I’m walking along the path; usually I’m laughing at Emma’s antics, or lost in thought, or checking ahead for poison ivy, or, if I’m very very lucky, just here, now, walking along, at one with body’s subtly joyous attunement. Then, “out of the blue,” a sudden spike of attention, a nudge. What? Where? Aha, that tree!
At this point I go to the tree, gently rest my palms and forehead upon its warm or cool, dry or damp, smooth or, more likely rough bark and, breathing slowly, dissolve the psychic membrane between us.
I used to get messages, coming in clear, words of counsel or advice. A change in orientation, or a way to see that I hadn’t thought of until just then. I’d “know” what to do next, or how to be with a situation, or to let go, just let it go . . .
After a few years, I’d get the same sort of counsel, but no words needed, now that we understood how to communicate, Tree and I.
These past few years, I’ve noticed that when I hook up with a tree now I no longer get messages of any kind. Rather, simply, presence, an enormous, nearly overwhelming fullness. Can I expand to meet it, actually greet this vast, unfathomable being? Aaaaah . . . “I” surrender. Feel myself as the tree, roots penetrating into soil and rock and humus, trunk rising to cloud and sky and sun, branches reaching out to all others, leaves in their whispered breathing . . .
Yet each time we connect, Tree and I, there seems to be one of two major orientations, though detecting their differences can be subtle. Sometimes it’s a sense of utter dissolution of self into the whole forest, or even the lake that it surrounds, or the city nearby, and on and on — this tree effacing its identity into the whole; at other times, a sense that this tree serves as sentinel, its majesty, its great Self silently and serenely overseeing and protecting the other trees, the animals below and in its branches, the birds singing and winging their way, the wind sighing through, connecting these leaves, this tree, this forest, to fluttering butterflies everywhere and the storms they are said to provoke worlds away.
So two dominant modes, self-surrender and self-service. I see them as two ends of a great circle, meeting. Not really opposites, just coming from two directions, creating space between them, the space of foregiveness, blessing one and all.
Each time, as I enter this communion with Tree, I am taken into a world of endless interpenetrating dimensions. All of them full to bursting with love. It’s as if I have just downed a huge tumbler full of some kind of magic potion that leaves me changed.
I thank the tree. Reverently let it go. Stagger back to the path.
I was reminded of this periodic communion with trees due to a wonderful suggestion for a post that I received today from a reader, Wayne. Here is the Buddhist meditation he sent to me. I hope you enjoy it, too.
The practice of Touching the Earth is to return to the Earth, to our roots, to our ancestors, and to recognize that we are not alone but connected to a whole stream of spiritual and blood ancestors. We are their continuation and with them, will continue into the future generations. We touch the earth to let go of the idea that we are separate and to remind us that we are the Earth and part of Life.
When we touch the Earth we become small, with the humility and simplicity of a young child. When we touch the Earth we become great, like an ancient tree sending her roots deep into the earth, drinking from the source of all waters. When we touch the Earth, we breathe in all the strength and stability of the Earth, and breathe out our suffering- our feelings of anger, hatred, fear, inadequacy and grief.
Our hands join to form a lotus bud and we gently lower ourselves to the ground so that all four limbs and our forehead are resting comfortably on the floor. While we are Touching the Earth we turn our palms face up, showing our openness to the three jewels, the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. After one or two times practicing Touching the Earth (Three Touchings or Five Touchings), we can already release a lot of our suffering and feeling of alienation and reconcile with our ancestors, parents, children, or friends.