Disenchantment and Healing

This post originally appeared on my personal blog.

The following appeared in an e-mail from Jim McDonald on one of the herbalism lists I subscribe to. It really resonated for me, so I emailed the author and received permission to post it here on the blog. You can learn more about Jim at his website.

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Disenchantment is a huge area, distinct from depression or melancholy; closer to the indigenous idea of soul loss or loss of purpose; not having enough of what you’re passionate about in your life.

It’s epidemic.

What’s worse is that people have come to believe that they have little control over it; that the pace of life and the state of our culture makes it inevitable.

But its really a choice. So, say you have a 45-60 minute ride to work. Uck…what a drag. But what do you do with that time? How do you spend it and what do you cultivate with it? Certainly you have to pay attention to traffic, but ask this question to lots of people and they’ll tell you they don’t even remember any details of that particular day’s drive. Because, usually, they weren’t *present*. Maybe they were stressing about something, maybe they were on “autopilot”, but wherever they were, they weren’t in that present moment where life is magical and there are endless possibilities. But you have to work to stay conscious and present, otherwise its real easy to fall into mental and behavioral patterns that constitute the oft referred to “autopilot”. You can go days weeks months years like this; disenchanted, and disempowered.

Echinacea and bee

Or you can be conscious with your breath, you can spend time contemplating the infinite intricacies and delicacies of nature, you can see that weed growing in the crack in the pavement, growing with everything that it is, and in doing so able to grow and thrive in what seem like the worst and most inhospitable of conditions. You can acknowledge that despite the actuality of the craziness of the world and the pace of life, nothing can halt the blossoming of one’s spirit.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes captures this so well:

“Refuse to fall down.
If you cannot refuse to fall down, refuse to stay down.
If you cannot refuse to stay down lift your heart toward heaven
and like a hungry beggar, ask that it be filled.
You may be pushed down.
You may be kept from rising.
But no one can keep you
from lifting your heart toward heaven-only you.
It is in the middle of misery that so much becomes clear.
The one who says nothing good came of this is not yet listening.”

While I, like everybody else, get caught up and overwhelmed in the world’s craziness and insane demands on my time and energy, I work consciously with all I am to keep in touch with the fact that I live in a magical world filled with endless possibilities and infused with the sacred. I think that disconnection with this fact constitutes disenchantment.

On an herbal note, one of the reasons I like to have people consider using small frequent doses is that by taking a few drops of tincture 5 times a day, you check in with your intention of healing and wellness five times in that day. And I like to ask people to take a moment when using their tinctures or sipping their tea to acknowledge this intention, and offer a prayer or an invocation or an affirmation – call it what you will – to potentize the medicine (the “medicine”, of course, isn’t what’s in the bottle but is the sacred itself). This, to me, is a lot different than taking a dose in the morning before starting your day and a dose in the evening before ending it.

Ceremony itself can also be imperative. I was working last year with a young woman whose bloodwork came back anemic and hyperthyroid and with other levels all over the map. She was rather wigged out; wondering how, since she was so young and lived a healthy, active lifestyle this could be. We did a consult, I recommended some herbs, but after a week she was still really in a state of preoccupied distress. I asked her if she’d like to do a pipe ceremony to ask for clarity and direction on what was going on and she accepted.

Let me tell you, that from the moment of the ceremony she got better. After we’d finished and a long infinite moment of stillness had passed, she told me, quietly and with simple surety that she had never felt better and more in awareness of herself. It was absolutely magical.

These potentials exist around us all the time. It is not that we take a conscious breath of a puff on a pipe or a few drops of tincture and we are “healed”, but those moments of connection and perspective that guide our lives and reaffirm who we are are always at hand. If we remember they are there for us, and reach out for them, it makes everything else we do work better.


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