Hawaiian Herbal Intensive Workshop with David Bruce Leonard
In this weekend intensive, Leonard provided students with an introduction to Hawaiian natural, social and cultural history, medicinal plant gathering, Hawaiian endemic species and their value, and Chinese Medicine basics. In addition, he demonstrated traditional Hawaiian medicinal plant gathering techniques and helped familiarize students with the importance of developing increased sensory awareness skills to deepen their relationship with plants.
One of the first things Leonard did was to ask each student to state succinctly his or her personal goal for the workshop. He was then able to adroitly address these goals as the workshop unfolded.
The format for the event included both interactive lectures and fieldwork. Students freely asked questions throughout. Leonard emphasized the current global context for Hawai’i’s current loss of endemic species and habitat: individuals and communities have become disconnected from their environment, and this has resulted in health problems almost everywhere in both humans and the planet. His implicit solution: instruct individuals and small groups how to re-connect with their natural environment and teach them the specific plants and techniques to heal themselves where they live.
Having trained with Hawaiian Kupuna herbalists, Leonard stressed the Hawaiians’ view of respect for the human feeling of calm groundedness and intuition, or “gut feeling” as a vital connection to the ancestors and ancient knowledge. To illustrate, the group was instructed in a valuable “sensing” technique to stimulate the human-to-plant and human-to-human connection through deep, silent body awareness. Participants were shown how to access the senses by dropping awareness down from mind into the “Na’au” (the gut). Leonard also explained the benefit of sharing our human “shadows” (character traits/flaws we only share with close friends or a spouse) with plants. This modeling of trust within our self opens our heart to plants and promotes the sharing of their benefits with us.
As Leonard led the group around the grounds, identifying plants, showing students how to pick with reverence, and then how to prepare the medicinal teas, he interjected activities and intuitive exercises to “feel, smell and see” what the ancients might have felt, smelt, and seen. Other fun and rewarding activities included making Ti leaf “plant gathering lei” and medicinal plant gathering bundles. The on-site wild-crafted teas were very tasty and calming to the senses.
Altogether, this workshop provided a balance of ancient wisdom applied with modern science that can improve the health of humanity and the planet. If you are interested in deepening your relationship to our 'aina, and have the opportunity to take a Hawaiian medicinal plant workshop from David Bruce Leonard, don't pass it up. It is likely to change the way you experience plants for the rest of your life.
Bob Bogle, a Puna resident, is Director of Always Looking Up, Training, Consulting, Facilitation.