I am discovering more a new “essential” Shamanism can be practiced, particularly here in the West through meditation on a solitary path. This practise includes invoking the unique nature and use of certain plants through visualizing them, and deploying their magical potential, in Symbol, rather than in their actual, physical use.
In The Secret Teaching of Plants , Stephen Buhner reminds us that plant teachings are the foundation of modern discoveries in both medicine and plant foods. Gathering of such knowledge directly from the wildness of the world is known as biognosis—meaning “knowledge from life.”
Buhner asserts that this is an aspect of our humanness inherent in our physical bodies and is therefore something that each of us has the capacity to develop.
It seems likely that, in the beginning at least, almost all original discoveries of plant medicine came from communication of the world’s shamans with the plant life here on Earth. This communication is part of the training of the Shaman in all indigenous cultures, and in the transition to new sestern shamanism, we need to remind ourselves of this natural school of learning and healing.
Planet Teachings and the Nature of Shamanism
I consider myself to be a transitional shaman – one who has trained as a shaman in former lives and and remembers this, as part of the gift of Far Memory, but now continues this training as a westernizing shaman developing and practising through meditation.
Along these lines, I have been exploring, and writing about, the dramatic dimensions of symbol as the essential core of all shamanism, East and West. In fact, Indigenous shamans themselves will say that it is all done through symbol.
I have learned, in this lifetime, that the healing Journey of the Shaman, traditionally accompanied by and expressed through ritual, trance, drum and masks, is possible in meditation. It is, of course, a rather unique form of meditation, in which we enter light trance, awakening Higher Mind and the faculty of Active Imagination. I call this essential shamanism, as it returns us to the realm of Mind, where in creating a “virtual” world, we can then transform it.
I am discovering more and more how essential shamanism can be practiced, particularly here in the West, including the unique nature and use of certain plants through their visualizing in Symbol, rather than in their actual, physical use.
Recently, in several meditations, I found myself burying my face in a bouquet of peonies. I knew I had a fond memory of my mother’s bushes of peonies around Hillshore, my childhood home (and where my mother, a medium, held psychic sittings). But, as the meditations unfolded, I realized that more was going on than a trip down memory lane.
I discovered the rich meanings of the Peony, and why I was literally bathing myself its beautiful, soft petals, which I could visualize so clearly. The peony has a remarkable history as a medicinal plant, especially in ancient China and Greece, and its properties have recently been the subject of medical research in the West.
There are many legends about the Peony; I like the one that links it to the chief (human) physician to the Gods of Olympus, who was said to have changed into a Peony to avoid the jealousy of his teacher, the physician Asclepius, God of Healing,
In traditional Chinese medicine its tubers (thick fleshy roots), flowers and seeds are considered sources of healing for many conditions, particularly skin, liver, autoimmune disease such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, etc. and many female gynecological problems. Perhaps the most important of its powers, for the Shaman, is its healing of illness rooted in unresolved emotional turmoil…
But what I received in meditation was clear and surprising – we can tap the medicine powers of plants through their visualization; we do not need to hold or be near an actual physical plant:
“In meditation, through Symbol, one is engaging with the Original Peony Form, one might say, and that the healing can come directly from this Form’s essence, since it is also the Source of the physical Peony you see on Earth. Experiencing the Peony in meditation is the key to its teaching and to tapping its healing powers.”
With this message came the added comment that this healing work in meditation should be supplemented and supported by spending as much time as we can in the world of Nature. A half-way point here would be pictures and videos on the internet, not to mention beautiful nature shows on TV.
Fill the mind with this beauty and these clearly remembered images. This makes it all the more natural and easy to raise these to Higher Mind, where we know them as Forms – their true, creative essences.
For the amazing truth is that we can commune with the forests and gardens and individual plants of Nature without leaving our armchairs. We are in living communication with the great Forms of all plant types found on Earth. Here, in our visualization, they teach us what they are, even Who they are, and the gifts they have for us.
From within the Garden of the Higher Mind, we can choose and use any plant medicine that we need, for ourselves, or sent to another in a healing Journey.