Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Formula for Everyday Miracles
I’ve just returned from the New England Women’s Herbal Conference in Vermont. To say that the well has been refilled and is running over is an understatement. The well has turned into a waterfall.
Before I left, I wrote about the threat to local community gardens and how I was having a hard time rallying to defend them. It felt painful to have to explain their value. It’s crazy that we have to explain it. It should be obvious. But I went to the community meeting anyway.
Despite being a scorching August weekday morning, there was a huge outpouring of support from all over the city. Scores of people took turns at the podium giving heartfelt testimony on the importance of community gardens and their own deep personal connections.
It wasn’t frustrating. It wasn’t draining. It was invigorating. I left with more energy to work on our little garden, knowing viscerally and not just intellectually that I’m not alone. Not at all. That’s what happens, almost invariably, when people get together for something good—something worthy and life sustaining. It nourishes us.
The New England Women’s Herbal Conference was like that cubed. I got to sleep on the earth under a canopy of pine, witch hazel, and birch trees. I was in the presence of over five hundred earth loving women from all walks of life. I dragged myself there on a bus that left at 3 AM with blind faith that my well would be refilled. I had no idea about the waterfall.
I could probably write 10 different posts about the conference, but I have to tell you about the bath. Curandera and ethno-botanist Rocio Alarcon initiated me and 31 other women into the art of spiritual bathing using the healing ceremonies of Ecuador.
I’m always trying to get my herbal clients to take baths in the plants. The skin is a huge organ. Plant medicine can be easily absorbed through the skin through the medium of water. That’s the basic bit. Then there’s the nourishing-one’s-self consciously bit. Hugely healing. When you add in the spirit of the plants, the Divine, and make it a communal event… well. Its completely fucking miraculous.
Before the bath I was experiencing what in Curanderismo (Native Latin American curing traditions) is called susto. Heart sickness brought on by shock. My soul was a little outside my body somewhere. On top of that, after an almost sleepless night of travel, I’d spent Friday using all of my powers to stay engaged and alert for the classes. I’d skipped the opening ceremony, opting for a 14-hour sleep under the trees on the open ground. I still woke up tired the next day, still contracted, my heart still ill at ease.
After the experience with the bath I became a skipping five year old. Heart feather-light. What I loved about Alarcon’s teaching was what I loved about the teaching of all of the elders at the conference. They all said the same thing. Its not about us. You can do this. You have to do this. Its too late for masters and gurus to be the ones with all the wisdom. Everyone needs to step into their own healing power. This time requires it. Everyone has to show up fully.
Alarcon gave us very little direction with the bath. She got us in touch with the nature around us and harmonized us as a group. She showed us the plants, let us chose the ones we wanted for the group, adding some lovingly harvested and hand processed raw Ecuadorian rainforest chocolate, picked a week before, and told us to pray over the plants first and to massage each other with the water. We could strain the plant material or not. I can’t tell you about the experience exactly. Only that it was profound. Lots of singing. Laughter. Some tears. Profanity. Disappearing and reappearing pots. Oak branches.
When you put the healing power of nature and God (or whatever word you like to use for the Divine) together with the healing power of true community, miracles happen. It’s a formula. Simple. Hoping we all get it soon. More and more. The world is in susto. We need some everyday miracles.