Doris Nünninger-Fräulin has grown her wings in a big romantic garden full of flowers, trees and herbs, near her house which is located in South Germany near the borders of Switzerland. Her role the past years has been to connect people to nature through courses and workshops which she gives about herbage and medical herbs along with walks in nature. On her courses one can learn how to make ointments with pure beeswax and special herbs or flowers, herb-vinagre with lemon thyme and learn the old art of knowing which plants from your garden you can use for different conditions as remedies.
Doris, what is your relationship with nature?
My relationship is mainly with herbage and medical herbs. I use them in the kitchen and for healing.
Have you taken a training in this field?
I studied in the Sambuca-School, an association to conserve the knowledge about traditional herbs. I wanted to know more about herbs so this was my start. Before I was a remedial teacher, working with handicapped children. Then I became very ill and because of that I couldn`t work in my profession any more. I couldn`t do anything but walk outside in nature. I had the feeling that this is what would help me the most.
What pulled you towards nature?
I wanted to feel the colour green around me, green meadows, green forest. The green colour was essential for me, I longed for it. I really had the intuition that it helps me. I had this problem with my head. I could not do anything but walk. I got the feeling this would heal me and give me release from pain and tension. It was not possible to do anything else, there were these headaches... The body was leading me. I could not go to a town, there was too much stimulus and noise around, also I couldn’t go shopping, it was all too exhausting. I could not concentrate. Walking outside in nature was what really cured me. I started to feel better.
Is that when you started taking notice of the different plants growing?
I was always interested in plants. That was not something new. But what came up as new was that I developed an interest in medical herbs. I started studying the knowledge of certain herbs and their substances and then I started to experiment with that. My experience was that it was doing me good, so I wanted to study more... I was searching for something and I knew that this was it! I felt better and better, the more I knew the more I could use it on myself. Now I could live without antibiotics and sedatives, sleeping pills and all that. Before it was not possible, so often I had no defense against noise and many inputs from outside. I got nervous and felt like I was connected to a high voltage power line. Being in nature, finding the right herbs for me, allowed me to let go of those strong medicines and change to natural herb-medicine. I also sensed that I wanted to teach this to others. I had the aim very quickly to make it my new profession.
I have noticed in your courses people do really practical things. I met some people who were quite enthusiastic to prepare soups, balms, vinaigre and so on. Do you work with pure natural products only?
First I teach them some facts about herbs and then how to use herbs from their garden for themselves, in the kitchen for salads and soups and how to prepare little homespun remedies, tinctures, syrup, balms, ointments, herb-salt etc.
I once cooked a special green soup with you from the first green herbs coming out in spring...
It is a soup with so many vitamins that really gives you a vitamin boost. It brings you in connection with nature, cleaning your whole system and giving you strength. It is like a springtime ritual to prepare a green soup like this after the long winter. In springtime nature gives us exactly that what we need to bring back strength and vitality to the body. All through the year, according to the season the earth provides us with herbs to stay well.
Is this a spiritual aspect of nature? Somehow you connect your green interest with a different consciousness.
For me it is a kind of contemplation and meditation to be in nature. There are different forms of meditation and being in nature is a good way to come into a meditative state of mind. I don`t have to sit down for this, it is possible to be in a meditative state of mind whilst walking in nature.
Also what you mentioned about floating with the seasons of the year and being part of it seems to be a spiritual way of life for you. Not only sitting inside, feeling alone and isolated... Do you somehow feel more connected?
Yes, I am a part of the whole, not separated. I can be aware of this much more as well as of the relation I have with the universe, the plants, the elements and all living beings. And because I am more conscious about it, I can act differently.
This sounds like you have more awareness of the state of our planet now?
There is more awareness and sensitivity for what is around me and for nature as such. My life changed a lot because of this. There are different levels: Thankfulness is something important to me. This means to take things not for granted but as a gift. I am very thankful for this. To feel gratitude as well is something essential and very deep. I feel that I got such a gift and my life changed! Such richness. I trust more and more in everything and that the right things are coming to me. The herbs which I need start growing in my garden. I am convinced that whatever I need will show up in my life. I just have to be aware of it and trust.
It sounds like there is less fear?
I feel that I am being taken care of by nature and that there is so much abundance. This is what makes me grateful. This is the consciousness that was in the background all the time. In this way spirituality is a way of life for me. I am related to everything and I perceive everything as a present. Without spirituality I probably would not look at it this way and I would not be aware of it. The whole spectrum of values: peace, happiness, gratitude -all these values can be experienced in nature. This is wonderful.
So your mind has to be open for it?
You have to be open and then nature can help you. Otherwise you can make walks and be outside and not sense anything. My experience is that if I need a herb - then it comes to my garden, it will just start growing there. I am very often totally surprised. I cannot make plans - plants come on my way. Then I do something with this plant. This was so last year with white-thorn. It was suddenly there, when I needed to have one. Many times this happens but we do not notice it. You just pass by and you don`t see it. If you are open and sensitive you will notice it.
Interview to Patrizia Heise