Searching for spirit in the garden


This guest post is by Duane Marcus. You can read a bit about him on the “Denizens” page.

We are stardust,
We are golden,
And we’ve got to get ourselves
back to the garden
~ Joni Mitchell

I went to college to study science of horticulture. I came to believe that if something cannot be measured empirically then it could not be true. I have spent most of my life working with plants. Through this work, cracks in my belief system began to appear. Mysteries abound in the garden. I came to understand that all things are connected, that all things are energetic beings. Trees, rocks, rivers, the soil, the mountains, the deserts, people, animals all share the same source. We are all parts of one entity made up of the same swirling atoms exchanging energies with one another and with the vast universe.

“Concerning matter, we have been all wrong. What we have called matter is energy, whose vibration has been so lowered as to be perceptible to the senses. There is no matter.” ~ Albert Einstein

Almost 8 years ago, I became a farmer. I now spend much of my time outside working with plants, insects, reptiles, mammals, and microorganisms. After a while I noticed I was talking to these beings, whispering words of encouragement to the plants I was growing, asking the insects and the microbes for help in my work growing food for myself and my community. I did not make a conscious decision to talk to them; it just happened. To my amazement, they began to talk back, not in words as we know them, but I was able understand them nonetheless.

We became allies supporting one another. When I am digging in the soil and get bitten by ants whose home I disturbed, I apologize to the ants, asking their forgiveness for having disturbed them. When a new plant decides to join our community, I welcome it and study it to determine its role in the community we have established here at The Funny Farm. I tell the students in the organic gardening classes I teach that I eliminated weeds on the farm when I acknowledged that all the plants who live with us have a purpose. It is my responsibility to learn what that purpose is.

We never spray anything to kill insects or disease organisms. Sometimes I pick off and squish some insects who are doing some serious damage to certain crops. I feel bad about that and I apologize to them. I understand that they are telling me that I have created a situation that is to their liking and it is my job to learn how to help the plants become strong enough to fend for themselves.

The more I learn, the more mysteries appear. A few years ago, I began to feel there was a big void in my life. I began to seek a connection to the divine that is all beings. I remembered that “knowing” I had when I was young that there is more “out there” and I wanted to be able to experience it, to learn how to go behind the veil to connect with the world of spirit.

A close friend of mine is an ordained Wiccan priestess. We have had many conversations about modern Wiccan practices and I found it to be too hierarchical and dogmatic for me. I do know that their ritual practices are powerful, however, so I asked her if she would perform a garden blessing ceremony for us. We worked together to craft the ceremony. Several of us gathered together and she led us in ritual. It was a powerful experience for me. I could feel the presence of spirit that evening as we sang and chanted around the fire.

Afterward she and I were talking about ritual and ceremony and she said she had recently read a book she thought I might be interested in, The Way of the Shaman, by Michael Harner. I got the book and read it cover to cover. Harner describes a technique called shamanic journeying, in which one uses a sonic driver, rhythmic drumming or rattling, to travel to the alternate reality to directly connect to the spirits.

I tried this technique and had the most powerfully healing experience of my life, much more powerful that any acid trip I had ever been on. Shamanism is not a religion or belief system. It is a set of tools that anyone can learn that enables us to connect with ancestral spirits and other spirits directly, without an intermediary such as a priest or rabbi. These loving and compassionate spirits work through us, teaching us to heal ourselves and others in our community. All it requires is for you to accept that the possibility exists. Once you take your first shamanic journey you “know” that these spirits exist.

After my first experiences with shamanic journeying I knew I found the path I had been seeking since I read Carlos Castenada’s writings many years ago. I have worked with several teachers over the past three years to learn the intricacies and techniques of shamanic practice. My helping spirits have taught me how to be a more loving and compassionate human being. They guide me in my daily life to become more connected to all beings. I am grateful to my teachers, human and spirit, and to the community of shamanic practitioners with whom I share these gifts.

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