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April 21, 2016

4 Things I Learned from a Tree. {Earth Day Offering}

Flickr/Hailey E. Herrera

I am a strong believer that everything in our life can be our teacher.

Yes, even those things that don’t seemingly have mouths to voice their lessons, ears to listen to our arguments or noses to sniff out our most recent scent and trail. In fact, I have realized the best teachers are often the silent ones. Those that have the patience that only comes with years of standing in one place, weathering storm after storm.

My biggest instructor this spring has been one I didn’t have to pay anything for—it was an old cherry tree outside my front window. After all, she is the one who knows me intimately. She sees me each day, in my many states, and she often enjoys my “still-not awake” bedhead state, where my eyes are only half-open and I’m just one-third of the way through my first cup of coffee—a version of myself that I prefer to keep private.

Each morning with cuppa in hand, I sit down on a cushion in front of her. She lives outside permanently, whereas my habitat is mostly indoors. There is just one pane of glass that separates us.

This spot is where I do my morning meditation—the time in my day when I choose to experience what I will be too busy to feel for most of the rest of the day.

We have witnessed each other for two years now, ever since I moved into this second floor loft, and we have seen each other go through some changes.

It is a skill in meditation to observe something from a distance, without judgment, and I tried to apply this concept to her, though I have to say—at first I did not think she was a very good looking tree. But sitting in front of her for two years has taught me a few things:

1. Appearances can be deceiving. When I first came to know her, she was a barren looking creature—no leaves or blossoms and not a bud in sight. It was the winter. She didn’t do much for the appearance of our home and she certainly provided us no privacy. Her skinny, naked limbs were practically transparent. If I had judged a book by it’s cover (or if I was slightly evil) I might have considered chopping her down—but I didn’t.

I decided to wait and see what the next three months would bring…

2. Everything has a season. There is a pattern to life. Each season looks defiantly different. This year I watched the tree as little green buds started to form in February. In March she leafed, then in April she blossomed, and by summer she began to shrivel. Come autumn, she began to get naked again, and in winter she was back to barren branches, which I actually appreciate now because they allow more light in. Seeing her cyclical transformation gave me faith—my own internal winters were here with purpose, to make way for my springs. Bareness is dependably replaced by growth.

3. It is okay to stand still. This was a hard lesson, but she modeled it well. Even when we stand still, life happens. Things manifest themselves all the time. As I have gotten wiser (and a little older) I realize that there are moments when the bravest and most revolutionary thing we can do is simply stay. Seeing her each day, in that one familiar place, I began to understand that stillness comes with its own value and presence. Progress is not always about moving forward, it can also be about standing in one spot to grow a little taller.

4. We will have to weather storms. This is truth. It’s a truth I would have liked to skirt around, but it is not personal—the tree showed me that. We aren’t born expecting that along the way in life there will be big potholes, massive crevices and deep ditches we will get stuck in. There will be giant storms that will rain hail and sleet and blow 100 mile winds in our faces. We have to weather these for the simple fact that we live on planet earth. As I observed these last two years and as she’s held her ground through a few cyclones, I felt at somehow assured knowing she’s withstood each one—and I’ve acknowledged that so have I!

There is much I am grateful for in this life, but most of all, I feel this towards my many teachers. As I practice observing my world, rather then being consumed by it, more and more gurus seem to come out of hiding. Everyday I include a thank you in my meditation to this tree and her quiet teachings.

For it is not just other humans that show us how to live, it is all of Mother Earth too.

Cheers to our Mother!

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Relephant:

12 Surprising Things You Probably Didn’t Know about Trees.

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Author: Sarah Norrad

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

Photo: Flickr/Hailey E. Herrera

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