How to Hug a Tree
by Masha Bennett http://www.practicalhappiness.co.uk
When I include this exercise in my courses and personal development sessions, many people are reluctant to try it. But virtually everyone later reports that that it was a profound and healing experience..
If you have access to a real tree, that’s great. If you don’t, you can still do the exercise in your imagination. Think of a tree that you know – or you can make one up in your mind. Then go through the following steps, slowly, with no hurry, trying to maintain an attitude of curious openness…
1. Approach the tree slowly.
2. From some distance, notice the shape of the crown, the way the branches reach out to the sky.
3. Take in the colours, different shades of green, the texture of the foliage, how the leaves are intricately positioned, to allow in as much sunlight as possible.
4. Notice – what do you like most about the tree? And is there anything you don’t like – are there any flaws, perhaps some damage to the branches, gaps in foliage, anything that is not pleasing to your eye?
5. Come closer, touch the tree trunk, feel the bark gently underneath your palm, your fingers. Is it rough, or smooth? Warm, cool?
6. Lean on the tree trunk, allow it to support your body.
7. Optional (I really like this bit): put your cheek on the bark, really allow that sensitive part of your to feel the tree’s outer skin.
8. Put your arms around the tree – depending on the size of the tree, your hands may or may not meet on the other side of the trunk.
9. Close your eyes and focus on your physical sensations and your emotions. Feel the energy of the tree (it is a very large energy field of a very large organism!)
10. Spend a few minutes just quietly noticing whatever you are experiencing, without trying to analyse or judge it
11. You may like to ask the tree a question – out loud, or in your mind perhaps. Wait for the answer. This may come as thoughts, images, physical sensations, an awareness, insight.
12. Let go of the tree trunk slowly. Thank the tree.
You may now feel energized, or perhaps a little emotional, or possibly calm and peaceful. Whatever it is, it’s the right thing for now. You can now take your new insights, the new energy, the new connections with you.
Try this with different trees – and if you can, try it both with a real tree and a tree in your imagination – the experience will vary but will always be healing and enlightening.
Masha Bennett is a UKCP registered psychotherapist in private practice, specialising in psychological trauma and addictions. She has worked for a number of years within the UK criminal justice system, including running a drug rehabilitation programme in a women’s prison, and offered psychotherapy to staff and patients in the National Health Service. Masha teaches trauma awareness, therapeutic and self-help tools to professionals and general public and has delivered training across Europe, Asia and Middle East. Her website is www.practicalhappiness.co.uk.
I’ve always found forests to be great places for mental healing. The trees give off such a powerful energy of peace. I particularly enjoy walking in Sherwood Forest.