Spiritual Gardening- The real work of plant medicine integration

 The trap that we can easily fall into when do plant medicine journeys like Ayahuasca is getting caught up in romantic notions of instantaneous spiritual enlightenment, miracle healings and the magnificent ‘aha’ realisations such that we miss the actual life-changing opportunity of this work. There are too many people who regularly partake in plant medicine ceremony who have profound and ecstatic spiritual experiences and are yet unable to transform very fundamental long standing issues in their lives. Once the euphoria of the peak experience settles down, regardless of the clarity we receive or the toxicity we may be able purge, our lives and behaviour can slowly reset back into the very same old disempowering patterns as before. It’s not that the medicines have not done their work, it is that we have not understood what the work of integration really is.

It can certainly feel disheartening, even frustrating, when we find ourselves slipping back into disempowered and old patterns of behaviour, feelings and situations even though we are genuinely committed to being  happier, healthier, enlightened versions of ourselves. In the endeavour to transform our lives so that we can truly find inner peace, well-being and the ability to manifest all our dreams and desires, there comes a point where we must realise that the most determined resolution to simply be present and mindful in each of our choices is not enough. Whether we have declared that we will regulate our emotions better, live a healthier lifestyle , be more grounded, treat ourselves and others with love, compassion and kindness or attract thriving relationships… all these erode or fail at some point when we are in the thick of the game of life. Particularly when we are exhausted, in pain, overwhelmed or caught off guard our destructive, self-sabotaging or suppressive inclinations will take over and in those moments there is not much we can do about it.

It becomes necessary for us to first forgive ourselves and then to recognise that these default ways of being, behaviours and attraction are essentially determined by our subconscious programming, which we developed during our formative years, often before we were even conscious. There are constantly unseen forces at play over our perceptions and our behaviours that can easily overpower even our best intentions of what we want to be and bring into our lives. What we need to acknowledge, accept, and work with is that most of our thoughts, emotions, and reactions run on auto-pilot, especially when life picks up in speed and intensity. Unless we are living in an ashram or a monastery where life is guided, simplified and slowed down, it is almost impossible for most of us to always be mindful simply through will or determination.

If transformation is truly our game, then what is ultimately required from us is the capacity to deliberately alter the unconscious programming that keeps us stuck and attracting what we do not really want, we need to change the pilot. This is ultimately the reason we find ourselves called to do plant medicine journeys like Ayahuasca, to gain some power to re-wire and re-route our unconscious attractions and reactions. It is certainly a kind of magic because we are hacking into the unseen, the greater unconsciousness, the inner realms of our being in order to alter something and provide openings for our natural inner evolution.

While it is important to understand that a sacred medicine like Ayahuasca is not a magic pill or a quick fix, it does offers us two profoundly unique and practical opportunities: first, a deeply expansive vantage point for perceiving the greater purpose and nature of our existence (a part of which is being able to perceive our blind-spots), and second, we acquire a heightened state of receptivity or what we call ‘neuroplasticity’. What this means is that directly after a plant medicine ceremony, we are much more open-minded and in a state of expanded suggestibility. This grants us a window to actually change our own inner programming through the cultivation of new thought patterns, focuses and empowered habits. This integration process involves bringing our inner script and ways of being into alignment with our deeper purpose. What this looks like in practice is that when we understand what our spiritual purpose or calling is, then we must deliberately take daily incremental actions toward our newly chosen life path or way of being. It is certainly not something we can achieve in broad strokes or without a very clear sense of direction. The keyword here is discipline as this is where so many of us lose our way after plant medicine work because we dont understand that the real journey of Ayahuasca actually begins the moment after the ceremony is done.

So what is this work?

 It is important that we understand that ‘the work’ is less about dramatic once-off actions that involve shaking up our environment such as leaving our jobs, starting new diets, letting go of friends, enforcing stronger boundaries, divorcing a spouse or leaving a lover. Instead, it is about transforming who we are from the inside out. This inside work is far less tangible but infinitely more effective as we attempt to retrain our inner energetic terrain and point of attraction; we call these ‘practices’ or ‘spiritual practices’. Meditation practice, forgiveness and gratitude practice, creative journaling, yoga practice, shadow healing practice, the practice of check-ins and the practice of self love – these are all actions of inner cultivation or vibrational gardening that at first may seem esoteric, meaningless or even a waste of time as there are no short-term outcomes or immediate external changes. Through sheer persistence and consistency, however, these practices alter the course of our entire personality, our health and the quality of our lives.

We have to understand that maladies like depression, addictions, being unlucky, attracting unwanted situations and relationships, cycles of drama and conflict, persistent illnesses and injuries, are all symptomatic permutations of our inner unseen vibrational universe which mirrors our deeper programmed thought patterns and beliefs. These become more and more pronounced as we progress into adulthood. Once we understand that our unconscious proclivity for negativity, victimhood, cynicism, resentment, neuroticism and resistance is actually shaping our world, our relationships and our health, only then do we get any real power to heal and design our lives the way we truly desire.

This is not a new distinction by any means. ‘As within, so without, as the universe, so the soul’ as Hermes said. While we may well muster the courage to change our environment when it does not suit us, these external changes will make no difference if we are still attracting the same unworkable dynamics into our lives with different people in a different location. At some point, we need to stop and acknowledge that these are essentially spiritual issues that can only be resolved with spiritual tools and through spiritual work.

The word spiritual, regardless of one’s belief, refers to the idea that our practice is about finding inner alignment with the greater universal soul and intelligence that supersedes our minds’ limited conditioning. We can choose to call this phenomena ‘God’, ‘Mother Nature’ or ‘higher consciousness’; it really does not matter as long as we understand it is a job unfolding from the inside out. Our minds, as we well know, most easily gravitate towards insecurity, complaint, comparison, judgment and defence, which generates a vibration within us that literally kills off love and joy and which then kills off our relationships and finally our physical bodies. Many of us get so used to this vibration that it becomes our normal and we are not even aware of how frequently we drop into these spaces. The blind spot is that we are unable make the connection between this and our repeating situational patterns and well-being issues, even though they are clearly linked.

The miracle of an Ayahuasca experience (or other master teacher plants) is that we are given the opportunity to have a direct and immediate experience of the divine higher consciousness within ourselves. Through these medicines, we may come to have a visceral understanding of what mystics and spiritual teachers already know: that who we are is ultimately beings of love and souls on a hero’s adventure of choice. In this pure state of being, we understand all desires are possible and that well-being, peace, abundance, creativity, connection, and harmony actually flow within us as a naturally occurring phenomenon. Our spiritual task then is to remove all the inner impediments that block and suppress this natural and godly flowing state of well-being. In this, we seek to dissolve our inner scripts of resistance and negative attractions that run like loops within the levels of our minds, and learn to generate new default thought patterns that are in alignment with our heart’s divine calling.

The work of transformation therefore is not about the miraculous clarity and healing we experience when we are temporarily close to God, it’s the discipline with which we cultivate this vibrational clarity in the mundane or dark days when God does not seem to be around at all. Likewise, transformation does not happen while we stand on the peak of the mountain overlooking the awe-inspiring lands; it is how we show up each day as we navigate the thick of the jungle where we can’t really see where we are going and the mosquitos are biting at our ankles. Transformation also does not manifest itself while we sit in nature, in temples or ashrams; it reveals itself through our default responses when we are at home or work, interacting with our parents, spouses, bosses, kids, and dealing with the rigours and challenges of daily life.

Again, it comes back to doing the work, our daily practice. When we perceive our inner world like a garden, and ourselves as the energetic gardeners, then we see our spiritual practice as a vital endeavour in inner-space cultivation. We take small steps every day toward restoring and growing that ultimate divine natural state of being, which is joy, gratitude, and curiosity.

We learn to take time each day to be with ourselves just as a gardener does with their garden, to listen to where we are at and what our plants are expressing to us (emotional listening). We pull out the unwanted weeds of negativity, complaint and resentment (forgiveness practice), and we water our plants with active prayer: words of gratitude, encouragement, love and request (self-love practice). In doing these three gardening steps consistently, we cultivate an ability to focus all our incredible energy of attraction on what we want rather than calling in what we do not want. It becomes a truly a joyous undertaking.

For many of us, delving within may initially seem like a daunting or painful task, especially if we have experienced wounding and the resulting shame that we are inclined to avoid. Beginning is often the hard part, sticking to it every day is even harder, particularly if we are regularly in our pain body. It is always so much easier to revert to the old scripts and vibrations that we are most familiar with and to reach for external symptomatic relief through food, drugs, or distractions. The curse of any kind of righteousness is that it paralyses our capacity for change.  It is much easier then to project our experience onto those around us as the cause of why we feel so upset, depressed or ill and then try to control our environment through attack or withdrawal. These are all the reasons that we continue to suffer and create suffering for others. It becomes a vicious circle that is increasingly difficult to break the deeper we entrench it and the older we become.

But if we say we truly want that magnificent transformation and healing we yearn for then we must be willing to make the time every day to do what it takes to foster an entirely new momentum, to do the practice work of inner cultivation and to make this practice our way of life. This is surely our soul’s deepest calling. Our practice then becomes a whole new way of regulating our nervous system and will replace all the other daily external coping mechanisms we have gotten used to, such as anti-depressants, smoking cigarettes or weed, drinking alcohol or coffee, and so on. We then realise that we actually have everything contained within us we require to self-regulate, heal and to be well; we simply need to reconnect to our essential inner self. Its understandably hard to be believe this is even possible especially if our coping mechanisms have become an integral part of our routines and identity.

Profound inner change is always possible for anyone at any age. It is a function of our commitment, which translates into discipline. We have to perceive it as a muscle where the more we work it, the stronger it gets. Building any kind of momentum has to start somewhere regardless of whether we believe we have the time, inclination, energy, or opportunity. The biggest misconception is that we still have tomorrow to become better versions of ourselves, and we don’t. Tomorrow is a day that never arrives for the one who waits for it. Everything we will lose, we will lose today.

There is an ironic but apt saying in the meditation world: if you cannot find the time to meditate for twenty minutes a day, then you must meditate for an hour a day. The price we pay for not transforming our lives is contrasted with the effort needed for doing the work.

What does it really take for us to get prayer beads in hand, to go outside under the sky at dawn or dusk every day and start a daily prayer and gratitude escalation practice? What does it take to put pen to paper and practise expressing and processing our deeper thoughts and feelings? What does it take to create a quiet space of no interruption every day, to sit in regular meditation practice and bring stillness to our inner waters? What does it take to get a yoga mat, join a yoga class and commit to being on that yoga mat every day to align our body and mind? What does it take to join or create a sacred talking circle and bring our shadow work to the space of deeply authentic sharing? There are so many practices to harness our thought patterns and foster harmonious, positive and conscious states of being. There are so many teachers and guides available to us at the press of a button who can empower and guide us in our personal practice.

There can be no underestimating the miraculous power that is available to us when we can integrate our shadow, heal our wounds and create authentically positive high vibrational states of being. People have literally cured themselves of addictions, cancer, mental disorders, trauma, anxiety, auto-immune diseases and more by making their inner vibration and mental well-being their focal priority, and doing their daily work.

Admittedly, it is slow work. It may take months or even years to achieve embodied results. Likewise, there are many pitfalls if we do not do this work authentically or if we take the shortcuts and bypasses. Masking our true feelings with fake positivity can be just as toxic in the long run. This is where so many of us struggle in our transformational endeavours and why our lives do not change, nor do we heal, even though we claim to have done so much work on ourselves. We cannot do this work on the surface. Spirituality is not a mask to be worn or a plaster to cover up our pain. Unless we get this distinction of vibrational practice as the key to our transformation and healing, then opportunities like healing retreats, plant medicine work, and transformational workshops may be squandered. We have to first become master gardeners of our inner domain, and there is no getting away from that.

The results of our work will then show up tangibly and measurably in the dissolution of our levels of suffering and conflict. While in life we will always have to deal with some adversity, joy and gratitude can actually be our default state, no matter what difficulties or discomfort we face. Suffering is always optional. Once we realise that there are so many people in the world with much less opportunity and infinitely more challenges than us and who are profoundly happier, then we begin to understand the true nature of this existence. This is why travelling to a country like India can be such a profound spiritual experience for Westerners.

How we relate from our inner world through our spiritual connection shows up in our attitude, how we feel in ourselves, the well-being we generate, the richness of relationships we can foster, and the abundance we attract. For the negatively oriented mind-set, it can be difficult to tap into the possibility that life does not need to be a struggle. From being little toddlers where we first learn to throw ourselves on the floor in tears, essentially creating our suffering  to get what we want, our process of maturation is about shedding these unconscious childhood notions that hardships and emotional upsets somehow give us leverage for attention and love.  When we realise that the world is not happening to us but rather we are happening to the world, we can then create anything we align with vibrationally.

In the end, once we really understand this distinction, we owe it to ourselves to become spiritual gardeners of our inner space in order to become open conduits of love, joy and well-being. We owe it to the people in our lives, to our children and to the earth to radiate this out into the world. As souls, we came on this journey to transform in the face of adversity, to create a world of conscious design. We either do this or we pass the cycles on to the next generation.

The self-discipline of the spiritual gardener is therefore certainly the highest expression of self-love for ourselves and the world. Do the work every day, do it consistently and for long enough, and we shall certainly see through the eyes of God.


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One Circle, Four Shamanic Directions, Twelve Sacred Agreements

We are contemporary shamanic facilitators practicing the powerful transformational modality of holding space, container work and altered state navigation. Our sessions are neither psychological in nature nor are they a substitute for any kind of medical diagnosis, therapy or treatment. Please seek the advice of your doctor or qualified health practitioner if you have any medical or psychological concerns or conditions before attending our sessions.