Originally appeared in Planet Jackson Hole

Getting to the root of the extraordinary lives of trees.

I love when teachings of science and wisdom intersect, and when new scientific discoveries confirm long held wisdom traditions. Now it's time for trees to enjoy that intersection. The tree story continues to reveal how all life is sentient and part of a vast, intelligent, interactive, ever-changing and always-communicating matrix. Decades ago, mind-expanding discoveries about the intelligence of plants was scientific news. Researchers found that plants not only communicate with each other, they're also telepathic, they have memory, they experience feelings, and more.

Trees and metaphysical traditions

The most ancient cross-cultural symbol is the World Tree, or the Tree of Life, which in global esoteric traditions represents the construction of the universe. Versions of the Tree of Life appear in many traditions, from Ancient Egyptian and Sumerian, to Judeo-Christian, Buddhist, Hindu and Norse.

Tree spirits also play a significant role in many ancient cultures around the world. The understanding has always been that elemental beings inhabit trees, amplifying the tree's intelligence and interacting with humans. These tree spirits are always considered to be benevolent. In some cultures when a tree is cut down offerings are made to the tree and to the tree spirit.

Many churches were intentionally built in or near groves of sacred trees. With their roots in the earth, and their branches and leaves in the sky, trees are always a symbol of being connected to the earth and to the cosmos. There must also have been some awareness that groups of trees have a more powerful, positive synergy of energies.

A key element to survival

At the basic level of survival, we are of course alive due to a special relationship with trees. After all, trees produce the oxygen we breathe and we give off the carbon dioxide they rely on. Forests and jungles are considered the lungs of the living earth.

Peter Wohlleben is a German forester and best-selling author. His renowned book, "The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate-Discoveries From a Secret World" will be released in English early September.

Citing his 30-year experience managing forests and the latest scientific findings, Wohlleben documents the complex and rich lives of trees that include caring for each other and the ability to count.

"They can count, learn and remember; nurse sick neighbors; warn each other of danger by sending electrical signals across a fungal network known as the 'Wood Wide Web'-and, for reasons unknown, keep the ancient stumps of long-felled companions alive for centuries by feeding them a sugar solution through their roots," Wohlleben writes.

Pointing to two trees, he noted, "These trees are friends. You see how the thick branches point away from each other? That's so they don't block their buddy's light. Sometimes, pairs like this are so interconnected at the roots that when one tree dies, the other one dies, too."

In awe of trees

The Heart Math Institute in California (heartmath.org) is known for documenting and teaching how the heart is command central in the human experience. Recently it launched new research projects exploring the interconnectivity of all life on earth.

Given the millennia long history of peoples' sacred and practical connections to trees, researchers here are exploring quantifiable answers to questions like: Why are we so in awe of the old oak and the ancient redwood tree? Why does sitting beneath a spreading sycamore feel like a spiritual experience? How do trees uplift humans? How can we learn from what ancient trees have witnessed? Can trees predict earthquakes?

Just a few of the things research has already measured include that individual trees and different kinds of trees have overall different electric voltage patterns, and that, similar to humans, trees have circadian (day-night) rhythms.

After all, tree roots are deeply connected to and responsive to subtle and not so subtle changes in the electromagnetic currents of the planet. And trees communicate to each other about many things, via a planetary worldwide web.

Exciting possibilities

Whether or not we can consciously pick up on what trees are broadcasting and sharing with us, we are exposed to the information they communicate all the time. How appropriate to honor trees for being more than an unintelligent, unfeeling lumber source. And how timely to enter into communication and partnership with these ancient beings who, like humans, are connected to both the earth and to the cosmos. PJH