As an officially enrolled student in a Green Spirit Master Herbalist program my assignments often include reflecting upon my spirituality and beliefs. Of course, step two is to write it down for submission. I am blessed to have a husband that is capable of professional proof-reading and is amazingly willing to read nearly everything I write. After reading my paper on my spiritual practice he suggested it would be a great piece for my blog. My initial response was fear, nausea and denial. I don’t talk about my spirituality and to actually post it for public viewing is akin to walking into work naked. Then I felt a bit sad that I kept such an important part of my life in the shadows. Was it shame, fear of ridicule or did I feel it was too sacred to share? Maybe all the above. It wasn’t mainstream and I did not feel inclined to ever have to defend it. I decided my readers were few and I would go ahead and share it here on my blog. As always, if you take the time to read my blog I will take the time to read comments so please feel free to share any feedback.
My spiritual practice has evolved over the years, as one would expect. Defining it requires following the path it took over nearly six decades. It is difficult to discuss spirituality without some mention of religion. I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church and identified with that faith and its practices until early adulthood. I began questioning many of the rituals and practices in my thirties and searched for something more meaningful. Each church I visited and each faith I studied still didn’t quite feel right with my basic beliefs and values. To this day I search for a “home church” that I would be comfortable in but organized religion does not seem to fit my individual spirituality. The long search was not totally in vain, as I feel I can accept and understand others faith more fully now.
My spirituality is an integral part of me and always present, but I feel the presence of the creator most when I am outside in nature. Looking back this started at an early age but I did not recognize it as spiritual at the time. As an only child in a rural setting with no other children nearby, my days were spent playing in the woods and fields near my home. I would spend hours talking to the trees, building homes for fairies and lying quietly to hear the plants whisper and birds sing. This came naturally and it never occurred to me that people did not talk to trees and plants. My grandmother often talked to her plants and was a huge influence on my love of the outdoors. There was an area of the neighboring woods I named the Green Cathedral due to the way the vines and trees made a huge structure. In the winter it became the White Cathedral and was truly beautiful draped in snow. I always treated this area with great reverence and often prayed there. Even then I did not think of it as a spiritual practice.
The unusual aspects of my wilderness play were not the only things in my childhood that led me to my spiritual practice today. I have always had an unexplainable affinity for the indigenous people of any area. When I was twelve we moved back home to New Zealand and lived in the city of Christchurch. I was allowed to walk two blocks in each direction alone but was told not to go down a certain street because that was a Maori neighborhood and unsafe. Of course it was the first place I headed. I was greeted by beautiful smiling faces and such kindness. Granted a young blonde girl walking alone was probably a novelty at the time, but I still found nothing but graciousness on that street. As New Zealand is my birthplace I have always loved the Maori people and culture. After a short period we moved back to the USA and lived in an area in New York just outside the Onondaga Indian reservation. Again I was cautioned not to walk there because it wasn’t safe. I spent a large portion of my teen years on the reservation, unknown to my parents, and again found nothing but graciousness and a wonderful wisdom about the natural world. This, I believe, all played a part into my discovery of Shamanism.
Some callings come quietly and slowly but this was not the case with Shamanism. Suddenly it was everywhere around me and even my Twitter account was suddenly filled with followers of the shaman variety. I did not know much about it and began to read and learn. I have attended workshops and found I easily journeyed to the spirit world and I have learned much there. It was the spirit world or “non-ordinary reality” that led me to want to study plants and plant medicine. I have an ancestor in the spirit world that teaches me about plants. I find this as unusual and extraordinary as any “regular person” would. I have been amazed at what I have been shown by the ancestor and later discovered to be quite factual in regards to plant medicine. She has shown me Red Clover, Yarrow, Hawthorn, Alder and Dandelion in infusions long before I even knew there was such a thing. My journeying is not something I talk about openly due to a high rate of non-acceptance. I still consider myself a follower of Christ and his teachings, I still believe in a Creator or Higher Spirit and shamanism is not a religion. A person can practice shamanism and be a Christian or any other religion. I journey and respect the spirit of animals and plants but certainly don’t consider myself a Shaman. That is a title of high regard and if I study the rest of my life I will still not consider myself a Shaman but someone who practices shaman rituals. I finally have found something that fits my belief system that all life is sacred, everything we need is found in nature and we all have the ability to nurture and heal ourselves. I do feel all things have an energy or spirit.
I started by saying my spirituality had evolved over the years but when I truly reflect on the path I have taken I see I have come back to my starting point. The little girl that talked to the trees and loved every living thing in the woods, fields and creeks knew all about spirituality. I just didn’t give a name then but I can now. My spirituality is Nature, all creatures and plants are sacred and have something to offer. There is a spirit in all things. My spirituality becomes political when I fight to protect the environment and wildlife or when I fight for human rights and dignity. I cannot belong to an organized religion or political party because I have yet to find one that encompasses equality and respect for all life. After many years of searching I am back where I belong and comfortable with my spirituality. I have no need to defend or explain it; just live it. It is not religion, politics or societal norms; it is my life and who I am.