by Josephine Spilka, M.S., L.Ac. – Opening the Senses – Renewal, Revelation and Relaxation with Essential Oils.
Do you ever feel stuck in the way you see yourself, bound by old stories or ideas about who you are? Do you wish for moments when you could just see or hear things differently? Spring is the time of new beginnings, fresh growth and a perfect time to renovate how we see and do things. In the Spring, which in Chinese medicine we think of as Liver and Gall Bladder or Wood element time, we are looking at rebirth and renewal as things emerge from the Winter slumber time and begin to grow again. So much is possible! This means our Liver and Gall Bladder systems must kick in to initiate some movement but also some kind of vision. The Liver system opens into the eyes and regulates our sinews. In this way it governs our vision for ourselves as well as our capacity to take action on behalf of our vision. To begin to take this kind of action, to begin to implement new vision, you must open your senses, something that can happen in a moment with a simple smell.
Essential oils, some of the most powerful plant allies that exist, can open your senses directly with their aroma. Essential oils are made from different parts of the plants and then processed to yield their innermost essence in the form of an oil. Some of them are made through steam distillation, some through carbon dioxide extraction, some through solvent extraction, but in all cases the result is a precious plant substance that has the power to open the orifices, bringing about immediate change to the way we perceive our world. Though you might think that essential oils mostly concern your nose, they actually awaken all the senses as their aroma penetrates each of our orifices in different ways. When we inhale the smell, we can feel how it affects our nose right away, but if you keep paying attention, you may notice how it affects what you see, what you hear, how you taste, how your body feels and what thoughts arise. It is quite a moment when you can reckon directly with how you feel stuck in your own perceptions and then inhale a new smell to find fresh perception arising, showing you new paths and new ways.
Our sense of smell is vital to many aspects of our lives. On a very physiological level smell is about safety. We smell things and know that they will be safe for us. Yet, our sense of smell is also about variety, possibility and pleasure. In biological fact, our noses can smell an infinite number of things. There is no limit! This is such an interesting fact. And even more interesting is the fact that we can smell things we have never smelled before and sometimes know exactly what they are, such is our sense of smell. When we smell, we can know without doubt both the intensity and the pleasures of life. This may sound like a strange thing to say, but most of us are living in circumstances that buffer us from the changes, the “windiness” of life. We live in climate-controlled buildings, rarely allowing our bare skin to feel rain or direct sun. We live disconnected from the electro-magnetic field of the earth wearing synthetic-soled shoes that block our bodies from feeling the earth itself.
When we work with plants, plants that have lived in a direct relationship with the earth, the sun, the moon, and the rain, we derive a kind of renewal and restoration that isn’t possible any other way. We actually reclaim the Qi, the energy, that comes from the relationship of plants to their environment and we ourselves connect through their substance and smell. Smell is direct connection to the brain and to the nervous system. Just by smelling something we have instant insight and fortification from the plant that gives off that smell.
So, for Spring here are a few essential oils you might consider smelling. I suggest that for each of these you offer yourself a big inhalation and at least 5 minutes to be with the experience. You can use a cotton ball and a drop of essential oil (1 drop is more than enough! More is never better with essential oils!) or you can use a mug of hot water, half full, with a drop added. You can also just smell from the bottle. Take a whiff and then rest for few moments allowing your body and spirit to offer you feedback.
For support with big vision, try Peppermint essential oil. Peppermint enters the Lung and Liver systems and so it is also good for any kind of wind condition. Especially it is good for any wind-heat constellation of headache, stuffy nose, or sore throat because it is cool and spicy. Use very sparingly as it can be irritating or over-stimulating in higher amounts.
For relaxation and especially easing the sinews, try Lavender essential oil. Lavender is another essential oil that enters the Lung and Liver systems so it can definitely help release wind, allowing us to move with change more easily. It also enters the Pericardium system which can help us to release old stories and create new understanding of ourselves and our world.
For uplifting the energy, moving qi and initiating new projects try Bergamot or Orange. The citrus essential oils are all great at regulating qi. Especially they work with the Lung and Stomach systems, helping us to digest new information and take in new perceptions. They also clear heat and help to calm the spirit in the midst of a windy season.
As Springtime also brings a lot of wind in most places. Wind which pushes us to move and change and grow, also tickles us, makes us sneeze and itch, manifesting as allergies. Springtime allergies can be very annoying. To prepare for allergy season, you could use Tea Tree essential oil to bring down histamine levels and reduce reactions during the time when things are pollinating. Tea Tree essential oil will release Lung heat, i.e. lower histamine levels and help the body to eliminate dampness in both the upper and lower burners. It will also strengthen Lung Qi preparing us to handle change and move easily through windy environments. A drop on Lung 9 and Kidney 3 each day for the month before your allergy season begins can be very helpful. In general, Tea Tree essential oil is safe for both adults and children. One exception is for those suffering from asthma where you will want to be cautious, applying as little as possible to begin with as the body discharges those excess histamines. Too much histamine at once in the bloodstream can equal an asthma or allergy attack, which is why you will want to start well ahead of the season for best results.
Essential oils are perfect allies when you want to open, move and relax with change. I hope your Spring will find you enjoying new perceptions, lots of relaxation and starting all kinds of great projects!
Josephine K. Spilka, M.S. L.Ac. is a licensed acupuncturist, practicing since 1994 with a Master’s degree in Traditional Oriental Medicine from Samra University in Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating she was introduced to the synthesis of classical teachings and the modern practice of Chinese medicine by Sharon Weizenbaum and Jeffrey Yuen beginning in 1996.
Josephine teaches, mentors and consults in Chinese medicine and Buddhist meditation. Additionally, as a former faculty member of Daoist Traditions College of Chinese Medical Arts in Asheville, North Carolina, she taught core curriculum courses utilizing classical systems such as Divergent Meridians, Luo Vessels and Eight Extraordinary Vessels as well as supervising students in the college clinic and conducting case review. Combining deep study with practical application, Josephine aspires to share the benefits of putting the classical teachings into clinical practice with her students and other licensed professionals.
In all that she does, Josephine is focused on investigating the relationship with essence in its many forms. Growing and innovating from her foundation in Chinese medicine, she teaches on essential oils and Chinese medicine, shares contemplative photography, and serves others in finding and mining their own essence. With pith and passion, Josephine brings together many streams of teachings to offer an inspiring and practical application of ancient wisdom.
You can find Josephine online at josephinespilka.com. As well, be sure to stay tuned to Eastern Currents for two new online courses from Josephine coming very soon!
Did you know Eastern Currents now has our very own line of Essential Oils and Blends? Vital Qi Essential Oils are 100% pure essential oils of therapeutic quality. Check out our range of single notes and blends!