One of the most unexpected effects of my recent spiritually transformative experience (STE) has been an unusual attraction to trees. This effect has been surprising to me. Prior to this experience, I mostly took trees for granted. I mean, I noticed them and occasionally gazed admiringly at them as part of a broader view, but that was the extent of it. Since my (STE), they have come to mean much more to me.
Now the tree is the view. I don’t just see them; I feel them. Now, when I focus on trees, I sense a dynamism and life that captivates me. Like they are pulsating. I especially like the oak trees common to the Texas Hill Country.
I have since learned that the ancients saw the oak tree as the king of all trees. Its size, longevity, and the nutritious nature of its acorns raised it above other trees. Many cultures also saw it as sacred. That is the sense now that I get when I look at them.
Trees are transmitters of energy and life. They possess energy and I can almost plug into. I often find myself staring at them for a long time. I also like to stand next to them and touch their branches and leaves. When I am next to them, I feel a greater connection to the universe, making it very tempting to hug them, but I try hard not to be a spectacle in my neighborhood. I typically just stand close to them and examine the leaves, as though I was some kind of tree expert. The neighbors are not aware that I am only a novice, as trees go. Standing and admiring them makes me appear wise, not weird. But, when no one is looking, I hug them.
Before my (STE), I would have thought the current me was just a little kooky. I still wonder about it, but I can’t deny the connection that trees and other nature now provide for me. They reflect a tangible energy. I also wonder now if part of the reason kids like to play in trees is that they unconsciously feel this energy.
Unfortunately, the adult world is too mature and busy for such innocence. No time to gaze at or climb in trees. Spiritual transformation is often like being a child stuck in an adults body, relating to both but also separated from each. It can be a little lonely and awkward at times.
My newfound attraction to trees does not mean that I suffer terribly over the prospect of a tree being cut down or a tree dying. This appreciation has come with perspective. I know trees have to be cut down sometimes, and I am not against forests being properly managed or trees being used for building homes. I also realize that nature often takes a toll on itself in the form of fire and other natural disasters. Although it is a little sad when anything in nature perishes, I realize it is often just part of the cycle of life. Energy can not be created or destroyed, it merely changes forms; and it is the God within the tree and not the tree alone that draws me.
In learning more about trees, I have also come to better appreciate the critical mystical role that trees have played throughout history. The importance of this role just never occurred to me in the past. Genesis uses the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life to tell us the story of creation. Jesus curses a fruitless fig tree as a symbol of Israel’s failure to be fruitful and later is hung on a tree. He also teaches us that faith starts as the smallest and most unassuming mustard seed, but grows into a tree that provides rest for the birds of the air. (Luke 13:19) It is also interesting that Buddha achieved enlightenment while sitting under a tree. And it was also a fig tree.
We even have Christmas trees, a tradition having its origin in Medieval European mystical lore. The ancient Celts decorated their temples with evergreen branches as a symbol of everlasting life. The Vikings saw evergreen trees as a unique plant of their sun god. Trees are an essential mystical part of creation and life. The dynamism within them transcends their physical form and helps me connect better to God. They are a great gift.
In addition to being dynamic and beautiful, trees are also stationary. They are grounded and present. They’re natural grounding makes their vibrations slower, more profound, and more concentrated, compared to other living things. Contact with a tree exposes us consciously or unconsciously to these vibrations.
The energy from animals and people vibrates more quickly and dissipates more readily, as we are always in motion respective to each other. Human intimacy requires slowing down. We are not as naturally grounded as trees.
As close as we may be to family or friends, or even our pets, our connection to them is often still a little fleeting. We are different beings, going to different places, and engaged in different activities. We are emotionally closer to some, and there are others whom we see more often, however, the prevailing sense that we are at least a little separate, remains.
But the tree is always there, connected, present, and waiting. Patient, and steady, they endure through the elements day after day. An example to us for being present ourselves. Aware of but not attached to the storms of life.
Trees also enable us to breathe, both spiritually and physically. They are the masters of oxygen, without which all animal life would be impossible. But they are also models for grounding our soul. A grounding that requires non-resistance. We must learn to treat resistance like a tree silently bending with the wind. I must let go of my ego and effort and center myself in creation rather than striving to be creation’s center. This letting go grounds me in the light, as a tree is grounded in the earth. In creation’s center, I can own without possessing and control by submitting.
The world is busy striving to survive, vainly attempting to arrange creation around itself. It is a giant human ego, composed of little egos busily pointing fingers at each other, angrily accusing one another of messing up the arrangement. This ego is perpetually and vainly involved in grasping at passing illusions of impermanent power by possessing fleeting fragments of time and space, rather than embracing the author of time and space.
Much of religion is simply an effort to decorate this ego. To paint the evident striving, busyness and fretting of egotism, in a vain effort to make it look spiritual, never really letting go and trusting God. But true spirituality and peace comes from letting go of this illusion that life can be possessed and resting and grounding ourselves in that life that is already ours. I spent many years trying to decorate my ego. Trying to make myself look like something I thought I was supposed to be. Like frantically looking for surface water over an abundant underground spring. Vainly pursuing what was already under my feet.
By coming to the end of myself, my efforts at self-perfection, I have slowly come to glimpse this reality that had been so blurred by my former frenzied efforts to survive. “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29) Today, I know that a clear sense of my connection to light is the product of letting go. As I stop trusting my efforts, and bend with the wind, my awareness of this connection strengthens.
Trees have provided perhaps the most surprising and stark example of this glimpse into the light. They are a prevailing source of energy and transformation for me, and supremely worthy of hugs; as long as the neighbors are not looking.