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

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

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