For thousands of years, Indigenous cultures worked with plants as sacraments and communed with them in a spiritual, holistic manner that promoted connection to self, family, community and nature. While plant consciousness and plant spirit medicine are nothing new, they’ve hit the cultural mainstream in recent years as Western culture grapples with an ever-increasing complex, fast-paced, and disconnected life.
To author, herbalist and mystic Sarah Baldwin, communicating with plants is an everyday affair, and more an act of conscious receptivity than an active practice. Sarah’s skills did not develop when the plants started communicating with her, but rather when she began hearing them and paying attention to the wisdom they had to offer her. Communicating with everyday plant spirits is not a skill reserved for yogis, shamans, and mystics, Sarah will tell you. You can do it too, as long as you mindfully and intuitively tap into your senses and tune into the plant world around you.
Here are 5 ways to begin your own practice, based on traditional modalities of plant spirit communication:
One of the most fundamental ways we interact with plants is on the physical plane through the merging of traditional herbal medicines (teas, tinctures or capsules) with our own bodies. The alchemy of this practice begins on a subtle, energetic level. Before consuming an infusion or extract, Sarah connects with her herbal allies by sitting quietly with them in her hands and making an intention. When she does this, she specifically asks the spirit of the plant to assist her by offering healing or better insight. Sometimes she will ask the reishi mushroom to enhance her dreamtimes, and at other times she turns to the gentle hand of the grandmotherly hawthorn tree and its sweet medicinal berries to “ease the ragged edges of the heart during times of sorrow.”
This practice acknowledges that we are connected through our breath to the plants around us, including rural forests, backyard shrubs, and humble house plants that improve the air quality in our homes. The green breath is the simple recognition that we inhale the oxygen that the plants exhale, and the carbon dioxide we exhale, the plants then inspire, creating a meaningful, life-giving bond between us. This practice was created by Pam Montgomery found in her book, Plant Spirit Healing: A Guide to Working with the Plant Consciousness. Connecting to plants via the breath is as simple as taking a moment to sit in nature and connect with the life all around you. Sarah performs this technique each morning as an act of reverence and recognition that speaks to the indestructible cycle of exchange, partnership and cooperation. Awareness is everything, and conscious awareness is our light.
Also known as the “drop dose,” this exercise uses a single drop of medicine, often a tincture placed on or beneath the tongue and held in the mouth while we intuit information about the plant. Connection can occur on many levels, including spiritual and emotional, so it’s important to be open as the information enters your field of awareness. While the spirit dose does not constitute a therapeutic dose, it is still powerful on an energetic level and shares information with us intuitively. The spirit dose is more subtle than a micro-dose and less strict than practicing with a plant dieta. It is a meditation technique used for deepening personal connections to individual plant medicines. To read more about how Sarah integrates spirit doses into her life, check out her transformative experience with the hawthorn tree.
Incorporating mantras or invocations into your plant spirit practices is another form of intention setting. Sarah defines intention as “both the rudder and sail during inner voyages, steering the ship of our awareness in a specific direction.” Invocations are stacked on top of intention as a method for humans to call upon the spirit of a plant or deity by summoning them with carefully selected words and phrases. They are used to cast spells with language, or spelling, as the vocal expression of intent. Sarah also pulls inspiration from other cultures that revere nature through plant worship, such as ancient Indian tradition. In her blog, she writes “The Vedas, ancient Sanskrit scriptures of Hinduism, refer to many medicinal plants and invoke them for healing… Many of these invocations involve appealing to plants for their help, invoking them much as one might invoke a deity.” In addition to clear intent, focus and spoken word, Sarah also uses a hands-on healing approach, infusing homemade herbal remedies with reiki before ingesting them.
For newcomers to plant medicine, the shamanic journey is recognized as the hallmark of plant communication rituals. Often this means traveling to another country to sit in a guided ceremony with a psychedelic plant medicine, although it could also mean listening to a steady, rhythmic drum beat with your eyes closed and legs crossed on the floor in your living room. At times, Sarah will listen to a drum recording while she journeys into the inner landscapes, or she and her partner will take turns drumming for each other while the other embarks on a spiritual quest. These practices might be used to connect with the spirit of a plant or an elemental being, perhaps one that’s been coming to you in dreamtime, asking to connect on a conscious level. Low doses of plant allies such as cannabis or psilocybin might also be used to facilitate the home journey and help open the third eye to assist in visualization.
Just because something happens in our minds doesn’t negate its validity in the physical world, Sarah believes. The invisible realms are becoming increasingly valued in modern society as seen through the surge in popularity of plant medicine ceremonies with people seeking greater connection, healing, and self-knowledge. Next time your rational mind tries to invalidate a mystical experience, remember that the realm in which we live is inherently mysterious and attempting to deduce it with material reductionism is futile.
Sarah Baldwin is the author of The Herbal Healing Deck, an oracle deck offering guidance and wisdom from the plant world. She is a writer and editor for The Herbal Academy and makes her home in the rolling hills of southern Indiana. Her website is www.seraphimbotanicals.com.