Mindful Arts Therapy
The Spiritual Power of Trees
by Jessica Hermans, Holistic Happiness Belgium
Trees have been living on our planet for millions of years and they are truly remarkable creatures: they clean the air and create oxygen out of carbon dioxide, they support us by providing shade and shelter, they create fruits and nuts for us to eat, they help us relax and destress, they inspire artists and poets, and they even improve our mood. But trees also offer something else: they help us become more aware of our connections with something larger than ourselves and they can teach us many valuable spiritual lessons.
What we can learn from trees
Trees are powerful spiritual teachers and if we take the time to listen, they can show us the way to a meaningful and fulfilling life. For instance:
- A tree doesn’t grow overnight. It takes years of patience and perseverance for a young tree to become a strong and sturdy giant. But do you ever see trees hurry themselves to grow? No. The same thing applies to your own spiritual growth: it takes time and effort and just like a tree you need to be patient with yourself and with your journey.
- No two trees are the same: each tree grows and bends in its own way and the veins of tree leaves are just as unique as our fingerprints. The fact that each tree is unique teaches you that you should embrace the things that make you “you’ . So just be yourself, embrace your flaws and grow how you want to grow.
- Trees shed their leaves and flowers during autumn in order to survive the harsh winter. By doing this they teach us to embrace change and to let go of things that no longer serve us.
- Most trees slow down during winter and even fall asleep. They know that there is a time to do and a time to be. Something that we humans unfortunately often forget. Of course there’s nothing wrong with being motivated and full of energy but just like trees we also need downtime to rest, relax and reflect.
- Trees have the strength to weather decades and sometimes even centuries of storms but in order to keep standing upright during those storms they need deep firm roots. The same goes for us: just like trees we also need a strong foundation to weather through everything that life presents us.
- A seed may appear tiny and of no significance but there is an entire tree hidden in it. The only thing that is needed to bring that tree out of the seed are the right resources (soil, water and sunlight). People are just like those tree seeds: there is an immense potential hidden within us and getting in touch with the right resources (such as self-belief, self-awareness and the right vision and attitude) can help us grow and flourish.
- Trees teach us that in order to take care of others, we need to take care of ourselves first. If a tree doesn’t take care of itself, it won’t be strong or healthy enough to offer things like oxygen, food and shelter to others. The same applies to humans: you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Trees can also help us learn about the cycle of life and the interconnectedness of everything. Thich Nhat Hahn, a well-known Vietnamese Buddhist monk, writer and spiritual leader, once wrote the following words about tree leaves and eternal life and he explains this in a beautiful way:
I asked the tree leaf whether it was frightened because it was autumn and the other leaves were falling. The leaf told me: No. During the whole spring and summer I was completely alive. I worked hard to help nourish the tree, and now much of me is in the tree. I am not limited by this form. I am also the whole tree, and when I go back to the soil, I will continue to nourish the tree. So I don’t worry at all. As I leave this branch and float to the ground, I will wave to the tree and tell her “I will see you again”.
Later that day there was a wind blowing and after a while I saw the leaf leave the branch and float down to the soil, dancing joyfully, because as it floated it saw itself already there in the tree. It was so happy. I bowed my head, knowing that I have a lot to learn from the leaf because it is not afraid – it knew nothing can die.
Incorporating Trees in Your Spiritual Journey
Trees are symbols of strength, calmness, growth and the interconnectedness of everything and that makes them a perfect companion for your spiritual journey. But don’t worry if you don’t know how to get started on this journey: here are some ideas on how these silent sedentary creatures can help you heal and grow.
Hugging Trees for Grounding and Renewal
Hugging trees might sound a bit strange if you’ve never heard of this but it actually has several scientifically proven benefits. For instance, studies have shown that hugging trees increases your levels of oxytocin which is the hormone responsible for emotional bonding and feelings of wellbeing, calmness and trust. But there’s more: research also shows that hugging trees reduces the cortisol levels in your body (cortisol is a stress hormone) and even reduces your blood pressure and heart rate. Which means that hugging a tree can literally lower your chances of having a heart attack! High levels of cortisol can also cause you to become anxious, angry or depressed so hugging trees can also boost your mood and help with depression and anxiety.
Hugging a tree or placing your hand upon its bark is also a perfect way to ground yourself because trees (just like all living things) have an energy frequency or vibration and an aura. But because their roots are reaching deep into the earth, their vibrations are slower, deeper and more concentrated compared to other living things.
So, when you come into contact with a tree, you’ll begin to resonate with its grounding energy and you’ll pick up this energy vibe of safety, security and stability which makes you feel more centered and grounded. You could also take it a step further by thanking the tree (mentally or verbally) for helping you to ground your energy and making you feel peace and serenity. By doing this you not only raise your own positive vibrations and the tree’s vibrations, but you also raise the planet’s energy which makes it a lovely and simple spiritual healing practice.
First of all, forest bathing has nothing to do with an actual bath. It simply means that you go for a walk in nature and that you take the time to really focus on the natural world around you. You don’t need any special equipment or outfit to go forest bathing and you don’t even need to take a map, GPS or camera with you.
Just start walking slowly and aimlessly through the woods or a park and let your body be your guide. Listen to where it wants to take you. And don’t be hesitant to let nature enter through your ears, eyes, nose, mouth, hands and feet because that’s the real key to unlocking the power of forest bathing.
For instance: listen to the birds singing and the breeze rustling in the leaves of the trees and look at all the different greens of the trees and the sunlight filtering through the branches. Smell the fragrance of the forest and breathe in the natural aromatherapy. Taste the freshness of the air as you take deep breaths. Place your hands on a tree and run your hands over its bark, lie on the ground or dip your fingers or toes in a stream. And last but not least: release your sense of joy and calm and cross the bridge to peace and happiness.
Do you love trees? Do you meditate? If your answer to both of these questions is “yes” then tree meditation might be right up your alley.
If you want to try tree meditation, you first need to find a quiet spot near a tree where you can sit comfortably. Once you’ve found such a place, you sit down in a comfortable position and you take a few deep breaths. Now focus your attention on the tree and allow yourself to connect with the spirit of the tree. Feel its energy flowing through you. Visualize yourself merging with the tree and absorbing its wisdom and healing energy.
The Spiritual Meaning of Certain Trees
Certain species of trees have a special meaning and significance in various cultures around the globe. Take aspens for instance. They make a beautiful soft whispering sound when the wind blows through their leaves and many cultures believed that our ancestors shared messages with us through the wind so aspens were considered sacred trees. Aspen trees are also often associated with peace which makes sitting in an aspen grove while listening to the messages from those who have gone before us, a truly calming experience.
Planting a Tree
Planting a tree doesn’t just give life to that tree: it also helps you feel connected to the Earth on a more spiritual level. You could even choose to plant a tree to celebrate or commemorate a special moment in your life such as a graduation, getting married or the birth of a child.
This article was written by Jessica Hermans, a Belgian blogger who takes you on a journey through the wonderful world of holistic living. You can find more articles on how to live a happy and holistic life on her website “Holistic Happiness”. Or simply follow her on Instagram @holistic.happiness.belgium, for your daily dose of holistic inspiration.