Lessons From Redwood

A pattern has emerged among my clients recently: each are electing to redesign their life by initiating change. When clients elect to determinedly initiate a life change, we ensoul their send-off with energy. They enter the unknown with a vibrating, pulsating and shimmering force in the cells of their body like a liquid and alive courage that pulls them forward on their quest. And like all noble quests, once the heroine accepts the call, once life-change is initiated, she invariably experiences the gripping, gut-gnawing fear of the unknown. And at that crossroad, when the challenge presents itself, she must again determine to continue on with uncertainty and be championed by the living world, or retreat back to the familiar plateau and fall asleep in the haze of apathy and numbness. Hear Walt Whitman champion the life-thirsty among us.

Be not discouraged, keep on,
There are divine things well envelop’d.
I swear to you
There are divine things more beautiful than words can tell.

Indeed. Beautiful, glorious freedom awaits the individual who embarks on the heroine’s journey. But before we can taste the satisfying sweetness freedom offers, we must be willing to risk uncertainty. And...


Change ignites uncertainty like none other.


Fear enters: fear always precludes our higher self from expressing its wholeness -- fear that our desires cannot be realized, fear of what it may mean to be whole, or fear of the responsibility that arrives with wholeness. Then doubt enters, and doubt seeds future forecasting. Suddenly and rapidly we find ourselves peering into the unknown future desperately trying to divine possibilities or prevent future catastrophes. This mental time travel, our future catastrophizing, leads to indecision -- we freeze, wither, dry out, lose our inner-vision and become parched of nutrients.

Last month, while my eleven-year-old daughter and I backpacked through the National Redwood Forest, we discussed the significant life changes middle school will bring. We began to mental time travel, casting into the future, prospecting possibilities, and then, quit simultaneously, as our heart entrained with the other, we fell silent and allowed our body to resonate with the green humming vibration of the energy field around us. For an hour we walked in unison: slowly, silently, reverently, alert in the old-growth redwood forest. Our outflowing breath their inhale, their exhale giving us vital, nutrient life, our hearts absorbing their rhythms, numerous beats moving as one.

As this soul-force flowed through us, championed us, companioned us, we would breathe it in like life itself. It felt as though, while walking together, we the only humans in the forest, the sword ferns, the wild blackberry, and the sorrel, the big-leaf maple, and the redwood towering over us, the very Earth herself, partook in that sharing and offered their essence. And something in us, like a tiny portal, a keyhole to our heart, opened, and through it flowed an exchange of aliveness. Nature, vibrating green and sensuous, lovingly enveloped us: we were being walked by many, we were seen, even witnessed, among those who knew us, and these companions seemed to speak to every cell in our body saying,

We are before you leading the way. We are behind you nudging you forward. Here, here, here, follow us and come meet yourself, come meet the beautiful radiant self that you are, and have always been, and will always be. This is your essential self who holds no fear, holds no judgment, holds no worry. See yourself in your wholeness, in your true nature. Feel your connection to everything.

Earth, isn’t this what you want? To arise in us, invisible? Is it not your dream, to enter us so wholly there’s nothing left outside us to see? What, if not transformation, is your deepest purpose?
— Rilke, The Ninth Duino Elegy

Henry David Thoreau spoke of a similar experience this way.

...I was suddenly sensible of such a sweet and beneficent society in Nature. ...Every little pine needle expanded and swelled with sympathy and befriended me. I was so distinctly made aware of the presence of something kindred to me.


And poet William Stafford spoke of his communion with nature this way.

As my glance wondered in the treetops I became aware of undreamed beauty in the details of the textures of leaves, stems, and branches. Every leaf, as my attention settled on it, seemed to glow with a greenish golden light. Unimaginable detail of structure showed [itself to me].


Author Stephen Harrod Buhner shares his ensoulment with nature this way.

...suddenly, the power of the place flowed through my senses. The size of the mountains came into me and I felt their weight and then ever more deeply their age, and I was tiny and small and aware of something that had been, long before human beings had been, and would still be long after they were gone.

After an hour or more of communing with nature, my daughter and I sat on a soft, rotting log made friendly and inviting over the decades by mosses, fungi and lichen. We allowed our mammalian intelligence to drop anchor so we could listen to the wise whisperings of the giant redwood trees. In that sacred grove, the redwoods had been counseling together in community for more than two thousand years. Those wise elders became our teachers.

The California Coast Redwood is an evergreen conifer with a fibrous, furrowed bark and a tall straight trunk that reaches enormous sizes -- up to 380 feet in height -- making redwood the biggest living organism on Earth. Reaching such enormous heights make the redwood susceptible to extreme weather causing the main trunk to lose its top. The wise, unconcerned tree reacts to this loss by sending out new trunks that appear in her crown like fingers of an upraised hand. This new growth rises vertically and parallel to the mother trunk, and over the centuries the trunk-children begin to grow their branch-babies. These branches produce more trunks, and they more branches, and so on, until several generations after the loss of the mother-trunk’s top, the magnificent tree is now a grove of redwoods in the air – a lush, shimmering, photosynthesizing aerial ecosystem supporting plants, birds, animals, invertebrates, fungi, mosses, and lichen -- connected to the mother trunk through the ancient root system in the ground.

If we surrendered to Earth’s intelligence we could rise up rooted, like trees. Instead we entangle ourselves in knots of our own making and struggle, lonely and confused.
— Rilke, The Book of Hours II, 16

Today, while walking hand-in-hand on our neighborhood Land’s End trail in San Francisco, my daughter and I rekindle our lush, sensuous experience in the redwoods. The priceless gift will never be forgotten. We left the redwoods for the next sojourner and took with us the visceral knowing of our interconnectedness.

We make the path by walking:
You, walker, there are no roads
Only wind trails on the sea.
— Antonio Machado, “I Never Wanted Fame”

Our Lessons from Redwood:

(1) It’s impossible to predict the future. Why try?

(2) Never stop growing… profusely, copiously, lavishly.

(3) Change, we promise, will enrich your life. This diversity will take shape organically and holistically in unexpected and thrilling ways.

(4) Trust that your capacity to grow through change is greater than you think.

(5) You are known, intimately, and supported by legions of allies and ancestors who have gone before you. This support is your birthright.

(6) Your transformation through change will, in turn, support and nourish future ecosystems. This is their birthright.

(7) There is no rush. There is only this moment of growth, this moment of greening, this moment of extension upward.

(8) Rise up by remaining firmly rooted. The way will reveal itself.

It Will Reveal Itself

Seek the inner depth of things, and when they lead you to the edge of a great discovery, discern whether it arises from a necessity of your being. Either this discovery will strike you as superficial and you will shed it, or it will reveal itself as intrinsic to you and grow into a strong and honest tool of your art.
— Rilke, Letters to a young poet.