Life through the eyes of a tree: the heart

This is the first in a series of posts that tries to look at the world from the perspective of a tree.

To begin, I would like you to visualize the following. Go to a place in the forest that you feel closely connected to, and see yourself sitting there, with your back resting against a huge chestnut tree. It is autumn. Right in front of you, you notice one of its fruits, the prickly skin protecting the chestnuts from those that want to eat them before they are ripe.

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And you begin to wonder about that. Why the protective measures? Why does the tree not simply give away its fruits, but does feel the need to protect them?

And so you ask the tree if it will help you understand. In response, you feel your perspective changing, and it feels as if your body is slowly being absorbed inside the tree-body, and you become ‘the tree’. At first, that feels restrictive. You even panic slightly for a moment. What if you are not going to get out of here again? What if you are going to be a prisoner in here forever?

But then you relax. And slowly you begin to let go of your human senses, and you start to breathe with the tree. You listen to the sound of your heartbeat, and how it pumps the blood through your body. Relaxing further, you focus on that for a while.

As you do so, you feel your perspective expanding. You are walking around the forest again. Not in your human skin, but as a kind of expansion of the tree body. You see how you are attached to it through a kind of umbilical cord. And you realize that that cord does in no way restrict you, but instead, gives you freedom. For it takes care of all your material needs: as long as the tree is there, you are assured of nourishment, because the tree freely provides these for you.

Take some time to explore the forest from this new perspective. You are truly part of it now: for the tree not only shares its resources with you, but also its senses. Translated in a way you understand, that feels as if you have suddenly developed an ability for a kind telepathic communication: where before, the forest was a silent place, now it seems almost loud, as if multiple choirs are singing at the same time.

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It is hard to describe what it is exactly that you hear, and the word hearing isn’t exactly right either, for that would be a too one-dimensional way of describing it. For the ‘hearing’ that the tree provides you with, doesn’t happen with your ears alone, but engages all of your senses at the same time: you see it as a wave of colours, as an alphabet of perfume, interwoven with an ocean of sound. It is a language that is way more complex and rich than human language: it is as if every instant you engage with it, you receive treasure chests full of rich impressions, and whole stories download into your brain, instantly, complete with sounds, impressions, as if you were their protagonist.

As you walk through the forest, you realize that you are not simply visiting: in this moment, you ARE the forest.

Then you think back of what originally brought on this reverie, and you turn your attention back to where you came from, kneeling next to the tree to examine one of the chestnut burrs more closely. You admire the cosy little nest that they form around the seeds. You pick it up. And in that moment, you become it. Your mind links to the chestnuts, and you feel/hear/see the burr whisper to you in the colourful language of the forest: I will keep you safe until it is time for you to get born. I will pour all of my love into you, so that you get the best possible chance of survival.

And in that moment, you feel held and loved, not only by the burr, not only by the tree, but by the forest as a whole. You know that, whatever happens next, whether you manage to become a tree, or whether you become squirrel food, you are here, part of this family, part of this community. How you develop and where you end up growing roots will decide in which way you grow up, and what your experiences will be like, but you trust like you have never trusted before. You are part of the web of life. It breathes through you. And you are an immortal part of it.

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At that moment, you sense that it is time to go, and you feel yourself being sucked back into the tree, and then, after a few moments, find yourself back in your own body. And you hear the tree whisper ‘Did that answer your question?’

We are used to perceiving the world as human beings, locked into our own head, with our perspective limited to what our eyes can see, and where our legs can carry us. This visualization gives you a bit of a sense of just how limited that view is. For how can we know what the world is like when seen through senses that we do not possess ourselves? Next time you go to the forest, I invite you to try if you can repeat this exercise: go to a tree, and take time to introduce yourself: explain who you are, and what the world looks like for you. Then, ask if it would be willing to let you share in its perspective. If you receive a positive vibe, sit down with your back to the tree, close your eyes and let yourself be sucked in…

Exploring our soul forest

Mankind has always been afraid of darkness. For good reason, as this is indeed a place where danger may hide. And yet…

There are other animals that prefer the dark of night, precisely because it offers them safety and allows them to hide from their predators. Or sometimes because they are the predator, and they like to hide in shadows when they stalk their prey.

This post is about darkness of a different type. The type that we find within our very soul. And which we all fear. Or do we? Maybe sometimes we like to hide there, contemplate irrational fears so as not to have to confront the very real challenges that life offers.

My posts are usually about trees, and how they have helpful messages for us. This one is no different, only the protagonist this time will be the forest itself rather than a particular tree. If the woods could speak, what would they have to say about this? Listen then, and hear what they have to say:

I am forest. I am made up of many separate beings, all individuals, but together, they are me. That makes me not so different from you… For who are you, really? Made up from so many different aspects of your psyche, with sad thoughts stalking happy thoughts and trying to eat them…

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Now I would like you to try this little experiment.

Start a meditation. Close your eyes. Take some time first to relax, then open your inner eyes.

You find yourself in the middle of a woodland. Look around you. What do you see? Is it dry or wet forest? How close together are the trees? Deciduous or coniferous? What about the wildlife? Do you see any? Mostly birds or mostly ground animals? Or is your focus more on worms and insects?

This is your inner forest. Walk around in it. Greet the trees, connect with the animals. Is this a place where you would like to live? Why?

Now, sit down. Concentrate on your own feelings. Notice how changing your focus changes the forest around you. Not just in obvious ways. For your forest is an ecosystem that constantly tries to restore its balance.

Think an unhappy thought. Focus, just for a moment, on something you worry about. How does the wildlife in your forest react? Do the seasons change? Anything about the vegetation?

Try to see this as a method of divination, a way to speak the language of your soul.

How is this helpful? The forest is a representation of you, your subconscious self, but is more than that: it is you, in a way that is disconnected from your everyday self. That makes it more neutral. You may notice that for some negative thoughts, the forest barely reacts. This can tell you which of your worries are illusionary, while others may actually threaten the survival of the forest, even as you downplay them.

Learn to speak your inner language. Use it to connect to your roots. And may it help you remember that the nonhuman world is so very closely connected to you. And as you learn to connect to your inner forest, do not forget that the ones growing on this planet need your attention as well. And maybe, just maybe, your newfound communication skills will serve you out there as well?

Musings on the other: living in the forest

Who are we? What does it mean to be that person? Questions which probably just about everyone asks themselves at some point in our lives. And the inevitable conclusion is that we are uniquely ourselves, not any of the other beings on this planet.

And yet at the same time, we share this planet with all these other beings. And it is already an enigma to get to understand ourselves. So how do we cope with the rest of the world then? We do the only thing we reasonably can do: we start from our own experiences of life, and project these out onto others, assuming that they are probably similar enough to us for this to make some sense at least.

But what if we are wrong? What if the life experience of someone else is so radically different from ours that their reaction to a situation, their hopes and dreams, their fears and dislikes, are completely incompatible with our own? What if we completely misunderstand the world around us because we assume everyone thinks and feels like us?

How far-fetched is this fear? Everyone needs to eat, and look after their wellbeing, and so they must be similar in their reactions, right? But the first problem already becomes evident here. Everyone needs to eat, but every body has different nutritional needs and hence will naturally experience different cravings (tv commercials try to all have us want the same things, but…). That is the most innocent example of all. Wellbeing already is a veritable minefield. What is required for us to feel well?

You may want a certain type of relationship that someone else would find abhorrent. You may need your freedom and will seek solitude even within a relation, while another person craves to be with their beloved every second of every day. Wanting the same things? Really?

And right now we are only on the level of genetics. Aspects of who we are that are already mostly determined at birth.

Who are you? What is your life experience? What are your aspirations? Realize then, that this is who you are and that that shape was given to you mostly by your dreams. By those around you that inspired you, gave you chances, left you free to walk the path that life intended for you.

Do you give the people around you that same freedom? Do you dream with them, even when you do not understand their vision? Do you allow them space to grow? Think about this. The forest teaches us that the amount of sunlight available is limited, and yet we all deserve our moment in the sun. And that is why none of us were created alike.

Some of us prefer to live our life close to ground, basking in the sun of early spring, accepting that the day will come when the faster growing brambles will surpass us. But that is ok, as long as they do not forget to leave the delights of early spring to us.

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And then there are the trees. They grow large. They compete with each other in who gets to occupy which part of the sky. They are the kings of the forest. And yet they will never forget that they are part of a greater whole. Through their roots, they share with the soil, and bring some of the sunlight down for the benefit of others.

They are the mighty ones now. But immer aware that one day they will leave this world forever. And on that day, their treasures will be shared out. All the sunlight consumed in a lifetime, solidified, will turn back to soil. To feed and nourish the next generation of forest dwellers.

None of us are the same. Some of us are not even remotely similar to us, their life experience almost unrelateably far away from ours. Yet, remember that we share a forest, and how interconnected we all are.