Thursday, April 28, 2016

Plant Cunning

Sometimes I find myself just looking at the plants in the garden.  I look up at the trees.  I notice a blade of grass, its shape, its sharpness and its bright green leaves. 

I see and then I see more deeply.  

When I first started studying herbalism, I would look at the plants to identify them or I would wonder if there was anything medicinal about this or that plant.  What I didn’t realize was the plants were studying me also.  And that as I breathed, the plants received my breath.  And as the plants breathed, I received their breath.  This communication guided me deeper into the invisible world of the plants.  

I realize that I was open to it, even though I didn’t know it.  I didn’t feel like I knew anything about utilizing medicinal herbs and I felt vulnerable and inadequate a lot of the time.  Because of this openness to my not being very good at remembering, herbal actions or botanical names or what this plant did or that plant did, I was being prepared for my journey to become a shamanic herbalist.  

When I learned to listen to the plants and what they had for me, I became confident and skillful.  

I have been doing this for almost twenty years now.  I have been listening, breathing and being present with the plants.  

What I have discovered from doing this and teaching it, is that it doesn’t matter whether you know anything about the medicinal qualities of the plant to receive wisdom and healing.  You can listen to a plant and hear a message of wisdom.  You can harvest that plant and make an herbal preparation.  You can utilize that herbal preparation on your food, as infusion, as tincture, in honey…..and what the plant had for you will be received by you.  

This is called plant cunning.  This is the very old way of being intimate with the plants.  This is the way of exchanging energy with the plants.  It isn’t medicinal.  

Plant cunning is a way to contact the whole plant as a wisdom teacher and dance with it, sing with it, be present with it.  

What you discover in working in this way with a plant, is that you become expansive and connected into the invisible worlds around you.  You begin to experience a more expansive realm of presence.  

This isn’t a fancy method.  This you can do it with a blade of grass.  You can do it with your kale plants.  

There is a vast amount of wisdom that the plants are holding.  They want us to connect with them and receive it.  They are waiting.  

Plant Cunning Exercise: 

  • Go outside and find a plant to which you are drawn.
  • Notice your breath. 
  • Breathe seven breaths, breathing in the breath of the plant you have chosen and breathing out offering your breath. 
  • Ask the plant, “What have you for me?”  
  • Listen.  
  • Offer gratitude.  
May it be in Beauty.  

Monday, April 4, 2016

Transformation of a Garden and Hugel Bed Creation

Hugel Bed: First we added fir cones and bark. 
I have written about my garden transformation many times.  It continues still.  Yesterday, one of my apprentice graduate brought her apprentices to my farm and my garden to build another hugel bed.  

It began when we first moved here.  The very first year of my garden, it was completely cultivated.  So many vegetables, flowers and herbs.  It was magnificent.  

And then I began to teach my classes in shamanic herbalism here and offer apprenticeships for women.  My time to garden became less as I began to teach more.  

The first couple of years I still cultivated quite a bit and I started noticing that I liked the grasses that were growing in the garden, I like the weeds a lot.  I became somewhat enamored of the Canadian thistle.  And I also felt guilt and shame around not having garden that looked like it was supposed to.  

Hugel Bed: Next we added apple sticks. 
I would make excuses when people would come to my garden about why there were weeds and grasses where beautiful groomed plants should be. One person even made a comment about how my garden wasn't what she expected.  It became a source of anxiety for me to love the wild plants, the umkempness of the garden and the thoughts that ran through my mind that I should just get it together and have a groomed garden.  

A few things led me to a new way with this.  I teach shamanic herbalism which has a lot to do with the invisible space where you can here the plants speaking to you.  My practice was getting deeper and deeper as I communicated more and more with the wild plants.  I had learned practices at a yearly gathering called, The Fairy Congress about communicating with the elementals, the fairies and other beings that did their magical work on the land. The last time I attended this conference, I ended up sitting next to and conversing with a number of different bee keepers about their practices.  
I had hired a work exchange student to help me in the garden.  I was beginning to have strong feelings that I didn't want to disturb the micro-ecosystem that lived in the soil.  She
Hugel Bed: Then we added goat manure
 wasn't really on board with me about this and then she quit.  I had a physical challenge at that time and so I really needed the help.  I was in shock for a few days since it was June and the time was ripe to really do some gardening.  

I could have freaked out about this but instead I had this bright idea to let the garden go wild.  I called it rewilding.  I didn't pull weeds, I didn't plant seeds.  I just let it go.  I wasn't sure what I was doing. I wondered what would happen.  

What happened is that I began to also let go of the guilt and shame and anxiety that I had about making it perfect.  And what else happened is that I began to communicate with the being that inhabited the garden.  I had always loved the insects, the bees and the ladybugs and the beetles.  I had grown to like the wasps, telling them they could stay in the garden if they didn't bother me.  But then after returning from the Fairy Congress and allowing the garden to rest in its natural form, I noticed the insects were communicating with me.  I learned that they are messengers and that they were coming around to tell me things.  

rewilded the garden for over two years....letting it do its own thing. 
Hugel Bed: And then we added plant compost.
All these things we used to create the hugel bed
were from our land.

And then I was introduced to a man, Masanobu Fukuoka and his book, The One Straw Revolution.  In this book he talks about his transformation from being a scientist studying disease in rice, to a farmer who practiced natural farming.  He said most people talk about doing this and doing that....he said what about not doing this and not doing that.  I found his writing to reflect a Taoist perspective.  What he was talking about in his book was what I was yearning to do, and I was doing it.  

That was last year.  And then a friend sent me information about hugel kultur a type of permaculture gardening.  And I was excited.  I was going to do this.  And I did this with the help of a very inspiring young woman, Sophie Geist.   

We just built our eighth hugel bed in the garden.   The other thing I am doing or not doing is weeding big patches of grass out of the garden like I have done for years.  We are cutting the grass and cutting some of the buttercup and disturbing the soil ecosystem as little as possible.  
The Hugel Bed is complete.

The is a beginning for me. 

Right now when I go out in my garden, there is this little “field” of buttercup with the horsetail male flowers emerging from it.  There is swamp grass and amongst it is comfrey, marshmallow and elecampane, some mustard and motherwort.  There is a lovely pie cherry tree with red tulip blooming below it that are naturalizing and spreading.  There is a wild rose that showed up a few years back and near it is a native crone wort plant.  

I love my wild garden.  I can breathe in it.  It makes me happy like when I was a child in the little grassy vacant lot near my home.  

May it be in Beauty.  

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Like it was stinging us but we weren't touching it.

Nettle transformed us again this year.  
We could feel the energy of nettle sitting next to it. 
Like it was stinging us, but we weren’t touching it. 
We demanded, “Nettle, change me.”  
What change is required? 
The greening of the heart. 
Nettle is the reason I am an herbalist.  

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Kind of Herbalist that I Am

I admit it.  I go on Facebook.  There are many herbalists and plant enthusiasts there.  I like to hear what people are doing with plants and sometimes I feel competitive, not good enough, left out or even scorned for the kind of herbalist I am.  I know that this is my own transformational journey to become the kind of herbalist that I am fully.  

In some ways Facebook is a good tool for discerning my identity. Without it I may not know what kind of herbalist many other people are.  The scrutiny has actually helped me to be clearer about what I am offering with the plants.  

Before this social media thing, there were herbals and conferences to let me know what people were doing.  

Now that I have said that, I want tomake it clear that other people’s definition of “herbalist” doesn’t have to be mine.  That scrutiny and criticism, scorning and competition are not part of being an herbalist.  These are the mindset of someone who is over thinking who they are instead of seeking and knowing who they are.  I have been on that road, and have veered off it. I am on my own path into the woods.  

I am a shamanic herbalist. I communicate with the plants around me as companions and wisdom teachers.  I have developed intimate relationships with the plants with which I live.  I seek them as teachers.  They have told me that they want me to constantly be talking to them.  

I also eat these plants and I make herbal preparations with them.  I know which ones offer themselves for this because I ask them if I can harvest and they tell me yes or no.  

In the past, I have thought that I should study clinical herbalism, study more deeply the science of plant medicine.  Whenever I sought to move forward with this, there was a deep resistance in me.  What I finally discovered is that the studies being offered were in rooms with power points and white boards and fancy words and I did not want to be with plants like that.  

And yet, the scientific information about the plants fascinates me.  I want to know more and more of it.  I want to discover new ways of utilizing the plants for healing and to know how others have done that.  
I read and I read about it. 

It is a paradox.  

Nettle Soup
Here is how I can explain it.  As I have spent hours and hours with certain plants in my yard, listening to them, allowing them to teach me, listening to my apprentices and students learn from the plants and what they have for them, I have developed familiarity with who the plants are.  As I have prepared the plants for tincture, vinegar, infusion, honey, oxymel, infused oil, I have developed communion with the plants.  As I have utilized the plants for healing and seen others heal by utilizing the plants, I have developed intercommunication and fellowship with the plants.  

When I read a plant study, or an herbal monograph or a description of the medicinal qualities of the plants….well,  if it is one of my plants then I listen for the connection I have and see how that information serves me or doesn’t serve me.  If is is a plant I don’t know about, I develop my curiosity about this plant and whether it is one I desire to get to know better.  

The scientific information about a plant is linear.  It is fixed information.  Knowing nettle has a lot of calcium in it is beneficial to me because I know that this will support the health of my bones.  Knowing nettle as a friend and teacher, drinking nettle infusion and eating nettle is much more beneficial to me.  I understand nettle intimately and I can feel its benefit.  Nettle communicates with me in a language of the senses.  I discern nettle’s teaching and benefit for me in her breath that she offers me, in the taste of her infusion, in her sting.   I hear nettle messages on the wind, wisdom messages that change me.  

This is the kind of herbalist I am.  

May it be in beauty.  

Thursday, February 4, 2016

And the earth still rest until it is time

“Rely on your eyes. You will not see; 
Rely on your ears, You become deaf; 
Address only symptoms and you will miss the point; 
Stride after perfect health and become lame. 
The true healer lets go of the senses and moves from the center of intuition; 
Blameless, she give herself permission to be exactly who she is."
From the Tao of Healing-Meditations for Body and Spirit by Haven Trevino

We are still in the liminal seasonal transition from winter into spring.  There are stirring under the earth, there is awareness from all of earth creatures that spring is coming, as promised.  And yet the earth still rests until it is time. We may be impatient, getting ready but its not yet. And the earth still rest until it is time.  

The moon is also waning and by Monday it will be a new moon, a dark moon.  The end as well as the beginning.   This is a good time to do nothing.  

In Susun Weed’s process of 7 medicines, the first medicine is Serenity Medicine.  We know what we would like to heal and we allow some time to “do nothing” about it.  To allow healing to come from nature, our inner natures and from the invisible.  

It seems like nothing is happening.  It may even appear that we are
ignoring our challenge.  And worse yet, that we are in denial about what challenges us.  And yet, what we do when we practice serenity medicine is to honor the still, small voice of intuition that we can hear when we quiet down.  

In the shamanic tradition, power is not something we have, but something that moves in us.  We are the hollow bone, the reed flute, the tree that bends in the wind.  

When we allow a time for quiet and rest, for listening and allowing, we create the space for healing to happen.  

Serenity Medicine is about trust.  We can trust the process of life to point the way that we need to go.  I find serenity medicine is the most difficult medicine for people to practice.  It isn’t easy to let go, to trust, to allow.  

What happens when we do practice serenity medicine is that we cultivate vulnerability, openness, willingness, honesty and self love. 

Nature teaches us well so that we can learn this practice.  
If there is something that you wish to heal, a challenge that you have with your life, something you would like to shift. Take some time outside to notice your surroundings.  
Notice what nature and the plants are doing right now.  Pay attention to your breath and breathe  with everything you are experiencing.  Offer gratitude for the moment.  

It is good to have a time limit for serenity medicine.  This is so we don’t lapse into thinking that action is not required at all.  It is a dance to flow and move in time to our inner rhythms.  To know when to stop and then when to go.  

May it be in Beauty.  

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Longing Before the Green

In the old teachings, this time of year, near the beginning of February was when the first green appeared.  It is almost beginning out there.  The earth's energy is still deep down.  But now there is a slight stirring, a quickening of earth energy that will soon begin to move out and up.

There is impatience present all around me.  I can feel it.  I feel a strong desire to be in the springtime energies, to be in my garden, to see the plants, to see the nettle growing, the leaves emerging, feel the warmth of the sun on my face.  And yet, it just isn't time. Is the earth impatient as well? Does she wish for the seeds to be already sprouted?  Does she long for the fragrant rose leaves, the prickly nettle, the magnificent maple to be adorned in her splendor?  

Perhaps the panic, the race of the heart, the irritability, the longing for something better is what comes before the green.  

All ways of feeling are beautiful in their own way.  Feeling sad and hopeless can lead us to a deeper understanding of what we desire.  Being anxious can lead us to create what we desire.  Being angry and impatient can lead us to set clear boundaries for the life we wish to live.  

Being calm and composed is over rated.  Sometimes the wild woman beast in us needs to be unleashed.  Where can you express that?  Who would you be if you knew that what you are feeling is calling you into a deeper experience of life?  

Think of the dandelion that pushes itself up through the concrete to meet the light of the sun.  The strength that we contain within us can literally move mountains.  

May we be strong and also vulnerable.  

May we feel deeply.

May the wild woman be set free.  

May it be in Beauty.  

Saturday, October 31, 2015

There is No Fear

Samhain, the time of the ancestors, is a potent time for me.  I love the quietness of the earth, and the potent earth energies beneath the ground.  

I used to celebrate Halloween, get dressed up and often get drunk at parties.  This was a shallow experience for me.  Even now that I don’t drink alcohol very much, I am not interested in putting on a costume.  It is as if I want less on, to stand fully naked in the world as I am, like Inanna giving up her things as she navigates the underworld in a journey to meet her
wicked sister, Ereshkigal.  

This year as in years past, the pictures of witches and goblins started to emerge, as well as scary stories and movies and images.  This year I started to question the whole paradigm of fear around this time of year.  What is everyone so scared of?  Why are people so scared of witches and ghosts?  What has happened to our culture so that something so powerful, in my experience, can be seen as being harmful and evil.  

When I started studying the wise woman tradition of healing, a woman I was carpooling to classes with said she was a witch.  I was afraid and I was intrigued.  I didn’t know anything about real witches, only the fake images of evil beings worshiping satan.  I started to meet more witches and learned about Wicca and paganism and celebrating the earth in the seasons.  

The reason I set out to write this piece is because of the fear that is associated with Halloween.  I must admit I was afraid of telling people that I was studying Wicca.  They may think I am evil.  In spite of fear, I began a women’s circle with other women from my herbal class.  We did ritual, sang and stirred up some pretty powerful energies.  

It has been twenty years since I first became a shamanic herbalist.  My studies took me to New York to study with Susun Weed and 15 years ago I started studying and practicing shamanism.  I have been initiated as a green witch. 

The practice of the green witch is simple.  She has an intimate relationship with the plants.  They are her teachers, her friends and they offer themselves to her for healing.  The green witch has just a few plants with which she works.  She knows each intimately.  

The green witch has spirit helpers that guide her practice.  She knows how to access the invisible realms.  She knows how to travel to places in the spirit realm and how to return.  She often visits this invisible landscape to cultivate her power. The green witch’s focus is on living in harmony with who she is truly, and on being of service in alignment with this.  

Halloween is the time when the green witch reaches the depths of the underworld. She navigates the depths of the inner realms and brings wisdom back to share.  There is potency here as she investigates through the darkness.  She is guided by her power animals and spirit helpers, listening deeply to the songs given to her by the plants to help her navigate.  There is no fear in this journey.  There are no bad guys.  There may be beings that stir the cauldron to create challenges for change.  She surrenders to the transformations needed to become more and more of who she is.  There is complete trust.  

In order to live this way, it takes practice.  Susun Weed says it takes seven lifetimes to become an herbalist.  I understand this because of the great fear I have felt in claiming to be a witch and a shamanic herbalist. 

Why so much fear?  Why denial?  Why doubt?  I have been thinking and asking about this for awhile.  What I have realized is that what we fear is who we are in our most powerful form.  Marianne Williamson wrote, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

We have created a culture of fear and Halloween is a time to exploit that.  The real images of witches are women that work with the powerful earth energies to heal and to bring about change.  They are herbalists, midwives, doctors, nurses, dancers, actors, artist and healers.  The spirit helpers like Baba Yaga and Hecate, witches who’s images have been distorted into evil women who cast spells on people.  But in reality, these goddesses are not evil.  And they are not nice!  They stir things up and teach about power, real power.  

I am feeling called today to remember who I am.  To trust in the Goddess to guide me deep into my psyche, into the deepest, darkest forest, to explore the places that require healing and transformation. 

And there is no fear.  

May it be in Beauty.  

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Rewilding and Cultivating an Authentic Life

Yesterday I went out in the garden and scattered seeds….all the seeds I had from the last two years.  Chickweed, calendula, sunflower, zucchini, kale, basil and lots more.  I have been receiving inspirations about how to have an authentic garden.  I have been receiving messages from the garden and from my reading about others who have grown permanent gardens.  

Today it is raining so hard.  And it is watering my seeds!  

What on earth could this mean…what on earth can this accomplish?  

It doesn’t matter.  It was a message I got and I followed it.  

The garden appears to be a metaphor for my life.  What happened two years ago was someone who was helping me in my garden quit abruptly in June. It seemed like the worst time to lose a garden helper. But it really was the best time.  I had been to the Fairy Congress in Eastern Washington and had talked to a few beekeepers.  When I returned I realized that the insects were communicating with me.  They were instructing me with messages. In the past, when a wasp would fly near me, I would gently swat it away and ask it not to bother me.  But this time after the Fairy Congress, I knew the wasp was coming near to tell me something.  I listened.  

So the garden helper quit and I was left with a garden that appeared to need weeding and manicuring.  But that is not what I did.  I freaked out for a very short time and then I got a very strong feeling that I was to not do anything in the garden, to let it grow without tending.  I called this rewilding.

For two years I didn’t tend the garden.  It felt weird and it also felt right.  When I would go out in the garden to visit, the energy was sweet and nurturing.  The garden was happy.  

And the buttercup grew and the grass grew and the blackberries came in.  

I thought that this was what the garden would be, a wild place to find peace.  

What I started to notice about my relationship to the garden was that instead of making excuses to people about how I didn’t have time to weed and that it doesn’t look like a garden, I was teaching about rewilding.  I wasn’t making excuses anymore because this garden was the authentic expression of what it desired to be.  

And then I read “The Secret Teachings of the Plants” by Stephen Buhner and he referenced Masanobu Fukuoka and his book, “The One Straw Revolution”

Fukuoka talked about waking up and discovering that nature carries forth on its own without prompting from human, without disruption, and chemicals and tilling etc.  He started a rice farm where he grew rice and citrus fruit without tilling, without chemicals and without even added compost.  He did this for over thirty years before he wrote his book.  He grew healthy rice with yields the same or greater than those who used chemicals.  

He wrote about nondiscriminatory gardening and farming.  He wrote about how to do less, how not to do things.  

I became inspired from his writing.  What he was writing about, the soil integrity, the way everything works together to make the environment work, that is what I was feeling.  I am so thankful for this wisdom.  

And so this year in the garden, I decided that I would begin to work and to cultivate in the energy of what was desired.  Instead of pulling out grass, we cut the grass to the ground and laid the cut grass on the ground under the plants.  

We also built six hugel culture beds, a way of creating a permanent garden bed that will increase in fertility over the years.  

When I get anxious about what it looks like out there with all the weeds and grasses and things coming in, I listen to a deeper message.  Then I can feel the vibrant life that is teeming out there.  Then I can sense the inspiration of a space coming into its own. 

We recently put some compost from a pile near the road that had
been breaking down for several years.  With the rains have come chickweed, lamb’s quarter, kale, motherwort and other little green starts.  

This garden design is a metaphor for the design of my life.  Instead of making excuses for how I am,  I am sharing with others about my life as a listener, to the messages that instruct me to live authentically.  

May it be in Beauty.  

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Land Here that Nourishes Me

There is a beautiful place up north of where I live.  It is a national wildlife refuge.  I go there often and visit such plants as lomatium nudicale, wild onion, yarrow, St. Joan’s Wort and many others.  

Yesterday, I took two of my herbal teachers there as well as other herbalists to say “Hi” to the lomatium.  I felt vulnerable in sharing my place that I go to connect with the plants.  And I feel honored to share such a wonderful place. 

One of my most important things to share about shamanic herbalism and the plants is how to connect close in.  To find a deep connection in nature right where you are is life changing.  

At the NW Herb Symposium this weekend, Susun Weed shared a story at her “Wild Plants Matter” class about having a fall in Costa Rica and a traditional healer coming to bring plants from the land to heal her.  She shared how it brought everyone closer to the land where they were staying.   

I am grateful to be home after a wonderful weekend with many herbalists and plant loving people.  And I am grateful for the land here that nourish me.  

May it be in Beauty.  

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Life of Listening

It’s been a hot, dry summer. 

I have been enjoying our little plot of earth here on Whidbey Island.  

We don’t have a problem here with the heat and the dryness.  This is because I have learned to go with the flow.  Instead of lamenting over what could have been if it had rained, I instead have enjoyed seeing what grows well in a hot, dry summer and what would enjoy plenty of rain.  

The little Vervain plant is very happily still blooming.  The rosa gallica officianalis is vibrant.  The burdock under the Douglas fir trees has it made in the shade, continuing with its first year/second year growth.  The comfrey is a bit wilted but still remains steadfast.  The nettle is seeding very well, and in the goat pasture, there is vibrant green end of summer nettle emerging.  

The tomatoes didn’t really grow much but produced a few tomatoes.  I let them be, first I watered them but it became clear that because they were in our new hugel bed that I would have to water a lot.  I chose not to do that, to use a lot of water from our well.  Instead I have been purchasing my neighbors tomatoes.  

I want to share some wisdom here and don’t want to be too preachy.  

I really wanted to have more of a cultivated garden this year.  The wisdom though is that it will take more time for the hugel beds to be effective, especially since it is so dry.  And so I must continue to the patient.  This seems to be what the garden is teaching me.  Patience and persistence.  

The persistent part is that I continue to listen and follow the guidance given about what to do in the garden.  

I think I could become preachy is I tell you to follow your intuition no matter what, like I am an expert at it.  But that is not what is going on.  I am only a beginner at following my intuition.  And yet, I have started it.   I sometimes still feel quite vulnerable, especially when others look at my garden and what they see isn’t what they expected to see.  

There are many things that have helped me to begin a life of listening and following intuition.  One of the most important things is self love.  When they mind chatter voice wants to tell me I should just give it up, I know this is not the true me.  My love for myself is my love of life.  

May it be in Beauty.  

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Old Way is the New Way

A few weeks ago I wrote that the plants are not really medicinal.  Since then I have been thinking and thinking about medicine and what it really is.  What is happening with the plants is very much beyond the most common definition of medicine…”science and art of diagnosing and treating disease.”  There is another definition though…medicine can be “a ritual practice or shamanic practice.” Both these definitions were in the dictionary.  I want to take this concept outside of these definitions.  

In my study in shamanic herbalism and wise woman ways, I have learned that medicine is something that transforms us.  It is something we have, an innate sense of wisdom. Medicine is also that wisdom that is beyond us, that moves through all things and guides us forward.  

This goes hand in hand with why I say “the plants are not really medicinal.”  The plants are compassionate wisdom teachers.  They offer themselves to guide us.  We can receive this “medicine” energetically and we can take them in to further receive their power.  

When you know this about the plants, it creates an intimacy with them, a deep respect and reverence.  

One of the things that we do here at our farm is communicate with the plants.  We create relationships with them.  Before we ever harvest dandelion root for vinegars and tinctures, we listen to what the dandelion has for us.  So, when we partake of the dandelion root vinegar, we not only have a physical experience of the plant’s effect on us, we also receive more of that wisdom the dandelion spoke to us that is personal to our relationship with it.  

To say a plant is medicinal in the way that is most common to define medicine, is only scratching the surface of what each plant can do for us.  

It is a collaboration.  It is a weaving together of who we are and who the plant is.  

Here is an experiment for you:
  • Go outside to a plant you know is edible, a vegetable, a weed, an herb etc.  
  • Notice your breath and breathe a few breaths naturally. 
  • Now breathe seven breaths as if you are breathing in the oxygen of this plant you wish to eat. And breathe out and give it your breath.  
  • Ask the plant, “What have you for me?”  
  • Listen.  
  • Say thank you.  
  • Now ask the plant if you may harvest some to eat.  Wait for a “yes”.  Say thank you and harvest.  
  • See what happens.  

The old way is to be connected with all of life, to pay attention and be clear about our intentions.  

The old way is to be grateful for everything.  

The old way is now the new way.  

May it be in Beauty. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Gathering In and Releasing Into

I am continuing my blog posts to inspire me to write more and eventually by next year produce a book about Shamanic Herbalism.  Today we gathered in circle to explore lifestyle medicine.  I offered a shamanic listening exercise to connect with the energy of receiving nourishment from the earth.

This exercise seemed so simple really.   And we all had deep results from participating in it.

I am sharing the shamanic listening exercise here so that you can explore this way of nourishment from the earth for yourself.

Gathering In and Releasing Into ~ Shamanic Listening Exercise:

Go out on the earth.  Take some time to walk and be present with your surrounding.  Do this for a short while.  Pay attention to your breath. As you breathe in, imagine that what you require is coming up into you from the earth.  And when you breathe out, imagine that you are releasing everything so longer required back to the earth.  This exercise will allow you to tune into the rhythm of the earth.  When you are complete, offer gratitude.  

What I have discovered from offering my students and apprentices these exercises over the years is that it is one thing to read this and another to do it.  

I invite you to participate in this exercise and I welcome your feedback in the comments on this blog.  

May it be in Beauty.  

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Shadow and Light

This last weekend I was at the Viridis Genii Symposium in Oregon.  I was inspired by the speakers, by the community and by the plants.  Under my feet was self heal, violet, plantain.  And towering over my head was old growth Douglas Fir.

I love to celebrate the earth holidays.  We are just on the heels of Lammas.  This is the celebration of the first harvest and proclaims the end of summer.  Although very hot when I left Whidbey Island to attend this conference, I returned to cooler temperatures and I thought I could feel a tinge of fall on the wind.

I remember reading once that in days of old, the people would celebrate the harvest and there was another feeling of fear.  Will the harvest be enough?  Will the food I gathered last until the first harvests of spring?

Although most people these days don't grow there own food (many of the people I know do).  There is still a fear looming around at this time.  This is the shadow.   What I have discovered by working with the earth and plant teaching is wisdom to carry forth through fear and doubt, and to actually lessen those feelings in favor of more possibility.

I wrote an eBook a few years ago about shadow and light.  I am pasting it here.  It includes a poem and then a shamanic exercise to work with the energy of the shadows that come forth during this time of the first harvest.

Shadow and Light

I have noticed
A holy presence
Here on the land
And in the garden
The hard work;
The planting, the watering,
The weeding, the tending,
The listening, the trusting
Is all coming
To fruition.
It is time now
To stand back
And witness
And begin the harvest.
In the old days, I heard
This time of year
Brought inspiration
...and fear
The peoples
Of the land
Held gratitude
For gifts of the green
And there was another energy;
A fear it would not
Be enough.
That energy; the Shadow
Is created
By the great light of the Sun.
Within its holy presence
Is a mystery.
Shadow is rest,
Quietness on the surface.
Dig deeper now
And find treasures.
Within it are places
Still needing nourishment.
Places we ignored or forgot
When we were cultivating.
We can look for those places
See what work is ahead of us
As we prepare to
Return to the earth,
Venture within and explore
Our vast inner landscape

Here is a shamanic exercise to explore the Shadow and turn your fears into inspiration:

Go out in your yard, to a local park or venture into the forest. 
Find a great tree that casts a large shadow on the ground. 
Stand in the tree's shadow. Notice your breath, and breathe in the oxygen from this tree and breathe out as an offering in exchange. 
Ask three questions and after each one listen, observe and notice what see, hear, smell, taste and feel as you stand in that shadow listening. What part of me have I forgotten?... What nourishment is needed?... Who are my helpers? 
When this is complete, step out into the light, the sun again and look at the great shadow. Feel the sun's warmth and strong rays on you.  Acknowledge both energies and welcome them...both are needed. 
Give thanks to the tree, the sun, the shadow cast and treasures you are discovering.

May it be in Beauty.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Soon It Will Be Time For The Cutting of the Trees to Stop

"I did return. I left my mom's house in my car alone, drove out of town and toward Lake Quinault. I found a dirt road around the wild side of the lake and started on it. I came to a very large, old Douglas Fir tree that wa growing near the road. I got out of my car and immediately began to sob. I told the tree how sorry I was for all the clear cutting that the humans were doing. I circled around the tree and cried and cried. Then I asked the tree what I could do. "Soon it will be time for the cutting of the trees to stop." It told me. "The ones that are cutting the trees will not be the ones to stop it." I knew what the tree meant. It meant that the trees would stop the clear cutting. I did not understand this but knew that this was so."

From Verdant Gnosis, Cultivating the Green Path
My essay is "The Wisdom of the Trees"

Friday, July 31, 2015

Wisdom of the Trees

I am here at Viridis Genii, Plant Mysticism Conference in Oregon and am following though with my commitment to write to inspire me to write my book. So…I am going to publish excerpts from "Verdant Gnosis", Cultivaying the Green Path. This is a book that has essays written by presenters at this conference and the first time my writing has been published.

The Title of my essay is "The Wisdom of the Trees".

"As a child who spent time in forests and parks, I played under the cedars a
and felt at home. The old growth of the Olympic National Forest brought me nourishment. But it would not be until midlife that I found a place with the trees as wisdom keepers and healers of the spirit. I had gone to Lake Quinault to have a nice family outing. What I witnessed when we drove near the lake was massive clear cutting. I was devastated. I told the trees in silent prayer that I would return to connect with them soon, to witness what had happened to them. "

More coming tomorrow…

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Plants are Not Really Medicinal

Writing a Book about Shamanic Herbalism-Entry #2

What I want to communicate in a book is the practices of shamanic listening that can
support people to find a more expansive way of living beyond the chattery voice in their heads. What has happened to me from following this path for twenty years is simply that.  I didn’t set on this path to develop such a work that would do that.  I was a school teacher who wanted to live a spiritual daily life.  This intention led me to wise woman herbal teaching.  And as I began to teach wise woman ways, I was led to a spirit teacher who is a very, very old shamanic herbalist from the British Isles.  It is she who has taught me the shamanic listening way.  She was introduced to me because she and my other spirit teacher knew that I had the guts to teach this.  She is very happy that I have continued to do this over and over for the past twenty years.  

I remember the first time she shared an exercise with me to give to my apprentices.  I was new at having apprentices.  I felt very awkward.  I also knew how to teach from my 20 years experience as a school teacher.  I gave my apprentices an exercise to do and it had amazing results.  I was very happy and decided to keep contacting her to ask for more exercises.  

It is a beautiful place to go to visit my teacher.  She had a wooden house with steps.  We sit and drink black tea.  She takes me in her wild, magical garden and tells me about plants and asks me to eat plants.  Many of these plants I have never heard of.  

There is a very large, old pine tree near her house, through the garden gate that I visit often.  I have traveled up its trunk and come to another level of the upper world.  

I can venture down the path, past the garden gate and visit a fairy teacher.  

My shamanic herbal teacher in the upper world keeps goats.  She has taught me a lot about the goats. I have asked her many things.  

These adventures to connect with my teacher are done with shamanic journeying.  

I want this book I write to teach these ways of listening with the plants and utilizing the local plants for nourishment and healing.  I want to strongly communicate with people through this book that they can become who they are meant to be through following this path.  I have been learning that the plants are not really medicinal.  This is a new way of being with the plants and actually a very old way.  The plants are wisdom teachers and through our relationship with them, they can enhance our paths.  Sometimes we require healing, and the plants can support this.  

This is controversial because most of the talk from herbalists about plants is about what they do for healing and for curing.  What is overlooked is the wisdom that a blade of grass can give us about our path to who we are.  

May it be in Beauty.  

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Natural Path

It has been my desire for a long time to write a book about shamanic herbalism.  I am setting aside time now to do that, at least three hours a week.  It doesn’t seem like very much time, but it is more than no time.  I write all the time, for my newsletter and for my students and apprentices.  I write eBooks and encouragements and challenges and inspirations about calling in the plants to be our teachers.  Now I am writing a book.  

I have always been with the plants.  When I was a child in Aberdeen, WA I loved to go into the vacant lot next to our house and spend time in the grasses.  I felt at home here.  Now, my garden is full of grasses, I am not weeding them out anymore.  I am not weeding my garden at all.  The dictionary defines weeding as “removing undesirable elements”.  In my practice of the wise woman tradition, I do not try to get rid of “undesirable” things in a forceful way.  I add on more and more the things that nourish me.  As I do this, those things that are not needed begin to fall away easily.  

In creating a garden without weeding, an important element is listening and receiving wisdom from the plants and the garden.  This may seem like an unusual thing to do, but it is really going on all the time.  When we are going about our lives, choosing what to do and not to do, we are receiving information about what is the best path.  If we are caught up in listening to the voice that says we are wrong or shouldn’t or can’t etc. and we follow that, then things get really complicated.  I see the workings of my garden in the same way.  

There is a strong voice that says I have a mess in the garden because I have let the grasses grow and flourish, that I have let the buttercup grow, that I have allowed the Canadian thistle to grow.   But each of these plants has wisdom for me and is enhancing the garden in some way. 

What has developed from listening to the voices of the plants and my intuition instead of that other “make wrong” voice is that a natural path has been created. I have been led to books that support this path.  I have been led to people-helpers who are interested in this path and willing to support the development of such a garden.  

It has been very hot during this early summer time this year.  I have been watching which plants are thriving and which are struggling a bit with less rain.  I have been spending a great deal of time watching and listening.  

This is a good thing to do to create a garden and to create a life.  To watch and listen for the quiet message that show us where our natural path is.  

Each of our natural paths are guided for us specifically.  You may be called to do something similar to what I am doing….and you may be called to be a cultivator of a garden with very few weeds.  To which voice are you listening?  Take some time to see what each voice within you is saying.  Which is the one that leads you on your natural path?  

May it be in Beauty.  

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Veganism, Plant Sentience and the Sacredness of Life

I read somewhere recently about reasons to become a vegan.  The reason that stood out for me, “Plants are not sentient.”  This brought all kinds of emotion for me, and started me thinking and thinking about the debate about eating animals. 

I started to investigate and research the meaning of sentience and found out all kinds of interesting things. 

First, I offer a bit of background on my perspective on plants and what I am teaching in my shamanic herbalism programs. I have been practicing and teaching shamanic herbalism for almost twenty years.   I am connected with a spirit teacher who shares an ancient shamanic herbal perspective from the British Isles.  Very very old teaching.  In this perspective, the plants are the wisdom teachers.  They are in our ordinary reality and in a reality of expanded consciousness as well.

Before I began my apprenticeship with this teacher, I had some intense experiences with the plants where they spoke to me and gave me songs.  The first experience was while I was still a school teacher and the second was just after I had completed an apprenticeship with Susun Weed.  These experiences were life changing for me and   because it was early on in my path as a shamanic herbalist, I was a little discombobulated by what I was experiencing. 

When I met my teacher and she began to teach me about this ancient healing tradition of the plants, I started to see more fully what I had experienced back then.  With her guidance, trees spoke wisdom, small blades of grass offered reverence, roses taught everything.  The earth became a place of magic and wonder for me and I was nourished completely by it.

One of the definitions of sentience is that it is a being possessing consciousness. Another definition is that it is a living being subject to illusion, suffering and rebirth. (A buddhist definition) My experience with plants is that they possess expanded consciousness and that they have the ability to transcend illusion and suffering. So perhaps they are not sentient but enlightened beings.

This is all in relationship to an Eastern perspective in which I am not strongly versed.  What I do know is that plant consciousness is unique and vast.  What I have experienced is that plants are teachers.  They can see what is within us and mirror that.  They can offer wisdom for us through a variety of channels.

So then back to this idea of veganism.  That we should not eat meat, kill animals for food because it is cruel.  And that it is okay to eat plants, kill plants for food and one might extrapolate, be cruel to plants because they don’t feel anything or know what is happening to them.
Here is my experience with food related to all of this. 

Animals are protectors and companions,  they are beautiful creatures and deserve to be treated with utmost respect.  The food industry’s treatment of animals has been horrible at times.  And then there are the people that care for and love their animals and give death to them and eat them.  All done compassionately. 

Plants are wisdom teachers.  They nourish and they heal.  Plants are compassionate beyond what I have ever experienced with any other beings.  Plants have been treated horribly by the food industry.  They are grown in large monocrops, they are ripped from the earth, they are sprayed and killed with poisons.  And there are those that grow and care for plants with love and blessing. 

I know it is so much more complex than I describe.  But I feel a simple look at food and what we are eating from a consciousness perspective doesn’t require a great deal of intellectual and political rhetoric. 

When we eat animals, we give death.  When we dig a plant up by the roots, we give death.  The more connected we are with the life of our food, the more life force and energy it will provide.  When you have given death to an animal that you love and eat it, it is an intimacy that allows the animal to become a part of you.  It is the same with plants.  When you cut a few kale leaves off the plant and cook them and eat them,  the ones you grew and tended from seeds, when you have communicated with this kale and you know what it has for you, well, all I can say is that you become one with these beings and there is no longer a separation of harm. 

I have some beautiful dandelions in my garden and I will harvest the roots this fall for vinegar and tincture. I will talk to them and receive wisdom from them and I will ask their permission to gather so I know which ones are for me.  And I will offer gratitude for their nourishment.  We have done the same with our goats. 

There is beauty in eating food from the land.  There is no separation between the animals and plants and us. 

When we eat like this we begin to see the sacredness of all of life.  And the food of which we partake completely nourishes us.

May it be in Beauty.