We left day light savings time last Sunday…and returned to standard time. This, of course, required turning those clocks back by an hour – a ritual we here in many of the states appear to agree to each and every fall. Despite this time “change,” though, things around me on Monday didn’t seem any different – except I was blessed with a few extra minutes of sleep and an early morning horizon which offered a smidgen more light.
On my early morning drive to the gym, it was strikingly obvious that winter had begun its imposing creep into life around me. Twice last month, those tiny white flakes gathered together to offer a demonstration of their artistry on front lawns all around town and to warn of their future intentions. Patches and piles of fallen leaves now blanket everything in sight. Local streets do not discriminate; they graciously offer space to all kinds – maple, pear, oak – to display their hues.
Thinking the switch back to standard time might offer some assistance, I again attempted to hold the tree pose as I do 3-5 times a week during my yoga practice. Frustratingly, the return to standard time did nothing to alter or improve my ability to maintain this pose. When I stop to give it serious thought, I’m not sure why I even imagined the time change might assist me in improving my focus or achieving the balance needed to maintain this pose. Each time my mind drifts – which is often – so goes my pose (and balance). I repeatedly stop to re-group and wonder if I’ll ever be able to master this pose. This time I pause and intensely contemplate – maybe it’s time to “turn a new leaf” and craft a new or different approach. I wonder if the simple act of concentrating on the subject/object of the pose itself – the tree – might help. No time today. I’ll try again before week’s end.
On the breezy drive home, I affectionately observe the trees and bushes around me as they gently sway and concede to the release of their leaves…that last vestige of fall (except, of course, on my front lawn where the stubborn leaves refuse to let go).
The trees I’ve seen don’t appear to be allowing this change or “loss” to affect or impact them in any way. They simply stand tall – erect – unfettered by the metamorphosis that’s taking place.
Throughout the day, the gentle movement caused by the morning breezes and the apparent lack of concern demonstrated by the trees themselves filled me with curiosity. Why don’t the trees hold on to the leaves and use them as shelter or protection from the fast approaching winter chill? How can those trees appear so unconcerned as the leaves release and dance in a taunting swirl? Why does the tree willingly let go of those leaves and not cling to the memories of the past – a warm luxurious summer?
It quickly becomes quite apparent that these thoughts had embedded themselves and refused to release and allow me to connect with my day’s work. Out of the corner of my eye I sight one of my favorite books on the edge of my desk – Eternal Echos by John O’Donohue. The many-colored tabs poke their heads out of the edge of the pages – reminding of the numerous inspirational stops I’d made along my journey throughout that book. The book leapt into my hand prompting me to begin flipping pages – stopping to briefly scan content on random tabbed pages. Suddenly two pages cause the flipping to abruptly stop. These were pages that contained messages about trees. Below are a few quotes from those pages:
“There is something so sure and dignified in a tree’s presence.”
“The tree teaches us how to journey.”
“The tree can reach towards the light, endure wind, rain, and storm, precisely because it is rooted.”
“The wisdom of the tree balances the path inwards with the pathway outwards.”
Mr. O’Donohue continues to elaborate…
“There is something so sure and dignified in a tree’s presence. The Celts had a refined sense of the worthy wonder of trees. For them many trees were sacred. Near their holy wells there was often either an ash or oak tree.
The Yugoslavian poet Ivan Lalic captures the secrets of wisdom and guidance that direct the tree’s growth. In his poem, “What Any Tree Can Tell You,” he follows patience of the tree as it navigates the dark. The tree knows how to avoid the stone and knows where to seek the water: should it not act so to foster its own loss, its branches will be stunted its upward effort hunched… Translated by Francis Jones
The tree rises from the dark. It circles around the “heart of darkness” from which it reaches towards the light. A tree is a perfect presence. It is somehow able to engage and integrate its own dissolution. The tree is wise in knowing how to foster its own loss. It does not become haunted by the loss nor addicted to it. The tree shelters and minds the loss. Out of this comes the quiet dignity and poise of a trees presence. Trees stand beautifully on the clay. They stand with dignity.
A life that wishes to honour its own possibility has to learn how to integrate the suffering of dark and bleak times into a dignity of presence. Letting go of old forms of life, a tree practices hospitality towards new forms of life. It balances the perennial energies of winter and spring within its own living bark. The tree is wise in the art of belonging. The tree teaches us how to journey. Too frequently our inner journeys have no depth. We move forward feverishly into new situations and experiences which neither nourish nor challenge us, because we have left our deeper selves behind. It is no wonder that the addiction to superficial novelty leaves us invariably empty and weary. Much of our experience is literally superficial; it slips deftly from surface to surface. It lacks rootage. The tree can reach towards the light, endure wind, rain and storm, precisely because it is rooted. Each of its branches is ultimately anchored in a reliable depth of clay. The wisdom of the tree balances the path inwards with the pathway outwards.
When we put down our roots into the ground, we choose from life’s bounty, we need to exercise a tender caution about where the roots should go. One of the vital criteria of personal integrity is whether you belong to your own life or not. When you belong in yourself, you have poise and freedom. Even when the storm of suffering or confusion rages, it will not unhouse you. Even in the maelstrom of turbulence, some place within you will still anchor you faithfully. These inner roots will enable you later to understand and integrate the suffering that has visited.”
Hmmm…a lot to digest, but absolutely profound words for thought. To me, trees seem very brave. They have identified and come to terms with their purpose – their internal light. Maybe this will help me learn the art of focus and possibly even assist me in holding my pose. More details about the Tree Pose (or Vrikshasana) may also help:
This elegant pose is not as easy as it looks, but over time it builds tremendous inner and outer strength and a great feeling of accomplishment as you learn to balance on one leg. This exercise requires focus, concentration and stability. The many benefits include:
- Improves balance and stability in the legs
- Strengthens ligaments and tendon of the feet
- Strengthens and tones the entire standing leg, up to the buttocks
- Assists body in establishing pelvic stability
- Strengthen bones of the hips and legs due to the weight-bearing nature of the pose
- On a metaphysical level, helps one to achieve balance in other aspects of life
- Builds self-confidence and esteem
As trees prepare to begin a new season – free of the burden, responsibility, and need to attend to the leaves…I wonder if I, too, can shed some of my “leaves” in order to begin a fresh new season of focus – ready to hear, practice, absorb and integrate the message of safety and freedom…
As I nestle into position and allow my mind to focus solely on the true nature of trees…I try to release my leaves as I now know LEAVES DON’T MAKE THE TREE…
© 2013 EM Carlock
The Write Resources, LLC™