After some major arm-wrestling with her extremely demanding schedule, Kathleen Harrison has confirmed that she’ll be coming to the 2015 Spirit Plant Medicine Conference (SPMC) as a presenter. This is very good news. Kathleen spoke at our first two conferences, 2011 and 2012 and was received enthusiastically.

Kathleen has over the years become one of the planet’s great representatives of plant medicine wisdom. She is an ethnobotanist, has over thirty years of fieldwork experience in Latin America, and has helped establish ethnobotanical teaching gardens?in Peru, Costa Rica and Hawaii. For fifteen years she has participated in an exchange of nature-based knowledge with indigenous people in the mountains of Mexico. She teaches ethnobotany field courses for the University of Minnesota (in Hawaii) and Arizona State University (in Ecuador). Kathleen is also a botanical illustrator who enjoys helping people learn to see nature.

The above brief bio barely does Kathleen justice. When she spoke at the SPMC it was her warmth and authentic presence as much as her deep well of knowledge and insight that endeared her to our community. This warmth and sensitivity also come through in her writing. Here’s a sample with a link to the rest of the essay. The piece is called “Treat Her Right: Lessons from a Medicine Walk.”



To begin with, I’ll go out on a limb; Nature loves it when we take psychedelics and wander around, appreciating her, in a state of respectful awe and gratitude. For the ease of language and because we don’t know otherwise, I’ll personify her—this grand, sentient, multi-formed presence. Some call her Gaia, an ever-transforming yet meta-stable entity who is far more than the sum of her amazing parts, but we’ll just call her nature here. She is embodied in all the living things, the elements, the planet and, some say the heavens.

Our psychedelic experience in nature initiates us into the awareness that we had as very small children, when everything was a wonder to behold; or that our ancestors had, not so long ago, until they got so obsessively rational; or that some indigenous people still know and cherish.

Psychedelics are not the only way to get there, to this state of exalted perception, but they are indeed a class of species and related molecules that have come into our collective Western hands at a time in history that desperately needs medicine for its ills. Nature needs her humans to know and love her, to remember how to treat her kindly. So much of the human world is so very far from nature now, that even many of us who regularly send monetary contributions and vote to preserve or protect nature somewhere barely give ourselves time to be immersed in it.

In our lengthy cultural ignorance of the natural world, we’ve forgotten how to even look, much less see what’s there. Being in nature is an opportunity to cultivate the child-eyes, the child-mind that neither knows nor presumes to know. We have learned that psychedelics can help us examine complex or hidden things and come to understand them, appreciate them, or untangle them. That’s part of the action of the medicine, and that action is how we are opened to seeing nature. To be able to truly see, we must truly look, we must want to see. Careful use of psychedelics can help re-animate and liberate our de-animated and colonized psyches.


For a longer bio  and video of Kathleen please go to the “guides and visionaries” page of the conference.