(this is part 5 of a 10-part series, a life's journey to become an herbalist observing gail faith edward's article on the subject. you can find part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4.1 and part 4.2 here.)
gail's fifth step in her ten-fold path is to study, study, study. she says:
"When my children where young I would wake up at 4:30 in the morning, light some candles quietly in the kitchen so as not to wake anyone, and read and study for a few hours until the kids woke up. Then I would spend all day during the growing season working in the garden or wildgathering. At the end of the day, after the kids fell asleep, I again lit some candles and read by firelight before going to sleep myself. I was completely consumed by my studies. I was obsessed. You will need to be serious about attending to your studies. You will have to make time for them. This requires commitment. You may have to make some sacrifices.
Read, read, read. Read plant books and herbals from all traditions,study botany, read medical journals and herbal monographs, books about all kinds of healing, delve into psychology, sexuality, addiction, depression, skin diseases, nervous afflictions...cover it all, leave no stone unturned. But do take your time. Absorb, don't just skim. Be diligent in your reading, your studying, your research. Read everything you can get your hands on, and keep reading and studying your subject and related subjects for the rest of your life. It helps to keep notes on personal reading as well as observation…keep copious notes. Collect whole volumes. Underline your own notes…
If you want a teacher, go out and find one you are attracted to. Find one whose approach to working with plants and people lines up with your own. Someone who shares your values. A teacher can be someone just passing through your life, or someone you will consider to be your teacher and mentor for many years. Choose carefully. Then apply yourself to learning all you can from your teacher. Soak it all up from A to Z. Offer thanks. And be sure to include a grain of salt."
this really hits home for me. one of my biggest complaints is the kids take all my time and give me none in return to study or focus. i end up staying up very late at night to work after everyone is asleep but the downside is my time with my partner is taken from too. finding balance between kids, home, partner, writing and study is hard.
i do tend to read everything i can though. my collection of books grows continuously and i have lots of herbal magazines sitting about too. videos such as numen and julie of the herbs adorn my dvd shelves and i glean the blog of kiva, writings and herb walks of jim, and everything i can from herbmentor.com. i'm currently signed up with kiva for a mentorship that will probably be ongoing for the next 2 years and i am halfway through herbenergetics.com as well. i live in the midwest and herbal schools are lacking in this area. as a way of giving back, i offer a herbal study group once a month and teach others about herbs. doing this not only helps others learn but it also helps to refresh my memory and keep the herbs alive in my mind.
i have toyed with the idea of going back to school and getting a nursing degree for the medical side of things. i'm just not sure i could stomach the strong conventional medical 'wisdom', especially when it comes to routine c-sections and medicating of patients for things such as high blood pressure, diabetes and the like without first trying to change the situation through diet.
i have found going to herbal conferences such as the traditions in western herbalism and the southeast women's herbal conference to be a great way to getting in some great herbal knowledge, connect with likeminded folks and deepen my understanding of herbs and herbal traditions. i plan to bring a tape recorder next year so i can record my classes as my notes just aren't thorough enough.
part of my downside to not being able to study enough are the distractions of the internet. i tend to hover near my computer all day because of my business and wanting to respond to people as soon as possible when they sign up for a subscription or have a problem or question. one of my goals for the next year is to be less tethered to the computer by allotting myself a time frame to get my work done on a scheduled basis and also creating time for daily study as well.
being patient! with my kids, my ability to only do and retain so much at a time and everything else that i must attend to in my life are big factors in this.
another part of not studying enough is discipline. when gail says "You will need to be serious about attending to your studies. You will have to make time for them. This requires commitment. You may have to make some sacrifices." she is right on the money. if i want to further my knowledge, i must make time. i must commit and be serious about studying on a daily basis. since i do not have a formal school i can attend, my willpower to focus on my self guided study, even through my coursework with kiva, must be self willed and committed. i am committing to 10 hours of study a week towards my herbal studies. ideally, i'd love to do 20 but i know with all my other commitments, 10 is all i can offer myself. however, this does not include all the study and research i do for writing herbal roots so i'm betting at a minimum i do 20 a week.