How to hug a tree
By Judith Trustone
Excerpt from The Global Kindness Revolution: How together we can heal Violence, Racism, and Meanness
Exercises to try: HOW TO HUG A TREE
Spend time every day that you can in all kinds of weather, even if it’s just 15 minutes, to connect with Mother Earth, tuning in to her healing energies, doing the Kindness at Noon Technique. Here's how: Set your phone or computer to remind you every day at noon along with thousands of others around the globe, to pause, and take Five Clearing Breaths. First, a slow deep breath into your jaw, then your armpits, your bellybutton, your bottom, and your knees, releasing all negativity and then just think a kind thought to a person, a group, a building, people at war, animals, etc. to feel clarity.
You may already have a special tree without realizing it. When commuting to work, though it might have been faster to use the highway, I delighted in back roads where I’d develop favorite trees along the way, observing their seasonal changes, smiling to myself as I drove by, sometimes being showered with cherry blossoms. Friends would tell me about a special tree they’d seen and I’d check it out. Maybe you’re lucky enough to have a special tree in your backyard.
Sit with your arms around the tree (as far as you can reach around it) and press your solar plexus, your belly, up against it. Or if you’re in a public place, sit with your spine straight against the tree, your hands resting comfortably in your lap. Do the Five Clearing Breaths Technique, several times if you need to. Tune in to the energies you’re feeling from the tree, and while it may take several “sits,” eventually you’ll be able to feel a flow of energy running up and down the tree, as if it had a pulse. Imagine the energy of your body blending with the tree’s energy and you will feel empowered and energized in the same way you feel after a Kindness Circle. Be patient with yourself as you overcome your resistance to sitting in silence and not fidgeting. Don’t worry that people might see you and think you are silly. Make this a daily ritual and your perceptions of what’s around you will really change. This can also be a place of prayer and meditation. If it’s chilly or damp, put a blanket down and sit on it.
Once when I was holding a workshop in a church in Center City Philadelphia, I led fifteen students to Rittenhouse Square in a tiny neighborhood. I encouraged them to fan out around the park and plant themselves around a tree for half an hour. While they were initially concerned about “what people will think,” they were surprised that in this urban setting, no one paid any attention to them!
DIG A HOLE
When you’re feeling distraught and needing to let go of negativity, this exercise is incredibly healing if you can overcome your fear of being discovered while doing it, feeling silly. It should take half an hour to stop the rock and roll in your head the first time you try this. Remember, embarrassment is the step before enlightenment.
LEAVE YOUR SMARTPHONE AT HOME!
Find a stick (or bring a spoon) and dig a hole large enough for you to put your face into it. Place yourself on your belly with your face over the hole. Put down a blanket or plastic bag (don't leave it) beneath you if you wish. Talk about whatever is bothering you into the hole—your hurts, angers, fears, betrayals—and release whatever you can, screaming into the hole if you can, or even vomiting as the toxic thinking inside you is released into the hole as fertilizer. Cry, laugh, whisper, shout—whatever it takes, and it should take you about an hour before you feel finished. Plant an acorn or a seed you’ve brought with you. Thank Mother Earth for allowing you to release your negativity to be transformed into positive energy; cover up the hole and the seed, and get up and walk away—lighter, more at peace and re-energized. If you need to do it again, select a different spot.
Develop within yourself, whether through prayer or meditation, a capacity for comfortable silence. As your being grows more quiet, tune in to all of your senses to notice what’s in you and around you— what are you seeing, smelling, feeling, hearing. Just observe, observe, observe. When you reach that still point inside you, you’ll know it for sure.
(I learned these exercises during my fourteen-year apprenticeship to a Native American medicine person with the Bear Tribe Medicine Society.)
It’s Scary Loving an Old Person
By Judith Trustone
Many of you have met or have heard about my dear friend, Bea Dallett, who died recently at 101. I was honored to be with her in her final earth journey. We plan a celebration of her incredible life, one that touched so many for so many years through her expanding the Community Arts Center in Wallingford, PA, from an unremarkable local spot to a nationally respected arts center where she mentored and inspired many, many aspiring artists. I'm attaching her obituary and also a few pages (253-255) from my book, The Global Kindness Revolution: How together we can heal Violence, Racism, and Meanness. Take a moment to read about this remarkable woman and how scary it is to love an old person! But I'm so glad I did.
Be in Beauty,
Though we’d passed each other in the lobby for years, I’d never had a chance to really get to know her. I thought she looked like an interesting person, one I’d like to get to know better. She’d been a real power in the arts community, directing the Community Arts Center until she was 80, developing it into a significant art education center. Her sunny home was filled with art treasures from around the world. Her sharp mind tunes into all that’s going on in the world, and we have frequent conversations about politics in America today.
But this feisty woman with the strong spirit surprised us all, bouncing back with increased vigor, still involved with life. My admiration, respect and yes, caring for her grew. I told her I wanted to learn from her how to grow old gracefully—and she is definitely showing me. She seems to enjoy my tales of trying to change the world, and her memory is much better than mine.
Though she needs a walker now, and sometimes when we go out we’ll use a wheelchair, she is more involved with the world than many of the younger people I know. We talk politics, exchange Netflix movies, share meals and sometimes I sneak around the corner of her hallway for an ice cream snack before bedtime. We live just a few doors down from each other in a large condominium complex.
We have become best girlfriends, and our affection and appreciation for one another greatly enriches my life and my own spirit. While it seems that statistically she will die before me, I am fully prepared to be a loving presence in whatever years she has left, and I will be honored to see her through to her last breath. Yes, I will grieve when she passes, but my grief will be softened by gratitude for having had this wonderful woman in my life to learn from and have fun with. Allowing myself to love her has definitely been worth it regardless of the future.
When I’m out with Bea, pushing her wheelchair now, I see how she is treated by those who don’t know her despite the fact that she’s mentally sharper than most younger folks but her legs don’t work right since a botched hip replacement. American culture, contrary to those cultures that care for their elders in a hopefully loving way in their families, segregates our elders in nursing homes, not the kinds of places where any of us want to spend our last years, no matter our color, class or ethnicity. Family dynamics are complex, as you will see in the following article that was printed back in the ‘70s in Labyrinth: Baptizing my Grandmother, an example of how different generations and values make the ends of our lives complicated.
Author & Activist