I just got back from the American Herbalist Guild Symposium. Even though I had a nine hour drive to process the weekend, I'm still spinning! So much incredible knowledge, support, and love surrounding these amazing herbalists.
I spent three days in the lovely Fall cloaked mountains of PA, taking classes, gathering knowledge, and becoming inspired. Truly. There were times my heart felt so full I was afraid it would spill right over into the lap of someone sitting next to me. I am confident I would have been in good hands if it did.
The Symposium wasn't just about learning new techniques to treat various chronic and acute diseases naturally (although there were plenty of enlightening talks on these topics). It was about making connections, finding our place in the world, and changing the way we view medicine and how we incorporate it into our lives.
But really, it all comes down to the same thing. Changing how we relate to our medicine. Growing or getting to know some of the plants that can change our health and change our lives. It doesn't matter if it is an entire farm of medicinal plants or a window box with kitchen herbs like rosemary, thyme, and basil (all powerful medicine by the way). It is simply taking the time to connect with these plants. We nourish them and help them grow, and they in turn do the same for us. As we care for our little plots of land, we become all the more aware of the interrelationship of everything. And trust me. That, will fill your heart.
Let me start, with full disclosure. I know Brian Leaf. He lives in my community. I've shared potluck meals with him and his family. Our kids have even done Yoga together. But now I know Brian Leaf. After reading his book, I feel like I've been on an adventure with him. Learning about real life while traveling in a converted 1990 Toyota Previa minivan, and holding my sides because they hurt so much from laughing. Honestly, my facial muscles have gotten a good workout while reading the book because I've been chuckling to myself all through it. Maybe this is what laughter yoga feels like?
Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi highlights the many ups and downs of Leaf's journey as he quested for a connection. A connection to yoga, to health, to spirituality, and to happiness. Through much experimentation and exploration he finds just what he is looking for. And some things he wasn't!
Leaf's writing is interspersed with gleeful tangents that closely mirror what goes on in my mind when meditating. I'm thinking about my breath, which reminds me I should be feeling my breath, which reminds me of a funny story about my Aunt Sally's breath. Really, it's all connected. And Leaf does a beautiful job of showing the interconnectedness of everything. Even
something like Aunt Sally's breath.
This book highlights how each of us is on a spiritual journey. And it's okay. It's okay to not know, it's okay to explore, and it's okay to not always be at your best. It's about the journey. Being in the present moment and finding those keys that truly can unlock your heart and set you free.
Leaf found his set of keys. Start finding yours at http://www.misadventures-of-a-yogi.com/.
There's even a trailer! Check it out at the end of this post.
And, you don't have to believe me that this is a good book. Check out what some others are saying as well:
“Brian Leaf is like the Bill Cosby of yoga — recounting common emotions and situations on a yogi’s path in a way that makes you laugh with acknowledgment. His story is so graphic, I felt like I was practically holding his hand! This book is a great reminder of why everyone needs a little yoga — a true dose of physical, emotional, and mental medicine.”
— Kathryn Budig, yoga teacher and author of The Women’s Health Big Book of Yoga
“Brain Leaf’s charming and engaging account of his yogic journey is sure to strike a chord with readers who are embarking on their own adventures toward health and self-discovery.”
— Leslie Kaminoff, yoga teacher and author of Yoga Anatomy
“Leaf’s tale unfolds like a trail of delicious bread crumbs leading to the heart of yoga practice. Whether you choose to scarf them down mindlessly or savor every morsel is up to you. But definitely take time to savor Leaf's brilliant self-inquiry.”
— Yoga Journal
There he is. There's the little bugger who decided to sting me a few days ago. Okay, so that's not the bugger, but still. Ouch. Actually what was worse than the sting (which was acquired by completing minding my own business by the way), was the sense of betrayal. Bees are my friends. They pollinate all my plant friends, they make the delicious and nutritious honey I use for so many herbal preparations. They even give me the beeswax that I need to make topical applications. I have friends who study you, bee. And I fully appreciate you in all your amazzzzzzzing complexity. So be nice.
Clearly I'm being dramatic. But hey, it was the first time I've even been stung (even my kids were stung before me). So in lieu of screaming and crying, there it is. Luckily, Plantain was there to rescue me! Old reliable plantain. It's everywhere, from the first tentative greens to first frost. Here's the breakdown:
Scientific Name: Plantago (various species)
Common Names: Ribwort, Greater Plantain
Description: Perennial plant, grows to 0--4 meters. Leaves are long, oval, or lance-shaped. Usually plantain has a rosette of basal leaves with one flowering stalk, ending in an oblong spike of small flowers. Flowers are densely concentrated along the spike.
Habitat: Almost everywhere. Throughout N. America, Europe and Northern Asia. Can be found on lawns, pastures, roadsides, fields and meadows. It is a common weed on cultivated grounds.
Blooms: April to August. But the leaves (which are the most useful) can last through November.
Uses: This is a great plant to use externally for general would healing. Bites, stings, cuts, etc. You can also use it internally for for urinary tract infections and inflammation.
Externally, you can simply mash up the fresh leaves between your fingers and apply the poultice to the wound. Make sure you get some of that good green juice in there! Hold in place until swelling or pain subsides. Re-apply as needed. The astringent properties help to stop bleeding, and promote the healing of woulds and injuries. The cooling nature of this plant helps to decrease the inflammation and relieve associated pain.
To use internally, make a strong tea out of the leaves and drink as needed until symptoms subside.
This is one plant my kids know really well! When we are on a bike ride and the inevitable skinned knee happens, we immediately begin to look for Plantain. It not only takes their minds off the owie, but the plant soothes the pain and allows them to enjoy the rest of the ride.
See if you can find it growing outside your front door!
I am constantly amazed by the healing power of yoga and herbs. They inspire me to heal, to write, to teach, and to keep exploring.