Learning from Trees

After a few days of rain, the sun was out, beaming through high-rise buildings and offices. And inside, from behind the window one felt its warmth on the skin. There seemed to be more people on the street that day. However, that warmth could not disguise the arrival of the fall. Already there were fewer flowers in the gardens, and more leaves were decorating the sidewalks in their yellow, orange, and brilliant reds transforming the bare gray cement into a colorful tapestry.

 Every now and then a breeze brushed through the treetops. A few leaves would separate, spin and tumble down unhurriedly with poise -whirling, floating, descending, landing and some lingering there silently. The stronger winds were more unsettling, forcefully shaking the small branches, throwing them into frenzy. In protest they made much noise, stroking and clattering their leaves and branches loudly, their whining continued to be heard from some distance away.

 We humans are not unlike trees. Outer events and happenings can disturb us too, both physically and mentally. A comment, a smell, a noise or our judgment of an event out there, can agitate and disturb our mind, throwing us into a frenzy of associative and obsessive thinking. Mesmerized by their speed and repetition, and deceived by their “authenticity”, we become vulnerable to their negative charge. The peace of mind is lost. Depending on their hold on us, we may prove incapable of finding the off switch. Have you noticed how some thoughts intrude and fixate your attention for hours, or spin on endlessly in spite of your best intention to entertain them no more? One may retreat to bed for distraction, some sleep or rest but to no avail.

 Besides our thoughts, events can adversely affect our emotions too. It is not uncommon that our sense of well-being be at the mercy of an event with its peculiar feelings and felts. Some “positive”, some “negative”. For instance, as we leave home, a sunny day makes us excited, but no sooner have we pulled out of the parking space, the driving and the traffic can make us agitated and angry. A friend or colleague’s praise or positive comment makes us feel good, but their criticism leaves us hurt and irritated for days. No wonder by end of the day we feel depleted and exhausted. As long as outside events and stimuli determine and influence our thoughts and emotions, like a seesaw up and down we go.

 By now the wind had picked up. Looking closely, while leaves and branches were shaken and stirred in the wind, the tree-trunk remained unmovable and grounded. We can similarly learn to be more grounded and undisturbed in the face of what happens around us, if we care to not inhabit our heads or be identified with its thoughts. By directing and maintaining part of our attentiveness with our breath or physical posture, we see that our mind and body work and influence each other. We discover that when we inhabit our bodies, the flow of thoughts, fantasies, imaginations, and worries do not affect us as much.  Even more, we learn to work with our mind and not be influenced by each passing event. We can then participate in our daily tasks and work from this calmer, more centered but yet more awake, alert and energized state.

 Just when the surface of the lake can be disturbed by the blowing wind, below the surface the lake remains calm and undisturbed.

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Oct, 05, 2014

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