Many many years ago I learned to do a meditation involving a tree. The premise of this meditation is that you close your eyes and picture yourself walking down a path until you come upon a tree. This particular tree is big, strong, has deep roots so that it is firmly planted in the earth. It has large expanding branches that reach out to the sky as if they are beckoning to the heavens. As I stand beneath it I feel small and overpowered, which is perfect because that is how I feel emotionally when I visit this tree.
My tree is both a meditation and an actual place. Sometimes I would go to my tree in my mind and sometimes I would get in my car, drive 3 miles down the road and hike 1 mile into the forest to stand beneath it. Once there the prescription is simple. Breathe and lay each of your worries onto the branches. Breathe them onto each large limb and know that it will be held now by someone/something other than you. Your burden to carry that worry has been relieved. For years I lay many burdens onto that enormous tree.
On my 40th birthday I went for a walk and when I got to her she was broken. It’s a no wonder, she was over a hundred years old. Two of her largest branches had fallen to the ground, crumbled, in hundreds of pieces.
To me that tree crumbling was a representation that even my tree was tired of holding my shit. That I needed to let it go. Some people might say that I am making something out of nothing, a coincidence, but I don’t care. It’s how I framed it when I approached her and it stuck. She didn’t want to carry my decades of guilt, self hate, shame, hurt, you know all the fun stuff, and frankly neither did I. So I walked away and left it at the base of her trunk along with the rest of the broken branches that had already fallen.
I thought I was “cured”. That my days of dealing with mental health were over. In some ways they were, I don’t really revisit any of that stuff from long ago. I walked by that tree countless times and smiled, happy to have had her help all those times before. After about a year I realized that while it was true that I had come to peace with my past…my present and future were still in front of me.
Life was continuing to happen. A close family member was facing a difficult diagnosis, then I got my own brain tumor diagnosis. My anxiety was back and in full force. I quickly realized that mental health is not linear, there’s not a simple beginning nor an easy end.
I suppose that some people reach the summit, the pinnacle, and arrive at a place of conquering their mental health struggles. I mean maybe perhaps for some people that’s how it works but that’s not what my journey has been. My journey has been that anxiety is ongoing because well…life happens, and when you overcome one obstacle, another one gets thrown in your way. We are constantly evolving and changing and learning to flex into what is difficult and that’s what makes us stronger, what makes us wiser.
I’m learning to know what my strengths and weaknesses are. I’m learning that while I can be the life of the party, I’m not a particularly funny person. I’m not a jokester. I’m serious I’m contemplative, I’m purposeful pretty much about everything that I do. I think the reason is that, for a portion of my life I wasn’t. I was careless with myself and with others. Those are the years that led me to having a lot of regret and self hate. and I don’t want to feel that way again. I don’t want to feel that I caused people harm, sadness, or heartbreak, simply because I’m not being careful with their feelings, with their emotions, with their spirit and their soul.
I haven’t found a new tree yet. I guess I didn’t think I needed one but today, on my 43rd birthday, I went for a walk in the same park that my broken tree resides in. I found a new tree because the reality is that as many times as I keep going around the sun, I’m going to continue to encounter obstacles, difficulties, heart breaks and difficult moments. I need a healthy coping skill and so to my new tree I will go.
As I walk by this tree contemplating how I show up in the world, how my behavior, my actions affect other people, I will continue to pass by this tree the same way in which I continue to go around the sun…slowly and with intention. And hopefully I keep getting better, wiser and hopefully I learn a few good jokes along the way.
Peace and love 💕