Friday, September 18, 2015

Being Sensitive Can Be AWESOME

Are you a Highly Sensitive Person? Elaine Aron coined the term HSP with her studies of the trait of high sensitivity in the 1990s. In essence, it means you feel everything more than the average person. You're hyper-aware. You're effected by other people and your environment more than most.

For many, being sensitive feels like a curse.

I'm on a mission to make being sensitive feel more like a gift. My friends and I call ourselves "Sensies". We're sensitive to smells, sounds, people, emotions, energy, tastes... all of it.

I've been acknowledging my highly sensitive side, getting to know it, learning how to work with it, and finding ways to let it enrich my life for a few years now. Sometimes I take for granted this knowing.

I had friends over recently and a man I haven't seen in many years came...

"So what do you do now, Alex?"

"I make custom aromatherapy perfume and body products that I sell on Etsy. And I do workshops!"

"Whoa, cool." He raised his eyebrows. "How did you get into that?"

"Well... I'm a very sensitive person - to smells, tastes... to other people... to pretty much everything. And I can't stand mainstream perfumes and synthetic scents."

His eyes got wide. "Me too!!"

Sensies always get excited when they meet one another. It's like discovering you're both secretly into the all-night rage scene in San Francisco... Except not.

Thing is, this man probably never had the words to identify and acknowledge that sensitivity That being highly sensitive is an actual trait that 15-20% of the population have. Are you a Sensie? (Take Elaine Aron's self-test here!)

I've found there's quite a range of experience for being so sensitive. For some people, it's a curse they've lived with their whole life. I know people who've always felt like something was wrong with them, and who were outright criticized for being "too sensitive" or a "cry baby". For others, high sensitivity is a part of their personality that's been honored and nurtured. One young man I know was homeschooled and encouraged to follow his calling to compose classical music. He's now going to Juilliard!

My own journey has been challenging and messy. It took me a long time and a lot of literal stomach aches (which turned into full blown Irritable Bowel Syndrome), swings into depression, repeated back and shoulder injuries, burn outs, getting sick, and emotional breakdowns to realize that something wasn't actually WRONG with me. Really? I was not cursed.

As a Sensie, I need to take care of myself differently than most people if I'm going to feel good and be happy.

Turns out, taking care of myself is actually Awesome. Massages, yoga, eating delicious healthy food, taking vacations, baths, aromatherapy, reserving nights to do absolutely nothing...

And being extra sensitive has a lot of perks.

Think how much richer the experiences of wine & craft beer tasting, eating out at nice restaurants, sitting on the beach, and getting foot massages are when you're acutely attuned and your senses are all turned on!

My experience in discovering the awesome gift of my sensitivity has felt transformative and deep. I've named myself Alchemist Alex. For me, the alchemy is in taking the little, everyday things around me and finding the sensory delight, the beautiful nuance, the intense wonder of the moment in it all. It's meant slowing down and enjoying life more.

Yes, I make custom aromatherapy perfumes and products. Yes, I teach workshops on natural skin care and eating for more energy. Yes, I currently work part time in San Francisco and commute an hour each way on public transportation and it's not all peaches and rainbows.

But I'm into finding the magic and joy in as much of it as I can. It's a commitment I made to myself. You in? Sensies unite! Stay tuned for more...

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Essential Oils for Burning Man

A friend recently wrote to me asking if there were any essential oils that would be good to take with her to Burning Man. YES! Add this to your self-care or first-aid kit - for any camping for that matter. Aromatherapy to go!

  • Decongests and opens up the respiratory system. Put a drop or two in a handkerchief or mask, cover your nose and mouth and breath! 
  • If you're experiencing digestive issues, use it one drop well diluted in another oil - like coconut - and massage the stomach clockwise. Peppermint tea will boost the effects. Do not use undiluted on your skin, it will feel cold but can cause burning.
  • A cold compress of Peppermint (plus Lavender if you'd like) on the forehead and temples can relieve headaches, sometimes migraines. Stimulates the brain and clears thinking.

  • One of the best essential oils for decongesting and opening breathing passages. Again, a few drops in a handkerchief or mask will do you. Feel free to mix and match or make a blend to use with the other oils listed here!
  • Antiseptic, so great support for the immune system as you breathe :)
  • My favorite variety for its smell is Eucalyptus radiata, second and probably most common is Eucalyptus globulus. Ultimately go with what smells best to you.

  • Piercing quality is again great for clearing respiratory issues and mental fog.
  • Pain relieving for muscles and great for hydrating the skin - add 1 drop to moisturizers or sunscreen and rub all over, especially legs and feet.
  • Powerful antiseptic so will help fight infections of all sorts and support the immune system.

  • Powerful immune system booster (antibacterial), stimulating the body's natural defense system. 
  • Use a drop to treat cuts but CAUTION do not use on skin that will be exposed to the sun. All citrus oils (except Grapefruit) will make your skin WAY more susceptible to burn!
  • One drop swirled around your mouth and on your gums is a great to keep them healthy and clean, or add a drop to your drinking water - good for your mouth and immune system!

  • Another essential oil I always travel with! Calming, cooling, soothing, great to help bring the body and mind back into balance and relax.
  • Healing for the skin - Especially good for sunburn (with aloe) and straight onto burns/scratches! Super gentle, but it's good practice to dilute if applying to large areas of skin.
  • Use one drop diluted in moisturizer/oil - or rubbed into your palms, very lightly - applied to the face (avoiding eyes) to help keep your skin clean, I find it helps control breakouts with its antibacterial properties. You could also put one drop on a wipe and use it to clean your face and body. Great deodorant too!
  • Make a lavender spray (water/grain alcohol + lavender essential oil) to mist all over for midday when it's super hot and you want to cool down and relax. Or before bedtime when you need to decompress and catch some Z's.
Any other ideas or must-haves you can think of? Please share in the comments below!

Got Bugs? No real biting bugs issues on the Playa - if you're going camping somewhere with bugs though, Lemon Eucalyptus oil is what you need. Again, make a spray, a STRONG spray. Works wonders and actually lasts to keep those mosquitos and ticks away.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Honey Sunshine - Positivity Play Freedom

Honey Sunshine is one of the first blends I ever made for myself... simply because I loved it and the alchemy of the essential oils I've used in it speak to me of summer! My favorite season!

Summer is freedom and spontaneity and lightness, bare feet and legs, fresh juicy fruit, warm summer nights with fireflies! It's a time to play and let loose.

When I first discovered the combination of Ylang Ylang, Orange, Bergamot and Copaiba Balsam (the Neroli - more commonly known as orange blossom - I added later in a burst of inspiration), I was massaging it into my damp hair every morning after my shower and then floating around in it's dewy honey nectar scent all day. Hair-omatherpy!? I love how bright, uplifting yet feminine and sensual it is.

As I got geeky and dove deeper into the aromatherapeutic effects of these essential oils I understood even more why it was such a synergistic blend:

Ylang Ylang | National flower of the Philippines! Calming and relaxing, reduces blood pressure. Antidepressant and aphrodisiac - it is a very nectary sensual oil. Said to balance male-female energies for clearer focus of thought and effort. Brings you back to feelings of self-love, confidence, joy and peace.

Copaiba Balsam | South American Balsam evergreen tree that smells woodsy with a hint of vanilla. Though not well known, it is one of my personal underdog favorites of the tree oils. Known for promoting presence so you can stay in the moment. Quells dis-ease, stress, anxiety and depression. Balances body and mind. Magnifies your intentions and the powers of the other essential oils it is paired with.

Bergamot | A spicy citrus most well known in Earl Grey Tea. Like most citrus oils, it uplifts and refreshes the mind and mood. Known for expanding and opening the heart chakra to love for oneself and others. Helps to relieve anxiety, stress, and tension. One of my favorite citrus oils on its own!

Orange | You know this delicious fruit but the essential oil is another thing. Wow! Seems to carry sunshine within in. Known for bringing about a sense of peace and happiness to the mind, and cheerful joy to the heart.

Neroli (Orange Blossom) | Ever smell an orange or lemon tree in full bloom? The sweetness comes in clouds! Like many flower essential oils, a challenge to gather and make so tends to be expensive. Especially valuable for calming emotional stresses in the mind and body. Its uplifting effects helps you to redirect your energy in a positive direction. Also reputed as an aphrodisiac, probably because of its relaxing effects.

Honey Sunshine's aromatic notes are of nectar, sweet, tropical, floral, bright, citrus, warm, vanilla, fresh and summer morning dew after a rain...

The intention I imbue into every blend is of Positivity, Play and Freedom. And embodiment of Summer.

*Are you local to Berkeley, CA? Enter the code LOCALPICKUP upon checkout to drop the shipping fee. Send me a note with your order and we will arrange a time for you to pick it up at my North Berkeley address. Please note that if you use this code, it is your responsibility to pick up your order!*

Monday, July 20, 2015

A Power Not An Obligation

is your ability to respond
to whatever life throws you.
A power, which
none is obligated to take,
but when claimed
can transform an experience
or outcome immensely.
It is a practice of deciding how you respond
and what you do and who you be
in every situation.
Use this ability with intention
and you can experience Anything You Want.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

My Favorite Essential Oil Resources

People often ask me where I get my information and my essential oils... Check it out and please share your favorite resources in the comments below. Learning is a collaborative process!

Aromatherapy an A-Z
by Patricia Davis
My friend Elizabeth found this book discarded on the street! This is one of my favorite books to reference because Patricia is a long practicing Aromatherapist and it's obvious. She shares wonderful background information about essential oils and is shares very practical (mental, physical, chemical versus mythical/spiritual) information. She also details many common ailments, including aromatherapy treatments and nuances from her years of practice. I would love to see even more essential oils written up in this book (especially tree oils, which are hard to find information on), but this is not to say what is included here is not a deep and thorough place for basics and beyond.

Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art
by Kathi Keville and Mindy Green
This first part of this book has amazing and intriguing reading in the about the history and current studies/applications of essential oils and scent. What follows is an incredible DIY home recipes, blending guides and formulas for hair and skin care, massage oils, immunity-boosting and more. The last section of the book is a very useful (though again, I wish for more!) listing of essential oils, their properties and uses - PLUS amazing reference charts that I love - see side pic. This plus the book below were two recommended to me by a long-time essential oil maker and company owner.

The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils: The Science of Advanced Aromatherapy
by Kurt Schnaubelt, Ph.D.
A book I've dabbled in and aspire to sit down to study at some point. Certainly the most scientific exploration of essential oils I've seen, from the molecular biochemistry of the oils and how they affect the body to the extraction methods of essential oils, to recipes for home use. Kurt is well known and respected in the world of aromatherapy for his detailed research that is bringing the art into more mainstream healing and western medicine practices.

Reference Guide for Essential Oils
compiled by Connie and Alan Higley
Though not explicitly expressed, this is a reference book for Young Living essential oils and products. That being said, it was the first reference book I owned and I still very much value the kinds of information and the huge variety of (often otherwise hard to find) essential oils. I love that the detail in the single oil's listings here: a breakdown of chemical constituents, extraction methods, blends with, safety data, applications... Sometimes I find I don't know what they mean in the entries or wish there was more description, or get fed up with the rather blatant pushing of Young Living blends, processes and products. But overall, it's book I'm happy to have on my shelf though I find myself turning to it less and less.

Where I go to research issues or topics regarding essential oils and the essential oil industry. Not the best for providing information about individual oils and their properties, but I appreciate the critical, clear, and open writing style of this site. I like knowing that their advertisers are carefully vetted to make sure they are providing the highest quality essential oils.

Abundant Health
Certainly the best priced supplies for mixing and creating your own products. This is where I source my glass bottles from. I've always found their containers to be of good quality without defects.

Mountain Rose Herbs
My favorite place to go for essential oils, especially when I want to try something new. I DO wish they would allow reviews and have a bit more information about the properties of their oils, but they have an immense selection of mostly organic or wild-harvested essential oils. I'm not always convinced they are of the utmost highest quality, but they do provide information on the site about where the oils and plant materials are coming from, which I very much appreciate as a consumer. I've found their customer service to be wonderfully accommodating as well.

Base Formula
Essential oils and essential oil products of great quality. What I really love most about this company is their YouTube videos! Great recipes and ideas for using aromatherapy and essential oils at home.

Other sites that have come highly recommended but that I am still exploring so reserve review:

What are your favorite resources for essential oils and information? Please share in the comments below!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

No More Resolutions! One Word Instead.

from One Word that will change your life by Jon Gordon, Dan Britton and Jimmy Page.

I must be in the 13% of people who don't make resolutions. It has always felt like something I should do... because I'm not doing good enough yet. (The underlying feeling I get around this whole New Years practice.) And I don't like to do things just because the rest of the world says I should.

I DO spend a lot of time thinking about ways to stay committed to the ways in which I want to show up more as the best version of myself, for the best version of my life, however.

I DO believe that the practice of reflecting on the past year and setting an intention about who you want to be and what you want to experience in 2015 is a powerful way to live a conscious, powerful and self-fulfilling life.

The hardest part, as with most things we say we want (myself included), is commitment. What makes our desires and intentions STICK?

The book One Word says that choosing one word, imbued with meaning and a clear picture as to WHY you want it, is enough to do the trick. Not a phrase, not a slogan, One Word. Keep it simple. Simplicity is powerful.

And knowing the WHY behind what you desire is the key. It's one of the first things I do with my clients - get clear and connect with their why.

I am a dabbler, a taste-tester. I love to try new things. To me, it's the only way to know what really works for me, to get to that place of feeling my best and loving my life. So I've chosen a word.

My word for 2015 is Truth.

I took some time choosing my word, unplugging, listening inward and outward for what I need, what I want to expand into, how I want to feel... brainstorming, doing nothing, taking a bath, writing, taking a walk. (The book gives more guidance if you'd like for choosing your word.)

Essentially, go with your intuition. Go with what has meaning for you. Trust yourself. (And if it makes you feel better, adopt my rule, "I can change my mind at any time.") Spend some time with you word.

WHY did I choose truth? My intention for this year is to be more me, which is going to require being true to myself, honest with myself, present to what is, curious to what gets in my way, accepting of what is. To me, being clearly in touch with "what is" is the best place to make choices from. It is a place of grounding and center for me. It is real. I'm here to live a conscious, intentional and empowered life. That means being in touch with the truth - personal and universal.

You game? What's your word? (Share below!)

As for the sticking to the word, One Word suggests telling as many people as you can, your "Stretch Team" who will hold you accountable. Always a great idea. I have an accountability buddy I talk with every week!

Essential oils are another (surprise!) of my favorite ways to remind myself of my intentions. I'm hosting a New Year Intentions Essential Oil Blending Playshop and I'm going to be creating my blend to help anchor me into this intention, this value, this concept of "truth" for 2015.

Will you join us? What supports will you create to help hold your commitment to your word - and your self?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Feel & Eat Better (More Relaxed & True to YOU) This Thanksgiving & Holiday Season

Let's face it: Thanksgiving (and the whole holiday season) is challenging for almost everyone, in terms of healthy eating, balance, and taking care of ourselves.

Why do you think we hit New Years hungry for resolutions? We're hungry to come back to ourselves and to come back to our centers after so much cultural and big-business driven pressure to Indulge, Spend and Expend energy (money as well as our personal reserves).

I've been on a non-mainstream, alternative path for quite some time. I'm not interested in what is normal or mainstream - in fact, those things have been what tend to make me (and most of us) sick and stressed.

I am more interested in what is "mystream" or my way of being and operating optimally. Naturally, when we do things according to what we truly need and desire, we feel better all around. We're more healthy, happy and we make better choices for ourselves.

Seven Ways to Feel & Eat Better (More Relaxed &True to YOU) This Thanksgiving & Holiday Season:
  • Remember: This is a holiday. Family (& all associated stresses) are around. We have a lot to do, including our regular lives. Many of us travel. The food is amazing and too much. The social and cultural programming say "It's only once [sic] a year! Indulge!" Realize you are human. Don't set up unreal expectations. And don't just throw it all to the wind, later feeling huge, stuffed and like total garbage either. The repercussions of doing that reverberate into all kinds of personal guilt, shame and beating ourselves up.
  • Be grateful. It's the Giving of Thanks Day! Gratitude elevates our mood, mindset and energetic vibration (yes, they can actually measure this with machines now!), releases feel-good, calming hormones and brings you back into the present moment, out of all the other thoughts in your mind. Write down 3 things you are grateful for first thing in the morning, before you go to see anyone else or check your phone, and/or right before bed.
  • DO set an intention and write it down. The written word is taken more seriously, even by our own subconscious. How do you want to feel? What do you want to eat? What do you want to enjoy? How do you want to be more yourself this Thanksgiving and holiday season? 
  • Find someone else who's at dinner who has similar intentions and buddy up with them. Social support is HUGE.
  • Get connected with your body. The day before AND the day of. Make time for a yoga or spin class (bring a family member, everyone seems to want to feel healthier these days). Go for a long morning or suggest an after-dinner walk. Breathe fresh air. FEEL your stomach. Ask it if and what it's hungry for.
  • Savor. Make a commitment to be more mindful and to really slow down and enjoy what you are eating. Fully chew and swallow each bite before taking the next. When you're in conversation, pause eating and just be with the other person. There will be plenty of time to eat... it's Thanksgiving. And when you're eating, be with the amazing deliciousness of your food. Get out of your head and enjoy the bounty, after all! Use good judgment with what and how much you eat, but eat what you really want. 
  • Have compassion for yourself. Every day is a fresh day. We all (even when we've done a lot of inner work) seem to expect/dream/hope, in some facet of ourselves, that we'll do it perfect this time. Let that go. You're not perfect. And that's perfect, beautiful and real. Thanks for being you.