Developing a Relationship for Healing
By Kris Vaughan, CH
I began practicing herbalism in 2009 after a lifetime of using only contemporary medicine. You could describe me during my first herbalism class as a “fish out of water.” I had no prior knowledge of herbs or anything natural, yet I found myself enrolled in an herbalism course and wondered what I was doing there. I recall the first class I attended, my teacher began to speak about having a relationship with our herbs. She would say, “Talk to the plants, let the plants talk to you. Develop a friendship with the plants.” I thought she was nuts! I had no concept of how a plant could talk to me or how I could talk back. I sat for that first few hours wondering how I ended up there and if I had any business staying. I decided to stick it out in the class in spite of my belief that she was crazy. It wasn’t long after that first class that I began to understand what she meant about herbal energetics and our relationships with plants.
Learning to Listen
My class took a field trip to spend the day in the desert making flower essences. The instructor told us to walk out into the desert until a plant called out to us. Then sit with that plant and listen to all it had to say. I had two thoughts at this point. First, I knew I would be walking for weeks before I could ever hear a plant call out to me. Second, everyone was going to go home and leave me in the desert. I was sure that I was going to fail this exercise miserably but I headed out into the desert to see what might happen.
I hadn’t been walking long when I spotted a perfect circle of a beautiful plant. The circle was made of small bushes with gray-green leaves and bright yellow flowers that seemed to hover over the top of the plant and reach up to the sun. I had no idea the name of the plant but I decided to sit in the center of the circle and wait. I pulled out my notebook and decided to write down anything I thought, felt, smelled, heard, and saw while I sat in that circle. I must have sat for close to an hour before I decided I had no idea what I was doing and it was time to give up and head back to the group. I walked back to our meeting spot certain that they all had plants talk to them and I was deaf.
The instructor asked me which plant I chose. I described the plant to her because I didn’t know its name and then I told her all that I had written down in my notebook. I had written words like grounding, rising to the sun, comfort, quiet, strength, resilience. My instructor smiled, and then she told me that I had sat with brittle bush (Encelia farinosa). She told me that a flower essence of brittlebush would give me all the qualities I had written down. I was so relieved! Maybe, just maybe, I had actually heard its voice. Maybe I had actually listened and heard its words. Maybe I could develop a friendship with this plant.
Combining Spiritual and Chemical Healing
Brittlebush remains one of those plants that I love to see blooming in the desert in the spring. It brings a joy and lightness to my heart as it reminds me to reach for the sun and open my heart to the joy around me. Brittlebush reminds me that it will keep me firmly planted as I reach for my dreams. It will ground me in the same way the flowers reach for the sky while the plant stays firmly rooted. In my book studies of the plant I also know I can use the leaves of brittlebush for sore muscles or burns by making a liniment or a poultice. I can make a tea from the daisy-like flowers to ease seasonal allergies or chest congestion.
As I sit with herbs more often, I am reminded that they are more than their chemical properties. Our medicinal herbs are intelligent energetic beings that partner with us on a spiritual level. When I work with a client I access the energetic profile of the plants and allow them to choose the person and for the person to choose them. In this pairing of person and herb is where we find a beautiful relationship and deep healing on all levels physical, spiritual and emotional.
As a clinical herbalist I must take into account WHO my client is. HOW they show up in this world. HOW they react to the situations around them. WHAT symptoms are present that might signal an imbalance in a particular body system, and WHERE did this imbalance begin. I then begin to introduce this person to herbs that support and complement their unique personality, constitution, and energetics. I allow their body to tell me which herbs are best for them and which ones they may not be ready for yet. It’s a beautiful practice that often brings miracles, large and small, to those who open themselves to the process.
Your own Herbal Journey
Herbalism and herbal energetics is a journey of the spirit and soul. It is a journey I never dreamed I would embark on when I began my studies in 2009. It is also a journey that I know is deeply rooted in our ancestry and the traditions of those who came before us. I am not alone in this herbal wisdom journey, I have many guides and mentors leading the way. Now it is my turn to lead the way for others to find this relationship for themselves. Join me in the various herbal medicine courses that I teach in Prescott Valley and discover this relationship for yourself.