Spirituality, Connection & Transformation with Maya Shetreat, MD

Content By: Ari Whitten & Maya Shetreat, MD

In this episode, I am speaking with Maya Shetreat-Klein, MD – who is a pediatric neurologist and herbalist, urban farmer, naturalist, shaman. And the author of The Dirt Cure. We will talk about how to improve your health by connecting with spirituality and teach you about Earth-based tools necessary to navigate these unprecedented times.

Get Dr. Maya’s program here:

Table of Contents

In this podcast, Dr. Maya will cover:

  • How to use the current health crisis to change your life
  • The importance of knowing how to navigate uncharted territory
  • How supplements are absorbed in the body (and why supplements may not work for everyone)
  • Connecting to the earth, making medicine from plants, growing food
  • How to define spirituality

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Ari: Welcome everyone. So glad you are here. I want to give Maya a little intro here. Hopefully, you’ve heard her on the podcast before. She’s been on The Energy Blueprint podcast two times already. If you don’t know, well then you’re about to know. She is an MD. She’s a pediatric neurologist and herbalist, urban farmer, naturalist, shaman. She’s an author of The Dirt Cure, which is a phenomenal book that I highly recommend, which is The Dirt Cure: Growing Healthy Kids with Food Straight from the Soil, which has been translated by the way into 10 different languages. Her philosophy is that the health of our inner terrain, our bodies, is a reflection of the health of our outer terrain, which is the natural world around us, that the gut, the immune health, the nervous system, and the many microbes in those systems are a direct reflection of the food we eat, where it comes from, from the soil it’s grown in, to the water it swims in, to the synthetic chemicals it might be bathed in. Fresh food, microbes, germs, and the elements of nature soil, sunshine, water, and fresh air, I especially like the sunshine part, make us resilient and prevent, or even reverse illness. I’m a huge fan of her work. She’s a good personal friend of mine. I even reach out to her on matters of my own family. For example, a few months ago, I thought my son had whooping cough, and so I reached out to her for advice. She’s in my closest inner circle of people that I have enormous trust and respect for and admiration for their level of knowledge, and that I specifically will even go to and ask questions to get their expertise. I’m really excited to do this webinar with you guys with her, having her share her knowledge with you. Without any further ado, I will hand it off to you and let you take it away.

Dr. Shetreat:  All right. Thank you so much for having me. I assume that we’ll converse as we always do, but I think, right now, it’s just a really important time to talk a little bit about where we find ourselves in the world at this moment in time. One of the things that brought me to this point was my work that I’ve done in my study with indigenous communities, indigenous elders, and teachers and shamans that I’ve learned from, both in South America, from Africa, from my own ancestors from Morocco. In indigenous society, there was the shaman, or the medicine person that held a very unique and special role. Their role, in part, was actually to undergo, by choice in a sense, initiation, initiatory experiences that were a dark night of the soul. Through that, they would experience a dissolution of ego, a dissolution of self, and have to navigate their way through un-navigated territory and come back with new knowledge, different knowledge, more powerful knowledge. In many cases, they would have learned more of the language of the earth in that process. Then they would take on the role in society of a healer leader. Something that I’ve been reflecting on a lot as we go through this period of time, because, of course, many of us go through such experiences in our lives. It can be as something as common as childbirth, for both parents, that having a baby is a very initiatory experience because…the person going through the physical experience is certainly immersed in it on a different level, but for both people, it catapults you out of your normal life, and you really can never get back to that normal that you were in before. It doesn’t make it bad. It may be difficult. Of course there are so many other examples of that where it’s a loss, where it could be loss of health, it could be loss of a relationship or a job or loss of a loved one. It can be all different kinds of experiences, but in those experiences, you are catapulted from your normal life, and you may feel in the moment like you can’t navigate your way back to where you were, and maybe you can. That is a sort of dark night, the soul which we don’t usually do with other people. Right now, we’re in a collective initiation, where on some level, almost everyone in the world is experiencing some form of being catapulted from normal. We come through these experiences, and then theoretically have gifts that we reveal during that time, or epiphanies, or some kind of knowledge that you may not have had before. Which does not in any way, and I’m very careful that I’d never want to diminish the challenge and the hardship of traveling this path. Two things can be true at the same time. It can be true that it’s very difficult and we would never choose it and it involves grief and fear and a lot of very difficult emotions, and at the same time, we can also know that there may be things that we learn either about ourselves or that we can envision. When you’re catapulted out of the normal, it gives you an opportunity to look at what normal was and determine if it was something that you actually wanted or needed, and if it would be something exactly like that, that you would want to go back to again, or would there be something, whether large or small, that you would want to change in your future normal.

Ari: Yes. On that note, I have had this exact process that you’re describing happening fo r me. One of the things that I’m looking at and re-evaluating is, superficial relationships. Relationships that are like small talk, that are with people at the gym, or that are not really meaningful for me, but which I grew attached to in a weird way. They’re not really friends that I spend time with or even enjoy talking to that much, but I’m kind of like in some part of me enjoys the social interaction. Now I’m really just re-evaluating, like how important do I want to make that? How much time do I want to devote for those conversations? They might take half an hour out of my day when I go to the gym, and that’s half an hour that I could spend in something that is much more meaningful and fulfilling to me like spending a half an hour more with my two kids, with my three year old son and with my eight month old daughter. When I really have the opportunity to look at that right now, I’m like, “What am I doing? Why would I not take that half an hour, especially in these times that are so busy where I constantly have all kinds of demands, as I’m sure you do on me, that I’m like, “I really need to free that time up.” This is actually being quarantined at home with them, is giving me a nice time to reflect on that and have my wish come true of spending more time with my kids.

Dr. Shetreat:  Many of us, depending on what’s happening in our home, also, we do have this opportunity to notice. Just like there is this distance that we have from the usual. Something I would say is, just a simple thing, is a seed stores are selling out of seeds. I went to go buy– I already had seeds, and I’m starting my own seeds this year. That’s another thing for me. I very often buy seedlings because I’m a little more time-consuming. You have to prepare more in advance because I’m busy, busy and traveling and all the things, usually I will buy seedlings from a trusted farmer and grower that I have known for over a decade. Of course, I did buy a few from her, but I also bought seeds and thought this year, I’m going to grow seeds. I work with seeds in spiritual work. It’s a powerful part of shamanic work, and we can talk a little bit more about that, but there’s something about seeds that I felt like, I have to trust that the proceeds are going to grow. It’s really like this leap of faith, and I just had a major success. I’ve been germinating and they’ve been sprouting and makes me feel like a miracle worker. At the same time, people are thinking about these things that I’ve been talking about and writing about for well over a decade and, as have you, talking about what kind of food are we eating? Where’s it coming from? Are we growing it, nutrient-dense soil? All of these things that sometimes it felt like we’re shouting in the wind, and now people are front and center and paying attention to that.

How to use this crisis to change your life

Ari: Yes. I know you saw the post that I made in the Mindshare Facebook group the other day about shifting the public conversation around coronavirus, and not to take anything away from the heroic work of the physicians on the front lines of treating the most severely ill people. I shared some data around survival rates on ventilators and how they look, unfortunately pretty bad in terms of the fact that the data is looking like maybe somewhere between 85% to 95%, 97% of people who are being put on ventilators are not surviving. Basically I was saying, if this is the case, how much sense does it make for our entire public conversation around COVID-19 in the media to be focused on this, and maybe we should shift the focus instead to taking this window of time that we have now in the weeks and months before we get this virus, or we might be exposed to it, to optimize our overall metabolic health through nutrition and lifestyle changes given that we know that that is a major, major risk factor for having severe symptoms from this. I think this whole thing that’s going on right now is a wonderful opportunity for people to recognize that, that taking personal responsibility and ownership for their nutrition and lifestyle habits, and for their health habits, for their spiritual habits is the biggest factor in determining whether they’re going to die from this or not. I think shifting the focus back to that is a huge potential transformation, positive transformation that can occur from what’s happening right now.

Dr. Shetreat:  Absolutely. I’ll say two things about that. The first is that, again, I think there’s an any two things can be true, so certainly, it’s very important to be talking about what we’re going to need for life support for people who can recover. I’m in some huge groups on Facebook of just doctors, and it’s only the topic of is COVID-19, because I don’t usually join those giant doctor groups because they’re aggravating for me, to be frank, but this was important, I felt, because I wanted to know what’s happening on the ground, what are people experiencing. What I’m finding interesting, again, as another awakening that’s happening, is many, many doctors are asking, “What are you taking in terms of supplements right now?” Because they’re in a terrible situation where they don’t have the infection control, protection and protective gear, that we’ve all been trained, and it was a big part of medical training, to know how to protect yourself in infectious situations. Now they don’t have those things, and they’re feeling let down by government, by the CDC, by their hospital systems. Again, there’s a dark night of the soul here happening for the whole medical community at large, and again, never something that we would want or choose, but they’re thinking, “Should I be taking vitamin D? Should I be taking vitamin C?” They’re exchanging, “Well, what are you taking?” I wouldn’t say it’s the vast majority, but it’s certainly coming up in conversation, “This is what I’m doing. What do you think?” I think that also more than ever right now, people really are feeling like, “I don’t know what to do other than isolate and wash my hands and maybe wear a mask, but what else can I do?” These are not necessarily the medical community, but people in general feeling like, “Well, is there something I can do rather than sitting duck here essentially waiting for this thing to hit me and maybe take me down?” Of course, I talk about this in The Dirt Cure to a great degree because I talk about germ theory, which led me to creating the terrain institute, actually, because this idea of Louis Pasteur that there are these germs, these nasty germs that are lying in wait to attack us, unexpectedly is, I think, only one piece of the story of how we interact with microbes. The other side of that story is Claude Bernard, he’s Louis Pasteur’s colleague, who had a competing idea that it’s actually not the microbe at all, but it’s the terrain, right? Most microbes, and this is the truth, and we’ve learned this more and more, that most microbes are actually around us all the time. Why this microbe may not be acting in that way is because, well, of many reasons, but in some way it’s novel to us. Coronavirus, in general, is not novel to us, but this particular strain or group of strains is, in some way, novel. What do we have in this situation? What do we have? We have our terrain. In Claude Bernard’s case, he was talking about our physical terrain, our bioterrain, our organ systems, our microbiome, our vitamin and nutrient levels, all of the different things, even if those weren’t all specifically in his mind at that time because maybe he didn’t know all those things. It has to do with our terrain. It’s exactly what you’re saying, Ari, which is, on the one hand, yes, we need to think about what we’re going to do when people arrive to the emergency room and they literally can’t draw air. We need to have enough ventilators, they need to be working ventilators, we need to be protecting our workers on the front-lines of all kinds, especially healthcare workers and all the others. I think that’s a true statement. We need to, as a society, really pay attention to how are we creating resilient terrain? How are we creating, in ourselves, a resilient terrain? Nutrition and lifestyle sounds so woo-woo, I think to the medical community and maybe to many people, but you and I know, and I think many of the people who are listening to us right now know first-hand how powerful it is to pay attention to what you’re putting in your body, your food, the kinds of nutrients and being nutrient sufficient.

Ari: If I can interject one thing on that point, we know specifically there’s data that’s come out on hypertension, on diabetes, and on cardiovascular disease, increasing the risk of having severe symptoms from COVID-19 by 200% to 300%. Those three things, and I’m sure there’s many more diseases that could be listed there if they were studied, but those three things by themselves, it’s important to point out, are directly related and primarily caused by nutrition and lifestyle factors, and can largely be reversed, assuming you’re not so severe in the process, they can be reversed by nutrition and lifestyle factors. Yes, I think, of course, we need to take care of what’s happening on the front lines, but I think for the 95% of the population that’s not going to end up in the ICU from this, I think this is a beautiful opportunity to realize that you have the power to massively reduce your risk of having severe symptoms from this, by addressing nutrition and lifestyle factors, and taking ownership of that. Rather than sitting in fear reading the news every day on coronavirus, locking yourself in your house in fear and waiting for a vaccine to come and save you, this is a beautiful opportunity to take ownership of your health, and you can make changes that can massively reduce your risk of severe symptoms from this.

Dr. Shetreat:  Yes. It’s interesting because there are a good number of people that I’m seeing in the younger group that don’t have any of those risk factors, or any known risk factors, because we’re not looking at probably the right– In other words, we think about hypertension, diabetes and so on as being that’s kind of our conventional– it’s not that it’s not true, but it’s the conventional medical system is thinking, “Yes, this person’s obese. Therefore, they are at risk in this way, and that makes sense to me.” But in fact we’re seeing a lot of seemingly healthy 30-year-olds and 40-year-olds on vents who are surviving, in most cases, I want to say. It’s not a waste of resources, I don’t think. I think actually in Italy what we saw from physicians is that, the people who did have these health problems were actually very often taken off of life support so that the ventilators could be used for people, 60 and under, who didn’t have those kinds of health issues. That said, what I find interesting is, what are the nutrient? Is anybody looking at vitamin D levels? Is anybody looking at vitamin C levels, vitamin A levels, selenium levels, zinc levels? These are the five nutrients, and I created a little video series on the scientific reasons behind the nutrients and herbs that I recommend for this and that I’ve used with my patients to get them through, but we’re not looking at those levels. Is anyone looking at these levels? I doubt it.

Ari: In fact, there’s even articles coming out in major news outlets. I think there was one in the New York Times last week that was basically saying all this talk of vitamins in relationship to immune health and to COVID-19 is nonsense. No vitamins can possibly boost your immune system, boosting your immune system is nonsense, pseudoscience and none of these vitamins will do anything for you. This is some of the stuff that’s coming out of a lot of the media outlets right now.

Dr. Shetreat:  I saw that article, and I didn’t think it was as strong as that, but I do think that it was discouraging. That I think was absolutely true. Certainly, the media has not jumped on board with this idea of nutrients actually can be helpful. I’m happy to share the video someone asked. The science is there, [chuckles] and it’s powerful science. There’s a lot actually written about coronavirus, although not this particular strain, there are studies on this. There are studies looking at the ACE receptor and what herbs actually can nourish that in a good way, herbs that can support cilia function in the lungs, which are the specialized lining of the lungs. There’s quite a lot available to us. I’ll tell you one of the top things– Actually, you and I discussed this already, but I think I had this.

Ari: Just for clarity, you think you had COVID-19?

Dr. Shetreat:  COVID-19, yes. I do think that I had it in February.

Ari: I think I had it in January. By the way, just like two hours ago, I saw a news report out of China saying that there were 43 confirmed cases in China that were non-symptomatic cases that were confirmed that China never figured into their statistics, which supports my theory and many people’s theory that this probably existed in China in way bigger numbers and was going on for way longer a period of time than they have led on. Anyway, less we digress.

Dr. Shetreat:  I feel like much to say if we really wanted to go on that train [laughs], there is a lot. One of the things that was the most effective and helpful for me, was fresh ginger tea with honey. People, again, they’re like “Tea? Ginger? That’s just something in the kitchen.” I’ve had now several patients and a family member, a cousin of mine, who were experiencing significant symptoms, and not to the point that I would have sent them to the emergency room. Drinking ginger tea, which is really simple, you take a piece of fresh ginger about the size of your thumb, and chop it into pieces, boil it in water for anywhere from around 10 minutes. You can simmer it once it comes to a boil to 30 or more minutes, and then add honey, a small amount of honey, I use raw honey. I drink that constantly, and it totally changed the way my lungs felt. The flu-like symptoms I had lasted relatively briefly a few days, and I dosed on a lot of herbs during that time. I’m not getting on that conversation too much because, like I said, I’m happy to share my video series if you’re good with that, Ari.

Ari: Yes, absolutely.

Dr. Shetreat:  By all means, it’s free and it’s available to anyone who wants it. I had three weeks of lung symptoms afterwards where I just didn’t feel like I could breathe well and I was more fatigued and if I went for even a two-mile little run, I had to stop and pause a few times during the run, which isn’t like me at all. Drinking ginger tea was incredibly helpful. The people that I’ve walked them through this, they are positive or seem to be positive, obviously, it’s not that easy to get testing, have also found it to be very, very helpful. Obviously, not one thing works for everyone. It’s just an example of something simple that does have antiviral properties, it does have lung protective properties, and it was profoundly helpful for many people that I’ve taken through this. Another thing that I like is cinnamon, actually, also has antiviral properties. It has insulin balancing and glucose balancing properties, and it also is lung protective. This is the thing I think is amazing about plants and about herbs and about food, which obviously there’s overlap, a lot of overlap there. Our medicines are in our kitchens, literally in our kitchens. I give people cinnamon bark as a supplement, but right now if you’re worried about what can you do, just as one example, is to add a lot of cinnamon to some of your smoothie, or to your whatever, your oatmeal, or I don’t know, whatever it is that you’re eating, you don’t have to take it as a supplement, especially if you’re in preventive mode. Those are just a couple of examples, but what I think too about this, and I’m going to take it to a different place for a minute, is in the paradigm that I was taught by my indigenous teachers, we have a physical terrain, our physical body, we have our emotional body, and we have our spiritual body, and each of those are equally important, but for them, and this is a real paradigm shift, your spiritual wellness, your spiritual health actually is more important. In other words, physical illness is a downstream problem in the more indigenous model, and more your spiritual health and your emotional health is where you determine what your physical health will be.

How Supplements are being absorbed

Ari: Maya, I want to go down this road, and I know this is super important. There’s a bunch of  some specific to supplements and things like that.  

Dr. Shetreat:  To answer one of the questions, is that for some people, it’s true that absorbing your nutrients is– not everybody absorbs nutrients the same way, and not everybody does well with taking nutrients like supplements. I have some people in my practice that do wonderfully with vitamins and supplements, and do very badly with herbs. People who are really reactive sometimes will do a lot better with a pill, just a simple pill of vitamin D, or whatever it might be, whereas other people who don’t tolerate supplements as well sometimes do much, much better using plant medicines and herbs. Most people do really well with foods. In terms of absorption, for me, part of having a healthy terrain is about making sure the gut is as healed and healthy as possible. That is important, because you could take all the supplements in the world, but if you’re not absorbing them, or you react to them, or don’t feel well with them, then they may not be doing the job that they need to be doing.

Why spiritual health is high priority

Ari: Well said. I’ll let you switch back to the spiritual. The spiritual body is the highest up, and the physical stuff is downstream from that.

Dr. Shetreat:  Well, right. That’s why I think as we’re going through this, we’re walking through this period, it’s like we’re looking for all these ways that we are out of alignment. I think part of why I don’t want to get too detailed in terms of recommending doses and all of that here now, is because I think while it’s important to think about those things, and that’s why I’m sharing that other– it’s a several video series where I do get more detailed about those things. I think it’s so easy for us to get lost sometimes in those details, and not be able to step back and take in the bigger picture of what could we be doing better for ourselves in a larger way in terms of patterns like growing food or getting outside when it’s possible, or taking care of ourselves in a spiritual way, or thinking about how we’re interacting with the natural world. In the paradigm that I studied, and that I practice now, there is this idea that, what is really spiritual health? How do we care for our spiritual terrain? In one way that we do, it has to do with being in good relations. Being in good relations with ourselves. A lot of us right now are going through this inner journey. As we are, in some way, isolated from a lot of the usual things that we’re doing and the people we interact with and so on, we are doing this journey within. This is this moment to start to think about. That does have to do with how do we care for our bodies? How do we care for ourselves? How are we living our lives? Do we want to have those superficial relationships or not? All of the things, that good relation. Good relations with ourselves, good relations with those around us, and good relations with our place, with land, with the earth. Those are the three elements of caring for our spiritual health. I want to give some practical idea around this because it might sound esoteric, but I would use an example of, what do we do in this indigenous or shamanic approach? How can we think about ourselves energetically, and how do we care for ourselves that way? One of the examples I would use would be fear. A lot of us are feeling awash in fear, whether it’s our own or that of those around us, collective fear. What are things that we can do, simple accessible things that we can do to actually care for our spiritual terrain? At the same time, that we’re also doing the things like taking care of our physical bodies, our physical terrain, through food, and through activity and nature and all of that. Many of these things actually are addressing all the different kinds of health, not just our physical health.

The power of plant bathing

Dr. Shetreat:  An example of one of the things, is actually just making a plant bathing. It’s called limpia or spiritual bathing, where you actually take aromatic plants, which could be rosemary, lavender, basil, oregano, or it could be flowers like a rose or a dandelion, something that you might have available to you. You take just a little bit of it. It doesn’t have to be a lot of sprig or one blossom, and you boil it in water just for 10 minutes. Then you take the plants out, let the water come back to body temperature, or add water to make it around body temperature. Then take it into the bath or shower or outdoors, if you feel like a little more like a nature person, and pour it over yourself. That sounds pretty basic and maybe, for some people, like nonsense. I don’t know. The first time that I had that experience of having this plant bathing, it was many years ago, I went to my very first herbal conference, and I met actually the person who became one of my teachers, who was a fourth-generation shaman and also a PhD in ethnobotany. We chose our plants, we boiled it in this big pot, and then she said, “Okay, go outside and now do the plant bathing.” They poured this over me. I actually felt suddenly like my whole body was tingling, and kind of electric. Then I felt this lightning of just this lightning, I just felt like a sense of heaviness lifting. What was fascinating afterwards was I looked at all the other people who had this limpia also, and everyone was shining. They were glowing. I knew for myself also, this wasn’t just tea being poured over me. It was a real cleaning of a kind, and it was cleaning something I didn’t even know needed to be cleaned. That was a very powerful experience. Since then, I’ve used that because we know how much lifestyle matters, and we know how much eating matters, and exercise matters, and being resilient, and hormesis, and all of the things that you and I love nerding out about and recommending to people, we know how important they are. We also know that sometimes– This is at least for me true. I see patients from all over the world. Many of them have been to some of the top institutions, or many of the top institutions, and they’ve done a lot of things, and there’s something that’s still not lifting, even with all of the things, even if they’ve improved. We know that what we do helps people very, very much, and very often heals people completely, and sometimes there’s still more that has to happen, even with all the things that we know. This is one of those things that I can prescribe, it’s accessible, it’s inexpensive, it’s easy, it doesn’t take any special wisdom or knowledge, and you can see things lift, where then it can allow a new phase of physical healing. Somebody asked, “Is essential oil okay instead of real flowers?” The answer is, you can add essential oil to it as well. It doesn’t need to be flowers, but you do want real fresh plant, if you can. That could be, by the way, evergreen. If you’re in a place where you don’t have access to fresh flowers, you don’t need that. You could literally take a few needles from pine, or fur, or something like that. Actually, those plants right now, evergreens, are very spiritually, we would say, it’s a very beneficial plant to use because of its flexibility. Interestingly, it’s also beneficial medicinally as a drink.  Pine needles, from white pine, are actually higher in vitamin C than most citrus. We make a tea from the needles and the twigs that is incredibly high in vitamin C, and it’s also used for respiratory support and respiratory infections. That’s the beauty of this kind of work, is understanding that there’s a real strong connection in the plant world as well of physical support. 

Ari: Should there be a ceremonial aspect or ritualistic aspect to this, an intent behind it? Let me rephrase. Is it something where the magic of it is the action of the water infused with the plants interacting with our body in some way, or is the magic of it the ritual and the intent behind it, or a combination of the two? What’s going on there?

Dr. Shetreat:  Well, I think that’s a really important question because that brings me to a different element of this process and all of the work of healing spiritual terrain, which is being in a state of appreciation and gratitude. This is something I teach a lot in my certification program because we know that being in a state of appreciation and gratitude through numerous, numerous scientific studies, actually, it influences our physical health in very measurable ways, it influences our mental health, and I’ll give some examples, and, obviously, it influences our spiritual health, to be in a state of gratitude and appreciation. The way we know this is that the HeartMath Institute actually has done a tremendous amount of research on heart rate variability, which is a component data that’s drawn from our heart rate. For those who are interested, it’s the difference between each beat of your heart. We think of the heart as a metronome, and it just beats the same every time, but it actually doesn’t, there’s slight variability in between each beat and that is a sign of health and resilience. It’s very interesting I get really into the science in my program, but when we look at it, there are different kind of waves, and we can see if someone is angry. We can see with very good predictability if someone is concentrating or if they’re relaxed or if they’re agitated or if they’re in a state of gratitude and appreciation.

When you are in that state of gratitude and appreciation, there’s this beautiful sinusoidal wave that is measurable, and there are actually devices that you can link up with and it’ll give you a little ding when you get into that state of what they call coherence, which is a cool thing. There are all these studies for people who have practiced on being in this state of coherence, there’s lower cortisol levels, there’s lower blood pressure. A lot of different physical measures of health actually improve in all different ways but also mental health. Psychosis and psychotic ideation actually decreases, bipolar events decrease, depression improves, anxiety levels out. We see a lot of really fascinating and impressive data including for people who have had PTSD and are really, really struggling or OCD. Things that can be profoundly disruptive to someone’s life can actually balance out by being in the state of gratitude and appreciation. What does this have to do with taking a plant bath? Well, the plant bathing, part of what I teach and what I’ve learned is when we pick plants, we go to the plant. Part of it is coming in a state of respect, coming in a state of gratitude and really asking permission if we can take this from the plant and having that moment with the plant. As strange to some people as that may sound, that is a part of the process certainly of the plant than being willing to give its medicine to you. This is again, part of this indigenous idea that plants are teachers to us. I think one of the things we dive into also is the science and sacred of psychedelics. I think we’re really starting to understand the idea of plants as teachers when we talk about things like Ayahuasca or Psilocybin or San Pedro which you and I talked about on our previous podcast, but really starting to see that the plants teach us or can teach us.

Ari: I want to mention something personal on this note. I have a garden in my backyard, as you know, and I grow vegetables and herbs. I generally don’t talk about stuff like this, as you know I’m very evidence-focused. One of the things that started happening with me as I would take, let’s say, lemon balm to make a tea or rosemary or something like that, is I found when I just went out there in busy work mode and I just was like, “Okay, I’ve got to do this, this is on my to-do list. Boom, boom, boom, boom. I’ve got to take some of this plant, take some of that plant.” Take some broccoli and this is what we need and just go out there and cut it, cut a big head of broccoli for dinner that I watched grow for whatever three months prior to that from nothing. I found when I took it in a mindless state, I felt bad about it. I felt like I just harmed the plant and didn’t have any concern for it. I actually started a practice of just every time I took just to thank the plant for growing and producing that abundance, that nourishment to feed my family. My relationship with my garden changed when I started doing that. Maybe it’s just my imagination but I think my garden started getting a little healthier when I started doing that.

Dr. Shetreat:  Well, I love that you’re sharing that story, and I want you to know that is actually a science-based story, and I’ll tell you why. One of the things that I teach about is plant consciousness and animal consciousness in terms of the science. As I said before and you know because we love getting into it. I love geeking out about science, and I like marrying it with ancient knowledge and with the sacred, but the science is there. Looking at plant consciousness, we’re starting to understand, and there are many books on the topic and many papers on the topic, which I outline that plants actually do have a real ability to– They have community, they take care of each other, they take care of their children, and they actually respond to being cut in different ways that we wouldn’t think. We’ve had this whole idea, and this is something I talk about too, how did we get to this point? We’re in this paradigm where we think that we’re at the top of the mountain and everything else is below us. It’s just resources and commodities for us to take advantage of. In fact, up until about 400 or 500 years ago, it was very much a part of normal daily life to be in gratitude to the plants. There were wise women and herbalists and midwives who were holders of this exact knowledge, and in fact, it was very much accepted. All of these rituals around solstice and the equinox were all about gratitude for the seasons and the things that we got, and we’ve framed it or spun it as being primitive. But in fact, what we’re learning while looking at the science is that it may not be primitive at all. That maybe now we’re way less advanced in a sense by not acknowledging that we’re surrounded by living beings that actually do have consciousness. Certainly, there’s a tremendous amount, and I mean, those are two of my favorite lectures that I gave in my certification course, are really how do we interact with animals and their consciousness. Anyway, I think the point I want to make about your garden is and what I love so much about this story is that we are in this mutual relationship with the earth and with the plants and the plants bring us medicine and we know. I think you agree, if you look at the science behind certain, any number of herbs. Let’s say, reishi mushroom, there’s a vast amount of scientific literature, thousands of papers now on, looking at it for hepatitis C virus and HIV and Epstein-Barr virus, conditions that are challenging to treat. We know that there’s mitochondrial support from it. We can see all of those benefits but at the same time, to know that we are in relationship that they’re complex and maybe as complex as we are in certain ways. Building this intimate relationship where you come and you say thank you. It’s as simple as what you would do to anyone who is giving you something of themselves. That that felt different and that the medicine of that, whether it’s the food you’re eating or an herb you’re taking or bathing in, is going to feel more powerful that you’re exchanging your experience and impacting your terrain in some way that’s different than it would be otherwise. To go back to your question, does the intent matter? Do you have to say, “Please let me heal”? Well, I don’t think that’s ever a bad idea. You know what I mean? I think when we have intent, I think we know this, that intent does change the outcome. I have no problem with that, but no, it’s not about chanting anything or having a ceremony around it, but it is sacred from my point of view to harvest a plant. In that gratitude, in that relationship, yes, I do think that there is this way that you can come, being in good relations with living beings around you with your land and benefit from that relationship in a different way than you otherwise would have. That I absolutely think is true.

How to define spirituality

Ari: Yes. I think maybe it’s worth connecting the dots here to the broader picture of what spirituality means and what it means to form these connections with nature, with other living beings. It’s interesting, whether or not it’s true that the plant is communicating to you, there’s some magic here happening of just you opening up your field of connectedness to be able to see and feel things from the perspective of other living beings in the world. How does this connect to spirituality more broadly? What is spirituality more broadly?

Dr. Shetreat:  Well, I think this is a fascinating topic when it comes to the idea of consciousness because when I teach about the science of psychedelics like Ayahuasca and Psilocybin, the neuroscience of it, it’s a very fascinating science, and there’s quite a lot of research, especially on Psilocybin, how people experience that. Without getting to details, it changes– What they do is they take us out of the meanness. What we think of as I, take us out of our ego-self in a certain way by actually unsuppressing a particular part of our brain that then allows certain connections to happen that don’t usually happen, allows suppressed memories, which can be also traumatic memories or fears, but other kinds of memories to come and be in front of us. It takes away that ability to compartmentalize and suppress. What happens then is that we experience the world during those periods as all connected. We experience the world as, we all share a consciousness, is a hallmark of the spiritual experience that also people can have during a psychedelic experience. By no means are you required to take psychedelics in order to have this experience. Experienced meditators can have exactly the same things happen in their brain. People who do extreme sports or people who have near-death experiences, and many other things. All can have this kind of experience where they experience consciousness as not only within here, which is what science has tried to say for a long time but is now finding really disrupted by the science of the psychedelic experience, which as we know is becoming legalized in many places and is being shown to be effective for all kinds of disorders, including intractable depression and anxiety and OCD, a lot of other kinds of conditions. Not that I’m saying it’s right for everybody and I don’t think it is actually right for everybody who experiences those conditions. But that idea that consciousness is something shared, shared not just with other people, but with all beings. Again, what we’re showing here in as much of a way as we can possibly show it is that the indigenous view and the more ancient view is actually perhaps scientifically valid in as much as we could show such a thing in science. I do think that spirituality in a very broad way, and this is obviously a huge topic, will be challenging I think to really do justice to in just a short time. This idea that we are all connected, it’s very much a hallmark of the spiritual experience. It’s fascinating to me to come full circle that here we are now in this period really having to entertain this idea in a way that perhaps many of us have not done thinking, “Well, if I go outside and do X, Y, Z, that’s going to affect other people in a way that maybe we didn’t think of it before.” What’s happening in another part of the world is very connected to what’s happening here in the US or in the Netherlands or in Australia. Just we’re starting to really see or what’s happening in the animal market and what’s happening to animals is actually impacting our health by us going into maybe jungles and forest and taking away habitat and affecting biodiversity in ways that maybe certain diseases that we would never have been in contact with [unintelligible 01:00:17]. All of these different things are forcing us to think about the fact that we are all connected and how powerful is that?

Ari: Absolutely and we have this situation as you were talking about at the very beginning of this that we now have the opportunity to re-evaluate things and see things from a new perspective. Now, all of these social interactions, commonplace daily social interactions have been taken away from us. We’re all asked to isolate. Now, we have an opportunity to re-examine the importance of social relationships of connectedness and now that we are feeling the pain of– I haven’t seen my parents and my brother and sister and their families and had our kids play together in weeks because we’re all in our own homes. We now feel the consequences of lack of connectedness and can now come into a new appreciation for how much that benefits our lives to have that community, to have those friendships and that social interaction instead of taking it for granted, but to come at it from a place of gratitude.

Dr. Shetreat:  Absolutely and to think about the fact that while we are physically isolated, that we have ways that we can still be connected through compassion and love, these concepts that we don’t talk about. Well, we talk about but I think we’re like, “eh,” but those aren’t limited by isolation. We have ways to be connected and that goes back to the HeartMath research around the electromagnetic field of the heart and these ways that we are connected with each other through these shared electromagnetic fields. But this is something actually, again, that’s measurable and here we are learning how to work with that as a way to connect because we can’t outside of our Wi-Fi connection and the digital piece of things, but we are really thinking about energetically, how are we all connected with each other now. It is through non-physical, but very tangible ways.

Ari: Yes, absolutely. Obviously, spirituality and the spiritual body is a big aspect of your work. You’ve mentioned a few different aspects, and we’ve talked about a few different aspects of how one might engage with this side of themselves and develop the spiritual aspect of their life. But what is the grand scheme of your work? What is the framework of your work? I know you obviously have a program on this with the Terrain Institute, what is the framework for how you’re addressing this actually look like?

Dr. Shetreat:  It’s my strong belief that we need people who are– We have a lot of people who are sensitive and empathic people and even very intuitive people. We didn’t get to do a deep dive into the science of intuition, but I hope we talk about that some time.

Ari: We can, if you want.

Dr. Shetreat:  [laughs] But these people, which are many of us, and I think many people in your community, because the people who are those sensitive people are often the ones who end up with things like autoimmune conditions or chronic fatigue or chronic pain because they are– We could go all the way to a mitochondrial level, they are on a mitochondrial level, a little more sensitive and a little more vulnerable to whatever may come their way. How do we start to create a language that takes into account the science of having a spiritual body and taking care of our spiritual terrain as well as our emotional and physical terrain? Looking at all of those, how do we integrate holding space and cleansing and protecting and grounding ourselves and looking actually at the science of that, as well as traditional and ancient knowledge around it. How to develop a more intimate relationship with the earth and how to be supported in the ways that you talked about, which could be anything from growing food or plants to connecting with a tree, as was discussed, to using objects from nature to create a sacred space or an altar or a landscape. These are all practices which are used by medicine people in different ways and indigenous communities, and some of them are– When I say they’re simple, obviously, they have huge history and sometimes training behind them, but also they can be very accessible to help people right now and to help people help their communities. One of the issues that I think is dear to my heart is to have them step up into roles of leadership because I think what I’m seeing and what I think many of us are seeing is that anywhere from thinking more about how we live and our lifestyle and food and how all those things are important too. How we interact with the natural world to caring for our communities differently, we want to see a more just compassionate society that really takes into account all living things. I think that’s important for our physical health and for our continued invitation to be here on this planet. For me, what I created was a certification where we dive into the science behind all of these issues that we talked about from animal consciousness, plant consciousness, psychedelics, intuition, heart intelligence, and the heart-brain connection, grounding and protection, what does that mean and how does that look from a scientific standpoint? How does that look from a sacred standpoint? Marrying the two together and bringing in meditations because I think information overload is a real thing. Learning how to integrate it and then doing practices like the ones that I talked about or rituals to help you manifest it, to have intention as we discussed. Then step four, phase four is heal, how do we bring this to our communities whether you’re a teacher or you’re a healer or a doctor or we have someone running for New York City Council right now who came to our program. We have someone who is a media mogul who took the program. We have someone who’s a professor. We’ve had all different kinds of people because for me as much as diversity is important, biodiversity is important for soil and for plants and in our own microbes, it’s also important to have professional or diverse conversation between all different kinds of people, come up with creative solutions. I feel like now, in particular, time is really right for thinking outside the box and for creative solutions as we move forward into whatever our new normal may be. We get a say in what that new normal looks like. We do if we choose to.

The potential risk of vaccinations for all

Ari: Mandatory vaccinations for all. Because the new normal is if you want to get a driver’s license or travel anywhere, you’ve got to display all of your list of current up-to-date vaccinations, potentially one of our new futures as some people [crosstalk].

Dr. Shetreat:  It’s been talked about for a long time in Europe. It’s actually already on the agenda for that to happened and that was before this.

Ari: Also, just in California where I live, there was laws enacted to make it so kids can’t attend school anymore, public or private school unless they have their full vaccination schedule. No medical exceptions basically. No religious exemptions and so on. I believe in Denmark, actually, just last week during this coronavirus outbreak, there was a law passed along those lines. Anyway, I digress, but one of our potential somewhat dystopian futures is mandatory medicine.

Dr. Shetreat:  Right. I think that that’s relevant because whatever it is that we want to see in this future and health freedom and having autonomy over your own body is certainly I think one of the things that’s under consideration right now. I think that that’s just one example of how do we step up as leaders in this time rather than I think for many of us, what I’ve seen is either we feel like we need to hide and cower in some way. Part of that is because we don’t want to be under attack. That’s not a pleasant place to be. We need actually to feel like we have grounding and protection and the guidance and also being part of a movement together. This is the other part, is coming together as a community and as a movement. I think we do– Again, this is about choices. The other thing I see among activists is this horrible amount of burnout that can happen or even people ending up with conditions, real physical health conditions that even can be crippling or fatal. I think again, what that means is we need to learn how to care not just for our physical terrain. These are not people who are not eating healthy. These are people who are very much a part of this way of thinking but knowing how to care for our physical, emotional, and spiritual terrains, clean, protect, take care of ourselves, come together as community, have the support and guidance of the earth in this process, and it’s a much more powerful position to be in where we can affect change in an important and powerful way. I think that even comes to, as we’re all in isolation, we’re watching environmental protections being stripped away during this time where we’re distracted and we’re also in a sense feeling powerless. These are the kinds of things that we want to and must if we care, engage in. That’s why engaging in leadership I think right now, heart-led leadership is absolutely critical and non-negotiable. How are we going to do that? That’s actually, in my program, I bring in people to talk about how to amplify your message, how to bring your leadership forward in different ways so that we do really come through this program, learn these different practices, and learn this knowledge and then be able to bring it forward and amplify it and have an impact.

Dr. Maya’s Certification program

Ari: Beautiful. Can you talk about details of your program, how it works, cost to join? Is there a date that it’s being done or a date it starts or things like that, the practical, technical details of it?

Dr. Shetreat:  We’re open for registration actually right now. We’re open for the next week. I think you have a link for people to join, but it is basically you go to drmaya.com/certification. Super simple. You’ll have all the information there. I go through the six modules, it’s a six-month program, which used to be a little shorter, and I added some more lectures to it, but also I made it a lot more manageable so that it’s something that you can do even if you’re a busy person, whether at home in your quarantine or whatever you’re doing in your life, it is something that you can do. Each month, we have a new module with one to three lectures, meditation practices. We have weekly calls, and I bring in, as I said, some guest experts as well as doing Q&A and trainings and a whole bunch of bonus material so that people can finish and actually feel prepared and certified to bring this work forward.

Ari: Beautiful. I love your message. I love what you’re teaching. I think it’s so important. I think the timing of this is really fascinating. I know that you’ve been obviously planning this program and building it. Jeez, I think probably two years ago, you were talking to me about what you were doing in building this program. I know it’s been a long time in the making, but what interesting timing, if you believe in coincidence or serendipity, but for you to be launching this program on spiritual shamanic transformation and connecting with this aspect of ourselves, during these transformational times, these bizarre weird times where people are in fear, people are in panic, people don’t know what to do, and yet people also are maybe blessed with a unique opportunity to slow down. If you’re maybe not working as much, if you’re at home more, to maybe learn something new and develop some new practices and learn to take care of yourself in a new way. I think there’s a really beautiful opportunity for transformation that we all have right now. I think it’s important to take advantage of it.

Dr. Shetreat:  I agree. I actually have had several graduates of my program come back and ask in the last week or two if they could retake, they could re-engage with the material. They had availability, access to it for a year. They said, “You know what? I want to come back to it. Can I do another deep dive?” They said, “We feel like it’s perfect for these times.” That felt, actually kind of brought tears to my eyes and it really does feel like it was created for these times, even though we couldn’t have in certain ways known this time was coming. I think the beauty of these practices and this wisdom is it’s something that can help you in this moment and help your body heal and help you feel better, but also in doing so, it actually impacts everyone around you. It impacts, even from where you are, it impacts let’s say your family or your community in ways that aren’t simple and are non-linear but are nevertheless very powerful and I think important.

Ari: Yes, beautifully said. Well, I personally would love to do your program. I hope that’s okay with you. That’s not something we talked about or planned, but–

Dr. Shetreat:  I would love that [laughs]

Ari: That would be great. I think what you’re doing is absolutely fascinating. I think it’s so unique to have this background informal western science and formal medical training to be a pediatric neurologist for so long and then to also simultaneously be a shaman, be connected to the spiritual practices that you’ve studied for so long and to be marrying the two of them and really piecing together the science of these spiritual and shamanic transformational practices. I think it’s fascinating stuff. It’s extremely unique stuff, I don’t think anybody else is really doing it in the way you’re doing it. I’m honored that you asked to do this webinar, and I’m honored that you came on and did this webinar with my audience. It’s really so awesome that you’re sharing this wisdom with everyone. It’s beautiful knowledge and thank you so much for sharing with my audience. I really appreciate it.

Dr. Shetreat:  Thank you so much, Ari. I have the greatest amount of respect for you, and it’s really an honor to be here.

Ari: Just for everybody who’s interested– Actually, Maya, do you want to answer people’s questions at all? Can we do that? I’m actually running super short on time.

Dr. Shetreat:  Let me look through here and see. Let’s see, how far up should I go?

Ari: I think some of the early questions were very immune and supplement-focused, maybe we’ll just redirect those people to your video series and then answer the questions more on spiritual aspects, intuition, things like that. Real quick for everybody who doesn’t have the link, drmaya.com/certification. You can go check out the program what it’s all about and join me in doing it.

Dr. Shetreat:  [chuckles] Yes. Seeing the right shifts of consciousness in these deep moments of meditation, psychedelics, eroticism, yes, absolutely. There is something that I talk about in my program of two different kinds of time, which in many cultures– Most cultures actually have two different kinds of time, there’s not just time. There’s chronos time, chronological time, and there’s kairos time which is a time outside of time, a moment. We go very deep into this idea, but all of those different examples are a way that we step outside of time ritual and ceremony is another way that we do it. How to enhance already-acute intuition? Well, [chuckles] kind of have to be careful what you wish for, but I think that idea of enhancing your acute intuition is– This is again like a special gift and you work with it as you would with a special gift, a special brilliance. It takes a lot of care, and it takes a lot of treating yourself gently and learning again very importantly, how to care for yourself energetically when you do have that ability to know things in ways that other people may have either less of an ability or it may be a less developed ability, it does take a particular amount of self-care to do it.

Ari: If I can interject something on a personal note, I think I was actually blessed with a very strong intuition from a young age. I was told that my reads on people, I never bragged about my ability to read people, I just said whatever I said, but my family members would always tell me how often I turned out to be right about my first impressions of people, for example. I found it so draining too. I found my own intuition to be really draining energetically because it was so strong a force that all of my interactions with people, like I would be able to see things so strongly from their perspectives and have a sense about who they are. It would just consume so much of my focus to be occupied with those kinds of thoughts that I’ve actually had to learn how to tone that down so that it doesn’t consume so much mental energy for me and it’s so physically draining for me to be operating in that intuitive space. It’s interesting there’s a balance. That’s why I was laughing as you were saying, “Be careful what you wish for” because I’ve actually probably moved to the other extreme now where I’ve turned it off too much but it’s interesting.

Dr. Shetreat:  It’s really about learning how to set boundaries, just as it is emotionally setting boundaries with people or having physical boundaries. We do need to learn how to work with those energies. When I’m saying energies, I mean we don’t have to but intuition and being sensitive and empathic is really what you’re describing, so many of us, I know that I certainly did try to squelch it because it can be so challenging and we don’t have– We know what to do with our– We know how to brush our teeth and take a shower.

We know how to deal with our physical hygiene, how to care for ourselves in that way but since there’s no real lexicon or language around spiritual hygiene, we can feel really damaged in that category. Absolutely, I think that’s a really important conversation that we all need to have. Let’s see, I have rocked people around my building, I love that. I love talking about rocks. Rocks are really interesting much to say, but yes, I think they’re very powerful, have very strong measurable electromagnetic fields. Here’s another practice I love, I’ll throw in for grounding, super simple, and I do this in my actual office with patients when they come and see me in person. I have a rock, it’s not a crystal, just a piece of granite and it’s heavy. I went and I found this in the woods, and it seemed like, I felt attracted to, I felt like it wanted to come with me. I picked it up, and I brought it home, I washed it off. When there is someone in my office who is feeling anxious and I see them spinning out and they’re getting really ungrounded, I will give them the rock and put it on their lap. It is powerful. Try this at home. If you’re feeling that way and you can do that even if you’re not able to go outside, this is a way to ground that is very simple and you will develop a relationship with this rock, it will be Pavlovian. When you see it coming after you have that experience, it will help you ground just to look at it or pick it up. It’s very grounding. It’s very centering. That’s just a little mini-practice that is again accessible, simple, powerful.

Ari: We have a special rock in my house. Every time my wife puts it on my desk, I start drooling uncontrollably like Pavlov’s dogs. I couldn’t resist the Pavlov[unintelligible].


Dr. Shetreat:  I think we covered and where am I located? I’m located in New York City. I’m located in New York City, I live very blessedly in a very green corner. I’m not in a concrete jungle part of New York City. I get to keep chickens and grow a lot of medicinal plants and run in the woods and do things like that.

Ari: She’s the only one in New York City with chickens.

Dr. Shetreat:  Actually not true [laughs]. But my chickens are the best.


Ari: There’s one more question. I know I saw it somewhere. Someone was asking what are your thoughts on inner energies of the human body like chakras?

Dr. Shetreat:  I think that there are a lot of languages. There are a lot of ways that we describe similar things. Chakras are as with let’s say acupuncture and working with the meridians and the chakras, I think these are all different ways of talking about our energetic body that in Western society, non-indigenous Western society I should say, is really not entertained in a very serious way, but I do absolutely think that there are a lot of ways to talk about this and a lot of ways to interact with it. I think it’s fascinating. I work with that, and I think it’s powerful. These are coming from thousand-year-old practices, and we’ve come to this idea that is right now I think crumbling before our eyes in a certain sense that we’re advancing and advancing and advancing and that everything that came before us is in some way diminished by that, that we’re in some continually improving and enlightened state. Actually, it’s interesting because we’re learning that a lot of ancient things actually hold a lot of wisdom. Right now, what we’re seeing is modern medicine at its real limitations and where things that we thought were primitive might actually be really critical. We have to look to those kinds of more ancient “primitive natural remedies” as being what may actually help us heal or never get sick, to begin with. I think this is the time to really– We’re really seeing a lot of things turned on its head.

Ari: Yes. Beautifully said. Do you have any final words that you want to leave people with as a takeaway from this webinar and/or about your program and why they should join it and maybe like who it’s for?

Dr. Shetreat:  Well, I’ll say who it’s for. Like I said, I love having a really diverse group of people with different backgrounds. You do not have to be someone who is in a leadership role right now at all, but I do push people. I think the main requirement is that you’re willing to push your boundaries and think beyond. I used to call it a decertification course that was a little I think challenging for some people, but the idea that you have to unlearn in order to be able to remember in many ways the things that are already part of your inner wisdom, I would say just anyone who is interested in doing a deep dive into ancient knowledge time, a lot of it into the science, unlearning some of the things that you thought you knew, and being willing to push your boundaries and step into heart-led leadership in whatever way that means to you, you don’t have to know how, to come into this program, I promise that in some ways it will open up to you as you’re in the program.

Ari: Beautiful. Dr. Maya, thank you again so much for coming on and sharing your wisdom with my audience. I appreciate it so much. On a personal note, always such a pleasure to have any conversation or facilitate any webinar with you anytime, and I look forward to the next one. Thank you so much, and for everybody listening, I hope you all enjoyed this. If you connected with this information, I really encourage you to do the program. Again, at– Where was it? drmaya.com/certification, not the certification, certification. Thank you, Dr. Maya. Thanks, my friend. I really appreciate it.

Dr. Shetreat:  Thank you, Ari. Pleasure.

Show Notes

How to use this current crisis to change your life (9:47)
How Supplements are being absorbed (25:57)   
Why spiritual health is high priority (27:07)
The power of plant bathing (30:16)
How to define spirituality (45:53)
The potential risk of vaccinations for all (58:24)
Dr. Maya’s Certification program (1:02:15)


Get Dr. Maya’s program here:

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