Healing with Trees: Cultivating Patience and Presence
The healing journey often takes significantly longer than we would have hoped. This can bring up feelings of discouragement and impatience. Behaving with impatience can take us out of the moment, which will create a greater separation from ourselves and interrupt the flow of the natural growth process. Being out of sync can increase feelings of frustration and impatience, and lead to self-critical thoughts. In this article I’m going to offer a practice to help with these feelings.
I find inspiration in these wise words by spiritual teacher and author Mark Nepo: “For the flower, it is fully open at each stage of its blossoming. We do ourselves a great disservice by judging where we are in comparison to some final destination. This is one of the pains of aspiring to become something: the stage of development we are in is always seen against the imagined landscape of what we are striving for. So where we are - though closer all the time - is never quite enough.”
Observe how a seed grows into a flower, it undergoes many transformations and each stage leads to the next. At times it seems the plant has stopped growing, but really it’s resting and gathering energy for the next phase. Some phases require more energy than others and the plant rests longer in preparation. It is the song of creation, just like in a musical composition the rests are equally as important as the notes, and without both the song could not exist. There is beauty in every nuance of the plant’s gradually changing form, and we are the same.
In the great garden of life, we each grow at our own pace. Paying attention to the state you are in presently is nourishing. It can tap into a deeper vitality which can provide long-lasting stability and support. This can ease frustration and impatience, which often comes from feeling lack. Filling that space with curiosity, wonder and appreciation can bring contentment. Out of that can emerge a knowing that yes, this right now is enough.
The plant kingdom has been living and evolving longer than humans. Plants possess ancient wisdom and are powerful allies for the journey. They can help us to align with the rhythm of the days, the seasons, and innate timing of our healing. Communing with plants can shift us from negative emotional states to a grounded and calm presence, a sense of wholeness.
A practice that has been very beneficial for myself and my students, is to spend time in meditation with a tree. This is an easily accessible practice if you are a beginner to meditation, and an enriching one if you are a more seasoned meditator.
Tree Meditation Ritual
Apply bug/tick repellant to yourself if needed. Bring a bottle of water with you. Find a tree to hang out with, perhaps in a local park, nature sanctuary or in your own backyard.
This meditation can be done seated or standing. First, greet the tree silently or aloud, say you’d like to spend some time with it.
To sit, arrange yourself comfortably at the base of the tree and lean your back against it. To stand, either place your back against the tree, or face the tree and wrap your arms around its trunk. Feel its strong body and roots supporting you. Pay attention to your breath, let each exhale be longer than your inhale. Allow yourself to rest and simply experience being with the tree.
As you breathe, any tension in your body dissipates. Notice any new sensations or feelings in your body, perhaps you feel more calm or a sense of vitality rising like sap. You may notice an exchange of energy between you and the tree. Allow your attention to flow back and forth, between your experience in your body and your experience of the tree. Spend as much time with the tree as you like.
When you are ready to end the meditation, bring your attention to your feet for a few moments, then gently open your eyes. Thank the tree for this experience of connection. Take a drink of water and pour some out at the base of the tree, as an offering of nourishment and gratitude.
How do you feel now, after the meditation? Enjoy your deeply rooted presence as you go about your day.