In the year 2000 I lost my home and almost all my possessions to some kind of infestation that no expert could define or address. Two weeks of sleepless nights can feel like a lifetime of distress, and I was left with exhaustion and allergies. When I landed on a friend’s guest room, I barely had energy to get up. All I could do was look out the window.
Fortunately, there was a beautiful tree grove right out of that window. So throughout the winter I sat and meditated with the trees.
I watched the play of light and shadows changing the color of the leaves. I watched little birds sing and mighty hawk hunt. I forgot that I was in Manhattan, right in the middle of a noisy New York.
I delighted in the wet, radiant leaves after the rain and suddenly realized that it was not just my delight. I was feeling the delight of the trees! I had connected to the Trees.
In a matter of months my allergies were gone and I now could walk among the trees of Central Park.
It was winter then and a new healing energy emanated from the naked trees. It was cleansing and opened spaces inside me. It showed me how to breathe into pain to find its source and heal it. It was the Pure Consciousness of the trees emanating their healing wisdom.
Trees bare themselves
to the harsh, cold winter.
They surrender to the pain
of cold winds and freezing rains
Knowing that a fresh new Earth
From “The Path of Healing” in “The Tao of Trees”
And then my energy was back full on and I began the adventure of a new life.
But the trees had changed. They were no longer muted entities or silent sentinels. They whispered poems into my heart. They sent me messages through their bark.
And I was forever aware of their healing effect on me.
Until that time I had not heard a word about the healing power of trees and though we all know that when we are in nature we relax, I had not experienced the depth of healing that nature bestows on us.
But way before I noticed this, in the year 1982, Tomohide Akiyama, then secretary of the Forest Agency in Japan, had coined the term “shinrin-yoku” (‘forest bathing’) to describe the practice of getting into the woods for body and mind renewal, to counter lifestyle-related health issues.
Akiyama was the first in educating the public about the healing power of trees and nature. Even then he was familiar with the studies being conducted at the time.
“Akiyama knew about the pioneering studies of phytoncides – basically, pungent essential oils – conducted by the Soviet scientist Boris P Tokin in the 1920s and ’30s. The oils, volatile compounds exuded by conifers and some other plants, reduce blood pressure and boost immune function, among other benefits.” Rebecca Jones, https://getpocket.com.
In recent years the healing power of trees has moved to the forefront of modern studies, though it is still a whisper among the public.
There are up to 21 possible ways in which trees and nature help us heal, and they have been cited in prestigious studies, such as a review paper in “Frontiers in Psychology” from scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
So here’s the amazing list of conditions that have been proven to heal or improve by immersion in nature and specially walking among trees and near running water like rivers or streams:
- Reduce blood pressure
- Boost immune function
- Ease depression
- Enhance autonomic control of heart rate
- Recover from stress
- Protect against heart disease and diabetes
- Guard against atherosclerosis
- Elevate levels of anti-cancer and antiviral killer cells
- Reduce inflammation
- Lowered blood glucose
Now I do a daily qigong walk among the trees and whenever I feel tired, stressed out or disconnected I sit or walk close to trees and connect deeply through my soles to their roots. Even trees surrounded by cement respond lively and generously to our call!
The poems that the trees whispered in my heart are now a beautiful illustrated poetry book called “The Tao of Trees: Poems to Reconnect you to the Natural World and your Sacred Self.”
I’ve created the Tree Love Campaign to use the book to give back to the trees in gratitude for their blessings.
During Earth Day 2019, this book is available at a $5 discount plus you get free seats to “The Tao of Trees Poetry Reading & Conversation with Maria Mar” ~a live online poetry reading where I transmit the poems and we converse about the healing power of trees plus do a ceremony to heal trees right back
Help me give back to trees by purchasing the book. $5 from each book sales goes into presenting free online and local events that reconnect people to trees and to networking to support organizations that save trees.