Posted on

Summer and the Heart

flower essence for uplifting the heart

This article was originally published in Sentire Magazine, Issue 8:June 2019

Click pdf to see as published:Sentire 8 pdf

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 Summer season, which is joyous, but also with challenges that can be helped by our flower essence allies and acupressure. Enjoy!

Early summer is a delightful time in the garden.

The temperature is pleasant, trees are blooming, and roses are in their prime. It’s easy to see the connection between this season of warmth, openness and gentle expansion and the Chinese Medicine concept of the Heart.

The realm of the heart is a frequent area of focus for all of us engaged in the study and use of flower essences. We refer often to matters of the heart, from heartache and happiness, and to the idea of the heart as a center for empathy and guidance.

The importance of the heart is also foremost in Chinese Medicine theory, as it is central to the health of both the mind and the body.

The emotion associated with the Heart is joy, and it provides residence to the Shen.

What is the Shen?

Shen is often translated into English as spirit, but can also be accurately described as consciousness or mind. The Shen is the spirit that resides in the Heart which guides and interacts with the spirits of your other organ systems, such as the Hun spirit of the Liver. When you are calm, the Shen is able to reside in the spaciousness of your Heart, providing a wise influence to guide your life, as well as maintaining the healthy function of your body. Without this organizing force, the systems of the body fall into disarray that may eventually manifest in disease. As the health of the body and mind are inseparably interlinked, there will also be mental and emotional distress, with signs such as anxiety, lack of focus, worry and even depression.

The Role of the Heart

Modern science considers the heart to be a pump that circulates the blood. The role of the Heart is much larger in Chinese Medicine, and includes the organ itself, while incorporating elements that influence the health of the entire body. The quality of the function of the Heart energy is primary to the physical and mental health of the individual – if the Heart is not calm and balanced, none of the other functions of life and health can run smoothly.

Studies in mainstream medical literature have shown that 60-90% of illnesses have stress-related components.

The Cartesian split between mind and body is becoming harder to defend, and the approach of treating physical disease as wholly unrelated to the mind and emotions of the patient leaves many people feeling hopeless.

In Chinese Medicine, the Heart is characterized as the emperor of the body. The role of the emperor is to maintain order and calm, ruling wisely and taking appropriate actions. The Heart is a calm and spacious environment and provides residence for the Shen, which then provides inspiration and guidance. The Shen and the Heart direct all functions of life, maintaining health of the body and mind.

Anything that upsets the Heart will disrupt the Shen and cause risk to health.

Factors that upset the Heart include stress, conflict, lifestyle and environment. One of the statements from classic texts is that “the Heart loathes heat”. In Chinese Medicine theory heat can be high temperatures creating heatstroke or an internally generated heat such as a fever. Heat can also be more abstract in that it describes any type of overactivity such as agitation of the mind or the emotions.

Normal emotions are experienced without injuring the stability of the Heart, but any time an emotion is too strong or long lasting there is a potential for imbalance. An emotion that stays in the body, as in cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder when a trauma is repeatedly triggered and experienced over and over, causes lasting imbalance and harms the Heart.

Working with Shock and Trauma

In normal situations, the qi is rooted securely in the body, guiding the functions of general health. In a stressful situation, the qi leaves its base in the lower body and rises into the chest and head. This is termed heat rising, and correlates to the fight or flight response of the nervous system. Heat rising feels like panic – your mind may race or freeze and you will be unable to focus or think clearly. You may have an exaggerated outward response or you may shut down and be unable to function.

If a person is generally healthy in mind and body the shock of an event can pass through and they will be restored to a normal state of calm in a relatively short amount of time.

But if the shock is repeated, or the stressful situation is ongoing, there will be an injury to the healthy function of the Heart and the Shen will be disturbed. Without healing support, the health of the body is at risk.

Using flower essences after shocking or traumatic experiences is as essential as any other type of first aid.

Five Flower Formula was created by Dr Bach for this type of situation and, ideally, should be offered immediately, and often, to support the release of the fear and trauma, creating a calm inner environment so the Shen can be restored. The Post Trauma Stabilizer formula from FES is also an excellent choice and one I often recommend to clients and friends. I advise taking any of these crisis type formulas as often as possible, even a drop every few minutes, while you are recovering from the immediate aftermath of a shock or fright. In the days and weeks following, taking these essences four or more times a day will be supportive as you rebuild your resilience. Once the effects of the immediate crisis have passed, you may follow up with targeted essences to address any lingering issues.

The Pattern of Shen Disturbance

When I first spoke with my client “Susan”, I found it a challenge to get a word in edgewise.

She spoke quickly, and recounted many of the doctors, diagnoses, and therapies she had experienced. Even though Susan had received the best of care, she was still sick and in pain all the time. As she told me her story, it became clear how stressed and miserable she was, and that she rarely felt any rest or relief.

As she talked, I gently attempted to steer the conversation to the ways flower essence therapy could help her feel better. We talked about essences to help calm her mind and ease the anxiety that kept her in a constantly stressed state.

When the body is perpetually in a sympathetic nervous system state, that of fight or flight, the natural processes of restoration and healing cannot engage.

Learning how to access the parasympathetic response (rest and digest) is essential to recovery of health, and flower essences can be an important part of the overall strategy to regain health. I advised her on breathing exercises, acupressure and holding her intention for healing as she took her essence formula. Even a few moments of calm, repeated regularly, can begin the process of resetting the nervous system towards balance and health.

Chinese Medicine recognizes Susan’s condition as a Shen disturbance. This can be caused by physical or emotional trauma of any kind, whether it occurred in childhood or more recently. The Shen is described as a flock of birds resting in a tree that fly away when startled. If the shock is severe or repeated, the Shen may not fully return home to the Heart.

Signs of Shen Disturbance

A person with an unsettled Shen will often suffer from mental agitation. This may show up as distractedness, lack of focus, poor memory and excessive talking. The nervous signs can include restlessness and inability to fully relax or sleep well, nervous irritability and startling easily. They may feel depressed, dull and tired, and worried.

Reading through this list, you may recognize Shen disturbance as a vastly common experience in modern life. Thankfully, we’re blessed with flower essences to help ourselves and our clients. For each of these signs, we have essences to help ease them, and bring our spirits back to health. In Susan’s case, in the time we worked together she developed the inner resources to see her life more clearly and was able to leave the toxic relationship that was causing her such distress. She began to make choices that supported her mental and physical health, and step by step her situation became better. Now Susan leads a life she loves, full of warmth and connection, and her physical conditions have stabilized and improved.

Flower Essences for Mental Overactivity

Delavay's Tea Olive flower essence for calm
Giant Burnet flower essence for nervousness

Dr Bach’s Vervain is a primary essence to counter signs of heat that manifest in excessive mental activity or garrulousness. The cooling qualities and general downward energetic of the remedy can calm and soothe what is a very distressing internal state.

I use Delavay’s Tea Olive (Flora of Asia) to help people slow down enough to focus and start to process their thoughts. When the Shen is disturbed, the mind races so quickly that ideas or information don’t have a chance to sink in, and concentrating is impossible. This essence brings spaciousness into the mind, helping you think clearly and calmly.

Giant Burnet (Flora of Asia) is another flower essence that is helpful to cool heat. When there is an excess of activity in the body or mind, this essence helps it to release and restore a natural state of calm. I find this essence especially helpful when the digestion is upset by the mental state.

Using gem essences with flower essences helps to anchor the desired shift into the body. Aquamarine gem elixir (Alaskan Essences) is one I reach for over and over to calm and cool the mind. Nearly everyone can benefit from this soothing essence, not only in cases where the Shen is unsettled.

Flower Essences for Nervous Agitation

When you are not able to fully rest and sleep well, it is very difficult for your body to heal and restore itself.

Japanese Beautyberry flower essence for centeredness
Tea flower essence for calm
Schima flower essence for peace

Calming down the nervous system is an essential first step in the restoration process. Fortunately there are many flower essences that guide the system into this state. In most of the formulas I create for my clients I include several essences from this category, as they are so important for healing.

Calming and centering flower essences help to secure the qi, rooting it into the body. Japanese Beautyberry (Flora of Asia) encourages your energies to remain in your center, connecting to a still place that exists no matter how chaotic your outer circumstances may be.

Members of the Theaceae family share qualities that enhance calm presence. The flower essence of Tea (Flora of Asia) calms the mind and the nerves, drawing your attention and awareness into your center.
Schima (Flora of Asia) offers a similar energy, and adds an element about healing dependency on stimulants such as caffeine. The habitual overuse of caffeine so endemic in our culture is well known to deplete the nervous system.

One of the best gem essences to calm nervous agitation is Jadeite Jade (Alaskan Essences). I love the soothing qualities of this stone, and find the essence to be deeply grounding and calming in a formula.

Flower Essences for Nervous Depression

When the Shen is disturbed, there can be a type of depression characterized by low energy, dullness, and unsettled worry. The individual will have trouble adapting to changes and lack a sense of perspective of their life.

Borage (FES) is a useful essence in so many situations, and is helpful here too. It provides a sense of stout-heartedness and gently elevates depressed Heart energies. I love Chiming Bells (Alaskan Essences) for its joyous qualities, a natural state of healthy Heart energy. Taking this essence over time will help to restore the pattern of the Heart.

All the rose flower essences work with the energy of the Heart, and can help with different aspects of restoring Shen.flower essence for uplifting the heart

Gigantea Rose (Flora of Asia) essence gives a sense of hope, a light at the end of the tunnel, buoying your spirit. There is a quality of radiant fullness this essence imparts that can remind you of your natural state, and help you find your way back. Wild Rose (Bach) can give hope and perspective to someone mired in disheartenment and worry. It remains a favorite in cultivating little sparks of joy that can build into optimism.

The loss of equanimity that comes along with Shen disturbance results in an inability to place life events in perspective.

flower essence for stability

Without the grounding influence of wisdom, even minor challenges feel insurmountable and deeply distressing. I find essences from the conifers to be helpful as they provide the perspective of ages. The conifer family is about 300 million years old and essences from these trees provide a grounded and timeless wisdom. White Spruce (Alaskan Essences) is particularly relevant in cases of Shen disturbance as it helps to re-integrate lost soul parts and restore connection to higher sources of wisdom. Yunnan Pine Pollen essence (Flora of Asia) has a potent grounding quality that stimulates release of everything non-essential so you can take stock of your situation, and then engage in aligned action.

Acupressure to Support a Calm Heart

Modern life is stressful, lives are increasingly busy, and most people are under-rested and over-stimulated. In my practice, I regularly teach clients acupressure points to support the Shen.

Developing a self care routine that involves flower essences and acupressure can create moments of calm to build on as you make the lifestyle changes that are within your power to make.

Working with just a few points each day can be beneficial in building resilience as well to the situations that are outside of your control.

In addition to taking flower essences you can integrate acupressure into your daily routine. Utilizing the three regulations of body, breath and mind (fully described in the Winter edition of Sentire 2018 article Chinese Medicine and Flower Essences) you can work intentionally with the qi flows that calm the Shen and support the Heart. You may wish to apply an appropriate flower essence (or from your formula of essences) to your fingertip as you make contact with the point.

Take up a position with your body where you can reach the point without straining, engage in deep and regular breaths, and lightly contact the point. Following the directions to find the point, gently stroke over the skin in the area and notice where your fingertip tends to gravitate. This can be a little hollow place, it may feel a little different than the other areas, or you may simply find your fingers resting in the same place each time you stroke over the area. Make a gentle contact and keep your mental focus aligned by attending to your breath and the sensations you may feel under your finger(s).

One of the points I recommend to nearly every client is Conception Vessel 17 (CV 17). This point is on a channel of qi running along the center and front of the body. Acupressure on this point has many beneficial effects that include calming the Shen and alleviating tension in the chest, allowing deeper breathing. Find CV17 by stroking the midline of the body at the sternum. Most guides list this point as at the level of the nipples, which always creates a moment of amusement for my female clients. I modify this direction by saying “the original location of the nipples”. You will know you have found the point when you start to feel your breath deepen and a sense of calm spreads through you.

Pericardium 6 (PC 6) is another important calming point. The Pericardium is considered to be the protector of the Heart, calming strong emotions and clearing heat so the Heart stays calm and the Shen is settled. PC 6 is found on the inside of each wrist. To find the point on your left wrist, bring the left palm up in front of your face. Bend your hand inwards, creating a crease at the wrist. With the right hand, place your ring finger at the level of the crease, with your middle and index fingers alongside. Your index finger will now be at the correct level of the point, simply find the center of the wrist between the two long bones that make the forearm. Spend one to three minutes here, then switch sides to work on PC 6 on the other arm.

Once you have spent some time with these points, you may wish to connect with Heart 7 (HT 7). It is the source point for the Heart channel, with a strongly calming effect on the Shen. It is indicated for all the signs of Shen disturbance such as anxiety and restlessness, poor sleep, and inability to relax. This point is a direct connection to the Heart, and should be used with a good measure of respect and mindfulness, so I recommend working with other calming points first. Once you are feeling calm and focused, start acupressure on HT 7.

To find HT 7, locate the bone on the pinky side of the wrist. Most of us will remember striking this bone on accident and feeling significant pain and tingling. This sensitive area is where HT 7 is found. If you follow the line of wrist crease towards the inner surface of the wrist, and bend your hand inward slightly, you’ll find a hollow just past the bone. There is some disagreement at the precise location of this point, and its location does vary a little from person to person. You can explore this area with your fingertip and you will know where your HT 7 point is located from the experience of calm that happens when you apply acupressure to HT 7. You’ll likely start to feel deeply peaceful, and even yawn as the qi begins to flow.

When you align your healing work in harmony with the seasons, you are supported in your intentions by the greater forces around you. This summer, cultivate your Heart energy by working with flower essences that benefit the Shen, add calming and mindful acupressure, and you will create a spacious environment in your Heart to stand you in good stead no matter what life throws your way.

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.

Posted on

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

Trifoliate Orange flower essence for stagnant qi

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.

Artemesia flower essence for frustration

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.

China Rose flower essence for boundaries

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

Golden Larch flower essence for ego
Japanese Alder flower essence for inner guidance

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.

Posted on

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 flower essence for burnout

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 flower essence for safety

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 flower essence for focus

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 flower essence for embodiment

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