Maya Robinson, Herbalist, Botanical Distiller and Flower Essence Practitioner from Rooted Things, sheds some light on her life journey and passion for healing with plants.
What can you tell us about your upbringing that most influenced the person you are today?
I grew up in Japan. My mother is Japanese and my father is American, so growing up in Japan as a “half” as they call it was not easy. Japan back then still had a certain mentality towards foreigners or anyone non pure Japanese. In addition, the bi-cultural marriage of my parents did not work, and I had a very emotionally trying childhood caught in the middle of a malfunctioning marriage.
The hardship and trauma manifested in ways I did not expect in my early adulthood and I would wonder why I did certain things that were so against who I am at the core. Now I know that it was trauma which I did not know how to hold inside anymore.
I had a lot of shame around that period of my life and did not know how to deal with it, because it caused pain to others that I loved as a result. I believe this is why the plant Rose was essential to me in the beginning of my own healing journey, and so eager to show up in my life when it did. But today I look back and understand why I had to experience that.
At the same time, the extremely deeply rooted culture and the amazing subtleties that the Japanese culture can express through beauty, aroma, taste, language, and in just about every aspect of life, and the Japanese awareness of nature was essential in terms of understanding the presence of energy and being more attuned to their subtle changes.
The culture also instilled in me the role of stillness. In fact when I first moved here, it was very hard to cope with the extra chatter that seemed to fill that stillness. It seemed to me that Western cultures were afraid of stillness and tried so hard to fill that with something (although that has changed quite a bit now, or it could be that I know who to hang out with now).
The older I get, the more I rely on and seek out the ancient wisdom of Japan. I feel that the spiritual wisdom kept hidden in the ancient Japanese culture as well as with our Aboriginal people of Japan is extremely important as we enter a whole new paradigm. My affinity towards using water elements for healing also stems from my upbringing there.
Where did you train to become a clinical herbalist?
First, I would like to say that I do not consider myself a clinical herbalist in a traditional sense. I have the training, but I really do not like the word “clinical” because I strongly believe that is not how we are supposed to use plants. I sometimes use that word in order to get clients to understand that part of it is included in what I do because when we work with energy we work with the body as well, but the approach is not “clinical” at all. I see things from a much bigger picture than a body part.
Clinical also implies that I see disease and that I work with the symptoms that have manifested – that is not what I do. I work with the whole person. My first teacher was my grandfather. He taught me to love plants and how to be with plants. My first official herbal teacher was Karen Rose whom I apprenticed with in Brooklyn NY. I thank the Universe she was my very first formal teacher of plants because she opened up some space inside me to get back to a place where I felt ok to trust my intuition again.
Today I understand this was by divine design. Nothing is a coincidence. I have always been much better at listening to my heart than my brain, or I should say I did not know any other way to be, and this was the first of any kind of class where not only was that allowed but encouraged. I began to feel so free, and it allowed energy to flow through me again because all my life I struggled with that balance. My intuition was always very powerful but I could never talk about it because people were often very judgemental, but mostly because I largely lost the ability to trust what I felt as society educated me out of it.
Then I went on to a very clinical based herbal school in NYC to acquire the skills of understanding the clinical aspects of herbalism. I also studied distillation, flower essences and various energy healing modalities and energetic components of plants. Very early on in my plant studies I would get downloads from the plants, that gave me more depth to understand better what the plants could actually do, and I understood that without understanding the multidimensional nature of plants, we truly cannot use them correctly. (Distillation is a way to connect with plants on this multidimensional level).
Plants were really loud about that, too. Rose for example did not let me see one book about her until she was done with me the first time. In fact, plants themselves did not let me go on learning the reductionist way at all. I would get major anxiety and palpitations doing it. I knew they were telling me that that was the incorrect way to use plants.
Knowledge is an ego centered energy. I find that plants hate this. At least they hated it when I tried, Lol. Wisdom is deeper and grows from within and is experience based. It seeps into your core and to the soul. So I gave in and stopped trying to gain knowledge, but allowed wisdom to grow organically instead from inside. For years now, I tend to have plants themselves teach me what I am experiencing through life. Then I consult books at a later stage. I find I learn a lot more that way.
What services do you offer your clients today?
I am continually evolving. Right now I provide Herbal Consultations, Reiki treatment (often involves aroma), and flower essence treatments. But I would like to eventually add others such as ancestral healing to the service, and I have a few other ideas I am working on. I also create vibrational remedies with hydrosols and make herbal remedies. I also do workshops from time to time.
What is your approach to healing?
I see healing as a journey to get to know yourself on a deeper level. I feel that Dis-ease is created by a lack of awareness. The lack of awareness comes from energetic pathways that have been blocked with our subconscious beliefs and past experiences including past life and ancestry that is stored in us as data.
We often see the world through the lens that has a filter that is this data. Some people call them stories. Plants have high frequencies that are specific to each plant and can often unclog this blockage (they each have their own expertise). When the blockage is removed, it allows higher conscious energy to flow in creating new perspectives and awareness. Once we have the awareness of how we have strayed in our divine path, we can correct it in a more organic way.
Do you believe we all have a ‘spirit’ plant?
Perhaps. I definitely think we have certain plants we can call allies because we are energetically aligned with that plant. But we are creatures of change. I have had instances where my ally plant does not show up for a long while, then suddenly, they show up again, only to show me how much I have grown or to show me another perspective of things from the past.
Those are the times I can really see that I too grow in a spiral form just like plants do. So I think there are certain plants you will always have a deep relationship with that guide you, and reflect you, but only if you allow that relationship to be cultivated, will you experience it. I find that if you are open to their wisdom, there will always be a plant that will show up to guide you through where you are in life. That IS what they are here to do.
If you were to pick 4 plants essential to your own wellbeing, what would they be?
This is tough. It will change the next time you ask, because again, we are always changing. But I do have an affinity to Rose in a big way. She will always be special to me. Ginger, camelia sinensis, I use daily, and recently our Rainbow Eucalyptus has been very vocal and I like sitting under it for guidance. But I have had too many amazing experiences with plants to just choose a few. They all show up when they need to, so they are all special to me.
How important are the roots of plants in herbalist practices?
That’s a very good question. There are multiple layers to this, and I could talk about it all day. The root is one of the first things the plant has to grow in order to be here on the earth plane. This is the same in human beings. Our root chakra anchors us to earth just like the roots physically anchor plants.
Roots are all about surviving here on the Earth plane. It’s the foundation. It’s where the plants take in nutrition from Mother earth for physical strength (a weak root will produce weak plants), it’s how the plant communicates with earth and other plants because no being can live by themselves entirely, so some plants even have symbiotic relationships with other organisms that live in their roots for better uptake of nutrients, for example.
It is how they stand up on the soil so they can stand tall. Our root chakra similarly is all about survival. Energetically, it is the area that rules how safe we feel being on this earth. It rules the physical strength, as well as our immune system. So a weak root chakra makes it hard for that person to live. Without the feeling of safety, one cannot experience joy, or build deep relationships with others, or even feel love. So the root is the foundation, physically and energetically.
Any kind of childhood experience that was traumatic gets stored in the root chakra, or these lower chakras. I feel the inner child also lives in this chakra too. Any time we have to remove trauma (which is often) we work on the root chakra. Plants with strong roots help us strengthen this chakra, the foundation of being here on Earth, so it all begins with the root. Root is also about our lineage. We cannot know ourselves without knowing where we have been.
How do you proceed with a client during a herbal consultation?
We do a lot of talking to begin with. About everything. This helps me not only learn things from the client’s past, their daily routine, health history and so on but I also start to tune into the client as a person and into their energy. I get ideas from their world view, the strength of voice, the way they carry themselves, how their energy feels, and I may even start getting other information. For example, even if the client is speaking in an upbeat voice, I will feel a pain or a hook inside my heart and sense a blockage.
As we are talking, some plants may start popping up in my head already. But at the end, I have a nice overall picture of who the person sitting in front of me is. Then I consider the client’s goal, and then start matching plants to the client while weaving the clinical understanding and the spiritual understanding of the plants together. I often give my herbal clients a quick reiki treatment anyway because it’s a really great way to initiate energy flowing in the right way.
Where do you source your ingredients from?
I try to source them directly from growers or foragers as much as possible. And I also like to know who grows or who is foraging the plants. I can’t do that with all of the ingredients, but I try to, as much as possible, and I also try to get them locally.
When it comes to vibrational remedies I like to use fresh material, so I always seek growers for those operations. However, my new challenge is to try to grow as much as possible myself now, and that is the phase Rooted Things is entering into these days, now that I am spending more time in a tropical area that allows for growth all year round.