I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time now, but was able to put it into words right after this year’s Plant Spirit Medicine Conference. We are in fact on a mission as Plant Spirit Medicine healers. Our mission, should we choose to accept it … goes beyond the precious and beautiful stewardship of our people, beyond our stewardship of the plants, beyond our stewardship of this amazing spiritual medicine. Our mission involves not only helping our clients to move into balance and harmony as they receive healing … our mission is deeper.
It is to witness our clients as they peel the layers of stress, trauma, illness, perception, disconnection …. and they come to touch, even if for just a moment … that place of heart and vision that tells them (or reminds them) in a resonant unforgettable way … who they truly are and what they are truly here to do.
A peak experience in the life of a PSM healer
I have experienced this awakening, this remembering, this “coming home” in many people with whom I have shared Plant Spirit Medicine. It is a moment not unlike the birth of a child or the death of a loved one. A sacred moment, when the veil between the worlds is thin and translucent. A moment worth lifetimes. A moment where something is activated – a memory, an image, an imprint. And just like that, a life is changed and transformed forever. A new person is born.
The beautiful mystery of Plant Spirit Medicine healing
As we work with our clients sharing the medicine of the plant spirits, we hold so much, we stand together with them … and we witness those moments when Divine steps in through the generosity of the plant spirits and says, “Hello, dear one, remember who you are. Remember why you came to this beloved earth, this time around.”
As Plant Spirit Medicine Healers, we stand at that threshold, we hold that space, we witness our clients heal, come into balance, and most importantly: we witness them as they experience the true joy of remembering.
Several months ago I decided to take a one-day workshop in Botanical illustration at the Morton Arboretum. My intention in taking the class was to take advantage of some of the many opportunities the Arboretum offers, meet new people and do something different. Little did I know it was going to be a day full of Plant Spirit Medicine lessons. I went into the class and the teacher had a bucket of flowers in water. She told each of us to take one and begin drawing. We were all newbies, all learning how to draw, how to see, how to capture a flower in a drawing. The flower I chose was closed but you could still observe so much color and nuance. Or … so I thought. Then, it was time to really begin to “see.”
Once I began to work with the colored pencils to replicate the flower in front of me I soon realized that what my mind thought it saw was not actually what was really there. For example, looking at the stem of the flower, my mind said “Green” and I reached for the green pencil. But the green pencil didn’t “do it” for me. Once I focused and was present with the stem I discovered it wasn’t really Green but yellowish, whitish, even pinkish … Green? There was so much more to the green of the stem than to the “green” in the box of colored pencils.
The class was fun, beautiful, expertly taught, and in fact a huge reminder of many of the lessons in my own healing practice of Plant Spirit Medicine.
The healing focus of Plant Spirit Medicine
The flower demanded my close observation and focus and required me to be fully present with it in order to allow me to see its beauty and essence, and (possibly) be able to capture some of it on paper. In a similar way, the plant spirits call us healers to build relationship with them through full intention, full awareness and close observation. Without this full commitment and attention to the plants and our relationships with them … we can miss so much. This in turn also applies to our work in the healing treatment room. The same kind of attention, presence, awareness and focus is what allows us as healers to really listen, really see, really connect with our clients and what they need … then go to the spirits of the plants to ask for the medicine for that person.
It makes perfect sense. Botanical Art, Plant Spirit Medicine, and people are all about Nature: cycles, exchange, balance, breath, growth, nourishment … in short, true and dazzling … Beauty!
I used to live in Portland, Oregon, where a 26-mile long park traverses the entire City. You can park pretty much anywhere in NW Portland and gain access to gorgeous hiking, cycling and nature trails. Trees here are huge, healing, purifying presences.
Plant Spirit Medicine homework
While studying to become a Plant Spirit Medicine healer, I would go into this park to do some of my PSM class assignments, which were many, quite varied and some would say “unusual.” On this particular day, I was by myself and I remember getting out of my car and walking, feeling not good, not on purpose, but rather sad and lonely. I just knew I had to be out in Nature, and so it was a good time to also do some PSM class homework.
I began to walk paying close attention to the sights, sounds, smells and the Life all around me. As soon as I started to see the big pine trees, my eyes moved up to one of them, then another, then another. My eyes my heart were drawn up,up to the height of the trees and my perspective changed completely. I was so small, almost insignificant. They were so huge, strong. The trees told me, “Look at it [the situation] from where we are; you will see it differently. We have been here a really long time. We are all with you. You are not alone.” And just like that, everything shifted. Not just because of their words but because of their healing presence.
Do all trees talk with Plant Spirit Medicine healers?
I have heard many accounts of memories, encounters and powerful experiences with trees from my PSM colleagues. Some actually feel that it is difficult to engage in contact with some trees, because trees have been around for such a long time, they are such huge presences and their perspective is just different. They truly embody patience and long-term vision. But trees are amazing, generous, wise healers.
Just yesterday I went for a walk and met some “new” trees. At some point during my walk my state shifted and I began to see trees differently; to really observe their moods and their faces and their markings, and to even see the energy field between connecting branches — a certain luminosity that can indicate a portal of energy. And it was dazzling and precious.
Trees are our Nature shamans; our allies
And finally it occurred to me that trees are like people and people are like trees. We all want balance. We all have jobs to do. We all want to grow. We all have scars and stories. We live in one same environment and we are either nourished or destroyed by it. Trees know us intimately. They are our partners, our friends. This is why we live near one another, this is why we care for one another. This is why Trees can be such inspiring purifiers and sentinels for our homes and cities and towns and for our Earth. Not by coincidence but by Divine plan and by sacred agreement.
” In all spiritual work, it is necessary to ignore what is being taken away and to watch what is being received.” –- Swami Rudrananda
“Toto, I’ve a feeling I’m not in Chicago anymore”
Just the drive from Albany Airport to the Blue Deer Center was spectacular. I could feel stress melting away as I drove through country roads, next to rivers, trees, among hills, among awesome natural Beauty. Reaching the bend in the road, I approached the Center’s entrance and offered a prayer of gratitude. Seeing my teachers Eliot Cowan and Alison Gayek and my colleagues was, as always, a celebration. And that was just the start!
What happens at a Plant Spirit Medicine conference?
I love gathering with PSM healers from all over the country to explore new areas of growth in our healing practices, catch up on our personal and professional lives, learn, sit by the fire and listen. Talks, panel discussions and workshops happen around a beautiful fire. We open our hearts to each other, our medicine, the sacred gifts of the Land at the Blue Deer Center, our teachers and the world. We learn, we share, we explore, we squirm in our seats, we ask, we debate, we honor one another, we hold our people and our medicine and our prayers for all of the above and we march on home afterwards renewed, inspired, re-invigorated and filled with joy to take to our healing practices, our families, our communities, our people.
This year at the Plant Spirit Medicine conference: healing, inspiration, nourishment
It is so beautiful that as we come together as PSM healers we in fact help to nourish and heal ourselves in the beautiful land, among Nature, as colleagues, exploring our challenges, our gifts, learning together. “Exploring the Mystery of Nature” was the conference theme this year. A number of presentations, exercises and panels helped us to connect deeply to overcome challenges and discover our strengths and our amazing potential as stewards of this medicine. Tsaurirrikame David Wiley shared his expertise and heart with us as he coached and challenged us with his presentation of “Practice Building for the Spiritual Healer.” Maggie Freier gifted us with a thought-provoking presentation titled “Confidentiality and Crisis Management – The Tarasoff Decision and Beyond.” Mai Duong and Kateri McCue encouraged us to support each other with their talk on “The Power of Partnership.” Alison Gayek inspired us with her presentation “Nature as Oracle: Letting the Divine Natural World Support Your Healing Work.” Susan Skinner, Robin Lockwood and Clare Pearson shared insights on their healing practices in a panel discussion “How Connecting to Nature and the Mystery Helped your Practice and your Clients.” Our dear teacher Eliot Cowan read beautiful excerpts from his new Plant Spirit Medicine book due out in April 2014. Our Plant Spirit Medicine Association Board (Annie Smith, Julie Ellerbeck and Dena Sparks) facilitated a wonderful Town Hall Meeting where we learned of recent developments, new initiatives, and opportunities to participate and make a difference in our Association.
A feast of Plant Spirit Medicine healing
As we closed the conference, Julie Ellerbeck presented us with beautiful artwork by her client Kate, who inspired by PSM created a lovely painting honoring our medicine. I experienced all of the above as a great big banquet which left me filled with joy, inspiration and gratitude for the beauty and power of this medicine, the opportunity of serve our world as a Lay Spiritual Healer, and for the amazing people who I have the honor and the pleasure to call my colleagues. If you are a member of the Plant Spirit Medicine Association, please stay tuned to the PSMA newsletter for more coverage of this year’s beautiful conference. Thanks and appreciation to Robin Lockwood and Jane Wollack who put on a wonderful conference this year and to everyone who made it possible, including the great Staff of the Blue Deer Center.
This spring my husband and I were invited to the Art Institute for the opening of the Picasso exhibit. I felt like royalty to be able to see the exhibit before it opened to the general public. The special exhibit’s reception event was wonderful: blue lighting in honor of the artist’s Blue Period, delicious food, lovely cubist centerpieces of flowers and fruit, a great group of musicians setting the tone.
How we live; how we heal?
Some people milled about the reception comfortably, others were in a rush to walk through to the art exhibit and go home. A few ladies came and sat at our small table to eat a few bites then immediately and hurriedly left to see the exhibit. “How can that possibly be enjoyable?” I asked myself.
The healing stance in Plant Spirit Medicine wellness
Slowly but surely I began to pay attention to the people in the way I do when I really pay attention … from my center, with my softly-focused eyes, with my great horned owl ears perked up to really listen. And it occurred to me that the people were the real exhibit, not the art! Sure, I did see and enjoy the art – especially pieces I had never seen before. But the real exhibit was the people. How vulnerable we are. How hurried we have become. How detached we at times want to appear. How frightened we can be of true connection. How we work so hard at how we want to be seen. How we avoid vulnerability, which is, by the way, a very big key for our healing.
One of the many gifts of Plant Spirit Medicine Healing
Being present with people, truly present, has been one of the great gifts that my Plant Spirit Medicine training and practice have brought to my life. That immense fascination (not curiosity, mind you) but fascination with humans, with who we are, how we adapt, how we cope, how we all dream and fear and dare and suffer … how we all want to do good, be loved, feel vital. This deep stance of love and compassion is such a gift. It is how Divine and the plant spirits see us. It is such a wonderful point of departure to help me as a healer to be a channel for the loving and generous power of Nature. Such a gift to see and work with my brothers and sisters in this way. Such a privilege.
Shortly after I opened my Plant Spirit Medicine practice I realized that I was seeing my clients in a very unique way. They were dazzling to me. Radiant — in their spirit, in their endeavors, in their awesome humanity. Slowly but surely I began to realize that this must be how the plant spirits in fact “see” us.
Doing the Best We Can
Basically, I think the plant spirits “know” we are all doing the very best we can. They see us with immense compassion and generosity. They see us in our radiance and in our true potential and they work to help us heal, shed, peel the layers and get to that state in which our hearts are full, we can tap into our inner joy and be compassionate and generous towards ourselves and others. It is that highest best expression that the plant spirits see and sense in us. And it is precisely THAT which they touch and activate in us with their healing.
Healing, Wellness and Compassion
This knowing helps me in turn as a healer to remind my PSM clients to be compassionate towards themselves. I must often remind my clients how far they have come and how well they are doing. Sometimes the human condition (and human conditioning) make us strive and strive and want to do more and more, faster, yesterday … without celebrating, acknowledging and recognizing how much we have changed for the better, how much we have grown. When we celebrate and recognize how we are changing, we are in a sense giving thanks. As our hearts open while we are feeling gratitude … the healing work of the plant spirits really can take root even more profoundly in our Being.
We are all doing the very best we can
With our dreams
With our reality
With our heartaches
With our deepest hopes
With our parents
With our children
With our desires to change the world
To BE THE CHANGE we want to see
We are all doing the best we can
In spite of our boisterousness
In spite of our hiss
In spite of our bark
We want to build
We want to excel
We want to open hearts
We want to belong
We want it – All –
To really, truly, matter.
Teachings from the spirit of the rose
Last week I was describing to my husband how the stems of roses tend to prefer being cut short when you place the flowers on a vase. He wondered about that, because after all long-stemmed roses have a reputation for being best. As we spoke, I heard the guidance of the Rose Spirit, “Just as rose medicine is wonderful for healing people’s hearts, the rose’s stem itself has the ability to heal immediately after a cut has been made.”
Memories of healing spiritual encounters
I had my first encounter with the plant spirit of the rose while I was studying Plant Spirit Medicine. Something had happened in my personal life and I was feeling stuck and emotionally paralyzed by a heartbreak. After my journey with the Rose Spirit, the whole situation shifted and lifted. It wasn’t an intellectual thing, it was a healing of the heart. My heart just felt resilient again and I felt courageous again in matters of love … or at least willing to remain open. And here we were, on the first week of a new year hearing the message, the reminder of this amazing and generous plant. To me, the timing makes perfect sense — so much is changing within all of us and around us in this cycle in our human story. It is tempting to close off, to close down but the way through to real change and transformation is only made clear when we can open our hearts.
When my mom visited us this summer (she lives in Portland, Oregon), we went to The Growing Place, our favorite area garden center. After walking around, she told me she wanted to buy me a rose plant so that I could remember her after she passed away. I sat on a bench at the garden and resisted the idea with all my might. I thought of many reasons why she should not do that. We really don’t have many sunny spots in our yard, it’s a big expense, sometimes roses don’t “take” in our area, not many of our neighbors have them, and on and on. And all of a sudden, my inner voice punched through and said, “Wait a second, you LOVE roses. This plant wants to go live with you. Are you saying no? Who are you???” And I realized I had closed my heart the moment my mom mentioned the possibility of her passing away. I did not want to “go there,” think about that or even pretend to enter into that drama. But actually the whole episode was another major gift, a healing from the Rose Spirit. A healing of my own attachment to life as I know it … and a deepening of my relationship with my mom.
Today the beautiful yellow rose plant is dormant in our garden. Come spring time, I am sure she will gift us again with her joyful profusion of yellow blooms, her sweetness and yes, her teachings.
One of the things I witness consistently in my Plant Spirit Medicine healing practice is the beauty of transformation. Similar to the peeling of an onion, layers fall off and the innate radiance, beauty and ease of a person’s spirit begins to be revealed. As they come into balance and harmony, conditions, issues and situations that previously had a hold on them become less relevant, less stressful. When I step into my center as a spiritual healer and am about to collaborate with the plants to offer a Plant Spirit Medicine treatment, I go into this inner space of transformation which informs me always. This place is rich, nourishing and humbling. It always moves me and at times brings up questions. It inspired this poem:
So who am I
Am I my dreams, my hopes my expectations?
Am I what I do? My work? My purpose?
Am I truly infinite, unbounded potential?
My sisters’/ brothers’ keeper?
Who am I
This tiny fleck?
Am I my times’ medicine person?
Or am I only my deepest doubt?
Who am I
Egret in flight
Drum in raptured cadence
Ember about to (yet again) combust.
– Adrilia V. Pedersen
I met the shaman in his Tuki, a sacred living structure and treatment room. The smoke and scent of the fire were grounding, comforting, centering. My heart began to melt. Now I could really listen. After talking for a while, the shaman asked about the activities in my work day. Hearing how many hours I spent on a computer, he said that every day I needed to stop what I was doing and go outside, to be out in nature. “Bundle up if you have to, and go. Every day.”
In my mid-twenties, a friend and I decided to leave everything behind and go cross-country. We drove for months, living in different places. I remember Sedona, really well. Somehow the veil of reality had lifted. Life as we thought we knew it was not the answer. There was so much more to life, to spirit, to healing, to connecting. The chance to explore our country, its plants, animals, its Nature called us forward. Plants, omens, birds, fish, four-leggeds were our beacons, our guides. We read the signs and on we went. And it deeply transformed our lives. It was that time that probably paved the way for my Plant Spirit Medicine healing practice.
I know people who love gadgets and who work in technology. In order to “find themselves,” find their meaning, they often have to leave work, family, old lives behind and either motorcycle cross country, or go on a retreat in the woods, or take up a sport that forces them to be out in nature.
The curse and the blessing of technology
During my day, I can do so much more because of technology. I love the gadgets. I use them. A lot. I am hugely productive thanks to them. But, I’m not at all convinced this way of life is better. The tradeoffs are huge. Yes, I can connect with many people online and reach out. I can find answers and run business from anywhere. But I have less time for meaningful conversations in person or on the phone. Being productive still puts me (and keeps me) in front of a computer much too much.
Back to the shaman’s advice
Though I have felt very inspired by blogs, videos and online music … none of it compares to the sense of profound healing and rightness I feel while going for a walk on the snow during a pitch dark evening. None of it compares to the heartbeat I felt when I came face to face with the presence of my first mountain in Caracas. Or to the involuntary gasp on experiencing my first ever snowfall in Paxton my freshman year. Or to the power of coming face to face with a hawk after hearing a rustling outside my apartment. Being in contact with Nature, with the Earth, with its beings and creatures heals us. Profoundly. It nourishes us, It transforms us. It opens us. It affects us in ways we cannot even verbalize. It addresses, spot on, our desire for meaning, for connection.
How Plant Spirit Medicine helps us heal
It is precisely this hunger for connection and balance that Plant Spirit Medicine begins to address. It happens gradually and organically. So beautifully – just like in nature. A patient comes with a complaint. They understand we are not treating the symptoms but rather allowing their own Self to come into harmony and balance. At the end of the treatment, they often feel uplifted, held, relieved. This goes on and on. Changes begin to happen. The plant spirits take them by the hand, so to speak, and help them to see more clearly those things in their lives that bring balance and healing and those things that zap their energy. It is a dance, a flow, a conversation. It is a beautiful natural, sacred, gentle process. Witnessing the healing and generosity of the plant spirits is forever magnificent, forever humbling.
As stated on my previous post I believe we chose to be alive exactly at this time in the Earth’s development for the opportunity to live in many dimensions at once; to observe, learn and transform; to accelerate our spiritual growth, our compassion and our readiness to help guide the Earth and its people.
Being alive in our planet right now in 2012 is not so easy
I’m sure you’ve noticed this. We feel everything accelerating around us. I mean, 2012 is off to a very rapid start. We feel the pull of our daily routines, work and obligations, along with the thirst of our soul and the call in our hearts to find and get busy accomplishing our life purpose. And, whereas in the past we may have handled these issues alone, now the rules have changed. Now, it seems the only way to be effective is by involving others, asking for help. Real progress today takes a village, a community and real support.
How do we support ourselves in the middle of these changes and as we transform?
- Realize that the rapid acceleration (spiritual and physical) of our lives is a reality. We are not imagining it – it is happening.
- Be kind and gentle with yourself. We must be flexible with ourselves and be compassionate towards ourselves and others – we are all in the same boat. As I always remind my Plant Spirit Medicine patients, we must rest when we feel tired. We must grieve when we feel the tears come – even if we don’t know why we are grieving . We are all trying to sort it out. We must also support ourselves with exercise, plenty of water, time outdoors and with healthy, vibrant, locally-grown (if possible) foods.
- Listen to your inner guidance. There is a place within you, that place you access when you listen to an amazing piece of music, that place you touch when you meditate or pray. It holds guidance, secrets and support. It is in us, but to access it we must ask and listen.
- Realize that he path through all of this lies in community, in asking for help, in getting the healing we need and require, not in doing it alone. We must get support, tend to our bodies, minds and spirits. We must seek to integrate, clear and re-balance more often than ever. It is now not a nice-to-have but a requirement. Alternative healing practices can be a huge support. Plant Spirit Medicine healing can support not only your body and your mind but also your spirit as you integrate, learn and move forward with new purpose. Gathering with friends or around a fire does wonders. Community rituals can be a great support.
- Celebrate. Often, fear of the unknown causes us to tense up, to wear our armor. This is not what’s called for. We are on the verge of a new way of life. Allow yourself to celebrate that possibility. It is, after all, why we wanted to be alive precisely now in this day and age. The new way of life is one of community, inclusivity, compassion and people coming together to heal and support each other and the Earth. It is such a great privilege to be alive, to have a body, to be able to think, dream, act, make a difference, right here, right now. If THAT isn’t cause for celebration and rejoicing, I do not know what is.