The Winter Solstice

The winter solstice is upon us. We have been deepening into the dark time for weeks and we have many yet to go. The sense of burrowing, slowing, a dying back and returning into the depths walks with us this time of year.  

And yet, the solstice marks the returning of the light. Even as we are in the shortest day of the year, and the night is   dark and long, the light begins to rise. The solstice always makes me think of Hexagram 24 of the I Ching: The Return.

The Return speaks to the rising light, but also of turnaround, of making way for new energy to come in. It’s a time of stillness, when we need to rest in preparation for the rising energy to come. We step into the eternal cycles of nature as darkness begins its return to light.

The solstice invites us to turn within to our inner light, to the depths of our own being where we see our connection to the All. It is the point of light in darkness, the seed of our relationship to the cosmic forces of life itself.

As we enter the solstice days, and the darkness reaches its deepest point, remember the light always returns.

Winter governs the water element, or Zhi. It is the dormant season, when all life force burrows deep in the bosom of the earth. It is a gestational time of replenishing the wellspring of life so that when spring comes, the gathering energy will burst forth with new growth. The Zhi, or spirit of kidney energy, connects to the unified field of consciousness and our instinct to perpetuate life and “surthrive”. It gives us courage to ally ourselves with what the Chinese refer to as the Tao (the “Way” or primordial nature of the Universe) and our innate wisdom.

Wherever you are, wishing you great blessings for the solstice, and for the return of our collective light.

 Safe travels and happy holidays!


The Summer Solstice: Enter The Fire Season

The Five Elements: The Fire or Heart Element June 21-August 21
During the summer months, nature is at its most expansive, abundant manifestation. The sun is at its highest, food is plentiful, and all plant life is full of vital life force. Taoist five element theory teaches us that the element of summer is fire, the associated color is red, the flavor is bitter, its direction is south, and the energy of fire is connected to the heart and small intestine. The Fire Element is ruled by the planet Mars, and is the most masculine and Yang of the 5 elements, and is symbolized by the red phoenix. It is associated with the 7th (or Crown) Chakra, with its connection to Spirit, the lotus blossom of 1000 petals, and enlightenment. The hours of the day when the Heart is most active are between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.; small intestine is 1 to 3 p.m.
The Shen –or Spirit- lives in the heart, and is the channel for all spiritual transformation. It is one of what the Chinese refer to as the Three Treasures (the other two being Qi and Jing). It represents the heartmind, and encompasses our clear awareness, vital energy and our presence.
Clear, sparkling eyes and a bright spirit are signs of healthy Shen. The Shen also connects to magic, intuition, joy, love, compassion, leadership,  aggression and inspiration.  Strong fire types need to learn to give love and compassion without expectation of reward.
Shen governs sleep and memory. If the Shen is disturbed, there may be sleep disruptions, strange dreams or nightmares, and insomnia. The eyes may be dull or veiled. Shen disturbances can also manifest as energy that is both charismatic and fiery, but unstable and unreliable, like a candle that burns bright but sputters out quickly. Physical symptoms may include heart palpitations, restless or hyperactive energy, and lack of concentration or loss of memory.
The Shen, like fire, is easily roused. Calming activities such as mindfulness practice, chanting, praying, walking in nature, belly breathing or sound healing help restore our Shen. Interestingly, meditating on a small candle set in a red holder (as we see in many churches) can be very calming to the heart.
During the summer, while the light is long and high, we can sleep less, going to bed later and rising earlier to greet the day. (This is the opposite of winter, when we should go to sleep earlier and rise later). We need to drink plenty of water: we sweat more, and the heat evaporates water from our bodies more rapidly than at any other time of year. If you find yourself feeling lethargic, foggy and fatigued on a hot day, you are probably dehydrated.
Foods that enhance the fire element:

Vegetables: Asparagus, Brussels sprouts, chives, endive, okra, scallions, sweet and hot peppers, arugula, radicchio, sweet corn, mushrooms, cucumbers, okra Beans and Pulses: red lentils, chickpeas
Fruits: apricot, guava, melon, strawberry, persimmon, peaches, cherries raspberries, plums, kumquats, watermelon and tomatoes

Grains: Corn, maize, popcorn, amaranth, quinoa, oats
Fish: shrimp, lobster, and crab
Herbs, Spices and Miscellany: chilis, cayenne, curry, dill, cilantro, tarragon, sweet and holy basil, and spices in general are considered fire foods. Dark chocolate and cacao are also fire foods. Bach Rescue Remedy is good to use when shock has occurred. Blue green algae, magnesium, the B vitamins and l-tryptophan are all useful as well.

Beverages: coffee, wine, beer, green tea, and carbonated drinks
Chinese Tonic Foods: spirit poria mushroom, ginseng, jujube date, reishi, Tibetan rhodiola, schizandra fruit, lotus seed, and chrysanthemum flower

"The heart is the ruler of the five organ networks. It commands the movements of the four extremities, it circulates the qi and the blood, it roams the realms of the material and the immaterial, and it is in tune with the gateways of every action. Therefore, coveting to govern the flow of energy on earth without possessing a heart would be like aspiring to tune gongs and drums without ears, or like trying to read a piece of fancy literature without eyes." Huainanzi circa. 110 BC

Spring Is Really Here

I've just returned to Southern California after a trip to NYC, where spring is really happening after a few "false starts". March and April -early spring- are often marked by a roller coaster of weather patterns, and it's been the case on both coasts this year. We are in the Taoist wood element in springtime, and nothing is more representative of that energy than the trees. The last day I was in the city, I wrote, "The trees. They've been speaking to me the whole time I've been here, reminding me of deep roots, belonging and holding connection with heaven and earth simultaneously. The trees are so different in the effervescence of Southern California, and I'm continually reminded here of my own roots. Something in their leafless branches reaching skyward, knowing that in another week or two, new life will burst forth from them and a new cycle will be made visible. My heart is full, a mix of some slight sadness and a deep and abiding love of life."

The 5 Elements: The Wood or Liver Element 

Spring is upon us. We’ve been feeling it for weeks, a stirring in nature, the light rising, a shedding of the deep interior energies of winter. Spring marks a miraculous bursting of energy from the still, dark regions of the underground. In Eastern medicine, spring carries with it the energy of wood. Sap, which is nature’s lifeblood, courses through the trees; new life pushes its way up from the depths of the earth into the soft sun of March and April, and we are surrounded by a bright sense of renewal and creativity. 

The wood element (or Hun) is associated with the organ matrix of the gall bladder and liver. Hun is connected with the color green, its flavor is sour, its direction lies in the east, the dawning of new life. Just as tree branches reach towards the clouds, so wood is the bridge between Heaven and Earth, Spirit and Body. Its associated chakra is the Third Eye, and its associated planetary counterpart is Jupiter. Wood is represented by the mythical dragon, the most mystical of all beasts. 

The hours for gall bladder are 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.; liver is 1 to 3 a.m. Liver is governed by the Hun, our ethereal soul, (or literally translated, “cloud-soul”). The Chinese text of The Golden Flower states “In the daytime the Hun is in the eyes and at night in the liver. When it is in the eyes we can see. When it is in the Liver we dream.” The Hun gives us visionary inspiration during our waking hours, and in dreams takes us into the mystical realms. It sharpens our intuition and enhances creativity. The liver in its healthiest manifestation governs the will, vision, social justice, focused direction and self-responsibility. It gives us a grounded sense of clarity and hope, and the power to dream. It’s interesting to note that in Chinese the acupuncture point Liver 14 is called “The Gate of Hope”. An unbalanced liver connects to depression, hormonal distress, insomnia, nocturnal anxiety and uncontrolled bursts of anger or irritability. Physical issues may include sinus and eye problems, brittle nails, migraines, rashes and painful menses. Liver energy is freed by chanting, pranayama or qi gong breathing; creative outlets like journaling or painting; and telling our emotional truth. Good liver exercise includes dancing, swimming and walking as well as more aggressive exercise like martial arts or boxing. In addition, we can nourish and assist liver healing with foods and herbs that enhance the wood element. Keep in mind that fried foods and excess meat and dairy place a very heavy burden on the liver. 

Grain: buckwheat, oats, rye 

Vegetables: broccoli, parsley, lettuce, kale, collard greens, carrots, alfalfa, beets, leeks, zucchini, shiitake mushrooms, artichokes, cucumbers, celery, endive, radicchio, escarole, watercress 

Beans and Pulses: mung, Lima, green lentils 

Fruits: limes, lemons, grapefruit, green apple, sour cherry, avocado, plums, quince 

Herbs: Milk thistle, dandelion, chelidonium, gynostemma leaf, spirulina, turmeric 

Chinese Tonic Foods: Reishi mushrooms, Lycium berries (Goji), Schizandra berries.

Spring is a perfect time to cleanse the body-mind, to weed our personal garden. What needs shedding in your life this spring?  

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Thoughts on Healing

Soul retrieval is one of the most powerful healing modalities I've encountered in decades of study, and I've seen extraordinary shifts unfold for people. 

The whole concept is that when we experience trauma -and we all do, in some form- parts of our soul essence, our power, split off from us and go on a species of walkabout. Essence cannot die, so it's not about resurrecting something, it's truly retrieving it and bringing it home. In traditional cultures, if a person went into shock or trauma they were brought to the village medicine person immediately and the whole village would come to facilitate healing. Here in the west, we walk around for decades with old wounds that are not healed. Talk therapy can be highly effective and can only go so far. Shamanic healing lives in the land beyond language.

What it looks like is different for each individual. A few things are consistent: we look for soul parts that are ready and willing to be restored, and we go back as far as we can. Sometimes multiple parts appear, sometimes just one. Often a power animal or spirit ally will accompany the healing. Power animals are energy given form and walk with us as sources of protection, strength and discernment. It's important for you to know that you are a full participant in your healing. This isn't simply done to you. The work for you begins after the soul retrieval. Nature will always fill a vacuum, so when we are split from our own power, something will come to take its place. In the weeks and months following, you will need to pay attention to what changes you may need to make in your life to make room for this essence to truly land. What's been restored needs to be rewoven into the fabric of you, back into your life force . We are not retrieving trauma, we are retrieving power. Everyone's experience is different; sometimes it doesn't feel like much in the moment, sometimes it's highly emotional, sometimes people are very quiet and a little tired afterwards. All of it is normal, and all of it is moving. What I can say, unequivocally, is that if you support your own healing, you will become more of YOU, landing more fully in the shoes you were meant to walk in.

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Thoughts On Leaving The Old Year and Entering The New

Here we are in the deep, dark stillness of winter. The days surrounding the winter solstice and going towards the New Year are a time of joy, sadness and hope, death and rebirth for me. The veil between worlds is gossamer thin, and a reminder of how precious and sacred life is.

What an amazing time to be alive! This year has been so full of changes, crises and incredible openings it almost makes me dizzy. There have been moments along the way when I have been disheartened, yet there is so much richness in the midst of it all that all I can do is say thank you.

Thank you for the gift of life, and this incredible human journey we are on.

What would your life look like if you let go of whatever it is that keeps you shrink-wrapped in smallness? What are you grateful for that is working in your life? What have your triumphs been, no matter how small they may seem? I don't believe in New Year's resolutions, but I believe deeply in the causes we make. What would it look like to nourish yourself more deeply? What would it look like to listen to the call of your dreams, even if that call “broke the rules”? What would it look like to believe in the power of your own life and actually trust it enough to take that first step?

This has been a tough year, this one. We have collectively been challenged to the core as we witnessed the consequences of terrible mistakes we have made as a species, and yet we have had the extraordinary opportunity to participate in our own evolution. We have ridden the waves of sometimes-violent deconstruction -of systems, relationships, homes, and lives- and have also been given windows of tremendous spiritual ascension. We have been deeply shaken and uplifted. We have been called to live from our hearts' wisdom more than our pockets' motivation. We have the chance to step into a new dream, one of our own creation, that asks the most of us but also honors the best in us.

With love and best wishes for an expansive new year.