It's time to take a stand!
Interview with Susanne Fischer-Rizzi, herbal healer and mediator between nature and man
Everyday we hear about wars and natural disasters. Slowly we are starting to see the connections between the structure of our society and the suffering in the rest of the world. More and more people are starting to ask how they can contribute to peace and the protection of the environment. Animals and plants can be our companions, our allies and teachers on our way to change.
Susanne Fischer-Rizzi has been interested in the healing powers of plants since she was 12 year old. Later, she studied Ayurvedic and Tibetan herbalism. She acquired her knowledge through Native Americans, the Taoism and the ancient European cultures. She describes herself as nature's apprentice. With her work she contributes to the reconnection of humans, animals and plants to nurture mutual healing.
A conversation about awareness for nature and the wisdom of ancient cultures.
Manuela & Carsten Essig: What is your vocation and your purpose?
Susanne Fischer-Rizzi: My life purpose is to pass on the knowledge and wisdom I received from my teachers and my own experience. I want to inspire people to reconnect to nature and take on their responsibility.
M&C: How did you find your vocation?
SFR: It all started when my grandfather, who was very knowledgable about healing plants, took me as his apprentice when I was 12 years old. He gave me my first book about healing plants and took me out to collect plants and prepare them.
My father took special interest in forests and my mother loved animals, so I experienced the love for mother nature at an early age. Later, as I became independent I looked for new teachers, first of all native american shamans.
M&C: Every day we hear about wars and environmental destruction. What do you see as cause for the state of the earth and our society?
SFR: There are various contributing factors. We can see that native people still have a very different connection to mother earth and therefore still follow the old laws of nature, like the law of give and take or the law of gratefulness and mindfulness. I think our ancestors here in Europe had the same laws and complied with them. Then over the years we forgot them and other things became our focus of attention. That is the reason why we stopped caring for our earth.
We started to take more than we give. We forgot that the earth offers us a value far beyond that of the resources.
Christianisation further supported the disappearance of our deep connection with nature. Especially through christianity, where paradise is perceived as something outside of this world, the earth has been desecrated. The earth has been atrophied to a commodity that can be exploited at will.
Another big incision was the industrialization. People "sold" themselves to the factories and thereby further lost their deep connection to mother nature.
All these are reasons for the split in the psyche of us Europeans. It is a very old wound that has been smoldering for ages, but the degree of suffering never reached a critical level. Now, the earth is showing us that we urgently have to heal this deep wound. We have to take on our responsibility for the earth and acknowledge its sacredness.
We lost our consternation about what is happening to our souls and the soul of the earth.
M&C: What do you mean about consternation?
SFR: There is a special way to connect to nature: you can experience your connection to nature by simply stepping out of your front door and being observant. This leads to an expansion of your senses. You simply have to look around to see which birds and plants live around your house to make them your allies. These allies are like a thread, connecting you to nature. The more allies you have, the more you feel connected to nature and the more you feel concerned about what is happening to nature. Our celtic ancestors called it the web of life. When you are deeply connected to nature, you will naturally want to take a stand for nature and change your life and things around you. This is the most important thing at the moment.
People used to celebrate nature with their rituals. Our most appropriate ritual would be to take a stand for nature.
M&C: However, instead of taking a stand for nature, we are consuming more than ever. Why is that?
SFR: If you have a deep-rooted connection to nature, you experience a feeling of satisfaction and happiness. If you lose this feeling you can easily feel empty inside. Many people feel this emptiness and try to fill it by consuming a lot. As Erich Fromm put it, "There is a difference between having and being!" We shifted our priorities from experiencing the being to the having, but this inner feeling of emptiness can't be filled with materialistic things. Material possessions and performance are at the center of our attention and we never really felt and healed our emptiness.
M&C: Feminine values have been displaced and patriarchal societies have replaced matriarchal ones. Is this linked to our current crisis?
SFR: It is a key to our current situation. The old Europe was characterized for 40 000 years by a culture, where feminine values were respected, protected and honored and our patriarchal worldview is very young compared to that. The famous archeologist Maria Gimbutas discovered, that the first European village communities like Catal Huyuk in todays Turkey, which are over 8000 years old, had a matriarchal society structure and show no traces of any wars. Also in the minoan advanced civilization the feminine was honored and no signs of glorification of war and violence can be found. Later, in Roman, Egyptian or Greek images, violence and war have become a central theme.
M&C: What does that have to do with our indifference regarding our earth and nature?
SFR: Based on this we can see that cultures who honored the feminine principle, also honored life more than death. The chalice of life was honored more than the sword. This slowly changed through the invasions of the so-called Kurgan populations from the north who started to establish patriarchally organized societies. Feminine values changed through the influence of patriarchal peoples and male values have become more important. Societies were war-oriented and weapons revered.
So there seems to be a connection: The less feminine values were honored, less people cared about nature. The more women were exploited, the more nature is exploited.
I think it's very telling, that nowadays fuel is more expensive than milk. Milk has always been a sacred preciousness that symbolizes the nurturing aspect of the feminine. A very important feminine element is the giving and nurturing. Also the law of "give more than you take" as well as the principle of unconditional devotion and love as mothers do with their child, are primeval feminine attributes. All these feminine values have been lost and gave place to masculine values, like "take more than you give". We have plundered everything without ever feeling gratitude or thinking about how to give back to earth!
I think in that in these times of change, change cannot really be consistent and profound, if it doesn't involve fully re-integrating the feminine principle.
M&C: How can we re-establish a new balance of the male and the female?
SFR: The balance starts in every individual's life. In the past decades, we always assumed it would be enough to change things outside ourselves and forgot that change happens in our lives and around our homes. Every person, man or woman, should live this balance inside themselves, to then bring it into the world. This can be done by getting active in the conservation of nature, in permaculture or in your community.
This is the next step- to establish the balance inside yourself look, if feminine and masculine values live in harmony. Did we create a balance in our relationship that we can bring into the world? It starts in every relationship and the good news is that you can decide to begin it every moment. This is a blessing of our times, everything is so connected: if you change something in your life it can have a huge impact. Change happens so much faster than 10 or 20 years ago.
M&C: In your books you often talk about the wisdom of indigenous peoples and its importance for us. What role does this old wisdom play in our modern times?
SFR: The indigenous, native peoples who still live like our ancestors have conserved the ancient wisdom for us. It is painful to see this wisdom more and more obliterated. We are only seeing the last remains of it. This knowledge is precious and it is very important to support the cause of the indigenous people in the Amazon, the Bushmen in Africa or the Aborigines in Australia. The ancient knowledge gives modern tools and resources for our times. One of these tools is gratitude, which native peoples feel regarding life, nature, animals and food. Gratitude for them is a key to their own life and their connection to nature and the world. This is something we lost.
Another gift of these peoples is the knowledge about our being integrated in the sacred circle of life. People used to live in the so-called cyclic or balsamic time, they noticed the cycle of the year. They observed the cosmos and saw how the stars and the signs of the zodiac move and saw their life in connection to it and to the animals and plants. This gave their life a lot of dignity. They tried to align their life to this cosmic watch and consciously marked important turning points in their life with certain rituals. This is another thing that got lost and left a feeling of emptiness behind.
For example a girl's first menstruation or a boy's passage into manhood is not celebrated anymore with a ritual or celebration. Also, when man and women enter into their climacteric period, there is no rite of passage to welcome the old age. Age really has been put under a taboo. We lost the awareness of this sacred circle of life and perceive life as a grey day-to-day routine instead of understanding the unique gifts and purposes in the different stages of our life.
We received this as last gift from the ancestors and we urgently need it to recover our dignity in life and our very own lifetime.
M&C: What kind of forces influence indigenous peoples, which we don't know of anymore?
SFR: They are able to enter spaces which are not accessible to us modern humans. Especially with my native American friends I experience this when I ask them, who their ancestors are. They can talk about and name their ancestors, reaching back seven generations. The realm of our ancestors is not accessible for us anymore, but it is a force standing behind us. As herbal healer, I often acknowledge the many women standing behind me, who developed this wisdom, preserved it and sometimes even gave their lives for it. Without them I could't be a healer, one life isn't enough to acquire the wisdom.
The access to these realms can be given to us by shamans. Apart from the realm of our ancestors, there also is the future realm, which is maybe even more important in our times. Indigenous peoples always consider the next seven generations in their decisions. To renounce our responsibility for the coming generations was one of our biggest mistakes. Tell me one of the bosses of the big oil- or food companies who is concerned about the next seven generations? They only act according to "look after number one".
We can learn this awareness of the generations to come from the indigenous peoples, to not leave all the children yet to come on this earth a desert. It is crucial to re-awaken this awareness and align our actions with it!
M&C: What can we learn from animals and plants?
SFR: Animals and plants have always been our ambassadors, we can learn a lot from them. I just came back from the Dordogne in France, where I visited some of the cave paintings. The people 20 or 30 thousand years ago painted animals. They were very conscious of the power of animals and the possibility to learn from them. As herbal healer, I learn from the plants every day, for example about the circle of time. I observe the apple tree over the course of the year and see how it is in full maturity. I see its apples and how it withdraws in winter time. I can recognize the time of the year and also where I stand in my own life. Rhythm defines our life and all life on this planet and we can learn this rhythm from the plants.
We can all learn much needed patience, fortitude and rootedness from the trees. They stay in one place their whole life, collect wisdom and surrender to the joys of growth. I just have to listen to the birds in the morning, joyfully welcoming the rising sun, and feel inspired to also thank for this new day and be happy. I learn from my cat how to relax, especially when I'm under a lot of stress. My dog teaches me by being incredibly happy about every visitor. The animal kingdom accompanies us all the time, it doesn't always have to be wild and exotic animals. We just have to become conscious about it.
M&C: What can get people to change their behavior regarding the earth?
SFR: In an individual's life things happen, that throw them off the track. Many people that come to my seminars have experienced an important turning point. It may be the death of a close person or an illness that completely changed their life situation and all of a sudden opened them to new values and to nature. Right now, the earth is holding up a mirror to us and we can't really deny it.
This was not that intense some 20-30 years ago. Now people see, that the world's resources are exhausted, the oceans are all overfished, there is an incredible extinction of species and not only is nature dying, but also people are suffering in misery. More and more people recognize the connection between the structure of our society and the suffering in the third world countries and the connection between the suffering of the earth, the individual and our society as a whole.
The philosopher Theodor Adorno said: "The violence we inflict on nature will turn back on us and influence human life profoundly." Now this moment has come. Many, many people feel fear and depression, many children are sick and need psychotropic drugs. It is the time when the situation is troubling and touching people profoundly, so that they want to change and take a stand for nature.
M&C: What can every individual person do?
SFR: Primarily it is important to believe that every individual can do something. We are all connected, thus our actions can have a big impact. You can start with what you eat. Everyone has to eat and you can ask yourself: "Where does the chicken come from, that I eat?" Like this you can discover that it is not worth buying cheap meat. Because someone has to suffer for it, for example the chickens in the huge animal factories that live under miserable conditions on a tiny space and are full of antibiotics. You can go on with what you wear and ask yourself:"How come this T-Shirt is so cheap, I wonder who's paying the price for it?"
You can also just go out in nature and have a closer look at the plants. You can notice, which plants are extinct at certain places to know more about your region. You will understand, that you cannot leave the responsibility up to some politicians, but it is yours to take! Now is our time, you are responsible for these pastures and this forest. See which plants are missing and just sow them. Maybe you love birds, then see which birds live in your area. You can also go to a children's home and show the kids around in nature.
There are countless possibilities to get involved and you should always follow your heart. You should go for what has the strongest pull, what your heart is burning for. The time to give away the responsibility for our future to someone else is over.
M&C: What are your dreams and visions?
SFR: I pray for strength and blessings for all the people who are actively helping to conserve the earth for the next generations. To all these people I wish strength and joy in doing so and that they may not despair or reach their limits. They should easily connect to each other to be able to have a greater impact. I hope and dream that we will go back to following the ancient laws of nature and again will give more than we take.
My vision is to achieve through my work, that more and more people reconnect to nature. In recent years I have started to accompany young people on their path to taking a stand for nature. They are still full of hope and strength. I see my purpose as a tutor to help them in reaching their purpose.
M&C: Do you have hope?
SFR: I would like to join Jane Goodall, who I admire very much and who answered to this question: "Yes, I do have hope!" And I think of Martin Luther, who said: "If tomorrow was the end of the world, I would still plant an apple tree today!" We should always have hope because there have been previous times when life was nearly extinct on this planet and nature always recovered. Life is the strongest force. What I love about people is that we always found a way out even of the worst situations. We can use our creativeness, curiosity and enthusiasm for the good things- so that we fight for, and not against life. If we honor life more than death, we can have a lot of hope.
Earth is on our side. If we take a stand for her, she will help us.
The interview was conducted in August 2011 in Germany.