There is nothing we hiker’s love more than a viewpoint, right? That beautiful cliff overlooking the valley, the trail in the hollow that looks up to an astounding waterfall… and this got me to thinking. These viewpoints bring me into such joy. But what I love most about being silent in the woods, what is really resonating with me, is that for that period of time I am completely and totally without a viewpoint! Without a personal viewpoint! There is no arguing my position, there is no trying to be right, there are none of the “yeah but” interactions that are so common in the “real world” when I am holding tightly to me and my point of view. And there is no stress.
What does this have to do with hiking? Well, one day it occurred to me as I was communing with the trees on the AT here in Ashby Gap, that the reason I love the woods and trees so much is because there is nothing for me to project onto! The trees have no personal story – they are completely free of an opinion, of a view point, of comparisons. I can be with the trees and never think a single thought, like;
This tree doesn’t like me.
I wonder if I just offended this tree?
Look at that tree, it thinks it is better than me.
That tree is so very straight, and my posture is just terrible.
That tree is no good. I don’t like that tree.
You know the thoughts! They are pretty universal. The magic of trees is that they cannot hold my projections. All they can reflect back is… Love. Eternal, uncomplicated, love. And in being with them, they show me a deeper version of my true nature – who I am without all my stories about me, you and the world. And all I can find is a spacious sense of love. Me. The Trees. Simple. No mind.
In the company of the trees, the pain of my addictive seeking of love and appreciation, my exhaustive scanning for signs of disapproval, and my endless story of me stops dead in their tracks. That is where I experience a peace beyond anything I have ever found. In the woods I am not trying to do something right, impress the trees, compete with the trees, get something from the trees, be something for the trees. I am purely and totally awake and alive as life itself, and in a way, I recognize that my essence is the same as these trees – free of all that noise.
This may sound a bit airy fairy, but I am finding that it is just no small thing at all! All those strategies I have in life to get to the gold ring called happiness? They drop away in the company of the trees, and I can experience happiness right here, right now, instead of relentlessly seeking it. I can take in the good that is always all around me which is only obscured by my endless viewpoints, and right fighting, and opinions and fears and approval seeking and on and on and on.
I can take this lesson of the trees with me back into the world of people and personalities. I can notice when I am missing a moment of pure happiness, of pure beauty, because I am in my head in a narrative of what I will post on Facebook about it to get your approval – and then I can return mentally to the moment and become present, like the trees. I can return to myself and reality.
I can become aware of when I am not engaging with another human being because I have imagined, purely hallucinated, that the look they just gave me means they don’t like me, or the thing I just said offended them, or they should not be the way they are and I am better than they are, and I can return to sanity and join them at heart with no judgments, like the trees. And I can now catch myself arguing my point of view with my husband, my friends, the stranger on the street, and suddenly be able to stop in that moment and reconnect to the wonderful and amazing person before me and be a listener, a receiver, like the trees.
No stress. No defense. No war. Pure connection
And isn’t this connection really my deepest longing? Hiking, with the Dames or alone in the trees, for me is all about connecting. The trees are teaching me about all the thoughts that get between me and my connection to the people, places and things that appear in my life journey. The things that nurture me and the gifts I have to offer in return.
The trees show me, by giving me a place where all my inner-critic and judgey voices have nothing to stick to, what it is to be truly regal, and truly wise and open and solid and standing tall.
And you want to know something so incredibly cool about trees? Take a problem or a dilemma to a tree. Ask it to share its wisdom with you. And get very still. And wait…
You. Will. Be. Amazed!
The trees will give you everything you ever needed to know if you open to them. That is the one thing the trees can reflect back to us – and that is our own inner wisdom. They can be a remarkable doorway into that internal and eternal voice that knows exactly what to do in any moment. Including doing nothing at all until we know the next right thing, until the decision make us. How do I know this brings me answers from a higher internal and universal place and is not just the voice of my regular ole often un-reliable mind? Because the answers that come are sometimes so startling, so much something I did not think of previously, that I am stunned! ”I never thought of that!” is a common refrain when I get sill and listen for the Wisdom that comes from this still, sacred place and it is the trees that show me where to tap into it.
So If I were to have a guru, it would have to be a tree; they do not charge for a workshop, have an hourly rate, they will receive our joy or our shame or our weeping and wailing with nothing but open limbs, they have no book to sell us, no agenda to run on us, and no Velcro for our projections to stick to. Will I fire my therapist now? No, probably not. But who knows?
I really just wanted to go for a walk. I really just wanted to lose some weight. I really just wanted to find out what it was to be in a collective of women. So I signed up for a hike with the Dames in 2011. And yet, as I write this I am so aware of the truth – that I got so much more than I bargained for!
In deepest gratitude and awe for all my sisters, in the woods and beyond. I thank you a thousand times and then again, for being my trees.