Chanchka Remedios

Harmonizing Relationships between Plants and People

Artists of the Sacred

Integrity, Gratitude, Explore, Cultivate

Inspired through the power the last full moon, I decorated several rocks with words in vibrant painted colors and designs.  In light of the great power of language and training our minds to move toward a one-pointed focus, the next day I invited students to participate in yoga class while choosing a rock and by simply placing it on their mats. As we practiced, I had the opportunity to glimpse the beauty of each yogi submerged in deep presence while they soulfully poured their attention into their practice with their focus towards the word on their rock. During the class, I observed each student being true artists of their own practice. They became the caretakers of their own inner sacred space tending to the needs of their unique and growing garden. As they embodied the mantra painted on the rock like choreographers of life’s greatest dance, it was a great reminder to me of the personal unfolding of my journey with plant medicine. There can be so much magic in our approach to these healing modalities. Different as each modality is (energy work, body work, nutrition, plant medicine, yoga, etc), each requires artistry that requests deep dedication and cultivation of subtle awareness to approach our lives with such intention.

This experience is a great reminder of the numerous approaches of how to practice plant medicine. Learning to incorporate plant medicine into our lives is like becoming an artist of the sacred. When we work with the plants we are influencing the sacred.  We are caretaking the heart of the sacred. With humility and reverence, we can connect with the plants and ask them for their medicines. We revere them as the sentient beings they are.  We nurture and grow our relationships with them. Indigenous cultures practice(d) this in their everyday lives. Everything we do affects everything else. We are all related.  All living beings depend on each other.  Working with plant medicine is a living, breathing daily awareness that grows as we mindfullly cultivate our relationships with the plants. It is being conscious caretakers of our moment to moment that can promote positive influence upon our greater community.

In my opinion, plant medicine is more than emphasizing the idea that “this plant is used for a stomachache” and “this plant is for a cough”. Working with plant medicine for healing invites us to be artists of the sacred. To do this, Doug eloquently reminds us, “When we use plants as medicine it is important not to just think of them as substances, but as people who are helping us. Being with the plants in this way is being in relationship with them. Not a relationship that is going to last five minutes, but a lifetime of relationship with the plant nation, the plant people. We all are capable of knowing the plants intimately and learning from them how to use their medicines.”  For me, this teaching has been the most pivotal shift in participating in the sacred. Shifting out of relating to the plants as substances into regarding the plant nation as the living, sentient beings that they truly are. It is an ancient practice that holds wisdom of thousands and thousands of years.

As I was deeply inspired by the students of this particular yoga class, I am reminded how we can all be artists of the sacred by developing subtle awareness through cultivating lifelong relationships. The more we care take and approach our lives as being empowered artisans of our inner landscape, the more we can take responsibility for maintaining harmonious relationships with the plants and all sentient beings. 

Time-Honored Elders

By Deb

My eyes moisten and salty water drips down the glowing sun on my face. Sitting on a bus in Central America, compassion stirs the wellspring of those tears. With much joy in my heart, I poise myself on the bus that reeks of diesel, swerving this way and that, full with friendly people and boisterous music. I take in the vibrant living with gratitude after spending a couple weeks with very special people of the indigenous Amazonian basin. And it is here, on the stinky bus running on petrol that I begin to try to share my inner gratitude on paper.

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I imagine the faces of the Elders in my life. The jungle wizards and masters of deep silence to the endless jokes, chants and wonderful stories of a Traditional Navajo Medicine Man, my life has been deeply touched, deeply blessed by having time-honored Elders in my life.  The wisdom is carved into their faces and shone in their eyes. It is these people, the Elders, who have dedicated their lives in service to the greater picture. These people who have spent a lifetime of learning, accumulating experience and carefully arranging the lore of the plant medicines to be passed down like a packaged gift through the generations for as long as humans are alive on this planet. They are like the flute that plays, encouraging the plant medicine knowledge to dance from one generation to the next. These people have seen so much. They have shared in experiences and can see beyond our fathoming. They are the link between generations. They are the central core of our existence. I embrace the cherished opportunity to participate in a tradition that is so ancient. I acknowledge the requirement to humbly be part of something much bigger and older than myself. A gift beyond words. We call this the oral tradition.  It is the original form of education.

 

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I know it and I feel when I participate and listen to the pure oral traditions. For me, sitting next to a time-honored elder can be the most fascinating of experiences. It’s like an unseen transfusion of timeless wisdom. I feel the tingle of the transfusion in my body as I listen to the words or the songs or the silence. It’s like being transported to another place in time as you experience the story first hand. I can feel the strong link between generations and hear the song of creation that holds the essence of a deeper truth. The stories, songs, become reference points for an inner and outer experience. I know that by listening and participating in the oral tradition I am helping to keep the stories alive.

People have worked so hard to preserve, sustain and grow with these teachings. With much effort, attention to detail, and impeccability through each passing generation. What is it that we do to support this process of allowing the oral traditions to maintain life? Why is it so important? What is the oral tradition? It is defined as the passing of knowledge from person to person, from generation to generation, through word, music, story, art, dance, ceremony, prayer or the deep knowing that comes from sitting silently next to somebody that has paved the path with their time-honored livelihood. The oral tradition can come through in many creative ways.  In my opinion, the oral tradition is more than this. It is the woven threads throughout human and earthly existence that keeps us alive.

I have always intuitively felt that the teachings of the plants were best transferred through the oral tradition. This is how the spirits of the plants and other spirit helpers can be most effective in helping us to learn. This is the exact reason I am so drawn to learning with Doug. Doug teaches so elegantly in the oral tradition. He has been taught directly from the plants, through apprenticeships with special elders and apprenticeships with the spirits. It takes a huge effort to learn in this way. Trials, tests, discipline and commitment. This life path is not easy, it requires unimaginable strength. Doug has been more than willing to endure the path to bring the information back to our communities so we can continue to learn to become better relatives and keep the teachings of the plants alive. I am deeply grateful for all you give us Doug… gratitude from the bottom of my heart.

While writing this , I really want to maintain the integrity of this blog with a felt sense of gratitude, of honoring the Elders. At this very now moment, I don’t think I could write a blog or speak of the oral tradition without mentioning the urgency of rediscovery through connecting to the timeless wisdom of the elders. The essence of the oral tradition becomes more important with each passing day. Bombarded by choices or encroachment from outside influences (like the petrol corporations overtaking the land where the Secoya people reside in Ecuador). Each culture across the world with their oral traditions in tact are consistently faced with the disintegration of their way of living, their communities and therefore threatening the health of our forests and our planet. In raising the awareness of the oral tradition maybe, just maybe, we can create a little change for the better of the future for this incredible planet.

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“Over the years, I have been working on what I call The New Ethnobotany, an emerging discipline that seeks to enact new methods of cultural transmission to revive, validate, and strengthen the vast plant lore among and within Indigenous and rural peoples’ communities. I believe that the preservation and attentive transmission of Indigenous plant knowledge both among forest communities and the world at large are crucial links in ongoing forest protection. Ultimately millions of hectares of priceless tropical Rainforest lie in the hands of Indigenous peoples’ communities undergoing rapid changes and cultural dissolution, and the fate of these forest lies directly in the ability of Indigenous People(s) to continue renewing their relationship and sustainable approach to living in the forest. Consequently much work is necessary among these communities to, at the very least, strengthen traditional plant knowledge. The problems of deforestation are tremendously complex, yet, that shouldn’t stop people from finding practical solutions to this global concern. We are seeking to discover effective techniques and strategies towards these ends.” Jonathan Sparrow Miller Weisberger

I’d like to offer a great big thank you to Greg Berlin for the two awesome photos of the Secoya Elders!

The Power of Subtlety

By Deb

Have you ever noticed how the power of burning a smudge stick can change the course of one day?  How deep breathing can guide a different response in the time of trauma? How remembering to sing a song when your sad or to drink a cup of Dandelion Root tea when you are already feeling spectacular can make life even better? How paying attention to the thermal nature (heating or cooling) of your food can powerfully affect your health? Or perhaps noticing in this very now moment… the effect of the bear root that burns while I am writing this blog which is helping to keep the flow of words and creative energy moving? These simple tasks can be some of the most powerful movements to support a more meaningful life for ourselves..

I invite you to consider and sense a common thread that weaves each of these scenarios together.

Subtlety: The Power of Subtlety.

Since I met Doug, he has taught me, “If you train yourself for awareness, then you see the subtleties and you see their significance.”

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From my experience, to truly appreciate subtlety you have to hone your awareness to sense it. In the practice of cultivating awareness, the plants can help us to awaken to subtlety. Tasting them, touching them, deeply observing, smelling, drinking tea…activating all the senses to connect. The subtle power of Plant Medicine is deep, steady and subtle, yet, results are profound and maintained. When we seek to change an imbalance in ourselves we have so many choices and so many approaches. Have you ever noticed that most of the modalities that are based on observations of the rhythms of the natural world have a similar thread woven throughout each modality? Subtlety follows the flow of the natural world and can touch the deeper layers of our being.

Contrary to common thought, the healing process does not usually require disastrous results. Being in our human form we consistently have a desire for the quick fix or the cure-all pill with immediate results. And no wonder… because we currently live in a world designed for satisfying instant gratification which can set us up for dis-empowerment and disbelief in the natural process of healing and ourselves. Rather, the healing process requires a deep trust and knowing of the power of subtlety. We can actually move through the process with joy AND empowerment to eventually move closer to the harmony we are working towards.

When we offer a plant medicine, often, we are working to restore the balance and create alignment in the body which is necessary for the body to heal. We are working to create a container in which healing has the opportunity to unfold. The plants simply aid us in recovering our own equilibrium when we lose touch with our well being and fall into imbalance. The plants understand the importance of slow and subtle resolve and the benefits of gentle, yet, consistent and powerful action.

 

I want to honorably mention one of my greatest allies… Mallow… a true teacher of the power of subtlety. Scarlet Globe-mallow, Yerba de la Negrita, Common Mallow, Marshmallow. All of them (and many unnamed here). These incredible plants give such great reminders to me of the importance of gentle, yet, powerful medicine. Mallow is nourishing to the mucous membranes of the body and promotes the cellular integrity from deep inside. The green potency and high nutrient content aids in the reception of necessary vitamins and minerals. The mild drawing action extracts toxins yet simultaneously regenerates healthy tissues. Mallow can help restore balance and cool inflammations/heated conditions and yet moisten/ soothe the tissues of the body preventing excess dryness.  Mallows love to be made into a cold (room temperature) infusion tea or perhaps a green drink, a green powder added to water, food or smoothie. The leaves taste delicious when added into a summer salad. I love to create a shampoo/soap with 1 yucca leaf, a handful of mallow greens & flowers, a little coconut oil, and essential oil of your choice blended and strained and kept in the fridge until it smells a little off (about one week and hopefully you use it all up before it expires).

The more sentient we strive to be and align ourselves with the other sentient beings who live here, like the plants, the more we can attune ourselves to the essence of deep healing. In my opinion, Doug lives by one of the most powerful mantras. He reminds us that, “we are here to learn to become better relatives”.

Nourishing the Yin

By Deb

Where I live, near the San Juan mountains, each day is a constant reminder to continue the journey inward with the Autumn season.  I have watched the leaves in their brilliant color fall and the skeletons of the trees are beginning to show. The cold wind blows and the creek behind my house is dried up. The balance of dark and light are moving towards shorter days and longer nights. I feel the changes deep in my bones as nature reflects the deep transformation.

Autumn is a time of change, of taking care of loose ends. It is a time to assess and integrate the movements of the year and let go of that which no longer serves you. It is time for us to gather our resources and prepare for the coming darkness of winter. It is time to slow down. It is time to slow down. We are transitioning from the hot, expansive summer into the cool, contractive seasons. Our bodies do the same.  Humans are extensions of the earth and can find much insight into ourselves as we observe the patterns of the animals, the trees… our relatives. We can observe how things move as the contractive energy settles in to attune ourselves to more harmonious living.


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The journey inward begins.  YIN energy lies inherent in all things. It is… The shadow. The feminine. The quiet. The moist. The darkness. Emotion. The moon.

It’s up to us in how we choose to invite balance in our lives. It is a consistent work in progress. We can attune to the seasons and the cycles within nature to prevent disharmony or dis-ease from arising in the body. We can hone in our observations and live accordingly to the season.  We can educate ourselves on how to do this.  We can make the choices for a more harmonious lifestyle. Seasonal changes can be a huge dis-empowerment to people due to disconnection or seeing ourselves as separate from the natural world. We can remember how to navigate the transition gracefully.

This is what Doug teaches throughout all his classes and his walk of life.  He teaches the basic foundation for walking in balance with the rhythms of nature and how to invite plant medicine’s to support a harmonious lifestyle.

We live in a culture which honors achieving a goal rather than embracing the process of life. When always seeking to achieve the goal, it is much easier for the body to become a container for the imbalance.  In a yang driven culture, we are consistently faced with the opportunity to make unhealthy choices to accommodate for “working hard” to achieve that goal. We seek out fast food/convenience food, we forget to breath deeply, we compromise the quality and amount of water we drink. There is audio and visual stimulus everywhere. We are continuously moving fast. To me, it is apparent why we as a culture have stepped in to a rampant era of specific dis-ease’s.  In the sense of western culture, yin energy can and often is seen as a weakness. In my opinion, it is the long forgotten essence of life by some. It is the essence which brings the fullness of being to our amazing gift called life. The yin and yang energies exist in all things.  They are interdependent.  The yin and yang energies of the universe hold the fabric of the universe together.  We need them both.

There are so many ways to nourish the yin in ourselves. It is just taking the time to do them. Soak in the hotsprings, wear a kidney wrap, dress in darker clothes during the yin seasons, go for a long, slow walk alone, drink and eat kidney building and liver nourishing teas and food, practice slow yoga, meditate. Take time to soften, nourish and invite balance for yourself.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.”

What do YOU do to nourish the yin? 

The Arrival of Motherwort

By Deb

It has been a long summer season of celebrating in the the hot summer sun accompanied by the sweet essence of the water the monsoon rains have brought to the Durango region.  Now the bears are very active eating crab apples and such, the bucks are gathering in the field next to my home, tomatoes ripen on the vine in such an expression of abundance as we transition to the season of inward motion.  I reflect upon the seasonal summer adventures and am reminded of the consistent presence of the plants around my home.

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In the spring, a significant event happened in my garden.  We welcomed a new arrival, a new family member. Her name is Motherwort.  I chose to transplant this plant near the front door as a reminder.  A reminder to utilize the tools to cultivate pathways back to my true nature.  When I leave or come home Motherwort, in her consistent presence, gives me this opportunity to remember to connect with the deeper essence of self.  I chose to plant Motherwort in my garden as my relationship with her has grown over the years. I recognize the value of having her sweet essence in close proximity.  I transplanted her from the garden at work.  At work, I would often chew on a leaf  during more difficult days to shift my perspective of the challenge.  Through time, I have recognized the power of this plant to assist me in maintaining balance in my daily life.

Motherwort, being a nervine, can support our nervous system to create harmonious alignment between body, mind and spirit. Nervine’s in general (to name a few others… Valerian, Pulsatilla, Skullcap) give us the opportunity to shift into harnessing the present moment and bringing ourselves into harmony with the moment. The use of nervine’s is subtly powerful. Especially when we can recognize when and how to ingest them. Creating the opportunity for alignment helps us to deal with challenging situations in a more harmonious way then what was previously accessible. Doug emphasizes delving into the subtle power of the nervine’s during acute situations.  Such as flu, fever, cold, emotional distress, parenting, moon cycle imbalances, difficulty sleeping, traumatic situations, etc.

Throughout Doug’s experience, he has built a relationship with Motherwort as a heart tonic. Motherwort can help to correct imbalance within physical heart issues. This lovely plant can assist us in the strengthening of a weak heart muscle and nerve weakness in the heart. Traditionally, she has been utilized as a tonic to maintain greater balance in the heart center.  She allows us to maintain agood relation in one’s heart, open our hearts more easily and feel safe in doing so.

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Like Yarrow, Motherwort gives us the opportunity as women to become deeply connected to the moon cycle, our fertility and to keep the relationship with our womanhood a priority.  Often times due to cultural and societal impacts, women, being bringers of life (whether they birth children or not) can stray away from this relationship and Motherwort can help us to rekindle that.  Not to mention that this plant remedio has an incredible affinity for relaxing uterine cramping.

Doug reminds us of the power of building relationships with plants, “We learn to depend on them, when we are meeting these plants and developing relationships, these are relationships for our whole lives.  These guys aren’t going anywhere, they are going to be here as long as we are.  You begin to realize that is an amazing part of a plant relationship, they are always there for you.  We begin to build these relationships that you depend on always.”

Yarrow in the Wild Community

By Deb

When I walk in the forest, my heart blossoms more with each breath.  My blossoming heart attunes, and then beats in rhythm with my surroundings. My senses activate. My nose inhales the smell of the musky forest. The gentle breeze touches my skin. My eyes focus amongst the abundant wild flowers and their tantalizing magic.  My lips taste the essence of the wild plants and berries as I forage. I hear the call of the red tail sending shivers down my spine.  Saying prayers and giving offerings, I walk.  As I offer Tobacco, I remember what Tobacco told Doug, “I am the translator”.  This offering has been giving by the people for so long because tobacco facilitates the communication so we can each hear the translation better.  I request from the unseen world that I can continue to hear better.

 

Yarrow in the Wild Community

The trees tower overhead, they dance, beckoning me to an open meadow satiated with life. In the open meadow, the rain passes and reflects the light of the sun upon on the stunning, vivid white Yarrow flowers.  I acknowledge the relationships people spanning across the continents have intimately shared with this plant for thousands upon thousands of years. I contemplate the depth of this relationship between humans and this plant for such an extended period of time. My thoughts are drawn towards my personal relationship with Yarrow and the many experiences we have shared over the past 15 years. As I feel into the connectedness of the larger web of life, I am reminded of how small I am in the midst of the larger web of life  Yarrow is one of my very first plant relations that I began building with intent and consciousness.  This gives me a reference point of how relationships are sustained and consistently nourished over time.  One of Doug’s philosophies of why we are here on earth is, “to learn to become better relatives”.

Doug reminds us that, “Everything is alive. All the stones, the water, everything, and we have the ability to communicate with them.  It is only because of conditioning that we question that or think that we don’t know how.   It’s really very simple, and time is what gives us the confidence and experience.”

Being in relationship to my surrounding, wild community motivates my actions to become a better relative to my human community. Each time I return to the wild places, the experience encourages me to deepen my approach to create more sustainable relationships. I am ever grateful for the wild places on this earth where we can come home.

Dandelion: Speaking Promise

By Deb

The  dizzying bright, yellow flowers emerge sometimes in high mountain fields, speaking promise when they emerge from the cracks of the sidewalk, or bringing joy to the children in their play.  Raising consciousness whether we are aware of it or not… the Dandelion speaks.  Growing cross country, spanning across all continents in her pervasive tenacity for the love of life and humans. Bright as the sun, the tonic effects of the root, leaf, stem and flower infuse our beings for those who dare to build a life long relationship with this lovely plant.

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I am proud to live in a community who in all its aspects and walks of life come together each May to celebrate this plant…. The Dandelion Festival.  A true honoring of the plant, I feel.  In the abundance of this season many treats are offered at this festival.  Dandelion Ice Cream, pesto, juice, powder, tea and fresh greens.  Oh, and Dandelion wine and beer. The creativity that is activated at this festival comes in many forms of expressing the gratitude for this symbolic plant. Spoken word, poetry, songs, local live music, cross-cultural acts, dancing, drumming, children’s games.  All in all, the gathering of a community for it’s higher good and celebrating our relationship with Mother Earth.

In the ever-present state of environmental toxicity the liver consistently works to clean the blood to the point of over-exhaustion.  As a result, this exhaustion manifests into multitudes of imbalances in the body and mind.  To name a few, skin eruptions, digestive imbalance, severe allergies, dry skin, hives, liver disease, hormone imbalance, heart imbalance, cracked hands and  feet, quick to anger… the list goes on. Isn’t it amazing that this plant can support our liver in it’s efforts to perform it’s continuous, intricate job?

Something  important to know about this plant is not only the direct medicinal value all parts of the dandelion provide, it’s the nutrient dense aspect of this plant that also speaks promise when used for a sustained length of time. Fiber, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and the B vitamins, thiamine and riboflavin, trace minerals, vitamin A and plant protein.  All of which foster a deeper sense of sustained health.

Doug encourages this significant statement into our awareness, “I invite you to consider that these are long relationships.  This is not a relationship that is going to last five minutes, this is a lifetime of a relationship with the plant nation, the plant people.  We enter these relationships with that in mind so that we do it in a good way, that we are not having to back up and repair, this happens all the time where we step on someones toes and have to make amends.  But if you are aware that you are establishing a lifetime relationship, we have more direct energy to put towards it and we can do it in a timely way.  When we are using these plants as medicine it is important not to just think of them as substances, but think of them as people that are helping us.”

Dandelion’s unwavering presence illuminates the constant reminder to make a long term commitment to ourselves, our bodies and our relationship with the plant kingdom.  I walk in gratitude for the presence of this beautiful plant 

Red Root: Organized Flow

By Deb

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It was springtime in the Chiricahua mountains… one of the beautiful and sacred sky islands in south east Arizona. The lilac scent of the white blossoms penetrated the surrounding air. I was immediately attracted  not only by her physical beauty but the energy she held.  I found myself a comfortable place to sit closely to her.  Drinking in the details of her profound beauty, not knowing her name yet, I introduced myself and explained to her why I was there. Simply to connect.  I sat cross legged opening myself to the possibilities. The hours passed by quickly in her presence.  At one point, a word formed in my mind.  Appreciating the humor of this gorgeous plant, laughing I sketched down the word “floganize” into my journal.  I knew this would be a powerful teaching and asset to support the growth of our relationship and my understanding of one of the gifts this plant has to share. I wasn’t quite sure what it meant yet.  Eventually, I learned the names of this lovely plant : Red Root, Ceanothus spp., New Jersey Tea, Buck Brush, Four Directions plant.  Come to find out, this is one of the energetics this plant can create when ingested internally. As Michael Moore stated in his Medicinal Plants of the Mountains West book, “Another way to describe it is having sticky or viscous blood, with adhering constituents or diminished surface tension or charge.  Red Root kicks up the charge and helps blood cells and inner vessel linings repel each other better; the blood, while not changing chemistry, changes its osmolality and flows better.” Red Root is well known as a lymphatic and blood remedy used for several imbalances.

Our bodies are not functioning on chaos.  The body’s innate intelligence knows what to do.  The intellect of the body has in depth organized flow of which can become congested and needs the support of a plant like this on a regular basis. Doug reminds us that, “Red Root keeps life flowing strong and good.  We don’t have to wait for a time when the body is noticeably sick.  We can use it when we are sick but most importantly we can use it long before that.”  When the organized flow is happening within the blood and the lymph, every system in the body is working better including the mind.

I’ve learned that this wonderful plant not only helps us to have organized flow in our physical system but also transfers into the actions of our daily lives.  When I am drinking this tea, my life works more efficiently due to the clarity in my mind.  Like Doug says, “finer than a frogs hair!”

Doug also has taught me that this plant has the ability to “stop a decline in health or a worsening of an imbalance.  It helps to level it off and bring it back up.”  Doug also suggests that, “Red Root is an electrical remedy. It helps us to harmonize the electricity in the body.”

So add a little Red Root to some water, hot or room temperature and let it steep.  Invite this plant and the organized flow into your body and life.  More to be revealed about this plant at a later date….


Interview with the Children on Plants

Doug explains, “Part of what I have to offer is how to become better communicators and therefore better relatives.” As I have spent time with Doug learning to deepening my observations, my communications, and my relationships with the natural world I continue to reclaim pieces of myself and build solid connections.

                                                    Connection

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Today I was contemplating peeling away the layers of separation and began to observe the children.  In my opinion, the children are commonly attuned to this awareness of being whole until circumstances and experience render a different belief system.  To learn more about this I decided to interview two wonderful children, my son Cedar and our sweet friend Seneca, both seven years old.  I asked them many questions and asked them to lets their hearts answer.  I explained to them that I was writing a blog and Cedar laughed and asked, “how do you write a blob?”  Their answers are so simply powerful. As a result,  I would like to share this with you as children can be the greatest of teachers.  Seeing the world through a child’s eyes has brought me a deeper understanding of my connection to all my relations.

 

What is your relationship with Mother Earth?

Seneca in her elegant way states, “My main relationship is loving.”

Cedar simply states without hesitation,” Love. Love and respect the Earth like your own Mother and yes, I always feel safe with her.”

What is love? 

“Love is the most powerfullest thing that cannot get destroyed”, says Cedar.

 “Support and respect”, says Seneca.

In what ways do you connect with the plant people?

Seneca answers, “Talking with my heart and not my brain.”

Cedar responds, “Talking with love not fear.”

In what ways can you give back to the Earth and the plants?

Cedar replies, “We can give back gentleness, love and respect.  Mother earth needs what we need”. Cedar also mentions, “Offerings are really important to give because we wouldn’t be alive without Mother Earth… not even close to even being born without Mother Earth.”

Cedar confidently says, “I know I am connected to the Earth because I love and play with her.”

The children both agreed, “Go slow in nature – you learn more.”

How do children’s relationships to the plants differ from adults?

Seneca proudly states, “Children pay attention.  When we see a beautiful plant we stop to look at it, adults see beautiful plants and don’t always stop to look at it.”

What do you like about harvesting plants?

Cedar shares, “I can experience more with the plants when I harvest and explore … giving me a relationship to the Earth.”

Seneca replies, “I like the walking. When you walk you can see more by going slower.  I like to eat the wild plants.”

Thank you Seneca and Cedar.  May your connection to the sweet Earth bless each of you infinitely!

“As a child, one has that magical capacity to move among the many eras of the earth; to see the land as an animal does; to experience the sky from the perspective of a flower or a bee; to feel the earth quiver and breathe beneath us; to know a hundred different smells of mud and listen unselfconsciously to the soughing of the trees.” -Valerie Andrews

Amongst the Chaparral

By Deb

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Larrea tridentata. Sugai. Creosote bush. Hediondilla. Oh the millions of names for this amazing plant. My personal favorite would have to be the Spanish name: La Gobernadora.  This translates to “the governess” in English. I  like this name the best and find it to be the name that describes the energetics of the plant and how she lives in her environment! Recently, during a lovely excursion to Winter Count in the Sonoran desert I had the opportunity to spend several days camped amongst the Chaparral. 

I connected with the plant each morning, rising before the sun, embracing the day and admiring the first rays of light touching the leathery leaves of the Chaparral and creating that glistening, shimmer on the fuzzy, silvery seeds while reflecting the sweet, yellow flowers.  I thought about all the humans who have shared this remarkable experience and celebrated the beginnings of the day just as I was doing.   It even rained a tiny bit just enough to  release the aromatic oils creating the heavenly scent that represents the desert. What an incredible plant! La Gobernadora is a very old and long living plant (carbon dating has suggested finding some plants as old as 11, 700 years old).  As we treat our elders with a deep sense of reverence, this is how I approach my relationship to this wonderful plant.

It always amazes me how plants sometimes mimic their external environments inside of our own human bodies. For example, La Gobernadora grows in one of the sunniest places on this Earth and that is exactly her medicine.  As Doug says, “Chaparral harmonizes your relationship with the sun”.  We make oil from the chaparral leaves to rub on our bodies to add as an extra level of protection. Doug explains to his students, “Let’s say you get sunburned, you have an aversion to sun or you have difficulty having a good relationship with the sun, chaparral can harmonize that. Rub the oil on, drink a small amount as tea, or make it as a wash.  A fantastic thing to experience is make a bottle of chaparral tea, a cold or hot infusion, put it in a bottle, take a shower, after the shower dump the whole bottle over yourself, don’t towel yourself off, just let it air dry then go about your day.  It holds your chi right where you want it; you feel this extra level of protection.  If you just put olive oil on it is like fry oil, but with the chaparral in it protects you, it acts as a sunscreen but it also heals sunburn.”

As we practice incorporating these plants into our lives, it is important to remember that we are training ourselves for awareness. There are thousands of ways to incorporate this plant into our lives.  I have only mentioned one. Doug reminds us that, “there is no goal, for example, ‘I know this plant or I’ve got it’ because you don’t, nobody ever does butwe have a beautiful relationship, you can say that.”

Smudging With Artemesia

By Deb

Artemesia!  Learning the art of smudging is surely a remarkable contribution to daily life! We have many options of plants to choose from for creating smudge sticks.  Some folks like to use Salvia apiana (white sage), Artemesia tridentata (Big Sage brush), or one of the Artemesias that grow locally in your region. They are all beautiful plants to know and an important alliance to make. We use this plant to cleanse and protect ourselves physically and energetically. Most cultures around the world use a variety of plants to clear their energy fields of unwanted energies or to use as a protection for their families, their homes, or during ceremony.

Basketry-Piedra.JPG

Using one of the southwestern Artemesia’s as a smudge has grown into a part of my daily practice to maintain homeostasis.  After I smudge, I feel uplifted and renewed.  I use one of our many available smudges to create a subtle yet powerful shift within my energy. I use it to invite awareness and to clear boggy energies in my mind and body.  This is an amazing plant to have as your ally in this world because a lot of times we need to feel that we are energetically protected. Artemesia gives us the opportunity to walk in the world with a feeling of confidence. Doug always reminds me that, “Artemesia helps us have the energy around us that we want”. Doug has also taught me to connect Artemesia with diligence and frequency.  I have come to rely on my alliance with this beautiful plant!

 In the last few weeks, I’ve been reminded how helpful Artemesia is when there is a time of sickness in the household. Remembering to smudge during these times is astonishingly useful to keep the energy moving so the sickness in the household can be cleansed and purified.  During these winter months, I have learned to diligently smudge before going anywhere to protect my energy. With this plant we learn to treat the body and home as the temples they are!

Chapparro amargosa

By Deb

As I reflect upon the relationship Chaparro amargosa and I have created, I feel a deep sense of gratitude within. We have known each other for almost a decade now! Each experience we share together brings us to greater understanding and growth. Although I have been building this relationship with Chaparro for almost a decade, It has only been in the past four years that I have physically met her. Thanks to my dear friend and teacher, Doug, who introduced us for the first time.

Chaparrro.JPG

I remember the first time I met her. It was a warm, late night at the end of January and the full moon was shining sweetly upon her.  It had recently rained so the air was thick with the beloved smell of chaparral. I had traveled that day from what Doug refers to as the “arctic” (a.k.a Colorado).  It was one of those moments where your life changes… profoundly and deeply. I knelt upon the Earth at her feet and began to cry.  I felt as I had let go of years worth of baggage. Aware that I was establishing a lifetime relationship, I began my multiple expressions of gratitude.  Giving offerings, singing, and offering friendship. Fully submersed in that moment, Chaparro helped me to begin to understand the importance of boundaries and how to create a stronger environment inside of myself as to how to effectively deal with difficult energies or experiences. Chaparro helps us with regulating boundarieson many different levels. Considering that it was one of those really challenging periods in my life this plant was communicating exactly the lesson I needed to be learning.  Humbly, I accept I have a lot more to learn!

Upon my return from Costa Rica recently, I have yet again built a new sense of trust in my relationship with Chaparro and the help Chaparro can offer humans when we are dealing with questionable water or food.  This is a really powerful statement, right? When it comes to traveling to other countries our bodies are not used to certain bacterias and bugs. When these foreign entities enter our bodies it can be shocking to the system especially when your energy is compromised from traveling. We need support to regulate the environment with in our digestive tracts during these types of situations.  Chaparro can offer us just that! As one of our students said, “Chaparro is the ambassador plant for traveling to other countries”.  I feel safe with her.

Doug has always taught me “Put your trust in Spirit, but don’t forget to tie up your camel!”.  In other words, take all precautions, use these medicines articulately, and trust in the plant medicine.  When we travel to other countries and you know the water is REALLY bad then take precautions to drink bottled water, eat and sleep well, keep your chi strong, wash your hands and eat Chaparro!  When we build relationships with plants, the more we are active participants in that relationship, the more we understand and trust. Like Doug says when you are an active participant the information you learn about the plant “now has a place to land”.  That is one of the many reasons why learning from Doug is so valuable.  He has been practicing for decades upon decades and has opened lots of doorways for the information about the plants to land!

Creating a Medicine Bundle

By Deb

In just a few weeks, my son, Cedar and I will be traveling to Costa Rica!  With this adventurous and grandiose opportunity, our experiences will fill our spirits and nourish life-long learning (especially for a six year old). However, as we know, traveling can be challenging and straining on the chi.  Some of the challenges may include riding buses, different quality of food, living out of backpacks,  language barrier, and bacteria’s unknown to our bodies.  All of which certainly enhance the experience, yet, we need to take measures to keep our chi fed, our intestines functioning with ease, and our nervous systems nourished. As I am preparing for this journey with my son, I have put diligent effort into creating a medicine bundle that will enhance and protect our bodies, spirits and minds during our experiences.

Cedar’s Medicine Pouch

I am happy to share with you somethings that Doug has taught me about creating a medicine bundle. The most important aspect to know about a medicine bundle is that it is small and therefore easily accessible. The key is availability. It is important that your medicines are with you right when you need them as opposed to in your backpack under the bus.  When you begin to feel ill, use the medicines to ward off the sickness. Very seldom do illnesses begin full force, so if you have the medicine immediately it changes the whole situation.  I have learned when using these medicines the key to being effective is the articulation of timing. These plants are in our lives every day. If you watch the deer, the bear, the burros, they are all eating these plants, not just when they are sick. They eat them to increase vitality, they eat them for general health, and for balance. If we only reserve them for the time when we are sick, that is not allowing them to participate in our lives in the way that they can.  It is helpful to use these medicines in a daily kind of way. Creating a medicine bundle facilitates our relationship with ourselves and creates more harmonious relationships with our plant relatives. Using a medicine bundle becomes effortless.  It becomes a way of honoring the temple of your body.

I would like to share with you a few concepts I use when selecting the medicines that I carry.  My choices are dependent upon where I am traveling and what season/climate it is.  I chose plants that preserve well and aren’t messy.  Roots, barks and some resins are generally good choices. Carrying a plentiful stock of each of these medicines is very important.  The medicine bundle is always on my person and readily available where as I keep other medicines packed away in my bags.

These are the plants that will accompany and bless us on our journey to Costa Rica!

Osha- who provides clarity, focus and protection

Elephant Tree (Torote)-  for stabilizing chi, eliminating unwanted energies ( in other words immuno-stimulant) and as Doug says, ”keeping energy crisp and strong”

Chaparro Amargosa – for questionable water or food (anti parasitic and bacterial). As one of our students said, “Chaparro is the ambassador plant for traveling to other countries”

Valerian – for support in handling stress (aligning and bringing harmony between body, mind, spirit, emotions) and offering a calm, aware approach to different situations

Wound Powder- to prevent external infections that could occur in cuts,scrapes, etc and for tooth brushing

Ginger- Motion sickness

Oregon Grape Root- stimulating a congested liver

Chaparral- to support the liver in dealing with rancid/bad oils

Please feel free to share your experiences with creating medicine pouches and their significance in your life!  Buen viaje!

Santa Fe, New Mexico

At the end of September to the beginning of October a temporary community of people gathered delightedly upon some private land adjoining the Eldorado Wilderness just outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico, to create a circle within which to learn deeply with Doug Simons.

The day before the gathering was due to begin Doug instructed some of us on how to build a traditional Lakota Sweat Lodge, the significance of the 16 posts and meaning of each step of the process. Our sweat-lodge looked grand to my eyes, a significant and rotund structure, risen from the ground  ~ Turtle nestled in an intimate area readied for a group ritual.

At the end of our first day together Doug began preparations for the sweat-lodge fire and heating of the volcanic rocks, carefully piled upon huge chunks of Cottonwood. 30 of us walked in a clockwise direction around our great fire bowing at the entrance to the lodge and crawling to our places. Women first, our children with us, then men. With kindness and immeasurable grace Doug allowed our children to sit a while, leave and re-enter our lodge as desired, supporting their first experiences of this sacred happening together in a safe community of people. The sweat lodge was hot- intense, the spirits of that place, of the plants, Doug’s guides and the multitude of our ancestors were all present with us in the womb, our prayers, induced by the intensity of the heat became stronger and more heart felt. The rest of our time together that weekend was very rich and lasting thanks to the intimacy experienced within the lodge.

As I write these few words I am mulling over the plant relationships that were re-invigorated, established for the first time or simply happily acknowledged for me during the days we spent with Doug. It is of course different for each of us, however-  it occurs to me that my deeper impressions of this time have been less around plant specifics and more about the importance of creating a clear and concise understanding of the foundation we need to develop to facilitate emotional, psychological and physical acceptance of the medicine our plant relatives offer us as we call upon them to aid in our healing and whole-ing. Good nutrition, non-rancid fats and oils, Kidney and Adrenal health, lifestyle practices and working with plant and organ energetics.

All of these teachings weave a strong base upon which to embroider the threads of our own lives as well as the lives of our friends, families and clients. A true understanding of the workings of nature that creates a good enough soil to allow further knowledge to thrive in.

Doug works on so many levels simultaneously, thus keeping students of various experience held deliciously in the mystery and humility of learning, unpeeling the layers at which they are in their own journey and I gave deep thanks and gratitude for all the questions, observations and translations of Doug’s teachings that we offered up to one another during our days together.

We look forward to delving further together in our bioregion, as our community unfolds, expands and embraces these valuable teachings and life ways Doug offers us.

Mitakuye Oyasin, All My Relations.

Valeriana arizonica

I awoke this morning and I was eagerly anticipating a visit with a close friend, one whom I had not seen in awhile. I had not visited this dear friend of mine this time of year, so I was a little concerned that I may not identify her. I was hoping that she would recognize me and would draw me to her. Her name is Valeriana arizonica, and she is a beautiful plant that grows along the creeks of the Gila wilderness. Not far from my home in Gila, there is a creek that I visit often and it has grown to be a very special place to me. She lives here and she welcomes me when I come, like an old friend.

Arriving at the trail head I was relieved to see that I was alone.  I love arriving at the trail to discover that there are no other cars indicating that other humans may be ahead of me. Sometimes I feel that my expectations and desires to want to be alone in the wild are a little selfish. Today I needed a day off from talking with humans, from discussing things, and instead I needed a day of listening and conversing with the wild. I need it to feel alive.

She lives a little way up the creek and the farther that you walk you will discover that she grows more abundantly. You need to give a little to see her.  She will not reveal herself if you are not ready and you fail to approach her with the right intentions. She knows. I kept walking and I felt that she was near. It is winter, so I questioned whether any part of her would be visible above ground. Then, I recognized her beside the creek on a shadowy, moist hillside where she loves to make her home. Her leaves were still green, but were not vibrant like they are in the spring and summer, but rather tired and wilted. I still was a little unsure of her identity because of the condition of her leaves. I then remembered something important that the plants and the animals had taught me. They remind me to speak to them because they are alive. I asked her to show herself to me and to give me the assurance that I needed. I sat. I felt her leaves. They were the right shape and they grew in the right way. I pulled back the dried and fallen leaves from the ground around her. I need not mistaken her for somebody else. I dug back the moist soil to expose her roots. It was clear then that it was she. She has a main root that grows along the top of the soil, with many long smaller roots extending downward from the main root. She has this scent that identifies her. The aroma that she exudes has become so familiar to me.

One of the reasons for venturing up the creek to visit her today was to ask for her help as I always do.  She is medicine. I ask and she offers herself so graciously. I sit on the damp earth, the creek singing to me, and carefully and respectfully collect what I feel is right. She lets me know when I have gathered enough. It is a cold day in the canyon and I hear no birds joining the creek in its song. Time is not a factor when you sit like this. Eventually, I knew that I had collected the perfect amount for that time and day and moment. I needed to say goodbye and offer my thanks.

I bundled up for my walk back to the car. Canyons in the Gila during the winter can be shadowy and cold, but wonderfully quiet and still. I arrived at my car about fifteen minutes before sunset, so naturally I needed to stay to watch the sun settle down behind the horizon in the west. Colors danced in the sky and I gave thanks.

By Riley Olsen

Durango, Colorado

Three days in the mountains of southwest Colorado are a dream, a crispy recollection of sherbert colored sunrise, fairy houses along the creek, and sinking peacefully into the roots of fir, muscles humming sweetly in response to sweet Pedicularis. We spent those three days eating, praying and learning together, so that the memory is full of friendships and firesides and muffled giggles shared with the children.

I am impressed by our beloved Deb, her tenacity a buoy amongst the craze of needs and curiosities and the tendency to forget time when sleeping under the stars.  Keeping us moving, offering correct spelling of Latin names and guiding the rhythm of our days. She is worthy of a great gratitude!

In those high places on the mountain, we learn to move slowly so as not to loose our breath and quietly so as to walk with the deer and flit with the birds harmoniously. I met someone on the mountain who helped me to walk this way. Her name is Pedicularis. She has three dresses; her moist meadow dress, blooming purple and low to the ground, fern like leaves curling outward and petals the shape of an elephants head; the dress she wears when lying low at the base of spruce and aspen trees, milky flowers crowning narrow serrated leaves decorating a red stem; and the dress that fits a tall frame, broad fern leaves in bright green, heavy flowers bobbing in breezes.

Pedicularis is what we consider a nervine and her specialty is in relaxing our skeletal muscles. When we eat Pedicularis or drink the herb as tea our muscles release the tension that holds our skeleton imbalanced this way or that. For me, I feel settled, movement is easy, and clarity comes to my mind as the channels in my energetic body are opened and set free. She nourishes this state of our body and over time helps us to attain and maintain this relaxed and open state, a state where we are liberated from stiffness and stressful tension.

The weekend in Durango, our first meeting, Pedicularis was with me as I slept the cold nights, so that I woke rested and free from the usual creaking that comes with nights on the uneven ground and was with me much of the day, just a light sweetness gracing my body as we wandered slowly and sat patiently greeting the many medicine plants along the path.

Our days in Durango were a special time, the immersion in the world of plant medicine was deep and very full.

Many thanks due to Doug and Deb for their commitment, grace and love and especially to everyone who came along to craft, laugh and learn!!!

Tess

Spring Into Action

Here we are… New Beginnings…Transformation… The rivers and creeks are beginning to swell…Animals and winged ones return from dormancy or far distances…The plant people are returning…Life is shifting energy from contractive to expansive…Inward to outward…A MOST MAGICAL TIME!

As this transition occurs, our bodies, being extensions of the Earth, begin to make the shift as well.  The liver becomes more active (in Chinese medicine it is the season of the liver), hay fever allergies kick in, we crave different foods, yearn for cleansing, tendency towards sinus and ear infections, as well as, emotional and spiritual shifts.

How I longed many a year to feel the harmony between my body, mind, emotions, and spirit during this magical season so I could truly enjoy it.  I often found it difficult to spring into activity from the inactivity of winter resulting in sinus infections, emotional turmoil, restlessness, and hay-fever allergies.  Thus, I became an investigator, observing and examining the deep corners of my knowledge base as well as looking to the wild plants and the rhythms of the natural world. For me, I realized as the season shifted, I needed a remedy that would support deep change to create harmony in my body and the world that surrounds me, as opposed to, something that worked directly to remove the symptoms. For example, an antihistamine coupled with proper liver nourishment, the remedy was directly in front of me (as it often is) and simple:

 

Nettles are revered by many cultures across the globe as a spring tonic. Not only as an ally to support our life force with green synergy (minerals, trace minerals, chlorophyll, plant protein) but as an ally to create revitalizing, gentle movement to awaken the body from a dormant state. Michael Moore explained that Nettles create “green noise” in the body. As Nettles support us in shedding our winter skin, Nettles can also support our bodies in approaching hay-fever allergies in a non-invasive way.  What an incredibly well rounded plant medicine and one that grows readily across the globe.

Awakening Spring Tonic Tea
Nettles – 2 parts
Red Root – 1 part
Dandelion – 1 part

1. Simmer the roots together for 10-15 minutes.
2. Remove from heat.
3. Add Nettles and Steep for 10 minutes.
4. Strain and Drink!!!

Every time I see Nettles, hear the word Nettles, or drink Nettle tea it brings me home to myself.  I am reminded of the vibrant life force that has been a complete gift to each of us. Nettles remind us of our own vibrancy and give us an opening to embrace it! My gratitude knows no bounds for this beautiful relationship Nettles and I continue build!