Thursday, March 23, 2017

Herbs or Subtle Energy Remedies?

I’ve been listening this week to The Plant Medicine Summit hosted by David Crow. I greatly admire David Crow and all his guests for their dedication to healing — healing body, mind, spirit, community, and planet. Most of these herbalists are distinctly holistic in their views, and I applaud and honor them.
A few of the presenters' perspectives on the use of herbs as a primary medicinal approach to healing is different than mine, however, and provides me with the opportunity to share an aspect of diversity (of many diverse aspects) in healing paths, which each of us must address whether we are recipient or practitioner.
One key difference is that many Western herbalists (especially lay herbalists) are still maintaining their foundations in the material world of treatment, like an herbal allopathy. And, while I certainly respect that approach and the healing that can result, and occasionally use direct herbal support as well, my path lies more within the realm of subtle energy support for healing. From a Western view, herbal medicines are most often used simply as a natural version of pharmaceuticals; the herbal preparations do have an energetic component (Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine address this, from the actions upon subtle energy bodies to the actions as derived from astrology), but their use in the Western world is often primarily based solely upon their physiological actions within the body system. With acute ailments, this can be great; with chronic dis-ease, a holistic approach is vital.
There are herbalists who encourage a more holistic and energetic approach to understanding and using herbs, so I don't want to lump all into a single group. This is the area in which most of the speakers on the Plant Medicine Summit reside. 
For instance, one of the speakers (who was one of my teachers at Kripalu School of Ayurveda), William Siff gave his talk on the Herbal Lifestyle; that particular approach resonates with my own. He speaks of creating herbal habits in our diet and how it can create a "saturation" of energy from the ongoing use of herbs. Vasant Lad, another of my teachers, gave a brilliant talk on What is Prana? Understanding the concept of life force in Ayurveda and its relationship to medicinal plants. The third talk that addresses my own approach to a great degree was that of Acharya Shunya titled Thus Spoke the Sages: Ayurveda on the natural environment of plants and dharma. In his work, Matthew Wood refers to the personalities of herbs, so his understanding aligns with the holistic one taken by many indigenous people and shamans; David Winston also presents a talk "more than this herb for that disease." And Chanchal Cabrera took our relationship with herbs and plants in a beautiful direction when she provided a brilliant, illuminating talk called Tree Medicine: Shinrin You - Forest Bathing as a clinical practice; this is an accepted medical prescription in Japan based upon ancient wisdom combined with modern studies showing tremendous benefits to being in nature.
Subtle energy remedies are, conversely, working their wonders from within and upon the vital force of the individual. That is where the action begins, whether with homeopathy or flower essences. It is the mistunement of the life force that creates a functional disturbance in the individual, eventually followed by structural manifestations if not addressed early enough. Thus, we are working with energy at a deeper level within the system and the healing moves outward to address symptoms. This does not mean that energy remedies do not heal structural manifestations. Roberts says about homeopathic remedies, in his classic work Principles and Art of Cure by Homoeopathy:
“This medication may control and retard the development of pathological conditions. Thus tumours may be retarded or completely arrested, and absorption increased, and finally the disappearance of the grown; secretions or excretions increased or decreased; ulcers healed; but all this is secondary to the real cure which takes place solely in the dynamic sphere, restoring the patient to health and harmonious functioning of his whole being by the dynamic influence of the symptomatically similar remedy.” [Emphasis mine]
At the same time that we are using subtle energy for healing (or herbs), it is certainly best to also address any “obstacles to cure,” which can be diet, lifestyle, spirituality, and more. In my approach to healing and health care, herbs usually fall into the “diet” category rather than the medicinal one, per se. Herbs and spices are valuable in their support to the body, just as food is. This is why in my Five Petal Path to Healing, you will find herbs coming under the heading of “Food & Spices” rather than shown as a distinct petal of healing. 

I believe that the future of healing -- when a conscious lifestyle does not achieve health and/or an accident occurs -- lies within energy medicine. Not only does it get to the source of how dis-ease occurs within us, but, in our environmentally challenged world, the energy remedies encourage a far higher degree of sustainability than the production and harvesting of large quantities of herbs (or the aromatics used in essential oils, which do have a profoundly energetic effect), because only a minute amount of the original substance is needed to create vast supplies of remedies.
There is a healing path for each of us; open your heart as well as your mind, and yours will make itself known.

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