Tree Hugging: Get High Vibes Outside

I’m a long-time treehugger. As a kid, I’d heard the term used to describe environmentalists, and one day while camping, I decided to try it out, wrapping my arms around a big, wide, mossy trunk. I didn’t want to let go. Leaning into its stable, grounded aliveness, I laid my cheek on the trunk of what felt like a great, stout, benevolent grandmother. I finally released, state of mind transformed into a sweet calm that traveled with me the rest of the day, tiny blessings of bark and moss clinging to my hair.

Since then, I’ve made a point of hugging a tree any time I’ve been either alone in the woods, or with someone I think would understand. A couple of years ago my friend Sean and I were hiking near Cypress Falls in North Vancouver and got to talking about tree hugging. As a massage therapist, Sean is constantly seeking new healing modalities and had recently attended a talk with Dr Steven Aung, the pioneering Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner—on the health benefits of hugging trees.

Dr Aung isn’t alone in his advocacy. Science backs up the up-close-and-personal approach to connecting with nature. Studies show that we get measurable benefits to emotional and physical health from pretty much any time in the great outdoors. Aung recommends a specific protocol for healing and respectful tree hugging. The directions below are based on his work. Read on and you’ll be making forest friends in no time.

How to Hug a Tree

Choose a tree
Wander in the forest, being open to a tree that looks healing and inviting. I usually feel called by large, mossy trees with a feminine energy. Fun Fact: Trees with features that look like human sexual organs are thought to help heal infertility and sexual dysfunction.

Ask for permission
Just like people, trees are not always in the mood for hugs. Trees rooted close to a busy trail have usually had quite enough of humans, thank you very much, and are typically not as open to being hugged. Approach a tree and silently ask it if you can give it a hug. The answer will be very clear.

Get hugging
Focus your gaze on the tree. Lightly bend your knees as if you’re riding a horse. Open your palms towards the tree. Embrace the tree and get comfy! You’re invited. Stay as long as you like. You don’t have do think or do anything specific; just let the healing happen.

Thank and bless
Express your gratitude to your tree in whatever way feels best. I usually spend a few minutes gazing at the tree with my hands in prayer at heart center. Consider how all trees contribute to our health and happiness every day. Namaste.