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 making friends and 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.
Song of Trees | Relationships in nature
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.
Trees and Friends
“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)
Meditation on Interbeing
“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/)
RELATIONSHIP WALK | Making New Friends
In this section we cover a set of nature based creative exercises which serve as excellent tools to build strong relationships. These set of nature activities are most effective when done in pairs or very small groups. The aim of this relationship walk is to work on the fundamental values of creating friendships: trust, acceptance, appreciation, gratitude, creativity, and truly knowing the other person.
As with all healing forest walks, allow space for 10-15 minute of silent walks in between each of these exercises. Being silent yet comfortable in each other’s presence is a hallmark of deep friendships and meaningful relationships.
Who Am I?:
“If you could be one thing in nature, what would you be? And why?” We start the walk by asking our partner this simple question. Most casual introductions are about people’s professions or achievements and one tries to project their best side. Whereas, creating a nature introduction allows friends to know the things we relate to and also qualities that are important to us in our persona.
Alternate version: Nature and I
As you take a walk in nature, each person finds an interesting thing that calls out to them like an unusual rock, or a tree and shares why they relate to that object in nature or what is common between them and the nature object.
Take 10 minutes to share important memories from your life with your partner. These are memories of important turning points in your life. Events or incidents that have given a new direction to your life. Each partner takes 5 minutes to share 1 or 2 turning points from their life. End the exercise by sharing an important nature memory from your life. A memorable moment in nature that has stayed with you.
In this exercise, each person finds an interesting tree that catches their attention or one they can relate to and spends 10 minutes sitting under that tree or in it’s branches. Reflect on what your tree can teach you about relationships. After your tryst with the tree, share your insights with your partner and listen to theirs.
Find things fallen on the forest floor and create a forest baby. The forest baby can take any form and shape – human, animal or magical. The only rule is that you have to create it in silence. Being silent allows you to observe each other’s working style and share a deeper sense of communication which goes beyond the use of words. It’s basically an exercise in understanding that a large part of relationships are about creating things with each other.
Appreciation and Gratitude:
End the walk with a few words of appreciation and gratitude for nature as well as your partner. Appreciation and gratitude are a form of social glue that binds us as a community. It is also a way of observing and seeing things. A much needed quality that we all need to develop within ourselves to build relationships.
TREE FRIENDS EXERCISE
Here is a fascinating set of questions to get to know a person and make friends in a short period of time. The playful light hearted structure is loosely based on how you would get to know a tree. In these questions, we explore important parts of a personality just as we would observe the different parts thats make up a tree. Each of the different tree parts are used as a metaphor to get to know each other better.
Being in nature allows people to feel relaxed and they find it easier to share their thoughts and feelings. Find any old or interesting tree to sit under with your partner and share these questions and their answers with each other.
Birds & Friends:
What are the places you’d like to travel to?
What gives you energy / What takes away energy?
Branches / Canopy:
Who are the people you are closest to / most connected to?
What are your strengths / weaknesses?
What do you value in life / What keeps you grounded?
Dreams / things you love doing / You wish to accomplish? or an interesting twist to this question – What struggles would you like have?
What are the things you wish to leave behind ? / What you would like to be remembered for?
This is an informal guideline. Choosing this structure of questions makes it easy to remember and engaging to play out. Conversations may flow in any direction just like the wind. We hope you have fun with the exercise and get to learn new insights and facets about other people as well as yourself.
There is only one rule to follow. Lend your full attention to hearing the other person and learn to listen like a tree. With acceptance and without judgement or advice.
A FRIEND REQUEST
Unless we grow our collective emotional intelligence we cannot hope to create a better future for all beings.
A society grows great when people plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.~ Greek Proverb
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.
MAKING FRIENDS WITH THE FOREST
This page is the concluding part of our nature connect course. We hope you have enjoyed the adventure.
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.
Human memory is very fickle and unless we repeat or practice what we have learnt, we tend to forget it. So please practice your walks before they fade away from your mind (Even if it is with just one other person).
Our 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.
Nature is a great place to untangle our thoughts, find fresh perspectives and make new friends. It’s because in nature, all the mysteries of life unfold before us. All we have to do is learn to observe and become aware.
We would love to hear your feedback/experience/suggestions for the learning program. Please feel free to send us an email at: healingforest(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 has the forest taught you?