Trees as Spiritual Teachers
By Melissa Krige
Trees and forests are a prerequisite for life on our planet. Referred to as the lungs of the Earth since they produce the oxygen we breathe, they are also climate-controllers and desert-preventers. They provide us with raw materials, timber, food and fodder, medicines and spices, shade and shelter.
Our physical dependence on trees is becoming increasingly well known, and there is a growing awareness of how our lifestyles and attitudes towards nature are resulting in global warming and subsequent climate change. Yet how many know of the spiritual dimension of trees?
Our ancestors enjoyed a very different relationship with trees and nature. Prior to the industrial revolution that changed the very roots of society, humanity lived in greater harmony with the earth. This is reflected most clearly by our past connection to trees.
The world over, trees were venerated and held as symbols of fertility, wisdom, power and renewal. Across cultures and continents, the mythologies of ancient civilizations had at their core a Cosmic Tree or Tree of Life that explained our earthly existence. From all corners of the world, stories of tree worship abound. Forests and groves were holy sanctuaries for spiritual practice, and impressively large, old trees were seen as a channel for connecting with the divine.
A measure of how greatly trees were revered in the past, is an example from Germany where the punishment for removing bark from a tree resulted in the guilty party's navel being cut out and nailed to the injured tree.The culprit was then driven around and around the tree until all his innards were wound about the trunk of the tree (*1). The life of a man for the life of a tree. Barbaric certainly, but food for thought: Does this not symbolise what we do to our collective selves as we wantonly fell and poison with acid rain the great forests that once grew so abundantly over the earth's surface?
All Life is Infused with Spirit:
All is Part of the Web of Life
As an increasing number of us begin to reawaken to our spiritual selves, so our perception and experience of nature expands and deepens into the awareness of the unity and oneness of all that is.
My personal discovery of the spiritual dimension of trees began two years ago when my family and I moved from the city to a unique indigenous forest at the foot of Africa.
Our wooden cottage is tucked beneath the canopy of ancient white stinkwoods - trees revered in African culture as mystical, spiritual trees holding protective powers.
One night, on return from switching off the battery inverter, I passed beneath one of the white stinkwoods that guard our front door. I had an uncanny sense of an unseen presence and had to fight the urge to run quickly inside. Instead I looked up through the branches to the starry sky beyond and it was as though I was seeing through a network of energy criss-crossing the heavens. I consciously reached out to connect with Umvumvu - the Xhosa name for the white stinkwood tree. I felt then a great surge of energy at my throat and heart charkas, as if I had been plugged into the tree's circuitry. I sensed rather than heard the instruction to sink my roots into the ground and to allow this powerful energy to flow through me and into the earth. A feeling of belonging and radiant peace flooded my being - I was rooted and connected to all things.
Following this came a vivid image of whales swimming in the ocean. Interesting - the coastline, just a few kilometers from the forest, is an important breeding ground for the Southern Right Whales. I felt sorrow and shame well up inside of me as I thought of the terrible ways humanity has treated (and continues to treat) these magnificent creatures. And with these thoughts, my contact with Umvumvu promptly ended. It was as though a light had been turned off. My first encounter with the trees taught me a very important lesson - one that I knew intellectually but needed to experience physically in order to truly understand - sorrow and guilt disconnect us from Spirit.
This was my initiation into the spiritual world of the trees. Since then I have worked intuitively with the different tree energies of the forest and have eagerly sought out the writings and experiences of others on the topic. Many of these tell of the call from the trees for us to arouse from our unconscious slumbers, and to realign with our higher selves that are intrinsically linked to the web of life. From all corners of the natural world, the call for us to awaken to our true selves is becoming more and more urgent.
The Spiritual Purpose of Trees
With their roots in the Earth, and their crowns in the Heavens, trees connect these two planes of existence, integrating what is above with what is below. On an energetic level, trees perform the spiritual purpose of assisting all beings to evolve to a higher state of consciousness.
Modern science is slowly concurring with the truths of the mystics, taught to us down through the ages: everything in the universe is energy. "Everything" encompasses all things, be they mental, emotional, physical or spiritual. This energy can be measured by the number of vibrations (frequencies) emitted per second. The faster the rate of frequency, the higher is the vibration of the particle, thought, word or emotion. Unconditional love, forgiveness and joy for instance vibrate at very high frequencies whereas the vibrations of fear, blame and hatred are very low. We can develop our consciousness and enhance our spiritual growth by raising our vibrational frequencies (*2). There are a variety of spiritual practices and ways of being that we can integrate into our lives to achieve this; attuning ourselves to the intelligence of nature is one such method available to us.
Aligning Ourselves to the Healing Power of Trees
That trees affect us on an energetic basis is not a new notion - this we know instinctively and experience after a walk in a forest - generally we are calmer and more relaxed than when we entered it.
Unlike humans whose energy fields become blocked and clogged with the baggage of past karma, negative emotions and thought patterns, trees possess and maintain high, clear channels of pure energy that impart to the world peace, wisdom and tranquility. It is no coincidence that many spiritual masters such as Jesus Christ chose to offer their teachings under the canopy of trees or that Buddha reached enlightenment beneath a tree.
As Kirlian photography of the aura or energy field has shown us, auric energy can be transferred from one person or thing to another. By attuning to the energy field of a tree (one that you are especially drawn to) your energy field will respond and adjust to that of the tree, bringing about balance and self-healing as the particular qualities that the tree holds are awoken within yourself. Some trees are calming and relaxing. Others are stimulating and energizing. Each tree specie has a unique set of qualities and characteristics that it imparts to the wider environment.
We can access the spiritual dimension of trees through the portal of our hearts and by focusing on unconditional love and joy. Anger, sorrow and fear - emotions having low vibrational frequencies - will not gain us entry. It is important to ask permission from the tree before initiating contact and to affirm your intention to connect energetically with the chosen tree. Offering love and gratitude at the end of the process, and then extending this love to all trees and the planet at large, will greatly amplify the benefits of your encounter.
The pure energy (or prana, the ancient Vedic word for life-force) that trees release has to do with their absorption and accumulation of water, sunlight and etheric light - the source of all creation. With their branches like antenna, trees act as conduits for this heavenly light - absorbing it, transforming it and radiating it out again in a more usable form for the wider environment. Certain trees generate an abundance of prana - these are generally large, healthy, older trees growing in natural forest environments. In the past the sick and infirm were laid beneath the canopy of such healing trees to be renewed by the abundance of life-force found there. Often these highly energized areas became sites for future healing centres.
Collectively, the forests of the world create a vast network of interlinking energy. Like a giant globe of golden light surrounding the planet, it supports and balances the earth's ecosphere and provides etheric nourishment to assist all beings to co-exist in greater harmony. Large old trees act as anchors to ground this energy. Such trees are conduits of universal energy on a huge scale and, in addition, these older trees hold the vibrational templates for the younger ones. However, through the extensive and ongoing logging of these once vast natural forests, the protective quality of this mantle of energy is being severely weakened. The results of this are all too painfully apparent - stress, strife and suffering - from the micro to the macro levels.
Because trees play such a vital role in the Earth's physical and spiritual well being, and because their growing conditions have become so severely compromised, there are an increasing number of nature spirits and devas working closely with them. By adding their positive life-force to the tree's energy field, these beings of light help to facilitate each tree's growth and development. As Dorothy Maclean (*3), one of the original creators of the magical Findhorn garden in northern Scotland has shown, we can access the intelligence of these devas and work in harmony with them to heal and restore balance to the Earth's ravaged ecosystems.
Opening our hearts to the spiritual dimension of trees can be the catalyst for profound healing for both ourselves and the planet. And protecting what remains of the natural forests is paramount for our and the Earth's continued physical and spiritual wellbeing - as is the planting of trees - lots of them!
(*1) The Golden Bough, Sir J. G. Frazer, Macmillan and Co Limited, 1933, pg 110
(*2) Scientific studies conducted at the Heartmath Research Centre (www.heartmath.org) illustrate the narrowing gap between science and spiritual teachings. See for example: Modulation of DNA Conformation by Heart-Focused Intention: Rollin McCraty,Ph.D. Mike Atkinson, and Dana Tomasino,B.A. 2003
(*3) For further reading see Call of the Trees by Dorothy Maclean, The Lorian Association, 2006.