“What is it about these trees that inspires us so? Our calendars and our tape measures become instruments of humility when we measure our lives against theirs. To touch an ancient tree–or better yet–to hug an ancient tree, is to embrace the past.”
–from John Moran’s Journal of Light: The Visual Diary of a Florida Nature Photographer (University Press of Florida)
On my mat yesterday morning in Tree Pose, I was thinking of John Moran’s quote about trees–how if we embrace them, we embrace the past.
As I lifted my right foot off the ground, placed it against my inner thigh, and raised my arms high above my head, I came to realize that everything we embrace–friends, lovers, parents, siblings, work, passions–has a past.
Just like trees, we are the outgrowth of a process of change that occurs over time. Our lives are a culmination of poses, stretching from the past and reaching into the future, always in a state of becoming.
Now, when I go on my morning walks, I view the trees differently.
The sturdy trunks, delicate branches, and shimmering leaves that I admire every morning look the same as they look every morning, their leaves wet with morning dew, sunlight illuminating the crowns of the trees, spreading light into the world.
But on my walk I notice something that I noted in my Tree Pose: how the world and the trees seem to vibrate, radiating light, energy surging out of the branches and leaves into the air, the air pulsing with life.
Now when I look at a tree, I see more than a tree.
Inside each tree–just like inside each of us–is a history, a record of growth from seed to sapling to mature tree, memories of rain and sun and clouds and blue sky, experiences of summer, spring, winter, autumn.
I can see each tree as a seed, can imagine it (in my mind’s eye) emerging from the earth as a sapling and growing into a young tree, its bright leaves waving in the breeze.
Balancing in Tree Pose (and thinking of John Moran’s quote about embracing the past) helped me understand that we are all changing, every day, every moment.
What we see isn’t the final shape (of a tree or another person or ourselves) but a single moment in the ongoing transformation of our lives.
Have you noticed any change in your Tree Pose since you first learned it?
Do you wobble on one foot at the beginning, toppling over as soon as you lift a foot off the floor? Do you struggle to find your balance as you raise your foot? Or do you enter the pose gracefully, without effort?
Today, as you enter Tree Pose, notice how you feel at each point of entry into the pose. How do you feel when setting your foundation in Mountain Pose? How do you feel as you shift your weight to your right leg and when you lift your left leg off the mat?
Don’t worry if you wobble or need to try a few times before placing the sole of your foot against your inner thigh… or just below your knee… or resting just above your ankle. Just notice what happens.
After you play in Tree Pose for a few minutes, open your journal to write about how the pose may feel different from your initial efforts. Think about how your pose may have changed in the few minutes that you took to explore the pose today.
Can you see the “seed” of your pose and describe how you felt at that early stage? And can you see the growth you’ve made since then and describe how you feel now?