Fire Cider for the Cold and Flu Season

Fire Cider for the Cold and Flu Season

Fire Cider Vinegar November 2021

Fire Cider Vinegar November 2021

It’s cold and flu season and lots of people swear by fire cider vinegar for getting themselves and their families and friends through the sniffly time.

You can buy fire cider vinegar at the farmers market or some stores, but if you are so inclined, you can make your won and customize it your taste or what you have available (though I think with its heat flavor isn’t as much of a consideration). Making your own is also much cheaper if costs are a consideration. and ingredients can be purchased with SNAP benefits!

Fire cider (often with “vinegar” left off the name) is an old way of infusing cold-and-flu-bug-busting herbs and making them palatable and easy to take. It was named over Fire Cider Vinegar over 30 years ago by Rosemary Gladstar, who began sharing her version of the recipe; it now has almost as many variation as people who make it.

You can take fire cider vinegar to help your immune system fight off what’s around, at the start of cold or flu symptoms (and sometimes it seems to stop them, though no guarantees), or it seems to lessen the severity of the cold or flu, though again no promises.

 How to take Fire Cider Vinegar (FCV): Most people don’t take it straight, but diluted in some way. Take a tablespoon or two (or a glug or two from the bottle is it in) and put it in a glass of water, juice, or a cup of tea–you decide how much it needs to be diluted. You can take it every couple of hours, or, when you are feeling better, a 2 or 3 times a day.

You can also use FCV in a mixed drink, or use it in salad dressing–for some or all of the vinegar portion.

Below are two recipes, one from my friend Charles Garcia (, a wonderful Hispanic herbalist, and one from me with interesting choices and no particular measurements.

Fire Cider Recipe from Charles Garcia

Ingredients (makes about 2 quarts):
2 glass quart jars
1 heaping teaspoon of black pepper for each jar
1 lemon in 4 slices (2 for each jar)
3 small slices of apple
1/2 diced red onions
16 garlic cloves (8 for each jar)
Approximately 2 ounces sliced fresh ginger
Approximately 2 1/4 ounces horse radish in 1 inch chunks
1 Anaheim or Serrano pepper sliced into 1/4 inch slices,
separate them into equal amounts for each jar
20 Allspice seeds split evenly for each jar
2 heaping Tablespoons of honey for each jar

Pack everything tightly in each jar. Fill with apple cider vinegar. Allow bubbles to escape and add more vinegar.

Seal and shake. Keep in fridge. Shake every day. After three weeks remove all solid material and keep the liquid in the jars and use as needed.

Fire Cider Vinegar ingredients, waiting for vinegar

Fire Cider Vinegar ingredients, waiting for vinegar

A Recipe for Fire Cider Vinegar by Iris Weaver

Take some garlic, onions, hot peppers, horseradish or garlic mustard root, any herbs that are anti-microbial or anti-inflammatory, etc., that are in your garden or cupboard, whatever else appeals to you. Use whatever amounts you like or have on hand. Warning: go easy with the horse radish; from experience too much makes the fire cider tooo firey!

Chop the herbs, put in a jar, top with ACV (organic and local if possible) and let sit at least 6 weeks. When you strain it out, add local raw honey if you like (some people add honey in with the vinegar while it is steeping). To me this is easy–no fussy measuring or worrying about having just the “right” herbs! Oh, and if you have someone who can’t do alliums, just eliminate the garlic and onions.

The usual herbs that seem to be the base of any fire cider recipe are garlic, horseradish, ginger, and hot peppers. But, again, use what you’ve got.

Dose: 1 to 3 teaspoons in water, juice, tea, several times a day. This is also great added to soups, stir-fries, and salad dressings (but be careful how much you use–hot, hot, hot!).

Suggested herbs and other ingredients (fresh or dried; organic if possible):

  • Hot peppers/chilis
  • Ginger
  • Horseradish, or wasabi radish, or garlic mustard roots
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Astragalus root
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Lemon Balm
  • Bee Balm
  • Peppermint/Spearmint
  • Oregano
  • Sage
  • Lemons
  • Oranges
  • Turmeric
  • Organic, raw Apple Cider Vinegar

Decide whether you want to make a quart, a half-gallon, or a gallon, and have appropriately sized jars, or use what you have!

Use organic citrus and ginger, and herbs if you buy them. Chop up your fresh herbs, onions, garlic, horse radish, etc. and slice your citrus if using (don’t worry about peeling it).

Fill your jar between 1/4 to 3/4 full with chopped ingredients, and then fill with apple cider vinegar to bottom of where lid sits. You can also add a bit of honey, you decide how much, in place of the vinegar and let it all infuse together. Put on lid and let infuse.

Make note of what herbs and ingredients you used and the date, Helpful for labeling and if anyone wants to know what’s in there.

Let it sit for 6 weeks or longer and then strain out the solids and bottle and use. Enjoy!

Why “Letting Go of Ego” Doesn’t Work for Survivors of Trauma

Iris teaching

Iris being herself.

We often hear that we need to overcome what is called “ego”, to abolish it. This doesn’t make sense to me because then we have no core, no self, no internal cohesiveness.

The word “ego” has too many meanings and is used in too many ways, often negatively, to be truly helpful.

I think a better word for the sense of “who I am” is self. There is self that is the core of who we are in this body, this being, this life. And there is Self that is our soul, the larger part of us that transcends this current life.

We can see what is usually called “ego” as that accretion around the self–what coats and covers that core self and accumulates over time, throughout our life–and can blur what is necessary and blind us to our best self.

“Ego”, then, can include those things that we consider negative–pride, self-aggrandizement, jealousy, malice, know-it-allness, etc. If we see these as additions or add-ons to our core/true self and as layers that make us immune, perhaps,  both to hurt, and also to growth and learning and ultimate happiness, then we can see how peeling back the layers of “ego” can make us “better” people, or at least allow us to start to see the world more clearly and act more in accordance with kindness, compassion, and consideration (for others, for ourselves, for the world).

I think this accretion is the “ego” that is meant by the Eastern religions–or at least the Westernized, translated versions of them–that urge us to purge ourselves of the ego.

But I see also that some of these religions or traditions urge us to peel away everything that is “Us”, until we lose our sense of self and become one with God/Buddha/Krishna/All That Is/ Whomever.

That has never appealed to me.

My sense of being a self was too smashed in childhood for me to find the thought of giving up my “self” appealing.

I don’t believe that while we are in this body, this life, we have to.

We each have a kernel of the Divine within us, which is that self, and that is who we are for our time in this world.


If we have had that sense of being a valid being–a person who exists as their own sovereign body, mind, emotions, set of experiences–demolished, then we have no sense of self, which is what is meant by “ego” in a general sense.

If we have struggled to find any iota of what might be truly a part of our own unique, sovereign self so that we can figure out that we actually exist in this world, that we may have a few rights to have our needs met (never mind any wants!) and we have rights not to be used, abused, tortured–then, then, THEN,  the thought that we have to give up that tiny sliver of knowing we are allowed to exist and feel and make our own decisions and choose what is for us alone–is intolerable, and is a torture in itself.

For many survivors of trauma and abuse and neglect and torture, the challenge is to gain an “ego” and a sense of self, of self, and to know that they deserve, have a human-being right to have all, all, ALL of their feelings, no matter how “wrong”, “stupid”, perverse, “selfish”, scary, and uncomfortable they are. That they have a right to get their basic human needs for shelter, food, water, safety, love and connection met. That they matter simply by being alive on this earth, in this life, right now.


This is how I came to gardening – I wanted to put down roots.

Eight years ago, after I’d been in Salem for some months, and in my current apartment since Christmas, I decided I wanted to plant something in my yard as a way of physically symbolizing that I was putting down roots.

Coming to the North Shore of Boston was the first time that I had moved somewhere simply because I wanted to be there, not for a job or a man. This is not quite true; when I moved to New Haven just before my seventeenth birthday, it was because I chose to, but even then it was to go to school (an alternative high school) and my transition was made easier, possible at all actually, because I had friends down there that I knew from the Yale Summer School of Music and Art.

When I decided to move up here (to the North Shore of Boston), I decided that I was through with constantly moving, and I was going to stay put, I was going to put down roots.

The first place my daughter and I lived up here was two rooms rented from one of the Salem witches. I knew it was temporary, a place from which to find a permanent home, still, it took the prodding of a crisis worker to get me home-hunting when I was given notice to leave so that the witch’s boyfriend could move back in.

I believed that if I treated the two room temporary home as a permanent place, then the energy I put out into the Universe would result in a permanent home.

My youngest brother had been staying with me and my daughter for a couple months, and we finally decided (at the encouragement of the crisis worker) to find a place together.

I very quickly found the apartment we moved into that I’ve had for eight years. It had everything I had decided I wanted. We were still in the same neighborhood. My daughter could go to the same school she’d already been attending. We were right near the first friends I had made up here, including the girl who babysat for Heather. There were enough rooms so we could each have our own bedroom. The landlord had no problems with my being on welfare. And there was a backyard, though I didn’t know at the time how I would come to feel about it.

Where that apartment was located in a way saved my life in the next few years, because when I was deeply depressed and barely able to function, I was, literally, right next door to the grocery store, the drugstore, and the bank.

Later, I found I was on a bus route to Lynn and Boston. I could walk to therapy, and somehow get myself home after a difficult session. There were sub shops and pizza places within a couple blocks, when I couldn’t find the energy to cook. I don’t know what I would have done if I had not been where I was. When we got that apartment we’d moved, by my count, 11 times in Heather’s 10 years of living, more in her way of reckoning it. I wanted to finally stay in one place where I planned to stay, not just find myself in the same place after 10 years by default, as I had in New Haven (which I had to come to love a lot).

One way to prove that I was putting down roots was by planting something. A perennial that would be there year after year, not an annual that died after one summer – that connoted impermanence to me.

I had met a friend, in my first semester at North Shore Community College, who loved gardening and really liked bulbs. She gave me a catalog for Dutch bulbs and I ordered a mixture of daffodils and narcissi. I also planted miniature crocuses.

The second year I ordered from that company I got my peony. I also got my daughter a royal crown imperial, a rather amazing plant that rises out of the ground suddenly in the spring and puts forth a crown of skunk-scented bell-shaped orange flowers, then dies back and totally disappears until next year, when I have again forgotten about it.

I asked my landlord if I could put in a rosebush. I got an inexpensive one at Heartland, but it didn’t take–it lived one year and died by the second summer. I was disappointed, but I felt I’d started to accomplish my purpose. I never did get around to finding another rosebush to put in.

Anyway, there was the rosebush that already lived there, and under which I planted the red tulip bulbs I’d gotten free with one of my bulb orders. And gradually I collected the plants I’ve got now.

So I put down roots. And I did good. I put my roots down deep and sucked up nourishment I’d never had before. Drank deep so that my parched being could begin to unwrinkle itself, unfurl its leaves and fill itself with light.

In turn I nurtured my daughter. I once read that baby plants do better if the parent plant is still alive, even if the two plants are separated by miles. I think my daughter has been like a baby plant, more alive because her parent is alive.

And now I’m pulling up my roots, transplanting them to new soil, a new piece of earth in which to let them take hold.

Moving from the North Shore to the South Shore of Boston. I wonder what will take hold and what will wilt, how my new garden and new life will bloom.

Spring 1994

Learning From Plants

I’ve learned a lot from plants over the years.

I’ve learned really basic, simple stuff, that you’d think would be obvious, like that plants need to fed and watered. Who knew? That plants in our care need us to do these things for them?

patio garden 1

Some of my plant friends

As I’ve worked with plants and gotten to know them as complex beings, I’ve started thinking about the similarities between us humans and plants, and what plants teach us about ourselves and what it is to be human. Sometimes when I think of myself or other people, I think in terms of an analogy to plants.

For instance, one book I read talked about how some people are like spring flowers, early bloomers who give their gifts to the world at an early age. I think of Jimmy Hendrix and other musical prodigies, and the tennis-playing Williams sisters.

There are people who are remarkable and able to make contributions during their young adulthood and middle age, maybe petering out by the time they become senior citizens. Then there are people who don’t come into their own and discover what gifts they have or start sharing them until they’re in their fifties, sixties, even their seventies or eighties. These are the late bloomers, the plants that don’t bloom until the end of the summer or fall, or sometimes even early winter. The folk painter Grandma Moses is an example – she didn’t start painting until she was in her seventies!

When I get discouraged about how long it’s taken me to get to where I want o be in this life, I find it comforting to think about late bloomers and how important it is for there to be flowers that bloom at different times of the year, and equally, how important it is for there to be people whose gifts ripen into maturity at different ages.

When we look at plants and what it takes for each of them to bloom, we realize that what we see is only little bit of what the plant is and what it goes through to give us that blossom. How long has the plant been preparing for its blooming? How much growth has it had to achieve, how many nutrients stored and used, how many changes has it had to endure? All of these take time. For some plants they happen in a very short period of time, other plants take longer, and some plants take an extraordinary amount of time. There is an agave (a relative of yucca plants) that is blooming in Boston, for the first time in its life, I think about 60 years.

I feel I am finally starting to bloom, at age 52. It feels good!

September 2006

Flower Friends

Flowers and plants have always been part of my life.

When I was a young girl, living in South America, I would make garlands of flowers to wear in my hair.

When I was a bit older, I would take the local kids and introduce them to plants in the neighborhood gardens.

Iris WeaverIn my late teens, when depression became a frequent visitor in my life, flowers and plants became real sanity-savers for me.
I was living in New Haven and didn’t have a car, so I walked everywhere.

I would walk with my head down, which meant that I got a good view of the ground. I found myself one spring noticing the first crocuses, and then the daffodils and tulips and other flowers coming along. Across the street from the house where I rented a room was a magnolia tree that blossomed gloriously. I got such pleasure looking at it through the window while I sat working.

Seeing the first flowers and plants coming up gave me joy and somehow lifted me out of my pain for a while. I don’t know what spiritual chemistry plants have to do this, but I have experienced it ever since.

Some years later I was living in Salem and again dealing with deep depression. As spring came on (I was now in school and again without a car), I found where on my everyday routes the crocuses and daffodils were, later the violets and then the roses.
That’s when I realized that I’d been looking for the flowers every spring wherever I lived.

As I got to know a great many more wildflowers and wild plants (commonly known as “weeds”), as well as their cultivated relatives, I would watch for the appearance of all these friends as well.

Now I watch for their arrival in summer and fall as well, and watch the plants that keep some greenery throughout the winter.

I have found a few flowers that bloom in late winter or early spring and I especially adore their color when all else is still so bare.

This spring look down at the ground and around you to see what flowers are coming up. Watching the process of plants grow and change is a wondrous experience. Bring some fresh flowers into your home, either cut flowers or blooming plants. If those are beyond your financial means, learn to identify wild flowers which are free for the picking and just as beautiful in a vase as cultivated flowers. As a matter of fact, many of our weeds are actually plants that once were grown in gardens and escaped to become common roadside sights.

Plants have given me companionship and joy and helped me through dark times. I hope you find your own form of that connection.

February 2003

Beauty is in the Eyes (and Heart) of the Beholder

I’ve been doing a lot of gardening this summer, and a lot of standing around and admiring plants.

I get such pleasure from seeing plants and their flowers. So many of the plants I see are my friends that I am always greeting any number of them by name: “Hello, Clover. I’m so glad to see you! I’m so glad you’re in my garden! Hello, Lavender. You look gorgeous today with your purple buds, and you smell so delicious!”

One of the most wonderful things plants can do for us (and it doesn’t cost a cent!) is to offer the healing of their presence. Their beauty, forms, colors, scents, their feel, all can give us delight and sooth our spirits not only at a surface, physical level, but also at a deeper, heart level.

When I was in my late teens and living alone, I was very depressed (though I didn’t realize it at the time). Many times of the year were bad, but one of the worst was the end of the winter, because of the darkness and the cold, rather bleak landscape. I discovered that walking down my street and watching the crocuses and then the daffodils and tulips bloom soothed a hurt inside and would lift my spirits at least a little.

I walked everywhere, and over several years got to know many little nooks and crannies, as well as large swaths of lawn, where the spring flowers bloomed.
I made a point of looking for them, and would be cheered by them. It became my spring habit to look for the first blooming plants wherever I lived.

Each street around my home, in whatever city I was living, would have its little areas that I would map out and check on to see what was blooming when, and to linger over my favorite spots.

Why did simply seeing flowers bloom cheer me so? Why did they help to lift the pain in my heart? I’ve never quite been able to figure that out.

I have thought of the colors and the effects they have on the human brain and psyche.
There are theories of what colors represent and I’m sure studies have been made of how people’s brains react to different colors. I know that at different times I crave certain colors in my life, and they can make me intensely happy.

Another really important aspect of flowers is their spirit.

I believe, as do many indigenous and spiritually connected people, that plants have spirits of their own. They are beings with awareness and connectedness to a universal all.
The spirit of a plant can touch our own and have a profound effect.

Plants, at a basic level, are energy. Each plant has its own unique energy, as do we. That energy can touch us and interact with our energies to change our moods and our perceptions.

I believe much healing happens when we are simply around plants, whether we have a geranium on a windowsill, a few potted plants on the patio, or a whole garden. The spirit and energies of plants, as well as their colors and scents, can affect us deeply, even without our conscious awareness.

So take a walk around your neighborhood or around a public garden, come home with a few flowers to put in a vase and cheer up yourself and your home.

The Grace of Children

Iris holding babyThe birth of two nephews recently caused me to remember how utterly the birth of my daughter affected my life.

Having a child affects every parent, but I think that for survivors of child abuse, the changes are especially profound.

I’ve talked with several women who are abuse survivors with children of varying ages.

We’ve talked about the ways we changed our lives in order to care for our children. However imperfectly we did things, we know that we did better than our parents, changed destructive behaviors and started or continued healing because it was of utmost importance for the health and safety of our children.

Whether or not our parents were capable of loving us or expressing that love, as parents ourselves we found our love propelling us to different behaviors.

When my daughter was born I had no idea that I had been abused and was still in an abusive relationship with my parents.

I had strange fears for her safety that made no sense given what I thought my life experience had been. Years later when my memories of abuse surfaced my recurrent fears finally made sense.

Because I had been abused and was still involved in abusive situations, I did put my daughter at risk and left her in situations that should not have happened. When I have thought of this in ensuing years it is perhaps the hardest thing in my life for which to forgive myself. Not being in control of my life, being in a position of utter powerlessness, seems like no excuse, seems like it can’t ever be resolved in my heart. I am still coming to terms with it.

By age 22 I was a single parent. I was in great emotional turmoil and pain and acted out a lot. I was aware at the time of putting the brakes on my crazy behavior because I knew I had to care for my child.

There were many times when I was extremely depressed and wanted to die; I couldn’t see how anything would ever get better.

What still amazes me is that however badly I felt about myself, I always had the sense that I was a better parent for my daughter than her father and that I had to stay alive to care for her.

I had to learn better ways of dealing with my daughter because of how she responded to what I did. When she was four, she knocked over the Christmas tree for the second time. When I said I’d kill her she responded by telling me that I couldn’t kill her because then she’d be dead. From then on I eliminated “I’m gonna kill you” from my vocabulary.

Joining Parents Anonymous, a support group for parents under stress, helped me learn new ways of coping with my daughter and treating her appropriately. Still, it took years for me to stop swearing at her and calling her names.

The biggest changes occurred when I started remembering my own abuse. I started confronting my hugely inappropriate behaviors with my daughter, looking at the causes of my rage that were so out of proportion with anything she had ever done, and began withdrawing from my family who were abusing both of us.

The advent of my memories began a terribly painful period of my life, that lasted for several years. One of the biggest impetuses I had to keep going with the healing process, when it just seemed more than I could humanly do, was that I wanted better for my daughter.
I wanted to be a better mother, I wanted her to know that there was hope and healing for whatever she might realize she had been through, I wanted to change for the generations to come. I wanted my daughter to have a sane, loving mother.

While I don’t know how sane I am even today I do know that I have the courage, and it takes a lot in the face of my fear of her possible rejection, to tell her how much I love her, how proud I am of her, how important my child is to me.

This column is dedicated to Loy and Pietra. April 2006


Simply Grounding

It’s been an intense summer so far! I’m not just talking about the heat, but also the energetic waves that some people are being affected by. It is odd, perhaps, but those who are most energetically sensitive are the most affected by these energy fluxes.

Many people are feeling a number of physical and/or mental and emotional discomforts and symptoms right now, without knowing why. Symptoms such as dizziness/vertigo, can’t sleep, sleep too much, flu-like symptoms, nausea, emotional issues resurfacing, anxiety, and many others. If you are worried or unsure, check with your doctor, but it may “just” be ascension symptoms, our beings feeling changes as the energy of our world gets rebooted and upgraded, so to speak.

I have been reading the writings of a wonderful mystic and teacher whose information has helped me feel less crazy when I feel flu-ish one minute, and fine the next, or the mental off-kilter mindset I had years ago resurfaces for no reason at all. Ohhh, it’s tough! If you are interested in learning more, here is a link to her website that will give you much good information

bare feet on sandBut in the meantime, what do you do when you feel off-center or just kind of unfocused and not sure what to do with yourself? My solution is to go outside and feel the earth under my feet and the dirt under my fingernails.

My default setting when I am feeling off or uneasy/anxious/scared is to go crawl into bed and hide out. But I am working on changing that, so my new solution is to go outside. Sometimes all I need is to feel the grass under my feet to start feeling better.

Other times I need to walk a bit and see the plants, greeting my plant friends, and smell the air. I have a garden plot near my apartment and often I just cannot resist pulling out a couple “weeds” (plants growing where I don’t need them) or harvesting a bit of something for a meal or medicine. Next thing you know, I have dirt under my fingernails!

With hot weather comes the need to water, so I have to stand with the hose and water and water until the soil is drenched. This leaves me lots of time to have the grass and earth work their energetic magic on my mood. After a while I start feeling less anxious, the world feels safer, and I feel rebalanced. Wow, and it’s for free!

Okay, but what about you? I have earth and soil and garden, and you may very well not. But you can still connect with the energy and power of our Mother Earth.

Go outside. Stand there. If you can find soil or grass or similar with no tar or cement, great! If not, stand on the tar or cement or whatever. (And if you can be barefoot, so much the better!) Imagine, if you are shod or on tar, that your feet are on the earth and grass, feeling the lusciousness of soft grass and firm earth supporting you. Feel the energy coming up through the soles of your feet and infusing your body. Feel your own energy coming to meet the energy of the Earth and the two mingling together. Let yourself feel and luxuriate in this for a few minutes, or as long as you need. (Perhaps you will need to find an out-of-the-way corner, or pretend to examine something, so as not to attract undue attention.)

When you are ready, thank our Mother Earth for sharing her energy and grounding with you and go about your day, continuing to sense your connection with her.

You can also, if you like, reach down and put your hands on the earth, palms flat against the soil or the tar (wash up afterwards) and again feel the Earth’s energy coming into your hands and mingling with your own energy. Continue as for your feet.

How do you feel? Yeah, better. Just repeat as necessary.


Happy young girl with arms open and confetti coming down

“Ask and it shall be given.” So it says in the Bible, and in The Secret, the book and the movie. You just have to really, really want it, and visualize, and somehow—voilà!—there it is! But for the most part I haven’t found that to be the case.

What gets lost and goes unmentioned, unrecognized, in all the talk about The Secret and positive thinking and you-can-have-what-you-want, is the mindset you need in order to have it: You need to be open to receive.

We can want and need all day long, but if we are not open to receiving what we are asking for, or open to receive, period, we are likely not to get it.

Why, though, would someone not be open to receiving? It seems really silly and stupid. But it’s not.


Many of us have learned through hard experience that we won’t get what we want or, even more importantly, need in our lives. It often starts somewhere in childhood, sometimes later in life. If our needs and wants keep not being met; if we are told not to want, not to need help and nurturance; and/or if physical, emotional, and spiritual needs are ignored, then we stop expecting to have our needs and wants met. It’s simple self-defense, and a learning from experience.

However, we can’t stop the wanting, the needing—it is an essential part of our humanness and our survival. But, we squash the expectation of good.

Consciously we may want it, we may think we expect it, we may think we deserve it, but deep down underneath where our formative experiences lie, and our core beliefs drive our current life experiences, we no longer believe we can have it, that the meeting of our needs and wants will happen. We are closed down.

We have told ourselves that we don’t really want it, need it, whatever the it is. We have shut down, as much as possible, the part of us that wants and needs. We tell ourselves: We are strong, we are independent, we don’t need anyone or anything, we can make it on our own!

And why should we expect things to be any different? We’ve tried and tried, and nothing good has come of it. So we build walls around wanting and needing, and expecting, so that disappointment doesn’t keep waltzing in.

But this makes it really hard when we decide to try getting what we want and need in a conscious manner. We don’t realize that unconsciously we have shut down both our ability to receive and our belief that good things can actually happen to us.

We end up standing in our own way and blocking what we want, with no realization that we are in part putting up the barriers to what we are asking for.

How sad and awful for us!


When you realize this about yourself, you may be very angry with yourself for doing this and punish yourself with thoughts or words or actions.

But this is a time to be kind to yourself. Understand how hurt you have been and what difficult experiences led you to this point. Thank yourself for taking care of you in the way it knew how. You, your Self, did the best you could in the circumstances you were in. If you can’t thank yourself, then at least don’t berate yourself for your “stupidity”. Respect yourself for surviving difficult experiences.


Now, though, you are in the present and can open yourself to receive.

This can be very scary and make you feel vulnerable and unprotected. That’s okay, you can go about this at your own pace.

The point is to start opening yourself at a pace you are comfortable with. Or maybe it’s a matter of pushing yourself a bit beyond your comfort zone, but not so much that it is punishing or cruel to yourself.

Understand that if you close yourself off to what you are asking for and what is offered to you, then you may very well not get it. . So you may want to figure out how to open yourself to receiving what you’ve asked for.

Ask yourself; Am I ready to receive this? Do I feel I deserve it or do I feel that I don’t? If I don’t, how can I change that into a feeling of “I do deserve it”?


Sometimes the way to receive is to simply know that you have been closed to it and find how to open yourself up and allow it into yourself and/or your life. It may be as simple as a shift in your attitude.

Sometimes it takes understanding the psychic, emotional, maybe even physical barriers you have put in the way and removing them. You may be able to do this instantly, or it may take time—hours, days, weeks, months, maybe even years.

How long it takes depends in part on how many beliefs you have blocking the way, and what your process is for dealing with them. Also, what the psychic weight of the block is and how much pain is attached to it. If there is a lot of pain, or shame, or guilt (or all three, yikes!) it can take time to process and release them. But it can be done. And it is worth it.


Sometimes in order to receive you have to understand that you deserve to receive, that you are a worthy person. And also understand that other people want to give to you, and that it is alright to receive what you ask for. You aren’t greedy or selfish or bad for wanting and then taking and receiving.

Because, for the most part, what you, I, most people want is reasonable—help with our lives and our work, to live comfortably and well, to be loved, to be part of a loving community. To be safe, to be healthy, to be happy. To be fully human. And to not have to go it alone.

The genesis of this article was about a year ago, when I was taking an apprenticeship with Joanna Scaparotti. Something she had written or said suddenly opened me to the stunning (to me) realization that I didn’t know how to receive! Oh my goodness! If I was going to receive then I had to actually make room in my thinking and my expectations. And it meant that I had to allow things into my life, and to admit that I am not a self-contained entity who can exist in complete isolation. It meant/means–*gulp*–that I have to admit and accept that I need others and that I can’t do it all myself.

That realization was actually really freeing and I have been practicing receiving since then. It has been lovely, freeing me from trying so hard and not getting anywhere and finding that life can be easier and more joyous with less effort.

I was quite surprised a couple months ago when I went into a part of myself that holds experiences from early childhood, and found that way back then (about age 3) I had decided not to need or want, and that I was still, at age 57, acting on that decision. If I don’t need or want, I can’t be disappointed and nothing bad will happen (or so went the 3-year-old’s belief). I have been practicing changing that belief and learning how to receive from Spirit as well as humans, Nature, the plants and animals since then. It is a journey that I am enjoying, and I am still learning!

Learning How Plants Heal Me

When I’ve been most depressed in my life, I’ve turned to flowers. They could reach inside my darkened spirit and touch my heart. They lifted me up just a little, enough to help me carry on.

I’ve always been connected with plants.  My earliest memories include plants: smelling gardenias (we lived in South America), eating mangoes and tangerines right off the tree, watching a miniature-cucumber vine twining up the side of my house. I adored the way tomato plants smelled. By the time I was five, my mom had taught me the European tradition of making flower garlands to wear in my hair.

All of this was really good, and important, because in the midst of what might have seemed a semitropical paradise there was very nasty abuse going on. I lived in a community that was ostensibly Christian, but their version of Christianity was authoritarian and punitive, and hid a deeper, very damaging cult within it.

Growing up as a young child in this environment was hellish. The plants that grew all around me were a saving grace. They were safe, hospitable, beautiful, and undemanding. They couldn’t hurt me (even if they had thorns) the way humans could. Their energies and their spirits were a haven for my soul and spirit.

I wasn’t consciously aware of this, of course. I just gravitated toward plants, any and all, and spent time with them. I loved walking in woods and fields, down city streets, greeting the plants and looking at gardens. I always knew the names of some plants, and in my teens I started teaching myself about them, getting to know them better.

In my teens I became aware of the power of flowers to reach inside me and change something fundamental. I didn’t even know I was depressed, I just could barely function and get about. When I walked down the street from my house I would look at all the flowers popping up in the spring; I knew where all the crocuses were, the daffodils, the tulips and forsythia, the budding magnolias. I cannot give you an explanation, but seeing them was vital to my continuing to struggle on.

In my thirties, in another city, I again would note where all my plant friends grew, following the succession of plants, flowers, seeds from spring to fall. They were dear to my heart.

When I moved to that city 26 years ago, I wanted to put down roots, both figuratively and literally. I planted a rosebush in the yard next to my building. It didn’t make it, but my gardening chops did. Well, they developed, let’s say, with a lot of coaching from the plants!

Along the way I learned how to do all sorts of wonderful things with plants. How to get colors for my yarn and fabric, how to make medicines, what wild plants are good eating, how to decorate my house with wreaths and bouquets made from my favorite plants. And I learned to listen to what the plants have to tell me, by their colors and form, by their whispers in the wind, by the energy they share with all of us. I learned how to let them bring their healing into my heart and body and life.

The ways that connecting with plants have helped me are myriad. Sometimes it’s been just lifting my spirits by seeing a plant friend. Sometimes it is the taking myself out of myself while working with the plants—preparing a dye bath, making a tincture or oil or vinegar, putting plants to dry for later use, making up a tea blend in the morning.

Other times it is the involvement with the plant world and nature. Walking in the fields or woods or down the street, greeting my plant friends, collecting flowers, leaves, roots, for medicine or dye or wreaths or my dinner-plate.

Digging in the earth in a garden is life-changing. It puts you in touch with the earth and earth energy, and brings you into your body.

When I first began gardening professionally, which meant a lot of time with my hands in the dirt!, I was terribly uncomfortable in my body while gardening. I hadn’t spent much time connecting with my body in my 40-plus years of living, and the connection with earth brought me into my body. It took time for me to get comfortable being more in my body and aware of it. I’m glad I allowed myself to do that, because I am much more comfortable in my body now, and I really love having my hands in the dirt and feeling that very visceral connection with Nature.

I feel like plants helped save my life. They certainly helped rescue and maintain my sanity. I am deeply grateful for the gifts of the plants in my life. I hope that you may find a way to bring their healing presence into your life.