The aromatic distillation workshops that I lead are, therefore, an attempt to foster a deeper relationship with the plant kingdom, a relationship full of metaphor, story, and personal myth, while simultaneously developing deeper relationships with ourselves and our unconscious. As the plant material is transformed into hydrosol and essential oil, we too are transformed. In this regard, each distillation provides a platform for self-discovery and exploration of the natural world and our place within it.
In the end, I always strive to participate in Goethean plant studies with the awareness that the process is not as much about Self as it is about selflessness. It is not about some end result, it is about staying present in the resplendent moment. It is not about how much I already know, but all that there is still to observe. It’s about learning to perceive the wholeness of a phenomenon with an ‘even and quiet gaze’. It’s about learning to listen with soft eyes.
I can’t really pinpoint the moment when my relationship with plants changed...when I stopped actively listening to them and in turn stopped learning. What I do know is that I have been frustrated and burned out on my herbal journey for quite some time, which if you make a living as a teaching herbalist, is not a comfortable realization.
"Even as a ‘rational’, scientifically-minded clinical herbalist, I am not in search for pharmacological truths today. I am less interested in ‘how lemon balm hydrosol can be used for my or others benefit’ and more focused on the meaning and intention that lemon balm brings to the ritual and prayer of this distillation. Although this is herb and I have worked together before and I know where and how it likes to grow, its uplifting citrusy-sweet aroma, even its clinical applications, I am open to the reality that perhaps I don't know this plant at all. Not in this capacity, not in ritual or prayer. It is from this place that I search for supportive meaning."