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Spring is all around me here in Georgia. We have flowers and trees and rain all around us. The birds are building their nests in my plants and on our deck and I’m seeing more deer on our land and neighborhood. I took a quick neighborhood walk instead of going to the woods and there were 4-5 deer in the middle of the street. It felt like a little nod from the woods even though I wasn’t there. It was lovely. The spring equinox was just a few days ago and I wanted to share a practice with you that I use regularly. I speak with nature, and most often the I speak with the trees. 

Now while this is not typical for a university professor, I highly recommend it. In my experience, being in connection with nature is a particularly powerful healing source. There are many others that practice forest bathing, or using the senses in a meditative process to take in the natural world and particularly trees. 

Most shamanic practices are earth and nature-based spirituality, and involve a respect for mother earth, water, fire, and air and a reciprocity with all things in nature. Reciprocity simply is a practice of not just taking from nature, but seeing our relationship with nature as one with mutual respect, giving and receiving.  We’ve lost this connection to giving back and taking care of our natural world. We suffer from nature deficit disorder as individuals, but also as a society. 

So how would you get started speaking with nature and particularly trees? We start with the respect and the reciprocity, which is simply asking. Before you touch or hug or talk to a tree, you can simply ask, “may I touch you” or “may I enter your energy field?” It’s simple respect for these beautiful beings. The way that I see all of nature is that they are filled with life force and that they have way more wisdom than the traditional Western society gives them. When you have asked for permission, you can listen for a feeling in your body of a yes or a no, or you may hear words. Listen deeply with your body and your heart. If you receive a yes, then you can again listen to your body with what would like to happen next. 

Perhaps you want to touch the tree, or ask it a question. I like to sit with trees when I’m in the woods and bring a situation or a question I have to the tree. As I sit and take in the sights, sounds, and sensations of the forest, I create space to allow information to drop in about that subject. Sometimes it’s a little nudge to do something, sometimes it’s an image or a word. Sometimes it’s just the full presence of love that I feel. When I feel complete and it’s time to go, I always offer something to the trees. A song, words of thanks, an acorn, leaves, or flower petals. In traditional cultures, corn meal or tobacco is used. If I use something that I didn’t bring, I always ask that object for permission to be offered as well. 

And you can use this process not only for the trees but for all plants, flowers, and animals. Asking for permission. Listening. Offering a thank you. Listening deeply to nature is similar to how you listen deeply to your body and your guides. In many cultures, trees can be spirit guides in the same way animals can be. They offer a particular medicine that helps us humans get unstuck, get out of our brains, heal and get well. 

It doesn’t have to be only those that live near lots of trees. It can be the one tree in your neighborhood. Or a bush in your yard, a plant in the house, or a bird that you see. You can even just sit outside and feel the sun on your face and ask the elements for help. 

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