“Open the window in the center of your chest and let the spirits fly in and out.” ~Rumi

“I’m in a fight, a fight to love myself.” Lauryn Hill

In the spirit of love holidays, the season of imbolc with new life stirring just under the frozen ground and the season of winter being a more disconnected time I decided to explore the idea of self love.

Is self love selfish? That is the question and to me answers with a resounding no, not in the least, if your cup isn’t full you can’t give anything to anyone. My philosophy on self love is that the more I care deeply for myself, the more I have to give and shower the people in my life with all that I am. I’ve been told I am a good mother, which if you are a parent you know can be relative, we all have good days, bad days and all other kinds of days on the spectrum. What makes me a good mother is a pact I made with myself very early on, that I would always foster my own growth, self care and the enrichment of my life no matter what. Parents especially don’t often take enough time to them selves, to be you as it were. When I feel myself becoming stressed, overwhelmed and unfocused, when I’m not dancing, not moving or not doing the things that are my self care truth I know exactly what I need to do. Take a good old fashioned time out, cover my body in warm oil, paint my toe nails, slather my face in warm mud treatments, dance all night long, go on a grand adventure somewhere I’ve never been, learn something new, brush up against the clacking flow of my keyboard to write, or lock myself in a room with nothing but my right brain and some blank canvases. All of these feed me and some might call them selfish, and if you want to go ahead, but they are forms of loving myself more deeply. I am of no service when I am depleted, so feeding myself, fertilizing the ground with new life is my taproot.

“Don’t go off sightseeing. The real journey is right here. The great excursion starts from exactly where you are. You are the world. You have everything you need. You are the secret. You are the wide opened. Don’t look for the remedy for your troubles outside yourself. You are the medicine. You are the cure.” ~Rumi

I take a page from my book as a mother and caretaker of new parents, birthing women and the herbal clientele I serve. Whenever someone comes to see me with a spiritual or health crisis I sit them down with a cup of tea, and prepare them first with simple solutions to start where they are. When I am working with a new family, a woman birthing or a small child I start with meeting basic needs, holding hands and tapping into the heart of what is happening.

Self Love starts with the willingness of feeling worthy to take a minute to meet your self care needs on a base level and jump off from there.Treating yourself as if you were a small child who deserved all their needs met effortlessly. You would never question why a child needed something like a hot bath, a nourishing meal or some down time to play, relax or get grounded so why not offer the same loving energy to yourself once in a while. It isn’t decadent or selfish, it’s necessary!

“If we are bold, love strikes away the chains of fear from our souls.”
maya angelou

Self Care comes in many forms from trying to eat more mindfully, choosing new ways to be active, spending time with people who make you feel good to more intense nurturing, healing work, detoxing, cleansing and extracting things from our lives that actually take energy away from and deplete us.
How many times have you resolved to end a relationship that isn’t serving you, not go down that road again, relinquish the ways in which you have a warring attitude in your mind, about your body, with your actions? How many times have you decided to eat more healthy food, learn to cook amazing meals just because you’re worth it or start becoming more in tune with your body? How many times have you started down the road of self loathing, reinforcing the negative tapes, feeding the fire of creating the life you don’t want?
These are ways we fight to love ourselves and also fight against the love we must carry for ourselves.

“If you’re going to fight for anything, fight to love yourself” Venus Zephyr

Seeking and searching for external forces of happiness and bliss, when inside we are warring with attitudes, feeling, thoughts and ideas that don’t serve the divine nature of self love. There is just no way around it, self love is not found anywhere but inside. Self Love begins when we take off the mask, strip down to bare bones nothing, stare into the pitch black and decide that we are all deserving of love and take a risk. Undeniably loving oneself without conditions may be a life long journey, where you find yourself slipping back into the black sometimes, searching for that one dangling strand of intricately woven knot work that you’ve been twisting deliberately. It’s in those slipknots as I like to call them, that our self love is trapped, the negative programming, the deeply rooted nature of our culture, our upbringing and the negative relationships we’ve experienced. We experience healing on a base level, we try to go deep, we go deeper still each time we embark on another relationship but unless we learn to release and clear those attachments it’s those knubbly slip knots we forget to untie, that surely will find their way back to us if we’re not in a good relationship to the self. If something isn’t working, I always go right back to deepening self love.
Everyone has experienced trauma, loss, deep seated grief and unimaginable hurt and somehow we are taught to just go on about our lives. For those that have done intense healing work, we may have scratched the surface of getting to the bottom of why we don’t always love our dear selves.

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony. “~ Mahatma Gandhi

There are cords that have to be cut to win the fight of self loving. I call it a fight not because I am against it, but because there are so many forces engrained all around us to teach us how not to love and connect with the self on a deep level. The brain synapse fire in the same way 9 out of 10 times, that is to say that we are likely to always choose the same path almost every time even if the path is not a good one. unless there is some reprogramming done. That reprogram comes straight from the holy heart and I’m not talking about what your brain told you your heart ought to be doing. What I’m really talking about, or should I say feeling about is how to live from the heart as your still point. Easier said than done in a culture where education and acquisition are paid homage, and we’re actually taught that the brain informs the heart on what to do. Not true, and you’re not going to find the way to self love and acceptance through the mind.

In order to live from the heart, the deep and holy heart there are some pathways that need to be reckoned with, cleared and opened. Cords to unsettling relationships cut or mended, pathways cleared and blockages extracted. Starting with what your heart has to say is a good way to get going in the process. It can be difficult to get clear about ways to embody your heart more fully. Here are suggestions to getting there:

Practice being great-full, well what does that mean exactly?
Gratitude insures that you understand your blessings, and paves the way for future blessings. Giving Gratitude is like an insurance policy on your soul. If you are truly present to the amazing gifts available and abundant in your life at this very second, you are also open to the gifts that are just about to arrive, the ones that are coming and the ones you haven’t even imagined yet.
Gratitude aids the soul in being clear, it is the ultimate way to be present in the beauty that we all have in our lives. It honors where we are, and pays reverence to right now. It doesn’t matter if things could be better, or if there are future hopes and needs, that will always be true but gratitude is an attitude of abundance. It’s an alignment with the deeper knowing of what is already here and how absolutely blessed each of us is to be attuned to that blessing. It’s easy to fall into the trap that what someone else has is better or that we would only be happy if…or there was some great missing link we could just find or something magick we could just have.
The missing link is being great-full, full of the greatness and abundance that is abounding. Give it a try for one week, being great-full everyday for something, at mealtimes, when you wake up in the morning, while driving to where the day takes you, before bedtime. You will feel more centered and connected to your heart, you may even find not much in your actual life has changed in a week, but take notice on how different you feel at the end of just one week.

“My biggest lesson from this treasure chest so far, is the keen an unshakable awareness of how my unique-direct-God-sent-blessings multiply in direct proportion to my acceptance of whatever is, at the precise rate of my receptivity to whatever is going on around me….” Naima Penniman Wisdom from India 2010

Try on Innocent Perception for size, as if you’re seeing the world through the eyes of a child.
This one is easier said than done but if we are able to get there the benefits are priceless.
Children see the world with these magnificent wildly clear eyes, they understand on the most base level things we might search out our entire lives. Children are inherently grateful, they don’t need to manipulate or react to the trappings of the mind and can operate instead from a truly intuitive place of deep knowing. Usually if there hasn’t been trauma or loss as is the case in many children there is an innate quality of honest perception, so seeing the world as a child does is seeing the absolutely endless possibilities available. Children know that everything is possible, they haven’t learned all the cynicism and negativity that can be present in the world. Imagine your life as it is now with one shift, you could see everything as when you were in the most happy times during you childhood. Even for children that have experienced abuse and trauma there are usually still moments of innocence and feeling free. As we get older it becomes harder to access those memories and it’s as if the synapse firing are so elongated that the innocent perceptive memories are dangling so far down that we can’t follow that far.
I say try, try to access that part of yourself, where the programs weren’t installed yet, the hard drive was clean and the world was a vast expanse of possibility. The only thing you have to lose is suffering of the hardened perceptions you have that keep you in a holding pattern, don’t allow your visions the space to expand and the ways in which you are held back by harsher perceptions of the world.
Imagine what you would see if you thought anything was possible, so many people are unhappy simply because they can’t see the path to get to living fully. For a child the path is the way, the winding, twists and turns that make life amazing. Follow your little buddha inside, call it your inner child, your higher self whatever works, just follow it and see where that path leads instead.

“To return to love, to get the love we always wanted but never had, to have the love we want but are not prepared to give, we seek romantic relationships. We believe these relationships, more than any other, will rescue and redeem us. True love does have the power to redeem but only if we are ready for redemption. Love saves us only if we want to be saved.”

bell hooks

Fill yourself full of you! Being filled full of yourself is something I have always believed in inherently. It was a great comfort to find that in the most ancient of traditions, shamanic cultures and wise texts I find that to be one of the basics. Doing and being what you truly love taps you right into your heart, breeds self love and creates a bond with acceptance. You can’t be happy or healthy living through an image or a form that is someone else’s vision of what you are. You have to be and do what you came here to do, showing your gifts, spreading your fabulousness and giving in to the freedom of what you can do. Everyone has ways in which they are special and magnificent, and hiding those gifts serves absolutely no one. Your divine and beautiful self was put here, came here and was born here to do good work. You might as well use what is already available and inside of you to your highest good.
Being filled full of yourself also means making time to be fed by what you want to cultivate, some of us have inherent skills that are available and some have things they need to work on before those gifts are uncovered. Honing the craft is an important part of the journey. Work with what you are drawn towards, giving yourself permission to try new things on, get funky and take a dip in uncharted waters from time to time.
Trying something new can also tune you into that innocent perception we talked about, which promotes gratitude and in turn creates that deep self love.
Patterns and Habits form when the synapse are forced to fire the same way again and again, because we don’t make space for new experiences, the wild ones inside.
There are great adventures to be had on the path of life, when we choose only one type of experience, place or people to be around we’re left with a droning existence. Without possibility our beings shift into auto pilot or even worse fight or flight mode, we become triggered and traumatized every time something outside the normal pattern happens.
Being filled full of yourself as one of my teachers would say, is embodying an essence of life giving thoughts, experiences and attitudes. You can’t be filled full of yourself if you’re not doing your passions, speaking your truth and living fully. No one can define what that means for us, but you know when you know. One of my favorite musicians
Ms. Ani Difranco has a fabulous song lyric I’ll share for the purpose of being filled full of yourself-
If you’re not getting happier as you get older- you’re fucking up!
Simple, clearly stated and damn if thats not raw truth, happiness, joy and elation are good gauges on how things are going. I believe we are wise creatures, and we are also animals of instinct even though we are human beings, that animal self needs to be fed or we shut down inside.
Feed your wildness, that creature inside that says I need to move, dance, sing, moan, howl, crawl, prowl and prance. You know what that means to you but that getting free is how we tap our own true essential nature. That becoming attuned to the heart and self love is about doing what feels right. For me that rightness is dancing, moving my body as it wants to be, not as I think it should be. Getting freed up in my essence, when I don’t dance I don’t feel like myself. It’s that simple so find your dance, your song, your freed up time. Work hard by embodying your gifts and play hard by finding new experiences, dances to dance, pathways to walk and new connections to your true essential nature.

The soul is here for its own joy. – Rumi

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?” Mary Oliver

Be with those that help your being- this has been a mantra of mine for close to a decade. I think it was a yogi tea fortune where the words became immortalized, but they are one of the truest things I know. Choosing where our precious energy goes is one of the greatest practices and lessons in creating self love. You cannot be in right relationship to yourself if you aren’t in the right relationships period. We all have relationships that serve different parts of ourselves, relationships that feel amazing, ones that are put there to help us grow, learn and evolve. People come into our lives for different reasons, and seasons, some stay a short time and some grow to be our most loving life companions. Some relationships create amazing feelings of promise, hope and possibilities and some show us parts of ourself that need to be changed and shifted to be healed. There are also relationships that simply trigger the worst pieces of us, those are healing in their own way because we are able to look at places where wounds remain that need to be lifted up. That type of relationship all be it healing in it’s own way, doesn’t serve the true essential nature often times, and doesn’t create self love in it’s wake. If a relationship makes you feel bad about yourself thats a good sign it’s not helping your being. Relationships that take energy but never really give anything back aren’t life affirming, if you endlessly give but never receive it might be time to move on. If you consistently feel triggered, hurt or unsettled there is work to be done within yourself, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay in a relationship with a friend, family member or lover that doesn’t treat you well. You’re in charge, it’s your life and your being so you choose who is a part of your circle.
Being with those that help your being is the ultimate act of self love. You know who that is and isn’t, it’s not rocket science. Operate on the truth that you deserve and are worthy of people that care about you, how you feel and care about your holy heart. Unkind or thoughtless people are merely having their own ordeal, negative programming and hurts of their own to contend with. Sometimes being compassionate means saying the things that need to be said, and moving on. This allows the other person to grow, staying in a relationship or friendship that doesn’t feel good probably also doesn’t feel good to the other person. It’s the elephant in the room, and that elephant serves no one.
Choose wisely, letting people in and being close is a precious gift one which is of immense value and spiritual essence.
I like to ask myself the following questions when a relationship doesn’t feel aligned to my being:

Do I feel good with this person? Safe? Respected? Heard? Held?

Do I feel fed?

Do I feel depleted?

How does this relationship feel in my belly?

Is this relationship reciprocal? ( do you give and also receive loving energy)

Is there something about this person I don’t like because it mirrors something in me?

Am I projecting something onto the relationship I need to see?

Does this person care for me in the ways I care for them?

How do I feel about myself while I am with this person and when we are apart?

The answers will likely create more questions, but if you answer honestly you will know if this is someone who helps your being.

“I pick my friends like I pick my fruit, my daddy taught me that when I was only a youth”
Erykah Badu

So in the spirit of divine self love remember to take good care of yourself, foster self acceptance, forgiveness, nurturing and gratitude.Be with those who help your being, and relish in your true essential nature. Eliminate relationships that create toxicity and acidity by leaving you feeling sour.Learn to innocently perceive, holding yourself and others in the light. Foster a relationship with yourself by choosing right livelihood, right relationships and by making righteous choices for your holy heart.
You are fiercely lovable,so fight for that divine love and uncompromising self care. Fight to love yourself even more because the reflection that emanates from being loved from the inside out is undeniably brilliant.

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
call to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”
― Mary Oliver

Some plants to help you connect with the holy heart and divine self love

Rose- My first love was a rose bush in my front yard, I had never met anyone or thing like a rose. The intricacy and unfolding I found in the life of a tea rose held the secrets of the universe I thought when I was 5 years old. Truthfully not much has changed there and rose medicine continues to be of the most holy heart medicines I know of. Rose soothes the rough and frayed edges of the heart. Rose medicine is soft, supple, kind and compassionate. It knows how to bring you back to yourself and with a gentle approach. It has a long list of actions on the body, as a pain reliever, an anxiety medicine and soothing ally but the spiritual essence of rose is what draws us in, plant person and novice alike. Rose gets to the heart of the matter more than any other plant I have known, it brings awareness to the cracks and crevices where deep hurt resides. It can bring grief to the surface and almost magickally as quickly usher it away.
I like to use rose topically in massage oils and balms, or taken internally as a tincture, elixir, essential oil in foods and the fresh petals infused in honey or syrup.
Dried Roses in bath waters, hot tea and sprinkled just about anywhere elicit the amazing power of the plant when the warmer months have faded. If I had to choose one plant to have a love affair with for the rest of my life, rose would win my heart forever.

Ginkgo – I met Ginkgo in 2007 formally when my mother was very ill, she showed up again and again on city streets, in gift shops, painted on greeting cards and coffee mugs. It was as if she appeared that year out of nowhere. Ginkgo has long been revered for it’s effects on the mind bringing clarity and crispness to an unclear head but to me Ginkgo is a heart healer all the way. Ginkgo has a heart shaped fan leaf and is one of the most ancient trees on the planet, being the oldest cultivated tree fossils have been found of the leaves dating back 270 million years. Ginkgo has spoken to me as healer of the ancestral lines, which heals the heart of hundred and thousands of years of woundings. The leaves have a world of wisdom contained within and spending any amount of time with a Ginkgo tree creates a lasting relationship.
Ginkgo is a plant I use in spirit form more than medicine as an artistic representation of healing and as a spiritual bathing blend. Ginkgo can be tinctured from fresh green or yellow fallen leaf. Gazing upon her on the tree is one of my most favorite ways to tune into the medicine she carries.

Tulsi Basil – Came into my life about 10 years ago after reading about it in an article about Gods and Goddesses in South Asia. Tulsi is revered as the divine essence and is looked upon as an incarnation of God in India. It’s uses are endless medicinally as well as spiritually but for the purposes of the heart it is truly a divine healer. Tulsi attunes the heart to it’s holy nature, placing the heart on the thrown of divinity and worthiness. When you have lost your way on the path of self love, Tulsi lifts you back up and treats you to a dose of unconditional acceptance. Tulsi has many benefits to the spiritual nature of love and divine timing and can help you find a path back to your holy nature. It is a true ally during times of heartbreak, grief and loss as it supports the nervous system, immune system, adrenal glands and balances cortisol levels from the stress response.
Tulsi also eases anxiety, depression and sadness associated with deep loss, and prolonged grief. I like tulsi as fresh tincture or tea, and as an elixir or infused honey. It is a staple in spiritual bathing practice and also as an infused oil topically administered.

Lemon Balm- Is a plant of bee medicine, pollinating the fresh and uplifting essence of the buzzing Melissa Creatrix energy. Lemon balm ensparkleates the spirit, raises the vibration of any situation and allows for thick and sullen energy to gently dissipate. There are few plants as prolific in western gardens intoxicating the senses with her uplifting aroma. Lemon balm is a master cleanser of the body and spirit in plant baths and will lift depressive feelings, anxiousness and irritability with merely a few drops of tincture or glycerine. It is particularly helpful for babies and children and soothes a broken heart better than anything I have seen. I like lemon balm in tea blends, infusions and as a soothing bath or soak during the winter months. Lemon balm brings light to even the darkest of winter nights and lifts the solitude almost instantly from any situation,

Hawthorn Berries- Pierces the veil between the worlds of heart and soul. Hawthorn is an ancient tree with luxurious red berries and piercing sharp elongated thorns. It’s medicine purifies and tones the hearts muscles and arteries, cleans the blood and creates a better flow within the body. The gift I find to be the greatest within Hawthorn is that of a protector spirit. Where the heart has been deeply abandoned or wounded Hawthorn creates a boundary that is impenetrable by ill forces. One of the witchiest of trees hawthorn’s statuesque stance clearly illustrates the strength of the plant. It’s curling spiky vine like growth shows how it wraps the spirit of the heart in wooded wire and clears the way for only the most divine love to enter.
Hawthorn berries are delicious in infusions and teas, as well as infused into honey’s, tinctured and made into heart elixirs.

Self Heal- Is that tiny purple flower hidden in the groves and stands of any grassy spaces. The spiraling nature of the flower through a magnifine glass shows the plants true essence. Self Heal works on an energy medicine level to show the heart’s purest desires and to align those who are most sensitive to their visionary life path. The spiritual essence of this tiny plant is unmatched and can have profound effects on anyone who tunes into her delicate nature. Self heal finds the pinpricks of pain and resentment in a persons heart and gently but relentlessly removes the blockages creating an attunement to the highest states of love. The medicine of this plant appears to be so subtle and ethereal that I find it best used as a flower essence or simple to achieve the most benefit.

“The Purpose of Healing is not to eliminate illness but to maintain harmony.” Isabel Allende