Best wishes to you as we all thankfully and gratefully begin the Holidays, filled with the joy and happiness of life. Be grateful for what you have—whatever you have—and be eager for even more of what brings you happiness. Expect, feel, and believe your life is getting better each day—and it will.
The Dandelion – what does that name mean to you? A weed? An obnoxious plant that destroys your green lawn? An invasive species? An unwelcome pest? Something to get rid of? A plant created just to take over the world? A worthless, unwanted, unloved, and unneeded plant?
As a young child, I learned to dislike dandelions from my family and friends – and later from television. It was a “given,” a universally accepted “truth,” that dandelions were “bad,” without any redeeming qualities. Yesterday, taking a picture of a dandelion for one of my greeting cards, I saw it as a part of nature that has its own beauty, but is not considered of value by us humans. I had planned to use it as an example of finding beauty among the humblest of nature’s flowers. However, researching the dandelion uncovered incredible uses and value provided by the much-maligned plant. Seeing this aspect of the dandelion gave me a respect for the plant that I had never considered before. My hope is that you, too, see the “other side” of the dandelion.
Although cursed and maligned as a weed, the dandelion is a hardy herb with a surprising number of uses and symbolism. Thought to have evolved about 30 million years ago in Eurasia and found in remains in Russia from the Pliocene period, the perennial plant’s name developed in the 15th century from the Latin dens lionis, through the French dent-de-lion, to Middle English dandelion – all meaning “lion’s tooth.” The plant has been used as food and as an herb by people throughout recorded history, with the dandelion well-known to ancient Egyptians, Greek, and Romans, and used by the Chinese for traditional medicine for over a thousand years. The plant probably migrated to North America on the Mayflower, as an invited guest due to its medicinal benefits.
The flowerhead consists of numerous small flowers and is a vital early Spring nectar source for pollinators – although most varieties of dandelion produce seeds without pollination, resulting in new plants that are genetically identical to the parent plant. Each seed is attached to fine hairs, providing a parachute for wide dispersal. Dandelions have been cultivated as a companion plant because its taproot brings up nutrients for shallow-rooted plants, and it adds minerals and nitrogen to the soil and ethylene gas which helps fruit ripen.
The entire plant is edible and healthy, and was once considered a delicacy eaten by Victorian gentry, primarily in salads and sandwiches. Dandelion flowers have been made into wine, and a tea made from its root is believed to relieve kidney and bladder issues. Dandelion leaves contain abundant vitamins and minerals, especially vitamins A, C, and K, and are good sources of calcium, potassium, iron, and manganese. The raw flowers contain high levels of polyphenols and antioxidants, and are anti-inflammatory and anti-angiogenic (stopping the growth of tumors such as cancer); it has been used for a variety of aches, pains, and illnesses. The dandelion was also used to make the traditional “dandelion and burdock” British soft drink, and it is one of the ingredients in root beer.
Dandelion is used for loss of appetite, upset stomach, intestinal gas, gallstones, joint pain, muscle aches, eczema, and bruises. Dandelion is also used to increase urine production and as a laxative to increase bowel movements. It is also used as skin toner, blood tonic, and digestive tonic. Some people use dandelion to treat infection, especially viral infections, and cancer. In foods, dandelion is used as salad greens, and in soups, wine, and teas. The roasted root is used as a coffee substitute. How does it work?
Dandelion contains chemicals that may increase urine production and decrease swelling (inflammation).
Dandelion can cause allergic reactions when taken by mouth or applied to the skin of sensitive people. People who are allergic to ragweed and related plants (daisies, chrysanthemums, marigolds) are likely to be allergic to dandelion.
Dandelion contains significant amounts of potassium. Some “water pills” can also increase potassium levels in the body. Taking some “water pills” along with dandelion might cause too much potassium to be in the body.
Scientists in Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology in Germany have developed a type of dandelion that secretes latex of the same quality as rubber trees and is suitable for commercial production of natural rubber.
The cheerful little dandelion can grow anywhere there is a bit of soil or a crack in the sidewalk. Medieval peasants and modern spiritualists consider the dandelion a symbolic flower. Its symbolic meanings include:
healing from emotional pain and physical injury
emotional and spiritual intelligence in dealing with every kind of situation
warmth and power like the rising sun, due to its sunny color and the fact that the flowerhead closes at night and opens with the morning sun
surviving through challenges and difficulties, the ability to rise above one’s challenges, and fighting through the challenges of life and emerging victorious
long-lasting happiness and joy, through its cheerful color and by being of help when depression or grief makes it difficult to stay “sunny”
fulfilling your wish, from a long-standing folk belief that blowing the white puffball of seeds will grant you one wish – perhaps in addition to the spreading of the seeds for the addition of more dandelions
Perhaps you may be moved to gather up a small bouquet of dandelions from your yard for occasions such as:
Celebrating the return of summer
Overcoming an obstacle, especially by using your innate intelligence
Trying to connect with the sun and its power
Celebrating any event that brings joy and the energy of youth into your life
Dandelion’s message is: do not give up, even if others seem to be trying to get rid of you.
“Dandelion” may be doomed to be the despised plant that must be destroyed, eradicated, and killed. Perhaps renaming it – to Healing Plant, Lion’s Tooth, Taraxacum (its genus name), or Potassium Plant, or even considering it a vegetable and/or herb such as Healing Herb, Rubber Herb, or Potassium Vegetable – will emphasize its beneficial qualities and allow us to see its beauty, hardiness, and simplicity as a part of nature, and to remove one more judgment from our experience.
My wish for you is that, now knowing more about the abundance of benefits provided by the common dandelion, you may become a bit less judgmental about the plant – and perhaps about other little-known and/or misunderstood aspects of your life, as well. And remember the dandelion’s message: DO NOT GIVE UP.
P.S. If your yard is filled with dandelions, tell any critics that you are growing your own food, medicine, and a local renewable resource of latex materials to produce rubber.
Knowing a concept and explaining the concept are totally different activities. Take the concept “we are all One with the Universe/God/Source/All-That-Is,” for example.
My concept of “we are all One with Source” is so expansive that words can’t describe it. It’s best described with feelings – such as openness, freedom, interrelationships – but even words fail when attempting to describe feelings. How can I explain it to others? Instead of trying to explain the vastness, I’ll use a basic building block with which most of us are familiar.
This exercise to explain “we are all One” works best with several people standing or sitting in a circle, holding hands; but it also works with a single person sitting in a chair, with her/his hand on an object, such as the chair arm, a table, a pillow, or a pet who doesn’t mind being still for a while. Once you are in your chosen position:
Close your eyes
Take three slow, deep breaths through your diaphragm (also called breathing through your “stomach” or abdomen)
Slowly shift your focus to one hand – either hand if you are holding hands in a circle, or the hand that is touching an object
Take a few moments thinking about the hand as a part of you – as a representation of you in this exercise
Shift your focus to the skin on your hand
Notice the tactile sensation of touching the other person’s hand or the object
Think of the color of your hand – what term, other than black or white, would you use to describe the color of the skin on your hand – beige, ecru, tan, brown, orange?
Focus on the texture of your hand’s skin – pick a term that describes the texture – is it soft, smooth, rough, calloused, weathered, tender?
Now, we are going deeper
Focus on a small dime-sized area of your hand where it is touching the other person’s hand or the object
Focus on the skin cells in that area – too many to count, but all working together to form a unified organ called the skin that envelops our physical bodies and has been used to define us as individuals
Focus on a single skin cell in that area – consider how that single skin cell is both individual/separate/unique and part of the whole that constitutes our skin – one example of “we are all One”
Now, we are going deeper still
Focus within the skin cell and visualize the molecules that combine to form that skin cell – another example of unique parts forming the whole – “we are all One”
Focus within one molecule and visualize the atoms that create that molecule
Each atom, with its nucleus of protons and neutrons plus its electrons, is similar, yet unique
Rather than going deeper, we will examine this one atom further
Notice that the atom has no color and no texture
Notice how the atom occupies an area defined by the orbits of its electrons, but no physical boundary is evident
Notice how much space is between the nucleus and the electrons – find God/Source/All-That-Is within that space and within the nucleus and electrons
Stay with that image of God/Source/All-That-Is within us
Focus on other atoms in the vicinity of our target atom
At this level, there is no distinction between the atom of your hand and the atom of another person’s hand or the atom of the object held by your hand – this is the concept “we are all One”
Stay with that sense of Oneness – feel the expansion of your awareness – feel the connection to everything
Perhaps remember this sensation of Oneness during meditations or as a grounding tool
Be in no hurry to leave this feeling
At your own pace, slowly return to your atom – then to your molecule – then to your skin cell
Notice that the skin cell has started to introduce color, but not yet texture
Notice the skin on the dime-sized area of your hand – more color is added, and texture is introduced
Notice the skin on your hand – a definition of “you,” as distinct from “not you,” is introduced – boundaries between you and the other person’s hand or the object are established
As you slowly return to your body, continue to feel the interconnectedness of everything – don’t lose yourself in your body – bring that peace and knowingness with you
Take three slow, deep breaths to bring yourself and your knowledge back to this physical reality
Why don’t they just leave time alone? Why change it every 6 months? And, by the way, why does the United States change the time a week later than the other countries that screw around with time? (think Halloween)
In the days before “smart” phones and computers, I had been surprised at finding the grocery store closed on Sunday morning. In another “time warp,” I was entering a meeting when people were leaving the meeting.
With the next “time warp” imminent, I tried to gain the concept of what “falling back one hour” would mean to me. Trying every visualization technique I could muster, I finally found an imaginary “sliding time line” that I could move one hour to the left (“fall back”). From that timeline, I deduced that, when I awaken Sunday morning at 6:00 a.m., it will actually be 5:00 a.m.
While I was asleep Saturday night, my cell phones and computer dutifully “fell back” one hour. Surprisingly, Sunday morning I was rested when I woke up at 6:00 a.m. Maybe I have finally figured out this “time shift” business and have pre-adjusted to it!
My celebration lasted until I saw the microwave clock, which boldly shouted out “7:00 a.m.” Now, that doesn’t make sense! I had rationally analyzed this time “thingee” (to use a technical term) from all angles – even constructing a sliding time scale in my mind. Applying the new data provided by the microwave oven, I gradually realized I had not accurately read my own sliding-time-scale creation. Yes, the top (sliding) part of the scale slides to the left (back in time – fall back), so 6:00 a.m. becomes 5:00 a.m. However, I am experiencing the time that is represented on the sliding part of the scale, not the unmoving base scale. So, yes, 6:00 a.m. is the new 5:00 a.m. when compared against the fixed base-time, but because my time is now on the sliding part of the time scale, 7:00 a.m. has become my new 6:00 a.m. – I think.
I’m still out-of-phase – an hour behind myself – or is it an hour ahead of myself? Now, I’m confused again. If I am patient, this confusion will dissolve in a week or so, and my body rhythms will have adjusted to this “new” time.
OK, enough of this time-focus. My cell phone is called a “smart” phone for a reason. If I have an appointment at a particular “time,” I will just set my cell phone alarm and let it tell me when I should act. Otherwise, time is just an illusion anyway, so I can ignore it – one big benefit of being retired.
While attending the University of Washington in Seattle almost 50 years ago, I volunteered at an inner-city boys’ club. Located in an old two-story building in a poorer part of Seattle, the club provided a basketball court on the first floor. I oversaw the quieter games, like jigsaw puzzles, on the second floor.
At that time, my hair was long and light brown, almost blonde. Gradually, a few of the shy boys would call me “Princess” because my hair was unusual to them and reminded them of fairy tales they may have seen or heard about. We created a fantasy world where they could be anything they wanted – knights, kings, princes, etc. We laughed and had great fun – bringing out the Little Kid in each of us.
One time, the club manager admonished us for making too much noise. The kids – and I – immediately shut down; all our Little Kids went into hiding. After the manager left, I gathered the kids and explained that we were still kings, knights, princes, and a princess, but we were in the Land of Quiet. This was our special place that no one else knew about because we kept it secret by being quiet. Slowly, the light within each child – and myself – returned and our Little Kids played, having even more fun because no one knew about our secret fantasy world.
As I was walking to the bus stop one evening, a boy, perhaps 12 years old, started walking with me. Recognizing him as the “bad kid” who had been banned from the boys’ club because he smoked, carried knives and other weapons, and got into trouble with others, I smiled at him and did not find any fear of him within me.
As I walked on the sidewalk, the boy walked on the tops of the stone “fences” that marked the boundaries of each row house’s front “yard.” When his route was longer than mine, he asked me to “Go Slow” so we could keep pace with each other. That night, I saw a completely different child – one who apparently was on his own in this world, coping as best he could, and at that point only wanting someone to “Go Slow” so he could be with them. I only met him once, but that encounter has stayed with me for almost 50 years. I often wonder what happened to him – did he get the help he sought?
Obviously, encounters are not always that simple – but it does start with acknowledging that we all are One with the Universe, no exceptions. From there, we see the Soul/Spirit/Source within everyone we meet by looking beyond the body-suit and ignoring the judgment of others. We let our gut reaction – rather than the brain linked to the cultural biases to which we have been exposed – determine our safety at that moment. Recognize the difference between your gut thoughts, feelings, and warnings and those that are part of group consciousness perpetuated by mistrust and fear. Do you own thinking, unswayed by the biases, prejudices, and judgments of others.
There are many ways to cope with the life you are given. Judgments arise over the slightest deviation from the social standard of “normal” or “proper” behavior. How many other people have been judged for their chosen way of coping? How many difficult lives could have been turned around by someone taking the time to “Go Slow” and seeing the Little Kid within them?
My wish for you is that someone will choose to “Go Slow” when you need it – and that you will choose to “Go Slow” for another when he/she needs it. We are all One with the Universe, and helping others is helping ourselves as well.