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F is for Forest and for Friendship

Updated: Apr 19

Austrian poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, encourages humans to live their questions, and this post comes from a point of deep enquiry that I hope will continue to harbour for many years to come because it feels so full of mystery and fun to have it alive in me:


What have  humans experienced in encountering a  tree of great character?

 

Possibly one of these comes to mind already? You have encountered a tree of great character unexpectedly  on a walk, or deliberately visited a famous tree when you have been travelling. You felt something when you were in the presence of the tree, and in some way, you were impacted, altered even.



I have been inspired so many times by people sharing of these kinds of encounters since the beginning of the Walking with Trees Project in January 2020. Who knew then that the trees in my square mile would sustain me through Covid, ask me to write a book, give me the faith I needed to build The Soul Shed,  and change my life in gentle and very meaningful ways.



In this Earth month I have been connecting with two other authors of books about trees, Nancy Houser-Bluhm and Mike Lambourn, and we have been talking about their inspiration for us. On Sunday 28th The Soul Shed is offering a free event for us to explore just this: our experiences with Trees of great character. I do hope you will consider joining Nancy and myself, as your hosts, and share a photo of one of these trees.





I'd like to share a bit more about some of these trees with you here now. I got a little bit excited by realising I could use FOREST as an acronym for this, so here goes….six experiences common for humans who have encountered a tree of great character. 


Friendship

Openings

Recognition

Equanimity

Solace

Transformation

 

Friendship.


One definition of friendship that works very well for me is this: ‘A state of mutual trust and support between allies’. Is it possible for a tree and a human to be friends? In ‘The Giving tree’ by Shel Silverstein it certainly seems so for the boy and the tree in the beginning of the book. As the boy gets older his relationship with the tree becomes increasingly one-sided, but at the beginning the mutuality of their friendship is strong and true. And perhaps the trees of our childhood are the ones that most feel like friends in our hearts memories – because those were the trees that were a part of our neighbourhood community, and of our childhood games.




But trees can befriend us in adulthood too. A dear old schoolfriend of mine felt the friendship of an oak tree in a field near his home at a very testing time in his life, when his wife was in hospital in a critical condition. He told me that it was this Oak  that re-sourced him at this incredibly difficult time, and  helped him to find the courage to stay strong for his wife. He has not forgotten this.



Openings.


The first year of the Walking with Trees Project was spent with a Celtic Tree calendar based on the Ogham tree alphabet. 'The Healing Power of Trees' by Sharlyn Hildago is a wonderful book and I recommend it highly. A group of friends was willing to join me on facebook in 2020 to walk with Sharlyns tree calendar, and then of course, in April, life changed for ever when the Covid pandemic arrived, and was followed by ‘lockdowns’ and ‘sheltering in  place’ across the world, It was this time, where I could not in conscience go about my business as a self-employed decorator, that I walked and walked and walked around the countryside where I live, and the trees offered openings to me.



My tradition is more Anglo-Saxon than Celtic, and my spiritual teachings come from the wisdom of the Enneagram, and an embodied awareness of the chakras, rather than Druidry or paganism, and so it was through these embedded places of inner mapping and understanding that the trees reached me. I found that the trees had different personalities and energetic signatures, and that these correlated with the mirror and map that the enneagram offers humans in self-understanding.


The silver birch, for example, mapped with enneagram point seven for me: a friendly, outgoing, badass  pioneer species, always the first to make a home even in an inhospitable environment; fast moving and responsive to change, and channelling inspirations and insights like a lightening rod from sky to earth!

If you would like to read more about the openings I received from the trees, I hope you will have a look at my book, Take it to the Trees, by Samantha Taroni. You can also download a free chapter, here



Recognition



This is a big one, and the idea  behind a forthcoming free   event online  at The Soul Shed! you are warmly invited to join us and Meet the Trees with Faces. For meaningful correspondence to happen between trees and humans, it takes our  realisation that trees are trying to communicate with us! Some trees have faces, and this makes it very easy for humans to begin to relate to them through our imaginations, and through the eye of the heart. Nancy Houser-Bluhm, author of ‘Whispers for Terra’ introduced me to Mike Lambourn, author of ‘Breathing with trees’ and the three of us have collaborated this month.






Each of our books centralise the relationships between humans and trees, and are invitations into that part of ourselves where such things are possible.  If you would like to join us at this free event, the price of entry is a photograph of a tree with a face, or a tree of great character,  from your own corner of the world. This will be a time to connect and share. Please take a look here for more details.  







Equanimity

This word is one of those essence qualities that can be a kind of yardstick for measuring our internal state. (its also the essence quality for type four on the enneagram if that’s in your lexicon, and connects with the idea of Holy origin – a sense of being in complete connection with all that is).





A dictionary  definition of equanimity  is ‘calmness and composure, especially in a difficult situation’. This is where actively engaging with a tree within its biosphere can be immensely helpful to a human. You might have seen one of those images that shows how similar a trees canopy can look to human lungs, and there is indeed a kind of symbiotic relationship between us – the tree takes in our waste product – carbon dioxide, and transforms it into Oxygen, and conversely we take in O2, and transform it into CO2.  This means that intentionally breathing with a tree can be an incredibly regulating activity for us to do if we are feeling in anyway out of whack. For a resourcing breathing practice with a tree, you can click here, and to book a place on a free forest walk in Alton, Hampshire in May, all about breathing in the forest as a part of Alton Walking Festival, have a look here at walk no.83. Last time I looked there were still three spaces! You might also be interested in two other weekend Soul Shed walks that are part of the programme...if so, see you in Alton in May!

 



Solace  

Sometimes there is a deeper need.


The archetypal points on the enneagram have a distinct energetic signature, and when I was walking with the trees in 2020 I began to notice that I was corresponding  with the trees with this enneagramatic lens as a kind of intermediary space of translation between us. This meant that I was recognising qualities of the enneagram points in the trees, and that the trees  were offering me their version of these qualities that I needed when I took my human questions to them. This is how the book ‘Take it to the trees’ came to be. Covid was a time of emotional disturbance for many of us. However when I needed courage of heart, I would visit an Oak and that need would be met, when I needed deep compassion, I would visit a willow. In this sense I found that the trees were able to offer me healing to different parts of my being. If this way of working with Trees – as life companions through times of challenge and transition, speaks to you, then you might like to book some deep-mapping sessions with me, and you will probably enjoy this article too.



The archetypal points on the enneagram have a distinct energetic capacity, and when I was walking with the trees in 2020 I began to notice that I was corresponding  with the trees with this lens as a kind of  intermediary space of translation between us. This meant that I was recognising the essence qualities in the trees, and that the trees  were offering me the essence qualities I needed when I took my human questions to the trees. This is how the book ‘Take it to the trees’ came to be. When I needed courage of heart, I would visit an Oak, when I needed deep compassion, I would visit a willow. In this sense I found that the trees were able to offer me healing to different parts of my being. If this way of working with Trees – as life companions through times of challenge and transition, speaks to you, then you might like to book some deep-mapping sessions with me, and you will probably enjoy this article too.

 

Transformation


I wonder if this is the biggest one of all, holding space for all the others...the forest as a place of transformation, and a place for our transformation. We can actually change our state by spending some time in the forest, with the trees. It is no coincidence that the forest is the setting for many stories where children come of age, learn to trust their instincts, and experience things in the outside world that look very much like rites of pasage. Hansel and Gretel, Little red riding hood, and Goldilocks are all shaped by the encounters they have in the forest, and learn archetypal life lessons.


This is why forest stories are the inspiration for a new offering from The Soul Shed that I really hope you will have a look at.


On Sunday May 26th , a series of seven crafted monthly gatherings begins.


‘Open into your instinctual knowing’ which will be an experience of deep-diving into forest story, and learning practices to re-source the kind of  contact with yourself and your life force  that can be deeply restorative.

It is a journey inviting you to open into your Body, Mind and Heart.


You see the full course brochure here


Until the end of April this is available at an early bird price too.






One way or another, I hope to connect with you in the forest, soon!


Big Love


Sam




 

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