emotional toolbox for the care and maintenance of the rare wild spotted herbalist.

10. Powers of Observation: One can read every single book in the universe. All the best herbal authors can line your shelves, next to brilliantly, straightly labeled jars and a big ol’ framed degree. It is all meaningless if you can’t or won’t observe your surroundings. You don’t necessarily have to spend hours gazing at seeds sprouting, flowers opening, leaves blowing in the breeze and honeybees flying from one flower to the next in a field of motherwort, though that does sound like fun. But looking holistically at people, animals, plants and ecosystems will go a long way towards making you an effective healer and that means opening up all your senses and rising to the challenge of observation.

9. Vision: Vision is the opposite of observation. It is the inward side of the seer’s two-part system. Vision involves dreams, sleeping or waking, as well as making connections. Sometimes there is more than one level of what is, and we can peel the onion of reality in our minds, observing each one as we go. And sometimes we must eat the blooming onion of reality deep fried at a carnival.

8. Perspective: The ability to take a step back is a gift when we are overly involved in any given situation. Perspective helps us to see another side, another way. Perspective tells us that though it rained on our parade, some other  folks just got their shanty town washed into the ocean or lost ¾ of their family to a volcanic eruption. Think it through! perspective reminds us that we are all privileged to varying degrees and we must carry thankfulness with us at all times, lest we find a bedfellow in self-pity.

7. Curiousity: Without the desire to continue learning the herbalist is as good as dead. Taste everything. Smell everything. Listen to the birds frolic and goddammit, do a little frolicking of your own while you still can.

6. Self-reflection: Asking questions is good. am I doing the best I can? Where do I need to improve? How may I best serve others? Is that my goal here? What is my goal? A favorite reflective practice of mine is a good long walk to sort things out in my heart and head. Some people write, others pray. But some folks get just as much reflection done  while lying in a hammock drinking a beer. Find out what works for you, and make a point of doing it.

5. Alliances: Forming alliances with others of like mind and heart provides much support in the unusual path we have chosen. It also gives us the opportunity to teach, give back to and support others. We take our place in the ancient cycle of healers. Even if you don’t like other people it helps to respect their humanity. And practically, sometimes you just have way more rose petals, maitakes  or catnip than you need-spread the plant wealth.  Sharing information, bartering goods and services and giving trusted recommendations when we are unable to provide the needed healing are all bonuses of a good alliance. When we build a community of herbalists and healers who we respect and who respect us we build a beautiful house of refuge on a strong foundation.

4. Tolerance: When you open your doors one never knows just who might show up in need of help. Though it can be difficult, reserving judgement helps us to be more effective. (obviously,Take appropriate actions against those who are actively doing harm.) Acknowledge the  variations in race, class, gender, religion, national origin, sexuality and ability and extend your acceptance and ears. Love and respect to everyone.

3. Humility: So you have fixed some people up, gotten some good feedback and had a few articles published. Big whoop. Yes, you are awesome….and so are millions of other people. Remember, you are the humble servant of the plants and of the earth –who are using you to do their work. You still put your pants on one leg at a time. Congratulations, you worked hard! But you came from compost and to compost you shall return.

2. Sense of Humor:

“Humor brings us back down to earth, and reminds of our place in god’s universe”-James Martin. Bringing a sense of humor with us to every life event insures we bring truth. Humor is the spoonful of medicine that makes my medicine go down. Truth delivered with a side of humor has more healing potential than a thousand Echinacea tinctures. Laughter builds bridges, mends fences and opens up clogged drains. Healing takes place in body, mind and soul and humor has the ability to touch all 3.

1. Butter:  Self-care is important. Give yourself time to heal, a warm bath, a spritz of rosewater and a foot rub. And get yourself a good vice.  Whether you take a nip of brandy at sunset, want a little sugar in your bowl or feel like making love don’t think you have to be saint. In fact, I don’t trust anyone who has no vice at all….“Vice is its own reward” –Quentin Crisp

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