By Barbara Janelle M.A.
I remember walking among trees as a young child with my parents, playing under the big trees in my grandfather’s backyard, and later as a teen-ager and then as an adult riding horses through the woods. Always these experiences were accompanied with deep feelings of peace and quiet joy, feelings of “rightness” and what I would now call wholeness. In 1988, I heard Dora Kunz talk of the ability of trees to store prana (life energy) and as highly structured beings to speak to the order in the human energy field. This started me on a journey of discovery and deepening relationship with trees that continues to this day.
Trees Store Prana
In that 1st Annual Canadian Invitational Healers’ Workshop in Ontario, Dora said that she encouraged even the most ill of patients to go outdoors each day because this brought about a major energy exchange in the field. Also being near water or trees was important because they stored prana and people could benefit from this. Big healthy trees supported the order in the human energy field: another boost to health. I knew that I felt good in the presence of trees and water and this helped to explain why that was true.
Trees in Image and Metaphor
Around that same time, I took many workshops that helped me develop ideas and images around being a tree, and eventually I incorporated many of these experiences in my own teaching:
a) Emmagene Borden, one of the first TT teachers in Ontario, led a powerful meditation on being a tree: “Ask the spirit of the tree if you can come inside…feel your roots grow deep, your trunk strong and your arms extending up and out into branches – branches that reach to the sky.” As a tree, I felt myself stretched between Earth and Sky and with this came feelings of strength and physical integration, and a sense of lengthening that is similar to the result of a good Feldenkrais workout.
Emmagene also included the idea of a tree as a pump drawing energy from the Sky through the trunk into the Earth and from the Earth up to the Sky. This image of tree as energy gatherer and transferral system was very useful and powerful for me, and one that I eventually took into my own teaching.
b) In the Tellington Jones Equine Awareness Method trainings that I attended, we explored the feeling of groundedness and emotional and physical balance with exercises that involved visualizing ourselves as trees with deep and wide roots. We did variations on Tai Chi exercises to learn how rootedness enabled us to stay balanced and at ease even though partners tried to unbalance us.
c) Later in TT, I taught a similar exercise in which I related balance to awareness and emotional state (1):
Working in pairs, one person takes a minute to worry about something in their lives. The person signals the partner when deeply worried, and the partner pushes the person’s shoulder.
Then the person takes a minute to visualize being a tree with deep and wide roots. When that feeling is in place, the partner is signalled and again pushes the person’s shoulder.
The difference in stability and balance is quite noticeable in these two states.
d) Eventually I taught a centering exercise that combined ideas from Emmagene’s visualization and my own experiences: imagine yourself as a tree with long and wide roots reaching into the Earth drawing energy up into your trunk. As a tree, your branches reach for the Sky and gather energy from the sun and air to support your well-being. Stretched between Earth and sky, you are grounded, balanced and stable.
e) As a simple and very effective centering and grounding exercise, I invite people to breathe in through their upper branches and out through their feet and roots.
Trees as Conscious Beings and Healers
In 1991, Merlin Homer gave a half-day workshop to my students in which she introduced an exercise that changed my awareness for all time. The exercise directions are:
a) energetically scan the trunk of a tree that you can reach easily
b) then, ask the tree to scan you.
The experience of being scanned by a tree is remarkable. For some the scan is internal, for others it is outward from the heart, while for others it may involve both sides as the tree instructs the person to “turn around.” Almost everyone who has tried this exercise has been aware of the tree scanning. For me, it was an early experience in receiving direction/communication from a tree and that was life-shifting! Merlin encouraged me to try this same exercise with grass and flowers and bushes.
With my growing awareness of the importance of grounding in the TT treatment (2), I was fascinated by how powerfully this proceeded when a treatment was done under a large tree. During such treatments, I began talking with the trees and asking for assistance. The assistance came not only with changes in the receiver’s field (deep grounding and increased strength and integration in the field), but in increased centeredness in me. I found that trees were powerful partners in the TT treatment! No wonder Dora like to work outdoors under trees so much.
In TT treatments, I started to partner with other kinds of plants as well, asking for their assistance in drawing off congestion in the field. A bush, a flower and even a houseplant will actually move and reach toward the site of congestion, and I stand back and watch the field change. It is always amazing to do a TT treatment in the vicinity of live plants.
To partner in the TT treatment with trees and plants is to walk into a profound sense of peace and great wisdom. Communication comes not only with changes in the receiver’s field and in my own centering, but also in awareness and insight. For many years now, I have gone to trees for help whenever a difficult situation arises and I have always received strength and insight from them.
In my TT Levels 2 & 3 and Advanced courses I teach about the wholeness of life as demonstrated by working with trees:
Trees are very wise and are among the most profound healers on the planet. The following exercise offers some experience in working with trees.
- Choose a mature tree with which to work. Notice how the choice is made. Did you choose, or did the tree do the choosing?
- Walk toward the tree and notice how you feel. Go right up to the tree and touch it. Then turn around and walk away from the tree. Notice how you feel.
- Now walk toward the tree and energetically scan the ground with your hands as you go. Turn and walk away from the tree and scan. Where does the energy change?
- Return to the tree, and scan the part of its trunk that you can reach easily.
- Then ask the tree to scan you.
- Then put your back against the tree and ask it to work on you to support your health. Notice what happens. Do you recognize when the tree is finished working with you?
- When the tree’s work on you is finished, ask it a question. You can ask for insight into some issue in your life, or you can ask a generic question, “Tell me something you want me to know.” Notice emotions, physical feelings, images, memories, words, etc. that come to you.
- When you are finished thank the tree.
- Take some time to write or draw your experiences.
- Has this exercise changed the way you think about trees?
Many who have tried this have reported very rapid pain relief. I recommend that migraine sufferers go and stand or sit with their backs against a large healthy tree either at the first sign of a headache or in mid-course. I know of nothing that will clear it faster than work from a tree. And for insight into self and life, trees offer tremendous wisdom.
The other day, I sat in my garden and thought about how much I own my teachers: Dora Kunz, Dolores Krieger, Merlin Homer, Emmagene Borden, Linda Tellington-Jones, Penelope Smith, Chloe, Magic Bailey, Houdini, Sam, the Sari horses, Ruskey, the horsechestnut tree in our yard in London, ON, the olive tree in my garden here, the redwoods in the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, and so many more who have led me into a greater understanding of the unity of all life. I am so very grateful to them all.
- I am not sure where this exercise comes from. Did someone else develop it, or did I put it together? I do not know.
- Barbara Janelle, “On Grounding Visualizations,” In Touch, Vol. IX, No 4, November 1997