Befriending The Plant People

This is truly shocking I know, my second post in a day! Usually two in two months is good going for me, but this is the continuation of my streamlining process. The following has been a page on my website since my first book The Medicine Garden was published in December 2009. Due to space limitations in the paper version of the book the original Appendix I was shortened to fit the space. I however feel passionately about what it contained which, as you will read below, is a selection of exercises written to assist one on the mission of befriending the plant people, of gaining access to plant consciousness, in other words. What I have written is a simple and basic guide, just scratching at the surface of plant spirit communication, however I believe it to be a useful starting point.

The Medicine Garden, Appendix I:

psychedelic leavesThe plants you notice most strongly, those you cannot pass without taking in a deep lungful of their aroma, without a smile bursting onto your lips, they are the ones that hold the strongest and most significant medicine for you. I encourage you to sit with those plants. Spend time again and again with those plants that call you.

Take some colouring pencils and a blank page and sit with that plant, draw it. In doing this I notice so many details and find a great joy in the exercise. You begin to notice the minutiae, the slight difference in colour between the old and new growth, the hairs on the stem, the little red dots and the ants that love the plant so.

Take it deeper still. Talk to that plant. Introduce yourself. Ask if you can take a nibble and do so. Let the plant linger on your tongue, write everything that you feel, every thought that pops into your mind (no matter how random it seems). Smell deeply. Touch every part of it with your fingers, your eyes, your heart. Write everything, everything, the strange urge to belch, the pain above your left eye, how relaxed you feel or how alert. Notice everything. Then thank your new friend, you can go back again and again to deepen your relationship.

If it truly becomes a friend to you, treat it as such, say hello as you pass, plants have ally plant -plant consciousnessfeelings too… Later as you look up the “uses” of that plant in books you will be surprised how your feelings mirror what science or millenia of folk tales have found out about that plant. Perhaps you will then know that it was calling to you and offering itself as medicine on any number of levels. You see it is this way, through communicating with and respecting plants as brothers, as equals, that they will tell you the most, that you will learn the most. This is where the magic of wild medicine truly begins…

Following are a few simple steps that you may want to try which may enhance and deepen the relationship you have with an individual plant, allowing with practice and time for it to become a true ally and even a friend;

1) Go and sit by it, introduce yourself and ask that it shares it’s secrets or it’s medicine with you. It is a good at this point to make a small offering, in North America it would be traditional to give a pinch of tobacco. Not being a native plant to the UK I find it more appropriate to pull a hair from my head. You are asking the plant to give you something, so it is respectful to reciprocate and give something of yourself in exchange. However, in this fast paced world giving a plant your time alone is a great and rarely given gift, so do not worry if you have no tobacco or hair to give.

2) Plants, especially trees, live at a much slower pace than we humans, who probably appear as hectic to them as flies do to us. So it is important as the next step to slow yourself down. This is a work of patience, it would be rare, for the unpracticed, to receive information instantaneously. This is where the drawing comes in. Give yourself maybe 30 minutes to simply draw what you see. You will find the momentum and urgency of your day peeling off as you slip into plant time.

3) As you draw you will notice a feeling descend upon you, you may even start to descend into a kind of dream state. Be aware of how you are feeling both physically and emotionally, note it down so that you can refer back to it later.

4) Use all your senses, touch the plant, smell it, ask it’s permission and if you feel that the answer is yes, taste a small piece. I like to take a leaf into my mouth which is still attached to the plant, like a browsing goat, it seems to have more energy, life force and a stronger message this way.

5) Use your heart to extend love to the plant, much as you would on seeing a beautiful sleeping baby freshly birthed by a loved one.

6) Throughout the whole process be aware of any and all sensations you are experiencing, write them down. Keep checking back with yourself, how do you feel? The messages can be very subtle especially the first few times you do this as your mind will keep telling you that it has made them up, that these things cannot possibly be coming from the plant.

7) Everything that comes up can and may be part of the plants medicine for you. An old ABBA song starts spinning around in your head, listen to the words. You find yourself drifting off and thinking about a tricky scenario you are experiencing with a lover or friend. You feel a little nauseous or you get a pain in your little finger. It is all relevant.

8) You feel the time is up, either you need to go or you find yourself thinking about tonights dinner. Thank the plant before you leave.

9) Later that day review everything you wrote down. I find again and again the most important thing is the feeling that was imparted, that will most often stay with you throughout the day. It may not be immediately obvious what it all means but you can look back over your notes again and again, you can revisit the plant in your heart too.

10) When you get a chance look up in a book or online what the medicinal uses of the plant are, maybe it has been used in a Bach Flower Remedy or something similar for it’s emotional effects. So often you will find parallels between what you felt and the accepted knowledge about that plant, other times it wont even be listed, that doesn’t make it any less valid. Once you start to see a correlation between what you discovered directly from the plant and what the books say you will begin to trust your instincts and be able to learn directly from the plants themselves as our ancestors did. It is original knowledge, once you trust nature to be your friend and guide, it cannot be argued with.

I prefer to sit with plants when they are flowering as that is when they are putting energy out into the world, attempting to attract pollinators to ensure fertilisation and the continuation of the species. You can do a plant study or communicate with a plant at any time but the response definitely feels stronger in the spring and summer. Many plants take their energy inwards during autumn and winter, losing their leaves and concentrating their energy on their root systems, for this reason I find the response less strong at this time of year.

The Medicine Garden paperback cover

The Medicine Garden paperback cover

To buy your copy of The Medicine Garden, where an abridged version of this entry originally appeared, click here…

Viewing 2015 Solar Eclipse ~ Safely!

My love of the wild and of nature goes beyond medicinal plants and unspoilt landscapes, it goes skywards! Since viewing a total solar eclipse on 24th October 1995 from an abandoned village in Rajasthan, Northern India, I have been hooked. I have chased the shadow far and wide, a chase that has taken me to every continent except North America and Antarctica (so far). So this is a big week for me. I love eclipses :).

 

Although totality this Friday (20/03/15) will be limited to just a few lucky people in the Faroe Islands, Svalbard, and on Arctic cruises, a partial will be visible from the UK and other parts of Europe, Northern Africa, the Middle East and Northern Asia. As my online search to purchase eclipse glasses for sending to my parents came in with a bit of a blank (OK I could have searched harder and longer, but still…), I thought I would post up some easy to follow instructions for safe eclipse viewing.

Happy eclipse viewers wearing the correct and safe eyeware in Australia 2012

Happy eclipse viewers wearing the correct and safe eyeware in Australia 2012

Even when 90% of the sun is covered it is stil extremely bright and will burn your retinas to a crisp, potentially causing permanent damage or even blinding you. You must NOT stare directly at the sun unless you have proper eclipse viewing glasses. Through these glasses you can see absolutely nothing (except the sun), do not try with sunglasses or anything else unless you want a crispy eyeball.

positioning fingers & thumbs for safe eclipse viewing

positioning fingers & thumbs for safe eclipse viewing

What you can do however is use your fingers to make a pin-hole effect. Stand with the sun behind you. Pinch your fingers and thumbs together leaving a tiny gap where they meet. You will need a flat surface the other side of them; for the surface think a piece of shiny white card, or a car door. Et voila! A safe and easy way to view the eclipse. No danger to your eyes, no special equipment needed. Impress your kids, friends and colleagues with this little tip.

safe way to view partial eclipse

safe way to view partial eclipse

Wishing clear skies, protected eyes and happy eclipse vibes to one and all :))

Bringing in the Sacred

This time last week I was getting up to date with all my work so that I could take Friday as a special day.  It was of course dandelion stonesummer solstice (in the northern hemisphere).  I rose before dawn and visited Nympsfield Long Barrow.  It is a beautiful site on which lies the remains of a neolithic burial mound.  On the way up there I saw rabbits, deer, mist, and heard so so many birds.  It was peaceful and magical and gave the opportunity for a real “moment”.  I said my prayers for self and universe and left a while later feeling refreshed and renewed.

As my life has become more and more busy running my own business(es), growing food and medicines, maintaining an old house, etc (you know how it is…), I have made less and less time to celebrate the sacred, to say my prayers of gratitude and deliver my wishes to the universe.  I hadn’t realised or noticed it happening as I still connect and work with nature on a daily basis and felt that to be enough.

On Sunday evening I was invited to a full moon fire.  A beautiful ceremony carried out by a shaman who lives across the street and who trained with the Four Winds Society and Peruvian Laika.  There were a large group of us yet the ceremony was intimate and powerful.  You could feel things shifting in the air around us.

That was the second time in just one weekend that I acknowledged the sacred and it served to remind me to incorporate it more, to take a moment now and then to honour the Earth, not just thanking when I harvest, or through sending songs of love and appreciation to my green relatives, but to actually stop a moment, put my hands on the Earth and give thanks.

A Walker Between Worlds

Last weekend I came to the realisation that I am a walker between worlds – the Real (the world of Nature, of Earth) and our human created reality/ realities.  What I “do” is to invite people to walk between worlds.  To discover access points to the Real.  So that somehow, with enough of us, we can draw those worlds closer together, closer to the place they should be.  Where we live, see and feel the Real in every day.

I also realised that I am an envoy of sorts.  Speaking for those whose voice is too easily drowned out in human reality.yellow flowered tree

But, working this way ~ medicine woman, plant whisperer, hedgerow herbalist ~ the ways of the Earth (the Real), it is pretty much impossible to achieve success in human terms, that is peer recognition and material wealth.  The Earth can, will, and does provide for my needs, but nothing more.  The rest, the excess, the material, is the realm of humans and nature cannot conjure me that.  She does however provide food, medicine, and a life filled world; with liberal quantities of companions, wisdom, and love.

I have sought recognition amongst my peers, but have always found it tricky to describe what I “do”.  I remain shy about my work because although I have been published and speak publicly, I lack the material things that I grew up believing were the signs of success and wealth.  Now I have remembered another way ~ real wealth, real recognition, respect amongst peers ~ but not of the human world.  It is deeply touching, heart warming and encouraging.  My wealth is being able to walk outside my front door and see food, medicine and life wherever I look.  My recognition is being seen by the plants, the rocks, the rivers, I can feel them looking back at me.  And respect amongst peers?  My peers are those other living beings on this planet, not just humans, but plants and animals, I know they respect me as I respect them.

wild natural coastline, Queensland

My realisations came about after I gave three one hour presentations at a festival last weekend.  Despite the wonderful reception given by the people who came to my talks, I felt belittled and disrespected by the festival organisers.  I wont bore you with the details because what has come out of it is a refreshing level of clarity, a beautiful gift.

It was at the fireside on Saturday evening, after the presentations whilst enjoying the rest of the event, when I began talking to the man next to me that this wave of divine clarity began to grow.  The man was a conflict resolution diplomat of 10 years standing, and had all of those things I thought I lacked (material wealth, recognition, peer respect).  And yet he was so confused about the ways of man and mind I realised my clarity in the ways of leaf and heart.  I realised the recognition, the wealth, the respect, that I had been searching for had been there all along.  I had just been searching in the wrong realm to find it.

gnarly tree root river bankIt is an art form to walk between worlds, but until more of us remember how, begin to reincorporate the Real, then I worry for the future of humanity.  Nature can and will provide for our needs if we just open our eyes and live that little bit less of our time immersed in human reality…

If you are interested in walking between worlds join me for a workshop, or a skype session, and learn the ways…

 

The Roots of Love

I had a fabulous idea for a magazine article a little while ago, and so set up an experiment and began taking photos to illustate my article and prove my theory.  The idea was to demonstrate that by extending attention, love, and encouraging words to growing plants they would respond by growing more strongly and healthily.

So began my experiement with two trays of compost.  One was to be the trays of compostcontrol tray to which I would not speak, offer praise, or encouragement to, barely even acknowledge.  I would simply water when necessary and that was that.  The second tray adorned with a big love heart sticker so that I could tell the two trays apart, was to receive daily words of encouragement, love, excitement, and joy, alongside the essential water and sunlight.

jar of pea seedI chose to grow pea greens using seeds I had saved last summer.  Being rather chaotic, as is my style, I had a jar with two different pea varieties in, so my first job was to separate out enough of one type to plant.  Luckily the different varieties had a very different appearance even when dried in seed form so this didn’t take too long.  I chose pea greens because they are quick to grow (so my experiment would be over and article written sooner) but also because I love to eat their sweet, juicy, fresh shoots as a salad ingredient, and what with the cold spring this year my usual cache of wild greens has been a little lacking.

Seeds sown, the experiment proper began, and over the next 3 weeks I faithfully nutured the tray with the heart on, on a daily basis.  Even when I was not sitting next to it offering encouraging words I would often think of the wee beauties and send them a blast of love.  So, imagine my disappointment peas growingas the days passed and there was no visible difference between the growth in the two trays.  That was it, if I left it any longer the greens would lose their sweetness, and get a bit stringy as they reached for the sky in an effort to complete their life cycle by flowering and producing peas.  I ate them before they got the chance.

half harvested pea greens

Once the greens had been harvested, I slung the trays outside my back door to be dealt with later, and promptly forgot about them.  That was a couple of weeks ago.

This weekend with the long awaited rain and spring warmth I suddenly had a panic about how few seeds I had sown this year.  In a flourish of activity I got out my seed packets and started working through them.  At the bottom of the pile were two packs of different cherry tomatoes, new ones that I have never grown before.  Excited, and knowing I was a bit behind, I rushed to find a couple of planters and some compost so that I could start them off indoors.  As I opened my back door the old pea trays were still sat there.  Perfect, I thought.  All I had to do was pull out the old pea seeds and stumps where the greens had been cut to.  The first tray was very easy with tiny narrow white roots coming easily out of the soil.  The second tray made me stop.  The roots were long and thick, some almost with the girth of bind weed!  Oh my!  Yes this was the tray with the love heart on.  How wrong I had been when I gave up my experiment.  I never explained to the peas that they were to be eaten as greens, so I believe they were storing up and growing fantastic roots in readiness to be planted outside and to then dazzle me with an incredible abundance of blooms and fruits.  Now I will never know what the end result would have been.

My lesson?  Talking to and encouraging your plants with love does make a difference!  And if you intend to try this experiment at home apply a little more patience when waiting for results… 🙂

Heart Aflame in Mexico!!

The final part of my journey was to the magical land of smiles, hearts, chillies, and skulls, yep, Mexico!  What an amazing country, I have never been before and did not know what to expect, even so I was really surprised how much I loved it.  Within 24 hours of arriving I had already fallen in love with the people, the culture, the history.  It may seem like a mass generalisation as I had only just arrived, and only seen Mexico City, but you know when you get such a deep feeling, a full body tingle.

Roaming around the incredible Museum of Anthroplogy in Mexico City the influence of entheogenic plants, and the deep connection to Earth wisdom through their ingestion, became obvious.  With each new room I entered I could feel the signatures of different teacher plants reflected in the artefacts, it was palpable.

Yucatan jungle

I also managed to do my fair share of Mayan ruin hopping in the Yucatan.  The whole region, other than than the built up coastal zone, just seemed to be covered with dense bush.  Most of what lined the roads had been disturbed, was not deep jungle, but still the nature was strong; and green was the only colour to be seen all the way to the horizon in any direction.

Beautiful Mexican Beach

I spent some time camping on one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever visited.  As I walked the sand each evening at sunset tears welled in my eyes as I was washed with such a deep sense of gratitude that I had the opportunity to be in that place.  I was reminded again and again, moment by moment, how great it is to be alive!!

plant reflections

During my stay in Mexico I got a bit sick for a few days.  One morning I was feeling particularly sick, hot and wretched.  I had to get in a car for a long drawn out journey and I knew there would not be many opportunities to dash to the loo.  As I sat in the shade of a tree (an Almendro de Playa, quite common along the beach), thanking it for the respite the shade gave me, I also asked for help, for medicine.  When my friends car arrived to collect me I jumped in and was well for almost 5 hours, the length of the journey.  That night I was wild camping and as I lay in my tent the sickness came again.  I got up and roamed around feeling terrible until I remembered the tree.  I called out to it and asked for its help again.  Within 30 minutes I was feeling much better, this time the sickness did not return.  How about that for some Mexican plant magic 😉

 

 

The Raw & Wild Nature of Cambodia

Firstly I would like to wish all my readers a very happy 2013!!  I have been away from my office for over two months on an incredible, cosmic world travel.  I have been meeting new friends both human and vegetal and have been deeply touched by the beauty and the magic of this wonderful planet we not only stand upon but are of course an inseparable part of.

I had thought that I would blog and tweet as I went but it seems that technology very quickly and easily slid from my mind.  I had a few moments of separation anxiety after leaving my phone at home in my sock drawer, but within days there was a greater lightness about me as my eyes adjusted to the world without screens and my heart flew wide open.  Now I am back the next few posts will cover the highlights of my trip.  Starting with the first leg, a favourite country of mine, Cambodia…

100_1605There is a rawness, a wildness to the landscape in Cambodia.  Jungle, or scrub, creeps into every corner reaching its long green fingers into every village, every roadside, every unmanaged mm.  Unlike most western countries where every tiny speck of land has been allocated a use or purpose and consequently tarmacked, Cambodia is vibrant and full of life, the plants certainly rule.  I imagine that even turning your back for just a few moments would be enough for a grasping tendril to occupy the space your wandering attention has left open…

100_1611I feel privileged to have experienced the sacred beauty of this country which pervades not only the flora, but also its people, and its landscapes.  Luckily business is due to take me back to this magical land several times over the next few years, and I hope to make a connection with a folk herbalist on my next trip.  I can only assume that the use of local plants for medicines is still relatively widespread as it is only 30 years since the heinous reign of Pol Pot which pushed everyone into the countryside with barely any food or access to western medicines.  I look forward to learning from local knowledge and would welcome any contact information that any of you have which may help me find my Cambodian herbal expert.

100_1607 If you are interested in visiting Cambodia, photography, and what promises to be a deeply meditative journey into art, stone sculpture, and the reclamation of crumbling temples by the jungle; then check out this holiday being led by a friend of mine, it looks amazing 🙂

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: