Consciousness of the Five Pillars
The term "Five Pillars" refers to the five main, known senses of the human being. These senses (sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste) build the human perception, and on them (or on their lack) rests all human reality. Our personal myth (the story we tell ourselves about reality) is built entirely on the information absorbed by the senses and the way it is processed through our consciousness (which is of course influenced by genetics and by previous experience, ours and that of our various educators). The Five-Pillar meditation, or Five-Pillar consciousness, refers to the initiated awareness of information received through all five senses simultaneously. We believe that the ability to evoke, occasionally and proactively, attention to all that is absorbed by the Body Gates, perfects our perception of reality and our participation in it (what we refer to as the Wallowing). Increasing awareness of the environment and the way it is absorbed into our bodies, has the potential to contribute to the development of our consciousness and intellect, as well as to greater sensitivity and a more pious connection to nature and the world around us.
Ordinary meditations usually ask you to disengage from the environmental "disruptions" and concentrate on your own breathing. The Five-Pillar Consciousness exercise seeks to open you up to the environment, and to make you pay attention to every murmur, glimmer of smell, appearance, feeling and taste. The intention of this exercise is to develop our own awareness for the fact that we are perforated bodies, which for a moment do not cease the interaction with the reality flowing around us.
The exercise can be performed, as in regular meditations, sitting or lying down in a quiet place, with a specific intention for an act of mindfulness. However, we also suggest to experience it during your daily activities, while you are engaged in your routine. While walking with the dog, washing dishes or even fitness training, be aware of the sensations that accompany your body orifices, and ask yourself:
What do I see in this moment? What do I hear? What smell penetrates my nostrils, what taste rests on my tongue and what am I currently feeling in the various areas of the surface of my body?
This is not an activity we are used to, even though we use our senses regularly, at every moment. Most of the information absorbed by our body passes through consciousness and is filtered in a way that will allow us to deal with a reasonable amount of information without crashing beneath it, and without missing out on the things that really matter for our survival. A practice of the kind proposed here, however, can perfect the way our consciousness processes its information and priorities. This is an exercise in mindfulness and alertness, and it will take time for you to do it easily and simultaneously.
You may also treat each sense (or each body orifice) individually, thus helping the body sharpen its sensitivities in places that may have been neglected over the years. Thus, for example, most of us regularly rely on sight and hearing, thereby neglecting the other senses. Practicing vigilance for what we smell or what we taste (even when there is nothing in our mouth), may strengthen the more negligible senses, thereby expanding our perception of reality, no less.
Ecstasy through Dance
Ecstasy through dance is a ritual performed through music, and draws its inspiration from various techniques of meditation, movement and guided imagination. Here you will find a number of suggestions for dancing ceremonies, which have several purposes, such as release, relaxation, body exercise, and the like. There is no special novelty in this ritual, because each of us has already experienced some degree of "loss of senses", following listening to music and dancing. The difference between the rituals offered here and other ecstatic dance experiences, is in intention, awareness and attention. In addition, we see the suggestions presented here as sources of inspiration, rather than binding recipes or dictations - you are welcome to develop your own techniques, and find the best way to perform your own personal ritual, and for the sake of your own specific goals.
First you will need to choose the music that suits your ritual. Will it be music you usually listen to, or something specially selected for the event? Will it be slow or fast music, quiet or loud? Will the selected music include vocals, or will it be purely instrumental? Music is more or less our version for prayer - it is the medium through which we experience what appears to be transcendental exaltation, and it is in fact blurring the boundaries of the body and mixing our experience of In and Out (in-body and out-of-the-body). Through music we experience a connection between the world outside of us and our "Inner Beast", the abode of passions and impulses. The type of music chosen for the dance ritual will greatly affect its character, so you should carefully choose the genre that suits what you want to achieve through the ceremony. The music can be played live by musicians accompanying the ritual, or by some electronic device, and heard through an external speaker or wireless headphones (in cases where the ritual is personal, the latter is more common). The dance can be wild and unbridled or calm and meditative, consistent and stable or evolving and fickle, it can be done individually or in a group, naked or dressed, in the open space or between the walls of your house.
Once you have chosen the music and means of listening (wireless headphones or external speaker) that suit the nature of your ceremony, we recommend choosing the most appropriate place for the dance. If there is any outdoor space, in nature or at your own backyard, where you can perform the ritual, then it is better. Without walls or obstacles, it will be possible to perform the dance without fear of disruption or physical injury. If you are confined to an interior space, it is advisable to clear the room of obstacles to allow free movement in it, without fear of getting hurt. We recommend performing a number of breathing exercises before the ceremony, and before playing the music that will be used during the dance itself. You can prepare a musical piece in advance that is suitable for the breathing exercises. When you feel ready, you should turn on the music. From this point on, the dance, as mentioned, will change according to the nature of the chosen music.
Here are some suggestions for individual dances. Through a few simple actions they can also be turned into couple or group rituals. Use these suggestions as they are - suggestions; They can be modified, connected, merged and upgraded. The most important thing is to listen to your body and its needs, and to not do things that will endanger your well-being:
Vegetal Dance Ritual - After a few breathing and relaxation exercises, you may start the dance by kneeling or standing, but with both feet on the ground. The music chosen for this ritual should be slow and quiet, and appropriate to the "plant energy" you seek to create through your movements. Become a tree. Imagine the roots coming out of your feet and penetrating deep into the ground beneath you. Feel the intensity of the contact between your feet and the earth, and the anchor produced by those imaginary roots, which allow your body to move above the ground without falling. Imagine your body as a trunk and your arms as branches, moving according to the music that passes in your ears like a wind blowing between the branches of an actual tree. It is recommended to perform the ceremony with your eyes closed. As time goes on, the sense of "treeness" you build through visualization will intensify. You can also start this dance while in contact with an actual tree, which may strengthen the feeling and deepen the visualization. This ritual is best performed in the morning under the sun, but can be also performed at any other time during the day or night.
The Dionysian Dance - The Dionysian dance is an unrestrained dance designed to release your body and "soul", strengthen the sense of connection with your inner animal and with nature, and it is also a good exercise for the body. It is named after the Greek god Dionysus, who is the personification of ecstasy and loss of the senses. The music that can be used for this ritual is varied, however it is important that it shall be in "high energy", that is, music that is not too slow or too mellow. It is recommended to use music that combines percussion, as these are instruments that contribute to raising ecstasy, and connect with the natural rhythm of the body and heart beats. After relaxation, turn on the music and let your body move freely. You can imagine yourself as an animal, and move inspired by it. Do not think about how you look, and do not aim for an aesthetic action. The most important thing is to release the body and mind, and move freely in the space. This ritual is best done in the evening or during the night. You can perform it to celebrate special natural occasions, such as nights of full moon, the Equinox and the like, but it can also performed in any other time.
Dance of the Leading limb - This is a practice taken from theater exercises: turn on the music, and let one of your palms, or another limb (head, foot, etc.), move freely, inspired by it. Imagine that your body moves in the direction of your palm, gradually - first the forearm, then the arm, shoulder, chest, etc. Let the particular organ lead the movement, and the rest of the body to obey it. Listen to your body and the feelings that accompany this exercise, and the changes that occur over time.
Embracing the Darkness
The sense that humans trust most of all, is the sense of sight. Given that a person is not blind for any reason, the reality reflected in his/her mind is composed mostly of the visual information that the eyes perceive, through the light returned to them from the surrounding objects. Light is a natural force that, in addition to its other functions, allows humans, as well as many of other animals, to distinguish between objects, and between an object and its surroundings.
For this reason, culturaly, Light is also perceived as a beneficent force associated with consciousness and intelligence. The light divides reality into its parts and allows us to make distinctions and separations within the natural chaos. When something is lit, we can absorb information from and about it, thereby increasing the degree of confidence we have regarding this object. Light means orientation, order, distinction, and control.
Darkness, on the other hand, is a force of uncertainty, blurring of boundaries and lack of control. As Light separates, Darkness unites. A person who is not accustomed to activity in the dark, may get completely lost when he/she finds himself/herself in a situation that forces him/her to conduct within it.
In our view, Darkness is potential. Exactly the same qualities that may deter certain people from the dark - uncertainty, blurring of boundaries and lack of control - are in our eyes the basic ground for creativity and development. Not only is there no Light without Darkness, there is also no vision without Darkness - there is no vision without shadows, because an excessive amount of light may also be a blinding force (have you ever tried to look streight at the sun? not recommended).
The inclusion of Darkness as a significant force in one's life, may bring with it many good consequences. "Befriending" this force, may change worldviews and perceptions of various kinds, and pave new ways of thinking and experiencing reality. Regular practice of orientation in the dark may improve one's other senses, those we rely on less on a daily basis. Certain exercises of creative work in the dark, may allow a large room for randomness, which has the potential of contribution to new ideas and significant breakthroughs in one's artistic practice. Darkness may also be a source of calmness and completion, through various exercises of sitting in the dark, with eyes open (while the body is “nourished” by the dark surrounding, rather than by the darkness caused as a result of closing the eyelids).
Here are some exercises/rituals that we suggest experimenting with, to increase the connection with Darkness and the potential it brings with it:
Many meditation practices include sitting or lying down in a dark room and with eyes closed. As part of the idea of embracing Darkness, we suggest sitting or lying in a completely darkened room, but keeping your eyes wide open. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position, bring yourself to relaxation through breathing and/or through music you find suitable for the situation, and stay in this position as long as your body allows you, with your eyes open and you looking into the dark. Let yourself experience the visual blindness, and let Darkness envelop you all. During the process, try to pay special attention to your other senses - listen to the sounds around you, the sounds of your body, the smells, the tastes and the other feelings your body absorbs from this dark environment.
A similar exercise can also be done in motion (dancing or just moving freely in the space), but first you have to make sure you remove any obstacle that may cause you to fall or get hurt. Play music that does it for you, or use your inner rhythm to move through the empty and darkened room with your eyes open, while you experience the Darkness and space as a direct continuation of your body.
Another practice is about releasing your creative consciousness, while drawing or working with color, which does not rely on vision but on your intuitions and natural impulses, which you do not usually let go of. Prepare a large sheet of paper (or any other substrate such as canvas, cardboard, or else) together with pencils, paintbrushes or graphite. put on music (repetitive music is recommended, but each style and each genre will initiate a different experience), and draw freely on the surface, whatever rises in your mind, while your eyes are open in complete Darkness. If no image comes up, just scribble. The more you prolong the exercise, the more interesting and complex the experience will be. It is very important to make sure that you do not need light when the pencil or paint runs out, so it is recommended to prepare some pencils in advance, or, if you work with paint, a container of paint that is close to you and in a pre-determined location.
Think of additional options and do as much as you like (you can also refine and diversify the suggestions presented here), but always ensure a safe environment free of injury or fall risks.
Often, the experience can be intensified if one manages to personify Darkness, and treat it as a metaphorical entity (what we refer to as Deitype). There is no need to do anything special, no need to talk to it or treat it physically as a living entity. It is more of a state of mind that one adopts, in order to experience Darkness as if it was a conscious entity that cooperates with him/her, or cradles him/her within it. If it makes it easier for you to relate to a specific metaphor, then the Greek Erebus may do the job, for he is the Greek personification of Darkness.
Feeding the Elements
Many heterosophical rituals are aided by the various natural elements, such as fire, water, air, earth, wood and the like. However, one may want to pay special attention to a specific element, due to a special meaning it has for him/her at some point, or in general. Sometimes we identify with a certain element, or attracted to it for some reason, spiritual, emotional, intellectual or cultural.
We try not to load the elements with any certain meanings and dictate them upon those who follow our path. Everyone may and should perceive the elements and forces in his/her own life in a way he/she sees fit, in relation to his/her unique personality, intuitions and intellect, and to the culture from which he/she comes or which he/she identifies with. Although many of the elements represented similar ideas in different cultures, by virtue of being part of the archetypal array of the human psyche, there are also significant differences between cultures, including differences in perceptions of the various elements. Those we recommend learning and internalizing, so that you can create and embrace your unique perceptions.
As part of the "befriending" process you may want to have with one of the elements you have studied in depth (or that you are intuitively drawn to, right now or in general), you may want to try this proposed ritual, which we refer to as "Feeding the Elements". This is actually a practice of offering or sacrificing, performed for the element itself: watering/feeding a tree, feeding fire with some combustible materials, burying something in the ground (preferably something that will enrich it), drowning something in water (something that will disintegrate and not contaminate them), and the like.
To make the process of Feeding the Elements a ceremonial state, which is distinguished from the daily action we may perform (such as watering our garden or feeding our campfire), we must put the action in a ritual context. This can be done in any way that comes to your mind, but it is recommended that as part of the process you should prepare yourself, mentally and physically, for a ceremonial action. In this context, it is advisable to set a specific date/time for the ceremony. Setting a date in advance, as opposed to spontaneous action, will create an expectation that will grow towards the appointed time, up to the point of catharsis that arrives during the ritual itself. Think about where you will hold the ceremony, and go through the preparations that are required for it. If it is Fire, it could be a campfire in your yard, or a small fire you may light inside a dedicated pottery at your house, but it can also be held somewhere else, remote and isolated. If it is Water you are up to address, it can take place in a bowl full of water or a bath indoors, but it can also be a winter puddle, a stream or a river somewhere else.
We recommend meditating on the element you intend to feed, thinking deeply about how you connect to it or what you want to learn from this friendship. How this element may has been treated in cultures that intrigue you, and what does it represent for you today. For the ritual, prepare yourself physically - eat well, take a shower (if your element is Water, the shower could be part of the ritual), get dressed and put on make-up if you feel the need to. Prepare the "food" in advance, ensure a dignified form of serving that will give symbolic meaning to the action. Remember that you are the one who create the meaning, and you are the one who will enjoy it. The ceremony is for you.
When you are already inside the ceremonial space, you may want to read something about the element you intend to address, or say a few things in front of it. The ritual can, of course, be held alone, in pairs, or as part of a group. You may want to "pray" or dance, listen to music or play it yourself. If you are performing the ritual with other people, you may want to tell a story related to the element, or share past experiences that involve it. Think about the purpose of the ritual for you, and perform it with full intention. Personify the element, and treat it as a living entity, realizing that it is a mythologization that you are conducting for the sake of the ritual.
Once you have performed the ritual, and the feeding process has come to an end, close the event in a way that has been organized and thought out in advance, while you are aware of the meaning of each step in the process. Sew the ritual to your personal measurements, and try to avoid feelings of compulsion or embarrassment. At the end of the ceremony, try to feel what its immediate impact was on you and on the other participants. Talk about it, and try to learn from the ritual more about your relationship with the element you have just fed.
One of the most significant heterosophical principles is the Wallowing. In the lexicon of Heterosophy, Wallowing is the way in which one "participates" in the world around him/her. We all take part in the world by virtue of being alive, but in order to reach an intimate relationship, with Earth and with the life upon it, our "participation" must be meaningful, devoted, but self-aware. To this kind of increased participation, we refer to by the name Wallowing. Wallowing means blurring the boundaries of both body and mind, without losing them completely to death or to insanity. To live a life of increased participation in the world means a life of empathy, intuition, flow, natural and intimate connection with those around you, along with self-awareness, integration between the various components of your mind and reflexive experience.
Filth practices are rituals designed to artificially summon experiences of participation in the world, and aim to blur the boundaries of consciousness, while blurring the boundaries of the body. Unlike other sensory experiences related to the Body Gates (eating, drinking, hearing, etc.), filth practices are mainly related to the sense of touch, and to the contact of various substances with the practitioner's skin. The effect of these practices on the other senses is relatively secondary, but certainly existing and significant to the process. The general idea is, to befriend what we tend to perceive as repulsive, unworthy or immature.
Although there are parents who do not like their children to get dirty, the phenomenon of mud wallowing in children is taken for granted by us. For the most part, children like to play with mud, finding increased pleasure in getting dirty. When we see a happy child whose face and clothes are stained with mud, paint or chocolate, it is clear to us that he is in a good and happy place. The wallowing helps children understand the boundaries of their own bodies, experience the world sensually and get to know their own senses, develop creativity, connect with other children, and even strengthen the body and its immune system. Somewhere throughout life, we have been taught that dirt and play in the mud are the property of children, and that we must maintain a decent appearance and adopt a "normal" behavior. In order to be considered a serious person, I need to appear clean, tidy and organized. If something is out of place, or if I appear with traces of dirt on my body or clothes, it may indicate that I am unworthy, not responsible enough, not mature enough, or that my self-control is lacking.
We highly recommend to have a routine of wallowing in mud, paint or any other material that is not harmful to the body, and has the potential to produce a sensual, physical and even erotic experience. Our orderly, decent, and restrained lives as adults need to be balanced with initiated encounters with chaos and disorder. From time to time, and certainly in cases where one's daily routine makes it difficult for such attempts to take place, it is possible and worthwhile to produce ceremonial systems that include initiated acts of wallowing and becoming dirty. Getting wild, devoting oneself to instinct and foolishness, and the infantile behavior involved in such actions, will bring you to a sense of release and catharsis that will surely upgrade the rest of your day, and make your life more vital.
Swamping in the mud, indoors or outdoors, dirty work with paint as part of an artistic practice, spontaneous dancing that includes smearing on any liquid or sticky material, eating childishly without having to keep clean - all of these can be a part of initiated filth ceremonies, performed alone or with partners, within a pre-determined ritualistic framework.
Fire has always served a very active part in sacrificial rites. As an element of consumption, fire decomposes the body/matter, while the flames, and the smoke rising from them, raise the victim's "soul" up to the sky, to the realm of the gods. The custom of sacrifice apparently began from the need of the gods for a constant supply of food from the human beings created by them. In many myths (for example in the Mesopotamian Enuma Elish), the creation of humans is described as an act that was made for the benefit of the gods themselves: The human beings shall take care of the new world and provide for all the material needs of the deities. In Aztec ritual, the shed blood of the victims was intended to restore Huitzilopochtli, the sun god, with the blood he loses every day, and in Hebrew literature God is described as having the fragrance of the burnt offerings, reaching his nostrils straight from the courtyard of the Temple in Jerusalem.
Putting things on fire can be a significant symbolic action, if it is defined as such and aided by actions that frame it as a ritual. Even without "real" deities to accept the victim or relish his smell, the action of burning something important to the practitioner, or alternatively the burning of objects that symbolize for him things that are better to pass from the world, can improve one's mental and emotional state. Ideas, wishes, curses or memories can also catch fire (on pages or objects that carry them) in order for them to be "cleansed" from the emotional or social system of the "sacrificer".
Whether you do it by a campfire, within a special pottery or metal vessel or upon a stone altar, we recommend framing the burning of the "victim" in ceremonial manners, with a script prepared in advance by you according to your personal taste and needs. If the action is delimited as a ceremonial action, we believe that it will have a greater emotional and mental significance, and consequently also a greater impact on your mood and life that might follow the ritual. Suggestion has its consequences, and the more sincere and precise your intention, the greater the beneficial effect of the process. During the ceremony, you may also personify the fire or metaphorical entities you seek to address (just remember that these are archetypes that form part of your mental construct), thereby increasing your "participation" in the process.
Hug of Earth
Physically, the ground is not one and uniform object, as may be implied from the term - the linguistic category - earth. Earth is a mixture of organic matter, minerals, water and air, which is located on the top layer of our planet's crust. It has various physical manifestations, which are influenced by the environment, its climatic conditions, chemical composition, etc.
Culturally, however, we deal with a completely different story: The Earth is perceived as a category in itself, a unitary element, which represents, in fact, the whole world (not for nothing is the English word 'earth', representing both the soil and our entire planet).
Earth has many faces (Theomasks) in the various cultures scattered around the world, nowadays and in the ancient past. Despite appearing in so many versions, it is a significant archetype, the characteristics of which are common to almost all variations: by virtue of being the basic substrate for life on our planet, and by virtue of being the source of all food (It never stops giving birth to plants that sustain all life on our planet), the earth is usually perceived as a female, maternal entity.
She is the great mother of life, and in many cultures she is indeed referred to as "Mother Earth". She gives birth to life and enables them, and also takes them back, after they are terminated (either through burial rituals, or in a more natural manner, when the dead organism is absorbed within it in its decay, thereby feeding the next life that comes out of it). The psychoanalyst Erich Neumann, dealt extensively with the archetype of the Great Mother, and at length referred to the motif of the earth as one of the symbolic representations of this archetype. The earth, as the great mother, is a comforting and at the same time threatening factor. Its power is infinite but in our world it also needs humans to cherish and to take care of it, to nurture it and to guard it if necessary.
Direct contact with the earth seems to be an important matter for all human beings, even those who do not see it as a living being or an independent entity. People love to work the land, grow plants, play in the sand and mud, explore the depths of caves, and walk barefoot in nature. The human relationship with the earth benefits the body physically, emotionally and mentally, in different and varied ways.
The ritual "Hug of Earth" that we offer here, is intended to create an experiential and direct connection with the earth, as a natural, powerful and "caring" entity (even without personification and the belief of earth as a conscious entity). "Hug of Earth" is an attempt to create a comforting experience, for a practitioner being wrapped by the soil and supposedly hugged and cradled in its lap. Unlike burial ceremonies familiar from other methods, designed to create a death-like experience or to bring one to deal with his/her own birth trauma by an exercise of rebirthing, the ritual we offer here is designed to fill the practitioner with a warm, caressing feeling, by an encounter with the motherly motif of earth, and not with its cold, violent and swallowing character.
Prepare yourself physically and mentally for the ceremony. Choose a place where the soil is soft and has a pleasant texture to the touch. Wear comfortable clothing that will allow maximum contact with the ground, without suffering from cold. The ritual can of course also be performed in nudity or in minimal attire - it is personal and up to you. This ritual is easier to do in places with a comfortable climate, because the goal is not to perform an exercise in endurance, but to achieve a connection with nature and to concentrate on the pleasant feelings that are to come out from this connection.
Dig a hole in the ground in a size that will allow you to lie in it in a fetal position, or in any other position that will make you feel like a child resting in his mother's arms. The depth of the pit should be such that your whole body will be "swallowed" so that the top of your body in the position you have chosen, will be at the surface height or a little bit below it. The act of digging the pit can be part of the ritual itself, but it can also be prepared in advance. Before entering the pit, perform breathing exercises, meditation, or anything that will make you feel relaxed and at ease. If you want or are used to saying some text before such rituals, do so. If you choose to personify the earth and want to say a few words to it, do so. Then, enter the pit, place yourself in the right position for you, and stay inside as much as you feel right. If you feel safe enough to fall asleep, go for it. If the weather is comfortable enough, time does not push you, and you are in a safe environment, you are welcome to spend the night in the lap of the earth, and enjoy its prolonged hug.
Holidays are points in time that have a unique symbolic meaning. They can be religious, national, cultural, cosmological or personal. Each culture has its own sacred days, and each society celebrates its various holidays in varied ways. In terms of the Bubbling (the chaotic nature of reality), sacred days have no meaning, and their sanctity is a derivative of the human (personal or communal) consciousness that conceived them. One can spend his whole life without any holidays and without attributing any special meaning to any day or period of time. But in our view, periodic celebrations can have great significance, and they can be very vital to one's life, to his/her connection with the environment, with his/her family and community life, and more.
The Institute of Heterosophy suggests its readers to establish for themselves some significant holidays or sacred periods, according to their own personal attractions and motives. We can offer ideas, but in our view the best way to act in this context, is to follow your own personal choices and inclinations.
One can celebrate the traditional holidays associated with the community from which he/she came, without being committed to the religious values or transcendental entities in whose honor the celebrations are performed. Such celebrations may come with the recognition that the holiday itself has an important role and communal significance, and one should consider celebrating it out of respect for his/her community or/and family.
In addition, we suggest studying the calendar in your geographical area, in order to learn the exact times and lengths of different seasons, varying lengths of days, etc. So that if you want, you can establish your own holidays surrounding the cosmological and climatic phenomena of your area, thus expressing respect and appreciation for the natural processes taking place in the world. If you have any children, it may be also of educational importance.
Another option is to have holidays that are related to the body and our relations with it. One of our suggestions, for example, is to have a special day dedicated to paying attention for each of the body organs or orifices. Thus, for example, to initiate a sacred day in honor of the Ears, and to establish customs related to hearing, music and bodily balance. On the Nose-day we may hold celebrations related to smell, breathing and air, etc.
Anything significant in our lives can become a motive for establishing a holiday, dedicated only to it. This holiday can take place every year, but also every month or every decade. It all depends on us, on our own needs and desires. We can celebrate in honor of certain animals or plants that we find significant, in honor of certain archetypes (some examples: the great mother's day, the night of the wise old man/woman, the trickster day, etc.), or in honor of historical events.
Set yourself the dates of the sacred days in the calendar, decide what each day involves, what its meanings are and what customs you want to establish within them, and go for it.
Trees are living beings. Many studies from recent years indicate that trees have much more than what is visible to the human eye. The tree, like the human body, is a complete ecosystem, which supports and is supported by its environment. It has long been known that trees serve as filters of air, in that they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and emit oxygen, as part of the process of photosynthesis. We know today that trees transmit communications (e.g., warnings of toxins or "predators") and nutrients from one to another (e.g. carbon), and there is quite a bit of evidence that trees preserve knowledge and memory, and know how to use them. Trees know how to share the living space and the resources that exist in it, and they actually live a whole, dynamic and rich life, without us having much idea about it.
The benefits that trees have for humans have been known for thousands of years. In addition to supplying the oxygen and cleansing the air we breathe, trees provide us with fruit, shade and shelter from the wind. We use them (often even abuse) as a raw material for building houses, furniture, and various tools and instruments. We use them for the paper industry, we use them to heat our houses, to create steam, and more. We now know that being in a close proximity to trees (and especially in a wooded environment), has a calming effect, and it even causes a real improvement in the immune system, as a result of the release into the air, of various chemical compounds. Prolonged stay in the forest can relieve stress and lead to a feeling of well-being and calm, which also has a positive effect on the body's immunity.
Many cultures, all over the world, used to personify trees and attribute various powers and consciousness to them, or link them to mystical beings like gods and goddesses, fairies, spirits and the like. There are those who practice this to this day (look for the Yokkaso in Myanmar, for example). For the ancient Greeks, for example, these were the Driads, the nymphs of trees. The Maori had Tane, the god of the forest and the birds (the son of the sky and the earth). The Canaanite Asherah seems to have been worshiped in the form of a tree. To this day, in the Far East, it is customary to offer to the spirits of the trees various offerings and gifts, in small temples built and placed next to or on them, especially for this purpose.
The heterosophical practice offers a number of ritualistic and ceremonial actions aimed at establishing relationships with trees, which in our view are living biological entities, which share with us humans neighborly and family ties. The slow and prolonged pace of life of trees, the fact of them being rooted in one place, and the very fact of being an integral part of the general fabric of life on earth, can teach us, humans, many lessons, and actually contribute to our physical and mental health. Some of the practices proposed here, are designed to strengthen the personal connection with trees, and through it increase the personification we tend to delegate to creatures and objects with whom we have an intimate relationship.
Our first recommendation, and it is actually less "ceremonial", is to simply stay as much as possible in a tree environment. Go out to the forest or grove closest to your home, and adopt the custom of "Forest Shower". Go alone or with your family, take a book, play-cards or anything else (you can also just sit and stare). Walk, breathe, and find a place to rest by the trees. If you are alone, talk to them. Imagine them as living beings, and tell them what is happening to you. You will find that talking to trees will help you personify them, and may lead to interesting changes in your mood, and overall sense of energy.
Without any actual scientific proof that we know of, It seems that a sincere hug with a tree (and for this you may need to make a small act of personification), can cause calmness and reduce anxiety and feelings of depression, similar to hugging another person or a beloved animal (which is known to cause the secretion of the hormone Oxytocin, which contributes to the feeling of calmness). Staying next to a tree (and preferably one that is large and mature), sitting upon or below one, when we choose to see it as a living creature, has a therapeutic potential. Developing an "intimate" relationship with a particular tree can lead to a deep acquaintance with it, so that every time you meet it you will notice the changes and processes that it goes through, together with its environment. Giving offerings to a tree, whether it is watering it (beyond regular maintenance of your private garden), or bringing in other nutrients to help it grow (or any other treatment that will make you feel intimate with it), can also strengthen the bond and "communication" between you two.