Tree Hugging 101
Written by Kesh Brown
Life is about connection
I grew up in a generation where kids spent nearly all of their free time outside.
We climbed trees, played hide-n-seek in the woods and fields, splashed around the creeks and ponds and lakes, and oceans too, if one were lucky enough to live near the coast.
Kids fished and hiked and climbed rocks. They slept under the stars in the backyard, or nearby woods. Just like their forefathers, they were intrepid explorers. And the world was full of wonder and magic.
Fast forward a mere 50 years and things look sadly different.
Today’s kids are mostly dull-eyed digital drones, hopelessly addicted to television, video games, smart-phones, tablets, computers, YouTube, FaceBook, Instagram, and all other forms of electronic fantasy world entertainment I’ve left out.
Today’s kids are dangerously disconnected from not just the natural world, but from Life itself.
Adults don’t fare much better these days, either.
Too many of us have somehow gotten the idea that going camping and spending time in nature means dragging all the comforts of home out into the woods with them.
And don’t forget all the big-boy toys.
Climate-controlled RV’s, decked out with big TV’s, stereo, and satellite internet. ATV’s, dirt bikes and mountain bikes loaded on the back, enough beer to piss out a small pond, a few favorite guns, and lots of ammo.
In fact, better bring extra ammo. With all this beer, we’re bound to be in the mood for a little target practice, maybe shoot the hell out of a few trees!
If this sounds vaguely familiar, please understand that, while I applaud you for making the effort to be out in nature, I believe that you have somehow missed the point!
Yes, you’re still seeking to connect with the natural world, and that’s great, but doing so via the human propensity for domination and control is not the way to find what you’re really seeking.
We can only find true connection, harmony if you will, when we let go of the deeply ingrained idea that we’re somehow separate from the natural world. We’re not!
We are it and it is Us.
Wait, that’s worth repeating…
When it comes to the natural world, WE are IT and IT is US!
Elementally speaking, the connection between You & Tree runs much deeper than you may think.
The four most common elements found in living organisms are Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen and Nitrogen.
The basic chemical composition of your average tree is:
- 50% carbon
- 6% hydrogen
- 42% oxygen
- 1% nitrogen
- 1% other elements (calcium, potassium, sodium, magnesium, iron, and manganese)
The basic chemical composition of your average human is:
- 18.5% carbon
- 9.5% hydrogen
- 65% oxygen
- 3.2% nitrogen
- 3.8% other elements (calcium, potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulphur and chlorine)
What’s of note here is that these four main elements make up fully 99% of tree and 96.2% of human.
Which brings us to tree hugging.
I wanted to say that tree hugging is at least on par with what grass-rolling is for dogs, but I worried, what if only dogs laughed at that? Then I quickly realized how silly that was… dogs can’t laugh. Duh! (and just between you, me and the cat, I hear most dogs are pretty slow readers, too!)
To be clear, I’m not speaking of tree-hugging here as the term is more commonly used when referring to the ideologies and actions of environmentalists in pursuit of defending the Earth.
Instead, what I’m referring to is actual, wrap-your-lovin’-arms-around-me-baby tree hugging. Full body contact. No need to be shy here. You & Tree have a lifelong relationship already. You, by virtue of the fact that you live and breathe, need the oxygen that Tree creates during photosynthesis. And Tree, somewhat poetically, needs the carbon contained in your exhale. See… a match made in heaven, right?
Seriously… tree hugging is big medicine.
I personally know lots of people who will swear to you (on their grandmother’s grave, even!) that when done properly, hugging trees brings them to states of deep peace, and even downright joy. It can help with anxiety, depression, ADHD, and maybe even cure a headache. So what’s not to like?
How To Hug A Tree (novice level)
1. Leave your cell phone at home.
Please trust that this action will not cause actual death.
Though I’m required to say that in rare instances minor convulsions may occur, mostly in teens. Should you experience a convulsion lasting more than 4 hours, please contact your doctor or local health professional immediately.
Also, lose the wrist watch and/or FitBit.
2. Choose the perfect place (as best is feasible).
Although it can be done in a place that has just a single tree, the energy will be stronger if there are numbers of trees in the immediate area. A nicely wooded lot or better yet an actual forest would be great, if that’s possible for you.
3. After you arrive at your chosen location, the first thing you must do is simply sit down among the trees and breathe!
Trying to rush through this exercise, as human beings are prone to do, will not be fruitful. You’ve got to slow down.
4. Take time to bring deep awareness to both the macrocosm and microcosm you’re sitting with.
As you sit and breathe (remember, patience is a virtue!), begin to notice your surroundings more deeply. Look, not just at the trees, but also the plant life, the rocks, the grasses, the birds, the bees, the crawly things, all of it.
Don’t be nervous. It’s only real Life. It won’t bite… much.
Steps 3 & 4 together should take you at least 15-20 minutes, which of course, you’ll need to approximate, since you don’t have your watch!
5. Now bring your full awareness to bear upon the particular tree you plan to hug.
Take notice of its height, width, girth. Does it have leaves? If not, that’s okay, but if so, do the leaves look healthy? Look up. Are there any broken limbs overhead? Could the tree possibly be plotting your untimely demise?
Please answer no…
6. Ask the tree if it wishes to be hugged.
Even it that sounds silly to you. You don’t have to ask out loud. Just think it.
Then pause a few moments and allow space in yourself for an answer to be received. You might be surprised at how this works.
The answer may come in to you as nothing more than a subtle feeling… like a tingle or something.
After you’ve become practiced at the art of tree hugging, you will come to understand that a particular tingly feeling might mean “No” and a different tingly feeling is somehow much more of a “Yes.”
And there may be other signs as well, if only you will pay attention.
For instance, let’s say that after asking, and pausing, you now notice for the very first time that the plant life surrounding the base of the tree is actually poison sumac.
Hmmm… perhaps the object of your affection isn’t quite ready for intimacy.
7. Assuming you’ve gotten to a “Yes” (I know, kind of like dating, huh!), you’re now ready for contact.
Place one hand on the bark. I prefer my left hand, perhaps because it’s closer to my heart, but whatever. The important thing is what happens next.
It’s now time to offer the tree a warm, heart-felt hello, as when you’re greeting a long-lost friend.
Again, there’s no need to speak aloud, your real line of communication lies in the unseen world of thought and feeling. And it needs to be genuine.
You’ll know it’s going well if you’re continuing to receive those yes-type tingles. But don’t worry if the tingles aren’t coming quick enough for you.
It pays to remember that any reciprocation from the tree is happening on tree time, not human time.
8. Next, you can bring your body up close and personal, pressing either your cheek or forehead against the tree.
Offer more feelings of warmth and greeting.
Now pause for a minute or two and visualize both yourself and the tree as what each of you truly are… trillions upon trillions of vibrating atoms. And in this moment, you are simply allowing time for the energy of tree and the energy of human being to find their unique, combined vibrational harmony.
Almost makes sense when you think of it like that, huh!
9. Now it’s finally time for full contact hugging.
But don’t just spread your arms wide and call it good. Instead, move slow and deliberate. Listen. Breathe. Pause. Listen deeper.
Welcome… Feel the raw power of my being-ness. My solid-ness.
Allow yourself to experience my life-force as it flows beneath this bark.
Imagine. Let yourself feel your feet energetically taking root in the earth, alongside my own. Imagine. Stretch your energy body slowly upwards towards the full height and breadth of me. Take notice that even in the stillness, I hold a gentle, almost imperceptible sway about me.
Take your time. Remember, this is big medicine. It demands the sacrifice of your respect, honor, patience, and of course, love.
Can you go there, silly human? Or are you so deeply attached to your belief in our separateness that you will walk away without ever knowing the gift of me?
The bird, the ant, the bear, and the great Earth Mother herself are wise enough to understand the true sacredness of my life.
But human beings? They can be funny.
Even as they understand that it is I who dutifully takes in the carbon they exhale, returning to them the oxygen that binds them to this existence.
Still, even then, there are many who would destroy me, and many more who will allow it, if only through their silence.
Please understand, human. I do not mean to berate you.
I seek only to awaken you, that you may be free to choose from your own sense of things, rather than simply accepting that which your greed-based culture may choose.
Know also, regardless of your choices, that I shall still offer you my gifts. Freely. I must. It is my purpose.
Now relax. Allow yourself to open deeper. Feel the truth of me in all that I am. Let me heal you.
10. Let your hug be of the long-and-lingering variety.
Aim for a good ten or fifteen minutes worth of hug. (I know, I know… the watch thing, right!) During this time, please continue to contemplate tree in any manner that thoughts may come to you.
And listen, always listen.
The natural world is bursting with true wisdom.
And even though we are an inseparable part of this same natural world, our misguided, man-made belief in the illusion (delusion) that we are somehow outside it all has been devastatingly effective, leaving us nearly bereft of any real knowledge concerning the sacred truths of Life.
11. Remember to say thank you for what you have received.
As you step away, ask yourself, what can I do to give back.
How To Hug A Tree (intermediate level)
- Same as novice level, except naked.
- Trust me, it’s awesome!
How To Hug A Tree (pro level)
- Same as intermediate level, but do it with your beloved.
- Bonus points if you complete the process by making love beneath the tree.
- Sorry, you don’t get an image with this one. Go out and create your own!
We are talking only to ourselves. We are not talking to the rivers, we are not listening to the wind and stars. We have broken the great conversation. By breaking that conversation we have shattered the universe. All the disasters that are happening now are a consequence of that spiritual “autism.”
~Thomas Berry, The Dream of the Earth