What We Can Learn From Trees

NYC Therapist & Writer Lia Love Avellino shares the importance of human connection. Healing happens in connection with others.

On the surface, trees appear to be independent beings. They stand, separate from one another, with one body.

However, under the soil, they are linked to one another by a robust and tangled fungal network. They help one another out by sharing nutrients and information. Plants and fungi are in a mutually beneficial relationship. Plants provide fungi with food in the form of carbohydrates. In exchange, the fungi help the plants suck up water, and provide nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen. Fungal networks also boost the plants' immune systems and connect plants that are widely separated geographically.

Humans are also in communion with trees. We stand upright, have a crown on top and mobile limbs stemming from a central trunk. The pattern of the tubular branches (bronchi) in our lungs is similar to the root system of many trees.

Tree roots wrap around the earth. Unless moved, they remain rooted in one particular place for their entire lifetime. They stand tall, but not alone. They are very much a part of a biotic community.

The cultural narrative and emphasis on "independence" tries to combat this notion, illustrated by the trees, that we grow in conjunction with other beings. That we can do anything at all, without support, is a falsehood that has been propagated by powers that aim to keep us disconnected. We mustn't forget that all healing happens in connection. Bring to mind a nourishing relationship with a significant other or a close friend, and be reminded of how much you learned about yourself, how much further your limbs stretched, because of his/her help.

Being untethered is not a sign of strength. It is a marker of detachment.

Unite with the people and spaces around you. Show up with a willingness to see the ways that you are the same as, not solely different from. Develop the capacity to interpret that, just like in the case of the seemingly singular tree, there may be an entirely different narrative under the surface.

This is what it would mean to gaze upon the human race with love.



Lia Love Avellino is a therapist and writer based in New York City. She supports people in untangling the complex challenges related to relationships, sex, and reproductive health so they can experience aliveness in mind, body and soul. Lia is a practicing psychotherapist with Rennicke & Associates, the Director of Head & Heart at The Well in NYC, support group leader at The Wing, curriculum creator for The American Journal of Sexual Education, and project director for President Obama’s Teen Pregnancy Initiative.

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Lia Avellino