Reflections on TreeSisters

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Is there a way to apply creative thinking as an artist, designer or creator to the ecological problems we are facing in our world? This was a question I shied away from for decades, as every time I tried to face the ecological crisis, I would descend into a state of suicidal depression and despair, from which it was impossible to take any productive action and led only to more inertia and feelings of utter helplessness. It took a long time of searching and healing before I came across TreeSisters. The organisation was founded by Clare Dubois who, after a near-death experience when she drove into a tree, had a vision where she was told that time is running out for humanity, and that she needed to found an organisation which contributed to reforesting the tropics alongside intricate details of how she should go about setting it up. The scope of the work the organisation has achieved since then is a testament to the belief in its vision. The main premise of TreeSisters is twofold: to contribute to reforesting the tropics within ten years, locking in carbon through fast-growing trees in areas where the rainforest has been depleted; alongside awakening feminine consciousness through meditation, spiritual connection and women’s circles.

It is now about three months since I started the TreeSisters Inner Journey of Awakening. At the time, I was searching for connection, for purpose, for a deeper meaning to life and the Inner Journey filled that void quite perfectly. The Inner Journey consists of weekly meditations, following the Sacred Geometry upon which the whole organisation is founded, which follows the principles of five-point acupuncture. This started with Reveal, to Embrace, Embody, Activate, Shine, through to Belong. Following this were hour-long conversations between Clare Dubois and ground-breaking women from all around the world, who are leading the way towards spiritual ecology, bridging the gap between disciplines as diverse as science, the arts, activism and spirituality, and reawakening the Divine Feminine in order to rebalance the shadow masculine with the depleted feminine in the world. These included Barbara Beresford Kroeger, a medical biochemist, botanist & one of the world’s leading experts on trees, Joanna Macy, eco-philosopher, activist & scholar of deep ecology, Pat McCabe, Dine’ Navajo Grandmother, activist and ceremonial leader, Sister Zeph, teacher, women’s activist and philanthropist and MILCK, a musician whose song, ‘Quiet’ became the anthem for the Women’s March in Washington in 2017, to name but a few.

Ana Castilho at Mandal'ana
Ana Castilho at Mandal’ana’s

I can only say that the journey has had a profound effect on me. Particularly memorable moments include listening to Barbara Beresford Kroeger’s description of how pine trees emit certain biochemicals at particular temperatures, which are taken in by the human body simply through breathing in the air, which in turn are absorbed by the body and reduce the likelihood of developing various diseases and in some cases have been found to lead to a higher IQ. This is the basis for the Japanese practice of forest bathing, which has become increasingly popular as a form of eco-therapy over the past few years. Listening to Joanna Macy talking about her work on deep ecology and the Work that Reconnects was like listening to a prophet – I’ve been deeply influenced by her work since reading ‘Active Hope’ as part of my research for current art projects, so this was truly an honour to hear her speak in person.

We are also connected with a network of almost 3,000 women all over the globe through a closed Facebook group, in which we are encouraged to share our own personal thoughts, drawings, writings and reflections on the Inner Journey, rather than sharing outside links which would diminish the sacred space created by the TreeSisters’ moderators. This has been an invaluable space in which to share our experiences, many of which have been profound and life-changing. There are women there who had been following traditional careers for decades, without giving the sustainability of life on earth a second thought, who then felt moved to re-evaluate their entire lives and their place within society, finding that the teachings within TreeSisters has given them that structure from which to do so.

Ana Castilho at Mandal'ana's 02
Ana Castilho at Mandal’ana’s

My intention from all of this is to set up a grove, a circle of women who come together to connect, share ideas and take part in collective meditations and find ways forward in this crucial time of transition for our planet. We might discuss the eco-philosophical conundrums that we are facing, such as the meaning of existence on a planet that is so threatened by global industrial forces, ecological disaster, the refugee crisis and the ever-present threat of nuclear war. We may consider what we can do, as women, as creators, as those for whom emotional labour is still unrecognised as a validated and valuable thing and for which we are so undervalued by the society we inhabit. It will also be, I hope, a way to connect with like-minded people, taking solace in the collective mind and finding solutions and ways forward that will benefit us all. Taking the work of Joanna Macy, Mary Reynolds Thompson and Looby Macnamara as inspiration, my intention is to hold discussions as to what we can do on a practical level to help nourish ourselves, our families, our passions and our futures. These practices are known within TreeSisters as the ‘inbreath’, the things we need to do to nourish ourselves, heal old wounds and connect with each other through cooperation rather than competition, in order to lead better lives in greater harmony with ourselves and those around us. Taking inspiration from the sacred geometry of Treesisters, we will feel our way towards workable solutions that will benefit ourselves as interconnected beings and create synergy towards a larger whole. This may lead to some ‘outbreath’ activities, such as planting trees, raising funds for local environmental causes, volunteering on a beach clean or creating works of art or poetry.

Some say that this may be privileged luxurious thinking to indulge in this kind of thing. Why focus on the rainforests when there are people starving and struggling to put a roof over their heads in our own country? This is a valid question that needs to be asked and debated carefully and consciously. I do not have the answers to questions such as these. But by asking them, we are beginning to acknowledge the status quo, to connect with others who may be paralysed by fear and inaction, and gently guiding each other towards doing something that will nurture ourselves and create something beneficial for society and the planet as a whole. Whilst acknowledging our privilege and working from an intersectional standpoint, I would also argue that we do not have the luxury of wasting any more time. Once I’d woken up to the very real issues of climate change that we are facing all around the world, I wanted to be able to say to my daughter that I did everything I possibly could to counteract this. Alone, we can do nothing, disconnected and despondent, but together, thinking collectively and with group mind, we can do anything. If you feel that this is something that you could connect with, do please get in touch with me and we can take the discussion forward.

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