Rest and Renewal with a Tree

Birch photo
Birch – a tree for new beginnings – photo by Jane Valencia

Is this true for you? As we approach the shortest day and the longest night, our bodies, hearts, spirit — and thinking mind too! — yearn to burrow in, to rest and rejuvenate like some of our animal friends do, as do our herb and tree friends, as does the sun with its ever-lowering course. The energy within the plants is moving inward to the core and the roots. The sap in trees moves down from the leaves and branches into the trunk and core as well.

In Southern folk medicine, which likens the movement of our blood to the movement of sap in a tree, our blood is understood to “thicken” with oils, the better to insulate our bodies, and, as with the trees, to “lower” (to move inward like the sap in a tree), and to slow. Certainly within me I feel a pulling inward and a slowing, both energetically and physically, even as my calendar remains sprinkled with holiday cheer and end-of-the-year commitments.

Here is a practice for taking a a little time for yourself to rest and renew with a tree.

The Practice

Doug-fir photo
Douglas-fir trunk – photo by Jane Valencia

What you’ll need to do in advance:

Decide upon a gift that you can give to a tree. This can be a pinch of cornmeal, some tea you made for yourself but didn’t drink all the way, a bit of a ceremonial herb like sage, red cedar, tobacco, or lavender, a hair from your own head (to represent the wisdom you’ll have when you’re older, thanks to the tree), a song, a creation of nature art, or anything else you think a tree might enjoy.

If it’s a stretch to consider that a tree might have any opinion whatsoever about you, or opinions at all, I just invite you to bring a curious and playful mind and heart to this notion.

Dress yourself in outdoor-wear that you don’t mind getting dirty or wet.

Be open to your experience, and, as Obi-Wan Kenobi so memorably said: “Trust in your feelings, Luke! [replace his name with yours here]

Now, head on outside!

Find Your Tree.

Outside your door, take some deep slow breaths. Open your senses to the world around you, especially to Nature, wherever you experience her. Do you hear any birds? What are the plants — even weeds — that are right near your door? How does the air feel on your skin? Can you smell moisture or a tree? Can you experience the earth under your feet — even if concrete lies between you and the soil?

Once you’ve opened your senses and feel yourself to be present, silently express an intention to find a tree with which to enjoy some rest and renewal. Invite a willing tree to make itself known to you.

Red Cedar photo
Red Cedar trunk – photo by Jane Valencia

A tree making itself known to you will take on any number of forms. It might seem to be waving at you, or to be especially bright, or you might get a sense to head out in a certain direction. Simply put, head on over to a tree that you happen to notice.

At the Tree.

  1. Give it your gift, and take time to appreciate the tree. Appreciation can begin by you noticing the details of the tree — the smell and texture of the bark, the branching pattern of its limbs, its form, where its trunk meets the ground. Where are its roots? What plants are nearby? Any birds within it? Any animal trails to or from it? Admire what you notice about the tree.
  2. If you can, settle on or near the ground and wrap your arms around the tree. If you feel self-conscious, sit with your back against the tree. This week I’ve actually enjoyed lying on the ground with my arms wrapped around the base of the tree — but do what appeals to you or is simple for you.
  3. You might want to press the side of your face against the tree (I always take off my glasses and hang them on a nearby tree limb 🙂 ).
  4. Now, close your eyes, and just hold onto that tree. Feel the bark against your skin and clothes, engage your other senses. Even imagine yourself as the tree. Take some time with this.
  5. Next,  let go of any active perceptions, and merely be with the tree. Experience your thoughts, feelings, emotions, sensations, memories, insights, qualities … whatever flows in or through you or surrounds you, just gently notice these things and let them move along. Rest.
  6. When you feel complete, take some deep breaths, and thank the tree.

Embodied Storyweaving.

I like to take some time “reenacting” my experience with the tree as  if it were the story it is. I start with the moment I stepped outside, to finding, to being with the tree, to an experience of the tree itself as a being.

I recreate that world and experience for myself inside in my kitchen or wherever I happen to be in my home. I allow other movement, gestures, and ideas to enter the tale, so that my time with the tree becomes woven with what is essentially “dream space.”

Take note of new ideas, of animals, dream figures, super-imposed experiences, and anything else that layer into your experience. Notice the qualities. What patterns emerge?

Taking time to move through the story of your time with the tree, and deepening into imaginal and other aspects of it helps root the experience into your being. It also serves to further awaken you to the tree itself and its special medicine for you.

Hold your hands together: imagine pouring or giving a gift to the tree. What is it? Cup your hands, and imagine the tree giving you something in return. What is it?

Now take time to ….


Red Cedar photo
Red Cedar trunk and bark – photo by Jane Valencia

Reflect on your physical experience, and your reenacted/”dreamtime” experience. Jot details about what happened, what you noticed, what you felt. Drink in the layering of your experiences.

Take time to journal about the tree itself, about who or what it is as its own being. Allow yourself to accept the qualities and attributes of the tree that come to mind for you. Rest in them and in your experiences as you write.

More Gratitude.

Offer some final gratitude to the tree for anything you experienced.

Please share your story in the comment box below!

Want to gather with a circle of powerful, questing women like yourself and share more nourishing, joyful discovery of the medicine of  the trees and of the wondrous and wise landscape of your own bodymind? Consider joining us for our Mid-Winter Retreat, taking place Feb. 5-7, 2016. Early registration discount is available through 12/21/15. Find out more here.

Big Leaf Maple photo
Big Leaf Maple – photo by Jane Valencia

P.S. Need a “practical” reason to hug a tree? Check out this article: Tree Hugging Now Scientifically Validated

Posted by Jane Valencia

Embodied Renewal

Embodied Renewal

winter solsticeThis time of year often takes me by surprise, although I have been tracking seasonal cycles for 13 years now. As December 21st swiftly approaches, I am reminded of it’s potent significance: in my corner of the northern hemisphere: Winter Solstice marks the longest night of the year, and the inward turning of the outer world. Plants, trees, birds, and mammals all hunker down for the cold winter ahead, maintaining their basic life energy in suspended repose. It is also, ironically, the time of year when light begins to return – days lengthen in duration, ushering the world toward renewal.

But how is it that while the natural world enters its slumber, we humans often face high speed frenzy? In the race toward holiday parties, shopping sprees, and family outings, is it possible to sustain our most potent, authentic nature?

Aligning with the rhythms of the land, and sourcing our inner bodymind wisdom, can directly feed our soul’s hunger for movement, creativity, and the warmth of befriending ourselves. Instead of feeding that external pull to expend more energy in our outer life, we can turn our attention to a deeply reflective process. In doing so, we can find the nature of our own renewal.

At Women’s Nature Ways, we offer practices that draw upon our connection with nature and the nature of our bodymind to become astute trackers of our inner landscape, searching for patterns and trails of experiences that lead to, and feed, our inner fire.

In the spirit of holiday giving, we offer you a taste of Embodied Renewal.


The process of Embodied Renewal is designed to accompany you on your journey of deep inner reflection and bodymind awakening. It is an invitation to dive into your interior, to travel realms of insight and reflection through questioning, moving, and journaling.

Below are a several series of questions and embodiment activities to guide your renewal journey. As with any embodiment practice, slowing down invites the most potent process. Take your time, and enjoy exploring each section, one at a time, ideally spreading them out over the days surrounding the Winter Solstice and into the New Year.

Before you begin, gather a journal and writing implement, a warm drink, and a blanket to keep you cozy. Find a comfortable, quiet place where you can be uninterrupted for as long as you wish to dedicate to this practice.

Find a comfortable position, and begin with your breath. Allow you inhale to gently be drawn in through your nose, and release gently out through your mouth.

Notice any sensations in your body. Acknowledge each and continue your conscious breathing. Feel free to move your body to release any tension – stretch, shake, or wiggle. Do this for several minutes, or until you begin to feel your mind quieting, and your body relaxing.


uniting with nature

  1. Reflect: When have you felt most connected to nature? Try to recall the details: how old were you? Where were you? How did you feel most alive? What feelings, sensations, or emotions can you recall? Allow your eyes to close while you recall these memories.
  2. Move: Notice what parts of your body feel most activated in this moment? What sensations are you aware of in your body as you reimagine these times of feeling connected with nature? Allow your body to move in response to these memories and sensations. Try to keep your eyes closed, but please do open them if you have an impulse to move in a large manner. After a few minutes, bring your moving to a close. Open your eyes. Breathe.
  3. Journal: Take some time to write down your experience. Include your memories, your insights, your imaginings, and whatever else came through your body and mind. Pay particular attention to any patterns that are emerging.


deer dreaming

  1. Reflect: What significant dreams, visions, or synchronicities have been present for you this year? Have they involved specific plants, animals, trees, or forces of nature? What meaning do these experiences carry for you?
  2. Move: As before, allow your body a few moments to move in response to any images, memories, sensations, or desires arising from reflection on these questions. Allow the “natural world” within you to be present in your movement. Bring your moving to a close. Open your eyes. Breathe.
  3. Journal: Free-flow writing or structured recording with words are both useful here. Drawing images are another way to express your experience. Play with naming your experiences as if you were naming a chapter in the book of your life (i.e., Turtle Dreaming; Deer Song; Giant Bear Sojourn). These can serve as touch-stones for tracking larger arcs of patterns in your life.


gifts of nature

  1. Reflect: What are your natural gifts? How have they expressed themselves this year?  (It may be easier to answer these questions by thinking of what others tend to appreciate in you.)
  2. Move: As before, allow your body a few moments to move in response to any images, memories, sensations, or desires arising from reflection on these questions. Notice any repetitive movements and amplify them; allow them to change; follow your body’s expression with curiosity. When you are feeling complete, bring your moving to a close. Open your eyes. Breathe.
  3. Journal: Make a list of all of the ways in which your gifts express. Sometimes using archetypal names can crystalize your gifts (i.e., The Compassionate Listener; The Generous Heart; The Soulful Healer).


rain and gold leaf

  1. Reflect: What blocks or obstacles have you encountered this year? Have you seen these appear in other areas of your life? What will help to release or let go of them? What or who is in need of your forgiveness?
  2. Move: Really allow your body to take time with this one. If you find yourself becoming stuck in any way, return to your breath to help soften any tension, holding, or resistance arising in your body. Let any sounds release from your body. Be gentle with yourself. Bring your moving to a close and open your eyes. Breathe.
  3. Journal: Write about your experience in the form of a letter to yourself/the obstacle/another person. Share your insights, feelings, needs, and requests. Your words can be a salve to ease reconciliation and healing, either within yourself, or between you and another.


nature vision

  1. Reflect: What is your vision for yourself, your family, community, or the world at this time? What are you moving towards in the new year?
  2. Move: Feel into the energy, the quality of sensation, and the movement that arises from your body and as it travels beyond your person and out into space. Are your movements reaching? Pushing? Pulling? Do you feel a flow to your movements? What are the shapes of your movements?
  3. Journal: What meaning do you make of your experience? What inspired action can you take toward manifesting your vision? Is your body already expressing a clear path, or do you need to align your inspirations and your body for greater clearer intention?

Feel free to let us know how this process supports you in your journey to find peace and renewal during this season. Reflect on your experience, and share any thoughts, musings, or questions here on our blog.

Reference: Embodied Renewal is inspired by a process called The Renewal of Creative Path, first shared with me by my nature connection mentor Jon Young and the 8 Shields Institute, and inspired by The Great Law of Peace. Thank you, Jon!

Posted by Stacey Hinden