psychology

The Tree of Life: a Symbol of Existence, Change and Infinity

Nature always inspires me. When I’m walking in the mountains or the forest, I have all the time to reflect. Nature then suddenly seems to have all these beautiful messages and symbols about life. One of the things that lately came to my mind is the story about the Tree of Life.

Traditional symbolism

Trees have always been a symbol in different traditions. For example, the ancient Celts saw the Tree of Life as a symbol of wisdom, change and eternity. The Celtic Tree of Life is a representation harmony and balance in nature. It also represents rebirth, as the tree will lose its leaves during the fall season, hibernate throughout the winter, and will be reborn again when spring arrives. The Celts actually believed that they came from trees, and considered them magical, living beings. The tree was therefore honoured and seen as a source for life.

 

Many other traditions have stories about trees symbolizing wisdom and the natural changes in life. It is often depicted with branches connected to different nodes, for example representing the connection between the physical and the spiritual world. The connection between the nodes can also be interpreted as the infinity of life. It’s interesting to see how many stories and traditions have been inspired by trees.

Personal interpretation

To me, the Tree of Life represents the bigger picture in your life, with all the different paths that you can take. It helps me when I’m in doubt about choices that I make, when things come to an end, or when I’m in one of those existential crises, not exactly knowing what the purpose of my life is anymore.

I realize, when I look at a tree, that the stem is always the same and that it has roots just as big as what you see above the ground. It’s a steady foundation, with the stem representing the main path of your life. A lot of smaller twigs spring from this stem – these might be a symbol for all the things you do, all the paths you take, that originate from the main purpose of your life (the stem amd the roots). Although you might not exactly know or see the purpose of your life, it is always present. Some of the twigs keep growing, while others stay small. Some things work out and others don’t. But in the end, they are all part of the whole. The bigger picture, the full tree, is always there, even though things change throughout life.

And then there’s the leafs of course, that come and go each year. There’s times in your life when it seems like everything is in bloom, there’s also times when everything seems to be on hold. And there’s times of letting go. No matter what happens, though, the stem is still the same. Deeply rooted in the ground, there is a steady foundation, a place where you come from, and that you’re always connected to.

Your own tree of life

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When you think about it, what inspires you in nature? What stories does the natural environment tell you? What kind of symbols do you see?

And what does the tree of life mean to you? Take a moment to reflect – maybe sitting underneath a tree – and write down what comes up.

I am curious about your thoughts and would love it if you share some of them in the comments below!

Photo credit: Sander van Iersel

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