BECOMING THE ENCHANTED HEALER
by Kiva Rose
“The Enchanted Healer” is the second in our trilogy of books for herbalists and other natural Healers. While the previous “Plant Healer’s Path” focused on education and empowerment, this second volume is all about heightened physical senses, awareness, plant spirit, Gaia and ecocentric spirituality, magic, enchantment and enjoyment for the Herbalist and other Healers and healthcare providers. It’s our very first all-color book, with the evocative color paintings and photographs assisting its mission to enchant and inspire. Quoting Jesse Wolf: “As important as clinical research is to a healing practice, just as important is the child-like curiosity, entrancement and obsession that leads to fruitful investigation and new ways of perceiving and practicing. The faculties that can make us better Healers are the same senses and sensibilities that make it possible for us to truly, deeply enjoy our studies and work. Reason and emotional, spiritual and “magical” ways of perceiving are not mutually exclusive, and in fact, ultrasensory engagement, heightened awareness, shamanic therapies, and an open mind are all crucial to a powerful practice… and enchantment is often a necessary ingredient for remaining in love with and being satisfied by our work and missions.“
“The Enchanted Healer” is 295 color pages long, and will be arriving from the printer in March. Foreword by Matthew Wood. You can Pre-Order your personal copies now and be among the first to receive a book when they start shipping… click on the Bookstore & Gallery page of our new website: www.PlantHealer.org
The following is my personal introduction to this important volume, part of my own journey to enchantment… I hope it can help inspire you in yours. –Kiva
“The enchanted Healer is one who has gone to that other world, been changed, and committed himself or herself to the All Life, and in a real and often painful manner, died to the mechanical world. She or he no longer seeks the approval of the skeptic, but rather to heal all things, to bring them into right relationship with all others. …The boring world stops at the door of Earth-with-a-Soul. I hope you readers enjoy this journey into the enchantment of the Healer as much as I have.” –Matthew Wood, Herbalist (from the Foreword to The Enchanted Healer) The Enchanted Healer is a new book whose mission is to enchant the reader, assisting us in maintaining and growing a sense of enchantment in our daily lives as well as in our individual healing practices. Its art and insight cast a spell invigorating our curiosity and wonder, our inquiry and our ecstasy. Author Jesse Wolf Hardin invites us “to and through the portal of awakeness and awareness to a place of discovery and delight”, a wholly interconnected world rich with the wisdom, beauty and power of inspirited Nature. The “Healers” this book seeks to empower, excite and celebrate come in many forms, not only the Herbalist and Physician, Acupuncturist and Massage Therapist, but also the Nurturer from gardeners and conservationists to caring parents and artful cooks, the envisioning Seer, the spirit-mending Shaman, and the paradigm-changing CultureShifter…. not just helping heal bodies but feelings and spirits, family and community, society and the endangered living land. As Wolf writes: “Healers help assist, adjust, counterbalance, shift, direct, nurture and mend… Healing is an active contribution to the balance, integrity and expression of a whole that is and should be always dynamic, morphing, unfolding, improving, and revealing.” We each come to the portal of our enchantment the same as we come to our healing paths: in our own personal ways, following a circuitous route that is as unpredictable and magical as it is deliberate and planned.
My Journey To Enchantment “Faërie contains many things besides elves and fays, and besides dwarfs, witches, trolls, giants, or dragons; it holds the seas, the sun, the moon, the sky; and the earth, and all things that are in it: tree and bird, water and stone, wine and bread, and ourselves, mortal men, when we are enchanted.” –J. R. R. Tolkien, On Fairy-Stories I was first drawn to the work of the Healer through my experiences of spending time with plants. Down on my hands and knees in the grass, surrounded by the wild plants I was only beginning to know the names of, I could easily become lost for hours at a time in the detail of their intricate leaf veins or trailing roots or by the way they moved in the wind and rain. Even in the small patches of woodland oasis amidst the surrounding urban chaos I would find myself transported into another world by the patterns of light flickering across dew-damp wildflowers. These threads of wildness that wove through the city were surrounded on every side by traffic, but still insulated me from the harsh sounds and often frantic pace of the human world. In my green havens I could slip into a sort of reverie, and imagine myself in Tolkien’s tree guarded Lothlorien or the forbiddingly dark forests of Grimm’s fairy tales. As a homeless teenager, I spent many nights in city parks, climbing up into welcoming branches and sleeping with my legs and arms wrapped around the comforting body of a living tree. I told my secrets to their leaves, and listening to them whisper back with every small breeze. While some seek talismans in technology or human wrought things, I have always found my portal into the otherworld through the plants. One taste of a feral Mulberry or inhalation of Honeysuckle on a humid night can send my senses reeling past the veil and into a Faery touched landscape. Not only have plants ignited my passion and imagination for most of my life, they’ve also provided me with focus, love, and direction in my darkest hours. Learning how the weeds I grew up with could tend the wounds of the body, as well as those of the heart and spirit, only drew me further into the enchantment that began with my first memory of a Yarrow flower as a toddler. As fellow lovers of plants, I know that you – too – have come to this journey and mission as much out of love and passion as practicality or necessity. You more than likely recognize something magical in the effects of medicinal herbs and in the very processes of healing and repair. “The plants have open our minds and hearts to new ways of looking at the world and your purpose within it, revealed the presence of spirit in all things and the potential for apparent miracles in our practices and lives.” The Enchanted Healer book, too, is not only a resource but a revealing… of “how wonderful we can feel, of all we can be, of all the possible ways we can help ourselves, others, and this world to heal.” —- Envisioning & Manifesting In The Enchanted Healer, Wolf also discusses the many ways in which a Healer can manifest, providing a look at the twists and turns of how we practice, and how far that healing can extend: “A mark of a Healer is feeling drawn – compelled, even – to try to ease suffering and help remedy unwellness, unwholeness and imbalance wherever and whenever it is encountered. This often manifests in careers as health care providers, but also shows up as hospice work and counsel for the dying, a dedication to plant conservation or land restoration, habitat protection or wildlife rehabilitation, and even stopping to comfort a lost kitten we see. The instinct to help and heal seldom ends here, however, and often extends to empathy for the homeless and volunteer work on their behalf. Awareness of the corporados’ destruction of the last wild places, and activism to address it. Soon it can get to the point that it would feel hypocritical to help a woman with bruises on her face without trying to free her from an abusive relationship, perhaps even volunteering at a shelter. Or to administer herbs unless we know they are from a sustainable and ethical source. Or to make a good income from a healing practice without donating some time or money to those who cannot afford health care. Or to meekly conduct an under-the-radar practice without facing or taking a stand on increasingly onerous regulations.“ The Enchanted Healer covers subjects as diverse as Healer archetypes, plant spirit, plant and animal totems, utilizing and heightening our physical senses, so-called extrasensory perception, eros and sexuality, the magic of cooking, self care and nourishment, Anima and the vital life force, Gaia the living Earth, healing vision quests and places of power, and creating sanctum and sanctuary for ourselves. It is a book intended to both inform and inspire, to clarify and create space for further imaginings and understandings: “To ‘envision’ is not simply to foresee or forecast, but to recognize patterns and possibilities, to mentally create ideas that beg to be acted on and tested, models that can then be sculpted, manifested, realized in the physical reality. To continue on a path, we must either see or envision the way ahead. To treat a symptom of bodily, cultural or ecological disease, we conceive of its causes, and imagine the best possible treatments, acting on not only what we already know and can see, but also on our growing understanding and experience of the unseen.” We need not only inspiration, but also clarity, discernment, focus and follow-through. It’s so easy to become diffuse and pulled in too many directions as a Healer. By the very nature of our vocation, we Healers must be multifaceted, but the complex and competing work of study, clinical work, medicine making, sorting through current research, botany, activism, gardening, wildcrafting, and much more can be overwhelming and lead to a feeling of being pulled in too many directions. Wolf effectively breaks down many of the most vital elements and aspects of being a Healer, and makes them accessible, exciting, and achievable for all of us. The Enchanted Healer also provides in depth insights into the working practice of the Healer, and delves into the vital importance of self care. Many of us fall madly in love with our vocation, pouring our whole selves into studying, practicing, and endlessly striving to become better at the mending and nourishing that healing entails. But at some point most of us will find ourselves at a crossroads, wondering whether we are good enough to deserve the title of Healer, when tending others has taken its toll on our energy levels, when the complexity of physiology and chemistry is overwhelming, and when we don’t know if we can continue down this path with more support and strength. On those days when we wake up tired and worn down from our work, what we most often need is self nourishment, and the time to re-emerge ourselves in the enchantment that first drew us to healing in the first place. Once exhausted, it can be difficult to even remember what that was, or it can seem faded out or inaccessible when seen through such tired eyes. The Enchanted Healer both looks honestly at this important subject, and also suggests ways in which to nourish the self and recharge: “We can only optimally nourish others, of course, when we have and continue to nourish our selves, our body with all its hungers, our emotional and spiritual needs, tending and feeding and watering all that we need to heal, strengthen, deepen, manifest, and bloom. Whatever your role in this life, you will be better at it and more satisfied with it if you take the time – and do what it takes – to nurture your inherent gifts and talents, imagination and creativity, ideas and desires, calling and missions, hopes and dreams. It is then that we can best nurture other people, their well-being and their dreams as well as the community we are a part of and the land that needs us. It is as Nurturers, too, that we make things better. And it is making things better that makes us Healers.” — The Beauty & Song The Enchanted Healer is beautifully illustrated with over 650 photos and paintings by many talented artists including Wolf and our friends Katlyn Breene, Lauren Raine and Madeline von Foerster, with its look and feel intended to be an important component in the spell this book weaves. Words and images merge to create a portrait of a magical life, a Healer both enchanted and enchanting, and opening a portal into the storybook forest. Turning the pages is choosing to walk through the open door, and step into a mushroom marked fairy ring where the ancient dance of the healing arts continues each and every moment. As Wolf tells us: “Enchantment is not about being bewitched or bewildered, it is a healthy glamour that amazes us with revelations of magic in the mundane, of significance in the overlooked, misunderstood or undervalued. It is neither hallucination, feel-good diversion, self delusion, sleight of hand tricks or entertainment. It is allure, necessarily followed by engagement with what fascinates us engagement with the ever so real world and our work within it… albeit a world that will always be at least in part a wonderful mystery, and everyday healing work that is northing less than extraordinary – not so much credible as incredible, not so much known and conventional as mysterious, adaptive, and mind blowing… with effects and results that can be astounding, awe inspiring, and incontrovertibly phenomenal. The portal to our enchantment is often closer than we think, disguised as something common but betrayed by a faint smell of wild herbs, ocean fog, or forest moss, or concealed by Fir and Spruce boughs sweetly singing in the wind.” Enchantment is the place of magic and meaning where we gather, and where we recognize each other. The gift of the book The Enchanted Healer is not only that it awakens and empowers our lives and practices, but also that it brings us together. I’ll meet you there. –Kiva Rose –––––––
PreOrder your copy of The Enchantment by going to the Bookstore & Gallery page at: www.PlantHealer.org
And if you happened to have missed the last issue of the free Plant Healer Newsletter, featuring free herbal articles, you can download the color pdf simply by clicking on:
(Thank you for sharing and re-posting)
The Experience & Joy of Hosting Anima Sanctuary Volunteers
Thank You to My On-Site Homestead Helpers!
This amazing canyon wilderness has blossomed from 33 years of guardianship and restoration, with a forest of cottonwoods and willows where there were once none. The wild places of the world are suffering greatly from human impact from pollution to pavement and habitat destruction, but I am witness to the ways in which human residents can be essential to the land’s protection and nurturance. This amazing inspirited place would be destroyed by now if not for our partner Wolf fending off threats as well as planting and tending. Our neighbor has invested much money into fighting trespass in the courts, while our role is being present, day after day, making a difference on the ground. To exist here we’ve had to learn not only the basics of off-grid homesteading, but things like carpentry and building and vehicle maintenance don’t come easy to eccentric writers and ecophilosophers and artists and cooks like us are not naturally very good at.
Over the past decade, it has gotten even harder to take care of the basics like keeping our cabins from rotting and the water and electric systems working, due to all the projects we’ve been doing to try to help affect and heal the larger world. All the books being written, the HerbFolk conference we organize, the Anima teachings and Plant Healer Magazine have all taken a lot of attention, to where Wolf and Kiva work on them up to 14 or more hours most days of the week, only taking time away to get some daily exercise in the canyon and take in another dose of the beauty and satisfaction. I keep so busy with food processing and preparation and Rhiannon’s home schooling that having assistance has become increasingly crucial. Our dear “Trail Boss” has been coming when he can to lend a practical-minded hand, with he and his son Danny installing the fire fighting water sprinkler system paid for by you readers when wildfires threatened the sanctuary. Our caring friend Marc has been taking time off from his own business in the city to drive here and improve our solar electric set-up, and make it to where I can run a solar electric fridge after so many years of hauling melting ice in from town (sometimes on our backs, when the river was too high to drive!). He is also installing a solar electric water pump system that can move precious water from our rain barrels to a storage tank, I can’t thank him enough!
For assistance with the more everyday chores, we’ve been hosting volunteer helpers over the past 5 years, mostly young folks eager to trade their help for a chance to live in a wonderful place for 30 day periods learning new skills, gaining the experience needed to perhaps finding their own land to purchase and protect and re-wild and make into their cherished homes. While we can’t offer herbal education with Kiva so busy writing, we can offer a cabin in paradise and meaningful existence close to the land and elements. I’ve been fortunate to host a number of great volunteers so far, including some with a lot of physical energy who truly enjoyed working hard outdoors, women and men who felt fueled by the beauty of the land, exhibited both spunk and diligence, were able to stay focused even while chatting and took pride and satisfaction in a job well done.
It’s amazing to walk around the Anima homestead and see all the projects that have been completed in the past two years, which could have never happened so quickly (and some, not at all!) without their help. We are so grateful for Rhiannon’s beautiful new bedroom addition complete with pretty treadle-sewed curtains, and her hand built bed, the lovely outdoor kitchen, the horno beehive oven, the cold frames and potato grower. I wonder how many cords of wood our helpers have chopped, and stacked, and brought to the kitchen in wheelbarrows upon wheelbarrows, to help keep the bread coming from the ovens, and the soups bubbling upon the stoves. How many pieces of clothing they’ve helped to mend and alter, the boxes of Plant Healer books they’ve happily packaged, the heaps of wild greens they’ve harvested & processed, the meals they’ve helped me cook, and so much more.
One helper this Winter was Alissa, and she was such a gift to me. We got huge amounts of work done. We filled the wood shed with split juniper, organized & cleaned the storage sheds, baked lots of bread in the horno, and she organized and sorted the kitchen pantry and the helper kitchen. She also built a box potato grower all on her own, and put many hours of hard work into creating draining ditches on the steep road up to the Anima homestead, and smoothing out the road by hauling & fitting many rocks into the crevices that had formed during the monsoon and flood season. It was her letter of thanks to me after she left, that inspired me to write this post… and I will include it at the end.
My most recent helpers were Andrew from Ontario, who also leads wilderness trips in Arizona, Waloo from Colorado, and Jackie and David from Mass., all of whom have made wonderful contributions in their time here. They’ve worked on the Gifting Lodge and the surrounding area, including underneath the lodge, which was hiding some truly epic rat nests and some very outdated gear. The Equipment Shed has gotten much better organized. They dug up the pipeline that was buried in the flood last Fall. Marc taught David how to assemble solar panels, they’ve done some small building projects, and worked with Andrew on maintenance and repair work, as well as helped to make many loaves of bread, calzones, pot pie, zucchini and banana cakes, veggie and wild meat soups and so much more! Waloo is working on a lovely bedcover made from recycled materials and an old appliqué made by Wolf’s dear mama many years ago. Everyone has helped with cleaning and all the other little tasks that make the days go more smoothly. And Jackie brought a smile and a song to dish washing, gracing all the kitchens with her beautiful, loving spirit!
The hardest part about having helpers for me is trying to manage and direct the projects, I have a hard enough time directing myself! And it takes a few weeks just to learn the very basics of what it takes to live this life, so that folks are usually leaving by that time. To make it easier for me, I have asked Wolf to write up a post calling for long term residents that have the practical skills and temperament to instruct and direct the volunteers who pass through, and to keep some wood chopped and vehicles running in between. Someday we hope to attract one or two people get really inspired and driven by the healing mission of Anima, who could devoted themselves to taking care of this place with us, excited by all the possibility of a possible “lifetime” relationship with the canyon and commit to serve in whatever ways possible, but until then a manager/caretaker could be a huge boost.
In closing, it’s very important to me that all the helpers realize just how much all their efforts here make it possible for Wolf and Kiva to spend the long hours affecting all the thousands of people that they do. For me, it seems kind of ridiculously ideal that I get to spend so much time making delicious food in the kitchen and tending the homestead, and feel like I’m actually affecting the world at the same time! Amazing and true! Even the hours I spend nourishing myself in my “downtime” contribute to making it all possible. The wholeness and healing we’re trying to facilitate in humanity, must start with each person, making time every day to love and honor ourselves, and to stretch and develop like a great old tree!
I really hope that each and every person who has put their heart into their work and learning here to know how hugely valued their time, presence, willingness, openness, songs, and assistance have been. We so appreciate all your heart-full efforts. And I so hope that you feel the pride and satisfaction you deserve! May you carry the torch for all who dare to live their dreams, regardless of the effort needed and the risk of disappointments, and may you find inspiration, adventure, increased self-knowledge and humility in every yet-to-be discovered fork in the road!
Below is the letter that sweet Alissa left for me, describing the simple joys of being a helper here. Thank you Alissa, thank you to all present and future helpers, and thank you to every reader who shares our aims… and who through these blog posts, are a part of our lives.
Blessings and Big Hugs to you all!
“Dear Loba, I have so enjoyed my time here at Anima: the loved, healing, wild canyon. I’m sad to leave, but I know that the wisdom and feelings this place and experience has given me will stay with me and resonate throughout my life elsewhere like memories of an old friend or of other beautiful wise & wild places I’ve come to know.
“It feels as though I have been through some schooling while being here. The school of simply being, existing naturally, as we are, woven in nature. I’ve come to own my wildness in truly being in the present moment & in my body, simply sensing. I’ve also come to own my human-ness by really noticing and savoring moments & sensations- being truly aware- enjoying every pleasurable experience and exploring and learning from unpleasing times. Experiencing exists in the context of being human in nature (there’s no not being in nature in this life). There is no separation between humans & nature & this realization comes periodically throughout life, but here in the canyon I’ve realized it constantly. I’m reminded of my belonging to the world by the javelina startling me on my way to the outhouse, by the coyote howl & fox bark, by the countless tracks of bobcat, elk, bear, heron & raccoon right next to my human tracks on the river bank. I’m reminded by the sound of the rustling of the wind in the few leaves left on the cottonwoods & by the sight of the trees’ trunks reflecting low yellow sunlight against the crisp blue sky. I’ve explored darkness with the new moon & smiled at the sunrise.
“Thank you so much for your inspired nurturing presence and friendship, for opening your home and heart, and for all the delicious food, of course! I have really enjoyed getting to know you, working with you & learning from you. It’s been so much fun cooking, talking & listening to music with you and Rhiannon. (& the campfire feast was a blast!) Your singing to the canyon is like a siren song call to wildness. Also I had no idea what a treat it is to split desert juniper firewood. I can’t list all I’ve learned, enjoyed, & appreciated here, but it is in the simplest tasks that I learn so much of respect, humility, service, understanding, compassion, & love. Thank you for fostering an environment for this learning, and thank you for teaching by example. I feel like I have really practiced being more aware & wild – necessary qualities for being fully human & truly alive. Many Thanks and Much Love, Alissa.”
Those interested in possibly volunteering can click here to download the Anima On-Site Helper Application.
Asperger’s and Autism are much misunderstood conditions, featuring brain and behavioral patterns that are abnormal but in some ways more interesting and advantageous. The problem for anyone dealing with this condition, is finding the healthiest ways of functioning in this society without dissing one’s true nature, gifts and needs. Asperger’s has made things difficult for my partner Kiva Rose when it comes to social interaction, but has also helped to make her the unique and admirable person she is. The following is an eye-opening look at this topic from our friend and ally Katja Swift, excerpted from a longer version found in the Winter issue of Plant Healer Magazine. You can learn about the herbal courses being offered in the Boston area by Katja Swift and Ryn Midura, by going to their CommonWealth School of Herbal Medicine website at: www.commonwealthherbs.com
To purchase the entire back issue or to read more of Katja’s articles, subscribe to Plant Healer Magazine at: www.PlantHealer.org
EXPLORING THE SPECTRUM
Towards A More Holistic View of Asperger’s Syndrome, Autism, & ADHD
by Katja Swift
Forget everything you think you know about Asperger’s and ADHD – let’s look at this another way.
First, let’s agree on some basic foundations:
Your head-brain isn’t your only brain – there is also your heart-brain and your gut-brain. These aren’t figurative analogies, as Joseph Chilton Pearce so nicely explains:
The idea that we can think with our hearts is no longer just a metaphor, but is, in fact, a very real phenomenon. We now know this because the combined research of two or three fields is proving that the heart is the major center of intelligence in human beings.
Molecular biologists have discovered that the heart is the body’s most important endocrine gland. In response to our experience of the world, it produces and releases a major hormone that profoundly effects every operation in the limbic structure, or what we refer to as the “emotional brain.”
Neurocardiologists have found that 60 to 65% of the cells of the heart are actually neural cells, not muscle cells as was previously believed. Quite literally, in other words, there is a “brain” in the heart, whose ganglia are linked to every major organ in the body, to the entire muscle spindle system that uniquely enables humans to express their emotions. About half of the heart’s neural cells are involved in translating information sent to it from all over the body so that it can keep the body working as one harmonious whole. And the other half make up a very large, unmediated neural connection with the emotional brain in our head and carry on a twenty-four-hour-a-day dialogue between the heart and the brain that we are not even aware of.
If you google “gut-brain axis”, you’ll find a very enormous pile of similar statements about the neural plexus in your guts. The digestive system has exponentially more neurotransmitter production and receptors than does the brain, which is part of why St. John’s Wort is so effective, but best when taken as tea: your gut-brain needs to taste it.
All three brains are critical, and in order for us to be healthy, they need to be in some sort of balance, which may not be equal! I would argue that we probably need our gut-brains and our heart-brains to be stronger than our head-brains, but for the moment I’ll just leave it with “some sort of balance”.
While we’re here, let’s also acknowledge that this balance is not one single point, but instead a range: people who are balanced more in favor of the gut will have particular talents in certain areas – perhaps they will be better at making very quick decisions or handling emergency situations. People who are balanced more in favor of the head may be better at writing software or databases. Those balanced in favor of the heart may have stronger powers of empathy. You might initially be thinking about where you think your balance point is, and perhaps you’re wishing it were somewhere else – but it’s just like any other constitutional balance. We need fiery people, we need watery people, we need all of us.
Second, let’s establish that there is no such thing as “neurotypical”. Neurotypical is the word we invented so that we weren’t comparing folks identified as Asperger’s, ADHD, and other things to people who are “normal” – which was an important step. But it turns out that neurotypical is in fact still too constricting: it still carries an implication that there is something more normal, at least by merit of being more common, than something else.
Let’s work instead with the concept of “normative”. Normative is defined as: of, relating to, or prescribing a norm or standard; based on what is considered to be the usual or correct way of doing something; conforming to or based on norms.
For example, “children should eat vegetables”, and “those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither” are normative claims. On the other hand, “vegetables contain a relatively high proportion of vitamins” and “a common consequence of sacrificing liberty for security is a loss of both” are positive claims. Whether or not a statement is normative is logically independent of whether it is verified, verifiable, or popularly held.
Relevant to our discussion, we can consider neuro-normative, or socio-normative, or culturally normative – each of these describes a state that is considered normal or appropriate by society in this moment in this location, but that norm is volatile. It is “trendy”. The norm itself does not imply absolute value, only that in this moment and in this time, a certain this is valued by a certain segment of society.
The word normative is, again, a range. Think about your friends – they come in many flavors. Even the ones who are normative to whatever scale you are using – even they fall into a range. Let’s use, for example, the normative range of people who are herbalists. Within that norm, you might find an RN at a family practice who often suggests herbal supplements to her patients and educates parents that it’s ok for a child to run a fever. You might find a pharmacist who has studied herbalism and stocks cranberry extract tablets for UTIs and turmeric capsules for inflammation, and drinks tea instead of coffee from his travel mug. You might also find people who have no room in their cubbards for plates and bowls because there are too many jars of herbs in them. You might find some people who grow long hair and move out to the country to grow herbs and raise goats and sheep and don’t even have a cell phone. Some will be vegetarian, some will be paleo, some will eat gluten and some will not. All of these people would fall into the spectrum of Herbalists, and could be identified in the broader scale as herbalist-normative. But within herbalist-normative, you see, there’s still quite a broad range.
Why is the shift in language so important? Because with our current standards of “normal” vs. ADD, or even “neurotypical” vs Asperger’s, we are making a statement that something is wrong with one of the people in this equation. But if we establish the idea of three brains (who knows, maybe there are more!), and we look at them the same way we would look at someone’s constitution, we realize that there isn’t anything wrong with someone who is “normal” or not, ADD or not. There is no disease or condition or diagnosis, there is just a person. There is nothing “wrong” with the person; there is simply an imbalance, just like any other imbalance. If you consider your friends, is there anything wrong with the one who has a fiery temper? It might not always be convenient, but there’s nothing wrong. In fact, sometimes it can be quite handy to be fiery. If you consider your friend with the watery emotions, is there anything wrong? Perhaps that person doesn’t like violent movies, but there is nothing wrong. What if we consider someone with dry skin? Here we can still say, there is nothing wrong with the person, they are still a person, just one who has an imbalance in the direction of dryness.
People who can be grouped as “Asperger’s”, which is itself a normative scale, may have very strongly developed head-brains, and may have damaged or compromised gut-brains. We know from observation that people diagnosed as Asperger’s and ADD tend to fall abnormally into the high end of gut dysbiosis, and that they fall into the high end of gluten/casein sensitivity. But is there anything wrong with the person here? I contend that instead what we really have is a person who’s head-brain is full speed ahead but that they don’t have the grounding balance of their gut-brain due to damage and impaired development in the gut. To take that further, this person’s heart-brain might also be suffering, because, due to the permeability in the guts, the heart may be simultaneously too open – because of the heart’s inability to build healthy walls due to underdevelopment tied to the gut issues, or simply because the heart is too busy trying to compensate for the damage in the gut-brain. This may result in either the person feeling emotions too intensely, or, for protection, shutting them down altogether. I suppose we could identify the damage to the gut as something “wrong”, and if we’re looking for something diagnosable, then that would be the thing. We can diagnose a fever, too, but each person will respond to that fever according to their constitution: our firey person will sweat it out fast, one who runs cold may need help to get it hot enough. This isn’t enough to say there’s something wrong with a particular person, it only identifies them constitutionally.
Another factor in this puzzle is zonulin, a hormone that is responsible for tight junctions in the body. These are present in the intestinal lining, but also in the skin and the brain – the blood-brain barrier. An upregulation of the hormone zonulin (caused by the ingestion of milk proteins, gluten, or other factors we haven’t figured out yet) causes the holes in these permeable membranes to become larger. We have identified that folks with Asperger’s and ADD have higher rates of gut permeability than folks not diagnosed, and we can recognize that the permeability of the gut is tied to the permeability of the brain. Which gives us our tie-in: where there is leaky gut syndrome, there is “leaky brain syndrome” – a brain with a filter whose holes are too big. Too much can get in or out, too easily. We acknowledge this even in our speech – “he has no filters” is something we often say about people on this spectrum. But to me, this also looks a lot like anxiety – too much is able to leak into the brain, and a person is unable to hold it out because the filters aren’t working. And so this damage to the gut-brain ends up affecting even the way that our head-brains develop.
Regardless, there is nothing about this person that needs to be cured. There is simply an imbalance that, if restored, can make it more comfortable for this person to get through a day. Much like our person with dry skin – when we restore moisture to the person, they feel less itchy.
It’s also worth noting that Aspies and folks with ADD are not the only ones who have imbalances in this way – it is simply that they have imbalances that follow a reasonably identifiable pattern which has been labeled as outside the current norms. Folks with Asperger’s, for example, typically have their imbalance inclusive of a very strong head-brain development – which means that the imbalance shows up in a certain more obvious way. Someone else might have similar imbalances in their gut-brain and heart-brain but without the over development of the head-brain, and that person is not necessarily going to fit into the norm of Asperger’s or ADD. They might get by as “neuro-normative”, because so much of society today has compromised guts and hearts: this person wouldn’t stand out. It doesn’t mean this person isn’t experiencing discomfort because of their imbalance, but they are not diagnosed with a problem because they fit in with the general trend towards imbalance in our society.
Which is a very important point: this type of imbalance is uncomfortable for everyone! Perhaps, if we were all in perfect balance with our brains, if everything was functioning appropriately, it wouldn’t be the case, but as it is, interpersonal relationships are difficult for everyone! Just look at the whole series of commercials centered around men’s inability to express emotions – “I love you, man!”. That inability is a reflection of this imbalance, and how we got there is of course another whole discussion. But that imbalance is socially acceptable enough that it will sell beer. Just think about the last week in your own life: little misunderstandings, little annoyances, little grudges – getting along with each other is hard for everyone. If we can identify a particular group of people who have this difficulty in a roughly similar way, we can have a few reactions to that. We can label that group as flawed and try to cure them, which is what is currently happening. We could also identify that this group of people is more highly sensitized to a problem endemic in society right now, just like a person who lives in a highly polluted area might have more sensitive skin or more sensitive lungs – we can put them on steroids, or we can change the imbalances that are causing the problem: change their environment, improve their sleep and nutrition, give them supporting herbs to rebuild and strengthen compromised tissues… The latter takes longer, but in exchange, the person doesn’t have to worry about not being able to get their steroids when the zombies come!
Our current cultural obsession with normativity itself is also a problem. Everyone is not actually supposed to be the same. We’re SUPPOSED to have different skills and different talents. A person who can be identified as ADD – maybe that person would feel comfortable and happy as a forest ranger, but because we live in a society where only certain types of jobs are respected, that person is raised to try to fit into a place that is uncomfortable and poorly suited to his nature. We can consider two developments that are socially acceptable: one a NFL football player, one a lawyer. Each of these people, during their maturation and training, will choose parts of their nature to develop, even to over-develop. The result is socially acceptable, and so they are considered “normal”. These imbalances are considered acceptable, those are not – there’s a very arbitrary factor in what is considered “normative”.
Stimming falls into this category as well. The definition of a stim is simply a repetitive habit, often a body movement, for the purpose of self-calming. Socio-normative society says that rocking or flapping the hands isn’t an acceptable method of self-calming – but smoking is. Going to a bar is. Playing Grand Theft Auto is. The reality is, everyone self-calms. Let’s consider rocking chairs – it used to be every house had one! Rocking as a form of relaxing or feeling calm was acceptable for most of American history, but today it’s either a quaint antique or a stigma.
In my case, and for others I know, I like to press my nails into my palms. I’ve done it ever since childhood, but recently a friend who is an acupuncturist noticed. It turns out that the place where your fingernails meet your palm is actually an acupuncture point used in cases of adrenal depletion! All along, my self-calming behavior was actually acupressure. Perhaps instead of telling people their stims are not socially acceptable, we should learn about them – our stims might be telling us something.
By this point, I hope you’re with me on a foundation here: what we currently identify as Asperger’s or as ADD/ADHD are just imbalances, like any other constitutional imbalance, and not a disease that must be cured. Like any other imbalance, this imbalance can have some advantages, but may also cause discomfort.
Lots of times people will call or write asking for my “protocol for Asperger’s” or my “treatment plan for Asperger’s”. I don’t have one! No one who can be grouped in the spectrum of Asperger’s is the same – each is an individual, and each feels the advantages and discomforts of their personal situation differently. This is true for anyone – take two people who were raised poor. One perhaps grew up with a chip on the shoulder, and strove to earn lots of money and buy fancy things. Another maybe didn’t mind much and goes around with the attitude “we make our own fun”. In my family both of these are represented, and the nature of each one is drastically different, despite that the initial situation was the same. In the same way, two people with Asperger’s or two people with ADD will have different priorities. One may feel great discomfort in a situation where another does not, and it is those discomforts that must drive the way I work with each person. It’s not up to me to say, “oh, we better fix this about you, so that everyone will think you’re normal”. Instead, I simply ask about what would make a person feel more comfortable in their world.
I go about this the same way that I would for any other client – we use the same “compass” that we do for any imbalance. What can we do in a person’s diet, sleep habits, and lifestyle to create more comfort, and what herbs can we use to support those changes? And at this point, we’re back to being “boring herbalists”, as Paul Bergner teaches. There’s nothing new here. Once we realize that everything is just a matter of getting closer to constitutional balance, we realize that all the answers are the same – north is still north. How each client gets there will be different, and how we can be creative in our encouragement and motivation of each client will be different, but moving towards balance itself will continue to be the same old “boring” work (yes, please!).
In our practice, we always start with food – there is always some improvement we can make there. Folks with Asperger’s and ADD have been identified as having more gut dysbiosis, higher levels of gluten sensitivity. And we know that we’re looking at imbalances in the three brains, so we’re of course going to try to strengthen the gut-brain. We will almost always suggest going gluten-free and dairy-free very first, along with any other allergens that the individual may have. Also we’re going to suggest removing stimulants – when we know there’s imbalance, we don’t want to be pushing it further along by stimulating one or more parts of the axis. Stimulants aren’t just caffeine – we’d also look at sugar, sodas, additives, other foods with engineered supersaturated flavors…
In each of these cases, there is always a negotiation. The goal here is not to build a new norm to convince this person to adhere to! The goal is to bring a person to their own balance, to bring a person to a place where they can get comfortably through their day. They may occasionally still eat some cheese, and recognize that for a couple days afterward they feel a lot of discomfort – that’s part of the journey. Someday that might convince them it’s worth cutting it out entirely, or maybe they decide that sometimes they can live with the discomfort.
We’re also going to emphasize full-spectrum nutrition (protein, fats, minerals, vitamins) required for all the body’s systems to function optimally, and boosted for the repair of tissues that are damaged. We’ll encourage a person to eat lots of colors, to eat consciously, to focus on as high quality as is attainable. In this case, we’re also going to stress a couple of supplements, most notably D3, which, among many other things, functions as the counterpoint to zonulin: once zonulin has opened the tight junctions in the permeable membranes, D3 closes them back down again. Magnesium is another that we regularly recommend, as even with an organic diet high in green leafies, our soils are so depleted of magnesium that it’s difficult to achieve the levels the body needs with food alone.
Herbs can be food, and we include many in this category! Specifically green ones – nettle, dandelion, red clover, horsetail – all very high in minerals. Horsetail in particular is interesting as I have been studying lately about its ability to impact connective tissue – I have been making it a point to include in all my mineral formulas for folks with impaired gut function.
Burdock root, dandelion root, codonopsis root, and small amounts of solomon’s seal root are another base blend great for building nourishment. We like folks to put these roots in a bone broth soup, preferably with seaweeds added. Solomon’s Seal root in the broth is a new trick I’ve been playing with since hearing Karyn Sanders speak about it: previously I only used Solomon’s Seal as tincture because it is not an abundant plant. However, in some recent workshops she’s given, Karyn has talked about using small amounts in broth, and specifically for people who don’t know how to be true to themselves. To me that phrase really sounds like Asperger’s and ADD – you could be true to yourself, but society says that’s not ok. Even if you can drop into yourself, the brains aren’t in balance, there’s some internal turmoil. What is myself? In my notes from that workshop, I wrote “equalizes the balance of power – even within yourself!” – all of which boils down to lately, I’ve been adding a little Solomon’s to the mix, and both I and my clients really like it.
One other blend that falls into this category is not here for its own nutritive merit, but for its vulnerary merit: that is the standard Gut Heal blend we learned from Paul: Calendula, Plantain, Chamomile, Catnip, and Mint. We change this up quite a bit depending on the situation, and for my folks with Asperger’s and ADD, Self Heal and Violet often make it into the mix – these are two that I feel reach out from the gut-brain up to the heart-brain and start to stitch the whole back together. Sure, both have some vulnerary and lymphatic action as well, so physiologically they’re great, but it’s their sweetness in the delicate repair of the threads between gut and heart that I love most. St. John’s Wort is another we love to add here – such a supreme digestive system healer!
Water: relationship & recovery
Relationships are our deepest sources of psychological nourishment. At this year’s Herbal Resurgence conference, teacher James Snow was talking about studies that have been done recently that show that feeling alone, out of relationship with our pack, causes biologically measurable inflammation and stress. But it’s not just relationships with other humans that affect us. Our relationships, or lack thereof, with our environment – with the plants and animals and rocks and waters around us, with all the non-human intelligences of the world – these relationships make it possible for us to understand who and what we are. Cross-reference ideas like Nature Deficit Disorder and the new phenomenon of Forest Bathing, and the fact that a majority of children today grow up more in the virtual world than they do in the world of nature, and we see a very fundamental causes of the imbalance in our brain axis. Many of us as herbalists see this – in our friends and clients on the spectrum who “self-medicate” by spending time outdoors, with animals, and in nature, and who feel calmer and more comfortable in their lives because of it. (Again and again we see that Asperger’s and ADD are just the very noticeable part of a larger trend in society.)
In general, we want to help folks (not just folks with Asperger’s and ADD!) build relationships that are nurturing and sustaining. Once they meet that criterion, there are no other criteria for “rightness” – the relationships can be with horses or horsemint, adults or children, whatever is comfortable. We can start with relationships that are the most comforting, and slowly work through to relationships that are desirable but difficult. Recognizing that interpersonal relationships are difficult for everyone, we don’t blame this difficulty on the Asperger’s or the ADD. We just acknowledge that they are difficult and find creative ways to cope. Some tricks I have used here are emulating a role model (what would someone I respect do?) and good old fashioned scout work: if you have to go into an uncomfortable situation, learn as much about it ahead of time as possible. Figure out where the bathrooms are from someone who has been there before, or figure out the guest list ahead of time from the host. Plan a place that feels safe to start out in, so that you can get comfortable before you have to be in the middle of things. This works great at a party, for example: I feel comfortable in a kitchen, so I always take guacamole to a party. It has to be made fresh, so I have a “socially acceptable” excuse to spend time in the kitchen with my hands busy, getting comfortable in a new place before I really have to talk to anyone.
There are lots of herbs we can use to help out here – one of my very favorites is Wood Betony (Stachys, though we recently got some Pedicularis for the first time, and that seems to also have beneficial effect, although differently). Wood Betony, more than any other plant, gives me a sense of being in my body – in other words, that my gut-brain and my heart-brain are in control. Some other allies here are Hawthorn, Linden, Violet, Tulsi, and Mondarda, especially when you feel like everything is buzzing like a swarm of bees. Sage can be excellent too for overwhelming situations. Ryn would say I should add Kava to the list, and though I don’t love it most of the time, Kava is tremendously useful for lots of folks.
Flower essences are so useful here, too. There are so many, but one in particular that stands out is Indian Pipe. It’s calming, anchoring, and helps feelings of disconnectedness. Indian Pipe flower essence is also fantastic for anxiety, and feeling overwhelmed.
Sleep falls into this arena as well. I don’t know anyone who handles situations well when they’re tired. It’s just a normal fact of life! If we have a person with a known imbalance that is causing discomfort, and part of the discomfort is coping with interpersonal situations, then it’s only logical that we should make sure this person gets good sleep! Again, this may call for creativity on the part of the herbalist – for some people simply explaining that adults need 9-12 hours of sleep per night (and children even more!) is enough. For others, various sleep hygiene routines will need to be put in place to ensure that sleep comes more easily.
Fire: movement & expression
In our current sedentism-normative, productivity-normative culture, finding time for movement and expression can be difficult even for people who fit in to that culture. For many kids (and adults) diagnosed with ADD, a lifestyle that focuses on movement and eschews the sedentary can be enough to find a balance point. Asperger’s has been linked in some research with Neanderthal DNA – if this is true, then perhaps those of us who fall into that category are simply suffering from the lack of our evolutionary norm of walking 6-9 miles a day. We could in that case consider ADD and Asperger’s not diagnoses, but simply evolutionarily-normative, as opposed to sedentarily-normative!
Not only that, but expression is important! Society accepts expression in an extremely limited form right now, which is a problem not just for folks labeled ADD and Asperger’s – we talk about this problem as it affects men and women individually, as it affects our national levels of education now that arts are more and more widely cut from public education, as it affects anyone with a heart. Art is what it is to be human: there is no group of humans anywhere who did not make art. Music, dance, painting, drawing, ritual and ceremony, weaving, sculpting – even their work was art. This was still true even up until some relatively recent point – just look at the architecture. At some point, buildings stopped being ornamented: that ornamentation was the art of the workers.
In these areas, we can encourage movement according to individual nature: one might prefer walking, another dancing, another climbing trees (or playground equipment, or rock gym walls, if no trees are available). We can encourage expression according to nature too – it doesn’t matter if it’s poetry or pottery, and it doesn’t even matter if it’s “good”, but humans must make art and we must be expressive. As herbalists we can help our clients (Asperger’s, ADD, or otherwise!) to make room in their lives for these things, and sometimes act as an advocate with schools and employers to make appropriate space for these things.
Adaptogens can be very helpful for motivating movement, and when expression is difficult, herbs that protect the heart – expression is a risk! – are so useful. Flower essences are useful here too, one in particular being Fleabane, which is excellent for expressive blocks. Sometimes though, the best support is simply someone who appreciates the expression, and the risk it took.
Air: stress regulation
Writing about stress would be another entire article, but a foundational factor at play here would be the impact of stress on the physiological function of the three brains: stress, and prolonged exposure to cortisol, impairs gut function, constricts heart function, and degrades hippocampus function, among other things. (The hippocampus being particularly important, as this is where we convert short term memories to long term memories – in other words, this is where we “get over it”. Prolonged exposure to cortisol makes that process extremely difficult.)
In the case of folks with ADHD and Asperger’s, where there is already a shift in the balance in favor of the head-brain, often the response to stress is going to be falling further into the direction of “airiness”. Some may meet stress by pushing harder with cerebral productivity, for example, or by engaging in cerebral stimulation as a self-calming exercise – using television or a movie, for example, to tune out the other noises. Neither one of these things is inherently bad, but they can be done to discomfort, and that can cause trouble.
Also, it turns out that humans respond better to stress with their gut-brain and their heart-brains. Head-brains are useful for some types of work, but they’re not ideal for dealing with stress. So in stressful situations, a person who is out of balance in favor of their head-brain is likely to experience more than average discomfort.
In many ways, the work done in the first three elements will help here drastically: getting better sleep helps us deal with stress better. Having relationships we can lean on in times of stress help us cope. Eating nourishing foods and working to heal gut permeability help us to restore our gut-brains and also the heart-brains. Most any nervine will help here too, used appropriately for the person in question. However, there are also some habits that, if we develop them, will help us bring our head-brain back into its rightful place, as well.
Change how you think: meditation, affirmation, forgiveness, compassion practices – these practices start in the head-brain, but their purpose is to weave our head-brains back into balance with our heart-brains and gut-brains. Healing the gut will allow the gut-brain to pull our head-brains back towards balance, but exercises like compassion meditations turn our head-brains into willing participants in the journey towards balance.
Similarly, think less and live more – attain presence; practice intuitive living skills. Oh, dear, even if you’re not entirely sure what that means, to anyone who is head-brain centric, those words are can initially be quite uncomfortable. How on earth is it even possible, in our current culture, to think less and live more? We’re all tied to computing devices most of the day! That’s a good place to start – reign in your computer and let your body run free a little more often. Going outside more will help – and if that’s difficult, adopting a dog will help! Lots of dogs need loving homes, and a dog provides a relationship with a non-human intelligence that will help you get outside and moving more often!
As practitioners, we must recognize that people can’t do this by fiat: making these choices starts not with self-control, but with self-care. As we learn to care for the self, we are building relationship with our bodies – something many folks with ADD and Asperger’s have never done before. Draw on the other elements to help this: nourishing, flavorful food engages our attention; fulfilling emotional entwinings hold us in the now; artful movement practices teach us to fully inhabit our bodies.
All of the grounding herbs will help here – pulling us down from the air and into the body. But this is a place where some of the more decadent preparations are quite useful! I find that when I encourage people to take time to drink tea as self-care, compliance is spotty. But when I teach people how to put herbs in wine and enjoy an appropriate glass of herbed wine as self-care, suddenly this is an easy task! Elixirs are another lovely way, as well as mixing herbs with chocolate. These are ways that we can feel pleasure in our bodies, which makes them more inviting to the mind who is only lightly tethered.
And that’s it. That’s all there is. The secret is, that’s all there is for anyone. Recently I learned that Asperger’s is being taken out of the DSM, in favor of a return to “high functioning autism” – proof of how arbitrary all this stuff really is. Getting through a day in our current society is difficult for everyone. If it’s hard for you in a particular way that you have in common with others, that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. It just means you have friends on the journey.
(Please share this important topic, on this important topic… thank you)
Creating Our New Book “The Enchanted Healer”
Every moment that I wasn’t working on Plant Healer Magazine projects or the HerbFolk Gathering in the last two years, I have been giving to the creation of our next book, “The Enchanted Healer.” The second in what will be our trilogy for Healers of very kind, this will be our first full color book, and the first to bring light to subjects of plant spirit, shamanism, awareness, the senses, and awakeness and enchantment in our work and lives. For those of you who enjoy feeling like a part of our efforts, here below are some journal entries about the production process. They are numbered rather than dated, but roughly appear in chronological order.
Entry #1: Inspiration For A New Book
As important as clinical research is to a healing practice, just as important is the child-like curiosity, entrancement and obsession that leads to fruitful investigation and new ways of perceiving and practicing. The faculties that can make us better Healers are the same senses and sensibilities that make it possible for us to truly, deeply enjoy our studies and work. Reason and emotional, spiritual and “magical” ways of perceiving are not mutually exclusive, and in fact, ultrasensory engagement, heightened awareness, shamanic therapies, and an open mind are all crucial to a powerful practice… and enchantment is often a necessary ingredient to remaining in love with and satisfied by our work and missions. Hence what will be our next book, “The Enchanted Healer.” Much to do, to pass on the necessary information and tools, and to cast the equally necessary spell of awakeness and delight.
Entry #2: Who This Book is For
“The Enchanted Healer” is written with our core audience in mind, our community of wild-hearted folk herbalists, wildcrafters, alternative therapists and natural Healers… but also many other kinds of Healers doing their best to contribute to the wholeness of our bodies, families, neighborhoods, societies, and ecosystems. This includes people giving helpful holistic counsel, doing body work, making natural medicines and body care products, cultivating endangered medicinal herbs and other species, creating visionary paintings and films, teaching healthful values and tools to either children or adults, opposing environmental destruction or injurious s, practitioners of with the aim of increasing not only a healer’s effectiveness but also their enjoyment of every aspect of a life of ultra-awareness, deep connection, inspirited and heartful service.
Entry #3: New Book Chapters Selected!
The final choice of chapters for our new book “The Enchanted Healer” have been selected! There will be 25 chapter topics and a bunch of sidebars and Kiva essays, that I am anxious for a chance to announce. Included will be the following, and more:
• The Portal: Opening To The Magic & Wonder
• The Healer: Seeker, Seer, Shaman, Nurturer & Culture-Shifter
• Seekers & Teachers
• Deepening Awakeness
• Lessons of The Hummingbird: Agent of Awakeness, Bringer of Life
• Practicing UltraPresence
• The Work & The Reward: Self Exploration & Self Worth
• The Feeler: Healing, Emotion & The Senses
• Planet Eros: Connection, Wholeness & Bliss Through Enlivened Sexuality
• Body Mind Balance
• Growing & Exercising All Levels of Awareness
• Prophecy & Destiny
• The Healing Arts & The Aesthetic of Healing
• Sacred Indulgence: Nurturing & Tending Ourselves
• The Enchantment of Cooking
• Satisfaction & Hungering
• Inner Sanctums: Creating a Sanctuary Conducive To Our Enchantment
• Imaginariums & Cabinets of Wonder
• The Enchanted Drum: Healing Reconnection Through Rhythm
• Walking The Edge: High Water & Ecstatic Living
• The Totemic Journey: Finding & Learning From Our Plant & Animal Guides
• Places of Power
• The Healing Quest
• The Song of Gaia: Epiphany of a Living Earth
• The Enchantment
Entry #4: Kiva Rose Contributions
Hardly a week goes by that we don’t get emails asking when my partner Kiva Rose is going to bring out a book of her works. She still plans on an exhaustive collection of her personable herb profiles, though delayed because of her having so many “irons in the fire.” I was, however, able to encourage her writing 10 amazing pieces that reflect her spirit, interests and passions more than any before – strongly and sensually evocative, folkloric with mythic sensibilities and intent, celebrating what is most enthralling about the healing arts and being an herbalist. As fascinating as her personal story and style, their most powerful contribution to “The Enchanted Healer” is the way they provoke the reader’s own exploration and embrace of their true selves, of the mysterium, and of contemporary Healer roles. So far we’re sure this book will include these Kiva’s pieces:
• Creating New Healing Traditions
• Reinhabiting – 3 Steps To Here
• The World In a Flower
• A Ballad of Brambles (Plant Folklore)
• Enchanted Medicine Making
• Flowers From Stones
• My Spiraling Return
• Talking With Plants
• Enchanted Medicine Making
• Where My Skin Ends & Flowers Begin
Entry #5: Involving Other Writers
My original idea was to include sections from other writers in “The Enchanted Healer,” much as I did with the previous release, “The Plant Healer’s Path.” But several of the people whose wisdom I especially value turned out to be predisposed. We were sad that Paul Bergner and David Hoffman, due to family and professional responsibilities, did not have the time to provide contributions like they did for the last book, and Phyllis Light needed to turn attention to nurturing and healing herself after an accident that blessedly slowed her down are helped refocus her priorities. It is just as well we didn’t have more pieces to try to include, however, since the illustrations are taking up so much space. And there are still substantial wise quotes by Paul, amongst the hundred or so other author/teachers whose remarks I’ve managed to include among the chapters.
Entry #6: Design & Color
With the order of the chapters for “The Enchanted Healer” decided on, and with nearly all the chapters written, I need to think about illustrations. A big factor is whether to go with color or black and white interior, since picture selection hinges on it. Many extraordinary photos require color for contrast as the tones are near the same, and if it is to be B&W like “The Plant Healer’s Path”, then I need to select for contrast ahead of time. I’m getting more and more attached to the idea of color content, I confess, though we can expect it to cost a lot more. Why? Because this book is meant to literally enchant and not only inform but enchant, visuals are at least as important as words for that purpose, and there is nothing as effective in that regard as incredible, lush, vibrant hues. The many fairytale-like images are evocative and transportive when dressed up in color, supporting the book’s central theme of revealing the enchantments of the healing arts, the magical in nature, and the wondrous in the everyday.
Entry #7: Course Materials Included
We’ve decided to add about 15 pages of helpful self-exploration questions and practices/exercises, mostly taken from the “Senses” and “Awareness” sections of the Anima online courses. With the courses temporarily suspended and available to only a few exceptions, here is my chance to share some of the core material that we’ve seen help our students so very much.
Entry #8: Book Appearance & Flavor
This book just keeps getting bigger, and it is now going to be impossible to keep much below 300 pages in length! To take maximum advantage of the big 8.5×11” color format, I built full page color images in Photoshop that fill all the way to the edges of the paper, with special framing, the text often appearing atop beautiful botanical image “bleeds”, contrasting color fonts, collages and design elements. Kiva and I spend hours picking out what we consider to be the most perfect possible illustrations for each chapter section or page, selected from among tens of thousands of images. Every photo and painting then requires editing and sizing, before being inserted into the design. Making these full page composites is taking many, many times longer to arrange and lay out than the quarterly Plant Healer Magazine issues, even though roughly the same length. Even though it is my own hands manipulating the trackpad, I fees as surprised and excited as any child to see each page take shape out of the mist – on this MacBook “screen of infinite possibilities.” I can only hope that our readers will find it as exciting to turn to each page, and as hard to leave each page behind… that it they will come away not only thinking new thoughts but with a feeling. Elation. Inspiration. Exhilaration. I started to write “I can only hope,” but I can do so much for than that. I can give this book my very best.
Entry #9: Book Design
I chose Times New Roman font as the most legible for the main text, and Cretino for the main titles. The complex Cretino family has the feel of old folkloric letter styles while evoking an edgy contemporary feel, hopefully conveying that folk healing and enchantment are as vital today as they ever were in our historic past. Illustrations include classic paintings, amazing plant portraits, Left out of “The Enchanted Healer” are the sometimes campy or tongue-in-cheek images that I enjoy having in the magazine, and I’ve instead gone only for the art and photos that may contribute to the enrapturing of its readers.
Entry #10: The Decision To Print in Color
Today Kiva researched the cost of printing an initial run of a few hundred copies of “The Enchanted Healer” books, for nearly 300 pages of color, on high grade coated paper with a soft cover… turns out it requires as much money as a new luxury car, and more than I spent on materials to build the cabin that we wrote it in! Scariest, of course, is that we have to pay it all up front, emptying our business account with no certainty of how many copies will sell or how quickly the investment will be recouped. Recouping the expense will be slower regardless, since printing costs are so high we feel we can’t mark the price up very much above what we pay for them. As crucial as is is that we meet our expenses, making an income has never been as important to us as affecting, affirming, inspiring, and stirring as many good people as we possibly can… and an all-color, highly visual book just might help with that!
Entry #11: The Book is Done!
Okay, wow, it is finally finished! “The Enchanted Healer” is now completely illustrated and laid out, after many 16 hour days of hard work on it…. all except for the Introduction which I still need to write, a Foreword (possibly by our esteemed friend Matthew Wood), the finalized table of contents with page numbers, and the graphic covers of course. I can’t seem to stop myself from repeatedly scrolling through the thumbnails of the finished pages, first looking for any little glitches in need of fixing, then just enjoying the way the color themes and striking forms transition from one chapter to the next. I so hope it helps to bring increased delight, wonderment, and indeed enchantment… to our loving Healer readers.
Entry #12: April Book Release
With another issue of Plant Healer Magazine to put together soon, I am pressing hard to first get “The Enchanted Healer” completely ready for the printers, probably in the next few weeks. The plan is to begin accepting pre-orders sometime between now and March, with the first copies being shipped out in March or April (yes, 2014). We’re so very excited!
Entry #13: Help Reaching Beyond The Choir
This is the first book I’ve written in awhile that has the potential to be appreciated and utilized by folks outside of the herbalism and natural healing fields. With “Healer” defined more broadly, there are many people involved in self exploration, the heightening of awareness, spiritual seeking of any kind, ceremony and ritual, teaching and counseling, shamanic studies and cultural -co-creation who would surely benefit from the information and inspiration that we intend “The Enchanted Healer” to provide. Kiva and I will be depending on our devoted core community to help announce and network this book to other audiences, online and otherwise. We will likely ask folks soon for suggestions in this regard, as well as requesting assistance in getting this message of empowerment and enchantment out “beyond the choir.”
Entry #14: Feedback
Before printing a book, I always send my manuscripts out to a few folks whose feedback helps improve the end product. I value the response whether positive or not, I often put to use any suggestions, and I especially need to know when and how I might ever offend some group. My aim is to stretch readers to seeing things beyond and outside of their assumptions, but I need folks to hear me and consider what is said and I can’t have them closing their ears to what might help them the most. The first feedback to come in is from the herbalist, Plant Healer writer, and care-giver Virginia Adi. Besides her other helpful observations she wrote that: “I actually feel as though it was written just for me and I am pretty sure most of your other readers will have the same reaction, feeling ourselves indeed to be seers, nurturers, artists and visionaries….Wonderfully readable. There are some excellent observations and quotable remarks that I have read so far and I will give you more feedback when I finish it – I do not want to forget to remark on the little stuff as I go too. Some favorite lines from “The Enchanted Healer” include:
• ‘Healing who and what needs healing-not just bodies and not just people’
• ‘We can be neither right nor particularly effective if our powers of seeing are limited by the fears of what we might find, or if the truth of something is distorted or obscured by our assumptions, our expectations, or our projecting onto something what we want to see.’
• ‘We need to feel enchanted again…’
Entry #15: Enchantment Book Cover
Alright, the front cover for “The Enchanted Healer” is done. I had so many ideas for what to put on the cover that is was difficult narrowing it down to a single image. My first temptation was to draw something for it, but for this book trilogy I’ve opted to work with photographs and photoshop instead. Since this book begins and ends with allusions to portals – openings to enrapturement and wonder in the everyday world – I felt strongly that their needed to be a picture of a natural opening in a forest or in the cliffs. Perfect for this purpose seemed to be a view looking out to the light from inside a special, magical feeling cave. Given the title, Kiva agreed it also needed a human figure worked into it, and it needed to be a figure that is clearly turning to face the opening before stepping out into an amazing world of limitless possibility. Now that the cover is ready for people to see, I can post some of these entries about the book creation process, and share with us our growing excitement.
I hope this handful of entries give some insight into the creative process here at Plant Healer, and afford a sense of the love and devotion that goes into each publication. We pour into them not only our hearts and knowledge but also the hours of our finite existence, making “The Enchanted Healer” not just a gift of enchantment but a gift of our very lives.
If you have a well read blog or newsletter, or are able to post on a popular online group or site, you may be interested in writing an advance book review. If so, send us details along with your request at: PlantHealer(at)PlantHealer(dot)org
–Jesse Wolf Hardin
(Thank you for re-posting and sharing)
THE TRAVELING MEDICINE SHOW
Herbs, Empowerment & Entertainment for The Common Folk
by Jesse Wolf Hardin
An Advance Excerpt From The Upcoming Winter Issue of Plant Healer Magazine
To read the entire 5,000 word article, subscribe at: www.PlantHealer.org
“I was born in the wagon of a travelin’ show, mother used to dance for the money they’d throw. Father would do whatever he could, preach a little gospel, sell a couple bottles of Doctor Goode’s.”
–Cher (Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves)
Imagine if you will, an incidence of herbal edification and hungered-for entertainment that would repeat itself again and again all across rural America. The site might be a town square, a popular dusty crossroads, the speaker’s platform at a “newfangled” air show park or simply a local farmer’s unplowed field. Except for any differences in vegetation and topography, it could just as well be located anywhere from northern Georgia to western Pennsylvania, the gold fields of California or the farmlands of the Great Plains, always far from the big cities and in places where people lived close to the land. Corn shuckers and melon growers, home-canners and cowboys. It has a timeless feel, and could be anytime from the end of the Civil War until the 1930s. While cities swelled and were electrified, popular fashions evolved and government centralized, the site we picture will have changed relatively little in 50 years, with seed company advertisements fading from the sides of barns, barefoot boys chewing on long grass stems while kicking cans down the railroad tracks stretching beyond our sight. Livestock mill about close by, as stacks of hay summon generations of young lovers to spoon and play. The people you see are a hardy breed quick to speak up about the importance of self reliance and self sufficiency, whether they speak with mountainous Colorado inflections or a feet-on-the-table Alabama drawl. Most of them repair their own clothes until they’ll no longer hold together, and their labors often produce enough food for their entire families to eat. Many of them know about the medicinal plants that grow wildly in the area, and all tend to see self-healthcare as not just a necessity but as an individual responsibility and a natural-given right.
While posters, handbills and word-of-mouth announcements would sometimes precede a traveling show, it was not always so. Many times there would be no indication of anything out of the ordinary until the clop-clop-clopping of horses pulling an unfamiliar wagon, rolling leisurely in their direction with a growing cloud of skipping children and curious adults billowing behind. Whether because of the lettering on its sides, its brightly painted colors or the colorful characters having ahold of the reins, it would be clear to all that there was something unusual about the wagon and something special about to transpire. All things strange promise wonder and surprise to their beholders, but depending on its size and compliment this oddity on wheels promised more: Live music, for anxious ears! Live Indians fresh off their trail of tears! A magic show, perhaps, or gypsy-dressed tarot reader set to reveal which crops will fail and which romances last. Even a long winded preacher of hell and damnation inside along with displays of medical charts if there be room, a revealing skeleton for anatomical instruction, and racks of full bottles to be shown to them soon.
The horses are pulled to a stop at a prearranged spot or anywhere that looks likely to get a good draw, released from their harnesses and tied by ropes and halters to a nearby tree. Stepping smartly down from the driver’s seat – or rising with a flourish from within the oakwood coach –will be a man dressed at least a tad more flamboyantly than the overalls-clad fellows lined up to meet him with their mouths open and their hands in their pants. Doffing a snappy Stetson or silken top hat, he clears the road grunge from his throat, then loudly introduces himself and his mission to what quickly grows to be a small throng.
“Well,” he might begin, “a fine afternoon to all you gentleman of good will and ladies of fine tastes! It is I, the man known as the people’s physician, maestro of popular music and entertainment, your alchemist of well being and conveyor of necessary remedies for a well balanced and fruitful life… asking you each but a single question: What, dear friends, is the price of health? For a mere fifty pennies gathering dust in your bureau drawer, two measly quarters or five thin dimes, you too can avail yourselves of nature’s own medicines, for what overpriced doctor could ever know more or do more for us than Mother Nature herself? As God has given to us all manner of plants to feed our bellies and heal our wounds and infirmities, I have been given the secrets of their use by his agents living closest to his creation. But wait! I am not here simply to treat your maladies but to ease your burdens and help raise your spirits. Before I have dispensed a single bottle of my herbal preparations, I shall have first dispensed a humble display of well practiced magic and the pleasures of song.”
If he has assistants or performers to help, they will have soon set up the visual attractions – from anatomy charts and pressed plants to human skulls and exotic butterfly collections, shrunken heads purportedly from New Guinea and even floral mosaics made up of the teeth extracted from a succession of willing audiences. Sometimes called “the museum,” these exhibitions did indeed constitute traveling museums for the rural working class and the poor in an age when visitors to most urban collections were largely limited to the rich and privileged. Such displays were sources of education and delight, as much as magnets attracting people to the products and shows.
“You,” says the Medicine Man, “can purchase a bottle for what ails ya later, I really hope you can see… but the pleasures of the night, my friends, are free!”
The success of the Medicine Show “pitchman” hinged in part on the quality of his spiel, known as “the pitch” or “the give.” As the “grinder” Fred “Doc” Bloodgood put it, “I have always made it my practice never to use one word where four will do.” Then again, not all were said to have a way with words. Some were “boozer” doctors who muddled their sentences whenever “in the cups,” a few like Indian John muttered rapid biblical verse scarcely intelligible yet somehow sufficiently impressive, while others chose to let their medicines or their banjos do the talking. The message in every case was a very Jacksonian one: doctors could barely be afforded and seldom trusted; the most natural medicines are the best; the means to ease suffering and illness should be equally available to all; and we need to empower ourselves to make our own medical choices, to take responsibility for ours and our family’s health needs, and to resist the dictates of both big business and big government. No wonder they were so publicly vilified in magazines and newspapers, and the powers-that-be launched such a forceful and lengthy campaign to destroy them.
There have been many books published over the years purporting to tell the story of early folk medicine and the traveling Medicine Shows, but with very few exceptions their approach is to either demonize them as dangerous money-grubbing scams, or to make fun of them as quaint elements of historic Americana. In the former case, there are those who consider all folk medicine not only inferior but treacherous, sounding as if anyone would have to be crazy to consider self medicating with plants, and as if licensed doctors and official experts were the infallible arbiters of what’s good for us. In the latter, snide commentators herald the sensible benefits of modern medicine while showcasing herbalists and other natural healers as curious throwbacks, foolish children, superstitious primitives, naive practitioners of thankfully extincted healing arts.
Even many otherwise savvy herbalists today fall into the trap of accepting the propaganda that our government was interested only in the health and protection of the paying public when they went after the Medicine Men, when in reality it marked only the first of a long succession of legislative attacks against home remedies of all kinds and herbalism in particular. These attacks were generated as a result of an organized campaign by the fast growing pharmaceutical industry and medical licensing agencies to ensure their monopolies on medicines and services, and thereby their ever more enormous profit margins. It was they who purchased the many thousands of dollars worth of ads branding all herbal concoctions as fraudulent and harmful “patent medicines,” painting small manufacturers as the “grim reaper” in posters meant to scare housewives away from their neighborhood apothecaries, familiar poultices and teas and into pharmacies where they can purchase supposedly safe and miraculous drugs.
Let us look for moment at the reality and substance of their claims. It was and still is said that the main ingredient of herbal and vegetable nostrums was alcohol, and that their popularity depended on the drunken effects and the quantity of sales to drinkers in legally “dry” counties of the United States. In truth, these nostrums averaged only from 5 to 15 percent alcohol, only in a few cases more than was needed to extract and preserve a medicinal tincture. Someone would have to be very thirsty for a buzz to drink the up to 10 bottles that would be required to experience a high, and the cost would be considerably more than simply buying a flask of bootlegged moonshine. Both opium and cocaine could be found in potions meant for pain, or scarily in recipes sold to “quiet the crying of babies, make them immune to the symptoms of colic, and guarantee a full nights sleep,” but heroin was also the primary active agent in the original Bayer pain pills and cocaine the source of the “added energy” promised in Coca-Cola soda drink ads from the time of its inception.
So-called “authorities” pointed out that some nostrums contained “mostly water, with few identifiable ingredients of any known medical value,” while others insisted these botanical “receipts” contained chemicals injurious to health or a threat to life. This would indeed have been true in some percentage of bottled nostrums, but none were more useless or dangerous than some of the modern drugs now being forced down the throats of the average patient. Few natural plant materials, in any quantity, have the reputation for causing death of debility to the degree that a vast number of modern drugs now do, and yet the average citizen continues to slander both Medicine Shows and herbalism in all its forms, at the same time as holding up institutional doctoring as the only reasonable model for health care. There is good reason for criticisms of the exaggerated or baseless claims of many homemade preparations, most notably when it’s advertised that a single concoction could cure everything from hot flashes to impotency and “curvature of the spine”… but is this any more misleading than a modern drug company promising a chemical that can (and I quote) “rid you of unsightly pimples, putting an end to the shame and isolation, improving the chances of success in love and employment.”
Some pitchmen sold watered down products, used “shills” in the audience to give false testimonials and encourage sales, or even ducked out of the area in the middle of the night in order to avoid complaints, refunds, or the strong arm of local law enforcement that could follow an exposition. Their aim may have sometimes been no more than the income – the “velvet” that the shows produced – but far more often the mission and goals of the traveling medicine man was as much to make people feel better as it was to make money. Sellers often manufactured their own medicines, using folk recipes they researched on their own, or recipes commonly found in the popular manuals of their time such as 1882’s The Complete Herbalist, and the King’s American Dispensatory published in 1898. The traveling show was often the only medical education or assistance that a community’s residents ever received, and mobile doctors and “circuit dentists” could not only a source of relief but a veritable lifesaver.
The English settlers brought to the world a long and respected tradition of medical herbalism, as well as bringing with them seeds for growing many of their favorite plant species from the “old world” to the new. That tradition was bolstered and amended by an infusion of herbal wisdom by the indigenous peoples of the Americas, with “Indian potions” proving far more helpful and far less destructive than the more “civilized” medical practices of the 18th Century. Those colonists who were financially well off could (unfortunately, as it were) afford the most “scientific” of treatments such as purging and blistering, first U.S. President George Washington might have survived to old age if not killed by the professional doctors who insisted on treating his condition by bleeding him, and the must esteemed modernist Dr. Benjamin Rush promoted dreadful doses of poisonous Calomel in most all of the “improved” medicinal preparations well-to-do folks paid so much silver for. Fortunately for the “common man” – the average working couple – they were mostly impoverished enough to still look to the fields, mountains and gardens for botanical relief for what ails them, and otherwise to barter for the help of local herb-wise midwives. Out in “the country,” when on occasions a local sheriff arrested the members of a traveling Medicine Show or forced them to move on, it seldom had anything to do with the quality or contents of the medicine being sold, but far more often was a response to what they considered to be the “lewd and immoral” nature of the show’s dance routines!
Homemade herbal preparations sometimes became known as “recipes” or “receipts” to those who used them, but were lambasted as “patent medicines” by the professionals and competing manufacturers who sought their restriction. In actuality, there were no patent medicines in the new country. Patent medicines were the patented and licensed products of Great Britain, resented by Americans for their high cost and debatable qualities, but what would become a campaign against herbalism would be characterized as a defense of the people against “the patent medicine threat.”
By the time of the first World War, all but a few of the traveling Medicine Shows had ceased traveling the circuits. A few continued for another decade, substituting automobiles and trailers for the iconic horses and medicine wagons. Their end came not through legislation and abolition so much as from being co-opted, subsumed and replaced by other mediums for sales and entertainment. The sales component was undermined not just by a shift in the public’s opinion of “primitive herbs” versus “modern cures,” but also by the rise of giant corporate producers and an increase in the prevalence of mail-order businesses. The very valuable role that Medicine Shows played in bringing entertainment, education and culture to the people of rural American was assumed first by the new medium of radio being fast adopted even in the most out of the way settlements, and then in the late 1940s by the introduction of television. One no longer had to walk any further than into their own living rooms to hear and eventually see musicians playing their favorite songs, Native Americans dressed up in tribal costume, lectures of interest, comedians and magicians peddling their jokes and tricks.
There are a huge amount of websites, journals and other publications by catty licensed physicians still dedicated to “exposing quacks.” Under their definitions of quackery, we find a list of “errant and misleading” practices that includes not just remarkable treatments like ionic cleansing, colloidal silver and glucosomine supplements – but also such tried and respected fields as herbalism, acupuncture, aromatherapy, holistic dentistry, osteopathy, chiropractic and complimentary medicine.
“Why use chemical drugs when nature in her wisdom and beneficence has provided in her great vegetable laboratories, relief for most of the more common and simple ills of mankind?”
–Joseph Meyer (1930s)
In most cases Medicine Men were working to earn a living, yet their primary wish and purpose was to contribute to the quality of people’s lives, ease the burdens of their ills and restore them to function and fitness. Few traveling marketers can be dismissed as profiteers, and many were first and foremost devoted to their role as genuine and caring healers.
Throughout its century of optimal prominence, the traveling Medicine Show was the number one threat to the monopoly of licensed health care and pharmaceutical drugs, with the Medicine Man the main counterirritant to the institutionalized prestige and superior status and position of the medical doctor. In the same way, herbs and herbalism today comprise an essential counterbalance to the corporate whitewashing of their often dangerous products, and are attacked precisely because of the challenge them might post to drug sales and profits. The corporate strategy at the time of this writing is to defame or belittle the efficacy of whole plant medicines while marketing products made from isolated or synthesized chemicals and chemical recombinations employing herbal and nature-associated marketing language. Recent legislation such as the GMP (the Orwellian coined “Good Manufacturing Practices”) continues the attack on herbal preparations made by the owners of small herbal businesses while favoring national and multinational corporate interests.
The traveling Medicine Show, like the practice of herbalism itself and other forms of natural healing, have served as positive and creative forms of resistance against a life-crushing, de-naturing paradigm. They are, by any definition, truly “alternative.” The struggles to keep Medicine Shows and herbalism itself alive have fundamentally been contests over control of our own existence and health, impacting the most intimate relationship of all: that crucial relationship between ourselves and our bodies.
These days, if we do a search for contemporary “Medicine Shows” on the internet we will turn up several pitchmen marketing historic Medicine Show acts as entertainment for conferences, festivals and schools. In most cases these showmen’s approach is to reinforce the unfortunate and inaccurate stereotype of the medicine seller as a charming but dishonest bunko artist, fleecing audiences of country rubes with his clever tricks and lies. More accurately, it is the corporations and their dutiful elected officials who are doing the worst fleecing of the public, while the icon of the Medicine Show represents democratic resistance to dominant cultural dictates, to deleterious synthetic drugs and an institutionalized health care system. It stands in truth as a herald of options and call to choice.
The worst of the Medicine Show products were generally less dangerous than the well accepted drugs being massively prescribed to people in these times. These events for the common folk empowered them to take control of their own health and well being, the opposite of what current advertising seeks to do. We were told by the Medicine Show pitchmen that we had a choice as to how we live our lives, and that we could have an effect on how long and well we survive.
“No man lives forever,” the Medicine Man might say, “and in due time age shall have its mortal say. But until that moment it is up to us to make the choices that can extend our stay on this bountiful earth and increase our healthy enjoyment of it.” We may or or may not purchase the proffered bottles of “Dr. Goode’s,” but we take home a feeling of individual empowerment, a bit of curious information and heart-lightening song – a tonic for the spirit that sinks in deep, and lasts long.
The above article is excerpted from a much longer article appearing in Plant Healer Magazine, Winter 2013… and in 2015 it will serve as the first chapter in Hardin’s book “The Traveling Medicine Show”. For updates and more articles by Wolf and Kiva, subscribe to the free Plant Healer Newsletter at: www.PlantHealer.org
To subscribe to Plant Healer Magazine, go to www.PlantHealerMagazine.com
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2014 HerbFolk Gathering Teachers Confirmed!
Plant Healer’s 2014 event for herbalists will be again held at gorgeous Mormon Lake, in the forests south of Flagstaff and the incomparable Grand Canyon – Sept 18th-21st
LONGER CLASSES: You asked for longer, more in-depth classes, and we’ve done as asked: no classes will be shorter than 2 full hours, with many 3 hrs. and 5 hrs. long.
In keeping with our Enchanted Forest theme, our awesome teachers will be be presenting classes with a folkloric/mythic component as well as clinical and hands-on audience participation. Make plans now to attend next Sept. 18-21st. Keep abreast of the latest updates as well as read a trove of articles and interviews for herbalists by subscribing to the FREE Plant Healer Newsletter. Subscribe by filling in your name and email in the box at: www.PlantHealer.org
It was painful selecting proposals from the many intriguing applications we received this year, but we made our final choices based on how closely the classes fit the theme and what balance of topics were needed. Many who didn’t get a slot for ’14, will be hosted in ’15 and beyond as we continually evolve new themes.
Our 2014 HerbFolk presenters are not only esteemed herbal elders but also the important up-and-coming voices of our times – including a curandero, a novelist & storyteller, a perfumer, an ethnobotanist, an herbal beer maker, an intuitive in traditional Chinese Medicine!
We are happy to announce our 2014 Teachers:
David Hoffman • Matthew Wood • Guido Masé • Sean Donahue • Chuck Garcia • Phyllis Hogan • Kiva Rose • Jim McDonald • Kiki Geary • Merihelen Nuñez • Ben Zappin • Kristi Shapla • Asia Suler • Irina Adam • Rebecca Altman • • Robert Rogers (maybe), Shana Lipner Grover • Elaine Shiff • Stephany Hoffelt • Denise Tracy Cowan • Jesse Wolf Hardin and more to follow
“What an exciting conference! Plant Healer events are the new wave of herbalism, featuring speakers and a community rich with a combination of long hands-on experience and fresh creativity.”
”This is a must not-miss event for those who love herbs, great herb teachers, great music (Wow!), cutting edge presentations, herbal friends and fun; in a beautiful setting.” –Matthew Wood
Reviews & Pics From the 2013 Herbal Resurgence Finale
The concluding Herbal Resurgence was nothing short of incredible. Kiva and I were deeply touched by the incredible sweetness of everyone who came, a particularly wonderful gathering of this most unusual, sensitive, caring, loving, creative and motivated tribe. Things went amazingly smooth, the weather was perfect, and the memories we’ve gathered are a bouquet we can expect to last a lifetime. Next year’s HerbFolk Gathering is going to be like nothing before… but first we join you in commemorating this year’s
Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous…. fostering the birth of new conferences across the country,
fueling a movement.
Lena Carol was the first herbalist attendee to write us this year:
“I’m still on the road back home, but truly feel like it is home I am leaving behind. I have been to all kinds of events from regional ones to women’s conferences and I have truly never felt so welcomed, so empowered, and so wild as I do at Plant Healer gatherings. I would like to attend lots of different conferences every year if I was able, but if I could only go to one it would have to be the Resurgence, Medicine of The People, Herbfolk or whatever else you ever decide to call it. There is nothing like it for sure! It feels like my tribe, and in so many ways it has give me back my life! Thank, you, thank you!”
Asia Suler – an inspired young herbalist and upcoming 2014 teacher – wrote the following lovely review:
The Herbal Resurgence: Finding “Self, Earth, Plant and Purpose”
”By mid-morning on Thursday the healers market was filled with conference attendees. Children and elders with long hair, donning talismans and roots, sneakers, shawls, baseball caps and button downs. On one table slow burned moxa, on another, delicate rolls of herbal manna wafting the faint scent of cinnamon and maca. From the beginning, I had heard wonderful and diverse things about the Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous. It was a gathering of disparate teachers and skills, an invocation of ancient and resurfacing traditions— a wild, wide and expansive invitation to re-imagine the worlds in which we all live. In short, it was a celebration. Not only of the groundwork, the bedrock, the wellspring of herbal and earth-based wisdom— but the sheer diversity and individual nature of its resurgence.
”Over the course of the next several days, time seemed to stretch, grow simultaneously tumultuous and still. In between the life-expanding classes, the sheer depth of knowledge presented and shared, there were moments of profound self-sanctity— arrival. Underneath, and around, and within the heart of this gathering was a call— not only to come to know the green beings of this world, and the ways in which they create space, but to find your own place within the nature of existence. Instinctively, each plant can feel and find its own distinct niche to prosper and grow. While tall mullein thrives alongside the sun-baked highway, creeping chickweed is at its most succulent in the cooling shade of giant ponderosa pines. People, healers, herbalists, teachers are no different. Each one of us has a sacred place in which we alone have the ability to root, receive, flower forth and grow. In their cornerstone class: “Our Medicine, Our Path: Recognizing Our Unique Gifts, Carving Out a Niche” Kiva and Jesse delivered an eloquent and inspiring summation of the true blessing of this conference. The divine encouragement of this gathering is not simply to explore the charted terrain of the communally given, the known, but, as Jesse so eloquently summarized, to develop a “personalized relationship with self, earth, plant and purpose.”
”Just as people change, transform and grow into new and more authentic incarnations of themselves— so does this beloved gathering. Ever true to themselves and the always-evolving nature of living and learning, Kiva and Jesse have invited this gathering to heed the call of its own metamorphosis. Next year’s envisioned HerbFolk gathering promises to be equally illuminatory and incandescent. In fact, it has already become the embodiment of this gatherings most sacred teaching: change, find oneself, honor the diverse and healing being that you are, and seek out the transformation you alone can carry into this waiting world.
Stephany Hoffelt, insightful herbal teacher and student of the plant kingdom, posted this review on her Naturally Simple Living Blog:
It’s been a while now since I’ve been away from my friends and I am sitting here missing them like mad tonight. The Herbal Resurgence Gathering has come and gone, for 2013. The attendees are all home to our various communities feeling recharged and inspired. As always, there was something about the feeling of camaraderie that occurs at this conference that makes you wish you could bottle it and just take little sips all year long.
Also appealing is the fact that Mormon Lake is a beautiful place. That first night wandering around on the mountaintop campsite, illuminated by the light of the full moon, reminded me that this gathering was a timeless event. Since the very earliest days, people have been drawn to converge on places like this. Snuggling in my sleeping bag; listening to the elk bugle lulled me to sleep faster than any lullaby.
I have to admit, I am prone to choosing to attend the classes held outdoors. Learning underneath the towering pines is infinitely preferable to being stuck in a hotel conference room. The trees hold us in their healing energy and open our heart and our minds to the messages we are hearing. No class made that more clear than the class Julie Caldwell taught on Sentience of Place. I also think that I think teaching in that environment brings out the best presentations, as well.
There were so many amazing offerings this year, it was hard to choose between them all. Teaching myself this year, made that even more challenging. I missed some classes I really wanted to attend, especially Sean and Jim’s class which I heard was amazing. Still, I managed to get my fill of herbal wisdom. I finally got to take a couple of classes from Matt Wood on Tongue and Pulse diagnosis. Larken Bunce’s presentation on her work with free clinics was inspiring and Sam Coffman’s class on GMP’s was almost enough to make me relax about that issue, just a little. I was especially happy to watch my friend Traci’s class on holistic body image because she brought up a lot of topics that need to be discussed and addressed about we as providers approach the idea of encouraging a positive self-image in our clients.
Even the vending hall is just fun. Instead of a place where people are trying to sell you stuff, it takes on the its own unique character as a social gathering place and a venue for learning. The medicine makers who come to this conference freely share their wisdom and ideas. Rebecca Altman outdid herself this year with inspiring new products and familiar favorites.
I am always amazed by the fact that year after year Kiva and Wolf manage to send participants home fired and ready to take herbalism back to the people in their communities. The people who come to this conference aren’t just business people or there to network. They are people who share a calling- each one of them is lured by the plants to spread a message of empowerment and independence. And the plants connect us all in away that the term colleague doesn’t quite cover.
It is an honor, and a blessing, to be a part of that community.
Irina Adam, Romanian born herbalist, sensualist perfumer (see her Etsy Shop) and 2014 HerbFolk presenter writes:
”Among the land brand new to me, surprising new plants, tastes and smells, beautiful new friends…
”The healing power of story stood out for me as a theme in this conference. What’s more magical than a good story, told mindfully, and listened to all ears, that comes at the perfect moment with just the right message, and opened up space.
”Some of my favorite story medicine was in the ‘Hawthorn’ class, with Sean Donahue and Jim McDonald, and Kiva and Wolf’s ‘Our Medicine, Our Path’.
‘… And see ye not that bonnie road
That winds abut the fernie brae?’
”There was a palpable calmness, inclusiveness and friendly vibe at the event. Kiva & Wolf were present, welcoming and delightful. It didn’t feel rushed like other conferences can be, tho it went by so quickly!
”This was my first journey to the Southwest. The site is gorgeous, with Ponderosa pines and wildflowers blooming all over. On my way home I begged my friend Irene to drive thru Sedona, and thus got to be for the first time ever in a canyon in the high desert! The rock walls, and the variety of plant life took my breath away. Now i can imagine the canyon at the Anima Center.
”A very personal experience was that i got to go at the last minute, as if on the tiny wing of a faerie. It went by so lovely and quickly that while i was there part of me wasn’t sure where i was.. I realized this especially when i woke up from a nap in the flowers wondering where am i, for a little longer than usual. Right where i should be… And when i returned part of me was definitely in the Ponderosas for the next several days. Still wandering in the yellow flowers, still listening to the stories, allowing them to change my being.”
Phyllis Hogan, our dear herbalist friend (Winter Sun Trading Co.) writes:
“The Herbal Resurgence movement is fueled by the boundless energy and committed drive of some of the most creative and cutting-edge herbalists out there today. The topics presented, the products and formulas at the Healers Market, and the infusion of social consciousness into this latest Plant Healer event was innovation at it’s finest. And at the foundation of it all is a deep respect for the plants on all levels. If you want to know where modern herbalism is headed, getting involved with this forward-thinking scene is a must.”
Maleza Furiosa touched us by writing:
“Back from the 2013 Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous. What an event this year… never in my life have I had my identity, my experiences, and my damn stubborn sureness of the necessity of this meandering branched path mirrored back at me from so many directions. My deepest gratitude to Kiva Ringtail Rose for her honesty, tenacity, and trailblazing.”
Cynthia Margarita kindly said:
“This was such an incredible event, my favorite this year! The magic of the Coconino forest was an amazing background for all the learning and inspiration we got from the amazing classes.”
Nancy Green was energized, which makes all worthwhile:
“Once again, you should be pleased that all your hard work managed to produce a wonderful gathering. There were so many wonderful presenters and topics, it was really tough to choose, I was inspired and energized! The site is perfect; the fellow travelers, delightful; the classes, valuable and diverse. (The shopping’s pretty great, too). I found Julie Caldwell’s “Sentience of Place” a particularly moving and profound experience. Wow! I definitely left in an altered state!”
Lovely Kristen’s thank you made our day:
“I want to thank you and Kiva again for putting on such an amazing gathering. The variety of voices makes us stronger. I felt an upsurge of energy and passion…”
Dear Laurel Beck reminds us of why we do this work::
“The workshop topics were inspired. We were offered a balance of practical issues and equally essential forays into the heart and spirit. Wolf and Kiva managed to be in 50 places at once, taking care of details and people nonstop. They kept their arms around us the whole time. No small trick with over 300 people to look after. How did they do that?!!!
”Integrity shone through the whole event, from the organizers to the teachers, to the people I sat next to during the classes. And the forest, of course… After several days of being in such beauty with people who understand what life really is, what’s important – who we are and how we fit into the larger fabric of life on this beautiful planet – it’s been difficult to reenter the not-so-real world of my everyday life. But I have come back changed, and full of gratitude for this experience! So many blessings and a thousand thanks.”
Kiva and Wolf’s gratitude goes out to all the wonderful attendees, sponsors, teachers and volunteers, for Trail Boss Don and all his help, and for the additional photos contributed for this blog by Adrienne Ellis and Irina Adam.
To see many more photos of this event, click here to download the latest issue of:
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By Jesse Wolf Hardin
“….I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on the earth.”
-Thich Nhat Hanh
All things happen in a place, in context and relationship, in present time. It is always now and here where we act on our choices, effect the world, and taste its pleasures. The quality of consciously being here for that opportunity and experience is what we call “presence,” but it is certainly not something we can ever take for granted. Every moment is a decisive one, with a choice as to what degree we are either dwelling on our tasks problems… or dwelling in the sense and satisfaction of the actual experience.
Outside our cabin we’ve set up a rudimentary hot-tub, an old cast iron hulk rocked in with a fire pit dug out directly beneath. Those times the rains overfill our storage, we carry the extra bucketfuls over to it and enjoy the most amazing soaks. But even here, engaged in mindful practice, it remains an effort to stay present. Even with the hot water relaxing the muscles and loosening that death-grip of the linear mind, even with the steam rising before us as from a great cauldron of creation, and a gentle rain with the effects of an elixir. Still the words come, betraying the experience. “Wonder how the plug I made is holding up. Cork would have worked if…” (Shhhh!, goes the steam), “Seems hotter than last time” (Hush, the heat is speaking to you!). “So much to do before going to town tomorrow…” (Hey, where are you?), “Should be enough rains to fill another tub or two” (Wake up! You’re missing out on the bath at hand, the feel of the wind evaporating the drops of water on your cheeks, the look in wifely eyes, the incremental melting away of tension from each and every floating muscle).
Before the word “dwell” came to mean “to inhabit,” it meant “to linger.” Thus when eating there is a potential for our consciousness to dwell within a world of taste, as for our beings to linger inside the flavor of each special moment. There is a tendency among people, however, to watch television or talk nonstop at meals. Other than the first bite, we may consume an entire plateful while barely paying attention to its banquet of sensation, the fine distinctions between spoonfuls of the same entree, the slow sensuous melt of butter fats, the interplay of orgiastic spices. Once the first sample mouthful has met with our approval, we may not take notice of it again for the duration of the meal unless alerted by an unexpected flavor, an incongruous texture or suspicious smell.
When that happens, an element of life is lost to us, just as it is when we give less than our full attention to the fingers of the masseuse kneading our backs, or obsess over the coming day while a glorious sunset lights up the scene around us. One can, in fact, go their entire adult life focused on either anxieties over the future or nostalgia for a long lost childhood of fun and adventure, always a step ahead of or behind the actual experience they are going through. It’s possible during sexual activity to be so focused on a mental fantasy or titillating memory that one is barely present with the lover they are with, and for a botanist to be so engrossed in analysis that she forgets to delight in the brilliance of common flowers… that she fails to stop and heed the “be here now” clapping of lime green cottonwood leaves. Small birds nest inside many of the hollow street signs of our cities, their little heads turning to watch every person that hurries by, while it’s usually only the occasional child who notices their peeps and dallies to look and listen. And many of us would likely be in grave danger crossing the road without traffic lights, inured to the sound of vehicles until we hear the alarming screech of braking tires.
Historically, our species started out every bit as present, aware and attentive as the wildest creature. Evolving consciousness made it possible to sense the world beyond our local bodily forms, contemplate the future, and build a culture of collective memories as no other plant or animal yet has… though not yet at the expense of primal awareness or lived experience. It was only with the rise of early civilization – and the resultant divorce from the natural world – that we as a species began to suffer a disconnection from the messages as well as needs of our aware and intuitive bodies, from our ecological context and responsibilities, and from the rewards as much as the demands of the always momentous current moment.
In time, and almost by default, it became the role of uncommon Medicine Women and shamans to purposefully retain and utilize the increasingly rare quality of presence. It was usually their born propensity for heightened awareness and deep feeling that led them to their calling in the first place, and then their specialized work certainly required it. The shaman was able to benefit and learn from the distant flights of consciousness, because of his ability to be simultaneously but substantially present in more than one place at once, and see deep into the heart of a person or problem by focusing his attention and energy on single point, by intently being nowhere else.
I’ve been using the noun “present” to mean the current, fully experienced moment, but the word can also refer to something that we give to somebody. It stems from the Old French “bringing something into someone’s presence,” and the experiencing of present time is indeed a present — a gift — from the Anima, from Spirit, to us. And a gift we pay a high price for ignoring. Both usages of the word originate in the Latin adjective praeséns, “at hand, now, here.” The gift at hand, the gift of conscious life, close enough to touch!
If it’s disrespectful to turn down a gift, to turn one’s back on a teacher or friend in the midst of making their point, then surely it is all the more so to ignore the miracle of the moment, to turn away from the present experience and face inward towards a mental movie, to ignore the communications of the world around us and focus solely on our own internal dialogue… or to pass by the awakening dandelion, absorbed by a mental picture of a wrapped rose at a distant florist’s. We can get literally “caught up” with abstract thought, caught and held fast like fish in a trawler’s net, surrounded on all sides by wide-eyed images and flailing priorities, caught up in our heads while the real world we are a part of remains largely ignored and unengaged. All the while, reality waves its earthen arms, feathered wings and evocative cloud forms in front of us, as though to win us back.
Presence is a combination of noticing and grounding, the opposite of obliviousness and disconnection. In presence, there is no tolerance for distraction, and no room for denial. It includes being there completely for dangerous or uncomfortable situations, noticing not only the pleasant odors but also any unpleasant but telltale smells. It is literally the place of action and response, where we create and accomplish. On the other hand, it not in the imagination so much as in the now, that true ecstasy can be found. It is there that we come together with our lover, where the jam meets the tongue. Indeed, bliss is not ignorance, as the old saying claims. Bliss is a gift of living in-tense-ly, where each moment unfolds anew, where even the most cherished of memories are wholly experienced in present tense.
The means exist for our return to the now, no matter how distracted or resistant we might be. The doors to the present can be blown open by an unexpected clap of thunder, the tart bite of an orange, a morning’s splash of cold water on our face, the sudden starting or stopping of the evening wind, or the first glimpse of a falcon dropping through the air in pursuit of downtown pigeons. And they can be teased open by a whiff of homemade bread, fresh out of the oven. Relaxed open by the ministrations of massage. Sang open. Danced open. And breathed open, with a sigh. Opened, and entered.
Entering the present we are ourselves penetrated — by every real thing around us, by the weather and the ground, by the people that are with us, by the totality of life. While we may not be able to exist without future considerations and schedules, we’d do well to remain aware of the degree to which we default in our engagement with the world around us, neglecting available gifts and lessons. The present can never fit onto a schedule, for it is both too big and too fleeting for that. Mark the now on your daily planner and it is already gone. The calendar we focus on describes a world that isn’t here yet, which as any child would tell us, pales in comparison to that which is.
For the student of Anima, presence is the crucial first step in the path of connection and power. Multi-tasking should never be expanded past the level at which you can be fully conscious of all aspects of every ongoing project. Greater-Body (sometimes called “out of body”) journeys should be predicated on your ability to consciously and effectively center and ground. Presence is literally the essential groundwork for building up you powers of intuition, discernment and decision-making, and of energetically (with your consciousness) as well as physically effecting the reality that we as Medicine Women and Shamans are working to co-create.
With the continual regaining of sensory attentiveness – of the vital present – comes a great awakening… to the sense-gathering organs and the sights, sounds, tastes and appeals of the larger world/self around us. To the bone and truth laden ground below us, the enticing trees and the birds that call from them, the breath of wind that fills us and the smell and color of the fruit on the table. To the clouds that fall as drinking water, to sate an awakened thirst. To the needs and gifts of family, coworkers and friends. To our instincts, calling us to a life of purpose, magic and meaning, in the language of dreams.
It’s Fall as I write this, and already the elk are bugling in the canyon. The high cascading notes sound like the percolation of wild lust, like bravado, excitement and hope. Like the gate keepers’ flourish, announcing our destined return. Like a clarion call.
We’re welcomed back no matter how often we try to leave. Welcomed here, grounded in authentic self and inspirited place. Welcomed back to the wild now… and in these ways, welcomed home.
(Share freely…. www.AnimaCenter.org)
Eating Nettles, Crossing Rivers: 20 Years in Paradise
Happy 20th anniversary to me!
Holy moley, I can’t believe it’s been 20 years since my arrival! But then, when I think about it, a whole lot has happened…
A Not-so Brief Recollection
On August 19th, 1993, Wolf picked me up at the Greyhound drop off in Socorro, NM. I didn’t have much hair on my head, or much baggage besides a backpack full of old journals, my mountain bike and an ancient Apple computer that must’ve weighed about 20 pounds. I was on my way to follow my dream of being a writer, and I’d bought the computer for 500 bucks, from an ad I saw in the paper back in San Francisco, just a few days before my bus ride out of there. Somehow the bicycle and the computer were both lost in transit, so when Wolf first saw me, I was circling around the bus, oblivious to Wolf leaning against his land partner’s truck, sizing me up with every confused “where did my things go?“ lap I made around the bus.
It was, being August, monsoon season. And on the ride from Socorro to the canyon, there was a giant lightning storm, the likes of which I’d never seen. My heart was already split wide open by the journey I’d undertaken, following what seemed to be a spirit-given message to find a place to caretake in New Mexico. All the way through S. Cal and Nevada I’d had this strange feeling that I was in my way back to what felt like my source, on my way back to the very root of my being. And now, with the thunder and lightning stirring me up, I couldn’t sit very quietly. I shouted to Wolf, over the mayhem, “I feel like screaming! … I’m coming HOME!!!”
It was only ten days later that I came out of the canyon to make some phone calls. I dialed up my parents and told them that I’d found my home, and I would be living here forever. My father asked to speak with Wolf. No hello, or any of those niceties my father is usually very good at. Instead, it was, “Are you able to take over her medical insurance?” Needless to say his reply about how Frank James got the cooperation of doctors to cure a wounded Jesse did nothing to warm my folks up to the idea of me living in such a godforsaken place in the company of a wildman for the rest of my years. “Why can’t you just join the Sierra Club or something?” my father asked me. “Why do you have to waste your life yodeling to the mountains?” It was kind of funny, even then, but still it made me cry.
That very night, we returned home in the almost-dark. We turned off the four wheeler and were about to head back to the cabin when a very loud series of probably four or five flute notes rang through the canyon, from the direction of the ancient Kachina cliffs. We looked at each other with wide eyes and stood there in the dark for a while, listening to the echoes fade. The next morning I climbed up to the cave of the Red Wolf Mother barefoot and pledged my devotion, forever and ever, to the spirits of the canyon. Imagining that I must be a wolf too, I took on the name Loba which means Wolf in Spanish. A little embarrassing to discover, much later, that I was a whole lot more like an elk!
Wolf was just at the point of slowing down and then stopping his music and speech tours, mostly fund raisers for ecological campaigns but also a means for keeping the food bill paid. He was finding it harder to leave this magical canyon at the same time as I was settling into home.
My first several years were full of joy, but not without challenges. Our first Winter we had absolutely no money and no running vehicle. Every so often a check would turn up in the mail, from an old friend of Wolf’s, or from his publisher, just in the nick of time. I sold home canned applesauce in town made from the trees at Saliz Canyon and got really good at working the woodstove even in the warm autumn days, so we didn’t have to buy much propane. I did all our laundry outdoors, in the old clawfoot bathtub or at the river in a basin. Wolf fed me endless plates of giant pancakes to counter my urban anorexia, and taught me huge amounts about the art of cooking, including how to how to bake bread and pies, and cook meat, how to pay attention to the details, like perfecting the texture of biscuits, the not-too-sweetness of cakes, and warming plates before serving. We kept me stocked in hippie essentials (miso and tahini, organic raisins) from the local mail-order buying club whenever possible, and we always had plenty to eat, thanks to having credit at the local grocery store. The raccoons loved my biscuits that turned out more like hockey pucks, and it didn’t take me long to improve.
My lost bicycle was eventually retrieved from Greyhound, and well into the winter that first year I used it to get to town for food and mail, packing everything in and out up the steep mountain, or out through the seven river crossings. Eventually our truck got a new engine, with the last of my waitress money, but often the river would go up and make it impassable, even for the little four-wheeler. I read Euell Gibbons, and got really excited about harvesting acorns. A land partner taught me about harvesting Bee Balm and Watercress, Lamb’s Quarters, wild Mustard greens and Dock. I taught myself how to preserve large quantities of the wild foods, through lots of trial and error. There were good acorn years, and then a string of no-acorn years, which made the bears hungry. One of those skinny bears broke into the house, (well, I admit I left a window open!) and ate 6 loaves of freshly baked bread.
I got so used to being home all the time, it became even harder for me than Wolf to ever leave. Fluorescent lights and loud city noises that I hardly noticed before made me feel distressed, just being around them. Getting stuck anywhere without an open window made me anxious. I’d find myself sticking my head, sometimes even my feet, under the faucets at restrooms, any time I was too far from my river. I was turning into a different sort of creature, more alive, more sensitive, more particular about what I subject myself to in this world!
We had many interesting guests and students due to Wolf’s teachings and alliances, including many famous artists, musicians, dancers, activists, writers, editors, publishers, teachers and school directors, plus lots of young people simply wanting to connect to something wild and real in themselves. We hosted interns and vision questers, retreaters and apprentices.
As a way to empower me, utilize my gifts and share this transformative canyon, Wolf encouraged me to host annual Wild Women’s Gatherings beginning in 2000, as well as the co-ed Wild Foods Gatherings that brought men and women from all over the country and world together to celebrate the bounty of the land, and the abundances of our own wild hearts in relationship with the land. I still hear from participants who tell me how much these events in the canyon changed them or their lives!
I was asked to write a column in Sagewoman magazine by our friend Anne Niven, and wrote for her wonderful quarterly for women for over five years. Wolf and many musician friends including Joanne Rand and Jenny Bird recorded a CD of music and spoken word that I got to sing on, called The Enchantment, using a little digital recorder purchased for us by a supporter. The help of various supporters that believed in our work and mission made a huge amount possible that would have never happened otherwise, and a few of them are still loyally giving to us to this day. We built structures one little piece at a time, whenever the donations would come in specifically for that purpose, with the help of skilled friends, volunteers, and a woman intern that stayed for about two years. Wolf continued to get his articles published in dozens of different magazines every year, though it was mostly to affect and inspire the world as very few of the publications actually paid.
We never knew where the next dollar would come from, so it was quite literally one miracle after another that kept us both afloat and soaring in our own ways, inspiring thousands of readers and seekers. None of it could have happened without Wolf’s constant drive and his standards of excellence. He is quite the role model, whether or not we’d like to admit it. (Ain’t he, people!) With his unflinching, uncanny gift of seeing into the hearts of all of us, he reaches out in ways that can heal as much as they discomfort, rattle and stir. He reminds us, over and over, how the reins are in our hands, and every color in the palette within reach, if we just claim the bravery to truly open our eyes, and every other one of our atrophied senses. To truly see our Earthen reality for all the pain and beauty and craziness that it is, and to claim ourselves still worthy of every valuable experience that we insist on. But never to wallow in the new age neverland of “it’s all good”, where personal response-ability takes a back seat to maintaining all our most comforting illusions.
Wolf’s ability to shift and adapt kept us affecting the world in every way he could see possible, through all the changes; global, and closer to home. Through all the challenges of deaths in the family, health problems and interferon treatments, high water, broken vehicles, help that came and went. There was not a single day, and there is still not a single day that goes by, that I’m not in amazement at so much that he has accomplished, by sharing his gifts, and doing whatever it takes, every single day, no matter how bad his liver is feeling, to keep our life flourishing. It was his dream to affect the world without compromising his needs for solitude, home, and love. By living that dream, he has given us all, especially his family, and any who have experienced Wolf and/or Anima Sanctuary in person, gifts way beyond measure.
In 2004, I began corresponding with a wild-voiced woman poet whose writing I admired above all others, and we began sending her chapters of Wolf’s unpublished novel The Kokopelli Seed. She was stunned to see how much the character was her, even down to the physical description, mannerisms, troubled past, and healing commitment. Even stranger, he’d began writing The Kokopelli Seed the year of Kiva’s birth. After much heartful correspondence we welcomed her and her tiny four year old Rhiannon to this family and mission. It was clear that she had much to give me and to this work and purpose, and much to receive from this life, with the strength and courage to deal with all the many challenges. And Rhiannon proved to be the incredible daughter to us that Wolf had predicted, a loyal and sweet and entertaining child that attached herself to us from the very first moment we met. Together, the four of us have been able to accomplish even more for the world while still attending to our own healing, growth and happiness.
In a short time we renamed our project Anima, Wolf’s word for the vital life force, and the land and restoration effort once called “Duration Ranch” (we’re here for the duration!) got renamed Anima Sanctuary. Kiva’s lifelong love affair with the plant world deepened to an intensive study and obsession with herbs. Wolf bought her piles of the best plant books, and she devoured them. She spent many hours out in the canyon learning what the plants had to teach her themselves, through direct observation and intuition. She began making medicines, trying them out on all of us, taking notes, synthesizing vast amounts of information and experience in a relatively short amount of time. Both Wolf and I experienced profound shifts in our health status with the use of herbs and medicines recommended and made by Kiva. Soon she had clients in town and online, and very quickly became a trusted source of folk medicine to locals that were in-the-know. The town doctor even began speaking about her with respect, and would at times ask her opinion about various usages. She and Wolf developed a new understanding of our diagnostic Medicine Wheel, that led to new understandings of ancient constitutional theories.
Before long, we shifted the focus of Anima to be more focused on teaching practical, plant-related as well as lifeways skills. We started holding plant medicine gatherings, offered online herbal and lifeways courses, and spent less time hosting retreaters, which used to be our main source of income besides the help of our supporters. Kiva’s blog, The Medicine Woman’s Roots, became amazingly popular. She gathered the friendship and support of many well-known herbalists, and both Plant Healer Magazine and conferences were born! The magazines readership just keeps growing, and the events for herbalists and wildcrafters have become a gathering point for an exciting community of folk herbalists, ecological and herbal activists, artists and healers.
And for me, my priority shifted to becoming “Mama Loba” to Rhiannon, homeschooling her and learning all the ways that a child can teach us so much! I learned about setting precedents and dynamics , and how to make my moment-to-moment choices as mindful and honorable as possible. I learned about having some boundaries, and at the same time I couldn’t help but open my heart fully and completely to this amazing child that was, and still is, as loving as she was ever stubborn. As inspiring, sillymaking and otter-like as she is beautiful. And she can be as forgetful and pigeon-toed as me! Wolf and Kiva’s constant guidance helped me through every instance of doubt and confusion, as I’ve gotten the blessed opportunity to experience being a mother, and to feel a daughter’s love!
20 Years of Loba Doin’s:
Cooking and Heating Fires built: 7,000 (approx. one fire/day)
Gallons of rainwater moved from one place to another: approx. 185,000 gallonsGallons of rainwater moved in the middle of the night: approx. 6,000 gallons
Loaves of bread baked in my woodstove/s: 5,000 (approx. 5 loaves/week)
Pots of soup: 2,000
Mason jars washed: 35,000
Flashlights Lost: at least 30
Years I’ve held onto my current flashlight: 3 1/2
Floats in the River: 7,000
Quarts of jam and fruit sauce made & canned: approx. 2,000
Hours spent dancing, mostly in the kitchen: 2,000
Braids I’ve made in our hair: 20,000
Pounds of wild foods gathered, processed, and eaten (not counting half-wild apples): at least 2,000
Years that I processed approx.. 200-500 lbs/ local apples/year: about 10
Years that the apple flowers froze & wrecked the local crops: about 10
Rattlesnakes eaten: 60
Medicine sweats conducted at dawn: at least 40
Minutes I spent submerged in the water one January at dawn (during a medicine sweat): about 5
Hours I’ve spent on the Internet: less than 20
Temperature of the hottest bath water I’ve gotten in: 122 degrees
Half-dead moths saved from drowning in the bathtub: 8,000
Packrat nests dismantled from outbuildings: 100
Pretty handmade aprons amassed (gifted by Wolf): at least 85
Cookbooks amassed (most gifted to me by Wolf and Kiva): at least 85, not counting at least 100 that we sold or gave away
Years I’ve been working on my ever expanding cookbook: 17
Miles I’ve walked or run in the canyon: at least 4,500
Miles I’ve walked or run barefoot: at least 1,000
Hours that I’ve spent searching for some missing thing: too embarrassing to count!
Times I’ve driven all the way to Albuquerque barefoot: Once. When I went to pick up Kiva and Rhiannon at the airport, I forgot my shoes at the first river crossing after hiking out, I was so excited!
Datura flowers I’ve picked for Kiva Rose: 10: one the first day she got here, and then one each year after that, on her birthday
And, still, there’s so much to learn and do, and so much more room for growth!
Still So Much To Learn
Today I’m still learning more about how much there is still for me to develop in myself in relation to others. How to honor people’s real needs and gifts as well as my own can be a tricky balance, especially for someone like me who is not always conscious enough about others’ motivations. Or my own, for that matter. And then, there are the “wants” to figure in! How to be as open hearted as I always want to be, while still maintaining some boundaries.
I’m learning that with becoming more grounded in reality, there are some harder feelings to have to deal with. I spent much of my life floating on a comfy little cloud with my favorite pair of rose-colored glasses firmly secured to my face. Seeing only the best in people, all the hope in the midst of all the pain and despair, and only the best in myself, most of the time. Now I’m coming down to earth, which is where I want to be, but sometimes reality can be tough. Depression runs in my family, and I have to work harder sometimes to keep those tendencies from getting the best of me. I am learning more about taking control of my own mental habits and patterns. It’s amazing to learn how the brain creates its own “wiring” that makes joyfulness or depression, more or less accessible!
I’m still learning how to pay better attention to my surroundings – how to notice when the gutters get full of juniper needles, and act on it right away, or ask for help. The more aware of my world that I become, the more I see that needs tending, and the more I really want to take care of things. But at the same time, I’m also figuring out how to give more energy to the things that are not so essential, the creative fun things that make the chores seem less weighty. How to nourish the practical as well as the playful parts of myself. How to be more whole, every single day, with the not-so-simple magic of time and space management. I will probably always spend too much time running around in circles, chasing my own tail, but I am working on doing less of this, getting more done a bit more efficiently, and having more fun in the process! Kiva and Wolf are my loyal coaches in all my efforts towards this goal, and in so much more!
My dear Kiva has helped me in so many ways, from getting more organized in my daily routines to teaching me special skills. Lately I’ve been managing to fit in more dancing and singing, painting and tea parties. Kiva bought felting materials as a special gift for Rhiannon and I, and we’ve been working on a doll together. Wolf got us a Scrabble set, and we’ve been having a blast playing with it, while learning new words with a giant dictionary. I’m planning creative projects with our wwoofer on-site helpers, and other ways to structure our time together to be more enjoyable and productive. I’m making time, always, for my own renewal, which for me has to include plenty of just-family time, and daily alone time, too. I’m still plugging away at that cookbook of mine, and am realizing that although it may never seem “done” enough to me, I need to find a stopping point, knowing someday I can make a Volume Two!
Goals and other Things I’m committed to getting better at in the next 20 years:
Wolf and Kiva and I have a little joke that when one of us says “I’ll try” another says, “Don’t just try, do it”. Below are the things I’ll probably forever be working on! But I commit myself to doing my very best, every single day!
• Listening and noticing things in the moment, and acting on them
• Seeing the world, and myself, from a more grounded perspective, instead of swinging from rose-colored glasses to the polar opposite
• Balancing work and play, focus and spontaneity
• Tending the land and our structures
• Recording and sharing what seems most valuable, that I learn from this life
• Helping support and honor Wolf and and Kiva’s works in every way possible
• Delegating with clear communication
• Staying open-hearted while having some boundaries
• Managing time and space more efficiently
• Eliminating guilt or obligation as a motivation for anything
• Following through on my goals and dearest inspirations
• Being just a bit more functional when away from home
I feel so blessed to be able to live in this magical place that is the ultimate teacher and inspiration. And to be surrounded by a family that also teaches and inspires me in so many vital ways, as well as supporting, nurturing and helping me. I so appreciate being valued for who I am, even more than for what I do. And yet, it is by doing the things that I want and need to do, oftentimes over and over, that I have become who I am, and will continue to become more myself, as time goes on. I am, after all these years, someone who loves to tend: fires, my home & family, others, and myself. I am a river lover, a devotee of dewdrops and a petter of mosses, a gatherer of greens, a barefoot kitchen dancer, and always, a cook who spins in circles looking for the salt, and a very grateful eater. I am a little girl growing older who will always be about 5 in my heart, a human with the spirit of an elk, a very silly and devoted elk who, once upon a time, named herself Loba.
Thanks to all of you who read with open hearts and minds, and who gain sustenance and inspiration from all our efforts. I hope my words, example and love encourage you in your own becoming and doing, in your choices and commitment to living your dreams! It means a lot to me to share with you my amazing life in paradise, crossing rivers and gathering nettles….
Now Available to Order, the New Book:
THE PLANT HEALER’S PATH
A Grassroots Guide For The HerbFolk Tribe
by Jesse Wolf Hardin
with Kiva Rose
plus David Hoffman, Paul Bergner, Phyllis Light, Rebecca Altman & Roger Wicke
302 pages, 8.5×11”, over 100 photos & art illustrations
Limited Edition Cloth Covered Hardback!: Preorder Now: $39 (shipping early September)
Ebook – Download Available Now: $25
Order Now From:
“That which was suppressed is back. The wise women and crazy men, in all their multicultural diversity, are finding their voices. Even if the monolith of the dominant culture is ignorant of this, finally we are listening to each other. The Herbalist’s Path, is the clearest description yet of this truly grassroots manifestation of herbalism – of humanity’s re-connection with healing nature and the wild.” –David Hoffman
The Story of The Plant Healer’s Path
by Kiva Rose
The Plant Healer’s Path is the first of two volumes by my partner Jesse Wolf Hardin, cofounder of Plant Healer Magazine, along with essays, medicinal plant profiles and favorite herbal recipes by myself (Kiva Rose), David Hoffman, Phyllis Light, Paul Bergner, Rebecca Altman, Sam Coffman & Roger Wicke. Wolf tackles topics vital to an effective, empowered herbal practice, with tips for the fullest living of our lives, and will prove as useful, inspiring and transformative for those of you with decades of experience as it will for anyone just getting started in herbalism. You’ll open the book up to an overview of herbalism’s history and celebration of lineage and tribe, and you’ll finish with an unflinching vision of both the near and distant future of this vital field. “It is a past that we can learn from and feel rooted in, and a future we are each called to help make.”
The Plant Healer’s Path is a veritable cultivator’s guide for growing “our practices and community, our awareness, purpose, satisfaction and bliss…” From Wolf’s Introduction:
“Throughout the ages, there have been among us women and men who felt called – impelled – to work with plants, assisting in the healing of bodies and psyches, community and the land… sometimes gladly bearing the mantle of yerbera, healer or root doctor, while at other times affecting people and the world without accepting the honor or duties of a title, or even realizing how much medicine they truly provide. And never, it seems, has this insistent calling sounded more clearly in some of us, as we awaken and respond to the great challenges of our lives and times, reclaiming some responsibility for both our personal well being and that of our society and our planet.
In the process of heeding this call to service, we’re rewarded by becoming more awake and alive, excited for the adventure, and better able to sense and savor. We each become – in our own individual ways – the needed place holders and wisdom keepers, the proactive doers and teachers, the joyous care-takers and determined healers for our times.”
I recommend that you read The Plant Healer’s Path, that you be informed and affirmed by it, your understandings deepened, your perspectives expanded and shifted. I recommend you be drawn in, like a kid to a garden spectacle, like a lover to his heart’s yearning. And I hope that it will awaken, excite, empower and propel you on your own signature path of healing.
“To be an herbalist in the U.S. in the 21st century is a lot more than just knowing some herbs and what they are ‘good for.’ It is a path of passion, enchantment and commitment and sometimes disillusionment in a wild and diverse community of peers and elders, a path complicated by industry propaganda, cultural resistance, magical thinking, ‘herban’ legends, regulatory obstacles, poor financial compensation, and a lack of educational or professional standards. Whether just beginning or already walking the path, The Plant Healer’s Path provides a panoramic road map of the terrain – both internal and external – for any person called to healing with plants… with thought-provoking essays on the issues most important to our work.” –Paul Bergner (Herbalist & Teacher)
The Plant Healer’s Path explores:
• Herbal community, tribe and culture.
• The language and terminology of healing.
• The power of our personal story.
• Herbalists as seeds of change.
• Extreme herbalism.
• Identifying needs and goals, and whether to go the professional route or not.
• What we most need to know to either start or further and deepen our herbal eduction.
• Choosing our path, defining our particular niche and role, a “summons to shine.”
• Reconciling traditional and scientific approaches.
• How to understand and deal with issues of licensing and regulation.
• Identifying pitfalls, illusions, myths & other impediments to a maximally effective practice.
• Divergent streams of herbalism, the diversity of approaches, no two herbalists alike.
• Discernment, critical thinking & “response-ability.”
• Ethics for herbalists, and clarifying and living by personal own code of honor.
• The empowered herbalist, the right to practice, and herbal activism.
• Making a living in herbalism, and the true richness of the herbalist life.
• Apportioning our time, the value of retreats, the importance of nourishing ourselves.
• The joy of herbalism, and lightening up.
• Co-creating a culture of healing.
• The future of herbalism.
“In The Plant Healer’s Path, Jesse, Kiva and others offer their shared insights offer and an exploration of folk herbalism, rejoicing in our diversity and challenging our assumptions.”
–Jim McDonald (Foundational HerbCraft)
“How can I begin to describe the many ways that herbalism can impact a person’s life? How the herbs can call and change you and help you become the person you were meant to be? How you can find your herbal community, your herbal tribe, by following this pathway? Or how the resurgence of folk herbalism may be a key to a revitalized health care system for this country? Or, maybe… you should just read this book! The Plant Healer’s Path is a result of Jesse Wolf and Kiva Rose digging down deep into their relationship with the plants and the profession, and holding the torch high for us. What more could we ask for?”
–Phyllis D. Light (Appalachian Folk Herbalist)
The Making of The Plant Healer’s Path
by Kiva Rose
Every path has not only a route and destination but also a beginning. It’s been nearly ten years since Wolf and I got together under some very magical circumstances. It’s been a wonderful if in some ways difficult transformation for me and us, but a few things have remained consistent from the beginning. For one thing, we have always been writers with a similar passion, perspective and style. Publishers had already released several books by him by the time I arrived, including Full Circle, Kindred Spirits and Gaia Eros for the alternative spirituality and nature-awareness audiences, and I was a poet who learned to use my poetic images to craft very personal essays first for SageWoman magazine and then beyond. Wolf also draws the evocative art you’ve seen many times in this magazine, and he loves my sculpting and encourages me in all my interests, but it is through our writings that we are able to share with you the most of what we know, and the most of our selves. His Anima blog and my Medicine Woman’s Roots blog have reached, informed and empowered a vast number of folks, and Plant Healer Magazine and Newsletter have become essential ways for us to combine practical clinical herbal information with wildcrafting and homestead skills, conservation, the enjoyment of food, art, healing culture, folklore and plant infused fiction.
From the beginning, I imagined that my first book would be a compilation all my clinical herbalism pieces from my blog and Medicine Woman courses. Instead, I now find myself pulled towards creating a series of volumes with the folkloric emphasis and feel that excites me most, to write plant and healing inspired tales that evoke a new mythos (stay tuned!). And instead of my writings on herbs and herbalism going into a clinical book, I’ve designated a large number of them for use in these books of Wolf’s that we’re releasing. It seems totally appropriate that we appear together in The Plant Healer’s Path and its upcoming companion – The Healing Journey: Walking The Spiral – given that we spend much of our days at desks a few feet apart, a shared window overlooking the Sweet Medicine River, tapping our hearts out on our twin solar-powered Macs.
“Part poetry, part herbal ethnography, Wolf has created an herbal call to action full of wisdom and insights from him and other remarkable contemporary herbalists. Most plant healers will find that this book strikes a deep chord in their soul, affirming what they know while pushing their boundaries for growth.” –Rosalee de la Forêt (Methow Valley Herbs)
At the onset, I did not imagine Wolf writing such an important series for the herbalist community, though I knew he had much to contribute if I could only find a way to provoke it (telling him he “can’t” or “won’t” usually does the trick!). I came to herbalism through the processes of my personal physical and emotional healing, while he came to it as an extension of his work healing the land through his riparian restoration efforts, helping heal the wounds and debilitating insecurities of the students he taught and folks he counseled, and his commitment to assisting the healing of humanity’s painful separation from the natural world and their own natures. Neither of us were cut out to be clinical herbalists daily seeing clients, yet our love and devotion to herbalism and herbalists align, our writings are kindred in a special way, and it’s a shared message we are devoted to.
“Jesse Wolf provides an inclusive, vital and passionate look into the practice of herbalism, giving voice and validation to the resurgence of a widespread, diverse herbal community whose roots go deep. The Plant Healer’s Path weaves plant medicine, politics, practical advice, poetry, history, story and lore with insightful monologues from some of the most influential voices in contemporary herbal practice. Everyone who enjoys a relationship with plants – from foodies to gardeners to medicine makers to clinicians – will find inspiration in these pages that challenge you to actively participate, in ways small and large, in the ancient and continuing story of health, vitality, and co-evolution with the plants and the green.” –Julie Caldwell (Humboldt Herbals)
From the most practical tips and lists of choices and options, to much needed inspiration, encouragement and vision, The Plant Healer’s Path casts a light on the journey at hand, on our individual, custom paths that are our practices and lives.
“We are as seeds,” Wolf insists, “embryonic, emergent, seminal! As seeds, we’re the products of a particular process of reproduction, propagation, improvisation and advancement that serves diversification and variance – thus also serving the continuing evolution and possible improving of our kind. We are not just receptacles and transmitters of existing traditions, like replicative gene sequences. We are instead the potential for healthful alternatives, adaptations, mutations and celebrations. Every one of us, vital packages of potential needing to be turned loose.”
Consciously fulfill your potential, and taste the rewards of your personal Plant Healer’s Path.
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(Thank you so much for re-posting this on your blogs and sharing the news any ways you can!)
The Necessity of Learning to Become Native Again
By Jesse Wolf Hardin
The topic of what it means to be “native” or “indigenous” is a highly contentious one, ruffling the feathers of landless, cultureless “white folk” far more than it bothers even most activist Native Americans. It is, however, an essential exploration for everyone on this planet, with a true and irrevocable connection to the living land being the best and only long term chance that our human kind has.
IN-DIG-E-NOUS: adj. 1) Occurring or living naturally in an area; native.
2) Intrinsic, innate.
“We see in the present best efforts of groups of non-Indians an honest desire to become indigenous in the sense of living properly with the land.” -Vine Deloria. Jr. (Sioux historian)
One does not take as good of care of a place when they imagine they are only visiting. In this age of constant migration, the best hope for the suffering environment may lie in people of every race and culture settling down and committing to a place that speaks to them, heeding the implorings of its spirit and tending to its needs. The survival of myriad other species, and the future of humanity as well, may hinge on the degree to which we are able to set aside our comfortable habits, preconceptions and assumptions – and rebecome conscious participants, discovering what it means to be native again.
Now more than ever we need to look to not only the remaining land-based tribal peoples, but to the qualities and possibilities our primal minds. Indigenous modes of perception become all the more essential as our modern society reels out of balance both ecologically and spiritually. The land-informed stories of indigenous populations can help us recover our lost awareness of self and place. The knowledge of how to live in balance, in a sustainable way, already exists– in the ways of the ancient ones of every continent. The information is all too often lost along with the unraveling of tribal customs, with time tested skills and informed insights vanishing as fast as the lands appropriated for development. As our existence and enterprises become increasingly commercial and controlled, our pleasures ever more vicarious, our sense of both culture and place perverted or absent, as both our schedules and our thoughts race ever faster, we can still turn to they who have lived here, and loved here the longest. Turn to the Indian elders, the placed peasants, the Hispanic dirt farmers with their knowledge of weather and wild foods, Amish farmers, those nomads still following the reindeer and the seasons, or the Kayapo and their jungle pharmacy. We must turn to them, not in order to emulate or simulate, but in a respectful search for the truths that are our birth right, for what it means to truly belong. We are not “settlers,” we are simply the unsettled.
For all the differences in the world views and cosmologies of indigenous peoples, there are certain qualities they generally share in common. From the Saami of the northern edge of Scandinavia to the Australian Aborigine, primal perception is likely to incorporate the following tenets:
1) The Earth is alive, self directed, with it’s own primal consciousness.
2) Life is inspirited and thus sacred with an innate, intrinsic value. The rocks and the lichen that feed on them, the trees and the rain that drips down them, all creatures and all people are vested with spirit, meaning and purpose.
3) All elements of the sacred whole are interconnected, interdependent, interrelated at the deepest levels… and all should be treated as our relatives. At the root of all personal and societal turmoil is the illusion of separateness, a dis-ease which must be guarded against from birth until death. Since there is no truly “other,” all beings are hurt by the dishonoring or degradation of any one.
4) Humanity’s additional cognitive abilities position us not above the rest of creation, but sorely in need of deliberate rituals to keep us grounded in relationship, purpose and place. Our unique gifts were meant to result not in libertine distraction, but advanced responsibility. Our kind is called to attend to the needs and lessons of the natural world we are a part of…. to acknowledge, partake in, protect and provide for the plants, animals and waters that in turn nourish, instruct, inspire and house us.
5) Existence is to be smelled and tasted, embraced and absorbed. No words for food are meant to substitute for the benefits of eating…. and all symbols and gestures are meant to bring us deeper into the actual wordless, physical, emotional and spiritual experiencing of life.
6) Everything in the world functions in part as a message, and all that happens to us, positive or negative, is potentially a valuable lesson. All truths and all beings are tested, and it is through these challenges that we earn our blessings, demonstrate our qualifications, validate our worth, manifest our love.
7) Spiritual knowledge or power requires the complete, painful dissolution of illusion and the fearful societal self… and a committed realignment and recommitment according to the designs of Spirit and Place.
8) Such designs exist for all things, heeding the imperatives of Gaian rhythm, pattern and will.
9) All things occur in cycles, and all energy and life seek to circle— to return to its migrational origins, to spin in the grass before settling down nose to tail. All there is is an eternal now, rolling over in place like a salmon, exposing in turn each of its sides Summer to Fall, Winter to Spring, first night and then day. Humankind, too, turns in place, sequentially offering up the face of an anxious infant, a tempestuous teen, a focused adult, a grandfather or crone.
10) The Seeker’s quest moves towards and never away from authentic self and inspirited place, heightened awareness and applied magic, meaning and mission…. a true journey home.
Primal mind isn’t just for the shamans and seekers of a few tribes, the tranced-out Ladakh, Kogi or the Shuar. It is, rather, a region or capacity of the instinctual human body, accessible by even the most predisposed of us. It surfaces during love making, while crossing the slick head of a waterfall, in the presence of enraptured children, whenever circumstance and surprise have delivered us most fully into our sentient bodies. At these times the Earth reveals itself as unquestioningly sacred, imbued with the numinous. Even the most mundane expressions of inanimate Nature appear alive, and one can sense movement in patterns of fiber and the grain of mineral and wood. We find ourselves in the timeless now, the eternal bodily and psychic engagement with the present, a part of an interconnected universe that unfolds and contracts in cycles. Even if only for the shortest period of time, we jettison words for reality, symbol for touch, and know the world through our primal minds. We feel more alive, complete, tested and worthy. And we are. Honored to be. Honored to be here now.
We each become more indigenous to the degree that we reside in our primal minds, in place, in the bosom of the land, in the lap of the moment. Becoming: coming to be, leaning how to really be, coming onto and into one’s self. In re-becoming native, we re-create a contemporary culture, community, vocabulary, spiritual practice, and finally a history true to our mixed-blood ancestry and the urgent and trying times at hand. Along with our grounding comes an almost forgotten humility. We look to the the first “two legged” peoples to inhabit this continent for guidance, but we must also each establish our credibility directly with the land. We need to own our deepening connection, the fact that we too belong to the places we’re promised to— even as we actively respect the ways of those peoples who showed respect to the land for so long before us.
In time we may come to recognize being native as a condition of relationship. Of sensitivity, engagement, reciprocity and allegiance. To survive, those facing the tests of the next century will have had to learn to be placed. And they’re likely to be of ever more mixed blood. They will be the descendants of Shona and Aborigine, Mongol and Semite, Hispanic and Cree, and they will have learned respect. They will be the proud inheritors of the affections of Aphrodite, the temperance of Chuang-Tzu, the resolve of Odin and Ogun, the determination of the Berserkers and the spirit of Crazy Horse. No matter where they’re situate, they’ll have survived because they came to know and manifest themselves, completely and unapologetically, as indigenous.
And this alone will have brought them great satisfaction.
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