An herbalist by any other name…

One day while perusing facebook, I noticed a friend’s status. She had decided she would no longer call herself a herbalist. I love it. It’s out of the box and I agree with it. Besides, the more I study herbalism the more annoyed I become with it.

Why get annoyed?  For starters, I don’t believe in “using” plants to heal “ailments”. I find it disrespectful and arrogant. I believe in healing connection. Plants have their own consciousness. They are their own beings with free will. Just because you want a plant to heal you or someone else does not mean they will or are obligated to.

I also get annoyed when asked to ignore my intuitive connection with Nature. Materia Medica is nice. I mean, reading about plants and what they “do” and how to identify them is cute. But that’s no substitute for building a relationship with a plant–which is something that many teachers of herbalism suggest. However, it is never suggested that you trust your own connection with a plant over what they teach or what you read in millions of herbalist books. Your intuition must be validated by the authorities to be useful 😉

I am also bothered by the idea of wandering out into the forest, or roaming through rural locales to harvest plants. I’m a black southerner. I’m not doing this shit. I live in Maryland where the klan is still active. It’s not safe for me to wander everywhere all the time. And not all of us have the money, space or energy to grow our own herbs. Oddly enough, growing and making your own medicine is supposed to be a big part of what makes you an herbalist.

I also take issue with co-opting Native American traditions when many main stream herbalists aren’t Native American. It feels wrong, to me, to profit from continued genocide. If you are in America, you live on stolen land. Benefitting from those who lost what was most precious to them, feels wrong.

I’ve also been frustrated that there aren’t more resources on slave medicine. We healed ourselves as we were tortured and worked to death. Our minds, bodies and spirits were routinely broken with only the plants to put us back together. Yet, we are still here. Our ancestors obviously knew something good about Mother Nature. Why aren’t our herbal traditions (outside of Hoodoo) discussed more?

I won’t even get into herbalist guilds, or using indigenous medicines from Africa, Asia or South America. All that irks me too.

I don’t like what I have been given as a framework for herbalism. It smacks way too much of colonialism and capitalism run amok. It feels too much like giving power to structures that aren’t supportive and don’t reflect who I am.

I still love working, playing and being with the plants, but I can’t really call myself an herbalist either.

At the end of the day I am left with what I am usually left with: an intuitive connection with Mother Earth and the plants. We’ll see where this leads. Something is shifting.

 

What? You ain’t got no herbs for that?

Sometime about two weeks ago I got caught with my pants down as an herbalist.

Wait, let me back that up. You see, I occasionally expect myself to be God. I should be able to look at my child, hear the forest, give him whatever is appropriate and keep things moving. And.. I didn’t. I mean I couldn’t. I mean, if the child had a psychotic break, possession or something woo-woo I have stuff for his ass. But for an ear infection, I had no idea what to do.

Garlic and Mullen oil or Raw Onions, Lavender, Pennyroyal and Mint…. shit, I don’t know. I didn’t know who or what to put where and to top if off my husband was sick too. There wasn’t space to pray, meditate, research and head to the apothecary (which is what I’d normally do).  It was a hot funky mess.

So, we did things I hate to do. We went to the doctor. We gave the child antibiotics. The child got a rash I brewed some stuff and then the child got well. He is still surly, but much better than he was. The kicker is that we need to go back next month for vaccinations. That’s a whole other kettle of fish.

I am happily humbled and a bit relieved in some way. I officially know my lane and now understand how to stay the fuck in it 🙂 There are local herbalists. I need to reach out to them; especially since they work with Mamas. I swear by hook or crook this little boy teaches me something amazing about life and myself every day.

I hope you and your loved ones are well. It’s a bit wild out there!

J

 

Werk through the pain

Staying fully grounded and present in my body has been a challenge this week. Holiday preparations have been triggering in unexpected ways. Although this could be part of the grieving process, it does not quite feel like missing my father.

The wonderful thing about being triggered is that I can now consciously see what I am like when I am in the midst of an emotional flashback. It’s become clearer and much more tangible. The challenging thing about it has been waiting for the flashback to clearly end. I feel like I  constantly cycle between kiddie and teenage years. So, on top of acting like a pissed off 13 year old who is about to burn the house down,  (13 year old me had good reason– I promise) I am an occasionally surly 4 year old. 🙁 My poor husband.

In the midst of all this, I’ve also started identifying a few coping mechanisms. One of my favorite ways to cope is to pop out my body. The only times I have felt fully present and engaged in my body this week have been when I was rough housing with my son, practicing yoga and listening to mid-late 90’s NYC based hip hop. Otherwise, I have been out to lunch with no desire to go back to my body. 🙁 Unless, I can catch myself and remind me that I am no longer a kid; which seems to help bring me back.

Here are a few more observations from this week:

  1. Being fully engaged and present in your body can be overwhelming, especially if you are working through any challenging emotions, trauma, or just anything that ain’t fun. Even if you aren’t working through anything, life is a wild thing to witness. Sometimes we all wish we could shut out eyes. Some of us do. I’m learning to no longer judge myself or others; just to focus on doing the best I can in the moment.
  2. Since Rhodiola has popped up in my lexicon, saying that I need to work with her, I am questioning whether numbing nervines are really helpful to me, right now. Rhodiola doesn’t feel like she wants me blissed out. She feels like she’s going help me work.  How much pain or inner turmoil is useful in healing and how much is too much to  handle. Now, I am sure the answer to that question is different for everyone.  I am just noticing that a little bit of pain helps me feel my way through to what needs to be worked on. If I feel no pain, I do no work. When I am overwhelmed with pain, I check out to lunch. I find that I need a balance between pain and pleasure for me to work.
  3. That there is so much more going on that emotional flashbacks and feedback loops. I have an arsenal of coping mechanisms and protective behaviors that are no longer  helpful. With an emotional process  there are usually  mental, spiritual and physical processes to sort out as well. But since I am emotionally driven, sorting out the emotions will help me bring the other pieces in order. Everything in time 🙂

That is all for this week 🙂 Take precious care and enjoy the holidays!

Jeannette

PS– what?! Rhodiola? Yes, Rhodiola with some Nettles, Oatstraw and Lemon Balm… as a tea taken daily 🙂 Keeps me alert, present and sucka free!

Yoga and Herbs to the rescue: Terror and Panic

So as I continue to ease off the crazy amount of tinctures I was taking a couple of things began to emerge namely terror, anxiety and panic.

Anxiety and I are old buddies. He’s always humming in the background; ensuring that my i’s are dotted, t’s are crossed and that all the doors are locked. Although, he’s a bit much sometimes, I always found him to be comforting and manageable when I allow him to do his thing.

However, terror and panic are new to me. At least, I thought so. After being a bit more honest with myself, I realized that the only time I wasn’t actively cycling through terror and panic was when I lived in France. So, I’ve been actively freaking the fuck out on the regular now for years.

Now my version of terror and panic aren’t about pulling my hair out and throwing things. I am sure it looks different for everyone, but my version resembles righteous anger coupled with self – destruction. I build something for myself then start to lash out at those surrounding me as if I am responding to what initiated (and still fuels)  my panic and terror many moons ago. Finding myself  quite embarrassed, I then self-destruct, taking everything down around me. Next I hide out and not speak to anyone for about 3 – 6 months. Rinse and repeat through out my 20’s and most  of my 30’s. I can’t continue to do this with a kid.

Rather than get into the origin of my anxiety, terror and panic, I will tell you what I have been doing about it; especially since I can actually feel  and see it in action these days.

  1. I changed my yoga practice. Since my terror and panic are on an upswing (yay!) I’ve realized that I need a more vigorous practice. Now vigorous is in the eye of the beholder, but I’ve kicked things up a notch. I have also been working with extending my exhalation when I practice pranayama–which has been awesome for those nights when I am up at 3am and  pissed about it.
  2. I’ve been focusing on being more present in my body. It’s kind of bizarre for me to only recently notice that I have been low key freaking the fuck out for years now. If I can’t connect with myself or my feelings it means I am not fully in my body. So I start the morning off with a practice to help bring me into my body.
  3. I’ve been working with my personal boundaries. Meaning, since I am re-learning to be in my body, I am coming to understand how my body acts as a boundary between me and everything else. In short I am beginning to experience where I end and where you begin.
  4. I’ve also been asking plant spirits for help. Although I am still enjoying some herbal teas and tinctures, I’ve been calling up the divine essences of certain plants for help. For example, did you know that Yarrow is excellent at helping you create and maintain boundaries and that stinging nettles will actually defend you? I ask for their help (and a few others) every morning.

I’ve also been playing with Karla McLaren’s The Language of Emotions and Healing Trauma by Peter Levine, Phd.

As things evolve with my yoga and herbal practice I’ll keep you posted.

In the meanwhile, take precious care.

The day I forgot to take my herbs…

Every morning, I wake up, grab a cup of steaming hot water, load myself up with tinctures and head to the shower. Except Saturday, I forgot to….

Nothing crazy happened. I taught my yoga class. I made dinner for the week. I talked to a good friend and texted another. Saturday was a productive day.

But Saturday was the first day I really felt myself in a long time.  While cleaning the collards I could feel my anxiety. I could feel my fear. I felt like I always felt; even before my father’s death.

I have an exhausting combination of fear and anxiety that constantly hums in the background. It’s always waiting for something to bust loose. Underneath the fear and anxiety is the feeling that I am a horrible, horrible, terrible, no good person. When everyone finds out, they’ll feel cheated by me. As I tore the collards along their veins, they asked me to be nicer to myself.

I sighed. I grounded. I breathed more deeply and wondered why the fuck I was on five different tinctures and whether it was all helpful; especially if I still feel like a piece of shit. Don’t I need to feel my own pain to heal it?

This pain, this old familiar pain, is different than the grief I feel over my father’s death. This shit, is the shit I’ve felt since… forever. However, it is because of my father’s death that I have space to heal it. His death has given me space to make new decisions about how I live life. I can face myself and life differently. Death can bring you life if you are determined to live.

Today, I am determined to live. I will ease up of the crazy amount of chill out tinctures I take. I will ground fully into my body. I will face my own fear and anxiety. And I will live…. at least for today 🙂 Tomorrow is always a different story.