Traditional Shampoo and Urban Laundry

Inle Princess ResortI first came across soapnuts when I was living in Myanmar/Burma in 1999. I was working at a remote hotel on the shore of the mystical Inle Lake in Shan State. My oven was made from a large barrel and was wood-fired, whenever the kitchen staff noticed me making a move to try to get the fire under the oven going myself, they would quickly send the kitchen’s expert fire-maker to take over. They had already learned the hard way that they would be completely smoked out of the kitchen if they let me attempt it myself.

The staff at the Inle Princess Resort were really a fun bunch of people, we would go to the five day farmer’s markets early in the morning and stuff ourselves with treats of fried Shan tofu and cups of sweet, strong and delicious Burmese tea, on the walk home the girls would always amaze me with their taken-for-granted knowledge of nearly every plant and it’s medicinal benefits that we passed by. They would rave to me about the wonders of the traditional Burmese shampoo. The next time we were at the market they showed me bags hanging from strings full of a yellowish liquid with these soapnuts, tamarind pods and various other herbs in them. I gave it a try and was soon a convert. Although the shampoo didn’t suds up quite as much the shampoos I was used to, my hair was soon gleaming with a healthy shine.


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How to Count Yarrow Stalks

yarrow stalk i chingWith the global mind shift moving into high gear, more people are getting interested in other ways to slow down and live consciously. As a result we are regaining respect for many things we had dismissed because we did not understand them. Using yarrow stalks to read the I Ching is one of these things. I have found using the I Ching or other methods of understanding your present moment (such as runes or tarot) can be much more useful than talking to a psychologist. It is also much more affordable =)

I had used three coins to count the lines for years so it took me a few tries to figure out how to use the yarrow stalks. This method puts you into a meditative and receptive state of mind. Yarrow encourages this being a plant that collects energies and sends them spiraling down through it’s hollow stems. The counting becomes a mystical experience with the sound of the stalks clicking and resonating together as they are thrown down, or collected together. Then, when the hexagram is formed, trying to understand what my translation of the I Ching is saying and how that relates to my situation. The whole practice is a wonderful exercise that gets the whole body, soul and mind involved.