The Lesson of Trees
You know, sometimes we just muddle through day after day, not ever paying attention what’s going on around us. We drive to work, we go home, we go on errands and do not see what’s around us. Just like all the Muggles in the Harry Potter books who had no idea of the magic around them, we see what we expect to see. We miss so much, and often it is nature that we are missing. Nature is vast and has many lessons for us. We talked about the oceans last week, and this week I feel the trees hold a message for us. Very appropriate since Autumn starts tomorrow.
There are many lessons we can receive from trees. Probably as many lessons as there are varieties of trees!
“Trees get everything they need without striving and they are never in a hurry. Trees are strong because they root down into the earth, reach for the heavens and bend with the wind.” Sharon sent me this and I felt it very appropriate. Also, it reminded me of Treebeard in “The Two Towers” from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He frustrated the Hobbits by going slow, but in the end, he and his fellow trees stood tall against their enemy. Another lesson possibly there…But I digress.
We all probably have seen the message on Facebook: Advice from a tree – Stand tall and proud; one day I’m going to do a lesson on Jane Austin’s, “Pride and Prejudice,” a favorite of mine, but I digress, again!
We often do not stand proud. Marianne Williamson is credited with the quote, ““Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. You’re playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
An amazing quote.
So what are we afraid of? A tree stands tall in all kinds of situations. There is no fear. The trees accept their place in life. With no expectations. We discussed expectations a bit last week.
According to the book “The Trees Around Us”, trees are vital to much of the life on earth. Forests cover almost one third of the land area of our planet. They help protect, sustain and improve humankind’s supplies of fresh water. They purify the air and convert carbon dioxide, water, minerals and sunlight into nutrients and oxygen. Many plants, insects, fungi, worms and other organisms are dependent upon the shade, moisture and leaf debris provided by trees. Additionally, the environment provided by trees supports a wide variety of reptiles, birds, and mammals.
And a study at the University of Michigan found that smelling the distinct organic aroma of growing trees, and listening to soothing nature sounds, like the rustling of leaves, stimulates our brain’s frontal lobe and increases production of energy-boosting beta waves which can literally double our energy in as little as 10 minutes. No wonder we love a walk in the forest! IF anyone wishes to enjoy the rustle of leaves, just come to my house in about a month as the leaves start falling, I’ll have plenty for you to enjoy!
Trees heal! Studies have shown that patients with views of trees out their windows heal faster and with less complications.
Many of you may have heard of the story of the two hospital patients, one with the view out the window and the others with his eyes wrapped. The one with the view described the trees and flowers, and many other sights of nature. But when the man with his eyes bandaged was allowed to see, it was just a brick wall out their window. His roommate described a vision that helped heal, instead of something depressing. Perception, another lesson topic!
Children with ADHD show fewer symptoms when they have access to nature. And exposure to trees and nature aids concentration by reducing mental fatigue. So if we feel we need another reason to get out in nature, say it’s for your health…take a ‘not sick day!’
And studies have shown that Trees reduce violence. Neighborhoods and homes that are barren have shown to have a greater incidence of violence in and out of the home than their greener counterparts. Trees and landscaping help to reduce the level of fear. A reminder that love overcomes fear.
So, what other life lessons can we learn from trees?
1. To be flexible. Be flexible so you don’t break when a harsh wind blows. The trees that bend a little to the harmless breeze will later grow to withstand the wild wind. I’m pretty sure we all have seen or heard something along the line of, “adversity makes us stronger.” And, if we maintain a degree of flexibility in our attitudes and viewpoints we will not be broken in any storm of criticism or opposition. We will be stronger after we have gone through the storm, or as I like to say, after we have broken camp in the valley of the shadow and come out the other side.
From the FB page I Must be a Mermaid – “there is a gentleness that exists in the subtle breeze and bending of tree limbs, as if someone or something was whispering to us ’be flexible, resilient, go with the wind, the flow.’”
2. Trees teach us to value the little things. Leaves, though they can be small, are vital to the life of a tree. Similarly, expressions of encouragement and appreciation, whether it be by spoken word or in the form of a simple “Thank You,” especially a written expression of your gratitude, can go a long way to build the spirits of the receiver. The motivation of others to work with us and support common goals may die at the roots if we are not appreciative of others.
3. Mighty oaks do indeed grow from little acorns, the little nut that held its ground. Trees teach us to not be intimidated by small beginnings. Efforts, when enriched with strong motivation and determination, will grow to fruition. Remember you are a great, mighty and powerful spiritual human being, with dignity, direction and purpose. Unity of Rehoboth Beach is a perfect example of what can happen when we start something with conviction, direction and purpose!
4. We are taught to not be afraid of change by trees. As David Zindell observed in “The Broken God”, an acorn is unafraid to destroy itself in growing into a tree. Invigorate your life by letting go of the past and pressing forward to something new.
5. Trees practice teamwork. Trees and plants do not suppress each other. When they do start to get crowded, they grow in all sorts of directions to find the light they need to survive.
In forests, individual trees support one another. Even a giant Sequoia growing by itself could be blown over, but by interlocking its roots with other trees around it, Sequoias are able to stand as a grove against any wind. How much support do you share with those around you? Teamwork can accomplish much more than the sum of individual efforts, often making the difference between success and failure.
6. Trees show us how to grow leadership. As noted above, trees provide an environment that supports the growth of many other life forms, including saplings, small replicas of itself. An important leadership characteristic is to provide an environment that empowers and enables others to take on greater responsibility so that they, too, can develop into full-grown leaders. Everyone is a leader in one way or another. We are looking for others to add to our Leadership Team here at Unity of Rehoboth Beach. Share your gifts with others.
7. Trees are an example of a value-system. Trees have extensive root systems. Some trees, such as mesquites, grow taproots that are often larger than the trunk and that can extend down into the ground hundreds of feet to reach vital sources of water. And they remind us to drink plenty of water! How extensive is your root system? Is it solidly embedded in principles and values that provide valuable guidance when life-choices need to be made? That’s your integrity.
8. Don’t pine away over old flames. A little pun, but good advice. We cannot dwell in the past. Living in the NOW is what is important.
Sometimes you have to shed your old bark in order to grow. This goes along with accepting change. I’ve mentioned many times how important it is to not let things pile up, that causes the energy flow to clog, whether internally or externally. Allow yourself to expand and grow. Imagine what would happen to a tree if it did not shed its bark as it attempted to grow. OUCH! It would be stymied. And so are you if you do not release what no longer serves you.
9. Grow where you’re planted. And enjoy the view. What could this mean? Often times we humans look across the fence and think that’s looking better than what we have on our side. We compare ourselves to others. This can be very damaging to our soul. It’s your journey folks, not mine, not your neighbors, not your friends, not your spouse’s or partners. The joy is in the journey, not at some imagined destination. Relish it.
8. And, it’s perfectly okay to be a late bloomer. Some trees do not bloom or fruit for many years. I’ve met so many folks who have made dramatic changes later in their lives, I’m one of them. These changes are partly because they needed to grow in their own, meaningful way and time, and partly because the opportunities were not available for them until later in life. It’s all ok. As I mentioned earlier, we are all on a journey and each path is different for each and every one of us. That doesn’t make anyone better than the other.
9. Avoid people who would like to cut you down. Who needs negativity in their life? Sometimes it takes us a while to notice who supports us in positive ways. As we learn to love ourselves, we also learn what type of person is good to have along for the journey. It’s ok to let them go, they are on their own journey.
10. Trees remind us you can’t hide your true colors as you approach the autumn of your life. Be content with your natural beauty. And I would say that is true for all times in our lives, not just the autumn, though I can understand why the autumn of our lives is mentioned with its beautiful colors. We often look back on our youth as being “IT”. That nothing can be like that time of carefree fun and doing stuff. But as I look around the folks I’m getting to know here, I see so many blooming in the so called autumn of their lives. We have a lot to give in our communities. Don’t hold back…live your life!
Max DuPree said, “We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” Think about it.
11. So, go out on a limb. If you really believe in something, don’t be afraid to go out on a limb. Trees do it all the time. And if they over-stretch their boundaries, they either stop or re-direct their growth in a different direction. So, what was it you always wanted to try? And why are you waiting? It’s never too late.
12. You could say trees provide a sense of environmental leadership, supporting the growth of other life forms and saplings. They provide an environment that enables the other life forms to develop and grow. Here are a few things trees do for our benefit:
So, what are you doing to aid the environment? What are you doing to aid our communities? Oh, if we would be as diligent as the tree.
The Buddha said “Praise and blame, gain and loss, pleasure and sorrow, come and go like the wind. To be happy rest like a giant tree, in the midst of them all.”
The best lesson of all….Be in the NOW.