Paying Attention
Bill McDonald’s Website Newsletter
July 2014 - Volume 14, No. 7
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Right Nearby

There seems to be a principle in the laws of nature that when we have a particular need, the response to that need is often quite close at hand.      

Over the years I’ve had opportunities to hang out with a number of folks who’ve been schooled in natural pharmacology or as better known in my circles as ‘plant spirit medicine.’ I’ve had opportunity, though never fully took advantage of it, to learn many of the healing properties of plants. At best I’ve come away with a pretty good awareness of where to look up the information, including my own library, and even better have some experts available ‘just a phone call away.’ But most of all, I’ve learned to trust it.

The purpose of my writing here is to share some specific teachings from this background that have been intruding into my consciousness more frequently in recent weeks. I’ll spell out four such insights.

1) In nature, wherever there is a poison, within 200 feet there’s an antidote.  

I don’t recall who taught me this, and I’ve long had have a poor memory for numbers, so the ‘200 feet’ may not be a literally accurate rendition of the teaching. One specific example I know, is that where poison ivy exists (in a natural setting), Impatiens flowers will grow nearby. The liquid in their stalk is just what you need to prevent a rash from developing. 

It’s been the experience of some recent clients that the resolution of a certain difficulty or malady has come from specifically local resources. Couple that with my own prevailing philosophy of encouraging as natural a process of healing as possible, I find myself musing on a particular philosophical premise that has intrigued and guided me - that is the phenomenon of balance.

In nature (with the exception of human nature) I find an inherent knowledge of balance. That’s why indigenous peoples always have looked to nature as their primary textbook - to learn from it that which human nature seems to lack. We humans are always wanting to ‘split’ things, to mess things up. Many of our human maladies come from this tendency to unbalance. We have to learn balance - to learn what nature knows instinctively.  

My favorite illustration is that the only animals that are neurotic are those who live with humans.

And so in the healing arts, we look to nature to learn the ways of healing. One of the emerging principles of natural medicine is that a healing antidote is always nearby. So we learn how to look for it, how to pay attention to it.

2)  It is not the plant itself that heals, it is the spirit of that plant.

One of my teachers of years ago was a plant spirit teacher from New Mexico. He had studied extensively the healing properties of the flora of our Southwest and Mexico. Also he’s the one who first taught me it was the spirit of the plant that heals. One importance to me is this: Where I live, among the flora of the Northern Woodlands of the Great Lakes, those healing plants he knows rarely grow here. But the same healing spirits he knows, inhabit different flora that do grow here. So nature provides the same healing gifts, but through plants that are nearby to us. I don’t have to travel to Taos. The healing I seek is always closer at hand. That’s why I use the term plant spirit medicine.

3) Love is local.

This third lesson isn’t in quite the same logical train of thought, but close enough. I heard a woman interviewed who spoke of a time when she was single, and with some desperation looking for a worthy mate. Her father would patiently remind her that “Love is local.” She needn’t search far and wide - for what she sought would be found nearby. And he proved right. Even our search for a partner is a process that nature seems to bless with nearby gifts. All we have to do is pay attention.  

4) Balance and security are not the same thing.  

More and more we live in a world that has no accessible nearby, no sense of close at hand. We have abandoned that sense except for commerce, investment, status enhancement, and security considerations. The writer and storyteller Michael Meade noted in one of his recorded lectures his own study of income disparity in the US. He noted a study comparing the overall health (physical and mental) of those at the very bottom and those at the very top of our socioeconomic spectrum. At both extremes, the general health was very poor. We can understand those at the  ‘bottom’ whose extreme poverty and circumstance robs them of health resources. But at the very top - the 1% as well! They too are isolated from that which heals. When you live behind gates and walls and guards and the fear of “the others” - there’s no nearby from which to find healing. Nature can’t reach you. Their only knowledge of balance is from black numeric digits on an economic document. 

No, a hunger for balance and a hunger for security are not the same thing. Balance always seeks to include the other;  security is a guard against others. Balance will inherently trust the other, security distrusts. Nature does not comprehend security. So there is no natural healing in security.  Balance is the essence of nature (the nature of nature), and when we are connected, it carries the essential blessing of making ourselves whole (healed, healthy).

And when we are in need, nature’s answer for us is somehow found “within 200 feet.”

Pay attention

Comments (1)

  • Learn something every day

    Very interesting. I did not know that about impatience and poison ivy. My sister and I walk in the woods a lot geocaching. She is always freaking out about poison ivy. I will have to share. I also would like to say that because of my financial situation I have used plant remedies for healing for me and my animals. The most effective for any infection is Grapefriut seed extract, then goldenseal. For pain: marijuana...if you can handle the buzz which I can’t , but instantly takes away pain. (Sry if you don’t approve Bill). I know you love me anyway!

    — Barbara, 8/25/2014

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Bill McDonald
Fenton, Michigan

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