What is?… is an ongoing series that helps to illuminate the people, the medicine, and the inner workings of the Dance For all People. Here we examine the Tree of Life:
The ceremonial element for today’s reflection is the Tree of Life, aka the Tree of Peace, the wood of the cross. The Sacred Tree can be found in every tradition, in every culture since the dawn of time. From the book, The Sacred Tree— “The Creator has planted a Sacred Tree under which they may gather, and there find healing, power, wisdom and security. The roots of this tree spread deep into the body of Mother Earth. Its branches reach upward like hands praying to Father Sky. The fruits of this tree are the good things the Creator has given to the people: teachings that show the path to love, compassion, generosity, patience, wisdom, justice, courage, respect, humility and many other wonderful gifts.”
At the Dance For all People we always dance around a living tree. The life of the Dance and the prayers of the dancers continue even after the Dance closes on Sunday. We need to be mindful of its living nature, that it has a “life” and is not merely a ceremonial object.
The energy of Spirit circulates from and around the branches and roots. Through the Tree, Spirit permeates the circle, moving in seen and unseen ways. The Tree receives our prayers and transmutes them into other dimensions. Just as it transforms carbon monoxide into life-giving oxygen, so too does it empower and move our Prayers. The Tree is in the middle of the circle because it is like the hub of a wheel, the energetic focal point where the energy of the Dance can move and circulate most efficiently. The objects we place on the Tree are not so much decorations as they are an offering of ourselves to Spirit that can come back to us energized at the end of the Dance, a physical remembrance of our good work.
“Finding” the Tree for a Dance
Some dances plan their outdoor dance circle around a living tree in the ground; other dances that are indoors must bring in a tree, most likely from a nursery. In the selection of an indoor tree to grace the ceremony, we are only there to pick it up, not pick it out. The spirit of the Tree knows that it will be this year’s Tree. It has already given itself up for this sacred work. Finding it is only a detail (and a delightful one for those who claim this honored task). Whether the tree survives after the Dance depends on a number of things. In our haste we may not prepare it properly for planting, we may neglect it with lack of water or hearty prayers, or it may be hard-pressed to survive winter and the adjustment year. However even if we do our work in a good way, it may be part of the work that the Tree give its life for us. Like buffalo and turkey, it is in service to Great Mystery, even to the giving of its life so that the people may live— so that we can see, so that we can move into alignment with Spirit.
Lessons From the Tree Nation
The lessons we can learn from the Tree are many. It reminds us to “stand tall” and push ourselves in both directions— upward and downward— so that our growth is sufficiently grounded that we don’t topple and fall. We are like the Tree, midway between Mother Earth and Father Sky. It is in this place that we find who we truly are. We must become like the tree in its generosity. It does not discriminate in whom it houses, feeds, shelters. It does not judge; the abundant fruit of the apple tree is just as sweet and nourishing to the prince as to the pauper. The tree is also flexible and gracefully moves with the wind, storms, and earth movements; so too must we be flexible in our lives so that we do not splinter and break in our resistance to Spirit and to our own growth.
And like the evergreen tree with roots that go deep, we must be constant, eternal and filled with hope at all times, during all seasons, under all conditions — in unity with all our relations.