The Tree of Life
The natural world has long been a source of our spiritual inspiration, with one of the strongest symbols for us being the tree.
Trees start as seeds then saplings, and through growth and development they eventually stand tall. They live long, have deep roots, change with the seasons, shelter us, feed us and much more. It is therefore easy to see why they have become so important across global cultures, as a way to help us make sense of the world and our spiritual selves.
In particular, the idea of ‘the tree of life’ has been prominent throughout history. ‘The tree of life’ is found in mythology from Norway to First Nation Iroquois to Chinese mysticism; as well as featuring in many of the ancient religions from the Middle East, such as Christianity, Islam and Judaism. In fact, the Buddha himself was said to have sat under a Bodhi tree (the tree of awakening), meditating for 49 days, until he reached enlightenment.
So what is the tree of life?
The tree of life is a symbol which has meant different things to different cultures. One of the most enduring ideas is that the tree of life is the giver of life, giver of immortal life or of fertility. We can think of this in our own lives in many ways such as nurturing purpose inside us, the fertility of ideas/our creativity, helping with healing and personal growth.
Some people like to think about the tree of life as a symbol or a metaphor to help them through the day. Others like to physically connect with a special tree to help them ground or connect with nature.
Reiki practice starts with grounding, and often people find it helpful to visualise there feet connecting to roots going deep into the soil. Through this they feel both connected to the earth’s energy and feel anchored/ balanced. This provides us with firm foundations and with stability so that we can channel energy and help others to enable the energy to flow within them.
Trees themselves are great systems of energy and flow, from the photosynthesis of the leaves to feed the tree from transferring the energy of sunlight and CO2 into oxygen and sugars. Much of the oxygen that gives us life is from this energy transfer. Tress therefore, are very connected to Reiki energy.
We also learn a lot for our own lives from how a tree develops over time. Trees are not in a rush, they grow at their own speed, following the natural rhythms of days and seasons. Trees are also survivors, they bend in the wind, they enable climbing plants to wrap themselves around the tree in a symbiotic relationship – helping each other. Trees embody some of the ways we might want to live our lives - to flex when we need to, or when others need this. In the words of John Michael Talbot – ‘trees do bend, though straight and tall - so must we when others call’. A rigid tree would break in two, but the tree that blows in the wind can withstand more.
At this festive time of year, our strongest associations with trees are for the Yule Log and the Christmas tree.
The Yule Log perhaps dates back to pagan times, as a ceremony to burn a log indoors amongst a clan or close-knit community - as a comfort through the darkest winter nights. The word ‘Yule’ comes from the Norse word ‘hweol’, meaning wheel. The Norse believed that the sun was a great wheel of fire that rolled towards and then away from the earth.
In some cultures, the yule log from the previous year would be used to light the new yule log, symbolising the continuity of nature and transition from the old year to the new. Then more recently we have the tradition of the Christmas tree. Bringing a tree of life into our houses during the cold winter time, and decorating it to bring joy and connectedness.
So I urge you, over December, to find your connection to a tree of life. Whether this is a Christmas tree, an outdoor tree or a symbol of a tree that helps you feel centered, grow or develop. Trees are magical and I hope your tree helps bring you a feeling of magic this festive season.