Grassroots Healing, Musings, Plant Medicine, Spirituality

On Being Called to Plant Seeds

I have taken on an apprentice. This is my second apprentice. The first quibbled over why my tea bag had a string and informative bit of card attached and his didn’t. I was attempting to teach him how to make a medicinally useful cup of tea. Suffice it to say, we didn’t get past that first lesson, mainly because sixteen is a fascinating age and so is their hair. My second apprentice is a little more eager, although the attention span is also a bit shorter, and she doesn’t actually like drinking herbal tea. Maybe because she’s nine or she’s going on 30. And the second-born hasn’t been engaged to be my third apprentice yet because he’s being called by volcanoes, and dinosaurs, and the ghosts of dinosaurs that were possibly consumed by volcanoes, who also code.

I am of course, talking about my children. As part of their home-school Science/Home Economics/Physical Education and Personal Development (insert other relevant compartmentalised Edubabble here) curriculum I thought I would start incorporating more formal botany, plant identification and herbal medicine lessons into their learning plan. I also had an overwhelming urge to pass on my knowledge so our tradition isn’t lost. I mean, after all, breast milk when they were babies and herbs as they grew and an inordinate supply of hugs, are the only medicine they’ve ever known when they have needed it. It should come naturally, right?  So, we’ve been using the excellent resource that is American herbalist, Kristine Brown’s Herbal Roots Zine – a monthly ‘zine subscription that focuses on a new herb each month. We have also owned the excellent Wildcraft board game since John & Kimberly from Learning Herbs first published it. And we use Jeannie Fulbright’s Exploring Creation with Botany, and Thomas J. Elpel’s Botany in a Day. And of course, we have lived in the bush, or nearby, ever since the kids were born (except that brief exile to suburbia in Melbourne, and that time we bummed around on Currumbin Beach for 8 weeks. Nevertheless, there are still medicinal weeds aplenty in these diverse places). The kids can identify most of the more common medicinals growing around us, wherever we have found ourselves.

Currently, my young Padawan is getting to know Dandelion. We’ve traipsed around our quiet little seaside community in search of it. She has learnt to identify and know the difference between lookalike species, she has harvested leaves and flowers, and dug roots, dried the leaves and sprinkled them in our dinner, picked the flowers to infuse in oil, pressed the plant and recorded interesting information about its virtues in her journal. Yet as I watch her colouring a picture of the Dandelion, I can’t help but wonder – has she heard the Dandelion’s song? You see, she knows the technical sort of details of the plant, but does she know its essence? It should come naturally right? I mean, after all, she has grown up knowing which herbs are what and what I have used them for, surely it would sort of rub off somehow, or maybe she’s inherited my passion.

But then, as is my wont, I pondered some more.

What do you do when the land climbs into your bones,

its green tendrils unfurl through your veins,

and it sings its blooms into your heart?

 

I was somewhat appalled recently when I discovered that a number of naturopaths using herbs have never seen the herbs they use in their original state (that is, as the whole living plant, or even a photo of it, not liquids in a brown bottle, or dried and crushed into equally non-descript pills), let alone be able to identify them if they happenchanced upon them in the wild. A profound sadness filled me. How could this be?! Actually, I felt quite traumatised by this. There is a deep wound here. A deep disconnect. And perhaps as affected as I was, not surprised because we are products of a reductionist society. But on reflection, it reminded me of a conversation I had not so long ago about the meaning of the seemingly unrelated word –Indigenous.  My friend and I were discussing this term in relation to the knowledge of our own Australian Indigenous herbal – or rather Bush Medicine – tradition, and how, it is a largely oral-based tradition that is well protected and not readily shared unless deep respect is earned by the seeker (ie; to people of European descent. Understandably). My friend and I, to the eye anyway, are both of European descent. I have Dutch, Scots/Celt, Scandinavian, & Jewish blood running through my veins, and there has been some speculation that there’s also a drop or two of Indigenous Australian blood in there as well, but whatever the case may be, here I am having been born here, my parents were both born here, as far as I am aware all of my grandparents were born here, and my great-grandparents – well therein is the diversity of where the different blood travelled from. I don’t know the lineage of my friend, but she was born here, she grew up in the bush and spent much of her life feeling strongly connected to it. I felt much the same. So, we began to wonder whether indigenous might also mean something beyond the meaning that we are politically familiar with.

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With all due to respect to our indigenous brothers and sisters and their history, which as a former archaeology/anthropology student and generally someone also experiencing the human condition, I deeply appreciate; this thought process isn’t about social justice or cultural appropriation. I believe herbal medicine transcends these by being the medicine of the people – whichever people you are and wherever in the world you find yourself putting down roots, and it saddens me that we’ve allowed the division from these very emotionally driven political ideas to permeate into our own solidarity as Plantfolk. This thought process is rather, about this thing called being indigenous as the Earth itself sees it – because if you go back far enough, we’ve all been sojourners coming from somewhere and going to and settling down somewhere else, and we’ve all been formed from the dust of the Earth. Some of us have just put down longer roots or sent out more entrepreneurial and aggressive runners. And this may be a bit of an esoteric idea for some, but in attempting to pass on my knowledge to my daughter, I realised that this is my calling, the plants have chosen me. It might not necessarily be hers, and I can’t make it so. Let me repeat that again; the plants have chosen me.

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The Australian Indigenous people do believe that it is the Land that chooses the people, not the other way around. Our descendants may have colonised it, pillaged it, raped it, but they did not own it. We use it for resources, but it only speaks to some of us. To the rest, it is a dead thing, and in my experience, when you treat things that are living as dead, as without soul or sentience, then it will only yield its gifts to you in kind. It’s the quick fix mindset, the extraction of isolated constituents all over again to produce pharmaceuticals that manipulate the body and produce uncomfortable and sometimes deadly side-effects. When there is no respect, you get none in return. You’ll also be seen as devoid of life. Devoid of heart. Which is what we have essentially become.

“For the intense longing of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the children of Elohim. For the creation was subjected to futility, not from choice, but because of Him who subjected it, in anticipation, that the creation itself shall be delivered from the bondage to corruption into the esteemed freedom of the children of Elohim. For we know that all creation groans together and suffers the pains as of childbirth until now.”  (The Scriptures. Romans 8:19-22)

I know this will be difficult for some people to comprehend, that the Land has chosen people. It is akin to the created becoming a god, is it not? But perhaps, think on it this way; In the beginning we had one job. To tend, to care for this extraordinary garden we call Earth. One job.

“We have a remarkable ability for forgetfulness, ingenuous methods for not being present, a delicious capacity for oblivion. It is not difficult for us to forget the shocks of childhood, our nature, our destiny, the divine, and all those tasks for which our soul came into this world. As Antonio Machado once asked: What have you done with the garden that was entrusted to you?”    (Robert Bly/Marion Woodman as quoted by Stephen Harrod Buhner. Becoming Vegetalista.)

We haven’t done the job. In fact, we forgot all about it. But the Earth knows what its purpose is, it hasn’t forgotten. The plants remind us of who we are and where we have come from, and where we are going, and this is why their medicine can touch us so deeply and profoundly. But in our busy lives of material distraction, we don’t see or feel or hear – except for some of us who were born with eyes to see and ears to hear and a heart that feels and so we hear the silver song and we follow the notes that lilt with the breeze, and we see the golden bark at the bottom of the Grandfather Tree and we feel it’s shimmer and know within our heart of hearts that faeries live here. We become indigenous, we become native, we remember – a kinnection between the earth and man, we speak for them that have no voice that humans might hear. And with our green tendrils we reach into the hearts of those who want to know the way home, and we plant a little seed. And so, the humans only have to tend that one little seed in the garden of their own soul. One job. It isn’t that difficult. But it might be a little painful…at first, because some of us need first to wake up and smell the roses.

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We are chosen, and the plants are our teachers. One day I will write a book on all of these that have taught me. And every year, when the time is right, my feet itch and the Land calls and my heart scouts the edges of the road less travelled, listening for the teacher. My own apprenticeship continues until the day I’m liberated into Light or my bones have returned to the Land and the seeds that have been scattered lovingly throughout my shroud sprout into a meadow of wildflowers.

“Nonetheless, the ecstatic journey has been part of human life for as long as humans have been. And the Earth really is intelligent and alive and aware and communicating with us every second of every day. And there really is a sacredness that flows through everything that, sometimes – usually when we least expect it – touches the soul of us and urges us to begin a journey that, as Mirabai once said, ecstatic human beings have taken for centuries. And for some of us the particular path we are called to take is the path of the vegetalista.

For those of us who take that path, the plants themselves become our teachers. They initiate us into (and surround us every day with) veriditas – a meaning-filled word created oddly enough by Hildegard of Bingen who was okay for a Christian I guess. She cleverly combined two Latin words: veritas and verde – truth and green. It’s a word that means -allatthesametime – the living intelligence of the green world and the sacredness that can be found there.” (Stephen Harrod Buhner. Becoming Vegetalista. )

And the sacredness is this; it is not the created that we worship, it is the created that reminds us, that seeks to work with us. It is the Creator who breathes Life into all, including Earth, a Divine signature; and each plant, each tree, each rock, each crystal, each body of water, each creature, speaks to that glory. Because Yahuah speaks the mysteries in the idiom of tangibles. He speaks in Golden Threads and Green Tongue, and He speaks in pomegranate and almond blossom, in olive, in oak, in cedar, and one day I might tell you the mystery of how the Blue Water Lily healed my root and navel.

“For since the creation of the world, His invisible qualities have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, both His everlasting power and Mightiness…”.     (The Scriptures. Romans 1:20)

Have you ever seen a forest in worship? Each tree, each plant raising its limbs toward the heavens in joy-filled praise?

 And sometimes, when the Pine has had enough of the zombies, it gives everyone the bird.  I don’t really blame it. Sometimes, brick walls are easier to talk to than people (because even the bricks remember that once they were earth).

So, I’m not entirely sure just yet if my daughter has felt this Veriditas entwine itself into her soul, if the earth has called her, or if in this green language, to her Yahuah will speak.

I plant the seed nonetheless, knowing that at least she can tell the difference between a dandelion and a cat’s ear, and that dandelions make a much nicer medicinally useful cup of tea.

 

 

Green blessings,

Michelle x

Grassroots Healing, Musings, Reflections, Spirituality

What is Love? (Baby, don’t hurt me. Don’t hurt me, no more.)

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become as sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophecy, and know all secrets and all knowledge, and if I have all belief, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am none at all. “

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Image Source: Michelle Carnochan

 

 

There is a lot of talk about love in this world. Numerous songs have been written about it, endless poems and stories, movies, and all manner of art have been inspired by it. We particularly like using the word to express our feelings toward each other, toward our favourite food, puppies, the latest fashion, the latest miracle product that everyone is using, and anything else that we fancy.

 

I really really love chocolate.

So why don’t you marry it?

 

We seem to have lost the meaning of Love. Yet every living thing from newborns to those passing on, and every stage of life in between needs it.  As much as there is a survival instinct within each and every cell of each and everything living thing, I believe there’s also an instinct for love. On some level, we all crave it. It makes us feel good, to give love as well as to receive it. Sometimes – all too oftentimes – this need, on both accounts, is unmet, perhaps due to ignorance, to previous hurt, or to anything that has closed our hearts. You see, in order to receive and to give love, we need to acknowledge that we also need to be vulnerable. We need to have an open heart. We need to be able to feel. Because Love is a verb. It’s an action, a way of being and doing and seeing and thinking and feeling, and living.  It is the fundamental principle, and the most radicle (and in today’s world – radical) foundation for optimum wellbeing. So with that in mind, I thought it would be a good place to start in an exploration of the holistic foundations to good health. Consider this Foundational Principle #1.

The ancient Greeks identified at least four types of love, and several expressions associated with love-like feelings. Although I have it on good authority from an authentic source that there is only one word for true love (agape). Nevertheless, I find all of the expressions attributed to love interesting because I found that they can be correlated with the five elements of air, water, fire, earth, and the quintessence or ether (or life force that animates and permeates all things). These are the same five elements that the ancients recognised as the basic building blocks of the entire universe, and which we explored in my previous post on the energetic architecture of our constitutions and tissue states. And like the interplay of the elements that make up our individual architecture, they can become a little imbalanced, some can become a little too dominant, or not engaged enough. But let’s explore these correlations a bit deeper.

 

Love is Elementary.

 

Eros (ἔρως)= Fire. Intense, primal, that initial spark of romantic love. Passionate. Can burn out quickly or become lustful if not supported by the other elements.

Storgè (στοργή) = Water. Kinship, organically flowing between family members, such as a parent and a child. The familiarity of family, and good friends.

Philia (φιλία) = Earth. Brotherly love, grounding. The deep and shared experience between friends. Denotes loyalty and comradeship.

Ludos = Air. Playful young affection. Euphoric. Laughter, banter, light, and carefree.

Agape (ἀγάπη)= Quintessence. Selfless, compassionate Love. Empathy for all beings. Godly, or the Highest form of Love.

Three other forms were also identified, two of which are expressions of imbalance in the elements;

Pragma = A Deep understanding and harmony between two people. Long-lasting love. Really a combination of Storge, Philia, and Agape, that develops out of Eros and Ludos.

Mania = Obsessive love. Stalking, jealousy, co-dependency. Unbalanced Eros.

Philautia = Love for oneself, taking care of oneself. If not kept in check, can lead to narcissism.

Let’s focus on the foundational concept of the Quintessence, the Vital Force that expresses itself through these bodies of ours, and enables us to function in the world. This is manifest in the Agape type of love. It is foundational, because we ALL need it, the world as we know it REALLY needs it. I believe, to that end, that it also represents the goal of optimum wellbeing – to have love for everyone, to have compassion on all living beings. I think, perhaps, that it should permeate all of the other types of love that we express and receive, keeping their elements in balance so we don’t become manic/obsessive or narcissistic, or led astray by lust. We become whole when we become Love. So let’s look at what that is, and what it isn’t. Some of you may recognise these.

Love is patient.

Love is kind.

Love is peace.

Love is joy.

Love is gentle.

Love is faithful.

Love isn’t envious.

Love is not proud.

Love is not full of itself.

Love does not behave indecently.

Love doesn’t seek things for itself.

Love is not provoked.

Love does not reckon with evil.

Love rejoices in truth.

Love covers all, believes all, expects all, endures all.

Love never fails.

Love does not murder.

Love does not have extra-covenantal/commitment affairs.

Love does not steal.

Love does not lie.

Love doesn’t want what someone else owns.

Love sets us free.

Love is merciful and forgiving.

Love makes recompense.

Love is fair toward both poor and rich, treating them both equally.

Love is hospitable to the native as well as the foreigner.

Love does not slander, or gossip.

Love does not take vengeance.

Love cares for the poor and the stranger.

Love is grateful.

Love picks up a wounded enemy out of the ditch and cares for them.

Love is dignified.

Love is integrity.

Love is humble.

Love is wise.

Love listens.

Love feels.

Love hears the still, small Voice inside.

Love heals.

Love is not confusing.

Love is uplifting.

Love is discerning, but does not discriminate.

Love is not idle.

Love is fruitful.

Love is laying down one’s life for a friend..

..…as well as for one’s enemy.

 

Love, agape love, is true love. It is the yardstick by which we should measure our relationships with others. It brought the universe into being, and it sustains it. Being born of it, we can access it if we turn back to it’s Source, and we can then work to cultivate it within ourselves, for ourselves and toward each other. The world doesn’t seem to know this love very well, but it really really needs it, so maybe we should start to focus on being that change we want to see in the world. Maybe we should put down our weapons, tone down our voices, stop listening to those that divide us, lift up our hearts and begin to simply be Love. Are you with me?

Grassroots Healing, Musings, Reflections, Spirituality

Physician, heal thyself. Physician, know thyself.

Has it ever been said to you, “oh, you won’t know yourself!’?

Particularly in the context of finally accomplishing something that you’ve been anticipating for a very long time.

About 6 months ago, this was said to me, by multiple people. You see, after a long time gyspying about and toying with homelessness, my mob and I finally moved into our own home. I had been anticipating this momentous event for about 4.5 years. I had envisioned what it would be like. What stuff we had in storage that I had forgotten about. Oh and all my books, how I longed for my books. I’d laughed off this ‘not knowing myself’ like the throw away line that it was. Funnily enough, it is actually a truism.

I spent the first two weeks after we moved in in a state of shock. I felt numb. Empty. I quite literally didn’t know who I was or where I was. I was lost. At one point I stood in front of my new pantry and gave myself permission out loud to put my herbs and spices in the actual pantry instead of keeping them in the ‘kitchen stuff’ storage container that I had carted around forever. After awhile, and after processing with friends, I realised that this was something akin to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. There had been a lot going on over last four years (well, 39 really). I needed to decompress. I no longer needed to be in survival mode. I was finally free. Free to be me. What did normal look like again? Had I ever actually done ‘normal’?

I took solace in the valley that runs behind our house. There’s a river running through it. Don’t get the wrong impression here, we’re in suburbia not a secluded woodland. Nevertheless my Abba is good to me, and He has filled it with familiar faces, and in turn I have filled my Instagram feed with pictures of them- shepherd’s purse, cleavers, dandelions, nettles, borage, periwinkles, speedwell, chickweed……I also took joy with the discovery that we have an almond, a pomegranate, a loquat, an apple, a persimmon, roses, lilies, plantain, dandelion, wild lettuce, and fumitory growing in our yard. These are the little things that give me comfort, that ground me and give me assurance. This is the wild medicine that soothes my soul.

I’ve managed to come back to Earth a bit now. We have a good rhythm going with the kid’s life-learning, and I’m settling into domestic queendom. Still, this idea of ‘knowing oneself’ has given me much to reflect on. We recently came back from observing the Feast of Tabernacles (aka the Festival of Booths, aka Sukkot). This 7 day Festival (and it’s concluding 8th day Festival) speaks of the significance of temporary dwellings, and looking toward the ultimate Homecoming. I came back from that with a very strong desire in my heart to fast. I needed to do some deep work. I needed to hang out with my Creator for a bit, and I needed to learn how to ‘know myself’. Perhaps this message to fast had been given to me long before, because I had unintentionally been preparing for it by intermittent fasting for several months beforehand.

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I’ve written a bit about fasting before, but probably more to do with juice feasting/fasting. This time I was doing a water fast, ie; water only. I did a short 4 days during this particular fast.

Fasting on water is a profound tool for healing on all levels of our being. Approached mindfully and with careful preparation it can allow the body the rest it needs to fully activate it’s innate self-healing intelligence and heal many conditions. I recommend coaching and/or supervision if you are new to fasting or if you intend to fast longer than 7 days. And I thoroughly recommend Stephen Harrod Buhner’s book, The Transformational Power of Fasting as a good primer on the why, how, when, and what to expect across the spiritual, emotional, and physical spheres. He has also written a great article summarising the benefits here.

The old authors say that the most important part of the fast comes afterward, in the re-feeding stage and beyond. This is when much of what our bodymind was sorting and processing during the fast comes to our conscious awareness for analysis and/or release. I found that even two weeks after my fast ended, it was still deeply impacting my consciousness. The following notes are those that I wrote at two weeks post-fast.

 

  • Deep fasting invites the participant to examine themselves on levels that they may not have had access to before. Without distraction, we are invited to observe our motivations, our agenda, to distinguish and clear the stories that were told to us about us, that we believed and allowed ourselves to be defined by.
  • Without distraction, it invites us to come into communion with our Creator (take note – what is the focus of our affliction on Atonement); to hear His wisdom and feed on His Word. To take comfort in His glory, His kindness.
  • It invites us to step outside of time, to slow down. To just be. Deep in the fasted state is where we find – where I have found – this place called ‘Home’.
  • Profound revelations happen in the fasted state. We raise our vibration, our body changes it’s fuel source – both physiologically and metaphorically. This is palpable, tangible; an incredible lightness of being.
  • When you leave the fast and the deep space of lived experience, you are not the same person you were when you went in. The most profound changes occur, is noticeable, in the days and weeks after the fast. You can’t expect to step back into the same lifestyle, the same habits, the same patterns of behaviour that you lived before the fast. The agenda, the story, the motivation behind that way of living was exposed during the fast, and left behind in the void. You are, essentially, a new being. You are someone who has just journeyed outside the Cosmos, beyond the event horizon. Beyond your fear.
  • You can try and return to your previous life, but your integrated body won’t allow it. It has experienced freedom, and it won’t allow you to come back to carry, what is essentially now, empty baggage. Your body holds you accountable. Your Creator holds you accountable. This may sometimes account for an ‘unfinished’ feeling.
  • Notice your dreams during the fast. Their meanings will become crystal clear.  As your integrated body processes the experience, and the stories that it let’s go, and reveals to you your true purpose.
  • Notice the clarity with which you see the Cosmos after your fast. You stepped out of the matrix (perhaps without realising you were even in it to begin with); and now you see it clearly for what it is. Notice how you no longer suffer, tolerate, distraction or attachment, in your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual bodies. Notice how you long to be away from the man-made, and more in touch with the natural creation.
  • In the physical body, profound changes occur. You can breathe for the first time since that first breath you took when you were born. Perhaps it is the first time you have ever experienced true inspiration.
  • As much as there is a letting go of toxins, parasites, disease conditions, excess fat, trauma and so forth; there is an acceptance and a kindness that one feels toward oneself. You become to ‘know thyself’.

 

If you fast for physical reasons, be prepared to be challenged and changed in your mental, emotional, and spiritual outlook. We are integrated beings searching for our true home. Fasting will give you a glimpse of what that looks like.

 

Michelle x