This is the First Lesson from my Tree’s Truth article I posted yesterday in that I felt inspired to share with you. Again, the full article and all SEVEN LESSONS can be found on THRIVE GLOBAL or on MEDIUM

 Lesson One- Learn to Breathe

During the epic firestorm that besieged the Amazon and Australia this past year; we often referred to the forests as the lungs of the planet. As these forests burned and torched 10’s of 1000’s of hectares of photosynthesizing green growth drawing down excessive carbon in our atmosphere, so our lungs burned, too. The loss of millions of animals in the Australian fires touched us all, down under and deep within. (If you really want to hear an amazing, creative poet speak of her Australia burning, listen to Lynette Walworth, Crystal Awards, WEF 2020)

If we turn to the Ocean and cool off, then we encounter another suite of environmental calamities– plastics, pollution, bleaching-dying-disappearing coral reefs, and the decimation of marine wildlife. If you are a sensitive soul, you may find it hard especially now to sleep at night and to breathe. If you have not experienced much change or tragedy or devastation in your life, you might find it hard to cope with crisis and to breathe. If you have been driven by a chocker-blocked work schedule and daily routine; the slow down might speed up your panicked insides and stir up your anxiety… and you might find it hard to breathe. As Alan Watts often teaches, when faced with fear and anxiety; attack, don’t look back. Walk right through the imaginary ghosts, future fears, and great depressions. You are alive- right here, right now… be grateful, be fully alive… and breathe.

No alt text provided for this image

It’s curious, is it not, that this corona (royal) virus is a respiratory virus? Could it be that Gaia is simply now clearing her lungs? It is as if the virus that’s hacked our global society and shut down our multinational mainframes and multiverse lives has come as a warning to humanity—to stop, slow down, observe your world and your impact on the planet now exponentially spinning out of control—breathe, or I will take the breath out of humanity. “Microscopic as I might be, I still have the potential if you give me the power and place, to devastate thee—straight to your face.” Nature This is our reality. Mait no, we have the tree to teach the royal WE… to survive.  So then finally please tell me, what can we learn from the tree? We can learn to breathe– really breathe, and from our past anxiety and future fear; we will be free.

The tree respires (breathes), just like you and me, same-same mechanically. But, the tree breathes naturally-fully-selflessly, unlike sometimes-and especially in times of stress, you and me. In ecology, there is a measurement we take to determine the vitality and growth of the tree. It’s the PS/RS ratio…no not the price/sales ratio; that’s in fact, where we’ve gotten this whole economic-ecological equation wrong. Rather, the PS/RS ratio is the ratio of photosynthesis (make food, grow, go) and respiration (relax, breathe, be). Yes, I am talking about the yang and the yin of the tree; the give and the take; the reflective relationship to the environment it will make; the stem and the roots, relatively equal in biomass measure and ecological treasure. Given the climate and environment and growth stage of the tree, it naturally knows if it is time to grow or to be. This is the first lesson about naturally breathing we can learn from the tree—know it’s OK and know that it’s the time to just be.

No alt text provided for this image

The second lesson, on tree breathing has to do with letting go and relaxing into the natural flow. The force will be with us as Jedi masters if we master tapping into the tree’s taproot. And, the only way I can explain this deeper breathing and freer being is by inviting you to be still, close your eyes, and imagine yourself sitting or standing right up close against the base of your favorite tree (the one you were admiring earlier in this article).

P.S. You are welcome to skip the next tree meditation part of the article if you think it’s too “woo-woo”. But, what if a simple, 3- minute breathing exercise brought more oxygen and attention and peace to the other 43,200 seconds in your 12-hour yang, active, waking day and 12-hour subliminal, restorative, yin sleeping night? And good to note that McKinsey’s TOP corporate advice to executives dealing with COVID-19’s rapid and changing impacts on supply chains and business is…Breathe!

No alt text provided for this image

Tree Meditation

You may already be a master Zen-Buddha-Christian-Indigenous-Yogi-meditator; so you already know what to do; awesome. For those of you who don’t practice so much–so far, here’s a way (to find your way) to start. First, close the media alerts on your phone, better yet–turn your phone on silent–better yet, turn your phone over—better yet, put your phone into a desk drawer or lock it in the closet), close your eyes, un-focus your internal gaze (like you are looking at one of those pop-up 3D pictures), breathe, relax your jaw (yes, stop munching chocolate pretzels), breathe, unfurl your brow, breathe, rest your attention on the center point of your forehead… just let your mind hang out there for a moment.

All these subtle gestures should conspire to cause a slight smile to naturally emerge on your face, quite nice. Sigh deeply and relax your shoulders, jigger around your body (crossed legs if on the ground; feet flat and forward if in a chair; mountain pose/basketball stance-feet rooted in the ground, if standing). Travel your mind’s eye up your body from your toes to your nose, relax, let go, and give into the gravitas of the exact place on the planet for a moment you have decided to root yourself. You are safe. You are secure. You are under the guardianship of your favorite forest tree. If random thoughts, fears, plans, people, popular posts swing into and out of your relaxed state; let those monkey-mind (that’s what they call them in Buddhism) moments, like chimps on a vine, playfully swinging by—come and go…. Hopefully, if you are able to sit and just listen to the ebb and flow of your breath, for a few minutes more, then you can imagine your point of contact with the ground, sprouting roots. Breathe again once, gratis from the trees; and twice, thanks to the ocean.

Fun aye! That’s one way to pray.

“Without stepping our the door, you can know the world. Without looking out the window, you can see the Tao of Heaven. The farther one goes outside the home (heart), the less one knows. Thus, the sage knows without going outside, names things without seeing them, accomplishes all without striving.” Lao Tse (translation: Chung-Yuan Chang)

Dedication to the 1 Trillion Trees Project

There are a little over 3 trillion trees on the planet. That’s about 400/person; but as I said earlier, its 50% less than we had before cities. How can we biodivert cities and return nature to the heart of our human civilization?  What can we do to bring nature back to you? And, the first super-simple, super-easy, super-techno thing you can do is to shift your search engine from Google to Ecosia. Ecosia converts your clicks into virtual coin that they invest in forest restoration and tree planting. Check it out. They just launched and are on their way to planting now 90 million trees. (seems 1/second) Visit One Trillion Trees project

Dedication to the guardians of the forest, Nia Tero

We are all native to planet earth; and yet Indigenous Peoples are the guardians of our vital ecosystems. They embody nature’s wisdom in their rich cultures, intergenerational communities, and earth connections. They can show us how to recover our Human+Nature health and how to well celebrate our sustainable home. Visit Nia Tero

Dedication to the Mycelia, Fungi Perfecti

Mycelia are the naturally intelligent networks of our planet. As virtual shopping and online purchasing now explodes and spreads virally—almost as fervently as the corona virus itself; the environmental footprint of packaging likely also sky rockets. The good news is that the problem of unsustainable packaging must be addressed in the new circular economy-driven world we want to emerge into at the other end of CV19. I love all the online shopping one can do for mushroom health and soil composting and citizen science engagement to help re-vitalize bee populations on Fungi Perfecti; but where did the Life Box go???? I can only now find a site for Live Box sport’s and entertainment streaming.

Stay well! Save lives! Awaken Nature Inside!

Dr. Catherine Cunningham, PhD, Natural Intelligence Media is committed to awakening Natural Intelligence in the World. She produces multimedia content — books, films, and podcasts with her creative companions that aim to inspire everyone, everywhere to live a happy, healthy, naturally intelligent life.

Visit our Natural Intelligence Website HERE.

Participate in our “Combatting COVID-19 with Compassion” Heart Campaign HERE

Listen to my Naturally Intelligent by Design Podcast, featuring strategies from animals in our world to adapt to disruptive environmental change. HERE

Listen to our Natural Intelligence Worldwide Podcast HERE.


  • Catherine Cunningham, PhD

    Mission Possible: Awaken Natural Intelligence in Our World

    Natural Intelligence

    Dr. Catherine Cunningham, PhD is an ecologist, anthropologist, writer, filmmaker, and media host producing films, interactive experiences, and online multimedia for international clients who are focused on positive economic, social, and environmental win-win-win solutions to global conservation and climate change.

    Catherine has travelled, written, photographed, and filmed in 70 countries, producing creative films and music videos in support the UN Global Goals and the human+nature planetary health narrative. Visit Natural to see where her work has premiered internationally. Over 20 years, she has interviewed hundreds of global thought leaders to promote sustainable solutions to climate change and conservation in creative ways. Catherine has written numerous articles on climate change, nature, and regeneration. She’s currently writing two books: “Naturally Intelligent by Design” — a fine art science and culture book for families and “Natural Intelligence”— a guidebook for well-navigating a post COVID-19 world by following nature’s principles. Partnering with Eurovision News and Events, Catherine is also an independent media host— producing content on nature, climate, and regeneration; syndicated globally by EuroVision’s News Direct. She is a regular contributor to Thrive Global and Medium. She currently produces communications for the Prince Albert II Foundation and participates in programming @ the World Economic Forum on Climate Change, Nature, and Biodiversity. As an university educator, Catherine taught undergraduate and masters courses in corporate sustainability communications at Arizona State University; global sustainability at Chapman University; biology, ecology, botany, and environmental science at Denver State College and Front Range College. In 2016, she designed one of the first university courses on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (also online), contributing to youth action on the UN Global Goals. She also created a post-graduate program with UNESCO on the MAB (Man the Biosphere) reserves. Catherine earned her PhD in Ecosystem Science at ETHZ in Switzerland, studying climate impacts on mountain ecosystems. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Cultural Anthropology and International Peace Studies from the University of Notre Dame and a Masters degree from Utah State in Ecology. Catherine speaks fluent English and conversational Italian. She loves creative collaboration, media production, mountaineering, outdoor sports, yoga, wellness, and travel.