Friday, February 1, 2013

Creation – Walking with trees

Walking Through the Forest 1905 by Bertalan Por
Silent Moon - How can we find silent time to restore and regenerate our enthusiasm for our lives/work/relationships? - CAYA's full moon question.
There is new life in the soil for every man. There is healing in the trees for tired minds and for our overburdened spirits, there is strength in the hills, if only we will lift up our eyes. Remember that nature is your great restorer. ~ Calvin Coolidge
Look at a tree, a flower, a plant. Let your awareness rest upon it. How still they are, how deeply rooted in Being. Allow nature to teach you stillness.  ~ Eckhart Tolle
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature -- the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” ~ Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

I find it’s much easier to get to know a tree’s personality in the winter.  Sure, it’s nice to sit under the shade of an ancient one during the summer.  But, in the winter I find they let their leaves down – so to speak.  I’ve found that a tree you've passed during the summer dressed with frilly green leaves may not be who you think they are dancing freely in the winter winds.  It also could be that many of us humans are hibernating and not out walking in the cold so they can be themselves.  Often I’m the lone bus stop walker and readily greeted by my neighborhood’s trees when I get home.  They act like I’m the only person they’ve see all day besides the mail carrier.  And, on those crappy gray Ohio winter’s days I find they always manage to change my mood into something cheerier by the time I get home.

Julian Cameron in her book Walking in This World, tells readers “to walk on it“(11).  She described how she would park the truck somewhere and walk a forty-five minute loop in the foothills of the Taos Mountain.  She felt directionless and creatively drained at this time of her life.  By walking she found solace and a way to work through grief.  These walks in nature help her sort things out and to hear herself better.  This was a way to connect to something bigger.  She says that guidance was always there - she just needed to listen and observe.

Walking out in nature has a similar effect on me.   My feet hitting the pavement for thirty minutes during lunch always manage to create a mini Sabbath that renews my spirit.  My relationship with the outdoors (i.e., trees, birds, sky, sun and potted flowers in the summer) uplifts my spirit and I'm able to face the afternoon more centered. 

I’m like many who work in a cubicle with a computer and phone that by its make-up separates me from creation.  When I haven’t taken a lunch walk outside by four o’clock I find myself stuck in the intellectual side of me versus being in relationship.  I become so focused on the problems that I can’t hear or see through to solutions.  The projects become overwhelming mounds of paper and unanswered e-mails.  It is at this point I know immediately I’ve become disconnected from the natural world.  I need to get outside and nourish my spirit and hear guidance beyond Google.


The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles. ~ Anne Frank


Shinrin-yoku (i.e., forest bathing or walking) is a major form of relaxation in Japan.  In a 2005 study, shinrin-yoku was shown to be a possible method of stress reduction.  All stress related outcomes except for hostility were shown to be reduced by simply walking through the woods.  In another study, Tokyo's Nippon Medical School showed women who spent two to four hours in the woods on two consecutive days experienced a nearly 50 percent increase in the activity of cancer-fighting white blood cells.

My silent walks outdoors go beyond scientifically studied health benefits.  My walks are about connecting and asking for guidance from entities the mainstream culture denies existence.  It’s about refocusing on viewing nature as alive and sacred.  It’s about building a friendship and being engaged with all creation; and in turn allowing creation to care for my soul and brokenness. 


Activities without headphones, cell phones and smart phones:

“The mountains are calling and I must go.” ~ John Muir
“To sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment.” Jane Austen

Take a walk allow you mind to relax, ask a question about a problem you are having and listen.

Take a walk in the woods and meditate on this walking poem by Christine Valters Paintner:

Tree of Life
Rise up in me,
Rooting me deeply in the ground
and inviting me to extend my branches far into the sky
Native American Prayer 

My feet touch earth and dance to the drums which are in my heart as well.

If my feet do not touch earth the dance will not be good.
And the music in my heart will all be still.

Articles to read on trees and health:
USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Research Station. "Tree and human health may be linked." ScienceDaily, 16 Jan. 2013. Web. 24 Jan. 2013.

Forest bathing enhances human natural killer activity and expression of anti-cancer proteins. 2007 Apr-Jun;20(2 Suppl 2):3-8

Spliner, Maggie. Forest Bathing The Healing Power of a Walk in the Woods. Natural Awaking. April 2012. Web. 24 Jan. 2013.


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