Usually, our dining room is a place of disorderly chaos, where flinging food is normal and cheerful interruptions create a forest of noise.

This is why it was so odd to see my family sitting motionless in a half-moon of chairs with their eyes closed, cradling cups of steaming tea.

I was thrilled when I knew I’d get to review “Listen,” the mystery herb of the month club from Forage Botanicals, a natural lifestyle blog by Natasha Richardson — an herbalist who lives and works in London. Natasha sent me two month’s worth of herb to review. I completed the first, chamomile, alone. As my mother used to dry her own herbs and my dad is constantly brewing tea, I decided to share the second, lady’s mantle, with my family on a trip back home.

09490016

credit: Rachel Lees

Each monthly installment comes packed neatly in an envelope style box, which is kept as small as possible to reduce shipping costs. Natasha assembles each packet by hand, which no doubt requires some late nights. Inside the box, there are a series of labeled brown envelopes and a white instruction sheet. Step 1 contains a hand-filled teabag of the mystery herb. Step 2 is an audio exercise found online, used for meditation and relaxation. Step 3 is a PDF file also found online. It reveals the identity of the herb, as well as its origin, history, and medicinal properties. Step 4 holds a summary sheet about the herb, as well as a few extra teabags. Step 5 is stuffed full of the dry herb itself. A podcast on the Forage Botanicals website accompanies each month’s session. In short, it’s just wonderful.

“Listen” is focused mainly on tea. Step 3 does include recipes for each herb’s use, but everything in the packet sets the stage for tea tasting and cleansing the body through tea.

“Okay, everyone — gather,” I said, doling out the delicate cups of golden liquid. “If you’re going to do this meditation with me, you need to take it seriously.” I doubted that was going to happen, with two teenage brothers, Eli and Will, in my audience, and a no-nonsense mother. I expected giggles and snide remarks through the whole thing.

However, as I began the audio, the family remained silent. Natasha’s soothing British voice wove with ethereal music as she guided us through “body scanning.” She asked us to mentally examine each part of the body and how it felt. After our assessment, she then told us to pick up our tea, concentrating on breathing in its smell. Finally, we were allowed to taste it. We sipped the tea, paying close attention to its taste, texture, and where it spread throughout our insides. Then, she told us to examine what had changed after we sipped the tea. How did we feel differently?

My mother felt a cooling sensation in her thighs. Will felt warmth spreading downward. I felt the tea sinking gently down, lightly, but with a certain heaviness that marked its powerful medicinal qualities.

FH000010

While I enjoyed reviewing chamomile alone, it was even more enjoyable to review lady’s mantle with a group of others, because it enabled me to see how the tea affected each person in a different way.

We ended the session feeling renewed, refreshed, and educated on the herb and its uses.

I would recommend setting aside thirty minutes to fully complete each “Listen” installment. I found it works best when I take my time to fully absorb every detail of the herb I’m ingesting.

One of the goals behind “Listen” from the Forage website is that it would teach people about herbs without overwhelming them with information. This was one of my favorite parts about the program. In a typical day, I rush from place to place always focused on the next thing. It’s wonderful to take time to sit, refocus my senses, and open my mind to learn while I sip. For a gift or for yourself, this is a great way to slow down, learn, and join a community of others — all over the world — doing the same.

You can order Listen” from the Forage Botanicals website under “Resources and Courses.”

Photo Contributor

Being a big fan of both people and planet, Rachel Lees is all ‘gung-ho’ for living a simple, conscious life. Over at The Foraged Life you’ll find a collection of stories on all that sort of good stuff. From the handmade and home grown to adventures in the wild and in the greenhouse as well as stories of living lightly and lovingly.’