(A brief pause with orange blossom and mint lassi)
There is no observed without the observer. I know this is a given, but when it comes to panic states and times of uncertainty, I find it helpful to think about. In the microcosm of our personal history, we react one way, but in the macrocosm of the entire universe and the vastness of time, our perspective is so different that our reaction is also different. And the conflict of these two things— the minute and the massive, and how the reaction appears relative to both— well, to be honest I find it quite funny. The massive is a pair of eyes that rests on my left shoulder, and throughout the day it gives a little tap at my consciousness to remind me of my place: both small and big. Significant and insignificant. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise: it’s always both.
Do you ever have the same themes appearing in your life over and over again? For me, my reappearing theme, at least right now, is stress, and my response to it. It often feels as though I am freaking out on the surface but aware that underneath I am not naturally like that, that the stress response is a learned response: a mental script that runs itself and says ‘you can’t handle this’ or something to that effect. I chip away at the surface, pulling things off to see if they belong there, attempting to get to the place underneath that watches silently. The chips vary: that one comes from my grandmother’s panic at being bullied; that one from my father’s rage; that one because there was a point when I was 4 when I thought I was alone and never stopped to check to see if that changed over the years. Chip chip. Inspect. Discard. Repeat.
When I think about times of growth and change, they’re always unsettling— I don’t like change. Solid ground feels satisfying and secure and everything is where it’s supposed to be. Emotionally, when the ground is stable, then we feel good about ourselves. Deep change shifts the foundation of our worlds: things aren’t where they’re meant to be anymore and we start to feel things like doubt, fear, insecurity. Contrary to what some new age guru types would say, these feelings are normal and natural; chanting things like ‘I am a surpreme being of light’ (or however these affirmations go) will only solidify the ground where you are and stop the actual lesson from taking place. The only real option is to get used to shifting ground. Put one foot in front of the other, keep going. Walk even though the floor is shaking; sit even though there might not be a seat under your butt.
Jam and I were discussing this with regards to the human body: it’s one thing to be able to do the things you want when everything is perfect and in place, but the true test of your skill is whether you can do it under pressure. Or when the ground is shifting. Can you do the same movement with poor alignment and still have the same effect? At a healing workshop I went to a couple of years ago, we learned a lot about healing and moving energy, and then my teacher pulled out a stereo system and started playing some really loud annoying music, and had us do some healing work like that. Because life isn’t always going to be perfect and sometimes you have to get things done regardless. My last couple of weeks have been constructed on shifting sands and unstable grounds: I’d been overwhelmed, letting things slip, getting later and later with deadlines, having too many balls to juggle and not enough hours in the day.
(^^ Meet Abbe!)
So I hired an assistant.
The good part is that she is brilliant and efficient and clever and quick and fun and I love her. The scary part is that I can’t fully afford her. Not yet. And even more than that, I am now responsible for another human being: to give her the hours so that she can make her rent because she, too, has responsibilities and a life to take care of. It’s a big step for me, and the magnitude of it, as somebody who has avoided responsibility my whole life, sometimes catches me and I feel like I can’t breathe.
But then I’ll plunge my hands into a big tub of orange blossoms mixed with chai spices and oolong tea and orange peel. And maybe it’s having my hands buried in a vat of tea, or the way the house smells after packing up 75 grapefruit-orange blossom bath fizz jars, but it’s impossible to remain in a panic cycle when working with citrus blossoms.
Citrus blossoms, as with citrus medicine overall, have a knack for moving stuck energy and calming the nervous system. The flowers of the citrus aurantium have been used in medicine at least since Avicenna’s time in the 10th century: he’s rumoured to have invented the distillation process that gives us orange blossom water, and it’s been used in middle eastern foods and medicine ever since. Orange blossom water’s aromatics soothe and calm the nerves and digestive tract alike, easing indigestion, calming gassiness, and calming mental and nervous agitation.
Citrus fruits also give a ‘stagnant liver’ a kick in the pants. 'Stagnant liver energy' is simply energy that needs to express itself, that has no outlet. In some cases, it’s simply a case of a fear response releasing adrenaline into the system and not going anywhere, because adrenaline pumps into our systems so that we move. If you’ve got all this energy and have to sit still, then it’s going to stagnate inside you. Similarly if you have something that needs to be expressed and you don’t, it gets stuck. Citrus moves stuck things. The blossoms relax tension holding things in place, letting things move freely. This is good for stress, when stress involves feeling like you might explode. It’s good for emotional stagnation, be it grief or anger or fear. And think about what happens when you bury your face in a blossoming orange tree— can you hold onto anger, or fear, when you do that? I’ve tried and can’t. The emotion dissipates and I remember that I’m not at the centre of the universe, and I have a little more perspective with which to move forwards on that unstable ground.
And then I can once again focus on why I am doing this: to connect people to the earth, to give people a moment of pause during their days, in which they can notice little things to be reverent about, be it a smell, a taste, a feeling, or their own amazing bodies. And deeper than that still, I want to help people connect to the core of who they are, to remind them why they’re here in the first place. It’s a lifetime of a mission, and one I’m passionate about. And I can’t very well do it by sticking my head in the sand every time things get scary.
The moral of this little story is simply that it’s ok. It’s ok to have an excessive autonomic response. It’s ok to struggle, in fact I’d go so far as to say that the struggle is a part of life: to be alive is to move through space and to have external pressures on your internal atoms and the result of that pressure is that we feel things, learn things, grow, change, and struggle. If you aren’t struggling with something, then you aren’t growing. And if you aren’t growing then you’re in the exact same place you were before. And if you’re in the exact same place that you were before, then you’re just existing, not living. And that, my friends, is something I want to avoid at all costs.
Orange blossom and mint lassi 2 1/2 cups yogurt 1/2 cup sugar (or honey) 1/2 cup milk 1 tb orange blossom water Small handful of mint
Put all ingredients in a blender and whizz it around for about 45 seconds, until it’s light and fluffy and flecked with mint. Pour into glasses and enjoy.