Coexisting with nature · Healthy lifestyle

The wisdom of trees

Never tell your frustrations to a prickly ash tree.

Back in May I attended a two-day spirituality and energetics workshop taught by Scott Schoner of The Human Path. I’ve been trying to get more in touch with my own spiritual identity lately, but I really didn’t know what to expect from the class.

silver maple tree
a random silver maple tree

The weekend’s class was entirely outdoors, with all of our exercises spent in the shade of ash juniper, oak and mesquite trees, so from the very start we had an immediate connection with our natural surroundings. This was an important element of the class, Scott explained. Because so many of us live in cities, we lose touch with our connection to nature and our relationship with the natural world.

And throughout the weekend Scott led us through guided meditations, talked about our relation to the earth, and sent us to find personal “sit spots” where we would have time to reflect/wrestle with the issues we faced.

In one of the meditations, Scott asked us to imagine being in a safe place, and all I could do was reflect on a series of locations that had once made me feel secure and happy, but in hindsight were wrapped up with all kinds of painful emotions. As a result, I felt lost and disconnected, having no safe place in my head to retreat to when I needed to do so. However, in a second guided meditation, in which we met spiritual guides, I was shown a new place – or, I should say, an old place. I suddenly found myself within the deep shade of a silver maple tree, relaxing in the thick grass and enjoying the solitude of that space. It was a tree I knew from high school, and a place I hadn’t thought about in years.

Near the end of the second day, we were told to find a tree and talk to it. Scott wanted us to tell this tree all of our frustrations. It sounds weird, but being able to release emotions and frustrations to an inanimate object can be a good catharsis, after all, and it’s not like the tree is going to hold it against you or judge you. Instead, we were supposed to unload all of our baggage and let the tree take it for us.

That was the theory, at least.

prickly ash leaves
The leaves of a prickly ash tree

I chose a prickly ash tree because earlier I had learned of its medicinal properties, as well as the tart citrusy flavor of its leaves. Even though the tree has a lot of thorns, I wanted to believe it was a friendly tree. So, with a bit of trepidation and self-consciousness, I started to tell the tree what was on my mind, all the things that pissed me off and worried me.

Almost immediately, I sensed a response in my head: “Shut the fuck up.”

Was it the tree, or was it me? Either way, it was a pretty strong message, a signal that I needed to stop on that train of thought. And with a laugh, I took that advice and ended the exercise.

In the month since that class, I haven’t traveled back down that particular road, which to be honest was paved with self-doubt and self-pity, and should have been abandoned ages ago, but I just hadn’t found the courage to do so. The lessons and ‘advice’ that came from my moments of introspection, coupled with the more physical work of the THP primitive skills courses, have encouraged me to be more confident and centered in my daily life.

Out of the two days, I gained quite a bit more insight than I had expected, and truth be told, more than I had sought. I was able to reflect on some personal issues that had been hanging over my head and deal with them mercilessly; I also discovered the root of many of my frustrations had nothing to do with people or a given situation but instead centered on my personal values and goals.

Regardless of your religious beliefs, these kinds of exercises can be very nourishing and rewarding, because you get a rare chance to climb inside yourself and examine your life, what you’re doing and where you’re headed. At least, that’s what I got out of it.


Scott will be offering a FREE workshop, Moving Past the Illusion – An introductory class this Friday evening (July 8th) in Liberty Hill. The location is private property on the banks of the San Gabriel River, and is a pleasant drive north on N. 183 just outside of Austin. If you’re interested, visit meetup.com for more information; and even if you can’t make this class, he will again be offering the two-day workshop (like the one I attended) at the end of August.

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