I took a walk the other afternoon. It was a cold, miserable day and very, very grey – one of those days when venturing forth was unappealing. However, I also recognised that I becoming stressed. I couldn’t think straight and my productivity ground to a halt. I knew I needed to take a walk. Time in nature always de-stresses me and clears my head. I know from countless previous experiences that nature would be waiting with some small delight to thrill and inspire.
On went, the boots, thick coat, hat and scarf and I set out on a quick walk to the park at the end of the street. The park is only small with plenty of fenced spaces for children to safely play ball games and even a low fenced area where local dog owners can let their dogs roam freely, otherwise here in Austria dogs are on a leads.
I entered the park, head down and hands shoved tightly in my pockets as the cold wind assaulted my face. My head swirled with a continuous list of things to do and I consoled myself with how much better I’d feel when I returned to the warm, but then something caught my attention and I stopped – a pool of golden leaves were strewn on the ground in front of me. The intense yellow brightened the grayness of the day and my soul. All other thoughts melted away. This was my nature gift, this was my focus and I wanted to enjoy it. Suddenly, the biting wind did not seem so cold. Yet the moment was not over, stood quietly to the left of the pool of yellow was a small gnarled tree with twisted branches in the form of a heart, while behind it, and sweeping over its crown, a taller much larger tree. Something of the character and charm of these trees intrigued me. The moment of interaction, gave me a sense of well-being. These two trees reminded me of the connectedness I find in nature. I felt calm, at peace and inspired to be reminded that I was part of a whole.
The interconnectedness of Trees
The brief meeting caused me to reflect on the many tree friends that I have made in my life and upon the many things I have learned from them. I have always been fascinated by trees and woodlands. Even more so now, as I come to learn about the interconnectedness of trees and their ability to communicate with each other. Not with a human voice, but with chemicals and a complex fungal network. Think the internet, but biological. Since reading Diana Beresford-Kroeger’s book, To Speak for the Trees, I have a much deeper understanding of the scientific value of trees and forest to the environment, but also the health and spiritual benefits that trees and forests bring to humanity. Her book made me realise what a dangerous game humanity is playing, as it destroys countless ancient forests, losing our ability to work in partnership with these tree friends benefiting our body, mind and soul.
The sprawling tree
The crawling tree
The one that called and talked to me, tree
The old tree
The bold tree
The one that let me sit and be tree.
The dying tree.
The crying tree.
The one that claimed I simply didn’t see, tree
Trees as Spiritual Practice
‘…our world is a sacred whole in which we have a sacred mission …’ J Macy, M Brown (2014)
I wondered for a moment at the relationship between the two trees I had encountered in the park, almost as if the larger parent tree was shielding and protecting a child. I wondered if spending time in the company of trees with deliberate intent can help us reconnect body, mind and soul? There are many opportunities for contemplation and meditation in the company of trees. Modern life moves so quickly and there is so much that demands our attention. It is understandable that being bombarded or overwhelmed, we emotionally shut down opportunities to see a different perspectives. Woodlands provide a peaceful and restful place away from the bombardment, allowing time and space for the practice of noticing things. Indeed, plenty of time for the trees to become our valued friends. Friends we seek to protect as much as they seek to protect us.
Here you will find a simple tree meditation
Do you have tree friends? Please share your experience and images in the comments section. It would be lovely to know and include them.
Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown, Coming Back to Life: The updated guide to The Work that Reconnects (New Society Publishers; 2014), 14