We Pray with All of Our Senses

I was driving through the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania — an unplanned five-hour trek home due to my friend’s canceled flight — feeling annoyed and disappointed. Suddenly, my busted-plan weekend shape-shifted into a sweet gift.

The beauty of the terrain lifted my spirits: clear morning sunbeams lit up the ice-covered craggy mountain walls, like white icing on molasses cookies. A few glittery flakes were falling gently through glazed tree branches — white, dark, white, dark — creating a pleasing rhythm. As I drove, I clicked through the many soft rock and Christian radio stations till I heard this snippet:

We pray with all of our senses.

Cut to…

At home the next day — a 75-degree sunny Sunday with nothing to do but take a hike in the woods. Afterwards, I was sitting in my backyard garden feeling that satisfying kind of tired from moving my body around out in nature.

Suddenly two people appeared. They were dressed in heavy layers of black clothing, him in a suit and tie with an overcoat, and her in a dress with black stockings and a hat.

I’m sorry, it’s a confusing neighborhood,” he said. I thought they were going to ask me for directions so I smiled and perked up. (For some reason I love giving people directions.) He continued: “Can I offer you this… it’s about a talk on Tuesday night.”

I looked at the glossy pamphlet with a picture Jesus on it but didn’t extend my hand to receive it. The rest of what the man said was a blur because I was transfixed by his face: smooth skin was pulled taut over pronounced cheekbones, like a wax figure at Madame Tussauds.

“I’m good with everything,” I said, still smiling. The man thanked me for listening and they went on their way.

I didn’t mind that they had walked up my driveway and into my backyard to try to share what’s clearly so important to them. It doesn’t matter to me what people believe as long as they’re kind and respectful, as these folks were.

But here’s what I really wanted to say to them:

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Lovely people, come sit with me for a while. Take off your heavy wool coat and enjoy the warmth of spring. Do you smell the honeysuckle? Let me serve you some ambrosia I made this morning. Taste the sweet, tangy, creamy, crunchy… Savor.

Kick off your shoes and rip off those black stockings… walk around… feel the crisp green grass beneath your feet. Connect to the power of the earth itself. Raise your hands up and stretch your body. 

Turn your face to the sun and bathe in the rejuvenating light. Do you hear the birds songs? Sit with your eyes closed and focus only on that — they all sing a different tune but together they make sweet music. They’re singing for themselves… for each other… for you.

This, my lovely friends, this is the most powerful prayer you could ever offer. Appreciating this excruciatingly beautiful life you’ve been given by reveling in it with all of your senses — that’s what your soul wants for you. 

0413171545a~2You don’t need to study or repent or work to prove your worth to God, Christ or me. We know you are divine. We know how elegantly your five senses line up with the pleasures of this world — that’s not a tease or a reward, it’s a huge hint. 

Now go… go walk through this beautiful neighborhood if you enjoy doing that. I certainly do. But be sure to look up at the squirrel’s nest perched in the highest branch. Peer down at the tiny, brave crocus that has arisen yet again. 

And if you ever drive through the Laurel Highlands, take note of how the white icing glistens against the dark, ragged rocks… Say a prayer with all of your senses.

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Amy's Ambrosia recipe

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Sacred Sensual Home: Everyday Soul Scents

I stepped into a warmly lit bakery and caught a whiff of what I imagined was a lemony vanilla cloud made of love. That happy scent swirled around me and I inhaled deeply, eyes closed, luxuriating in the yummy, uplifting aroma. I felt joyful and comforted; my day got infinitely better from there.

meyer-lemon

It’s these little everyday sensory moments – a chorus of chirping crickets lulling you to sleep, the flicker of candlelight – that boost your mood and keep you in sync with your highest self. This is the sweet spot where you find flow and can easily access your inner guidance.

With the holidays upon us (yay!) I thought it would be fun to focus on scent (think: pumpkin, pine, cinnamon and sage). Yes, scent triggers memories and has therapeutic benefits, but there’s a simpler reason to inhale: sniffing something nice makes you feel good – body, mind, heart and soul.

Your home can be a scent sanctuary. Although essential oils are a reliable go-to, it’s nice to just grab what’s on hand – a jar of ginger, the grapefruit shampoo – as an easy way to tap into your soul-self throughout the day.

So how do you use those everyday items to get the same benefits as sitting on a meditation cushion?

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The key is being in the moment: after zesting the orange make sure to take a good whiff, savor the scent and revel in the pleasurable sensation. (Many times I’ve let out loud groans when sniffing coffee beans at the market). For extra credit, actively appreciate the miracle of your five senses and how this physical world is set up to make them swoon.

So easy, right? And you’ll feel like you’ve been perched in lotus position – peaceful, inspired and at one with your true self.

When I got home from the bakery I looked around to see what I could use as easy-to-reach scents for staying (or getting back into) in a high vibe state. I found some very basic stuff you might already have on hand too, and then I just started playing around. Here’s what I came up with…

Meyer Lemon

I had a bag of these in the fridge – they’re goldeny yellow and sweeter than regular lemons (but the old standard would work fine too). First I put them in a bowl on the counter so I could enjoy their cheery color and subtle, uplifting scent. Then while making dinner I cut one and started squirting it on, well, everything. That continued for the next several days, the tangy acid brightening fish, garlicky kale, white bean soup and a yogurt/ginger/vanilla concoction. With each squeeze I inhaled deeply and let the fresh, energizing scent have it’s way with me.

Another good option is to slice a few of the glowing beauties and toss them into your bath along with some luxe oils and Epsom salts. Don’t forget to breathe, breathe, breathe as you sink into the warm water.

Essential oil alternative: try mixing lemon and vanilla oils in a glass bottle filled with water (about 20 drops each in 8 ounces of water, I usually just guess) then shake like crazy and spray your whole kitchen – it smells luscious and feels celebratory!

Clove

There was a little jar of whole cloves hiding in the back of my cupboard. I’m not sure why or how long they were there, but they still had a strong aroma – spicy, earthy and autumn-y. Cloves go well with a sweeter citrus like orange, so I pulled the old Girl Scout trick and poked the cloves into a few tangerines. You could use them as pomanders to spruce up a stuffy closet, but I just set them in a bowl on my dining room table. Whenever I walk by a wave of orange spice kisses me right on the cheek – very high vibe.

Essential oil alternative: make a custom autumn mix for your diffuser with clove, cinnamon, orange, clary sage and rose… warm, grounding and spicy-sweet.

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Eucalyptus

I’d bought a drape-y variety to fill out a simple arrangement of purple Alstroemeria. The aroma was very subtle (okay I couldn’t really smell anything), but then I remembered when I visited a friend over the summer he had a bunch of fresh Eucalyptus tied to the shower head. I felt like I was getting an aromatherapy spa treatment as the warm water relaxed my muscles and coaxed the plant’s oils into a cleansing and rejuvenating steam. My sinuses cleared. Even better, the gunk in my energetic vibration evaporated. Sweet release.

Essential oil alternative: eucalyptus oil is earthy, but in a more medicinal way than, say, Myrrh, which is much sweeter. Put a bunch of fresh or dried Eucalyptus in a vase on your bathroom vanity and sprinkle it with the oil. Mellow it out by adding lavender or boost it’s invigorating effect with peppermint.

Lavender

Ah, the reliable go-to relaxer. Even though it’s nearly the end of November, I hadn’t had the heart to cut the plant that had thrived outside in a pot all summer. But the temps were expected to drop quickly so I trimmed off all of the remaining sprigs. Right now they’re in a vase, but I’ll dry them and maybe zhush it with some dried baby rose buds to nudge it in a romantic direction. I just like the way it looks in a pretty dish on my desk – when things start feeling stressful I pick it up and inhale.

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Essential oil alternative: I admit that I use the oil more than the actual plant. It’s one of those home staples – there’s always an organic lavender-infused shea butter next to my bed – that has infinite uses. It’s good straight up and also mixes well with all sorts of company: ylang ylang for a sexy vibe, pine to rev it up, citrus to be playful and clove to add zip. Create your own collection by mixing your favorite combos into unscented body lotion. Apply often.

Enjoy experimenting and remember… happy nose, happy soul.

Ray LaMontagne (Inadvertently) Talks About Sacred Sensual Living

1225151546~2I was moved to hear Ray LaMontagne sum up in a beautiful way some of the main ideas I play with through Sacred Sensual Living:

 

“I work really hard to stay grounded, to realize everyday how lucky I am, and we are, just to exist on this planet in this universe, and be aware of it. We’re so lucky and it’s so beautiful. And awesome in the true sense of the word. Really just awesome. Existence is just awesome.

Our culture is so far removed from that and people get so consumed with stuff and things, and things that just aren’t really important. And a total disconnection from nature, which has been here forever and is gonna be here forever. I want to stay connected to that.

That’s where I feel, like, that’s church for me, laying in the grass watching the moon come up and looking at the stars. That’s like talking to God, I mean that’s as close as I’ll ever get to talk to God. And it’s right there at your fingertips everyday.

Anyone can do it. You can just take a minute and lay on the ground. And it’s right there for you. That sense of peace and groundedness is available to you all the time.

I think people get so separated from it, they get anxiety and depression, and what you don’t realize is it’s all right there, it’s all available every second of every day. All you have to do is look at it.”

– Ray LaMontagne, in an interview with David Dye on World Cafe, 4/5/16

Ray’s new album is Ouroboros (produced by Jim James – see Music Spirit Love). Listen to Ray play Ouroboros live and hear the complete interview below. The album is meant to be listened to in its entirety, but I can’t help but point out two beautiful songs: In My Own Way and Wouldn’t It Make a Lovely Photograph – dreamy & sensual. Check them out…

 

Sacred Sensual Lifestyle: Luscious Lemon

Want to feel clear, bright and uplifted? We’re going to squeeze some precious drops of soul wisdom from that most versatile of citrus fruits, the lemon.

When you experience pleasure and satisfaction through your senses, you naturally create a connection to your intuition. This sixth sense is the divine guidance that helps you make decisions that are in line with what you truly want. The best part? It’s fun! Sensory mindfulness feels good, which is the key for accessing your most authentic self.

Here’s are several ways engaging with lemon can help you connect to your soul’s sweetest spot:

lemon and tulip

Lemon’s Sacred Side
Lemon is generally considered to be cleansing, purifying and fresh. Although the lemon is sometimes symbolic of bitterness, Christians often see it as a symbol of fidelity and love, and they associate it with the Virgin Mary. In many cultures, lemons have traditionally symbolized longevity, friendship and love. Rituals and potions designed to bring in romance often incorporate some aspect of a lemon.

Sweettart Sensory Mindfulness
Use lemon essential oil mixed with distilled water to cleanse the stale, stagnant or negative energy of a room and usher in a fresh vitality. Let it clear the cobwebs (from your house and your intuition) and promote clarity of thought.

One of the five essential tastes (along with bitter, sweet, salty and umami/pungent), lemon’s sour note creates a balance on the palate by tempering cloying sweetness and lending brightness. Lemon pairs with both savory and sweet, so experiment with flavor combinations. Try:

– adding lemon, fresh grated ginger and honey to your tea or your plain yogurt
– whipping up a fresh Meyer lemon juice, vanilla and vodka (or tequila or rum) cocktail
– mixing together lemon zest, black pepper and cardamom, then toss with dried cherries and your favorite nuts

Don’t forget to nourish your body too! Add lemon and vanilla essential oils to unscented body lotion for a delicious, sexy scent that will uplift your your mood and warm your heart.

Use Lemon to Purify Body Mind & Spirit
Does some area of your life need cleansing? Maybe it’s your body, your energy, your emotions, your home. Consider doing an easy cleanse or at least create a morning ritual of squeezing fresh lemon juice into a tall glass of warm water and drinking it down before consuming anything else. Lemon lowers the body’s acidity, which leads to less inflammation and a happier digestive tract.

Or maybe it’s your emotions that need purification. If the color lemon yellow is speaking to you lately, consider it might be a message related to your third chakra. This energy body relates to self worth and self power. Do you give away your own power by compromising when you don’t want to? Are you afraid of losing someone’s love so you turn into a doormat? Strengthen your third chakra by surrounding yourself with the color, scent and taste of lemon yellow.

Want more sensory-based ways to achieve wellbeing and feelings of vibrancy and satisfaction? Download the free mini-course: “7 Days to Satisfaction: Design Your Sacred Sensual Lifestyle” Enter your info below for immediate access to this self-guided pleasure route to creating your ideal life.




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Live Inspired!

 

From the simple stringing together of lemon garlands for the goddess Durga, to dividing the prasadam or blessed foods for the children first, I came to associate food not only with femininity, but also with purity and divinity.
– Padma Lakshmi

lemon slice

Embracing Earthy Energy

Iris budI opened the front door this morning and the sweet, warm smell of freshly mown grass rolled into the house. I peered out over the exploding fuchsia Rhododendron blooms and saw the first irises unfolding their silky layers and splaying into fragile plumes. Bird songs filled the air, like a soundtrack for the cinematic colors and lush textures of spring.Iris4

When the Sun in in Taurus, we’re more in tune with our physical bodies and the pleasure we derive from our sensory experiences. We gravitate toward what nourishes us, both physically and on a soul level. Just-picked strawberries and tender asparagus (or maybe for you it’s bar-b-que’d ribs on the grill) soothe our souls. After the wrapped-up winter, our skin welcomes a brush of soft air and it’s mild enough to linger with another under the stars.

Iris3aIt’s the perfect season to ask: What moves your soul? Maybe it’s cooking an al fresco dinner for friends or going to see live music at your favorite local spot. Indulge. Let yourself feel it, hear it and taste it. Relish. Let the physical world nurture your deepest and most authentic you. Luxuriate. irisPleasure leads to well-being. And well-being is the sister of intuition – you’ll get in tune with the signs and symbols that grace your life and show you the easier, more natural way.

So go ahead and linger in the morning bakery, sip the cold glass of chardonnay in the garden while admiring your irises and give someone you love a back rub. It’s all sweet music to your soul.Iris w&p

Essential Beauty

Beauty is a portal to your divinity, your sacred source. That’s the one thing I know for sure. (Love is the answer – that’s a close second.) Gazing at a Beautiful painting or sunset can calm or uplift you, delight or soothe. Beauty surrounds you, if you are looking through the right lens, and it’s presence elevates your energy. Listening to songbirds or love songs, strolling along a woodland path, licking a melting chocolate cone – your senses appreciate when you indulge in Beauty. The simple Beauties of life. The profound Beauty that hugs your spirit and tickles your soul. Beauty is fun. Beauty is achingly sad. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – subjective, changing, fading… untrappable, fluid, mysterious. You are Beauty. Beauty communicates, sometimes silently, other times bellowing out her proud and colorful power. Like the wind announcing the storm. The gushing creek announcing the arrival of spring. Let Beauty guide you to the flow.

Olive Branch

Exploring for Inspiration: Paris

Architecture, food, gardens, museums… What fuels your creativity and inspires your art? Whether you’re a writer, painter, public speaker, chef, gardener, textile designer, songwriter, jewelry-maker… Where do you find the spark for your next creation?

Musee D'Orsay

Musee D’Orsay

My trip to France in 2003 was a sensory feast that has inspired a bounty of creative ideas.

  AryllisLapin sign

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Color combinations, textures, scents, traditions, flavors…

seafood castle

Is it a poem or a necklace? A floral design or a make-up palette?

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New experiences can help solve creative problems and ignite fresh ideas.

Colette
You can experiment in your usual surroundings by immersing yourself with all of your senses. If you have the chance to take a drive (or a train or a plane) to an area you’ve never before – maybe Paris, or maybe the little town 17 miles away from your home – inhale the unique history, feel the quality of the air, notice the unfamiliar pace, create a palette in your mind. Your senses will percolate and ideas will pop up like fresh-baked croissants.

Josh Ritter: Preacher & Poet

Josh Ritter and The Royal City Band at the Trocadero, 5/16: 

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I went to a secret service in a wooded grotto and held the steamy hands of strangers as we gathered in a horseshoe shape around some ancient mossy rocks. Josh summoned the forest nymphs who sprinkled gold rain onto our leafy heads. He sang of love and beauty and nature and light.

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Then he leads us out of the woods and into a sunny meadow where we laughed at the dandelions and waded through the hula waves of tall grasses. Clouds race by like sailing ships, and we danced with the can-can tree tops in frilly skirts… kick, bounce, knee, bounce, kick, bounce… till they showed their petticoats and took a bow. I blew milkweed fluff and wondered how my bare feet could never before have been so connected to the damp earth, while my soul mingled so freely with the sun’s rays. Josh offered a blessing and the dandelions smiled.

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(Josh is also a novelist – check out Bright’s Passage. I’ll write about it in a future post.)

“Beasts” Chewed My Senses, Spit Out My Soul

The movie, Beasts of the Southern Wild, kidnapped and torqued my senses. My gut swirled as the briny, slimy crab innards slid down; diamond-shard sparklers flicked at my squirming spirit. As I tried to take a clean breath of sticky air, damp mold and the tart sting of charred rot clogged my lungs. Too many shots of rotgut on a chicken-grease stomach churned as my scarred feet pounded across prickly grass. And so much salt – sweat, brackish stains – my lips rippled, longing for a kiss of something creamy and sweet.  But there was no relief, only the sharp cracking of wind and water and words slapping at my gasping skin.

Oblivion, until soft scarlet lights wrapped me in alligator love. Maybe I’d rest for a brief moment. But I couldn’t, distrustful of the steamy motivations caressing my sun-burned shoulder and the lurking reverie of a clammy future. My soul flew overboard, crashing into the slate shard waves.

Skin chills on the balmiest gray day, an angel in a tutu splatters through bird-shit mud, thick like rancid bacon grease. I can’t follow her anymore but I can’t abandon her either. I’m nauseous and exhilarated, wondering if I can ever climb out of the dank and delicious hole to wash my eyes and throat. I need to cleanse my senses so I can fully absorb the splendor. But it’s too late, the beauty has already lodged like a spur into my black-and-blue heart.

magic gardens bottles

wavy tree

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Music Spirit Love

Jim James of My Morning Jacket on the spiritual nature of music and love:

“Music for me is a very spiritual and very religious process. It’s something that I feel like takes me to that place where the thinking me is gone. And I’ve really likened that a lot to love – to being in love, those moments in love, just being with a person or making love or talking or whatever – when you’re lost in it. You’re lost and you’re part of a greater moment. I’ve always likened love and music together, and since I’ve gotten into meditation, I’ve likened them all to being similar, to where you’re transported to a place where you don’t really exist anymore but you exist – the purest essence of you – exists on the most basic, beautiful plane.”

Jim James, interview on World Cafe

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