Week 25: Species Loneliness
We are inexplicably interconnected and thus never alone
It feels as though this global pandemic is separating us, making an already individualistic society even more isolated, but what if this didn’t have to be the case? What if we could find community among the trees?
Robin Wall Kimmerer, Indigenous scientist and author, describes species loneliness as, “a great sadness” which stems from our “estrangement from the rest of Creation. We have built this isolation with our fear, with our arrogance, and with our homes brightly lit against the night.” When humans separated ourselves from nature with walls, technology, and capitalism we became visitors in a place that was once our home. Our connection to other beings became one based on aesthetic and monetary value rather than reciprocity and understanding. When we walk through the forest now, we are surrounded solely by objects, not beings. However, it is not too late to repair this connection, and quarantine just might be the perfect time to do so.
Species loneliness is a disease curable only through humility and gratitude, so keep your mind open, for there are other ways of communicating than through language. Below is an exercise, inspired in part by the Taoist tradition of Chi energy sharing and the Japanese tradition of forest bathing, that might help ease your loneliness during this time.
Go outside and let yourself be drawn to one of the trees around you
Stand or sit a couple of feet away from the tree
Attempt to clear your mind with a few deep breaths in and out
Then, when you feel ready, ask permission to greet the tree with touch and place your hands on the trunk or wrap your arms around it.
Focus on how the bark and soil smell or feel and on how the light is hitting the leaves above you. Can you hear leaves rustling and the goings-on of the world beneath your feet?
Now, as The Soul Medic advises, focus on your negative thoughts: worry, sorrow, anger, and imagine this energy flowing down through the tree’s roots to be recycled into soil.
Then, imagine the renewed energy flowing back up through the roots and into your hands, arms, chest, stomach, legs, and head.
When you feel ready to break the connection, say thank you and say a prayer or send hope for the health and happiness of both you and the tree.
You may even leave an offering, which Kimmerer suggests as an act of gratitude. In the past, I have left a cordage bracelet made out of plant fiber or a simple flower.
You do not have to use this exercise in order to find friends in the forest. You may simply choose to visit a tree, plant, rock, or stream and speak to it or put your hands on it. This practice, whether fulfilled daily or every week on your chosen sabbath day, will balance, comfort, and ground both you and the non-human being, just as your friends and family might do.