I’m taking a class on inter-species communication—and how language shapes our beliefs about the world around us—and already I’ve been challenged and delighted by it. It feels like the perfect class to “go out on” now that I’m at the end of my MFA…I can feel the ways I’ve been pushed and shaped in the last two years as a writer and thinker, and now I get to use all those new skills to imagine a world where all living beings (land, animals, insects, water, plants) have a voice. Sometimes I write in that voice. Sometimes I think in that voice. But mostly I’ve been asked to listen for it.

I wanted to share an exercise we did together at the end of class last week because the memory of how it felt has lingered with me, and I think that means it was important. We did tree meditations out on the quad, and before it sounds too “woo-woo” I think it’s worth a try. Here’s what you do:

Pick one tree. Stand close to it, maybe touching but not necessarily. I was sort of in between two roots next to the trunk.

Start facing East. While facing East, ask (in your head/heart/body) Who am I? Think your response, either in words or images or feelings. Be open to the tree responding in kind.

Turn to the South. While facing South, ask Where do I come from? In the same open way, respond and leave room for the tree to respond.

Turn to the West. While facing West, ask What do I serve? Or more simply: what do I believe in?

And finally, turn to true North. While facing North, ask Where am I going?

I was tense and anxious starting the exercise, I had a lot of restless energy. But I forced myself to do it (I am a very good student, after all) and was pleasantly surprised by how meaningful it felt. I felt I could not lie in the presence of the tree. I was comforted by feeling like I could unburden myself to a being that would not tell anyone what I said. I saw images of acorns and a deep wave of calmness come through me. Everything felt alright. I would 10/10 recommend a tree meditation—you might be surprised what they say.