A Joyful Path, Year Three – Week 5: Trees As Teachers And Family — Story: My Best Friend Is A Tree

For Classroom or Home School


Week 5: Autumn

Lesson 3: Trees as Teachers and Family – Trees and plants are my relatives and guardians.

Getting to the Heart of the Lesson

The importance of this lesson is to continue to relate to all beings — human and more-than-human, animate and inanimate – as our relatives and teachers. This week we will focus on trees and plants. Trees tell their stories and teach us by what they do. Plants teach us – the importance of water, sunlight and food in a careful balance. Plants and trees also teach us we may enjoy the fruit they provide for us, so long as we take good care of them in return. In this way, we are a family, taking care of each other.

“Our toddlers speak of plants and animals as if they were people, extending to them self and intention and compassion—until we teach them not to. We quickly retrain them and make them forget. When we tell them that the tree is not a who, but an it, we make that maple an object; we put a barrier between us, absolving ourselves of moral responsibility and opening the door to exploitation.” – Robin Wall Kimmerer

The Tree of Life, mentioned in the Abrahamic religions, is a metaphor for ways to live a whole, healthy and well-supported life. Other well- known stories about trees remind us that, in the times we feel hopeless, afraid or alone, our Tree relatives can be a place of sanctuary to grieve or find support. How can these metaphors help us learn the importance of:

  1. Taking good care of our bodies (like taking care of a tree, plant or flower),
  2. Receiving support and nourishment in spiritual community (like trees living in groves), and
  3. Communicating and being in relationship with the larger living system (like trees communicating through their roots and providing sustenance, housing, shade and other gifts for many members of Creation).

Teacher Reflection/Activity

Some reading and a 10-20 min exercise (more if you have time and wish to take it) so you are able to experience the teachings offered through this lesson.)

Whether this is a new practice for you, or a perspective you have held for some time, the following exercises will help you expand and explore your intimacy with life in all its forms.

Option One — Forest therapy (1). Studies have shown the health of body and mind are improved by being around trees. This may have something to do with the inhalation of phytoncides, aromatic oils with antibacterial properties released by trees but there is something deeper and more metaphysical, indeed spiritual, in the experience of being present with trees. Taking time to be present with trees can reduce cortisol levels and have a positive effect on our physical well being. This week, find at least twenty minutes (to have the full effect) to walk among a body of trees. Walk slowly, mindfully, and notice your breath. Pay attention to the way the air smells… is it different in the trees than in the city or town? Think about how the trees work together and live together, some for hundreds of years. Imagine their underground network of roots intertwined. When you are done with your walk, pause and take some deep breaths. Notice if your body, mind or spirit feel different. If possible, take a few minutes to write down your reflections from your forest therapy walk.

Option Two — Visit or make friends with a new favorite tree – in your yard, neighborhood or park. Ideally this tree is close to where you live or work so you can visit it often. Ask the tree if you may sit with it. If the answer feels like a no, ask the tree what it is needing. Perhaps there is an opportunity for you to provide some care and support. If the answer is yes, spend 10-15 min listening to the tree and its inhabitants. Just listen. You may want to place your forehead and your hands on the trunk of the tree and notice the energy emanating there.

Reflect — Is there a vibration? Can the tree feel personal to you? Can you imagine or feel the root system below the earth connecting this tree to their sisters and brothers? Trust that this book of God is sharing its sacred scripture with you and providing you with the instruction you need. If other creatures are present, notice what they are doing. How are they using the tree for shelter? Are they gathering nuts? What else grows on the tree? Moss? Fungi? Can you identify older and younger parts of the tree? Has the tree dropped seeds below? Are there seedlings growing?

Read through the lesson before your time with the children. Decide which Activity Exploration will work best for your class (There are usually two options; choose one.). Just below the heading, “Children’s Lesson and Story” you will find the preparations checklist for this lesson so that you can collect any needed materials or make arrangements to support your selected activity.

Sacred Text Quotes

Hebrew Scriptures. Job 12:7-10 (NRSV)

But ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being.

Christian Scriptures. Matthew 13:31-32 (NRSV)

Jesus put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.

Wisdom Quotes

Our spirituality is a oneness and an interconnectedness with all that lives and breathes, even with all that does not live or breathe. – Mudrooroo, novelist and poet, Nyoongah Nation (Australia)

If you love it enough, anything will talk to you. – George Washington Carver

Did you know that trees can talk? Well they do. They talk to each other, and they’ll talk to you if you listen….I have learned a lot from trees: sometimes about the weather, sometimes about animals, sometimes about the Great Spirit. – Chief Walking Buffalo, Bearspaw Band – Stoney Indian Nation, Canada

Be sure to click here to download the Teaching Introduction and Instructions.

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