Working with incarcerated girls
Dr. Mario Castelán formed "Encontrando tu Luz" (Finding your Light), a Non-Government Organization, whose goal, in Mario’s words, is “to help children and adolescents who live in troubled circumstances, especially those exhibiting behavior disorders such as aggression, hyperactivity, tendencies to criminality, and also for depressed and disabled children, as well as their families. The main motivation of my organization is to help children who are prone to commit crimes. I truly do not want to see any adolescent being incarcerated. I believe that if children and their families who live in poverty achieve a change in perceptions, they will be less and less prone to commit crimes in the future.”
Mario began his humanitarian work providing flower essence therapy to adolescent girl inmates at a jail in Saltillo, Mexico. The inmates are under custody because they committed or participated in serious crimes, such as kidnapping and murder. Mario presented a report on his work at the Spanish-Language Symposium held at Terra Flora in June 2017.
As a way of introduction to flower essence therapy, Mario did the following with the girl inmates:
“I showed them a video of how much a plant struggles to break the seed and then start a journey to find its blossom. The flower I chose was the Sunflower, and the video was a time lapse of the cycle of the plant, from the moment when it sprouts to the moment it bloomed. I made the analogy with humans, but that we are multidimensional in the sense that we break seeds and bloom in different aspects. I told them that a seed has to be inside the soil, waiting for the right time to break and look for more space. I told them the same happens with butterflies, who transform from caterpillars in order to seek transformation. In a sense, I wanted them to see that being incarcerated could be seen from a different perspective.
“I also showed a video of a butterfly to introduce the therapy, which puts trust in the process of transformation. They can relate to a beautiful flower, but they can see that the process can be a bit painful, as the plant rises from the depths of the earth to finally open up in splendor as the flower. I wanted them to connect with this process, while being shut off from the outside world. I noticed feelings of shyness and rejection. So I asked how they could become comfortable enough to go through the process of development.”
Mario started visiting the jail once a month, at first with a female friend to build trust with the girls, conducting 15-20 minute therapy sessions with each of the girls. He prepares individual formulas for them.
“They cannot talk about the specific reasons why they are incarcerated, because they are not allowed to do so. Otherwise, someone might judge them, that there is something wrong with them. They talked about their dreams, their daily life in the jail, problems with the guards. They mostly come from disrupted families, with the lack of family support.”
Mario reported further:
“On February 14, Valentine’s Day, the girls were celebrating friendship and love. I brought Affirm a Flower affirmation cards. I spread out the cards, and they each were able to choose one. I saw which cards they chose and they read the affirmations on the cards that they had chosen.
“They all had problems with relationships, and I could feel their sadness, the pain that they were experiencing. I talked about the qualities of the flowers, to remind them of their own true natures.
“After a few months providing some formulas, I realized that Cerato was a very important flower. ‘Am I following others or myself?’ The girls would often make wrong decisions influenced by others. Wild Oat was also given to them: ‘Where is my direction? What should I follow? Where should I go?’ Echinacea was also important.
“Cerato would be included most of the time in the third or fourth formula. It is a very important flower for adolescents, from my experience. Even if they felt very angry (and after having used, for example, Holly), I could perceive that their recurrent rage had to do more with the sense of feeling ‘betrayed’ by those they had followed to commit crimes and that somehow had to do with the girls now being in prison. Some of the girls also were ‘leaders’ and had had ‘followers’ in the past, so I combined Cerato with Vine in these cases, as there was inner insecurity as a source of generalized anxiety. I started to realize that such young women, as is true with many adolescents, were mostly curious and good at many things, and with a lot of wasted energy, looking to be accepted by others so much that they stopped listening to themselves, to their true identities. Interestingly, in one of the activities many of the girls picked the photo of Cerato as their favorite, even before I used it in their blends.”
“To deal with the relationships among them in the jail, I used Quaking Grass and Tiger Lily. This was the main formula, especially with issues of aggression and community problems. It had been difficult to deal with their anger issues, but with this formula, it was easier. These two flowers were very important for these issues.
“It was also very important to use Mariposa Lily. With this essence, they feel more open and they start to release their pain. Mariposa Lily with Baby Blue Eyes helps them integrate their experiences of a broken family, to deal with their feelings of emptiness, and to begin to love themselves. They begin to feel, ‘I am here. I have a value. I was abandoned by my mother, my father, and I am discovering this problem.’
“Two other flowers very needed where Red Chestnut and Honeysuckle, for over-worrying about their loved ones and the tendency to recreate both happy and hurtful memories before they got incarcerated. It has been a difficult trial for them to be in jail, a real trauma. They cannot see how they can have trust in the process of life, but I am trying to find what will bring this trust.”
“The director was very grateful, and also surprised about the improvement due to the project, which she said was very helpful to her institution. When the adolescents arrived, there was a feeling of lack of affection.
“I am trying to build character with them. Before the project there were a lot of problems with anger issues. Afterwards, the staff realized that atmosphere was much better and more harmonious.”
“To begin the Encontrando tu Luz project, I partnered with my friend, Mrs. Aurora Álvarez, who has a long history in helping impoverished families by bringing them clothes and food. She also serves as a volunteer doing humanitarian activities organized by the Catholic Church.
“I prepared their first formula and Aurora brought it to the children a few days later. I continued sending the same formula for one more month, and in the middle of May, I went again to visit Lupito and Esmeralda. I was more than impressed by the change in Lupito, who was smiling and even opened his eyes a bit. Since then, I have been sending him formulas monthly, slowly including new flowers that I feel can help him take one step further, and it seems to work. Now he opens his eyes most of the time and is able to cradle and extend a bit his limbs (he had them contracted). He smiles and jokes and does not look in panic when a new person visits him. He is also more accepting of physical contact and is able to eat on his own. As far as Esmeralda is concerned, the epileptic seizures stopped. She had only taken three formulas.
“For both Lupito and Esmeralda, I found Rosemary and Cherry Plum to be two important essences. Rosemary allows the soul to feel rooted on earth, avoiding the need of the soul to reject the body and ‘leave’ for a while, which may be what happens during the convulsions. Cherry Plum helps as a container for the mind and calms down the projection of terrible unstabilizing things occurring around oneself.
“Other essences used have been Impatiens, Indian Pink and Cosmos, trying to help the child to communicate, to express. As Lupito is not able to talk, I like mixing a few new flowers in his base blend, such as Lavender and Trumpet Vine.
“Finally, Lewisia, which is part of his base blend (with Rosemary and Cherry Plum), is a very important flower for Lupito. I was once watching a video about autism and how people with autism perceive the world. This made me realize about the different perceptual capabilities that each of us have, and how these capabilities may have to do with the need of the soul to expand, i.e. to reach to places beyond the doors of our perception. Inspired by Patricia Kaminski's description of Lewisia's essence ‘the spirit breath of the cosmos united with the most tender aspects of human love and sensitivity’ and considering reports of other practitioners, I felt Lewisia could be a foundational remedy not only for Lupito, but for many children who have lost the connection with their star, such as the ones I visit through Encontrando tu Luz.
“Esmeralda and Lupito are both getting better with the help of the flower essences, with Lupito improving his anger issues. Esmeralda was so grateful, because she feels more confidence and calm, and serenity. For me it was a great gift when I saw her smile. The day when Lupito held my hand and smiled at me was one of the most beautiful experiences; I felt deeply thankful for such a priceless gift.”
“There are four centers, including the young female prison, where flower essences are still being distributed between old and new interns. One of these centers is a refuge for female children and adolescents, called ‘The Good Shepherd.’ I will tell you a story that is very interesting: I was in line to vote for the government. I noticed that there was a nun behind me, and we started talking about the elections. She asked, ‘What do you do?’ I told her I was a scientist, and then I explained to her about flower essence therapy, work in the jail and my involvement. She said, ‘Oh, I am working in a refuge, with children five to ten years old. I would like you to come and talk with the director so you can bring flowers to our children.’
“I had a meeting with the parents of the children of The Good Shepherd. The girls live with the nuns and the parents pick up the girls during weekends. This is not a private place and it is funded by charity. They help children of troubled families who live in difficult conditions and do not have enough resources and stability to raise their children, yet, the children are not in a place for adoption. In the meeting, I told them about Encontrando tu Luz and flowers essences. As the number of people treated is increasing, I am currently trying a way to speed up therapy and distribution of blends. I give the parents a questionnaire that they can fill out and also write down all they want about their current state of mental, emotional and physical health. They also write and sign a consent form for the children to take the essences, and write about what they consider to be their children's problems.
“With the girls, I have met and repeated the flower affirmation activity I once did with the interns. I use the FES Affirm a Flower photo affirmation cards in Spanish. I have found this activity to be deeply touching for children, and also for adults, as a way to introduce to the world of flower essences. I am starting with standard formulas for the girls, and personalized formulas for the parents (as they fill out the questionnaire).”
“The first formula for the girls includes:
“Flowers used with the parents include Echinacea, Pine, Star of Bethlehem, Holly, Mariposa Lily, Gorse, Mustard, Willow, Elm, Angelica, and Sweet Chestnut among others, as they frequently present signs of severe depression, addiction, family disintegration, low self-esteem, bitterness, etc.”
“We visited another child care center called ‘Caritas’ in the city of Ramos-Arizpe, about 30 minutes from Saltillo. The center functions in the same fashion as The Good Shepherd but it is open to boys and girls. The activities have been the same, with very good results and the formulas are now being prepared for distribution to children and their parents.
“Invited by a Catholic priest, we visited a temple that is located in a very difficult area of the city. In that temple, lots of families with troubled children regularly meet and look for help and advice. We talked to several families, and their flower formulas are now being prepared and will be distributed this weekend.
In addition to his work via Encontrando tu Luz, Mario received a donation of essences from FES to aid people impacted by one of the recent earthquakes in Mexico:
“More than 200 formulas have been distributed in the state of Oaxaca, where great devastation occurred during the first earthquake as well as another 300 formulas to people in Mexico City, for the tragedy of the second earthquake in September. The essences were distributed by the second of November, which is such an important date for us in Mexico, as we celebrate the departed ones through the ‘Día de muertos.’. Among those who came forward to help are Jennifer Delgado, a psychologist who lives in Mexico City, in an area near where many buildings were destroyed by the earthquake. She has been distributing formulas to people in nearby neighborhoods and other areas in need.
Dr. Mario Castelán lives in Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico and holds a PhD in Computer Science from the University of York, UK. In addition to his scientific activity, he is dedicated to flower essence therapy. He is interested in contributing to flower therapy from the scientific perspective, for example, with bio-energetic systems of testing response or through experiments with water.
His social service work was inspired by the the work of Luz de Jade, aiding refugees in Lesvos, Greece.
Dr. Castelán has a diploma in Bach flowers and has obtained two certifications from the Flower Essence Society – Practitioner Certification and Advanced Studies. Visit his web site www.splendidmariposa.com to view his commentaries and information about his practice.
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