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Tree Hugging for the Soul Print E-mail
Ceri Balston   
Monday, 14 November 2005


I've always been fascinated by trees, I love their splendour and majesty and the way they reach up to the sky so still and yet so strong. My brother and I used to spend the long days of our childhood running through magical forests and climbing as many trees as we could, the bigger the better. In the back garden of the first house that I remember living in there was huge apple tree that seemed to tower over the house. I still remember the day I climbed up so high that, perched on the narrowest branch and clutching onto a clump of leaves for balance, I could see over the canopy and across the roofs of the neighbouring houses. I felt like I was standing on top of the world.

I may not be as nimble these days and my figure is definitely not slight enough to allow me to perch so precariously but I do still find myself drawn to trees and love to touch them and sit by them and feel the calmness of their energy.

Humans have always been fascinated by and drawn to trees. It might be their imposing size and presence, their ability to out live us by many generations or the sheer diversity of their uses. As such they have been an important facet of religions and cultures throughout human history.

The tree of life is an important symbol in all the world's three main religions. The sacred texts of Christianity, Judaism and Islam all refer to the tree of life in the Garden of Eden whose fruit gives immortality. It is also represented in Judaism by several examples of sacred geometry, and is central in particular to Kabbalah.

In Celtic mythology trees were powerful symbols, they represented a bridge that carried water from the earth to the sky, and provided warmth, shelter, tools, food, water and medicine. They also changed with the seasons and provided a symbolic reminder of the power of nature.

Today some cultures in West Africa, such as the Mande in Mali, believe that trees contain jins (spirits) and so leave offerings to appease them. In India, most local shrines are built under trees that are considered to be sacred and in Sri Lanka one of the oldest living trees in the world continues to grow and has been worshipped for more than twenty-three centuries. It is a sacred banyan fig tree called Sri Maha Bodhi and is believed to be a sapling from the original tree that Buddha sheltered under and found enlightenment over 2,500 years ago. Today it is worshipped by more than 2,000 people everyday.

Healing Powers
Trees are one of the great providers in nature; they provide us with fruit, wood for construction and making fires, oils extracted from their sap, leaves, trunks and bark can be used for medicinal purposes. Trees are also the great lungs of our planet and tirelessly work to recycle the huge amounts of carbon dioxide that we produce on a daily basis into oxygen. Without them life on our planet would be very difficult.

Apart from these very apparent benefits it is also believed that trees can affect us on a more subtle level and with their mere presence can boost self-esteem and self-confidence, or influence moods making us feel calm, excited or secure. Trees can also have an affect on our chakras and energy fields and many believe that trees have the ability to absorb negative energies and blockages from our bodies in much the same way as they absorb the carbon dioxide that we produce.

In his book "The Healing Energies of Trees" Patrice Bouchardon identifies nine different trees that through his own research he has found to be particularly beneficial. With each one he describes its characteristics and goes into details about how it can influence our psyche and balance our chakras.

The Beech tree for example, is a majestic and imposing tree that can grow up to heights of 45m, its roots are wide and shallow. Beech is also very hardy and resists disease and invaders, its bark has antiseptic qualities and even when cut down it resists being cut or bent into any other shape than the one it grew in. Due to its unique qualities being in the presence of a Beech tree will instil self-assurance, and give one the confidence to overcome fears.

The other trees that he discusses, and their related qualities and characteristics are;

  • Birch - gentleness and reconciliation, accepting oneself
  • Fir - fluidity, letting go
  • Pine - bringing in the light, rediscovering your vitality
  • Hawthorn - being in the present, being balanced and centred
  • Wild Rose - openness to ourselves and others
  • Box - liberation from the past, looking to the future
  • Walnut - taking responsibility for oneself and others
  • Broom - renewal and making new starts

All of the above trees are readily found in Bouchardon's home in the North American wilderness; it's not hard though to imagine how some of our Africa favourites can benefit us. The solitary Baobab with its huge trunk and incredible durability and longevity surely would give one a sense of being grounded and belonging, giving one the strength and purpose to stand on one's own and overcome difficulties.

Discovering trees
To explore the healing power of trees for yourself go to your garden, nearest wood or park and look for a tree that you find appealing or are drawn to. You don't necessarily need to throw your arms around it in a full embrace, especially if you're self-conscious and are worried about being assigned a 'tree hugger' tag, although this can of course work, simply sitting down by a tree and meditating will have enormous benefits.

Before you sit spend some time thinking about the qualities of the tree; is it short or tall, full of leaves or sparse, does it have many branches, how thick is the trunk? When you feel calm and in the space of the tree sit down and try your favourite meditation or just spend some time being still and feeling connected to the abundance of nature around you.


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