Developing Relationships with Plants

The careful observer can glimpse the seemingly impossible even with the unaided eye, a fact which forces one to prostrate oneself in adoration before the mysterious origin of all things.
— Goethe

Merging with the Plant—There are certain challenges inherent in this work. At some point, we will all come up against that part of ourselves that questions the reality of our own experience, but in order to do this work we must accept that there are many layers to reality other than that which can be measured and experienced with the senses on which we normally rely. We must also come to terms with the fact that intelligence exists outside of the human psyche. By doing this work, you can establish an ongoing relationship with the plant, and the connection to your true Self and everything around you may be deepened. You and the plant will merge. It will become a part of your consciousness; an aspect of your energetic makeup that can be called upon at any time. In fact, it will may show up on its own when you really need help.

Know Thyself—You have to get to know yourself inside and out and develop awareness around your quirks of mind and body before you can really understand the effects plants have on you. What happens when you sit in meditation? Do you normally feel warm or does a pain develop in your back? You need to know these things so that when you begin working with a plant you can recognize which feelings and/or sensations belong to you and which are the manifestations of the plant. Sometimes this is tricky and is, for most of us, a lifelong study. As you delve deeper into these realms the differences become ever more subtle, and the plants also have interesting methods of teaching us.

Sometimes they magnify what is already there so we can finally see what might be obvious to everyone else. Sometimes they show us the opposite effect of how they operate in the body. I will often ask a plant, “What type of person are you useful for?” Sometimes the answer comes in images; other times I will be contorted into a painful experience that the plant is a remedy for. Being able to distinguish between these different forms of communication is a deep study that takes time and lots of experience, but for me has been an exciting journey that has born much beneficial fruit in my living a happy life as a human being.

Sit with and listen to the plants*:

  • Allow yourself to be drawn to a plant, preferably you will make this initial encounter in the plant’s native habitat. Approach the plants with respect and humility as you would a great teacher.
  • Open your heart and connect energetically. Set your intention to get to know the plant on an intimate level and communicate this directly to the plant itself. Sit down with it, introduce yourself, get to know it. Think of this as the beginning of a courtship with a potential new lover or friend. Don’t rush things. This is foreplay—touch the plant, caress it, inhale its scent, open your heart to it, allow your energies to commingle, make offerings to the plant, etc.
  • Now you are ready to start ingesting the plant (with permission of course.) Crush some between your fingers and really smell it. Start to nibble on the leaves and other parts. Notice the taste and the action it has on your body. Is it salty, sweet, pungent, sour, or bitter? Does it astringe? Is it moistening? Warming or cooling? Maybe it is combinations of all of these. Also, note how it affects you emotionally. Pay attention to all of these impressions and make note of them.
  • If it feels right and you have the plant’s permission, harvest some of the herb to make medicine. If it isn’t the proper season for harvesting, find some that you can start working with.
  • Ingest the plant at least twice a day, especially first thing in the morning and right before you go to bed. Make a ritual of it. Sit with it at your altar.
  • Try to experience the plant in as many ways as possible. Bathe in it, put it under your pillow, hang some above your bed, burn it, sprinkle it all over your house, integrate it into your food, try it fresh, in tincture form, as an oil, tea, or powder. Make use of all parts of the plant. Visit it at night (especially during the full moon,) sit with it, and meditate with it. Take small amounts, and, only after you have researched it and made sure it is not toxic!, ingest large quantities. Obtain seeds and plant them in your garden. Try to see it during all of the seasons and in varying stages of growth or decline. Know its habitat and observe its interactions with other plants and animals. Who pollinates it? Is it eaten by certain bugs or larger animals?
  • Pay attention to your dreams—keep a journal. Do Plant Immersions and Provings. Study the Doctrine of Signatures.
  • Pray with devotion, make genuine offerings (the plants know you deeply and sense incongruity), perform rituals, make altars and shrines, sing.
  • Ask for help; commit to the relationship as you would with an intimate friend or lover…the plants and spirits themselves have an unwavering commitment.
  • At first don’t read too much about the plant. Get to know it on your own terms, and then start to gather information. Your personal experience and that which you read about will merge and allow for a greater understanding. Find reference to it in other traditions from around the world and compare its uses to those in the Western tradition. Explore the folklore surrounding it and learn about other ways it has been used by people.
  • As you get to know each plant you will get to know yourself better, and a reciprocal illumination will occur.
  • Find your way! Each person’s experience will be unique and medicine that you give will have different effect than medicine that someone else gives.
  • And the fun part...share it with your friends and family to see how they react.
  • Enjoy!

*Please do thorough study of the toxic plants of your area before embarking on this exploration so you don’t poison yourself or others.