I have a very large old fir tree growing where I can see it from my bedroom window. This fir tree is so large at the base that it takes three adults to stretch their arms around its girth. It has withstood fire and storm, drought and downpour (which I think it enjoys immensely), and has been an inspiration to me. When I was designing a workshop and considering how to help women discover the resources in their ancestral lineages and also how to introduce family constellation work, I came up with this exercise, described below.

To begin with, become relaxed and centered. It may be useful to do some deep breathing, stretching, meditation, or perhaps go for a walk. Assemble the materials:

-a ‘tree template’ or if you would rather draw your own tree, blank paper. The template works well, as your focus becomes your family rather than the drawing of the tree. I have attached two possible tree templates that I use. I print these centered on 11 x 17 inch paper.

Template

Template–Oak

Template

 

Use these links to download the PDF versions to print:

oak_tree

arbutus_tree

-pens, pencils, crayons, pencil crayons, pastels…whatever drawing implements you prefer.

Perhaps put on some gentle music as background to your thoughts.

Now think of the tree as yourself. The trunk is you in this moment, all that you are. The roots are your ancestors, and elders. These are all that have come before you to make you who you are. You may choose to fill in names or to just colour the roots as you think about the part of your lineage on which you are working. The leaves represent what you create: children, work, art, love. This is that which comes through you.

As you draw, colour or write in your family tree, observe how you feel. Notice places where you feel unsure or uneasy and places where you feel clear and confident. Notice where something feels missing or where things feel close or tight. Notice patterns repeated through generations. All of these observations can be a source of insight.

When you feel you have completed your tree, take a break away from it and then return for a fresh view. This tree represents your family system and often provides enough perspective or distance that we can see things we have not previously observed. When I use this exercise in workshops it often provides a starting place for constellations.

Although I designed this exercise for use as a ‘family tree’, it can similarly be used for any system: a business, society, club or even a building. This can also be repeated, as the tree will change as we and our family system (or business, society….)change and grow.

Please share your experiences with this exercise and any questions you may have.