Sticky monkey-flower – aka Diplacus aurantiacus. This native plant with glowing, translucent orange trumpet flowers and sticky green leaves was the first plant I ever made a flower essence with. I had the privilege of getting my intro to flower essence-making with Taylore and Stashca of Windfall Herbal Studies. They instructed us in the basic process of making a flower essence, which looks something like this:
Ground yourself, get quiet, sit with the plant, and listen for any messages. Once you’re feeling attuned, state your intention and ask if you can make an essence with them. Set a bowl of water near the plant to create your essence, and let this brew for a few hours.
In listening to sticky monkey-flower, I was surprised how many messages I received. I’d figured that it had been a long time since I’d talked to a plant, so how would one talk to me, now? It turned out that my classmates had this experience too, because when we circled up after sitting with different plants for fifteen minutes, everyone had something to say about what sticky monkey-flower shared with them.
Even more interesting is that we all seemed to reach a consensus about what had been communicated to us. Though sticky monkey-flower, also known in the essence world as orange monkeyflower or its old botanical name, Mimulus aurantiacus, is commonly associated with warmth and sexual intimacy, during this plant-sit, a different dimension opened for us. Many of us got messages from this plant about boundaries, while others heard messages about vibrant self-expression. To me, the message of joyousness and strong boundaries is another shade of what’s commonly held up as sticky monkeyflower’s botanical personality.
Since that day, I’ve made many more essences and conducted my own plant-sits. With each of them, I’m still surprised about how much plants have to say to me. I’ve learned that it’s not a matter of whether the plants are animate, but really more about honing my listening and connection skills. To successfully make a flower essence (or, in my opinion, any plant medicine), you need to listen, state your needs and intent, get consent from the plant, and be open to connecting to their wisdom and resource.
I think these skills for connecting with plants lay a blueprint that can be followed when pursuing connection with all types of beings – human, other-than-human, places and land, etc. Listening is so key to really connecting with anyone! Asking questions with the intent to listen and learn can open up worlds of connection within a conversation. Stating your needs and intent is a beautiful practice in medicine making, and a challenging but truly rewarding practice in building relationships. For me, this brings to mind this quote from the Relationship Anarchy Smorgasbord on building relationships: “Remember, you must agree together on what is in it! No sneaking items in without the other knowing, or there will likely be disappointment or conflict later.” The importance of stating your needs, desires, and intent aloud, and getting consent from whoever you are connecting with about those statements, is key to connection.
Finally, being open to connecting to wisdom and resource is something that takes a lot of vulnerability, and is also important in connecting with others. Truly, our problems pale in comparison to the wisdom, resource, and ability that surrounds us. Anarchist ethics of solidarity, mutual aid, and DIY embody this truth very visibly. “We are all we really have” and that is a lot! Personally, allowing myself to reach out to others for that connection, wisdom, and resource is something I struggle with deeply and work on regularly. And it’s really no wonder, when we live in the world of the loneliness epidemic, that so many of us struggle with patterns of isolation. The process of essence making continues to be a great teacher for me in this area. On a related note, a couple years ago I came across this Ted Talk called “Isolation is the Dream-Killer, Not Your Attitude” – and honestly, it’s kind of a fun watch!
I hope these thoughts I’ve shared here are inspiring or helpful in some way. The themes of working with flower essences and connection are a big part of the offering I have coming up, Cultivating Closeness. This is a live online 4-week group program that invites you to work gently and intentionally on your patterns of relating to people, plants, and place in the company of wise plant allies and like-minded people as we transition from the depth of winter to the first inkling of spring. If you liked this post, you might enjoy the class. It closes Jan 21st, you can register for a space here.
You may also enjoy being on my mailing list. You’ll hear from me about twice a month – I like to share herbal resources and insights as well as notes on my upcoming events. Subscribers also get to vote on the topics of my annual free community workshop series. I’m not on social media, so this is the best way for us to keep in touch.