HEALING WITH NATURE:
ECOPSYCHOLOGY, CONSERVATION, WILDCRAFTING, & SENSE OF PLACE
Classes for Herbalists, Healers, & Culture Shifters – at the upcoming 2018 Good Medicine Confluence
The term “Natural Healing” describes not only a process and means, but also the source of both our knowledge and wisdom: nature itself. A reason why medicinal herbs often work better than isolates and pharmaceuticals, with fewer undesirable effects, is that we largely use them as they come from nature, making tinctures, decoctions, salves and so forth from whole plants, either wild harvested or naturally grown.
For the first many years of Plant Healer’s annual international gatherings, our characteristically beautiful rural event sites had too few buildings of us to expand the number of classes to accommodate topics beyond essential foundational folk herbalism. Fortunately, since moving our Good Medicine Confluence to its new mountain-top site in Durango, Colorado, we have been able to procure sufficient spaces to expand our topics to include additional modalities, and means for a wildly healthy and deeply meaningful life. In May, 2018, we will be presenting 5 days and nights of classes and entertainment for the same prices as most conferences charge for only 3: over 70 inspiring teachers presenting over 140 unique classes that have never been taught anywhere before, exploring the depths and frontiers of empowered healing in all its many forms from botanical medicine to healthy foods, nature therapy, cannabis and entheogens, the radical remaking of the current cultural paradigm, and the healing that only come from awareness of and interaction with the natural world itself.
Below are the full descriptions of related classes by the dynamic Plant Healer Magazine columnist, New Mexico herbalist and conservationist Dara Saville; fellow PHM columnist and Animist herbalist Sean Donahue; nature awareness teacher, forest ecologist and tracker Meghan Walla-Murphy; ecopsychologists Jolie Elan and Emily Swanson, radical ecocentric therapist Angie True; and visionary ethical wildcrafter Sean Croke:
Sense of Place For Plant Healers
with Dara Saville & Jesse Wolf Hardin (1.5 hrs)
How can one develop or deepen their sense of place and why does it matter? As herbalists we can do this in a variety of ways. Some of us might start by engaging our minds as we learn as much as possible about the land and its relationship to the people through plants. By reading books, taking classes, and making our own observations, we can get to know the many layers of place. Others will naturally be drawn into intimate connection with place by way of the emotional heart. Becoming awestruck by the beauty it offers, we can transcend ourselves, reconnect with the network of life, and realize our interbeing with all aspects of the living world around us. Both avenues are equally as important to explore and when united, they form the foundation for developing an unbreakable bond with the land while serving as a powerful catalyst for action on behalf of place. When we understand a place with our minds and our hearts have fallen in love with its vital beauty, we will be moved to make ourselves part of that place by playing an actively beneficial role in its biological ecosystem and cultural community. This is how we become the place we most love.
Becoming Wild – An Ethnobotanist’s Adventure With The Mighty Oak
with Jolie Elan (1.5 hrs)
Many Indigenous people say that plants reveal their medicine via dreams and visions. What if these types of relationships are within our reach? How do we go about building mutually beneficial relationships? On a decade long adventure to eat acorn food, ethnobotanist Jolie Elan became so intertwined within the oak web of life that the oaks began to reveal myths and medicines in some unexpected ways. Join Ethnobotanist and oak lover Jolie Elan as she tells her ethnobotanical love story that discusses the ecology, botany, medicine, myth, spirit and food of the mighty oak.
Signature Species of the Southwest
with Dara Saville (2 hrs)
Join me for an exploration of healing plants of the Southwest and the medicinal plant landscapes that they help to create. Herbal medicine comes from the collective interactions of plants, the land, and ourselves and by connecting with this system of living vitality we can facilitate the deepest restoration, growth, and happiness within others and ourselves. Through this class we will discover the medicine of humility and empowerment of the desert mesa by way of Sand Sage, Snakeweed, Juniper, and Datura. Pinon and Ponderosa pines will illuminate the cooperative healing power of the coniferous mountain plant communities. Riparian plants including the matriarchal Cottonwoods and legendary Yerba Mansa show us the way of the river and the importance of free-flowing revitalizing energy. Chaparral and Globemallow of the desert grassland demonstrate their respective powers to remake the terrain within ourselves and how to nourish vital life processes. Through this class we will delve into the medicine of these plants and places for a better understanding of how to facilitate health and wellbeing within ourselves and in the world around us.
Aspen Groves Of Colorado:
An Example of Advancing Diversity Through Disturbance
with Meghan Walla-Murphy (2 hrs)
When we look across the breadth of our lives, we see that often the most fertile and rich times occur when our daily routine is disrupted. Perhaps something like a birth, death, new job, or relocation disturbed our norm and caused us to stretch in ways we never thought possible. Often, these uncomfortable experiences add an unexpected richness and build new skill sets that may not have happened otherwise. Perhaps not so surprisingly, this kind of disturbance is equally important to the plants, animals, and habitats we share this earth with.
In this class, we will explore indigenous practices from around the world and how people “Tended the Wild.” We will see how these practices are not only important, but necessary for creating and maintaining biodiversity and cultural diversity by key processes such as grazing, fire, forest thinning, seed dispersal, and harvesting. To celebrate Colorado, we will take an in depth look how a lack of disturbance is endangering aspen groves. Class will end with a focused look at our individual disturbances and how we can make our actions as regenerative and fertile as possible for all our relations.
Nature as Guide: The Plant Healer’s Role in Personal & Cultural Transformation
with Emily Swanson (1.5 hrs)
We must transform or die. It is evident everywhere you look. We face an unprecedented need for a radically new approach to being human on this earth. This is true on the personal as well as the collective levels. What do you do when the old ways are crumbling (violently) around you and there is no clear path forward? You get quiet and you listen. We are woven into a vast web of life that has been evolving itself over eons. Nature holds a map for transformation that is repeated in infinite variety across this vast universe. We can tap that wisdom as it exists in our cells and use it to help guide us as we seek to transform from one level of our human existence to the next.
In this exciting and experiential talk, psychotherapist and ecotherapist Emily Swanson will explore the patterns of transformation consistent throughout Nature. and show how they can support our transformation – on personal, cultural and global levels.
Botanicals & Other Strategies For Stability During Radioactive Times
with Angie True (1.5 hrs)
Feeling traumatized and/or numb by trying to normalize this age of constant threat and stress?
We have always lived on top of a literal nuclear reactor. A core of elemental instability powers both planet and – metaphorically – the inner core of the self. Chaos, disruption and decay drive every facet of our lives, yet we experience our time on the earth’s surface as somewhat stable. Is there anything in this contradiction that holds medicine for times of increased intensity? Might there also be ways to subtly shape the enormous energy being released during this radioactive epoch? Join us for an ecopsychological depth tour to sharpen and expand upon soul-level stability-creation skills, including meaningful self-care techniques, suggestions for perspective-shifting, emergency psychic strategies, using specific, lesser-known plants and direct action that can increase a sense of empowerment and even joy. We will engage in a warrior divination ritual and leave with samples of powerful wildcrafted elixirs formulated especially for overwhelming cultural fluctuations.
After all, these are the moments we have been training for all our lives.
Invasive Plants Medicine & Ecology
with Dara Saville (2 hrs)
Invasive plants are both mysterious and controversial. As such, they elicit intrigue and conflict wherever they come up from modern herbal literature to land management in a changing world. These plants represent paradox as both passengers and drivers of change. They also invite us to explore our own feelings about a range of issues coming to the forefront in these times including climate change, immigration/migration, restoration of relict habitats, and how we can adapt to the changes unfolding around us while still advocating for what matters. Many of us may struggle with our feelings about these plants and we may harbor widely differing views about them. Some have portrayed invasive plants as the destroyer of ecosystems while others see them as saviors of the land in an increasingly disturbed world. Regardless of how we feel about them, they are here to stay and we can begin to create relationships with these plants and explore medicinal applications for these abundant beings. In order to do this, we must work through any emotional barriers we might have with these plants and begin to understand their ecological roles in new environments. In this class we will discuss the ecological functions and medicinal possibilities of invasive species including Salt Cedar, Russian Olive, Siberian Elm, Tree of Heaven, and others.
Nature as Therapist: Theory & Practice of Ecopsychology For Herbalists
with Emily Swanson (1.5 hrs)
Ecopsychology views the human psyche, spirit, and body as inseparable from and interconnected with the vast web of life. It offers a philosophical ground for deeper understanding of human problems, and practical approaches for healing and transformation. In nature, we find metaphors and direct experiences that can restore well being. Reconnecting with outer nature connects us to inner wholeness. It weaves us back into an ancient and powerful relationship: supporting and being supported by the intelligence of life. This relationship has the potential to heal and transform, bringing us into balance inside ourselves and with the world in which we live.
This engaging and experiential talk will explore ecopsychology in depth, and offer specific, practical and easy-to-implement tools that herbalists and healers of all kinds can use to facilitate deeper healing for themselves, others, and the world.
Inciting Change: Conservation Projects on Public Lands
with Dara Saville (2 hrs)
Get ready to be inspired and empowered. This is a class for anyone feeling discouraged by the present state of the environment and ongoing threats to our public lands. We do not have to accept things as they are; we can advocate for change and make it happen by mobilizing our communities. As individuals connected to the spirit of the land we can take our cues from the trees, rivers, canyons, mountains, and meadows and bring others into meaningful action for the benefit of the places we love. This class will discuss ways to design and implement community-driven native plant restoration and other environmental projects on public lands. Discussions will include evaluating locations, identifying workable problems, engaging with land management agencies, collecting data, forming a plan, organizing volunteers, forming fruitful partnerships, enacting plans, and evaluating your work. Organizing and coordinating community-driven projects on public lands is one of the best ways we can give back to the plants and places we love. This work not only brings the community together for a common cause, but it nurtures the land and we restore ourselves in the process.
with Sean Donahue (1.5 hrs)
We have witnessed a beautiful resurgence of vitalism – the understanding that our bodies are not machines, but living systems with their own animating intelligence. But vitalism can still treat humans as separate from the rest of the living world. What does herbalism look like when we don’t treat humans as separate from the rest of the living world and that viewed the health of our internal ecosystems as inseparable from the health of the communities, human and wild, in which we participate? We will explore how those of us who did not grow up in animist cultures can develop an animist herbalism by weaving together our own embodied experience and our own ancestral traditions without appropriating the cosmologies and practices of others.
Moving Towards Mutually Beneficial Wildcrafting
with Sean Croke (2 hrs)
Learning from the wild plants is a beautiful activity for the human animal to undertake, it helps to male us wiser and moves us forward in our healing path. A simple way that is easily accessible to people who wish to do that is to learn the art of wildcrafting medicinal plants that live within their bioregion. While this is a wonderful skill for people to learn, we are unfortunately living in a time of great environmental devastation in which the wild places are knowing great pressures by the human inhabitants of this planet to extract materials from them as resources. It is rightfully concerning to many elder and young herbalists that the wild plants may follow in this trend and be eaten up by the gaping maw of global capitalism, perhaps by the very humans who love them so much, the herbalists.
Let’s face it, plants are the elders of humans and they probably created us for their own reasons. Humans are nice because we have movable bodies, legs and thumbs, so we can be very helpful to our plants elders (or we can be really harmful but let’s shoot for the former). How can we learn to tend the wild plants? It is well known that a vast system of plant tending has been and continues to be underway by the indigenous peoples of this continent for as far back as there are records. Simple techniques of propagation such as root division, air layering, the taking of cuttings, transplanting and seed collecting are easy for the average human to learn and to put to use in helping the wild plant to be taken care of.
Can we help the plants to move to new places before global warming changes their native homes to the point that they can no longer live there? Let us hope so. It is my goal that rather than seeing hundreds of pictures on social media of budding herbalists digging up roots to make a tincture which will sit on their shelf for years we will start to see pictures of budding herbalists taking cuttings from plant stands that do not hurt the existing stand and using that material to create a new and viable stand somewhere else, perhaps without ever harvesting the medicine or at least doing these things in conjunction.
This class will cover some philosophy and history around tending the wild gardens, as well as a goodly amount of practical demonstration of propagation techniques. There will be some walking around outside so please do be prepared for that.
Biota Tracking & Pattern Literacy:
Helping Us Make Resilient Choices For Our Communities
with Meghan Walla-Murphy (1.5 hrs)
As a wildlife tracker, ecologist, and educator of both young and adult people, I am often asked what is the most important way to “show up” during this interesting and inspiring politically wrought time? I too ask myself this question. And the action I keep returning too is this: We must learn to know one bit of land deeply and intimately over a long period of time. We must establish a sense of place where we call home. Imagine what it would it be like if our Congress and our politicians, no matter what their beliefs, knew a tree well, or had compassion for a lizard? For when we create empathy and love for something Other- such as a Lizard, a Muslim, or a Politician- Other becomes far less scary and much more approachable. And with that empathy, xenophobia fades away. Our work right now is to create relationships, to embrace the Other, and bridge the differences.
When we slow down and learn to track the stories written on the land, by plants, water, animals, and humans, we are able to make better choices that are timely, effective and pertinent to what is happening right now. In this class, we will walk around the Ft Lewis campus and discover the basics of tracking and pattern literacy, exploring both macroscopic and microscopic relationships that appear both environmentally and socially. These skills of reading the landscape, which informs our lives every moment, will help us to make the best choices for ourselves, families, and communities.
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