Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Medicine as a Lifestyle: Natural Cosmetics Workshop

Natural Cosmetics Workshop 
CERES Environment Park 
5th June 2016   

  1. 1
    involving or relating to treatment intended to restore or improve a person's appearance
One of my missions during this workshop was to shift focus from pure cosmetic focus, to a more holistic approach based on Rewilding, Permaculture and Herbalism. 
Our society is so based on aesthetics and cosmetic value; we are bombarded with billboards and advertisements luring us towards (Chemical) products which are mass-produced and create environmental degradation through extraction, laboratory testing, embodied energy and chemical waste. Our own personal environments are polluted as we reprimand ourselves for not being beautiful enough; our self-esteem is plagued by the media catastrophe owned by companies with their best interests in mind. If we have low self-esteem, we will reach out for quick fixes, often in an insatiable attempt to be loved. 

Although I myself am not impervious to the aesthetic pressures of society, I am trying to reframe the way I think about myself, others and my Environment. 

This workshop was not about creating products for skin-deep beauty, it was an attempt to facilitate a change in how people think about such things, as we explored the lifestyle one requires for a radiant appearance.

All products were designed to be medicinal to some degree, or have a purpose for deeper healing. 
We discussed the modern Western lifestyle, and using Sleep, Sun, Diet and Movement as nutrients that lead to vitality and looking your best. Companies can't sell you sleep. One of the easiest things to do is get more rest, and yet we are worked to the ground, trapped inside this productivity mind-set, using more technology and more techniques to move faster and faster to DO MORE... and then we are sold products as band-aid or symptomatic solutions; Foundations for pale skin, Concealer for bags under the eyes etc. 
If we learn to listen to the rhythms of our bodies, we can look and feel delicious!

After experiencing my fair share of burnout last year, I decided to start rewilding myself more and instead of just focusing on the productivity (walking in nature, trying to make fire with a hand-drill, foraging for wild foods etc.) I decided to turn myself into the rhythms of nature properly, and start to try and live more like my hunter-gardener ancestors did. 
Since making that decision, I have been looking into movement therapy, making it a regular part of my routine to not only do some kind of exercise (I usually participate in Hiit Training), but to actually MOVE. Get up from my desk and MOVE, do some yoga and MOVE, climb a tree and MOVE, stretch it out and MOVE... I have been exploring primitive movement and how our bodies need many times of movement to be mobile, healthy and functional. 
I have also started using sleep as a nutrient, especially in the colder, darker months of Autumn and Winter. I have paid attention to my body.... 8:30pm and I'm tired? Awesome, I'm going to sleep! 5:30am and I am awake? Great, I'll get up and sit in the darkness before dawn and drink tea and contemplate the horizon. Its a great practice, and I have been reading books on the science of sleep and how to have a better sleep practice. 
For example, when cortisol levels are down, melatonin levels are up, meaning if we increase stress levels (even in the form of exercise) before bed, we are decreasing our melatonin, which is needed for healthy sleep. 
Sleep helps us repair our cells, helps us retain information, helps us to actually stay fit! 
I am loving the Winter at the moment, as its one of the first years I have given myself permission to rest and recover. 

I am learning so much about wellbeing, for myself and for the Earth. (Its really all the same). 

During this workshop I shared what I have been learning, in the form of lifestyle techniques and the making of delicious products good enough to eat!

Although it was important for me to touch on these aspects, we did move into the making quite quickly, as I know there are many kinaesthetic learners out there that need to get their hands dirty!  

During the workshop we made: 

- Stimulating Coffee and Orange Body Scrub 
- Foot Cream for Circulation using Cayenne, Black Pepper and Ginger. 
- Nourishing Face Cream for sensitive skin using Marshmallow root and Calendula. 
- Cleansing Tooth Powder using Clay and oils of sage, frankincense and peppermint. 
- Anti-Viral Lip Balm using Lemon Balm and Rosewood.

There were 5 stations set up so that groups of 4 could rotate, and all materials, equipment and recipes were provided at each station. Each station was explained during the start of the day, and after that groups were encouraged to get in there and follow the recipes, while I dotted around the room asking questions, providing information and checking if anyone needed a hand.

This way participants were able to all have a go in a small group environment, rather than it being like a cooking show with me staring, displaying the methods and creation of products. People learn from doing. Its a lot of pre-planning to ensure all the ingredients are there, each station has the necessary equipment, everything is calculated right to ensure there is enough for each person in the group and the recipes are written out (with each ingredient calculated correctly for the number of people in the group), but I find this way so much more interactive and fun!

Participants could take photos of recipes provided, and I created a small 'Zine' with the recipes and information about herbs, lifestyle and what chemicals to avoid in products. Some people need to write things, some people need to read things, most need to do things... this small token of information meant participants could concentrate on the tasks at hand, knowing the ingredients and methods were supplied for them. 

The workshop was sold out this time, and I look forward to facilitating more in the future, pushing the boundaries of how we can make and use cosmetics, and how we can assist the development of the species through caring for our health, esteem and wellbeing. 

I do envision a different world for the next generation, one that does not place profit at the cost of the Environment, one that does not purposefully guilt and shame people for the individuality they have to offer, a world where children can grow up confident, radiant, full of love for themselves and others. 

This workshop was but a small contribution to that world...

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Medicinal Gardening Workshop

March 5th - 6th 2016

It seems bizarre to me to learn about plants through only the medium of books, the internet and bottles of liquid extracts. During my time studying Natropathy at university when I was 18, I found that what I thought would be a wild and luscious journey through the thick wisdom of my ancestors, was reduced to a strict, white walled, stale and academic grind. Don't get me wrong, I love learning, I love delving into the intricacies of biochemistry, and learning the complexity of anatomy, but what worried me was that Holistic medicine was not being taught holistically... there was no connectivity.
I was essentially expressing my skills in pharmacology, I was giving medicine in the form of potent constituents, straight from a bottle.... no idea of the essence.

I wanted to touch the plants! Taste them! Smell them! Feel them! I wanted to see a beautiful garden and witness plant to potion! It alluded me that, just like our food, as a society we had no idea what our medicinal plants looked like.
My interest in the natural world kept growing like the plants themselves, and I took a new wild journey down an old stone path... I came to meet Permaculture. Through this modern movement of ancient thought, strategy and wisdom, I was able to focus my mind on the growing and my hands on the sowing.

My love of Herbalism stayed alive, although at times it would sink deeper into my veins, not because I didn't care, but because I didn't have the blood to donate to everything at once...

Through Permaculture I realised what I wanted to offer the world: Education.
I set to work studying, learning, experiencing... and now I facilitate learning.
I now create the workshops I wish existed in Australia.
I think of the wild, magickal, lush and whimsical atmosphere I wanted to open the doors to when I started my Herbal studies.... and I try and create it.

Welcome to my Garden.

On the sweltering weekend of March 5th 2016, I woke up at Agari Permaculture Farm, ready to take a group of wide-eyed individuals on a Grassroots herbal adventure!

The first day consisted of getting our hands in the dirt and creating a Medicinal garden for Agari Farm, and the second day was spent making delicious hand-made medicines!
In between we explored Botany, Taxonomy, Herbal constituents and properties, as well as some Permaculture design themes.

Our days were broken up by late-afternoon swimming at the nearest water hole, as it was 38 and 39 degrees Celsius that weekend. Luckily, we stayed hydrated with coconut water, swam and rested in the heat of the day, enjoyed refreshing lavender and chamomile face mist and kept ourselves running on pure enthusiasm!

The first question I asked myself when designing this workshop was "How do I enable people to design a Medicinal Herb garden from scratch, with no gardening or herbal experience?"
You see, I didn't want it to be MY garden- I didn't want to hand people something I had designed, give them some pots and say "there you go, plant it... there!.. no, no, not there... a little... yep, there! you got it! Thanks!"
People learn through doing, thinking for themselves and being involved. I wanted it to be our garden. Our collective garden that we had all thought up, dreamed up and created together.
So, I made cute little colourful Herb cards, each card dedicated to a particular plant, with the information; name, family, cultivation, origin, identification, description, root structure, height, width, constituents, properties and contraindications.
Participants were divided into groups, and each group got 5 Herb cards. Using the information on these cards, the group had to design these plants into the bed, considering the height, width, cultivation, root system and native habitat in their planning.

The bed had been pre-prepared with manure ands straw, and we layer out stepping stones in a beautiful radial pattern. The plants had been purchased from mud brick cottage herb farm, and after we reviewed each groups planting design, modifying where appropriate, we started to dig in before the extreme heat of the day set in.

Rosemary, Sage, Licorice, Elecampagne, Evening Primrose, Santolina, Calamus, Lavender, Thyme, Rue, Sea Holly and Mullien, to name a few...

After wading in the water that day, we sat by the bank, basking in the mottled sunlight peering through the foliage of the eucalyptus trees overhead, and had a sweet little botany lesson by the river.

The weekend was catered by Agari Farms Dani-Wolf, who creates delicious nutrient dense foods, with a focus on using food as medicine.

Participants camped under the stars, waking to the sounds of the chickens and cows, the crows and cockatoos, the wind and the deep hum of the Earth...

The Sunday had us making our plant potions, and after a lesson of constituents and properties, there was an exercise in making medicines for common ailments.
The afternoon was spent medicine making, everyone huddled in the Earthy cob community building, mortar and pestles grinding, measuring and pouring, chopping, weighing, making labels and chatting wholesomely.

The medicines that participants made to take home with them were:
Autumn Chest Salve: Beeswax, infused oil, Thyme, Eucalyptus and Sage.
Restorative Elixir: Hawthorn, Oatstraw, Rosehips, Red Clover, Skullcap, Ashwaganda and Maple syrup.
Digestive Bitters: Lavender, White Sage, Orange Peel, Calamus, Cardamom, Clove, Cinnamon and Gentain.

I am grateful for my journey.... it lead me to all these people! These people that share a common thread, a desire to really know plants, to listen to them, understand them, know them like you would a friend. These people that support my work, support me on my adventure of sharing, creating atmospheres and spaces of deep nourishment, enjoyment and comfort.

And the journey continues...
The Garden grows.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Appearance on The Permaculture Podcast by Scott Mann

Here are my appearances on The Permaculture Podcast!

The first Episode discusses practicing permaculture right now, where we are, in the culture and world we live in. With that is also some talk of self care, so that as practitioners we don’t get frustrated or burned out, but can continue on our path while remaining whole. We also touch on the importance of finding your own niche, and understanding your personal needs and wants so you can practice authentically, and not create more harm than good, or to compare what we do with others, but to be who we are and do what we do.

Episode 1555: Standing in Two Worlds with Taj Scicluna, The Perma Pixie 

The second focuses on the topic of Professional Permaculture, discussing the development of a permaculture business, and the work required to be a small business owner. Along the way we also talk about education, and some of the differences between Australian and American training, including the work to formalise the permaculture design certificate. 

Episode 1603: The Perma Pixie on Small Business Permaculture

As a regular listener, I am deeply humbled to have had an appearance on the show, as I often listen to many people I admire in the same lines of work.
This show is an incredible resource, growing the mycelial mat further, establishing connections, and inspiring people to grow, thrive and exchange.

Many Thanks and hope you enjoy!