Once at a conference, as a way of giving the table teams something to talk about, the organisers gave us a sheet to fill in. One of the questions was: What is your favourite form of transport? I wrote down hammock and the rest of the group looked at me as if I were slightly deranged. Still, the idea of resting beneath the shade of a beautiful tree, rocking gently, is somehow irresistible. Especially at the time of late summer.
It is incredibly mesmerising to watch branches sway in the wind. The leafy green and the blue of the sky seems a perfect colour combination. Being that relaxed necessitates surrender and letting the edges go fuzzy. Suddenly I am not just me the individual, but one tiny part of a much larger whole. Somehow I am the leaf, the tree and the sky all at the same time. There is a great peacefulness when I rest in this knowing.
Trees are a great role model when it comes to practicing wholeness. They appear as individuals. You can clearly see the trunk, the branches, the leaves, the fruit and sometimes even the root system. They reflect the seasons, putting on a show of colour as the temperature changes or the rains come or the snow falls.
Even when a tree appears to stand alone, it is intricately connected to all nature. The mycelium sheath — the mushroom kingdom — connects the trees. Through sharing nutrients, they all communicate with each other. Trees share information about climatic changes, predators and disease. They are constantly talking to each other, acting collectively and sharing what they know.
We may think of ourselves far away from trees and mushrooms, but we humans have our own mycelium sheath. We call it storytelling. Through our stories and how they travel, we share information, nutrients and support. They become our collective root system. Our stories shape us.
For most trees, the root system mirrors the crown of the tree. This means there is as much tree underground as growing above the surface. This enables the tree to be more stabile when the winds come. Sequoias are the opposite to this — for one of the largest and oldest species on the planet, they have a very small root system. They need each other for support.
It’s amazing to think that something as small as a sequoia seed grows into something so huge. Every acorn has the possibility of becoming a great oak. The simply follow their entelechy — a Greek word for the seed of possible becoming inside of each being. A tree simply follows the possibility encoded inside it into the manifestation of what it becomes.
Of course possibility is shaped by environment. At the heart of the tree, mirrored in its rings, you can see the record of how the tree responded to its surroundings — which years had good weather for “treeness” and which years were lean. You can see where a tree got injured and what it did to cope. I think humans carry these mirror of the environment too, we just can’t see them.
I would hazard to guess that trees don’t think of themselves as individuals striving for success, but rather simply follow the path of their potential in every moment, learning together and giving to and receiving from their surroundings. And in doing so, they are not only a beautiful role model for us, but the lungs of the planet. What they do matters. And, they are only being themselves.
This is a good time of the year to pull back from using the microscope view of all the details and return to the big picture. If you can’t do it real time, imagine yourself swinging in a hammock under some trees and try to listen in to their conversation. Give yourself some good time to do this — even 15 minutes can be like a mini-holiday.
The more of us who remember we are part of life and not something separate, the more we will act in ways that support and benefit the whole — ourselves included. The more we share information and support, the more we are supported. What we do matters.
We have become a species that focuses on parts. What would happen if we focused on the whole?