|The Hoop and The Tree
Chris Hoffman – ecopsychology, poetry, sustainability
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In the first chapter, Chris Hoffman describes the Hoop and Tree model from the point of view of many traditions from around the world and throughout history. In your own spiritual tradition or guiding mythological system, or in the ethical framework within which you orient yourself in life, what are the Hoop elements; what are the Tree elements?
The Social Atom is a technique for mapping the human “ring” of the Hoop. In the human ring of your Hoop, who is in your “inner circle?” What is the quality of your relationship with each of these people? (Often, after considering this question, people discover they want to change how they are living their lives--to spend more time and energy with those dearest to them or otherwise to “mend the Hoop.”)
Our attitudes toward the other-than-human realms of the Hoop are deeply influenced by our own experiences with nature, our own “eco-biography”. Tell about some experiences you have had with nature that have been formative in your life. Think about the moments, events, and experiences that have influenced your feelings, behavior, and character. (There is no need to be chronological.)
What is the quality of your current relationships with the non-human world—with water, minerals, earth, herbs, plants, trees, animals, insects, birds, fish, with the air, with the land around where you live? How much you would miss these relationships if they were not there? Also consider whether your relationship with each is intact and in good order. Are you reducing the pollution you contribute to the air we all breathe, to the water we all drink? Are you planting trees, tending a garden, cleaning up a watershed, giving thanks for every sunset? (Here again, people often discover they want to make some changes in how they are living their lives.)
Chris talks about “Allies of the Four Directions” as a way to build relationship with the Hoop. He says that one way to discover your allies is to consider these question: If you were a place in nature, what place would you be? What aspects of nature do you imagine or sense approaching you from each of the four directions as allies?
Just like the Tree, we each grow toward the light that inspires us. What is your sun? What is your highest aspiration or image of the Divine? What is the most inspiring experience you’ve had in the last year or so? Can you describe how or why it inspired you? What does this tell you about your own sun? Towards what “light” do you grow? Towards what is your vertical longing directed?
It is said that “a Tree is known by its fruit.” By what “fruit” would you wish to be known? One exceptionally powerful way to discover the answer to this question is to write your own obituary. For what do you most want to be remembered? How do you want people to feel when they remember you? What legacy do you want to leave? What would you like to have said about you after you are dead? “So-and-so was best known for...”
No one is perfect. Each of us has a “dragon” somewhere, or a “mouse” nibbling at our roots, or a toad poisoning the “well” of our life (as described in the stories in the book). This is a very personal question, but you may want to describe the type of darkness or “dragon” you struggle with.
All the stories tell us that the dragon guards the gold. What unexpected gift has your struggle given you? Chris tells the story of a hero’s imprisonment underground that gives him the gift of music. What unexpected gift came to you in a time of deep despair?
The supportive “roots” of your own Tree can include the roots of your family tree and also the roots of your craft lineage. These roots steady you and nourish you as you grow toward your aspiration or ideal. How have your own “roots” supported, sustained, or strengthened you?
The Hoop and the Tree has had a profound influence on many lives. People say things like, “I realize clearly now that my spiritual path isn't unique or separate from other spiritual paths.” “It touched such a deep chord in my being--a deep resonance that this is the deep rhythm of the universe...cellularly my lights went on. I see how I can have more balance in my life.” In the last chapter “Go in Beauty”, Chris proposes several ways to work toward Hoop-and-Tree wholeness in the world. How will you life your life differently as a result of experiencing this book? You may want to consider your personal behavior and spiritual practice and also your community engagement, political action, and environmental opportunities.