Last night during my weekly Mood Management Mondays class, we worked with Patchouli, an oil that addresses body shame and body judgment. Considering the WASP body-shame culture the hippies emerged from, it makes sense that they relied heavily on patchouli to shake off ideas that the body is evil, sinful, and disgusting. In many ways, we haven’t shaken this idea off as a culture. Though we now use the language of fitness/image/beauty instead of religion, the puritanical emotional m.o. is the same. (Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth draws this metaphor out exquisitely)
Even though I’ve done research for the class and had my own experiences with the herbs/oils we’ll be working with, I’m always struck with the power of doing a plant meditation in a group and sharing our experiences with one another. Last night was no exception.
Though patchouli is a low bush, everyone had visions of the forest. Of eating the forest, of being the forest, of being a tree, branches held high to the sky. Why would an oil that addresses body shame and body judgment have us turning into trees? What is it that trees understand that we need to learn?
When I was living in Utrecht, I kept getting these images in my meditation of trees spinning around because they weren’t grounded. The roots had no soil, and they were in a spin- not knowing where to build out to gather sunshine or bear fruit.
Last night, I really connected to the awareness that if I wasn’t in my body, I wouldn’t be able to keep my heart open. If my heart is not open, I’m not going to be able to bear fruit in my life. Contentment will be hollow and short-lived. Relationships will visit authenticity, but not live there.
Patchouli supports the root chakra. If the root chakra is unbalanced, it can result in financial insecurity issues. Affirmations for the root chakra are “I have a right to be here.” and “I have a right to my needs.” It makes sense that if we can’t receive the truth of these statements fully, manifestation will be blocked, money problems will seem to always surface, and feelings of connection and belonging will be elusive.
As we moved deeper into conversation with the oil, the grounding feelings intensified. I was reminded of an experience I had at a 5 Rhythms workshop earlier this summer on Yes & No in the body where I realized that I had been experiencing grounding feelings as sadness. The doTERRA book I have on Emotions and Essential Oils describes patchouli as “balanc[ing] those who…seek to escape the body through spiritual pursuits.” Up until about 4 years ago, my spirituality –regardless of what house it practiced in–had been about trying to find the escape hatch out of my body. Not surprising for someone that has experienced physical and sexual abuse, but last night I became acutely aware of how bracing myself against my body was also preventing me from letting that unconditional, transcendent Love that every religion preaches truly flow through me.
After the plant meditation, we did a writing exercise that puts you in touch with the voice of the body. I am always amazed at how loving the voice of the body is. It is not harsh and judgmental. It does not criticize. It does not shame- even in areas and about issues you’d think it would. It speaks of my neglect and mistreatment of it in the most compassionate and kind way you could ever imagine. When it shows me how I’ve taken advantage of it, it is not in the resentful voice of the victim, but simply showing me how I’m hurting myself by doing so. It shows me these things by praising the thing- no matter how small- that I’m doing right. The way it lifts me up is so humbling. It is an amazing, miraculous role model for agape. It really honestly only wants what’s best for me. its job is to support me and it does so gladly.
Most of my life, I’ve braced myself against fully entering my body. I didn’t trust it. Grounding felt heavy and sad to me and I wanted to feel light and floaty. What was I bracing myself against? I asked myself last night. Why was I afraid?
I didn’t trust being in my body. I didn’t trust what would happen there or how it would make me feel. My conditioning, both religious and cultural, told me that the body is not to be trusted and listened to, but to be held suspect and denied.
Why? What has it ever done to me? I’ve done much to it, but what has it ever done to me?
I’m reminded of moments when I felt betrayal- when it responded to things that were abhorrent to me or even traumatizing psychologically. I can count these moments on one hand. Why do I weight them more heavily than the millions of times that my body supports me through every day moments or even times when I’ve pushed it to the edge? Why do I forget all the ways it tried to warn me of danger and I didn’t listen? Why don’t those times count for anything? If I was in a relationship with someone that brushed past the things I did for them every minute of every day to hold on to isolated incidences, what would that feel like? If I was being blamed for something happening that I tried to stop, how would I respond? How cruel is that?
I still have healing to do. Everyone does. I need my body to be able to do that. I need to be in my body to keep my Heart open enough to let the blood flow and cleanse and nourish. All the incessant circling in the sky above my body just landed me from one frying pan into another fire. Its been coming in to my body that’s gotten me as far as I’ve come. Its time to fully step in now and chant “There’s no place like home.”Join us for Mood Management Mondays every Monday in NC Mesa. More information and tickets are available on my website at http://www.lifelinedevelopmentcoaching.com/mood-management-mondays1.html