“To give a blessing is to affirm, to say ‘yes’ to a person’s Belovedness. And more than that: to give a blessing creates the reality of which it speaks.”
– Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved. I had been working in spiritual direction with adults for a few years before I found a training to accompany children in the practice of spiritual direction. The instructor of the course shared that she uses a transparent chapstick (which she calls "a blessing balm") to draw a cross on the hand of a child and speaks a short blessing over the child at the end of each session. I loved her way of including a physical blessing to a time of holy listening. What a beautiful way to part ways.
When I started meeting with children for direction myself I wanted to adapt the use of blessing balm in my practice as well. Chopstick is a fantastic idea but I was curious to explore other options as well. So I started my research for safe, healthy salves and oils. As a result I started using coconut oil with a drop of essential oil as my “blessing balm”. Quickly the blessing become a favorite part of my times of spiritual conversations with children. It is a tender moment when I get to hold a child’s hand, look her or him into eyes, draw the mark of Jesus’ unconditional, eternal love on the back of the child’s palm and speak the child’s name and a personal blessing over him or her.
One child described spiritual direction to her mother in these words (read more stories here.)
"I just talk about God and I like how Kaisa puts special oil on me that smells good. I got to play with play dough and talk about ways to see God."
I have finally started offering a blessing with a touch, a spoken word, and oil also to the adults whom I meet with for spiritual direction. I am by far not an expert of any kind in the world of essential oils but I am enjoying the exploration of them. The use of essential oils has enriched both my personal and shared journey of prayer.
I don’t think that blessing with oils only belong to the religious ceremonies, neither that they are reserved merely for priests and spiritual directions to use. The Bible is full of stories of normal folks’ use of oils, and instructions to use oils for healing, blessing, cleansing, and in worship. In his book Essential Oils of the Bible Randi Minetor writes the following,
“It’s unlikely that most people today have the opportunity to anoint a king or a priest, but we certainly can consider our use of essential oils as a practice to protect and hallow someone in the eyes of God – essentially, to bring them to God’s notice for special consideration. A loved one who is ill, for example, may be a focus of your prayers, making him an appropriate candidate for anointment with fragrant oils. A new beginning such as a first communion, the first night in a new home, or the start of a long journey may be the impetus to anoint a dear friend, a family member, or a neighbor, and to mark the event with a prayer as well.”
According to Minetor essential oils are mentioned nearly 200 times in the Bible. Some of the stories include:
Giving oils as gifts (Matthew 2:11)
Praying for and anointing the sick (Mark 6:13, James 5:14)
Anointing for a special role (Exodus 29:7-21; 30:32; 37:29, Psalm 23:5)
Anointing as a sign of love (Mark 14: 3-8, Luke 7:36-47)
Scent and cleanse the temple (Exodus 30:7)
Christians around the world have continued the early believers' traditions of enjoying the benefits of precious oils and passed their recipes and rituals down the generations. Here are a few ways how we might use essential oils as part of our spiritual practices.
As I shared above my journey with essential oils started with the desire to find a “safe” and healthy way to bless others in an embodied way. I now can think of many ways how people over the centuries have used, and how we too can use oils to bless each other:
- Draw a cross on a hand or forehead. (I tip my pointing finger to diluted essential oil and draw a cross on the directee’s balm if they welcome this.)
- Anoint the sick.
- Wash other's feet. (Mix a few drops of essential oil and carrier oil in epsom salt).
- Give as a gift.
Caring for Self and Environment
Showing care for our bodies and environment are important spiritual practices. Some of my favorite ways to enjoy oils are to use them as part of self-care and housekeeping:
Add essential oils to food, drinks, personal care products (there are countless DIY recipes to make non-toxic, healthy body lotions, deodorants, lip balms, bath salts, etc.). My favorites so far are lip balm and deodorant and they are so easy and cost-effective to make!
Replace chemical cleaning products with natural ones. It is better for you and the environment, and as a bonus your home and clothes will smell lovely!
Use oils for healthcare*. Many oils have natural healing properties. Some examples are; anti-inflammatory, pain and anxiety reduction, and anti-bacterial. I have boosted my immune system, and treated skin irritations, headaches and muscle pain with essential oils so far.
Since essential oils have many benefits for both physical and emotional wellbeing, oils are great additions to personal, contemplative prayer. When I become aware of a significant emotion, longing or invitation, I sometimes choose an oil with properties that support my experience or desire. This is an easy way to add oils to my existing prayer routines and practices.
Rub a drop of oil on my prayer beads (I dilute them in a carrier oil to prevent skin irritations).
Diffuse oil while praying to enhance focus, calm, and grounding.
Blend essential oils with a carrier oil and massage to the soles of my feet and shoulders before stretching, yoga, or a walk.
A Prayer Practice with Essential Oils:
Settle in, allow your eyes to close and take deep breaths. Become aware of your body. Relax the space between your eyebrows, drop the jaw, melt your shoulders down, release tension in your feet and toes. Relax something that you haven’t relaxed yet today.
Become aware of one significant emotion that you feel right now. Locate it in your body. Listen to it for a moment. What message does it have for you? How might God be speaking to you through this emotion in your body?
Find an essential oil with the properties that support either the emotion you want to enhance or a need that you became aware of (soothing, uplifting, calming, energizing, etc.). Consider also the option of allowing your body to lead you in this. Inhale different oils and choose the one you feel most drawn to. Note that you can blend multiple oils together and enjoy the benefits of the unique blend you created.
Apply the essential oil using your chosen method, (e.g. diffusion, topical application, massage, etc.). Rest in God’s caring, healing and restoring presence. If words come to mind, express yourself in words to him, if not, just rest and offer your body and soul to him as a prayer.
**Examples of oils and their benefits for emotional wellbeing:
Frankincense: Use Frankincense oil to induce feelings of peace, satisfaction, and overall wellness.
Lavender: People commonly use Lavender oil for its relaxing and calming properties.
Lemon: Use Lemon oil aromatically to promote a positive mood.
Peppermint: Use Peppermint oil for an invigorating energy boost.
*Important Safety Note: Notice that the use of essential oils should not be a replacement to or in conflict with the doctor’s advice and prescribed treatment or medicine. If in doubt, consult your primary health care provider before using oils. Some oils are not suitable for pregnant or nursing mothers, or young children. The ideas shared in this blog are not clinically tested and I cannot take responsibility for any concerns or complications should they arise. Essential oils vary greatly in quality. Please familiarize yourself with the origin and quality standards of the oil before use.
Essential Oils & Children eBook https://media.doterra.com/us/en/ebooks/essential-oils-and-children.pdf
**DoTerra Emotional Aromatherapy ebook https://media.doterra.com/us/en/ebooks/emotional-aromatherapy.pdf
Essential Oils of the Bible: Connecting God’s Word to Natural Healing by Randi Minetor
Essential Oils for Emotional Wellbeing by Vannoy Gentles Fite
Leaves for Medicine Blog by Rachel Carter https://www.leavesformedicine.com/blog
Finally, I would love to hear how you have used essential oils as part of your spiritual practices. Feel free to share your experiences, ideas, and comments below. What have you tried?