When we stay in the present moment, all is well. We do not dwell on the pain of the past or the uncertainties of the future. Staying in this moment moves us away from the ego-mind’s compulsive thinking, controlling and desiring — into a sweeter, deeper place of being, acceptance and truth.
Keeping our awareness in this moment shows us that there is a divine order and intelligence behind everything — behind the growth and unfolding of every cell, every creature, every ecosystem, every world.
Even if the human mind cannot cannot always see this order, we can perhaps get glimpses of a pattern underlying all of life, from the cycling of the planets, to the waxing and waning of the moon, to the growth and decline of human life. In these patterns we see how challenges are followed by evolution and gifts; how struggle peels away the unessential and brings us closer to our true Selves.
There are many ways to connect into the present moment, although one of my favorites is by tuning into the plant realm that surrounds us. Here are a few things I’ve learned from plants that help me to come back to my center, and back to the present moment:
Observe. Consciously pay attention to the plant life that grows everywhere. Choose one plant — you just need one — that you will become deeply acquainted with, whether it’s a tree, shrub, herb or weed that you pass in your daily routine. Notice what the plant looks like every day and how it changes throughout the year. Notice as it leafs out, opens it flowers, and creates seeds. Notice how it dies or goes dormant in the winter, and if it comes back the following spring. This is a slow practice that takes patience but it will give you so much insight into the growing patterns of your plant.
Be still and sip. Consciously sit with a cup of tea (made of one herb), and approach it as a sort of meditation. Appreciate and take in the color, scent, flavor and viscosity of the tea. Notice every single little detail. See how you feel about it, noticing its effects on your physical body and your emotions. After practicing with single herbs like this you may be surprised to discover you know exactly which herb will suit you best in the moment, and what herb to choose when you are unwell.
Use your imagination. Take a piece of paper and some colored pencils or pens. Go sit outside next to a plant that catches your attention. Start doodling as you look at the plant, just letting your pencil flow and not trying to draw the plant exactly as it looks. Add in colors. Be free and messy. Soften your gaze and allow yourself to play as your draw the plant. Pay attention to your intuitions about the plant; let your imagination use it as a starting point and see what artful expressions you create. What do these expressions tell you about the plant? What do they tell you about your relationship to the plant?
I encourage you to try out these simple methods. The plants have so much to teach us about being present and grounded in each unfolding moment, and are here to help us with their generous and wise gifts.
Steph Zabel spent her childhood in the South, and her early adult years in Spain, Mexico, and the U.K. until she was finally called to the Boston area. She has a deep love for the shifting seasons of this part of the world, its wild & urban landscapes, its proximity to the sea, and its connections to her ancestral homeland of Ireland.
Nearly a decade ago Steph created Herbstalk, a joyful community-based herbal gathering, which brings together crafters, teachers and students from across the region. She is also a graduate of the CommonWealth Center for Herbal Medicine and holds a MSc in ethnobotany. She worked for many years in the botanical collections at the Harvard University Herbarium.
Steph is a mother, gardener, herbalist, keeper of chickens, facilitator of community and student of the wisdom traditions. Her work is to help others remember the beauty and knowingness of their own hearts, and their inherent connections to both Earth & Spirit.