Posts Tagged ‘books’

Herbal courses

I’ve been seduced by the wonderful herbology courses run by the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh – since January I have spent Thursday evenings studying ‘Medicine from Trees’ or ‘Herbs of the Highlands’, and making remarkably potent (and sometimes bizarre) remedies, lotions and potions after picking the herbs themselves from the Botanic Gardens here in Edinburgh.

This September I have signed up for ‘Herbs for Healing’, in which we make MORE herbal remedies and – this is very, very exciting – ‘compile an individual herbarium of medicinal plant specimens’.  Oh my word.  Who would have thought that this could provide so much fun!  Then I’ve shifted my clinic times – must be serious! – to allow me to attend an afternoon course at the RGBE ‘The Art of Herbs’, exploring connections between art forms and medicinal herbs, physic gardens and herbaria.  We shall be making our own artefacts and getting to know plants and herbs in yet another non-academic way.  Even though I love deepening my knowledge about herbs, I’m looking forward to something entirely non-academic.

I have set myself up for all this by becoming entranced by Stephen Harrod Buhner’s erudite yet practical books on our relationship with the plant world, and David Abram’s philosophical works on healing our disconnection from the natural world.  Both seek to shift our perception of the world from that of regarding nature – or anything non-human – as there to be exploited, to seeing ourselves as part of a symbiotic whole with the rest of the natural world.  Ecology for individuals.  Stephen Harrod Buhner is also an excellent herbalist and writes on such subjects as making healing herbal beers and herbal antibiotics to take the place of  Western medical antibiotics where they  so obviously fail – for example in cases of MRSA and other antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains.

Some of my favourite Stephen Harrod Buhner books:

The Secret Teachings of Plants: The Intelligence of the Heart in Direct Perception of Nature

The Lost Language of Plants: The Ecological Importance of Plant Medicines to Life on Earth

Herbal Antibiotics

David Abram’s two spellbinding works:

The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (Vintage)

Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology (Vintage)


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I have been reading, just not updating.  and I am so behind on the goal of 52 books this year, I’m not even thinking about it 🙂  I tend to have several books on the go at the same time… a bit like knitting projects.  I also read small amounts of books, technical tomes, so I’ve been in and out of several anatomy books, as I teach from them, and research papers, but they won’t count for the golden 52.  I have read some books from start to finish though, and here they are.

Latest book is Norman Doidge’s ‘The Brain that Changes Itself’, subtitled ‘Stories of personal triumph from the fontiers of brain science’.  This is a collection of clinical experiences and research, which puts paid once and for all to the ideas that used to prevail about brain functioning.  These are 1. that the brain has different areas that perform different functions, and that if an area is damaged that is the end of that function,  and 2. that brain cells cannot be ‘regrown’ or new ones formed, i.e. that neurons in the brain cannot be formed like in other parts of the body.  Both these ‘principles’ – upon which modern western medicine still relies to a greater extent – have actually long been discredited.  Let’s hope modern western medicine catches up soon!

Before that I read ‘Head Trip – A Fantastic Romp Through 24 Hours in the Life of Your Brain’ – an overview of the different states of awareness, conscious or not, throughout the day and night, from different sleep states, lucid dreaming, day dreaming, to zen states and more.  Polularised science and very entertaining.

‘The 13 1/2 lives of Captain Bluebear’ is a delightful novel by Walter Moers, reads like a rather dour German children’s book but very funny on several levels from social commentary to psychoanalysis.  Borrow it rather than buy it – some people hate it, others love it.  There are not many inbetween.

Heinrich Boell’s ‘Irishes Tagebuch’ (Irish Journal) is set in the 60s and evokes so much of the rainy, poorly educated, claustrophobic feeling of some of Ireland, particularly in the West, that it was extremely easy to imagine myself back there.  We holidayed there last summer for a few days and he could have been describing our experiences, although we were 40 years on.  A very weird feeling.  Beautiful language and occasionally hilarious, as in his rant about the stupidity of opening (or rather closing) hours for pubs and how they do nothing but encourage binge drinking. 

Before that another German novel, borrowed from the Edinburgh library… totally forgotten author and title, obviously not that gripping!  Set in Hamburg in the 17th Century, about a phytotherapist / apothecary and collector …  I have, however, started a Terry Pratchett in German, also a weird experience.  I’ll let you know 🙂

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Abraham who?

Book no 4

Abraham’s books (Esther and Jerry Hicks) are collections of teachings on manifesting, the law of attraction, intending, whatever you want to call it.  ‘Abraham’ is the name of non-physical entities who have ‘channelled’ their teaching through Esther Hicks.  Whether this is ‘true’ or just a very good marketing tool, I don’t know.  But when you read Esther and Jerry’s introductions it’s hard to believe that they could have come up with the content of the book. 

The language is intelligent, clear and light, without being patronising.  And whoever the authors are, they have a wonderfully non-sentimental approach to life and manifesting.  Their views on the folly of trying to get other people to behave in certain ways (i.e. parents with their kids) is so far removed from anything American I have ever come across, it’s hard to imagine how this has become a best-seller over there.  However, this series of books is supposed to have inspired ‘The Secret’, which I’ve neither seen nor read.

This book is entirely practical and gives a clear explanation (actually several explanations) of how we are attracting circumstances, people and events into our lives all the time through what we focus on in our thoughts, and shows us how to use our emotions as gauges of whether what we are attracting is beneficial to us or not.    It then details 22 techniques for changing the way we think to attract what we want in our lives rather than what we don’t want.

Even though it may be hard to swallow the ‘non-physical entity’ bit about the authors (and at the same time the vacuous nature of Esther and Jerry’s introductions) the books are the best I’ve come across and I use the teachings all the time, day in, day out.

Ask and It is Given

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More Donna Leon

Encouraged by the first Donna Leon I read, I went straight into ‘Uniform Justice’ and the ‘Suffer the Little Children’.  Both intriguing, character driven, and no straight answers.  I love the way she doesn’t feel it necessary to choose a one-dimensional ending, but leaves things much as they are in real life, I suspect.

Uniform Justice   At a military school in Venice a cadet is found hanged – Leon explores issues of justice, integrity and conspiracy within the military.

Suffer the Little children  Childless couples, babies for sale – justice or injustice in taking babies away from their ‘adoptive’ parents.  Social issues, plenty of mystery and a character driven story.

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Donna Leon rocks!


Have had the good fortune to stumble across Donna Leon, author of really intelligent detective fiction set in Venice.  She reminds me a little of Simenon – remember the Maigret series?  Psychologically astute, funny, atmospheric, character-driven – yum!  I think I’m going to get into her.

‘Death at La Fenice’  was my first read, and I’ve just started ‘Uniform Justice’, also very absorbing.

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52 Books in 52 Weeks

A mad Ravelry idea, one that I am finding inspiring right now – I may well have more reading opportunities this year.  We are not supposed to read one book every week, but an average of 52 in 52 weeks, i.e. by 31st December 2009.   And not just knitting books!

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