Willow’s Way; The Middle Path

The forest is speaking; can you hear her call? The herbs are waiting to teach their songs to the humans who have chosen to remember how to listen… what do you hear? Everything around us is filled with life force, waiting to be honored, absorbed, and spread. When we work with plants, we are not only working with the chemical composition of their essential oils, but with their spirit. The more we come to understand a plant spirit, the more we understand the medicine it offers and how it wishes to be processed and handled. Every plant has a medicine and it is our responsibility to listen and pass on the, once widely understood, practices of the forest. Welcome to this budding path; An endless journey of awakening to unconditional love.
The Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica) had been coming to me for some time; in dreams, in waking conscious, during meditation, she’s been present. I began caretaking a land space a few weeks ago and, low and behold, two willow trees were the only trees in the space and both had fallen down this past winter; representing a completely new cycle. The two trees have baby shoots popping up that will eventually be the new willow trees. However, the old trunk and weeping branches had to be removed.
I decided to harvest the new growth on the trees to create a rooting growth hormone for plants. The instructions on how to do this are at the end of the article.
As I was preparing the brew in silence in my living room, I listened for the messages Willow wished to share. She spoke about balance. She spoke about remaining in the middle, slightly under the current. As I held her branches, she explained to me that she is able to dig so deeply into the earth and reach so high into the sky because she has mastered balance… the middle path. This wisdom seems more important everyday. I witness the world that we are living in and see a real need in slowing down, coming back to our center through focused breath or a walk in the woods, and giving ourselves the tool kits we need to brave the storms and remain at ease. The plants are here to assist us in this, and for that I am endlessly grateful.

“I am a willow of the wilderness,
Loving the wind that bent me.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Being able to brave the storm also has much to do with being flexible, another attribute of Grandmother Willow. It was as though her first transmission was telling me to find my own center, to know my own truth and to move forward in that with flexibility., to connect with the power of wisdom, and the rhythm of my own soul. She allows us to return to the world strengthened, clear, and flowing.

She is also here in service to other’s growth. The Salicin in her branches offers nutrients for plants to grow strong as well as a medicine for headaches; salicin is the chemical derived from plants to create aspirin.The use of willow bark dates back thousands of years, to the time of Hippocrates (400 BC) when patients were advised to chew on the bark to reduce fever and inflammation.

As I asked in the beginning… the forest is calling, can you hear it? If you are reading this article, at least a piece of you has heard it, the yearning to go back, to connect and to tune in has arrived. Here is a guided format of coming to know the landscape, the nature spirits, and the shamanic piece of yourself.

Senses Meditation: To Connect With Spirit, Land, and Plants

  1. Sit in a comfortable position outside, begin focusing on your breath, gently gaze forward and take in the patterns, the shadows, see your body, your knees, your hands, with no judgement, simply absorb your surroundings. Take it in, and let it go.
  2. Now focus on what you hear, your breath, the breeze, the rustle, your heartbeat, listen.
  3. With your skin, feel your body; what touches your skin? Absorb the air through your skin, feel the gravity supporting you, gently rising to meet  your body. Your body will translate all that surrounds you… just breathe. Feel comfortable to close your eyes. When you breathe, the air becomes a part of you. It enters the blood stream, pulsing through the heart, appendages and brain. You are becoming one with everything.
  4. Continue to listen to the sounds of nature around you. Feel the embrace of Mother Earth. Know that you are loved and trusted in this work and that like all things, it takes time.
  5. Call upon the plant you are working with today. Ask that it show itself. Express that you are here to listen, to learn and to share. Sit, observe, feel. Do not invite the mind to perform any action, simply breathe and observe.

The point of the Senses Meditation is to connect yourself with the larger whole, to come into oneness, so that you are able to connect more deeply with the elements, forces, and medicines that surround us on this planet. There is no wrong way to meditate. Some days I can sink in, other days not so much. Either way, taking time to quiet the mind will aid you immensely in this work.

Here is the procedure for making Willow water:

Ask for permission and collect young, first-year, twigs and stems of the Willow. These have green or yellow bark. Don’t use the older growth that has turned brown or gray.
Remove all the leaves; these are not used. Don’t waste good green material though, compost the leaves or throw them in the garden as mulch.
Take the twigs and cut them up into  1″long pieces and place them in a pot.

Process in water using one of two options:
a) Place the chopped willow twigs in a container and cover with boiling water, just like making tea, and allow the “tea” to stand overnight.

b) Place the chopped willow twigs in a container and cover with tap water (unheated), and let it soak for several days.

When finished, separate the liquid from the twigs by carefully pouring out the liquid, or pouring it through a strainer. The liquid is now ready to use for rooting cuttings. You can keep the liquid for up to two months if you put it in a jar with a tight fitting lid and keep the liquid in the refrigerator. Remember to label the jar so you remember what it is, and write down the date you brewed it up, and to aid the memory, write down the date that it should be used by, which is two months from the date it was made!
To use, just pour some willow water into a small jar, and place the cuttings in there like flowers in a vase, and leave them there to soak overnight for several hours so that they take up the plant rooting hormone. Then prepare them as you would when propagating any other cuttings.
The second way to use willow water is to use it to water the propagating medium in which you have placed cuttings. Watering your cuttings twice with willow water should be enough to help them root.

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