Live by the moon

Humans are tidal. We're made of mostly water and pulled by the moon in ways we may not even consciously realize. We undoubtedly feel its pull on our emotional and creative rhythms, so why not tune more into this natural cycle so it can empower and inform our lives? Reproduction is affected by the moon by way of menstruation, fertility, and birth rates. Lunar cycles have been proven to impact the hormones of animals (do your cats go bananas on full moon nights like mine do?), along with influencing crime rates, traffic accidents, and hospital admittance. Acknowledging that this rhythm impresses upon our lives, bringing our awareness to it more fully, and using its power to guide our intentions can help us roll with the tide.

Simple rituals for the lunar cycle

A full lunar cycle, from new moon to new moon, lasts about 29.5 days. The new moon (or when the moon is in total darkness, resting in the shadow of the earth) is aligned with the idea of a fresh start and a new beginning. This is a time to start new projects and plant new seeds. It is a time to call forth energy to manifest something new over the following 14 days when the moon will be waxing, meaning the light part of the moon is growing. I enjoy setting intentions on a new moon for what I'd like to create for myself. I often smudge with the sacred wood, palo santo, to bring about fresh energy during this time. It is a wonderful time to create vision boards, soul collage cards, or to visualize what you would like to call into your life.

My recent full moon cleansing altar
My recent full moon cleansing altar

The full moon (or when the moon is in total, circular brightness, with the sun shining upon its surface) is powerful when it comes to honoring manifestations, decision-making, and setting intentions for what to release as we move through the following 14 days when the moon will be waning. Waning means the light part will be decreasing in size, as we move toward the next new moon. This is a wonderful time for smudging with sage or cedar, herbs which assist us in cleansing ourselves or our space, as well as letting go of that which is no longer serving our greatest good. I also like to write on pieces of paper the things I hope to release, and to burn those pieces of paper during the time the moon is waning. On a practical note, the energy of the waning moon period supports cleaning out your home and space. The light of the full moon is also said to cleanse the energy held in crystals and stones, so you can set them outside or in a windowsill on the night of the full moon.

The graphic below, by Ezzie Spencer, gives guidance on the types of intentions we are invited to set during each specific phase of the moon, along its path of waxing and waning. So, look upward tonight. Remember that you are a part of nature -- connecting more deeply to your place in the universe -- and perhaps try a small ritual of your own, letting your awareness of the phase of the moon empower you more consciously.

Spencer lunar cycle
Spencer lunar cycle

Natural healing: Oils, herbs, flower essences

Ever since I was a child, I intuitively understood the restorative powers of the earth's gifts -- I feel like we're all born that way. I remember concocting "magic healing potions" in my backyard that were made from flower petals and herbs growing in our garden --  usually with some mud or pebbles thrown in for good, messy measure. As I got older, I studied the healing properties of the earth's gifts: herbs, oils, and flower essences. For a few years during my 20s, I ran a small, side business selling natural care products such as soaps, salves, teas, and lip balms. This passion has now become integrated into my family's everyday care, and is one of the ways I tend to my own self-care. Here I'll share a brief overview of my favorite remedies, along with links (Amazon affiliate and otherwise) for where to find some of them. Important Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, and this is not medical advice. I am solely sharing which remedies and rituals I personally use for self-care and healing. Always consult with your doctor before beginning any natural remedy.

Essential Oils

I delight in the delicious aromatherapy essential oils provide. In the morning or when I'm needing to be more alert, I like citrus, minty, and green scents, such as grapefruit, ginger, peppermint, and rosemary. When I need to wind down and relax, I love lavender, rose, and ylang ylang. The quality oils from DoTerra are my absolute fav. You can purchase any of them here. Lately, my favorite oil is DoTerra's Balance blend, which feels very earthy and grounding to me. I enjoy sprinkling it into the bottom of my shower to create a makeshift steam room. I use oils in a warm mist humidifier in the wintertime, like DoTerra's On Guard oil for immune support and Breathe oil for respiratory health. I also use various oils throughout the year in a diffuser in my therapy office, and my clients comment on how much they enjoy the subtle scents in the room.

Herbs

I love to use dried herbs, though it's important to consult a doctor or naturopath before doing so, as they are quite powerful. I enjoy drinking herbal teas (peppermint, chamomile, fennel...) I also like to make herbal bath soaks, sometimes with eucalyptus or peppermint or lavender, mixed with ground oatmeal or epsom salts, tied up in a cheesecloth and placed into warm bath water. I also love to create with herbs by making things such as lavender wands, sachets, and dream pillows. (<-- Links to "how to" posts from my former art blog for families.) Bundling and then burning dried herbs (aka: smudging) is another favorite way I use herbs for self-care -- favorite smudging herbs of mine are sage and cedar. More on this piece in next week's post -- stay tuned! One of my favorite blogs for creative uses for herbs is 5 Orange Potatoes.

Flower Essences

I discovered Bach flower remedies during graduate school, and I have used them ever since. The Bach company puts out a list of how their remedies can help support different emotional states. They also list them by remedy, detailing the healing properties of each. Generally, flower remedies are administered by putting a few drops in your water bottle and drinking the essence, and some types, like their famous Rescue Remedy, come in a spray bottle so the essence can be spritzed into the mouth. An artful way I like to use my flower essences is to add them to my watercolor water or to my paints when making art, to energetically infuse my image with... well, healing flower power. While flower essences are very subtle, they are also powerful -- again, always consult your physician before use.

Simple ways to use oracle cards

If you're seeking a quick, fun, and meaningful way to look inward, working with oracle cards could be an enriching practice for you. The simple act of choosing a card (or a few cards) is an immediate way to invite self-reflection, whether you are starting your day, pondering a lingering question in your life, or invoking nighttime dreams. Oracle cards generally come grouped into a deck, and they can provide us with insight into our innermost questions -- not from some outside source, rather from our inner wisdom used in deciphering their message. Tarot cards are one well-known example of an oracle card deck, though there are many other types. You don't need to be a professional tarot reader, a shaman, a believer of woo-woo, or anything other than exactly who you are to make oracle cards part of your practice. All you need is a favorite deck (or you can even create a deck yourself using your own art and/or images cut from magazines.) A few of my favorite oracle card decks I keep around my studio are pictured below, and many can be purchased via the Amazon affiliate carousel at the bottom of this post.

Ways I like to use my oracle cards:

  • At the start of my morning
  • To set intentions for my week, placed upon my altar or around the house as a visual reminder
  • For clients to draw at the begining of therapy to arrive into the sacred space and set the tone for the session
  • As creative writing or journaling prompts
  • For help in answering a question that I'm mulling over (because the reflecting on the image requires me to go deeply inward and inquire from my true, core self.)
  • Before bedtime, to close my day or invoke/inquire into my nighttime dreams
  • To mark special occasions, like my birthday, new years, or the beginning of a project
  • To mark a transition, like a move, a new job, a birth, a death, a relationship beginning or ending

How-to and prompts:

Once you have a deck you like, get a feel for it. Hold the deck in your hands, shuffle it gently, cut the cards - do whatever you'd like. While you are holding the cards, think of a question you'd like to ask. It can be as simple as: "What do I need in this moment?" or "What will this day bring?" You can fan them out or stack them. Using your intuition, pull a card from the deck. (Sometimes a card will fall on the floor as you shuffle - that's usually your card.)

After you pull a card, study it closely. If you have a deck of words (like the Angel card or Blesssing card decks in the carousel below) or phrases on the card (like the Shambhala deck or Danielle LaPorte's Truthbomb deck,) then see how/if this word or phrase could apply to your life.

If your deck is comprised of cards with images, really look at the card you pull. What is pictured? What colors are used? Is there movement or stillness? Is there a person(s) present? Are there animals? Which natural elements stand out: fire, water, earth, air? Simply describe what you see. (We art therapists call the practice of just describing what you see "the phenomenological approach to the image" - fancy huh?) Describing form/the image leads to content/the meaning.

Now it's time to let your mind free-associate and play! Does your card remind you of anything or anyone in your life? Could it apply to the question you asked as you shuffled? What do the words or colors or shapes mean to you? (i.e.; "yellow reminds me of the sun and happiness" or "owls make me think of nighttime and wisdom" or "the word 'patience' is such medicine for me right now.") At this point, you may choose to make notes in your journal. If your card comes with a booklet describing the images (as tarot cards and other decks often do,) you might choose to then add this collective wisdom into your own personal reflections. Though, I'd recommend saving the booklet for last so as not to cloud your intuitive hunches.

You might also pull 3 cards in a row, representing 1) Who I was, 2) Who I am, and 3) Who I will become. You can get creative about what sets of cards can mean, or you can consult the booklet that comes with your deck to see what types of readings are recommended.

This practice can be infused with any energy you give it: light, fun, sacred, deep, meditative, inspiring... and the best part is that you can connect with yourself and your inner voice in under 5 minutes when engaging in oracle card reading. Trust the process.

An art therapist's favorite art supplies

I am often asked by clients, colleagues, and friends which art supplies are my favorites. I've not met an art supply I don't like, but I do have some standouts that are in heavy rotation in my studio. I believe in presenting my clients (and myself) with quality materials that foster positive, satisfying experiences. I display them in an attractive way, much like setting a buffet table for a most important dinner guest. I prefer natural light, beeswax candles cleanly burning, sometimes diffusing essential oils into the air, and in some cases, playing appropriate music. Creating a safe, pleasing sanctuary is part of the ritual of making art in my healing studio. This is not an exhaustive list of art supplies, by any means. It's just a sampling of a few staples in my personal studio stash. You can click the orange links in the body of this post to find these supplies on Amazon (affiliate links) or on other non-affiliated sites.

Paper:

First, it's important to me to offer yummy paper. For basic drawing, I use this white sulphite drawing paper.  When watercoloring, I like 140lb cold press watercolor paper. I make a 12-15 sheet pack of watercolor paper last by cutting or tearing it in half or into fun, small sizes.  (I actually prefer tearing the paper against a metal ruler because it leaves a pretty, raw edge.)

Making marks:

Sharpies are a go-to art supply for me - I like to Zentangle and make zendalas with Sharpies. I also draw with them and then apply watercolors because these permanent markers will not run.

When it comes to colored pencils, I have two favs. For a standard, fine point, you cannot beat good ol' Prismacolors. Sure, they're more spendy than Crayola, but quality over quantity counts so much in art supplies in setting yourself up for a successful, easeful, richly expressive experience. I also love the luscious softness of Ferby Lyra colored pencils. I recently found these woodless colored pencils, and I'm hooked on them.

I always love creamy oil pastels and materials like them. I offer these oil pastels in my studio, as well as these thicker, creamier color sticks, which have a lipstick-like consistency but allow for satisfying broad strokes when working large. (I love the metallic set, too!)

Watercolors:

Wet-on-wet watercoloring with liquid watercolors is one the most soothing activities for me personally, and for many of my clients. Mmmmmm! These are my favorite (and inexpensive!) liquid watercolors. I present them ceremoniously in these wonderful jars with these great wooden boards in my studio, and super-soft brushes aplenty.

Cake watercolors are old standbys for me, too. I prefer the palettes, vibrancy, and smooth application of these by Loew Cornell.

For 3-Dimensional Creations:

Because I don't have a kiln in my studio (yet? hmm..someday!), I rely on air-dry clay. I'm partial to the terra-cotta colored self-hardening clay. I also like white and gray tones, depending on the project. It's surprisingly strong when it dries, and can be easily painted with acrylics or inks.

I'm a fan of washi tapes of all colors and patterns. I stock baskets of yarns, ribbons, silks, cloth scraps... I offer wool roving, beeswax, buttons, and collage materials. I also love to keep natural wooden objects in my studio, such as wooden peg people, eggs, and Matryoshka nesting dolls. I get many of them at Casey Wood, but the basics can often be found on Amazon.

Most of all, I love art materials that are freely acquired from our abundant momma earth -- natural materials. I have stashes of sticks, driftwood, shells, stones, acorns, pinecones, feathers, leaves, garlic peels, twigs, moss, etc. that lend themselves to all sorts of art projects. They're free, gorgeous, and allow for such open-ended creating -- easily my favorite part of my studio.

You can check out some of my favorite supplies by clicking on the links to them in the text above and in the Amazon box below (scroll thru 5 pages in box) where you'll find extra goodies.

Happy creating! You can shop the list of my favorite supplies in my studio here.

So, what is Reiki anyway?

Reiki has been circling back into my practice more regularly since the new year, and it seems like a perfect time to write a little post about this ancient, subtle, and powerful hands-on-healing method. I am a Master/Teacher-level Reiki practitioner in the Usui tradition and lineage. I have been studying energetic healing and the chakra system since 1995, and I have been formally practicing Reiki since 2003. I enjoy calling upon Reiki energy for my own healing, cleansing the energy of a space, and for hands-on healing treatments for clients, family members, and friends.

This Spring I conducted two Reiki workshops in the Bay Area for therapists who also wish to become Reiki practitioners, and incorporate this type of energetic healing modality into their practices. In these workshops, I shared information about the psychology of the chakra system, taught specifics about Reiki I & II, and 'attuned' the participants to become Reiki practitioners. We gathered in a lovely space in Mountain View, and it just felt so good to send more healers out into this world.

So, what is Reiki?

Reiki is not a religion or dogma, does not take away from current belief system; it’s a gentle, effective, non-invasive hand-on healing modality based on an ancient form of healing. Rei means spiritual consciousness.  Ki means life force (sometimes called chi and prana). Thus, Reiki is a spiritually guided life force energy, which is everything around us (earth, air, sun, water.)

Some of the benefits of Reiki: 

  • Reduction in stress and anxiety
  • A sense of deep peace and tranquility
  • Release of blockages on physical, emotional and spiritual levels
  • Feelings of overall well-being
  • Renewal of spiritual awareness and insight
  • Inner stillness, allowing a deepening connection with self
  • Enhanced functioning of the immune system
  • Reduction in levels of chronic pain
  • Decreased time necessary for healing from illness or injury
  • Shortened recovery time from physical exertion
  • Management of symptoms from chemotherapy
  • Support for conventional medical treatment

What to expect during a Reiki treatment session with me:

I offer 75-minute Reiki sessions. You may think of scheduling a Reiki session as a self-care and self-inquiry treat to yourself, much like getting a massage or acupuncture. You don't need to be my psychotherapy client to receive a Reiki treatment, as I offer them independent of psychotherapy. At times when appropriate, I also incorporate Reiki with psychotherapy clients who are interested.

During a Reiki treatment, you will lie comfortably on a massage table, as you remain fully clothed. You may wish to gently close your eyes as you lie quietly on the table and relax fully into the treatment, remembering that you do not need to do anything to increase the effectiveness of the treatment.

The room will be comfortably lit with either candles or soft lighting. Soothing music may be played to enhance relaxation.

I will spend a few minutes getting to know you better, as well as discussing Reiki treatments and finding out what your reasons for coming for a treatment might be. Anything that you choose to share during your treatment will be kept confidential, remembering that this is a safe and sacred environment. If you have any significant areas of physical discomfort, be sure to share that information before the treatment begins, or as you become aware during treatment. I then will gently place my hands over/on the major energy centers, or chakras, of your body, leaving the hands in each position for a few minutes, helping the body to bring itself into balance as it draws in the healing energy of Reiki, and may spend additional time at other areas of the body that seem to be calling for attention.

During the treatment, you may experience a variety of sensations throughout your body such as heat, vibration or tingling, pulsation or flowing energy, lightness or heaviness, deep relaxation, and occasionally temporarily intensified emotions as you release blockages from the past. You may also fall asleep for all or part of the treatment, or find that you do not experience any physical sensations at all. This is perfectly normal, since Reiki does not need to be perceived for you to receive its many benefits, nor do you need to be awake during the treatment.

If you'd like to learn more, I recommend the following books on Reiki: (clicking on affiliate links below will open the Amazon page for the book in a new browser window on your computer) 

Or feel free to contact me to discuss scheduling a session.