The Benefit of no Benefit: Tree Gratitude Ceremonies

By Woody Winfree

It is the kings and queens of the forests, the woody perennials of hill and dale that call to my heart and intimately connect me to the gifts that our Mother Earth bestows. To this generous family of enduring defenders of all life  I have focused my personal expression of offering prayers of gratitude, seeking nothing in return.

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More often than not when ceremony is invoked, there is an appeal for some result to occur. It is entirely befitting to petition for care and support through the sacred communion of ceremony.  Invocation through ceremonial ritual, even if exclusively for the fulfillment of personal need, can only help humanity’s sense of connection to that which is above, below, beside and beyond our individual selves.

Though even ceremonies of desire are waning from our culture, still, we can go further and become acquainted  with the practice of ceremony which seeks no-benefit at all. We can draw forth again,  from our ancestors and wisdom cultures,  the simple and profound rituals offering gratitude for all that we receive from other realms. Primarily, specifically, especially, from the vast ecology of the natural world that sustains life on Earth.

Over the past five years,  through the purest offerings of “thank you” to life, I frequently have been led to a new place: the humbled position at the base of a tree, singing the loveliest tunes of gratitude that I possibly can.

I find that the more I offer these blessings, the more I am blessed by the  very communion of seeking no benefit. From this place, I am infused with harmony and well-being. I sense “love” being poured into me in response to the love I am offering to life.

When I sing to the trees in this manner of offering, She, He, It, The All demonstratively gifts music back to me. The epic symphony of this deep connection leaves me awestruck. In these precious  moments, I actually can feel that I am in a reciprocal relationship with Nature. When I participate actively and with awareness in that relationship, a vibration of harmony is co-created between us. 

Photo Courtesy of  For a Tree

Photo Courtesy of  For a Tree

Reasoned thinking would suggest that this is just poetic wishing or anthropomorphic transference. But to go there would be to deny a truth that is knowable, not currently through scientific fact, but, by a deeper measure--the inherent awareness that we are One with the Universe, with the All, with every single tree that exists or has ever existed. We are in a dynamic relationship with life, with  Nature--and uniquely so with trees. 

Is it because we stand upright like trees? Is it because of the many other associations and protections that make them beloved and special? For whatever reason, the fate of the planet is dependent on us re-membering and reconciling this deeper connection.

I have found no more meaningful way to do this than to offer gratitude through ritual and song to the Trees of Life--like the wise and ancient beings before me. These offerings of thanks for all that trees do to sustain life on Earth  are the very seeds of healing for planet Earth. Though we are seeking no personal benefit, could there be any greater benefit?

Woody Winfree is a LifecycleÆ Celebrant, Death Doula and Home Funeral Guide. She and Rani Findlay, co-founded For A Tree (, an initiative that exists to inspire individuals, small circles and communities into closer relationships with trees through ceremonies of gratitude for all trees that sustain life on Mother Earth.

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