“You can be yourself without pursuing yourself. Have you ever seen a dog chase his own tail? He just runs in circles.”
― Criss Jami,
A lot can be learned from sitting under a tree. If we’re mindful and aware, we will first notice the shade it offers us on a warm day, cooling our skin. Perhaps we’ll notice the scent of its leaves as the breeze glances by. Then we may see how its branches reach to the sky, forever chasing the sun. Here, in the sphere of roots we learn lessons of life and of self.
I once knew a perfect tree. It grew outside of the schoolyard at one of the many elementary schools I attended. It’s bough offered a perfect seat and there I sat many warm summer afternoons. One perfect part of this perfect tree were its roots.
Its knotted winding recesses lurked outward from its base. One part of these large roots were flattened and rippled as such that looked like a small flight of steps leading upward along its trunk; a perfect ladder for the mighty nine year old adventurer that I’d become.
Climbing the tree was a daily exercise of mine, as it was for many of the neighborhood children. But as we stepped onto those strong roots, none of us were mindful of the lessons it taught us some thirty years ago.
We all have our roots. We all have our ladders and we all reach for the heavens at some point in our lives. But it is only within knowing and broadening our roots can we flourish and grow.
In this sphere, we speak about the root of the soul.
A human being is not exactly like a tree. A tree’s roots are strong, reaching down and securing the life of the tree in one fixed position. A person’s roots are also strong, reaching out from the heart and mind, through life experience. But our roots allow us motion. The stronger they become, the further they allow us to move and to grow. Our positions are not fixed, but constantly shifting and moving about the world, moving about our lives.
Over time, if we’re not mindful, our roots may become hardened. They may become frozen and fixed in place. If we’re not careful, they can become resilient to change, disconcerted with other lives, fixated on one frame of thought, unapologetic to the world around us.
We can become so trapped within our own thoughts that the interaction with anything other than our own interests becomes empty and mute.
This only leads to a world suffocated by the self, by the fiendish ego that never quenches it’s hunger for self-gratification. We damage our roots by hardening in this way, by only seeing what we want to see, closing our mind to only what we want to think and by looking upon others as objects of use.
Life then becomes about what we want FROM others, instead of what we can do FOR them or how we can learn, grow and flourish alongside them.
We are all guilty of hardening at times. This is a lesson I’ve recently learned about myself in particular, greatly preferring solitude over companionship or intimacy, comfortable in my own silence and safe in my thoughts. But we do not learn or grow from becoming solid in limited awareness. Sometimes, we need to look at our roots and our positions in life, be aware of what our heart truly desires and let go of old ideas that no longer serve us or others altruistically.
When we only prefer the desires of the self, all we find is a rippled reflection of our loneliness.
Sometimes taking a position is necessary and in fact humbling if it’s done with compassion of the heart, but other times standing firm and refusing to listen only creates more havoc and confusion. We blind ourselves in this way, and our roots harden further.
Be mindful of the tree. Roots broaden, and leaves do change.
Look to your roots. Look to the inner voice that speaks with life, that lives in unison with all lights of the world. If we begin to open our heart to notice and understand these small things that whisper to us, we may then begin to understand life.
We may then begin to understand ourselves.