Connection is your Birthright: the Wild with Sam Roberts

Connection is your Birthright: the Wild with Sam Roberts

In this video I talk to herbalist Sam Roberts about how re-connecting to the wild, reconnects us to the web of life.

Sam Roberts is an herbalist, plant tender, witch, and organizer.  She lives in Ashland, Oregon where her herbal practice focuses on mental health, chronic illness and community care.  Sam uses clinical herbalism, plant spirit medicine, nutrition and ritual to steward her clients back to their health, vitality, center and sense of belonging within the natural world.  Her passion for getting plants and people to interact in mutually beneficial ways, along with her cat, keep her from permanently relocating to a sunny meadow in the wilderness.  Email to inquire about an intake.
We are wrong about the Wild.

We are wrong about the Wild.

My theme for the month is wildness. When I tell people this I get funny looks. People assume I’m gonna be running around naked in the woods. While I’m not above doing that, it reminds me about how we’ve got the wrong idea about the wild.

As a word we equate it to something like frenetic, frenzied, chaotic. But true wildness couldn’t be further from the truth.

Somewhere back in the good ol’ bad days we started moving further and further away from our own wild natures. We had to become civilized. Now I’m gonna save the details and debate about that occurrence for another post, but I think it is safe to say, that by now, most of us are pretty darn cut off from our own wild natures. Some of us are down right scared of them. And in turn we are scared of the wild world.

Let’s look at our mistaken ideas about wildness as an example.

Research continually shows us time and time again that nature has a relaxing and anti-depressive effect on humans. Just a few minutes a day outside lifts our mood, calms us down, and improves our health.

Why then do we fear the wild.

I think the answer lies in our own mis-alinged relationship with it. As we moved further and further away from our own wild nature, the wilderness turned from something that supported us, to something we had to conquer. In the process we lost sight of the fact that for the vast majority of creatures that live there, the wild is a place of great peace, not great struggle.

Animals in the wild spend about 90% of their time resting and relaxing, and only about 10% in a frenetic chase from danger, or hunting food. But as humans, our interactions with the wild are so limited, that we tend to only see the frenetic 10%. (These are not exact figures, but google any study on animal sleep habits and you will see what I mean).

Increasingly in our stories and media we are drawn only to the struggle. We are addicted to reality shows where modern humans are dumped in the wild with no community, no ancestral heritage to draw upon, and no help. We look at that picture and think: nature is such hard work.

But the truth is, ancient man would have never been in that situation. Our wild ancestors were surrounded by community structures, and a spiritual belief system that supported their survival.

We have become strangers in our own homes.

Nature is our ideal environment. Being in nature heals us. Take your tired, computer strained eyes and just look at a wild green landscape if you don’t believe me. It is medicine for the modern world.

This is especially true if you are a highly empathic, intuitive or sensitive person. Nature is the exact medicine you need to stay grounded, in your body and restore your frayed nerves.

We need to get outside before we destroy what is left of our beautiful planet, so that we know what it is that we are losing before it is too late.

What is your relationship with the wild? Does nature scare you? Heal you? Leave a comment below and let me know what your journey with nature has been.


Taking a Nature Break

Great Blue Heron: taken from one of my walks

Great Blue Heron: taken from one of my walks

Being outside has always been a fundamental part of my magical practice. As a witch I work magically with the ‘elements’ of earth water fire and air. What better way to connect with the elements than to be out in them?  One of the best parts of our recent move to Southern California is that I can count on being outside in good weather more days than not. Lately my sole active spiritual practice has been a daily walk with my dog and toddler son.

I have to say, one of the main reasons my walks are so juicy right now is that I’ve been taking part in a program called The Nature Process with Tabitha Jayne.  You will hear me talking a lot more about this program next year, when she runs it again, but for the meantime, if you want to check out a great teacher for working in nature, Tabi is your gal.

So in honor of high summer here in the Northern Hemisphere, today we are going to talk about 3 easy practices that will turn any ordinary walk into a magical one.

Set an intention for the walk

When I’m low on energy, time or just don’t feel like doing anything else I can always follow through with this one. Setting an intention for my walks turns each walk into a chance to manifest my desires.  Intentions can be simple like: “may each step of this walk bring me closer to relaxation.”  or they can be grand like: ‘with each step I am closer to knowing my purpose’.  Sometimes I use the walk to clear my energy, imagining what I want to leave behind me trailing off of me with every step.
Once you set an intention, pay special attention to what you see and hear on the walk. Do any animals show up? Specific plants? Also note any snippets of conversation you may overhear.

Practice presence

I’m not a meditator, never have been. So I usually glaze over when people mention ‘mindfulness’ or ‘being present’. But one trick I have learned to help me practice the art of, well, being present, is to tune into my senses in nature. I first learned about this taking a class in animal tracking. The teacher had us sit and listen, and really try to open up our ears to every sound we could hear in the woods. Let me tell you, if you’ve never tried this, the woods are LOUD.
We tend to think of nature as being quiet and peaceful, but I think that is because we tend to tune out the subtle sounds of nature.  When you sit and practice truly listening you can hear everything, the bugs, the wind, the birds, leaves dropping onto the ground. Once you have mastered listening, try the same thing  with seeing, and then feeling, and then smelling.
This practice gets you out of your head and signals your body to release all kinds of relaxing chemicals In your brain. Before you know it, you will be blissed out and in tune with everything around you.

Leave an offering of gratitude

My first experience with learning about leaving offerings was when I studied Western Herbalism. We were taught to always ask before harvesting a plant, and to always leave an offering in return. I never went anywhere in the woods without a small bag of cornmeal in my pocket.  Leaving an offering is a physical way to show your gratitude.
A practice my magical teacher Colette Gardiner taught me was to alway leave an offering at the beginning of a hike, and to ask to be shown the “magical side” of the trail. I also like to leave offerings for favorite tree, plant and animal spirits that I work with.
If you are leaving offerings in the wild make sure they are biodegradable, won’t attract pests, or habituate wild life to human food, and are free of invasive seeds. This may seem like a lot, but a simple mixture of herbs works well. I currently have an offering blend that contains rose petals, linden flower, rosemary, thyme and cedar leaf.

Just get outside

If all of this still seems overwhelming, just get yourself outside. Spending just 15 minutes a day outside boosts your immune system, and helps you live longer.
How about you? What are your favorite ways to enjoy the magic of nature? Leave a comment below.