Connecting With Nature
The Power of Trees
Because trees are larger and older than we can ever hope to be; because they provide shade, food, medicines, furniture, wood for musical instruments, fuel, paper, shelter, recreation and space to commune with nature; and because they stretch from Earth to heaven, trees have been revered since before recorded time. Even with today’s technology, we still rely daily upon all of their products and we need trees to help counteract global warming and protect the planet.
In her new book, Lives of the Trees, Diana Wells explores the history of 100 distinctive tree species, from the versatile acacia to the long-lived yew, known in Japan as ichii, or tree of God.
Wells notes that the Tree of Life appears in cultures worldwide, while individual trees have been considered sacred. She remarks that, “The words ‘tree’ and ‘truth’ share the original Old English word root, treow.”
“Nothing contributes more to men’s long lives than the planting of many trees,” observed English writer and gardener John Evelyn as early as 1664. Scientists are even using cores from a 1,000-year-old Southeast Asian evergreen, the Fokienia hodginsii tree, to decode the climate history that affects us all. Every year, people around the world celebrate anew the complex living communities we call trees on World Forestry Day at the spring equinox (autumnal equinox in the southern hemisphere).
The Nature Walk
Joe H. Slate, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist and author of Connecting to the Power of Nature, offers a step-by-step guide to an enriching walk in the woods as a gateway to self-empowerment. “It facilitates a positive interaction with nature that builds feelings of worth and self-assurance, while balancing and bringing into harmony the mind, body and spirit,” says Slate. He has field-tested the program for years, as a psychology professor, now emeritus, of Athens State University, in Alabama.
Prior to the walk, affirm a commitment to no more than three defined goals. Think of the forest as an enormous repository of energy that is receptive to goals that may be as simple as experiencing the serenity and beauty of the forest to foster better health, self-insight and career success.
Step 2 – Select a Forest
Select a safe forest setting with a trail for the walk, preferably in the company of a partner or group that can add both protection and interactive enrichment.
Step 3 – The Walk
Upon entering the forest area, pause to experience its splendor by sensing its sights, sounds and smells. Take time to calm your mind as you breathe in the fresh forest air. Sense the forest’s energies merging with your own to permeate your total being.
As you walk deeper into the forest, soak in its peace and tranquility. Notice the richness of the environment and let yourself feel the renewal and inspiration that typically accompany the walk. Periodically pause at highly energized points to reflect upon your goals. Take time to form goal-related images and let them go forth, perhaps navigating among the trees to gather the energies required for your complete success.
Step 4 – Listen to the Forest
Throughout your walk, listen to the sounds and unspoken messages emerging from deep within the forest. Think of them as embracing your presence and confirming your future success and fulfillment.
Step 5 – Conclusion
Upon completing the walk, turn your hands toward the forest in recognition of its empowering relevance as you affirm in your own words your complete success in achieving your goals. Once you’ve completed this healing program, you can reactivate its benefits at will by simply taking time to visualize the forest and reflecting on your interactions with it. Rather than fading with time, the rewards will become stronger as you reflect upon them, becoming sources of power that are available at will.
“The therapeutic effects of this program can be worth hours of psychotherapy,” advises Slate. “For couples, it’s an excellent way to open new communication channels and find solutions to relational problems. Overcoming depression, reducing stress, building self-esteem and staying in shape are all within the scope of this program. The forest is a natural therapist.”
S. Alison Chabonais is the national editor of Natural Awakenings. Connect at 239-434-9392.
THE PRESENCE OF TREES
Slowly, I am remembering
the language of awe,
how to take in, say,
the living complexity of a tree
its gnarled trunk,
its ragged bark,
the way its leafy canopy
down to the brown
the way the wind bends my heart
to the exquisite presence of trees
the forest that calls to me as deeply
as I breathe,
as though the woods were
marrow of my bone as though
I myself were tree, a breathing, reaching
arc of the larger canopy
beside a brook bubbling to foam
like the one
deep in these woods,
that whispers home.
© Michael S. Glaser
Previously published in Fire Before the Hands and
in Between Earth and Sky by Nalini M. Nadkarni.
Michael S. Glaser is professor emeritus of English at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, where he served for 38 years. Poet laureate of Maryland from 2004 to 2009, he is a recipient of the Dodge Endowed Award for Excellence in Teaching and a widely sought speaker and workshop leader.