The Healing Power of Trees


Have you ever marveled at the power and beauty of trees? As earth's oldest and largest living things, they are the planet's natural antennae to the universe. By their very presence, they command our attention and invite our interaction. Like a trusted friend, a special tree can be a source of comfort and inspiration.

Since the tree is the biggest plant on earth and because it is so permanent, it is a unique manifestation of life on a very massive scale. Symbolically, trees represent the loftiest planes of the universe. It is not surprising then that trees throughout history have been focal points that marked human progress and introduced events that shaped the future. For instance, it was under the Akenwyke Yew in Runnymede, England, that King John signed the Magna Carta in 1215. It was under the Cambridge Elm in Massachusetts in 1775 that George Washington took command of the Continental Army. It was under the Masonic Charter Oak that Texas declared its independence in 1836. We remember these ancient trees today as memorials to progress and symbols of freedom.

Aside from national affairs, the regal tree can be a focal point that empowers our personal lives mentally, physically, and spiritually. The tree, in fact, seems designed to parallel our own physical makeup. It is a smoothly operating system that never stops growing. Consequently, this magnificent antenna to the universe provides the ideal channel for interacting with higher planes of power.

I've always been a tree person. As a child growing up on a farm in the Deep South, I walked each morning down a lane lined with great old oak trees to catch a bus for school. Hiking in the forest, often with my parents and two brothers was a favorite year-round activity, especially on weekends. My father, also a tree person, believed that we share with trees a wondrous destiny for growth and greatness. The primeval forest especially—with its abundance of giant trees, lush undergrowth, and verdant floor—offers a unique convergence of the highest energies of nature. Every inch of the forest is a celebration of life. The sounds of life and renewal reverberate throughout it like an anthem under its vaulting canopy of leaves. By simply walking through it, you can draw from its rich repository of energy to empower the mind, body, and spirit.

I discovered early in life that certain old trees can call out to us, inviting us to engage their energies and share their powers. During walks in the forest as a child with my brothers, we often placed our hands on a giant tree to experience its unique energies. It once occurred to me as my hands rested on a towering oak that I may have existed as a tree in a past life. Perhaps it was important to my growth to know what it was like to be embodied in a tree—if not for a full lifetime, for at least a brief interval between past lifetimes. Or if not as a tree, possibly as some other non-human life form. It seemed reasonable to me, for instance, that a past life as an animal being could explain my present-life appreciation of animals as beings of great dignity and worth. All too often, we fail to recognize animals as divine beings worthy of our respect and admiration. My grandfather, a veterinarian who devoted his life to the care of sick or injured animals, believed that the best measure of how far we have developed as human beings rests in the nature of our treatment of animals. For me personally, the quality of my existence beyond death would be immeasurably enriched by the afterlife presence of animals in a spiritual forest habitat. Could it really be heaven without our animal friends?

Phoenix, the Beech Tree
I will never forget a certain old beech tree my brothers and I discovered as children on a summer afternoon hike into the dense forest near our home. Instantly, I felt connected to the tree and its powerful energies. Towering above all the others, the massive beech, which I named Phoenix, stood firmly anchored by roots wrapped around a giant limestone rock with a crevasse from which sprang an abundant flow of crystal clear water. Known as "Old Split-rock," the spring was "everlasting"—it had never been known to go dry, even during the most severe of droughts that were common to the region.

I remember the first time I rested my hands upon the giant tree. I at once experienced a powerful infusion of positive energy followed by a serene state of oneness with the tree, not as an inanimate object, but as a living being. Although I was only around ten years of age, I felt totally connected to the highest plans of power in the universe. That interaction with Phoenix was a peak experience I would never forget. It awakened within me a deep awareness of the illimitable power of our natural surroundings and our ability to experience it first hand.

In the shade of Phoenix was a large, flat limestone rock that became a favorite place for our family outings. It was there on Flat Rock, as we called it, that our parents would often spread lunch and, on lazy summer afternoons, read to us selections from the great works of literature. Occasionally, they would suggest a passage for us to commit to memory. A favorite passage that remains firmly etched in my mind to this day came from Robert Collier's seven-volume set titled The Secret of Ages: "Start today by knowing that you can do anything you wish to do, have anything you wish to have, be anything you wish to be. The rest will follow." (Collier, Robert. The Secret of Ages, Volume 2, Robert Collier Publisher, New York, 1926, p. 131). At the end of each outing, we would place our hands upon Phoenix to experience anew his remarkable power.

At age 12, I experienced that power at a critical time in my life when I was diagnosed with congenital heart disease involving a malfunctioning valve. When I asked the doctor, "How long do I have?" he replied, "You may live for a long time." When I asked more pointedly, "How long is a long time?" he responded, "Oh, probably for a long, long time." Shaken by the vagueness of his answers, I decided then and there to consult with Phoenix. He would know exactly what to do.

With my doctor's verdict weighing heavily on my mind, I formulated a plan and shared it with my brothers. Together, we arranged an overnight consultation with Phoenix. Under a full moon, we took our camping gear to Flat Rock where we had often before pitched tents and camped overnight. As we approached the site, I felt the powerful energies of the tree, which had taken on a silvery glow in the bright moonlight, its luminous energies radiating in all directions. Together my brothers and I placed our hands on the giant tree and silently invited him to intervene in my behalf. Instantly, I felt a warm infusion of energy unlike anything I had ever felt before, first in the palms of my hands and then radiating throughout my total body. I knew that Phoenix's healing work had begun.

Later that night in the warm comfort of my sleeping bag, I slowly drifted into that between-phase called hypnogogic sleep (which some believe is conducive to out-of-body travel). In that serene state, I felt myself being gently drawn out of my body to the tree. Fully out-of-body, I again placed my hands upon Phoenix to experience an infusion of energy far more powerful than before. It was then that an amazing thing happened—I suddenly felt myself literally entering the tree to become an integral part of its bright interior. In the out-of-body state, I had actually embodied the tree, from its vast root system to its uppermost limbs. I will never forget the thrill of that moment. I had, in spirit, become a tree! I and the tree were one and the same, not separate spirit entities. In that state of oneness, I felt spiritually connected to the highest planes of power! I felt the perfection of mind, body, and spirit. I knew in an instant that I was healed.

Momentarily, I returned to my body still at rest in the sleeping bag, where I entered deep, restful sleep for the remainder of the night.

A few days later, I underwent additional medical tests. To my doctor's disbelief, they showed absolutely no evidence of a defective heart. Shaking his head, he blurted out, "Something happened here, I don't know what," to which I responded, "I have a friend name Phoenix I'd like for you to meet someday." Little did I know at that early age that I would devote much of my adult life as a psychologist to the study of the healing powers of nature.

Eventually, I moved from the area, but over the years, I returned to that deep forest time and time again, both in and out-of-body, to experience the many rich rewards of interacting with Phoenix. I noticed that several names, initials, and love messages, including hearts with arrows through them, had been carved by visitors into his trunk, not in disrespect, but rather in recognition of an awesome presence. I must admit I carved my own name upon the massive trunk, but with Phoenix's express permission. For me, Phoenix had become more than just a tree—he was a trusted friend who was always ready to lend a helping hand and share his magnificent powers.

Sadly, I recently experienced during sleep what seemed to be out-of-body travel to the primeval forest, but instead of the serenity that characterized my previous visits, I was met with a disturbing gray haze that overshadowed the area. Gliding over the forest, which seemed strangely altered, I searched unsuccessfully for Phoenix.

Troubled by the experience, I decided a few days later to visit the forest. I was not prepared for what I found. The forest's great trees had been recently harvested, leaving behind a rough terrain barren of undergrowth and scattered with debris. Tree limbs and uprooted stumps had been piled into large heaps and set on fire. Still smoldering, they sent forth columns of smoke to form an expansive cloud that hung heavily over the place. The harsh wasteland was without sound or any other sign of life.

As I approached the site where Phoenix had stood in splendor for over 150 years, I found no remains of the tree. Even his roots were gone, having been wrenched from the large, fissured boulder, dislodging it and shutting off the flow of water from the spring. All that remained unchanged at the site was Old Flat Rock. I knelt upon it and wept.

Abigail, the Hackberry Tree
Soon after joining Athens State College (now University) as Professor of Psychology, I introduced into the curriculum an eight-week remediation program called "Summer Start" designed for college applicants whose entrance exams did not qualify them for admission to a regular college program. The specially designed program included instruction in certain core subjects, along with counseling and tutoring.

As a part of the program's counseling component, I introduced what was then an innovative strategy called Tree Power Infusion designed specifically to improve student academic performance. The strategy is based on the premise that our interactions with trees can provide a direct link to totally new sources of untapped potential, both within ourselves and beyond. For use in the procedure, I selected a large hackberry tree situated on campus near the stage entrance of McCandless Auditorium. The tree seemed particularly appropriate for use in the program because of its magnificence as well as the legend associated with it. According to the legend, the tree was planted around the turn of the last century in honor of the talented actress, Abigail Burns, who had performed in McCandless Auditorium and then met with tragic death en route to her next engagement. Soon after her death, the bright image of Abigail appeared at a third floor window of the building, where she is still often seen, particularly around midnight on November 12, the anniversary of her death.

Here's the Tree Power Infusion procedure as used by our Summer Start students who named the hackberry tree Abigail.

  1. Formulate your goals, and with your hands resting upon the selected tree, invite it in your own words to be your partner in achieving your stated goals.
  2. Gently stroke the tree as you experience your connection to it and the responsiveness of the tree as your energies interact with it. Sense the vibrations of that interaction as the tree’s powerful energies permeate your total being.
  3. With your hands still resting upon the tree, envision it as a powerful antenna piercing the unlimited powers of the universe. Again state your goals and express your gratitude to the tree as your partner in achieving them.
  4. Conclude the exercise with the affirmation: The energies of my being are balanced and attuned. I am endowed with limitless growth potential. Mentally, physically, and spiritually, I am fully empowered to achieve my highest goals.

Incredibly, all thirty students enrolled in Summer Start qualified at the end of the term for entrance into the college's regular four-year degree program. As further testament of Summer Start's success, all participants successfully completed the baccalaureate degree, with eleven of the thirty students graduating with honors. That initial Summer Start program was so successful that the college continued it for several years, with Tree Power Infusion remaining an essential component.

Although Tree Power Infusion was originally designed to improve student academic performance, it can be used with various trees for a wide range of personal empowerment goals, including losing weight, smoking cessation, building self-esteem, and rejuvenation, to mention but a few.

Hercules, the Tulip Tree
Near the end of my graduate studies at the University of Alabama, I had a lucid recurrent dream in which a third-floor office window framed the upper branches of a large tulip tree with a squirrel scurrying among its branches. Occasionally the squirrel leaped playfully from the tree onto the windowsill. Since recurrent lucid dreams are often psychically significant, I was not surprised at soon discovering the dream's precognitive relevance.

Upon accepting a professorship at Athens State College and entering my assigned office on the third floor of Founder's Hall, I saw framed by a window behind my desk the familiar tulip tree with a squirrel scurrying among its branches. Over the several years I occupied that office, the squirrel I named Henry often leaped playfully upon the windowsill exactly as in my recurring dream.

Because the tulip tree is a multipurpose tree that can be used for almost any personal empowerment goal, I introduced it to my students as a potential empowerment tool, though I was hesitant to refer to the venerable tree as a tool. Using Tree Power Infusion as previously discussed, my students soon discovered the magnificent power of interacting with the massive tulip tree they named Hercules. They discovered that building self-esteem, promoting academic success, reducing stress, breaking unwanted habits, enriching social relationships, and even gaining admission to their preferred graduate schools were all within the range of possibilities.

The Differential Powers of Trees
Certain trees seem to be uniquely designed to promote particular empowering effects through our interactions with them. For instance, the pine tree is known for its capacity to instantly energize, though the dramatic infusion of energy is typically short-lived. The cottonwood, on the other hand, is known for its long-term energizing effects, particularly in facilitating productivity, endurance, and adaptability. The oak and beech are all-purpose empowerment trees, with mental, physical, and spiritual empowerment properties. Here are some other differential empowering properties of particular trees:

  • Black Walnut: Promoting independence, determination, and practicality
  • Elm: Facilitating self-understanding, inner awareness, and problem solving
  • Gingko: Promoting psychic development, wisdom, and creativity
  • Hickory: Facilitating personal achievement, self-discipline, and career success
  • Poplar: Promoting physical fitness, rejuvenation, and attunement
  • White Birch: Promoting spirituality, emotional stability, and compassion
  • Trees Bearing Flowers: Promoting creativity, flexibility, and expanded awareness

As already noted, you can access the empowerment properties of a particular tree by simply being in its presence. The interaction is spontaneous but nevertheless potentially empowering. But through structured procedures that include physical contact and deliberate interaction with a selected tree, you can increase its empowerment effects and activate its specialized potentials.

The power of trees as earth's antennae can be amplified even further through the use of such additional tools as the quartz crystal. The crystal is first programmed and then buried at the tree's base where its energies join those of the tree, amplifying them and targeting them to your stated goals. To program the crystal, first hold it briefly under warm running water and let it air dry on a soft cloth. Next, hold the crystal in your hand and while stroking it gently, specify your empowerment goals, limiting them to no more than three. Finally, while holding the crystal in your hand, invite it to be your empowerment partner in achieving your stated goals.

Aside from its effectiveness when used with tree empowerment strategies, the programmed crystal can be a highly effective tool when worn as an ornament or simply carried in one's pocket or purse.

The magnificent power of trees is available to everyone. The tree can become your antenna to the loftiest power of the universe. Beginning now, you can access that power to achieve your highest goals. At the same time, you can experience the wondrous joy of interacting with the oldest and largest plant on earth. Beyond that, a tree can become a trusted friend that inspires and energies you mentally, physically, and spiritually. Who could ask for more than that?

About Joe H. Slate PhD

Joe H. Slate was a Licensed Psychologist in private practice with a PhD from the University of Alabama and postdoctoral studies in hypnosis and psychosomatic medicine at the University of California. He was Emeritus ...

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