Marina Abramović’s Method for Overcoming Trauma: Go to a Park, Hug a Tree Tight, and Tell It Your Complaints for 15 Minutes

One of the most renowned of Chinese poets, Du Fu, survived the devastating An Lushan rebellion that nearly brought down the Tang Dynasty and resulted in an incredible loss of life around the country. His poems are full of grief, as translator David Hinton notes. The opening of “Spring Landscape” contains “possibly the most famous line in Chinese poetry,” and a painful comment on humanity’s place in the natural world.

The country in ruins, rivers and mountains
continue. The city grows lush with spring.

Blossoms scatter tears for us, and all these
separations in a bird’s cry startle the heart.

The poem presents a tragic irony. Nature invites us in, seems to promise comfort and refuge. “Du Fu tells us that birds seem to cry for us, and blossoms weep,” writes Madeleine Thien at The New York Review of Books. But “of course, this is a fairy-tale view, and ‘in the knowledge of its falsity, heartbreaking.’”

Is nature indifferent to human suffering? It would seem so to the broken-hearted Confucian poet. But nature is not devoid of fellow feeling. Trees talk to each other, create social worlds and families, and communicate with the other plants and animals around them. Japanese researchers have shown that the oils trees secrete can measurably lower stress levels, reduce hostility and depression, and boost immunity. Trees may not weep, but they care.

Trees are also, says performance artist Marina Abramović in the short video above, “perfectly silent listeners”—a rare and valuable quality in times of stress. “They have intelligence. They have feelings.” And for this reason, a tree is the ideal companion when we need an ear.

You can complain to them. And I started this a long time ago when I was in the Amazon with the native Indians. You know, they will go to the Sequoia tree, which is one of the oldest on the planet. And they will make a dance for the tree. These dances for the tree are so incredibly moving an emotional. So I thought, Wow! Why don’t I create an exercise that really works for me?

Abramović’s tree therapy is one part of her “Abramović Method,” notes Paper, “a set of techniques that enables artists to get to higher states of consciousness.” She recommends it for anyone who’s reeling from the traumas of this year. In our own age of devastation and isolation, it certainly couldn’t hurt, and perhaps we know more than Du Fu did about how nature supports our emotional lives.

So “please, go to the park near you,” the artist implores. “Pick the tree you like. Hold the tree tight. Really tight. And just pour your heart into it. Complain to the tree for a minimum of 15 minutes. It’s the best healing that you can do.” Included in the video is a testimonial from an ex-rugby player, who found the Complaining to Trees method transformative. “There is something in it,” he says. “It’s almost like you become part of the tree as well.” Trees are not people. They don’t dispense advice. They listen and console in their own mysteriously ancient, silent way.

Related Content:  

The Secret Language of Trees: A Charming Animated Lesson Explains How Trees Share Information with Each Other

The Social Lives of Trees: Science Reveals How Trees Mysteriously Talk to Each Other, Work Together & Form Nurturing Families

How the Japanese Practice of “Forest Bathing”—Or Just Hanging Out in the Woods—Can Lower Stress Levels and Fight Disease

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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  • Arlynda Boyer says:

    Nah. It could so easily respond, “Why are you complaining to me? You and your kind are murdering me and my kind.”

  • Night Troll says:

    Isn’t this the chick who eats human flesh with celebrities?

  • Mike says:

    Yeah I really don’t care how Ms. “I Drink Baby Blood And Giraffe Semen” Abramovic finds comfort, she’s a witch, BURN HER!

  • Analie Fernandez says:

    Thank you for this article. This is so true. After following a Tarotist’s socalled Spirit Guide’s message for Capricorns for that day when I was listening to it from YouTube last May of this year. I just broke up with somebody at that time and was totally devastated and it was lockdown–so I couldn’t even go out! So, listening to countless of my zodiac sign’s messages on my phone’s YouTube App became my console! And one of those readings in which has a message that we Capricorns must ground self by walking barefoot in the ground and talk to plants and trees—so, I started it that day and has been doing it since then. And I am now living free of pain of from all the Traumas I have been through in life!I thanked God and the Nature and most especially my favorite tree.

    I did pick a favorite tree after exercising barefooted on the green grass in the middle of the park and do stand up push ups on 4 trees in different days. I did push ups to 4 of them but, only to the tree with roots sticking out I did my start talking with the tree. And the bond formed between us: I always go to it every time I finished jogging, exercising and breathing exercise to do my finale exercise in which standup push ups. I always talked all my worries, my aspirations in life, my observations of life all while I am doing my stand up push ups with my two hands on the tree and my bare feet on its big roots that sticking out around it. Then, thanking her for it. Yes, she is a she. I named her Victoria. As in me being victorious over all my traumas I’ve gone through in my life with her help❤😇

    I am so lucky to be living where I am at because it has a circle park surrounded by big trees and you can jog around and then do exercise to its grass in the middle, and you can pick any tree to talk and hug!❤🙏😇🍀

  • Analie says:

    Wow. Thanks for this info! I did my comments a minute ago without finishing reading the whole article because I did use nature aside from counseling, to deal with all traumas I’ve gone through in life. And now, I’ll do research about Marina Abramovic because of your statement about her! I don’t remember reading or watching her on the news outlets..

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