From Mike Masek, M. Ed., director of The Forager’s Path School of Botanical Studies:
Many herbalists and foragers have diverse and ongoing training in working with plant healing and wild foods. The learning curve is often steep and includes both formal and informal training and independent study. My path is no exception.
I began back in 1990 with a casual interest in using herbs for personal health reasons. This inspired me to read every book and magazine article on the topic that I could find. This was before the internet was common so neither blogs nor webinars were available. After a few years of devouring the written word and using my self and my family as clients, I was ready for education that was more structured and formal.
We were living in Albuquerque at the time. There was an herb school and clinic in the neighborhood run by Dr. Tieraona Lowdog, MD. It was a two year program with the first section being classroom-based. There, I was exposed to Materia Medica, Anatomy & Physiology, Body Systems, Botany, Chemistry and Intake Forms. It was a whirlwind experience and took me far beyond the book learning approach.
Next came the clinical work, actually applying all the wonderful classroom, lecture and book knowledge to real live people and a vast array of health challenges. What a humbling experience! I was consistently pushed outside my comfort zone. My knowledge base and skill level increased exponentially each week. I came out of that program with a much increased level of ability and a deep appreciation for the healing potential of the plant world.
Some friends viewed my graduation from that program as the end of my education. I was an “official certified herbalist” (although that term has no real meaning). Looking back, I now realize how exiting the clinical work was really just the beginning of a deeper level of learning.
Since then, I have:
• Had the opportunity to make repeated trips through China, India and Nepal and benefited from the exposure to these cultures from which Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda emerged.
• Apprenticed for two years with a Chinese herbalist
• Graduated from a two year program in Ayurveda with Dr. David Frawley and received additional Ayurvedic training at Dr Vasant Lad’s institute in Albuquerque.
• Attended numerous workshops and conferences with many of the most experienced instructors in the US herbal movement including Mary Bove, Aviva Romm, Paul Bergner, Matthew Wood, Michael Moore, Rosemary Gladstar, Leslie Tierra and many others.
The age of the internet has introduced what I consider the Golden Age for learning herbal healing and re-connecting with wild foods. The numerous blogs, webinars, and information-packed websites mean there is no shortage of learning opportunities in our current time. My learning curve extends very far into the future. I am most certainly a life long student of the craft.
So with all the training, learning, education, study and apprenticing – what have I done?
By far, my most treasured accomplishment is knowing that I have introduced, taught, inspired and guided a few hundred people in this field. Some have been in one day classes, others have attended long term, ongoing courses. Some have gone on to acupuncture and naturopathic schools but most have become community herbalists and foragers; working within their families and close knit communities. This is the core of what I do, this is what nourishes me on a deep level.
In addition to the regular scheduled courses and workshops at our school, I have instructed, written or consulted for:
• Local and regional herb conferences
• Northern Arizona University
• Coconino Community College
• Yavapai Community College
• Grand Canyon and several national parks and monuments in the American Southwest.
• Museum of Northern Arizona
• The Arboretum at Flagstaff
• Willowbend Environmental Education Center
• National Geographic
• Backpacker Magazine
• US Armed Forces and NATO Allies
• 15+ years as a lead instructor in modern survival and outdoor skills at the Ancient Pathways school offering courses near Flagstaff and in Colorado.
• 20 years experience as a wilderness and backpacking guide throughout the Southwest and Four Corners region
More recently, I have re-kindled a 35 year long love affair with photography. In the past, it involved B&W landscape images. This time the focus is on healing and edible plants. The images are used for instruction, publication and for simply enjoying the beauty of nature.
Currently, the mission of The Forager’s Path and the work that I do is fourfold:
1. To empower students with the knowledge and skills to use healing plants and wild foods to create a healthier, more balanced lifestyle.
2. To make the field of Community Herbalism affordable to a broad range of the population by teaching people how to create their own herbal products, to grow their own herbs and to sustainably wildcraft when appropriate.
3. To help people achieve better physical and emotional health by re-connecting to the rhythms, cycles and flows of nature, especially through the use of plants.
4. To present accurate and reliable views on healing, herbal use and wild food foraging that is based on a combination of traditional use, current research and personal clinical experience.
If you would like to learn more about Community Herbalism and Wild Foods, you are invited to contact us.
Anna Marija Helt, PhD – Guest Instructor
Marija teaches during our field study trip to Colorado each summer and comes down to Flagstaff for special topic healing workshops when her busy schedule allows.
In her own practice, Marija teaches on plants, mushrooms and essential oils. She has a clinical practice in Durango and writes for Plant Healer Magazine and Basmati.com. She’s been into things botanical for a decade and was a research scientist in cancer and infectious diseases for over a dozen years before then.
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