Breathing with the trees
Trees absorb carbon and release oxygen; humans breathe in oxygen and release carbon. Thus, in simple terms, this can be viewed as a symbiotic relationship. This exercise can be done anywhere there is a tree. 1 Stand in front of the tree, close your eyes a
with the earth and the natural world, we go into nature taking our idea of separateness with us. So a trip into the ‘bush’ can be a nice enough outing and we may feel a little better temporarily but we still feel separate. Often if we try feeling a part of nature it simply seems an intellectual concept or that we are forcing an experience that’s not real. Our lives are so filled with stories of separation producing a desperation to fill up the emptiness with consumption, stuff, addictions and people that embodying true nature connection eludes us.
Such stories of separation have a huge cost. On a personal level it can lead to an emptiness in the soul and a deep hunger that we try to fill in all sorts of ways that make it worse. On a community level we are isolated, finding it hard to find fulfilment relating with others. On a global level, a lifethreatening separation has developed where we can’t see nature’s needs symbiotically linked to our own – as climate change, species extinction and pollution proves.
I am part of the wind and the energies. I hear the earth murmuring and breathing. I breathe with it – mighty timeless breaths with all life and all time and space.
The crocodile snaps, the water bird struts, the eagle screams and dives. The wonder of nature breaks through a turtle shell with baby crying life, the wallaby blends softly into paintings carved by wind.
Many shamans or medicine people of ancient cultures understood that we have to ‘get out of our own way’ to heal, experience or understand something which our limited minds can’t grasp or allow to occur ‘out of our own control’, but often we are so conditioned to be in control that letting go and getting out of our own way long enough to allow real connection and healing to occur may require a big incentive or even crisis. ‘Susan’ struggled with a chronic debilitating medical condition for years until she was told that parts of her internal anatomy and several organs would need to be removed to save her. With little to lose she threw herself to the mercy of the earth. “I went to live in the forest and re-found the rhythms that I had never known, yet somewhere were already in me. I opened myself to the earth, trees, plants, animals, seasons, moon and my emotions and let nature know everything. Everything! I am not holding back on anything as I heal.” She pauses, “and I am now healing.”
Now we all have similar incentives even if we don’t directly feel it, and more of us are feeling something is terribly wrong as our lives fall further into confusion and isolation and the earth teeters on a crisis of being unable to support life. Radical and urgent internal and external healing needs to take place, and if we take the view that our bodies are part of the earth then, if we heal, we heal the earth.
Active healing of the earth can take many forms including direct action, protest, prayer, energy work and regeneration.
The basic principle that I have found is that we need to let go of the cultural conditioning of seeing nature as separate. It is part of us and we are part of it.
Mary’s psychiatrist at the hospital was surprised that she recovered without intervention including shock treatment or drugs. Perhaps it is time to follow a more expanded view of healing and wholeness that can involve the earth – and we become involved with her. Next time you go outside, I invite you to take the opportunity to breathe with the land, to imagine that everything is connected. To imagine that you can heal the earth in some way and that it can heal you. The change that the world needs… begins with us. n
Phoenix Arrien has a deep interest in indigenous healing and culture and feels fortunate to have sat, and still sits, at the feet of several elders who have been generous with their sharing and teachings. She is a shamanic healer, an experienced facilitator of healing and transformation workshops and deep ecology and healing ecology retreats.