A number of years ago I was facilitating a retreat in the woods surrounding my home in Southern Maryland. It was evening and I was helping people see and feel the energy and light that comes from the Earth at night as well as the energy and light that surrounds us and connects us. When we had finished a series of experiences, I asked that we stand up in order to feel our connection with each other heart to heart around the circle through our palms that were extended out to our sides to each other but not touching. We were having a lot of fun feeling the strength of our connection around the circle and through the center of the circle.
Then I asked that we turn around and face the woods with our backs to each other. “Extend your heart light to a tree that is near you” were the instructions as each woman focused her attention and loving heart on a tree. We stood in silence for a while softening our focus to let in more light.
All of a sudden I got a flash of bright blue green light from the hickory tree I had been focusing on. Wow! That was amazing. It felt like a pure signal of acknowledgement. I extended the palms of my hands toward this tree with thanks and gratitude. My feet felt well rooted in the earth. I felt taller as if the energy through the crown of my head was being lifted to the sky. How tree like I felt: strong, supple and beautiful, a conduit of the loving energy between Sky and Earth. To this day I go back to that hickory tree, visit and pay my respects with love.
When we had all had space and time enough, we turned back around and shared our experiences. One woman, Karen had an interesting lesson. After she had asked permission to connect with her tree, she was astounded to see fireworks coming out of the tree. These sparks of energy ceased the moment her mind shifted away from her present experience back to an earlier time in the group when she became judgmental with something that someone had said. Her connection with the tree stopped the minute she lost her focus and shifted to something negative. Here is her experienced described in her own words.
July 23, 2006
“Last night was absolutely amazing! When we were directed to look into the center of the circle where the crystal was located I couldn’t see anything at first. I began looking at my hands then back to the circle at where I thought the crystal was located. The next think I saw was a swirling white mist similar to the pattern when you blow out a candle. I thought it was due to either my glasses being dirty or my bifocals. I saw the same thing in the center, so I took off my glasses. I listened to Carol when she suggested that we should relax our eyes and realized it wasn’t my glasses.
When we were directed to face out from the circle and ask to exchange energy with something in nature I was blown away. I asked this exchange from the tree in front of me. A misty wispy tunnel full of flecks of light came at me fast and powerfully.
One of the participants described her feelings, religious viewpoints, etc. I became judgmental and negative in my thinking. I could no longer see the energy! I turned around and faced out asking for the exchange once again from the tree and Mother Earth. It wasn’t as intense, but when I turned back around I could see the energy flow again.
When we reflected on our ancestors of the past, my spiritual Indian guide would appear. Watching Carol I could see the energy around her. It was flowing out of her fingertips. At first it reminded me of very long white oriental fingernails, but then it strengthened and extended further. I began relaxing my eyes and could see my energy connection from the fingertips of one of my hands intertwining with the other. The connection got stronger as the session continued.
Later when I was in the center, unconditional and nonjudgmental love when straight into my heart. The path was similar to the Milky Way except for the sense of movement. When I looked down at myself and the ground, bright flecks of light were everywhere. I turned back to the circle and everyone was covered with them. Some had more than others. My hands glowed like the night glow sticks. At first it was like one solid hand, then the fingers began to separate and an aura the glow emanated out and around each individual finger.
I decided to ask Mother Earth if I could exchange energy and similar to the tree flecks came soaring up from the ground.”
Karen’s description is an example of the powerful exchange that is possible when we open our hearts to both send and receive unconditional love from the Earth, trees and each other.
I have noticed over the years that when I am stressed or tired or emotional and I take the time to go for a walk in the woods I come back calm and at peace. There was one time a number of years ago when I had just come back from the doctor’s with a diagnosis of some kind of terrible cancer. I had had several small bumps come up on my body. He had removed them and sent them off to the pathology lab. Now he was telling me “These are not a primary site, there are other tumors in your body that need to be located and cut out.”
Needless to say I was terrified and angry. I went for a long walk in the woods ranting and raving at God. “I lead a life that cancer patients are told they should lead. I eat well. I take good care of my body, my mind and my spirit. Now I am given this. It is not right. It is not fair, etc, etc.” Whine, whine, I was on a roll. The odd thing was by the time I came back from my walk among the trees, I was fine: at peace and even joyful.
As it turned out the journey was not terrible but very educational. I did not have that brand of cancer but a cancer that was much more manageable. As a matter of fact several acupuncturists and I were able to make the bumps go away with moxa treatment. I was immensely grateful. It became a good life lesson.
The gift of energy and life that the trees give us is incredibly important. I go into deep mourning when I see woods dug up and burned for the sake of some new development. When new the new houses are built occasionally a few small new trees are planted to replace the thousands of big ones that were cut down.
Do we not realize that while it is nice to plant trees it will be a long, long time before those young trees if ever will produce the same amount of oxygen, create the same habitat for birds and other wildlife or provide the shade and energy grounded into the Earth? I think about the vast primeval forests that have been cut down around the equator in the name of faster coffee bean production, banana and cotton plantations and mahogany harvest all for our voracious consumer appetites. The jungle at the equator has been like the lungs for our beautiful planet. Who will breathe for us now?
Dorothy Maclean in her book, To Honor the Earth, communicates to us the words from the Cedar of Lebanon Deva.
“Many lives come and go, still our power goes up to the sky and down to the earth. Our serene strength stabilizes and makes upright whatever comes to us, for we are living matter, fashioned from the elements, and we are kin to all life. You and I are blood brothers and sisters, made from the same substance, fulfilling our individual destinies on this planet. I contain you in my towering strength, and you contain me in your towering aspiration. We are tree and human—and we are much more. We are representatives of divinity, and we never end through endless ages.
“Humans are despoiling our power on Earth, interfering with our destiny, but in the process you are learning of your own destiny. We hope that one day you may proudly take it on and enrich the Earth as never before. You can indeed do so with your enlightened love.” P. 64
Mantak Chia in his article in www.bodysoulspirit.com/advanced-science-on-how-to-really-befriend-a-tree speaks of trees being “the largest and most spiritually evolved advanced plants on earth. They are in a constant state of meditation and subtle energy is their natural language.” He says that big trees and those that are growing by water are the most powerful. Here is a list of trees that he offers with their healing qualities.
1. Pine trees nourish the blood, strengthen the nervous systems and contribute to long lives.
2. Cypress and cedar trees reduce heat and nourish Yin (Female) energy.
3. Willow trees reduce high blood pressure and strengthen the urinary tract and bladder.
4. Elm trees calm the mind and strengthen the stomach.
5. Maples trees help reduce pain.
6. Locust trees help balance the emotions of the heart.
7. Cinnamon trees can clear coldness from the heart and abdomen.
8. Banyan trees clear the heart.
9. Fir trees help clear bruises, reduce swelling and heal broken bones faster.
10. Hawthorn trees help aid digestion, strengthen the intestines and lower blood pressure.
11. Birches trees help detoxify the body.
12. Plum trees nourish the spleen stomach and pancreas and calm the mind.
13. Fig trees clear excess heat from the body, increase saliva, nourish the spleen and help stop diarrhea.
14. Gingko trees help strengthen the bladder and alleviate urinary problems in women.
Looking at this list I remember a time when I had gone on retreat with my sister to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. Our cabins faced a beautiful inlet on the Pacific coast. On my way back from my prayers of gratitude at the beach I managed to jump off of a large stump landing on only one leg. My knee could not support the pressure of the jump and went careening out to one side. Totally panicked I pulled my shawl tightly around me, lay down on the Earth, asking her to hold me and help calm my panic.
After a while when the waves of panic subsided I was able to stand up on the other leg and signal for help. I was carried into our cabin. With the help of Reiki and the open loving hearts of the other women there I was able to sit in circle for the evening ceremony. My dreams of hiking the Hoh rainforest and the Olympic ridge were gone but with the help of the cold round ocean worn stones and cedar branches I was able to walk through the airport carrying my luggage at the end of a week.
The stones and the cedar helped to reduce the heat from the injury and the cedar encouraged me to simply be quietly present that week rather than off and running. Many thanks to the stones, the cedar and the loving care especially from my sister.
A friend of ours, Sharlyn Hidalgo, has written a wonderful book called the Healing Power of Trees: Spiritual Journeys through the Celtic Tree Calendar. Month by month she provides insight and meditations connected with each tree of the month. “Each sacred tree of the dryads” (who are the keepers of the original keepers of the teachings from the Creator) represents a cosmic expression of the laws of the universe and the natural world. P. 1
I have heard many a story from my clients about their favorite childhood tree. I remember one of my most favorite places to be was up in the maple tree in our backyard. I could sit up there hiding out, rocking gently in the wind away from family life with a good view of the world as I knew it. I played for hours in the woods in our neighborhood making forts behind the great upturned roots of fallen trees or taking up the challenge to see who could climb the highest in the big old pine. Even though I tried, I didn’t have the courage to climb as far up to the top as some.
My husband and I built a log cabin from scratch, carefully selecting the straightest trees, cutting them down, dragging them carefully out of the woods by hand or with the help of a friend with a horse who could pull harder than we could. We stripped the bark, stacked them to dry, notched them with an axe and built up the walls just like we did with Lincoln logs as children.
It was the warmest house in Northern Vermont with no electricity but a wonderful wood stove to keep us cozy even on 40 below zero nights. I am grateful for trees and all that they give to us: paper, wood for building, for burning, places to climb for a new view, lots of great habitat for wild friends, oxygen and beauty, beauty, beauty. They show us their great gray bones in the winter and provide a magnificent green canopy in the summer.
To my mind they provide the greatest cathedrals on Earth. Have you ever walked in a redwood grove? What a magnificent sacred space! There is a quiet, peaceful reverence among those magnificent rooted beings stretching, stretching upward into the heavens. The redwoods are not deeply rooted trees and rely on the intertwining their roots to provide mutual support. My youngest son, bless his heart, put his life on the line to try and stop the cutting down of redwood groves in Northern California.
A woman I know went to her favorite tree to grieve when her father died. She placed her hands on the rough bark feeling the company and support of this magnificent green being. Leaning into it she experienced the leaves falling one by one, letting go, helping her to feel the deep love she felt for her father and the letting go of all of the emotions she was feeling.
The strength of the tree became her inner strength. The tree’s letting go became her letting go. The deep roots grounded her as her emotions passed through her into the Earth. She thought of the way in which the leaves on the ground would gradually decompose and make the soil richer, which would support the health of the tree. She reflected on how her father’s life had been such a support for her and made her life richer, one tree passing its wisdom on to the next.
“Come closer. Rest in our strength. Become aware of the smaller notes that we play—the flutter of leaves, the shining glints of color, the sunshiny softness of spring. All are connected with the birds, the insects, the elements. A large tree is a place of beauty, a family, a home, a country to explore. A refuge to many, it stands proud, giving out to all, reaching up to the sky and deep into the earth, enduring. The tall tree stands as a symbol of a particular perfection of God. Let it stand and you will come closer to God,” the Copper Beech Deva speaks as translated by Dorothy Maclean. P. 75
Trees are very apt models for us from a spiritual perspective. The Tree of Life is an important symbol found in many cultures. In Cherokee teaching it represents our growth as a human spirit to higher and higher dimensions of conscious awareness. The cross is a representation of the Tree of Life. Some might say that Jesus died on the Tree of Life to show us a way to ascend in consciousness, to become one with God. To develop spiritually many traditions teach us that we have to begin by being well grounded by connecting our energy deep within the Earth, the Mother, an aspect of the divine feminine. It is from the womb space of the mother our bodies are formed and it is through this connection our soul is given a place to call home.
The tree that emerges from the seed begins its life by first establishing roots. From a strong nourishing connection with the Earth the trunk begins to develop. Slowly the roots extend deeper and deeper as the trunk pushes up out of the ground and develops its first leaves. More leaves develop feeding the growing tree by metabolizing the light from the Sun. Nourished from above and below the young tree is off to a great start.
One way to explore our human spiritual development is to begin by ensuring that our energy is well grounded in the Earth. The Earth offers a sense of place, safety, security and stability. When this is well established the spiritual energy in our bodies can begin to rise taking us on a journey through the major energy centers along the spine.
We are drawn upward by the light and the natural inclination of this spiritual energy to move up our spines. The Kundalini energy is one name for this energy as it travels up the Sun and Moon channels along either side of the Central Pillar carrying with it an increased balancing of the Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine energies. It is only when this energy through heart-centered practice comes to the crown do we come into an awareness of ourselves as Light and One with God/Goddess All that Is. The duality of three-dimensional living is balanced by a sense of the totality of the Whole.
The tree is a wonderful metaphor for this process. Well rooted the sap rises drawn up to the crown of the tree where thousands of leaves like little solar panels metabolize the light. Trees and humans are conduits of the loving energy between Heavenly Light and the fertile luminous darkness of the Earth.
(Tree photographs are by Jane Marcy, www.janemarcy.com)