Be Your Own Valentine: Three Self-Love Rituals Guided By Chinese Medicine

Photo by Noemi Jimenez

Photo by Noemi Jimenez

Head on over to the resplendent Beyond Yoga Blog for Botanarchy’s seasonal alchemical alembics to awaken the heart on Valentine’s Day.

The soul of ancient Chinese medicine is the concept that the entirety of the cosmos is contained within us, and that we each have our own divine rhythm that is an emanation of the heart of the universe. The seat of this magic is our heart, and the motive force of the heart is what we call the shen spirit, the cosmic light of the universe that brings inspiration, awareness, and compassion to everything we grace.

Our hearts are on a mission to connect us with our divine path, and our self-love nourishes this mission, giving it purpose and movement through a constant barrage of trauma and disappointment. If Valentine’s Day is good at anything, it’s amplifying this disappointment, bringing the familiar pangs of loneliness, longing, and lack, reminding us of all the types of love we could be experiencing and why we aren’t. I’ve often felt that Valentine’s Day should be re-imagined as a holiday of self-love, where we direct the light of the heart inwards to reconnect to our divine path and recognize that we are already whole.

One of the gifts of this medicine is the remembrance that love needs no vessel other than the self, for we are in ecstatic communion with the universe. The infamous ‘yin yang’ symbol – also known as the taijitu or ‘supreme polarity’ – is not just the darling of mall jewelry, but also a symbolic reminder that we don’t need to be in partnership to be whole, that the self is both already complete and ever-evolving. In the yin yang symbol, opposites exist in complete harmony, two swirling teardrop shapes that fit within each other to form a perfect circle that is one, containing all the polarities of the universe- male//female, yin//yang, light//dark, sun//moon, heaven//earth, it’s all there.

Let this be a guiding light for you this Valentine’s Day, along with this smattering of practices guided by the wisdom of Chinese medicine that access the light and wisdom of the heart, and find that center of wholeness + perfection in our untarnished core. We don’t need to be in love, we already ARE love. Take that, Tinder!

Below are 3 Self-Love Rituals guided by Chinese Medicine for you to try this Valentine’s Day.

1. SHEN-GAZING
The shen, our heart spirit, is the light that illuminates the heart, bubbling over from its cauldron to shine out from our eyes. Shen-Gazing is a simple practice you can do anytime you need to connect with your inner luminescence, or meld with the transcendent values of the heart. It cultivates self-love, reminds us of our innate divinity, and helps bridge the connection between the heart and the world at large. There is no proper way to do this, and no correct amount of time to devote; simply allow yourself to witness and explore. This is the perfect opening practice for the two other rituals listed below, and also my favorite way to prepare for a date when the butterflies are abounding and the inner critic is a’yelping.

How to Perform this Ritual:

Light a candle, and sit comfortably in front of a mirror.

Gaze into your own eyes, making contact with the spark that animates you from within, the true self that lies in the depths of your being untouched by the world.

Stay gazing, greeting this spark as if it were divine, feeling the light within your eyes grow as bold as the light of the heavenly cosmos. Don’t break your own gaze – breathe, soften, stay present to the light of the shen. Merge and meld, and merge and meld, until you feel the subtle glow permeate your whole being.

2. INNER SMILE MEDITATION
This is a practice culled from the Taoist tantric arts. It melts the contraction of negative emotional energy, and helps in accepting oneself unconditionally. It is a supreme reminder that happiness and love are a choice, and that we can drop into their slipstream whenever we chose. Hello, freedom.

How to Perform this Ritual:

Sit comfortably with your spine straight, such that you are a poised conduit of energy from the earth below to the heavens above.

Take a few deep, cleansing breaths to release any judgment, stories, or stickiness that may have taken root in the body.

Close your eyes and rest your tongue gently on the roof of your mouth, so that your throat stays relaxed and your breath can flow freely.

Smile gently and honestly, deliciously yet genuinely, beginning with a sly turn-up of the lips and allowing it to blossom as it will. If you are vexed and jaded like the best of us, this may not come easy to you. Fret not! Pluck some grinning memories from the vaults until you have coaxed a suitably sublime smile onto your face.

Allow the smiling energy to spread multi-directionally, bringing the energy to the spot between your eyebrows – the third eye – the energetic locus that allows us to cut through illusion, access deeper truths, and see beyond the limitations of ego and language. Let your forehead relax, and allow the smiling energy to accumulate at the third eye point, bubbling over like an over-poured glass of champagne.

Allow the smiling energy to overflow down your face, relaxing the cheeks, nose, mouth, and all the facial muscles. Let it flow downwards through your neck, into the chambers of your heart.

Smile into your heart, filling it with compassion and joy, its cosmic companions and original bedfellows. From here, you can direct the smiling energy to each of your internal organs, or any crawl space or crevasse in your body that has wilted or waned. Allow the glowing tumescence of the smile to dissolve all stagnation and constraint, giving special attention to any spot in your body in need of healing.

Finally, direct your smiling energy to the point about 2 inches below your navel; This is your life gate, the internal alchemical furnace where we store and churn our energy and magic.

In closing, you can open your eyes, release your smile, keep it, give it away… whatever feels juicy and good. You’re on a date with yourself, after all.

3. SELF-LOVE ACUPRESSURE
Acupressure is needle-less acupuncture by the mojo and moxie of one’s own hands, a simple yet comprehensive self-care system for radiant health, balance, and well-being. Through the practice of stimulating acupuncture points on specific organ meridians, we can cultivate and harness life force energy, revitalizing the internal organs, glands, nervous system, and the bones. This foundational practice of gentle self-massage increases our capacity to skillfully cultivate, circulate, and sublimate energy throughout the body.

One can access the boundless love contained within the heart by activating points on the body that awaken and enliven the heart spirit, or shen. I will walk you through how to locate these points below. Finding an acupuncture points is a lot like finding the reflex point on your knee that gives that quintessential kick. You want to sink your fingers into the skin until you find that sweet spot, sliding your finger over that valley or mountain peak until it elicits an emotional or physical AHA! If the point you discover feels at all tender and stagnant, you will massage the point in a counter-clockwise direction, breaking up the stasis and freeing up the qi. If the acupuncture point feels lithe and empty, draw energy into the body by massaging in a clockwise motion.

Your hands are instruments of magic- put some devotion potion in there. I like to use a dab of Rose Geranium essential oil in tandem with these points, as it is a heart-opening ally with a sexy Venusian flair that brings luminous awareness of our spiritual gifts. Floracopeia is my most cherished purveyor of high vibration, high integrity oils.

How to Access 3 Heart-Activating Points:

Ren 17 “Center of Chest” 膻中

Location: Midway between the nipples in the center of the breastbone. Locate the point by drawing a straight line between the two nipples, stopping at the cleft in the center of the breastbone, massaging and stimulating the area in 4-5 second intervals.

Ren 17 rests on the body’s central axis right in the center of our being, and as such, it opens the chest helping us to love and breathe deeply. As yogis, we are well aware that breath is life, and this point helps reinforce the connection between our Lungs and our Heart. When palpated, Ren 17 can provide a deep emotional release, and if you feel frantic and scattered like a box of lightning and chaos, this point helps resolve anxiety and panic attacks, quell heart palpitations, and regulate erratic breathing.

Heart 7 “Spirit Gate” 神門

Location: On the wrist wrinkle of the inner crease of the wrist, just below the palm, at on the pinky-finger end beside the ropey tendon. Locate the point by turning your hand over so the palm is facing up, then apply downward pressure to the spot at the pinky corner of the wrist, just next to the tendon, massaging and stimulating the area in 4-5 second intervals.

Heart 7 can help merge the divide between the heart and the mind, center us in our heart, and access the wisdom of the shen. I love using this point when I need to think and act with my heart, come home to roost in the infinite wisdom inside me, and tap into freedom of expression as governed by my true purpose. This point is also great for nourishing a weary heart in those of us suffering from burn-out.

Pericardium 6 “Inner Barrier” 內關

Location: Three finger breaths above the wrist on the inner forearm in the space between the two tendons. Locate the point by turning your hand over so the palm is facing up, then apply downward pressure between the two tendons, massaging and stimulating the area in 4-5 second intervals.

The Pericardium is the ‘Heart Protector’ meridian, and as such, is likened to the keeper of the castle gate who discerns who orwhat is allowed to enter or leave the inner domain of the heart. Acupressure on Pericardium 6 helps inspire healthy boundaries in relationships and beyond, and like a spry acupuncture adaptogen, it can be used to open our hearts when they have closed in reaction to past pains, and to shore up our heart’s castle walls when we are the walking wounded. It is an excellent point to calm a restless heart and quiet the mind.
— Beyond Yoga

Etheric Vitality ///// Immense Grace @ Ra Ma Institute

Etheric Vitality

Sisters,

I will be in humble service to grace and radiance this weekend, teaching the Taoist mystery traditions of female qi cultivation at RA MA Institute’s Immense Grace Weekend with Guru Jagat & Friends. Come get the yin nectars a’flowing and bask in your birthright as an eternal enchantress!

ETHERIC VITALITY

Yogic Secrets to Deep Radiance

An Immense Grace Weekend with Guru Jagat & Friends

January 12-13, 2018.

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FRIDAY JANUARY 12, 2018

7:00pm - 10:00pm

An Immense Grace Special Evening with Harjiwan, Guru Jagat, & Gurujas

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SATURDAY JANUARY 13, 2018

9:00am - 6:00pm

An Immense Grace Full Day with Guru Jagat - Kundalini Yoga, Meditation & Women’s Practice with Guru Jagat

-Yogic Nutrition Demos with @harmonjotkaur . .

-Anti-Inflammatory Cortisol Release & Self-Massage with @shabadpreet11 . .

-Jade Guasha Facial Fascia Lifts and Group Radiance Adjustment with Carolyn Barron of @botanarchy . .

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Friday Drop In $70 Advance / $75 Day Of * In-Person or Online RA MA TV PPV*

Full Weekend $225 Advance / $250 Day Of *In-Person Only*

//

Tickets in @ramainstitute

Holy Rolling! Facial Gua Sha for Gettin' the Glow

Facial Gua Sha

Ahhhh, the cerulean splendor of a cool slab o' seagreen jade swept sultrily across the face during a sweltery summer heatwave to soothe those lock-jawed, teeth-clenching, fever dream-drunk, heat-vexed blues. Call it what you will - beauty qigong, facial rejuvenation, holy rolling - this resplendent routine of face-melting mirth culled from the annals of traditional Chinese medicine is most certainly the manna of immortal Taoist poetry.

Gentle, upward strokes along the facial meridians performed with a jade guasha tool can help move lymphatic fluids, drain puffiness, relax tight facial muscles and fascia, and boost blood and qi flow to the skin. It also improves the skins hydration and circulation, which can glamor you with a youthful glow that betrays the reality of moon-drunk all nighters spent knocking back body shots of Reishi and bumps of cordyceps. One of the myriad things I love about the medicine I practice is the DIY ethos that permeates through it. There is so much hot tech that doesn't require the prowess of a doctor or the savvy of years spent in clinical practice. In fact, the most refined medicines are those which you can give to yourself, in heavy rotation, on the daily... gigoing, nutrition, meditation, guasha, healthy sex. For anyone interested in how to perform DIY facial guasha, I will be hosting a workshop on Taoist women's self care later this summer. Details coming soon!

Spring Equinox Yoni Egg Meditation

My most cherished qigong ritual you can use to bro down with the nascent magic of your Ovarian Palace and align with the potent gestational power of the shifting spring season. Throw a yoni egg in the mix to add a hefty dose of fertile spring mojo and cosmic egg medicine!

1. Sit quietly with the eyes closed in a comfortable seated position, with the hands in Yoni Mudra, forming a downward triangle over the ovaries. 

2. Begin by doing a few rounds of Ujjayi ‘throat breathing’, rasping the breath over the throat, making an ocean-like sound with your tongue resting on your palate, mouth closed and lips soft.

3. Focus your loving attention on the ovaries until you feel their energy expand and become warm. 

4. As you breathe in, gently contract the opening to the yoni using your kegel muscles, and as you breathe out relax the muscles. Use your mind, breath, and muscles to do this gently. This motion draws qi and energy into the Ovarian Palace (the Taoist name for the womb, essentially the mid-point between ovaries), allowing more and more qi to gather here with each out breath.

5. Continue pumping qi into the Ovarian Palace using your yoni muscles, and begin to collect the warm energy in your ovaries like a vessel filling with honey.

6. As this energy builds, you can start to allow the Ovarian Qi to flow down to the perineum, and then gently pump this qi up the back of the body to the brain. 

7. Spiral this potent qi inside the brain to allow it to charge up all the master glands. Spiral 9 times counter clockwise and then 9 times clockwise, breathing normally. Don’t feel the need to be too exact about this. Experiment with the energy in a way that feels natural and organic.

8. When you feel the energy potently spiraling in the brain, on an out-breath, allow the qi to flow back down the front midline, and either send it around the orbit again, or finish by gathering and storing the qi into the womb.

9. Breathe deeply, smiling unconditional love into the Ovarian Palace.

🌷

Yoni 🌟Yoga

Yoni Eggs

If you long to be initiated into the Mystery School of the Pelvic Floor, do yourself a favor and dive beave first into a Yoni Egg practice. As a dearly devoted DIY gynecologist and eminent vaginamancer, believe me when I say that vaginal kung fu is real and it will change your life one kegel at a time. I started my Yoni Egg practice with this glowing orb of sweet seraphic rose quartz, with the intention of bro-ing down with my pubo-coccygeus muscles to dive deeper into my meditation and Ashtanga yoga practices. The goal was to cultivate and refine my Mula Bandha, the pelvic root lock that begins at the perineum and extends inwards to the deepest embryonic abdominal muscles, locking all that juicy qi into the body and moving that sweet auric nectar from the tailbone up the spine. While my initial motivation was to be able to hold poses deeper and longer and leap into inversions with sprightly grandeur, I soon came to understand that the pelvic floor is quite literally the cradle of our nascent magic. By mastering its mercurial muscular mirth and learning to control it at will, you can harness its regenerative power to accomplish the impossible (and up the #orgasm ante while you're at it, for the love of infinite ecstasy). Yoni eggs have a rich tradition in Taoist alchemy & medicine (peregrinate upon some Mantak Chia if you'd like a primer in this Jade Egg juju), with yoni eggs being used to improve physical and spiritual health by moving sexual energy inward and upward, alchemically transforming it into germinal spiritual mana in your body's own alchemical altar. On the western front, toning the urigenital and pelvic diaphragms helps ease childbirth and menstruation, prevents organ prolapse, tonifies the sex organs, aids in postpartum recovery, ignites the libido, stops urinary incontinence, and alights witch powers heretofore unspoken. Vaginamancy and Yoni Eggs: coming soon to Botanarchy. 🔮

Ritual Medicine: Magically Charged Immune Tonic

If one cannot obtain medicines 

One can live still to several hundred years of age,

If one fully grasps the principles

Of cultivating Qi and practices daily.

Indeed, humans exist within the Qi

And Qi exists within humans.

From Heaven and Earth to the myriad things,

Qi is pervasive.

There is nothing that does not rely on Qi for life.

-Master Ge Hong, The Book Of The Master Who Embraces Simplicity, 4thCentury C.E

Qi Gong Immune Tonic

Ritual and Medicine were once entwined in a caduceus of consanguinity, an ouroboros of serpentine synergy. Mutually engendering one another, they coaxed forth each other’s latent powers and filled in the gaps in their respective repertoires. Most traditional medical systems still honor this alchemical marriage, but our current hegemonic medical paradigm has been ripping up the paperwork and denying them rights. As a healthcare provider, it’s fashionable and expected that I shirk away from this brouhaha and peddle the antiseptic certitude of allopathic care with sophistry & absolutism. However, indigenous medicine places the physician as a mender of chasms, honoring the prosaic prowess of each paradigm and fusing ritual and remedy as one. 

On a forced sabbatical recuperating from the pernicious three-week flu that recently swept Los Angeles, I was reminded of how important it is to fuse ritual & medicine, particularly when you’re wilted and supine, struggling to find your mojo in a disempowered mire. There’s nothing more humbling then being banished to your bed by a gruesome malady, a victim of capricious circumstance failed by your own flailing biology. It is in these ashen hours that a call to arms is ever so crucial, so that we may remind ourselves of our ferocious latent powers and re-connect with the seeds of our quieted magic. This is a simple, homespun ritual that I like to do at the advent of cold & flu season, when I feel an itchy tingle beckoning in the back of my throat, or when I’ve got tendrils of pestilence bristling within my body. The purpose of this rite is to strengthen the body’s energetic shield and first line of defense, and allow its innate curative alchemy to expel any lingering pathogens. As magic is best when it’s a prosy pastiche of incongruent passions, this ritual draws upon Traditional Chinese Medicine, kitchen witchery, and the ancient Taoist art of qigong. This can also be done as a protection rite in a circle of priests & priestesses, should you be lucky enough to have a slew of fellow witches and warlocks to bro-down with. 

BACKGROUND

Qigong is the ancient Taoist art of cultivating qi from the abundant environment, and circulating its healing helices of gossamer elixir throughout the body. Through qigong, we can tap directly into the diaphanous motive power that operates the universe, and sycophantically siphon it into our own body cauldron. Qi is everywhere…within, without, above, below, giving life to all things. Its nature is to move and change, and the root of all health problems, be it injury, illness, or aging, involve the stagnation and circulation of qi and blood. Its harmonious flow is the basis of all ancient Asian medicinal and magical practices. 

This simple equation, culled from the magnificent book The Healing Promise of Qi by Roger Jahnke, appeases both the science nerd and wizard in me, and distills the myriad mysteries of qigong into a basic formula: 

Practice + Intention = Inner Harmony = Qi Flow = Health and Longevity

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the lungs are inextricably linked to qi. Doctor Shen’s Compendium of Honoring Life (Shen Shi Zunsheng Shu), a Chinese medical text from1773, states that “the lung is the master of qi. Above, it connects to the throat; below, it connects to the orifices of the heart and the liver. It is in charge of inhalation and exhalation, and, in more general terms, the flux of coming in and going out.” The optimal functioning of the lungs ensures vitality and fortitude for the body en masse. The Statutes of Medicine (Yimen Falü), another Chinese medical text from 1658, illuminates this relationship, stating that “all bodily qi has its physical origin in the lung. If the lung’s qi is clear and straightforward, then there is not a single type of qi in the body that will not obey and flow along smoothly. However, if the lung qi becomes obstructed and turns murky, then the qi dynamics of the entire body will start to go against their natural flow and start to move upwards instead of downwards.”

The lung also has the unique distinction of being the uppermost organ in the body, an envoy between the external evils and the internal sanctum, uniquely susceptible to pathogenic factors like wind and cold. The lungs control the strength and circulation of Wei Qi, the ancient Chinese medical term for the body’s defensive energy and proverbial force field. Wei Qi warms the body and protects one’s self from the rigors of the outside environment. If you catch colds easily, have low energy or require a long time recuperating from an illness, your Wei Qi may be deficient. This ritual uses qigong and kitchen alchemy to strengthen the lung energy, boost Wei Qi, and ensure the harmonious flow of qi throughout the body.

GROCERY LIST

Your ritual libation will be a magically-charged ‘Wei Qi Tonic,’ comprised of horseradish root, white onions, hot peppers, garlic, ginger root, and apple cider vinegar. In some circles, this is called ‘Fire Cider,’ though amongst my kinfolk it is lovingly referred to as ‘Plague Tonic.’ Plague Tonic is white and pungent to support the lungs, as this combination of color and taste resonates with the element metal in five element correspondences within Traditional Chinese Medicine. You can find directions on how the Botanarchy test kitchen makes this infernal brew here. Priests & Priestesses could also use an immunity alembic of their choice in lieu of the Plague Tonic. A strong hot toddy, a shot of fresh pressed garlic juice, oil of oregano, cayenne & lemon water, whatever tickles your pickle. Ideally, your libation will be zesty, fiery, and entirely NOT sip-worthy. But with a dash of magical zeal, anything radiating with the harmonics of healing will do.

PROCEDURE

When you fall ill, first regulate the breath,

Ingest the Qi, and fix your attention on the afflicted area.

Practice holding the breath, 

And by means of conscious attention

Visualize the breath concentrating in the afflicted part.

Visualize the Qi attacking the illness.

When you can no longer comfortably hold the breath,

Exhale very slowly.

-The Immortal Master’s Treatise on the Absorption of Primordial Energy

1.    Prepare the space with a banishing ritual that you vibe with, and an incense or smudge wand of your choice. Ai Ye, Mugwort, would be an excellent fumigant for this rite, as it is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to purify pathogens, and ‘warm’ deficient conditions within the body. 

2.    Sit your Priests & Priestesses in a circle in a comfortable seated position, each with a chalice of Wei Qi Tonic. If you are rolling solo, just plop down and have at it.

3.    Call upon a pathogenic factor you wish to expel. This could be an ‘emotional pathogen’ plaguing the body, such as lingering bad habit or traumatic event, or it could be a physical ailment, such as a runny nose or sinus headache. Attune to the physical locus of the pathogen within the body, and fix your attention on the afflicted area. Where does it linger? Is it heavy, oppressive, constricting? Does it feel hot? Sticky? Smokey? Summon it forth, feel its viscerality, and let it grow. Connect with its noxious character and feel it licking the walls of your viscera. 

4.    When the pathogen has been effectively summoned, slowly imbibe the Wei Qi Tonic, and feel its vigorous heat burning away the putrid evil of the pathogen. Sip slowly and with fierce intention until a visceral response is elicited. This could be anything from a hearty sweat, to a cough, tearing eyes, digestive noises, cathartic breath, or a sensation of lightness within the body. When you feel you have expelled your pathogen, push your ritual chalice to the center of the circle.  If you are working with a group, this will signal to the other Priests & Priestesses that it is time to move on to the Wei Qi cultivation portion of the rite.

5.    Now that you have purified your body, gather the Heavenly Qi of the universe and store it within you. Begin by standing comfortably in Horse Pose. Circle your arms over your head as you inhale Heavenly Qi through the lungs, drawing the qi down through your arms as you rest them in a circle over your umbilicus, exhaling Evil Qi out of your lungs. Visualize spirals of healing qi descending into the lungs, and disseminating protective Wei Qi over the surface of the body. Repeat at least 5 times.

6.    Electrify the Wei Qi, and increase the diameter of its energetic field by relaxing and shaking the body vigorously for at least one minute. Imagine golden white light enshrouding you with protective mojo that no ills can permeate.

7.    Give yourself a Wei Qi bath, by rubbing your hands lightly over the entire surface of the body, starting with the head and face, moving down the outer legs, and back up through the inner legs, dousing the body in energized, electric Wei Qi. 

8.    Once thoroughly exulted, close the rite by taking a few deep breaths to honor your inner physician. Whenever you feel persnickety, pestilent, or fatigued, know that qi is bounteous, free, and omnipresent, the marrow of the universe ripe for the suckling. Enjoy in robust health~!