A tree’s roots and branches spread wide, laying a circular network around the bole. The tree lives at both ends. The trunk and leaves reach up to the light and air, while the roots stretch down to earth and water. The roots are essential. Leaves and branches fall, and the trunk may be severed; but if the roots are not destroyed there is hope of continuing life. The power is in the roots, the symbol of life. In the same way we need to put down deep roots while at the same time reaching up to the light.
There are many maxims relating to trees that are worth reflecting on:
What is well rooted survives.
As the twig bends so the tree will grow.
Severed branches grow again.
The whole tree is hidden in the acorn.
Every tree is known by its fruit.
A rotten tree bears rotten fruit.
Trees are full of secrets.
A tree’s rootedness points to our rootlessness.
It was seated in meditation under the of a pipal fig tree that the Buddha attained enlightenment. And there is Jesus’ story about the tiny mustard seed which when planted grows into a great tree, so that birds perch in its branches. Perhaps it was this image which prompted some words to come to me once in a meditation, and which I asked the calligrapher John Rowlands-Pritchard to make into a card – now on display at the Bleddfa Centre:
A Tree Being Motionless Birds Come To It.
For some fifty years I lived in an attic flat in London, way above the tree tops. It had a roof-balcony and in the summer I would often sleep out there, gazing at the great scattering of stars, the movement of clouds and the changing patterns of the moon. Then, very early in the morning, I would wake to the sight and sound of a flock of birds winging their way across the vast expanse of the sky.
How few of us these days look at the night sky or watch the sun rise! In cities especially, people seem so busy with their mobiles and iPads that they fail to notice the gardens, trees and blossom as they pass. And while we may occasionally take long walks, how often do we sit on a bench for fifteen minutes or so, just being very still and aware of life around us – of the trees putting down their roots into the earth and reaching with their branches up towards the light. Sitting still, birds may come close, or a stray dog suddenly present itself, reminding us that we need to relate to animals. We are surrounded by such riches and yet we are so rarely aware of them. If only we could make more time to ‘see’, and to practise Open Eyed Meditation.