Tree Meditations

The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see Nature all ridicule and deformity, and some scarce see Nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, Nature is Imagination itself.
--William Blake, 1799, The Letters

Like many people, I've always come into my deepest states of meditation and peace while alone in nature. In a forest, the soaring branches, many shades of green, whispering of the wind through leaves, fragrance of evergreens, and the perfume of crushed pine needles blend to create a harmonious and soothing atmosphere.

Sometimes I give my attention to a particular tree. Several trees on my land provide focal points for a shift in energy, whether I sit beneath them or look at them from the window.

In sensing the energy of trees, I follow the ancient Celtic tradition. The Celts believed that any place where the three elements, earth, air, and water came together contained great power. Because trees are rooted in the earth, touch the sky, and conduct water, they were believed to channel this power. A grove of trees was an ideal location for rituals, casting spells, practicing intuitive arts, or meditating.

Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?
--Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road

My appreciation of trees deepened during the summer of 2005, when I was in a forest in the Scottish Highlands. In this area, close to the Findhorn Community, the veils between worlds were believed to be especially thin.

I sat beneath a tree, realizing that the veil of judgment (which might be either positive or negative) I usually wear when I meet new people had been missing ever since I'd gotten to Findhorn. I'd met dozens of people and I'd welcomed them into my awareness on a deeper level.

While I contemplated this, I felt the presence of two departed dear friends, one a man, one a cat. My human friend, who'd never had a relationship with a cat and tended to ignore them, fell in love with my eight-week-old kitten, Binx, without reservation or judgment, He transcended a barrier that he'd never before even questioned.

Feeling great love and gratitude for both of them, I got up from beneath the tree and felt the desire to thank it, too. When I looked at its leaves, I saw it was a beech. In the Bach Flower Remedy system, Beech is for release of judgment.

Choose Your Tree


I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech-tree, or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines.
--Henry David Thoreau

One of my special friends is a juniper several feet from the house. It's the year-round home of cardinals, chickadees, finches, and other birds. Because it's so close to my window feeder, many birds fly between the tree and the feeder. Squirrels gather below the feeder and below the tree to catch fallen sunflower seeds.

One of the most beautiful creations of the juniper tree is its sky blue berries. Robins eat them, as do deer in winter. The deer also eat the juniper needles. Many times on a winter afternoon, I've seen them balancing gracefully on their hind legs to reach the branches.

Native Americans, especially the Navajo, use juniper as a cleansing smudge. Juniper berry oil is believed to repel negativity.

I don't sit under the juniper (this might disturb the birds who live in it), but I often sit in the dining room and look at it. I also like to look at it when I practice chi kung, one of my favorite forms of meditation. I focus on appreciating the tree, watching the birds, and allowing whatever thoughts enter my mind to visit and stimulate new contemplation.

Oak and Willow

I've chosen these trees because they are relatively common in the U.S. and some other countries.

The Oak

Our ordinary mind always tries to persuade us that we are nothing but acorns and that our greatest happiness will be to become bigger, fatter, shinier acorns; but that is of interest only to pigs. Our faith gives us knowledge of something better: that we can become oak trees.
--E.F. Schumacher

Oaks were particularly sacred to the Celtic Druids, whose name is believed to come from the tree's name in Gaelic: duir. This word also means doorway. Believing that this tree symbolized a doorway to mysteries, the Druids often taught in its shelter.

For the Druids, the oak tree also represented the soul, called, in Celtic terms, the "eye of god." When we think of the solid nature of the oak tree, we can see that the soul, though not solid in a physical way, has an unchanging spiritual quality. If we consider our lives from a place of being grounded in our eternal nature, we find that life flows smoothly and joyfully.

Willow

This tree's botanical name, "Salix," comes from the Celtic words, sal, "near," and lis, "water." This is a water loving tree. It is naturally found by river and stream banks and is also, because of its rapid growth and deep, tough roots, planted in these locations, to prevent erosion.

Water is the element of dreaming and inspiration, and the willow, in Celtic tradition is associated with poetry and fascination. Dreams serve as a medium for creativity and the expression of unconscious thoughts and emotions.

This tree is often called the weeping willow, a reference to its association with grief, an emotion that may often be repressed. When we allow ourselves to experience our emotions, we can move through them towards inner strength and deepened creativity. While some sources suggest wearing willow or putting a piece of it beneath the pillow, meditating by a willow tree may serve the same effect.

Choose Your Tree

If you have trees on your property, or if you have the opportunity to meet them in city parks, you may want to choose a favorite as your meditation partner. If your favorite tree isn't physically available, you can look for a picture or photo.

Another way to incorporate the energy of a particular tree is to take a related flower essence. While the Bach Flower Remedies are my standard, many other systems use the flowers or bark of different trees.

Trees can be our companions and teachers. You can add a new dimension to your spiritual path by greeting the friends who line it, sheltering it with their branches.

God is the experience of looking at a tree and saying, "Ah!"
--Joseph Campbell



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