When Trees Let Go

This time of year (spring) in yoga classes all over North America, you’ll hear dharma/intention/inspiration talks about spring, and making room for new growth, and sometimes the place that death has in this process.

Today is a windy day, and as I took my walk in along the trails behind my home, the last dead leaves of fall blew through the air, along with twigs and branches.  On a few occasions, the branches were of a size and distance I was acutely aware of the (slight) possibility of one hitting me or my dog on its way down.  Interestingly enough, the largest two that fell close by me were in my back yard – a space that as a homeowner I should be managing.  What came to mind in response (right after something along the lines of “Holy crap!”) was that if I don’t actively prune what isn’t healthy, when a limb does finally drop, the result can be violent and damaging.

Recently, the philosophical writings I have been reading have focused on surrendering.  Surrendering is a word I dislike.  It evokes for me a sense of fighting, and of loss and failure in that fight.  I dislike fighting, too, but if it’s important enough for me to put up a fight, then failure is even worse.  So associating “surrender” with something desirable is a challenge.

The sense of the word, though, in this context is really more about letting go of what we are grasping at.  The little things I grasp at, when they are wrenched away from me by the universe – they feel like twigs coming down in the wind.  Annoying, but I pick the leaves out of my hair and keep walking, still happy to be outdoors and walking.  The bigger things though – the conceptual things that form my framework of perception and my ideas of how my life ought to be – these are bigger limbs, and they fall with more consequence.  The more foundational the concept in my framework, the bigger the limb.  When the winds of the universe blow and rip that old unhealthy limb off the trunk of my tree, it’s a startling, fearful, unbalancing experience.  Sometimes the limbs falling off of trees bring down other, healthy limbs with it, just because they were in the way.  Sometimes trees bring other healthy trees down as they fall, too, or cause a healthy tree to bend, to support the weight of both.  I don’t want to be the cause of that kind of collateral damage, to others or to other parts of myself.

My meditation practice is what allows me to learn to see what needs pruning in my life.  It’s also often the means of determining how to prune it.  I have no idea how it works, but it does.  Once I’ve seen, I decide.  Once decided, I discover how.  And by the time I understand how, I’ve often already let go of what I was holding on to in my head or in my heart, and the action is easy, almost as if I’m not even doing anything.  The work is in the seeing, the deciding, and discovering.  My intention for this year – to let go of the things I cling to – has been very challenging, but seeing those limbs fall today reminds me that working with this intention proactively is a form of pruning, a way of making space for new energies to grow in my life.

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