We are facing unprecedented weather- and human- related Earth changes. As we provide essentials for our displaced brothers and sisters, restore habitat, rebuild, and still watch our oceans creep more deeply into beaches, lap at dwellings, and swallow islands, we ask, what more can we do? How can we live in greater harmony with our home? What are the ethics of human relationship to the Earth? Can we correct the imbalances we have created?
These imbalances are partly the consequences of our separation from each other. And from nature. Right now, some of us are called by love to restore our connection with each other and with the earth. Are you one of them?
Many people feel the peace and uplift of a pristine environment. Can we cooperate with nature to keep it that way? Can we access its wisdom? Can we commune with nature to reverse the ecological damage? Can we find joy and insight in doing so?
I say yes.
Everyone can communicate with the intelligences of nature.
Access to the intelligence in nature is our rightful human heritage,. However, it’s not often acknowledged in contemporary Western culture. Except in circumstances that we don’t necessarily acknowledge publicly: pet owners know they communicate heart-to-heart with their dog or cat. That’s a start!
Can we have the same love and bonding with plants and insects? To connect with other species, we must release bias and phobias. And we must also stop defining the worth of a small creature by human standards, but learn to see its inherent worth.
For example, a baby slug is perfectly designed to thrive in moisture, and eat plant material we don’t want. It is also exquisitely vulnerable. We could appreciate it for its inherent beauty. And not judge it when it eats plant material we do want. This shift helps us find the richness of a new relationship.
Thoughts matter. If even to a small degree our thoughts invalidate an insect’s beauty, intelligence and worth, it may taint our efforts to connect. And it hurts our own hearts!
Extend Boundaries, Heart
I once heard someone say that in an embrace with his sweetheart, he couldn’t tell where he left off and she began. This is a common human experience. It reveals the truth that the heart has no boundaries.
Consciously extending boundaries is necessary for a mother to have “eyes in the back of her head”, and know if her child is safe. It is useful for public speaking or theater. There, it is called projection. It allows the performer’s voice to carry to the entire audience without straining. In nature, this same extension allows us to experience more than our physical bodies.
Sensory Modes Beyond the Body
In the garden or in nature, I extend boundaries to embrace our co-inhabitants. I become aware of subtle impressions. Some people translate these impressions into pictures, or visual images. Some experience them as words, an inner hearing. Some have an inner knowing without words or images. All are equally valid, although our society typically discounts the feeling/intuitive and endorses the visual.
The next step is negotiation, which requires knowing my desired outcome. When it serves both parties needs, it is called win-win negotiation. This is just as valid for plants, pets, insects and other creatures as it is for humans. Machaelle Small Wright has identified co-creative negotiation principles, based on how humans set the purpose and direction of the garden, and how Nature responds.
Mindful walking with Mother Earth has a way of blessing us back.
Divine Creation, Little Folk in Nature
The Talmud says that for every blade of grass, there is an angel that whispers, “Grow, grow!” There is similarly one for every tiny creature. In different cultures they are called variously nature spirit, earth spirits, fairies, elves, elementals, orisha, “little people”.
In 365 Days of Walking the Red Road, Terri Jean says, “Every element of Creation expresses the Creator. Within each mountain, each stone, and each heart lies the Great Spirit. All are of the Creator, and each particle of the universe is equally deserving of respect and admiration… Know this and give praise and prayer.” (More readings are in my Bibliography.)
I call these forces by the Sanskrit term, “devas”, which means “shining ones”.
Communion with nature can be playful, joyous and expansive, as well as deeply healing. Thus we access Earth’s wisdom. Restore our health. And find solutions for our ecological and spiritual crisis!
Nature is talking. Are we listening? Or are we hurting, from the burdens of toxic pollution, oceans of plastic, and haphazard climate change? How much more do we need to hurt, before we recognize our oneness with each other, with nature, and with the planet? Before we learn to turn it around not only by environmental and political activism–also by embracing compassionate loving Presence.
How do we activate the loving presence that we know as our spiritual core?
Are you hungry to learn a compassionate communication with nature, and with the spirits of nature? And with our bodies that are part of Nature? “There is no time not to love.” (Charlie Murphy and Jamie Sieber)
Is now the time to harness our capacity to love to change ourselves and our planet?
The world has changed since I first taught Deva Communion in the year 2000. Hundreds, even thousands of people now talk to trees. And the trees talk back. Not only trees, all of nature is more open and supportive of humans learning to communicate with them.
Now is the time. The Earth has called us to be of service. And is offering to support us in learning to communicate with her. What I have to offer is “Body Whispering”, Deva Communion and Deva Communion Healing
What are Devas?
Deva is from a Sanskrit word, meaning “shining ones.” They are similar to what we call angels.
“For every blade of grass, there is an angel that whispers, “Grow, grow!”–the Talmud
Every person now alive, from every corner of the world, has ancestors that knew about these whispering angels. However, most of us have forgotten. (See On Talking With Trees to help remember.) There were different names for these angels and for the tiny beings under them: fairies, sprites, elves, nature spirits, little people, lukumi, orisha, yosei. If you are lucky, your grandmother or even parents mentioned them to you. Or you have known them as guides and companions, sources of inspiration or wisdom.
I call them Devas. All around the world, we clothe these vast angelic presences and tiny helpers in our imaginations. And we create stories about them, and about the “little people”. The little people help Devas to create what we see as Nature.
Devas also guide and direct the life of our body. Even our organs have a Deva that knows how it can function best. It whispers, “Heal, transform!”
Every thought triggers multiple events throughout the body, especially in the brain, neurons and immune system. (The Life of a Thought in the Brain.) We add meaning to the thought. Our meaning comes from our personal history and associations. And these trigger memories that determine our brain-body’s response. So when we have thoughts of loving kindness, it can bathe every cell with benefit.
Health practitioners know that our bodies have the intelligence to heal. From a small cut, to a broken leg, our bodies know what to do. We also know that emotional wounds respond to love. Taken a step further, when we accept our feelings, we can transform them. And another step: when we send love, compassion and gratitude to areas of our body that hurt, or store painful emotions, we activate that intelligence and life force to heal. We bring peace to our life.
We then see how our stories change.
How do our stories affect our health?
Our thoughts and beliefs influence our digestion, heart rate, immune system, mood, and strength. Even more, they affect how every cell communicates. We know this from research in such fields as psychoneuroimmunology and the neuroscience of relationships. Also from the far-reaching health benefits of mindfulness meditation. And the astonishing rapport of the “gut-brain axis”.
Because we can gain power over our thoughts, we can consciously co-create our bodies and lives. Right now, most of what we have created is unconscious. But we can rewrite metaphors such as “he/ she/ it is such a pain in the neck” or, “I feel stuck.” so that they serve our healing. Sometimes we are forced to rewrite them, because our lives stop working in the old way. The new pain science—the biopsychosocial model of pain—engages the brain to change by changing the story we create. I use similar principles to help you heal.
What is Deva Communion Healing?
Private session are usually on the phone. First I listen to your history. Next, I use body mapping and anatomy, body metaphors and movement to zero in on the issue. I tune into your body’s innate wisdom to communicate and send love to muscles, joints, and other tissues. As I sense tissue changes, I give you feedback about your focus. I then teach you to breathe love, acceptance, forgiveness, and gratitude to activate your body’s intelligence in the direction of better health.
Finally, I give you exercises to continue at home to increase your sense of empowerment. Your experience will change. You will have a new story.
I thus support your growth into becoming your own “Body Whisperer”.
Rosi’s favorite childhood companions in rural Massachusetts were a cat she adopted, and the neighbor farmer’s horses and cows. She felt sorry for how the horses’ grass was so short, and would bring them armloads of luscious overgrown grasses (“weeds”) from her family’s side of the fence. The horses came to the fence to talk with her. They never turned down her offerings.
She also was fascinated by how her parents added vegetable scraps to the garden compost heap, and out sprang these curious little fellows, garden worms!
Even today, in Portland, Oregon, she loves gardening. She started conscious organic gardening in 1971.
Findhorn, Kinship With All Life–Communicate with Plants, Insects
At her Colonel Summers Park community garden plot, she started talking with plants and insects and they all talked back. That seemed normal to her. She assumed the purpose of Findhorn was to encourage people to talk to their gardens. Her garden partner argued that it wasn’t easy to learn from a book. She thought Rosi should teach.
But Rosi was not eager to teach. She loved the connection with all of nature and the inner communion she had had since she was small. And she loved the deep stillness that nature brought. She preferred to keep it private. However, the Devas argued that Rosi should teach.
Guess what? Turn of the century, it’s a new era. Rosi speaks.
I was stubborn. (And perhaps a bit shy, and insecure.) Teaching was not my gig, or so I thought. In November of 2000 Devas appeared in a dream as angelic beings of light and again on the mountainside above my home in Grants Pass, Oregon. They insisted that I take people into nature and teach them to communicate the way I did.
They said my way of communing was simple, and people needed to learn simple ways to deepen their connection with Nature. I protested, and said, “You must have the wrong person. I don’t teach workshops, there must surely be others more qualified to teach this.”
They said, “Prove it.”
So I read through the libraries, bought books by the dozen, looking for others with the skills I felt I lacked. I found some authors with a similar love, who used their hearts to communicate. However, I couldn’t find anyone who was writing about the barriers we have in our culture to interspecies communication and how to overcome them. Especially about the fear of insects. Or how individuals could change from the attitude of human dominance to cooperation. But I still held back.
“Do we have to feed you to the whales?”
The Devas finally said, “Are you going to be like Jonah? Do we have to feed you to the whales or what?” Woops! I got on it!
I wrote up a bibliography of now over a hundred books, available here. Finally, in 2001, I started to teach.
The Devas of the Columbia Gorge have a mission to help humans communicate with Nature. So I held my first workshops there. Then they told me they would go to each of the other workshop sites to teach the local Devas and nature spirits how to help participants open up to them. After the first workshops at the Columbia Gorge, the Devas kept their promise. Every participant was able to connect, no matter how left-brain, fearful, or timid they started out.
In 2002, I started to teach Garden Communication classes to adults, children and elders. I was nicknamed “The Plant Whisperer.” And continued teaching these until 2009.
Garden, tree, and nature communication classes: heal ourselves, heal the planet
Post script, 2019. I started again to teach Garden Communication at Gabriel Park Community Gardens in Portland, Oregon in 2017.
After the 2017 wildfires, the Devas who were on a mission to help humans learn to communicate with them moved to Tryon Creek State Park, near Portland Oregon. I have been teaching classes there, since the late summer of 2019. Look for full length workshops there or near Los Angeles, CA, where the spirits of Nature are also eager to help you learn and wake up.
Like many of you, I spent weeks indoors, barely able to breathe from the ash that blanketed our city from the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire. Like some of you, I grieved the loss of trees, the destruction of hiking trails. The trees were gone who had been my friends and teachers. The trails had been the gateway into the sacred mansion of the cathedral forests.
I already missed the stillness of meditation in silent pines and firs, maples, broadleaf trees and shrubs. I recalled the gentle ferns, the thunderous and majestic waterfalls along clear creeks, the colorful carpets of delicate wildflowers, the hallowed earth that had been home to so many of my deep healings and spiritual experiences.
At first, I was in too much pain to read the news, to look at the pictures. Then I remembered one teacher, the spirit of a small tree that I could easily wrap my arms all around. I called it the Oracle Tree. Oracle Tree had been a source of great wisdom. It was found about twenty rugged feet off a crook in the Wakeena Falls trail, just up from the first little bridge as you started climbing. I had taken all my new students to Oracle Tree, because he made it easy to tune in, and hear advice. He had always told me that although he was inhabiting a seemingly small tree, he had been the spirit of an ancient tree that had once burned.
I suddenly realized that nature involves fire and the nature spirits were still here.
I was finally able to read the news, to look at the pictures. I could see the fiery crimson of trees that burned like a raw open wound where there had once been refreshing green. And I could see that the nature spirits were still there, alive and well.
In fact, even from a distance they were still teaching people how to connect with nature. They were reminding us how precious it was to have them as a resource And that we all need to raise our community’s children to respect nature, to honor the fire spirit in proper boundaries. And we need to call each other on caring for our wilderness and wild places, on caring for our elders. On loving each other. On loving all life.
A new life, “Grow, grow”
The beloved is calling us to awaken to a new life, as angels will be encouraging the forested life to regrow. According to the Talmud, every blade of grass has its angel bending over it, whispering, “Grow, grow.”
Since then, I have learned from a wise Native American teacher, about the element of fire. It is the same as the fire that burns in our hearts and hands, to be of service to others, to uplift people, to love, or to fulfill our particular destiny.In nature, fire is a cleanser. It allows us to recognize the impermanence of things. It makes space for the new to grow.
How have you grown, what awakenings have you had, what spiritual evolution have you undergone, as the result of fire or other forms of destruction?
Dr. Jon Lieff, a neuropsychiatrist, and geriatric psychiatrist writes a blog that teaches about microbes, neurons, viruses, communication with animals, and the consciousness and intelligence in all of these, among other blogs on neuroscience. His post, “Plant Intelligence Primer and Update, 2015” was a welcome addition to the growing consensus that we are not the sole intelligent life form on this planet.
Professor Anthony Trewavas has published substantial writings on plant intelligence, and Lieff highlights his newest, Plant Behavior and Intelligence. Dr. Trewavas’ article from the 2003 issue of Oxford Journals Annals of Botany “Aspects of Plant Intelligence” has this to say: “Intelligence is not a term commonly used when plants are discussed. However, I believe that this is an omission based not on a true assessment of the ability of plants to compute complex aspects of their environment, but solely a reflection of a sessile lifestyle.” Sessile means they are attached to a single location, usually via a stalk. They don’t move much, because they receive their energy by photosynthesis which is freely available to them, rather than by seeking and consuming prey.
Trewavas says later, “However, although as a species we are clearly more intelligent than other animals, it is unlikely that intelligence as a biological property originated only with Homo sapiens.” He makes the point that movement is an expression of intelligence. Plants move more slowly than animals, but they do move in response to their needs and the environment, and they make intelligent decisions based on assessments of options for cooperation with their family, and competition for nutrients.
Thank you, Prof. Trewavas! It’s time we recognized the intelligence of plants and found ways to honor that intelligence that is inherent in all life.
He and Dr. Lieff aren’t the only ones to recognize plant intelligence and information gathering. The International Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology, LINV is a research institute in Italy. They do a lot of cool research projects, including plant communication. They have this to say about plant intelligence:
“Plants are capable of a refined recognition of self and non-self and are territorial in behaviour. This new view sees plants as information processing organisms with complex communication throughout the individual plant.
Plants are as sophisticated in behaviour as animals but their potential has been masked because it operates on time scales many orders of magnitude less than that operating in animals.”
Dr. Jon Lieff continues,
“It is now clear that plants are aware of other plants, microbes and their environment, synthesizing a very large amount of information and deliberately making changes to themselves, their neighbors and the land nearby for their benefit and the benefit of their families. They can remember short term and for years and elaborately communicate with each other and many different friendly and unfriendly microbes.” – See more at: http://jonlieffmd.com/blog/plant-intelligence-primer-update-2015#sthash.6wrf37sf.dpuf
He fails in one regard, however. He mentions how plants sense their environment, change in response to it, and communicate with each other, yet ignores how they communicate with us, how we can understand them beyond electrical and molecular signalling, and he doesn’t even consider the two-way version of how we can communicate with them. Sigh!
To schedule a Deva Communion or Talking with Trees workshop, or the class, Communication with Garden Plants and Insects, contact me for more information.
As a novice gardener, I first learned about organic gardening in 1972 from a friend, back issues of Organic Gardening Magazine, and a lot of experimentation.
One of my favorite photos from our NE Portland home shows me grinning from ear to ear, carrying armloads of three and a half foot long and two feet wide Swiss chard leaves. I was dwarfed behind those giant fronds. An old septic pond in the back yard seemed to have some ancient fertilizing properties still remaining from 30 or 50 years ago. Or maybe it had been biodynamically treated?
Ten miles to the south and five years later, I was living in a side-by side four plex, just a few blocks from a community garden at Colonel Summers Park, in SE Portland. Citizens could rent a 20’ x 20’ plot. The city would till the soil in the spring, provide the water and minimal rules, and each renter could garden according to her taste. I shared my plot with Meredith, who also lived in the neighborhood. Ours was located on the southern edge of the park, boundaried by a residential section on the west, conveniently away from the traffic on 20th Ave.
Now comes Findhorn
I read about the Findhorn Gardens, and the cooperation between humans and the plant kingdom that produced 40 pound cabbages and roses that bloomed in the snow. It seemed as if I was personally present and hearing the devas speak through Dorothy Maclean, one of the founders of Findhorn. I also read Kinship with All Life by J. Allen Boone, and realized those flowers and little creatures are more intelligent than we give them credit for. If Findhorn could do apparent miracles with their far northerly latitude on scraggly sand and compost, with big buckets of love, I could surely make some successes out of our well composted clay soil and ample Oregon water.
It wasn’t a scientific experiment. I tuned into the tranquility of green things growing, the spaces between soil particles holding honorable intentions, the casual intertwining of pea tendrils with weeds like a lover’s caress. I meditated and sent them love, while the breeze stirred the adventurous squash leaves, draping over the landscape as a by-product of more productive uses of the garden. The garden grew and grew and grew, until it was the envy of neighboring gardeners.
Talking to Plants, Soil,….and Insects, Too?
Talking to the plants, soil and insects seemed like something I should hide from passersby, given my family’s disdain when I mentioned it. So, I only whispered or spoke quietly from the heart. It seemed natural to me. Meredith objected that they weren’t talking back to her. “Read the Findhorn books,” I retorted. I thought they were written to encourage people to talk to their gardens, and anybody could get the hint. Not so, said Meredith.
Wise Elder, Garden Neighbor
A three story Victorian-style home, painted grey with white trim overshadowed our garden in the late afternoon, but I didn’t mind. The elderly lady who lived there became an integral part of my gardening life. When I showed up, It was a signal for Minnie to emerge. We would exchange greetings, get caught up on family news, and share tidbits about gardening. She liked flowers, I liked vegetables. She watered the garden when I was out of town. We shared the garden’s bounty with her. I had a lot to learn from her. From over the fence, she delivered snippets of wisdom or vignettes of mundane events colored and flavored by her life, and then she would return to pruning or weeding. Mostly we would just work in comfortable silence. One day, I was sitting, crosslegged, contemplating the direction to pinch an indeterminate tomato. She remarked, “You’re talking to your plants, aren’t you?”
She caught me off guard. I didn’t want her to think I was batty, and I wasn’t sure if she would read the books. Still, it was better to be truthful. I answered, “Yes, I do.”
“I didn’t know young people still did that. My mother taught me.” Her parents were from the British Isles, where these traditions are kept alive. “I always tell my roses how beautiful they are. I know they like it, they brighten up, just like any one would do with praise.”
Meredith: You Do the Slug Talking, I’ll Do the Dirt Digging
I reported this conversation to Meredith. She didn’t budge. She decided I could do all the talking, and she would do the double digging. She would be careful of the earthworms, and let them know when she was going to disturb the soil, and offer similar courtesies to all the other insects and plants and weeds. But as for knowing when they’re talking back, she left that to me. That summer and fall, the garden answered. We had a bumper harvest of every vegetable we dreamed of, including forty pound Sweet Banana Squash.
Mild Winter Brings Many Spring Slugs
The winter of 1978 was very mild, only light frosts. In Portland, this means the slugs over winter very comfortably. After the spring tilling, we planted lettuces, green onions, chard, peas and radishes. The slugs ate everything that sprouted within two weeks. We did another planting. I showered the garden with love, and asked the slugs to take it easy. The slugs enjoyed the love like another spring rain, and ate everything again. We did a third planting. They were still voracious, only we began to call it ruthless. Loving them became a parody, an insincere effort in the face of the evidence that we were sacrificing a lot of labor, seeds and organic fertilizer in order to feed our local slug colonies. All the neighboring garden plots were using slug bait and had 4-6 week old plants, and we just had mud and miserable pea stubbles underneath our hand crafted but empty pea trellises.
Love the Slugs? You’re Kidding, I Hope. Nope.
I needed help. Three plantings, our favorite spring vegetables, all mowed down to the ground. I knew I was supposed to love the slugs. I alternated pleading with praising. But it was obvious they didn’t love me back. I felt betrayed.
One morning I was talking with my four-plex neighbor. She seemed to think she knew what to do. She asked for a slug. The pale morning sun shone directly onto the one-third inch baby I had placed in her outstretched hand. I was curious, “OK, now how do you love a slug?”
“Do you see how it glistens in the light? And how vulnerable it is, without even a protective shell? And think how it moves, producing from its own body only a thin trail to cushion it from dirt and sharp rocks.” My neighbor held the slug so I could see.
I looked closely, and saw little iridescent rainbows flash off the light brown surface. I gasped. It was exquisite, like a little brown oblong pearl. I had never noticed the beauty of a baby slug before. “It would have more reason to be scared of you than you do of it. Love comes from appreciating them for their own sake, not what we think they ought to be good for.” She sounded just like those books.
Power of Love in a Garden
I thanked her and gently carried the sluglet back to my plot. Newly armed with love, appreciation and desperation, I broadcast a formal announcement: “I am impressed by your feeding talents. You are the experts at getting what you need, and I admire you for that. However, I need to eat, too. If you don’t stop eating our vegetables, I will be forced to use slug bait. And I mean it.” Then I softened as I remembered that tender pearly rainbow baby. “But I would rather not hurt you. I will plant a small section in the corner with your favorite vegetables, if you will leave the rest of our garden alone.”
I did as I promised. They all relocated to their corner, and I have never since needed slug bait. When I moved to another part of town, the slugs immediately knew the contract and only ate from “their” part of the garden. I successfully negotiated or contracted with wireworms, cutworms, ants, snails, mosquitoes, yellow jackets, wasps, and many others, and I thought I had finally learned everything I needed to teach classes, as Meredith was arguing I should do. But I was wrong.
Have You Ever Had Slugs Laugh at You?
One time, I visited a friend in Crescent City, California. As a housewarming present, I carefully planted lettuces for the corner of the garden I was dedicating to slugs. I talked to them with love, and expected them to respond the way our Portland slugs did.
What are the characteristics of coastal climates? They always have mild winters and plenty of rain. Slugs breed very well under these conditions. Just to make sure I got the point, all the slugs, mostly five to seven inches long, emerged from their hiding places and marched in single file out of the garden, with perhaps a tinge of indignation, to let me know they were honoring the contract. That pitiful lettuce plot could never satisfy them. Have you ever seen a slug turn up her nose at tender lettuce? There’s nothing quite like large banana slugs, brown slugs, striped slugs, black slugs, all sliding on a single slime trail, to get away from a newly planted garden, as an answer to the spiritual gardener’s question: What is the sound of ten slugs laughing?
If you want to experience this yourself, try quietly talking to your slugs with love. If you would rather meet Rosi, she has started teaching classes again.
Call 503-708-2911 for questions, workshops, or private sessions.
This was first published in Sentient Times, 2002 April/May issue. The last issue of this magazine was published in Feb. 2008, but a dedicated team kept them available online and allowed me to download my article. There is a new team writing as Psychic Sentient Times, since 2013.
The following is “my” article, and I am grateful to Sentient Times folks who kept it long enough for me to share (slightly edited) with you:
On Talking with Trees: A Call to Rediscover the Intelligence in Nature
Trees do not stand like tall sentinels, impassive and silent. Nor is talking with them like a telephone conversation, “What’s up? How are the kids?” Trees and the spirit that comes through them can register and reflect every nuance of human emotion. When we approach them with clear intentions and use our whole bodies to listen, they can reveal brilliant insights or assist in overcoming personal or even planetary challenges. We can experience openings of our heart that take us beyond the confines of place and time. We can access wisdom far beyond our limited intellects. It’s more like a conversation with the deepest parts of ourselves, crying out for discovery. In Talking With Nature, Michael J. Roads hears: “Do not look for separation. The I that calls is not separate from the I which responds. To those who are aware of their sensitivity and are determined to cultivate and encourage their finer feelings, life calls in many varied ways.”
More and more of us hear the call of the life that pervades the living body of the Earth, and recognize that we are inextricably intertwined. This call resounds with urgency from two sources: the seriousness of the ecological crisis, and sacredness of the human evolutionary challenge. As we all know, unless we harness some extraordinary intelligence and take appropriate action, we face not only the melting of the ice caps, the rising of the oceans, the unbreathable polluted air, starvation and cruelty of drought and war, the loss of species; we also risk the planet’s ability to sustain life, most serious for children growing up now. What we do to nature we do to ourselves.
However, we are not separate from or superior to nature. We can reverse the dangers facing us. We can prevent even worse catastrophes. As we open our hearts to each other and to the Earth, we have the rare chance to come together as one heart, one mind, one planet.
Achieving cooperation with nature moves us to a new level of relationship to ourselves, each other and the planet. As Machaelle Small Wright discovered at her Perelandra Nature Research Center in Virginia, co-creative solutions may not always make sense from a human perspective, but they promote balance from nature’s perspective. Connecting in this way may help us access the desperately needed intelligence from our own backyards.
Humanity has always known the intelligence to be found in nature, but it is a knowing that has mostly been lost in our modern society. Until the 17th century, Europeans also believed that there was an innate spirit that animated everything, and was the cause of all physical forces. Then Descartes proposed that the universe can be described by objective mathematical formulas, and that mind is separate from matter.
Newton, Copernicus and others discovered the laws of gravity and physical principles to explain celestial and earthly phenomena. Along with eliminating superstition and paving the way for massive technological achievements, science became the reason to discard the concept of the divine spirit in all things as well. Nature was viewed as a mechanical device, with no life or intelligence. It could be dominated and exploited solely for human purposes.
In the 20th century, discoveries in physics have shown the promise of overturning the mechanistic view and supporting the view of nature as a conscious and intelligent partner. Physicists since the 1920’s had to question whether mechanistic principles explained everything because of the challenge of quantum mechanics. In the 1970’s and 80’s, physicists suggested that reality includes consciousness in an underlying indivisible wholeness. Thus consciousness is not bound by space or time. The scientific understanding began to echo the spiritual once again. The teachings of sages, seers and mystics from ancient times now give insight into modern dilemmas.
Biology is not far behind. Indeterminacy and chaos in biological systems have supplanted the belief in the clockwork predictability of nature. Eminent biologist Rupert Sheldrake has proposed the existence of morphogenetic fields, similar to ancient concepts of angels and spirits, to account for nonlocal patterns of learning and the development of organisms. All these discoveries and theories lead us to ask the question: Does the universe and the various systems within it behave in a conscious, intelligent and purposeful manner?
Many hear this as a call to rediscover the intelligence in nature. While others are still conditioned by the belief that seeing is believing. Along with wind and radio waves, the spirit and consciousness within and behind all life are also unseen. It is foolish to dismiss them and their power simply because they are intangible. The inferences of scientists and the experience of mystics indicate we are virtually swimming in an ocean of unseen intelligent forces. There is nothing in the manifested world that does not participate in that intelligence and we can take this opportunity to align ourselves with it. Our belief systems can close our minds to this untapped reservoir or we can build the bridges to reconnecting with it consciously.
There is no need to limit our explorations to trees, but there are good reasons to begin with them first. Florence A. Newhouse in Angels of Nature tells us that next to humans and animals, trees are the greatest life forms on this planet. The intelligence of most of them is akin to humans, and often far greater, especially for large and old trees and evergreens. As Dorothy Maclean records in To Honor the Earth: Reflections on Living in Harmony with Nature: “Large trees are essential for the well-being of the Earth. No other can do the job they do. They and humanity each represent the apex of a particular form of life, and you can gain much by association with them. It is no accident that the Buddha is said to have found enlightenment under a tree.”
The ancestors of nearly everyone now alive held trees in reverence, and gained not just numerous material benefits but also notable spiritual ones. Nathaniel Altman, author of Sacred Trees, reports how in Native American and other cultures, trees are the home of the gods and guardian spirits or angels. Even in the Bible, they are the source of voices, visions, dreams and healing. Throughout the world they convey wisdom, oracles, spiritual guidance and provide protection. Certain old, large trees in West Africa play the role of mediators in ascertaining justice. The Native American Hidatsa people valued the assistance of the cottonwood tree in resolving conflicts. Many of these traditions attribute people’s experiences to the presence of an intelligent spirit dwelling in or speaking through the tree.
Talking with trees may seem strange to those who have lost their ties to their own ancestral heritage or who have not yet made the paradigm shift to a more inclusive awareness. Talking with trees, if done respectfully and with positive intent, can help make that shift. It is best to start with a tree that one has planted and cared for oneself, or one that is beloved to the community, or an ancient or large tree in an undisturbed forest.
I invite everyone to take these steps to start:
Attitude. The attitude of appreciation and reverence to a tree elicits the greatest response, since in honoring the tree as a source of intelligence, one opens the doorway to communication. Respect, gratitude, humility, non-attachment, compassion, noble motives and an open heart enhance the opportunity to build a relationship. Clarify intentions. Have no expectations—they create tensions in the body/mind which interfere with subtle experience. Relax.
Approach. The aura of a tree extends quite a distance from its trunk. Become aware of the subtle changes in your body, which your aura transmits to you through your nervous system, as you approach a tree, and your auras begin to interact. Your own personal signals may be unique. Be sensitive to them. Trust them.
Physical Contact. I prefer open palms, hugging with both arms, my cheek against the bark, or leaning and letting the tree support some of my weight. If the tree is growing to make a convenient setting place, I express appreciation for the opportunity to sit.
Whole Body Listening. Create internal quiet, calming mental chatter. Use not just the ears, but all of the senses, and the heart. Listen inside for the corresponding chords of resonance within the body/mind.
Connect. Breathe into and with the tree, sensing its rhythm and matching it, identifying and becoming one with the tree, extending oneself through the roots down into the earth, and up into the branches, reaching for the sun with one’s leaves. You can feel this process or visualize it. Children have no trouble doing this. Be like a child.
Be Patient. Do not compare your experiences with others’, or judge them from your expectations. That keeps us experiencing separation. Every person is different, and every tree is also different! Experiment with different trees to find a match for your needs.
Explore and Expand. Cultivate a relationship with a particular tree. Become aware of its rhythm, and respect your own in this process. From a place of clarity, start posing questions and waiting patiently for answers, trusting that they will come. Some people find that a picture comes into their head, a snatch of a song, a scent, an internal sensation, an impression of energy that they can form into words or visual images. Allow your own sensory system to direct your process. Bring your notebook, sketch pad, or tape recorder. Some find that kinesthetic modes of communication work best for them, using pendulums, muscle testing or kinesiology to answer yes/no question (see the Perelandra Garden Workbook by Machaelle Small Wright).
From early childhood, many people have fond memories of a favorite tree they liked to visit for calm reflection, solace, or creative inspiration. The good news—that part of childhood doesn’t have to be over. The challenging news—it may take work to overcome cultural conditioning. Enjoy the creative exploration or rediscovery of the intelligence in trees. A Chinese proverb says, “Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come.”