Christine is an eco-psychospiritual herbalist, with a Master of Science (MSc.) degree in Herbal Medicine, with a focus on the Goethean Methodology, from the University of Wales in the UK. She is a current Professional Member (RH) and past president of the Ontario Herbalists Association as well as a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (MNIMH) in the UK. Christine is an IFS-informed therapist (Internal Family Systems model of psychotherapy), having first been introduced to this approach by ayahuasca in a ceremony about 15 yrs ago.
In awe of the Mystery, as a vitalist, death doula, ceremonialist, griever, astro enthusiast and amateur naturalist, thus a lover of Nature and the Cosmos, and having a blend of bio-medical, traditional, energetic (5 elements) and mystical herbal medicine experience, Christine considers herself to be an eclectic and integrative practitioner. She has 25+ years of hands-on experience in the field, seeing patients, and facilitating herbal and health education.
Living at the end of a dirt road, surrounded by trees, gardens and nature, right next to the forest, it is here that Christine works and dwells in the edges.
What is one of the first questions someone asks you when you first meet?….. In my experience it has been “So, what do you do?” they ask. And with the DO we seem to think that they are actually asking “what do you do for a living”.
In a society where reality TV is anything but reality, and the clothes we wear are fashioned to cover up stretch marks from growing our beautiful babies or to cover up our “muffin tops”, it is also a society where our lives are often lived and spoken in this same sort of way. We live in a way where our true selves are not allowed to be what people see and meet first. How many coffees or dates does it take before we really meet that person? Or at what point does one ask, “oh should I wear a padded bra and make up so I feel good now? But what if this relationship continues and the bra and make up comes off?” And so what if when someone asks “What do you do?”, our communication is done in the same way? What if in a society that hides behind illusion, the question they are actually attempting to ask is “Who are you?”? What then? How do you answer that question? With truth, or illusion? Do you even know the answer to that question? Or do we keep with the illusion and just answer by telling them what your job is?
I think one of the closest indicators we get to who a person is is in the life they are living. Presumably we are living a life of choice, right? No, why not? Does what you are doing match up to who you are? Does how you live your life reflect who you are? Can someone know you by how you live your life?
So who am I to be suggesting that others ask these questions of themselves you might be asking? Well, let’s see. Let me look at my life and how I live…… I live with my dear husband Sean.We have three lovely children, Alistair, Clare and Rose, who are now all out living in the world, following their hearts. Our puppy Louie (plus my Dad’s dogs Jess and Finley, come frequently to visit too) and our two cats, Lickety and Persnick also live with us. We live on a farm at the end of a dead end road surrounded by woods, next to my family’s farm. We home schooled our children. Actually, if truth be known, we more unschooled than home schooled. They did “book work homework” on cold and or rainy days and most of their learning came from doing, rather than just reading about it. For example Clare learned fractions through making cookies and boy are her cookies well received! Alistair decided that he wanted to go to a school for high school, so he started at a school for grade 9. His first year he ended with an above 80’s average. So with that went my hidden concerns and fears of what people have told us for years and that we were going to ruin our kids with the home schooling. In my heart I felt it was the right thing to do when we decided to home school. It was not based on religious or political reasons, it was based on what our hearts said.
Our home is a very modest home that could be dusted more often, cob webs multiply like a plankton bloom, and too often our spring cleaning is done in the fall. Our living room is lined with book cases and house plants. Friday is the day I try to keep as my catch up day, but if the sun is shining and the forest calls, I head to the woods instead. Dusting or a picnic with a visiting kid or nature? To me it is a pretty easy decision…. with the reality of just how fast life changes and kids leave home and move on with their own lives. I have learned over the years that the patience of dust is actually quite admirable. It will wait patiently, seemingly forever, but life does not.
On our little farm we have hens and meat roosters, and they provide us with eggs and fresh meat and are a major staple in our diet. We raise them with love and gratitude and care, all with the intention and understanding that someday we will be harvesting them and so all the love and attention and gratitude we gave them will then be recycled back into nourishing us so that we can continue to lead nourished and healthy lives. We do very little grocery store shopping. With our political diet it is easily done.
We have 3 large gardens and a greenhouse. Of these gardens, two are herb gardens and one is a vegetable garden and the greenhouse is used to extend our supply of fresh organic vegetables year round. So with these gardens we make medicines for our family and my clinical practice, we do lots of canning, drying and freezing of the vegetables. One of my favorite ways to use the last of the garden vegetables each year is to make lacto-ferments for a healthy and nutritious supply of vegetables and good bacteria. I learned this from my mother when I was a kid.
Something that is very important to me is that we as a family know how to take care of ourselves to the best of our abilities and to know our own limits in that regard, and the importance of community. I believe in sustainability in all that we can do and self-sufficiency to the best of our abilities. But I also know that at the end of the day our family on our own is not going to work! We need communities, we need others, we need external items, help and support. So when we need to buy something we try to purchase items that have not hurt others, but I also know that that is not always possible too. For example, we do have a car and we use pipeline oil and gasoline in our car. We understand that there is a time and place for drugs and doctors. And sometimes a store-bought pizza really does taste better!
Spirituality is important to Sean and I. Hum, how do I define spirituality? Gratitude for Life, Connectedness and Oneness sums it up I think. Why do we feel it is important? Well, for us, a life that is full of love, connection, compassion, peacefulness, and joyfulness is meaningful and important. And so feeling the Gratitude, Connectedness and Oneness helps us to achieve this. Some days are easier than others. After all, disconnection can be absolutely heart breaking. We like to attend a Quaker church/Meeting house and there we sit connecting via our true Self to SELF, as it is a silent meditation worship time, and with others who are of a similar mind set that the Light is already within us.
What is my job, so what work do I do? I think it would be better if I asked myself, “How do I earn an income? Because I do not see the way I earn that income as work. I love what I do that earns my income and pays my bills. In fact, sitting in my clinic with a patient or teaching classes are often my easiest parts of my day. Answering questions like “Can I buy these shorts?” when the shorts are waaaay more than just a few inches above the knee, was hard work!! Or what about when asked, “I am thinking about changing my major, what do you think”? Then that is really hard work because how do I always find the right balance within my self to allow me to stay out of the process, and just support them in finding the answers they need from within. Or how about the work it takes to not give a snappy answer when being asked a sincere question by my husband when I am tired or in a hurry? How I earn my income is MUCH less work than it is to be a mother or wife sometimes.
So to answer my question, how do I earn an income? I think I just have to say that I just try to Be! So, being open and Self aware, as I put in the hard work of schooling, learning about the herbs, the body, dis-ease, and goodness knows that as I got more schooling what I was really learning is that I actually know less and less each time! So I am not going to know everything about the body, about dis-ease, about the plants,….. it is impossible. We live in an infinite universe, so how can I possibility think that I will someday know everything there is to know about the way that I earn an income? So by just Being all that I have learned so far can pop up or slowly percolate into my consciousness so that that information can then be applied to the case and question in front of and with me. And in that Beingness also allows new information to present from the Oneness too.
My job title is that of a herbalist. By definition a herbalist is a person who uses plants for healing. But what does healing mean? To soothe, patch or repair something? Or is it more than that? When I sit and listen to people what I am hearing most is that they are not feeling Connectedness. The difference between a healthy cell and a cancer cell is that a cancer cell is functioning according to its own will. It is not functioning as a team, for the greater good of the whole body. It is doing its own thing. It is disconnected from the whole. I get curious about that and ask why that is. Disconnection can be devastating for both the fractured whole as well as the isolated and disconnected part. When we are stressed it is because there is a dis-ease in a part of our selves or our life, there is a lack of harmony and balance. I get curious about these parts of ourselves as well, and explore what it is that they need, what their concerns are and what beliefs and burdens they are carrying and if they may be ready to give them up. What if healing means finding or going back to a place of Connectedness and harmony and peace with all parts of ourselves? And if so, how do I, as a herbalist do that? Well through the plants and nature of course.
People often ask me, “who are your teachers?” For me my biggest teachers are the plants and the cosmos. My classroom is nature and the heavens. Why do I choose the plants to be my teachers? They are pure consciousnesses without egos! A human teacher is human and what makes a person human is the fact that we have egos! And if it is true that we are spiritual beings having a human experience, then that suggests that we are here for experiences and what do we get from experiences? Teachings and lessons. So no matter how clever a person or a teacher may be, part of this human experience means they are here to learn and what many spiritual practices teach is that one of the biggest learning experiences we need to do is to overcome our own egos!! And by doing so we are then better able to connect back to the Connectedness and Oneness! So a human teacher is on a journey just like everyone else.
A plant is different. It too is here having an experience, but it does not have an ego. When in Self energy ourselves, what we get from a plant is that pure consciousness. It is already in constant connection to the Oneness. There is a saying that goes “If you listen, they will teach you.” and it is in reference to the plants. How do we learn about how a plant is used medicinally? Many people say it is knowledge that has been passed down through the centuries, other say trial and error. But there are groups of people from all sorts of cultures and places around the world that say that they have learned directly from the plants themselves. Ethnobotanists have traveled the world over and this is what the results of their years and years of research comes down to – it is that the plants themselves that teach people directly how to use them as medicines.
When you sit with a plant or are gardening and in a state of mindfulness, we can gain insights into our lives, into the plants and into the world around us. Research has been done on the effects of gardening and it shows just how healing gardening is and how people feel so much more relaxed and happy when they are gardening and that it can be used to treat high blood pressure even for some individuals. How can this be? Could it be that they are healing us just by being with them in the garden? You bet they can, and more.
A very wise old teacher, that just so happens to be a plant, has taught me that what you ingest and digest, you become. We all have stories and experiences that have happened to us in our lives. When these stories stick and we ingest and continue to digest and feed on them, we become our stories. We end up living our lives in fear, shame, guilt, anger, depression, loneliness and the suffering that the story initially impacted us and our bodies with. So what if we chose to not ingest and digest these experiences? What if we chose to ingest beauty, pure love, clean nutrition, happy thoughts? What do we become then?
Well, the plants are exactly that. They are beauty, love, nutrition, teachers and they have no reason to lie to us or lead us astray. How do we know this? They do not have egos! So when we ingest the plants, be it in a cup of tea, as a nibble on a walk, just being in their presence or just through our eyes when seeing their beautiful flowers, they are feeding us and they can give us so much more than just vitamins, minerals or chemical constituents. They offer us a chance for a truly healing experience. They disinfect our bodies of non-truths and replace those non-truths and those stories with Truths, and then feed us and help us to transform ourselves so that we can live the lives of who we really are and experience the life that represents who we really are.
Don’t get me wrong! I deeply believe in true mentors and true elders. They can be beacons of light and love during dark or difficult times. They also carry deep pearls of wisdoms formed and earned from various irritations and interactions in life, and also gold nuggets that have been mined during deep explorations. And those pearls and gold nuggets, that unless passed down, go to the graves along with their bodies. And there is something very different when these pearls and gold nuggets are passed along in books or a written form, vs from direct deep soul to soul connection transmissions. When in deep soul to soul connections, the connection remains even after the physical body returns to the earth.
So when I reflect on my life, and how I earn an income, how we live, the choices we make and what we ingest in our lives, there is very little I would change if I could in my life. Maybe I would hire someone to come 1 day a month to help me clean my house, or perhaps someone to help me garden after a fresh rain and the weed seeds have all decided to pop up, but really, I think it really is a true reflection of who I am. Is my life easy or has my life always been this way? No. But life and my working, learning and training with the plants has helped heal me and helped me to better discern what I ingest and digest and allows me to help introduce others to the healing power of the plants. Being a herbalist means every day all day long I am ingesting the plants in some form or another. So being a herbalist is not something that I do for a living, it is not my 9 – 5, …. it is big part of who I am.