29 Mar 2011, 10:43am
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Resilience

Resilience

The tree is a common metaphor for Resilience, appropriately so. The tree remains grounded and yields to accommodate changes in season and weather.

Trees respond rather than react to what is happening around them. We would do well to follow their example of yielding where appropriate. I have long sought out trees, this particular expression of nature’s bounty, for their shelter, their comforting solidity, their stunning variety, and the lessons they offer. Their beauty is a blessing that unfolds season by season to grace our lives.

In the various places where I’ve lived, there have always been trees to which I developed an attachment and an appreciation.

It’s a bonus when there’s a convenient bench for meditation under the beloved tree. This particular one, of indeterminate age, is in a hurricane prone area in the Southeastern US. The area is also subject to extreme heat and humidity. When I reflect on the endless give and take, the constant fluctuation in conditions in the life of this tree, I compare it to the vicissitudes of my own life. It can be argued that the tree does not have a mind to respond, it has no choices as we do. Yet I find in the example of the tree that the suspension of mind, the silent acceptance, is what serves me well as I face loss and change. This is why I find sanctuary sitting beneath it in times of stress.

Sometimes my sanctuary is a grove of trees. They surround and embrace me.

Their beauty is a gift that is always there for me and they ask nothing in return. So, I give them mindful gratitude as I draw on their strength. Sometimes I literally lean on trees for balance and support, another gift they freely provide to me. As I lean, I’m reminded that I can ground myself consciously in order to move forward toward the next right thing in my life.

Sometimes the lesson is to stand in place, when in doubt to do nothing. That too is Resilience, perhaps the hardest kind.

I’m sure it’s because I seek them out, I notice them, that trees afford me the constancy of their teachings. I remember placing myself between a grove of trees and the bulldozer when a builder thought the convenient action was to mow them down. I seized my chance to give back and protect them, to thank them, for all they’ve taught me about Resilience.

And when the storm, the season, or time passing means the death of the tree, they become part of the earth from which they sprung. It is equally fascinating to watch the transformation of a tree in death as it is in life. Walk through a forest and observe the perfection of nature’s ecology. This fallen tree will decay and feed and become home to insects and animals.

For the human mind, loss, particularly death, is terribly difficult to manage with grace. We know that the bodies we temporarily inhabit will return to the earth but we resist this fact in our loved ones and in ourselves. Attachment is the natural dynamic by which we connect with each other. It is letting go that requires Resilience of the highest order. As we practice letting go in small ways, of a season, a relationship, a pet, we can prepare ourselves, exercise our Resilience muscles, for the hardest losses and changes to come. Allow Nature, once again, to guide and support us.