Rituals add meaning to life. Over the past several years I have been participating in plant initiation rituals. They connect me more deeply and more coherently with nature than I have ever been.
As I write this, the wheel of the year approaches the summer solstice. This day is truly filled with light. I am preparing for a shamanic plant initiation that will unfold next weekend, a gathering of plant people led by my teacher and St. John’s Wort.
Plant spirit healing is a shamanic plant medicine practice that works energetically with and through plants for health and healing. In that tradition, a plant initiation is a coming together in a ritual to honor, connect deeply with, hear and receive the healing gift of a plant. It tends to involve experiencing the plant in a variety of ways; through breath, dieting (ingesting) wonderful things prepared by the facilitator. It is done in a ceremony; with singing, fires, shamanic guided imagery journeys and the like.
I have undergone several plant initiations so far and treasure this ritual experience in my life. Perhaps it’s my Catholic upbringing, filled with ritual. I was initiated by Tulsi (the green goddess!) and left with a spirit soul sister, someone to go mystery-shopping with in the cosmos. From Tulsi I learned ageless beauty and that all of the Shakti goddesses are within me – I can learn to draw upon them when needed. I was initiated by Dandelion (the indestructible grandfather guide!) at Damanhur, the eco-spirit community in Italy, and learned steadfast resiliency and impenetrability of spirit. Now it is St. John’s, and I already have a close relationship with the bestower-of-light. I hope to burn off a bit of dross and am open to an enlightening experience!
Bless you and may you have your own nature encounter today. Tell us about it!
Last year when I went to my plant spirit teacher’s retreat in Vermont, to the land of nature – outdoor showers, sleeping in bunks, and composting toilets, she asked us: How do you honor your indigenous self?
After a couple days of crud, I felt her – my indigenous self. As I got a little grody, I definitely got more ecstatic. It felt good to lie on the ground, wash in the stream and not worry so much about how I smelled. Something inside me became quite a bit happier than I usually am in my day-to-day connected life.
The more I’m outside the better I feel. But when I work (inside) a lot, I feel myself becoming outdoor averse – a little nature fear sets in – I get goo-averse. It’s not that I’m afraid of getting hurt outside, it’s more my aversion of being slightly uncomfortable. Then I think about bugs – then I think about Lyme’s (a real concern), and poison ivy (I am +++ allergic and have been hooked up to an IV for it). That is usually enough for me to excuse myself from what I love – to be close to, connected to, in and touching nature.
AHA! Classic resistance. There she is! Talk about our indigenous self! My negative fearful resistant brain, convincing me it’s too inconvenient and the benefit (happiness) is not worth the cost (bugs or…well, dirt…the whole outside is made of that!).
A wise friend told me that when working with these things – emotion, resistance, the following 3 step process can be helpful:
Feel it. Honor it. Release it.
I add step four: Repeat.
Feeling resistance, like fear of getting outside, could be a sign – I call them indicators – that it’s time for self-examination. Time to question and lean in, and in this case, get out(side). I know that if I feel the resistance and do it anyway, most often I will be glad I pressed through, worked through and did it.
Am I the only one who gets nature-averse while loving nature? What’s your experience?
This growing season (April – October) I apprenticed with herbalist and “spokesperson for the plants” Pam Montgomery. I’m so very ready to sing the praises of my teacher and what I’ve learned about our plant allies. It has changed my life for the better.
Pam’s approach draws from shamanic wisdom (though she’s quick to point out that she is not a shaman). She has developed a method of accessing the energy and spirit of plants for personal and universal healing. It’s about forming a personal relationship with plants. Then if used therapeutically, the healer channels the plant energy that performs the healing.
Pam is author of two books, Plant Spirit Healing and Partner Earth; a spiritual ecology. She teaches from her lovely (and energetically supercharged) farm Partner Earth Education Center at Sweetwater Sanctuary. If plant energy and spirit are of interest, check her out!
I have noticed in my reading of thinkers in the shamanic tradition that our internal dialogue, and getting your internal house in order is a prerequisite for this work. For me this may be the most powerful part of the apprenticeship – to take that work in myself to the next level of alignment with my aspirational self. Retire the snarky me? Well, hold the phone just a minute – fun and laughter are essential, but this work reminds me again to keep it good clean fun. It heightens my awareness of when my jokiness is not in service to the higher good, and also to practice calling others on jokes or comments that are at another’s expense (that’s a challenging skill for me to get right without injuring the one doing the teasing).
I honor Pam as a thinker and writer, teacher and conscious activist. In the world of integrative and aspiration teaching I notice two general types. One I call the guru model, where the teacher is wonderfully gifted but the student cannot exceed the teacher without triggering negative emotions from the teacher. There is an accusatory vibe even when primary sources are properly attributed and the teacher is honored – basically there is room for one star and it ain’t the student. You can probably sense this model doesn’t work for me, and I stay away from teachers who operate in the guru model. Give me the academic model any day! Where the job of the teacher is to help the student reach their full potential – to get bigger than the teacher is actually the point! Sure, it’s great when a student honors the teacher from whom they first heard an exciting new idea. But as Pam says “it’s about the plants”. I love and appreciate her generosity of spirit and a teaching philosophy that honors the universal laws of energy. Ideas and new information wants to expand, and if it is held, and if people are held with respect, the whole things just expands and expands.
I’ll report more on my experience with the Plant Spirit Healing modality – this winter, I continue to do practice sessions and some group work – it is amazing work. But it’s just right to begin by praising my teacher.