Walking to campus is normally a quick, unthought-of task; just walking past the beautiful scenery with only school tasks in mind. It’s easy to skip out on what’s in front of us when we have so much inside of us—inside our mental spaces to be specific. The monkey mind behavior of our thoughts have a way of distracting us to what is truly important in the bigger scheme of things; it keeps us trapped inside of our experiential reality, which limits our ability to see the interconnectedness of all. We can easily miss the time-freezing eloquence of light reflecting off a lake looking like a freshly shined diamond, or completely fail to hear the morning song of the birds high up in the trees. When choosing a weekly activity to incorporate into my routine, I began noticing more trees.
In the book of contemplative practices by Jan Chozen Bays, “How to Train a Wild Elephant,” the chapter titled: “Notice Tree” encouraged its readers to become aware of the trees around us, and, by attending to their movements, shape, color, heights, and any characteristics, we are able to embrace these grounding worldly creations.
This task became the easiest and most eye-opening activity, due to the abundance of trees in my everyday life and the variety of them as well. I chose this task, specifically because I feel a deep connection with all sorts of trees, which could be why I envision my sacred space to be filled with them. It was a cool windy day in Southwest Florida, and in order to distract myself from the breeze seeping through my multitude of layers, I began noticing how the trees danced in the wind. A pair was even swaying in the wind, as if waltzing together—each dancing to the beat of the Sky.
After gazing up high at their beauty, I moved down along their tree trunks and noticed how stable their footing was. They moved so swiftly and easily with the wind, yet remained rooted into the Earth; not worrying about being uprooted in the midst of heavy wind, the trees danced the song away. With this simple observation, I took this as a lesson—to be able to dance with whatever the weather of life brings to me, without losing my footing.
Remaining on the theme of dancing, since it was a cool, windy week, I began looking at the trees from a closer angle. One morning on the second floor of the school library, I gazed outside the window to give my eyes a break from the small text and noticed the closer view of trees I had from my location. I was able to notice that, similar to the trees themselves, each leaf and branch had their own swaying beat. Similar to individual beings who are dancing to this song called life, branches also have their space to move as they please, each affected by the wind differently. Aside from the physical and chemical compositions, we share more with trees than we allow ourselves to see; similar to the individual branches that come from one tree, we, as humans, all come from the same source.
Another way of seeing this connection could be done through the acknowledgement of all the species of trees on this planet. These different trees could be the different family lineages, cultures, religions, or even nations in which individuals identify themselves with, yet regardless of what tree we come from, we are all rooted to one entity, the planet Earth.
When I first began engaging with this daily practice, I never would’ve imagined the connections made between human beings and trees. It only took the simple awareness of the present moment to see the relationship between the two. By seeing the similarities that trees and beings share, I was also able to notice how we are connected, each helping the other live and thrive, literally, with the exchanging of oxygen and CO2. All it took for me to notice the connections was the act of being aware, so imagine the multitude of discoveries that can be made with the awareness of everything and everyone in your present life. Maybe awareness is truly the first step in realizing the connectivity of all life on Earth.
Photography: Kevin Musil