Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Herbs as Teachers

Purple Morning Glories, Plant Teachers
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In the Taoist healing practices (and also other tribal and traditional customs), medicinal herbs are used in a very special way. We don’t just take them and expect our symptoms to go away, like a pill. We take them into us as if they are our friends, guardians, and teachers.

“My plant brother, will you teach me why my leg keeps swelling? I want to learn from you and will pay attention to what you tell me.” Plants communicate easily with sincere intention from your heart. They will understand and they love to fulfill their destiny by assisting us.

When I give someone an herbal formula or a special essential oil blend I have already asked the plants if they will help this person, and I know they will. Now it is up to the person taking them to experience and learn from changes in their life as they use the herbs.

For example, ask some of the following questions as you are using herbs (in any form – tea, tincture, decoction, topical):

  • Does your desire for food change?
  • Do you dream differently?
  • How does your breathing change?
  • Any shift in attitudes or emotions?
  • Any changes in the people around you that you relate with on a regular basis?
  • Is sleep different?
  • Is there anything you normally do that you have less of a desire to do?
  • Is there anything you don’t usually do that you suddenly have a desire to do?
  • Any unusual thoughts that keep popping into your mind?
  • Any changes in digestion or elimination?
  • What physical symptoms change?
  • Do you feel anything different about your purpose in life?
When you answer the questions and notice changes, stop and look at what they are teaching you. For example:
You normally eat pasta 3 times a week out of habit. Since taking the herbs you just don’t feel like eating it as much, and instead you would rather have a lighter rice dish. You may be learning that the way you eat is done out of habit rather than by listening to your body, and other foods will help to balance out what is either missing or you are using in excess, and your symptoms will normalize.
Or someone else may go to work, sit down at their desk, and turn on the computer. As they look at their schedule for the day their breath subtly changes and becomes constricted in the mid-chest and shallow. As the day goes on and they continue breathing this way, the energy of their body is getting stuck rather than flowing easily throughout, and they end up with their normal and almost daily afternoon headache. Using herbs, all of a sudden there is an awareness of the tight constriction in their chest, and pondering this, the person has an idea – “What if I breathe deeper? Yes, that feels much better.” There is a moment of beautiful peace and calm as they learn that their breathing was greatly contributing to their symptoms.
This might sound very simple, but it is an extremely profound experience to have. There is no one answer for everyone. It will be unique for you and your circumstances. When you know the herbs are teachers and you listen to them, you will learn amazing things about yourself and how you live your life.
Next time you decide to use herbs, remember this. Open your heart to them, ask them to teach you, and always thank them for what they share with you.
Please remember to consult a qualified and certified herbalist who can ensure you are using herbs appropriate for you, and who will refer you to your medical doctor for any advice on prescribed medications.