Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
Jana Nason and Cari Herthel of the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County. Photo by Michael Troutman.
If You Grow It, They (The Plants) Will Listen
Category:
Healing

As a Medicine woman and an Esselen Tribe of Monterey County elder, Cari Herthel’s wisdom and deep abilities have grown and matured through intense lived experiences — both the staggeringly beautiful and the utterly painful. Her journey into her power and wholeness has been tested over the last four years: Herthel lost her husband, her mother, and, most recently, her eldest son. To mourn her child, she journeyed alongside fellow tribe member Jana Nason to a sacred site of the Esselen. Making the trip there transformed her grief, awakening a profound connection to the natural world that lifted Cari: “I was turning the poison I was feeling into medicine, and by doing that, I can give that medicine to others for healing. To do that is the highest form of prayer.”

“There was so much plant medicine!” she says. “I was really experiencing the yerba santa, a really incredible plant for grieving and loss, a holy herb. I remember Grandpa Fred Nason would cry when he’d see it. It takes the loss and the disconnection in grieving and turns it into joy. I experienced so much joy from the yerba santa and brought so much of it home!”

Jana, who represents the next generation of voices of the Esselen, also keeps a bounty of yerba santa, along with yerba buena, mugwort, and coyote tobacco. She makes the yerba santa into a tea that supports the respiratory system. 

“In these distressing times, I lean on traditional medicine rather than conventional medicine,” says Jana. She uses mugwort as a tool to induce lucid dreaming. “When I need to tune into my subconscious a little more, I use that mugwort to get to that deeper dream state.”  

For Cari, joy and happiness come from “slowing down” and walking with the traditional, natural medicines of the Esselen. It is about connecting to the emotional flower essence of each plant, as each plant has a story, she explains. Cari will teach next month as faculty at the Esalen Institute — the first time in more than a decade an Esselen leader has taught on campus. With the institute’s Douglas Drummond, Cari will co-facilitate a healing workshop through the use of the medicine wheel and 5Rhythms dance. This workshop will follow Esalen Institute’s official land acknowledgment ceremony to be held on November 13. In the ongoing work of creating and maintaining good relations with the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County, we will join hands and hearts — praying, singing, dancing, and breaking bread together in community. This commemorative day and Cari’s teaching at Esalen are the results of hard work, deep ongoing listening, and relationship building.

Years earlier, while attending a workshop at Esalen, Cari was feeling into the potency of the land and experienced the wisdom of her ancestors. She received the knowledge of how her ancestors took the seeds of certain plants, and when put in the mouth, their saliva activated the creation of medicine uniquely adapted to each person’s needs. 

“That was an important download for me from my ancestors. That shows me the plant is having a relationship with the needs of the person and that it’s doing a deep listening to know what is going on with each person.

“Plant medicine has this wonderful listening engagement, an ability to listen with the person that it is in participation with. There's something profound that happens when you are brought into relation with a plant. It becomes a sacred relationship that is very intimate.” 

Cari notes that this dynamic medicine is far older and more powerful than many realize. “Over thousands of years, Esselen and indigenous peoples harvested plants for ailments of the body and spirit knowing it was a place where medicine people — those in deep reciprocity with the healing powers of the land and waters — lived and held ceremonies.”

The curious thing about assessing local plants for their medicinal powers is also having the understanding and knowledge that when it comes to plant medicine, the same singular plant can be used in a variety of ways to heal.

“The healing power of plant medicine comes from a connection, a relationship with the spirit of the plant,” says Cari.

Harvesting should always be a deeply attentive, respectful process, adds Jana. “I harvest sacred herbs, medicinal plants, seeds, nuts, roots, and berries throughout the year; I save them for when they are needed,” she says. “For example, I harvest elderberries in the summer and save them for use in the winter. I harvest what is presented to me, and what is making itself available in abundance. I never overharvest.”

Jana is mindful to always leave an abundance of what is growing for the animals and for the plant to continue to flourish. “I was taught as a young child to ask permission before entering sacred areas or before taking medicine, and we offer prayers and songs while harvesting to express our gratitude to thank the natural world and our ancestors for the life we have and for the gifts Mother Earth offers us,” she says. “I just went out the other day and gathered acorns, and when I was doing that, I was giving thanks and I was singing songs in my traditional language.” Acorn processing is very slow, she says. It can take months. First, she dries them out. Then, she leeches them and grinds them. Only then are they ready to be used as a flour or in a soup.

Reflecting on various plants and their functions, Cari shares a particular love for manzanita and madrone. She keeps spirit bowls filled with both. Madrone represents the female and provides adaptogenic support. “I am at a point where I’m struggling with the changes from my youth self and my hot woman self. Being with madrone helps you to reconnect with that erotic, sensual being.” The manzanita addresses female issues and elicits self-confidence. Cari also likes the oak tree for its strength and courage. 

“I encourage everybody to grow a plant so you can fully understand what it takes to produce something, grow something, to give something life,” says Jana. She specifically recommends people grow their own white sage rather than purchasing it from a store. The majority of white sage is poached from ancestral lands where it was over-harvested. Now, in far too many places, it is no longer growing. “It’s really humbling to know the process and time harvesting takes. It makes me more conscious and aware of waste.” 

Jana makes the time and effort to live more simply, to learn about what she eats, to harvest foods on her own, and to live in balance with the intention of respecting the plants. Much of the traditions and stories she and Cari have learned are through the multi-generational transfer of oral storytelling and teaching. 

“I had a profound experience recently where Cari, myself, and a few others hiked deep into the wilderness to an area that we hold close to our hearts, a sacred valley,” Jana shares. “Walking through the sacred ancestral lands, the smells and sounds are comforting to us. They fill us with a feeling of wholeness. That we are home, in the sacred lands of our ancestors.”

When walking the lands, the journeys always come with deep gratitude for those who walked before. The wisdom of their ancestors presented beautifully during this hike — as one man in the group known as Cowboy got a blister on his foot.

“Cari carefully collected pine tree pitch and created a salve to apply to the blister,” shares Jana. “She had the pitch carefully wrapped in bark. As we sat under Ponderosa pines that are hundreds of years old, she shared with me the medicine and how it can be used. This was a special moment for me, as I sat in gratitude for the teaching, knowing that my ancestor before me had learned the same way, through this oral teaching.”

Looking back on how that day and how she received that wisdom, how the history is still carried forward, Jana honors the exchange: “I deeply appreciate these moments with my elders. They are the wisdom keepers, medicine keepers, storytellers, and it is my time to sit and listen carefully to pass this knowledge onto the next generation.” 

Echoing the sentiment, Cari adds: “How we sit with these trees and plants, smell them, touch them, look at them — it brings us into a connection and relation better with who we are. Many of these plants make me so happy and help me to connect and to have my beautiful, sexy, wild self emerge again.” 

“Remembering to be as self compassionate as I can and praying to the divine that we're all a part of.” 
–Aaron

“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
–Karen
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
–Charles
“Try on a daily basis to be kind to myself and to realize that making mistakes is a part of the human condition. Learning from our mistakes is a journey. But it starts with compassion and caring. First for oneself.”
–Steve

“Physically: aerobic exercise, volleyball, ice hockey, cycling, sailing. Emotionally: unfortunately I have to work to ‘not care’ about people or situations which may end painfully. Along the lines of ‘attachment is the source of suffering’, so best to avoid it or limit its scope. Sad though because it could also be the source of great joy. Is it worth the risk?“
–Rainer

“It's time for my heart to be nurtured on one level yet contained on another. To go easy on me and to allow my feelings to be validated, not judged harshly. On the other hand, to let the heart rule with equanimity and not lead the mind and body around like a master.”
–Suzanne

“I spend time thinking of everything I am grateful for, and I try to develop my ability to express compassion for myself and others without reservation. I take time to do the things I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. This includes taking experiential workshops, fostering relationships, and participating within groups which have a similar interest to become a more compassionate and fulfilled being.“
–Peter

“Self-forgiveness for my own judgments. And oh yeah, coming to Esalen.”
–David B.

“Hmm, this is a tough one! I guess I take care of my heart through fostering relationships with people I feel connected to. Spending quality time with them (whether we're on the phone, through messages/letters, on Zoom, or in-person). Being there for them, listening to them, sharing what's going on with me, my struggles and my successes... like we do in the Esalen weekly Friends of Esalen Zoom sessions!”
–Lori

“I remind myself in many ways of the fact that " Love is all there is!" LOVE is the prize and this one precious life is the stage we get to learn our lessons. I get out into nature, hike, camp, river kayak, fly fish, garden, I create, I dance (not enough!), and I remain grateful for each day, each breath, each moment. Being in the moment, awake, and remembering the gift of life and my feeling of gratitude for all of creation.”
–Steven
“My physical heart by limiting stress and eating a heart-healthy diet. My emotional heart by staying in love with the world and by knowing that all disappointment and loss will pass.“
–David Z.


Today, September 29, is World Heart Day. Strike up a conversation with your own heart and as you feel comfortable, encourage others to do the same. As part of our own transformations and self-care, we sometimes ask for others to illuminate and enliven our hearts or speak our love language.

What if we could do this for ourselves too, even if just for today… or to start a heart practice, forever?


Cari Herthel co-teaches Healing Waters: The Medicine Wheel and Embodied Motion with Douglas Drummond and guest musician Nick Ayers November 14–18, 2022.

Learn More

About

Shira Levine

Shira Levine is the Director of Communications & Storytelling at the Esalen Institute.

If You Grow It, They (The Plants) Will Listen

About

Shira Levine

Shira Levine is the Director of Communications & Storytelling at the Esalen Institute.

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
Jana Nason and Cari Herthel of the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County. Photo by Michael Troutman.
Category:
Healing

As a Medicine woman and an Esselen Tribe of Monterey County elder, Cari Herthel’s wisdom and deep abilities have grown and matured through intense lived experiences — both the staggeringly beautiful and the utterly painful. Her journey into her power and wholeness has been tested over the last four years: Herthel lost her husband, her mother, and, most recently, her eldest son. To mourn her child, she journeyed alongside fellow tribe member Jana Nason to a sacred site of the Esselen. Making the trip there transformed her grief, awakening a profound connection to the natural world that lifted Cari: “I was turning the poison I was feeling into medicine, and by doing that, I can give that medicine to others for healing. To do that is the highest form of prayer.”

“There was so much plant medicine!” she says. “I was really experiencing the yerba santa, a really incredible plant for grieving and loss, a holy herb. I remember Grandpa Fred Nason would cry when he’d see it. It takes the loss and the disconnection in grieving and turns it into joy. I experienced so much joy from the yerba santa and brought so much of it home!”

Jana, who represents the next generation of voices of the Esselen, also keeps a bounty of yerba santa, along with yerba buena, mugwort, and coyote tobacco. She makes the yerba santa into a tea that supports the respiratory system. 

“In these distressing times, I lean on traditional medicine rather than conventional medicine,” says Jana. She uses mugwort as a tool to induce lucid dreaming. “When I need to tune into my subconscious a little more, I use that mugwort to get to that deeper dream state.”  

For Cari, joy and happiness come from “slowing down” and walking with the traditional, natural medicines of the Esselen. It is about connecting to the emotional flower essence of each plant, as each plant has a story, she explains. Cari will teach next month as faculty at the Esalen Institute — the first time in more than a decade an Esselen leader has taught on campus. With the institute’s Douglas Drummond, Cari will co-facilitate a healing workshop through the use of the medicine wheel and 5Rhythms dance. This workshop will follow Esalen Institute’s official land acknowledgment ceremony to be held on November 13. In the ongoing work of creating and maintaining good relations with the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County, we will join hands and hearts — praying, singing, dancing, and breaking bread together in community. This commemorative day and Cari’s teaching at Esalen are the results of hard work, deep ongoing listening, and relationship building.

Years earlier, while attending a workshop at Esalen, Cari was feeling into the potency of the land and experienced the wisdom of her ancestors. She received the knowledge of how her ancestors took the seeds of certain plants, and when put in the mouth, their saliva activated the creation of medicine uniquely adapted to each person’s needs. 

“That was an important download for me from my ancestors. That shows me the plant is having a relationship with the needs of the person and that it’s doing a deep listening to know what is going on with each person.

“Plant medicine has this wonderful listening engagement, an ability to listen with the person that it is in participation with. There's something profound that happens when you are brought into relation with a plant. It becomes a sacred relationship that is very intimate.” 

Cari notes that this dynamic medicine is far older and more powerful than many realize. “Over thousands of years, Esselen and indigenous peoples harvested plants for ailments of the body and spirit knowing it was a place where medicine people — those in deep reciprocity with the healing powers of the land and waters — lived and held ceremonies.”

The curious thing about assessing local plants for their medicinal powers is also having the understanding and knowledge that when it comes to plant medicine, the same singular plant can be used in a variety of ways to heal.

“The healing power of plant medicine comes from a connection, a relationship with the spirit of the plant,” says Cari.

Harvesting should always be a deeply attentive, respectful process, adds Jana. “I harvest sacred herbs, medicinal plants, seeds, nuts, roots, and berries throughout the year; I save them for when they are needed,” she says. “For example, I harvest elderberries in the summer and save them for use in the winter. I harvest what is presented to me, and what is making itself available in abundance. I never overharvest.”

Jana is mindful to always leave an abundance of what is growing for the animals and for the plant to continue to flourish. “I was taught as a young child to ask permission before entering sacred areas or before taking medicine, and we offer prayers and songs while harvesting to express our gratitude to thank the natural world and our ancestors for the life we have and for the gifts Mother Earth offers us,” she says. “I just went out the other day and gathered acorns, and when I was doing that, I was giving thanks and I was singing songs in my traditional language.” Acorn processing is very slow, she says. It can take months. First, she dries them out. Then, she leeches them and grinds them. Only then are they ready to be used as a flour or in a soup.

Reflecting on various plants and their functions, Cari shares a particular love for manzanita and madrone. She keeps spirit bowls filled with both. Madrone represents the female and provides adaptogenic support. “I am at a point where I’m struggling with the changes from my youth self and my hot woman self. Being with madrone helps you to reconnect with that erotic, sensual being.” The manzanita addresses female issues and elicits self-confidence. Cari also likes the oak tree for its strength and courage. 

“I encourage everybody to grow a plant so you can fully understand what it takes to produce something, grow something, to give something life,” says Jana. She specifically recommends people grow their own white sage rather than purchasing it from a store. The majority of white sage is poached from ancestral lands where it was over-harvested. Now, in far too many places, it is no longer growing. “It’s really humbling to know the process and time harvesting takes. It makes me more conscious and aware of waste.” 

Jana makes the time and effort to live more simply, to learn about what she eats, to harvest foods on her own, and to live in balance with the intention of respecting the plants. Much of the traditions and stories she and Cari have learned are through the multi-generational transfer of oral storytelling and teaching. 

“I had a profound experience recently where Cari, myself, and a few others hiked deep into the wilderness to an area that we hold close to our hearts, a sacred valley,” Jana shares. “Walking through the sacred ancestral lands, the smells and sounds are comforting to us. They fill us with a feeling of wholeness. That we are home, in the sacred lands of our ancestors.”

When walking the lands, the journeys always come with deep gratitude for those who walked before. The wisdom of their ancestors presented beautifully during this hike — as one man in the group known as Cowboy got a blister on his foot.

“Cari carefully collected pine tree pitch and created a salve to apply to the blister,” shares Jana. “She had the pitch carefully wrapped in bark. As we sat under Ponderosa pines that are hundreds of years old, she shared with me the medicine and how it can be used. This was a special moment for me, as I sat in gratitude for the teaching, knowing that my ancestor before me had learned the same way, through this oral teaching.”

Looking back on how that day and how she received that wisdom, how the history is still carried forward, Jana honors the exchange: “I deeply appreciate these moments with my elders. They are the wisdom keepers, medicine keepers, storytellers, and it is my time to sit and listen carefully to pass this knowledge onto the next generation.” 

Echoing the sentiment, Cari adds: “How we sit with these trees and plants, smell them, touch them, look at them — it brings us into a connection and relation better with who we are. Many of these plants make me so happy and help me to connect and to have my beautiful, sexy, wild self emerge again.” 

“Remembering to be as self compassionate as I can and praying to the divine that we're all a part of.” 
–Aaron

“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
–Karen
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
–Charles
“Try on a daily basis to be kind to myself and to realize that making mistakes is a part of the human condition. Learning from our mistakes is a journey. But it starts with compassion and caring. First for oneself.”
–Steve

“Physically: aerobic exercise, volleyball, ice hockey, cycling, sailing. Emotionally: unfortunately I have to work to ‘not care’ about people or situations which may end painfully. Along the lines of ‘attachment is the source of suffering’, so best to avoid it or limit its scope. Sad though because it could also be the source of great joy. Is it worth the risk?“
–Rainer

“It's time for my heart to be nurtured on one level yet contained on another. To go easy on me and to allow my feelings to be validated, not judged harshly. On the other hand, to let the heart rule with equanimity and not lead the mind and body around like a master.”
–Suzanne

“I spend time thinking of everything I am grateful for, and I try to develop my ability to express compassion for myself and others without reservation. I take time to do the things I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. This includes taking experiential workshops, fostering relationships, and participating within groups which have a similar interest to become a more compassionate and fulfilled being.“
–Peter

“Self-forgiveness for my own judgments. And oh yeah, coming to Esalen.”
–David B.

“Hmm, this is a tough one! I guess I take care of my heart through fostering relationships with people I feel connected to. Spending quality time with them (whether we're on the phone, through messages/letters, on Zoom, or in-person). Being there for them, listening to them, sharing what's going on with me, my struggles and my successes... like we do in the Esalen weekly Friends of Esalen Zoom sessions!”
–Lori

“I remind myself in many ways of the fact that " Love is all there is!" LOVE is the prize and this one precious life is the stage we get to learn our lessons. I get out into nature, hike, camp, river kayak, fly fish, garden, I create, I dance (not enough!), and I remain grateful for each day, each breath, each moment. Being in the moment, awake, and remembering the gift of life and my feeling of gratitude for all of creation.”
–Steven
“My physical heart by limiting stress and eating a heart-healthy diet. My emotional heart by staying in love with the world and by knowing that all disappointment and loss will pass.“
–David Z.


Today, September 29, is World Heart Day. Strike up a conversation with your own heart and as you feel comfortable, encourage others to do the same. As part of our own transformations and self-care, we sometimes ask for others to illuminate and enliven our hearts or speak our love language.

What if we could do this for ourselves too, even if just for today… or to start a heart practice, forever?


Cari Herthel co-teaches Healing Waters: The Medicine Wheel and Embodied Motion with Douglas Drummond and guest musician Nick Ayers November 14–18, 2022.

Learn More

About

Shira Levine

Shira Levine is the Director of Communications & Storytelling at the Esalen Institute.

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
Jana Nason and Cari Herthel of the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County. Photo by Michael Troutman.
If You Grow It, They (The Plants) Will Listen
Category:
Healing

Medicine woman and Esselen Tribe of Monterey County elder Cari Herthel shares the medicinal plants that inspire a re-emergence of her sensual and wild self. Herthel will lead a November workshop for a historic collaboration between the tribe and the Esalen Institute to nourish a costewardship of this ancient and sacred land.

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Cari Herthel co-teaches Healing Waters: The Medicine Wheel and Embodied Motion with Douglas Drummond and guest musician Nick Ayers November 14–18, 2022.

Learn More

About

Shira Levine

Shira Levine is the Director of Communications & Storytelling at the Esalen Institute.

If You Grow It, They (The Plants) Will Listen

About

Shira Levine

Shira Levine is the Director of Communications & Storytelling at the Esalen Institute.

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