In the Orient, the concept of balancing yin and yang is rooted in the same type of thinking. These are the forces that embody the female and male forces that reside within each of us. They are the passive and the active, the mental and the physical, the mind and the body of the human makeup. It is when these complementing forces work in unison that the spiritual self is most healthy. In India or Tibet, this same sense of balance is sought through chakra work. The chakras are centers of consciousness located in a vertical line throughout the body. They correspond not only to different bodily functions such as reproduction, digestion, evacuation, circulation, respiration, and sensory recognition, but they also touch the base survival instincts that dwell within us all. They correspond to passion, hunger, the innate protective mechanisms of self-survival, and that unconscious, indescribable force that keeps us breathing in and out with no provocation from thought or reason. As in the case of yin and yang, when the chakras are in balance, they culminate in spiritual well-being.
After considering the major functions of the mental and spiritual facets of the human animal in maintaining and restoring a healthy existence, we might wonder if we can effect changes in the body directly or only through the vehicles of mind and spirit. Yet there do exist strictly physical responses to outside stimuli. A kettle of boiling water spilled on the skin may be interpreted in the mind as pain but there is also an immediate physical effect in the swelling and blistering of the affected area. Limbs may be broken, diseases contracted, and any number of ailments incurred. While it may be true that the mind has the ability to heal the body, and perhaps even stave off the maladies of physical existence, the body itself can be directly affected.
There are tales of those who overcome the physical world. There are the firewalkers of the Huna people in Hawaii and the Sufis with their mysterious ability to walk on glass or lay down upon the famed bed of nails. Most folks, however, have not been disciplined to overcome the physical world and are ready victims to the ills and mishaps of living a physical existence. The reality that most people can be affected by unfortunate physical circumstances, however, is also an indication that the condition of the body can be altered for the better as well.
The fact that there are people able to overcome physical ills illustrates the healing power that is available within the human mind if we can just stimulate it into action. Between affecting the mental facilities with fragrance and creating effects on the physical body with direct application, we have the foundation of the practice of aromatherapy.
Another aspect of aromatherapy that should not be neglected lies in the fact that, for the most part, we are dealing with natural extractions. Just as herbs or medical preparations drawn from the wealth of the earth’s treasured resources can be used in healing applications, so are essential oils simply another form of the healing substances made available by nature. Whether ingested or applied externally, like many herbal remedies, or introduced directly into the bloodstream, like some of the miracle drugs of accepted medical practice, or applied topically or through inhalation, as in the practice of aromatherapy, we are ultimately dealing with the same source in our healing practices. All preparations—from the herbal tea to the antibiotic serum to the essential oil—take their origin from nature. They may go through different processes from natural state to end product, but they all originate from the gifts of nature.