Holy Smokes; the warm embrace of my self-love incense

Sometimes, someone crosses your path and makes you go to extraordinary lengths to create something truly beautiful. This time, it was someone whose daily life requires tremendous self-sacrifice of both herself and her husband. After I had heard her story I went to work and have created an incense that invokes self-love like nothing I have ever created before.

The result is an incense that can be used when your daily life and interaction with other people are demanding, you lose yourself a little and you just need a hug and be told how loved you are. In the midst of the storm around you, these holy smokes bring the message that you are loved, you are worthy, and you are whole.

All my smokes are ceremonially crafted loose incenses, to be used with charcoal disks or a sieve burner. The recipe consists of resins and a combination of warming, rich and relaxing herbs and flowers like cinnamon, rose and lavender. The ingredients are partly hand-harvested by myself.

The incense holds you in a warm and tender embrace until your heart radiates with love, warmth and compassion.

The story of the trees

Tell me, did you ever have a conversation with a tree?

Trees are amongst my favourite beings on earth.

They teach us about stillness, resilience, and the most subtle and invisible layers of reciprocity, symbiosis and even kinship. Throughout the year, they are a beautiful expression of the cycle of life, shedding the old in autumn and coming to life again in spring. The evergreens teach us about immortality, endurance and strength in the coldness of winter. The trees that grow on the most damaged soils show us that the earth is fertile and is always able to recover, even if we humans ruin it all.

This kind of symbolic language and meaning can be understood through observation. But there is a deeper layer of contact and understanding.

This is something I have discovered when my sensitivity to feel the subtle energies all around me, was completely unmanageable. All the people and movements and encounters within the city were too much to process for my brain, and therefore I found sanctuary with the trees.

All of a sudden I noticed something I had never been aware of before: that the trees (and the earth) have a pulse. A heartbeat.

And that I could sense their energetic field and the energy exchange between myself and the trees.

This discovery stunned me and sang to my soul and filled my mind with imagination. Who would have known, the trees that were always there for my whole life, that I had visited and spoken to so often, they had a heartbeat!

It was the start of a new journey. I became strongly aware that many trees can outlive us and become hundreds or thousands of years old – if we humans only let them, at least! – and are the safe keepers of the wisdom of many ages and many generations. They saw the world around them change. They saw the people change. And whenever we stumble and fall, they are there to remind us of who we are and where we come from.

A special example close to my home is a Giant Sequoia of (only) 130 years old. It has been planted on an estate that is now a public park, by a family that was of big importance for the development and growth of my city. They brought the seeds from California and the tree is one of the biggest of its kind in my country.

Sequoias though can become 3000 years old, so in that sense, this one is still a little baby! Yet we should understand that this tree is the kin of the Californian giants and carries the same genes, just like the seeds of this tree carry the full potentiality to become a 3000-year-old giant over time.

These giant trees hold the wisdom of the ages and the history of humankind. They confront ourselves with our past and future, knowing we are only a breath in the lifetime of a Sequoia Tree. This specific giant is a friendly one, often surrounded by kids and people. She is often touched and very loved by many.

And then humankind had to interfere. Humans always have to interfere. Humans with their short lives and short-sighted management strategies. They all want to change something, to build something, to be remembered by something so that they live on after they die. Some years ago her lower branches, which allowed for climbing and direct contact, were taken away. Last year, someone decided to give this beautiful sequoia a wooden platform all around its trunk. Probably with the best intentions, but it is an unnecessary and probably expensive change that only brings us only further away from this beautiful tree. The children cannot connect with the ground anymore when they visit her. And this saddens her so much. She has so much to give and so much to offer, and over time it became harder and harder for her to find people who are able to hear her call. And now people have taken away the possibility to connect with the earth around her trunk in a moment of short-sighted management.

It is possibly with the best intent. But it is a step away from nature. A barrier of air between the people and the tree.

I have promised this Sequoia that I would tell her story, and that day, there was a seed planted in my mind that we should make sure that this tree will have offspring. To make sure that her genes and her wisdom live on, even when some short-sighted cold-hearted manager would ever decide to cut her down. She gifted me three cones to do so.

We live in a time where it is profitable to take down old trees in order to receive subsidies to plant new ones. Please, plant a tree and stand against the stupidity and shortsightedness of our age.

If you would like to build your own relationships with trees in your area, you might like to read “How to make friends with the trees”.

How to make friends with the trees

Would you also like to make friends with the trees in your surroundings? It is possible. You don’t have to be highly sensitive to subtle energy like I was when I discovered that I could talk with the trees, though it might require you to do some extra effort and inner work before you are receptive enough to feel their pulse or hear their voice.

Over the years I have gathered my insights and have taken friends to the woods as well. I am fairly confident that with my help and your own true and open heart you can start building your own and personal working relationship with the trees around you.

How to choose a tree?

Over the years of working with trees, I have noticed that it is often the monumental, eye-catching trees that are close to paths, that are also quite easy to work with. They are used to having people around them and are often of a certain age that they also have a lot to share.

Distant trees, away from paths, are also more distant in nature and seem to like their privacy. But with a little patience and the right intent, they could give you wonderful results.

In places where the trees have less of an individual character, which is often the case in production forests, the energy is more that of the collective. It is then a lot harder to separate the energy of one tree from its neighbor.

That one tree that immediately went through your mind while reading this, is most likely a good one.

A few things first

Now you have chosen a tree, please try to understand the nature of a tree. Trees are still beings, and therefore require our inner stillness in order to connect with them. They also require you to take down your defense and bridle your ego. If you built a wall around you, you can’t blame the tree for not trying hard enough to reach you. If you are too full of yourself or too self-confident, a tree ignoring you altogether is probably a lesson you need. To meet a tree means to meet them on their level, and this requires some dignity and humbleness and openness of heart.

Trees are usually very kind and well-willing beings. Some are easier to sense and hear than others, though. If you’re not getting any results, it might require a bit more work before the tree makes itself available to you. If the ego is a problem, consider bringing offerings to the tree before asking anything in return.

Upon entering the forest

The normal, A-to-B-kind of pace, often even hurried, or worse: in competition with yourself or others doing some kind of sports, is way too much for a tree. When you want to work on your connection with the trees, it is important to slow down your pace. Sloooow. Slow down even more. Lighten and soften your steps. Become slower and stiller.

Quiet your mind and engage your senses. You could use your own method for this, for instance through meditation, but what I like to do and do also with others is to bring the focus to your senses. The goal is to attune yourself so that you are able to feel subtle energy.

“This is not a practice of the mind but of the heart.”

When you are in a place where you will not be disturbed (preferably close to the tree you chose for your first attempt of connection), look around you and take in your surroundings. Now close your eyes. Since vision is the primary sense which we rely on most, we will first focus on the others.

Take a few deep breaths in through your nose, and let your breath flow out on relaxation. Feel how the inwards flowing air is colder, and the outwards flowing air is warmer. On every out-breath, let go of all the tension in your body. Your body will relax, and your mind will relax.

Now, hear and listen. You will probably hear the wind, the birds, maybe the rain, or traffic, or other people or animals. Don’t label what you hear, this is not a practice of the mind but of the heart. Just listen to the symphony of the forest and let the sounds flow into you.

Then, you focus on what you feel around you. Do you feel the atmosphere? Maybe it is cold and damp, or warm and dry. Feel the sensation on your skin. Feel the drops of rain and the flow of air by the wind. If the sun is shining, turn your head towards the sun and catch the sunlight with your face and your hand palms. Feel yourself absorbing the sunlight and filling yourself with the warmth.

Now, smell the forest. Again, you don’t have to label the smells that you discover. Just experience them flowing into your body. Fully engage yourself with the smell.

Now, taste the forest. Taste? Yes! You don’t have to put anything in your mouth (you may, if you are fairly certain it’s not toxic plants, but please do it some other time than now, and not on my advice). No, I ask you to taste the air of the forest. Just like it has a certain smell you can also taste this smell. The way to do this is by opening your lips a little bit with your mouth closed, and sucking in the air through the little openings between your teeth. The air will reach the taste buds on your tongue. This is how you can experience and submerge in the taste of the forest.

Quietly open your eyes and look around you. Has the forest around you changed? There is a big chance you will notice deeper colors, little flickerings of light and small details that you previously wouldn’t notice. Your senses are now heightened and your mind is at peace.

Meeting with your tree

Now it is time to meet the tree. Hopefully, after this preparation, you will be light-hearted and light-footed. You can just follow your instincts, you don’t need to approach the tree in a specific special way. If I would ask you to, I would only ask you to engage your mind and that is what I want to prevent after you so carefully prepared yourself in submerging in your senses.

Therefore, do what feels right. Say hello and talk, if you want to. Feel the bark and the leaves with the loving touch of your fingers, if you like to. But, be open. Have an open heart, be an open channel, be open to receive.

“Who is this tree, how does he or she feel?”

For the first meeting, it would be wonderful if you would be able to feel the energy (“Who is this tree, how does he or she feel?”) and heartbeat (“Hey, this tree has a pulse and I can feel it!”). Just like when preparing yourself, you will submerge in the experience instead of observing with your mind. Once you have a good idea of one or two of these aspects, you could already consider it a very successful first experience. If you are really there with an open heart, it probably will only come naturally to you to thank the tree for the exchange.

When it comes to an actual conversation, you should know that talking with trees isn’t done with actual words. It is your own spirit that speaks and receives.

I think this should be enough to get you started. I wish you many wonderful encounters, insights and new friendships!

Soothing Smokes for the Fall season

Every year, around the Fall Equinox, there is a precarious balance between light and dark, life and death, day and night. For a few days, we experience this stillness. Short after, the dark prevails. Nature all around us shows signs of decay. This was it for this year. It is time to part.

This shift of balance from outwardly oriented, expansive, growing, blooming and extravert to inwardly focused, contactive, nurturing and introvert can also be observed within ourselves. As within, so without.

For some people fall season brings something magical. It is time to dive deep within the inner realms. Time to find comfort with your loved ones. Time for sweet smelling spices and the heat of the hearth. I count myself in this category.

Others experience this time of year as a harsh and painful goodbye. They flourish when charged by the Sun and are tormented by the perspective of a period of introspection, cold and lack of light. Yet the cycle of transformation is inevitable and therefore could better be embraced.

The incense blend I have created for this process, is based on the sweet and soothing tones of benzoin resin, the healing properties of rosemary, the protection of angelica and the warmth and richness of the flowers of the basil. It is a soft, soothing and aromatic blend that holds your hand through any transformation life throws at you.