Hug a Tree

Durand hug a tree

What? Yes, you read that right. Hug a tree. Ever done it? You can only comment on it if you have actually done it and experienced it. You may not mumble under your breath, or out loud, until you have tried it. I was encouraged to do this in a class I took several years ago. It certainly sounded different, and I couldn’t quite grasp the intellectual why or what for. I reminded myself that I am an adventurer and love to explore all kinds of things. Since I signed up for the experiential class and this assignment was part of it, I jumped in with a mixture of hesitance and anticipation. I remember enjoying the experience even though I initially felt awkward and silly.

Fast forward several years later. As a teacher and continuing student of meditative practices including qigong, breath work, metaphysics and mind-body connection, I have been taking another weekly series of classes to deepen my understanding and practice of these topics. One of the assignments for me personally was to be in nature as much as possible, to do my meditation practice with my back against a tree (or to just sit with the tree). I keep my journal with me to jot down whatever comes to mind during this time.

“In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful.” – Alice Walker

My first morning meditation with the tree in my yard was good. I sat on the ground against the tree and as soon as my back connected to the trunk I felt its strong support inviting me to lean on it. Nestling into the ground was surprisingly comfortable. I closed my eyes and told myself to just listen and feel. I was surprised how quickly I felt it. The sense of strength, soundness and oneness came to mind. I could literally feel a gentle vibration of energy coming from the ground, surging through the trunk of the tree. I continued to feel this during the quiet time of meditation. I wrote some notes in my journal, and was grateful to the tree for being there. I stood up and ended by wrapping my arms around the tree. Again, I was surprised by what I felt. It literally felt like the tree was hugging me back with warmth, acceptance and assurance. Wow.

Day 3 came and I was more hesitant on this day. Each day I changed trees wanting to gain different perspectives. During my class series, this sitting with trees was to be done daily (as much as possible). I was having doubts about how many different things I could actually feel or experience. I got quiet, snuggled into my position and listened intently for what would come. Once I opened my eyes, I simply looked at nature all around. I noticed the other trees, the grass, the flowers, the leaves, the ants, birds, dirt. I heard the whispers of the wind as it blew through the tree leaves, the birds as they sang.

“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.” — Khalil Gibran

The observation revealed such a strong message: Nature simply exists. It was formed with its own unique shapes, colors, function and purpose. It just is what it is. The grass doesn’t cry to be a flower. The flower doesn’t wish it was a different color or design, the tree isn’t disappointed that it isn’t a bush. I watched a bird land on the branch of the tree. It lingered a moment and then flew away. The tree didn’t shout out “wait, don’t go. Don’t leave me.” The tree is simply there for the birds to come visit and then move on. Each part of nature expresses itself the way it was naturally created. It accepts its role as creation intended it, and lives it. It simultaneously occurred to me how much humans want to change who they were created to be, not being happy to express their true nature. We like to complicate our existence, cover it up, change it or complain about it rather than simply be with our unique individuality. There are more “takes” that could be discussed with this thought but my aim is to keep it simple for the purpose of this article. Lately we often hear the phrases “be in the moment” or “just be,” but these get thrown around like people are supposed to know what it really means, and many times they don’t. It means to be in harmony with what is right where you are, in that moment. The moment you challenge what is in front of you is the moment you are out of harmony with existence.

These were observations that came from a simple meditation practice in nature. What will nature tell you? Hug a tree every day for 30 days. Do this for at least five minutes each day. I’d love to hear what your experience reveals.

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” – Lao Tzu