Incorporating spirituality into my herbalism practice is very important to me. Being a traditional herbalist is about having a relationship with the herbs that I’m using as medicine. Just as I have a particular path to walk, so do the plants I come in contact with. We often forget the vital role they play in our lives and the life of our planet (we couldn’t breathe without them for starters). That being said, I’m still working out the details of how to incorporate a more traditional spiritual side to my practice. Wanting to do something and accomplishing that very something do not always go hand-in-hand. Today I have come a step closer to accomplishing.
While I was working at the chiropractor’s office this morning, my husband tackled a task that kept getting pushed further and further down both our priority lists. We have this “area” of the apartment which we’ve been using as storage. It’s dusty, cramped and not really built to store much of anything. Over the year that we’ve been living here, it has somehow developed into a colossal pile of never-ending stuff. Things that were once in boxes somehow migrated on top of a fans and lawn chairs we weren’t using. We held onto Halloween decorations, but had yet to find a proper place to put them. You get the idea…
While I was at work, my partner in crime cleaned out and reorganized the entire area. Everything was tidy and in perfect order. We could actually find the things we need and store the things we don’t! It was very cool. He also tidied up our cold room. We keep our canned food, root vegetables and most importantly, the herbs in that cubby. Again… very cool.
It is because of my husband’s act of kindness that I ended up in my cold room after work today. While basking in its tidy goodness, I decided to spend some quality time with my herbal tinctures. Starting with Achillea (Yarrow), I picked up each bottle of tincture and started to shake it. As I was shaking the bottle, I practiced the meditative techniques my teacher taught me. At first I had trouble quieting my mind – a problem I believe a lot of us humans have. Eventually my thoughts would settle and I would start to remember how I met the particular herb I was holding. Sometimes I could only remember what they looked like. In other cases I could remember the specific act of harvesting it – the weather, where the plant was from, how it felt. For those brief moments I was connected with the herb again. I remembered them like I would remember a person. Each has a personality and a story to tell. Each tale will help me along my journey as I in turn help them on theirs. Connecting with the herbs I harvested in this way helped me to slow down. It helped me to experience life in the moment – a rare occurrence for me. It was hard to do – trust me. Every time I would pick up a tincture my mind would jump to an herb two bottles ahead. With each herb, the act of quieting my mind and connecting with the plant became easier and easier.
The last herb I shook today was a tincture I made from fresh Capsicum (Cayenne). The memories of processing that herb came flooding back in an instant. It was the first time I had ever worked with a plant of that pungency. While chopping up the peppers I had forgotten to wear gloves. Honestly it didn’t even occur to me at the time. In hindsight it seems so obvious. My hands burned for days. I felt like every inch of my skin was on fire. I actually had to sit with ice packs under my hands, just so they would stop burning. I will not soon forget that experience and what I learned. Holding that bottle in my hand reminded me of the importance of respecting plants and the medicine they have to share.
Today I realised a very important step in my tincture making process. I say “my” because I think every herbalist has to find their own way. I learned that I can continue to develop a relationship with herbs even after they have been processed and placed in bottles. This relationship will help foster a deeper understanding of the plants I work with and their role in my practice as an herbalist.