When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
- Wendell Berry
My first meditation teacher taught me that to live a meaningful life you must simply practice two things — self-responsibility and unconditional love. As I tried to navigate what unconditional love could look like, he reminded me to look at a tree.
A tree starts from a simple seed and first roots deeply into the earth. It establishes a root system strong enough to support itself, then begins to grow up towards the sky. Trees endure rain, wind, and many other obstacles as they mature. Once a tree gets to a certain age it is able to produce fruit, convert carbon to oxygen and provide shade from the sun. Even as a tree dies, its root system secretes food for the plants and microorganisms that surround it.
Here are some reflections from a tree:
1) What roots do I need to set a foundation for unconditional love? 2) Research says that trees need wind in order to strengthen and mature to fruition. What could your obstacles be teaching you? 3) Trees give shade, fruit, and oxygen without asking for anything in return. In what ways could you give without expectation? 4) After a tree dies, its root system releases food for its environment. What will you leave behind to help your community?