The great sea has set me in motion,
set me adrift,
moving me like a weed in a river.
The sky and the strong wind
have moved the spirit inside me
till I am carried away
trembling with joy.
In a recent storm of wind and rain, I watched some trees bow their crowns toward the earth. Several hours later, as the weather calmed a bit they straighten upright. As they did so, they seemingly shook their leaves with joy. A melodic rattling sound filled the air.
Trees have long inspired me to reflect on characteristics such as resilience, patience and grounded-ness. This began with an elm tree, which my father had planted in our front yard. Throughout my childhood and teens, this tree was a steady source of insight into living wisely with grace. The elm grew and expanded day after day regardless of drought, high winds and low levels of annual moisture in the form of rain or snow.
Even though I have lived and visited areas of the world with many different trees, the elm is still my inner image of a tree. That is, when I hear the word tree, my first thought is one with a firm, thick trunk, curvy branches, and an abundance of leaves, which would disappear in the colder months and reappear with warmth. To bypass this stubborn latent impression in my mind around the word tree, I find myself referring to other types of trees by their common name, such as oaks, pines, redwoods, or – as with the trees that I observed with the flexible trunks – palms.
Palms are among the oldest plants on earth, given some references to a palm fossil that is 80 million years old. They are well-grounded with strong and deep roots, and most grow slowly. Although there are more than a couple thousand species of palms, the ones with tall, thin, pliable trunks are most visible. Their star-shaped, feathery fronds float high in the sky, where, like natural weather vanes, they reveal the level of calmness or gustiness in the wind.
These ancient beings have been significant in many cultures and religions throughout human history. They offer messages of patience, humility, and grounded-ness. They are reminders of life essentials – sun, earth, air, and water. Many have a long life of up to a century, and thus offer reminders of longevity. With their stable roots and pliability, they offer insight into a balanced wholeness of strength and pliability. They can grow in a desert, yet generously offer a respite to others.
For me, the palms that gracefully moved in the storm inspired me to experience trees anew. And, just perhaps, allowed me to momentarily experience their endless wisdom alive within myself.
This standing practice supports awareness of grounded-ness
- Use airplane mode for whatever digital device you are using to read through this practice. Remove all other electronics and devices from your immediate surroundings, including any digital watches.
- If comfortable, remove your shoes and socks.
- Gently shake out through your limbs, one at a time.
- In an imaginary way, gently cleanse your hands, face, neck, arms, torso, and legs with light strokes.
- Soften your gaze and facial muscles. With a sense of appreciation, slowly look around at your surroundings. If you feel your gaze harden when you do this, try to relax the inner and outer corners of your eyes and then imagine you are visually sipping and savoring your environment.
- Find a stable, easeful and comfortable stance. To do this, perhaps try a few different positions with your feet until you find a distance between them where you can effortlessly find a gentle lift in your spine through the crown of your head.
- Explore the connection of your feet with the surface beneath you. Perhaps rock a little forward and back and then side to side. Lift and spread your toes and slowly place them back down. Notice where your foot connects and where it rises slightly away from the surface beneath you.
- Slightly bend your knees and then straighten them (without hyperextending or locking your knees). Do this a few times with a sense of fluidity. Notice if tension arises in your face or upper torso and let it go.
- Imagine you are being securely held through this connection. If you wish, you might envision yourself as a tree with deep and broad roots.
- With this rootedness, imagine a gentle breeze blowing along one side of your body. And as that breeze connects with your skin on that side, your trunk naturally bends (slightly) toward the opposite side. Play with letting this imaginary breeze come from other directions – front, back, diagonally – and allowing your body to sway with the wind. As you do this, feel as though you can trust your grounded-ness and rooted-ness.
- Perhaps invite a sense of stronger breezes brushing up against you while you remain steadily trusting of the depth and strength of your support.
- If you wish, you can add your arms and allow your upper limbs to be moving with this imaginary wind. Feel free to be creative with this exploration.
- Slowly return to a calm stance. Invite an awareness of the lingering movement associated with your breath as your rib cage and belly expand on inhalation and soften on the exhalation. If comfortable, close your eyes for a few breaths and appreciate the gift of the air as it comes in and goes out.
Transition Back into Your Day—
- Come to a comfortable seated position. If on a chair or bench, notice the soles of your feet connecting with the surface beneath you.
- Gently tilt your chin downward and soften your gaze toward your heart center. Continue to allow your awareness to be absorbed in the quiet, easeful movement associated with your breathing. Allow this to be effortless and free of tension or forcing.
- Just breathing, sit quietly for a few moments.
- When you are ready, transition back into your day.
This poem appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 79, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library. HEARTH is posted each new and full moon. KateVogt©2023.