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Wilderness Dharma: My Love for Trees April 5, 2013

Posted by Living Abundance in Uncategorized.
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Developing mindfulness while outdoors has allowed me to have a greater appreciation for trees. I love trees because they offer me safety and refuge, they are my good friends, and they symbolize perfect self-acceptance.

Last week as part of a presentation I did for a group of students, someone who was co-presenting with me said proudly, “You can call me a tree-hugger, I’ll gladly admit it. I love to walk up to a tree and wrap my arms around it. I take energy from them.”

They could have taken the words directly from my mouth. I feel exactly the same way. I’m a tree-hugger and I love trees.

I love trees because they give me safety and a source of refuge. Going into the forest is a way I take refuge, and I take refuge in these places regularly. I walk into a clearing, lie down on the soft moss or bed of fallen leaves, and stare up at the tree tops and the sky. I watch the trees dance for me in the gentle breeze, trying to hear their silent music.

Forests are a place where I can truly rest. I spend time in forests to rest, and not only to let go of what is causing me stress and anxiety. I also take something away from the forests. I absorb the energy and vitality of these sacred spaces. I am enlivened by the presence of the living beings and living elements around me.

Forests are the ultimate place of safety for me. For my lovingkindness practice, the phrase “may I feel safe and protected” automatically elicits an image of being in a forest. The highest most perfect feeling of safety is sitting on the forest floor, my back against a trunk, completely surrounded in every direction by trees. The wind can be blowing hard above the forest and make the tops of the trees sway, the sound of roaring wind noticeably loud. But I am safe deep in the shelter of the forest. I am protected from the elements of sun by the shade, of heat in the coolness of a thick tree cover, of wind by the study trunks and boughs and leaves, and by rain from the roof overhead.

To be surrounded by trees is to feel a warm loving embrace, a close warm hug. My heart is nourished by the presence of all my plant and animal sisters and brothers. I am restored by the sounds of the birds singing and of the trees breathing in the wind as my outer lungs.

I love trees because they are my good friends. I appreciate their friendship the most while living in the city. While I walk or bike down long, straight, paved city streets and sidewalks, I feel the presence of these fellow living beings. At the same time, all of the harsh fabricated buildings and fences are surrounding me in all directions. I can still sense the life energy of the trees. To have their thick, gnarled trunks beside me is to feel my friends are standing firm and tall beside me and with me. They comfort me and reassure me that I can be okay in this foreign place. They let me know that not all life is killed, destroyed, taken or captured in cement and steel.

I have to rest my awareness on trees when I am surrounded by human constructions of straight edges and square angles. I need to keep my attention on something alive and fluid. I can breathe more easily when my eyes can rest on the living patterns of tilted trunks, twisting branches, twigs, and spreading leaves.

The trees offer me a symbol of how I wish to be. They are fully alive, completely rooted deep into the life energy of our Earth and reaching up to the sky. I long to be truly closer to our Earth, and at the same time reaching up to the sky away from the cement and pavement.

Finally, I love trees because they teach me perfection. They help me understand Thay’s teaching of accepting ourselves when he says the rose is already perfect. I look to the trees as an example of a model of how to embody this self acceptance.

When I look at a tree, I see that it is already perfect just as it is. It might be leaning or lopsided, it might be turning brown or losing some needles or bark. But it is still perfect exactly as it is. It still stands there, proudly displaying and proclaiming its wonderful tree-ness to the entire world. To me, I can’t imagine that the tree has any feelings of inferiority, of needing to change or fix itself to be a “better” tree. It probably doesn’t feel bad about what it is and doesn’t try to change anything about itself.  It probably doesn’t try to be straighter or taller, more lush or any different than it already is. A pine tree probably doesn’t spend its days wishing it were a poplar tree, or even an animal or another species altogether.

When I look at trees this way, I try to accept myself for who I am instead of trying so hard to make myself into somebody different. I try to remember that there are so many aspects of myself that I ultimately cannot change. Instead my energy could be better spent in a humble acceptance and trying to work with what is present.

A few reasons I can capture in words for why I love trees so much is that forests are a place where I can feel safe and take refuge. I also love trees because they are my good friends standing firm and tall beside me in the city, and they embody the spirit of self-acceptance. This post can’t quite capture all of the ways that I love trees, but I am happy to share with you in hopes you feel the same.

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