PLANT SPIRIT MEDICINE
There is a great story in the book "Plant Spirit Medicine" by Eliot Cowan. It would be best to read the whole in its context, but for here, a shaman in the Amazon jungle told an American adventurer, "...If you want to actually use a plant yourself, the spirit of the plant must come to you in your dreams. If the spirit of the plant tells you how to prepare it and what it will cure, you can use it. Otherwise, it won't work for you...."
The author goes on to say,
"The American firm, infatuated with its 'superior' technology, will go to the jungle dreaming of profits from a patent-able new drug. No one will think of asking the shamans what the active ingredients are. If they do ask, they won't like the answer. There is only one active ingredient in plant medicine - friendship. A plant spirit heals a patient as a favor to its friend-in-dreaming, the doctor."
'Plant Spirit Medicine' by Eliot Cowan, page 4
"For the most part, these wonderful dream powers lie dormant in our society, but the Huichols and the Matsés of the Amazon consider dream learning to be true learning. Indeed, nearly every culture on earth, except our own, respects dream learning as true learning. We (western culture - G.) revere the rational, analytical method of learning that has been honed and polished since the days of the ancient Greeks. We do not realize that the shamans of our species have honed and polished another method. This dreaming method is neither rational nor analytical, but it works extremely well.
'Plant Spirit Medicine' by Eliot Cowan, page 9
"Difference breeds indifference. If you think the forest is not you, you are more willing to exploit it or let others exploit it for you.
"Plants, on the other hand, are not under the illusion that they are separate from the rest of creation. Observe how any plant interacts with soil, air, minerals, animals and insects. Everything around it is enriched and benefited by its presence. Plants live in harmony with nature. One might even say that plants are nature. Out of this union comes their incredible generosity to us and to all their other fellow creatures."
'Plant Spirit Medicine' by Eliot Cowan, page 13
"All things enjoy ecstatic union with nature. Life without ecstasy is not true life and not worth living. Without ecstasy, the soul becomes shriveled and perverted, the mind becomes corrupt, and the body suffers pain. Ecstatic union with nature is necessary for normal health; it is necessary for survival...."
'Plant Spirit Medicine' by Eliot Cowan, page 14
"Plants wish us well in every way. They are perfectly willing to bring us into the blessings of their union with nature. But, as the plantain spirit told me, they can do nothing unless they are asked. I would add that we have to know the right questions and the right way to ask them.
"What is the right way to ask a plant" Part of it has to do with appreciating that a plant has roots. A plant lives in a particular location, with it dirt, rain, sunshine, and air. With these particular elements it does its growth magic. From plants we learn that if you want to enter nature, you have to do it where you are, because that is the only place nature can be found...
"... the point is the joy of being in the dance of creation as an equal partner with everything. this means bringing us back to where we already live: on the earth, with the dirt, the rain, the sunshine, and the air -- just like our brothers and sisters, the plants."
'Plant Spirit Medicine' by Eliot Cowan, pages 17-18
"As quantum physics explores the nature of energy, some fascinating qualities come to light. For example, in observing a 'particle' (/wavicle - G.), it is impossible to determine both its momentum and its location at the same time, because the very act of observing a characteristic causes it to leap out of the probable state and become actual (in the observer's experience - G.). All other characteristics are still merely probabilities at that moment. To put this another way, energy has certain tendencies. The moment we look for one of those tendencies, it manifests itself, while all other tendencies remain latent. This is a bit like getting to know a person. If you provoke someone's anger, their tendency to express affection cannot be observed at the same time. One might say that energy knows when it is being watched, and it behaves to fulfill our expectations. Energy responds to us. It is conscious."
'Plant Spirit Medicine' by Eliot Cowan, page 35
"Dualism is the proto-dream underlying clock time and all modern dreaming. Dualism might be defined as the illusion that there are two discreet principles in the universe: self and other. Dualism implies isolation, conflict, and a continuous struggle of opposing forces. For this reason, actions based on dualistic vision are simplistic, aggressive, and destructive....
"In the Dreamer's dream of nature there is no duality, no separation into self and other, no conflict, aggression, or destruction. In the dream of nature, when a predator kills and eats an animal, it is not 'us' against 'them.' In nature, all are 'us.' A slow, sick, or injured animal is provided to predators for the benefit of all. The health of the herd is maintained as the predator feeds its family. The dream of nature is a complex web of mutuality in which each part supports the other.
(Regarding the statement that in nature there is '....no conflict, aggression, or destruction':
in nature, there is sometimes massive, catastrophic destruction. And, there is poison, deception, infliction of pain, conflicts over territory, domination, the hierarchy of the food chain and so on. However, can we say that all of these are devoid of the charged 'separation-based' emotion of humans? The predator acts on instincts -- for survival and perpetuation of the species -- but its actions, though appearing fierce, dominating and cruel, are not aggressive in the human sense -- they are not motivated by power-hunger, greed, revenge, etc. Human aggression can be not only destructive but often leads to desolation and imbalances that threaten the web of life. Nature is a self-regulating system, each part ultimately supporting the whole. - Gary)
"This is the most important difference between the dream of man and the dream of nature: nature dreams of unity and bliss, while man dreams of isolation and violence. Humans needs unity and bliss to maintain their health of spirit. The dualistic dream starves the spirit and gives rise to the gamut of illnesses of body and soul. The job of medicine, then, is to nourish the spirit by bringing people into the source of well-being -- the dream of nature."
'Plant Spirit Medicine' by Eliot Cowan, pages 37-38
"Education today claims to be about passing on information, but in fact, it is more about getting the young to take on the dualistic view. By force of law, children are put into situations that reward competition and individual achievement. Demonstrations of cooperation and empathy are discouraged or even punished. Over and over, the young have these experiences drilled into them. In time, 'me against the world" seeps into their bones until it becomes 'truth.' 'Life is about getting what you want, and you don't have to consider the cost to your enemy': this is how the world works for most people today, because most people see it that way. Almost nobody realizes that this 'truth' is nothing more than the product of their view. In fact, few people realize they have a view at all."
'Plant Spirit Medicine' by Eliot Cowan, page 43
"The modern view alienates us from our innate connectedness. It is a conditioned view, not a natural one. This is good news, because the nature of a person will always be their nature, and whatever is conditioned can be de-conditioned."
'Plant Spirit Medicine' by Eliot Cowan, page 44
"Put yourself in an open and receptive state. Consider this: the mind is not subtle enough to grasp spirit or make judgments about it. How can we know what is possible? The spirit that moves through a plant might have compassion for you and take a form your mind can understand. Before you go any further, thank the plant spirits in advance for their help and hospitality. Do it aloud. This will help open you, and the spirits will like it.
"Keep thankfulness in your heart as you assemble the following materials:
A drum and someone to beat it for you (or if these are not available, use a shamanic drum recording)
A small amount of loose tobacco
A reliable, easy-to-use field guide on the flora of your area
A notebook and pen (colored pencils and magic markers are also a good idea)
Go for a walk outdoors at a time and place where there are many different kinds of wild plants growing. Wander with no destination in mind. When you come across a stand of plants that are especially attractive to you, approach them. Speaking aloud, introduce yourself by name, and explain that you have come to learn from the spirit of this species. Thank the plant for summoning you and for any help it may be willing to give. Since you are asking for a gift, it is only good manners to offer one in return: sprinkle the plants with a little tobacco.
Now turn to your field guide and identify the plant to which you are speaking. (Identification is usually possible only when the plant is flowering.) Make sure the plant is not poisonous....
"Study the plant closely. Try to memorize the shapes, colors, and geometry. Make a drawing of the plant. Observe what kind of soil it grows in, what kind of light it likes, and how it relates to insects, animals, and other plants. Smell the different parts of the plant and them, after asking its permission and forgiveness, carefully taste a tiny bit of the flowers, leaves and root, provided they aren't poisonous.
"Now that you're familiar with the plant, begin to connect with it. Be still. take your time. Become the plant. Experience the world around you as the plant does. At this point you may be flooded with images feelings, or information. After you return to normal consciousness, jot down your experiences in your notebook.
"Return to a quiet and comfortable indoor space. You will need a monotonous, steady drumbeat of two to four cycles per second, so prepare your drummer or your audio player... Make yourself as comfortable as possible. For most people, this means lying on your back with a pillow under your neck and/or your knees. Close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths, relaxing more deeply with each one. Affirm your intention of meeting and learning from the spirit of the plant you are studying. Start the drumming.
"With your eyes still closed, visualize yourself entering a hole in the earth, such as a cave, a spring, or an animal burrow. Once inside, you will find a tunnel leading downward. Go down the tunnel. Immediately, or after some time, you will see a light at the end of the tunnel; follow it. Move out of the tunnel and into the light. At this point you will have entered a different realm: the dream world. (If you don't succeed the first time, be patient. Entering the dream world takes practice.)
"You make need to take a few moments to accustom yourself to the dream world. If you feel vague or distracted, remind yourself of your intention and then carry on. Once you feel confident, start looking for the plant you have come here to meet.
"When you have located the plant growing in the dream world, look around. You will find a life-form associated with the plant. It might be a person, an imaginary figure, an insect, an animal, or even a light or a dis-embodied voice. Whatever it is, this is the form the plant spirit is taking in order to communicate with you. Approach the spirit and introduce yourself. Explain that you have come to learn, and ask if you may learn from this plant or use it in some way. If the reply is positive, then ask the spirit to teach you.
"The teaching of plants come in many forms. The spirit may give you a classroom-style lecture. If so, listen intently so you can remember every detail. More often the transmission comes in nonverbal form. You may find yourself being swept into an exotic adventure. You may simply find that you experience intense emotions. In every case, the key is to remain attentive. Once you ask your question, what happens is part of the answer.
"When you feel your dream is complete, return to the plant spirit and thank it for its help. As you take your leave, signal your drummer to give you a more rapid drumbeat. If you are using a recording, wait for the more rapid drumbeat. Quickly retrace your route: go up the tunnel, out of the hole, and return to your body. Take a few minutes of silence to mentally review what happened in your dream.
"Slowly get up and record in your notebook every detail of your experience. Be complete and precise. Not matter how vivid the dream, details will vanish from your memory over time unless they are written down.
"Now is the time to start interpreting the dream material. Your dream may be self-explanatory, or it may require a lot of thought and contemplation. Some dreams yield their meaning only after they are illuminated by strange coincidences that take place later. This can take months or even years, Be patient...."
'Plant Spirit Medicine' by Eliot Cowan, pages 26-28