Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Confessions of a Facebook Witch

Facebook is one of my favorite magical tools.

It is an amazing tool for divination -- I know people of all kinds scattered across a continent or two, and I can see what is showing up along each thread of my connections, and also pick up on things that are showing up at really disparate parts of my web.   This gives me a way to feel what is moving through the world and discern its patterns.

Sometimes, reading those patterns, it is possible to make just the slightest tonal shift in the song being sung by this part of the human world to change the music entirely.   Words, images, songs have this capacity.   Viral in the sense that we would mean if we embraced the necessity of the viral elements of our own microbiomes.    The nature of the movement of the changes across the web predicted by complexity theory and chaos mathematics.

Facebook is in so many ways a simulacrum of the internet itself, which in turn is a simulacrum of a mycelial network, which mirrors a neural network.  The internet itself emerged when neurodivergent people who had been given access to consciousness altering mushrooms and synthetic ergot derivatives were given access to enough silicon, enough electricity, and some new kinds of conductors.   Right now much of the mycelium is still living under laboratory conditions, feeding off information poor simple sugars, but as we bring our wild selves into contact with the technology, it can be fed the rich nutrients of the forest floor (because some of us have forests inside us, and our very exhalations can be like falling leaves) which will allow it to blossom forth the most amazing fruiting bodies from the transformation of the nutrients.

Karina taught me that "a witch works with all things."   This web is one I tend.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

My Theology is Mycorrhizal

Niki Whiting, just wrote a beautiful essay on the relational and intersectional nature of her theology.  
My theology is also relational and intersectional -- but it is above all ecological.  

I am a Feri priest, wedded to the gods of my tradition, oathbound to my kindred in my lineage and my tradition.    My gods are not metaphors.  But, aside from she-who-is-all-that-is-of-which-all-is-fractal-form (shhh! don't tell the other polytheists that I just confessed to monist heresy)  they are not everything.

I am also an animist, inhabiting a world in which everything is alive.  Gods are one form of life -- like humans and Oaks and Salmon and Mountains and Rivers.  The way in which gods differ from other beings is in their persistence of form -- some have lifespans as long as a river or a civilization, others live as long as a galaxy, a handful are almost as old as time itself.   But ultimately we and they and the Owl calling outside my window and the Cedar the Owl is perched in and the forest floor and the ocean are all made of the same matter and energy infused with the memory of a world born of the love and desire that arose from the Darkness gazing on Hirself in the curved mirror of space and time.

Anaar recently reminded me that in Feri, perception and experience come before belief, an that whatever is true is observable in nature.    So it makes sense that our relationships with gods would resemble our relationships among other beings and other beings relationships with us.

And just as Wolves shape Rivers by preying on the Elk that graze the Willows that change the Rivers' course -- and are changed by the River and the Willows and the Elk in turn -- the presence - or absence - of gods changes an ecosystem.    It leaves holes in worlds, internal and external.

The question is not whether the empty places inside us and  in our world are god shaped of Bear shaped or Lady Slipper shaped holes, because all exist, all are real, the question is what are the relationships among those holes, and what do those relationships tell us about what is missing from our lives and how to invite its return.   And what is ultimately absent is the sense of relationship itself.   We have forgotten how to be in relation with gods because we have forgotten how to be in relation with life in all its complex, emergent forms around us.   And in the absence of relationship, there is a loss of meaning.

Rhyd Wildermuth writes:

"Meaning is a social-act, a kind of intercourse between us and the world, and us and each other"

and
"Meaning can’t be reduced, it only expands. Meaning has no cognate, and the only other word in the English language that comes close to functioning as its synonym is not Truth, but Love. [ . . ] When I love someone, they have meaning for me. They are meaningful to me, I derive meaning from them, we mean something to each other. When I do not love someone, they hold no meaning for me; they are meaningless to me, or they mean no-thing to me."
Where there is no meaning there is no love, where there is no love their is no deep relatedness, where there is no deep relatedness there is no divinity, for divinity is nothing if not a complex emergent quality of a living system, and without deep relatedness there is no system and no complexity.   

But where I differ from Rhyd is with his claim that "humans are the only seekers of meaning we’ve yet encountered"  When I call to Owl or Raven in sounds that mimic their vocalizations, they respond in kind, even though they know I am not a bird.    When a Cedar exhales volatile oils into the air, they carry messenger molecules recognized by our own nervous and endocrine systems.   We are used to experiencing meaning only through the interpretation of our talking selves, but we all know that around some of the most meaningful things, words and concepts fall away and are replaced by the felt sense of being of our wild selves.   Stephen Buhner writes:


"Human beings, long embedded within their environment, have always been sensitive to the meanings that surrounded them. Those contained within plant communications, as with all communications, generate feelings in us in response. We know the touch of the world upon us, that we have been caressed by meaning, even though we might not be able to consciously say just what that meaning is. A door opens inside, our unconscious gathers it in, and at night we dream and it is woven into the fabric of our lives. We have always been surrounded by such meaning-imbued language; later we created our own. Our language also travels through the air, though it is vibrating waves of sound. (Did you think we made all this up out of our bulging forebrains alone?) We have always lived, surrounded by original language."
The new field of biosemiotics is examining communication within and between communities of plants, animals, fungi, bacteria, protozoa, and viruses.  I imagine the field extending itself to theosemiotics, which would follow the same patterns observed in the wild world.

I learned what I know of speaking with gods from speaking with plants and fungi.    There are gods who speak like Spruce, their breath calms us, and we stand in their shade.   Their are gods that seduce us like Datura, their breath all perfume and pheromones and opium,   There are gods like fermented Apples, who render us drunk or put us to sleep.    There are gods like the Matronae who are like mushrooms, each Matrona an individual fruiting body with her own experience, but each connected to the whole by mycelial threads.    There are gods like the roots of Oaks.   And there are gods like the coiling of mycelium and rhizome.

Like plants, all of them speak unmediated to the wild self, and the talking self finds its version of meaning in the traces of thought and language and narrative that arise where sensation touches consciousness.

Gods are not plants or fungi or animal, but neither are they human.   They meet me at the edge of the forest.   And it was the forest that taught me how to speak with those who are not human.   And so my theology is mycorrhizal.





"






Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Can Information Technology Deliver Us from Capitalism?

Will information technology succeed where popular movements have failed in leading us out of capitalism?  That is British journalist Paul Mason's contention.

Mason says that because information technology has reduced the need for workers by automating more forms of work, disrupted price structures by flooding the market with an abundance of information, and facilitated new mechanisms of sharing and trade, it has begun to erode the fundamental structures of capitalism, coupled with external stresses, it will move us, over time, and with fits and starts, toward a post-capitalist world.   The new project of the Left, he argues, should be the creation of alternative structures and institutions to replace those of the dominant culture as they disintegrate.   

There is much to like about Mason's essay.  I agree with his contention that information technology has been an important force for liberation and for the establishment of a new commons in some spheres.  (Though,  we ignore the ways in which it also facilitates new forms or repression at our own peril.  The manifestation of Foucault's Panopticon in the form of surveillance technologies and the development of drone warfare are as much expressions of information technology as are cell phone cameras that can document police violence and technologies that democratize media.)   I also agree that the Left would be well served by an increased focus on what Gandhi called the constructive program.  (Though as a counterpart to, not as a replacement for, resistance.   Mason argues that we need to stop engaging in defensive tactics.  I think that we need to both defend communities, human and wild, and carve out new liberated spaces at the same time.)   And there is the fact that a major British journalist is joining the growing and diverse list of public figures from Russell Brand to Pope Francis who are openly and directly critiquing capitalism in a culture that had been largely silent about capitalism since the end of the Cold War.

But Mason's account of the emergence of capitalism is deeply flawed in ways that also cloud his analysis of the present and the future.  He writes:

The feudal model of agriculture collided, first, with environmental limits and then with a massive external shock – the Black Death. After that, there was a demographic shock: too few workers for the land, which raised their wages and made the old feudal obligation system impossible to enforce. The labour shortage also forced technological innovation. The new technologies that underpinned the rise of merchant capitalism were the ones that stimulated commerce (printing and accountancy), the creation of tradeable wealth (mining, the compass and fast ships) and productivity (mathematics and the scientific method).The feudal model of agriculture collided, first, with environmental limits and then with a massive external shock – the Black Death. After that, there was a demographic shock: too few workers for the land, which raised their wages and made the old feudal obligation system impossible to enforce. The labour shortage also forced technological innovation. The new technologies that underpinned the rise of merchant capitalism were the ones that stimulated commerce (printing and accountancy), the creation of tradeable wealth (mining, the compass and fast ships) and productivity (mathematics and the scientific method).

This account begins with a popular misconception:  that communal agriculture in feudal Europe collapsed because it over-stripped the carrying capacity of the land.  The concept comes from a 1968 article by Garrett Hardin called "The Tragedy of the Commons."  Hardin argued that in a situation where people farmed land in common, as was common in feudal England, nobody would protect the commons because each individual farmer would have an interest in using more than their share of resources and no incentive for conservation.   Hardin's surmise was taken as historical fact -- despite a complete lack of evidence that any such thing did happen.  If anything, it appears that communities of peasants organized to regulate the use of common resources.

The end of communal agriculture in England was, in, fact, quite brutal and bloody.  People were driven out of their communities and into the cities as communal land was forcibly seized and privatized and sold to people who had become wealthy as a result of Spain paying back its debts to British and other Western European creditors with gold and silver looted from the Americas.   This created not a shortage, but an abundance of available labor, which provided the workforce for British industrialization. 

This points to the second major flaw in Mason's reading of the history of capitalism -- Mason suggests that technologies like sailing ships and mining techniques were the drivers of capitalism's evolution while ignoring the human and material elements of the system.  Technology appears as a force that precipitates cultural change rather than a product of that change.   (For an excellent critique of this position see Raymond Williams' "The Technology and the Society.")     In his technological determinism, Mason misses a process vital to the emergence of capitalism:  the process of accumulation.

Marx observed that the rise of capitalism was dependent on the influx of new wealth in the form of precious metals from the Americas which spawned the emergence of a managerial class, that most beloved class of modern politicians -- the middle class, which Marx called the bourgeoisie.   Silvia Federici points out that Marx's account of primitive accumulation was incomplete since it ignored the enclosure of the commons, the driving of rural workers into the cities to form the basis of the proletariat, the creation of a domestic sphere in which women provided free labor, and the witch persecutions which created a climate of terror that facilitated these changes.   Slavery provided the work force for capitalist expansion in the Americas, following on the heels of genocide.

Federici also points out that because it depends on infinite growth (nevermind the impossibility of such a thing given the laws of thermodynamics), "capitalism must engage in continual accumulation "capitalist accumulation is structurally dependent on the free appropriation of immense quantities of labor and resources that must appear as externalities to the market"

So does the information economy.  This "post industrial" economy still depends on industry and agriculture, these simply occur out of the sight of most people in wealthy nations.  The infrastructure of the information economy depends on the mining of minerals and the extraction of fossil fuels from lands expropriated from Indigenous communities and the labor of the displaced rural people from these areas in mines, oil and gas wells, and factories.   Will these people be invited to be full participants in a "post-capitalist" economy?  And is that what they and their communities want?  Most likely not, but Mason doesn't tell us.

Exits from capitalism have always been available to some for a price.   The communes of the 1960's and 1970's were largely populated by the children of the bourgeoisie.   Burners celebrate the cashless economy of Burning Man while forgetting the process of accumulation that feeds it -- people come to the desert to give away resources they obtained by succeeding within a capitalist economy, often with the benefit of racial, class, and colonial privilege.   The post-capitalism Mason envisions may have room for more people, and may even be accessible to most people in the US and Canada and northwestern Europe and parts of Asia, but its hard to see it actually having room for everyone.  This is not to say that such exits from capitalism play no role in transforming it -- but they are not complete, they are not enough.

The technologies themselves at play are of mixed provenance.  On the one hand they are the product of the Cold War drive to maintain military control in the event of a nuclear war.  On the other hand they are the product the work of groups that included a lot of neurodivergent people who had eaten fungi and fungal derivatives rich in serotonergic alkaloids creating a silicon simularum of mycelial webs.   There were both repressive and liberatory impulses involved in the emergence of our information technologies, and they continue to be used in both repressive and liberatory ways.

Adrienne Rich once wrote "Poetry never stood a chance of standing outside of history."  Neither does technology.   Technological developments will both shape and be shaped by the people who engage them, who in turn are influenced by a host of political, economic, cultural, economic, spiritual, and magical forces.   We can't rely on technology to bring down capitalism.   We have to use it and engage it strategically in combination with old, new, and very old strategies of resistance and cultural innovation.  


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Vox Clamantis in Deserto

It's Midsummer's Eve and the temperate rainforest I call home has turned hot and dry after months without rain, and I am awake after midnight, weeping at the beauty and power of a papal encyclical.

Two years ago, a month before my initiation as a Feri Priest, I wrote about the intense liberation I felt with the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, which helped to break the chains the Church still had wrapped around my sense of myself in the world.

Now, freed of that relationship, I am able to read the words of his successor, Pope Francis, with new eyes, and recognize a surprising resonance with my own Pagan practice. 

"Pagan"  and "Heathen" are words that originally referred to the unchurched and unlettered people of the countryside, and these were the people Francis of Assisi ministered to -- a ministry marked not by conversion but by inclusion in  an animist form of Christianity, which saw plants and animals and sun and rain and wind and stars as humanity's kin.  It is telling and significant that the saint's namesake draws quite explicitly on that original Franciscan language, theology, and spirit in an encyclical addressed not to Catholics but to the world.   The Pope writes:
Francis helps us to see that an integral ecology calls for openness to categories which transcend the language of mathematics and biology, and take us to the heart of what it is to be human. Just as happens when we fall in love with someone, whenever he would gaze at the sun, the moon or the smallest of animals, he burst into song, drawing all other creatures into his praise. He communed with all creation, even preaching to the flowers, inviting them “to praise the Lord, just as if they were endowed with reason”. His response to the world around him was so much more than intellectual appreciation or economic calculus, for to him each and every creature was a sister united to him by bonds of affection. That is why he felt called to care for all that exists. His disciple Saint Bonaventure tells us that, “from a reflection on the primary source of all things, filled with even more abundant piety, he would call creatures, no matter how small, by the name of ‘brother’ or ‘sister’”. Such a conviction cannot be written off as naive romanticism, for it affects the choices which determine our behaviour. If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs. By contrast, if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously.
And, then, comes the really astounding part:
The poverty and austerity of Saint Francis were no mere veneer of asceticism, but something much more radical: a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled.
With these words, Pope Francis challenges the cosmology of capitalism, resurrecting a world that was declared dead, and calling for a new politics and a new economics that recognize the inherent worth and rights of all life, human or otherwise.  

He goes on to explicitly condemn anthropocentrism -- a complete reversal of Benedict XVI's position that challenges to the concept of a human centered world were inherently heretical.   Writing of biodiversity, he says:
It is not enough, however, to think of different species merely as potential “resources” to be exploited, while overlooking the fact that they have value in themselves. Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost for ever. The great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right.

It may well disturb us to learn of the extinction of mammals or birds, since they are more visible. But the good functioning of ecosystems also requires fungi, algae, worms, insects, reptiles and an innumerable variety of microorganisms. Some less numerous species, although generally unseen, nonetheless play a critical role in maintaining the equilibrium of a particular place. Human beings must intervene when a geosystem reaches a critical state. But nowadays, such intervention in nature has become more and more frequent. As a consequence, serious problems arise, leading to further interventions; human activity becomes ubiquitous, with all the risks which this entails. Often a vicious circle results, as human intervention to resolve a problem further aggravates the situation. For example, many birds and insects which disappear due to synthetic agrotoxins are helpful for agriculture: their disappearance will have to be compensated for by yet other techniques which may well prove harmful. We must be grateful for the praiseworthy efforts being made by scientists and engineers dedicated to finding solutions to man-made problems. But a sober look at our world shows that the degree of human intervention, often in the service of business interests and consumerism, is actually making our earth less rich and beautiful, ever more limited and grey, even as technological advances and consumer goods continue to abound limitlessly. We seem to think that we can substitute an irreplaceable and irretrievable beauty with something which we have created ourselves.
What we are witnessing here is a fundamental theological shift --  the Pope is moving the Church's position from a view of a world created by God for human use to a view of a world in which all life is sacred.  

He aligns himself and the Church, as well, with Indigenous people, taking the position that they are  best caretakers of their traditional homelands, and that they deserve to be allowed to honor an protect  "a sacred space with which they need to interact if they are to maintain their identity and values."  These words are coming from the leader of a Church which for centuries blessed the extermination, forced conversion, and forced assimilation of Indigenous people.   Now, witnessing a world devastated by colonialism and capitalism, the Pope is completely rewriting Church doctrine.

Its appropriate that this comes just weeks after the Vatican beatified Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was killed by U.S.-trained assassins for speaking out on behalf of El Salvador's poor.   Like Pope Francis, Romero was a quiet and moderate man who distanced himself from politics -- until he could no longer ignore the suffering around him.   Romero said "“There are many things that can only be seen through eyes that have cried”   I wonder at the miracle of the tears that have cleared the eyes of Pope Francis.

Pope Francis believes in a single God.  Though he also speaks of Mary, beautifully, as the Mother and Queen of the universe:

Mary, the Mother who cared for Jesus, now cares with maternal affection and pain for this wounded world. Just as her pierced heart mourned the death of Jesus, so now she grieves for the sufferings of the crucified poor and for the creatures of this world laid waste by human power. Completely transfigured, she now lives with Jesus, and all creatures sing of her fairness. She is the Woman, “clothed in the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” Carried up into heaven, she is the Mother and Queen of all creation. In her glorified body, together with the Risen Christ, part of creation has reached the fullness of its beauty. She treasures the entire life of Jesus in her heart and now understands the meaning of all things. Hence, we can ask her to enable us to look at this world with eyes of wisdom.
 My spirituality is rooted not in belief, but in relationships -- and my relationships are with many gods - the Feri gods and the gods of my ancestors - and with plants and animals and rivers and stars.

But that is almost all that separates my view of the world from the view Pope Francis articulates in this encyclical.

And that brings great healing to this once Catholic heart.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Rainbow Family, Leave the Oglala Sioux Alone!

I was saddened and disturbed today to learn that the Rainbow Family is planning to gather, uninvited, in the Sacred Hills of the Oglala Lakota Nation.   This is an act of tremendous disrespect against people who have been fighting genocide and colonization for centuries.

Early reports are that Rainbow Family "scouts" have been showing up at sacred sites, dismissing requests to stay away, answering them with promises that the Rainbow Family will leave the land "better than they found it."  These are the same words outsiders have been using for years to justify their disrespect for  Oglala Sioux sovereignty. 

The plans to leave the land "better than they found it" include plans to bring in non-native plants and plant them all over the Sacred Hills which are essential habitat for the plants that are at the core of the nation's traditional medicine.

All of this is happening as the Oglala Lakota are preparing to go into the season of vision quests and prepare for the Sundance.

The Rainbow Family's plans are unspeakably arrogant, ignorant, and destructive.

Please:

-- Do not take part in this gathering in any way.

-- Speak out against the Rainbow Family's disrespect for Indigenous sovereignty.

-- If you have information about the specific location of the Rainbow Family's June 17 Spring Council in South Dakota, pass it on so people from the tribe can try to talk some sense into those planning the gathering.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Beyond Adaptogens: Holistic Strategies for Surviving Late Capitalism

A little while back, I wrote about the problem with using adaptogens as our primary way of addressing stress -- basically, the function of adaptogens is to allow people to continue to function at relatively high levels while under stress without necessarily mitigating the damage done by that stress.  In the process they tend to normalize the intolerable conditions of people's lives under late capitalism. 

I promised I would follow up with some suggestions about other therapeutic strategies for dealing with stress - -  harm reduction techniques that we can use while we await the removal of the largest obstacles cure in human history - structural violence and systematic oppression.  So, here are a few approaches I am using in my practice:

Removing Straw from the Camel's Back: Reducing the Allostatic Load

Stress occurs when we experience a real or perceived threat to our ability to meet our survival needs and maintain health.   Allostasis is the ability of our bodies to fluidly respond to stressful situations -- for example, under normal circumstances, if we here a bump in the night our muscles might tense and our heart rates might increase, but when we realize its just a cat leaping from the couch to the floor, our heart rates would slow down again and our muscles would relax.

Each of us has a limit, though, an amount of stress we can respond to fluidly.   If I were sleep deprived and worried about someone breaking into my apartment my heart rate might stay elevated and my muscles might stay tense even after I realized the sound I heard was just a jumping cat.

The things that take reduce our ability to respond to change collectively form our allostatic load.   Unresolved trauma, especially from early childhood, takes its toll on us, reducing our capacity to respond to new stressors.  So does having unreliable access to the means to meet out basic survival needs - food, warmth, loving connection.   And because poverty and oppression make people more vulnerable to attack and limit people's ability to meet their fundamental needs, they tend to have a tremendous impact on our allostatic load.   The greater the allostatic load, the less capacity we have to heal.

This phenomenon partially explains the seemingly sudden emergence of chronic conditions -- thyroid disorders that begin in pregnancy, food sensitivities that seem to appear in stressful times in adulthood, etc.   The underlying pattern giving rise to the condition has often existed for a long time, but the body was able to correct for it and prevent the development of symptoms until something came along that overwhelmed its ability to maintain allosatasis.

As practitioners, we are often tempted to focus on finding the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back -- the stressor that finally pushed the body into a state where it could no longer regulate itself.   But identifying and removing that particular stressor is less important than reducing the overall allostatic load.   The camel's back will heal best when the load it is carrying is smaller.  At that point it won't matter whether the straw that broke it is among the straws that remain or among the straws that were removed.

So I work with people to find what changes we can make in their lives that will make things just a little bit easier: finding foods we can add to help their bodies be more deeply nourished, working on strategies for deeper sleep,  reducing pain, addressing acute anxiety, any helpful change that can be incorporated in a person's daily life without adding stress.  (I will sometimes advise against particular changes, like quitting Tobacco, if someone is really shaken up or really depleted, and making that change will cause more stress than it will relieve.)   As simple changes come into place, room gradually opens for larger changes.   When a person reaches a place of relative stability and solidity I often recommend working on some of the deeper factors contributing to the allostatic load.  I tend to find somatic approaches to healing from trauma to be especially effective at that stage.

Solidarity

Feelings of helplessness and isolation often accompany or underlie chronic stress.  Solidarity is a powerful antidote to alienation -- when we know that others are standing with us in our struggles for survival and liberation,  the challenges we are up against become a little bit less overwhelming.

One of my goals as a practitioner is to shift the dynamic in the sessions I hold with people from one where a patient is receiving a commodified service from an expert professional to one in which everyone in the room is on equal footing, working together to find ways to shift challenging situations in one person's life.   Part of that work involves witnessing that person's pain and that person's strength, and part of it involves coming to collective agreement about what changes we want to try to create and how we want to go about making those changes.   In all of this, the degree to which our plans fit the person's life and increase their experience of personal sovereignty. 

Whatever else does or doesn't happen, creating spaces where people can shift their experience of health care as something done to them to an experience of health care as something done with them can often bring profound healing in and of itself.

Connection with the Living World

Our nervous systems and endocrine systems evolved in the context of a world rich with phytochemical and mycochemical stimuli, molecules morphologically and functionally similar to our internal chemistries of thought and emotion. And the chemistries of the plants and fungi in our ancestral environments would shift and change subtly in response to the chemical outputs of their human inhabitants. Mental and emotional regulation were never meant to strictly inside jobs.

In an article last year I wrote:

Our ancestors evolved in a context where they were constantly taking in a varied abundance of medicines through breathing in the chemicals plants were releasing into the air, absorbing chemicals from plants as they brushed against them with their skin, drinking in the chemicals that filtered from their root systems into the water – and that is not even taking into account the plants they ingested. This wove them integrally into the ecosystems they inhabited, and the fluidity of those ecosystems and the ever changing nature of the chemical inputs into their bodies created a fluidity in their experience. Water soluble compounds from plants interacted with their endocrine systems and oil soluble compounds from plants altered their brain chemistries, shifting their perceptions.

Simply bringing people into the presence of plants or bringing plants into the presence of people reawakens our sense of connection with the living world.

Aromatic plant compounds have a special role to play here.  Inhaling the volatile oils of plants sets off a chain of events which activate the parasympathetic ("rest and digest") nervous system and relax tension in the small muscles around the blood vessels, helping us come down from the "fight, flight, or freeze" response.  (For more on this see Guido Masé's The Wild Medicine Solution.)   This is likely one of the reasons that the Japanese practice of "forest bathing" seems to have such a profound effect in preventing and ameliorating stress-related illnesses.

These are just a few initial thoughts on approaches to mitigating chronic stress -- please share your thoughts and strategies in the comment section below!




Wednesday, May 6, 2015

NEW CLASS: Changeling Medicine - Herbs and Autism

10 Teleseminars
June - August  2015
Sliding scale:  $100 - 300

some full and partial scholarships available for Autistic/Neurodivergent/NeuroQueer people who would not otherwise be able to afford to participate

William Blake famously wrote of the doors of perception which, when cleansed, opened into the infinite.   Contemporary neurobiology calls these doors sensory gating channels.  To be Autistic is to live in the world with those doors wide open. In this course, led by an Autistic herbalist, we will explore and de-pathologize Autism, look at how concepts of "neurotypicality" and "high function" and "low function"  arise from and serve a capitalist culture and do violence to Autistic people, and explore the ways in which plant relationships and plant medicines can help Autistic people deal with the sensory overwhelm that comes from living in this culture and with health struggles that commonly impact Autistic people.  

The course will consist of a series of lectures delivered via conference call which will also be available as recordings for those who are unable to call in when the lectures are happening.   There will also be an e-mail discussion list where participants can ask questions and share experiences and where the instructor will share articles and other resources.

No prior knowledge of herbalism or neurobiology are needed.  Compassion and respect are expected and required at all times.

Week 1 -- Queering Neurobiology:  Neurotypicality and Neurodivergence

Week 2-  Sensory Gating 

Week 3 --  Cooling the Head

Week 4 -- Cutting through the Fog

Week 5 -- Safe Touch and the Oxytocic Paradox

Week 6 -- Porousness and Empathy

Week 7 -- The Trouble with Normal:  Stress, Trauma, and Passing

Week 8 --  Nutrition and Digestive Health 

Week  9 -- Autoimmunity and Inflammation

Week 10 --  Neurodivergence and Magic


Conference calls will be scheduled for the day and time the greatest number of participants can consistently attend.

To register or for more information e-mail seandonahueherbalist@gmail.com