Well, this year the American Herbalists' Guild conference is being held in Columbia, MD at a big Sheraton in the middle of a corporate office park. Certainly not my favorite setting -- but some excellent people nevertheless.
The session began on Friday morning with the annual meeting of guild members. It was led by Aviva and Tracy Romm, President and office manager for the Guild (Tracy also organizes the conference). Some highlights from the conversation:
- Aviva is interested in growing the Guild, recruiting more members, gathering more funds. She also lamented the fact that the grassroots, volunteer-based flavor that shaped the Guild ten to fifteen years ago has fallen away as full-time staff has taken on greater responsibility. My feeling is that putting money into a national organization might not be as effective as mobilizing the grassroots again. And, as K.P. Khalsa (herbalist and finance guy) pointed out in his report, the Guild makes between $2,000 and $5,000 a year in profit, which it's put in the bank and is just sitting on.
- We talked for a while about a national certification exam for clinical herbalists. The general consensus: not a good idea. This reassured me. Certification usually, historically, leads to assimilation. In the case of herbalism, this would not only hurt our discipline, but also cut off the potential for rebalancing the modern healthcare paradigm that herbalism offers.
- Lupo, a young herbalist currently living in Connecticut, was elected to the Guild Council as a general member. I think she will bring an excellent voice to the Council -- and those of you who may know her would probably agree.
Jonathan Treasure, whose personal philosophy I resonate with and whose writing I thoroughly enjoy, gave a talk later on Friday called "Herbs don't work". The point, of course, is that the inherent vitality of the physiology does most of the work, and that herbs and herbalists are catalysts and helpers for the process. Other interesting tidbits:
- Part of magic is the ability to manipulate human consciousness. Our current culture seems to be an expression of a massive 'spell' cast upon millions.
- When a magician comes to believe his/her own spells, a dangerous fanaticism can ensue. To me, this means that the wholesale acceptance of any model that describes reality is risky and leads to inflexibility, a lack of adaptive power, and a tendency to reject those who do not share your world-view. This seems to be what has happened to our modern medical paradigm - a seductive spell, to be sure, but the resultant fundamentalism is all too apparent when we look at obsessions like 'evidence-based medicine'.
- The idea of 'integrative medicine' can mean many different things. Today, some MDs and medical clinics practice what they call 'integration' - but in many cases, this simply means using meditation, biofeedback, and occasional standardized herbs as adjuncts to practice. There is no shift in philosophy, no shift in belief. This is simply co-opting, not integrating! JT recommended Ken Wilber for his work on defining true integration and holism. Check out Integral Psychology and Integral Spirituality for more.
- Once we accept magical flexibility and integrate ourselves into whole beings, the distinction between hero (healer / herbalist / doctor), villain (disease / doctor / herbalist), and innocent (patient / herb / drug) disappears as we see the trinity synthesize into oneness. Practically speaking: herbalists must talk to the modern medical community, with compassion, with friendship. It comes back to what I've always maintained: no personal philosophy should take precedence over client well-being!