It makes my heart sing that shamanic plant medicine, and shamanic plant communication is on the rise. The interest to connect more deeply with nature and the earth, and to look to history to explore what we can learn from our indigenous ancestors is a very good thing. I’ve found these practices fun, interesting and meaningful – they’ve provided me a prism through which I view the events of my life.
This post will do some basic defining of terms and touch on why and how you can benefit from shamanic practice.
What is shamanism, and what is a shaman?
Shamanism is an approach to life, a point of view that has to do with healing. Shamanism is a set of healing practices of ancient indigenous people. A shaman, then, is a practitioner of these practices. The shaman of an indigenous community is a medicine man or woman.
There are hallmarks and common beliefs of shamanic practices around the world, and the commonality is due to the universality of the laws of nature. I’ll focus on the laws of nature in other posts, but just know that there are universal principles of energy and nature (google it to get started!). Here are 2 common beliefs of many shamanic practices and systems share:
- Everything is sacred. Plants, clothing, you, me, our pets, cars and apartments. They all have the potential to contain sacred content. It is all about the point of view that we have about our own lives. IMHO (in my humble opinion) this principle is an invitation to change our point of view of our lives.
- Disease and dysfunction have energetic origins and can be addressed through re-alignment with energy and nature. If we can connect with nature, and understand how it operates and how we operate within it, we can begin to heal from disease, dysfunction and misalignment. This is not to say you will live forever or that it will be easeful, but you can move toward healing.
A related definition:
What and who are indigenous people? Indigenous people are those whose lives are guided primarily by the laws and rhythms of nature. So, the seasons, sunrise and sunset, astrological calendars and the like that draw from nature and the earth determine how life unfolds.
And the big question:
How can these practices help modern people? I love my modern life and science-centric healthcare – I’d be gonzo without it! I love my home and my car and my blog and my MacBook. Love.
Working with flower essences, taking shamanic journeys and connecting energetically with plants and nature remind me of who I am, where I came from, and inform me of how I can be in better alignment with nature.
Nature is an undeniably powerful force.
Shamanic plant medicine, when done without the hierarchy “I am a Shaman” stuff, but is used simply as the collection of practices it is, with the aim of bringing everyday magic into our lives, invites us to live more deeply from our hearts and our energy bodies. We can surf the static and craziness of life a little more easily.
From an evidence-informed perspective, these practices are adjuncts to change – they support us to follow a more healthful life and to live more mindfully and more gently on the earth. They work along with sciences like positive psychology.
We’ll be practicing shamanic journey, and shamanic plant medicine in Costa Rica in February.
Does everyone know by now that none of us are ever alone? That we all have guides – ancestral, animal, plant and angelic beings swirling about us pretty much all the time? Being introduced to my spirit guides has deeply enhanced my own life, and I encourage you to explore yours.
How do you find your guides? Here are a few ideas:
Is there anyone in your family (including pets!) that has passed on that you had a deep and special bond with, or who had a bit of the bodhisattva (love bunnie) in them? It is very likely that a part of them is still with you, but perhaps you are only aware of them on occasion in dreams. You can begin to connect with them in your dream (there are courses for that!) and you’ll often find that if and when you do, they become more present in your waking life.
You can ask, before you head off to sleep, for a dream that connects you with a guide who can help you at this time in your life. You can take notes – keep a dream journal of when you see them.
Go to where they live
From my experience, guides tend to hang out mostly in non-ordinary consciousness. I have met guides in dreams, when I was really sick and delirious, and when I was in an altered state thanks to medicine, breath work or being in a place conducive to it. So, the more time you spend in meditation, day-dreaming, sleep-dreaming and the like, the more likely you will encounter a guide.
Don’t be afraid to connect, but be discerning
Your guides are benevolent beings who want the best for you. They won’t be or feel creepy (though they may be funny or ironic), threatening or malevolent. If you don’t feel comfortable with them, I would recommend steering clear. You can go slow.
Once you have recognized someone, perhaps in your dreams, just say hello and because it is likely the family-member version, I don’t need to cue you on what to say. You might ask it a question, you might have a full conversation. If you do, remember to say thanks if you get a response to your query.
If your guide doesn’t come to you today or tomorrow, no worries. They are there. I find that when I am open to them, they come wandering in. The animals, the grandparents, the being whom I don’t yet recognize but always knew was there. There they are. It’s just a matter of time. No rush.Pinterest
Not MDMA (though I do understand that when used skillfully, it can be a healer). I’m talking about life. Transcendent moments are our birthright. Moments of everyday ecstasy and wonder.
Everyday ecstasy is why I do yoga. It’s why I meditate and why I enjoy/suffer through the ups and downs of these long-term contemplative practices as my body ages, coming back over and over and over again. To taste that nectar of a momentary unitive state. The sweetness, the soma that is our birthright. Mind-body practices like yoga build resilience, in part because of how good a moment of unitive consciousness feels.
It’s why I’m studying plant spirit healing and plant initiations. I learn about how plants heal through (in addition to the regular study of plant medicine) non-ordinary conscious connection. My apprenticeship in plant spirits taught me how to listen deeply to plants and nature. To find and follow the golden thread that connects us.
One definition of mindfulness is focusing on something (almost anything) to the point of complete absorption. We fall into deep wonder with whatever we are focusing on, allowing ourselves a moment of ecstatic clarity. When we practice mindfulness or communion with a moment, it gives us the ability to transcend. We can transcend the muddy muck of the day and see things in a different light. Transcending is excellent for supporting healthy behavior change. And it’s fun.
Ken Wilber says altered states become permanent traits through repetition and integration. I have journeyed in alchemical divinations and I have journeyed with the breath and music, with shaman and with plants. Each route is sweet and lovely and challenging and took me face to face with the wonder of this one wackily precious and miraculous life. No polluting drugs are necessary, and that’s a bit of a secret. You have everything you need to transcend right inside your own sweet little body. In fact, I find as I get older that I’m so sensitive to substances in general, that it’s just easier to go au natural.
Plant Spirit Healing
My shamanic study with plant spirit healing has been key to a certain awakening. Through this work, I’ve gotten to know a number of plants personally. To me, Tulsi is a red-haired woman with flowing green robes, a sister I go shopping with at the celestial power object store. To me, she is the full pantheon of goddesses of the yoga tradition. Yes, she’s Durga AND Lakshmi AND Kali and everyone else wrapped into one beautiful mega-goddess that if we give half a chance, might just save the entire planet, or show us the way. St. John’s Wort is golden light. If light could be a food, it would be St. John’s Wort for me. I can use the nourishment of this ally, particularly in the dark months of winter. Please be advised that what each of these plants is for me is not what they will be for you. I am not recommending them for all. This type of experience, however, getting to know a plant on a personal energetic level, bestows a different type of healing. It is a type of healing much needed today: earth-centric energy healing.Pinterest
If this sounds a little “out there” to you, yes it is a bit. For many of you, sensation seekers and those who already talk to plants, for example, it’s not at all. There is a growing body of science to support the healing power of everyday ecstasy.
Later this year I will be offering an opportunity for you take a taste – to experience this work more deeply and see for yourself how it supports health and healing…stay tuned.
Happy Holidays and remember to fall into reverie whenever you get the chance!