The sixth flow – taking your place in the world

As the life force energy spirals out from your core, feel it reach your skin. Feel your skin become like bark, containing the life energy within you as it grows. Feel your skin become a strong barrier between what is you and what is not you, containing and strengthening your life force energy.

Take your rightful place on the world, safe and protected by this skin.


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The fifth flow – creation of life energy

As the energies from the earth beneath you and the sun above continue to flow into you, envisage them meeting in the middle of your body.  The combination of these energies is the total of yin and yang, the two aspects of life force.  As the energies meet and combine, experience how they energise your solar plexus chakra and perhaps your heart chakra.  Welcome them as they spread up and down your body, fortifying and filling you with life.


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The fourth flow – taking in the sun’s energy

As you’re sitting or standing tall, still rooted in the earth, still reaching up to the sun, begin to feel the heat of the sun on the top of your head.  Feel the warmth from above on your shoulders.  Welcome in that warmth, that energy from Father Sun through your head, through your skin, and feel it passing into your body, moving down through your neck, shoulders and chest at the same time that the energy and love from the earth is still rising up through your roots and feet.  Feel the difference and the sameness in the energies from the two directions and welcome them both.  You are balanced between the two and for now, this is enough.


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The third flow – reaching up to the sun

While keeping contact with the earth and feeling her energy flowing into you, now take your focus into your spine and upper body.  Elongate your spine, allow yourself to grow tall and feel your body reaching upwards towards Father Sun.  Even if you’re indoors, even if it’s cloudy or night, picture the sun above and grow towards the immense radiant energy while still rooted into the ground.


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The second flow – drawing on the love and energy of Mother Earth

After connecting to the earth (the first flow) and letting your unwanted energy drain away, begin to feel the love and energy of Mother Earth rising up towards you.  Feel it connect with the roots growing down into her and flow upwards through your foot chakras.  As it rises up your legs, tingling as it goes, create a bowl of your pelvis.  Allow the energy to flow up and into the bowl, filling it full and overflowing into your body with love.  For you there is infinite nourishment from the earth, always there to be called on, always there to fill you up and create this reservoir within you.  This is ancient and you can carry it with you wherever you go.

For now, this is enough.


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The first flow – connecting to Mother Earth

Sit or stand comfortably with your feet flat on the floor.  It doesn’t matter if you’re outside or indoors, barefoot or shod, just feel the pressure of the sole of your foot against the ground as gravity makes the connection for you.

Relax your body.  Drop your shoulders, unclench your jaw, soften your knee joints.  Tilt your pelvis slightly backwards and forwards to find the sweet relaxed curve of your back and feel the tension in your abdominal muscles, adjusting until you’re comfortably supported.  Breathe gently in and out.  Calm your mind and let go of thoughts.

Bring your awareness back to the soles of your feet.  Feel the contact with the ground, reassuring and comforting.  Now envisage the chakras in the balls or the centres of your feet opening like lenses, focussed on the ground.  When you are ready, allow tiny, delicate root tips to grow out of your feet towards and into the ground, feeling their way into the earth.  As they grow downwards through the earth, creating a fine network that holds you supported by the ground, begin to feel the solidity of the deeper layers below, the stones and bedrock beneath.  Feel the enormity of Mother Earth who is always there to greet and support you.  Hold yourself relaxed and connected, supported and one with the earth.

After a while, if it hasn’t happened already, feel any unwanted tension in your body flow down through your roots into the earth.  Any feelings, energy, thoughts that you don’t need or want, let them go.  Imagine these draining away, taken into the earth and the bedrock down below to dissipate and be received.  The earth can take these back and transform them into timeless energy to be renewed and used again in a positive way.  There is, for you, infinite capacity to be greeted and supported in this way.

For now this is all, this is enough.  When you are feeling calm and refreshed, and ready to move on, say thank you to Mother Earth and gather back your awareness into your everyday self.  Ease up your feet from the floor knowing that even as you do this your feet will know and remember the connection for when you need it.


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The holistic approach to health

Recently someone who asked me what I did as work said he had no idea what a holistic therapist was.  What exactly is a holistic approach to health?  In my book it’s looking at the whole picture when you become unwell, not just a simple case of diagnosis and treatment but how the illness, or dis-ease, has come into your life and affected it.

For example, if I catch a cold or similar virus, this is what I do.

  • Rest.  There is a reason I have become unwell – yes, I have a virus, an external agent has attacked me, but if we were all to react to every virus we are exposed to we would be ill all the time. So I first need to accept that my body needs time to fight the infection, that I need to slow down and check my mental and emotional health for stressors that might have lead me to become vulnerable on this occasion and ask myself why have I become unwell just at this time.  There may be obvious things that I can do to better protect my health in the future.
  • Support my body. As a healthy adult I already have all I need to overcome the illness – a well evolved immune system. I need to make sure that everything I do works with my immune system rather than against it. In practical terms this means:
    1. Drinking plenty, lots of water and warm drinks. The lymphatic system can’t work properly if your body is dehydrated and this is a vital part of the immune system.
    2. Take a herbal remedy that supports the immune system – in my case I find a tincture of echinacea works wonders. Take advice from a qualified herbalist or go online to one of the better websites, I find A Vogel has excellent advice and their products are very good quality.
    3. Avoid medications that work against the immune system. For example, paracetamol is often recommended to reduce the symptoms of colds and flu because is eases aches and pains and reduces fever. Fever is one of your body’s ways of fighting infection because invading bacteria and viruses thrive at normal body temperature. So as a normally healthy adult, fever should help me get over my illness more quickly. It is, of course, even more vital to drink plenty of liquids if your body temperature is raised.
    4. Bring in the cavalry – essential oils. As an aromatherapist I know that many essential oils have antibacterial and antiviral properties and support the immune system. By diffusing and breathing in a blend of these, the oils pass into my body and help to fight the intruders as well as helping others around me to avoid becoming ill. To help with aches and pains I may make a different blend to soak in in the bath, and a gel mixed with a third blend of analgesic oils helps to soothe and clear headaches.  If I am experiencing a stuffy nose or sore throat, sinus pain or anything else I will make another appropriate blend.
    5. Use reflexology. By working the reflexes on my feet and hands I can hope to support my immune system further in doing the good work it’s already engaged in and also relax my body and mind so that I can get plenty of restorative sleep.
  • Pay attention to my diet once I am feeling better. As a well nourished healthy adult in the first world I usually have no nutritional deficiencies but while unwell I will probably not have been eating a balanced diet. Now is the time to bring in plenty of varied fruit, vegetables, good fats and high quality protein to make sure that I get back to full health.
  • Ask myself what I’ve learned from this experience. One of the most useful things included in my training as a holistic therapist is reflective practice and I do this for all of the treatments that I give, including those on myself.

And finally – celebrate and enjoy life to the full when I am well again.

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Plant spirits

corsica-plant-spiritWe’ve just got back from Corsica which is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.  Having previously stayed near Calvi in the Northwest and Porto Vecchio in the Southeast, this time we choose to spend a week just over the hills from Bastia on Cap Corse in the Northeast.

It’s not just the unspoilt hills and mountains and the mediterranean coast that are beautiful – it’s the smell of the island.  Almost everywhere at any time you can catch the scents of the maquis, the shrubby aromatic plants that are the original inhabitants of Corsica.  Juniper, lavender, myrtle, helichrysum, fennel, yarrow, nepeta, chicory and all their friends come to the party.  The place is alive with plants and you can never forget it.  There are quite a few small farms which cultivate organic plants to distill some of the best quality aromatherapy oils in the world – particularly helichrysum or Immortelle which is an outstanding oil for skin care and regeneration.  And of course the Corsicans use herbs de maquis in every conceivable food preparation from sausages to biscuits to cheese – both feeding them to the sheep and goats and then wrapping the finished cheeses in them.


There were plenty of native plants growing near where we were staying so while I was there I took the opportunity to make some plant essences.  These are not the same as the essential oils used in aromatherapy – for those you need a still, a license and industrial quantities of plant matter – plant essences are completely energetic or spiritual remedies.  The best known are probably the Bach flower remedies but every plant has healing properties or “medicine” freely given to those who ask.  The trick is not really in making the essence – that’s relatively simple  – it is, as always, in knowing what it is that that particular plant has to offer you.  The first two I made were white yarrow and santolina (santolina above).  White yarrow is a spiritually protective plant and the properties of its flower essence are well documented but I haven’t yet done the research on santolina or cotton lavender.

holm-plant-spiritThe next two that I made were from two very different plants – the evergreen oak trees surrounding us and the white flowered creeping plant that was being used as a lawn for the property.  Evergreen or holm oak (left) is also known as holly oak and I’m thinking that its properties may well have much to do with those of both holly and our own native oak, both being good heart plants – again more research to be done.  But the plant that most surprised me was the carpet plant which I identified from the internet as phyla or lippia nodiflora (below).  It’s a deceptively tough little plant of the verbena family – not native to Corsica – that hugs the ground and sends up phyla-plant-spiritmasses of tiny white flowers with a purple centre – reminds me slightly of prunella vulgaris (another favourite).  The bees were loving the flowers and, after I made the essence, I could see why.  This tiny plant has an amazing vibration, giving a huge energy boost to those who are flagging.  I’ll definitely be working a lot with this essence.

On a more conventional aromatherapy level I’m also inspired by our trip to try and create an essential oil blend that for me captures the headiness and healing properties of the maquis.  Pine, lavender, juniper and fennel will definitely be in there, the difficulty will be what to leave out.

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“The use of pendulum or rods to find water or minerals”
“the use of apparently paranormal powers to make discoveries”

Hamish Miller, The Definitive Wee Book on Dowsing.

A few days ago some friends and I set out into nearby Wales to meet a man called Peter Taylor to spend a day being introduced to the ancient art of dowsing for water.  Peter has been a professional dowser for some decades, working to locate water, oil and gas and even gold here in the UK and around the world as well as working with earth energies and tackling problems of geopathic stress.  He is a respected and award-winning member of the British Society of Dowsers and advises their local group in North Wales.

Beginning indoors at the Rhydymwyn Valley visitor centre, Peter took us through the basics of using various dowsing tools, pendulums; copper and other metal L-shaped rods and y-shaped “sticks” made, not out of the traditional hazel, but what looked like pieces of plastic curtain track.  There was also a w-shaped apparatus which was very sensitive and I’m not sure any of us quite got the hang of it.  The important lesson here was to try different tools to see which worked best for the individual.  I had previously only used a pendulum and was happy that the L shaped rods of various sizes seemed natural and easy to use.  Whichever tool you use the idea is the same – the tool is held gently at rest but in a way so that it is able to move.  You then form a question in your mind or hold the idea of what you wish to physically locate and the tool moves to give a yes/no answer to the question or when the correct physical location is reached.

Firstly we were shown how to use the tools to test whether we were “positive” enough to be able to dowse – and to assess just how high our positivity was.  Everyone uses their own metaphors or constructs and I liken this positivity to being in the right frame of mind to receive whatever information it is one tunes into when dowsing.  I was originally introduced to dowsing as part of my first reiki course when it was explained as a way of finding out what you know when you don’t know you know it.  In other words, our minds and connections to our bodies are so complex that there is information hidden away that we can’t always directly access and need to use a tool to help us divine it.  So dowsing can be viewed as a reasonably explicable method of allowing our subconscious to express information through body micro movements that are converted by the tool used into large enough movements to be sensed by the conscious mind.  In other words, we already know or perceive the answer to our question but the dowsing tool enables us to make it explicit.

Peter then talked us through some of the basics of the incredibly complex issues around finding information about underground water.  It’s certainly not just a question of “here be water” – which is what I had thought having only really met water divining before in Arthur Ransome’s classic novel “Pigeon Post” where the children want to camp up high on the fell but the springs have dried up in the drought.  They try dowsing with hazel rods and one of the group manages to find a spot which, when dug out, forms a beautiful natural well perfect for their needs.  Modern water dowsing needs to determine the quality of the water, where and at what rate it’s flowing, how far down it is, what’s between the water and the surface and more besides.  If a dowser is not accurate enough, a lot of expensive drilling can be wasted to no effect.  Peter says that if you can learn to dowse for water, you can dowse for anything, and I can see that it’s a rigorous discipline.

Slightly fazed by all the technicalities we headed outside to try some practical dowsing.  The Rhydymwyn Valley Works Site is now a nature reserve but was used during the war to produce mustard gas shells and also hosted the initial phases of the atom bomb research before it was moved to the US.  Buildings that now house colonies of bats are being reclaimed by plants and other wildlife while the spooky network of underground tunnels are sealed off and can only be glimpsed from outside.  It’s a fascinating place well worth a visit but we were there to see if we could dowse for the underground water courses.  Running through it is the river Alyn, a tributary of the Dee, which is a river of many guises as the mining works around Loggerheads and beyond create many caves and sinkholes where its waters become lost underground.  At Rhydymwyn it mostly flows through a culvert sometimes open and sometimes covered.

dowsing reflexology

Peter encouraging one of our group dowsing with L-rods and water samples

So, how did we do?  Did we find water?  Yes, we did.  Hamish Miller says that anyone can dowse, Peter thinks about 9 out of 10 can.  Out of the five of us, all ended up getting reactions to at least some of the underground water flows although some managed it quicker than others.  Peter demonstrated this by taking us to sites where he knew the underground water profile and leaving us to individually try and locate the flows, “reaction” lines either side of the flows, directions, depths and rates of flow.  We each used our tool of choice and marked out our findings with a set of coloured flags and all achieved at least some accurate pinpointing of location – although working out what it was we had located was more problematic.  It was easy to confuse water flow with edge of culvert or reaction line.  It was relatively easy to divine direction of flow and some of us got at least some accurate readings of flow volume.  After we’d had an initial go divining the Alyn underground Peter took us to look at the river where it was visible and then back to the underground site.  Remarkably I found it much easier to get accurate information having seen the river in the flesh, so to speak.  Apparently the more you know about the subject you’re trying to dowse for, the more easily you can do it and the more accurate your responses.

After a break for lunch we moved to Loggerheads to follow the Alyn as it flowed in the valley and then disappeared completely, leaving the stream bed dry, into sinkholes and old mine works.  Along the edge of the dry river bed there are therefore several places where there are considerable underground flows and, because the cavities are largely man-made, the flow of the water isn’t always predictable from the surface.  The volumes of flow were much larger than we’d encountered on the Rhydymwyn site and Peter thought it would be a good learning experience to see how this affected the performance of the rods.  To be honest, I think we did less well here than we had in the morning.  There was water all around in some places and perhaps this made the dowsing more difficult for us rank amateurs.  We were also becoming tired and, increasingly, it was difficult to stay “positive” or in the correct frame of mind.  It was good fun though, and we provided interest for the other walkers!

So what did we learn from the day?  I took away several very useful things for my own practice of dowsing.  Firstly, knowledge of your subject is important.  I personally believe that I am dowsing when I do reflexology in that the energetic representation of the body’s parts and organs on the feet are sensed as reflexes in various ways – in this case my tools are my fingers and my mind.  Knowing more about reflexology and being a more experienced reflexologist therefore helps me to “dowse” the reflexes to assess what might need to be done in the treatment session.  Secondly, the importance of being “positive”, or in the right frame of mind was reinforced.  I think there are different ways of doing reflexology but the way I work is definitely enhanced by the ability to tap in to the information in my clients’ reflexes and this requires quiet, stillness and the right frame of mind to form the connection.  And lastly Peter confirms what I have learned elsewhere – the importance of ethical practice.  The BSD code of ethics is a very good example.

My friends too came away with a very positive attitude to their first ever taste of dowsing.  They all agreed there was definitely “something to it” and felt that their experiences of feeling the dowsing tools move to relay information were real and in many cases accurate.  Accuracy can only be improved by practice and Peter advises at least 3 days to have a good stab at learning water dowsing.  They continue to mull over the experience and agree it was a thoroughly interesting way to spend a day.

And lastly – so how does dowsing work?  The importance of being “positive”, or being in the right state of mind, is paramount.  In this way we can tap into our subconscious and information that may have previously been hidden.  This might be construed as being an ancient sense that Man used in his early days to connect with the landscape and find water – or anything else he needed to find. But what if the information cannot possibly have been there in any explicable way beforehand?  What if someone could use dowsing to, for example, predict the lottery results or stock market movements?  Would that be a tapping in to knowledge that is somehow already there?  Many believe that there is an extra dimension to dowsing and similar work, call it what you will – energy, spirit, collective unconscious.  By stilling our chattering everyday mind, becoming open and paying real attention to what is in, around and about us in the universe there is an infinite source of information that can be accessed.  I experience and am grateful for it in my therapy work and it is there for everyone else.  Just remember to be ethical in your approach, as in all of life.

Further reading:

The Definitive Wee Book on Dowsing, a journey beyond our five senses – Hamish Miller.  One of the covetable and tactile Wooden Books series, watch out, they’re addictive (but fortunately not expensive).

Spiritual Dowsing – Sig Lonegren.  Some good stuff in here too.

The Sun and the Serpent – Paul Broadhurst and Hamish Miller.  The story of tracing the Michael and Mary earth energy lines across the UK.

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School aromatherapy day

aromatherapy oils chesterLast week I spent a day in a local school doing aromatherapy with some of the pupils.  We looked at where different essential oils come from and why we might use them.  We sniffed a lot of oils and their source plants – there were very strong opinions about which oils smelt good and which were awful.  Almost across the board the least liked smell was hyssop, a strong and bitter herb not much used in mainstream aromatherapy.  Citrus oils mostly came out on top.  Citrus oils generally are uplifting and joyous to use so I’m not at all surprised.  What was surprising was an almost complete failure to identify a rose flower – although it was an old fashioned variety with a fully double form (Charles de Mills) which may have been unfamiliar.

Then we moved on to looking at putting oils together in blends.  From a choice of six oils I asked the pupils to choose the three that went together and produced their favourite individual blend.  We also considered the properties of the different oils as we were going to use the blend to make a massage cream for a hand and arm massage.  There was a clear hierarchy of preferred oils, in order of preference; spearmint, mandarin, lavender, geranium, (Atlantic) cedar, patchouli.  This, in my opinion, pretty much follows the ranks of fragrance notes of the oils from top to bottom with patchouli, the most strongly base note, finding no takers at all.

The practical session ended with pupils pairing up to give and receive hand and arm massage.  Many of the pupils really enjoyed this part of the activity, with some of them taking notes in order to carry on at home.  I really hope there are some parents around Chester who’ve since benefited from being massaged by their child.  The whole experience was a lot of fun and a great change of scene for me – particularly the positive energy and noise levels which were rather different from a usual therapy environment!  A big thank you to all the pupils and school staff for their excellent participation and support.  There is a follow-up Q & A for pupils (and staff) here.

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