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The following article is an excerpt from Anna Palmer’s book, Coming Home: Healing From an Eating Disorder by Finding Beauty in Imperfection. May the words here grant you deeper permission to come home to the fullness of yourself, humanness, divinity, and all. Welcome home.
Chapter 15. The Armor Comes Off: Astrology, Massage, Touch, and Plant Medicine as Portals
Astrology is a tool and a language that can shine a light on our star-mapped orientation, our innate dispositions, tendencies, challenges, gifts, and soul potential. I am a Cancer sign on the zodiac. To a certain degree, I am the epitome of the Cancer “Crab.” I have a protective shell on the outside, while on the inside I am soft and gooey. I am deeply feeling and sensitive, but have an unshakeable, residing strength and resilience.
Ten years ago, I didn’t know much more than these more generic descriptions of zodiac signs or astrology in general. I learned later down the road that this “sun sign” aspect only makes up one layer, one facet of a person. We are, astrologically speaking, much more complex than just this one shade.
But the language of astrology encompasses much more than the westernized sun sign horoscope. One’s natal, or birth chart, offers a more in-depth snapshot of the sky at the time you were born. It maps out where all the planets were in relation to each other at your exact time of birth.
Our ancestors utilized this ancient system for guidance and understanding. Today, some say it is a mystical, unproveable pseudoscience. Physicists and scientists, such as Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and David Bohm, and many others both historically and current, have proven that the universe is comprised of energy particles. Matter is energy vibrating at a certain frequency. So if we apply that knowledge to the universe, solar system, and planets, we can understand that each planet (Earth included) has its own frequency and energy signature as well.
Astrology is a tool, a resource we can use to better understand ourselves and be more responsible, wise humans. It is a tool for self-inquiry and growth, much like psychology. It isn’t set in stone or a “proven” methodology in the scientific peer-reviewed tangible sense. Like energy, it is always in flux and as we relate to it, it relates to us. It’s comparable to any tool (i.e. yoga, spirituality, psychology, or religion) that we can use to illuminate our path.
As psychologist Carl Jung once said, “We are born at a given moment, in a given place and, like vintage years of wine, we have the qualities of the year and of the season of which we are born. Astrology does not lay claim to anything more.”
Astrology is a language we can learn and utilize to understand the patterns and cycles of nature. For some, it can become a roadmap to explain the seemingly chaotic and unexplainable facets of life. It does not offer an ultimate truth of the land, but it does carry truth and wisdom in it.
Astrology is nothing more and nothing less than the study of the cycles and patterns of nature, and we are intricately a part of that. Astrology is a tool of observation.
Nature and nurture work together. Neither is to say we are fated to be a certain way. Astrology says no differently. We have patterns and by becoming aware of our patterns, we can shift to evolve and transcend them.
Whatever the “cause” may be (as it is rarely just one thing) for developing an addiction or an Eating Disorder (ED), we can see how a multifaceted dis-ease needs a multifaceted approach. We cannot just focus on the mind, or the body, or the spirit even. It requires a both/and approach. If we seek to move beyond these “karmic” patterns, we need to look at and address them from all angles.
I tried anything and everything to find the “fix” for my ED. I tried all different types of cognitive therapy, somatic based therapies, spiritual counseling, hypnotherapy, antidepressants, and yoga. All of these had a place and impact along my healing journey, but much to my dismay I never experienced a simple one-time, one-solution fix.
The westernized approach to medicine teaches this: Have a headache? Pop a pill. Can’t calm your anxiety? Oh, there’s another pill for that. Feel a little down? Take the other pill for that.
We are a “fix the symptom”-oriented culture. We have been taught that our bodies “lack” the medicine we need, and that the source of healing exists from a doctor or a prescription drug.
We live in a culture of disempowerment, with the healing power given away to pharmaceuticals and drug companies. We forget that our bodies hold the key to healing. Perhaps, we were never even taught this.
Disillusioned by the Western allopathic model of medicine, we may begin to seek out holistic Eastern modalities that fall more in line with self-healing philosophies, such as massage, yoga, acupuncture, Chinese medicine and herbs, Ayurveda, acupressure, Qi Gong, Jin Shin Jyutsu, and countless more.
Eastern modalities understand the connection between the mind and body. That which affects the mind also affects the body and vice versa. The two are not separate. They are intricately interwoven and interdependent.
Touch is a potent and highly overlooked modality of healing to reconnect mind and body. In our pained, traumatized, and frightened states, the nervous system gets hijacked into a fight/flight/freeze response. One way to calm and regulate this response is to activate the senses. Touch, particularly intentional, caring and therapeutic touch from a trained professional in a therapeutic space can aid in bringing the system back into a calm, more regulated space.
Being in the bodywork field myself now, I have witnessed the power of presence and therapeutic touch in offering someone a safe space to unwind their nervous systems and let go of emotional baggage. Touch offers one of the simplest reminders to our bodies that we are safe. And, in that remembrance, our emotions are safe to be witnessed and felt.
I learned all this and more along my own journey receiving healing bodywork. Understanding I maybe needed more intervening guidance in how to heal my ED, the massage therapist and healer I was seeing at the time encouraged me to try out a plant medicine journey group.
Author of Plant Spirit Medicine, Eliot Cowan, says this of plant medicine:
“Plant spirit medicine is the shaman’s way with plants. It recognizes that plants have spirit and that spirit is the strongest medicine. Spirit can heal the deepest reaches of the heart and soul.”
Psychogenic plants (otherwise called hallucinogenics, psychoactive plants, or psychedelics) include those with psychoactive properties that elicit hallucinations and sensory changes by affecting the neurotransmitters of the brain. “They work by stimulating or suppressing the activity of the neurotransmitters they are chemically similar to. This causes a temporary chemical imbalance in the brain, which causes hallucinations and other effects such as euphoria,” according to a medical article, written by Elizabeth Hartney, BSc., MSc., MA, PhD (“How Psychedelic or Hallucinogenic Drugs Work,” VeryWell Mind).
Indigenous cultures have been utilizing these plants for healing purposes for thousands of years, eons before the for-profit pharmaceutical industry existed. Plant medicine is a bit more “off the beaten path,” but I knew my path of healing hadn’t followed the more traditional route even up to this point.
Most of my plant medicine journeys revolved around my relationship to my body and my inner self-dialogue. I could feel how much my body and self wanted and needed love from me. I could feel the pain of the inner judgment, grief, and trauma I had never allowed myself to fully feel.
One particular journey involved a visceral feeling of me (a soul) being the keeper and guardian of my body. I saw myself as my soul’s energy coming into my body temporarily to care and love it while here on Earth. It was a reminder of the sacred responsibility we have here, to care for and love these homes we call our bodies.
They are our truest home, and they love us so damn much. I had to experience all the feelings of the deep self-loathing and harsh feelings I had toward my home (my body). I was brought back to my Inner Child, the inner playful essence of who I really am, and was shown that she had not gone anywhere. And it was my duty and sacred responsibility to care for, protect, and love her now.
Plants showed me how to access and feel the parts of myself I needed to grieve, witness, and release. I am deeply grateful to these teacher plants and beings for the lessons they showed me. I am deeply grateful and also much wiser for these experiences, even the “bad” ones. I know that I have everything within me I could ever need to heal (even when I sometimes forget and need to gently remind myself).
These journeys truly were—in many ways—the healing I was seeking and was ready to receive. And, they weren’t the “end goal” either. Plants, as they are sentient (alive) beings, with harmonious, healing properties, can show us many things. They can teach and guide us to the healing we need and have within. They are teachers. In the end, you still must choose the healing action steps for yourself.
Astrology, plant medicine, as well as yoga, meditation, reiki, shamanism, and other spiritual forms of healing, beg to ask the question:
If you knew you were Divine, would you treat yourself the same?
Read part one of this series: Coming Home: On Healing from an Eating Disorder.
Read part two of this series: How Eating Disorders are a way of Coping with Emotions & the Effects of Traumatic Events.
Read part three of this series: Hello Bulimia, My Secret Friend: When Food Becomes Survival & the Body the Enemy.
Read part four of this series: The Real Toxin: The Harm of our Fat-Phobic Culture.
Read part five of this series: How Eating Disorders Feed on the Insecure Self.
Read part six of this series: What Sparked my Healing Journey from an Eating Disorder.
Read part seven of this series: The Dark Side of Religion: On Religious Trauma & Body Shame.
Read part eight of this series: When Lines Blur: Journey into the Heart of an Empath.
Read part nine of this series: Spiritual Bypassing Won’t Heal You—but This Will.
Read part ten of this series: Shadow Work, the Unintegrated Ego & How to Reclaim our Wholeness.
Read part eleven of this series: The Seat of Addiction: Trauma, Emotions & the “I am not Enough” Club.
Read part twelve of this series: The Body Holds the Key: We Heal as we Feel.
Read part thirteen of this series: Reconnecting to the Divine Feminine Essence of Life.
Read part fourteen of this series: Myths of Perfectionism & Why we Need to Back the F*ck Off.
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