Most Western people lead lives that are almost entirely disassociated from nature. They feel that their lives are only related to a specific group of people or perhaps, for a minority, to the human race, in general. For them, the natural world is just a kind of backdrop, a setting that provides humans with their necessities for food, warmth, work and recreation, and from which all is to be taken freely and little or nothing needs to be returned. This kind of disconnect from nature creates damaged mental health and terribly destructive behavior. On the other hand, as almost anyone who's experienced nature recognizes, we can be as closely involved with nature as we allow ourselves to be. And through that involvement, nature can renew and re-create us. This means that our efforts to explore our relationship with our natural environment, can be the basis for more productive and happier lives.
This page is written with the purpose of asking you to do a small study of nature that involves exploring your own special relationship with plants or, more in particular, with a single plant. You have heard the saying that “You are what you eat.” That’s what I’m asking of you to consider. Put one fruit in front of you – some fruit that you like a lot. Meditate on it for a couple of minutes. Lift it up and consider its weight. Turn it around and view it from several angles. Smell it. Think about the many experiences it may have had in order to reach your table and your hand – being planted, breaking through the ground, finding the light, being watered, growing, and then harvested, and transported. Or, for those fruits that grow on trees, their appearance as blossoms, growth to maturity, passing through times of more or less water, more or less light and heat, being picked and then transported. Then say a sort of prayer of thanks, asking the fruit to accept becoming part of you and to help you to be healthier.
While not the only way - or even one of the best ways - to overcome our separation with nature, this simple consideration of a food source can be a start to this process. It can help us be more aware of the importance of our interactions with the natural world – by creating a deeper recognition of our dependence on plants and a thankfulness toward them for sustaining all animal and human life on this planet.
After you have carried out your fruit-considering experiment, I hope that you will open your mind to other possibilities for engagement with plants. There are an estimated 275,000 different species of plants on Earth, and current science knows only a few thousand of them, and even at that, not necessarily very well. Plants do a lot more than just feed us. Plants are many different things, as all native people realize --they're food, shelter, medicines, poisons, and visionary agents. And, as indigenous people know, different species of plant have their own spirits, which can act as teachers, healers, and allies.
Unfortunately, most modern people are so immersed in the material world and with their own personal ego that they assume that plants are somehow unintelligent or even “lifeless”. We are totally ignorant when we think of plants as just a set of chemical processes that somehow appeared on the Earth and have no important purpose other than what the human population makes of them. Nothing could be further from the truth.
While a plant does not have a recognizable physical brain or other obvious animal characteristics, they are, by definition, at one time, living and sentient beings. That means that, in an important way, they share in the same energy sources that animals and humans do. Beyond that, plants form the foundation for the macroscopic level of life on this planet and their presence regulates our atmosphere. It goes without saying that that they also produce “medicine” (healing powers) for themselves and for all animal species. Yet we don’t know how they “live” their lives and, in our arrogance, we often consider them to be unfeeling or unconscious things.
While clearly lacking an animal’s central nervous system, plants do have some kind of a dispersed nervous system that allows them to communicate between their cells and with their organs. And, recently, researchers in some of the lesser-known sciences like plant neurobiology and ethnobotany have shown other surprising facts about the "behavior" of plants. From their experiments, they postulate that plants not only have mechanisms of intelligence (Plant-Mind) but also appear to do their work through a psychic link – a type of biological wisdom. This is the same intelligent link that bonds all life on Earth and is sometimes referred to as the Gaian mind (and that, in turn, is part of Universal Mind).
All of us participate at some level in Gaian and Universal Mind, but our psychic limitations keep us from being aware of our involvement. On the other hand, we can do better than we have in the past. And if we, indeed, love our lives on this Earth – and love the Earth – we need to open our hearts and minds, accepting to be healed by and finding a healing role in nature. Only then, will we be able to find some peace and stop destroying our planet.