Chile, the Dragon’s Back Built along the skirts of the magnificent Andes mountains and delimited by the sea on the other side, Chile, my homeland, is a land of contrasts. At the north we have Atacama, the driest desert in the world, yet we have Mediterranean weather in the central valleys, cold rainforest in the central-south area, and icy fjords and archipelagos in the far south. Over one third of the Chilean population lives in Santiago with most of the rest in the central part of the country, leaving huge areas mostly unpopulated. Even in Santiago you feel tiny under the huge mountains, which at almost 18.000 feet high, offer shelter like an omnipresent mother. These mountains also move! We feel earthquakes on a daily basis and we’ve experienced some of the strongest recorded on earth. Mother Nature is powerful and mystical and an essential part of our daily lives, constantly inviting us to listen and learn from her.
When we were young we used to go camping on weekends with my grandfather, a natural scientist who would teach me about the stars, sea life, flowers and photography. My mother was also particularly obsessed with native flowers and mountaineering, and we were always exploring the most remote landscapes of Chile, searching for strange flowers. Then she studied native flora and started guiding tours to the flowering desert, a phenomenon that happens every five to eight years in the north of Chile, where perfectly designed flowers come to light after years of lying dormant underground. I loved learning from her, but my genuine interest was always a bit further up, in the air, and I often got distracted by looking at the birds and stars.
The Call of the Essences – from the Avalanche to Patagonia It was after 2002, when my mother almost died trapped under an avalanche, that she got drawn into healing. Firstly Reiki, and then the discovery that would change our lives ‒ Bach Flowers. Along with Bach came Bush, California and lots of other beautiful essences that brought about deep transformations. She was soon drawn to preparing her own essences, intrigued by the teachings that her beloved flowers would bring. From that moment on she never stopped taking notes of everything that happened to her and the people taking her essences. She collected an impressive number of dreams, experiences and emotional changes that started to make deep sense. They seemed to be somehow organised and she started to group them by chakras, which helped to put everything into place. In the meantime, although I was finishing my studies in Fine Arts I was suffering a vocational crisis. By that time I decided to go to one of the few places of Chile that I hadn’t explored: Patagonia. I bought my plane tickets and a light tent, ready for an isolated ten days walk along Torres del Paine National Park. The term Patagonia refers to all the very far south of South America that includes Argentina and Chile and has a character all its own. The endless open steppes, unique mountain formations and glaciers simply captivated my heart. The main weather factor here is the wind and, at times up to 100mph, it can literally blow you away ‒ making you feel both small and alive at the same time. The feeling of the Patagonian wind is like the beauty of death: it tears off everything that is not essential for you. The geological formations here have that same wild and naked energy too, carved by the glaciers that still remain from the last ice age. Patagonia is like the sacrum of America, the place where the Andes ‒ its spinal cord ‒ sinks into the ocean, creating a vortex where ancient and new energies converge. As soon as I finished the walk, I got invited to work at an eco-hotel inside the park, eventually becoming a guide. Here is where I discovered some of my passions: birds, plants, minerals and dealing with singular people. I was often sent on birding and photography tours which increased my connection to those airy fri
ends and led me to be a guide for the beautiful company BirdsChile. But somehow things still didn’t make sense: I was supposed to be an artist, wasn’t I?
Guide Essences leading the Path
In 2012 I decided to take my mother on an expedition to some of the most remote places I had seen. So we went to Sierra Baguales, a peculiar mountain range that marks the border with Argentina. During long walks along a landscape full of fossils, wild animals and history from the first inhabitants that used to hunt there 7,000 years ago, we prepared some of the main essences that today make up our Patagonia Essence range. One master essence was Neneo (Anarthrophyllum desideratum), a dense and prickly bush with orange flowers. It allows us to connect with capacities that enable us to accomplish our mission in life, helping to bring to Earth the desires of the soul. For us, making Neneo meant writing the first manual and finding a team of therapists willing to study the essences and start using them with their clients. Here is where my friend Soledad got on board. We had studied Fine Arts together and were both feeling aimless at that point. She was one of my mother’s first clients and helped us from the beginning in the work of attunement with the essences. Her ability to organise and her clarity to execute were what we were missing as a team. For me, Neneo was the final push to jump into the essence world. I took a Gestalt Diploma with a psychiatrist in a lost beach in Chiloe, an island in northern Patagonia, and there I prepared my first bird essence: Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus hudsonicus) . The whimbrels called me on a dream: I was flying with a flock of them in the middle of some stormy clouds. I knew we had far to go but it was fascinating to watch them and to feel the lightness of my body that seemed enormous beside theirs. Later I learned that whimbrels are one of the furthest migrators on Earth and are able navigate the globe, which means they know where they are at any given moment. Like a GPS, they are a map.
I had no idea about how to prepare a bird essence, so I just followed their instructions, which included telling my teacher that I had an important meeting that morning so I wouldn’t be able to come to the class! The birds talked to me in verse, as did all those that came after. Here’s a little fragment:
‘Even without knowing it with certainty, I feel I have a mission in this life. A magnetic destiny guides me towards it. I trust that everything will happen at the precise moment. I surrender to the flow of life without fear of deviating. I live in the present. I am the way.’
A deep trust arose in me and all my anxiety about the future dissolved into a playful and attentive confidence in the present. Bird essences, it seems, bring a whole dimension of new learning. In a leap of confidence and desire, they have to eventually jump into the void, thus their essences activate our trust, faith and surrender. With their vision from above, they also connect us with the quality of unity; they remind us that we are part of a whole and help us expand our consciousness. Soledad also received guidance to prepare her own line of essences with minerals she had found along her way. She prepared most of them under the moonlight, and created a stunning mix that we call Mineral Formula, that can open the lower chakras in a much shorter time that any essence that we had before. Minerals provided the grounding, constant, anchoring energy that was missing in the Patagonian Flower and Bird Essences. So, from this solid ground, we now have more than 150 therapists that work with these in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Spain, Portugal and other places around the world. We have also supported social projects in Chile, offering free essence therapy and training for people in extreme need, creating a network with the local community health centres.
Following the Wings of the Heart Yet then a new essence and a new challenge came up. In 2016 my partner got a job offer in the UK, and we decided to move. It was crazy but at the same time made sense: the UK was the homeland and our inspiration for flower essences and it turned out to be at the same latitude to the north as Patagonia is in the south! That new year I had the chance to prepare the essence of one of the most mysterious birds I had been following over the last years: the Magellanic Woodpecker (Campephilus magellanicus). Like a wave, he turned everything upside-down, making me detoxify both my body and my life before we left, like a gardener trimming away everything that was still distracting me from the full healing path.
Without a visa or a valid passport, I followed his instructions and closed everything down in Chile. The clear voice of Magellanic Woodpecker essence kept me calm but determined, working step by step, with the certainty and thankfulness of knowing that there was a world of new learning awaiting me, with amazing people to meet and a purpose for Patagonia’s energy here in the UK. Natalia Montes Viviani is a member of the BFVEA and is based in Bristol.
Original article published in Essence Magazine, winter edition, 2019.