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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

turning people in to trees

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Many years ago, when I was a fledgling hippie, I read Ram Dass. I thought he was interesting, a word used for things I knew I should like, but didn’t really understand.

But this? I love it. Either he’s gotten more accessible, or I’m more understanding.

I’m sure it’s partly because I adore trees. (Warning: tree hugger alert.) They have saved my life — rescuing me from despair so dark one autumn that it was all I could do not to walk in front of a car. They have made me laugh, reminded me how insignificant my time is in the grand scheme of eternity. Fed me, housed me, taught me the awe of a place where spirit lives. I have swung from them, climbed them, planted them from seed. Mostly, I just love them. Mimosa, dogwood, cedar, oak. Honey locust, bald cypress, fig and scarlet Japanese maple. The hickory at the lake, the henna in Dhahran. So many trees over the years.

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As a child, I realised that the temple within the heart of a banyan tree, where I visited as a child soft with the smoke from incense, alive w/ the tree’s own heartwood was where whatever God there is lived. Church was where Westerners went to talk about the Divine, but I never felt a Presence in any Western church.

But it was absolutely obvious — even to a 9-year-old — that s/he/ it lived inside that banyan tree. Or at least some holy part of it did, something tangible and real, that answered us when we called to it.

That was long long ago, in a city with a name erased, then rewritten with the blood of thousands.

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So when I first read this short meme, I was once again 9 years old , standing in front of that magical, mystical banyan tree. Watching the monk burn the papers that might be prayers, might be wishes, might be incense. There was no difference to me — each turned to ash and then to smoke, climbing on the breeze into the sky. And the tree stood silent and unjudging through it all.

This is my deepest breath — that I can learn to see people as I see trees. Needing me sometimes to help with food, water, even the tough love of pruning. But mostly? Just loving them. Just accepting their various forms and natures with happy awe. And yes, I know I sound like a  tree-hugger. Guilty as charged, and happy to be so. I recommend you try it.

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