The Mirriam-Webster dictionary contains the following discussion of the word inspiration:
It comes from the Latin inspiratus (the past participle of inspirare, “to breathe into, inspire”) and in English has had the meaning “the drawing of air into the lungs” since the middle of the 16th century. This breathing sense is still in common use among doctors, as is expiration (“the act or process of releasing air from the lungs”). However, before inspiration was used to refer to breath it had a distinctly theological meaning in English, referring to a divine influence upon a person, from a divine entity;
Peyote inspires. It breathes healing energy into our hearts, minds, and bodies. This is a part of the conversation that is as important as it is personal. It isn’t necessarily an evangelistic inspiration to spread the word, or a wiping of the scales from the eyes like a road to Damascus conversion experience. It manifests more subtly than all that- a warming of the soul, a kind word or blessing to share with a friend, and a reminder to walk more consciously and gratefully on one’s life path. And this can be different for everyone. For many it inspires the creation of artwork or songs. It fosters a taking of personal inventory and a deeper examination of conscience. And overall, it is a promoter of prayer- for ourselves, our family, our community, our world.
These inspirational qualities of peyote should not to be overlooked in our discussions any more than we would overlook the spicy qualities of chili. The heat factor is not only what chilis are about, but it is a big part of it. Likewise, the heart factor of peyote is not the only thing, but it’s a big one.
And how this heart power affects us is well beyond reductionistic pharmacological models of brains and alkaloids. It is an action of Creation through divine source that is a gift for humanity. So yes, peyote is a plant which is threatened in its habitat and needs some reciprocal tlc, but it is not only a plant. It’s a spiritual medicine whose properties are beyond science’s ability to measure. But also it’s a plant. And our concern for its future requires us to find a balance of science and spirituality, of humanity and nature. I believe this balance has become a necessary part of our prayer.
I have two wonderful friends who have been married for decades, the wife a traditional Catholic woman, the husband attends tipi meetings. She is supportive of him but not involved in his ceremonial life to any great extent. One day she calls me and she says, “I’m sorry, I don’t want to bother you but I’m hoping you’d be willing to let Henry take the peyote buttons he has growing here to your house and they can live with you there?” Sure”, I said, “But why, is there some problema?” “No. The thing is Leo, to him it’s something special and I know he loves having it here. But to me it’s just another plant. And it’s nothing but a plant, no different than any other plant!” I told her yeah, no worries, I’d be happy to come get it or whatever. But I was still wondering why. “And the things is…” she somehow felt the need to explain… “I get so tired of feeling it out there. I don’t even have to see it, I can feel it, and I’m tired of it!”
So yes, it’s a plant but it’s so much more than just any plant and it does inspire and request a certain amount of attention. Especially when we use it in ceremony. And the whole point of my accepting this kind of ridiculous idea of being a peyote Lorax, (But I’m not the only one. And there is also a peyote Yoda btw.), is to draw attention that if we don’t pay attention- all the truffula trees may someday be rare or gone. Unless!
The other side of inspiration is expiration. Breathing out is the natural balance to breathing in. But there is another meaning to expiration, as Mirriam-Webster describes:
…the fact of coming to an end or the point at which something ends : TERMINATION
The way it’s been shown to me, we are the unless.
So I ask you medicine, please inspire us into a healthy future for the lands you grow on and the rains you drink. And for the elements of Creation all of our families and peoples depend on for our lives. Thank you!
But what I really wanted to talk about here was the idea of inspiration, breathing in. And expiration, breathing out. Plants do it too. It’s called transpiration. But remarkably, cacti transpire at night, not during the day like most other plants. So in order to not lose moisture during the hot, dry, days, they close their pores, or stomata, until night comes. Then they breathe in and out, taking in carbon dioxide and letting out oxygen, while also taking in water. They store the C02 in a chemical form until daytime when they hold their breath again while utilizing the stored energy. It’s called the Crassulacean Acid Metabolism Cycle and you can read about it here.
So what I’m saying is that at night, when we are in tipi praying and singing and taking water, the medicine is breathing. And listening to our prayers and songs. And taking water. And that is an inspiring reality.
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