Review – Plant Spirit Healing: A Guide to Working with Plant Consciousness by Pam Montgomery, Rochester, VT: Bear & Co., 2008.
I was drawn to this book by the words in the title “Plant Consciousness.” Pam Montgomery beautifully describes many ways of how to listen to the guiding spirits of plants and to become aware of their consciousness. More and more of us have come to realize that the Earth is alive and conscious, actively alive in creating the environment needed for each species to survive with the ability to communicate with each other, with other species, and with the needed substances for their health and survival. All of Earth’s species are interdependent and each species makes constant environmental adjustments to maintain the needed balance within this interdependence for survival. Plant life has led the way in the creation of the Earth and is 99% of all living organisms. It is the most experienced in making these frequent adjustments and is aware of and able to provide for our needs and the needs of other species as co-creative partners. With this understanding of the importance of this co-creative partnership I can no longer believe in the biblical command that we shall have dominion over the Earth and all that is of the Earth. For our survival we cannot continue to believe that we are superior to all that is of the Earth. We are only one step in the process of evolution and in the interdependence of all that is of the Earth. Recognizing that our life is dependent upon Earth’s flora to give us the oxygen we need to breath and plants depend upon the carbon dioxide we exhale for their own life, how can we consider ourselves superior to this plant life.
The spirit of a plant is ever present and is available to us anytime and anywhere. Plants are as sophisticated in behavior as animals. “Plants have an enormous capacity for computing and for making decisions about complex aspects of their environment like light, water, gravity, vibrations, chemicals, temperature, sound and predators” (p 24). Shamans are able to communicate with the spirits of plants, spirits that give them their gift of the power for healing.
Pam Montgomery frequently refers to the heart, soul and spirit of a plant. The analogy of these aspects of a plant to a house helped clarify their relationship. The heart is the decorations inside the house, its personality. The soul is the structure of the house, solid, long-lasting and archetypal. The spirit is who lives in the house, filling the rooms with undeniable presence, (p. 181).
The healing nature of the heart as a primary organ of emotional perception depends upon the coherent and harmonious emotions of love, compassion, appreciation, gratitude, innocence and forgiveness to generate a smooth and harmonious heart rhythm for health. These positive core heart feelings are what lead to coherence in heart rate variability, feelings that determine the heart’s positive personality, while negative feelings weaken the heart and lead to disease the healing of which can be brought about with Plant Spirit Healing.
Whether the soul structure is solid or crumbling depends predominately upon our primary relations, our immediate family. Early childhood and past ancestral trauma set the stage for the weakening or loss of one’s soul. Soul retrieval is an integral part of the healing process to help a person become more fully who they are, and the plant spirit can facilitate this healing retrieval.
Regarding the spirit, spirit is all-pervasive both at the individual level and at a greater unity level. It is intelligent, coherent and ordered in nature. Our connection to spirit is readily found in the natural world, but it is the way we live in the modern world, closed off from the spirits of nature that causes spiritual malnourishment and spirit loss. As a result of our current spiritual malnourishment there is a movement towards again connecting with our spiritual and shamanic heritage. A shaman is selected to be a shaman by the spirits, and it is the spirits themselves that become the teachers. In order to enter the spirit dimension an altered state of consciousness is required whether in the state of nighttime dreams, daydreaming, or lucid dreaming, and I would like to add such trance states as hypnosis or ecstatic trance. Calling the experiences that come from these altered states of consciousness dreamtime experiences, much information is gathered for personal healing and guidance, for the healing of others, for learning of one’s direction in life, and for bringing balance to the earth.
To develop a co-creative relationship with plants engaging each of your five senses is a beginning, but to effectively and coherently communicate our intention needs to be through our heart. As you experience the felt-sense that comes from the plant, as images and sensations come alive within you, it is important to send them back to the plant to confirm them “in waves of ‘yes’ vibrations,” (p 97). From my many years of using clinical hypnosis I recognize the importance of developing the “yes-set” to induce trance, (a concept offered by Milton Erickson). Confirming images and sensations with ‘yes’-vibrations recognizes the role of hypnosis as another avenue to a dreamtime experience. Pam Montgomery recognizes that these dreamtime experiences in communicating with plants can be experienced nonlocally across time and space, a quantum physics concept of nonlocal coherence, a concept that I again find very central to the dreamtime experiences provided through hypnosis and ecstatic trance.
Another dimension to opening one’s self to coherent communication with plants is to use one’s imagination. The images that come to one’s mind are relevant to what the plant is attempting to communicate.
Another issue that is very important to me is what is going on currently in our relationship with the Earth in terms of global climate change. There are many prophecies for a time of Great Healing, and Pam Montgomery describes a few. I believe that this time is immediately before us, leading to a huge paradigm shift in again returning the ways of our hunting-gathering ancestors, ways that are so beautifully described by Pam Montgomery as “the feminine path of cooperation, nonaggression, inclusiveness, noncompetitiveness, servicer rather than dominance, the use of psychic and spiritual gifts as well as technology, and living in conscious harmony with nature’s ways” (p. 111).
In Chapter 10 she offers a number of teaching activities that can aid her students in coming into coherence with nature and open the door to the world of the spirits, activities that include Night Walking, A Fire Vigil, A Vision Journey or Vision Quest, and the ritual of A Sweat Lodge.
In the next chapter Pam Montgomery offers three foundational healing modalities, the Chinese modality of the five elements, the Yogic modality of The Seven Chakra, and the Native American modality of the Medicine Wheel. Though I have read much about these three modalities, what has resonated most within me and is central to my own work with the spirits are the seven directions of the Medicine Wheel, and occasionally to the Seven Chakra. What I appreciated most from this chapter is Pam Montgomery’s description of the Chinese five elements. For the first time the relationship of these five elements of wood, fire, earth, metal and water to healing has become meaningful to me in her description of the personality of each element.· Wood reaches for sunlight and is grounded in the Earth. Its regenerative energy has a strong sense of self and reaches for new heights. Fire radiates passionate energy, brings heat of the sun to life and desires to join in union in relationships. Earth is the nourishing Mother who feeds us and others. She is the peacemaker in mediating conflict. She is caring, giving, and the healer. For her saying “No” is difficult. Metal is the energy of pure essence. It gets to the core of issues, seeks to know and understand. It is the Father, the artist with an aesthetic sense, lofty in discussion of higher truths, and ethical in high moral standards. It seeks the principles of life and how things fundamentally operate.
Water’s energy when contained shows stillness and when in motion is flowing. It seeks balance between the two. Lao Tzu says “Water resists nothing and overcomes everything. It is the source of life, the reservoir of knowledge.”
Dis-ease comes from the shadow side of each of these elements, whether one is addicted to the element or relates inadequately to the element. The addictive side of Wood is the person who always seeks more and is never satisfied, while the inadequate side is of the person who has no sense of self and accomplishes nothing. For Fire the addictive side is the person who is over-involved in controlling others, and the inadequate side is the cold person with no passion. For Earth, the addictive side is when a person is over involved with nurturing and the inadequate side the person who is unable to nurture. The addictive metal person is sharp, cutting, and hording, and the inadequate metal person shows no creativity, no curiosity and has no self-esteem. For the Water person, the addict is out of balance, either addicted to stillness or constantly in motion, while the inadequate person lacks energy. Pam, Thank you for bringing me to a deeper understanding of these five elements.
When a person gains the ability to see beyond what the eyes see, i.e. beyond Consensus Reality, the person can begin to see the energy bodies of others. In seeing one’s energy body the location of dis-ease becomes evident. The location of dis-ease can also be felt when passing your hand over the person’s body about four inches above the body, or by using the pendulum in divining the source of the dis-ease. I have frequently used the pendulum to find answers and I find it quite effective. I first ask the pendulum a question that has a clear “yes” answer and then a question with a clear “no” answer to see which way it swings or does not swing in each case. From Pam Montgomery’s ways of identifying dis-ease I found it especially interesting when she noted that a weakness on the left side is from ancestral trauma, that ancestral trauma has a continued effect on the body. So often I find spirits appearing to me from over my left shoulder. I have researched my genealogy quite extensively and one trauma I am aware of that occurred eleven generations ago in 1662 when my ancestors emigrated from the Netherlands to the Hudson Valley of New York. In the conflicts that arose between the invading Dutch and the Esopus Lenape Indians of the area, during the “Second Esopus War” my 9x great grandmother and three of her children along with a number of others of the Dutch community were captured and held by the Indians in various Esopus villages. My ancestors were held the longest, for three months until a truce was negotiated. The Esopus were a peaceful and gentle tribe, and while my ancestors were held they were incorporated quite gently into the Esopus community with the children having other children of the village with whom to play, but my 9x great grandfather was quite traumatized by their capture. When his wife and children were returned he and the other men of the Dutch community were unable to hear or believe the positive side of his wife’s and children’s experience. It turned out that of those others who were captured, two decided to remain with the gentle Esopus. The Second Esopus War began only after a couple of Indians were killed and a number of captured Indians were sent to the Caribbean as slaves. It began when the peaceful Esopus were pushed to their limits and set fire to the Dutch village as they took the captives.
After having recently moved to this area of the Hudson Valley, not far down the road from Linda Law whose photographs add heart to this book, I have repeatedly visited these ancestral spirits through ecstatic trance to get in touch with these feelings, especially the positive side of their experience and the frustration experienced by my ancestral grandmother in wanting to tell others of her new understanding of the Esopus.
The book concludes with Pam Montgomery’s description and use of ten herbs that she favors in her herbal work: Mugwort, Sacred Basil, St John’s Wort, Calendula, Trillium, Hawthorn, Dandelion, Angelica, Agrimony and Rose, six of which grow quite hardily on our one acre, and I intend to plant the others.
Plants lead the way in the creation of the Earth and now they guide us in our evolving spiritual awakening in our co-creative partnership with them. Plants become an evolutionary imperative both for us and the Earth. This book is a very important read for us as we go into the New Age, a book with which I deeply resonate in my own work with ecstatic trance that I use for journeying into the spirit world of plants.