Fire, Water, And Passionflower: Connecting With Your Body
How connected do you feel to your body? Do you experience emotions outside of your headspace? Can you tell when certain physical sensations are sending you a message about your mental state?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, since I find it difficult to connect to specific emotions in my own body. There are days when I’m having circular thinking patterns of anxious thoughts but my body feels relatively normal; and then there are days when I can feel the uncomfortable fluttering of anxiety in my abdomen, the restlessness, the tense and tightened muscles - without knowing why my body is experiencing anxiety. Some emotions, like gratitude, seem synched up; when I think about what I am grateful for in my mind, I can feel my chest get warm and expansive and a soft haze relaxing my muscles. Other emotions, like anger, are really difficult for me to actually experience at all. I can rationalize that I should be angry about something, but I rarely feel the heat and tension of anger itself in my physical body. It’s a wire I cut a long time ago, but I don’t think it’s healthy to never experience the sensation of this emotion. I can’t help but think that all of that anger is stored away somewhere in a hard, painful lump. Are there specific emotions that you struggle to connect with? Are there emotions that you feel both mentally and physically at the same time?
I have been thinking, too, about elements. I relate strongly to earth. More specifically, I relate to cold, dry, compacted, stagnant earth. I feel blocked, infertile, and slow. After all, earth can only give birth to new life when it has the aid of water and the fire of the sun. I, too, feel like I need more balance in my body to feel comfortable and capable once again. With that balance will come the fertility of creativity, ideas, kindness, and joy. What element (s) do you relate most to? Do you feel like you have a good balance?
Fire makes me think of release, destruction, passion, anger, and freedom. I picture it as the burning of anger, a powerful but dangerous and dramatic new start. Water makes me think of nourishment, support, and relief. I picture gentle waves rocking me as I float on my back, the quenching of my thirst after a glass of cool water, the release of tension during a bath. It makes sense that these opposing forces are what I’ve been exploring lately. After all, you don’t want destruction without the nourishment of new life.
That cycle of release and nurture can be seen in many ways in our world. For example, when doing a big deep clean of your home, do you stop when everything is tidy and the floor is mopped? Or do you do what I do, which is breathe in the new freedom of the space and all of its possibilities and start rearranging furniture, decorating, perhaps bringing in a big bouquet of flowers to enliven the area…? After a big cry, do you reach for the comfort of a soft blanket, a hug, and maybe some ice cream? After the fires of late summer demolish forests, the snow of winter and spring rains encourage new life to come forth surprisingly quickly. Hand-in-hand destruction and nourishment dance, refreshing the world and us, if we allow it.
The following ritual is created in two parts: a release utilizing the element of fire, and then a gentle nourishment using the element of water. This ritual is an exercise in balance. I wrote it for myself to get my cold, dry, compacted earth energy moving a little better, but it could be helpful to anyone looking for a new start or replenishing experience.
Before you begin, however, let’s discuss the herbal ally that will guide us through this experience: Passionflower (Passionflower incarnata) is a well-known gentle nervine know for calming tension and bringing on restful sleep. Its striking exotic blossoms originated in Central and South America, but it has been making its way northward into gardens all over the United States that have mild weather and long growing seasons. It can be found growing tamed or feral in many areas of the Pacific Northwest, where it has a rich history of use with some Native American tribes and early settlers of the area.
One variety of passionflower has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. It is known as a calming nervine, soothing anxiety, insomnia, and even pain. Several studies have proven its effectiveness in calming the body in many ways. It’s mildly antispasmodic and sedating, making it a wonderful pre-bedtime delight. It’s been used externally as well to soothe inflamed skin conditions and calm the body by absorbing through the skin.
Passionflower is considered to be a mild herb, safe for use in children. (but always talk to your doctor first.) Possible side effects are sleepiness, dizziness, and confusion, and it should not be taken with sedative medications. Scroll down to find the recipe for soothing bath salts, or give this meaningful ritual a try to check in with yourself.
A small paper bag
Paper and pencils
Access to a safe firepit
Tear your paper up into small pieces about 3” across. Starting with one, write down something you are angry about. Focus on that feeling, and let the sensation of anger fill your body. Once that fire is burning within you, scribble over the top of whatever you wrote, giving that anger a physical release. Then place the paper in the bag.
Repeat this process as many times as needed, until you feel like you’ve expressed everything you are angry about.
Light a fire in an open fireplace or safe fire pit. As you build the fire by layering small combustibles (newspaper, cattail fluff, pine needles, etc.) with kindling and then bigger logs, picture your anger transferring into the tinder. As you light the fire, accept that it will consume your anger.
When the fire is going strong, toss your bag full of angry notes on top. As it burns, picture all of that anger releasing into smoke, floating upwards and away from you, up to be purified and broken down and released.
Either stay with the fire until it burns itself out and extinguish any live embers, or put the whole fire out after your bag is burned. As it hisses and sizzles, picture the last shreds of your anger floating away, away, away.
Access to a bath or shower
Bath salts of choice (recipe below!)
Water energy is all about peaceful nourishment. After an emotional exercise, now it is time to focus on relaxing into a state of peace and gratitude.
Run yourself a nice warm bath with a good helping of bath salts. Climb in and notice how your body instantly relaxes. Picture the bath water pulling out any little shreds of anger that still remain in you, like black wisps that can then be released.
As you soak, picture something you are grateful for or something that feels joyful. Allow those physical feelings to take root in your body as you explore your gratitude in every aspect. Each time you think of something new, focus on that pleasant though and let it fill your body with light as well.
Once you are done soaking, step out and dry off, then curl up in cozy clothes with a journal and write about your experience. You might find that certain things that came up through this process were total surprises. Let this final writing release you from the anger and know that you have the power to visualize your own ability to give your body what it needs.
Calming Passionflower Fireweed Bath Salts:
This bath salt concoction is both uplifting and relaxing. The passionflowers will help your body reach a pleasant state of calm, while the cheerful fragrance of grapefruit and frankincense help uplifts your spirits.
1 Tbs. powdered dried passionflowers
1 Tbs. powdered dried fireweed
2c. Sea salt
3 c. epsom salts
8 drops grapefruit essential oil
6 drops frankincense essential oil
½ c. dried lavender buds
1 c. dried passionflower
1 c. dried fireweed flowers
Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and stir well to disperse the ingredients evenly. Pack into jars or muslin sacks that can be added to the bath water as it is. Sink in. Relax. Let passionflower weave her spells for you.
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