Receive what comes to you.
My plant spirit teacher taught me that plants that will heal me will come to me. All I need to do is receive. Receiving – coming into relationship and taking that in, however – takes a little preparation.
Those of you who read my newsletter know that my family had quite a struggle through the winter with a life-threatening illness – happily we’re on the mend and the dark rider passed us by (sheesh!). Through that time I cut way back on work – we lived on air and the love of family and friends. We are resting and integrating that experience. This morning it dawned on me that my garden this year has serious messages for me and mine.
Is this obvious enough?
This mullein plant (the tall fellow in the back) sprung up smack dab where my usual sunflowers gather. Hi mullein. Guess what mullein does, on the energetic level? It is protector of home and supporter of abundance, among other things.
Other plants that have nearly overwhelmed us with no input from me are calendula – a beautiful healing fire plant (it’s the yellow-orange flower up front), borage (that blue fellow) a 5th chakra healer of communication for me, and dill. So much dill (again a protector of home an supporter of abundance). Oh, and a bumper crop of wild strawberries are right outside my office – food for my indigenous genetics. I could go on and on, but will stop there.
Get the message, Annie?
These plants are three feet from my front door. All I have to do is receive their support.
How to Receive the Support of Plants
So, how do you receive the support of the plants that make their way to you?
In order to participate in any ecological system (and plants belong to an ecological system along with you) meaning that there are complex dynamic inter-relationships, you first need to get out of a consumer mindset. We humans and certainly Americans get into consuming – eating as fuel or in a mechanistic way, for example. Instead, think of a plant as another being. A person, if that’s helpful. Or think of them as akin to a power-animal or guide. You might thing of eating as receiving – rather than consuming.
Then, get quiet and open your heart. One easy way to do this is to sit quietly, and lengthen and deepen you breath (without forcing it – let your breath deepen as in response to an invitation). You might imagine yourself seated in the velvety dark cave of your own heart. take a few moments to quiet and center yourself in this way.
Next, make contact with the plants. Be among them, breathe them in. Admire them. If they are edible, slowly and mindfully, as a meditation, taste them. Breath and relax, and notice how it feels to commune with the plants in this way.
The practice of receiving is simply the practice of being open and feeling how it feels to be in relationship. The practice of receiving is a practice of appreciation – of acknowledging, as my teacher would say, your place in the magnificent web of life and nature. All is well.
As you receive the gifts these friends, these guides have for you, expressing gratitude is an excellent next step if it feels right for you. Take a moment to appreciate what’s happened, a few notes in a journal may be helpful, and off you go on a blessed day.
You can receive the gifts of any part of your life – be it your yoga or meditation practice, the love of a friend, the good work you do, anything you enjoy or find interesting or challenging in your life – can you receive it? Can you slow down enough to take it in?
Benefits of the Practice
Learning to have a bit more of this in your life can help you to understand your place in the ecology – in the interactive web of life – in which you live, and that you have created. It may help you see aspects of life, or things in your life that no longer serve you or that actually injure or inhibit you. You can let go of those things. Learning to be a little more receptive can inform your next step.
Be well, and here are a couple other posts that may interest you:
How Mindful Presence Transforms
Mindful Eating: The Art & Science of Eating Better
There’s been talk in the integrative wellness world about coherence, so here’s a bit about that. It’s about vibration and the waves created therein. Some scientists say that all communication comes down to vibrational waves – light, sound, movement – how animals and plants, the cells within them and much of the world itself communicates.
Let’s talk about waves and how to begin to discuss them. A good place to start is with few definitions.
Wavelength: A wavelength is the distance between two similar points of two waves – crest (top) to crest or trough (bottom) to bottom, for example.
Frequency: The number of waves produced per second. Speaks to speed and length.
Amplitude: Half the distance from peak to trough. It can also be thought of the height of a wave from the rest position (the inflection point in the middle where the wave is not moving) to the peak. How big it is.
Wave Speed: How fast it is moving (in meters per second).
Period: The time it takes to pass a point, in seconds. Speed.
Some of these sound close in definition and they are, but I am going to leave it there for the time being. If you are curious, do a little more research. Thanks.
So, coherence involves two waves meeting – they can meet in a coherent way (speed and frequency are similar enough to become in sync) and increase amplitude, or incoherently and decrease amplitude. When waves are incoherent, the waves can actually cancel each other out, or go a little haywire and splat (not a technical term but I hope you get the visual – plop!).
The metaphysical idea is that we are each born with a certain frequency (my teacher says we each come in on a different color of the rainbow of light). Our wavelength and frequency determine, to a great extent, to whom and what we resonate. What’s coherent to us, the thinking goes, is what gives us a boost and makes us feel stronger. Philosophers in this area go on and on, spiraling deeper and deeper in the dance of energy.
The human heart – that strongest muscle in our body – is an oscillator – it creates electical waves, and some believe it creates the human energy field. Get where I’m going?
What Might It Mean?
- When we do grounding practices in yoga we become more coherent with the earth.
- When we show appreciation for a plant, we are becoming more coherent with the plant.
- When we seek to understand what another person is saying, or feeling – when we empathize, we are becoming more coherent with that person.
- When we cultivate gratitude we become more coherent with our own life and life itself.
Coherence is a basis for communication – it is a connection. My teacher says it is a communion.
I say it is a way of understanding energy. Of understanding our subtle bodies (meaning our energy bodies, our emotional bodies, the aspects of us we can’t see and have difficulty measuring) and the world around us. The idea that cultivating coherence leads to and is akin to following our bliss. These ideas are consistent with both yoga and with positive psychology and with plant spirit healing. They are energy-competent lenses for experiencing life.
Is This for Real?
Is there Western clinical science that might back this up? From what I’ve see thus far, there are many interesting possibilities, but I have yet to see a really well conducted study that proves this all happens in the way I’ve presented. I want one, believe me – intuitively it makes perfect sense. But the science, well, it’s so young it doesn’t yet speak.
And yet. It’s worthwhile to study energy. Knowing how to operate your own energy field, how to ground yourself, how to expand when it’s helpful – these are clearly helpful skills in this destabilized and chaotic time. So, let’s keep studying. With a clear eye and an open heart.
Through my programs this year – in Costa Rica, the March weekend (Every Bite Is Divine) , my week with Jeremy and the program I’ll lead in July (Subtle Body Nourishment) at Kripalu, I will be diving into the how of coherence – there are practices that can help you live more from, and funnel life through – this magnificent organ at the center of our being – our heart.
My garden right now is filled with the sweet green goddess known as tulsi.
Tulsi is a type of basil that originated in India. There are several types, like sisters in a family. If you ‘do yoga’, love botanicals, AND you haven’t met tulsi yet, I’m happy for you. Your future includes meeting one of the most sweetly powerful and healing herbs in the canon. I have great sisterhood with this plant and feel that I am introducing you to one of my coolest and best friends. When I refer to her, I am referring to the big T – the green goddess herself – tulsi.
A distinguishing feature of tulsi is its fragrance – it’s rich, buttery and flowery with an undertone of funk. Tulsi (which translates as “incomparable one” in Sanskrit) occupies an auspicious place in yogic/Ayurvedic tradition. It is thought to be an embodiment of the goddess Lakshmi, she of abundant good fortune, of being held in esteem in a community, and of generosity. In India, many homes have a tulsi plant at their doorstep, and women (and I’m sure men) have a tulsi plant near their bed so that the gentle breeze carries the scent of tulsi to them as they sleep, bestowing them with ageless beauty.
In the Garden
Much like the goddess, my tulsi seems to have a mind of her own. She goes where she wants, comes up really late (late June this year – thank goodness I held her space!). I have not been successful at growing her from seed so that I can get a jump on the season – nope, not how she’d prefer to roll. Yet, tulsi comes rolling back, year after year in her own preferred manner my garden. I often smell tulsi and then oh, there’s a plant popping up amongst the roses or corn.
I never needed tulsi seeds, though I’ve purchased many packets. My original tulsi plant came to me auspiciously – from Sweetwater Sanctuary in VT. Pam Montgomery gave me and my fellow apprentices plants (in 2013), and mine has happily multiplied into tulsiville.
Culinary & Preserving
I’ve tried for years to make a good oil infusion of tulsi but have been only modestly successful at capturing that unique fragrance in oil. Drying, I find, works best for me. I’ll then drink it as tea through the cooler months. If I have a gathering of gal herbalists I may attempt herbalist Brittany Wood Nickerson’s yellow cake which she served once incorporating dried tulsi….magnificent. She’s just come out with a cookbook filled with scrumptious herbal fare, but the way, which I strongly recommend.
You can also make a pesto with tulsi.
To dry tulsi or any herb (I have mugwort, cilantro, lemon balm and mint drying now), gather a bunch of it, tie it into a bundle at the stem, and hang in a place that will be warm and dry. Attics are great if they are reasonably well ventilated, and you can find a place to hang your crop. After a couple dry weeks (challenging this year), cut the bundle down. For plants that I intend to use as a tea of spices, I pull the dry leaves off the stem and place them in glass jars. Between Mason and jelly jars, you have a jar for any quantity of herb.
Medicinal & Energetic
From a Western medical perspective, tulsi is an adaptogen and has been studied for a variety of uses. Adaptogenic activity means that, like ginseng, it contains a complex array of phytonutrients that act in different ways but tend to overall support homeostasis – or healthful balance. So, tulsi tea is a terrific drink through the fall when back-to-whatever stress and cool winds conspire to give us colds and other crud.
Energetically, I’ve done a number of shamanic journeys with tulsi and here’s what I learned. Tulsi embodies all the goddesses of tantra – she’s Lakshmi, Deva, and yes Kali and all the rest – all rolled into one. She just might be the MahaDevi – the mother goddess. This is my own perspective colored, no doubt by my study of the goddesses of tantra. I know and love them, and draw on them often. In my study, these goddesses represent parts of ourselves (even if you are a man – we each contain both divine masculine and feminine within us). So, interestingly, I’ve found tulsi is energetically adaptogenic as well. From my discussions with other herbalists in my tradition who work energetically with plants, my view is not unique.
You can increasingly find tulsi plants and seed at your local garden shop. If not, try Mountain Rose Herbal or Horizon Herbs.
Have a beautiful day.
How many of you, when you look at how I describe myself, say to yourself “What the heck is plant alchemy?” Come on now, I know you do.
What Are Alchemists?
Alchemists were the scientists of the 16th century. They were a fascinating lot – a little scientific, a little more than a little out there. While they were the doctors and healers of their time, their obsession was transformation, most famously, the preoccupation of how to turn lead into gold.
Modern Day Alchemy
Alchemy today embraces the science, art, and spirit of healing. So, as a plant alchemist, I stay up on the science of plant-based diets for health, and the advantages and disadvantages of eating in this way. I also embrace the art of plants – of growing, cooking and living with plants, learning from them as they are our ancestors. I love herbalists and Ayurveda practitioners, as well as clinical nutritionists and naturopaths. Then, there’s the energetics of plants and nature. I’ve been diving into how we can use plants as an entree into ecstatic healing, and the many medicinal plants, including the astounding array of psychoactive plants as well as the much less dramatic, ones available to us for health and healing.
So, that’s plant alchemy, and that’s what I do – the science art and spirit of green beings. It’s very very good work if you can get it.
Energy Hygiene Practices
Within plant alchemy, energy hygiene has made a big difference in my life and I teach it all the time. For years now I’ve been doing a daily smudge with Paulo santo (a wood from South America) and I’ve fallen in love with the ritual and of course, I love love that beautiful smell. The smudge, wherein I light a piece of wood and scrub my energy body, is the greeting of the day “Hello tree, good morning stones, hi birds.” I then move my spine and undertake some fiery belly pranayama practice – stomach pumping, fire breath, a “take the whole thing and lift and throw it over your shoulder root lock” (or subtle version – a fine thread lifting version) – depending on my needs and the season. I give thanks, I make blessings, then move on with my day. In the shower, I have flowers or plant matter whenever possible, and as I shower I intentionally clear my energy field. Often, I will head outside to stomp around barefoot, grounding. All these practices – the daily fare of clearing and charging my energy field – are energy hygiene practices.
We modern humans can learn how to live our days in harmony with the earth and with nature. The earth and nature are changing, destabilized, and we feel it at our very cores. We can learn how to navigate that – how to ground ourselves when we need it, how to charge ourselves when we need it – by learning the skill of energy hygiene.
Vieques PR is an island about the size of Nantucket. One difference between these beautiful islands is that 50 years ago half of Vieques was cleared of long-term and indigenous residents and used as bombing target practice by the US military. Another difference is that in spite of its tortured history, Vieques is home to one of the most bioluminescent bays in the world.
I’ve just returned from Vieques with a group of herbalists and healers who went to the island to communicate with the dinoflaggelate (pyrodinium bahamenses) occupants of the bay though a Shamanic practice we share called Plant Spirit Healing.
Pam Montgomery, Plant Spirit Goddess
In my newsletter this month I talked about this amazing little organism and the very specific ecology it needs to shine. The bay is calm, saltier than the ocean, and 4 different types of mangroves feed the dinoflagellates with a B-vitamin rich nutrient cocktail. There have been periods of time when the ecology got disrupted when the bioluminescence didn’t happen. I can relate!
Spending time with the these little guys, who need lots of darkness and agitation to be observed (remind you of anything?) got us all exploring what we each and collectively need, in order to bioluminate (which humans do!). What is the ecology surrounding and including you, that you need in order to shine?
As we pondered this together, and did Shamanic journeys and shared in sacred circle, we each reported what we need to be our full selves. As we shared together, something familiar (to those who hang out in spiritual spaces) happened. We bonded and elevated. It feels like falling in love. It is falling in love.
To complete our time together, we created a Shamanic landscape. This is a mandala-like natural work of art/prayer that includes all the plants each of us connected with and the flowers we enjoyed. It represents the collective energy of each of us who gathered together for this week in the sun. As you can see, it’s beautiful. We called it the flag of #Ensparkleation Nation.
In this time of chaos and uncertainty, of occupying the time beyond the tipping point (and I think this is why everyone is acting so crazy – we are going insane because we have pretty officially destroyed our planet and everyone feels that destabilization), we need to seek out connection. The ability to laugh together, to smile together, to feel connected is our medicine today.
What you can do to help the whole of humanity become creative enough to somehow solve this impossible problem or adapt to what is coming, is to find out the ecology you need to shine. For me, working healthy boundaries have been hard, painful and ultimately really excellent work (I’m working to make it less painful, and mango is helping me!).
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the darkness around you, fear not. If despair is creeping in, fear not. Fear not. You need that darkness in order to shine. You otherwise would not be seen. So, what do you need to say now? What is hyper-true for you? What do you need to do to allow that unique and perfect light inside you to shine a little brighter?
What a time for the great practices of radical non-attachment, of taking the next right action regardless of the outcome! Maybe the outcome doesn’t matter, not in this one moment.
Join me, my friend. Breathe, smile and be, and take whatever next right step feels right for you. Join Ensparkleation Nation and shine with me.