Trees are an epic species. Covering 30% of the earth’s surface, they serve as pillars of strength and flexibility. They grow exponentially for hundreds of years, sometimes thousands, gaining in height and density. But what can we learn from these majestic plants? I set out recently to meditate, practice and pray among the trees. Here are the lessons I have learned.
Inhale, transform and exhale
One of the most beautiful talents of trees is their ability to inhale what is poison for most living creatures and exhale one of our most valuable natural resources. That process is a lesson in patience. It is also a testament to the transformative power of sitting with vulnerability. A perfect example of this is during conflict. Whether at your job or with a spouse or friend, receiving disappointing feedback can be extremely difficult. Taking the time to sit with this feedback, and exhaling through the vulnerability, we can often find incredible growth and lessons hidden therein.
Move with the winds of change
Though change, big or small, can be uncomfortable, it is often the catalyst for more exciting opportunities. What can we learn from trees? They do not stay unmoving when the wind changes direction. They are pliable and keep their roots well grounded. This translates to being receptive to change and a willingness to try new things without forsaking our core values.
Protect and shelter those in need
One of the most important parts of a yoga practice—and of a life well lived—is charity and the act of giving back to the community. Trees do this naturally, without hesitation and without expecting anything in return. The reward is continual growth, stimulation of the wilderness and plant life around them and their own longevity. We could benefit from the same.
Eat and drink only what you need: avoid wastefulness
Trees do not gorge themselves on soil and water. They do not take all of the carbon for themselves or stockpile water from the soil for a “drought.” They live and grow harmoniously, consuming only what they need to survive. If we were to follow in that same path, consuming from a place of love and gratitude, without greed, we would soon realize that there’s more than enough to go around.
The beauty of letting go
Finally, trees know when to let go. As humans, we have a bad habit of holding onto things that no longer serve us: negativity, anger and sadness; worrying about what could/should/might happen, and so on. The beauty of trees is that they allow their bark, needles and leaves to change colour and shed once a year. Though we often don’t realize it, we also need to “shed,” let go and evolve often, sometimes even more so than the trees.
With that, I’m heading back into the woods with my tea mug and my dog to do some more tree hugging. I’m eager to see what other secrets and wisdom they might be inclined to whisper in my ear.
– Gabrielle Coulter