The Cascadia bio-region in the Northwestern part of the United States is blessed with a wide variety of medicinal plants growing in many diverse habitats. Huge stands of Oregon Grape cover the deep forest floor. Juniper dots the high desert lands where Sagebrush dominates. Sea Watch Angelica clings to coastal bluffs. Pipsissewa and Goldthread inhabit the pristine temperate forest while the lands scarred by human progress are home to St. John’s Wort and Plantain. Western Redcedar towers above, overlooking it all, Yarrow makes itself home in all zones, morphing from lush green at the coast to three-inch tall, grayish-green, barely-leaved stalks at timberline, and the mushrooms connect it all via underground mycelial networks. It is my mission in life to reestablish a connection with the plants of these lands in which I live. I have been sitting with and studying the medicinal plants for many years now, allowing them to interweave their energies with my own. Allowing them to enter my nervous system and traverse the energetic pathways of my body. In this way the plants have healed me and become my teachers. They have accompanied and guided me on my path of transformation.
In my teaching, I have striven to present ample space for each person to have his/her own personal encounter and perception of the plants that is as little affected by outside influence as possible. It is a highly personal experience to commune with these beings in this way, and by the very nature of this work, each person’s experience will be unique. Each person brings his/her own particular psychological, emotional, and spiritual issues to the arena and the intermixing of consciousnesses often results in an entirely personal drama perfectly scripted to facilitate the healing and awakening of each individual.
In the end, however, what I have found is that all of these individual dramas eventually weave themselves together, reminding us that we are all indeed interconnected. We are left with no choice but to hold space for the coexistence of these opposites: uniqueness and commonality. We are all children of this creation arising from the same source. And this is the reason we are able to commune with and receive in such a way from the plants in the first place. When we work with plants in this way, we are able to transform things held merely as mental concepts into something that can be experienced energetically with our beings and understood on a deeper level. We can participate with each other in weaving these powerful and poetic tapestries of the human condition that amplify the channels of our own and others' expression and awakening.
That said, I ask that you treat the accounts of my experiences the same way that you would treat someone’s account of a trip to the jungles of Peru or the temples of SE Asia. Not as direct descriptions of a place but of something that entices you to want to visit these places yourself with an understanding that you are reading as much about the person visiting the place as you are about the place itself. I invite you to open yourself to the possibilities rather than the specifics of each account, and to use these as a springboard for your investigations into your self and the teachings and healings that the plants may have to offer you. Only after you have given yourself this opportunity should you look more carefully at the specific healing properties of the plants as laid out here in these pages. To me it is far more important for the concepts be taken in and grasped than for the plants to be used for specific psycho-spiritual ailments. There is plenty of time for that type of practitionership to develop, and in the end it is the discovery or "remembering" of how you relate to the plants that will guide your own work with them for healing yourself and others.
Soon after I received this mission, I realized that it was not something I could do alone. I moved myself back to the city knowing I had unfinished business in my relations with other humans. I couldn’t just run away from that and retreat into a world of plant communion. However enticing that may have been, I knew that something would have been missing and this work would have fallen flat. This work calls out for relationship. It flourishes in a community setting, and thankfully wonderful and devoted people have arrived and stepped up to the task—people who can see the beauty, magic, and depth of wisdom that the plants so willingly offer us in the form of their teachings and healings. This blog will be filled with the contributions of their unique perceptions and insights. To all of these people I am immensely and forever grateful. This work would have been impossible without them.
And finally, interspersed throughout it all will be historical perspectives, traditional uses, and the seemingly mundane aspects of wildcrafting and medicine making. Although it may seem out of place in a blog about the psychological and spiritual aspects of plant medicine, for me the harvesting of and making medicine from plants is inextricably intertwined with their expression in the spiritual realms. Through these processes there is much to be learned. Not only does being out in the wild with the plants with our feet on the ground, our hair blowing in the wind, and our hands digging in the dirt keep us from getting carried away in fantasies about the world and our place in it, but we can also see how our intentions and composure affect the medicinal properties of the plants. You will find that the medicine that you make will be different than the medicine that your friend makes even when you harvest it from the same stand. You will also find that when you give someone medicine, the way that you go about this will bring about a different result than if that same medicine was given by someone else. It is all about intention. It is all about relationship—our relationship to ourselves, to the plants, to other humans and to the Earth and all of her inhabitants. In my opinion it is very important to constantly return to the forests, the mountains, the valleys, and deserts to renew our connections to the foundation of all that is and to firm ourselves in the green of our Mother Earth.
These lands vibrate with medicine—a wisdom and a strength that is available to all. Medicinal plants are here in abundance awaiting our return. As physical manifestations of the spirit forces of the land, they have the potential of being our most profound teachers. It only takes a small shift of consciousness, a slight turn of the dial, to reopen the channels. When we open ourselves to receive these teachings, we not only heal ourselves, but we make these healing forces more available to the earth, our families, our community, our society, and all of humanity. We all have encoded in our DNA the ability to be a part of and receive information from the life force that surrounds us. We need only remember ourselves for what we are—integral components of the Earth’s consciousness, and we need only listen to and put into practice the teachings offered by these divine beings of the plant kingdom.
Into the Green-
Scott Kloos, Portland, OR