I can’t really explain the experience, which makes it a poor choice for a blog, but I am compelled to write about it because it leaves me with a lasting and comforting sense of being a small part of a much greater design.
I went for a day hike through Jedediah Redwood State park in California. A casual excursion; an item to cross off on my bucket list. What a great magical place, where time seems to stand still! My photographs could have easily been of the common expression of wonder and awe on the other hiker’s faces. It feels like an honour to walk beneath such regal canopies.
As I stood in front of a massive redwood I was surprised to find myself overwhelmed by emotion –tenderness. And in one graceful step I reached my arms wide and leaned in. I just knew that I had to hug her. Luckily, in the depths of these forests, tree hugging seems natural. People seem to get it. And so I did it.
I was completely unprepared for how I felt.
As I leaned my cheek against her formidable bulk, I wasn’t aware that I had questions swirling in my head, anxieties weighing on my heart, worries pushing down on my shoulders. I didn’t come seeking answers or solace. I wasn’t questing for enlightenment or awakening. I was simply out for a walk.
But as I leaned my full weight into her steady being, the way a horse or large dog will do against your leg when it wants comfort and affiliation, I immediately felt her reassurance. And answers, in the form of calm and acceptance, flooded through me. Unspeakably tears sprung to my eyes and I just stood, like a child being held in the comfort of a favourite aunt’s arms.
How can the spirit of a tree be so powerful? It left me speechless. I tell you, the moment my cheek felt that soft bark I could feel the hum of her energy; it was as real as sticking my finger in a socket, or getting caught in a stinging downpour. There was no mistaking the presence and the real physical energy that this magnificent tree had.
I wondered how many people have leaned into her soft bark? How many stories and prayers has she heard? Suddenly I felt so connected to all of the questions that everyone has asked her throughout her 600 year history. Through the slow passing of time and the roller coaster of events that happened around her, her response was as it has always been, to strengthen her roots and reach up to the sky.
And I walked away feeling heard and held. I walked away feeling encouraged and comforted.
By a tree.
How weird is that.
But how profound.
It was like being held by Mother Earth or Gaia. A sense of peace flowed through me. I left thinking “Yes, the world is full of crazy. But maybe my job is not to change the world, maybe my job is to nurture solace, comfort, hope so that we will be standing when the crazy passes”.
Maybe the answer is to strengthen our roots and reach to the sky.
Maybe finding peace, feeling heard and held is the way to survive another day, to have another conversation, to hope another dream.
A powerful sense of having being held and being heard stays with me still.
I talk a lot about the great art of listening to my clients. It is not only about hearing the opinions expressed by another. Can you listen with such capacity that the person speaking feels heard and held? Can you listen while stretching your roots and reaching to the sky?
It is my new mantra. Be the Tree.