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Posts Tagged ‘mythology’

MEETING TREES

Trees are our ancestors, they are our progenitors. Trees are the creators and the maintainers of our reality. These may sound like metaphysical or even metaphorical statements such as poets might use, but in truth (and ‘truth’ derives from the same Anglo-Saxon word as ‘tree’), they are undeniable and biological fact. The great forests of the Carboniferous period 300 million years ago not only laid down the coal that has fuelled the scientific explorations of the last two hundred years, but also stabilised and fertilised the planet with organic topsoil, regulated the oxygen levels of the atmosphere and established climatic weather patterns. Today trees are still the only ‘mechanisms’ that are able to reduce the extremes of weather and recycle minerals, gases and water into re-usable forms. No human device can even provide one of the functions of a tree, and our attempts to replicate, for example, the fertilisation of the soil with chemicals, are pathetic, clumsy, ineffectual and ultimately poisonous to the land.

These reasons alone should be enough to encourage and maintain our appreciation of the importance of trees. That, and the fact that wood has sustained human technologies for millennia. But our ancestors were not only skilled in using trees for making things or creating medicines from their parts, they also felt the numinous power, the spiritual quality, the sentient awareness of trees. Except for those peoples living within the Arctic Circle where no trees could grow and wood itself was an exotic flotsam, all peoples have held trees to be powerful spiritual beings, and many have modelled their concepts of the universe on the form of the tree (for example, an almost identical cosmography can be found amongst the peoples of the Amazon jungle and the Norse peoples of North-West Europe: the universe as a tree of many levels surrounded by a circular ocean bordered by a giant serpent). Spiritual teachers of many traditions have been shown acquiring wisdom, power and enlightenment from their contact with trees. The Buddha finally gained enlightenment sitting under a bo tree; Odin perceived the universal energies as runes as he was hanging upon the World Tree; Christ saved the world by hanging on the cross of wood and so on.

The tree is a symbol of the many levels of the Universe and is used in metaphorical or actual ways by the shaman to travel to different spirit worlds. Trees are central to shamanic and healing rituals. In Nepal a banana tree acts as a focus for all spiritual procedures. In North America the focus for the sundance of the Sioux nations is the tree upon which the dancers are tied by hooks. Symbolic trees, as posts or poles, are vital elements in Australian aboriginal, shamanic ritual, as they are in Siberia. It also seems likely that the ‘biles’ or sacred trees of the Celtic peoples were moveable, decorated trees (that in typically Celtic fashion were stolen, reclaimed, destroyed by rival tribal groups in a happy melee of spiritual and political one-up-manship). There is the Irmansul, the central tree-pillar of the Anglo-Saxon hall and temple. And not forgetting the enigmatic woodhenges scattered across the countryside, the late-lamented Seahenge of Norfolk, the Classical temple modelled upon wooden originals, the forests of stone in Gothic cathedrals shaped to carefully replicate the natural sacred groves of the people before stone cities took over (‘civilised’) the world.

The spiritual strength of trees has not diminished nor disappeared. Their presence in any landscape is as vital and as necessary as ever. Their ability to be our profoundest teachers is as strong as ever.  But like all great teachers, they will not make themselves known nor will offer healing without being asked. So how can we come again into the presence of trees to learn and be healed? Techniques and processes, whatever their source, are principally methods to allow the mind to acquiesce to new ideas and new perceptions, to step out of the way of the inevitable ‘Yes, buts..’, to allow novel experiences to be registered by our awareness. In this way rules, methods and traditions are very useful, often essential, but like all shamanic-based technologies, ritual and form is less important than having a truly open heart. All the skilful rituals, prayers, chants, no matter from how long a tradition, how ‘authentic’ a source, will do little good to someone whose heart is not caught up in the desire to connect with the reality. Emotional, heartfelt passion is a universally understood language that formal techniques only really serve to focus and enhance.

When you begin to notice trees, then trees begin to notice you. The only technology needed to meet the spirit consciousness of trees is that within the human body. Noticing what the senses are telling you, what the body is feeling, how emotions and thoughts shift in the presence of different types of trees – all the non-physical data labelled as ‘imagination’, ‘daydreaming’ – once our attention is given to them will reveal a wealth of information and surprising communications.

Why should we consider ‘talking to trees’? The nature of trees is to stand still, to hold firm, to maintain balance, to bring equilibrium to where they are. No tree could remain for five, six, one thousand years, in the same place without being able to balance all the variable factors of time and season. This equilibrium spreads outwards from the physical presence of the tree because its awareness is not limited – it encompasses all the energies of the universe. Now this is no different in the human being, except that humans have largely forgotten that sense of connection. We still remain connected (we are in the universe, so how can we not be connected?), yet there are many levels of separation, isolation, fractures of energy and belief that mask our real state and cause us many different types of suffering. Disease and illness, (as obvious manifestations on a physical level of this inability to repair our own energy fractures), are simply the result of a lack of the appropriate spiritual nutrition – the energy of wholeness.

In theory, any tree can bring the necessary harmony into us. In reality, we have energetic preferences that respond better to some ‘tastes’ of wholeness than to others. All trees hold all energies in harmonious equilibrium, but each species manifests that harmony in different ways. A tree’s habit and form demonstrates in physical terms the way it deals with and expresses energy. The character they display is a clue and an expression of their means to manifest wholeness. An oak, for example, ‘feels’ very different to a sycamore, even when the trees are of comparable size and mass. This difference is our recognition, at deep levels of the mind and body, of the energy signature of that tree spirit.

Our own personal work over the last decade has been to work with tree spirit energies and to explore these patterns, these expressions, using many different processes and techniques, often given to us by the tree spirits themselves, or modified from shamanic tradition. Waking up into a world where everything is experienced as conscious and present is the best medicine for the malaise of urban humanity – it is the surest way to end our spiritual isolation from the sentient world.

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