Cilantro, Take Me Away!


At StarFish Dance & Yoga, Sarah Shulman and I have been holding a monthly class where we learn to use essential oils for emotional support. Each month we all go home with a small vial of oil that is the perfect one for the feelings and emotions that we are moving through. We pick the oil by smelling the ones that relate to the emotion we are working with. For instance, this month, I was working with worry. I smelled wild orange, tangerine, sandalwood and cilantro. How do we know which is the right one, we literally let our bodies show us. The right oil always makes me want to take a deeper breath and bring my eyes up toward the sky.

The olfactory system includes the nose, the sinuses and the lungs. Air that we breathe enters our circulatory system via the lungs and the brain via receptor sites for the limbic system which is considered the emotional brain. The limbic system is connected to the parts of the brain that control the heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress levels & hormone balance.

By allowing our bodies to choose the oil, rather than our minds, we bypass the trial-and-error that happens when we simply choose by reference. We also may be able to bypass preference. Sometimes oils whose fragrance I prefer are not the ones my body picks. And the ones my body chooses have had extraordinary results.

What I brought into class this month was a discovery I made as I have been deepening into meditation. I have recently been experiencing deeper, more peaceful spaces, as I practice quieting my mind and staying with my breath. And right at that moment when I become aware of how relaxed I am, I hear a little voice in my head says, “so, what are we going to worry about?” And from that moment on, all the possible things I could worry about start spilling into my quiet space.

One of the definitions of meditation is “cultivating self” which can also translate into getting to know myself. What I have been getting to know with this worry thing is that I have had what I could call and addiction to being worried. Sometimes there are things that cause concern, but in this case, I could feel myself fabricating something that a second ago had not there. It almost felt like I was opening the window to let in the mosquitoes. And I do this in my meditation because it is what I have done all day long for much of my life.

The mind is in part, a problem solver. I have compassion for the part of me that wants to worry. It is the super responsible me that wants to make sure all the ducks are always in a row. However, a) do I really need to worry about anything and b) while I am meditating? In meditation and in life, worry has become a great distraction from living in the present moment and living in joy.

Although wild orange, tangerine, sandalwood and cilantro are all indicated for “worried” states of mind, they all deal with different aspects of it. Wild Orange is the oil of abundance and quells worries about not having enough. Tangerine is similar (both sweet citrus) but has an added emphasis on being carefree. Sandalwood inspires spiritual devotion and trust in the inner voice. Cilantro, the one I picked, is the oil of releasing control, specifically of others and the environment. It helps to release negative emotions and toxins trapped in the body, heart and soul. When I smelled it, it took me away. I love it and find that is has a citrusy undertone I had not noticed before.

I am using the oil, putting a drop in my hands, rubbing them and inhaling 3 times. I have a small vial in my purse that I go to if I get into a worry loop during the day. I am even eating more cilantro. I am sure the oil is helping me in ways I do not consciously understand because I have felt less worried since using it and am more easily going into deep meditation without distraction. In my daily life, it reminds me that I can choose to put my attention somewhere other than worry.  Smelling the oil is another way to focus, like having a mantra or an affirmation.

The positive emotions that cilantro essential oil encourages are cleansing, liberation, detachment, being untroubled, are what I pray for every day. I am more easily slipping into these emotional spaces. Bypassing the conscious mind, I am going right for the goodies, changing my body-mind from the inside out with the gentle support of the oils.

Join us for the next emotional support with essential oils class: go here!


We are Music: Musing with the 4th Chakra

BeSoul image

Rhythm and melody. Can you feel them in your body right now? Can you find your pulse or the beat of your heart? Can you feel your breath moving in and out of your body? Can you sense the pauses, the rests, in between the inhale and the exhale? Can you find the place where these two blend? Close your eyes and tune in. Can you feel the space inside your chest as you fill your body with breath, the heart dancing its rhythmic beat in between? Now listen. Can you hear the music?

The first time I hiked the White Mountain Range in NH, I hiked up Mt. Washington. It is tall, over 6,000 ft in elevation. I was with my  husband. He was slightly ahead of me and we were on the final ascent. The peak loomed above us. So close and yet so far. And I began hearing music. But we were basically alone, I thought maybe Chad had his ipod on super loud, but no, no ipod. I had a moment of wondering if someone was playing music either up or down mountain from us. But, no. It was a weekday and we were alone. It sounded like house music. Same tempo and seemed to fade from straight house to a disco tempo at times. I dug it. And then it came to me. I was listening to my own heart, the rhythm ebbing and flowing with my breath and the changing terrain! It was me, my body making the music and I was hearing it form the inside out.

Entering this week with the 4th chakra, the Heart Center, brought me back to this place of listening. Calling this center the Heart Center is a bit deceptive. Yes, the heart is here, but so are the lungs. Both are organs that take in and send out, cyclically balancing the oxygen in our lifeblood, feeding and clearing… in an everlasting dance of time and space. Until of course, our bodies stop this dance and then we have death.

In the book, “This is Your Brain on Music”, Daniel Levitin posits that, ” ancient music’s character accounts for why so many of us are literally  moved by rhythm; by almost all accounts the music of our distant ancestors was heavily rhythmic. Rhythm stirs our bodies. Tonality and melody stir our brains. The coming together of rhythm and melody bridges our cerebellum (the motor control, primitive little brain) and our cerebral cortex (the most evolved, most human part of the brain). This is how Ravel’s Bolero, Charlie Parker’s Koko, or the Rolling Stones’ Honky Tonk Woman inspire us to and move us, both metaphorically and physically, exquisite unions of time and melodic space”.(1)

The bridge. The 4th Chakra is known as the bridge chakra between the lower and higher energies. Below we have the earthy 1-3, above the heavenly 5-7. The lower chakras respond to rhythm… the matter that happens in time. The upper chakras respond to melody,.. the movement that happens in space. In the body, the unity of the heart, an organ of time… keeping our beat, and our lungs blending inner and outer space. We literally fill ourselves and the fill the space around us is the bridge where our animal and our divine selves meet.

The Heart Center is also where where our arms reach out to touch and create, to express and to hold the relationships between the above and below, the inner and the outer worlds.  “From arm to arm, we have lateral balance that crosses the heart chakra… Here we see that our right and left sides, masculine and feminine, receptive and aggressive aspects are balance too.” (2)

Watch a conductor. Supposedly the brains of orchestra conductors are the most highly developed and balanced of any profession. They are not making music, per se, but they are making music with the orchestra. The conductor keeps everyone on the beat, reminds them when they need to come in and out, and models the melody. ” For orchestra musicians, synchronized playing under a conductor’s direction is necessary to achieve optimal performance.”  (3) I believe that the heart and lungs are the conductor of our bodies and souls in this same way.  This does not make the Heart Center the most important center. The conductor could not do their job without willing and talented musicians.  However, those musicians must surrender themselves to the greater whole and trust in the conductors guidance in order to make beautiful music, and in the case of the body, thrive.

The 4th Chakra, the Heart Center is also known as the Seat of the Soul.  This center can feel like such a vulnerable place. When the feelings of the lower chakras are not being expressed into the awareness of the upper chakras, the heart can suffer. When I do not know myself by heart, I literally feel lost. I reach out for the world to tell me what to do, what is right and wrong. When I listen to my heart (and I mean literally listen – go back to the first paragraph) I can hold my awareness in time, balancing body and mind. This simple act of listening can solve so much of what ails my heart. Sometimes tears arise, sometimes insight I had been seeking, sometimes a desire to act that had been alluding me.

The Heart Center is also the place of connection between us. Between you and me and all the other hearts that surround us. I cannot listen to your heart if I am not listening to mine. How I conduct myself around others is dependent on how I conduct myself with my own inner life. I must listen to my inner symphony in order to know the difference between you and me and also to be able to resonate with you. The dance between us is much better when we are in sync.

How many songs are about the heart! Following the heart, broken hearts, hearts throbbing, hearts beating as one. You can probably come up with 10 songs that you know really well right now that feature the heart. Many songs also feature the breath. And the Soul. Listen.

Here are the lyrics to Sting’s Let the Soul Be Your Pilot. Enjoy!

When you’re down and they’re counting
When your secrets all found out
When your troubles take to mounting
When the map you have leads you to doubt
When there’s no information
And the compass turns to nowhere that you know well
Let your soul be your pilot
Let your soul guide you
He’ll guide you well
When the doctors failed to heal you
When no medicine chest can make you well
When no counsel leads to comfort
When there are no more lies they can tell
No more useless information
And the compass spins
The compass spins between heaven and hell
Let your soul be your pilot
Let your soul guide you
He’ll guide you well
And your eyes turn towards the window pane
To the lights upon the hill
The distance seems so strange to you now
The dark room seems so still
Let your pain be my sorrow
Let your tears be my tears too
Let your courage be my model
That the north you find will be true
When there’s no more useless information
And the compass turns to nowhere
That you know well
Let your soul be your pilot
Let your soul guide you
Let your soul guide you
Let your soul guide you
Upon your way


(1) This is Your Brain on Music, Daniel Levitin P.262

(2) Wheels of Life, Anodea Judith P.223


Desire as Catalyst: 2nd Chakra Dance

Orange Rose

What does true desire feel like to you? Can you feel the difference between something you truly want and something you think you should want? I was playing with this inquiry all day yesterday since this week, in a teleclass I am leading with my sister, Gabriela Masala, we are focusing on the Second Chakra.

Our first time around doing the teleclass, we focused on the nourishment aspect of the 2nd Chakra. How do we discern whether what we are taking in is nourishing us or poisoning us? One way (ala Martha Beck) that we invited people to explore the 2nd chakra is to notice how foods make you feel. How does it feel when you think about eating it, when you put it in your mouth, when you chew it, after the digestion process has begun and onwards.

During that time, I shared that for me true nourishment radar has been so colored by years of dieting and gathering sometimes contradictory nutritional education telling me what is “good” and “bad” for me… food or poison. My radar had been warped so that I have defaulted to my mind or the google machine to ask – is this good for me? During that 2nd chakra week, I let go of my mind as a gauge and began exploring with my taste buds, my sensations and my “gut”.

What I was choosing to eat did not change so much, I love food and eat in a way that I know nourishes me because I feel good, sleep well and rarely get sick. However, what changed for me is that I began to really enjoy my food and find pleasure in eating. Playing with internal discernment invited me to eat slower, to savor and to appreciate the alchemical aspect of this chakra. How taking in something that is not me becomes me, how hunger is a call for satisfying a need that is physical and also emotional, how nourishment is not just about the actual food, but also about the gratitude for its manifestation.

This time around, Gabriela and I wanted to bring pleasure forward as another aspect of the 2nd chakra to explore. With pleasure, comes desire. Having a desire satisfied, truly deeply satisfied can be deeply pleasurable. Sensing pleasure itself can be deeply nourishing.  And in exploring this, I had to ask myself, what is the sensation of desire? Again, as with food, how much of my understanding of desire is about what I actually want and how much of it is about what I think I should want? What a good girl should want? Or what a bad girl should want? Versus, what do I want? How do I tune into my true desires? My true yes and no?

I was asking myself this in the sauna yesterday. My husband had brought up a bucket of water with tea tree oil and it was lovely up there. And there I was asking myself, is this what I want? I like saunas, I should want to be up there. Yet, I was feeling a pull, literally from my belly towards something else. When I tuned in, I knew that I really wanted to be in the house working on this project that has me so turned on (2nd chakra). Instead of leaving right away, I sat with the wanting and the desire. I wanted it so much that I could feel my body leaping out of itself. I was also aware of my mind talking to me, telling me to relax and enjoy the sauna – even though I really wanted something else. And it all felt so familiar to me, all the times I have talked myself out of my desire, invited it to settle back down. Denied it. Especially when I had a choice.

Yesterday, I did not deny it or talk it down. Instead, I just felt it, felt the emotional intensity of it. I let my wanting get bigger and bigger. And this desire to work on my project felt like a move towards a lover. I tuned into the pleasure that desire itself was offering. And then I got it. I got the place where I could choose to satisfy my desire by getting up and leaving the sauna and also that I did not have to. At that moment, I knew what true desire felt like. It was more about knowing that than the fulfillment.

I know there have been times in my life that although I felt a desire for something, for whatever reason, I felt like I could not have it. And instead of feeling the desire all the way through, I have talked myself out of it. All this in service of my emotions, to avoid disappointment, rejection, unsatisfied longing. And yet, was this really of service to my 2nd chakra. I believe I shut it down. I think this lurks at the bottom of my sometimes having a hard time say no. Not wanting to thwart another’s desires at the expense of my own.

My point, not every desire will be or must be fulfilled. And yet, I want to feel it, the impulse, the reaching out. I believe that simply the awareness of it, the acceptance of it and the way it moves me is part of what feeds my soul. In order to know my 2nd chakra, I need to feel my desires. And I cannot fulfill a desire if I do not know it, if I am not in relationship to it… to me.

The 2nd chakra is about polarity.  What happens to desire once it has been satisfied? What happens to hunger once we have eaten? This leads me right back to quality of nourishment.  If what I ate nourished me, I will feel satisfied and no longer hungry. For me, working on this project is so nourishing. And when I came in from the sauna and gave myself to it, the pleasure I felt was an extension of that desire. Fulfilled & satisfied. Alchemically transformed. This is what fulfilling a true desire will do.


Over or Under, you choose.

Sam on the beach

You are standing where the water meets the land.  A wave comes at you; you can jump over it, dive under it, or let it crash on you. I guess trying to outrun it is also an option. The jump over option lives in the realm or “getting over it” &  “getting above it” which usually requires accessing my higher self, my more mature self, being better than I believe I can be. The outrun or the let it crash on you options … both really depend on the wave and where in the process I am making the decision. Letting it crash on me could be fun, and also deadly. Outrunning it, again, how big is the wave, how fast is it going. Sometimes the outrun option is impossible.  Then there is going under. Going deeper into the emotional world, trusting that I can let the wave wash over me in the calm space underneath the turbulence. This option for me always requires trust in that place where I am submerged and I am in the unknown.

A while back I wrote about a conversation I had with one my colleagues, Alayne, about how to deal when the shit hits the fan…  You can read about it here.  All this still applies and so much water has gone under the bridge that I felt it needed an update.

I wonder sometimes why so many of us play on the shore in this way. I must have spent hours equaling months and months playing at the edge of an ocean. Always so exciting to figure out how I was going to be with each wave. Lately I have been using this as a living metaphor about how to navigate what comes at me as I play in the ocean of life.

How do you play with the waves that come at you?

Spiraling as an Unfolding

What is unfolding in you today? What are the thoughts, feelings and longings that are reaching out into the world from deep inside you today like the spiraling tendrils of a passionflower?  Take a moment to quiet the outer and inner noise and listen.  Listen as if you are listening to the voice of a lover. What do you hear?

This is it, this is the unwinding, the unfolding of the inner life wanting to come to meet the air and sky. No matter how crazy the world feels, how much noise surrounds us or how little we are listening, the inner life persists… getting louder and louder in its call. What if we could learn to hear it at the point of a whisper rather than the shout of discord that it can become when it is repeatedly ignored?

This had been one of my favorite inquiries this year, a question I ask myself over and over again. Can I make the choice to listen and respond before the crisis? Way before the crisis. In exploring this, I learned that my nervous system was not accustomed to acting on the whispers with much urgency. I would wait until it I felt pain in my body or heart before I took it seriously. And shifting to feel  and heed the soft voice has helped me cultivate patience, endurance and humility.

What is unfolding in me today is a desire to uplift my experience of love; love in the way I express it, in the way I receive it, and in the way I allow it to move me. I literally had the sensation of green tender hesitant tendrils reaching out from my heart. If I had not been listening it could have been any other moment.  The movement was so quiet and not what I expected when I asked the question “What is unfolding in you today?”



Inquiry to Dissolve You

Throw this one around for a couple of days: What happens when you stop trying to become something other than you?

What happens when YOU


Trying to become something other than


I’ll tell you what happened to me. When I first heard this, many other questions arose to meet this one.  Am I trying to be something other than me? How do I stop? Who am I? What if I can’t stop? What if I die?

And here is what happened in my body. I found one of the deepest breaths ever and my heart blossomed up into my throat. And then the tears came.

I am literally exhausted with trying to be something other than what I am.  And I am ready to dissolve that illusion that I can be anything more than what I am. I am not saying I cannot grow and expand and become a more aware person. What I am saying is that I am done “trying” to change and mold myself for the benefit of anyone or anything as a condition of my worth.

I have been exploring this theme in my BeSoul classes. Inviting students to dance without trying to get a workout, without trying to condition their bodies, without trying to release tension, without trying to do it right, without trying to change a state of mind or heart.  What I invite them to do is to simply be to present to sensation and whatever emotions arise.  The relationship between the movement and the music becomes a way to get to know ourselves.

Here is the definition of KNOW that I am using in these classes:  to have developed a relationship with (someone) through meeting and spending time with them; be familiar  or friendly with (in this case yourself).

“Spending time” seems to be a key here. How much time do you spend getting to know yourself versus trying to change yourself?  I expand this out to my time spent with friends and family. How much time do I spend getting to know them (simply receiving them as they are) vs trying to change or help them improve? Not that one is wrong, sometimes I need help, sometime people ask for help. And then the mind and its problem solving genius come into play.  As someone who identifies with “teacher” and “healer”, it comes natural to me to want to both try to be “better” and help others be “better” too.

When I first posed this inquiry to myself I was fascinated by how much better it felt to STOP trying to become something other than me.  My mind got a little freaked out,  yet my body… and my heart… felt so good.  And when I brought this same energy to my relationships, I felt like I began seeing people in ways I never had. Expectations and judgment dropped away and I felt like I was seeing them for the first time. Free the people! Free yourself!

Not that I am trying to change you…






Dancing with the Shadow (part 3… no…no… yes, just deal with it)



What embarrasses you? What are the things that you do, feel and think that you hide from others and maybe even from yourself? What are the things you definitely do not want others to know about you?  I have no interesting in having you out yourself. Unless, of course you want to, and in that case, I am 100% with you.  I am primarily asking these  questions to help identify the shadowy self.

I have become curious about these parts of me that are ashamed, shy and obscured behind all kinds of false faces. I have become curious because I realize that around these parts of me, I do not feel my power. I feel vulnerable and weak and like a phony for wanting to keep them hidden. I am not going to share details with you, and yet I know you can tune into these places in yourself too. I do not feel the exposure to the collective light is sometimes the best way to deal with these parts. I feel we need to get to know these aspects of ourselves before we subject them to the scrutiny of those not devoted to seeing themselves in all that is.  Initially,  the most important thing is to admit the truth of it to ourselves. Self-declaration.  And from there a step closer to freedom. What if it is okay to tell yourself? And what if, it you felt like sharing, it is okay to tell another? And what if it is okay to have the other not receive it?

All the layers of acceptance and belonging, all the ways in which we abuse and control ourselves and others, all the parts of us that are immature and impulsive… they can have a strong grip on us, especially if we deny them or project them and disown them.  And that strong grip is the antithesis of freedom to me.  I can feel my need to belong, a natural survival instinct and what I am willing to suppress myself to have it.  I can feel my need for acceptance and what I am willing to say to be accepted. I can see how I abuse my body and my heart in order to stay safe. How I have abused others to keep the upper hand. How I behave like a baby sometimes and can’t control my urge to lash out.  I do not like admitting this to myself and that is okay,  I do not have to like it and I find that feeling uncomfortable can be exciting.  My personal truth and reconciliation  process is I hear it, I feel the way it lives in my body and then I dance it. Instead of pushing it back down and diminishing (oh, that is not so bad, everybody feels that way) or going to self-loathing and forfeiting my choice, I blow it up. I make it bigger. I feel the biggest version of the feeling and sensation I can access and I dance it. Yes, that is what I do. I move it and dance with it, literally partner with it, hold it in my awareness, feel it in my body, play with it in my mind.  I find that bringing it into relationship in this way makes the power of it “out there” less and less.  This is the great experiment I have undertaken.  Try it.  Any dance will do. It might help free up some of your shadow’s grip.  And the more free you can be, the more free everyone around you can be. Letting everything and everybody off the hook one dance at a time. Goddess knows we need that on this planet.