Plants As Teachers: The Spirit Medicine of Plantain - So Much More Than Skin Healing

plantainHello plant lovers,One of the first medicinal herbs that many people learn about is Plantain.  It’s easy to find (in almost every lawn) and is extremely effective.  It’s a great remedy to know for bug bites, stings and scrapes of all sorts, working quickly to draw out both infection, pain and venom.But what most people don’t know is that it as an equally powerful effect on the human spirit.

Plantain works to sooth your soul just like it works to sooth the skin.

How do I know this?  Because Plantain is my Plant Ally (the "spoon or broad leafed" variety).  It has never failed to work in any task I have asked of it.And I have introduced and shown more than 100 people how to connect directly with this potent healer over the last 7 years.plantain-close upBut don’t worry, if you find it difficult to believe what I’m telling you, you’re not alone.Most of my students start out doubting (though many are hopeful) that they can connect with the spirit of herbs to learn about their medicine and even have receive this deeper healing.One of the gifts of your mind is to doubt that which you have not seen or experienced.  And so, I teach by leading my students through their own experiences.  They see and experience for themselves things which even their doubting minds can no longer doubt.

“A (hu)man has not seen a thing who has not felt it.”  Henry David Thoreau

Here’s what it looks like…I take a group of students outside, to where the plants live.  I teach them a few simple techniques on how to connect with plants, though these techniques basically boil down to three things:

  1. Respect the plant.  You can sit all day in the hot Sun and not hear anything if you believe that you’re better than the plant.
  2. Quiet your mind and listen without trying to understand anything.
  3. Notice everything you can:  about the plant, its shape, its neighbours, but especially about how you feel in response to it and any stray thoughts or memories that arise.

The plants are the ones who actually do the teaching.  My role is to hold space and help with interpretation.After my students spend about an hour sitting with the plant on their own, we come back together as a group to share our stories and experiences.garliq teaching under willow - 400xAs one of my first apprentices put it, “this debriefing is the jewel of the whole course.”  (Thanks for pointing this out to me Adam!  I’m forever grateful for your feedback)The reason this debriefing is so important is because this is where two very important things happen.First, it’s where you overcome the doubt of your mind.  When you sit with a group of 6 or 10 or 20 people all sharing similar stories of their experiences, you start to see that you didn’t “just make it up.”  How could all of you have hallucinated the more or less the same thing?  Especially since nobody’s taken any hallucinogens!And secondly, you learn discernment.  This is where you develop and exercise the skills of interpreting, of what is and isn’t relevant, of what has come from the plant and what you have projected.spirit of plantsUsually, people start their stories by saying “I didn’t get anything. I was distracted by this or that thought.”  But soon they learn that they weren’t the only ones who were “distracted” by that type of thought or memory.  Each person, in turn, shares their hunches, their experience, and are often quite surprised to find that they weren’t the only ones.Last weekend, I taught the Plantain class (as part of the 7 month course I teach).   I love teaching this class because I learn something new every time.There was a distinct feeling in the group as we came back together.  This moment is always very charged with the energy, the personality, of the plant.  In this case, the feeling was serene, calm and quiet.The first student reported an experience of feeling kind of not sad, not happy, but more neutral.  She shared that she’d had images of dancing, not from joy, but from relief and ease.  Another student reported that even though she was being bitten by mosquitos, that she “didn’t mind.”Yet another student reported that she was feeling irritated while sitting with the plant, but that she felt that Plantain was drawing out her patience and desire for “caring action toward others.”And yet another student, self described as “fiery by nature” (and I can attest to her strong sense of personal advocacy) said that she felt a “vulnerable strength,” that she felt her strong boundary, but had no sense of needing to “fight” to hold that boundary.Then, in the middle of our debrief, the whole group fell into silence.  It was a calm silence.  No one felt any disease or discomfort as we sat in complete silence.  We could hear the bird song as we looked at each other, but none felt that social obligation to speak because there was no discomfort.The silence finally broke with one student laughing and reporting that she’d had song lyrics in her mind while sitting with the plant, but had dismissed them.  The words were something like “soon I will be done with all the worries that occupy my mind.”We were all able to observe this quality of ease and acceptance, the quieting of all mind chatter.

With previous groups, the song lyrics that have been shared are from the Lion King movie, “hakuna matata.”

Part of Plantains spirit medicine is just that… No Worries!

It brings a quality of acceptance, of healthy boundaries that can bend because there’s no need to react to things that are not actually threatening to you.Just as it draws out venom from a sting or bite, it draws out one’s sense of compassion...  and a vulnerability that doesn’t seem so vulnerable, or at least not frightening.This is part of the spirit medicine of Plantain.  After 100+ students connecting with this plant, I feel quite clear and confident in my understanding of Plantain’s spirit.  Its personality has been consistent and clear.There is, of course, more to discover about the spirit medicine of Plantain and more I could share.  But I hope this gives you a good sense of the potency of this often over-looked, common lawn weed and how it can touch your soul and provide healing to your body, mind and spirit.In closing, I offer an invitation…if you’d like to learn more about this way of learning, this way of connecting to plants, then do yourself a favour and check out the upcoming weekend intensive coming to Vancouver on June 25 & 26….

Healing with the Spirit of Herbs

A weekend workshop for those who want to deepen their spiritual connection to the healing power of medicinal herbs

~ Pacific Spirit Park ~

~ Sat/Sun June 25/26, 2016 ~

Here's the link to read more &/or register --> Healing with the Spirit of HerbsI'll be honest here and say that currently there aren't quite enough folks to make this class a go.  We need a couple of more people.But my unfortunate circumstance could be your great opportunity.  With a smaller group, you'll get more one-on-one attention.  I'll be able to give more specific feedback and suggestion to each student, so that you can develop you plant connection skills more quickly and in a more personal way.If you're interested - or even on the fence - now is the time to ask your questions and register for this weekend workshop.What I've announced as the Early Bird Deadline: tomorrow, Fri. June 17th, will actually be the day I decide whether to go ahead with this workshop.

steph's pic - headshot

Steph Vigneaux(class of 2012)

“This information has come to me as a rich resource of knowledge… It has led me to develop a form of communication that I had never known was available. In essence, listening to what the plants have shared with me has prompted me to use my own intuition as an internal guidance system.  The defining characteristic is Inspiration; that these people and more so than ever, these plants are part of my tribe”

 I look forward to explore the world of plant spirits with you!strength & wisdom.garliqPS.  There are still a few spaces remaining in See the City GREEN - the Herb Walk Series.  If you'd like to learn more about wild edible and medicinal plants growing around the city, you won't want to miss this.  There are so many foods and medicines at your finger tips, you just need to learn to identify them so you can bring them into your kitchen!PPS.  If you haven't seen my first video blog, Plants Are So Much More Than Just Chemistry, you can check it out here --> First Video Blog