Song of the Trees

We have many lessons to learn from the trees. As our understanding and awareness of nature develops, we uncover new findings and wisdom that gives us a fresh perspective on life. In this session, we will learn about creating better relationships with the help of nature. But first, please watch this 2 min. film on a less known truth about trees…and people.

INTRODUCTION

David Haskell’s work integrates scientific, literary, and contemplative studies of the natural world. His latest book, “The Songs of Trees” examines the many ways that trees and humans are connected. His first book, The Forest Unseen, was winner of the National Academies’ Best Book Award for 2013, finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction, winner of the 2013 Reed Environmental Writing Award.

The Oxford American featured him in 2011 as one of the southern U.S.’s most creative teachers. His teaching has been profiled in USA Today, The Tennesseean, and other newspapers.

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SCIENCE

“Inside the tree leaf are different species of bacteria, millions of individual bacterial cells, fungi, nematodes and if these inhabitants of the leaf are taken away the leaf can no longer function.

This is also true for roots below ground. The root is made from conversation – between bacteria, fungi and the plant cell themselves. There is communication at the most intimate level, at the level of DNA from one cell to another. They are exchanging information, they are exchanging material. So the tree is a nexus, a hub for a set of relationships.

In fact, just to call something a tree, a noun – a singular being is wrong. This individuality is an illusion. All trees exist only in relationship. So do people.

— David George Haskell (www.dghaskell.com)

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MEDITATION

“If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow: and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are.

“Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter” with the verb “to be”, we have a new verb, inter-be. Without a cloud, we cannot have paper, so we can say that the cloud and the sheet of paper inter-are.

If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow. In fact nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And if we continue to look we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And we see the wheat. We know that the logger cannot exist without his daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this sheet of paper. And the logger’s father and mother are in it too. When we look in this way we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist.”

— Thich Nhat Hanh (https://plumvillage.org/)

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RELATIONSHIP WALKS

Nature is a great place to untangle our thoughts and find fresh perspectives. It’s because in nature, all the mysteries of life unfold before us. All we heave to do is learn to observe and become aware.

Self-awareness: Taking a slow, silent walk in nature on your own is a great way to get in touch with your feelings. Avoiding other human and electronic distractions gives us the time to pay attention to what’s going on inside ourselves.

Self-management: The aim is to observe the relationships between nature within as well as nature outside. Choosing a special place in nature that one can go to sit regularly creates a special bond with that place. The beings in nature from that place begin to know and accept you. This space becomes the sacred space that you can always hold within you.

Motivation: Motivation comes from joy, curiosity, or the satisfaction of being productive. Each of the seasons in nature gives us many reasons to fill ourselves with awe, wonder, and fascination. The more we grow our observation, the deeper our connection becomes.

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Empathy: Empathy is the skill and practice of reading the emotions of others and responding appropriately. When someone volunteers for initiatives such as nature trail management, tree plantation drives, care for birds or animals, etc. they were able to expand their boundaries of self. In simpler more direct way, when one learns to care for others, it lays the foundation for better relationships and supports the development of empathy.

Social skills: Leading forest walks, connecting other people with nature and helping others to find their own calm is a great way to forge strong friendships and create conscious communities. Working on common causes that improve our living environment gives us a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

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CONNECTIONS

Unless we grow our collective emotional intelligence we cannot hope to create a better future for all beings. As the wise saying from Greece goes – A society grows great when people plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.

The healing of our society is intricately linked to the healing of our land. It’s because the environment we live in is not separate from us. What we learn from the wisdom of the land, helps us create a deeper understanding of our own interlinked lives.

As individuals, we are like solitary trees, but when we come together we become a forest of friends. In case you would like to connect with like-minded individuals and create something meaningful together you can join our community of forest friends. One of the main goals of this network is to support each other in our learning.

Through the network, we will also conduct 2 healing forest walks in each of our cities every year. One in spring, the other in autumn. The walks are open to all and can be free of charge or based on a gift culture (accept whatever is given with grace).

To join the forest friends simply fill in this form.

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YOUR PATH

Always remember, this is a personal journey between you and the forest. Every outcome will flow out of that. Start visiting a forest near you and more ideas will come to you. Ultimately, you can create a nature-walk program that is unique and personal to you.

Our memory is very fickle and unless we repeat or practice what we have learned, we tend to forget it. So please practice your walks before they fade away from your mind (Even if it is with just one more person).

My suggestion to you would be to practice each of the walk formats on their own. Sense Walk, Art Walk, Writing Walk, Mindfulness walk, Photo Walk, Relationship walks. Typically a 90 min /2-hour session involves a short introduction to the concept. Followed by 15-minute silent walks interspersed with games/meditations. It’s nice to end the walk with feedback and sharing of insights from the participants.

This is important for you as well as the people you will take with you on your walks.

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END NOTE

This page is the concluding part of our learning program. We hope you have enjoyed the adventure.  If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to our monthly blog posts at this link. Our journey of learning continues and we keep posting interesting articles every month. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.

We would love to hear your feedback/experience/suggestions for the learning program. Please feel free to send us an email athealingforest(dot)org(at)gmail(dot)com 

Also, it would add to our collective knowledge if you could leave a comment below on this simple question – What have the trees taught you?

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17 thoughts on “Song of the Trees

  1. They are more unique than a fingerprint being without judgement, free will, punishment, impulse. They stand. They don’t watch, they stand’, absorb and radiate. Decisions are made for them, and they stand. They are a silent servants to man and the entire earth. They relish in what is given to them. They are pure and stand…there however they are at that moment. This is what I hope to learn from them.

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  2. I live among the majestic Redwood trees and Oak woodlands of the Mendocino Coast of California in the U.S. There are also Madrone, Big Leaf Maple, California Nutmeg, Grand Fir, Red Alder and many species of magnificent Manzanita (though technically they are considered shrubs.) I am always gaining new insight as I tend to my relationships within Nature as a daily practice. However, there is one thing that I seem to understand on an even deeper level after sitting and mindfully listening to the wisdom of these rooted relatives. It is about holding space for myself and for others, space to heal and be truly authentic.

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  3. Tree are kind of living beings.They also need water, food, air, sunshine like human beings. Trees also talk show love and emoticons and very good friends of humanity. Trees Serve humanity in many ways by giving, oxygen, food , wood, shelter to the birds and wild animals and much more. They heal the people and get healed as well with love and hugging.
    I will post an interaction with trees through a poem in my next post. Thank you.

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  4. Beautiful, Nitin. I find myself feeling more and more appreciative of and connected to trees as I get older and am conscious of now guiding my children to discover their own unique connections. I hope the lessons to be learned from trees will weave constant and soothing strands throughout each of their lives.

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  5. This is wonderful. Thank you so much for creating and sharing this beautiful video, an illustration and interview of the important work of David Haskell. I also enjoyed the inclusion of Thich Nhat Hanh’s meditation on seeing the trees everywhere.

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  6. This is the most fascinating information. What more do we need to know intellectually what our hearts tell us. The facts are here and straight-forward. What
    healing there may be in a walk in the woods or by a single tree or a tiny flower in a pot on a city windowsill?!! This is very uplifting, inspiring and welcome.

    I live along the far downeast coast of Maine, tucked way up against Canada along the Lower Bay of Fundy. People live here for the beauty, the stillness, the calm; the Maine that represents the expensive life is far down the coast from here. We live WITH the planet here harvesting what the earth provides and take a dim view of those who wish to live here and change everything so it looks like where they’ve just left. There are trails and walks everywhere….along an uncluttered shoreline, along a silent morning fishing village, in a copse of white birch, deep in the 4-seasoned forests of conifers and deciduous trees, in the wooded acreage of saltwater farms. Trees, trees, trees everywhere. The soul of the land can still be felt here and nowhere more healing than in the forests.

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  7. I meet with trees regularly to listen to what they have to say, whether it be physically or connecting with their spirits inwardly. They are full of wisdom about healing, psychology and development of humanity. They are my closest friends and I work for them. If I didn’t pass on what the trees and plants have taught me I would not have my job. I have tried in the past not to do their work but trees and plants do not let their friends stray easily. I owe everything to the trees and plants.
    In agreement with your wonderful video may I share an excerpt from a conversation with a hemlock tree this month:
    “A tree does not see itself as one tree out of many. The eyes of a tree see from the perspective of a community of trees. What does the community need? It is serving the community to maintain the harmony of the environment.”

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  8. I an fortunate to live near a beautiful semi-ancient woodland. Each time I visit, it fills me with life, a sense of calmness and belonging. Not only are all the creatures and plants of the woods dependent upon each other, but with my being there, it also provides me with a connection too, I feel grounded in my very being and guided in my journey. When joined by families for a walk, it’s wonderful to see the children enjoy it for its simple pleasures and yet still be inquisitive and thoughtful, asking questions and discovering things for themselves. What is also lovely, is the ease with which everyone joins me, sitting under an old tree, its branches reaching out, protecting us as we listen to the sounds of the woodlands. Trees teach us to listen.

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  9. I grew up in the middle of the country where I spent a lot of time with nature. I’m pretty sure I took it for granted as a kid but I was a kid after all. As an adult, I’ve learned to cherish time in nature. The trees have always seemed so strong, stable and majestic. They’re so important for the land and they reach up to the sky – grounding and heavenly. So lovely.

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  10. A few weeks ago I was walking through a forest near my house, I was losing a trail, when it finally led me to a main road. There was walking between oaks, but suddenly the landscape changed and I found myself surrounded by large sweet chestnuts …. took a moment to realize that there were many and that my state had changed to a total peace …. looked her leaves from below, the light so special … and I let myself be … it was an incredible moment 💚

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  11. I thought to share these two “Tree” Poems, which I imagine, many Tree Devotees may be familiar with!

    ADVICE FROM A TREE
    Ilan Shamir

    Stand Tall and Proud
    Sink your roots deeply into the Earth
    Reflect the light of your true nature
    Think long term
    Go out on a limb
    Remember your place among all living beings

    Feel the wind and the sun
    And delight in their presence
    Look up at the moon that shines down upon you
    And the mystery of the stars at night
    Seek nourishment from the good things in life:
    Simple pleasures
    Earth, fresh air, light
    Be content with your natural beauty
    Drink plenty of water
    Let your limbs sway and dance in the breeze
    Be flexible
    Remember your roots
    Enjoy the view!

    Embrace with joy the changing seasons
    For each yields its own abundance:
    The Energy and Birth of Spring
    The Growth and Contentment of Summer
    The Wisdom to let go, like leaves, in the Fall
    The Rest and Quiet renewal of Winter.

    SUPPOSE
    Sharon Auberle

    Suppose that trees had a voice,
    calling out as we passed by?

    Suppose they held us
    with their tender branches
    as we listened to their stories?

    Suppose they cried
    and we felt their tears?

    Suppose they sang us to sleep,
    cradled in their loving arms?

    Suppose,
    for once …

    We listened?

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  12. A long time ago, while pausing to look at a huge tree, I became suddenly aware of its ‘real’ presence. There was a connection that I have no words for but the memory of those few moments has never lessened, I can feel it still. My brother once said he believed the forest watches and listens to us too. I believe that to be in a quiet place, woodland or rainforest, in the spiritual presence of trees, is not only uplifting, but also healing, it is being ‘at home.’ It should be doctors orders to sit with trees to fix all kinds of maladies.

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  13. It was the observation of some tree leaves that made me come back to life. It was nearly 5 years ago and I consider it the first meditation of my life. I’m now 38, but since that moment I know I’m less than 5 years old.

    I’ve already shared the walk on the woods that drove me to that tree, seen from a bench, near to a river, surrounded by silence.

    A tree may heal and nature may save your soul. What is more, nature is waiting for you to ask to be saved and to be healed and trees are her medicine.

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