Thank You East West School of Planetary Herbology

As many of you, my dear readers, know, I graduated from the East West School of Planetary Herbology in May 2014. Michael and Lesley Tierra crafted a wonderful course, encompassing Western, Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine, to create a planetary approach to herbalism and wellness. When I started the course, it was exactly what I needed at exactly the right time (thank you Jason, Mom and Dad for giving me the extra nudge to sign up!)

I cannot imagine what my life would be like without East West; everything started clicking into place.

The past few years have been a whirlwind of activity, change and growth thanks to East West.

Not too far into my journey at East West, I was given the opportunity to help arrange a  hour-long study group once a week through the school’s student-only site. This study group eventually morphed into a weekly class, which I’ve been officially teaching for well over a year now (since June 2013!), revolving around the foundational theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lesley Tierra, Michael Tierra, Me

 

It’s so amazing and humbling; each class I teach fills me with appreciation for the opportunity that the school has given me. I cannot thank Michael, Lesley, Jill, the teachers and students at East West School enough.

Within each class, I learn something new, get pushed into new territory and thought patterns, examine different ways of approaching the topic, and am fueled into continued learning.  Teaching at East West is a way that I’m able to give back to the school that has given me so much.

It is a huge honor to be teaching at a school such as East West. To be considered one of the teachers amongst what I consider the best herbal teachers and students, and best herb school one could ever ask for, leaves me overflowing with gratitude.

Thank you East West School of Planetary Herbology, for everything you have given me.

Graduating class of 2014: teachers and students

 

If you are interested in learning more about herbs, or about East West School of Planetary Herbology, visit the school’s site here. Michael Tierra and Lesley Tierra blog regularly, check their blogs out here and here.  East West has a great Facebook page, I highly recommend following.

 

Wants, Must-Do’s, and Can’ts vs Can-do’s, Priortities, and Needs, all in the name of “Time”

It seems there is never enough time to do all we want to do, and the things that we want to have happen take longer than we desire.

This post is a collection of thoughts that I’ve been having about time, wellness, and everything that goes along with it. I’ve been wondering if having a 36 hour day would really allow us to “do” everything we want, or “be” all that we desire?  I’m not sure it would.  With our 24-hour day, we already feel overwhelmed, burned out, and plain old exhausted from trying to do it all. Wanting the 36-hour day would only induce us to doing more and not taking care of ourselves enough, all in the name of “doing it all.” I want to tell you that you do not have to do it all, it is okay to not do it all.

How do I know this?  Well, I like learning the hard way, and oh what a hard lesson it has been for me… In May, I got more sick than I had ever been in my life (it started on a trip no less.) I could not attend all of the classes that I was supposed to, and wanted to, as part of my final year at herb school. Then I needed to sleep instead of sight-see and spend time with my husband on our mini-vacation after classes were over. I had laryngitis, pink eye and a pretty severe upper respiratory tract infection. When I got home from my trip, I couldn’t talk for another two weeks, and it took me more than a month to start to feel like I was maybe, possibly, recovering from feeling so wretched. Being sick provided me with a much needed perspective of what I am capable of (or not) in both times of health and ill, and what lead to me getting so sick in the first place: I was completely spread thin between work, herbalist work, and day-to-day life. It wasn’t simply a matter of “sucking it up” and doing the work, I simply could not do anything.  I was that sick.

Having many dear friends and colleagues in various holistic fields, I received tons of great ideas, all of which I was completely incapable of doing.  I couldn’t leave the bed, much less make a soup or tea, or go to the store to get supplies to make said soup, tea or any other remedy. I couldn’t bring myself to make tea, much less work, go on a hike, or even go shopping for groceries when I got home, I could barely sleep. I felt like a failure. It was simply one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had, I had to learn that it was okay to just be sick and let my body get what it needed the most from me at that time: rest.  Since then, I’ve been very careful of maintaining and preserving my energy, time, commitments, and everything else that goes along with living in order to prevent myself from being sick for a month and a half again.

I ask you to consider and ask yourself:

What need (or needs) is your body asking you to address right now?  How will you help your body do what it needs to do: support you in the life you are living? What are you doing that is not supportive of your life and body?  What needs to change to create this support?

If you answered, “I don’t have the time to change or address what my body and life needs right now so why bother?”  It is okay to say, to anyone who may be asking for (or telling, guilting, demanding, “should-ing”) you to commit, do, or give more than you are able: “no”, or “I can definitely do this, I cannot do that”, “I am unable to help you with that right now, check with me another time”, or even “let me get back to you on that one.”  It comes down to communication, prioritization, and respect – for both yourself and others around you.  If your body and self are asking for changes, you will need to figure out how to make the changes happen within the time that you have to work with.

There are many considerations when thinking about “time”: the time a wound takes to heal, the time it takes to get balanced, time-savers, time to exercise, the time it takes to run errands, time to clean, time to sleep, time to relax, cooking times, family time, personal time, work time, commute time, time to meditate, time to play, time to live… you get the idea.  Who has time to do it all, let alone work on making positive changes in life?  I’m pretty sure no one has time to do it all, I don’t think it is possible. Something has to give.  It may be your health, your family and relationships, your career, your social life, your mental and spiritual well-being, the upkeep of your home, the ability to make your own meals, ability to exercise, sleep, or anything else that can fall by the wayside in the pursuit of “doing it all.”

What do you need to stop doing or change to have the time that you need to take care of that thing that “gives”?

 

Bonsai

Some thoughts to consider when working with an herbalist and your time:

When you are already spread thin, overwhelmed or plain old busy with your life, creating (or finding) time to make a decoction, take a tincture every 3 hours, make a daily infusion, make all sorts of diet changes, sleep eight hours a night AND take daily walks outside in the sunshine for 30 mins is frankly unrealistic.  It is okay to not be able to do all of these things, it doesn’t make you a “bad” person or client, it makes you a real one.  By communicating what you can and cannot do (time-wise) to your herbalist, you are setting yourself up to succeed and be happy with what you are capable of doing.  That’s a much better proposition than saying that you want to do everything, and then being upset later that you are not capable of doing it all and aren’t making the progress you had hoped for after a couple of weeks.

It takes time to become balanced when working with herbs, diet and lifestyle – the re-balancing of your body, mind and soul.

I understand the desire for a quick turnaround time with obtaining optimal health (optimal meaning: the best you can feel with what hand you’ve been dealt.)  Remember: often, you’ve had a slow progression into your current state of health.  If you are 33 years old and have suffered from horrible menstrual cramps for 20 years, it is not possible to move your pain scale from a 9 or 10 to a 1 or 2 in a month’s time, you may be able to reduce your pain from that 9 or 10 to a 4 or 5 after several months of progress.  So long as progress is being made that is what counts and matters.  The same goes for headaches, arthritis, stomach issues, depression, anxiety, or anything else that is a long term (chronic) issue.  I wish it were not so!  Obtaining a greater state of health and wellness takes time.

You can lessen the amount of time it takes to reach a more optimal level of health, but the time it takes is not going to be overnight or instantaneous.

The body replaces its cells over the course of seven to fifteen years – some cells take less time, some take more, some do not regenerate at all, and as you age this process becomes less efficient in that the rate of cells that are dying and need replacing outpaces the rate the body can produce new cells.  If it takes the body an average of eleven years to replace itself, remember that your particular issue is part of that process: give your body the time (and support) it needs to rebuild as optimal a body as it can given your age, heredity, and other factors.  This is why herbalists so often take a multi-pronged approach: diet, lifestyle, herbs.  The more you can support your body, the more your body can support you in return with feeling better.

This week, I’m going to start a couch to 5K program, or something similar. I don’t know how successful I will be, but I am going to try. I keep dreaming about running, easy, gracefully, and quickly.  I walk about five miles a day, I want to be able to run some sort of distance without wanting to keel over. Wanna know how I learned that I want (and need) to be able to run easily and that I had to carve out some time to do this? I had to run to the train station with a suitcase, purse, and canvas shoulder bag filled with stuff, for 10 blocks, up a hill, in 80+ degree weather because traffic was wretched and oh was I running late.  Let me tell you, it wasn’t a pretty sight. It didn’t feel good to be so spent after that, and I do not want to feel that way again.  So, that’s what I’m going to start working on this week: learning how to run five kilometers (or 3 miles.) I have to give up something to do this, and that’s fine.  If it means I’m not ready to collapse after a mere 10 blocks (approximately half a mile), I am fine with making some changes.  For me, those changes are going to be: going to bed earlier so I can get up early enough to work on this program with plenty of time to do the rest of my morning routine without stress.

 

What can you let go of this week? 

What do you need to make time for this week, what have you been neglecting that is important to your life and vitality? 

What can you eliminate from your schedule so that you’ll have the time to do this thing without feeling more overwhelmed or stretched thin?

 

Did you know, newsletter subscribers get extra hints, tips and tricks that are not available on the blog?!  Sign up now!

Finished, for now!

On May 2, I got my Planetary Herbologist certificate from the East West School of Herbology.  The Planetary Herbologist certificate means that not only have I completed all 36 lessons and the final exam, but also the annual Seminars successfully.  I have such mixed emotions being done with this part of my herbal journey!  There was no better program that offered an introduction to herbalism for me than this one, and I doubt my love of TCM theory and herbalism would not have been sparked nearly as bright if I had gone through another program.  I am going to miss being in regular contact with my teachers, and my classmates, everyone has inspired me with their own journeys.

For now, I am relaxing, reestablishing good self-care habits, and am learning what it feels like to be done with the first step while discovering what the next step is!

 

My graduating class, and teachers, from the East West School of Herbology facebook page.  I am on the bottom left.

My Absence, Explained

Hello Readers!

I just realized that I have not posted in months!  Let me explain…

Some of you may know, I am a student at the East West School of Planetary Herbology.  I am in the final push of my studies with the Professional Herbalist course, and have been devoting as much of my time to this work as possible.  When I am not working on the course, I am trying to rest my weary brain and body to prevent burn-out.

As soon as I am done with the coursework, I will be back to a more regular posting schedule!

 

Slowing Down in the Summer (and Beyond)

White peony

As a child, summer meant hanging out by the pool, going to summer day camp, swimming in lakes, running through the woods, spending time with friends and being free from most responsibilities.  Now that I’m very well past that nostalgic time of freedom, summer means that I’m busier than ever – work schedule has required more than the usual late nights, East/West coursework has become the center of my universe, weekends have been spent upstate or at home, I feel like I’m the go-go bunny!  I don’t like it!  Part of it is my fault: I’d booked social engagements, extra-work engagements, and fun activities in so much that I didn’t book much downtime since the “downtime” at home I had had to be spent cleaning, doing laundry, catching up on things at home from the aforementioned engagements/activities!  Thanks to a friend and herbalist, I was instructed that I must take one day off a week – no excuses.

As such, the past two weekends I’ve only done enjoyable things on Sundays – things that I want to do, things that are fun, things that relax the mind and body.  I’ve had to do a couple of hours worth of things each of those days, but when the timer goes off I stop what I’m doing and move to something else.  All of this has made me realize how little I take time to just enjoy being home, watch a movie (with organic popcorn!), and just be.  As one of my most wonderfully great teachers says, we need the balance of both doing and being.

Besides, summer is the time for storing up our energy reserves to get us through the long winter!  It isn’t meant for pushing ourselves harder, faster, and longer!  When we push ourselves so hard in the summer, we are depleted going into fall and winter, and end up getting sick.  I’m giving you permission, like my friend-herbalist did for me, to have a day off, ask for help, treat yourself to a full day of “being.”

With my instructions to “be” for a whole day once a week, I’ve realized how much I push myself and that I’m always “doing”.  Even my idea of “being” has elements of doing in it!  I can’t stop!!!  I have been brought up to think that “being” is akin to laziness (whether this was something I’ve implied/formed on my own or was instilled in me, I don’t know) but I’m learning that you have to “be” so that you can “do” (and vice versa) and that being is not lazy but necessary!  It makes me so so sad to know that I really could have (and should have) slowed down, stopped to smell the roses, and laze about my home in the interest of dolce far niente.  Not everything needs to get done, I can’t do everything I want to do, and that’s going to have to be okay.

So, what’s a gal, who doesn’t like to slow down, do to slow down???

1.  Take a bath, I (like my mother) adore Epsom Salts.  They not only help to replenish the magnesium in our body, but they feel oh so good!  If you have lavender essential oil, put 5-6 drops into the bathwater before you get in.   If you have flowers, put them into a muslin bag (or brew a strong tea) then add to your bathwater.  I also really like adding powdered rose petals to the bathwater, just a tablespoon or two.

2.  Drink a cup of tea.  My favorite is chamomile-rose at the moment, but I also like lemon balm too.

3.  If you are so inclined, laze on the couch, put a movie on – any movie that makes you happy – and watch it from start to finish.

4.  Read a book!

5.  Talk a stroll through the park, make it leisurely and long.

6.  Get together with loved ones or friends and spend the afternoon together.

7.  Take time to meditate – sit, lay down, walking meditation, etc.  Enjoy the stillness and silence of yourself, take the deep breaths into the vastness of your soul and spirit.

8.  Most of all – don’t do housework, cleaning, laundry, cooking, etc.  I am learning to reserve one day a week as a day of rest, and I’m learning to protect it as something special.  It has been far too long since I’ve taken a day to rest and relax, years at least!

9.  Check out Rosalee de la Foret’s post on the Human Nervous System for more information too!  www.herbalremediesadvice.org/human-nervous-system.html

What do you do to relax?  How do you like to spend your days off???

Bringing a Community Together

Last night I attended a meeting to discuss forming a NYC-based chapter of the American Herbalists Guild.  I find the AHG to be refreshing, as I now feel like I’m part of an herbalist community outside of East West School of Herbology, in addition to various groups and forums (online) on a day-to-day basis.

Since a a NYC AHG chapter has been formed, it means that I’ll have more opportunities to connect with other herbalists and herb lovers – in person!

East West School of Herbology Seminar 2013

I have been to the Californian Redwoods and back!  It is time to tell folks about my experience at my most wonderful herb school’s annual seminar (intensive!)

Seminar ran from April 26 through May 3 this year, thus I took an early morning flight from LaGuardia Airport and arrived in San Jose, CA early afternoon on the 26th.  I was so excited, I could barely contain myself!  I might have gotten two hours of sleep on the plane, if that!  When you arrive at Seminar, you check in and are told where you are staying.  So down to my room I go, dump all of my stuff and run back to talk to people (I thought Seminar was going to be a week-long party with classes in between – boy was I wrong!)  We all had dinner, the opening ceremony and got to talk to more people.

When everyone was talking and saying hello to each other (thank goodness for those name tags we had to wear), I saw my mentor and we gave each other a big hug.  I just adore my mentor, he is amazing.  I got to meet my teacher, the founder of the school, Michael Tierra too.  What a moment that was!  After all I’ve been through, it was so wonderful to be meeting these two men who have greatly influenced my life.  I met some wonderful people, who I hope to be connected with and talking to for many years to come.

Although it was my first Seminar, I was invited to move into the second level for a variety of reasons.  I was honored and terrified that I wouldn’t know enough.  The very first class we had was also on abdominal diagnosis, and it was an all day class run by Holly Guzman.  It was a wonderful class!  We had very informative classes from Roy Upton on the GMP regulations, and Christopher Hobbs on inflammation.  We had several Materia Medica (herb) classes, all of which were great, although I wish we could have covered more material in the 3 hours we had!  We had a great class with Michael Tierra on the Five Stagnations (Cold, Blood, Qi, Fluid, Food) where we learned about mu and shu (front and back) point diagnosis and different methods of moxibustion!  My favorite with the moxibustion was the direct method – where you put little carefully rolled cones of loose moxa directly on the skin and light it!  It is intense, I thought it felt amazing.  We had a “starting your herbal practice” class with Susan Kramer, lots of great practical information and advice; and a fantastic case study class with Susan as well.  The case study class is where you bring in a client’s information (anonymously), and you work on their intake to figure out what is going on with them (aka assessment, strategy, recommendations.)  This helped me a great deal, as I tend to over-think and second guess myself when working on intakes and case breakdown/assessment.  Susan is able to penetrate to the heart of the matter quickly, as do all of our wonderful teachers, they truly are wonderful role models and inspiration to all of us EW students!   Mornings were filled with Qi Gong and the Four Purifications, we had plenty of nourishing food (so much so that I didn’t have to snack during classes!)

I experienced not a bout of homesickness like I usually do, but a bout of husband-sickness.  I missed my husband so much, I could barely stand it at one point.  It was quite the rude awakening knowing that I felt I couldn’t function without my rock.  I felt like I’d been torn in two the first part of the week, it was very difficult.  Add to that the very intense social atmosphere, limited alone time (which is so needed and valued as an introvert) and you have quite the combination!  While I did not implode, I did feel quite lonely amongst all of my peers and teachers.  It was a great learning experience in that I’ve forgotten how to be by myself without distractions, like I used to be BH (before husband.)  There was a time when I’d basically turn my phone off for days on end, do my thing, and not talk to anyone (except my cat.)  I’m constantly connected and talking to my husband, my family, friends, teachers, etc.  It was a great lesson in self-sufficiency, independence, self-security, and also the power of silence in our day-to-day lives for reconnecting with our true selves.

Below is my very favorite poem, from the moment I arrived at Seminar this basically sums up how I felt.

 

A Revealing Look at Why I Became an Herbalist (or How Herbs Found Me)

This is in part a candid disclosure of how I came to be where I am now, how I decided to become an herbalist and also a bit of a love letter to my school: East West School of Herbology. Thanks to East West, I have learned about how I’ve come to be as I am now, with my imbalances and all.  So, let’s start as close to the beginning of the start of my ills as possible:

As a kid, I suffered from a lot of repeat infections and rounds of antibiotics.  I’d go through periods where I was totally healthy, then get sick and unable to get rid of it on my own.  Sometime in middle school, I started getting migraine headaches.  When I went to college, I was on no particular sleep pattern – staying up for days on end with all but two hours of sleep – and having a similar eating pattern as well.  When I finished college, and got a job, things got better but I still suffered from migraines, and horrible PMS (that I had had at the onset of menses.)  Let’s just say that I felt like I couldn’t catch a break with my health!

A couple years before moving to Brooklyn, I was the victim of a sexual assault.  That was very difficult time to get through, and I’m not ashamed of what happened to me.  I’m talking about it here because I think things like this have happened to far too many women who have remained silent on the issue, including myself, who then go on to have a variety of health issues later on in life (physical/psychiatric/emotional.) It is important to talk to someone about it, and get the help you need.  You don’t have to remain silent on the issue.

A year or so later, I started dating my  husband and we decided it was time to move in together.  I moved from a pretty comfortable and convenient life, happily living alone with my cat, pretty easy all things considered though not carefree by any means, to Brooklyn.  I also started a very new and very demanding job.  It was a huge change!  That’s the second thing that really messed me up – the complete life overhaul.  The new job that I had was so different from what I went to school for (I have a Master’s in Teaching, and a BFA in Printmaking), I had felt like some sort of failure for 1. not being able to get a teaching job in a city where there was a “teacher shortage” with a very expensive Master’s degree and 2. not being able to make any progress with art galleries and my artwork.  It took me a long time to realize that these things really did happen for a reason.  I felt so lost with my career path, this feeling went on for years.  (I still work that same job from when I moved to Brooklyn, and I adore my boss.  I’ve learned a lot from this job and her, and am very grateful.)

In the midst of my feelings of career failure, I developed a terrible depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (a severe type of PMS), seasonal affective disorder (SAD) that was so bad I would consider dropping everything in my life and running away, and then I began having regular migraines that almost cost me my job.  I became more and more despondent, saw my doctor, began taking Prozac, put on 20lbs then became both emotionally numb and ashamed for gaining 20lbs.  I had relationships that were toxic to my well-being, the list goes on!  In short, I was a mess.

I got so tired of feeling horrible, I went to my doctor asked what I could do to help that wasn’t pharmaceutically driven – the suggestion: get a light box or go on birth control pills.  Thus, I got a light box (10,000 lux) for my SAD, started taking St. John’s Wort, stopped taking Prozac and slowly started to see some semblance of light.  Thankfully, my diet has never been a huge issue, but I still ended up making some changes (limiting dairy, and limiting/avoiding spicy foods.)

I kept getting migraines despite my best efforts, and I still felt incredibly stuck.  I just couldn’t figure it out.

A year and a few months after I stopped taking Prozac, I had popped over to East West’s website and saw that their new coursebooks were available and being offered at a nice rate.  That was October 2011.  It was the best decision I’ve made regarding my “life’s work.”

It wasn’t until February of 2012 that I really had a breakthrough.  After doing some major cleaning in my life, I had an “a-hah” moment during my East West lesson reading.  I learned that a good deal of my list of issues fell pretty well into the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) pattern of Liver Qi Stagnation.  One of the biggest causes of Liver Qi Stagnation is emotion stuffing – wherein a person does not express themselves often enough.  Since starting with an herbal formula, I’ve felt like I’m more me and less my problems.

I feel “lighter”, no longer stuck, like my depression has decided to leave the building or at least not rain on my parade every single day. I feel less better at that time of the month, I feel like I can do things and that things will unfold when they should unfold.  I’ve even caught myself singing (in the shower, walking down the street, cleaning, you name it.)  I can’t remember the last time I would randomly start singing.  A nice bonus is that I’ve lost about 15 of the 20lbs I gained from being on Prozac – that’s not entirely due to the herbs, but a combination of herbs, diet, exercise and I think general well-being gains.  I haven’t had a “stuck all day in bed” migraine in a year, huge compared to the once a month plus ones I was getting!  I’m a work in progress, I still have problems – but my problems don’t seem so difficult anymore, certainly not as insurmountable.  It’s taken a lot of work and time, it has been worth it.

That is why I became an herbalist.  If I can pull myself out of a terrible “stuck” with the use of herbs, diet and lifestyle changes (as well as some deep internal work), you can choose to get back to health too.  I want to help people feel their best, get better, and become happier with their lives and selves.  I want to share these joys with you.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA