Discover more than 50 yogic recipes in Yogic Cooking available from the Singing Dragon website.
In Scotland, we have just enjoyed an uncharacteristically glorious summer, full of beautiful scents. Autumn can be wonderful too, but then it is more the rich pallete of colours that we appreciate – our visual sense tends to dominate the season. Here, if we are asked to identify the scents of autumn, we might think of fallen leaves, damp earth, pumpkins and gourds, bonfires, wood smoke, maybe coniferous forests. However, there is one beautiful scented flower that, in China and Japan, is very much associated with autumn, and that is osmanthus.
Osmanthus fragrans is a woody, evergreen flowering shrub. In China it is known as kweiha, and the scent of the blossoms is loved and renowned; and indeed has been described as the quintessential scent of China. It has been cultivated for hundreds of years, and is often found at Buddhist temples, where it is planted in groves. Osmanthus is very much considered to be an autumn flower, despite the reality that some varieties bloom all year round, hence the name ‘osmanthus four seasons’. The flowers range from silvery white to reddish orange, but the most fragrant are the orange-yellow varieties. Osmanthus blossoms fill the air with their diffusive, floral-fruity fragrance, and when they fall from the shrubs and carpet the ground, the scent persists for many hours (Kaiser 2006). It is no wonder, then, that they grace such special places, and are held in such high regard.
Traditionally, like jasmine, dried osmanthus flowers are used to flavour both green and black teas, however the scent is very different, and quite distinctive. An absolute can be extracted from the flowers. This is very costly – it is an amber or greenish, thick liquid, with a complex, rich, sweet, honey-like, floral scent with prominent notes of plums and raisins, and apricots (Warren and Warrenburg 1993; Kaiser 2006). Because of its complexity, and the unique relationship between its floral and fruity notes, the absolute has the qualities of a perfume, in that its scent has many dimensions. It is impossible to attribute its scent to a handful of constituents, however it would be reasonable to say that β-ionone (woody, floral, violet, slightly fruity, with cedarwood, raspberry nuances) and dihydro-β-ionone, γ-decalactone (powerful, peach-like) and related lactones, linalool (light floral, woody), nerol (sweet, floral, seaweed-like) and geraniol (sweet, rosy) have a major impact (Kaiser 2006).
Turin and Sanchez (2009) discuss the use of osmanthus in perfumery; they suggest that it is actually a ‘ready-made’ fragrance, and that the perfumer’s skill is in reviving it after the solvent extraction process! They illustrate this with two fragrances composed by Jean-Claude Ellena – Osmanthus for The Different Company (2001), which is true to its nature with peach and lemon top notes, and the uplifting Osmanthe Yunnan for Hermès (2005) which pays tribute to its traditional uses by including Yunnan smoked tea notes alongside freesia, orange and apricots. Other well known, ‘mainstream’ fragrances that claim to include osmanthus or an osmanthus ‘note’ are Eternity (Calvin Klein 1988), Escape (also Calvin Klein 1991, but since reformulated), and Sunflowers (Arden 1993). The artisan perfumer Alec Lawless, who worked mainly with natural raw materials, commented on his experience working with osmanthus absolute when composing Kuan Yin (Essentially Me); it produced an unexpected, delicate note of peach blossom (Lawless 2009).
It would seem that the fragrance of osmanthus has, for a long time, been regarded as uplifting. A study on the mood effects of fragrance conducted by Warren and Warrenburg in 1993 included a synthetic version of osmanthus. It was shown to increase feelings of stimulation and happiness, decrease feelings of irritation and stress, and prominently decrease depression and apathy; it had no significant effect on feelings of sensuality or relaxation. So, in the west, where we cannot readily access the fragrant flowers, we could consider using the scent of the absolute to lift our spirits. As autumn progresses, and after the equinox the days grow shorter and darker, many of us experience low mood, lethargy or even ‘seasonal affective disorder’. Osmanthus can offer us a beautiful, safe way to restore balance.
Jennifer Peace Rhind is a Chartered Biologist with a Ph.D. in Mycotoxicology from the University of Strathclyde. Her long-standing interest in Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) has led to qualifications in massage, aromatherapy and reflexology. She co-founded the first professionally accredited CAM school in Scotland and remains involved in scent education. She has written several books on aromatherapy, published by Singing Dragon, the latest is Listening to Scent, a guide to training your olfactory palate. She lives in Biggar near the Scottish Borders.
Kaiser, R. (2006) Meaningful Scents around the World. Zurich: Verlag Helvetica Chimica Acta & Wiley VCH.
Lawless, A. (2009) Artisan Perfumery or Being Led by the Nose. Stroud: Boronia Souk Ltd.
Turin, L. & Sanchez, T. (2009) Perfumes: The A-Z Guide. London: Profile Books Ltd.
Warren, C and Warrenburg, S. (1993) Mood benefits of fragrance. International Journal of Aromatherapy 5, 2, 12-16.
Cain Carroll, author of The Four Dignities, briefly talks about the power of Embodied Presence and the significance of approaching walking, standing, sitting and lying down as four interrelated methods of spiritual cultivation:
“Cain Carroll has produced a must-have book that is essential reading for any self-respecting person on the path of self-cultivation. A wonderful collection of wisdom from diverse traditions that serves to illuminate the simple universal truths at their heart. This book needs to be with you standing, walking, sitting or lying down.“
— Gordon Faulkner, Principal Instructor, Chanquanshu School of Daoist Arts and author of Managing Stress with Qigong
The annual British Acupuncture Council conference, this year held for the first time in Daventry in Northamptonshire, took place on 26-28 September and was a great success.
This was my first trip to the conference representing Singing Dragon as Senior Commissioning Editor and I was thrilled with our strong presence at the conference and to witness the real buzz around our books, particularly those authored by conference speakers. Our authors Peter Eckman and Nora Franglen spoke at the conference; Nora delivering the Keynote lecture on Saturday and Peter delivering a two-part lecture on ‘Resonance and spirit’. This was Peter’s first visit to the UK since 1997 so it was a privilege to hear him speak and the British Acupuncture Council were delighted to welcome him to conference.
Kevin Durjan, Conference Manager, said last year that he was trying to bring back the spiritual side of acupuncture to the BAcC and this was clearly evident in the choice of the theme of ‘Shen‘ for this year’s conference. The lectures, sessions and workshops ranged from very practical sessions with skills which practitioners could immediately take back to their practice (Andy Harrop’s wonderful two-part ‘The treatment of scars using Japanese acupuncture’ is a prime example) to excellent insights into classical theory relating to spirit (Peter Eckman’s talks, and those of Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallee).
Singing Dragon’s expansive book list was commented on by many visiting the stand and we sold many books, particularly Peter Eckman’s The Compleat Acupuncturist, Nora Franglen’s series on Five Element Acupuncture, and of course Charles Buck’s new book Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. Singing Dragon sponsored the wine reception on Saturday evening and we had a fantastic book launch of Charles Buck’s book. Charles and I enjoyed introducing the book to all those assembled in the evening sunshine and he then signed copies afterwards. The book is an accessible and engaging journey through the history of Chinese medicine that explains how modern practice has evolved and, importantly, reminds us that it will continue to evolve and adapt to modern circumstances.
As Charles says in his introduction, ‘We will see that classical Chinese medicine is really not a single tradition but the constant reinterpretation and adjustment of classical doctrine to meet the changing clinical challenges of different times, and yet supported by the structure that the ancient truisms gave‘.
By Claire Wilson, Senior Commissioning Editor for Singing Dragon
The Great Intent; Acupuncture Odes, Songs and Rhymes by Richard Bertschinger is available from the Singing Dragon website
In this article for Tai Chi Chuan and Oriental Arts magazine, Master Zhongxian Wu provides an introduction to the Dai Family Internal Martial Arts by deconstructing the components of its traditional Chinese name and how each affects the spiritual practice.
He explains the traditional Chinese meaning of each component and how it effects the spiritual practice.
Master Zhongxian Wu’s DVDs ‘XinYi WuXing’ and ‘XinYi BaGua’ are available from the Singing Dragon website.
Using the Bowen Technique to Address Complex and Common Conditions is available from the Singing Dragon website.
This fully interactive brochure has all of the new Singing Dragon titles for the Autumn and Winter of 2014 as well upcoming titles for 2015. In here you will find books on Chinese medicine, complementary therapies, martial arts, nutrition, yoga, ayurveda, qigong, Daoism, aromatherapy, and many more alternative therapies and ancient wisdom traditions.
Click on the covers or titles to be taken to the book’s page on the Singing Dragon website. If you would like to request hard copies please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your details and the number of copies you would like.
Discourse on Sitting and Forgetting is an 8th century classic text on meditation by Si Ma Cheng Zhen, in his translation Wu Jyh Cherng deciphers the complex Chinese metaphors to make a practical guide for those looking to deepen their meditation practice. In this extract Cherng looks at what is really meant by “sitting and forgetting” as a definition for meditation.
Zhuāng Zǐ said: ‘Relax one’s body and abandon one’s perspicacity; eliminate one’s norms and let go of one’s intelligence, uniting oneself to the Great Opening. This is called the practice of Sitting and Forgetting.’
Relaxing the body and eliminating the norms is sitting naturally to meditate, without being concerned about norms regarding elegance; abandoning one’s perspicacity and letting go of one’s intelligence is removing oneself from active thoughts during meditation; and the Great Opening is the doorway which is revealed within meditation and which gives access to the Emptiness.
The practitioner should use the time devoted to meditation to relax, rest and recharge his energy. In the period preceding the practice, he relaxes the body and mind and begins the process of systematic forgetting, until forgetting himself. He abandons logical and imaginative reasonings, all memories and wanderings of the mind, worries and frustrations. In this state, he shall be resting as if on holiday, in his room. As all activities are suspended, he also frees himself of the limitations imposed by the norms and constant demands on the use of his intelligence. During meditation he need only give himself up to the naturalness, to be at one with the Great Opening.
Living peacefully in society is based on the use of intelligence, on the norms of a good education and ethical principles of behaviour. A norm is a precept, a standard established as a base for the practice of an action, and intelligence has the meaning of elaborate, intentional thoughts in chains. But, upon meditating, the norms should be eliminated and the use of intelligence removed. While one’s everyday life is conditioned by norms and by the use of intelligence, one needs to reserve the moment of meditation for resting from the rules and from the need to be constantly rationalizing.
When preparing to meditate, the practitioner forgets appearances. He is not worried about his hair, whether it’s nice and tidy or not, or about his beard, whether it’s trimmed or in need of a shave. He is not worried about the spot on his face, or about how his clothes look: whether they are fashionable, attractive or ugly – he is only concerned about the comfort that the clothes need to provide. At that point, he puts himself at ease and gradually ceases to fulfil the norms, in order to fulfil the demands of his body, while seeking the position he considers comfortable, until he attains a state of tranquillity and enters meditation, at which time all the rules and the use of intelligence are forgotten. When alone in the room, with the door closed, sat comfortably to begin the meditation, the practitioner need not follow norms, nor activate his intelligence. Here there is no dispute or discussion; there are no challenges to be answered. Therefore, there is no need to prepare for clashes. The person only needs, at this moment, to let go of rationality and relax the body and mind so as to enter meditation.
If the practitioner is dedicated and disciplined, he will advance, until reaching the state of Primordial Chaos and feel as if a door has opened within him, through which he shall pass to enter the Emptiness. This is the Great Opening, the apex of the Daoist Spiritual Path: the consciousness expands to the infinite, all limits are broken, norms and logical reasonings cease to exist as impositions and all forms, images and languages are forgotten. But the creative potential remains present because the practitioner has not ceased to be conscious, he has simply become serene. And what was manifest has been transformed into potential.
Wu Jyh Cherng (1958-2004), was a Taoist High Priest and Master of Meditation, Rites and Ceremonies. He was ordained as a priest by the World Central Committee of Taoism based in Taiwan and in 1991 he founded the Taoist Society of Brazil. Master Cherng spread the Taoist doctrine of the Orthodox Unitary Order and passed on his knowledge of this Tradition to his disciples and followers.
Welcome back to the monthly series of stimulating Five Element activities that can support development of children in all ages! If this is your first time reading our blog, you can go back to our first entry in May to view the WOOD Element activities. All of the blogs can be downloaded in a pdf format by clicking on the link at the end of this article so that you can enjoy making your own notebook of Five Element exercises for each month and season of the year.
As the earth moves from summer into the fall, we might notice an unusual phenomena happening that sometimes looks like the earth can’t quite make up its mind what season to express. If you live close to farm land it is the most apparent. Bright yellow fields of winter wheat are in blossom looking like spring, some days have hot burning hours of sunshine feeling like the remnants of summer, or wisps of cool breezes descending with patches of trees starting to change to the autumn colors, and even sudden cold rainy days or nights that make one shudder at the memory of winter on their skin. The transition from summer to fall is the most apparent transition time where all the seasons are expressed at one time, giving rise to the Element Earth. In the cycle of the 5 Elements, this is where Earth Element exists, but truly this auspicious 5th Element represents the transitional time in between all the phases of life and seasons.
Earth herself is the ground that all the seasons cycle through. It is the Earth that we lay down to rest on every night, and the ground we stand on when we awake. Food, air, water, shelter, and everything that sustains life and gives it the nourishment and support to live and die, comes from the Earth. We can experience this in the way we feel at home in our bodies, thoughts, ideas, and personal expressions of caring for others and ourselves. Children who love to nurture other, pets, and gardens, and love to sing and dance content in themselves are expressing the innate nature of the Earth Element. And those children that we see looking lost, not knowing what to do, needing to follow others or climb continually into the teachers lap, are often expressing the need for Earth Element to be supported and guided to find its own ground and center of balance to interact with the world.
The following exercises can be used with a family, classroom, or a group of children to experience qualities of Earth Element. Remember, it takes patience to allow transitions to happen, and self nurturing to find one’s center and balance. Both are developed expressions of Earth Element. Allow the children to experience whatever arises in the exercises with support, acceptance, and safe boundaries, so that all five of the Elements are given room to grow.
You will need little flower pots or recycled yoghurt cups, soil, and different kinds of seeds. Fill the soil in the little pots, make a little hole to put the seeds in and then cover with the extra soil. Spray a little bit of water every day over the planted seeds, and watch for changes to happen.
Choose seeds that grow fast, like water cress, or sunflower seeds. If you use water cress it is a great treat on bread and butter after they have sprouted. Cress is also possible to grow on a piece of wet paper towels, but playing with the soil can give a little more of the feeling of the Earth Element for the children.
The idea for this exercise is to see the whole cycle of growth, like all the seasons, and to use what you care for, like the harvest of fall.
Balancing on Stilts
You need 2 big empty cans that are the same size, i.e., from coffee or soup; a piece of clothesline, and something to make round holes in the cans.
Use the bottom of the can that is still covered for the standing surface or top of the stilt. Have an adult make two holes on the walls/sides of the cans, 2 cm under the bottom of the can (the surface of the stilt). The holes should be level and on opposite sides of the can.
Now pull the clothesline through each hole. When a child stands on the cans, the line should be long enough to make a loop that comes together to tie at the level of the hips for the child to hold onto. Now you can walk on your stilts. Of course you use your stilts only outside. Have a lot of fun with it!
Click this link to download this article.
For more information about the Five Elements and the way they can support child development, check out Children at Their Best: Understanding and Using the Five Elements to Develop Children’s Full Potential for Parents, Teachers, and Therapists published by Singing Dragon.