I would like to draw some messages from the ancient ones that surround us, both the human variety and the magnificent trees of nature. I have been attracted to the beauty of trees all of my life. Perhaps I learned to appreciate trees, rather than take them for granted, because I grew up on the prairies where trees can be somewhat scarce in some places. From the great Baobab or Fig in Africa, the Fir or Maple (the leaf on the Canadian flag) in North America, the Cashew or Guanacaste of South and Central America, the Yew or Oak of Europe, the Eucalyptus or Acacia of Australia, or the Olive, Cedar, or Banyan of Asia, we all have to agree that trees add much to our world. Within many cultures, trees and forests are a part of many legends within local folklore and mythology. There are many magnificent people in the world too, both the extraordinary and the ordinary. The enormous size of many trees and the accomplishments of many individuals can make us feel small and insignificant in comparison, so I encourage you to stop comparing and search inside for your own natural gifts and talents. Through your passion, enjoy all that life has to offer. Open your mind to the lessons that the natural world has to share with you.
What is Your Role?
There are so many wonderful species of trees in the world, all with a different purpose within their environment or ecosystem. Just as trees have different roles within their ecosystem, each of you has a different role within society and your family system. Transforming unhealthy or unbalanced relationships into balanced relationships is one of your roles as a living member of your family system. What is your role within your family system? What is your role within society? Some of these roles include the mediator, the provider, the protector, the nurturer, the teacher, the artist, the mentor, the healer, the seeker, the leader, the builder, the networker, the entertainer, the rescuer, the visionary, the sage, the student, the scholar, the spiritual leader, or the warrior. Please don’t be offended if I left out your role on the planet, there are hundreds of roles. Each role has a purpose that keeps society moving forward and each role is interconnected with all the others. Each role needs to be greatly appreciated. Another role that each of you has in this lifetime is to find a way to get the love flowing between human beings within societies, inward toward yourself, between generations of your family system, and outward to the natural world.
Learning about trees and from trees helps to bring the natural world into your own life, connecting you to the natural world around you, and gives you a wider perspective to understand how we are all interdependent or entangled. It is important to understand that the energy and vibration that flows through and around us, connecting us all together as human beings, also flows through and around the living world that surrounds us. We breathe the oxygen that is given off into the atmosphere by the trees. We breathe out carbon dioxide which is taken in by the trees. Think about how climate change impacts forests around the world over time and you will also understand how climate change impacts us. How we treat the forests or trees in our region of the world says a great amount about who we are as human beings, it may reveal how we are doing as a society, and it also describes the struggles we may be experiencing. A tree is a container or vessel that holds the wisdom of how to survive and thrive on planet Earth and this is freely offered to the human beings of the planet. Connecting with a tree may help you ground to Mother Earth when you feel out of balance or lack wellbeing. Perhaps you have a favourite tree you can relate to as you read this post, or perhaps you remember a special tree that was in your life as a child. Trees have the capacity to be greatly generous to human beings, even when conditions are not ideal or we are not always kind to them. Trees can link together the generations of our families. By understanding the adaptive techniques of trees and forests, we may learn how to adapt to planetary change more gracefully ourselves, protecting our environment at the same time.
Trees live an annual cycle of life over the seasons of the year. They adapt and change in response to climate and weather. Deciduous trees drop their leaves in the autumn preparing for the dormant season over winter, before regenerating new growth in the spring. Evergreens maintain there leaves year round. Humans are also impacted environmentally, physically, emotionally, or spiritually by the seasons of the year. I feel we have much to gain by listening to the messages of the majestic ancient trees that grace our world. Whether that tree is a few decades old or a few centuries old, we have so much to learn from them. Some of the words that come to mind include integrity, strength, adaptation, interconnection, life giving potential, interdependence, purposefulness, and flexibility. Whether we discuss one special tree in particular or a whole forest, trees are an integral part of our lives. They prevent erosion of our soil; filter water; produce oxygen (through photosynthesis by taking in the sun’s energy and decomposing the sugar in the sap that was supplied by the roots); circulate nutrients; store carbon (greatly important when there is too much carbon dioxide in our atmosphere); recycle minerals and nutrients; provide shade and shelter; produce fruit; and provide habitat for many microscopic and small living creatures.
The Family System
I often think of our human family system as somewhat like a tree, referring to our family history or genealogy as a family tree. Like trees, our family system differs from every other family system. The interdependent systems of the individual tree can be a microcosm of the interdependent systems of the greater forest. The interdependent systems of the individual human being can be a microcosm of the interdependent systems of the greater family system. While family dynamics have shifted significantly over the past few decades, along with the rapid change of technology, there are some dynamics that never change and some that adapt. Although many families today still have a father and a mother, many others are organized around a single parent, or two fathers or two mothers. Regardless of the family organizational structure, there are certain roles that need to be provided for the overall wellbeing of the family system. Nourishment, nurturing, bonding, love, touch, connection, shelter, clothing, emotional support, protection, safety, and a strong foundation are all necessary for the emotional wellbeing of human children growing in the world. Although our family systems may have many different dynamics today, each child born still has a biological mother, the one who supplies the egg, and a biological father, the one who supplies the sperm cell. The egg and the sperm come together to create who we are through the genetics and epigenetics of that family system. The unresolved transgenerational trauma of the family systems of the biological mother and biological father may also travel down to the child or other future descendants impacting life in many ways. For simplicity sake, I will follow the principles of systemic constellations and I will describe the biological father and mother roles in relation to a tree, well aware that in society they are constantly shifting today.
The Root System
The root system of the tree digs down into the soil to provide a strong foundation of support for the tree, helping to keep it upright. There may be one larger tap root or not. Root systems vary greatly but they tend to resemble the blood circulatory system of the human body, starting large like the arteries, reducing outward like the mid-sized veins, and spreading fine like the capillaries. The roots of the tree absorb oxygen, water and nutrients for the wellbeing of the whole tree system. Within the family system, the ancestors are most like the root system of a tree. The ancestors are the roots of the family system, the origin of all the future descendants. Without a strong root system, the tree does not thrive. Without connection to the ancestors, a family system does not thrive to its full capacity or potential either. In many of my past posts I have made reference to the ancestors. A healthy relationship with our own ancestors is vital to our own health and wellbeing, emotionally, physically, mentally, relationally, spiritually, and financially. Family systems cannot be generalized. We tend to gather support, balance, and wellbeing through our ancestors, understanding who we are through our roots. We find our identity through our ancestors. We feel connected to the land we live upon through our ancestors. Our ability to stand strong flows through our ancestors. If you do not have a strong connection to your ancestors, or perhaps you are adopted and don’t have much information, there are still ways to find out where you come from through records that might be open today or through DNA testing.
Many root systems extend out underground from one tree to another, or to other living organisms, helping one another to thrive. Researchers have discovered that there are underground symbiotic communication systems connecting trees and plants, sometimes even sharing water or nutrients. There tends to be mother trees that are key links in these communication and transportation systems and they have a vital role in generating regrowth in the forest. When mother trees are destroyed, the whole forest can struggle to regenerate. Human beings would benefit by paying attention to this cooperative system for wellbeing. When a tree is old or dying, it is still a vibrant part of the tree community. Family systems also thrive when the older family members remain an integral part of the family dynamic, passing on their love and stories to the young, and supporting all family members through their long life experience. Having a valuable role in the family system gives older family members a reason to get up in the morning, to retain their ties to the living, and to continue thriving. Older family members link the younger family members to their ancestral roots, which is so key for wellbeing. The more descendants know about their family system, the more wellbeing they carry within themselves, feeling supported by the greater system that surrounds them.
The Trunk System
We often look to the trunk of the tree to describe its integrity and wellbeing. The trunk of the tree provides strength and shapes the tree. The trunk of the tree has several different layers and it is supported by the roots of the tree. It is a system that moves nutrients and water from the roots of the tree up to the crown or branches and leaves of the tree through several different layers. Within the family system, the mother is most like the trunk of the tree. She is a critical link between the children she gives birth to and the ancestors. In the natural world the mother births the child, unless science has gotten involved and a surrogate carries the child. The child still has one biological mother and it is through this biological mother that their transgenerational emotional patterning flows. It seems to me that the mother is the inner trunk that garners support from her ancestral roots to be able to nourish and nurture the child in a strong, balanced way. The sugar within the sap that travels throughout the tree is like the love that flows in the family system. The tree will struggle when there is blockage, not allowing the sugar to flow to the rest of the tree. In the family system, love can also get blocked, creating relationship issues and challenges between and within the generations. Mother is our source of life, and our first source of love and emotional support in the world. She nurtures us and passes nutrition to us in the way of food, warmth, interconnection, and emotional wellbeing. Our mother blows the first breath of life into us, giving us our life force energy. She stands strong and holds integrity for the family system. Our mother processes emotions and memory for us when we are very young. Our mother tends to be the centre of our life when we are young. The heartwood of the tree, which stores sugars, oils, and dyes is in the centre of the tree and it supports the tree. Like the inner trunk of a tree, when there is unwellness the tree will often die. When mother is not emotionally well or balanced, perhaps carrying her own childhood trauma or transgenerational trauma, or living emotional trauma as an adult, the child will tend to help carry the mother emotionally for their own survival. If mother is okay, I will be okay is the unconscious mindset. Carrying mother emotionally, sharing mother’s fate, or remaining in the energy boundary of mother too close throughout life, will impact the wellbeing of the child in some way. It creates a separation wound with mother through the emotional distancing. Like many trees, which will shoot out seedlings whether they are doing well or not, the human mother can also reproduce whether she is emotionally well or not.
The Bark System
The bark system on the tree has many different purposes and many layers including the outer bark and the inner bark or phloem. Within the family system, if we look generally around the world, the father is most like the bark system of a tree. Like the outer bark on the tree, many fathers face outward to the world or environment, providing shelter from the elements for the family, supplying food for the family, and/or protecting the family system from adversity that threatens the wellbeing of the family system. The father role often involves discerning what comes into the family system and what is kept out. Like the skin of the human body, the bark of the tree has many layers of thickness that serve different purposes. Like the many layers of tree bark, there are many layers to explore within a human being. A human being can we known by deeper and deeper physical, emotional, and spiritual layers. This can occur externally in relationship with others and internally within the individual themselves. The bark provides structural support to the tree system and the father tends to supply structural support to a family system. Since father does not give birth, his role is to support mother and to provide while mother nurtures. The nurturing roles may be reversed today, however, someone in the family system needs to nurture the children for wellbeing to occur. When mother is well supported in the world, the inner trauma she carries within her may be passed to her children in a less pronounced way. In many family systems today this is not the situation. The number of single parent homes with the mother raising the children is continually rising today, although father may also be the single parent raising the children. Either situation has a different impact on the children of the family system depending on whether the children are boys or girls. The inner bark of the tree helps carrying the water and nutrients to the rest of the tree through sap. If the outer bark of the tree is severely damaged, it can significantly impact the wellbeing of the tree, even resulting in death. When the father of a family system is significantly wounded in some way, unable to fully carry out his supportive role in the family system, the family system will feel this disconnection and emotional woundedness may be felt in the offspring as well.
The inner bark of the tree and cambrium, like of the father of the family system, has a softer inner layer that is frequently not revealed to the outer world. The cambrium of the tree creates a new ring for the tree each year out of new cells, revealing a comprehensive historical record of the environmental events that have impacted its life. In this way the cambrium carries the memory for the tree system. This adds to the thickness of the tree trunk and branches each year. You may have marveled at the rings of an old tree that is lying on the ground or a thick tree trunk that is left standing. Just imagine the stories that could be shared if we took the time to understand all that is held within those inner rings of a tree. There are individuals who study this history for all of us. Hundreds of years of weather conditions such as droughts or wet years and other stories can be told. These trees carry a collective wisdom for the world, just as our older community members or ancestors carry collective wisdom for us. The rings of the tree seem like the ancestral record that is stored in the DNA of the human body. The Y chromosome is passed almost unchanged from father to son to establish the paternal line of the family system. This brings in the father, paternal grandfather, and paternal great grandfather all the way back in time. The mother’s line is different. The mitochondrial is passed down unchanged from mother to children establishing the line of the mother, maternal grandmother, maternal great grandmother all the way back in time, so it brings in a new family line at each generation. The mitochondrial can help to establish whether someone is your sibling.
The Branch System
The descendants of family systems thrive when they are flexible and adaptive like the branches of the tree. When branches are rigid they snap off in the wind. When branches give way to the power of the wind and bend, they continue to live. The young within family systems have the potential to thrive, even under adversity, when they are resilient and flexible. Children that have learned rigidity and control through their family systems will be more likely to struggle when sudden changes occur or adversity calls at their door. The branch system and leaf system of the tree is known as the crown. Within the family system, the children and future descendants are most like the crown of a tree. The descendants of the family system spread out into the world experiencing all there is to see and enjoy. Many humans see their offspring as the crowning glory of the family system, telling others of the marvelous exploits of their young ones. Many grandparents feel like they relate better to their grandchildren than they did to their own children. They describe how each descendant is so very different and wonder how that can be possible. Like the branches and leaves of the tree, providing shelter and shade for the greater ecosystem, there are many roles to be filled by the descendants of the family system. The wellbeing of the leaves of the tree is often an indicator of the wellbeing of the tree. It may be an indicator of trauma, abuse, or infestation. In the same way, the wellbeing of the children of the family system indicate the wellbeing of the whole family system and perhaps the greater community as well.
Stress and Trauma
The typical characteristics of a tree species may be altered by environmental stress, which can inhibit the normal growth of a tree. Trees may become stressed due to destruction at the hands of humans, insect infestations, powerful winds, soil damage, droughts, or sun damage. I have been to cold, windy regions such as Churchill, Manitoba where they have flag trees. The branches on these trees are only growing on the down wind side of the tree and yet they survive. These trees teach us resilience and the capacity to adapt to great adversity. Human development and growth can be greatly shifted through stress and trauma. Many elements of our outside world can create emotional trauma for us and impact our family system. If the ancestors are unwell in some way and we are carrying their unresolved transgenerational trauma, it may impact our wellbeing. If our parents are unwell in some way, it may impact our wellbeing. If we carry unresolved emotional trauma from our own life, we may be significantly impacted in some way.
The wellbeing of the tree and the physical characteristics of the tree are impacted by stresses or trauma such as lack of water and nutrition, disease, injury, infestation, pollution, attack or abuse. Human beings are impacted by stress and emotional trauma in many similar ways. For human beings, emotional distancing of parents and other family members can create trauma. There can be unresolved transgenerational trauma carried down from past generations or trauma felt in our own lifetime such as tragedy, relationship break up, abuses, war, displacement, violence, or immigration. Emotional trauma may occur due to a lack of emotional support or nourishment in childhood. All of these sources of trauma may impact your growth physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally.
Recently, I had the opportunity to experience some amazing trees. It was the second time in my life that I visited a beautiful redwood forest in Northern California. In the presence of these wonderful living entities we cannot help but feel their magnificence. In their presence there is a vibration, an ancient vibration that flows through you and around you. Some of these trees have been living for hundreds of years and many human generations. They are hard to describe. Imagine all the people, animals, insects, and spiders that have been in their presence. Just as we benefit from the wisdom and strength of our ancestral family systems, we also benefit when we listen to the wisdom of these magnificence inhabitants of Mother Earth. The immense redwoods have the capacity to quickly teach us what it is to be the small one. They teach us awe, wonder, and humility. The enormity and stateliness of redwoods is beyond comprehension, with the tallest tree about the height of a thirty story building, the biggest about the size of thirty school buses, and the widest about 34 feet or 7 metres across. Redwoods, also called giant sequoias, have the capacity for rapid growth and longevity. There are fossil records of redwood trees existing back into the prehistoric Jurassic period. The stately redwood trees carry the mysterious wisdom of the ancient and powerful within them.
Water is important for both the redwoods and for human beings. It is said that we are about 75% water with difference parts of the body: muscle, bone, organs, or vessels composed of different levels of water content. The humidity of the Pacific Ocean and fog brings the level of the moisture up for the redwood forests. The redwoods have vast quantities of water circulating from roots to trunk and upward to the top of the tree. Their root system does not go down very deep, but rather it branches out to great wide regions around the tree to promote great water circulation. Humans need plenty of healthy water for ultimate wellbeing.
Around these trees, time suddenly takes on a different meaning. Individual trees commonly live over 500 years, with some very hardy specimens living up to 2000 years. It helps us place ourselves within the planetary ecosystem. The length of a human life begins to feel rather short. The redwood forests of Northern California grow along the west coast region in a very small area a few hundred kilometres long. It is the only region of the world where these trees grow. The humid cool air off the Pacific Ocean keeps the trees moist enough to survive. These trees understand adaptation, regeneration, and resistance to extinction. They have several ways to reproduce. In order to regenerate, the great redwoods need enough space for new growth to occur.
These gentle giants do not survive alone. They are part of a vast ecosystem and network with other living organisms including trees, plants, mosses, algae, and animal species. Many have a symbiotic relationship with one another ensuring survival. Cooperation ensures longevity. Living with diversity is a positive element and human beings would do well to learn by this dynamic. There is interdependence with other plant life for soil regeneration and humans would do well to value other species of animal life that live in our environment. There is no sense of one species controlling another species, since the ecosystem all works together for survival. Competition amongst human beings tends to be destructive rather than beneficial when it comes to health, wellbeing, and balance. Cooperation and collaboration will bring human beings to a whole new level of wellbeing. Making a place at the table for all, rather than a hand out or a hand up, is vital.
We have much to learn from the ancient ones, both human beings and old ancient trees. Great forests naturally know how to recycle everything in their environment. Human beings need to embrace reusing and composting rather than new consumption to benefit the common good. Dead or decaying trees bring forward new life. Human beings would benefit from the integration of generations, the old and the young living in harmony rather than setting up segregation. Living together would bring forward all the stories of the elders that need to be told and need to be heard. The young would be enriched by the elderly being engaged throughout their lifetime. It is a way to keep from living old cycles or patterns over and over that no longer serve humanity well.
When some trees have been around longer than many of the countries of the world, we know there is a wealth of inner knowledge and wisdom available to us. When human beings have been around for many decades, often longer than the establishment of many countries and involved in the rapid technological advancements of today, they carry an invaluable wealth of inner knowledge and wisdom. The young can sometimes carry a feeling of superiority, or perhaps an arrogance, that wants to overlook or waste this valuable wisdom and resource. They may attempt to separate from it by ignoring their elders or moving across the country establishing little opportunity for contact. We become well and balanced when we learn to value and honour the ancient ones within our family system and those within our natural world. There is still much to learn about these forests and we have much more to learn about ourselves and how we interconnect with one another and how we are interdependent for survival as a species.
The Great Teachers
The tree and the greater forest teach us the values of interconnection and interdependence. I am continually sharing with others the value of connecting to their ancestral past. There is a wisdom held in the family system that is a great source of wellbeing and it cannot be found anywhere else. The more you know about your family system and acknowledge what you were given in life, the more you are able to accept your family system as it is, and the more you will find balance and wellness in life.
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