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The Breath and the Dandelion

The simple act of a seed floating up into the air can reveal all the wonders of the Universe, so describes William Blake in his beautiful poem ‘Auguries of Innocence’. Blake believed that true life discovery and knowledge could be found in the everyday, where all the world can be seen in a simple grain of sand and “heaven in a wild flower.” For me, there is no better way to experience this than to observe the not-so-humble plant, the dandelion.

As my life and work gradually turns more and more towards strengthening my connection with the four elements of earth, air, fire and water, I sit here now, on this grassy bank, contemplating what Blake says and notice how the dandelion represents both earth and air elements. Its tap root reaching deep down into the soil, yet above ground transforms from flower to seed clock, almost overnight. As children, we delight in this transformation. Each seed suspended from the delicate stalk and released with ease by a simple puff of our breath. And with that, we help nature on its way. Once aloft, the seeds waft, sometimes miles away from its parent plant, to begin a whole new life. From here, this offspring’s roots will reach deep down into a different soil. And one day, its seeds too, will experience a puff of wind, or a human breath to lift it up and off. And so, the cycle begins again.

Despite most gardeners wanting to pull up all signs of dandelions from their lawn, in the herbal medicine world, it’s an altogether different story. The dandelion is considered a powerful healing plant. The medicine, author, healer and plant spirit medicine woman Emma Farrell tells us in her book Journeys With Plant Spirits, represents patterns, or patterning. Whether that’s the pulling together of a project or a habitual pattern within ourselves that need addressing, ingesting ‘dent de lion’ (lion’s tooth) will help in shifting to a pattern that is more harmonious. Alongside that, Emma explains that the dandelion can also teach us how being in the present moment helps to bring trust and faith in the flow of life. So whether you’re wanting to break a habit, or cultivate trust in what life has in store for you, dandelion is a powerhouse of a plant to work with.

When I asked branding expert Charlotte Cline, who designed the beautiful icons for Wonderbreath, why she’d chosen the dandelion to represent breath, she replied how for her, the dandelion evokes nostalgia, taking her instantly back to childhood memories of the breath you take just before you blow the seed head and watch, how the air catches, releases, and spreads the seeds of possibility free into the breeze. How beautiful, I thought, the symbiotic relationship between human and plant represented in this tiny act of breathing — a simple puff helping nature to procreate.

Unconscious breaths. One in for ourselves and one out for the world. All 23,000 of them each and every day. No one stops to notice. Yet conscious puffs are altogether different. If we choose to take the medicine offered by the dandelion, herbalists say she will show us how important it is to take responsibility for ourselves and will remind us that it’s within our power to create the life we want. And so it is with every conscious breath we take — each one is a deepening connection to ourself. I once heard Wim Hof describe it beautifully

“Through your breath you will find your soul”

Just like the dandelion, in a Conscious Connected Breath session, we also refer to patterns. We say that the pattern of a person’s breath reveals so much about the patterns of their life. The inhale represents our ability (or inability) to receive. In Chinese, breath is called qi which also translates as vital energy, vital force, or simply as energy. And in Sanskrit, one of the oldest languages in the world, breath is translated as prana, which means a life-giving force and a universal energy which flows in currents in and around the body. So we say, the greater connection we have to our inhale, the greater our ability is to receive. To receive love, to receive life.

So if you can, find time this spring and summer to slow down, listen and notice. Rekindle your childlike sense of awe and wonder, by observing the humble dandelion once again. Not as a pesky weed in the middle of your lawn, but as a great teacher with wisdom to impart to you. And notice too, your breath. Make it conscious, like the one you take just before you blow the dandelion seed head and watch how the air catches, releases, and spreads the seeds of possibility free into the breeze. And as you connect to your breath once again, take a moment to consider the medicine this experience has for you. Ask yourself some gently probing questions. What patterns within you need to change? Are you taking full responsibility in all areas of your life and for what you’re creating? How good are you, at receiving love, at receiving life?

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