Exploring the meaning of freedom

What does it mean to be free? Does it depend at all on our material circumstances, or is it rather something that exists in our mind?

I recently wrote some posts from the perspective of a tree, over on the other blog I am contributing to, Anima Monday. These posts were based on a communication with a tree, and this was a challenge that this tree-being posed to me. ‘I have no body that I can move around with, but does that make me less free than you? Probably you are just bound by other kinds of restrictions…’

The more I think about this, the more I realize just how very true this is. We are part of the narrative of our society, and that narrative binds the way in which we behave in many, many way. We are given a mould which we grow into, and are told that the meaning of ‘growing up’ is accepting that mould. ‘Leaving our childhood behind’ means stopping to be a free spirit and instead accepting the rules imposed on us by others.

Is this a bad thing? It isn’t, until it is. There are certain things a child indeed has to learn, like thinking further than its own personal instincts, and also taking into account the rights of others. There is also the inevitable fact that in order to become something, it may be necessary to give up on other things. In order to grow, some sacrifices will always need to be made and instead boundaries accepted. So that, by becoming less, we become more at the same time. Because by restricting the world we choose to explore, we get to spend more time there, and we get to know it on a much more intimate level. In other words, the seed that once danced in the wind accepts the limitations that come with becoming tree.

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So far the healthy. Giving up freedom can be an essential part of life.

Let us now turn to the other side of things. Freedom lies in accepting a restrictive situation if that helps us to become the person we need to be, both in our own interest and the interest of our society. But this is a state of restriction that is in constant flux, one that still includes an openness to change, and an acceptance of the value that lies in the unknown, the unexplored, the other-than-self.

Stagnation threatens if we try to impose the boundaries that have served us personally onto others. If we can no longer see the seed but rather a potential copy of ourselves. Or worse, as a new chance to become the things we failed to become ourselves.

Each seed is unique, and needs to be given the chance to develop according to its own individual strengths. That is how we create a strong and diverse society as well: if all kinds of skills and strengths are equally welcomed, the collective will thrive as well.

Now think of this for yourself. How often have you abstained of doing something because of a fear of ‘what will others think if I do that?’ Whose interest did that serve? Society, or simply someone else’s fear of the unknown? Or maybe it was actually just a projection of your own fear of becoming and being seen for what you truly are? Now, what will you do next time? Which fight is more worth fighting? That of fighting for the right to become whole, or that of helping to sustain fear as a force of oppression in the world? Choose to fight for what is right. It will make a more worthwhile effort, even if it is not necessarily the easier path.

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Also think of your own task as nourisher of other people’s seeds. Will you accept their truths, their individual beauties even if they are far different from your own? Can you let go of fear and opt for love instead?

Together, let us strive to become forest. Becoming free by turning into strong, mature trees. So we can start seeding a better future.

Life through the eyes of a tree: leaves

(This is the third and final part of ‘life through the eyes of a tree. The previous parts, the heart and roots can be reached by clicking on the respective links.)

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Imagine freedom, dancing in the wind, a life spent as pure breath, lived on the wings of song.

What do you see when you look at the sky? Is it what science tells you – a place where nothing happens, just some molecules spread out thinly, or is it a place of wonder? Even with human senses, you can perceive some of its miracles: just think of the wonders of sound. And your cell-phone may have convinced you of just how much information that ’empty’ sky can carry.

Now, imagine that you could be just that, that your life could be spent simply as an antenna listening to these songs, helping them get carried along, shouting out and adding your own voice to the concerto. Imagine, being a leaf of a tree.

Who ever told you that trees do not have ears, that they do not have eyes? They do, they just do not see in the same way as us.. Every leaf is a living organism on its own. It breathes, it has a heartbeat. And it hears the whispers of the wind, because it dances along with it. It hears the subtle vibrations of birdsong, and responds to them with tears of joy.

Imagine having not one, but thousands of these little ears at your disposal. Like pixels on a screen, they form a reflection of the vibrations of the sky. Then this picture is enriched by the rays of the sun and the way they hit the leaves.

But how can the tree even use this information if it does not have a central nervous system, if it does not have a brain? The mistake you are making here is thinking that the tree is operating as a separate organism. The tree is forest, and its brain is the entire forest. The tree is just the tentacle that speaks with the sky.

The tree is the dancer, that performs a ballet with the wind every day. The audience is the entire forest. Connected by underground fungi, the earth itself becomes aware of the love song high above.

And then, at some point, the coming of winter is announced, and the theatre closes for its winter recess. But not just like that. One final show will take place. And this time the leaves are not merely listening. This time, they are the messenger. They shout out their appreciation with a dazzling display of colour. Going out with a bang, they call that.

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I repeat my suggestion. Imagine being a leaf. Imagine living a life that consists of nothing but dancing with your surroundings, of being part of the most magnificent painting of the planet. Pure expression.

To then end your life in the womb of mother earth, dreaming of another year, of a rebirth where you yourself will be the foundation for the next generation. Alive through others. Listening to the concertos that you used to be a part of yourself. Rejoicing in the memories of song.

 

Life through the eyes of a tree: roots

Before reading this, make yourself comfortable. Snuggle up in a blanket or feel the warm rays of the sun caressing your skin, depending on what the seasons are like where you live. Then, close your eyes and join me on another journey in the wonderful world of tree consciousness.

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Imagine darkness. Not a threatening darkness, but a soft, caring, nourishing darkness. One that shows you the way rather than confusing you. All you want is to discover more, to merge with it, to be carried by it. And so you slowly expand your senses in an embrace of this nourishing darkness.

And you feel its whispers. You hear them vibrate within you. And you notice how you are not blind anymore, even though you have no eyes to see. For the soft vibrating somehow translates in a tree-dimensional image of the world around you. Slowly, other senses begin to add to that: an almost magnetic pull to go to certain areas, and to avoid others.

You sense how, if you expand yourself just a little bit more in a downward direction, you will be rewarded. There will be conversation, there will be friendship, there will be sharing. And so you stretch… and stretch.. …and very carefully, you make yourself longer, until you hit a pool of emotions. A trickle of water, a source of life. It invites you to come even closer, and you hear it whisper memories of mountain streams, of long journeys through the earth: of time spent within the body of a plant.

Then, as if in response, you feel the larger organism of which you are a part, stir and chant to you. Echoes of sunlight reach you, reach through, and start their own conversation with the droplet of water you just discovered. A journey begins, a dance, a sharing: as the water elemental attached to the stream discovers new paths and rises up through the root that you are, up into the tree. Along the way, memories are exchanged, allowing the tree to share in the magic of the thunderstorm. In return, letting the elemental rest for a while within a leaf, for a moment of sunbathing before being released out into the air. The tree breathes.

On the out-breath, a wave of gratitude comes back, reaching down into the roots. This time, a ray of sunlight floods down, dancing, reverberating through the roots of the trees. Continuing the conversation with the earth. Darkness infused with light, with laughter, with joy. For a split second, everything is illuminated, and the shape of mother earth revealed. And you rest safely within her lap, knowing that she will always nourish you, lead you to where the stories are to be found, guide you to where the richest conversations can happen.

And you crawl on, ever expanding, always reaching out, connected to the sun even though you are living your life within the embrace of darkness.

Rooted in love, you feel content.

(This post is the second in a series. The first one can be found here. )