January 18, 2016

The Mindful Life Illustrated: What we can Learn from Trees.

Mike MedagliaThe more I look at them, the more I am in awe of them.

I feel that trees are deeply human on some level.

We are both alive on this earth and the processes we both undergo to keep living seem to reflect one another.

The trunk of a tree starts off soft and absorbent. It’s bent and shaped by the conditions around it.

As it grows the base of the trunk gets wider and stronger. It may be marked and bumpy from the experiences of growing but its firm base provides a stable place to stand. The top of the trunk remains flexible, able to avoid breaking through bending. It is this flexibility that keeps trees from snapping in two.

And so it is with us—if we can get it right the way the trees do.

Branches grow out of the trunk in all directions, ignoring no route that would lead to more sun—winding and weaving through each other. There is a slow randomness to branches. Just like a life that goes in a million directions we can learn from each experience, branching out our knowledge and drawing from a wide range of sources and outlooks. The wider a perspective we can take the more light and life we can pull in.

But a tree isn’t sustained only by the sun. It needs water, deep in its roots to sustain and encourage life.

The way trees consume water is not externally but through a vast internal world of roots. It is the equal balance of the external and internal growth of a tree that keeps it alive and standing up right.

And so it is with us.

We need deep roots into ourselves and our souls to stay stable in the world and not be swept away by the ten thousand influences around us. But the inner and the outer worlds are dependant on one another. Our roots into ourselves need to be equal to our branches that we send outwards and we must explore the depths of the earth within us in order to reach closer to the light above and around us.

Then there are the leaves that mark the natural cycles of the earth. Each year some trees will shed the work of the previous year. Letting the past fall away and preparing for introspection and a time of patience and waiting.

I can’t help but feel this same process would be immensely helpful for us—an annual autumnal time for our emotional life. A time to let the things that have grown up around us fall away, to shed, make room and reflect on how we want to grow in the future.

Perhaps the most impressive characteristic of a tree is it’s ability to give, to support and to nourish.

Its branches and trunk are a home to all sorts of life. Creatures climb into it for safety and protection, but also to get a better view of where they are going and where they have been. Some trees keep within them water and sweet maple syrup nectar that can be drunk without taking away from the life of the tree.

And of course, trees clean the air around them so that all other creatures can benefit from clean air. Trees sustain life itself. Even in death they provide wood for building and as they decompose they become a home for a whole new range of creatures.

And so it goes with us.

We reach towards the sun in pursuit of a better life. We can branch out in a million directions as we search for ourselves. But we can only live a stable life with a solid trunk and a system of internal roots that equals our outer life. And we receive our true purpose by giving to others. By using what we have to support all life we come in contact with.

Trees are effortless, they make it look easy just doing what they do.

But sometimes we need to look around us for reminders and examples of how to best live a full life upon this earth.


Relephant read:

Loving the Root: A Daoist Perspective on Trees & Wise Women.


Author & Artist: Mike Medaglia

Editor: Khara-Jade Warren


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