The Native Medicine Way: Herbalism & The Path Of The Wounded Healer

March 2016-November 2016

My interest in herbs began when I was young. I was always curious about them, and what they were for. The wonderful scents that they would release into the air, carried by the wind and to my senses, were captivating. I found that my relationship with them was one of wonder and amazement. It wasn’t until I was nearly 25 that I truly began delving in to the different uses for herbs, in a medicinal way.

tulsi-holy-basilIt was through living in a cabin in the woods and growing my first garden, with the help of my partner at the time, that I started to really open myself up to the power of herbs and plants. It all started with my now most beloved relation, Ocimum Tenuiflorum – Tulsi, also known as ‘Holy Basil’. In my yard, Tulsi sprang up out of nowhere. I had never seen or heard of it before, and one day a dear old friend picked a flower spindle for me to smell. I fell in love immediately. It was gorgeous, with tiny light purple flowers and a scent like no other flower I had ever smelled before. We thought that it would calm down the orange tabby cat who was then still a wild kitten, so he wrapped it around the inside of Oliver’s collar. Within a few minutes, his demeanor shifted to a more gentle, playful manner. It was amazing to see the herb have such a dramatic effect, and so quickly.

I decided the next time I went out to the garden that I would wait to pick the Tulsi until the end of the growing season, and dry it for tea. When I began drinking this tea, it opened my heart up in a way that I hadn’t felt since I was a very young child. This allowed for deep wounds to arise, to come to the surface for me to face. This was just the beginning, of a long, painful yet deeply transformative purging cycle. I only used the Tulsi from my yard, and didn’t continue to expand my relationship with it again until I began herbalism school.

Over two years and an incredibly heartbreaking relationship, I came out on the other end with a healed heart – very intensely, like the phoenix transforms from the ashes. All of the emotional trauma from my childhood was faced, and dissolved. Throughout this journey of emotional and physical healing, I was synchronistically led to the Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism, as I shared in my most recent blog post (which was actually written directly before I began the Roots Apprenticeship program at VCIH).img_2986

Through attending this program, I received an incredible insight into the vast world of herbalism. I couldn’t have ever began to fathom the extent to which herbs can heal, the array of herbs that exist and the ways in which they are transformed into medicine. They can serve as medicine, without removing them from the Earth. There were a few herbs that called to me quite clearly. Self Heal, and again Tulsi. Without giving it my focus intentionally, it drew me in on a much deeper level than my previous experience. I allowed my relationship with Tulsi to grow, as I connected to it physically – I planted all of the Tulsi alongside another student, in the schools gardens. I meditated on its energy as I gently and carefully placed them in the soil. It was then, that I started to truly understand the spiritual energy of herbs. Tulsi expanded my senses to a whole new dimension of plant healing.

img_6001Now, to speak for my spiritual beliefs before I share a great deal of knowledge regarding the Tulsi plant – I do not practice the Hindu religion, but it has played an important role in my spiritual awakening. There are many parts and pieces to Hinduism that I resonate with. It is a beautiful way, and the art that encompasses its messages is incredible. Throughout my path of learning a little bit about every religion, I have found that my faith is deeply rooted in the Native Medicine Way. Through my ancestral roots, I have found that in my connection to the Earth – to nature, and the Great Spirit – I am most at home, at peace, in tune with my spirit & soul. I do however, as I said previous, have a deep reverence for Hinduism, and Buddhism alike – as they both offer an expanse of incredible insight.

In Hindu religion, Tulsi is a sacred plant that is worshipped as a representation of the goddess Lakshmi. It is believed that water mixed with the petals given to the dying raises their departing souls to heaven. Tulsi is cultivated for religious and medicinal purposes, and for its essential oil. It is widely known across the Indian subcontinent as a medicinal plant and an herbal tea, commonly used in Ayurveda. This plant is revered as an elixir of life.

Tulsi, Sanskrit for “the incomparable one”, is most often regarded as a consort of Krishna in the form of Lakshmi. Lakshmi (Sanskrit: लक्ष्मी, lakṣmīˈləkʂmiː) is the Hindu Goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity. She is the wife and Shakti (energy) of Vishnu, a major god in Hinduism…Lakshmi was also a goddess of abundance and fortune for Buddhists, and was represented on the oldest surviving stupas and cave temples of Buddhism. Lakshmi is also called Sri or Thirumagal because she is endowed with six auspicious and divine qualities, or gunas, and is the divine strength of Vishnu. In Hindu mythologies, she was born from the churning of the primordial ocean (Samudra manthan) and she chose Vishnu as her eternal consort. When Vishnu descended on the Earth as the Rama and Krishna, Lakshmi descended as his respective consort Sita (Rama’s wife) and Rukmini (Krishna’s wife). In the ancient scriptures of India, all women are declared to be embodiments of Lakshmi. The marriage and relationship between Lakshmi and Vishnu as wife and husband is the paradigm for rituals and ceremonies for the bride and groom in Hindu weddings Lakshmi is considered another aspect of the same supreme goddess principle in the Shaktism tradition of Hinduism.

lakshmi

Lakshmi is depicted in Indian art as an elegantly dressed, prosperity-showering, golden-coloured woman with owl as her vehicle, signifying the importance of economic activity in maintenance of life, her ability to move, work and prevail in confusing darkness. Her four arms are symbolic of the four goals of humanity that are considered good in Hinduism – dharma (pursuit of ethical, moral life), artha (pursuit of wealth, means of life), kama (pursuit of love, emotional fulfillment) and moksha (pursuit of self-knowledge, liberation). In Lakshmi’s iconography, she is either sitting or standing on a lotus and typically carrying a lotus in one or two hands. The lotus carries symbolic meanings in Hinduism and other Indian traditions. It symbolically knowledge, self-realisation and liberation in Vedic context, and represents reality, consciousness and karma (work, deed) in the Tantra (Sahasrara) context.

The lotus, a flower that blossoms in clean or dirty water, also symbolises purity and beauty regardless of the good or bad circumstances in which its grows. It is a reminder that good and prosperity can bloom and not be affected by evil in one’s surrounding. Below, behind or on the sides, Lakshmi is sometimes shown with one or two elephants and occasionally with an owl. Elephants symbolise work, activity and strength, as well as water, rain and fertility for abundant prosperity. The owl signifies the patient striving to observe, see and discover knowledge particularly when surrounded by darkness. As a bird reputedly blinded by daylight, the owl also serves as a symbolic reminder to refrain from blindness and greed after knowledge and wealth has been acquired.

lotus-flower

In some representations, wealth either symbolically pours out from one of her hands or she simply holds a jar of money. This symbolism has a dual meaning: wealth manifested through Lakshmi means both material as well as spiritual wealth. Her face and open hands are in a mudra that signify compassion, giving or daana(charity). Lakshmi typically wears a red dress embroidered with golden threads, symbolism for beauty and wealth. She, goddess of wealth and prosperity, is often represented with her husband Vishnu, the god who maintains human life filled with justice and peace. This symbolism implies wealth and prosperity is coupled with maintenance of life, justice, and peace.

Archaeological discoveries and ancient coins suggest the recognition and reverence for Lakshmi by the 1st millennium BCE. Lakshmi’s iconography and statues have also been found in Hindu temples throughout southeast Asia, estimated to be from the second half of the 1st millennium CE. The festivals of Diwali and Sharad Purnima (Kojagiri Purnima) are celebrated in her honor.”

img_4784It wasn’t until I discovered Tulsi’s spiritual significance, that I fully understood why I was so connected to this plant. I have always resonated with imagery from India, since I was a young child. Elephants have been my favorite animal since I was a baby, and the owl has had an incredibly intense presence in my life for the past 7 years – people were giving me owl jewelry, trinkets, wall hangings, candle holders, mugs, you name it…then, owls began appearing outside of my bedroom windows, holding a strong presence around my physical dwellings. There were times that I would hear 5 or 6 owls in one night, all with different calls, in conversation with one another. It was unbelievable.

Then, I was led to one of the most intense relationships of my life. This man is the same person that I mentioned at the beginning of this story. This may sound ridiculous, but the truth is that fate led me to this person; we physically smashed into each other as we were moving in opposite directions around a corner at a concert. I experienced a wave of heat rush through my entire body as we started talking. Three hours later, we parted ways after speaking to one another about our lives, interests and more specifically about these images that we wanted to share with one another; photos of reflections – mine of trees in a puddle, and his of a sacred place in Guatemala (Guatemala has been coming up in conversation for me frequently over the past year from others, as well as Hawaii – two places that I plan to travel to next). This relationship ended up being one of the most transformative and most deeply vulnerable connections that I had ever taken on. It forced me to evolve and change in all of the ways in which I needed to, to take on my path as a healer – this person was literally, like a mirror. A reflection that allowed me to see the deepest pains and desires that I had within. It wasn’t until after that night when we connected, that I realized he was in a band, named ‘The Blind Owl Band’.

And to add to the synchronicities with the owl, my previous mentor asked me to start a business with him, which he had chosen to name (without any consult or conversation with me prior) ‘Owls Lair Jewelry’. I knew the owl symbolized something – but it was not yet clear to me what was true. I had heard from my grandmother that the owl was a bad omen in native american mythology, that it represented the arrival of death. From others, I heard that it was a sign of good fortune and wisdom. It wasn’t until interviewing one of my musical spiritual gurus, that I was given the insight into what the owl’s medicine truly is.

When I met and spoke with Trevor Hall, he shared a story with me that I won’t ever forget. His personal experience with owls, as he shared it with me, was so eerily similar to mine. He learned from a native woman while he was on the island of Hawaii. The medicine of the Owl, is the strength to see through illusion. He wrote an incredible song about this very subject, which you can listen to here:

This coming into my reality created a massive expansion in my awareness. If you have read my previous post, Synchronicities & Manifestations: 1111, you have a little insight into my relationship with the Lotus, and more importantly my experience with my physical vision issues – as well as how I’ve struggled with trusting my intuition, the primary reason why the ending of the relationship that I spoke of earlier was so heartbreaking. This intuition is my power, and is is what guides me to see through illusion – to see the truth, and to see through lies – to see clearly, circumstances before they unfold. Since I was young, I have native-healerexperienced this through dreams, and as I began learning about meditation I have also experienced it in several visions. It became incredibly clear to me, that this was all a part of my spiritual awakening. Along the way, an incredible book that I borrowed on a whim from Johnson State College in 2011, made its way back onto my bookshelf, 3 years later – Native Healer: Initiation Into An Ancient Art. I began reading this book, shortly before my relationship with that significant loved one ended. It stuck out to me on my bookshelf, and it couldn’t have been more properly aligned timing for me to notice it. It was through this Native Elder’s story, that I gained perspective into my calling as a spiritual warrior and a medicine woman.

The Native Medicine Way, combined with Tulsi’s role in my life, became more important than I could have ever imagined. These two sources of knowledge, were the catalysts for incredible shifts to take place within me. One mans story and one sacred herb – so much history and power. It is with great love, reverence and honor that I share this story – my personal story. I too, have found healing through the use of the Earths medicine, and through my healing will continue to heal others.

Shortly after the Roots Apprenticeship ended in November 0f 2016, I planned a trip to Portland, Oregon to visit my brother, and an old friend who owns a Medicinal Herb farm in Southern Oregon. Before departing for my trip, I was led to a Native Medicine man, by Krysta (owner of Lotus Lodge; my connection with her is explained within the same post that I mentioned a few paragraphs back).

russell-four-eagles
The Native Medicine Man who diagnosed me with Lyme’s

This medicine man helped me to discover that I have 8 strains of Lyme’s, along with 3 co-infections. Before I discovered this, I almost ended up cancelling my trip, based on a fear that my heart wouldn’t be able to handle flying on a plane. I had been experiencing intense, sharp heart pains, pressure on my chest and trouble breathing. But I went against the fear, and made the journey anyway. I didn’t know it yet, but I was experiencing Lyme Carditis (which I learned about on my trip) – this is a late stage of Lyme’s where it’s moved through all of your organ systems, into your heart. The spirochetes then begin to eat away at your heart tissue, which can eventually kill you. I also learned from a dear lover, that Lyme’s can cause MS to form in the body, which I believe I was beginning to experience early symptoms of (severe joint and muscular pain, freezing of muscles and appendages).

It wasn’t until 3 weeks into my trip, that I received the medicine that I needed to begin the herbal protocol for Lyme’s. Within two weeks of taking this medicine diligently, as well as following very specific lifestyle changes (nutrition habits: cutting out all sugar, dairy and grain) – including my diet, daily exercise, mental focus, emotional support from myself, multiple creative outlets,  and an environment that was conducive to my healing – I began to see drastic shifts. Along with the herbal remedies, I was drinking Tulsi & rose tea daily which completely relieve the heart issues. Within a month of treatment, I felt like I had a new body. I’m now nearly 3 months into a year long treatment, and feeling better in my body and mind, than I have since I was a young child.

img_2036Since I returned from Oregon, I have certainly had ups and downs – as I’m pulsing the herbs, my body kills off the bacteria and then allows it to come back, but slowly over time it is weakening it, which then creates the internal environment for a complete die-off and recovery from the Lyme’s damage. It is with great faith, that I trust and believe in the power of herbs to treat many illnesses – as I have witnessed through my own healing, how incredible each individual plant is. I share this story, to give hope to others who are struggling with physical illness. I do believe, that I was meant to get Lyme’s – that this experience has opened me up to my path as a spiritual teacher, healer & being. This has transformed my entire life, in all of the most amazing ways.

I look forward to sharing the further unfoldment of my story in one of my upcoming posts. My time spent at Lotus Lodge since I’ve returned, has led me to deep ancestral healing, physically and emotionally. In all of the lessons that I have learned, I am currently focusing on the way of right relationship – with all living beings. It has been a wildly beautiful ride, and I am blessed to be sharing it will all of the loving beings who are a part of my reality.

ᎣᏏᏲ || Osiyo

Chelsea Erin Wright

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