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.)