Wise Woman System of Healing
This is a traditional, logical and intuitive way to maintain health or restore balance and well being. Wise Women and Men know that nourishment is everything. This system of healing is quite different from the health management that many of us are used to. It doesn't expect other people or pills to be able to fix all of our problems. It encourages us to help ourselves whilst seeking help from others when needed. The Wise Woman System of Healing promotes self empowerment, networking, learning, listening and prevention of ill health.
This system of healing was clearly documented by Susun Weed of Woodstock, NY. Her book Healing Wise (1989) is very popular and has been followed up several other titles and a resource rich website and community. I learned how to work with the Wise Woman System from Susun and have found it of great benefit to many aspects of my life. When I am looking for answers to issues, not just those linked to health, I follow the path of the Wise Woman and take each step in turn. It has helped me enormously and so I offer this module to you as a way to help you to think and act in the Wise Woman way.
Of course there are many other Wise Women and Men which we can learn from. Many were in action long before Susun Weed wrote her book, many have since been inspired by her words and many others work the Wise Woman way without ever reading about it or knowing the name. Most of these people work quietly within their families and communities to help keep healthy balance in those around them. Perhaps you are already such a person or perhaps you know one?
Some Wise Women and Men enjoy teaching others about what they do and some of these can be found via websites, magazines and so on. Others are great teachers who are not reachable online so you will have to find them with your own two feet. A few Wise Women and Men who I enjoy various amounts of contact with are: Robin Rose Bennett (in NYC), my mentor Glennie Kindred (UK), Wildman Steve Brill (NYC) and of course Susun Weed (NY). Also there are the many other men and women who live close by and work in quiet ways with the plants and share their experiences with me. These include office workers, healers, artists and gardeners. They all have different personalities, interests and strengths but all, as myself, prefer to work with plants in a knowledge based, structured and yet intuitive way - the Wise Woman Way.
I suggest that you start to build up a written list of people who can help you when you need advice and practical help. My list contains the name and contact details of a really helpful set of people. It contains wise woman herbalist friends, organic herb suppliers, Permaculture designers, masseurs, foragers, my trusted chiropractor, the local organic food co-op, translators, a builder, odd jobbers, a flotation tank company, Mindfulness course friends, Yoga teachers, healers, supplement suppliers and my GP/Family doctor. The list helps me to see that I can quickly help myself in a lot of areas before needing to reach out to others.
The units in this module will introduce you to the 7 Wise Woman steps of healing. Each unit explains how we can work within each step and offers you opportunities to explore the system, wherever you live.
Step 0 – Serenity Medicine - Do nothing - Go with the flow
Step 1 – Story Medicine - Collect information
Step 2 – Energy Medicine - Placebo - Mind medicine
Step 3 – Lifestyle Medicine - Nourish & Tonify
Step 4 – Herbal medicine - Stimulate & sedate - Alternative medicine
Step 5 – Pharmaceutical medicine - Drugs - Supplements - Ess. oils
Step 6 – Hi Tech medicine - Break & Enter - Mind Altering drugs
Steps to health
If I have a problem to solve, let's say an irritating but not serious cough, I try to begin my return to full health at Step 0. I set a time limit and I give my work at Step 0 that time (perhaps 1 day). Hopefully slowing down and taking some time out from my routine solves the problem. If that doesn't help my cough then I move on to Step 1. So now I try looking for the root cause of my problem. Perhaps I decide that I am simply eating too much chocolate and not getting enough sleep. I test this out by correcting both issues for a few days. Again if that doesn't help and I'm still coughing, I move to Step 2. If I achieve no success from using some mind medicine then on I move to step 3.
Step 3 encourages me to nourish myself in many ways. That usually helps me but if not then the Wise Woman System leads me to Step 4. This is the realm of herbal medicine; using herbs to address specific issues. These are the herbs that many of us are most familiar with and they are not everyday food herbs. These are strong herbs which we don't usually take for long time periods. If this step fails to give a result in my allowed time frame then I move on to step 5 and I visit my family doctor. There, I may receive prescription drugs which most likely have attached side effects. Given time, if the problem persists then the final step - 6 is my last resort. An investigation to find the problem and perhaps an operation. Usually my health issues are resolved low down the steps, simply by taking some rest, thinking about how to help myself and by good nourishment.
The Wise Woman System of Healing may seem quite long-winded and too slow but it can be fast too. If an illness gets worse, as I work through the steps then I would seek professional help far sooner. Most of my ailments are very minor, just irritations. Many people run to the doctor to solve such minor issues but I choose to work this way to try and help myself first. I certainly am not opposed to anyone visiting their doctor. I have a good relationship with my family doctor and am happy to consult his team when I need to. Generally those in the medical profession have great knowledge. Visits to doctors for seemingly minor complaints can help to detect very serious disease, due to their knowledge and experience. I do not discourage anyone from visiting their doctor. What I try to encourage people to do is to help themselves first, especially when the dis-ease is minor.
Sometimes I have needed to fly through the first steps of the Wise Woman System and reach for emergency help within a minute. Knowledge of the steps can still help in these cases. This post on my Urban Herbology blog gives an impression of what the Wise Woman Tradition can be like in reality when the situation seems to be out of the patient's control.
Three Traditions of Healing
The Wise Woman Tradition focuses mainly on steps 0, 1, 2, 3. It is a quiet, almost invisible system of healing, at most times. It focuses on self care, nourishment, listening carefully and lifestyle. This is the system you will learn more about, through this module.
There are of course other approaches to health. They can be categorised into two further traditions:
The Heroic Tradition: which relies on steps 4 and 5 mainly. Heroic health practitioners are seen as holding all the power, in this tradition. The patient is not an active participant in the health care. The healing is done to them by someone else. Others have the solutions to fix disease. I know that it can feel so relieving to put responsibility for your health into the hands of another but this can cause us to be dependent on individuals and not very resourceful. There are some Heroic style practitioners in my network but they are people who want to empower their clients. They help me when I have a problem or they help me prevent problems and furthermore they teach me ways to help myself.
The Scientific Tradition: which relies almost totally on steps 5 and 6. Clearly, steps 5 and 6 (strong medicine, breaking and entering) are essential at times. The Wise Woman System does not advise against using these steps at all but it does encourage us to try other measures first, if appropriate. The scientific tradition often sits uncomfortably with the wise woman tradition, being suspicious of remedies without scientific proof. But some scientific practitioners have appreciation that there are other ways, especially if they work. When I have a serious problem and need steps 5 and 6 then I seek out professionals who are open to my opinions and needs but of course these can be hard to find within its organisation.
When you are ready, click on Healing - Step 0 to begin your journey in the Wise Woman Tradition.