Nature is the visible, living garment of God, and through this garment, we can come to know the mind beneath it. In many spiritual and mystical traditions all over the world, nature is revered as the art of God, and as a place you could turn to in order to find Spirit, your own heart, or guidance in life. For some, the connection to nature is easy and the wild seems to speak to them openly, but how do we really talk to plants in a way that lets us hear them talk back to us? Is there a technique that makes even those of us who are hard of hearing able to grasp their whispers?
Over the last few years, I have spent a considerable amount of time practicing a technique called “dieting,” which I learned in the Amazon of Peru (locally, the practice is called dieta or vegitalismo). This is a practice used by local indigenous peoples to open their own doors of perception making the subtle stimulus of the plants more readily heard by the dieter. The practice is not only used for mystical experience and communing with the spirit world, but also for healing – in fact, many westerners have been finding help through dieta and vegitalismo for illnesses that modern medicine couldn’t help them with. For me personally, this technique has become one of the foundations of my spiritual practice.
There are numerous reasons why this practice is effective. First, it reconnects us back to nature and our primal selves – something very lacking in modern society, where we try to rule and dominate nature placing ourselves outside and above it. Secondly, it allows us to simplify and get back to basics, taking us out of our daily routine, and showing us how little we really need to be happy. This allows us to appreciate the little things in life, as well as get new perspectives about ourselves and our lifestyle. Most importantly, this practice brings us into contact and partnership with benevolent plant spirits, and all of their ancient wisdom, magic, and healing power.
How does it work? First, the apprentice chooses a plant to work with. This can be based on intuition guiding you towards a plant, a special affinity with a plant, or choosing a plant based on its medicinal properties. In the Amazon, usually the plant is assigned to you by a shaman who is treating your illness, but any plant can be used for dieta. A few great local plants to try this practice with include nettle, osha, lavender, and cedar (but any plant can be dieted so don’t limit yourself to just these ones!).
After you have chosen your plant, the next step is to gather some for making lots of tea or juice (or for just eating if you like). You can buy the materials at a store if you like, but I think you get a deeper connection with the plant by foraging for it yourself. If you forage, tell the plant why you are gathering it, and what you will use it for, and ask for its blessing. Intention and prayers count for a lot in the spirit world. Traditionally, tobacco is used as an offering to the plant when you want to gather some of it for ritual.
Now, with your plant materials at home, you make some type of tea, juice, or meal with the plant. The plant should be by itself when you consume it. When you are ready to drink, blow a prayer into the tea (or onto the food) asking the plant’s spirit to connect with you and enter your body. Taste the plant, and notice the subtle changes it has on your body and consciousness. Think about the plant throughout your day and as you go to sleep. Listen with your heart and intuition to see if the plant shares a message with you, and don’t be surprised if you meet the plant in dreams, either. You should dedicate a week or longer to connecting with a plant; drink the tea, or eat the plant seven days in a row, or two weeks straight, or as long as three months total. (Make sure the plant is not toxic before consuming!).
Now, you may be thinking: “I drink tea all the time, and it doesn’t talk to me. Why is this different?” Part of it is because of your intention and prayers, and the other reason is something we haven’t gotten to yet. During this time, you can make yourself more aware of the plant’s subtle energies by restricting outside stimulus to your body and mind. This is done mostly by restricting your diet, restricting media, and spending a portion of each day by yourself reflecting or meditating maybe. The more strict you are with your restrictions, generally the more vivid and powerful the experience is, but my experience is that even a little effort can be rewarded if you are patient. The intention and prayer is the most important aspect, as well as having some physical connection to the plant by either drinking it, eating it, smelling it, or even bathing in infused water made from the plant each day.
Traditionally, anything with flavors or lots of fat is cut out of the diet, so no added sugar, no oils, no heavy meats, no spices etc. Very bland food is best for this type of work, and you can go back to a normal diet at the end of your allotted time for the ritual. This process also allows your body to clean itself of some old accumulated junk in the intestines, just because the digestive system is not working so hard. It is also traditional to restrict yourself to no sex during the diet, as you are inviting a plant spirit into your body, and basically courting them like a lover. These restrictions can be optional in some cases, but if your intuition tells you to avoid certain foods or activities during the diet, then listen to your intuition! There are some people who say that neglecting or ignoring the needs of a plant you diet can anger the plants spirit, though I have not seen this personally and cannot say how truthful this sentiment is. In my experience, the plants I have worked with are all very compassionate and understanding.
It may take two or three diets to really get the hang of it and start hearing the plants, but once you do, you will be glad for the work you put in. If you are really dedicated to the work, the plant spirit may even teach you its song, and this song can be used to summon the spirit of the plant when you need its aid. This is actually how Amazon shamans learn how to heal. Once they have acquired a plant spirit as an ally, they call on that spirit through song to come and work on their patients. These shamans have been known to cure physical and mental illness with only a song, because the song carries the energetic imprint of the plant’s spirit, and all the associated power that comes with that.
But learning songs isn’t the only reason to diet – dieting helps you learn more about yourself and the world around you. It can help you heal and grow. The benefits are endless when you invite the plants into your life!
Travis Bodick is the author of four books, with the most recent work being “The Plant Remedy.” All of Travis’s books are written to help the reader engage with and encounter their own truth through direct experience. Trained and practiced in a number of healing modalities from multiple disciplines and traditions, his wide range of influences allows him to relate with people from all backgrounds, and his focus is on the common threads that unite all practices based in Spirit. Travis especially focuses on nature based spiritual healing practices and helping clients encounter and know their own heart and soul. Helping others to find and embrace their true passion in life is Travis’s greatest joy. A musician and a writer, Travis has recently finished his fourth book, and enjoys working his diverse talents to mix healing and ritual with music.
You can find Travis and all of his books at soulremedy.org