped palm of the hand to activate the qi of this point.

Integrating Flower Essences with Acupressure

Taking flower essences by mouth is a way to instantly introduce the vibrations of the flowers into the energy field of the entire body. My Tai Chi master taught me to touch the tip of my tongue to the roof of my upper palate, right behind the teeth, in order to complete the circuit of the two flows of energy running up the the back of the body and down the front of the body on the midline, known as the Governing Vessel and the Conception Vessel, respectively. These two meridians operate outside the organ system channels, and maintaining healthy flows of qi in these two meridians is key to health and vitality.

As you take your essences, take a few moments to make this energetic connection. Remember your intention for healing to direct the qi of the essences, and pay attention to the energy flow in your body.

Adding flower essences to acupressure is another way to work with the energy. Simply putting a drop of essence on the point or on your fingertip as you begin acupressure can add a layer of targeted healing energy. I recommend you experiment with different essences as some may be more aligned with your qi than others. Chinese Medicine has been around for thousands of years, and flower essences for about a century, so it is safe to say it is early days for these recommendations. Fortunately, flower essences and acupressure are gentle, so you can feel free to play and see what works for you.

Recommended Reading

The Web That Has No Weaver, Ted Kaptchuk

Bach Flower Essences and Chinese Medicine, Pablo Noriega

Floral Acupuncture, Deborah Craydon and Warren Bellows

Flower Essences for You & Your Pets | Class at Gathering Thyme

Rescue Remedy for horse

Pets bring such joy to our lives and homes, but modern life can be as challenging for them as it is for you. Living in noisy urban environments and spending long days alone at home can create stresses that result in behavioral problems. This class is designed to help you support your pet with the safe, gentle, natural healing of Flower Essences.

Class Date:

Sunday, November 10th, 2019
1-4pm
$45 pre-registered, $50 at the door

Register Here

Location:

Gathering Thyme
1447 4th Street
San Rafael, CA 94901

The natural sensitivity of animals offers us an opportunity to watch how quickly energies and patterns can shift, and can help us connect to our own natures as well. Our pets will often mirror us, and quite often flower essences that benefit our animals will be indicated for us as well.

Topics will include:

What does stress look like in an animal?

Learning to spot signs of emotional discomfort before they turn in to problems

Supporting the sensitive animal

Improving communication and the relationship between you and your pet

Flower essences to relieve stress and help you both feel better

Ways to easily integrate flower essences into your life, and your pet’s life

Welcoming Fall with Flower Essences | Class at Gathering Thyme

Learn how Flower Essences can help support you as the season shifts from the expansive energy of summertime towards the quiet reflection of winter. Fall is the midpoint as the energies change course, flow inward, and create an opportunity to review the growth of the year.

Class Saturday September 14th, 2019
1-4pm
$45 pre-registered, $50 at the door
Sign Up Here

Location:
Gathering Thyme
1447 4th Street, San Rafael, CA 94901

In Chinese Medicine, Autumn is the season of the Lung, and the affiliated emotion is grief. Fall can stimulate an emotional reckoning of the losses that take place in all lives, whether you have lost a loved one, or have lost an old way of life by graduating, moving or changing jobs. Every change is a type of loss, and flower essences can help you heal on deep levels so you can integrate your experience into a wiser self.

Topics will include:

Understanding the seasons through the lens of Chinese Medicine

Recognizing the shifts in our bodies and spirits as the seasons change

Flower essences specific to the season – essences for grief, loss and change

Acupressure points to support healthy flow of qi and benefit the Lung

Letting Go of Perfectionism

flower essence for perfectionism

Last week I was delivering an order of floral mists to a local boutique that carries my line. I had intended to bring them by a few days earlier but wasn’t able to. I walked in feeling a little bad that I wasn’t fulfilling expectations and not doing enough. During my short chat with the owner she thanked me for being so on top of things.

It turns out she has other vendors who are much less responsive and slow with orders. As I heard this, I was wondering why I was being so hard on myself. While I strive for excellence, perfection is not realistic. It occurred to me that for the most part, we are being graded on a curve. Shouldn’t that change the internal conversation a little?

Fear of Not Being Good Enough

Growing up, I was constantly in fear of failing at school. I generally got good grades, but was always certain that failure was right around the corner. The next chapter or subject was going to be the limit, I wouldn’t be able to understand the material, and I would fail the test. I’d be left behind, ashamed, a failure. Very early in life I developed the ability to spin the worst possible scenarios. It’s like a superpower.

Somehow none of this ever actually happened, but the fear was always there. The fear of being judged against a standard of perfection and coming up short was always at the back of my mind. I think a lot of us were subjected to motivation by fear in this way, because the system is certain you would never bother to put in an effort to learn if you weren’t scared of some form of academic punishment.

And there is a part of me that thinks if I allow myself to let go of being perfect I will just slide down the slippery slope of carelessness, incompetence, laziness, or one of the other deadly sins. Really? Is that really likely? Do I really care so little about my work, my family, my life? If I take a breath and think a little, it seems quite clear that doing my best is really good enough. Really good is a perfectly acceptable place on the curve.

Accepting myself as a perfectly imperfect human is part of my process, and probably part of yours too. Whenever I slip into self-judgement or fear of failure, I call on my flower allies to help me connect to a greater sense of self acceptance and self kindness. 

Flower Essences for Self Kindness

The Lady Banks’ Rose

This gloriously vigorous rose has the most beautiful little flowers, is wildly fragrant, and blooms early in Spring. As a flower essence, she helps you accept yourself just as you are, appreciating all your good qualities, and showing kindness with all your foibles. I use Lady Banks’ Rose flower essence in so many formulas for clients to provide nonjudgemental support and boost self-kindness.

Ussurian Pear

A star of the early Spring, this graceful tree provides a flower essence that helps you connect to the pure nature of your being. So many of us have had experiences of shaming that disconnect us from the perfection of our souls. We absorbed the messages of being bad, or wrong, or broken, and live in fear of being discovered as being *less than*. Ussurian Pear flower essence helps you put these experiences in perspective, as things that happened to us, but things that do not define who we are.

What if we started being kinder to ourselves?

What if we started treating ourselves the way we treat our friends and beloveds?

Perfection is not a prerequisite to being lovable. You really are good enough today.

Would you like help with this? I’ve helped lots of women feel better about themselves and let go of perfectionism. I’d love to hear from you so I can create a custom flower essence formula, just for you.

Nature Walks at Quarryhill 2019

flower essence to release family wounding

Experience the beauty, fragrance and splendor of wild nature growing in the garden jewel of Sonoma Valley. Quarryhill Botanical Garden is famed for its vast collection of plants from China and Japan, set in a secluded garden of tranquil ponds, gently rolling paths and scenic vistas.

March 16th, April 27th, June 8th, and July 13th 2019

Saturday mornings from 10AM to Noon

The sequence of walks has been carefully scheduled during the flowering season so participants can experience rare wild plants in full bloom. Each walk will highlight the energy of the season, from the ancient grace of the magnolias in early spring, to the exuberant and fragrant roses and colorful lilies that bloom as spring and summer unfold. Your guide, Kathleen Aspenns, will weave a rich tapestry of history, lore, botanical knowledge, and the healing gifts of the flowers during your stroll in the garden.

The fee for each walk is $15 for Quarryhill members, $20 for non-members.

Quarryhill Botanical Garden 12841 Highway 12, Glen Ellen, CA 95442

Highlights of the Seasons

March

April

June

July

Sentire Winter 2019

flower essences for winter wellness

I’m very pleased to write for Sentire Magazine. In this issue you will find my new article on flower essences to support your wellness in winter, with insights drawn from Classical Chinese Medicine.

There is so much great content in this edition of Sentire, with articles well suited to all levels of flower essence knowledge. I encourage you to download your copy and get your Nature fix from all the beauty within. Did I mention it is a visually gorgeous magazine? It is a treat during gloomy days to feast on these pages.

Sentire Issue 6 features articles about doctors working with essences within the medical profession in the UK and USA, the deeper emotional impact of using essences, essences and Chinese Medicine, new essence ranges, sacred plant medicine, ritual and ceremony, and notes from the field on essence-making.

Learn more and order your copy here:
https://www.sentiremagazine.com/issue-six

Herbal Highway Show – Flower Essences for Grief

flower essence for grief

Listen to the Herbal Highway Show October 2018

It is always a pleasure to be a guest on the Herbal Highway Show on KPFA public radio. Host Sarah Holmes and I spoke about flower essences for grief. Here in Sonoma County, CA, we are in the first anniversary of the devastating wildfires, and so many of us are still working through the profound loss of last year. Flower essences are such a great help in working through grief, helping the emotion to flow and release.
In this show we discuss many aspects of the grief experience:

  • what grief feels like in the body
  • the energetic of grief and how it relates to the season
  • flower essences for shock
  • flower essences for healing the broken heart
  • flower essences for calming the anxious mind
  • flower essences for grief

Note: there were some technical difficulties at the very beginning of the show so the feed starts a little late

The Trouble With Heroes

flower essence for change

No matter how many times you save the world, it always manages to get back in jeopardy again. I mean, sometimes I just want it to stay saved, you know… for a little bit.

I feel like the maid, “I just cleaned up this mess, can we keep it clean for 10 minutes?”

Captain Incredible

We all love heroes. Showing up at the most perilous moment, displaying enormous courage and taking great risk, the hero saves the day.

And then what?

Well, then we go back to our daily routines. The very same routines and habits that created the situation where a hero is required in order to keep us from plunging off the cliff.

A culture that glorifies heroism is a culture that is perpetually out of balance. When the little things are not attended to, waiting until there is an enormous problem that threatens our way of being…this is when we require the extraordinary measures of heroism. The huge energy output that is required for a heroic act is the complete opposite of sustainability.

This mindset is pervasive in so many aspects of our lives. We love crash diets, 6 week exercise boot camps, extreme cleanses, and weekend seminars that will “change our lives forever”! Each New Year or birthday is a trigger to turn our lives around, ideally in 30 days or less. Unfortunately, these huge (heroic!) changes and programs almost never stick.

It is just not the way real life works.

We forget that life is made of the little things, the everyday small choices and decisions we make.

We forget that we have much more in common with the trees in the garden than we do with the car coming off the assembly line. Each day, a tree takes in sunlight and exhales oxygen, and slowly, slowly, every day, grows and matures. If it is growing in a good place, it grows straight and strong, deeply rooted and productive. In the right season, it flowers, and bears fruit, and in the winter, it sleeps.

Paying attention to our bodies and spirits, cultivating our wellness through steady, gentle, and natural methods, we can avoid circumstances that require heroic actions. True change comes about slowly, organically, over time. When we plant a tree in our garden, we do not step out the next morning and expect it to have grown six feet. Neither should we expect ourselves to radically change overnight.

But change is possible, and flower essences are a wonderful guide and support for the process.

Nature has been a profound partner in my evolution, and I delight in witnessing my clients feeling the changes and shifts in their own lives. Each flower has something unique to offer, and engaging with the essences daily and over time, you too will experience the growth and healing Nature offers.

Flower Essences That Support Balance

flower essence for change
Schisandra is one of the first essences I think of when a client is seeking balance. It supports us as we navigate shifts and changes, and helps us stay grounded and calm. One woman reported her experience with Schisandra flower essence saying she noticed significant changes in herself – she had stopped over committing herself and was feeling much more rested and positive about the work she was doing.
flower essence for knowing what is right for you
I love the Five-Leaved Chaste Tree essence for its ability to help find your own path to balance. This flower essence is very helpful for those who tend to look to authorities for guidance on the best program for exercise, diet, etc. The truth is, you are a unique being with unique requirements. You may certainly find guidance in programs others have created, but the “perfect” program will be one you discern for yourself based on the wisdom in your body and spirit. This essence can help you connect to your intuition and fine tune what is needed for you right now.
flower essence to let go of old patterns
Yellow Catnip flower essence is a perfect partner as you work to illuminate the underlying issues that keep you out of healthy balance. It helps you discover unconscious assumptions you may have absorbed from your family of origin or culture that simply don’t work for you. Allowing these imprints to be released can relieve you of a huge burden you didn’t even realize you were carrying.

I created the Balance series of combination formulas out of my years of experience helping my clients find balance in their lives.

One of the three formulas is likely to be a good fit for you, and if you are beginning a self-care program with flower essences it may be easier to use an intentionally designed formula like these to address your challenge. You can learn more about selecting your essences here. And, if you would like more help, I’d love to hear from you. I offer private consultations and custom formulas just for you.

The Vulnerability of Being Seen

rose flower essence for heart healing

How would you show up in the world if you weren’t constantly doubting yourself, holding yourself back, shutting yourself down?

What impact could you make if you weren’t worried what others would think?

Letting yourself be truly seen is an act of vulnerability.

So often, we betray our true self and put on the mask of social conformity. In order to fit in, we polish off our uniqueness and compress ourselves into the mold of what is expected.

We do this because we have been shamed for being ourselves. Shaming is often used as a tool to gain compliance or obedience and is used everywhere from grade school to the office. Fortunately, we are starting to learn how damaging this is, and the culture is starting to change.

But not soon enough, for we live with the effects of this legacy. Every day, we shut down our ideas for fear they will be judged unkindly. We worry what others will think, and our inner critic constantly tells us all the ways we fail to measure up.

This sucks a lot of the joy out of life, and making any progress in your life’s work takes so much energy. What would happen if you could actually heal this?

I love to share how wonderfully flower essences can work for this issue. Taking your essences a few times a day, over time, you will experience enormous relief and release. As a practitioner, I love seeing my clients shed the weight of feeling constantly judged and criticized.

I created the Innocent formula as a self care tool so you can be empowered to start your own journey of healing.

Each flower essence has unique talents to heal elements of this experience. My work as a practitioner is to select and match flowers to individual needs. I have drawn upon my years of experience working with clients, and, in partnership with the flowers, I have created a formula to help you develop a new relationship to vulnerability and release the toxic legacy of shame.

All the rose flower essences relate to wounds of the heart.

Experiences of shame shut down your natural heart radiance, closing you in on yourself and diminishing your light.
rose flower essence for heart healing
The Wilmott’s Rose flower essence is a soothing feminine presence that holds your heart in a loving embrace. Old wounds can be held in her gentle presence and restored to wholeness.
rose flower essence for self acceptance
Another rose essence, the Lady Banks’ Rose, helps when you have a hard time accepting your imperfections. Being human is a challenging job, and we often make mistakes or fail to live up to our own ideals. This essence can help you smile at yourself, let go of your need to be perfect, and accept that we all are works in progress.
flower essence for shame
I reach for the Ussurian Pear flower essence constantly in my work with clients. This radiant light energy helps you connect to your pure and Divine nature. So many times, our life experiences leave us feeling tainted and damaged. This essence helps you recognize that these were just experiences, and nothing can touch your true self.
flower essence for self acceptance

Two lilies help to ground the formula into the body.

The fabulously orange Leichtlin’s Lily helps you to release self-judgements about your body and appearance. We are all constantly bombarded by marketing messages selling us products to fix our “flaws”. What if we could see ourselves as uniquely beautiful, full of character, and simply perfect as we are?
restorative flower essence
The White Lily comes up again and again in formulas, and holds a crucial role in the Innocent formula. When we have been made to feel “less than”, we feel we have to constantly be giving and serving in order to be accepted. Part of the healing process is to start giving back to ourselves so we can feel grounded and solid in the knowing of who we are.
flower essence for clearing blocks
The flower essence of the Sikkim Crabapple (research essence not yet released) shares the clearing qualities of Bach’s Crabapple, with the specific talent to release blocks caused by thoughts and ideas that not yours, allowing your soul light to flow through your life and physical body.

Each essence in the formula was carefully selected to harmonize together and create a healing field to support you in your self-care.

As you take and work with Innocent formula, you will find yourself feeling stronger and less reactive to the judgements of others, less worried about feeling embarrassed, and more loving to yourself. You will begin to see your vulnerability as a strength, a positive force for true heartful connection with others.

The world needs all of us to show up to be seen and heard, and the flowers are here to help.

If you are wanting more help, why don’t you get in touch? I’d love to hear from you, and would be happy to schedule a private session to create a unique formula for you.

Privacy and the Purple Sage Flower Essence

flower essence for privacy

What Nature has taught me about privacy.

Is there anything more relaxing than walking alone through a garden, a park, the woods? You have time to decompress, clear your mind and let go of all the little dramas after interactions with friends, family and co-workers.

Ahh. Totally alone, no one watching, free to be completely yourself.

I can confess to holding this unconscious assumption, and have more than once been startled out of my human-centric thinking by the perspective of Nature intelligence.

One of the most vivid experiences was when I met a Salvia. I was fascinated by the plant, as I knew Dan Shen to be an important herb in Chinese Medicine. But I had not yet made a connection to the spirit of the plant, as I would do before making an essence.

So, I sat down next to the group of sage plants, pulled out my notebook, and began making careful notes about the features, the growth habit, flowers and leaves. Careful observation is a good starting point when you want to start to develop an understanding of the qualities of the plant and is part of my practice as I get to know a new plant.

After several minutes of studious examination and note-taking, I heard a very clear and direct voice in my mind asking “Well, now that you have looked us over, would you like to talk?”

Chagrined, I realized I had been examining the plant and treating it as an inanimate object. Imagine someone walking up to you, never saying a word of greeting, and pulling out a hand lens and writing down details of your appearance. How rude!

Duly chastened, I apologized to the vibrant intelligence I had ignored up to that moment, and explained my interest in making a healing essence. Immediately, it began to explain how to dig up the roots and start to prepare the medicine. Then was my turn to explain that this was going to be different, and the process of co-creating a flower essence. There was a definite moment of surprise, as this sage knew very well how it had always been prepared as an herb. But, after I explained the process and intent, it was willing to try something new.

And, so we began.

Making the Purple Sage flower essence was a remarkable experience, and each time I attune with the plant I gain new understanding of the essence. I find it hard to sum up the qualities of the essence in just a few words, and each time I explain the essence to someone I describe it slightly differently.

Perhaps the best explanation comes from the plant itself. From my attunement notes:

The primary use of the essence is of throwing off undesired energies. These energies can take the form of unwanted attention, of notice when privacy will better serve.

If a person is to take our essence, several effects may be noted. The primary noting is that one feels a deeper sense of privacy, no matter how much outside stimulus there may be.

You view privacy as the mater of excluding outside influence. As you are seeing in your world – the technology today makes this an illusion. The fact is, all can be known. Secrets can no longer be kept.

Now, what is privacy in truth? When you are here in the garden do you feel privacy? Are you kidding? Living beings surround you everywhere – the attention of multiple conscious energies is always upon you. Do you you feel differently now?

So – the notion of privacy illustrates the fallacy of human illusion – the illusion that you can ever be alone, that what you do can ever be in secret. This has never been the case.

Now, we get to the point. In the world of humans, you may experience unsought attention from other humans. On some level, you draw these attentions, even though you may fear and reject them. But, they are drawn in your direction for some reason. Why would they be drawn?

Our essence can begin to clarify your field of the energies that attract the attention. In this way you will experience privacy from unwanted attention – it is more that the signaling stops drawing them in.

This concept was unfamiliar to me, but the longer I think about it the more interesting I find it. And, I think, more and more relevant to our lives as we navigate 21st century concerns about privacy and data gathering.

The lesson I take from the Purple Sage is how to dance with the reality that we are always being witnessed by Nature, and now, by human-created algorithms. But, intent is all, and benevolent helping forces surround us, waiting for us to become aware and ask for help. Now too, as participants in digital culture, we can become more aware of how our data is being collected and used – and if it is being done to serve us better, anticipate our wishes and generally be helpful, all the better. Recognizing our interconnection with all beings, and engaging with flower essences like Purple Sage in order to keep our energy fields clear to avoid attracting unwanted attentions can be a good energetic hygiene practice, in addition to more mundane practices of becoming a better informed consumer of web and social media.

Making flower essences can be an “Alice down the rabbit hole” experience, often surprising and even mind-bending. You may read more of my attunement notes from Purple Sage here. And on the more mundane level, this post was inspired by all the waves created by the GDPR and my adventures in updating my privacy policy. Rest assured in my commitment to be a good and trustworthy partner in conscious business – I appreciate your trust and engagement in this process of making the world a better place for all forms of life.

Flower Essences For Our Animal Companions

Rescue Remedy for horse

Saturday, September 22nd, 2018 – from 1-4pm

Class at Gathering Thyme

1447 Fourth Street, San Rafael, CA 94901
$45 pre-registered, $50 at the door
for information call Gathering Thyme at 415 524 8693

Would you like to learn how to help your animals with Flower Essences?

Modern life can be as stressful for our animals as it is for us. Flower Essences are gentle, safe and natural healing remedies that can help the entire family feel better, release emotional and behavioral issues, and live together more harmoniously.

This class will cover the basics of Flower Essences and what they can do, how, when and why to use them, and highlight the essences Kathleen uses most often to help her clients’ animals.

Many of the challenges our pets face have roots in early traumatic experiences, so essences for these issues will be addressed. There will be time for questions and discussion of specific recommendations of Flower Essences for the animal companions of the participants.

You will learn:

What flower essences are and how they work
How to select flower essences for your pets
Options for giving essences to any animal – from house pets to livestock or exotics

The class will cover animal applications of the flower essences from Healing Herbs and FES, and selections from Kathleen’s own essence line, the Flora of Asia.

Discussion time will be an opportunity for you to bring forward your own animal cases. Do you have an anxious dog or cranky cat at home? Together we will come up with ideas of flower essences that can help everyone feel better. (Please leave your pets at home, thanks!)