During those years I spent in high school, I remember a teacher telling each of her students to repeat the words, “I am not the same person as any of my friends. I am unique.” So it is with the herbalist who can tell his or her patients, “You are unique. What makes you comfortable is probably different from what makes other individuals comfortable.” An herbalist can “create the deal” to treat each patient as an individual. There is an oneness or a different individual hidden under each skin we think of as a person.
An herbalist cannot make a diagnosis; we cannot guarantee healing. But we can help a patient to focus on his or her own body—to help them understand what makes each person feel better or worse. We can help our clients to become skillful observers, not of others, but of themselves. By paying close attention to him or herself, the client will soon learn to observe things he or she does that make them feel better. Instead of constantly thinking, “Woe is me!” the client will begin thinking, “Things are pretty good. I feel better than I did before!” Self-awareness is the heart of self-care. A motorist who comes upon a roadblock doesn’t stop driving; he finds a detour. A client who discovers and observes a disease’s progression needs to find alternatives in his or her lifestyle.
Because of an illness, changes to one’s lifestyle may be inevitable, but they can be negotiated with honor and dignity. For example, the fireman who finds that he can no longer climb ladders still retains the knowledge from many years of experience as a firefighter. He can consult others about fire safety measures. If he is unable to do it in person, in this technological age, he can do his consultation by computer. The musician who can no longer enjoy the pleasurable sound quality of musical notes can still teach beginners how to read music, or how to play certain instruments. In fact, due in part to our technological age, some instruments previously requiring manual dexterity can now be played electronically. “Creating the Deal” may require, and must employ, client’s constraints and willingness to improve.
Seasonal changes affect human attitudes and mindsets. Non-human animals think of winter as a time for hibernation. Humans think of the same season as a time for rest and refreshment, a time for our bodies to emerge anew into spring. Spring and summer brings out a new birth, new work, and fresh activity, the old driven away from the cold and snow of winter. The activities of the summer are plentiful and even those people who are ill, if at all possible, have enjoyed summer’s activities and have partaken of what their bodies will permit. Fall is a unique time. Our bodies have forgotten the inactivity of winter and have enjoyed the events of spring and summer. Fall permits our bodies to wind down and to get back into sync those things we have to do to permit our comfort or our recovery. Oftentimes, fall is the time of year when the herbalist works diligently with his or her clients to reacquaint them to the signs and signals their body is sending. The herbalist can help his or her clients to reengage those signs and signals for their bodies to regain the wisdom that will ultimately help them regain the comfort they previously experienced.
An herbalist’s tasks are not simple. They are very challenging. An herbalist works with a client’s mind and body to create that ultimate experience called oneness. This is in stark contrast to the provider of Western medicine where most physicians consider themselves to be specialists and, instead of working with the entire human being, concentrate their efforts on only single body parts. By comparison, the herbalist “Creates the Deal.” He or she works with a client’s entire body as a single, living organism. The herbalist asks the client to learn about his or her body, not just a single part. By working the body as a whole, the client learns what makes him or her feel better—and what does not!
“Creating the Deal” may involve homework for the client. The herbalist may be wise to ask his or her clients to keep an Ingestion Diary, a record of everything entering the mouth, whether normal food and drink, or medicine, or whatever else a client may decide to consume. In addition to the contents entering the client’s body, recordkeeping should include the time of day. Honest notes help the client, and the herbalist, to determine if anything is consumed, and in what quantities, that may make the client feel better or worse. It is not a treatment per se, but it is a method where, when analyzed, will help both the client and the herbalist to determine if something consumed makes any difference to the client’s feelings.
There is no single answer which can be produced on the client’s behalf. Helping the client to an awareness of his or her body, including what makes the client feel better or worse, is a course of action for helping the client to help him or herself. Treating the client as unique may help them through a bad experience. It may also help the client to reach the end of a purposeful journey.