Spirit, Spirituality and Intention in Practice and Working with Herbs
The other day I saw a post online where the author was complaining about not finding yoga spiritual as part of a tirade about how corrupted the US is and pure India is. Yada, Yada.
But it did trigger an “a-ha” moment for me.
Here’s a secret of searching for spirituality in practice – you won’t find it in Yoga, Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, etc. You find it within you and how you approach things. That’s the commonality in all these teachings. But yet we see people like the author continually looking for it there and then complaining when they don’t find it.
The whole “chop wood, carry water” trope in Zen has actual meaning. If you approach chopping wood and carrying water spiritually you will find it a spiritual practice. If you don’t, it isn’t. The same applies to Yoga, all religious practices and so much more in life.
Intention is so powerful and key with so many activities. Heck it is a powerful underpinning of Karma for Hindus and Buddhists. And, IMO, it is also so potent in working with herbs and making medicines with them.
I’m actually pretty good at tincture making and get some nice extractions to the point that I routinely get asked about how I did it. I’ve even had folks make things from the same sources in the same official way but not quite have as good a result as me.
At one level, I do have a powerful instinct for proportions and mixing probably honed from my cooking skill. But I think it comes down a lot to intention as well. I believe there are a couple of main ways ways to make herbal preparations:
- Mushroom style making – keep them in the dark and mostly ignore them
- Mechanically make it following the instructions, mixing and shaking it as needed
- Sending prayers, good intentions, energy into things
I basically fall into the last camp, but in a different way, since I think it is way too formal. Many people’s spirituality is oh so serious – while mine is funny and joyful. Laughing spirit rather than somber spirit.
Plus I believe just sending prayers and energy as making what you’re working with into just an object to be used. I don’t believe that when you’re asking for healing, treating as object is the way to to do it. Anymore than treating someone as object is the way to ask a favor of them. I think it is far too easy to treat plants as just another thing to use and I’d rather work with them as partners and in relationship.
For me, I like just talking with them plainly. That’s right…I talk with my brewing tinctures and herbal products! Everyday. I also talk to growing plants too. I say hello in the morning, goodbye when I leave for the day and goodnight when I go to bed. And in between I talk to them, praise them, joke with them, etc. :-)
Important FYI, Nettles hates fist bumping. Don’t say I didn’t warn you….
Inspired by this I did an incredibly unscientific and mostly biased experiment where I made both Goldenseal and Hawthorn berry tinctures but in three different ways each. One of each in my usual talkative way, one of each in the more formal herbal way, one of each mix and ignore for a while. All were made with the same sources and mixtures levels.
The unscientific result?
The first two Goldenseal ones were pretty similar with slight differences that could be more imagined than real, while the ignored one simply didn’t extract as well.
But the Hawthorn berry had quite the difference. The regular way was fine, extracted reasonably with no problems. My talkative one extracted better in my view and tasted far better. The ignored one was the most dramatic result – it didn’t extract well at all and tasted awful with a sharp edge to it.
Concrete proof? Perhaps not, but very interesting to me. I suspect different herbs react in different energetic ways and need appropriate care energetically in making them. And I think intention plays a role in how well you work with herbs and healing.
That’s just my insane .02. ;-)