I grew up in a house surrounded by apple trees. This is the time of year that I think of them most.
I am reminded of long days spent in the yard, with each tree standing guard of my little-girl antics. They had names, I’m certain, at some point, because I named everything that made up my world: the kittens in our barn, my brother’s Lego people, the stuffed animals that made up my Beanie Baby zoo. I could not contain my imagination; the trees were an ever-blooming constant that housed hiding places in their nooks.
They went through the seasons of Pennsylvania; so did I. I grew taller but I’d never be as tall as them. I walked barefoot upon their surrounding lawn, with crabapples smashed beneath my heels; I took walks with our flock of funny dogs that smashed crabapples beneath their paws.
Trees were objects of wisdom; I knew this from watching Pocahontas one too many times as a five-year-old. Grandmother Willow, in my opinion, was the coolest Disney character in existence. Her sagacity knew no bounds.
Naturally, when I started taking yoga classes, my favorite pose became the tree. Teachers will often use metaphors to correspond with the different movements within the pose—find your roots, grow your branches, stand tall. Even as you shake, the image of the tree, steadfast, comes to mind.
Some days you are a mighty oak; some days you are a sapling that’s yet to bloom.
As I walked through our group room yesterday, I noticed a drawing on the whiteboard. It was one of those mighty oaks I mentioned, with words housed inside its branches, trunk, and roots.
I looked at this diagram and paused, my feet on a constant path to something else—a task, or a busy thought, or both. It had been awhile since I’d thought of those trees that had been the roots to that story I’ve been writing; it had been awhile since I’d made a conscious effort to stand tall.
One of the questions on the whiteboard inquired, how important are your roots? Then, how has your perception of your roots changed over time?
Good questions, I thought, as I scanned the phrases written on each branch—hopes, aspirations, wishes, and dreams. The falling leaves and apples, labeled “memories” and “important people in your life,” were collected in a basket near the bottom of the picture.
The tree is the king of the forest; it is also the king of grounding, in its unwavering loyalty to the earth and its ongoing pursuit of solitude. We have a lot to learn from trees, I think, even if they’re a little less animated than the ones we grew up singing along with on VHS tapes.
The art of grounding can take many forms, though they each involve the creation of roots. Think of hope, resilience, and ambition; think of forgiveness, honesty, and dignity. These are the roots that are the strongest, and the ones that will sustain you in your recovery.
The idea is simple: in order to grow, we must change. Like the tree, we must outstretch our branches without knowing what the world will give back to us in return. We must be willing to accept the seasons, no matter the weather that comes along with them.
When we are grounded—to the Earth, to the present moment, to our recovery—we bring our energy to what matters. With feet firmly planted on the ground, we let our roots take hold, introducing our attention to the good that is happening around us.
“Be like a tree,” Rumi wrote. “Let the dead leaves drop.”
Be like a tree; let yourself be grounded in growth.
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