December 18, 2015

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

Kevin Young/Unsplash

My wife, Jane, is a root.

She is my root, our family’s root and the root for so many more who do not realize that she is root and origin of much that has impacted their lives.

In many Daoist and pre-Daoist traditions, trees were venerated as masters of how to “live the way” (i.e. be in the here and now, wholly present). In this worldview, all life is viewed as the expression and interplay between the descending Yang forces from above and the ascending Yin forces from below.

Our world is a cosmic dance, nourishing, controlling and manifesting all the indescribable and infinite variety that is life on and beyond our planet.

This dance of the Dao simultaneously attends to the infinitely small and the infinitely vast. The most minute detail of the microscopic world and the enormity of the outreaches of our cosmos contain and express the Tao. As humans, we consciously and unconsciously move through and experience the world moving at and through us.

Ancient wisdom traditions observed and emulated the natural world. They observed animals, fish, birds, mountains and trees. By noticing, they enhanced their quest to navigate the world in a way that brought them the greatest ease and joy.

Trees were great teachers. Especially old, large trees who had learned to survive by simultaneously rooting themselves deeply to receive the Yin nourishment that naturally rises from the earth and whose trunks and branches and leaves and flowers reached gracefully towards the sky, receiving the Yang bounty that descends so generously to their grateful reach.

The work of the roots is mostly below the surface. They, literally, do the dirty work. Out of view and out of the mind of many who cross the path of the tree.

Roots do their work mostly in the dark, beneath the surface. Often the root system is more extensive than the tree it supports, reaching deeper and wider than the tree’s visible height and width. It is the ceaseless persistence and striving for nourishment that provides the nexus and source of sustenance for the tree’s trunk, branches, leaves, fruits and flowers.

The roots are trees’ connection to the limitless love that is the bounty of Mother Earth. They are conduits of the ascending Yin influences of Earth.

Roots are the nexus to the source of limitless potential that is the universal gift of the Mother.

Rare is the person who passes the flamboyant Royal Poinciana tree in full bloom who ponders this stunning tree’s extensive root system, let alone the integral role the Royal Poinciana’s roots play in manifesting the breathtaking flowers. As magnificent as the expansive flower-gifted canopy of this tree is, the complex and courageous root system is three to four times as expansive.

The work of networking, nourishing, sustaining and giving begin with the roots. They are the foundation and sustenance for the entire tree, and their influence, while largely unnoticed, goes even further than just nurturing the tree. This below-the-surface network supports and generates life on so many other levels as well.

In Chinese medicine, roots are highly prized. Roots contain the healing essence and potential of the entire plant. They are cherished for their wisdom and alchemical potentials.

Roots form the foundation of many of the most precious herbal formula and life giving elixirs. Which brings me back to my wife, Jane, the root.

Her nurturing influence runs wide and deep. The tree that she nurtures and holds firm to the Earth has manifested a mighty trunk with many branches of family, extended family, community and beyond.

It is Jane’s day-to-day “earthy” work that keeps the entire family and community tree healthy and flourishing. It is her divine path. It is her spiritual work. It is my great blessing to live in her presence.

Jane’s nourishing essence is the elixir that provides so many with deep and profound sustenance.

Like the roots of the mightiest tree, Jane is constant, reliable and fierce in her ceaseless efforts and loyalty to providing nourishment and support to her beloved family and community.

Jane is but one woman in the great global family of largely unrecognized women who have deeply nourished the spirit, soul, mind and flesh of their families, communities and the world. We literally owe our lives and existence to these women who have been the foundational sustenance for our planet for many millennia.

If there is hope for the future, it is because of these wise women.

In this moment as I celebrate 33 years of marriage to my beloved wise woman Jane, I express my great gratitude to my precious, sacred root.

We can all benefit by pausing and sharing gratitude with the “roots” in our lives. They are the wise, determined and loving ones who do the less visible and less appreciated womb work of our world.

It is with them that the loving groundwork that supports us all is birthed.


Author: Daniel J. Atchison-Nevel

Editor: Toby Israel

Photo: Kevin Young/Unsplash


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