Of all the Earthly energies we may attune to in our lives, trees are one the most unique. And honestly, I’m not sure why.
Firstly, I need to state that I’m not fond of the word “energy”. Words like energy, vibration, aura, and chi have all been roundly tainted by repeated misuse, and now they all unfortunately sit typecast in the “mystical bullshit” pile of spiritual language.
They always seem to lose a chunk of their sincerity when they’re spoken, and most people who hear them immediately become needlessly skeptical of the sentence that follows. This can be incredibly frustrating for someone who not only works everyday with these forces, but actually understands their significance. The sum of their underlying natures are so much more than words can adequately express. None will ever be truly good enough to explain what exactly is being experienced when a practitioner connects with the core substance of something.
It’s just too breathtaking.
Becoming cognizant of what could be considered the “soul” of a living thing that is neither human nor a mammal is a wildly alien experience. It’s utterly mind-blowing and permanently changes your outlook on life and your perception of the world around you. It’s a kind of communication that is unlike anything else, and the mind may even have no idea just what it’s supposed to be recognizing at first. There’s just no definable way to truly fathom or explain the astonishing complexity and richness of a universe outside of our own perceived one, especially when the required willingness to open ourselves up to the possibility that it even exists at all has been systematically beaten out of our brains since birth by the kind of society we live in.
So when occasional breaks into these other universes do occur, it catalyzes a kind of experience in a human being that is so profound and otherworldly that entire religions can be birthed from it. The source of an experience like this should garner so much more respect and reverence than it actually does.
But then what word is good enough?
I suppose none, so I say “energy” and just try to keep the meaning of it that I know and follow alive with faith. And I suppose I’m okay with that.
All plants have this energy in them. These speckled bits of personality locked inside the herbs we infuse and grind and burn are what make them so effective for use in magickal workings. And they quite often surprise us:
Some hold within them a gentle reverence with a tranquil quality composed of a deep color that brings up memories of a favorite place: in the hearts of Rosemary, Mountain Laurel, and Fenugreek, I feel the calm of walking down a long stretch of railroad tracks next to a good friend, or along a dirt path beside a remote part of the countryside that is dusted with wildflowers. Some are haughty and sarcastic, like Clove, Deer’s Tongue, Star Anise, and Allspice berries, loudly chattering their direct focus to you with bright voices that refuse to be ignored. Some may be solemn or stubbornly tuned to one goal, like Sage, Bay leaf, Ginger, and Mugwort: a stable body standing alone or offering itself in assistance to other energies in order to strengthen the combined effort of the mixture.
Others resonate with a kind of sensuality, alive with subtlety, the way a Mantilla veil falls over flowing hair: you may find these qualities in Rose, Hibiscus, Vanilla bean, and Coriander seed; or curiously distant and discreet, like a Tango dancer with painted eyes who catches yours as she’s dipped in the middle of her sequence. Cardamom, Red Clover, Orange Mint, and Bayberry share these traits.
Mixing and blending these energies produce very powerful effects alongside our own focused intents. Depending on what is being used and how, preparing and charging plant specimens for magickal use can, to a magician, feel like mixing powders for a batch of fireworks. This is what gives herbs and plants their fantastical appeal to me, and is what makes me so interested in working with them over other magickal ingredients.
And yet, in all their intensity, what lives inside even the youngest sapling is still radically more wild and fascinating for some reason.
Perhaps it’s because they’re larger and more complex organisms, or that their roots dig deeper than most other plants, or a combination of this, and that they also tend to live in larger groupings. I don’t know. Maybe what’s inside them is closer to sentient life than those of other plants. The reason for their rich energy and unique behavior is still a mystery to me, but that mystery only intrigues my mind and fuels my desire to explore and understand it.
Inside of every tree is a very powerful version of whatever this substance of life is, which flows so forcefully and behaves so deliberately that it almost seems to have a kind of channeled direction to its movement, which allows for much more complex arrangements of abstraction to be produced as the substance shifts and bobs, absorbs and diminishes, and plays off of its surrounding environment. When a connection is established, this substance creates a perceived process of information exchange that can (in some philosophical lights) be interpreted as “thought”.
There is no real way to articulate what these “thoughts” are until you hear them for yourself. My perceptions as they are with trees is that they don’t think or communicate in the way you would normally imagine. There is no back and forth rhythm of reaction and response. Rather, they think ceaselessly. They are always talking. When you attune to the core energy of a tree or shrub, you aren’t speaking with it so much as you are accompanying a singer with your own voice and slowly harmonizing with the song being sung.
The “voice” of a particular tree is carried through these perceived channels of direction by means of a constant, unending stream of consciousness. What you’re doing then when you connect with it is adding your thoughts in with the rushing current of its own, and blending them together so that you understand each other, like a piece of flowing music that’s being played by one person at first, and then by two as another musician with his own instrument enters into the melody.
I began by opening my awareness to the massive collective force of energy radiating from every tree all around me at once, taking in a larger sense of the “whole” before I attempted to dive any deeper:
When there is a sudden power outage in a building or home, or when water piping is shut off in order to fix a plumbing problem, the reality of that moment shifts dramatically. Electronics are shut off, it’s silent, and it’s dark. But there is much more going on with the feel of the air. The atmosphere of the room just feels more silent and lonely. Maybe even melancholy, like the air pressure has suddenly dropped and become much emptier. Less warm and inviting. It may even feel less secure. This feeling is caused by the sudden loss of the infrasound being constantly generated all around at all times.
Infrasound is nearly inaudible, because it’s so deep and resonates so richly from its source that you feel it more than you hear it. The kind in the “power outage” scenario is caused by the constant vibration of the piping that makes up the framework of a home as water flows through it, as well as the ceaseless humming and whirring of all your electronic devices on at the same time. Infrasound makes you feel more comforted and secure in your environment. It’s what makes church feel so heavenly when an organ is playing: the vibration of the giant organ pipes causes the room to feel like there’s a heavenly presence in it. It’s what makes a lion or tiger’s roar so terrifying as well. Infrasound is injected into soundtracks to make you feel anxious while watching horror movies, and is also used in many binaural audio tracks and atmospheric music to induce various meditative states. When everything is shut off all at once, all of these deep, resonating vibrations are shut off with it, and the spirit and liveliness of the atmosphere you’ve grown so accustom to subsequently vanishes without a trace.
The resonating energy surrounding you when you walk through the woods is the same kind of feeling you get from the infrasound in the city.
The roots crawl in every direction beneath you, and the branches spread out in every direction above you. You’re surrounded in the same way you are at home or in a club or supermarket. Learning to pick up on that sensation and then attempting to gently follow it back to its source is a good start to fine-tuning your awareness. This can be done by simply sitting and enjoying the company of the trees, or being mindful of them while walking around out in the city and feeling their overwhelming presence like a friend.
The only way to really describe what this experience is like is by teaching it, so instead of writing pages worth of anecdotes, I offer up another small exercise as an introduction to my personal method to anyone who feels that they can make use of it: from the very beginner who may be interested in easing his or her awareness open for the first time, to the more advanced practitioner who may find even a small piece of what I do useful to their own work. If anyone finds any of it useful in any way, it would make me very happy:
My Method of Communing With Trees
When attempting to connect with an individual tree, it’s best to make physical contact. It isn’t exactly a requirement, but I’d recommend it just because we’re tactile beings: the act of touching something switches a dial in our brains which automatically makes us feel an initial connection and camaraderie with what we’re touching, which makes feeling through our subsequent sensations much easier.
Your impressions of the energy within the tree you are trying to connect with are largely your own. I can’t describe exactly how to find your way into the core of the tree you’re connecting with since our brains work differently from each other, but I can offer ideas and sensations to contemplate:
- When initially making direct contact, you may feel a tingling or buzzing in your fingertips and palms. Close your eyes.
- Eliminate as many excess thoughts as you can. Your mind doesn’t need to be completely clear, but it’s helpful to allow as much of it to fall into silence as possible. Enter into the same mental state you do when talking with another person. A willingness to listen is all you really need.
- You may feel an “engaging” feeling, and a swell with a more concise buzzing from both your hand and in the very center of the tree. Feel the living and breathing essence of the tree from the very center of its being: a hefty glow with a deep vibration and its own pulse. The energy inside of every tree is very clean and bright; very lovely and refreshing, like a breath of fresh air. Feel the pulse in your fingertips connect with the pulse of this bright and fresh energy.
- When you have a lock on this core pulse, keep your awareness trained on it and allow it to grow and build. Let it well up inside you and call to you. Dig deeper into the mind of the tree and let the soul within it find its way to you. The goal is to meet each other in the middle.
- A strange sensation will occur at some point, which you should take special note of: a feeling of picking up on something that should be very familiar. What it will remind you of is your own “inner monologue”, which is the result of all the abstract images of your brain being interpreted into coherent thought patterns which often resemble your own voice in your head. The thoughts you think are nothing more than a series of complex concepts fading in and out of existence in your mind. The more you explore, contemplate, and understand this fact in yourself, the easier you will be able to find your way to the inner monologue of the tree.
- Invite it to you. Let the abstract thoughts of your mind dance and play in front of its thoughts. Feel and probe your way through your sensations of the tree and what’s inside it, and gradually bridge the gap between both of your voices until you feel an absolute oneness and harmony with it. Then listen. You may be shocked by what you hear.
A piece of advice:
Take the tree in as a whole thing, as one full being from its deepest root to its very top branch, not just the trunk you’re touching. We often see trees as only a wall of trunks which provide shade from above, and we spend most of our walking time trying to avoid their roots so that we don’t trip. Those roots to us are part of the ground, not as a part of an independently living organism we’re standing right next to. It’s very easy to lose sight of the whole tree for its body, and end up only recognizing or acknowledging it when we’re viewing other creatures using it, such as birds or squirrels in its branches. Take in the tree as its own complete organism and feel its presence as you would another person.
The voice inside every tree is unique, and they all have something valuable to say. Tuning into their thoughts and truly hearing their wisdom will provide you with insights about the nature of the Earth and the environment, about life and the act of living, and about yourself. It is always best to listen to a wiser voice of reason when traveling through the chaotic uncertainty of living, and the wisdom contained within the oldest living organisms on the planet can greatly benefit your life in ways you may never have considered.
The true wonder of existence reveals itself in the silence created by a willingness to listen. And when we learn to be truly silent, we begin to hear things we never would’ve imagined in our wildest dreams.