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. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Destiny We Cannot Understand

I have been reading about depression since Robin Williams died.  The best article I read so far describes it as an energy, a tension that is stuck and appears to be immovable.  The Buddhist teacher speaking about it says to merge with the depression, to become it, because it is so full of energy. 

This seems like a big risk, doesn’t it?  Instead of thinking of depression as something outside of us and afflicting us, we see it as an energy within us that has a lot of energy for us.  When I think of this for myself, because I have dealt with depression on and off in the last six months, I feel a tremendous surge of energy that feels like anger well up     inside me.  Perhaps though it is not just anger, perhaps it is my power to heal, my power to create.  Perhaps it is the divinity within me that has been bottled up and requires an outlet.  A full expression of who I am. 

I have been working with teachers and friends who are holding me accountable for being my most powerful self right now.  In order to fulfill this destiny, I have to change, to be bigger and more fully realized.  It feels so hard sometimes because I am not being      supported to be my old small self anymore.  Sometimes I feel abandoned because I am so addicted to that self that is needy and likes to be taken care of.  That self is not really me.  It is just an illusion of a kind of thinking that I let my mind do to get a kind of attention that feels comfortable. 

The illusion of our thinking is so important in all this talk about Robin Williams.  We don’t really know what his “mind chatter” was telling him.  We don’t really know what his soul was calling for.  We only know what we are told. 

What if we accepted his death as what needed to happen for him?

When we can see through these eyes, we see that although sad, there is a kind of destiny here that we can not understand.  And this mystery is what can open us to more expansive thinking. 

To be supported to be bigger and to leave behind ways that no longer serve that goal, is the most powerful kind of support.  It calls us into the realm of the mystery.  This destiny for us into the unknown of so much beauty. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

My Garden is a Healthy and Holy Place

Yesterday, I was out in the garden with an apprentice graduate who was there to tend and weed.  The vibrancy of plant life was magnificent.  The lavender is budding and about to bloom. The Artemesia has spread herself out so wide that the path beside her has disappeared.  The Rosa officianalis, with its electric pink flowers, is fragrant and amazing. 

There is fireweed down near the bottom of the garden.  And the grasses in the garden are the holiest ones of all.  Some grasses stand much taller than me and you sometimes get the impression of being swallowed up by their vastness.

In amongst the grasses are buttercup, nettle, horsetail and also a bit of motherwort.

This picture I am painting is of the wild garden that we have here.  

Last year, a rewilding happened. I let the plant world in the garden be.  I surrendered my tiny little will of wanting a perfectly manicured garden and allowed the authentic being of the garden to emerge. 

Now this year, we are cultivating very slowly.  We planted oatstraw, a fig tree and from a bed that was weeded, borage is growing.   The raspberry patch is newly covered in goat manure and mulch. 

This process of rewilding and now cultivating from a deeper sense of who I am and who the garden is are leading me on to examine my motives for cultivation.  In the past, I worried about what others thought.  I worried about how it looked.  I yanked plants out because I thought they were damaging my garden and our earth.  I thought negative things while I gardened and became very anxious at times. 

Now I am seeing through new eyes.  It is a practice to do this.  The tangle of weeds and planned plants sometimes still worries me.  But then I allow the in breath of the plants to nourish me and I expand my vision.   My garden is a healthy and holy place.  Not only do the plants sing their songs rejoicing in their lives but also celebrating my choices to learn from them. 

The insects, the bees, the wasps, the caterpillars have become messengers now. Swatting them away has been replaced with “What wisdom have you to share?”

Listening has replaced working hard.  Conversations have replaced worry.  And now the garden is our teacher, our companion, our beauty. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

I am a Shamanic Herbalist

About two weeks ago I was sharing with my coach about my enrollment for Herbal    Wisdom Circle~13 Month Program.  I was surprised I didn’t have anyone signed up yet. I felt like something needed to change to fill the program but I wasn’t sure what it was.

My coach is highly intuitive and can read me, often when I am too hyped up to read    myself.  He suggested I reschedule the program for a couple of months.  He knows me and also suggested I talk to the land, the trees, my natural surroundings to receive     wisdom about what to do.  And then he suggested I do something else.  That I keep a log and let people on my email list in on the messages I am receiving.  This felt a little too vulnerable at first, I would have to divulge things that I don’t usually share with my entire list of contacts. 

Well I did just that.  I kept a log for seven days and reported the messages three times during the week.  Yesterday, I took all the messages out on the land and I read them over and over in a loud voice so my nature helpers could really hear me. 

As I read these messages several times, something subtle started to emerge from underneath the words.  A message for me as an herbalist.  These messages spoke about the kind of herbalism that I teach to my apprentices and students.  They spoke of a deeper wisdom that is available for us outside of what this herb and that herb do. 

I am a shamanic herbalist.  I have been a shamanic herbalist for almost twenty years.  I have studied with many teachers, read many books and spent time outside with the plants in all kinds of weather and seasons.  I have been taught the wise woman way.  I have been given a body of shamanic herbalism practices by my spirit teacher.  I have been encouraged, coaxed and loved deeply by the plants.  I am so thankful. 

But there has been an ever present nagging by my small mind that my training isn’t enough.  That I should take more clinical herbal classes, get a degree, get an AHG certificate etc. etc. to really be an herbalist.  What I heard from these messages given to me over the course of a week, when I called them out to our beautiful valley was that right there in front of me was my work.  Teaching shamanic herbalism, the expansive relationship with the plants, the invisible tradition of herbalism is what is mine to do. 

Even now when writing this so that I may share it, I feel vulnerable and scared about sharing.  What is so potent for me about this right now is that I see that the vulnerability is the openness to share exactly what is mine to share.   It is exciting to me that the land spoke to me in phrases, slowly over a week’s time with the synthesis being a potent    program in shamanic herbalism and also the full reclamation of my path in this lifetime.

Twenty years before becoming an herbalist, I became a school teacher.  That too was a calling for me and prepared me to be a teacher of shamanic herbalism.  There are many possibilities for us when we are wondering what our sacred path is.   There are not so many paths that are true for us though.  It is good to find ours. 

May it be in Beauty.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

NEW FREE Teleclass-Recording Link

Hello Everyone,
We just completed another FREE Teleclass, Shamanic Herbalism-Crafting a Practice. 
Here is a link to that class.  I would love to hear your reflections. 
Peace and Abundant Green Blessings, Julie

Monday, August 19, 2013

FREE Teleclass Recording~Compassionate Wisdom of the Plants

Hello Everyone,
I just offered a FREE teleclass, 
The Compassionate Wisdom of the Plants, 
tonight and I recorded it. 
Here is a link to that recording...

I would love to know what your experience of this class is.  I am very happy to support a pathway for others to discover the wisdom teachings of the plants. 

May the vibrant expression of Summer's end nourish you. 

May it be in Beauty. 

Peace and Abundant Green Blessings, Julie

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Holding My Wise Blood~Magic Moon Writer Emerges

I have been going through a lot of my books and things to give away.  This has always been a challenging task for me, emotional and kinda wierd.   I found my old "We'Moons" from as far back as 1993.  I had them all on my shelf.  
I decided to recycle the black and white ones and keep the colored ones for collage.  
There was one "We'Moon" that I remember writing in like a journal several times and I was hoping to find that.  I did.  
Here are some of the entries: 
January 2. 1999...feeling extremely creative, juices flowing, inspiration about writing about anger. 
March 10, 1999...bled 2 drops of blood this morning, first sign of blood since end of October-Mid-November, when I bled 1 drop of blood. 
August 11, 1999...bled, flowing blood from my beautiful wild womb.  
This time that I bled...was the end of my moon.  
I had begun menopause around the age of 37 or 38.  I didn't know it at the time
but looking back I am sure of it.  
I had spent six weeks at the Wise Woman Center in Woodstock, NY at Susun Weed's farm.  
I had returned to live in the quiet of the woods in Southwest Washington, where the wild violet grew around me, for a short time and then moved to Arlington, WA to an old farmhouse next to 2600 acres of forest.  
These entries were written at that farmhouse.  
The year Tadd and I lived there, I spent most of my time walking in the woods and gardening, gathering herbs and listening.  It was a difficult time for me emotionally, I was changing and I didn't know what the hell I was changing into.  It seemed that I was falling apart, I just wanted to be alone with the forest, the trees, the nettle, the flowing creek. 
At the Wise Woman Center, Susun Weed insisted that all women take a moon day, when they were bleeding.  I wasn't bleeding but she insisted I take one anyway.  She said, when a woman stops bleeding, she is holding her wise blood within her.  
I grew to accept that this was so for me.  
I hadn't given birth to a child like I wanted.  
What was being created within me?  Who was I?  What was I?  
Another bit of wisdom that Susun Weed offered was to retreat to the menopausal cave for one year.  
I certainly did that in this old farmstead in Arlington.  
Tadd worked in Seattle and I was alone.  I had wild dreams.  
More entries: 
October 22, 1999...dreamed last night of ritual, dancing and my school dreams of old were transformed into wild dancing, "She changes everything she touches" was sung.  
November 2, 1999...soul retrieval returned my 18 year old and 4 year old parts, the dancer and the magic moon writer.  
I began my shamanic herbal teaching at this time, after studying with the Foundation for Shamanic Studies and meeting my shamanic herbal spirit teacher.   I began to write about the plants. 
Last night when I found this book, I felt a sadness looking back at this time in my life.  I also felt a type of quiet celebration that though it was a difficult time for me,  I was led to do the work that is passionate for me.
Poem from "We'Moon" 1999 © Laurel D. Sager 1997 (
"I dreamed I bled snakes.  Silver gray and slippery, hissing and with tongues darting, they fell from me and touched the earth.  Some went underground.  Others became trees heavy with fruit.  They were my children.  They became the world. "
There is a vulnerability in claiming our wild old selves, in being present for all of life as we grow old.  Our wise blood held within, we circulate energy, we contain it, so that we may be the wise woman teachers of our world.  
May it be in Beauty. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Ten Best Weeds to Have in Your Garden

A couple of years ago, I saw an article in the Mother Earth News Magazine titled, "The Ten Worst Weeds to Have in Your Garden."  To be perfectly honest, I didn't read the article.  I think I felt somehow it would just infuriate me to read about weeds and how bad they are.  
But then I got inspired and I told myself I would write a piece on "The Ten Best Weeds to Have in Your Garden."  This is it.  
This is a good year to praise the weeds, since my garden is rewilding and and so am I.  I have always loved the marginalized ones, the one who somehow because of who they are, are just not normal enough to be talked well about.  
I realize that many of you reading this article love the weeds as much as I do.  I just felt it was time to boast about those wonderful plants that don't like so much to be cultivated.  

Self Heal, Prunella vulgaris
I actually planted the self heal in my garden.  And we do have some native to Western Washington that grows around Whidbey Island in the grasses.  Strange and wonderful thing about this plant is that it isn't growing at all where I planted it.  It is growing in the path and around the post that holds the garden gate.  Self Heal is written about in many herbals, long descriptions of the incredible healing benefits of this plants.  And...I don't hear of many people using it.  I am told it has more anti-oxidants that any other plants.  I read that it will cure herpes.  Absent of taste or smell for most senses, self heal is a power plant.  It is related to the root chakra, a connection with the source of who we are.  
I like to think of it as the grandmother of lavender.  In our garden, its stalks come up around where the Lavender Provence is.  People have often mistaken it for lavender.  We harvest the leaves for salad and in the early summer the flowers as well.  This plant's wisdom is a welcome member in my garden.  

Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale:
Oh, the dandelion.  What a precious plant.  Years ago, Tadd and I were living in Burien, WA near the sea.  Our landlord was determined to poison the Dandelion.  He sprayed the lawn with some kind of toxic something.  One morning I woke up and look out the window to see the dandelion had returned and was blooming all over the place.   This is one of the things about this plant that makes it a vital part of any garden, its tenacity.  It blooms all year, with the most blossoms in late March through April.  The tender leaves in spring are welcome additions to our salads and now, in late summer, the leaves are thick and very bitter.  This is when I make tincture with dandelion leaves for a bitter tonic.  And in early autumn, the inulin (the starchy substance) in the root is abundant.  Dandelion Root vinegar makes a wonderful tonic for enhancing your gut flora.  Dandelion is here in our country because wise women, leaving Europe, put the seeds in their pockets so that they would not be without this plant.  So grateful for the abundance of Dandelion.  

Plantain, Plantago lanceolata and major: 
I dreamed long ago that plantain can heal anything, that it is the only plant we need.  Well, I love this plant.  The smell reminds me of my childhood.  It is the bee sting plant.  Take some leaf, choose it up and put it on a bee sting and the pain goes away instantly.  It works for insect bites of all kinds too.  It will draw out what is not needed and help to heal wounds very quickly.  It is a vital addition to any salve for diaper rash and chronic skin conditions.  We also cut the plantain leaves in early summer and add them to our salads.  I have heard that you can stall an allergic reaction with plantain tea or tincture, and that it is a remedy for excess mucous in colds and will help to heal connective tissue.  The seeds are full of protein and can be gathered and sprinkled on your salad, soups and breakfast cereal.  Plantain is a plant that grows on the edge.  It won't grow in a garden bed for long, it has to grow in the paths and it loves to be stepped on. I welcome plantain to my garden path. 

Chickweed, Stellaria media:
In the heat of summer, chickweed is pretty scarce in our garden.  This plant loves cool and wet climate and thrives in the spring when it rains all the time.  We love this plant in our salads and eat as much as possible.  One of the things that chickweed has helped me with time and time again, is to heal my eyes.  Sometimes, I get a little scratch in one of my eyes or have some kind of irritation and I pick some chickweed, wash it and squeeze it to release the juices and I use it as a poultice on my eyes.  Healing happens very quickly.  Also, chickweed has been known to reduce ovarian cysts.  This is such a beautiful thing about this plant, that it is a nourishing salad green and it can heal a challenge that is very strong.  This star lady is a wonderful addition to our garden. 

Sheep Sorrel, Rumex acetosella:
We love this plant because it is sour.  The children who come here have been known to kneel in the grass and eat and eat of it.  The sour indicates that it has vitamin C in it.  It does have oxalic acid in it, but this can be neutrilized with vinegar.   I have heard that this plant is one of the ingredients in Essiac Tea.  That would be a good research project.  Sheep Sorrel, we love you in the garden.  

Burdock, Arctium lappa:
Right now I have a bouquet of burdock leaves and flowers on my table.  The purple flowers are beautiful in the summer time.  The way we use this plant in salads is to make an herbal vinegar from the root in early autumn.  Like dandelion, burdock is rich in inulin, especially in early autumn.  Called the most yang of all plants,  burdock connects us with the deep, dark mystery.  Healing for liver and skin, it acts slowly, making sure healing is substantial.  

Sow Thistle, Sonchus oleracea:
About six years ago, I chose sow thistle as my ally for the year.  I let this plant grow all over my garden.  Well, there were times that I wasn't sure it was a good idea.  Sow thistle was everywhere.   And when it began to go to seed, I had my reward, goldfinches were everywhere too.  Sow thistle leaves are rich in minerals.  If you have the variety that has smooth-sided leaves, you can use them in your salad and also in your soups.  The flowers are tasty, looking like a dandelion. (Make sure you don't mix it up with hawkweed, which has very bitter, nasty-tasting flowers.) Because of the mineral content,  Sow thistle is a wonderful plant to choose to infuse in vinegar.   I love to see this plant amongst the cultivated plants.  

Lamb's Quarters,  Chenopodium album:
The first time I heard about this plant, I learned that it grows well with zinnias and enhances their growth.  I was living in Seattle at the time and so I let my lamb quarters go for it.  Later I learned that it is a wonderful salad plant. But the best news that I have gotten about this weed is that you can steam it and eat it as a cooked green with vinegar.  I would say that lamb's quarters is the best cooked green I have ever eaten.  Harvest it while you have a chance, as it will starts to flower soon after the days start warming up.  The seeds can then be added to your mixes for grinding flour.  Another good plant for vinegar because it is so rich in minerals.  Lamb's Quarters. I look for you every year and am so satisfied when I find you in my garden.  

Violas, Pansies and Violets:
Once you have violets, violas and pansies in your garden, you are so blessed because they will return year after year.  The mineral-rich leaves of violet are so good in salad and can be dried for a protein-rich tea.  We love the violas and pansies in our salads.  These plants are blessings, pure and simple.  

Stinging Nettle, Urtica dioica:
I am fortunate to have nettle as a weed in my garden.  It likes to live over in the corner near the barn.  Though a powerful plant, nettle doesn't take over spaces so much.  In the spring, we harvest the nettle leaves to make vinegar, and we harvest lots of nettle leaves and stalks to hang and dry.  We also, harvest nettle for soups, stews, quiches, lasagne and whatever else we can think of.  This plant is the reason I am an herbalist.  I have written many things about nettle and the transformation she offered me.  Nettle is the plant of change.  Long ago, nettle awakened a cellular memory in me that I am an herbalist.  I would not be here writing and teaching and living and loving the plants without nettle.  Blessed Be!

Time to go outside and see what weeds you have in your garden.  Make sure to identify well so you know each on is edible.  

There are so many other weeds too, so many.  What are your favorite garden weeds?

May it be in Beauty.