Several years ago, my fascination with plant life led me to add foraging to my food gathering repertoire. These days, thanks to some herbalism training, I hunt both edible and medicinal plants. At this point, I don’t even realize I’m doing it; my tendency to hit the brakes for plants on the side of the road is largely seen as a quirky habit.
I was recently informed, though, that my foraging practice has led to me seeing the world a little differently -- perhaps a bit more mindfully -- than I had before. Upon reflection, I realized it’s true; nature, after all, is our first and greatest teacher. And so I’m going to share with you six mindfulness lessons I’ve learned from the plants.
You Need to Stop
You can’t charge through the woods or field and expect to find much (except maybe a tree branch to the face). It’s in the slowing down that we find the most value. Charging through life doesn’t work that well, either; we miss so many small, miraculous moments that way.
Change Your Angle
Now that you’ve stopped to look, it’s time to see. Nature doesn’t grow food in a nice row the way a farmer does. You must examine your surroundings from all different sides: up, down, forward, back, and under. Think, “If I were a plant, how would I grow?” It’s not dissimilar to using empathy or looking at a situation from a new perspective.
Use All Your Senses
Plants are most often identified by sight, it’s true, but your other senses can tell you a lot. Nettles, for instance, are almost always smelled (or felt, if you’re unfortunate) before they’re seen. One of the ways of identifying mullein is by feeling the softness of its hairy leaves. And that odd thunking noise? That’s the sound of walnuts falling to the ground. When we move through life with all of our senses in play, we gain a fuller, richer experience.
Enjoy the Unexpected
Not all surprises are bad. Sometimes I’ll find plants growing in unexpected places, like the yarrow that sprung up in the hell strip between my sidewalk and street, or the mint that escaped from the garden and is now growing from the cracks in the driveway. Look for beauty in surprising places.
Not everything is surface level; sometimes, like in the case of day lily tubers, you have to dig down through the dirt to find what you want. I find that people are the same: our true treasure is not on the surface but within ourselves.
Don’t Push It
Looking too hard can be frustrating and anxiety-producing -- which is the opposite of what we want. Sure, there are times when we need to seize the day, but I’ve found that relaxing and letting go can be just as rewarding. Be patient. What nature intends us to find, we will find.