Tuesday, August 11, 2009

How to Become a Master Herbalist in Thirty Years or More -- Part II.

Here is the continuations of Paul Bergner's article- 
If you missed it here is part 1
Please feel free to comment!

How to become a master herbalist in Thirty Years or more part 2

Mastery of any topic is attained after years to decades of becoming
fully engaged not only in the field, but being constantly engaged with
a level of rigor and practice that steadily expands and also deepens
understanding of the facts and principles of that field or topic. The
master brings the subject completely alive in their own being and
experience. Ultimately their career is characterized by various
“threshhold events” of understanding and insight which contribute new
understanding for the current generation and a legacy for future
generations. Those thresholds are made possible by an intuitive
synthesis of many facts and observations during the career leading up
to them. This process among the teachers and leaders and innovators in
a field is how that field stays current and alive throughout

The 10,000 hour rule

A study of classical musicians at a Berlin academy of classical music
investigated students in three tracks in the school: The Star track,
headed for world fame in classical music; the middle track, headed for
the St Louis Philharmonic; and the teacher track, less skilled and
headed to teach music in high school. Researchers asked the simple
question: How much weekly practice time have you put in year by year
since your started playing your instrument? The results: star track
musicians had put in at least 10,000 hours of practice. The middle
track had put in 8,000 hours but none had put in 10,000 hours; and the
teacher track had put in 4,000 hours, but none had put in 8,000 hours.
This is now being called The Ten Thousand Hour Rule in popular
culture, and people are claiming mastery for having showed up for work
for 10,000 hours (about 20 hours a week for ten years.) There is a big
problem with this kind of thinking, however. Musicians put in practice
time with rigor such as scales, mastering all keys, and chords within
them, as well as developing progressively more difficult techniques
and progressively more sophisticated pieces for performance, while at
the same time keeping well practiced in the basics. They don't just
play what they already know, they grow constantly, in addition to
constantly honing the basics. Just punching the clock is not enough. I
am sure the a Rotor Rooter Man can claim 10,000 hours of snaking
toilets, but this is not progressive development of ability and
insight. Or to put it another way, one stand-up comic criticized a
rival saying: “He says he's been doing stand-up for twenty years; I
say he only did it for 1 year and then repeated that year nineteen
times.” In the herbal field, we have herbalists lecturing at
conferences who are giving essentially the same lectures they were 20
years ago; herbalist-physicians practicing by rote administration of
set formulas; herbalists writing books full of information they read
in other books and which they have never demonstrated to be true in
their own experience. So our questions for mastering herbalism are:

1) What kinds of activities or study count toward the 10,000 hours and
progressively develop skill and insight in the practitioner?

2) How can we avoid becoming comedians who repeat their same jokes for
twenty years without growing or developing new repertoire.

In this series of articles, I am not calling for standards for
licensing or approval by any regulatory body or accrediting agency. I
am an educator, with 36 years of clinical experience, 20 years
teaching, and 15 years running a teaching clinic, supervising
thousands of cases over that time in addition to my own clients. I'm
now in my elder years, eligible for social security, and at this stage
I could care a fig whether the government or anyone else approves of
me. And I am very much focused on how to train a younger generation of
herbalists in the routines and practices and attitudes that will lead
to mastery instead of decades of bad jokes. I believe the future of
Western herbalism will depend on this kind of work to a much greater
extent than reframing what and who we are for the sake of acceptance
by authority, however necessary or valuable that may seem in the short

I've thought about the above questions deeply, and will give my
thoughts in the third and final part of this article. Meanwhile I
thought I would put this out on the lists for discussion. Every
herbalist, and especially every master of herbalism is not on the same
track, in fact mastery implies to some extent uniqueness and being
out-of-the-box. So there is not one answer to the above. A master of
wildcrafting and medicine making is on a different track that a master
of clinical herbalism, a clinical herbalist practicing in the
physician-model will have a different set of “scales” to practice than
a clinical herbalist practicing in the hygienist/nutritionist model.
Teachers will have routines of practice and preparation that are
unique to teachers. True mastery of botany is essential for a master
of wildcrafting, it is not for a clinical herbalist, and so on.

So I put the question for discussion: What are some of the routines,
practices, disciplines, and attitudes that can lead to progressive
development of an herbal career and lead to mastery in the field?

Please feel free to reprint or circulate this article freely.
Paul Bergner
North American Institute of Medical Herbalism http://naimh.com
Medical Herbalism Journal http://medherb.com


GrittyPretty said...

I'm excited to read the third part of the conversation. Thank you for posting this! I've been feeling the frustration of not knowing much and WHEN will I ever "know enough" (the answer is NEVER!) =) so this conversation is enlightening!

I suppose that the master herbalist would, like the musician, need to stick with the basics. To me that means walking through your backyard and neighborhood and greeting or "communing" with all of the plants.
Haha! I'm still trying to grasp the basics so as far as branching out and attaining mastery...hmmm.

I've also noticed that some of the greatest healers I know are the one who've had the most illness but have come through it with the wisdom to help others who are ill get through it too.


Angie Goodloe LMT, Herbalist said...

Thank you so much for stopping by grittypretty! we all have to start somewhere, I say enjoy the process and not worry so much about where we are at, at the time. You know the old saying the more you know the the more you realize you don't know!