Fare Thee Well My Honey: Herbs For Letting Go
Makin' Things Hard
What Mom hasn't heard the smug, needling voice in her head: A Good Mom wouldn't be doing this right now. Maybe you're letting your kid veg out in front of a screen so you can lie on your back and stare into space. Maybe you're yelling. Maybe your kid is cussing loudly, chewing on a dirty dog toy, conspicuously peeing on your neighbor's lawn, while covered head to toe in glue. Whatever the situation is, there's an ideal in our heads that we're not measuring up to. Who is this Good Mom, with her perfect children and perfect life? The only place she lives is in our imaginations, our expectations, and our self talk.
We do this to ourselves in all areas of our lives. We "should" be more social, have more money, more sex, a different body, better health.
Letting Go Is OK
Recently I was at a blessing way for a friend who is very pregnant with her first child. Everyone sat in a circle and went around offering advice, stories, appreciation, or a blessing. One phrase got repeated over and over by the mothers in the room: Let yourself be messy. Sometimes we need to let go of the Good Mom in order to be the Mom we are. The Mom you are, the person you are, the body you have, is enough in this moment. It's enough. It's magical, divine, and all there is.
Important: there ARE situations that need to change, and continuing to grow and improve is what gives life fruit. For me, those situations are accompanied by a visceral, clear inner knowing. Whether you perceive them in your body or some other way, there are times that require digging in and hanging on to our convictions. I'm not talking about those times. I'm talking about the thoughts and patterns that don't serve us, that are disingenuous, that are tired and worn remnants of a former world.
Here are some plants and strategies to help us relax and release when letting go is the thing to do.
Throw Your Thoughts Away
If I catch myself having a thought I don't want to be having, (often of the beating myself up variety), I imagine folding the thought into a paper airplane and sending it soaring into space. Or if it's an especially nasty thought, I can crumple it into a ball, shoot a three-pointer into an imaginary trash can, and set the trash can on imaginary fire. Or set fire to the thought-ball and throw it like a comet into the atmosphere. Sometimes I throw my thought away and find myself having it again a minute later, but I just repeat the process as needed. It takes time to change old neural pathways.
Have An Herbal Chill Pill
Literally smell the roses. Smelly plants bring us immediately into the present moment, dropping us into our bodies and cleaning out the dead space. Before antibiotics or germ theory, Sage and Rosemary were burned in French hospitals to "clear the air." Later we found out that essential oils (present in every plant with a scent) are anti-microbial. Many cultures burn aromatic plants to clear negative or stagnant energy. Rose, Lavender, Sage, Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, Cinnamon, Ginger, Cardamom, Yarrow, Bee Balm, Lilac, the list never ends! Get a whiff of a smelly plant friend when you need to hit a quick reset button.
Evening Primrose, Oenothera spp.
These lovely flowers are especially helpful when a painful feeling takes up residence in your stomach. Evening Primrose is known for its help with depression, but I tend to call on it when stress is causing digestive complaints. A few years ago I wrote this:
This morning I realized I forgot to do something I said I'd do for someone I admire and respect. I fessed up and made my apology. As I continued to move through the day, a ball of hot tension formed in my gut. Guilt and shame were setting up shop in there. I was being mean to myself in my thoughts. When I tried to breathe deeply and relax the uncomfortable knot in my belly, I couldn't. Then I took a dose of Oenothera tincture. My gut relaxed instantly. The inner critic on repeat in my mind went quiet. I closed my eyes and saw the flowers before me, smelled them in the dusty air.
Wood Betony Pedicularis spp.
This plant relaxes the muscles, letting tension go. Plants that act on the nervous system affect each person differently, and I've seen people take a large dose of Pedicularis and say they don't feel a thing. I also have a friend who becomes giddy and mildly incapacitated when she stands next to the plant and lightly fondles its leaves. A good way to find out where you are on the spectrum is to try a few drops of the fresh plant tincture, sit quietly, and feel what you feel. For many, Pedicularis can relax the muscles and mind enough to allow true perception to cut through the noise.
Kava Kava Piper methysticum
Another muscle relaxer, Kava is a potent unwinder. A good end-of-day herb, for when it's time to put the bullshit down. One of my favorite herbalists, Jim McDonald, describes it like this: "What is so distinct about kava kava is that it's so promptly and significantly relaxant; mental stress subsides as a result of relaxation, not sedation. In fact, while the body lets go, mental acuity remains...you can definitely take kava and still be cognitively functional." I personally put Kava in the immediately before bed category, but like I said, relaxing nervines affect each person differently. Try it and see!
Enjoy This Poem.
She let go.
She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.
She let go of the fear.
She let go of the judgments.
She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.
She let go of the committee of indecision within her.
She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons.
Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.
She didn’t ask anyone for advice.
She didn’t read a book on how to let go.
She didn’t search the scriptures.
She just let go.
She let go of all of the memories that held her back.
She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.
She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.
She didn’t promise to let go.
She didn’t journal about it.
She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer.
She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper.
She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope.
She just let go.
She didn’t analyze whether she should let go.
She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.
She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment.
She didn’t call the prayer line.
She didn’t utter one word.
She just let go.
No one was around when it happened.
There was no applause or congratulations.
No one thanked her or praised her.
No one noticed a thing.
Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.
There was no effort.
There was no struggle.
It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.
It was what it was, and it is just that.
In the space of letting go, she let it all be.
A small smile came over her face.
A light breeze blew through her.
And the sun and the moon shone forevermore…
"She Let Go" - Safire Rose