Shannon Thompson of Shakti Rising Speaks About Using Flower Essences in the Recovery Process of Young Women

 

by Sylvia Jordan
Home is not where you live,
but where they understand you.

—Christian Morgenstern
“You have brought so much strength and clarity to my life…I listen to you like I listen to no one else, you reach my heart and I trust you with my life, which I now hold precious.”

“For the first time that I can remember, I actually felt that there might be some sort of purpose in my life and all that I had gone through…no one person has ever touched me so deeply as Shannon…I felt as though she saw and encouraged who I really am to come forth.”

“The work I have done with Shakti Rising has benefited every part of my life. I have a quality of life that I never knew before. I have learned so much about the world and myself. I have life skills, clear direction, and purpose. I have developed very strong spiritual beliefs. I love my life; it is truly beautiful, and I never imagined I would really ever experience that.”

Shakti: Our life force –
a creative, moving feminine energy that lives in all of us
Rising: Flowing upward – to ascend, to set in motion
—From Shakti Rising brochure

Shannon Thompson is certain of her life’s purpose:
To empower young people to reclaim their true selves, express themselves fully, and make a difference in the world.

She also knows that she was meant to bring the healing power of flower essences to her work as a potent part of the transformative process.

“I’m always excited to be able to share with people the power of the essences. I believe in them so deeply,” she says.

Shannon is the founder and Executive Director of Shakti Rising, a multi-layered residential program that helps young women overcome addictions and abuses to find inner strength and achieve their highest potential. Shannon’s work at Shakti Rising came about as a result of her own healing journey, which included profound experiences with essences as she struggled to find her own life’s path. Today she integrates the essences as a practitioner to help the young women she serves.

Founded in 1999 and located in San Diego, CA, Shakti Rising combines spiritual practice, skills training, community service, and holistic healing to help women ages 15-25 “Uncover, Rediscover, and Reclaim the Self” in a loving atmosphere of support and encouragement. Under Shannon’s guidance, graduates of the program act as teachers and mentors for current participants, or “apprentices,” guiding them to embrace their creative power and sense of Self through bodywork, herbalism and nutrition, art, movement, group sessions, self-defense training, spiritual exploration, and poetry. Issues faced by Shakti Rising apprentices include physical, emotional, and sexual abuse; substance abuse and other addictions; eating disorders and other body-image issues; and low self-esteem.

With years of experience as a counselor, outreach worker, herbalist, and massage therapist, Shannon works flower essence therapy into the treatment using knowledge she gained as a participant in FES’s Practitioner Training and Certification Program. Shannon uses the essences to help apprentices face – and then move beyond – aspects of trauma, addiction, and spiritual emergence.

“Our goal is to treat the whole woman, not just the issues of abuse,” she says.

“These young women are spiritual seekers,” explains Shannon. “They’re dissatisfied with life as it is, and they know something is lacking, but aren’t sure what. We help them uncover the root of the problem – rediscovering and reclaiming their personal power – by asking the question, ‘What is true for you?’”


Some of the Apprentices and Staff of Shakti Rising
December 2002


The Roots of Self-Discovery:
Shannon’s Life Path Gets Off to a Rocky Start

From an early age, Shannon knew she was destined to achieve great things. “I had intended to do something important with my life – I wanted to change the world. But as a teenager, factors came together that affected those plans: I had trouble with drugs and anorexia, was raped, and became involved in an abusive relationship. I had been accepted at UCLA, but dropped out of high school. That came as a big shock to everybody – including myself.”

After trying traditional recovery programs (“nothing really helped, because they treated the surface problems rather than the root spiritual issues of what was really going on”), Shannon had a “spiritual awakening” at age 18 and realized she was meant to help other young people who were looking for a meaningful spiritual life.

“From that point on,” she says, “everything became about that goal.”

After graduating with honors from The University of California at Santa Cruz with a BA in sociology and designing youth-outreach programs in Santa Cruz and Sacramento, Shannon moved back to San Diego at age 25. In 1998, the beginnings of what would eventually blossom into Shakti Rising were born.

“I was at a crossroads in my personal life,” she tells, “and began revisiting my own healing. That’s the first time I used flower essences, through the guidance of a healer I’d worked with for years. There was a lot of pain that kept coming up – trapped grief from earlier life experiences – and the essences helped me deal with it.”

The Flower Speaks:
“At the Bottom of My Well of Pain”

Yerba Santa was the first essence I tried,” Shannon continues. “The effects were profound. I was working a temporary job as a receptionist, and one day while sitting at my desk, I had a clear awareness of falling down a well and dropping into the water at the bottom. I knew that the flowers were showing me that I was at the bottom of my well of pain. It was an incredible experience that lasted for about three months. The flowers helped me process feelings that I hadn’t been able to force to come to surface, and profound gifts came as a result. I also started using Five-Flower Formula around that time, and things began to change for the better.”

As Shannon studied flower essence therapy, she says she felt she was “remembering” rather than learning, even though the information was new to her.

“I knew flower essences would become a big part of my life. As soon as I saw Patricia Kaminski’s Flower Essence Repertory, I knew I was meant to be trained in the essences – specifically the FES essences. I had a feeling of attunement with them.”

Knowing and Growing:
Shasta Lily Helps Shannon Accept Her True Power

Shannon started a weekly group meeting in her home, during which she taught young women about herbs and gardening, stress management, and grounding. She took aromatherapy training, followed by the FES Practitioner Training and Certification Program in 1999.

“I have so many sweet memories of that time, making so many heartfelt connections,” Shannon says. “The training developed a sense of knowing about the plants – making it a living practice. Richard Katz and Patricia Kaminski modeled a living relationship to the essences, the most powerful way to work with them. That’s when I started using them seriously in my practice.”

Around this time, Shannon realized that Shasta Lily was the most profound essence for her personally. “It broke my denial and cultivated the priestess, the goddess, the leader in me,” she says. “It shattered my ideas of ‘I’m not enough – I can back out of this any time I want’ and gave me permission to access my power. A couple of months after taking the FES Practitioner Training, I started the first Shakti Rising program house with 12 young people. I lived there with them, using every modality at my disposal.”

To read a poem Shannon wrote about her favorite flower essence, Shasta Lily, click here.

“Honoring the Mystic Connection”:
Refining the Prescribing Process

For Shannon, flower essence selection can be a spiritual experience. “Information sometimes just appears in my mind, or I’ll hear the name of an essence almost audibly – including essences I’ve never heard of,” she explains. “Then I’ll read about it and realize why I was drawn to it. Patricia modeled honoring our mystic connection to the flowers at the Practitioner Training, which in turn honors the people who use them.”

Her first day after returning from the FES Training in 1999, Shannon embarked on three initial case studies among the women of Shakti Rising.

“Everyone wanted to be a case study,” she says of that time. “We did lots of work together, and some apprentices and staff members were a little bit afraid to take the essences because they’d seen how powerful the essences could be in the lives of other people. It was like, ‘What am I letting myself in for?’

“I made blends for everybody, though, and they all started taking them on the same day. That was interesting,” she laughs. “The effects were almost immediate.”

Shannon carefully guides the young women at Shakti Rising through a program of self-development based on their own specific needs and experiences. As part of that program, the flower essences are used consciously as powerful tools.

Read what two young women have to say about their work with the essences.

For instance, flower essences helped a young woman as she began to come to terms with past abuse in her family.

“When this woman came to us, she was smoking marijuana every day, drinking, and involved in an unhealthy relationship. She just was not in her body. She was experiencing repressed memories of sexual abuse as a child.

“I started by giving her Buttercup; slowly she started talking more and reaching out. As she progressed, we introduced Echinacea and California Wild Rose, and her insights about the past began to deepen.

California Wild Rose
Buttercup
Echinacea

“I sometimes ask people if they would like advice from their spirit guides as to which essences to try, so I did that with her, and the essences of Mariposa Lily, Baby Blue Eyes, Pink Monkeyflower, Golden Yarrow, Golden Ear Drops, and Evening Primrose came up. So we experimented with those. The result was that she began having incredible, vivid dreams in which it was revealed that the source of abuse had stemmed from her mother and her mother’s boyfriend. I recommended Star of Bethlehem for the dissociative state, to help her ‘be in her body’ more, and Buttercup for comfort and spiritual rest. A lot of healing came out of that.”

Essences for Recovery:
Shannon Shares Some of Her Favorites

“Flower essences play a pivotal role in the process because they can soften us, bolster us up, and build a stronger sense of ego, deepening the process of recovery.”

Over the years, Shannon has worked to develop standard blends to deal with different phases of recovery. Here are a few of the individual essences and blends she uses regularly with apprentices and staff:

Mariposa Lily, Baby Blue Eyes, and Evening Primrose to address issues relating to the family of origin – what Shannon calls “inner adult-child family issues.”

Self-Heal
Golden Ear Drops
Star of Bethlehem
Evening Primrose

Morning Glory, California Poppy, Self-Heal, Nicotiana, and Buttercup to ease the effects of drug or alcohol detoxification. “Buttercup is especially gentle,” says Shannon – “it’s a great essence to use for people who are afraid of what is going to happen, since it’s nonthreatening and helps us face the truth.”

Pink Monkeyflower is “a favorite standby,” says Shannon, used “for many different reasons. One woman I know calls Pink Monkeyflower the ‘tough-love essence.’ She says, ‘It tells me what’s up, what I need to pay attention to. Then when I need comfort, I know I always have Buttercup to fall back on.’ I thought that was an excellent way to describe it.”

Five-Flower Formula is “great for the recovery process. We all use it here, all the time.”

Yarrow for self-destructiveness and healing of the aura, or energetic field. “Any kind of abuse not only damages a person’s physical body and emotional core,” explains Shannon, “but it can also cause tears or damage to the etheric field, which lets in negative energy from others. It’s like cutting your arm – bacteria can get in and cause infection. That negativity infiltrates and builds up in the energetic field, reinforcing feelings of unworthiness, which causes a downward spiral and leads to more addiction. Yarrow cuts through that and peels it away. We use it constantly in our program.”

Crab Apple “for recovery from eating disorders.”

Chaparral, Sagebrush, Mountain Pennyroyal, and Rosemary “to help people come back into their bodies during the healing process.” Shannon explains that when a person experiences a traumatic or abusive situation, there’s often an attempt to cope by creating a dissociative state between the physical and emotional elements to make it bearable. “Then,” she says, “when the person starts to heal, it can be hard to really ‘come back into the body’ – to integrate the whole self.

“The women in our program learn to identify for themselves when they’re in a dissociative state and take responsibility to repair it. It’s incredibly empowering. We use flower essences and deep meditation to address the condition, and it creates a powerful shift.”

Shannon says she also uses Chaparral, Sagebrush, and Rosemary to heal etheric damage and treat dissociative disorder for the same reason. “Rosemary works especially well with heroin addicts,” says Shannon, “because heroin takes the user out of the body. Rosemary is beneficial for encouraging warmth and embodiment.” Shannon says she also occasionally prescribes Mountain Pennyroyal for this condition.

Morning Glory
Nicotiana
Rosemary
Mountain Pennyroyal

Nicotiana eases withdrawal symptoms for tobacco users – “about 80 percent of the time,” according to Shannon.

Morning Glory to “help with the recovery process in general.”

Shannon also uses Calendula Caress Herbal Flower Oil “to soothe and comfort people who are going through heavy catharsis or are in times of crisis.”


“Circles of Women Helping Circles of Women”:
Looking Toward the Future at Shakti Rising


As great a success as Shakti Rising has been, Shannon has even greater hopes for the program down the road.

“We hope to move into a place where we’ll have room for gardens, where we can make our own essences and have horses right on the property. With more room, we’ll be able to build more bridges to the community.

“I envision circles of women helping circles of women – an intergenerational healing program,” she says. “I’d like to bring in seniors to work with young people as well, and to work with both genders eventually.”

Wherever her goals take her, one thing is for sure: Shannon will continue to listen to her inner voice as Shakti Rising grows, weaving the healing energies of the flowers into her work.

“The flower essences are such an integral, living part of our community. I would never do my work without them.”

To find out more about Shannon’s work with Shakti Rising, call (619) 501-2746, send e-mail to shakti@shaktirising.org, or go to www.shaktirising.org.

Read what two young women have to say about their work with the essences.

 


 


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