Community healing with the Tree of life Activity
Grounded and rooted.
Alone, yet branching out
to support others with its luscious greens.
Firm in its aged wisdom,
Needing no external validation.
The Tree of Life is a metaphor that commonly signifies the interrelation of everything in the universe and also serves as a reminder that you are never alone or isolated, but rather that you are connected to the world. The roots of the Tree of Life dig deep and spread into the earth, accepting nourishment from the Earth, and its branches reach up into the sky, absorbing energy from sunlight and moonlight. I often relate to and use the metaphor of ‘the tree of life for my personal exploration and with my clients using expressive arts for therapeutic work.
It also represents the connection to one’s family and ancestors. The intricate network of branches th
represents how a family grows and expands throughout many generations.
Symbolizing one’s individuality, trees are all unique with their branches sprouting at different points and in different directions.
It is a representation of rebirth as trees lose their leaves during winter, but then new buds appear and new, fresh leaves unfurl during the spring. It is a visual metaphor in which a tree represents your life and the various elements that make it up–past, present, and future.
As a therapist, I feel privileged to be able to witness my clients’ life stories, and together find ways to create stories that would be meaningful in their present and future. And facilitating this as a community exercise can be a healing and transformative experience.
The Tree of Life is a narrative therapy project, designed by Ncazelo Ncube of REPSSI and David Denborough (Dulwich Centre Foundation) for young people whose parents had HIV/Aids. This project was created to allow these children to believe in their own abilities, acknowledge their dreams, and stand in a safer place where they could talk about their difficult experiences in ways that are not retraumatizing, and find inner strength and resources.
The exercise is a simple one and I usually use this template in my sessions with clients, but the overall experience of lookin
g at your past, an
d present with one’s future hopes and wishes can be a powerful experience while also reflecting on your life as a tree.
Begin with this visualization: Stand if that’s comfortable for you. Notice the contact between your feet and the earth. Now imagine that you are a tree and from your feet, there are roots growing into the earth. These roots support you.
- What kind of tree are you?
- What shape, size, or color?
- What qualities and or strengths does your tree have?
- What surrounds your tree?
- How is your tree connected?
I facilitated this activity during a recent corporate session conducted by Pause. The session was themed around personal growth, stress management, and self-care in these evolving times. I got to witness deep personal reflection by the employees of the company during and after the activity. What really stood out was a deep sense of connection and belonging that was experienced not only during the process of creating their trees but also while we discussed their experiences.