Listening to Plants

11/7/12 9:25 PM

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Listening to Plants
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Preparing To Listen To Plants
Only to him who stands where the barley stands and listens well will it speak, and tell, for his sake, what man is. ~ Masanobu Fukuoka Plants are all around us but very rarely do we pay attention to them. They create the air we breathe and the food we eat. Nothing in our life is possible without plants.

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When listening to a plant. What remains is our possibility of connection with the rest of life. If you are like most of us it will take you at least that long to allow the mental chatter to subside a bit. Empty your mind. What sensations are elicited? Where in your body do you feel them? Notice what emotions. blanket. This is the neo-cortex that sits between our ears and gives us so much joy and anguish. At first that voice is barely audible. you are gathering information about the plant. or your grandmother. What we are practicing is the removal our mental cluter. we will not listen to them in the first place. As our species evolved and we became smarter and smarter monkeys. Do not bring any books or writing material with you if you think you might be tempted to pick them up before you are done. blood. just enough to allow room for our new learned intelligence. make yourself comfortable. the same “ground of being”. Feel the surrounding environment through your skin. foolish. and they do so without training: They have less to unlearn. or images arise as you pay attention to this plant. You may feel anxious. Turn your cell phone off. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter. The material that creates nourishment in a plant. the intelligence of nature. By bringing our attention back to this long forgotten part of our body and mind. As we use it. bored. If we do not recognize the possibility that plants may have something to tell to us. I consider listening to plants and gathering plants as separate and distinct activities. Bring a cushion. joyful. When you begin listening to plants I would not recommend doing anything else at the same time. we can reconnect with our instinctive intelligence. We are much closer to plants than we know. if we can hear it at all. Blood and chlorophyll are identical save that chlorophyll has magnesium at its core and blood carries iron. Use a rooted gait and go into Hakahele (moving vision) and Hakalau (peripheral vision). When gathering plants for a patient. and tingling. Use your peripheral vision to shift into a more receptive mode. Allow yourself to relax and soak in what is around you. you can move through the forest (or yard) and let your mind empty. but generally I do not do both at the same time. Just make a mental note of what is happening and go back to paying attention to the plant. In order to acquire learned intelligence we had to sacrifice our instinctive intelligence. In order to hear what plants have to say to us we must unlearn our layers of conditioning that smothers our perceptions of the world. However. is only one molecule different from material that transmits nourishment in our body. Listening to Plants Only by going alone in silence. and mentally introduce yourself. Do not edit yourself! You may have thoughts of the president. leave it in its natural state. This is why native peoples always come back to the lower belly as a source of life and wisdom. Sit down. Our learned intelligence is associated with our head. what is left is a kernel of our heritage as mammals. discomfort. or annoyed. chlorophyll. can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. that we can now begin to flex. Listening to plants is not a skill that is learned. It is the source of our “lost” intelligence. Small children listen to plants remarkably well. I may do one thing or the other. one for which you have an inexplicable affinity.com/more/articles/listening-to-plants/ Page 2 of 4 . that voice will become stronger and clearer. the patient is the center of attention. It will help to put you in an appropriate frame of mind. But slowly. Pay particular attention to what happens in your body as you sit with this plant. listening to a plant is a form of gathering. You may feel nothing whatsoever. Not all of our instinctive intelligence was sacrificed. Take your time.Listening to Plants 11/7/12 9:25 PM As a species we emerge from the same ecosystem as do plants. it is a skill that is unlearned. After you have done your ritual. our intelligence came at a price. Our lower belly is our connection to nature and to the natural world. In other words. except that you are not gathering the plant itself. long dormant. Once we are willing to accept that as a possibility. Notice changes in temperature and shifting sensations in your body. without baggage. Creating a Kapu Space is a very useful ritual before spending time deep listening. But our more ancient and deeper intelligence is associated with the lower belly. or cut or tear leaves or branches. Your body may feel all manner of sensations: pain. set time aside to do just that. then we must practice listening. Select a plant that seems to be “calling” you. preferably two. the plant is the center of attention. We cannot learn to listen to plants. Do not write anything down while you are listening. In a sense. or a chair with you unless you know that you will be sitting on comfortable grass or sand. http://earthmedicineinstitute. In practicing we are again learning to trust that small faint voice inside us. if we pay attention and are diligent. Do not pull the plant out of the ground. or a kitchen sink. when you are getting ready to listen to a plant. touch it and smell it. it will grow stronger with time. It is like a muscle. ~ John Muir Set aside at least an hour. you may want to do a ritual as if you were going to gather plants. sensations. When we have sloughed off our layers. It does not matter. If you are sure that the plant is non-toxic.

I discovered that the plant when used fresh causes stomach pain. some things will fit. If you are a practitioner. thank the plant. And like some of our friends. Some plants will surprise you. and some of it will never make sense to you. you may find yourself using herbs in the clinic. a small field notebook with water resistant pages used by field biologists. I sometimes rely on a “Rite in the Rain” book for my notes. Select a situation in which you will have minimal outside distractions. Again. It could be a confirmation such as a sudden breeze. Weeds are suddenly something interesting rather than a nuisance. but do not give in to the temptation to write anything down just yet. One day. Ultimately. • Select a plant you wish to listen to.David Bruce Leonard / Photos & website by Maria Arroyo http://earthmedicineinstitute. You find yourself viewing plants differently than you have before. some will become apparent over time. EXERCISE: Listening to Plants • Pick a place in nature that you can be comfortable. I will sometimes lay with my head resting on a part of the plant. Rather than the medicine you have been taught. • Spend an hour or two just sitting and listening to the plant. you may find yourself practicing a different kind of medicine. You may have decided which plant that is beforehand or you can choose one that you are attracted to for whatever reason. So I would recommend writing things down. and patients in a different way.Listening to Plants 11/7/12 9:25 PM If I can do so comfortably. Review what you have learned. While I like to think that I always remember the important things. Turn off the ringer to your phone. you will notice that you are paying attention to your friends. once you are done listening. Make a mental note of any thoughts. When you are done. or sensations that arise for you. bring a chair or a blanket with you so that you can be comfortable. When I first gathered Eclipta alba (han lian cao) in the wild. Use your body as an antenna. Allow the information received to settle into your psyche over the following weeks and months. If you want to you can then go back and write down your experience… or not. loved ones. you can experiment with it a bit and see how it holds up to what you had experienced. in retrospect this has not always been the case. you may modify it so that now all of you is involved in the process. differently. All right reserved: Earth Medicine Institute . as these plants become your friends. not just half of your brain. you have made a friend. they may self-disclose or not. Your relationship to that plant will be changed forever. • Ask permission to sit and listen to the plant. If you are 100% certain that the plant is not toxic and does not need special preparation. Wait for some kind of “response”. See how much you can remember of your experience. the sound of a bird. Some of it will make sense to you immediately.com/more/articles/listening-to-plants/ Page 3 of 4 . thank the plant and write about your experience. emotions. or a sensation in your body. Once you have really listened to a plant. If you need to. • When you feel complete. The dried plant in the clinic never did that! Over time. depending on their mood and our ability to read nuances. they will have more and more to say to you. and some things will not.

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