aromatic vignettes: storytelling, aromatherapy, and transformation

aromatic vignettes: storytelling, aromatherapy, and transformation

first, about “storytelling”

One of the core tenets at the heart of Untamed Alchemy holds that we have responsibility for the quality of our lives. The philosophy emphasizes that we are all creators who work with seemingly mundane ingredients in everyday circumstances to yield something wholly new that is more powerful, profound, and precious than the sum of its parts. We choose what to emphasize, what to subtly sneak in, what to leave out… While the principle in my life translated into specific work with ingredients like essential oils and herbs, it was born out of a broader spiritual tenet that the things we are given to work with (relationships, connections, experiences, work, and things) can become something wholly different, altogether new — and better — in our hands given our thoughtful care and deep intention. Indeed, the principle is at its most powerful when applied to “intangibles” like relationships, health, and quality of life. Around here, the philosophy is most often articulated as:

Human hand holding magic book with magic lights“You get the story you tell.”

Because we are all storytellers.

Our attitudes about the nature of joy, love, abundance, struggle, fear, and scarcity color our lives, inform our relationships, and temper every experience we have — and what we decide to feel about something feeds a bigger story. It also sets us up perfectly (for better or worse) for the ending we’re secretly designing.

If, for example, you think that joy is fleeting, it will likely prove hard to hold. If you identify money with abundance and think you have to work incredibly hard to get it, you’re apt to find yourself working very, very hard to get just enough to feed your scarcity model. If you are determined to believe that challenging things are constantly happening to you, and you specifically, as though the Universe has singled you out to experience a negative event to punish or discourage you, you are less likely to feel empowered to overcome the challenge because your alignment with it has already suggested that the Universe somehow has it in for you and you cannot possibly succeed in overcoming it. You will find bad experiences waiting to prove how undeserving and small you are and you won’t even be able to order a salad in a diner without something going horribly, woefully wrong.

The fact is, shit happens. It happens to all of us.

We lose people we love, sometimes in profoundly messy and painful ways. We get in accidents. We have health scares. Bills pile up. Interestingly, the fact at hand doesn’t even have to be automatically “negative” — or even big. We move. We change jobs. We gain or lose weight. We don’t feel like our selves. The kitchen staff at the diner screws up our order. We have feelings about all of these things, feelings we get deeply invested in. And we hold old wounds like flashlights, allowing them alone to illuminate our path through the darkness. But we don’t have to. Because while we can’t necessarily control the conditions or circumstances that surround us, we can manage how we choose to respond to them.

Yes, yes, you’ve probably heard that before. Law of Attraction. Create your own destiny. Stay positive. Attitude is everything. Blahblahblah. Still, in the spirit of the thing, you decide right here, this minute, you will not SCREAM at the waitress who can’t seem to deliver your order correctly, even though you made your order perfectly clear and you were just trying to make a healthy choice and now you have to wait while everyone else at your table gets to eat or make them wait and that is so awkward just like everything else in your world right now and you are so well within your rights to lose it after the incredibly awful week you’ve been having filled with all sorts of unpleasantries that this stupid waitress knows nothing about and can’t begin to appreciate because she is just a waitress who knows zip about your bigger struggle to just be here trying to eat a salad right now but you will carry on and suck up those feelings because you choose not to respond to this nonsense because attitude is everything and you will not go there and she wouldn’t even understand. Victory! You have not had a meltdown at the diner! Huzzah!

Yeah, that’s not it: if your “positive” attitude is derailed by lunch (and especially if that derailment “positively” reinforces the deeper, most tragic “Story of You” that you’ve been telling yourself), you’re doing it wrong. Because it’s much bigger than lunch, y’all. And it isn’t supposed to feel bad.

Most of us are so deeply committed to our internal stories that we have trouble seeing that we have cast the people around us as actors and framed the experiences we have as scenes. We may inadvertently be limiting what we see to what fits through the invisible lens and filter of our story. And while we may not realize it, many of us are actively holding casting calls and drafting new scenes to keep the same show and story going.

Consciously or unconsciously, looking for the ways in which yesterday and today reinforce the bigger story you’ve been telling will yield them tomorrow. Commit to a personal history that highlights how men disappoint or mistreat you, I guarantee you that more men will report for duty to do more of the same; start talking about how none of that matters because a genuine, caring, generous, kind, funny, and wonderful man awaits you (and so you have no time or energy for what came before today) and you’ll get a very different outcome.

magical hand conceptual image with sparkles on colour backgroundYou see, you are a storyteller and you get the story you tell.

If you are managing your temper at the diner but secretly, inwardly busy worrying and complaining about the story you have and the incredible suspense building for its amazing, inevitable, comically tragic, and (“Ha! See! I told you so!”) unhappy ending, you’re missing the point:

The Universe isn’t demanding that you love the life you have or asking you to wait to get you’re happy ending, it wants you to craft and protect your happy beginning

Which may require throwing some existing chapters and scenes right out.

Copyspace Paper With Pencil Eraser Shows Erased Text Copy SpaceThere are simple “tests” you can use to determine if your current story is working for or against you. One approach is to imagine how it would feel to tell your personal hero the uncensored version as that might be the easiest way to experience the potential inaccuracy of your underlying story and major themes. Imagine, for example, sipping tea with the Dalai Lama and painting him a picture of how unfair it all is and you’ll have a chance to viscerally feel whether your story fits for you…

While we revisit individual scenes in our story, we don’t always make corresponding changes to the bigger book of our personal history.  There is tremendous power in imagining the biggest picture, from its very beginning. Don’t just erase painful scenes, write a whole new draft. Try on both “what-could-have-been-but-wasn’t” and “what-might-nothave-been-but-is“. Is there a way that something difficult actually served you? Can you find reasons to love the life you have and, if not, why not? What amazing plot twist do you need to shift your perspective? How can you be grateful for this, right here, right now? Yes, even the waitress…. Can you be humbled by the fact that your reaction to her shows you that you’re hangry? That you need a nap? That it’s time for self-care? That maybe it never goes right at that diner and it’s okay to stop going there?

Reframing major life events with gratitude is among our most powerful tools. Gratitude, humility, and grace don’t just erase the old story, they infuse the new one with a profound sense that everything is as not only as it should be, but the Universe has actually conspired in your favor. Because that is actually the most likely truth.

Instead of struggling to work backwards from now to when your story “started”, I encourage you to put fresh eyes on your life and a new lens on your thinking that puts you at the beginning of the muckity-muck. REWRITE THE START.

Allow a wholly new story to emerge with a decidedly happy beginning and no end in sight.

pencils on dark backgroundSame characters, new vision. Same landscape, new medium. Still working with a pencil, but now in dynamic new colors. Less limitation, more inspiration.

With fresh eyes, the same old actors, props, and plot twists can be reexamined, reorganized, reframed, and revisited in a whole new context, from what was a scripted story to an iterative and dynamic painting, a theatrical scene to a living artist’s sketch on a canvas you never stop engaging, improving, and enjoying.  Crafted properly, your new model will be so well constructed, constructive, and full of joy, passion, and inspiration that it remains impervious to threat from bad days, upsets — even distracted waitresses and unsympathetic diner staff.* With an uncompromising commitment to stay mindfully engaged with your new truth and ensure that nothing you create, embrace, permit, or indulge undermines it, you will find yourself navigating a whole new world.

you said this would be about aromatherapy, what gives?

Book of nature. Isolated over whiteThis is actually where aromatherapy — and the notion of aromatic vignettes — comes in. When my story shifted, I looked everywhere for evidence and pages out of the old “script” and worked diligently to eliminate them: pictures, clothes, journals, even restaurants, personal products, and foods. I also left behind many of the aromatic blends I had been casually using and instead deliberately created and wore several new perfumes that I crafted based on the revised and improved Story of Me. Much of my new perspective was enriched by my enthusiasm for mythology, symbology, lore and the ways they inform seemingly every day things. As a result, my new fragrances incorporated every elemental, symbolic, and magical alignment I felt I needed to show up wholly and mindfully in my new story. My perfume blends reflected the energies, actions, history, and future I wanted to live. They served as aromatic amulets as I navigated new scenes and re-thought my low-road responses to every day experiences.

about our sense of smell

Our sense of smell is our most powerful trigger for emotions and memories. It is directly connected with our limbic system which governs our feelings, memories, instincts, and drives. It is also the only sense that delivers information to the brain without engaging the thalamus on its way to the cerebral cortex. As a result, many people believe smell, or olfaction, is our most primitive, primal, and powerful sense.

To wit, scent can be a profoundly effective tool when we desire to reframe our facts to craft a “new” story.

Holding on to old scents that reinforce the story we no longer want to live doesn’t serve us. Surrounding ourselves with painful triggers isn’t really emotionally healthy. (One of my friends actually put a kibosh on a certain perfume in her home on behalf of her brother after she watched him reduced to tears when someone wearing it inadvertently reminded the brother of a woman he had loved who cheated on him.)

Goofy young man, with full beard and moustache and wild hair stySo, to begin with, you might want to rethink the perfume you’ve been wearing to attract every single nutter you’ve ever dated…

Because that perfume may be reinforcing your story — or someone else’s! — in ways that don’t serve your desired outcome. (Just watch a boyfriend who has a tense relationship with his mother react to his girlfriend wearing his mother’s perfume and you’ll understand what I mean. FAST.)

At the same time, you should be thoughtfully contemplating what scents you want to replace those you choose to leave behind; employing new aromas that are intimately aligned with your new truth and desired outcome helps to transform you — and shift your emotions and memories — into the new and the now.

While you may find a ready-made perfume, lotion, or oil to be deeply evocative and effective, nothing compares to crafting an entirely new scent for yourself that is built with natural essential oils, extracts, absolutes, and other natural distillates that carry deep symbology, powerful lore, and elemental alignments that are compelling and relevant for the story you want to tell. At Untamed Alchemy, we call these personal blends aromatic vignettes.

vi·gnette (vinˈyet) noun 1. a brief evocative description, account, or episode  2. a small illustration or portrait photograph that fades into its background without a definite border.

Aromatic vignettes allow us to engage with the full spectrum of therapeutic, energetic, mythological, symbolic, and elemental properties of essential oils to craft an aromatic iteration of our story. Aromatic vignettes make it possible for us to create and wear personalized aromatic blends like amulets, infusing our environment with the alignments and energies we want our story to reflect. Their composition can be deeply personal, intimate with our truth, and constructive to our path.

looking to aromatherapy for inspiration, symbology, and storytelling

There are a host of ways to engage aromatherapy in crafting personal perfume. Alignments may be informed by geographic alignments based on the area from which a fragrance comes, elemental alignments based on plant part or source environment, archetypal association between the source plant or flower and a specific god or goddess, magical associations based on perceived magical properties in an individual oil, or the doctrine of signatures associated with the oil’s source or qualities of the oil itself.

escape from a fairy tale (illustrated concept)The ways in which alignments are determined, assigned, and leveraged are endless as they rely solely on the imagination and intention of the individual crafting the blend.

Geographic alignments might be drawn down because of an individual’s ancestry, experience traveling, dreams of traveling, or connections to favorite stories (such as using Cypress from Italy to hearken back to the book Under the Tuscan Sun). Elemental alignments may draw down from a plant’s source or source environment (such as Earth for root-sourced oils or Water for Seaweed absolute). Archetypal associations may leverage associations with gods or goddesses to incorporate their mythology, such as Aphrodite, the sea, and love, or Artemis, the woods, and courage. Magical associations may be born out of lore, “old wives’ tales,” and other energetics, such as associating luck with the chamomiles, passion with jasmine, and love with rose. There are literally thousands of ways they anchor, inform, enrich, or elevate your story.

Of all of the possible means of association, the doctrine of signatures may be the most powerful.

(If you are unfamiliar with the doctrine of signatures, the inimitable Julia Graves provided us with an amazing book that illuminates it beautifully.)

While the doctrine of signatures originally spoke to the relationship between plants/herbs and their perceived medicinal use, there are a host of ways in which the doctrine of signatures can be extended specifically to energetics: the shape of a flower resembling the sun suggesting “sunny” disposition, the color of a source flower or resulting oil suggesting correspondence with a particular chakra, even associations from the Tarot, flower essences, and so on. The doctrine of signatures becomes most powerful in blending when we allow it to reflect our personal associations.

IMG_1488The fact is, the alignments of a personal blend are limited only by imagination and, where one is willing to entertain even the most fanciful alignment, a connection can always be made and an intention can inevitably be leveraged.

creating your own aromatic vignette with untamed alchemy

While I have created personal perfumes and aromatic vignettes on behalf of clients, the blends are never more powerful than when my clients create their blend themselves.

To empower them to do so, I offer a workshop that allows participants to work with every oil in my “vault” for purposes of creating something that is perfect for them. The workshop has been transformational for many participants as it asked them to contemplate their story — and required them to consider it with fresh eyes.

The participants in the first workshop (years ago) were mostly friends — and most of them had an idea rather than a story in mind to inform their blending. The “class” was set up primarily as a just-for-fun blending exercise, but it had a profound effect for many of the participants. Some elected to emphasize oils that triggered memories that were exceedingly happy, supportive, and encouraging for them, such as those that reminded them of their grandmother (most often lavender and rose). Others selected essential oils that drew down magical or mythological alignments that they felt their new story needed: Aphrodite for love, Athena for courage and wisdom, and so on. Meanwhile, two of the women in the class specifically crafted ridiculously inspired, colorful, positive new stories from which their personal blend could emerge. One found seaweed absolute and went into a sort of sublime rapture as she was able to create a personal fragrance for her mermaid-self based on one of her favorite stories, “Sea Lovers” from Valerie Martin’s The Consolation of Nature; the other crafted a fragrance based on a short fairy tale of her life she wrote for her daughter — a daughter that wasn’t even born until four years later…

IMG_2082Today, Untamed Alchemy’s Aromatic Vignettes workshop includes the creation and ownership of each participant’s new story as well as perfume and balm-blending basics, an introduction to essential oils and their alignments, and access to a host of ingredients from which to craft a personal fragrance. All of the ingredients available for participant’s use are sourced from nature, pesticide-free, and premium, including many of the most “precious” and expensive essential oils and distillates (rose, neroli, ylang ylang, vanilla, champaca, jasmine, seaweed, agarwood, and frangipani to name but a few).

We nevertheless reserve the right to provide you with glitter if you want that in your blend. (As a “magical” blender, I often make room for glitter. There should always be room for glitter.)

The Aromatic Vignettes workshop provides participants with a supportive, fun, safe, and inspired environment within which to craft the beginnings of both their story and their personal perfume. The workshop offers blending techniques, base recipes, introductions to associations and alignments, and opportunity to intimately engage with individual oils, extracts, and distillates that can inform your personal blend and help you to craft something that powerfully and personally aligns with The Story of You.

Our next Aromatic Vignettes workshop is scheduled for May 2nd and 3rd of 2015 in the Untamed Classroom in beautiful north Idaho.

Click here to sign up for the Aromatic Vignettes workshop.

To be clear, no perfume blend is complete before its ingredients have been allowed to synergize and settle; to wit, time — along with intention — will contribute the most to the power of your personal blend. Most Aromatic Vignettes participants find that their perfume and their story continue to deepen, evolve, and grow long after the workshop ends…

Whatever your story, I hope you love and live it truly, madly, deeply. Bless and blessed be!

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*I am not picking on waitresses and diner staff. It just so happens I had a major, cathartic moment with my own BS when trying to order a salad in a diner…. Seriously, I love waitresses and I love diners.

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