Nature memoir Greenhood: the delight in being dormant, will be out 2022

How to find your plant ally

I know many of you are feeling heartache and perhaps even helplessness right now. There's so much we need to change about the way we live—and this week's release of the latest climate report from the UN's IPCC is a reminder of that. The results are not surprising. We have to act now or we're stuffed. And we know what needs to happen. But many of us don't know how to help or where to start. It seems too big a problem.

But we can all make a difference—in our own unique way.

I worry social media homogenises our response to situations. We need to stay informed and be inspired, and the online world is a wonderful place for that. But we also need time to sit with our own thoughts. We won’t discover how our personal interests and talents align with what society needs if we let the ideas of others infiltrate more than their fair share of our minds. Unique, creative and innovative solutions need time to simmer.

I suspect your heart knows what you need to do. So rather than look outwards for inspiration—look inwards.

I know that can be hard to do with all the information being thrown at us these days, and with all the thoughts racing through your mind—but having a plant ally can help.

A plant ally is a plant that you have a close relationship with, much like a close friend. They are especially wonderful at helping you to tune in to your intuition and find clarity.

Do you have one already? Would you like one?

Right now my closest plant ally is nettle. I sit with her most days, and I am always amazed at the clarity I find.

Nettle plant allyI not only sit with my plant allies - I also eat them if they are edible ;-)

A step-by-step guide to meeting your plant ally

1. STEP AWAY FROM THE SCREEN. Turn off your phone, or at least put it on silent.

2. Grab a notebook and pen (a thermos of tea is also wise) and head out for a wander. Perhaps there’s a forest nearby or a patch of remnant bushland tucked away at the back of a park. Worst case, depending on restrictions or where you live, simply wander around your neighbourhood. It is amazing the number of plants that can thrive in cracks in the footpath. As you head out, say out loud (you can do it under your breath if you don’t want to look crazy): “I am going to meet my plant ally.”

3. Meander, focussing on your senses. The smells, sights and sounds will all help to drag you into the present moment. Each time your mind wanders to the past or the future, bring it back to the present by reminding yourself you are going to meet your plant ally.

4. Keep an eye out for a plant that looks especially appealing. It will ideally be wild, not planted. It may or may not be beautiful, but it will appear very attractive to you. You may even doubt its interest and keep on walking—but if it is your ally you’ll sense it calling you back. Trust me. You’ll know.

5. Sit with your plant. Settle in on the earth beside it (or as close as you can sensibly sit for those who may have fallen for a weed growing out of a crack in the footpath).

6. Introduce yourself to the plant out loud. Tell them who you are, where you come from and what you are doing sitting here with them. 

7. Make an offering. Plant spirits love gifts. Sing a song, recite a poem, or tell them a story.

8. Then ask the plant, "What can I do to help reverse climate change? What is my unique role in fixing this mess?" or whatever question you would like help with. Plants want to help—we simply need to ask.

9. Rotate through your senses. Get out of your head. Focus on your plant. Look at it closely. Smell it. Feel it. Taste it if you know it is edible. It is your single-pointed focus on the present moment that is needed to get you into the right frame of mind. Each time a thought about the future or the past arises, kindly let it know you will deal with it later. Nudge it away by returning to your senses. You are here to sit with your plant ally.

You may find an idea or a thought pops into your mind. Jot it down if you want to remember it—and then return to your sensing. Perhaps you’ll find yourself in a daydream. Or you may suddenly know something that you didn’t a moment earlier (this is what happens for me.). Or you might see a symbol or have a vision. Sit IN THE MOMENT for as long as feels right.

10. When you are finished sensing, start writing. How do you feel? What did you notice? Did you receive any messages? Write even if you don’t feel you received guidance. Sometimes the writing is how you receive.

11. It is a good idea to research more about your plant later, so if you don’t know its name, take some pictures. Get close-ups of any flowers or fruit. The Inaturalist app is a great tool for getting help with identification.

12. Say thank you to the plant. Plant spirits appreciate thank you’s as much as they do gifts. Offer another gift. Another song or perhaps collect rubbish.

Are you game?

If you do give it a go, I would LOVE to hear how you found the experience. Whi is your plant ally?