Words of WonderThink-like-a-tree-Karen-I.-Shragg

Soak up the sun

Affirm life’s magic

Be graceful in the wind

Stand tall after a storm

Feel refreshed after it rains

Grow strong without notice

Be prepared for each season

Provide shelter to strangers

Hang tough through a cold spell

Emerge renewed at the first signs of spring

Stay deeply rooted while reaching for the sky

Be still long enough to

hear your own leaves rustling.

by Karen I. Shragg


I’ve had a real connection with the presence of trees lately, so it makes sense I was moved by this poem by the environmentalist, author, educator and activist Karen Shragg. She’s written many books and among those, also a book of poetry called The Wolf Within (I don’t think this poem is in it, though from the index I learned there are other poems on this theme, like Think Like a Swan and Think Like a River).

My renewed love affair with trees was probably already in the air after reading the wonderful Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, and seeing the breathtaking film Heart of Oakbut what really did it, was an encounter with a magical tree in Bretagne, where I had the good fortune to participate in a deeply nourishing relational mindfulness retreat. Let me tell you what happened.

The retreat included a sit-spot practice, where each of the participants went to a place outside that they felt drawn to, with a slightly different focus each day. I found this centuries old, magnificent pine tree that I sat next to each day, breathing in its calm presence. One day, the invitation was to go to your sit spot and open to communicating with a non-human ‘being’ you would encounter there. Sitting under the tree, I attuned myself, and when I opened my eyes I saw this very cute tiny little bird hopping in the branches of the tree I sat under. I immediately liked it and asked, as instructed: “may I observe you?” No sooner had I asked it, or this quick bird disappeared behind a thick clump of pine needles. Disappointed, I kept peering into the tangle of branches and needles, until I realised I was looking directly at a very venerable being already, this tree… so I shifted my attention to the tree and was bowled over by the deep presence, aliveness, and the perspective of ancientness I experienced. Wow… I’ve never felt a tree so strongly as in that moment when I could almost hear its presence, a bit like turning the dial on an old fashioned radio and suddenly you shift from crackling silence into a symphony.

As I sat there, bathing in this tree-encounter, I laughed out loud when I saw what happens to me so often: I get totally captivated by the tiniest little fluttering ‘doing’, when I could be tuning into the wavelength of ‘being’ and rest into something so very much more vast, old, and dependably present… Does that sound familiar?

A few days later we were in the sunny chaos that is the heart of Paris, with people, cars, bikes and mopeds rushing around like there’s no tomorrow. And then, lifting my gaze just a nudge, there were these silently breathing trees. Not nearly as old as my friend in Bretagne, but nonetheless offering a poignant reminder of that other wavelength, quietly present.

So yes, much to learn from the wisdom of trees…


PS. Finding more access to the ‘being mode’ even while we’re in the midst of leading what may be a busy life, is very much part of what mindfulness practice has to offer. See here for our range of courses that may support your training!

Photo by Ilker Uludogus on Unsplash