Engaging with True Reciprocity: A Relational Approach to Earth and Plant Medicine


Part of what I love about engaging with Earth Medicine, is this relational approach to the Earth, the seasons and the plants. The conversation. The reciprocity. So much of what we learned growing up or see in the world today is a very one-sided relationship. We harvest the plants we need for medicine. We cut down trees because we need the wood for paper and building structures and homes. We damn rivers because we need the electricity or would like the wild nature of the river to be contained in an easily accessible lake. It’s not common practice to ask if it’s ok to do these things. We just take and do, with little giving back. We’re out of sync with what it means to actually be in relationship, which involves not just taking but also giving. Asking for, but also offering. How would it feel to be in a human relationship with someone who you generously give and give of yourself, and they only take without conscious gratitude? Or how would it feel on a soul-level to only take from a person, without offering gratitude, compensation, or another form of reciprocity? It would eventually start to feel pretty yucky. For one or both of you. The same is true of our relationship with the land, the plants, the living world. Once we wake up to how out of balance the dynamic has become, it feels awful to continue taking in the same way without showing up. Reciprocity requires that we show up fully as adults. We can’t continue to act like children, demanding and taking without real understanding of how much our parents/the earth are providing us. We are nearing the end of this childish/adolescent stage of our time here collectively. And in order to make this transition, we are invited to become an equal partner. This means being accountable in relationship. It means investing in and nurturing relationships with the living world around us. One of the best ways I’ve found for this is to create intentional relationships with the land you live on. This could look like:

  • Tending or giving back to the land to help it thrive

  • Creating ceremony for the land

  • Asking the land or plants or rocks permission before you make changes to the land, or even before you set up your tent while camping

  • Getting to know the plants that grow near you and helping protect or tend their stands

  • And of course, leaving offerings of gratitude, a song, small stones or crystals, dried herbs, art created by natural materials, or a prayer

There are countless ways we can do this. The point is we just need to start. One of the side-effects of working with plants in a spiritual way is that we learn to see the living world as sentient. We learn to undo programming that sets us apart from nature. And we learn to trust in our animal selves, our instinctual, intuitive, sensual