About Chris Marano, Master Herbalist
As an Educator: First, and most directly connected to the field of herbalism, Chris is deeply honored and grateful to have formally studied and trained with David Winston, one of the foremost herbalists of our time. It was (and still is) David’s comprehensive knowledge of herbalism and guidance as a healer of the highest order that encouraged Chris in 1989 to commit once and for all to the practice of herbalism. His training, however, did not start or end there.
As a teacher of human health and potential, herbal medicine, and Earth-stewardship, Chris brings over thirty years experience as a bonafide educator with bachelors and masters credentials from Columbia University (Pre-med major, Eastern philosophy and spirituality minor) and Columbia Teachers College (MA in sciences education), with over twenty and counting years teaching biology, anatomy-physiology, environmental studies and herbalism at the secondary school and university level (currently teaching ‘Topics in Herbalism’ in the Sustainable Foods and Living Program at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst). Clearpath School of Herbal Medicine has been teaching people interested in broadening and deepening their personal understanding of holism as well as educating and nurturing aspiring herbalists since 2000.
Chris has over thirty-five years (and counting) of deep study and practice in the spiritual, philosophical and healing richness of Chinese Medicine, Buddhism and Taoism. His entryway and continued exploration in this field is unique, and separates Chris from most other practitioners of Chinese Medicine in the U.S., whether as acupuncturists or as herbalists.
Chris was not trained in the modern, institutionalized TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) tradition, nor did he learn herbalism as an aside at an acupuncture school. His education came through years of osmosis studying, practicing and living at the Chan Center in NYC, as meditation student and assistant for the most highly regarded Chinese Chan (Zen) Buddhist master of his generation, Ven. Dr. Chang Sheng-yen (aka Shifu), now deceased. During his thirty-year tenure there, he had intimate involvement with Shifu Sheng-yen and his remarkable teachings, and with his devoted Sangha of monks and nuns, some of whom were trained in Chinese herbal medicine and nutrition. While there, Chris attended dozens of intensive silent meditation retreats, helmed the main editor position of the Chan Magazine for fifteen years, and co-authored seven of Shifu’s books. By Shifu Sheng-yen’s permission, Chris has also led classes and retreats on the subject of meditation, mindfulness, and self-cultivation, and he weaves this knowledge into all of his teachings.
The same is true for Chris’s deep connection to Native American medicine. His twenty-five year and counting relationship with medicine elders of the Anishnabe-Ojibway and Cherokee traditions comes by way of spending a lot of time in nature and in spiritual training, self-cultivation, and indigenous ceremony. Like most American-born-and-raised people, he is hardwired with Western way of thought, but decades of study in other traditions has tempered this wiring. Chris says that Chinese understanding is in his bones and Native American understanding is in his blood. Chris’s studies continue to evolve. In the last few years, he has added Somatic Experiencing (SE) approach to trauma therapy and Iyengar Yoga teacher training to his “medicine bag.”
As a Plant Person (Gardener, Wildcrafter, Product Maker):
Awareness, Integrity, Conscientiousness. These are the hallmarks that Chris demands of himself and his team of gardeners, wildcrafters and medicine makers. He is as devoted to the world of plants as he is to the world of people, and his adherence to sound and sustainable environmental and horticultural practices is unshakable. From start to finish, this care and commitment is present as medicinal herbs both garden-grown and wildcrafted are processed and turned into other forms (tinctures, oils) of medicine. From his large herbal pharmacy Chris crafts formulas for virtually any health need. He has a passion for making medicine and discovering uses for plants familiar and alien, and he is always working on techniques and recipes to make plant medicines and preparations that much better.
Personal Narrative: “Confessions of a Maverick”
Aspiring herbalists frequently ask how it is that I came to be an herbalist. The short answer would be ‘destiny’. Not destiny as fate foretold by a crystal ball, but rather the kind of destiny whereby seemingly random events and tiny detours turn out to be the choices and forces that wind up steering and shaping one’s life over the long haul. One of the main reasons why I am an herbalist today is that its job description is whatever I want it to be. None of the well-defined career paths that were available appealed to me as lifelong paths; they were too limiting and restrictive. When I started out, the field of herbalism was wilder than the Wild West. There was no job description for what an herbalist was or did. Perfect for a maverick.
Even today, there is no simple, short way to adequately encapsulate the richness and diversity that is encompassed by the vast field of herbalism. I am glad for this. I am thoroughly in support of at least one health modality that is not restricted by a governing body or a prevailing paradigm that tries to tell us what is true or not, studyable or not; a health modality that embraces diversity of thought from a multitude of sources and times, where indigenous wisdom is held in as high a regard as modern scientific technology and health research. There needs to be one area of health care where the intuitive side of human intelligence is not trivialized, ignored, suppressed, or demonized, and for the allowance of further research and investigation without total control by vested interest groups.
Herbalism is still a precious amalgam of intellect and intuition, science and art, mundane and magic. This allowance is what makes herbalism perhaps the richest and most vital area of health ‘research’ today. I did not know this going in — back when the study of medicinal plants first grabbed me in the late 1970’s — but I have known it for a long time now, and it is an important reason why I am still an herbalist today: no one is forcing me to do it their way or telling me what herbalism is and what is not, or telling me what areas of human health I am permitted to explore, or who I am able to help, and how.
My career arc has been seemingly patchwork and circuitous. Long ago I took the advice of dead wise elders and explored roads less taken. These roads, chosen by the gut, were always more interesting, and so my exploration of them was fueled by passion rather than obligation or orders. I intuitively trusted that there was an underlying pattern and greater design that would eventually reveal itself. It is still in process and I am perfectly okay with this. I am much more comfortable being a verb than a noun. Verbs move, nouns are static. I’d rather be helping people with herbs than trying to explain to someone what an herbalist is and why I am one.
There are a couple of roads that, once I started out on them, I have never exited from. For these roads, there doesn’t seem to be an end-of-the-line, and they have never become even remotely boring.These roads — matters of human spiritual evolution and potential, the world of nature, and especially the potent, mysterious places and times where the two meet — are what fuels and informs everything else I do, especially that which is embraced by the arms of Clearpath Herbals — its school, health-care and environmental services, and products.
These days, among other self definitions for describing myself as an herbalist, I consider myself first and foremost a teacher, and both a community and a clinical herbalist. It is a matter of semantics. People I know in my greater outlying ‘neighborhoods’ know they can count on me as a reliable health service, just as one might rely on a local handyman, and for them I am their community herbalist. And for the rest of the population that may seek my help, I am a clinical herbalist, trained in modern and ancient healing traditions.
(Link to Curriculum.Vitae., and links to whatever appropriate in other areas: Services > Health and Wellness Consultations; Services > workshops; land assessment; etc.)
As Healthcare Practitioner: Chris brings to his health-care practice a deep understanding of nature, medicinal herbs, and holistic health as well as the efforts and fruits of his lifelong spiritual path dedicated to embracing the human condition. Herbalism as a healthcare modality, at least the way Chris approaches it, is as much (if not more) education than it is treatment. He considers himself a verbalist as much as an herbalist, because he has witnessed time and again how a turn of a phrase or a telling of a story or a slight change of conceptual understanding can dramatically, beneficially, and enduringly alter the health of an individual. Knowledge is power, and people are by nature the best experts on themselves. Who else is with you every moment of your existence from the moment you are aware of your existence to the moment you die? Knowledge of health and medicine is not exclusive to people who go to specialized schools. It is here for everyone. And ignorance is not stupidity, it is just being unaware of something. Chris helps people become aware of and to better able to understand their health and how to best maintain or restore it.
It is Chris’s firm belief and contention that, by allowing and facilitating the telling of their life health stories, people reveal not only what is balanced and imbalanced within them, but also often what the underlying causes are, and even more amazingly, what choices they have to make to get on the road to healing. It is Chris’s job and skill to sift through and make sense of all the information, searching for underlying patterns of health and imbalance. Chris’s ease with language and making challenging or alien concepts easily understood and acted upon is as much medicine as the herbal remedies he formulates for people’s health conditions.
Chris treats the entire person — the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bodies — not just anatomy, physiology and an array of symptoms. We do not live in a vacuum. Everything is connected. There are many ways to healing, and every moment is a unique opportunity for healing to happen. Chris is strongly committed to helping people find their healer within, so that they may be empowered to better understand themselves and their choices, and to take charge of their own healing journey as they embrace their own cultivation.
And of course, Chris brings decades of training and practice in clinical herbalism, drawing from Western, Chinese, and Native American healing traditions. Using herbal formulas, formulated from his extensive experience and custom-blended from an apothecary of over 300 tinctures (extracts), Chris addresses virtually any health condition or opportunity, working with all ages, to help people find their own clear path to healing.