Month: December 2015

Prayer Candles

I have used prayer candles for a really long time partly as a collector’s piece and partly for conducting mini rituals. You can make a trek to your nearest botanica and see the assortment of colors and candles for just about everything. I like a lot of color and like to have the full spectrum rainbow of prayer candles in my home at all times. Some take the use of this candles very seriously and associate them with witchcraft, voodoo, or brujeria and believe them to be used for bad or malicious intent. I recall a friend visited me and her cousin was from Mexico City. When she saw my prayer candles she quietly freaked out and thought I was a bruja. Honestly, I don’t subscribe to voodoo or at least the practice of black magic. I like the candles for the purpose of mediation, setting intentions, and just a physical object to create rituals from. “If you think bad thoughts, bad things are to come” is kind of the same principle with these candles. If you want to use them to conjure bad entities or spirits, then that’s your choice; however, I play on the side of light, love, and gratitude.

Some of my favorite candle varieties include:

  • Abre Camino, or Road Opener
  • Chango Macho, which is the Good Luck Spirit
  • Block Buster, or Rompe Bloque

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You can use the Abre Camino to literally clear your path to help you pursue your endeavors and dreams. The Chango Macho candle is an African Orisha that can be burned as an offering to bring about good luck, love, and prosperity. Lastly, the block buster can remove any obstacles in your path that might be impeding you from achieving your goals.

Enjoy and ritual-on my friends.

Benefits of Royal Jelly

In a constant quest to combat aging and dull skin, I conduct a lot of online research to find some new and natural methods to have illustrious skin. One such search resulted in royal jelly, which is a secretion from honey bees used to feed their young. When it’s time for a new queen bee, the colony selects a few chosen larvae to feed royal jelly to in copious amounts. By feeding the larvae the royal jelly in such large quantities, it triggers the larvae to morph into queens. Sounds a bit gross, but royal jelly is packed with tons of antioxidants and nutrients that can give your skin an amazing glow. Some folks recommend ingesting it raw or in pill form; however, getting fresh royal jelly is the best method. It is quite bitter and it is recommended you consume it with a little bit of honey (naturally). You only need a small amount daily and, it’s good to break off after having it for 30 consecutive days.

Benefits of Royal Jelly:

  • Loaded with antioxidants to support against free radical damage
  • Boost your immune system
  • Boost brain function
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Cholesterol control and more!

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Please check out http://www.bee-pollen-buzz.com/health-benefits-of-royal-jelly.html for more benefits and research on royal jelly.

I buy a small jar of fresh royal jelly at a local honey company called Honey Pacifica. They sell it frozen and once you get it home, it must be keep refrigerated. (You can purchase royal jelly from Honey Pacifica here.) I take a quarter teaspoon every morning with some honey and, once a week I will rub some on my face as a royal jelly mask and leave on for 30 minutes or longer. I wipe off my face with a warm cloth and my skin feels tighter and has a noticeable glow to it. Before using royal jelly on your face, test a patch of your skin to make sure you aren’t allergic.

royal jelly

*While the European Food Safety Authority has concluded that there are no benefits to consuming royal jelly and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has taken legal action against companies selling, I still personally have seen benefits in its use. Do your own research and find if its best for you. It is noted, if you are an asthmatic, you should not consume royal jelly. *

Sweat Lodges

I have had the good fortune to participate in a sweat lodge in my lifetime during my high school years. I knew very little about sweat lodges prior to my visit and had I know, I might have tapped out from attending. I made the false assumption it was a relaxing, mediative “sauna”, but the reality is that sweat lodges are a form of purification and detox of the spirit and body. It can be very intense and unpleasant–not anything like a trip to a spa. My mentor at the time invited me to go as she had been several times. I can’t recall many specifics like where it was (other than somewhere between Redwood City and Mountain View), which tribe hosted the lodge, or who was involved, but I can share the most important details, which is that of the sweat itself.

Again having little knowledge of what to expect I remember wearing some makeup, which ultimately sweated off entirely. I did bring a change of clothes luckily because you get drenched in sweat. When we entered the location it was akin to a community center with an outdoor recreational area. Outside there were teepees, firepits, and of course the wooden skeleton of the sweat lodge we would create. The lodge was not very large and had large wooden posts converging to make a circular hut. In the center was a large pit, which would hold the “grandfathers,” or heated stones. In the near distance to the hut was a large fire pit roaring high with large river stones at the bottom. A stack of animal hides and blankets were on a picnic table which some members were already throwing on top of the hut skeleton. I would be participating in a woman’s only sweat lodge, which certainly made an insecure 17 year old feel a little more at ease.

Sweat Lodge frame, Little Bighorn River, Crow Indian Reservation, Medicine Tail Coulee where Battle of the Little Bighorn occurred, Montana, Crow girls water horses
Sweat Lodge frame, Little Bighorn River, Crow Indian Reservation, Medicine Tail Coulee where Battle of the Little Bighorn occurred, Montana, Crow girls water horses

Once the lodge was assembled, we each crawled inside to this cozy womb. There were probably 7-9 of us in this small hut. The grass around the center hole would act as our blankets for each of us to lie down if we wished. The lodge leader brought many heated grandfathers in our hut and placed them in the center. She had a large bucket by her side and closed the tent flap. It was pitch dark in there and a little frightening. She poured the cold water in the center and a gust of steam engulfed our tiny abode. The heat was intense and the steam was suffocating. My mind panicked and I felt completely unprepared for this experience and wanted to give up. I don’t care for saunas or steam rooms much at the gym, but this was 10 times worse. We were trapped in this tiny space with little oxygen. Quite honestly, I felt like I was the only one have a mini meltdown in my head and everyone else carried with no worry or anxiety. The leader opened the ceremony with a prayer and chanting and walked us through a guided mediation.  At this point, I was lying in child’s pose and slipping  my arm underneath the tent to feel the cool, outside air. After a short while, the sweat lodge became more tolerable and my mind stopping panicking. I began to relax, pray, and meditate like others were doing. The circle was meant to heal any past wounds and move forward on our journeys.

sweat lodge fire

During the course of the sweat, the leader poured more water over the stones to keep the steam flowing. I don’t think these subsequent pourings were nearly as intense as the first pour. I remember near the end of the lodge, the leader had us go around the circle to openly pray for something to the Spirit. I wish I could recall what I prayed for, but here was so much comfort in our small circle that it felt safe and familiar. Once the experience was over, it was night time and going back into the community center, I saw my mascara was smeared all over my face–kind of symbolic gesture that no masks need to be worn in the lodge. I think sweat lodges are something that should come to you when you are ready and not necessarily sought out. It’s a greater gift to receive that invitation than impose yourself when you might not be ready.

The Art of Tea

I love tea. I drink all kinds of tea and thoroughly enjoy trying new kinds. I don’t much care for packaged tea like Bigelows or celestial brand, but if I’m desperate I will settle for them. Mostly I brew loose leaf teas I buy by the pound. Just like my mom, I love black tea (although I think she prefers only English Breakfast). What is so wonderful about tea is you can change flavors according to your mood. I might wake up and want an assam black tea, or have an afternoon tea of genmaicha, and end my day with some lavender/chamomile. I have always drank and preferred tea, but it wasn’t until I was in college that I began to appreciate loose leaf tea. My friend opened me up to the local tea shops and let me come with her for a tea tasting.

I recall living in San Francisco at the time and only two blocks from Clement Street (the real Chinatown), and there was a new tea shop that opened up. The shop was small and filled floor to ceiling with metal cannisters of loose tea. A large, custom built wooden tea table (gongfu table) was centered in the shop. It was a wooden tea bar, complete with its own sink, stools, and ready made hot water. I remember sitting on a stool and having the shop owner showcase his best teas in ceramic tea pots with matching tea cups. He described in detail the notes and accents of the tea as I sampled many varieties and blends. They all were so different and each had such unique and distinct flavors. I remember first trying Pu-erh tea and my first thought was “This tastes like Golden Gate Park.” Pu-erh just reminds me of foggy, dewy moss and moist dirt. While “dirt tea” doesn’t sound too tasty, it truly has a grounding and balancing effect.Pu-erh tea is often paired with goji berries (wolfberries) and chrysanthemum to provide it a lighter flavor.

Just a little factoid, pu-erh is fermented tea and considered to be a “black tea” in China. What we in the States and Europe refer to as “black tea” is actually oxidized tea rather than fermented, as it is sometimes mis-labeled. Learn more about pu-erh tea here. 

Pu-Erh-Tea-Health-Benefits

I usually start my day with some matcha tea, mixed with raw honey, coconut milk and sometimes a dab of royal jelly. I buy the organic matcha tea powder which provides me all the pick me up I need in the mornings. Usually one cup is fine and I can brew some other blend that I fancy. Preparing my matcha tea is like a good morning ritual every morning. It’s the perfect way to set my intention for the day and show gratitude for yet another day. Finding enjoyment in the little miracles and blessings throughout your day can help change your perspective and outlook.

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I will leave you with this story my Reiki Teacher told me about a swimmer and the leaf.  At a river, there was a swimmer and leaf. Both had the objectives to get to the end of the river. The swimmer, being fit and competitive, swam in the river as fast as he could. He dodged rocks and currents, and ultimately got to the end of the stream first. The leaf on the other hand, took it’s time down the river. It enjoyed every minute of the adventure down the stream and was grateful for everything it encountered–the deer drinking water, the fish bobbing along, the pebbles in the river, etc. Although the leaf took longer to get to the end, the leaf saw all of the little miracles along the way and expressed it’s gratitude for the journey. Thus, my teacher said “Be the leaf” and enjoy all the little miracles you encounter each day. While taking time in your day for peace and silence isn’t necessarily a miracle, it will give you pause and help remind you to set your intention for gratitude.