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Integral Ecology - the role of ecology and environment in Integral Herbalism
18 March 2012
6:04 pm
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owenokie
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I’m aware that this topic will be addressed in various areas of the forum but as it is virtually inseparable from healing, herbalism, and medicine in general  thought we could give it its own Topic.

 

In part this is about seeing an individual, and their health or illness, within a greater context of their own environment (physical, ecological, social, family, etc). It also has vast spiritual implications and, for me, is an important aspect of why I practice herbal medicine.

This is an article I just read from Sufi Order Intenational, which has much in common with the Integral approach:

http://www.theabode.org/community/news/reaffirming_a_sacred_ecology_in_the_post_…..d_part_one

18 March 2012
9:57 pm
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owenokie
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A bit more about the article

 

There are many intersections that apply to Integral theory and practice: evolution, sacred ecology, shadow (and the need for healing of both individual and collective shadow), being able to hold multiple layers of perspective beyond that of the material object-world and so on…Very interesting to see the Sufi perspective on this and the discussions held in the 12th century that lead to the Arab world largely adopting an Aristotelian perspective centuries before Descartes came along and created the great split in Europe centuries later…The article is comes across as decidedly Integral.

 

For me personally this relates to my mission and developing an Integral Herbalism. One that can work with an individual (body-mind-soul-spirit) in a context which includes the internal and external, including their environment (physical, social, ecological and cultural). One that places the individual and their health or illness in the light of ecology and evolution and realizes that they are inseparably interconnected, coherently coupled, with the ecosystems and environments and world around them (after all the boundary between where an individual ends and their environment starts is arbitrary). In Integral Herbalism the goal is to help individuals return to harmony, both internal and external, so that their healing and the healing of their environment are intertwined, as one.

 
20 March 2012
10:20 pm
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Mark Jack
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A thought that pops up for me when reading your post is if we really take this on board, should working with the clients environment have equal weight with, for example, the prescribing of herbs? Or to broaden the question more, should each quadrant be taken equally?

 

That was a particularly good article, and an apt reminder to develop presence more! It sounds like Stephen Harding expands the Gaian theory into the LH quadrants; makes it more integral.

So I am thinking how to bring in exercises of presence to clients. Obviously notions of Gaia and suchlike is only going to appeal to a certain level of people. One could really strongly recommend to clients walking in nature regularly and suggest really relaxing into one’s environment and using one’s senses to connect with the wonders of the natural world. Would that be something that would appeal to many levels? Of course one could change the wording (and suggest other things too) depending on where the person is at. To develop presence perhaps could be done as ‘breathing exercises to improve focus’, rather than ‘meditation’, that wouldn’t be so appealing to some. I quite like the Heartmath approach here (http://www.heartmath.org), what they are doing is furthering a heart-centered spirituality and helping people develop presence among other things, but they don’t mention spirit at all and just come across as some people doing some cool stuff in a fairly scientific way (according to an interview with the Heartmath people on the Beyond Awakening series not using new agey type terms was purposeful). Interestingly Stephen Buhner draws on a lot of the Heartmath research in developing the support for his ideas around using the heart in direct perception of nature.

An interesting quote from the article you linked to was:

the deeper levels of reality can only be grasped through …. knowledge through presence activated by the eye of heart, and even more deeply through the imaging of the soul. 

This sums up perfectly Buhner’s approach, though I don’t remember Buhnur ever mentioning Shihabbuddin Suhrawardi or Sufism!

21 March 2012
12:27 pm
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owenokie
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I think as Integral Medicine people what makes us Integral is our perspective, we don’t need to give equal weight in our working with people to every quadrant, but we do need to be aware of them and also of what possibilities there are in each of them and who we might refer people to. For example we don’t need to run support groups for clients, but we should be aware of the benefits of support groups for people with certain conditions and recommend them if appropriate which helps cover the lower quadrants (especially the LL). Each herbalist will have a different set of skills…so I’m studying Buddhist Psychotherapy (which will help me in working with the UL) but I’m not studying community development or non-violent communications or other more LR and LL skills, but other herbalists might be working with these tools as well as their herbal medicines. 

 

Yes, I plan I getting a hold of the Stephen Harding book.

 

I think mindfulness is very important and can easily be taught as “stress reduction” and may have a rather subversive and transformative impact. I’m very familiar with the heartmath people and get there newsletter and love their approach. Funny that the US Navy is know using their techniques and their technology. I wonder if that’ll subversively lead to a more compassionate military or whether it simply makes for a more effective machine! Hard to know, but my hope is that it will be subtly transformative. So Yes, mindfulness, presence, awareness, biofeedback, etc can all be phrased and taught in ways appropriate to different people (along diffenet parts of the spectrum)…And maybe such exercises can play a role in re-connecting people to community and nature in way that is not only healthy but also increases self-awareness and awareness and empathy of other (including our natural world), helping people broaden from ego-centric and ethno-centric to world-centric…

 

Note about heartmath: I think they are particularly relevant in helping us fill in the UR and its correlations to the UL…though they do talk about resonance and entrainment of other people so they bring in community (LL) as well…

2 April 2012
8:30 pm
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Mark Jack
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I think it is a valid point about it being our perspective that makes us integral, and I would also say it is also how well we know the limits of what we can do and how well we integrate with others. One thing I have considered before is how do we make the whole process of someone coming for help with their health difficulty more simple and affordable while giving them a whole integral package of care. For example, they may need herbal medicine, but also help with communication skills as there is a major stress element that seems to be rising from that, some psychotherapy and some bodywork. So firstly how would they navigate through all that (who would be the general practitioner) and how would that be made affordable. I have wondered about having a Integral Health Center that would have practitioners in the major fields. There would be some efficiencies made hopefully through sharing notes, not needing so long with each therapist due to a synergistic effect, and cutting out a lot of the wasted effort of therapists struggling with issues they are not trained with, and such-like, but it still might be a little costly.

 

Another good thing about Heartmath is that their exercises are pretty simple, easy to learn, and seem quite effective. To go back to what I was discussing above, it could we be that people doing more simple exercises like this might lessen the need for more expensive treatment and so make Integral treatment more affordable. Finding out about the best simple practices could be a core part of getting an Integral Health Center working (and working in such a way that it isn’t just exclusively for the rich).

5 April 2012
8:50 pm
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owenokie
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Well I think a well-rounded practitioner can at least touch in on all of the quadrants and modalities. I also think there are lots of free resources for certain things (community groups and events, non-profits, support groups, counseling help-lines, etc). There are also various non-cash exchange mechanisms (barter economy systems) where people can earn and spend hours). Part of our job is knowing whats available and sending people to the right place/person.

 

I’ve been thinking about a sustainable community/treatment center for several years that would have many practitioners working together. Donations and wealthy clients would help subsidize the less well off, long-term residential treatments would be part of it, as would working for your service/stay (think of all the therapeutic gardening projects that are starting up). Ideally I would like a center in the US , in Europe, and in the developing world (that would be funded by the US/European ones and would focus on teaching sustainable living to locals). 

 

In the last week I’ve been working, with the help of firstport, in developing a social enterprise so I can create an herbal practice that is affordable to all regardless of finances so i can serve underserved people, communities, and non-profit organizations. I’m hoping I can get donations, grants, and profits from subsidiary activities like research and writing on herbal topics, classes and workshops, and possible developing a integral herbal approach to employee wellness (what do you think about that idea?) which I could use to provide people with low-cost consults and herbal medicines.

 

Yes, I’m looking into the heartmath 1:1 provider or to some training in teaching mindfulness as possible tools – “Stress” reduction alone can have an enormous impact on health and well-being for everybody but particular for people with conditions that can have flare-ups triggered by stress (such as Lupus). The Buddhist psychology also integrates very well as its a large influence on Ayurvedic and Tibetan medicine.

5 April 2012
9:27 pm
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Mark Jack
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There is a really good idea at http://www.elliottdacher.org/center-for-human-flourishing.html on a center for human flourishing by the author of Integral Health: The Path to Human Flourishing. I have read that book and will have to go back over it to integrate the information into what we are doing here. His other books might have stuff to add too. When we get a little further down the road contacting people like him might prove beneficial as there are not a huge number of people working on such projects and networking might build strength.

My Girlfriend and I were brainstorming setting up such a center and what we would like from it. An Integral Health Center still remains a long-term goal of mine and I have been envisioning what it would look like from time to time. One of the things we were considering a lot was how to make it accessible to everyone, and exchanging work such as them helping in the gardens was one of the things we were thinking about!

What you are setting up sounds brilliant, and I wish you all the best with it! In Glastonbury we are fortunate in that we have an Integrative Health Centre (normal GP service, but with herbalism, acupunture, massage and homeopathy). You see your GP and can get referred to one of the other therapists too. I got my GP to refer me to the herbalist, and because the herbalist is partly funded by the Trust it cost £10 per visit which includes consultation and herbs (for a month)! (They also did a study and found that overall it was cost-effective). The downside of it is that the herbal consultation only lasts about 20 mins and so obviously not so much can be included and it probably isn’t so integral in its nature. But it does make herbal medicine affordable to everyone.

I would say an integral approach to employee wellness is perhaps the best way to go – how else could you appeal to all the many different levels you would find in organisations and give a good service? Focusing on employee wellness could be a good way to sell it as it would increase productivity, and then the project could be a good income generator for the rest of your work is my feeling.

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