Editors' Note: Sometime in 2007, a future edition of Vibration Magazine will have the special theme of plant communication and sacred relationships with plants. Would you like to make a contribution to that issue? If so, see our writers' guidelines here, and email us with your proposal.
The practice of sacred plant medicine depends on a particular way of gathering information from the world, not the reductionism that our modern culture so embraces, but an older way known to all ancient and indigenous cultures. It is a way of gathering information directly from the world itself, a way of learning the uses of plant medicines directly from the plants themselves.
Of primary importance in making sacred relationships with plants is to both experience and treat each of them like a person, as you yourself would like to be treated. All things have awareness, and all are made from the Fabric of Spirit. Because of our common birth, we can communicate with each another. With nonhuman inhabitants of Earth, the proper form of communication is ceremony.
Ceremony may or may not have words attached, but the important thing is the communication of meaning. The meaning communicated must include a genuine feeling of reverence for the plants and life. Without this, the form itself means little. This is because plants know how you feel; they can feel if you really care or not. This deep caring is evident in all native peoples and all who live close to the earth.
In beginning your relationship with plants, it is important to like them. Perhaps the easiest way is to find a plant in the wild that you feel moved by or to which you are drawn.
The plants that are most often felt to be emotionally moving are trees, and so perhaps this is what might move you. I have often felt that the tree holds some special significance for human beings. It is the one plant that has a long tradition of a separate sacred archetype that is found in all religions. When people come upon an ancient tree, some event occurs within them that takes them out of themselves and they, for a moment, feel the touch of a greater and deeper reality.
Whatever plant you are moved to make contact with, go and sit by the plant and just let yourself admire it and enjoy its beauty. Let yourself fall in love with it. And in this process, as you would do with anyone you loved, let yourself notice how the plant looks today. Notice how it feels to you. And offer to the plant a prayer or a short conversation and ask its permission to sit with it and enjoy its presence. Then notice how you feel. What do you think the response of the plant is?
The structure of our culture has involved a learning process for us as children in which our innate feelings and intuitions, our capacity for sacred experience, have not been actively supported. Instead, we have been taught to rely primarily on rational processes and to view skeptically other means of information gathering. An unlearning process is necessary to being able to make sacred relationships with plants. A person must learn to "think like a mountain." Once you begin to think like a mountain, of necessity, you think about the good of all life, and human beings take their proper place in that perspective. Once the process of unlearning has begun, the old knowledge and ways of seeing the world begin to return of their own accord.
When first learning about plants, it is easiest if you find someone to introduce you to them, and if you focus only on three or four of them. Each day, spend some time with them if you can. Learn all about them as medicines and use them for your own. If you think about them often, feeling into them and deepening your emotional relationship with them, they will come to permeate and be an integral part of your life.
When you sit with a plant and come to love it and work to hear it speak, it will talk to you of many things. And if it speaks to you of the pain Earth is feeling, it is important to hear it and receive it. In the process of sharing with you, the plants may ask you to do things for them: to offer prayers or tobacco, to carry one of them with you for a long time, to meditate with them or to sing to them each morning.
If you agree to do these things, you must never break your word. The plants do not understand traffic jams, children's school plays, or arguments with your mate. They only understand that human beings have been breaking their word for a long time. To carry the power of plant medicine, you must be trustworthy; your word to the plant relationships must be inviolate. As in all relationships, trust is built on keeping one's word. The more trustworthy you are, the more plants will tell you, and consequently, the more power and responsibility you will carry.
(Editors' Note: See another excerpt from this compelling and important book here.)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephen Harrod Buhner is the award-winning author of ten books on nature, indigenous cultures, the environment, and herbal medicine. Stephen lectures yearly throughout the United States on herbal medicine, the sacredness of plants, the intelligence of Nature, sacred plant medicine and the states of mind necessary for the successful habitation. His most recent works are Sacred Plant Medicine: The Wisdom in Native American Herbalism (2006) and The Secret Teachings of Plants: The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature (2004), both published by Bear & Company. For more information about his work, contact the Foundation for Gaia Studies.
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