Nurturing the Senses and Deepening Intimacy With the Plants
Posted Jan 12 2012 11:31pm
“The simple act of nurturing the senses might well do far more for healing of the world than all our programs and inventions.” ~ Cheryl Sanders
Being an herbalist is a constant exercise in balance – with so much being given out in the work of helping others we also need the pleasure of finding and settling into our own nourishment. Because after all, if we can’t take care of ourselves, how can we possibly take care of others? Part of the joy of my work is in the sensory intimacy I have with the plants, the close-up looks at buds and rhizomes via sight, scent, touch and taste. On one hand, this is an absolutely essential way of understanding the nature of the plant, and on the other hand, it’s pure fun for me and my seeking senses.
When I find myself burned out from too many hours of website design, clinical case notes and pharmaceutical research, I unconsciously move toward more sensory centered activities involving the plants. I climb Juniper trees in the snow to get closer to the translucent ivory globes of Mistletoe fruits and rub Cypress resin between my fingers and revel in the spiced wood scent of it. I’m grateful that this sensual immersion in all things Plantae are an integral part of my work. I cannot imagine practicing herbalism without being grounded in the energetic tendencies of the plants communicated through the senses.
Herbal energetics are inherently sense-based and common sense while being clearly tied into the scientific perspective of plants that tells us that when plants have certain constituents as part of their overall makeup, they’re more likely to act in certain ways on the physiology of the human body. I’ve talked about this in more detail in my previous post on herbal energetics that you can read right here: Defining Herbal Energetics.
In this vein, I’ve created a curriculum that helps students to understand the tendencies and actions of the herbs directly through their senses. I primarily teach this in person, because hands-on workshops are much more effective at facilitating sensory immersion than words on a screen. However, so many people asked for a more accessible way of learning this curriculum that last year John Gallagher and I put together a multimedia online course for those can’t attend such a workshop. And now, thanks to the many requests, we’ve decided to relaunch Herb Energetics for a second round. I’ve also taken into consideration the feedback I received with the first round and created a whole new module based around constitutional theory to help bring the entire course more into focus and make it more applicable in the real world.
Below is more information on the original inception of Herb Energetics, or, you can head right over to the Herb Energetics site to check out the first module for free to see if it’s something that might fit into your practice. If you like what you see, please share with your networks and friends!
The Sensory Language of Life
One of the most fascinating aspect of working with plants is the how and why of what they do in the human body. I’m the sort of person who is endlessly (and perhaps annoyingly) curious, like an eternal four year old asking everyone –why– about even the most obvious aspects of the world around me.
For this reason, I spend a significant amount of time reading medical and botanical research. It’s the same reason I spend even more time up close and personal with plants and people. All the research in the world can’t begin to replace personal experience and the knowledge that stems from it. Herbalism is, by it’s very definition, a healing art comprised of many overlapping and complimentary fields. From the essential knowledge of how to identify each plant to knowing how and when to harvest to how to prepare medicines to client assessment and diagnostics, herbalists tend to be flexible and broadly knowledgeable folks.
When I first began studying herbalism, I was particularly fascinated by Traditional Chinese Medicine and the way TCM practitioners could match plant to person in such specific and accurate way. Which led me to an extensive look at the energetic systems of many traditional forms of herbal medicine around the world. Which brought me right back here, to my senses and the plants around me. Looking at the underlying principles of all forms of herbal energetics, we can easily see that it is our senses that inform of us of the basic nature of each plant. Feeling and understanding what the plant communicates to us through our bodies (energetics, herbal actions etc.) is a foundational element for the practicing herbalist, just as a working knowledge of botany, diagnostics, harvesting and medicine making (among other things) are also essential.
The way I understand, practice and teach herbalism is simple, common sense and experience-based. I don’t know any other way of doing it. Human physiology and the plants themselves are so incredibly complex and intricate, that it makes sense to me to approach both elements in as practical terms as possible. This means learning what works and passing it on while adapting to the current context and needs. No extraneous fluff or hubris, no bullshit, just what really works for herbalists, the plants they ally with and the folks they help.
The more I’ve written about herbs and their energetics the more emails I’ve received asking for ever more detailed articles about how to understand and use herbal energetics. For many people, reading is a less than ideal format for comprehending and integrating such experiential lessons. I’ve found that teaching energetics/actions tends to be much more effective in person and yet, living in such a remote location I have limited chances to work with people face to face.
So when John Gallagher of Learningherbs.com proposed that we put together an online course focused on sense-based herbal energetics I jumped at the opportunity. John, with his genius for bringing together many elements into an integrated and interactive whole, has made it possible to make a truly multi-media and multi-faceted way of learning widely available. The format he’s created is amazing and really fits into my emphasis on simple and straight-forward, making the information that much easier to learn and utilize.
John traveled all the way to southwestern New Mexico from Washington state to film and record the course so it could be based right here in the Canyon, on the land that has inspired and fueled so much of my teaching and work. In fact, nearly all of it was recorded right on our cabin’s back porch. We even had a little help from Rhiannon in showing us exactly how energetics work and how easy they are to understand and learn.
I hope that if you’re interested in learning more about sense-based herbal energetics you’ll take the time to check this out and PLEASE pass on the information through your blog, facebook, twitter etc., to anyone else you think might benefit from the course! Many thanks in advance for your assistance in getting the word out!