Walking with the wise ones...
Last week, I had the gift of walking among the large redwoods of Northern California, some of the tallest trees we know. These large, powerful beings surrounded me on all sides, cradling the air between us, even cradling each other as some literally swept to the side to touch another trunk.
It was a true gift. When do you get the opportunity to walk among such old, wise beings? In fact, when do you get the opportunity to recognize that something other than a human can be a wise being? But that is what they truly are. These redwoods are some of the oldest forms of life we know, living up to 2000 years old. They have grown from the power of the earth's energy beneath them for countless decades, felt the steps of so many animals and humans amidst them, held secrets of lovers catching their shade and children chasing each other around their vast trunks. If they could talk, what would they say?
I walked among them, inhaling their grand power and could literally feel the scent of the redwoods infusing my cells with nurturing energy. If you are familiar with the term, “Shinrin-Yoku,” translated as forest bathing, you know the power of this intentional walk. Research mostly done in Japan and Korea shows that if we inhale the woods as we tread through their beauty, the trees actually emit healing compounds that affect our biochemistry. They can decrease our cortisol hormones, our stress messengers, and boost our natural killer cell activity in our immune system. They allow us the needed relaxation response that we sometimes cannot give ourselves.
Imagine that...the trees take care of US.
We walked through an area of the woods named Cathedral Grove where a sign said, “Enter quietly” to signify the entering of a sacred space. As we stepped lightly forward, I felt a warm sensation down my spine, my body messaging me to pay extra attention. I felt the energy of the woods vibrating through me. I knew I was in an extraordinary space with beings who held a much larger sense of the world than my small ego could conceive of. This is the power of knowing you are walking among wisdom and staying open to receive it. When we walk with attention and intention, we walk in presence.
I then saw an amazing sight. It is called a “family circle” in the woods. A stump of a fallen tree sat in the middle of a circle of smaller, younger trees that had grown from its roots, still reaching out through the earth. I did not think it was a coincidence that they stood as if in embrace around their fallen self, offering their promise of continued growth and life. It was a glorious display of love and resilience.
The trees gave me refuge. The trees gave me respite. They shared their wisdom with me. And for all of that, I am so grateful.
I also received another teaching about thriving that day from these great beings. When naturally occurring fires fall in their area, the vastness of the redwoods often allows them to survive. I usually see forest fires as a sad thing and often we know they can be destructive. But what I learned that day was that occasional fires actually help the redwoods. They allow the forest canopy to open and for more light to reach the floor. This, in turn, reduces insects and other disease factors while recycling nutrients that have accumulated on the duff (forest floor). This gives seeds more potential to germinate and grow. Yes, the fires bring life as well.
From challenge and suffering, new growth and hope can emerge.
May we all feel so privileged to share this world with such wise beings and more importantly, may we always have gratitude for them...