By Stephanie Mathivet
Lammas is the time when we can allow ourselves to fall deep into the arms of the Mother Goddess – the archetypal mother who gives unconditional love to her young, who nurtures from her breast and gives the warmth of her body and her touch to create that sense of secure attachment so vital to babies and young children. She is a listening mother, primed for contingent communication and shared understanding with a non- verbal infant. It is this love that grows the pre-frontal cortex in the baby’s brain – the part that is not formed at birth. She is the mother who knows us through our smell as we know her through her smell too. We breathe her in and the familiar smell of her body and her breath floats its way to our limbic brain – the part that lies under the developing prefrontal area – sending messages stored in our pre-verbal memory that we are safe, we will be fed, our needs will be met. Moreover, that when our sensitive brain picks up danger signals triggering a fear of abandonment, sending its message to our amygdala that its time to cry, loud and strong, to alert our mother to our suffering, so that when she comes we are held, and we smell her, our fears subside, as her presence floods our brain with oxytocin and we feel safe once more. We only learn to regulate our emotions through this process of the loving mother’s presence that regulates our nervous system and our emotions for us. Similarly, we only learn to be independent because in our state of infant dependency we could trust that our needs would be met.
We often find, when we perform bodywork, that our receiver has locked in tensions and rigidity to the flow of energy in their body. Particularly in the legs, hands, arms and neck. These are reflections of the tensions witnessed in infant bodies when in distress. The stress response in our bodies is a function of the autonomic nervous system which gets our bodies fired up to run, pumping our muscles with blood or slows them to freeze in rigidity. Without relief, this distress embeds itself in our bodies, which is why some early childhood trauma shows itself in this way. If extensive childhood or adult life traumas are piled on, the body stores them in its memory. The held down supressed anger or fear is palpable in muscular tissue. We sometimes find that our receiver has a sensitive bowel, or stomach, or has problems with their vocal chords. These are areas of the body connected to the vagus nerve which originates in the brain stem and is involved in our parasympathetic nervous system. When the body’s autonomic system has been over stimulated through extended stress or trauma, this reduces the capacity of the parasympathetic system to respond to restore the body’s equilibrium. Thus ‘states become traits’ as the hard wiring of the brain adjusts to accommodate a new ‘normal’.
In infancy, the right hemisphere of the brain’s outer cortex develops before the left. This side is to do with sensory experiences and tacit understanding through body language and facial expression, through the pleasurable experiences of being in the body – being cuddled and kissed and played with, of experiencing the physical world through the senses. Without secure attachment responses from the mother this side does not develop well. In the second year the left side of the brain develops; this side is to do with all the Ls – logic, language, linear thinking etc. But it needs the right side to mediate experiences to formulate them as expressed thoughts and understandings. This is the role of the corpus callosum, knitting the two sides together as a synchronous system of synaptic connections. This integration is marred when there is not enough contingent communication from the key attachment figure or lack of sensory experiences or lack of affection. The effect of this is played out right through the central nervous system, through the whole body. Sometimes, you touch a foot and the person is not sure initially which foot you are touching or there are parts of the body which are not in the person’s awareness. This is a disconnect that arises from early experiences. Early secure attachments help us to develop resilience rather than resistance to the world and the inevitable problems we will grow to face as adults, let alone the traumatic experiences that some of us go through.
In the special treatment of Blessings of the Mother Goddess we offer an experience where we as therapists tune in to the messages from the receiver’s body and read the subtext buried in the musculature. Breathing deeply helps restore vagal tone, which is why the breathwork that people like Pete Warnock do is so important. So, also, does massage. Reflexology is reputedly helpful, but any deep, sensitive touch massage that can help the receiver connect to their core is beneficial. In this treatment we breath Her in through the aromatic representation of the Mother Goddess. Essential oils of summer sunshine can include EO Tagetes, a thick, viscous orange coloured oil with a musty floral fragrance, with EO Orange or Tangerine, EO Cardamom and the floral notes of EO Rose Geranium that resonate with the abundant mother goddess. You may need to take care with EO Tagetes and the citrus oils as they are phototoxic, so skin treated with these oils should not be exposed to the sun. But breath her in, to connect with your Core or Kernel. Breathe deeply to direct the focus of attention away from the rim of awareness (the everyday stuff) and direct to that soul centre of awareness to connect to the mother goddess. Other oils can help in work for deep trauma such as EO Rose or EO Vetiver blends. Our aim is to help lateralisation of the brain through the body, working both sides at the time or moving from one side to the other and coming back again or moving in spirals and cross over strokes and particularly on the feet, working on both, then separately.
We approach the held-in trauma slowly and gently offering no pressure or deep tissue which can have the opposite effect. We may move the limb slowly to stretch as far as is comfortable, breathing her into this area. It is possible to gently and quietly bring the receiver’s attention to this part, but personally I think this can interrupt flow. I prefer to keep gently working in a soothing way, holding and gently pressing, smoothing and soothing, giving feedback at the end when there is time for conscious dialogue. Deep massage to the belly, softly in circles and smoothing strokes with breathing her into the belly, into the most vulnerable area of the body, helps create trust and release.
Omega3 fatty acid, or Linolenic Acid, is reputedly an important nutrient for vagal nerve healing. It is present in vegetable carrier oils such as Wheatgerm, Rosehip and Baobab which can be added to a regular base oil. I use the summer Vitamin E rich Sunflower oil representing the gift of Grainne the Sun Goddess and Wheatgerm as the gift of the Ker as the Grain Goddess. Although in strict nutritional terms Omega3 is better taken internally to have the desired effect it does help to nourish the skin. In case of allergies, Wheatgerm can be substituted with Rosehip, also a fruit of the summer goddess Aine. With the addition of EOs as described above, the connect to the Mother Goddess of nurturance, love, abundance is complete. The gift of citrine finishes off the treatment with a golden bag of marigold and sunflower seeds. Blessings of the Lammas Mother.