A reflection and meditation on poppy and scorpion medicine and how to release inner poisons

We are midway through the month of May, and it’s been a strange one for folks around the world in quarantine. And yet, perhaps you were able to feel a shift in the temperature of the winds, or get out into the warming sun and witness some blooming flowers. April showers are said to bring May flowers and in this month we celebrate the fertility of nature in many ancient traditions, and Mother’s Day in our current calendar. As parents, one way to reconnect with our bodies and with our children is to investigate the flower. Flowers are the reproductive organs of the plants around us, they contain both traditionally masculine and traditionally feminine biological aspects and while some plants can self-fertilize, most plant life needs an outside pollinator like birds, bees, and other insects. These creatures work in concert to bring pollen, which is the seed, into the womb space at the depth of the flower where the nectar lies. Flowering trees ripen into fruits, which they give of freely to all creatures; aquatic flowers oxygenate the water for the entire ecosystem within, and wild flowers provide fresh food, nectar and seed for animals while preventing soil erosion, and they often provide medicine for the human mindbody and spirit as well. The flowers that we curate in our gardens and homes create the ecosystem that we live within, and when they bloom, they reflect our own beauty and creative capacity.

 

We are coming off of the energy of the full moon in the sign of the scorpion, which may have been very intense for some people, as it was for me. I needed some processing of all that came up during that time (it was exact on Thursday May 7), and some resources to work with, as it went deep and dark. I work to not be afraid of the dark inner spaces that can emerge in relation to the scorpion, but to practice self-awareness to increase my own healing capacity and to integrate aspects of my self that I may have been pushing away. This process of integration is the basis of personal growth. The scorpion is known for its poisonous sting, which causes great change and even death in its victim. Yet the venom of this much maligned insect has been used since ancient times as medicine and is being rediscovered my modern biomedicine for its healing powers as well. Scorpio is the sign of the zodiac where we face transformation, it is the realm where we are initiated into a new way of being.

This initiation mirrors the process of becoming a parent where certain aspects of the self must be released in order to come into balance with the sweet life force of your new baby. We must change in order to become parents, and we have nine months to prepare for that change, but we can also continue adjusting as we learn more about ourselves as parents, and as our children develop into their own unique flowers. The more resistance we have to that change, the more we might feel challenged during the postpartum period; which while medically considered to be two years after the birth of a child is actually an active phase of new emotions, hormones, and intuitions that continues until menopause.

Outside of the realm of parenthood, all creation involves the accessing of parts of the self that we may not have engaged with, and big projects of works of art can be just as much a process of birth and release as the bringing of a human into the world. The Scorpio full moon has offered us a chance to see who we have become, and to pivot away from habits or reactive patterns that no longer serve us in our role of becoming who we want to be in this world. Much may have come to light for you, and I offer this meditation to help you work through it.

While the sun remains in the earth sign of Taurus, we have the continued opportunity to connect with our fertility, our inner creative force that not only makes new life but brings all types of beauty into the world through the work of our heart, mind, and hands. We connect with the joy of this creativity through our senses in how we perceive the world around us and also through our sensuality in how we interact with our own bodies and selves. We can bring the two together by connecting physically with the energy of our Mother Earth and experiencing the abundance of her many manifestations. One flower among many which can help to facilitate that focus is the poppy.

The gorgeous red of poppies is ripe with connotations in popular culture and mythology because the poppy is a powerful sedative medicine and has been connected with its relationship to sleep, or death. Again, another source of healing that has been forgotten and abused in modern culture. Poppy is what is called a pharmakon, the Greek root word that brings us pharmacology, which means a substance that is both a poison and a cure. All remedies are, depending on the dosage.  The healing power of the poppy latex has been co-opted for its addictive qualities, and yet the unprocessed seed remains a useful home remedy.

In Ayurveda, the poppy seed is used as a gentle and warming sleep remedy, as well as an antispasmodic to calm the nerves and the smooth muscle for relief of cramping, spasm, and cough. Its astringent nature also makes it a tasty and soothing remedy for diarrhea. It has a healing effect on the blood, plasma, muscles, and nerves. On a spiritual level, the bright red of the poppy connects us to our root energy, brings us back to our mother earth and allows us to go deep within to confront some of our deepest blocks. An exploration of the calming energy of poppy can bring about deep healing, which is shared in the meditation below. We choose to take our healing into our own hands, instead of waiting for the much more dramatic sting of the Scorpion to do it for us.

 

The Scorpio full moon offers a unique opportunity to release stagnation deep within our identities, lifestyles and habits, to create space for the flowering of our inner selves to continue. Every full moon is truly an opportunity to celebrate our successes and to adjust our perspectives to see what hasn’t worked so well for us during the lunar cycle. This one is special for its deep power to penetrate into the depths of the mindbody and soul, and the effects of whatever was revealed will be working on us at least until the Scorpio new moon in mid-November, and possibly beyond.

While this meditation aligns with the season, we have the opportunity to continue release these patterns that no longer serve us every month when we release blood from the womb, and during every dark moon cycle. While it has been called a curse by some, the shedding of blood is truly a deep gift for detoxifying the mindbody and spirit towards inner and outer growth. In Ayurveda, the menstrual cycle is explained as the reason why women tend to live longer than men, because they are doing a natural monthly detoxification! This meditation can be used at any time to connect to that process within, and it is deeply tied to the feminine energy. Those who do not identify with the feminine can use this meditation to begin to connect to their inner feminine energy, and to the deep red core of Mother Earth. Enjoy your flowering self, for you nurture the world!

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Dinacharya: How Ayurvedic daily practices can help you create more discipline in your life

It’s been a while since getting this website online, and there have been so many things I have written and not finished or even mostly finished but just not gotten up here on the page. Part of it is a general technological laziness on my part, as well as a lack of discipline about my writing. This year my work is to bring more discipline into my life so that I can accomplish all of the projects I dream up in my mind, on top of maintaining this site with helpful information on Ayurveda!

Luckily, of course, Ayurveda can help. In fact, I have been laying the groundwork for the past two years by developing my daily practices, called dinacharya.

Dinacharya can be as simple as waking up and brushing your teeth, and doing your exercises before you shower and eat. It’s the structure of habits that we naturally have built into our lives, which can work as scaffolding upon which to build new habits. It gives a sense of accomplishment and centers your day for better concentration and calm.

My morning routine involves cleaning my mouth Ayurvedically. I wake, use the bathroom, brush my teeth (I recommend switching your toothpaste if you are still using fluoride, even if you have sensitive teeth as I did for many years! That can best be changed with diet. Look into making your own toothpaste, it’s easy and works great), scrape my tongue with a copper scraper, do a few minutes of oil pulling, rinse my face and inside my nose with water (if I’m feeling like I might come down with a head cold I will also do a Neti pot), dry off, and oil up. Depending on the season I might use a mix of sesame and sunflower oils with some essences mixed in, or just straight coconut oil, and I put this oil on my whole body or at least upper body depending on how much time I have and what time of month it is. I put some oil also into my nose, sniffing up so that it penetrates into my sinus passages. This is called nasya, and it’s very calming for the nervous system and invigorating for the mind.

Traditional Ayurvedic texts would have me waking before dawn to first empty my bowel, sit to meditate for an hour, do the cleansing routine I just described (which maybe takes about 8 minutes), do a full body oil massage called abhyanga, then my yoga practice, shower and eat before 9am. The whole day is mapped out for each body type, or dosha, to follow in terms of when to eat, sleep, work, rest, even have sex! I’ll explain the Ayurvedic times of day and the daily timelines for each dosha in a later post, it’s quite helpful for creating a routine that makes sense for you.

The ancient texts give us a guideline or a goal, but we also have to live in this world in whatever way we have chosen. I am working on my early rising, currently with about 40% success over the past two months. I have a ways to go! But I know that I personally do feel better when I have had time to sit in meditation and do some yoga alone before breakfast with my family. So I keep at it.

Biomedical science also has proven that having habits and rituals can make us more productive, more creative people. Check out the links at the bottom of the page for more reading on the subject from modern research.

Dinacharya is hard to maintain if you live a very open schedule or have many changes to your daily life on a regular basis. I never even thought about trying to keep this type of schedule when I was working late for a bartending job and getting up early to teach yoga. (Talk about dissonance!) I began to feel the need for something to ground my energy at the start of the day during a time where I had no structure at all in my life. I was traveling and world wandering, and I hadn’t yet learned about the dinacharya guidelines. So I started making my bed in the mornings, a practice I had stubbornly abstained from since young childhood. I came to enjoy how it changed the environment of any small space that I would be occupying at any given time in my hectic travels. And I built a daily habit from there.

It was particularly difficult for me to maintain any daily practices as the mother of a newborn, for example, and learned quickly that any routine I could build into my life during that time would help me to stabilize mentally and emotionally, and from there I could build strength back. (For more info on my birth story and postpartum difficulties, read here) It is exactly these habits which give us the strength to make other changes, be they in diet or lifestyle or even in spiritual beliefs. We can make inner change and reflect that on the outside, or we can adopt practices that support the changes we want to make on the outside, which will create space for the person we want to become. It the reason why “fake it til you make it” sometimes isn’t such bad advice. Do what you want to do until doing it becomes natural to you.

Dinacharya is one of the greatest gifts that Ayurveda has given me. I continue to work on improving my habits, building in new practices that sustain me, and creating new rituals to give meaningful shape to my days. If you are interested in learning more, you can book a consultation! In one session I can provide you with many ideas towards the restructuring of your daily practices to fit your unique constitution, and give you dietary guidelines to help balance your energy and emotions while making the change.

To your wellbeing and for life!

 

Check out some of these sources below, none of my links are sponsored.

Some science explaining how we build habits around other actions, or “contextual cues”

A more clickbaity article about routine and ritual

An article on best ingredients to use in a homemade toothpaste and some recipes

More info about tongue scraping from Dr. Douillard, a mainstream online Ayurvedic guide, and a link to buy (currently only Amazon links, sorry!)

 

 

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What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda is an ancient medical system that comes from India and which has informed modern medicine but which is only now coming to be truly understood within a Western context. It is a study of the mind, body, and spirit, that creates new pathways for health through awareness and prevention, while still being able to tackle heavy-duty issues such as surgery, cancer, and many other examples of serious disease.

The word Ayurveda comes from the Sanskrit terms ayus and veda. The word ayus means “life” or “longevity” and veda means “science”, “art”, or “sacred knowledge”. The Vedic culture that prospered in the Indus Valley during prehistoric times is survived by the Vedas, which are texts on how to live your best life, before it became a catchphrase. The Vedic texts form the basis of the yogic path, to which Ayurveda can be considered a sister science. The roots of Ayurveda are thus esoteric and spiritual, though it became more standardized with the writing of the Samhita texts (still in the first millenia BCE). Ayurveda evolved as the main system of medicine in India even alongside allopathic medicine with the colonization of India by the English. At the start of colonization, the two systems shared many ideas, and modern Western style surgery was heavily influenced by Ayurvedic surgical techniques, for example. The current practice in India runs the gamut from unregistered practitioners in small towns to Western medical hospitals that also offer Ayurvedic medical care, with trained Ayurvedic physicians. The practice of Ayurveda as it has been adopted in the West are especially suited to treating chronic disease as well as immunological disorders, and the Ayurvedic perspective on diet per dosha (body type, or constitution) is becoming very popular especially in the New Age and Alternative Medicine worlds.

Ayurveda is unique in the way that illness is assessed. A practitioner will seek to find the source of the imbalance and address the root cause of the problem, which may be physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. The root as well as the symptoms are addressed in the treatment plan. For example, the Ayurvedic approach to treating a cold might be as follows. First you make sure you bundle up for a few days and drink warm fluids to treat the root cause, which is in fact coldness. You take the correct herbs and foods to ameliorate the cough and soothe the sinus pain. And you avoid the foods that cause coolness and moisture in the body- no cucumber or milk! For next time, you remember that you only get sick if you stay up too late finishing work or when you get caught in the rain- these are other root causes. So you rest up in times of pressure or stress and you give yourself an immune boost right after the next rainstorm where you forgot your umbrella. In this example you can see that even simple actions like getting enough sleep and not getting wet can be perceived as the solution to health and wellness issues. In this case, it’s not sleeping itself that causes the low resistance to the bug that may be causing the cold according to Western medicine, which only takes into consideration the external influences on the body in sickness.

The human system according to Ayurveda is a microcosm for the Universe itself. The body is the field on which any seed can grow, of health or disease. The field is strongly affected by the season as well as by the nourishment it is given. An unfertilized field in the dead of winter will bear no fruit. An autumn field windblown with trash and infested with moles will bear substandard fruit. Thus, the environment (season) and the foods (nourishment) that we give our bodies (the field) will influence whether or not a microbe (seed) can grow and cause sickness, or whether the seed of a child can take root in a womans womb space, for example.

Once you find balance and are free of chronic disease or systemic imbalance, the goal in Ayurveda is to maintain wellness with preventative measures such as proper diet for your constitution, daily practices, seasonal cleansing and the use of rasayana, or rejuvenation therapies to strengthen immunity, vitality, and fertility. Wellness is best achieved when we can be aware of the warning signs that tell us we are coming down with a cold, maybe its an incipient headache or swollen achy lymph nodes on the sides of the neck.

Learning the warning signs of imbalance for your body is called awareness. Self awareness is one of the greatest tools that Ayurveda can give you- on the physical level of what happens in your body, on the mental level of what types of thoughts you think and their patterns, on the emotional level of how you experience the situation, and on the spiritual level of whether or not the experience resonates with your beliefs or causes you to change your beliefs. Ayurveda allows each individual to understand their own constitutional imbalances and become the keeper of their own wellbeing. Every action you take on any of these levels to counteract imbalance is a step towards living the art of longevity, Ayurveda. The first step is learning, and at ova wellbeing we can help!

 

Sources

Caraka, Rāma Karaṇa Śarmā, Bhagwan Dash, Agniveśa, and Cakrapāṇidatta. Agniveśas Caraka Saṃhitā: Text with English Translation & Critical Exposition Based on (Cakrapāṇi Dattas Āyurveda Dīpikā). Vol. V. Varanasi: Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office, 2012.

Saini, Anu. Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care. Summer 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5290754/.

Svoboda, Robert. Ayurveda for Women:. New Delhi: New Age Books, 2002.

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