Expressive Arts Florida Institute


by Kathleen Horne, LMHC, REACE, REAT

If I were a tree, what tree would I be?

This is a great question to engage with, as a pathway to self-awareness and understanding. It is a question for the imagination, not for the mind. When we immerse ourselves in the natural world, with embodied presence, open hearts, attuned senses, we learn so much. We remember that we are not separate – we ARE nature.

TRY THIS….Take a few moments to notice and pay close attention to a tree in your immediate landscape. How does it grow – straight and tall? Curving outward to a wide reach? How deep are its roots? What is the texture of its bark? The size and shape of its leaves? How does this tree speak of the season of spring? Dig a little deeper and ask….what does this tree have to teach me about myself this morning? Take a moment to write your observations down in your journal or make a quick sketch.

Consider the trees that hold your own memories, the trees that live in the landscapes of your own life, the trees that have witnessed you, as you have witnessed them.

“Forests hide wonders we are only just beginning to explore.”   Peter Wohlleben, The Hidden Life of Trees

Is there a tree that is part of your daily life? A tree in your yard, in a nearby park, or in the woods?

TRY THIS…..”Stand in front of the tree and simply take it in with all your senses. Let go of any thoughts or labels – like what kind of tree it is, or how old it is. Allow your eyes to wander from the roots, to the trunk, branches, leaves, and canopy. Interest will arise when you pay close attention to every detail, as if this were the first time you were seeing a tree….After some time, begin to explore the tree intimately with all of your senses. Close your eyes and engage your sense of smell. Notice the scent of the bark, the leaves, and the roots. Then engage the sense of touch, closing your eyes and allowing your hands to explore the tree, like you would the skin of a lover or the contours of a face….Feel every nook and cranny of the bark, and any moss or ferns that may be living on the tree. Feel the strength and solidity of the tree in your body – feel the density of the earth element. Sense how the roots sink into the earth. Touch the leaves with your fingers, palms, and the skin of your face.” (Mark Coleman, Awake in the Wild, 2006)

Coleman invites us to pay close attention, cultivate mindfulness, and engage beginner’s mind, as we discover the tree as a pathway to discover and embody our inter-connectedness with Nature, and experience ourselves as part of the greater whole.

Peter London (Drawing Closer to Nature) leads us into encounters with nature through close observation, guided imagery, and visual art explorations. “A tree – the behemoth of the green world. The oldest living thing. The tallest living thing. The strongest living thing.”  London likens trees to wizened grandparents who watch over our human antics, enduring and silent. He says: The analogy between the personalities of trees as displayed by their forms and habits of growth and the personalities of humans as displayed by their cast of mind and consequential behaviors, has been observed throughout literature and theologies. In the Kabbalah, the divine order of the universe is symbolized by the Tree of Life, with its emanations correlated with spiritual attributes and parts of the human body.” (London, Drawing Closer to Nature, 2003)

tree of balance whole e

The arts, and, especially the expressive arts (visual art, movement, voice, rhythm, music, writing, poetry, enactment, photography, meditation) connect us with ourselves, and with the natural world that we are part of.

Art is a pathway to remembering what many indigenous cultures knew. “In many indigenous cultures there was no word for nature, because indigenous people did not experience outer wilderness as some “thing” separate and distinct from themselves; instead, they lived immersed within it.” (Coleman, 2006)



Back to the question:

If I were a tree, what tree would I be?

TRY THIS…. Do this outdoors, and barefoot, if you are comfortable with that.

Stand, with your feet solidly planted on the ground. Close your eyes or soften your gaze. Tune in to the cycle of your breath, allowing your breath to take your point of awareness more deeply inside. Imagine roots growing from the soles of your feet down into the earth. How wide do they spread? How deep do they go? Feel the energy of the earth moving up through those roots and into your body, moving up through your core, your trunk, your spine, your limbs, up into your neck, your head, and continuing up and out the top of your head and into the sky, the heavens. Continue breathing deeply and imagine that energy coming back down from the sky and in through the top of your head, moving back down through your entire body and back into your roots, and the earth. Stand. Breathe. Grounded. Embodied. Here. Fully alive. Present. Notice the temperature of the air, the breeze on your skin, the sounds around you. Notice how your feet feel as they connect with the ground. Begin to more fully imagine yourself as a tree – sense your roots…your trunk….your limbs, branches. Feel the life blood of the earth within you. Sense the girth of your trunk. Notice…how tall are you?  How do you grow? Straight up? Branching out widely, creating shade? Allow any movement to come in response. Allow your arms to express the way your branches grow, and move. Be curious about your leaves – what do they look like when they are still, and how do they move in the breeze, or the strong winds? What about your flowers, your fruits? What happens as the seasons change? Take a few more moments to experience yourself as a tree, allowing yourself to be curious, and even surprised. Then move to your art materials, and discover your tree on paper. Allow its form and color to emerge spontaneously. It may resemble an actual tree, or your imagination may bring into form something brand new. Take as much time as you need. Then write, starting with the words “I am” in the voice of the tree.

After you have completed this experience, ask yourself:

  • What did I learn – about myself? About trees? About nature? About life?
  • How can I take what I learned into my life? Write down 3 actions you can take.

Share, if you like, on our FB page, Your Personal Expressive Arts Practice.


Tamara Teeter Knapp and I are facilitating The Landscape of Expressive Arts at Hollyhock, B.C., May 31 to June 5. You will immerse yourself in the pristine natural setting, and explore the expressive arts as means to connect your inner landscape with the outer landscape. You will engage in art, movement, writing, sound, rhythm, meditation, both indoors and outdoors. You will discover places in the landscape – ocean, beach, forest and garden – that call out to you and invite you deeper into them, and deeper in to yourself. Over the 5 days, you will reflect on all of your experiences in the creation of a personal tree that contains and embodies your journey.

The image below is from last year’s Hollyhock Workshop. This year, in this brand new workshop, you will be creating a ‘life-sized’ tree, instead of a self-portrait. Imagine….






Coleman, Mark: Awake in the Wild, Inner Ocean Publishing, 2006

London, Peter: Drawing Closer to Nature, Shambhala, 2003







by Kathleen Horne and Tamara Teeter Knapp

(with Terry Edgerton and Julia Alexander)

  • Are you going on a special trip or journey?
  • Planning for a retreat or immersion?

Terry with her journal

How do you savour the experience, hold on to the magic, and embody the changes you make?

How do you take this experience back into your daily life, and both protect and share the benefits?

Terry and Julia share their answer – creative journals!

 When we invest our resources – time, money, creative energy – into a very special experience that takes us from the rhythm of  our daily life and immerses us in a carefully held and crafted space, we remember ourselves at a deep level. We come away feeling “changed”. We want to savor that change and hold on to our re-vitalized self. We want to both protect and share the good energy and the deep learning, and allow it to flow into our own lives and the lives of others – family, loved ones, clients, students.

Julia’s journal

When we travel, to new landscapes or cultures, or sacred experiences, we re-c0nnect with what is most important to us.  When we gather in circles with others to create, explore, get quiet, listen deeply, we are changed. Setting aside sacred time and space to creatively encounter the most important questions re-awakens our purpose and unique gifts. In order to live lives of integrity and meaning, It is essential to draw on our deepest source of wisdom and share that in the world. This is how change happens, and how it grows.

We recently had the opportunity to meet with Terry and Julia, who participated in our Hollyhock workshop last summer. We are so inspired by their creative journals, that we asked them to share, so that others may benefit as well.

Terry and Julia have each been creating their “Hollyhock journals” over the past 7 months, since returning from last year’s expressive arts immersion.  Using photographs, art, and creative writing, they have re-created that sacred space in tangible form, allowing them to revisit,  to share, and to harvest the benefits. Watch, and listen….




When you witness Terry’s and Julia’s journals, do you sense their love, care, and dedication? ? Their investment in their own growth and change is clear. They are each continuing to work in these journals over time, as they harvest the deep learning into their lives. Their journals are creative artifacts that allow them to keep alive the threads of deep inquiry that happened at the Hollyhock workshop last year.

Are you coming to Hollyhock or going on a special journey or creative immersion?

 Here are some suggestions for savoring your experience :

Travel Journal

Before you go….

  • Set an intention to listen deeply to your experience – both outer and inner – and to reflect on and record it.
  • Buy (or make) a journal to take along. Choose something that attracts you – consider size, type of paper, binding, cover, color.
  • Pack a small pouch of your very favorite supplies – writing pens, tiny set of paints or colored pencils, small scissors, glue stick.

While you are away….

  • Be a witness to your own experience.
  • Notice what is happening within you, and track that in whatever way(s) work for you.
  • Take photos. Gather materials from your journey.
  • Dedicate some time to reflect, write, sketch, collage

When you return….

  • Return to , and continue to work in your journal.
  • Review and reflect your experiences.
  • You might print your photos and integrate them in to your journal, as Terry and Julia did.
  • Paint your journal pages.
  • Use reflective journal prompts, such as:

    Travel Journal

How am I carrying this experience forward in my life?

What is one lesson I learned that I will always remember?

How does this experience change the way I show up in the world?



This year, we will be facilitating The Landscape of Expressive Arts at Hollyhock, May 31 to June 5.

This will be an opportunity to connect with yourself through connection with the natural world. The arts – visual, writing, movement, sound, rhythm, guided meditation – will be your pathway to learning and change.  We welcome you to join us, and we invite any questions you may have. 

See all the Hollyhock programs at

“My participation in the 2018 Dive into Expressive Arts workshop continues to inform my journey. I truly believe in the healing, transformative and connective powers of this work.  Making the video was a welcome opportunity to continue to reflect, process and distill the Hollyhock adventure and connections. It keeps on giving!- Julia A.