Outside my living room window lives a tall tree with thick and thin branches, limb-like, arms wide open and expanded, greeting and welcoming every day and seasons. Dressed with tiny, soft, delicate leaves, the tree cues its presence and aliveness in its constant waves of movements– forward and backward.
Rooted and reaching, sturdy and balanced, the tree greets and welcomes each moment. Upright and bent in trunk, reaching high and low, far and near, upwards into the sky and downwards into the earth.
Myths and fairytales tell stories of “humans transformed into trees, and the sighing of the tree and its resinous tears, both tree-like and human” (1). In this way, we are similar to trees– in our resilience and strength, in our sense of needing rootedness and nourishment, in the ways we get tangled and barren by the weight of events and emotions.
Image, symbol, and metaphor, are central in how I approach the day to day and the process of psychotherapy or the care of the soul. As the language of our psyche and soul, symbols and metaphors facilitate how we access and connect to our inner landscape, to understanding events and experiences; they help bring forth what needs to be revealed, metabolized, and eventually integrated. The language of image allows us to lean into our feelings without the burden of finding the ‘right words’. When we try to make sense of events and our feelings, paying attention to the metaphors and symbols that arise spontaneously in our mind (and body), offer a deepened engagement with parts of our self, otherwise inaccessible and impalpable.
Going back to the tree and applying that metaphor to our day to day, helps us to perhaps see how the tree is so similar to the parts of us that hold the potential for rootedness and centeredness, and to the parts of us that long to be contained and grounded. This metaphor gives us a place to start in our own work of self-inquiry and excavation, in that just like the tree, we too are in an incessant process of movement, of growth, of shedding, of letting go and of renewal.
So perhaps the next time you come across a tree, see if you can imagine your body in its trunk and branches, in its roots and skin, expanding both outwards and inwards, towards the sky and rooted in earth too.
(1) ARAS 2An.001. The book of symbols. reflections of archetypal images. pp. 128. Taschen