I was lying awake at 2:30 in the morning (like ya do) and an urgent thought came into my mind – it wouldn’t let me go back to sleep unless I wrote a note to myself that I would tell you about it today.
This idea isn’t new, but many of us have forgotten. Something essential is missing from your practice of aromatherapy if you are not interacting with plants!
Why? We evolved with plants! We were meant to be in relationship with them, observe them, interact with them, learn from them, nurture and be nurtured by them. There are important, hidden things that happen in our bodies, brains, and spirits when we are in nature and interacting with it.
There are so many benefits to essential oils, but there can be a disconnect when something is bottled – like so many things these days that are turned into pills, capsules…drugs. These things certainly have their place, but we have become used to thinking of these encapsulated substances as something we “use” – no longer an ally we work with. Things we “use” lose their intrinsic value and we start to only value what it can do for us. And this kind of thinking starts to leak into other areas, and we start to say “This tree (weed, shrub, etc) just isn’t doing anything for me.” “It’s in the way.” “I can make more money by putting something else there.”
If you have come to one of my classes or heard me talk about aromatherapy or herbalism, you may have noticed that I try to talk about essential oils and herbs as though they are allies we work with, and I’m trying to move away from talking about “using” them. I credit Katja Swift and Ryn Midura of Commonwealth Center for Holistic Herbalism for this influence on how I think of and communicate about plants. I’ve been listening to their podcasts and videos, and reading their blogs, and striving to emulate this value.
As I was working toward my Aromatherapy certification and starting my business, I admit, I had the same disconnect that many people have. I’ve always felt the need to be outside for daily walks, and have always had appreciation for nature, but I started to realize that being in relationship with plants was missing from my experience. I started to see more people like Erin and Jonathan Stewart of AromaCulture and Floranella offer Aromatherapy and Herbalism education together. I started to grow a few herbs, learning about how they grow, nurturing them, often failing, but gaining more appreciation for the people who tend to the plants we order or buy from the store. I started visiting more gardens and parks, learning about native plants.
Katja Swift, in a recent podcast, suggested that maybe the imbalances that stinging nettle heals are actually imbalances caused by not getting enough stinging nettle. In a more general sense, perhaps plants help heal the imbalances we have as a result of not being in nature enough, or not being in relationship with plants.
So, go to the source, grow and nurture something, even if you have to hang it from a ceiling to keep it away from your cats (as I must). Have a window box. Go outside. It’s tough to know how we can give back to that frankincense tree growing in Oman, the sandalwood growing in India, the Palo Santo growing in Equador, but we can give thanks. We can support the farmers who are using regenerative and sustainable practices. By being in relationship with plants, we can change the way we think about them, not as inanimate objects, but friends and allies.