when pictures fail me…
Julia Graves brought a western sensibility and slight German accent to a Flower Essence workshop I attended recently that challenged almost everything I thought I knew about meditation.
The psychotherapist, body worker, and herbalist began by passing around an unlabeled bottle and asking us to release several drops onto our tongues. It tasted vaguely astringent yet natural. We sat quietly as it began its work. The general consensus: these drops had a focusing and calming effect on our jumpy minds.
The tincture turned out to be lotus flower essence. Charts, diagrams, and information that would be at home in a science lab followed for the next few hours, as Julia carefully explained how the use of essences, along with an analytical focus, can help calm the monkey mind for meditation.
After the workshop I had a few follow up questions for this very unusual approach to meditation.
Q: We all know meditation is harder than it looks. How can flower essences help?
A: The obstacles to meditation are many, and often very personal: physical blocks from illness or injury, nerves, chemical drugs, and emotional blocks. Flower essences work on energetic levels, which help to smooth the connections between the body and the mind.
Q: What is it about the essence itself that causes it to be so effective?
A: Flower essences capture the life force, through a means that harks back to the medieval European tradition of alchemy.
Q: How did you learn about all this?
A: From the time I could walk and talk, my mother taught me herbalism in the fields in my native Germany. Later I moved to Findhorn in Scotland, where I helped start Findhorn Flower Essences. But really, I was taught by Nature.
Q: You seem to encourage an active focus of thought in meditation, rather than an emptying of thoughts. Have I been approaching it incorrectly?
A: No matter how you meditate, from whatever countless traditions that exist, you need to reach a neutral ground. Blocks that prevent this stabilization need to be concentrated on, almost analytically, in order to address them properly.
Q: You are focusing on a group you call the Lily Circle. What is the significance of these?
A: Each of these essences corresponds to twenty stages of the human life cycle. All lilies are grounding, purifying, and deeply transformative for the heart and mind.
Q: Of all the essences that exist, why the lily?
A: The lily is a spiritual cycle in and of itself. The fact that it is a closed system makes it less confusing. I teach real practitioners of the art as well as novices, and this particular system seems to be not so overwhelming while providing all that we need.
Q: I see on your chart that it begins with the Madonna Lily, which represents conception and birth, and then touches on such topics as consolation, breaking through, healing deep trauma, transcendence and dying: twenty in all. A smorgasbord of what life throws at us. How should one start?
A: I would suggest choosing a few with themes that speak to you. If, for instance, you find you are starting to lack empathy for your fellow sidewalk sharers, lily of the valley provides compassion. Or if you find yourself off-kilter in work or personal relationships, white trillium will help restore balance of power. Solomon’s seal offers protection, when we need to feel safe.
Q: Well, my predominant block seems to be “monkey mind,” but I did have sexual trauma earlier in my life. How often does this kind of blockage present itself in meditation?
A: It is very common. We have workshops to help empower survivors of sexual abuse not only by breaking down the energy blockages individually, but also by helping to break down the societal taboo. Wild Red Tulip essence heals deep trauma, while Hellebore is good for empowerment and cleansing. In fact, we have one coming up on this topic on September 11th.
Q: I see you also offer workshops to Haitian earthquake victims. How did you get involved with this?
A: I have close Haitian friends. One of them, a Tibetan Buddhist monk, had to go rescue his father after the earthquake and asked me to help him help his people. So I founded Naturopathic Haiti Relief Clinic. We will be going there on another mission in mid-September.
Q: This workshop feels like a self-help class for meditators, since you encourage a focused concentration in order to self-diagnose. Following that premise, can I use a DIY approach to acquiring the essences themselves?
A: Certainly, you can make your own stock blends from which to draw your dose. The ingredients are 1/4 C. brandy to 3/4 C. water to a few drops of essence. Cheap, unadulterated brandy is best, and try to store the stock in amber bottles. A dose of one ounce, three times a day for a month should yield results in shifting a pattern. It can also be added to bath water or applied topically to chakras.
Q: Can we buy them readymade anywhere?
A: My line, Green Tara Flower Essences, is available at
406 E. 9th Street
Q: How will I know when it is working its “magic?”
A: Your energetic system is rebalanced when you stop feeling the blockage. At that point, stop taking the essence and experience the new level of awareness and insight.
A few weeks later I was exiting Flower Power, a quintessential funky East Village shop, with my $9 purchase of Hellebore. I was on my way to empowerment and cleansing. The beakers will wait. I never was that good in Science.