Wildcraft Game for Budding Herbalists

Kids are always so eager to settle around the boardgame Wildcraft!, a guaranteed hit when friends are over.  It’s a peek into the ‘secret’ world around us that seems to stir up a sense of wonder and empowerment in every kid I’ve ever played it with, whether or not they enjoy hiking.   And it’s on sale for 50% off through midnight TONIGHT with a lot of herbal education extras thrown in. The family who created it is inspiring a new generation of herbal enthusiasm.

Generous bonus cheers for having samples on hand to taste and touch and try! ~~

The Guru is Within You

I watched a great movie last night!

Kumare is about a guy from New Jersey who poses as an Indian guru, starts his own religion, his own form of yoga, his own mantras… and develops a following!   Put on an orange robe or claim a Native American lineage, and people will follow because they are so hungry to trust an authority and outside wisdom other than their own.   His compassionate heart and working knowledge of various yoga and meditation techniques gave sincere seekers enough of a magnet to follow, but at the same time his practiced Indian accent and mannerisms and disheveled appearance were enough of a slight-of-hand costume to attract their unquestioning devotion far beyond what his knowledge had to offer, regarding him as an authority greater than themselves.

Feeling bad about his duplicity for the purpose of this movie, he emphasizes an essential message of “All is an illusion.  I am the best self of a person just like you.  The guru is within you.”   Nonetheless, the devotion builds.  They project great things onto him, and overlook nonsense.

This is not a ‘laugh-at-the-dupes’ story though and is shown with love and genuine curiosity and we watch these people actively improve their lives because of their intentional practice.  It’s also a fascinating peek at the types of seekers who follow and the needs that are driving them.

From my perspective it touches on these ideas:
1) all religions and practices are made up from someone else’s experience,
2) any intentional practice can still have the power to help you bring out a better you (or worse, OBVIOUSLY), and
3) the guru is within you. Quit looking outside for authority.

I like the scene where a student has been practicing one of his meditation techniques and is discussing how powerful this practice has been for her.  He asks her something along the lines of, “You like the meditation.  Good.   If  tomorrow you were to find that you do not like me, the man Kumare, will this meditation still be valuable to you?”  She affirms that it will, and he is satisfied.  Or maybe I was satisfied, watching.

He is changed by acting as Kumare, and finds himself actually feeling like the best, happiest, lightest, purest self inside him, rather than just acting it.  At the same time, of course, he’s torn up by his intentional deception and the build toward his great reveal adds real tension to the movie.

I’m pretty sure this is really the case with most spiritual and religious leaders.  Except Kumare (New Jersey dude) knew he was acting a role, and always intended to reveal it to his followers although this became increasingly difficult as he didn’t want to burst their bubble.  Maybe some religious leaders come to believe it themselves, and might never intend to reveal, because they begin to believe they are that guru face, rather than it being one valuable aspect of a complex and flawed human.   Their value is when they help us remember something we already knew, inside us, as true.

Yoga teachers put on a costume before class:  the posture, the carriage, the quieting of the mind, the softer voice, the radiant heart, the sense of authority.  We put the same costume on as students walking into that class.  But it’s not just a costume, of course, because it is in fact a part of ourselves being expressed:  it changes us and changes our immediate environment and the way the world treats us.    If we can continue act that part, will it continue to build inside us until we are inhabiting our best self more often?

Grad students feel like frauds until they develop the practiced lingo, posturing, mindset, that is appropriate to their department.  They put authority in the others that  that is the way to behave, keep studying their subject matter and they fake it until they make it:  soon the next year’s students are looking to them for a reference on how to be, how to talk, what to think.

New moms feel the same thing sometimes, and how very immediately REAL that work is!  Yet there still can be a fake-it-till-you-make-it component to learning to nurture a baby just like anything else.  The baby-authority books are pored over for sleep advice, nursing advice, safety advice, and then often tossed upon arrival of the second child as the mom realizes that she has become the most authentic authority on her babies, and that each is unique and will have to be relearned anyway.

How often do we turn to a doctor or holistic practitioner to tell us what we already know?  We really like getting a label for our situation, but often – early in disease – the answers are already present for us and we just needed an authority to enforce our changes:  change your habits, eat more fresh foods, exercise often, feel happier, sleep more, drink herbal tea, develop meaningful work and rituals and habits in your life, get massage and touch, connect with people, contribute, eat foods that don’t come in packages, move toward your goals every week, address and release that anger stored in your cramped shoulders and neck or liver or wherever it happens to be.

But you already knew that yourself, didn’t you?

The Perfection of Imperfection as seen by CS Lewis

“A good toe-nail is not an unsuccessful attempt at a hair; and if it were conscious it w[oul]d delight in being simply a good toe-nail.”

Ease a common earache with this tried and true kitchen remedy

Is your little one in pain? Maybe she had a cold this week and it’s just moved into her ears.

  1. Saute a little fresh garlic in cold-pressed olive oil at a low temperature, until it’s just barely beginning to show the heat.   Turn off your burner and allow the oil to cool a little.
  2. Strain well through a paper towel or jelly cloth, so there will be no garlic particles going into the ear. Test to make sure your oil is still warm but not hot.
  3. The person with the earache rests her head, ear up. With a dropper or a straw with your finger over the end, pick up a few drops and drip them into the ear.
  4. Massage downward lightly but steadily under the ear, to encourage the dripping of the oil deeper in the canal. Do both sides even if only one is hurting.

The warm oil encourages opening and drainage within the tubes and brings pain relief, and the antibacterial vapors from the garlic assist in clearing out the underlying infection. If you suspect the pain is from a perforated eardrum or from backed up infection, obviously adding something new into the ear is not the right approach.  But for most aches, the pain usually responds within minutes, and in my experience even the ragers that flare back to life rarely go on beyond a few hours or doses.  If you make as much as shown in the photo here, you can bottle the remaining oil and store it in the refrigerator for a few weeks or often longer, warming it up again as needed.  Or use it in your eggs in the morning.   :)

Throughout Europe’s pharmacies – and in my family as well – mullein flowers are added to the recipe for their antibacterial and anti-inflammatory action, and sometimes a few drops of tea tree oil.

If you’d rather purchase your remedy than craft it homemade, you will usually find a fine ear oil with these and other ingredients at your neighborhood herbal store.

Five Ways to Encourage Kundalini Energy

We sometimes hear questions like this recent one:   I wonder if you have any ideas for “accessing universal knowledge” or expanding kundalini awakening?     Or, as one of my friends put it after years of spiritual research and reading about the mystical experiences of others, analyzing countless stories of connection,  “I’d like to actually hear the song.”

Sometimes we’re in a place in life where we’re ready to spur extra development, to connect more deeply, and to evolve more quickly than usual.  Maybe we are in physical pain and need the spontaneous healing that a healthy kundalini force can spur.

Increasing kundalini energy invites psychic opening and physical changes and will stir up discomforts that are ready to be addressed.  It can’t be forced or controlled.    But there are some conditions we can create to increase our receptivity to awakening and grace, and the to the wisdom that can settle in with it.  Here are five that have proven most important for many people:


–         Spend time alone in nature.   Not just for a short time, but for hours and days.

–         Limit your access to media, and to words in general.   I am a voracious reader and would be lost in a world without books, but there are periods when it is essential to our development to set even the most inspiring reading aside.  Reading, writing and talking – thinking in words at all – will interfere with your ability to receive information that is greater than words.  If you are in a period of trying to access higher consciousness, experiment with leaving the books and conversation behind for awhile and opening only to concepts and sensations instead.

–        Raise your emotions and thoughts higher.    Cultivating a sense of gratitude, joy and ecstasy,  experiencing every sensation of the present moment,  invites the transformative kundalini force to do its work.    Avoiding the energetic drag-down of mass media becomes even more important in this light.

–       But don’t shy away from the dark.  We may naturally feel our thoughts turning to the dark within, especially in regard to your current biggest difficulties.  This is no time to run away it!  It’s a time to dive right in to the middle of it, and turn those emotions inside out.   Your dilemmas, your biggest heartaches, are the friction that builds the heat of transformation.  Enduring them with faith and a higher love invites grace – as a tangible force – to open up and swallow the ugly from it, to turn it into the gift of gold.  As Michael Franti sings, “When the hard times come, you know the teacher’s in the room.

–      Move.  Your spine needs movement – your whole body needs movement – to remove energetic blockages and to invite the shakti forces to flow.  If you are trying to encourage the river of kundalini, then you must obey the urge to flow, to lay down, to rock, to spin…. as it works its way through your body. If you don’t know where to start, begin with just this:   sit down cross-legged and rock gently back and forth, from tailbone through neck and crown, slowly and with your own rhythm.  Continue for a long time.


These tips will work to help you put yourself in the soaring state that invites wisdom or expansion.  We can’t command kundalini awakening, but we can encourage it.  If you’ve been walking your own path for awhile, I bet you’ve figured out your own ways to increase access to intuition, grace, and the living powerful force of kundalini over the years.   Share them with us in the comments!

Using Broccoli Puree for Skin Cancer Lesions

Herbalists Henriette Krauss and Deb Friedman recommended this interesting article documenting the results of applying broccoli puree to skin cancer lesions.

Dance Through It: Warm Reviews

I was moved to tears to hear this.  It just made all the work worth it instantly.  THIS is exactly why I felt compelled to write the book Dance Through It:

“I have read your book at least 4 times since saturday.It is on my bedside table (note – she printed out the ebook)  and I just can’t help but to be drawn to it…and every time I read it,I gather more.Thank you again.I am excited to have a forum to discuss all that was brought up in your book,as it resonates so deeply inside of me.I do not have very many people,if any to share these thoughts with and for a lot of my life I have felt a little ‘too out there’ for people…knowing that there is at least one person out there…it has given me fuel.”

“I am just so filled with gratitude in my heart for you. You have done so much for me, I don’t think you will ever know”


Need a little lift today?

When I was a young woman my body was crushed when my airborne car landed on top of me, and it sent me out of this life and into the next.   What happened under the car and in the hospital afterward was the richest gift I’ve ever been given.

Do you want to know what it felt like to cross over?  After 16 years I finally put it into words.  Announcing Dance Through It:  a 32 page, vividly illustrated e-book about why there’s nothing to fear in this life.  The story will stick with you.

A short excerpt, from when I caught a glimpse of the energies of people who had recently died:

Many had died tragic, unexpected deaths. All were full of joy. Of all the beautiful agony we could see in the loved ones remaining on earth, all of it appeared noble. All of it appeared purposeful. These recently dead were trying to comfort and communicate with the earthly human part of those left behind, nearly laughing with compassionate outreach. It was as if they were trying to wrap their arms around those left behind and say, “Can’t you feel me? I’m right here with you even more than in life because my half of the veil is lifted. No body or personality holds me back from you. I did my job, I died when I was supposed to. Your job is beginning. We are a team, we chose this together, it’s your turn to grow from this and transform it with your open heart. After this life we’ll plan another together as we have so many times. In the meantime let’s get this one right and make good use of your pain for the benefit of all of life. Everything is exactly as it should be and I wouldn’t change it if I could. The only shame of this whole mess is if you let it destroy you and waste the chance for growth. Are you sure you can’t feel me?” It was almost a sense of coaching and cheering and reassuring.

This sense was so powerful that for years after I returned to a more normal type of consciousness, anytime I heard of a tragedy too big to recover from (losing three children in one day for example) my instinctive first emotion was a genuine sense of gaping awe and respect for the people involved, admiration that they would sign on for such difficulties, and for the potential for growth and useful power in proportion to their pain.

Sacred Copal

Elephant Tree (Copal)

Fragrant Copal

Baja’s purple Elephant Trees are one of our favorite desert sentries, adding a vivid hue to the balmy colors of los medanos.  This year’s rains have them leafing out with bright green for the first time in years of drought.

Locals have used its sap – copal – as a panacea.  We have taken quite a liking to it too.  It shares a lot of properties with myrrh.  Along these lines, nervy tooth pain quickly diminishes with a mouth rinse made from boiling water poured over crumbled copal.

Elephant Tree (Copal)

Singing the Harvest

The gnarliest, most challenged trees have the best copal.  My five year old sings a new song to each tree as we harvest, slipping under the spiky branches to find the little drops of honey-gold sap hardened on the sand below.  He’s red hot at spotting ones I’ve missed.

Copal makes a heady incense burned on charcoal, and has widely been used in ritual and magic.   An artist at last weeks’ Shrimp Fest was burning copal and when I smiled in recognition of the intoxicating scent, he nodded and explained “para limpiar el aire’.

Elephant Tree (Copal)

One local man with open low-leg sores asked me to harvest him some copal last spring.  He drank just a little every day, dissolved in water, to improve his blood circulation.  By the time I saw him again his wounds had sealed over and the tissue quality had much greater vitality, and he is walking a little better.  In another case this summer, it helped as part of an herbal regimen to quickly clear blood clots and improve circulation.

Trigger Point Charts

Many times a little time with a tennis ball is all you need to head off a building pain syndrome.

Here are some handy free charts mapping pain areas to the trigger points that fire them up.    Find your area of pain in the patch of color, then look for the ‘X’ that marks where you will find an overbearing little ball of pain that must be unwound so it can release its grip on the rest of you.

If you are working specifically with a frozen shoulder, here is a good place to start.  These photos show clearly some of the most common spots to check if you are having shoulder pain.  I would also add to dig around under the collar bone and at the top of the chest, probing to find painful spots and gently squeeze/pressing until they release or shift.  It is not necessary to use the special equipment they show here to release yourself from an immobile and painful shoulder.  Just put a tennis ball on the spot and lean against the wall, or reach over with your fingers.

That same site has an excellent spread on self-care points for hip and piriformis pain and sciatica.



Beyond the basics: Two useful tools for trigger point self-care

A Theracane has knobs in all the rights spots for easy leverage of just about any trigger point you need to reach.

And dense, inflatable rubber balls are excellent for getting into areas that are too sensitive for the tennis balls.  Here is an inexpensive one.


And the prize for most Unnecessary Need Filled…

goes to this doozy, a ‘performance sleeve’ for trigger point massage balls.   Who doesn’t have a spare sock on hand?


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