Aromatic Rituals: Resources to Cultivate Resilience and Stability

by Camellia Lee

Collectively, we are all grappling with a number of unprecedented current events: the impact of COVID 19, record wildfires, an unstable political U.S. climate – to name a few. These are all palpable triggers for high levels of stress, anxiety, and fear. 

As a healthcare professional, I am witnessing this level of distress with my clients as well as within myself. The common thread that comes up in my session dialogues is that we are all feeling unsafe, unstable, and ungrounded. So the question begs: how can we find stability and access our own center? How can we maintain our own calm in a global tornado of distress and angst? One tool I have found to be truly helpful is the practice of an aromatic ritual. The active participation of aromatic ritual has helped facilitate my transition out of overwhelm and connect to a respite of peace and calm. 

What is a ritual? A ritual can be defined as a ceremony or a constant series of repeated actions in a precise and established manner. In ritual there is the establishment of form and structure, which is comforting to us as humans who are by design, creatures of habit. Habitual acts are complementary to the evolution of our brain and nervous system.

This is because it breeds predictability, which is deeply soothing to our parasympathetic nervous system – the mechanism responsible for enabling calm and relaxation. According to research neuroscience psychologist Nick Hobson, “Ritual is a way of signaling to the brain that everything is as it should be.”

When there is unpredictability, biological triggers are signaled in our limbic system of our brain, which it feels as a ‘sense of danger’. Our reaction to danger is activated by the sympathetic center “fight and flight” response to remove us out of harm’s way. In our modern society, we can become caught in this sympathetic loop of anxiety, panic, and lack of safety. Establishing a ritual practice may be one effective tool to help disengage this nervous system response and shift into a relaxed parasympathetic state to encourage calm and safety.

Aromatherapy as part of ritual practice can give us real power and potential to shift out of this fear, anxiety, and instability. The holistic science of utilizing plant essences and essential oils to balance, harmonize and promote overall health, engages our sense of smell for immediate resonance. Our olfactory system is anatomically designed to connect directly to our brain and emotional centers. Ritual with aromatherapy has been my personal medicine and one that I guide my clients in to facilitate their sense of safety and wellbeing.

Here is a snapshot of how an aromatic ritual during a session looks like: We begin with naming the feelings and thoughts that arise in the moment, then follow it with an intention; “My intention is to find more comfort and calm in my heart.” I offer my blend from my Root and Resin line, (containing the essential oils of lavender, Palo santo and black pepper), and invite them to take in guided breaths alongside their intention, (recited aloud or quietly) and conclude with a closing statement of gratitude and reverence.

Ritual offers the opportunity to connect to the awareness and resources that reside within and remind us of our ability to shift into a different paradigm.

According to Joseph Campbell, “A ritual is the enactment of a myth. And since myth is a projection of the wisdom of the psyche, participating in a ritual puts you in accord with that deep knowledge. By this process, our consciousness is being re-minded and re-awakened to the inherent wisdom of our own life.”

Here are easy steps for you to create your own aromatic ritual: 

  1. Find a comfortable position, sitting or lying on your back 
  2. Set an intention, it can be one word, short phrase or simple sentence 
  3. Reach for your favorite essential oil and place a couple of drops in your palms
  4. Close your eyes and take a deep inhale– palms over face, over heart, over solar plexus and recite your intention 
  5. Close your ritual with an acknowledge of gratitude and notice the shift in mood and state 

As we continue to weather these turbulent and challenging times in our global zeitgeist, we are able to affect our response through finding the appropriate resources and tools to grow our inner resilience. Through the participation of your own aromatic ritual, you are connecting to a greater wisdom to fortify strength and steadiness to bring you into a harmonious equilibrium in your heart, mind and spirit.

To learn more about Camellia and her work with aromatics and ritual, visit Root and Resin.