Monday, August 29, 2011

Aromatherapy For The Mind, Body And Spirit: Part 1 Introduction To Essential Oils

Aromatherapy is a branch of herbal medicine which involves the therapeutic use of plant essences (essential oils).  Essential oils are most often concentrated from plants by distillation. These essential oils have specific effects on mood and the emotions when their scent is carried from the nose/olfactory system to limbic system also known as the 'emotional brain.' Essential oils such as Rosemary and Peppermint have even been shown to speed up synaptic transmission in the brain.  The therapeutic effects of dynamic natural plant essences simply cannot be duplicated by man-made and cheaply manufactured chemical fragrance oils.

Essential oils must always be diluted to a safe level.  Two and a half percent is generally considered a safe level for massage oils, however, all essential oils are not save at the same levels.  For example, one popular essential oil is Ylang Ylang, pronounced Ee-lang Ee-lang.  This essential oil is used in natural perfumery as well as aromatherapy. The Ylang yYang plant is pictured, here. Ylang ylang is a heavenly floral, which also has properties of calming the nervous system, relieving insomnia and depression, and acting as an aphrodisiac.  Ylang Ylang essential oil is safe for use at only 0.8% on skin due to possibility of sensitization.

Lavender is considered one of the safest essential oils.  A simple recipe for a aromatherapy massage oil is 100 mLs of grapeseed oil  and up to 50 drops (2.5%) of Organic or Wild-harvested Lavender essential oil. Lavender is a very calming, refreshing and balancing essential oil.

Many essential oils also have anti microbial and anti oxidant properties.  Eucalyptus and Tea Tree are two other very safe essential oils.  These specific essential oils that can be used in a balm can help fight the virus that causes cold sores.

If you would like to learn more about essential oils, their properties and how to use them safely, Robert Tisserand is an excellent resource.  Robert is a leader in the field of Aromatherapy, down to earth, and offers reliable safety information based on scientific and clinical research.  Also Organic essential oils, which are considered therapeutic grade, can be found at Mountain Rose Herbs.

~ This introduction to Aromatherapy was written by Cory Trusty of Aquarian Bath.  Two of the most popular Aromatherapy Roll-Ons in her product line are Mental Clarity Aromatherapy Roll-On and an Immune Assistance Aromatherapy Roll-On.

Part 2 of this article can be read here.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Mind Body Spirit Artist Interview: Fernanda Gonzalez

A love of spirit, nature and travel!  A belief in angels, fairies and magic!  An underlying faith in the essential goodness of humanity and it's ability to heal.  These are just a few of the things that interconnect and combine to create the vibrant, uplifting and spiritually infused artwork of Fernanda Gonzalez.  I really enjoyed my interview with Fena, learning her insights on art and healing.  I hope you will find her art and words as inspirational and enchanting as I did!  
                                                                                                                               ~ diane fergurson

Today I Know There Isn't Anything Impossible
MBS:  Can you tell us a little about your background?  How did you get started in art?

Fena: I was born in Caracas, Venezuela and from the time I was a toddler I was already engaging in creative pursuits getting into my dad's paints and according to him giving him very honest critiques of his own artwork. I remember at that young age being fascinated by anything that involved craftmaking and loving TV shows where they showed the audience how to paint. I have loved art for as long as I can remember. When I came to the United States at 9, art was my language, my tool of communication. I couldn't speak English, but I could color and paint, and it was my way of emotionally connecting to others and of making this challenging transition a more comfortable one. Art was the thread that weaved these transitions of my life together, and created for me a quasi like safety blanket that cushioned and protected me from the stress of adapting to a foreign land, a new life. I would spend hours in my dreamland painting the afternoons away. Fortunately my parents and my Nana were amazing, always nurturing and celebrating my artmaking, and even supporting my decision to turn it into a professional pursuit when I decided to attend Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. 

It was my high school art teacher, Mr. Bartman who really allowed me to see that artmaking as a profession was something that was possible. Looking back, I realized that he has been the teacher that has had the most impact on my life. For not only did he teach me about art history and technique, but most importantly, he ignited my creativity to new heights, believing in me unconditionally, showing me how to be disciplined and how to always see the world in a new light. It was as a result of his passion that I was able to be quite prolific at that time, producing enough inspired work to not only have my first solo exhibit at the Venezuelan embassy in Washington by the time I was eighteen, but to also win my first big award given by then Vice President Al Gore. That was the beginning of my art journey which today continues to wind and shift, transforming and teaching me a bit every day. 

MBS:  How did going to art school and studying painting impact your work?

Fena:  In high school, my paintings were primarily oil based with a completely figurative focus. When I got to art school, I was exposed to a whole new world of materials and techniques as well as amazing teachers who pushed the boundary and definition of what painting was. My work became very much abstract and I started to play with lots of different materials including plaster, acrylics, wax, all kinds of papers, beads, sequins, even candy and coffee among many other things. Anything and everything became a potential art material to explore and engage in my work. It was incredibly exciting to discover new mediums. I started exploring sculpture, and paper making. And because I was studying with so many creative people from all cultural and artistic backgrounds, I was also challenged to see in new ways, to alter my definitions of creativity, to go beyond the white canvas, the brushes, and see the interconnected of art in all things, in all of life. My work transformed completely and the art making process shifted for me, becoming less clear and linear as I integrated many new ideas and tried to make peace with apparent chaos and ambiguity. To this day my work has remnants of this time in my life. My passion for collage, for bringing into my work different materials found and created, still remains. My work has sure grown and changed, but some motifs from that time still prevail in my work, particularly the white dots. They are like stitches in a crazy quilt tying all of these different phases of my artistic life together into one cohesive form.

MBS: You mentioned that your work now has a less linear quality to it now.  I'd like to explore
that a little with you, because often artists find that "loosening up" in their work does not come easily to them.  Do you feel that this may have developed as your knowledge base about different materials
expanded or was it more to do with your artistic growth and personality evolving?

Fena:  I think that the exploration of new materials certainly changed the way I worked. My creative process transformed, and my paintings certainly changed as a result. For instance, in high school, I think of my process as linear because I remember being able to have an image in my mind of what I wanted to create, and just needing a simple sketch to execute the final work. Not that the end result matched my original vision, but I stayed quite true to the original sketch. Yes, there were shifts and changes in the drawing, an element of surprise, an uncertainty in the way the colors played and the way the painting unfolded. The work still had a life all of its own, but it was more contained and predictable. Today, because I no longer work in oils, but rather incorporate a myriad of materials, the painting which is more of a collage takes me on a journey that is a lot less predictable. I no longer have a clue of what the artwork will look like in the end for there are so many layers, shifts, possibilities. There is now more an element of chaos, a deeper unknown. The work takes me on a journey that is much more layered, and profound. I don't feel it is necessarily a loosening up, as it is a going into deeper recesses and nooks that I never even knew existed.

MBS: Currently what are some of your favorite materials that you work with?

Fena:  The body of work I am working on these days incorporates a variety of materials. My favorites to work with are all kinds of decorative fabrics and papers including origami, candy wrapper, doilies, patterned tissue paper among others. I also love working with photo images that I have taken over the years or vintage ones that I have collected over time. And of course, acrylic gel mediums. Those are my top favorite materials at the moment.

Le jardin
MBS:  How does spirituality play a role in your artwork and for you as an artist?

Fena:  Spirituality is an intrinsic part of my work. The creative process for me is an spiritual experience in and of itself in that to me creativity requires courage, faith, and trust in the unknown. In my personal experience, there is a letting go, a surrendering that must occur in order for creation to happen. It is no longer about me wanting to create something, but rather about something wanting to be born through me. So it entails getting out of my own way, of my own judgements of what the artwork "should" look like or how long it "should" take. It is making peace with the fact that it is not for me to know that or control that, but rather to allow the piece to unfold and grow in its own perfect way and time. Acceptance is necessary, as is unconditional love. Embracing the beautiful parts and the ones that my limited self finds not so pleasing is part of my creative process. In terms of the context itself, each of my artworks narrates a story providing little messages,  reflections on life. The most recent ones are titled and inspired by my own writings or quotes that find me, which affirm what I may be experiencing at a particular moment. All of my art pieces are imbued with uplifting messages, with Reiki, and with lots and lots of love. They come forth from my connection with spirit, with angels, with animal guides. It my co-creation with them as we converse, dance, play, cry together and laugh.

I Give You My Light
MBS:  Besides conveying spirituality in their pieces, some artists feel that their artwork can also be used as a tool for healing.  Do you have any thoughts about that?

Fena:  Yes, I absolutely find art to be a great tool for healing. I believe everything has a vibration and I find that art in all its forms can access places within one's psyche that may not be possible through other means. In my own personal work, before I even begin a piece, I am already consciously setting the intention to be a pure channel of spirit. My affirmation is that my work may support and uplift others which is healing in and of itself. There is a conscious choice in the intention I set, in the words and messages I ingrain my paintings with. I consciously choose to create from a place of love, of connecting to spirit, to the angelic realm, and in doing so, I am bringing forth that energy. Words, color, intention, scents, sounds, everything in our world has a vibration. And by that I mean, there is power in the way that each of these can transform and affect our consciousness, our body, our whole being whether it be to calm us or energize us, to uplift or negate us, to awaken our fear or our love. In this way I find that art is healing. It can access places that have been locked up within, and in doing so, open our hearts.

MBS:  Your work is so vibrant...full of color and life!  How has your cultural heritage or even where you live (Miami) influenced your work?
Fena:   My work has actually always been very colorful and vibrant. The Venezuelan landscape growing up really influenced my color palette. There was always that nostalgia for the tropics specially during those long Washington and Boston winters. Perhaps it was a way to carry the joy and luminosity of the sun with me despite the weather. I just moved to Miami late last year. My studio is bright, full of sunlight. The work is still colorful, but I have started to notice that I have incorporated colors that tend to the darker side, perhaps my way of balancing so much light.

Tengo Fe I Have Faith
MBS:  What is a typical work day like for you?

Fena:  My schedule varies a bit each day. But usually I wake up, enjoy my sacred cappuccino ritual, from the smell of the coffee, to the sound my Italian coffee maker makes when it announces that it is ready, to my first sip. It centers me and sets the start to my day. I then look at any messages I need to respond to, do some administrative work and up keeping in regards to my Etsy store or wholesale orders of my prints and cards, and then continue the creative work. It really varies each day a bit, but it always all begins with my cup of cappuccino. Then when I am working on a canvas which is usually later in the day, and not every day, I first have a variety of images that i want to work with, print them out, and start to collage before beginning the process of painting. I can work through the afternoon and into the night. It really depends on how my creative juices are flowing.... And then of course, in between, when it feels right, I head for a walk on the beach and meditate.

MBS:  I see that you are currently selling your work online at Etsy.  Where else can people
find you and your artwork?

Fena: I just recently started doing wholesale on my line of cards. So along with Etsy, my artwork can be found in stores in Miami, Fl. Right now my line of cards is being offered by Books and Books in Bal Harbor, JPaper in Bay Harbor, and Celestial Awakenings in Coconut Grove. Next month they will be in additional stores including other Books and Books stores and Unity Church. People can also learn more about my original artwork and reproductions by contacting me directly on my Facebook page under FenaArts.

Live Fearlessly
MBS:    What prompted you to sell online, and how has social networking worked as a tool towards your increased visibility and sales?

Fena: For a long time I had heard about Etsy and Ebay, and how it really worked well for some people. I hadn't really jumped on the bandwagon because at the time I didn't have an awareness of social media or the importance of networking through this form.  I also only had my original artwork which I didn't think was necessarily a good fit because of the price point and frankly because I didn't think that someone would be interested in buying an original piece over the Internet. My shop on Etsy happened as a result of starting to make high quality archival reproductions of my work specifically prints and greeting cards. I thought this would be a great way to connect to other sellers and buyers around the world and to receive feedback as well as collaborate with others. I have met some wonderful people along the way through both Etsy, Facebook, and the Angel Therapy Board, which is my group of colleagues from around the world with whom I studied Doreen Virtue's Angel Therapy course with. They in particular have been incredibly supportive and have introduced my work to their friends. It has been a wonderful way to make friends and to connect to people in other countries who may have never gotten to know my work otherwise.

MBS:  What are you currently working on and what would you like to explore next?

Fena:  Currently I am working on a series of mixed media paintings that is inspired by quotes and channeled messages. It was sparked by my recent work. The new pieces have the actual quotes incorporated in them. They are the foundation for a project I have had in mind for some time: a series of channeled cards, similar to an oracle or affirmation deck utilizing my artwork and my own messages received in meditation. I have also started a prototype for an art book with images of my paintings and uplifting messages. As well as individual channeled message pieces for clients which incorporate not only the messages I receive for them when connecting to the angelic realm but also healing images and colors to support them.

MBS:  Is there any advice you have for those who wish to (seriously) pursue an artistic path?

My advice for those who wish to embark on an artistic path is to ask themselves whether it is something that they truly love and having said yes, simply enjoy and embrace the journey. So many times we get in our own way with our judgements and questions, the how's, if onlys and shoulds. The artistic path in my opinion entails joy, passion, innocence, dedication, a complete connectedness to spirit, as well as a total surrender to the creative process. If one has that, one has everything to embark on the artistic path. When one is so connected to spirit so that one cannot be affected by our own ego's or other people's opinions of our path and of our choices, one is then free to create work that is not only genuine, but that arises from a deep place within which transcends human form and which serves others. Having created the work, we then need to share it with the world. The practical aspects vary for each individual. But then again that falls into the how which is something that unfolds along the way. If and when I do get in my own way, I love to remind myself of what really matters with this Martha Graham quote which I think might help others too: "There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open."

Thank you Fena!

You can contact Fena at:
You can also find her work on Etsy.

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Additional interviews from the Mind Body Spirit Artist Series:
Ben Isaiah
Emily Balivet
Laura Milnor Iverson
Joanne Miller Rafferty
Jude McConkey
Atmara Rebecca Cloe 
Alison Fennell

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Going Vegan – Cheating a Little and No Regrets

In the past few months I’ve been in a couple of situations where it was difficult to stick to a vegan diet. The most difficult occasion was during a trip to Connecticut to attend my grandmother Josephine’s funeral. My family is Italian and I grew up in a pizza mecca. My small hometown of Wallingford boasts about two dozen pizza places and it’s just down the road from New Haven, home of the famous pizzerias Pepe’s, and Sally’s, among other great spots. It’s hard to avoid good pizza when eating out with my family, and this time the pizza was also like comfort food, given the circumstances. After some discussion, we headed to a place in my dad’s neighborhood – Carini’s

We ordered a few pies, one of which was a cheeseless. It’s not the first time we’ve had a cheeseless pizza when eating out. Last year during another trip to Connecticut (before I was going vegan), my cousin ordered a pizza with no cheese at Little Italy, another great restaurant in my hometown. Ordering a cheeseless pizza at a great pizzeria means you’re going to get a pie just as delicious as any that is gooey with melted cheese.

I shared the cheeseless at Carini’s with my husband, who has been admirably disciplined, except for one instance when there was absolutely nothing vegan on the menu. Whether he was tempted or not, I can’t say, because he fully enjoyed the pizza sans dairy with barely a glance at the others. I had one small slice of the regular pie and although it was absolutely delish, the one without cheese was excellent as well, and fully satisfying in itself. A good sauce, a good crust, and plenty of flavorful vegetables, made the pie great. 

It showed me something important about being vegan – to not try to replicate or substitute too much, rather to enjoy things as they are, if they’re better that way. In the case of traditional pizza: they are. A great cheeseless pie, whether from a pizzeria or made from scratch at home, tends to be better than pizza topped with non-dairy cheese. We have since ordered cheeseless pies here in Vermont, and though it’s harder to find a true New York style pizza this far north, there are a few great pizzerias in our general area and they’re happy to comply with the “no cheese” request, without batting an eye. 

I don’t regret having cheated a little. I’m following a plant-based diet largely for health reasons, and don’t feel a little bit of dairy on one or two occasions is going to set me back in any significant way. I also don’t regret going vegan… that gooey pizza tasted good, but honestly, after being dairy and meat free for several months, cheese simply seems very, very heavy now! And my dinners out at these great restaurants proved that going vegan does not have to mean settling for substitutes.
~ Nellie Levine

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From the Going Vegan Series:
"Going Vegan - Embarking On A New Path For Better Health"
"Going Vegan - Discovering a Wonderful Variety of Delicious Foods"

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Five Tibetans by Christopher S. Kilham - Mind Body Spirit Odyssey Book Review

The Five Tibetans, an up-close-and-personal look at five core Tibetan yoga traditions, is an ideal text for both the novice and advanced yoga student alike.  Written by Christopher S. Kilham - The Medicine Hunter - the book offers a detailed yet congenial account of what are commonly know as the Five Rites, or the Five Rites of Rejuvenation, which are central to traditional Tibetan yoga.    

            The author begins with a charming colloquial introduction to his own first experiences with the Five Tibetans, and even gives a brief history of the rites and their import to the West.  He goes on to provide an entire section on breathing techniques, which he indicates are central to experiencing the benefits of yoga, and then carefully provides an informative and intriguing description of the seven chakras and their functions.  The text includes an easy-to-understand diagram and concise lists that will allow students of all levels to benefit.
            He then goes on to describe, in great depth, kundalini.  This section was perhaps the most in-depth yet concise description of kundalini that this reader has experienced overall.  Kundalini is, according to the author, the most widely misunderstood element in yoga practice, and Kilham endeavors to provide the reader with a careful understanding of its nature and importance.    The remainder of the text hinges on the reader's understanding of this energy and its central role in yoga.

            Then Kilham brings us to the Five Tibetans themselves, and his description of these rites is positively stellar.  For the novice, this section will enlighten and inform, and for the more seasoned student, this section will serve as a refresher, a re-introduction of sorts.  Kilham provides photos of the exercises, which allow the reader to visualize the exact nature of each exercise.  He gives ample descriptions of the physical responses of each rite, and this aptly prepares the reader to experience the fullness of each application.   He follows this with more technique descriptions and the remainder of the text serves to provide a layout of tips for where to practice, how to practice and when to practice these rites.  Kilham gives advice on what to wear, how to behave, and more.   

            Readers of every background will benefit from reading this text.  It is informative but endearing, and the colloquial nature of the Medicine Hunter's no-apologies, straightforward discourse will enlighten those who are already practicing students, and those who wish to become so.  Everyone - even those who feel they don't have time in their busy schedules for yoga - should read this book.  
The Five Tibetans by Christopher S. Kilham
Inner Traditions 
Publication date 8-17-11

Reviewed by Christina Dudley

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Cleopatra Tarot Deck Review

                                     The Cleopatra Tarot Deck published by Lo Scarabeo.

Cleopatra was a woman of of great beauty, intelligence and power.  Not content to be Queen of Egypt, she started a relationship with Julius Caesar.  When she bore him a son, Ptolemy Caesarione, it was her master plan that Ptolemy would be the Emperor of a combined Roman/Egyptian Empire.  Unfortunately for her, the murder of Julius Caesar and the subsequent war put an end to that plan.  Undaunted, and still after more power, she took up with Marc Antony, who was already married.  Her plans were thwarted once again, when Marc Antony lost the war with Octavian.  Cleopatra died not long after.

It was during her time with Marc Antony that Cleopatra started to resurrect the Egyptian religion, and started promoting the ancient gods.  Egyptian astrology had started three centuries prior, but was brought back into consciousness through Cleopatra’s efforts.  In the Temple of the Goddess Hathor at Denderah, carvings were found (and concluded to have been made during Cleopatra’s era).  These carvings detailed the most complete documentation of the night sky.  The carvings were so detailed that the zodiac signs were clearly visible, as were the five planets (all of which were placed in their signs of exaltation).

It is on this basis that The Cleopatra Tarot was devised.  Coincidentally, or not coincidentally, there were 78 Egyptian divinities, meaning each got their own card, and none were left out. 

The cards are broken down this way:

22 Major Arcana

These are the 22 superior divinities, each of which had actions connected to the card on which they appear.

For example:

Anubis was associated with mummification and the afterlife.  In this deck, he is, obviously, chosen as the death card.

Osiris, god of death and the afterlife, was chosen as The Hanged Man.

16 Court Figures

These are 16 divinities that had less range than the superior ones.  Each suit uses the Knave, Knight, Queen, King approach.

For example:

Geb is the God of the Earth, and was chosen for the King of Wands.  The King of Wands is associated with life, creativity, and being a born leader.

Cards 2-10 in Each Suit

These are the 36 Doyens represented in the Temple carvings.  These are also referred to as the “monthly spirits”.

For example:

Senacher, known for nobility of mind and ability to command is the Three of Chalices, the card for trusting others and forming bonds.

The Four Aces

These are the three seasons of the Egyptian calendar, as well as the days of Sopedet.  That is when Sirius ascends.  The ascension of Sirius coincided with the time the Nile was just reaching its full benefits.

For example:

Sopedet, as I just described, is used for the Ace of Pentacles, a card signifying reaching a goal, focusing on results.

So, as you can see from this deck, the Egyptian astrology is incredibly well detailed and laid out for divination and exploration.

Recommended Spread

The recommended spread for this deck is to lay out 12 cards, all face down, as such

1    4    7    10

2    5    8    11

3    6    9    12

In this spread, cards 1-3 are for Love, cards 4-6 are for Work, cards 7-9 are for Friendships/Social Relationships, and cards 10-12 are for Business and Finance.

Based on the question the question the consultant asks, you only turn over the column that corresponds to the question, and ignore the rest.

The top card is for the beginning, the middle for the evolution, and the bottom card is for the outcome.

Pros and Cons

Among the pros, the artwork on these cards is amazing.  There is interesting attention to detail.  Images have inconsistent color, scratches, and dings.  This was done, I assume, to make them look aged, more like carvings from long ago.

For the suits, the accompanying booklet tells the planetary position associated with each card.  So, serious astrologers can have a little more insight into the deck.

Among the cons, since gods are used in place of traditional symbols, there is nothing to differentiate court cards from the rest of the suit, except that the suit cards have the numbers in the top center.   Court cards are indistinguishable from each other, unless you read in the corners which card you are dealing with.
A serious cultural faux pas on the part of the creator of this deck occurs when we are instructed to shuffle the cards 7 times, then have the consultant cut the deck with their left hand, after which the diviner shuffles another 7 times before dealing the spread.  In Arabic cultures, the left hand is considered unclean.  So to use the hand thought to be unclean in cutting a deck like this seems like a serious misfire on the part of the creator.

Additionally, while Cleopatra may has resurrected interest in the gods, the gods and symbols used in this deck are all way before her time.  The deck itself has nothing to do with Cleopatra herself, as these gods were not from her time.  One would assume her name was attached to it for marketing value.

Overall Impressions

Personally, I am a lover of unique decks with incredible art.  This deck definitely has that.  However, unless you are an expert in Egyptian deities and symbolism, this deck will have a most difficult learning curve. 

To me, that makes this set a wonderful set to add to a collection, for its artistic value.  But, it also makes it a very tough deck to use for actual readings.  Unless you are an Egyptian scholar, this deck will most likely be nothing more than a very beautifully drawn collector’s set.

~ Giani

Visit Giani's shop on Etsy.

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Additional Tarot Reviews:
Ancestral Path Tarot Deck
Vampire Tarot of the Eternal Night
Sun and Moon Tarot Review


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