Posted by: Jane Valencia | February 24, 2010

Now You’re Really In For It: Jane’s Magical Weirdness

Okay, I’ve decided to go for it and blog my magical weirdness.  This is how my brain and spirit work.   My hope that in publicly revealing my spirit-mind-etc. ecology that you I might nudge into embracing your whole, strange, fascinating self and begin tracking, immersing, adventuring in your completely singular playground of soil/soul.   Your sole self.

Feb. 24 Early Morning Weave

My mind is tantalized by a sprinkling of notions from an interview with wisewoman herbalist Susun Weed.  In particular this  idea spoke loud and clear:

All our cells are replaced in our bodies every seven years, but our atoms are replaced every four days.  When an herb chooses you as an ally (or you choose it), breathe with the plant for ten minutes a day for four days.  Get on your belly or back if you need to.  The herb is exhaling and you’re  inhaling that exhale.  As simply as that you will be breathing in the plant, and it will begin being part of you biologically, and in all ways.  It will begin communicating with you in its language, and you’ll begin uncovering how it might work with you.

With this concept in mind I trail out to the garden this morning, and instead of settling at my Sit Spot, I cross to the shady part of the yard where Periwinkle (Vinca major) is a mass tangle of vines punctuated by purple star flowers, and covers a long expanse along the fence.  A moment’s hesitation–the ground is very wet, and I’m just wearing indoor, thin cotton pants–I lay on my belly and plunge  my face into a cluster of Periwinkle vines, glossy leaves, and sleepy, droopy star flowers.

So I’m taking in this presence and moisture and breath of this plant.  At the same time I’m listening to the changing song of the Singer — that gray bird I just can’t definitively figure out what it is — and know that it’s at the top of the huge birch two houses down.  Mow-and-blow gardeners start up in full, very loud force in the yard behind our backyard–way too close.  I consider a question that John Gallagher of mentioned that he posed each day to computer programming students for 5 points extra credit: name five plants in bloom today.  I can answer that:  in my yard its Plum, Quince, Mizuna (a mustard green), Arugula, California Poppy, Pea, Sour Grass/Bermuda Sorrel, Periwinkle …  How about five trees right now?  That would be plum, cherry, acacia (with those clusters of tiny yellow pom-poms that still cause my body to tighten when I see them because I suffered terrible hay-fever from acacia as a teen and young adult, living here in the Bay Area).  Two more, hmm: California Bay with its miniscule creamy flowers, and a tree that I think is Madrone, with its lovely pink flowers.

Face buried in Periwinkle I note that even though the flower is drooped, I know that it has five petals with a white flair in the center, and a pentagram opening  in the center of that (probably the reason this plant was used to ward off sorcery).  I’m relearning plant parts, so I’ll attempt to name that pentagram opening as that of the pistil, the female reproductive part of the flower.  And that opening is the stigma.  (am I right?  I’ll doublecheck later).  The plant grows to about a foot high, with the ovoid leaves in pairs (need to doublecheck how to botanically describe those leaves), and I observe the pattern of the veins.   Vines snake along the damp, limp leaf-littered ground — honestly there has never been anything inviting for me in this part of the garden except for the lovely bright red camellia to the left that is currently in beautiful bloom (given as a gift and planted when my grandmother died.  My grandparents had this house built and lived til the end of their lives),  and the Hawthorn tree, what I think of as the Grandmother tree, to my right.  This tangle has always been repulsive to me, strangling ground cover, dank and invasive.

And yet–I’ve found myself reluctantly fascinated by Periwinkle in the past year, since I first saw mention of it as an herbal medicine plant (a “vasoconstrictor for migraines and passive hemorrhage/bleeding”) on Kiva Rose’s Anima Healing Arts blog.    Overpowering my disdain for this plant is my fascination and commitment to working with the plants that are–literally–in my own back yard.   My working philosophy is that whatever is abundant (herbally — probably in other ways too) right where you are is just what you need to work with.

So I worked with Periwinkle some for my Herbalist 101 course with Angie Goodloe.  And now I’m deepening my relationship by just breathing the herb (nibbling it too).    So much to say about Periwinkle, and so much more I’ll no doubt realize as I deepen my relationship, but I’ll say this.  Periwinkle can ease migraines, so I’ve read.    I’ve only had a migraine once (and at that time is the kind where I didn’t feel pain, but saw lots of flashing lights — kinda reminds me of these Periwinkle star flowers, now that I think of it).  But my mind does tend to tangle with too many thoughts, too many “I can’t figure it outs!”   Currently, too, my mind and emotions have brooded on things of a dark nature, due to something that happened recently.  I reflect now that “warding off sorcery” could be also mean banishing this cloak filled with sick-feeling and unpleasantness.  The situation has passed and been dealt with — I no longer need to walk with this dark energy.  It’s no longer useful to do so.  Can Periwinkle help me to dispel this particular “sorcery”?

I hear a mourning dove cooing in the neighborhood landscape, and the cheery-up, cheerilu‘s of the Robin even further away, but there.  I get up, nibble a leaf, thank the plant, circle the garden to gaze at the Mizuna that with its four-petaled yellow flowers, and seed pods spiraling up its long stalk, and move to my Sit Spot.

I engage in my routines there (though I had practiced Thanksgiving while at the Periwinkle.  Fascinating to offer thanks to the people in my life, the earth, the water, and so on through the lens and focus of this plant!)

Thoughts and questions thread into my being.  Thoughts from that interview with Susun Weed.  Something is nourishing if you experience it and receive good things from it, and even just by recalling it you receive the blessings of it.  Something is tonifying if you do it in a rhythm and good things result.  But the rhythm — even if its a yearly rhythm or some other kind–five days on, two off, for example is essential to the key.   From a whole different conversation–one about preparing an herbal formula as a kind of Celtic Triad (you take the condition you want to treat, then choose one herb for the specific condition, one as a nourishing and buffering, and one for the major body system associated with that condition — I’m not sure if I’m totally recalling correctly but this concept was presented by Heather Nic an Fhleisdeir and her “Think Like An Herbalist” course on — I consider which plants, which practices might support me in rooting me firmly in the soil of myself and effectively offering my medicine to my people (who are they?  Family, friends, communities ….), and making a difference for the planet now and for the future generations (perhaps this is a Systems concept!).  What will help me in growing the rhythm and direction to resume my book, which involves being decisive and insightful and practical about telling a good story?

How might Periwinkle help me in this, since I’m so drawn to it (despite myself!)?   On the one hand it seems not much good for anything, tangling and crawling everywhere, and with pretty star flowers, but it’s hard for me to appreciate them in the midst of that tangle?

Uhhhh …. Just who am I talking about here?

So now I come to the place where I put all this wandering and musing into practical action.  I do notice that my mind and spirit feel … clear!  Can Periwinkle (and the surrounding ecology) have worked its magic already?  That cloak of dread is gone.  I’m feeling amused and nourished and potentially decisive, but in a laid back–“let’s discover what happens” way.

Let’s take the book as the specific condition.

Condition: Help!  I’ve got this entire book with lots of characters and situations and part of it was dreamed up with my kids and some of it is just my playground (but boring to even my kids)–how do I shape it into a story that is fun for the readers too, and that works?  How do I decide what belongs in the story and what doesn’t, which characters are necessary and which aren’t? ….?

So: it’s a tangle right now, like all those Periwinkle vines, overwhelming even the complex, bright stars that are its own flowers.

I might ask a different kind of question at this point.  How might I work with the Periwinkle and the land on that S/E length of fence (hm, it’s in the Southeast — energy of child’s passions, mischief and magic — I hadn’t realized that!) become more inviting to me, to my kids, my husband, anyone visiting the garden?

Yes, I might actually pull out some of the Periwinkle (perhaps I can sit with the plant again and allow it to guide m this?  Is there some way this might actually nourish the Periwinkle community there?).  Okay, a whole trail of thought is opening, in which I jot down questions I have about my book, plot, and characters, and then I go to the Periwinkle, breathe it, lay on the ground and then begin to work: playing with that Periwinkle plot with my hands and senses while also going back and forth with my book questions, just going decisively down the list.  Work with plants and plot, answer a book question (with ut reflecting much).  Back and forth.

Seems like a good whole nature experiment–working on multiple levels and on two different projects that have in common that they totally bug me right now!

How will I know if I’ve achieved my goal(s)?  If not only myself–but my family–becomes engaged with the Periwinkle area (and eventually if it’s immediately engaging to others who enter the garden).

If I can describe my book with animation and clarity to others — in a paragraph, and in one “page”, and how about “three pages”.  If I can do those three things–both vocally and in writing–I’m certain I can move forward decisively with completing this second draft of my book.

I’ll report on the results of this experiment!

Posted by: Jane Valencia | February 23, 2010

Enter Ecology For Answers

Our inner ecology mirrors our outer ecology; our surroundings have everything to say about our interior, what’s going on in our hearts and minds. And events–the words you overhear in conversation, the strange action taking place down the street–it really has everything to say about that question you hold.

Become a Sherlock Holmes to your inner and outer life. These days I follow this practice:

I’ll take a question that’s just nagging at me. Then I’ll let it go. Now I head out to my Sit Spot–the place in my backyard that is sort of my anchor point for emptying my mind and engaging my senses, and just drinking in the rich nature and activity that is my backyard. If I think of it, I’ll attempt to vary my path to my Sit Spot, taking some wandering circuit, or coming in from another direction, rather than the usual backdoor-straight-to-rock direct path.

I engage in sense meditation and Thanksgiving, or engage in some spontaneous ceremony (the other day I created a “green fire” on my sitting stone — a ring of incense-cedar leaves with a pale pink camellia as the “flame”). I may greet the Four Directions and the Center. I may just listen to the birds, the crackling song of the hummingbird, the golden throated song of the Singer (a medium-small gray bird with pale breast who sings high in a birch or on the phone lines — I still don’t know what what it is). I’ll watch the squirrels, and I’ll note that one of the plum trees has begun to bloom. And that the sprouted potato I planted a few weeks ago has sprouted leaves.

Lately I’ve taken to lying on the ground (yes, even when it’s raining) as a way to ground myself (read about this practice in my article A Little Bird Told Me on my Singing Deer Healing site) … and get a very different perspective on things. Supported and nourished by the earth I gaze into the many branches of the incense cedar, and remember why I was moved to take a client of mine who’d been suffering from severe depression on a playful climb up a red cedar tree. These towering conifers with their tall trunks and inviting limbs having everything to teach us about reacquainting us with our own “upright mind” and sureness of spirit, and about reminding us to engage in our child’s passion to play in the trees.

Back in the house I’ll jot down what I observed outside.  It’s amazing how many details of texture, scent, sound you can remember if you really engage your senses, and then make the time to recall what you experienced through writing or storytelling. Telling the story in some form is where you really begin to integrate an experience and understand just what it was!

Then I’ll start tossing in my questions. And I’ll toss in some insights from audios I’ve been listening to, or books I’ve been reading, or something someone has said.

It’s like I’m cooking something, adding this and that into a pot that simmers with the mind that was opened by the natural world, just being in that place and noting this or that in it. Now as I prod at my persistent question I consider how something I know or something I’ve noticed might just be the answer … or lead to the answer. I wonder how some experience out in this backyard might nourish a particular resolution. What springs to mind? Images of slopping bare feet through mud, of grazing around the yard on any edible — the tips of the incense-cedar leaves, the new rose leaves, the new Periwinkle leaves, the flowering mustards, the plum petals, the spearmint and peppermint, the lavender, the “sour flower” (Bermuda sorrel or Sour Grass–Oxalis pes-capre). I wander with questions and wander with possibilities. And in the end I discover, if not the answer, a very different understanding of my question. And a kind of poetic road map that I never would have dreamed up.

I don’t know if any of the above makes sense. But the more I lose myself to my senses in my own backyard, and the more I weave those perceptions and discoveries in with the questions and yearnings that tug in my heart, the more I discover I have answers I can rely upon. That in some form they’ve been there all along. The thing is, when I take them up after my inner and outer wandering, they feel entirely different — more of an enticing ecology than a jangling, won’t leave me alone thought. Feeling the wholeness, the expansiveness, and the tossing in of specific details of that question-ecology, I can lean into the answers that have been around me all along.

But, boy, do they feel exciting and enlivening now! And truly an expression of me in some very different way, whole spirit, holographic way.

So that’s me these days, and my particular style.

You, no doubt, have your own.  How do you connect with the expansiveness and precious detail of the Ecology of You? What realm and pathways guide you to discovering your own unique sense of this blue world we live in, this singular you that you are, the divinity of those persistent questions that you hold?

Posted by: Jane Valencia | February 19, 2010

Inside The Story Of Self: It’s All About Context

This morning I reflect on what makes a happy life for me. When do I feel most passionate, joyful, alive? And am I living that way right now?

At times I feel absolutely aligned and on fire, either in an exhilarated, ‘wow, look — I really can fly’ way, or in that deeply satisfied, the fire is burning, healthy, in rhythm way where I barely need to tend the flame, and I can just sit at it and enjoy and be expansive, myself, right where I am.

I think when I am most myself, most delighted with my life, is when I can tell a good, fun story about it. And not just tell the story, but know that someone is hearing the words, experiencing some possibility or truth for themselves. And then I experience their story, their lively reality, and this great mingling of minds, hearts, possibility for a more resonant life, a better world, for living more deeply truly springs forth.

The big challenge in my life is “focus”. In the past year I’ve been teaching myself Hand Analysis. This is the contemporary expression of the old art known as Palmistry. The modern-day idea is that the lines and markings on our hands offer a mirror of our soul-and-psyche ecology. We have so many nerve ends in our palms that there is an intimate connection with our brains, the way we think. The lines and markings may change on our palms, as we change internally, reflecting our change in wiring, so to speak.

Hand Analysis goes further than that though. It speaks of our fingerprints — which never change — as being an actual map of the Soul, revealing both our Life Purpose and our Life Lesson.

What a cool and fun idea, to think that we might be able to read our Soul’s Purpose, and discover our psychic geography, just by exploring the “terrain” of our hands!

In the context of my universe this makes a good “why not?” sense. After all I believe we can read our stories, anything we need to know, anywhere we are. Nature reflects our story back to us. The decor in our house does (and where the clutter collects, and where it is shining with good energy and emotion).

So, stories can be great. They can provide that context, that perfect picture frame that allows the picture within to reveal itself in all its personality. Storymaking is something we humans do all the time.

Sometimes (all the time?) stories run us, and then we sometimes have to dissect how they are affecting how we are experiencing our reality, what we think about “reality”, and make decisions about whether it really works for our lives, for the people we love and want to be with, and the larger world that we are operating according to those stories.

I love the magic of story. The fun part where I create one, or choose one, and then hold it lightly, allowing it to add sparkle and purpose to my life. I’ll run with it for awhile, or stop-and-go with it, picking it up and carrying it around and feeling it like an intriguing and companionable lodestone. Then I may lay it down on my desk or at the base of a tree, and leave it for awhile or for good.

So Hand Analysis is one story that I’m carrying around and poking at and with which I’m playing “what if”. For instance I have a lot of what are called Gift Markings on my hands. These are stars or lines and other markings that are in particular regions of the hand (and the regions all mean something). The Gift Markings point to certain kinds of gifts that you must live in some way in order to feel satisfied with your life. If you don’t live them in a healthy way you feel depressed, discouraged, frustrated.

Other folks may have those gifts, but if they don’t have the Gift Markings, they don’t have to live them. There isn’t that drive and compulsion (and desperation!) to do so.

Hand Art?

So looking at my Gift Markings and (what feels to me) my difficulty in focusing, and here’s a story that makes sense. Yeah, no wonder I struggle with focusing, and can’t choose one or two things to do with my life. I’ve got a whole mess of things saying ‘Live me, live me!’

So what can I do with this bit of revelation? Well, the story of Hand Analysis and Gift Markings, and Life Purpose and Life Lesson all point to specific expressions that I might consciously tend in my life. Let me say, that what I’ve ‘read’ in my hands and prints makes total sense to me. Does this speak to our human ability to find meaningful story in anything? Sure! Would I have felt the ‘stories’ in my prints were ‘right on’ if they were totally different. Possibly — it’s hard to say! But certainly the stories I read here have a lot to say about where and who I am right now, plenty of fodder for exploring self and one’s blind spots, and that in the end is what is most important.

Hand Analysis says that once you fully integrate your gifts, or the ones expressed in the Gift Markings, the Gift Markings may disappear. You won’t have that sense of struggle and frustration in your life related to that gift because you will be using it on all levels. Your particular gifts will be just running along. So you don’t have those Gift Markings announcing on some level “do this! do this! You’ll be happier if you’re including this part of yourself in your life!”.

So with this story in the back of my mind, this particular context, I can look at the many things I love to do, or long to do, and make sure that I have expressions in my life where I actually live them. What has worked best for me is to “bundle them up”, make a little weave of them. And when I do this, live these weaves, and express them as some sort of little mixed-media artistry of life, I am really, really happy. My world springs alive and is filled with that Otherworld sparkle and shine.

Right now my A Harper’s Garden blog feels really good this way, a mini-magical bundle of rainbow threads in my life. With this post I’m deciding to look at my other expressions of self, and seeing where I might twist and tighten the medicine weaves, and jazz them up a bit so that they spring alive and eventually begin tending themselves. Not all of it will be inscribed in my blogs, but a fair chunk will be, because writing is how I make story, and storytelling is how we discover, uncover, create context for the crazy treasure that is our inner and outer life.

Where do you create story in your life? Okay, that’s maybe a dumb question :-). Perhaps I might say: In the art gallery of your life, what are the frames around the art? Or how does the lighting reveal their qualities, their expressive selves (or is it good lighting at all)? How might you change a frame, or move a sculpture so that its artistry is more fully highlighted and revealed? How might you further show off (in some fashion!) that quirky perfect expression or gift that is you, part of you, is you?

Imagine that the Comment box below is one space in your Art Gallery Of Self. I invite you to describe one of the artistic expressions of your self and soul that either is in just a great location in your gallery (lots of folks come through and delight in this artistry of you!) or which you might consider changing its frame, location, the angle or cast of light, or ….

Have fun!

Another expression of self: In her tree house studio Dahlia Rose offers Reiki and healing song to Gypsy Belle

The Dolls and Tree house are by my friends Lisa and Jeff at Journey School!

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