When a person or people actively recognize the nourishment exchange between themselves and the land, and connect the quality of their lives to the health and fertility of their environment, then ecological relations become an intimate experience. Such an awareness is available to anyone who walks the ways of the earth.
“Indigenous consciousness” therefore defines the word “indigenous” in a relational sense, not in the sense of whoever arrived at a place first. Relational indigeneity is a birthright of everyone, and is up to everyone to claim. To cultivate one’s indigeneity is to root one’s sense of identity, of belonging, deeply into the earth. One then reaches into the nourishing groundwaters of Spirit. The deeper one drinks, the more one perceives the common origin and destiny of the great society of Nature. All plants, animals, minerals, forces of weather, elements, and so on are recognized to be a vast interwoven, co-evolving, and mutually transformative community. Natural ecosystems are then understood to be the surface manifestations of an underlying culture of spiritual relations.
As humans have evolved as part of this sylvan cosmos, which in its various ecological expressions are found all over the planet, and actually ARE the planet, we have had to internalize this culture within our own to maintain equilibrium with it. To the degree we have done so, we are indigenous to our environment, prosper as a species, and flourish. To the degree we have become unaware of this culture through our own inattention, greed, separative ideologies, or whatever, and replaced it with the many variations of human chauvinism, we suffer the ill effects.
What we call medicinal plants are among the primary agents by which erring humans are brought back into the ecosystemic fold. The planet thereby teaches via the conditions of its healthy functioning. This dharma upwells through the plants and into the understandings and practices of those who are “listening.” It has inspired and guided the world’s great herbalist traditions. Herbalism in its most perennial forms has internalized this dharma and applied it to the microcosm of the human body to understand states of well-being and to treat illness.
Ecological medicine is inseparable from spiritual healing. Both describe a strengthening and clarity of relationships, an opportunity to immerse oneself in the interconnectedness of all life. A world imbued with spirit cannot be separated into the sacred and profane, the spirited and the spiritless.
It is only by creating an indirect dependence on the land (e.g. modern city life) that nature is easily perceived as “less than” the humans that manipulate it. The world split into the religious and secular is a world judged to have constituents of moral and ethical value (religious) and those of dross (secular), the pure and the impure, the worthy and the worthless.
- Morgan Brent, What is a Dieta?