Well, it’s hot in Texas. There’s no doubt about that. The people in both places are truly welcoming and friendly. And cows are important (in rather different ways, admittedly…).
This spring, I immersed myself in the study of the local Texas medicinal herbs. While my training in Ayurveda gave me a beautifully comprehensive system to understand the effects of herbs based on their inherent qualities and influence on the doshas, I had not applied this system of energetics to western herbs before. It definitely works.
In India, my teachers emphasized the importance of befriending our local herbs back home. They taught that there is an affinity between two organisms who live in the same community, suggesting that an herb will have a greater effect on the people who live near its home than another herb shipped from around the globe – to say nothing of the impact that the shipping process itself has on our planet.
I have been studying at the Wildflower Herb School here in Austin. Our program began with a Native American ceremony honoring the earth through the four cardinal directions and their associated elements: water, air, fire and earth. There is an obvious parallel between this local indigenous cosmology and that of Ayurveda, which is also built upon an element theory and grounded in the cardinal directions. It felt serendipitous to find myself in a western herbalism school with such a holistic, earth-centered focus, fitting so well with Ayurveda’s perspective.
It is also a school with powerful female energy – our primary teacher is a woman, Nicole Telkes, and our classes have been held at a retreat center called Alma de Mujer (Soul of the Woman). Our opening ritual was led by a woman who is a member of the Indigenous Women’s Network, which owns the land. Mother Nature herself is a presence here.
In our first herb walk with Nicole, we crossed the open meadow stopping every few feet to kneel down and inspect another herb with medicinal uses right at our feet. I felt awed again at the power and gifts of our earth. It seemed every “weed” we passed had generous medicinal properties.
And then Nicole stopped and turned to me. “Do you know what this is?” she gestured to a small nondescript plant happily sprouting up among some grasses. “It’s Eclipta alba – Bhringaraj.” Right here in the wilderness of Central Texas, a standard of Ayurveda’s pharmacopeia is equally at home.
As our national health care crisis continues to deepen, I believe more and more people will be drawn to the accessible, effective, and inexpensive realm of herbal medicine and preventive care. Built as it is upon universal truths, adaptable to different cultures and locations, Ayurveda’s healing vision is already right here. quite at home in the heart of Texas.