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What is Earth Medicine, and Why Does it Matter?

I've been asked, "what is Earth Medicine?" a lot over the years, so I thought I'd share more specifically about it. So much of my work lands in the realm of Earth Medicine, an all-encompassing term that I define as medicine for and medicine from the earth. At its core, Earth Medicine reconnects us to our inherent belonging and place within the ecosystem of the Earth. It reminds us that we’re not alone. That the living land is supporting us in countless ways. That we have our own purpose and meaning that can be of service not only to the collective, but to the Earth. That reciprocity is foundational to healthy relationship. Earth medicine includes medicine from the plants, stones, and land, but also the elements of nature, the cycles of the seasons, and co-creating connective ritual and ceremony. Earth medicine invites us to be in communion with the ecosystem we live in. It provokes us to befriend and form allyship with the land. It invites us to be curious about how animals, plants, and stones are wise carriers of medicine. It invites relationship. It cultivates belonging. When we move towards relationship with the living land that surrounds us, we find a core truth: that we are not separate from the land. That all we do to the land we do to ourselves. That how we treat ourselves is reflected in how we treat the land. I recently read a powerful essay by Charles Eisenstein, a wise author and thought-leader of our times. In his essay, World on Fire, as Charles aims to get to the root of why the forests are burning. He speaks on how we are not separate from Nature itself: "Fundamentally, the source of wise forest management is to see and know nature as a being, not a thing…and in truth, (know that) we are not separate from nature. What we do to the other, we ultimately do to ourselves. When the forests are sick, we are sick. When they burn, even if we escape the flames, something burns within us too. The social climate mirrors the geological climate. We may not recognize this truth as indigenous people do, but we are the land. Is it not obvious, looking at today’s political landscape, that a fire rages out of control?" This mimics my thoughts from last year’s fire season (see my “Lessons from the Wildfires" post). So many of us are coming to the same conclusion: that what we see externally, including what we’re horrified by, is ultimately a reflection of the collective. I personally don’t believe that humans are a parasite on Earth like some folks do. I believe we can and do have an important role in the ecosystem, when we’re in right relationship with the ecosystem. And part of that path of right relationship is learning how to listen to the Earth. I know I talk about this a lot, but it really is such a fundamental piece that is missing for not only the healing of our species and the Earth, but also our inner psyches and bodies. We are meant to be in communion with the Earth. We’ve evolved for that. And when it’s missing in our lives, something within us feels lost, lonely, or disconnected. Here are a few simple ways to begin to cultivate this communion with the Earth:

  1. Choose a place to sit or be outside regularly. A place that you can come to know through your senses over the cycle of the seasons. Be present there at least once a week to observe not only the surroundings, but yourself as well. Watch how the plant life changes. Notice what animals inhabit this area and what they seem to be doing. Feel the elements - the water, fire, air, and earth here. What is the unique combination of the elements that make up this place? How do they inform you, your senses, your body?

  2. Leave an offering for the land. Perhaps some water, perhaps a small portion of your meal, perhaps a song, some died herbs. Tune into what else feels good and right.

  3. Find a place to sit with the land or a tree. Sit in stillness and center yourself. Feel your breath, in and out, in communion with the air and plants around you. Feel how your body connects with the solidity of the Earth. Tune into your heart center. Invite it to open - like a flower opening her petals. And then just sit and listen with your heart to the land and or the tree or the stone. Spend some time journaling afterwards.

I’m so passionate about helping us all find our way towards collective healing. And for me, this includes a lot of deep listening to the Earth and the plants. When you instill these practices into your life, you are changed. May we all be changed by listening more deeply.


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