During my days as a teacher, a lot of emphasis was laid on doing inner work. The idea being when the teacher has done work on herself, it reflects in her work with children, as she becomes a role model, an idealistic personality striving towards becoming a better person..
Art – drawing, painting – is a therapeutic way to heal emotions and come to terms with difficult situations or to let go of the baggage that weighs us down.
There was a meaningful exercise which was carried out with the intent to better understand oneself and realign with your beliefs, values etc. and brought me closer to myself.
The Tree of Life exercise
The Tree of Life exercise is based on using the tree as a metaphor to tell stories and experiences about one’s life. I invite you to try this out to reflect on your own life, to gain the confidence in your own strengths and abilities, become aware and acknowledge your dreams and be okay to talk about difficult experiences, and vulnerabilities.
The life of a tree has many parallels to the life of a human. While most of these similarities are physical, there are existential lessons to be learned from the physical as it is how we process and experience life.
Simply put, you draw a tree that represents you and your life.
You need a piece of paper, a pen, or colour pencils / crayons, and a quiet space to carry out the exercise without any disturbance or interference.
Most importantly, let go of any preconceived ideas of how a tree should be, and even if you have qualms about drawing, drop it instantly, this is not a drawing class, but an expression of your life. Dive deep into this stress free, with an open heart and an open mind!
Allow me to guide you through the process –
The Roots represent the strong influences, which have shaped you into the person you are. The roots of the tree show your origins – your city, town, village, country, your family name, ancestors, extended family, you can also include the names of people who have taught you the most in life which has shaped you.
The ground is the place where you live now, and the activities you are engaged in your daily life – this can include your organizations, work place, movements or any community you belong to.
The trunk is an opportunity for you to write your skills, strengths and abilities, all the things you are good at.
Here you write your hopes, dreams and wishes for the direction of your life. This can be personal or general – short or long term.
Write down the names of those who are important to you in your life in a positive, energizing and nourishing way. People, books, music, teachers, friends, family, pets, heroes, role models, everyone who nourishes you and inspires you on your path.
The fruits are our bountiful gifts to the world. It is the expression of nourishment and life force energy. These are your achievements, creations, contributions, sharings and important things. It can be projects or programs you have initiated, groups or organizations you have started or helped to develop, or books or poems you have written.
Flowers and Seeds
Write down the legacy you wish to leave behind for others on the flowers and seeds.
If you chose to make thorns – that represents the obstacles on your path.
In case you struggle to fill in any part, leave it and come back to it later. Take your time to draw this tree of life – it can take you around 20 to 30 minutes.
After completing this exercise for the first time, it left me with a lot of doubts and uncertainty about myself, because when you actually sit and write down all the things, it becomes clearer. I did struggle to write down certain things, and realised that I haven’t met some of the goals I had set for myself.
However, the beauty of this exercise is that you get a deeper insight into your own life – its all in front of you. There are always positives to take back. At the same time, it also made me realise the effort and work that you do is focused on bringing us to the present. The past is done with, the highs and lows, the ebbs and flow, were part of the story, which has shaped you into the person you are today, and the present moment is all you got to make your life worthwhile.