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Connecting with Nature - The Power of Trees

by S. Alison Chabonais

Because trees are larger and older than we can ever hope to be; because they provide shade, food, medicines, furniture, wood for musical instruments, fuel, paper, shelter, recreation and space to commune with nature; and because they stretch from Earth to heaven, trees have been revered since before recorded time. Even with today’s technology, we still rely daily upon all of their products and we need trees to help counteract global warming and protect the planet.

In her new book, Lives of the Trees, Diana Wells explores the history of 100 distinctive tree species, from the versatile acacia to the long-lived yew, known in Japan as ichii, or tree of God.

Wells notes that the Tree of Life appears in cultures worldwide, while individual trees have been considered sacred. She remarks that, “The words ‘tree’ and ‘truth’ share the original Old English word root, treow.”

“Nothing contributes more to men’s long lives than the planting of many trees,” observed English writer and gardener John Evelyn as early as 1664. Scientists are even using cores from a 1,000-year-old Southeast Asian evergreen, the Fokienia hodginsii tree, to decode the climate history that affects us all. Every year, people around the world celebrate anew the complex living communities we call trees on World Forestry Day at the spring equinox (autumnal equinox in the southern hemisphere).

The Nature Walk

Joe H. Slate, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist and author of Connecting to the Power of Nature, offers a step-by-step guide to an enriching walk in the woods as a gateway to self-empowerment. “It facilitates a positive interaction with nature that builds feelings of worth and self-assurance, while balancing and bringing into harmony the mind, body and spirit,” says Slate. He has field-tested the program for years, as a psychology professor, now emeritus, of Athens State University, in Alabama.

He advises that walkers follow marked trails during daylight hours and allow plenty of time to soak in the experience. Joining hands before and after the walk also reinforces the expressed sense of purpose.

Step 1 – Formulate Goals

Prior to the walk, affirm a commitment to no more than three defined goals. Think of the forest as an enormous repository of energy that is receptive to goals that may be as simple as experiencing the serenity and beauty of the forest to foster better health, self-insight and career success.

Step 2 – Select a Forest

Select a safe forest setting with a trail for the walk, preferably in the company of a partner or group that can add both protection and interactive enrichment.

Step 3 – The Walk

Upon entering the forest area, pause to experience its splendor by sensing its sights, sounds and smells. Take time to calm your mind as you breathe in the fresh forest air. Sense the forest’s energies merging with your own to permeate your total being.

As you walk deeper into the forest, soak in its peace and tranquility. Notice the richness of the environment and let yourself feel the renewal and inspiration that typically accompany the walk. Periodically pause at highly energized points to reflect upon your goals. Take time to form goal-related images and let them go forth, perhaps navigating among the trees to gather the energies required for your complete success.

Step 4 – Listen to the Forest

Throughout your walk, listen to the sounds and unspoken messages emerging from deep within the forest. Think of them as embracing your presence and confirming your future success and fulfillment.

Step 5 – Conclusion

Upon completing the walk, turn your hands toward the forest in recognition of its empowering relevance as you affirm in your own words your complete success in achieving your goals. Once you’ve completed this healing program, you can reactivate its benefits at will by simply taking time to visualize the forest and reflecting on your interactions with it. Rather than fading with time, the rewards will become stronger as you reflect upon them, becoming sources of power that are available at will.

“The therapeutic effects of this program can be worth hours of psychotherapy,” advises Slate. “For couples, it’s an excellent way to open new communication channels and find solutions to relational problems. Overcoming depression, reducing stress, building self-esteem and staying in shape are all within the scope of this program. The forest is a natural therapist.”

S. Alison Chabonais is the national editor of Natural Awakenings. Connect at 239-434-9392.

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