Ok. You sat. You pondered. What did the plant say?
Here, I'll go first.
Do you think this challenge is a ridiculous waste of time? Or did you read it and think, Oh that seems a lovely notion!, and go on with your day? I was like both of you, once.
The first time I did this exercise, in my first year of Herbal studies, I went into my teacher’s garden and sat by this shrubby thing. It wasn't a tree, exactly- there was no trunk, just a collection of bendy stems maybe 8 feet tall. There had been flowers earlier, and berries too, but now it was just leaves and coolly green. I got comfortable on the lawn in front of it.
And I waited.
I looked at its bark, the leaves, the ground it grew in.
I breathed, closed my eyes, opened them, lay down, sat straighter.
It felt absurd. I wasn’t having visions, or hearing voices. I was bored, and all I wanted to do was climb the silly thing. This flexible collection of overgrown branches looked so enticing I just wanted to crawl inside it and wrap myself around the stems. Which was of course unreasonable, it could never support me, so I trooped back inside with my classmates, annoyed.
And found out this shrub is Elderberry, literally the Elder of the garden, watching over everything. It has Grandmother energy, and I had wanted to give it a hug SO BAD that I almost cried. My own Grandmother had died tragically in a car accident only a few years before, my life was upside-down, and I had been feeling so alone and without the support that she would have given, in the form of a Dutch Apple cake and just saying nice things to me.
So when I challenge you to go sit with a plant, and you do it, don't "judge" or "assess" or "define" what happens. Because who knows what is happening?
This is how you begin forming connections, by not being in charge of the connecting. Let go, and see who or what introduces themselves, if you’re quiet enough to hear them.
Do you have plant connections? A favorite tree, or a culinary herb that always makes you smile, or a spring flower that reminds you of your childhood cat? Did you ever have connection, but have since lost it?
I had a rich inner-life as a child. No imaginary friends, but I spent long days playing in the woods, creek, fields, and grass on the 80 acres I grew up with. We didn’t have close neighbors, but there was plenty of “scope for imagination” on that land.
There was the stand of hemlock trees that became a whole pretend house, and the one spot where you could cross the creek on a fallen tree, and the white pine that I suddenly couldn’t climb anymore when I grew faster than it did.
I knew where the lawn changed to moss, back by tree line where the old swing set was, and where the mysterious hole was below the tiger lilies, behind the house.
I knew where the spring surfaced, and where it collected into a magical pool that was covered by watercress each spring.
And I always knew exactly where I was, and how to get back home.
After high school I went away to college and jobs and apartments and while I sometimes reflected on that time I spent “before”, it was background to my new reality of responsibilities and adulting. Until I went to an herbal conference back in some hills that echoed the hills I used to know. At the end of the day, driving back in the sunset, the landscape hit me so hard that I wept right there behind the steering wheel.
I suddenly felt the enormous reality that where I now lived wasn’t “home”, and that I desperately missed those hills I used to call home. But my life isn’t there anymore, and I needed to find ways to start recognizing my new home in that same deep way. I had to rediscover my ability to make friends with trees and rocks, and reconnect to my present world.
(And in this process of rediscovery and reconnection, I remembered my Herbalism. At its heart, my teaching of both Pilates and Herbal Medicine is driven by my passion to help you recognize and identify these small voices without words, that guide you to connect both inside and out.)
There are lots of ways to deepen your connection to plants, to learn to recognize them outside and to learn what they do inside you. There are classes, walks, talks, books, videos, apps, all sorts of ways to get more information.
But I challenge you to do this one thing:
Memories? Observations? Random, unconnected, meaningless thoughts? (Of course they're not! But we'll get to that.)
Really, get going. I'll wait.
Fun Fact: I'm an herbalist and a movement coach. Not a doctor, or a pharmacist, and not pretending to be one on TV.
This is a public space, so my writing reflects my experiences and I try to stay general enough so it might relate to you. This does not constitute medical advice, and I encourage you to discuss concerns with your doctor. Remember, however, that the final say in your wellness decisions are always yours- you have the power to choose, you are the boss of you.
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This website is provided for educational and informational purposes only and is not medical, mental health or healthcare advice. The information presented here is not intended to diagnose, treat, heal, cure or prevent any illness, medical condition or mental or emotional condition. Working with us is not a guarantee of any results. Paula Billig owns all copyrights to the materials presented here unless otherwise noted.