This natural world, this world of balance, exchange, wisdom and generosity which has such strong allure for us does have rules. One of them has to do with balance and exchange. In this natural world, no good deed goes unnoticed. We know this in our hearts and souls. It is why we some of us hesitate before killing an insect or animal or plant. It is why we are moved by their beauty. I’ve witnessed situations in which seemingly impossible things happen when animals or plants sacrifice themselves for humans. Believe me, any and all kind deeds you undertake on behalf of another animal, plant, person, the water, the earth … is noticed by Spirit and in a sense “recorded.”
We are all familiar with how deer sacrifice themselves on our streets and roads. It almost seems to me to be part of a sacred agreement. Around my home several years ago an animal died a slow agonizing death. I felt hugely sad by its suffering. When I journeyed to find out what was going on the animal spirit told me it was a sacrifice in exchange for my wellbeing and that it had been well worth it. I then recalled many instances where for years and years I had sent love and good wishes to that same kind of animal whenever I had seen or sensed its presence. There was an affinity between us.
Yes, animals do take on our illness and suffering
Dogs, cats and horses sacrifice themselves to take in conditions, situations, addictions and illnesses for their humans. We see therapy cats and dogs working in hospitals, rescue missions alleviating people’s suffering. In my Plant Spirit Medicine healing practice I witness the great generosity of the plant spirits working to save people’s lives all the time. All of it is exchange, sacrifice and right relationship. Especially when you embark in a spiritual path or are living a spiritual life, it is essential to have in your heart gratitude and respect for all creatures.
Our exchange as Plant Spirit Medicine healers
It is no coincidence that in Plant Spirit Medicine when we ask a plant for its healing gifts we offer tobacco. It is the offering of choice of many plants. I’ve also done journeys in which the preferred form of exchange is cornmeal. But the important thing is that there IS an exchange. Animals and plants die all the time so that we can live. Sometimes we are oblivious to this fact. Horses and cattle and many other animals sacrifice themselves for the benefit and gain of humans so much so that we take it for granted. All the green plants we eat give their lives for us!
Gratitude and offerings honor our sacred relationships
We receive so very much every moment of our lives from the earth, the weather beings, the plants, the animals, all of our relations. It is not just nice but essential to give back. It doesn’t have to be tobacco or cornmeal. It can be a prayer of gratitude. It can be the light of a candle. It can be our respect. It can be a piece of your hair, or yes, it can be tobacco. It can also be a kind deed such as taking an ant or a spider or another insect outside your home rather than killing it. There are many ways of showing love, gratitude and respect to the world around us. And when we do so, it is absolutely noticed and recorded. Trust me, when you live in this way, if you are in a pinch, the Natural world can manifest whatever you need when you most need it. An animal, plant, body of water, may well remember, mobilize to help, and who knows, maybe even save your life! I experience it every single time in my Plant Spirit Medicine healing treatments.
Okay! So we just had another snow storm in the Chicago area. Just when I thought spring time was finally here. I was already starting to be excited by the possibility of the plants, my dear friends, coming back to my garden and surrounding areas! This spring time snow reminds me of my first winter here after becoming a Plant Spirit Medicine healer.
I still remember that first winter season here in Glen Ellyn after opening my PSM healing practice. I actually felt hugely sad because my plant friends were going away, they were going to sleep for a while. During a plant journey, one of the plant spirits actually told me they were still with me, their medicine as potent as ever … but they were going to their sacred lodges to replenish and sit in their councils. I loved this image and it helped me a great deal.
When plants sleep in winter, can their medicine still heal us?
The answer to this question is yes, of course! The plant spirits still heal us potently and abundantly because for spirit there is no time, no space, no limitation. And by the way, this is also why sometimes my clients do not receive as many direct answers to their questions as they would like. It is because we PSM healers like keeping things in the realm of heart, spirit and possibility when we work. The mind is powerful. The mind wants information, control, limitation. However, spirit knows no such bounds. When a plant spirit is called upon to provide their healing to a client, they do that and then so much more. Plant Spirit Medicine transcends anything we can conceive, limit or think of. And after all, don’t you find this to be wonderfully freeing? Wonderfully magical?
And still, as a season, winter has its own energy of depth, replenishment and a slower pace. My dear PSM colleague in Los Angeles, Courtney Shelburne, can of course continue conducting her plant studies and journeys during the winter months; yet, as you can see on her blog, she also recognizes and feels winter as a time to slow down and replenish.
Today the snow fall brings memories of my plant friends going to their sacred lodges. It is good. It is an opportunity to consider the many blessings and nourishment of this most recent winter season — also an opportunity to get ready to welcome spring in all its glory and with all my heart!
This morning I found myself contemplating the preparation that healers undergo in order to be able to share their gifts with others. A few weeks back I wrote about right relationship, and certainly this is one of the important things to cultivate with the plant spirits and the entire natural world as we endeavor to alleviate people’s suffering. Here are other ways in which we become ready as healers:
Compassion. Heartache. Illness.
Very often, healers find their gifts and their teachers after going through a time of illness or trial. I believe this is because difficult times help us experience pain; they help us realize we are so much more than a body … tough times help us open our hearts. When we realize that we all suffer, and are all doing the best we can, then we can truly extend love and compassion to other beings.
Going within in prayer and meditation
As I prepare to work with my Plant Spirit Medicine clients I go within, into that space beyond physical and even mental reality where as my dear teacher Swamiji used to say “all is well and there are no issues.” As healers we go into the vast space of emptiness that is our soul and the soul of the world. Our ability to access knowing (notice I don’t say ‘information’) is vast once we stand in this stillness and fullness within us. For some healers, meditation is the perfect training for accessing this space. For others, prayer is the doorway.
Realizing that the entire universe is One
When I connect with the spirits of plants in order to ask for their healing gifts, this communication happens in the space of our common dreaming – from that depth within me that recognizes and remembers that within me everything exists. That inside me there is plant energy, animal energy, mineral energy … and in fact many other energies as well. It is precisely this commonality that in many ways allows us to deeply know one another, communicate and help one another. We are made of the same soul matter. And we definitely speak the same language, especially when that language is Love.
The language of love is absolutely the language of plant spirit medicine
I remember a meeting with one of my plant allies when I, like an innocent playful girl, told the spirit of the plant that Its spirit didn’t look like the beautiful plant I had just met. Rather than being put off, the plant communicated to me that it was wearing what might be understood as “travel gear.” One of the messages of this plant had to do with outward appearances. As the plant spirits become in my heart more like family members, I am able to speak with them as I would with a grandmother, or a sister, or an older uncle, or a wonderful trusted friend. No matter what the exchange, as long as I approach them with love and respect, right relationship continues to develop, and everyone (the plants, the soil, the animals, myself, my clients) benefits in the process. Love is the language. Love is the doorway. Love is the stuff true healing’s made of. As connection with our most sacred commonality, Love is the antidote to our loneliness.
When I was in 7th grade, my dad took a nice photo of me sitting at my piano. He made black and white Valentine’s Day photo postcards in his own studio for me to give to my school friends. Instead of “Happy Valentine’s Day,” the cards read “Happy Day of Love and Friendship.” This month as I contemplate Valentine’s Day I realize that my Plant Spirit Medicine healing work is all about love and friendship. Actually, all of Life is about that. All about relationship. But particularly when dealing with and working with the sacred natural world, friendship, love, respect — what my teacher Eliot Cowan calls “right relationship” — is hugely important.
What does right relationship mean to a healer?
As a healer I need to be in right relationship with all of nature, with myself and others and with the plant spirits whose medicine I call on for the benefit of my clients. It all starts with right relationship. Some time ago I sought to connect with a plant for its medicine and it told me “You are in a rush. Please don’t ever be in a rush when you come talk with us!” I was definitely humbled. And it was definitely true. Love, respect and gratitude are the initial elements of building right relationship. When we have “outs” or disagreements at whatever level with ourselves, our teachers, our clients, our partners … those disconnects can impede the quality, depth and purity of our relating. Right relationship means that I am honoring my agreements, acting with integrity and being authentic. It means I value and cultivate all my relationships. If something is “off,” I must immediately pay attention, be aware, listen and make amends.
Keeping the healing channels open
Right relationship is especially important in Plant Spirit Medicine healing because it keeps the channels open, flowing and vital. It keeps my connection with the natural world as strong and full as it can be. It tells the Universe I am honoring my agreements, living a life of integrity. From this foundation, when I reach out to Divine and to the plant spirits and ask for their help and their healing, all manner of wonders can occur.
The best approach to receiving spiritual healing
When clients ask me for help, we at first engage in a conversation not unlike prayer. I find that when clients are sharing their dreams, their challenges and their hopes with me … the plants, the entire universe and certainly that client’s higher self are all listening. This open-hearted authentic asking is a wonderful stance form which to receive healing. Right relationship sets up a strong foundation for our healing, for our life, and for our being able to receive our highest best good. So to me, February 14th is not only the day of love and friendship, as my 7th grade greeting card stated … but also a day to remember “right relationship” with myself, others and the entire natural world.
Typically the start of a new year is a time of visioning, planning, setting new goals, assessing what we like and don’t like, and what we would like to change. No matter where you live in this beautiful country of ours, the energy of winter has slowed things down at least somewhat and entices us to contemplate, to replenish, to be more introspective.
Why Plant Spirit Medicine in winter?
It is absolutely important (and delicious to our spirits) to receive Plant Spirit Medicine any time of year but especially in winter. As they work powerfully and oh so very generously to bring us into balance and harmony, the plants remind us what is important in terms of our life purpose, and they help us connect with our larger vision for our lives. At a time when we want to be dreaming the possibilities we want to manifest in the year ahead, the plant spirits nourish us and gift us with spiritual clarity.
Healing after the holidays
While a gorgeous season, the holidays can be stressful for many of us. Family expectations, travel, memories, additional demands around shopping and entertaining can cause us to feel overwhelmed and more susceptible to imbalance. Plant Spirit Medicine healing can begin to set everything right in one fell swoop. After a PSM session we stop feeling so alone and overwhelmed and we begin again to feel part of the whole of Nature, and to heal.
Plant spirit medicine healing warms and reconnects us
In winter it is not so easy to be outdoors, go hug a tree or relax by spending time in our gardens. Yet we always, no matter the season, need the healing of Nature and the wisdom and perspective of the plants. Especially in winter, when we can tend to feel cold because it is a time of slowing down and introspection, the plants help us warm our hearts and connect more deeply with ourselves and others. As our body, mind and spirits get the exact nourishment they need during a Plant Spirit Medicine healing session, we remember we are all In this together, we reconnect with our passion for life and we can look ahead into a new year with renewed clarity and vigor.
It is amazing how many burdens we can agree to carry at any given time. Not just our own but also other people’s burdens: the plight of our Earth, our depleted environment, our race’s survival, war, and on and on. These burdens are not ours to carry. They often turn out to be real drawbacks for our hearts. We are meant to live life in joy, together with others in community, learning, moving, flowing, like water. Working, observing, assimilating, taking things in. With gratitude for the chance to be alive, to be experiencing, breathing, smelling, singing, touching, moving, feeling.
The interesting thing is that often we take on burdens so that we can project our attention outside of ourselves, delay doing what we need to be doing or tending to in our lives, in ourselves. It takes courage to realize this, to cut through the illusion of the burdens and to begin finding our purpose and doing whatever it is we are here to do. I am very fortunate. In my Plant Spirit Medicine healing practice I get to witness this kind of courage very often.
Plant Spirit Medicine helps us heal our hearts
Besides offering us their wonderful healing in treatments, the plant spirits and Nature can also help us heal our hearts by encouraging us to let go of these burdens. Here are 3 healing practices you can do to help heal your heart:
1. Jot down your burdens, your worries, your concerns, and those situations you can’t control. Offer them to a body of water, to the trunk of a tree, or to the Fire. Go out in Nature and read them or speak them and leave them there in some ritual form. Just as the plant spirits are immensely generous, they and all of Nature can receive these things from us so that we can be refreshed, renewed and freed from our burdens.
2. Swim in a body of water (or soak in a bath with gratitude for the gifts of water) and visualize that when you emerge you are in fact renewed and rejuvenated, like a new baby, like a new person.
3. Sit by a fire, especially out in Nature and speak your heart with others or with the Fire. See It transforming the energy of your words, your dreams, your wishes, your burdens.
I live in the Midwest, in Chicago’s Northwestern suburbs. Not many people here have ever heard of Plant Spirit Medicine healing, unless they have visited the Blue Deer Center, heard about Eliot Cowan’s work, or read his book. This year I made a concerted effort to begin networking, meeting like minded people and sharing my healing work with others in this area. One of the groups I encountered was founded by a remarkable woman, Atala Toy, who for many years was the President of ISIC, the Institute for Interdimensional Cooperation. Interdimensional in the sense of honoring , respecting and celebrating all the beings of diverse dimensions whose paths and destinies intersect with our own. Namely, plant beings, stone beings, weather beings, Nature beings …. every dimension on which we depend and who depends on us. What a beautiful notion, right? The name alone calls forth a vision of working together on behalf of our peoples and on behalf of our planet.
As a result of my participation in the group, I was invited to write a blog post on Plant Spirit Medicine, discussing questions people ask me about my healing modality. The blog post was published today on the Crystal Life Technology website. In writing the blog post, my dear teacher, Eliot Cowan’s words were front and center. I could almost hear him saying, “It is not a thing of the mind. People have to experience the medicine, feel it, really have a sense of the work of the plant spirits. Once that happens, people realize their spirits have been touched. It is a true, real, fully authentic, fully generous exchange.”
But I wrote the post anyway. And here’s why I did it. Over the years when I have been practicing Plant Spirit Medicine healing in Illinois, I have witnessed such beautiful, rich, sweet, powerful transformations. Some of them have happened in people who had many questions in the beginning, whose minds needed to be set at ease. Not that in answering questions I engaged with their minds instead of their hearts … but they had questions and I did my best to provide answers, with my ears (and most importantly my heart) open. And those answers provided a certain foundation so that the clients could say “yes” to the medicine, to the fullness, generosity and powerful medicine of the plant spirits. And the rest … as they say … is history. And it was worth answering the questions because they allowed the person to receive the gifts of healing that the plant spirits had to offer.
So I wrote the blog post, while I heeded Don Eliot’s warnings, and I hoped and still do hope for the best. I hope that in providing answers to some frequently asked questions I am helping open a doorway, offer an alternative, invite further exchange … and ultimately honor this powerful medicine … as well as the people who can so immensely benefit from its gifts.
It is absolutely true that anything worthwhile requires a certain depth of commitment, a certain ability to go beyond the obvious, beyond the mundane, beyond appearances.
Healing the roots
When I lived in Portland at the ashram, I remember how hugely careful we were to care for the roots whenever we would garden, or dig up a tree to transplant it. We would send love to the roots and be very mindful and centered when we dug things up. Plant Spirit Medicine is like that.
How we dig and care for our people as spiritual healers
Because it is medicine for the spirit of a person, PSM healers are careful, aware, present and not afraid to go beyond, go beneath, listen from the depths of their awareness to the depth of their clients’ hearts. The more I work and network and meet other healers in the Chicago area, the more I realize that as a group, Plant Spirit Medicine practitioners have a very unique and beautiful bedside manner, for lack of a better word. We really go beyond asking the questions, doing an intake, and connecting with a client. We truly listen. We dig deep. We truly observe, we truly honor the spirit of our clients. This way we can really listen to what is happening in the body, mind and most importantly, the spirit of our clients … and we can then call on our plant allies to help them in the most profound way possible.
I remember quite vividly every single one of my meetings with Huichol shamans for the purpose of healing. Each session has been life changing and transformative. Each session has been different. And in fact, I’ve never gone to a shaman because I feel unwell physically. I go to them because they are experts at returning us to spiritual health and wellbeing. I am not a shaman. I am a Plant Spirit Medicine healer. My teacher, Don Eliot Cowan, refers to Plant Spirit Medicine as a kind of household shamanism. As I understand it, it is a basic kind of shamanism that we as PSM healers can practice safely through our deep relationships with plants.
What shamans do
Bona fide shamans can cover, let’s say, a lot more territory when it comes to our spirits, our relationship with Divine, and our sacred purpose. Sometimes, after a client has been receiving PSM, they become ready to let go of deeper patterns, deeper attachments and different conditions of the body, mind and spirit. The visit to the shaman is then an amazing journey in itself.
A shamanic healing story
During one such visit, the shaman asked me about my dad, from whom I had been estranged for many years. He said, “Don’t be surprised if that changes this year and you hear from him.” Within 3-4 months I happily had heard from my dad again and we have been in touch ever since. This re-connection with dad brought back a deep sense of peace and confidence. I did not know it, but that re-connection was essential (some would say critical) to my overall wellbeing.
Plant Spirit Medicine and Shamanism
Some clients have asked me recently why Plant Spirit Medicine Healers at times refer their clients to Huichol shamans.
The best way I can explain it is that Plant Spirit Medicine and Huichol shamanic treatments just work beautifully together. It may be that the root or inspiration and fountain of wealth for both is the same, the ancestral spring of wellbeing that is the Huichol culture.
I have often described the healing process and my work with my Plant Spirit Medicine clients as akin to the peeling of an onion … it takes us many years to become as disconnected, stressed and imbalanced as we often are. So it takes time to return to a state of balance. As the layers get shed and we move closer and closer to optimal health of body mind and spirit … different issues or conditions may begin to make their presence felt, sort of to let us know they are “ready to go.” It just occurs to me that the plant spirits help get us ready to shift these more profound patterns, and when these patterns or conditions are ready to “go,” the shaman helps them along their way in the best, most effective, safest and powerful way possible … and I must add, in the case of the Huichol shamans I’ve had the privilege to know … they do this with gorgeous (there is no other word) integrity.
Our beautiful, amazing country and the need for healing
I’ve been wondering for a few weeks if our life in the USA does not at times interfere with our ability to ask for what we need and with our ability to receive healing. Those same traits so helpful to our beautiful country’s founding fathers may in fact get in our way when we need help. In the US we are encouraged to be independent, to be trailblazers, to go at it on our own, to persevere in spite of the odds. In some ways, we are encouraged to not ask for what we need or want … to not ask for help, else it may appear a sign of weakness.
In other countries, seeing a healer is par for the course
It is my experience that in many other cultures people customarily visit a healer or a shaman for help just to be able to take care of the “soot” we accumulate as a result of living our modern lives. It seems to me that in the U.S. most people feel they have to explain or hide it if they see a shaman or a healer or a Reiki practitioner or even an acupuncturist. And frankly, this gets in the way of our health and wellbeing. It puts us at a disadvantage. There is a reason why many of these systems of support and healing have been around since the beginning of time. They are a huge support to humans in the business of living, changing, transforming, aging and dealing with stress. The plants, the animals, the natural world have always been our great allies in this business of living. In Plant Spirit Medicine Healing I experience that the plants are immensely generous, powerful and in tune with exactly what it is we need to be well, to be in balance, to live and grow and thrive and to adapt to our environment optimally … just like they do!
I am not sure if it is because our country is, well, young … or if it is because as a people we are too independent for our own good.
While one can benefit hugely from Plant Spirit Medicine healing at any time, once we are already seriously ill it takes longer for the peeling of the onion of stress, strain, illness and imbalance. The plants are ready and happy to share their magnificent healing with us. All we have to do is ask. Why do some of us find it so difficult to ask, to receive? Could it be because in our country strength and independence are prized above all else?
Are you a healer? I would love to hear from you!
I truly have been giving some attention to this matter and I would love to hear from other Plant Spirit Medicine Healers and other alternative healing practitioners. Please share your opinion with me. Is it harder for us in this country to ask for help? To receive healing? To embrace preventive healing options?