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 ….

Journal.

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

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