Last September, I was sitting with my back against the trunk of a massive tree in my garden when much to my surprise, it asked me for some coaching.
“I am a mighty tree,” it began, “and I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that a few of my leaves have begun to fall to the ground.”
“The thing is,” the tree continued, “I can’t afford to lose my leaves. What will people think of me if I go bald? They’ll see me naked, and weak, and frail. I’m not sure I can go on if it means going through such a difficult ordeal.”
“But Tree,” I replied, “surely you must realize that this is just a part of the seasons of life. Each Autumn you lose your leaves – that’s why we humans call it ‘Fall’. And then come Spring you will sprout new sprouts and bud new leaves and return more beautiful than ever.”
“How can you say such things?” said the tree, who obviously hadn’t read my books. “Are you some kind of a psychic or a fortune teller?”
“No, Tree – I’m not a psychic. I’m simply an observer of life. And I’ve noticed the natural cycle that all trees of your kind go through. In fact, everywhere I look in nature I see the same kind of intelligence behind life at work.”
“You’re not talking about God, are you?” asked the tree. “I’m not sure that I want to get into a discussion about God with a human.”
“Neither do I, Tree – neither do I. When I say “intelligence behind life”, I mean the implicate order of things. As you know, acorns never grow into pine trees and baby rabbits never grow up to be grizzly bears. Somehow, the fruit is already programmed into the seed. That is a part of what I call the “intelligence behind life”.
With us humans, we can observe that intelligence at work in our bodies. The moment we get cut, the intelligence of the body begins to heal itself. If we eat something toxic, the intelligence of the body does everything it can to get rid of it, projecting it out of one end or the other. Everything the body does is designed to return itself to a state of natural health and equilibrium.
There is an intelligence behind our minds as well. The moment we think a toxic thought, we get a toxic feeling as a warning signal not to proceed too far down that track. Healthy thoughts produce healthy feelings of calm and well-being, letting us know that we are on the right track.
This natural barometer guides us infallibly back to a state of natural mental health and equilibrium. In this state we have access to an otherwise hidden wisdom that will guide us deeper if we let it.
Unfortunately, not everyone yet understands the simple intelligence behind this system and the kindness of the design, so there is still a lot of mental instability in the world.”
“Kindness of the design?” asked the tree.
“Well, I’m being a bit metaphorical, but it seems to me that any system that’s set up so that the better I feel, the more I can access a deeper wisdom (and the more I access that deeper wisdom, the better I feel), has a certain kindness to it.”
The tree stared at me inscrutably, as if it could hold its pose for a thousand years without wavering. Finally, it spoke.
“But this wisdom and intelligence is not infallible. Humans die, and so do trees. If there is as you say a ‘kindness to the design’, how do you explain death?”
It was my turn to stare at the tree.
“I can’t explain it, tree,” I responded honestly. “But I can observe it and see the impersonal nature of it. And somehow seeing that it is a part of the natural cycle for everyone suggests to me that even death, at some level that I can’t yet see, is a part of the implicate order.”
We sat quietly together, the tree and I, feeling connected not only by my back against it’s trunk but by a deeper bond of shared contemplation and mortality.
Our conversation is ongoing – the more I look in this direction the more I realize how little I see. But somehow the little I see makes my life better and better.
Have fun, learn heaps, and if you bump into an oak tree, take a moment to say “hello” – you might be surprised by what you can learn…