Too often when we speak of spirituality, I think we confine the conversation to human relationships with the Divine. Whether we refer to God, Goddess, Higher Power, The Force, Universe, True Self, or some other sacred name, our practices can either become exceedingly inward or supremely transcendent. What might we learn from connecting to our earth-tethered kin?
Acknowledging our Plant Neighbors
In his book, Iwígara: The Kinship of Plants and People, ethnobotanical scholar Dr. Enrique Salmón draws on the collected wisdom of his Rarámuri lineage to introduce readers to 80 plants, employing a worldview that perceives plants as relatives.
“Iwígara channels the idea that all life, spiritual and physical, is interconnected in a continual cycle and expresses the belief that all life shares the same breath. We are all related to, and play a role in, the complexity of life,” Salmón explains.
Admittedly, it’s easy to think that plants are placed here for us―their job to make the air breathable or feed our bodies. And yet, this is naïve and smacks of human superiority. Over 80 percent of the biomass on Earth is plants—this planet is more theirs than ours. What’s more, there’s no denying that plants have complex lives of their own. In fact, researchers at the International Laboratory for Plant Neurobiology
declare, “Plants are as sophisticated in behavior as animals, but their potential has been masked because it operates on time scales many orders of magnitude less than that operating in animals.”
And so, I wondered: What might a spiritual relationship with individual plants—rather than an “I-love-nature-as-a-whole” view—offer? Curious, I decided to find out.
Prayer-Full Meditations With the Leafy Ones
Goldenrod: Plant With a Bad Rap
Contrary to popular belief, it is not goldenrod that activates human sniffling and sneezing during summer allergy season. (Ragweed is the likely culprit.) For thousands of years, this open-field tall-stemmed one was used by indigenous peoples as a “gambling medicine.” Not to be confused with modern-day casino endeavors, Salmón suggests goldenrod represents the reverence of chance through the “unpredictable Trickster consciousness” and the “unexplainable gray areas of the cosmos.” Hmmm … can goldenrod help us embrace uncertainty and withstand conundrums?