Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bleeding for Mother Earth: The Blessings of Hypericum, Calendula and Martial Training

“To know and not to do, is not to know.” Lao Tse, Socrates and my Sensei! And a variation on that theme “Do or do not. There is no try.” Master Yoda.

Earth Day 2008 finds me back in Truth or Consequences, the Hot Springs oasis in the New Mexico desert, after a month travelling in new Mexico, Texas and the deserts of Mexico. I am making my way back to the Great White North, which by now will be less white than it was when I left it. An amber coloured, full, desert moon was hanging low over this dusty desert community with the quirky name, when I drove into town last night. My friends and colleagues, Karen and Antonio, and their friend Larry, a fellow tai chi instructor, visiting from Oregon, had the Hot Springs bath already fired up, so a late night mineral water soak was the order of the evening before bed. Ah those rejuvenating mineral waters! It was truly a pleasure to once again be soaking in the same hot mineral waters that the famous Apache warrior Geronimo used to heal his wounds. What a blessing, this still unspoiled oasis of healing hidden away in the New Mexico desert..

Karen, a homeopathic practitioner and midwife, and her husband Antonio, an Ayurvedic chef, bio-diesel expert and eco-friendly builder, are masters of natural health and sustainable living. So, Earth Day 2008 began with the customary freshly squeezed grapefruit and lemon juice. Oh, did I mention that Karen and Antonio are Raw Spirits, connoisseurs of fine raw vegan cuisine, which many experts say is the most eco-friendly, not to mention health conscious diet, on the planet. In fact, Karen was the one who initiated me into the raw food lifestyle last July. Last year, after attending the sundance ceremony where I had originally met them nearly 4 years ago, I made a stop in TorC while travelling in the opposite direction than I am now heading from Arizona to Texas, and the rest is history – eating mainly raw foods seemed like a healthy and earth friendly thing to me – so said, so done! Karen and Antonio are 99.9% raw and I still fluctuate between 95 to 75%, depending on how long I’ve been away from my raw food mentors…

Karen and Antonio have taken an old adobe style hot springs bathhouse and are in the process of renovating it and transforming it into a leading edge natural healing centre. Besides renovating the Hot Springs Mineral Baths, they are adding a treatment room and creating a workshop/teaching room, and they have surrounded the property with a papercrete wall. This centre will be a retreat for juice fasting and natural detoxification using raw foods, as well as offering homeopathy, hot springs soaks and other healing modalities. It is a work in progress. After downing our fresh juices and each going through our morning routines, a healthy midmorning salad, accompanied by guacamole, raw almond hummus and beijou, a Brazilian delicacy made from ground tapioca, all organic of course, were the order of the day. Considering that I was just coming out of a three day juice fast, having recently revived my bio-lunar juice fasting routine, and knew better than to fill up on oily foods so soon post fast, I did get carried away with the ‘raw wrap’- salad, guacamole AND nutty humus, surrounded by the yummy beijou wrapping. But, oh how sweet it was, healthy, fresh, earth-friendly AND tasty!.

Following our morning meal the four of us headed off to gather flat rocks for the outdoor hot springs pool that is being added to the healing centre by a foursome of incredible brothers who are master adobe workers and stonemasons extraordinaire. Antonio had already been on site early in the morning. Larry and I had watched a slideshow of the construction of the soak pool on Karen’s computer the night before, but I had yet to see the latest addition to the healing centre. We drove past a burnt down old ranch with a sill functional windmill and past the retaining wall for the Cuchillo Creek Dam, then along the gravel road beside the dry creek, which obviously must flood at some points in time otherwise there would be no need for such a high retaining wall. Gathering river rocks is not one of my usual Earth Day activities, but hiking through dry riverbeds amid the spiny ocotillo plants, chaparral bushes and cactuses with the occasional desert hare scurrying by, seemed like such an appropriate activity for a desert EarthDay. After all, we were outside in one of Mother Earth’s harsher environments, enjoying the elements in all their glory, at the same time being physically active and making a useful contribution to the construction of the healing centre.

It was hard work finding just the right flat rocks from among the thousands of rocks strewn alongside the gravel road, and harder work still hauling the rocks over to the wooden trailer hitched to Antonio’s car. With so many rocks to choose from it didn’t take the four of us long to have gathered enough to fill the bottom of the trailer. With Karen and Antonio’s two dogs racing madly behind the trailer we took off back to town. Arriving at the healing centre with the freshly gathered load of river rocks, we set about unloading the trailer. Most of the rocks were between 20-50 lbs, easily manageable by one person, but there were a few mother rocks, and one in particular, a beautiful cream coloured slightly dimpled rock, not the biggest of all the rocks we had collected, but close to it, must have weighed at least 125lbs. Larry was inching it off the trailer, so I went over to help him. Something told me not to lift that rock, a voice I would later realize was that of the rock itself, but seeing Larry trying to get it off the trailer by himself I ignored that warning. Mistake number one. The stone masons were all working in and around the pool, and Karen and Antonio were hefting other rocks around as I helped Larry get the rock to the edge of the trailer, ready for it’s no more than 2 foot drop to the ground. Both Larry and I were convinced that the rock would roll forward and on to the reddish brown dirt below. Mistake number two. Stones are dangerous and they have a mind of their own, or so I was told later by the elder stone-mason, and I now realized that to be the case.

So heavy was that mother rock, that in less than a flash, after we launched it off the edge of the trailer, the top end fell back and crushed the middle finger on my right hand against the metal bar at the bottom of the trailer. It all happened in the blinking of an eye, and here is my first blessing, -- years and years of martial arts training have sharpened my reflexes, not enough so that I listened to that voice that told me not to help lift the heavy rock, I guess that must come with more years of training than I currently have under my belts, but enough that I almost instantaneously pulled my finger out from behind the over hundred pound rock. Many martial artists train so that they can protect themselves if by chance they are attacked unexpectedly in a dark alley. For me my years of training have been put to use in many more mundane settings – the time I slipped on the cobblestones of a road under repair in Real de Catorce, Mexico and landed on my butt without spilling my orange juice, the time when I knocked my camera off the table and caught it before it touched the ground, or when I slid on the ice this past winter and did a break fall without losing a drop of the hot tea I was carrying, and now this, my Lightening Speed Removing Finger About To Be Crushed By a Heavy Rock Technique! If I had not been so caught up in the numbed finger with blood spewing out at the moment I would have patted myself on the back and started counting my blessings and saying thanks to my Sensei for every time he gave me a tongue lashing when I wanted to stop training. Ooos Sensei!

Utilizing my newly developed Lightening Speed Removing Finger About To Be Crushed By a Heavy Rock Technique allowed me to escape with out a single broken bone, with only two inches of ripped flesh, a hanging black and blue fingernail that will soon fall off, a swollen throbbing bloody fingertip with a few gashes and several millilitres of blood spilled on Mother Earth. One of the best possible scenarios, all things considered! Again, here’s where my martial training brought yet another blessing. I learned many years ago that if I am injured in the dojo it is my fault, no one else’s. Blaming my sparring partner when I do not block, or move off centre line is just not an option. The responsibility was mine, and the lesson was for me. All those years of martial inspired wellness training kicked in on the spot. There were no tears, none of the freaking out that Karen later told me she would have expected with an injury of that intensity, no ‘Woe is me’ anywhere in my psyche as I jumped about shaking my now throbbing and bloody finger as the warm red blood spewed over my green shirt, on to my beige pants and down on to reddish brown Mother Earth. In fact my first thought was ‘I wonder why that happened?’ and my second thought was ‘I wonder why I needed to give Mother Earth an offering of my blood on Earth Day?’ My Sensei would be proud, that is, after he finished chewing me out for not listening to my gut in the first place!

On to blessing number three. All of this happened in front of the not yet finished, but still with many natural remedies inside, healing centre and not up the dry creek, in the middle of nowhere with only a collection of no doubt medicinal, but not terribly useful at the time, desert bushes in sight. Less than two minutes after I had finished making my Earth Day Offering to Mother Earth with the accompanying Sacred Dance of the Wounded Finger, I was sitting in the healing centre with my finger in a cup with a mixture of hypericum tincture, calendula tincture and cold water. Cold has never felt so good! Hypericum, or common St John’s Wort, makes a deep red tincture that is a strong antibiotic and widely used by herbalists and other healers for treating wounds, bruises and other injuries. It is best known for it ability to helps with internal nerve damage as well as to repair skin damage.. Calendula is also strongly antiseptic. It helps to stop bleeding and to assist in the healing of wounds and burns. Now, I ask, why are so few people aware of these vital first aid remedies? Why don’t all hospitals carry them, not just natural healing centres? I think back to when I slammed the same right middle finger in a car door as a young child. We were living in Jamaica at the time and my mother, who is knowlegeable about certain herbs and remedies, would have loved to know something that would have rapidly eased the pain of her then crying and Dancing with the Wounded Finger little daughter, not that those herbs are that common in Jamaica, but neither are many that are found in the local drug store!

Back to the healing centre in the desert, with the by then only slightly gushing wounded finger. Karen usually uses LM potencies of homeopathic remedies, they were all in her office, so out came a bottle of 200C Hypericum. When the bleeding had mostly subsided Karen wrapped my finger in sterile gauze covered with a natural skin ointment. Viola! Fifteen minutes after the Lightening Speed Removing Finger About To Be Crushed By a Heavy Rock Technique, Earth Day Blood Offering and accompanying Sacred Dance, my finger was all bandaged up and I was dismissed from further rock lifting volunteer duties for the rest of the day. Blessing number five, my now sore back tells me. Thank you to the ‘common weed’ hypericum that became the powerful tincture! Blessing number six. Thank you to the once beautiful calendula! Blessing number seven. And last but by no means least, thank you to Karen, the wise practitioner, who knew exactly what to do and which remedies to use. Blessing number eight! . Blessing number nine was knowing Reiki and using it to facilitate the healing.

When I wandered back outside to observe the rest of the rock moving activities I was given a gentle, but yet very martial like lecture by the elder stone mason, “Stones are very dangerous.” He told me, and made his point by repeating that statement at least four times throughout our conversation. “You cannot hurry. You must take your time when working with stones and listen to them. The stones will speak to you.” Wow! New Mexican Zen or what! The stone had told me not to pick it up, but I didn’t listen, and a less than an hour later I get a lecture from a man with a more than 40 year relationship with stones basically telling me to stay focused, be in the moment, move slowly and listen to the stones and to my gut! I almost said Ooos Sensei when he was done. That too was a blessing..

Well, my Lightening Speed Removing Finger About To Be Crushed By a Heavy Rock Technique saved my finger but ruined any thoughts I might have had about a future career as even an assistant stone mason! Oh well, maybe in my next life! But it did provide me with the perfect opportunity to shed my blood on Mother Earth, in a relatively controlled manner, and not in the way that our current global habits and patterns of greed and disharmony are causing so many people to do involuntarily around the world! The Lightening Speed Removing Finger About To Be Crushed By a Heavy Rock Technique, Earth Day Blood Offering and the accompanying Sacred Dance of the Wounded Finger allowed me to learn many sacred lessons on Earth Day. Blessing number ten, and probably the most powerful blessing of all.

Lesson One: Always listen to my gut, and to all the elements of nature. They do communicate with me and I can hear them, if I have a relation with them [the elements and my instincts], and if I take the time to listen.

Lesson Two: Always stay focused. Live in the moment. Move slowly and develop a relationship with whatever you are working with.

Lesson Three: Always give thanks to the Creator for the healing properties of herbs, natural remedies, martial training and the power of chi!

StayWell and Travel with Spirit, in Beauty and Truth, Spirit Traveller.

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