Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

Trees are Sanctuaries

--by Herman Hesse (Sep 19, 2016)

Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farm boy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one's suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.

by Hermann Hesse, Bäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte (taken from this site)

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On Sep 16, 2016 Shagun wrote:

 Sometimes the world saddens me. I am bothered by its deep inequality, atleast on the surface, its wars, its suffering and exploitation, and by my own participation in it, because to merely act and live in this world, from things as simple as brewing a cup of tea in the morning, to things as complicated as making a living, is to participate in all its dark and light. It has made me question everything, including the benevolent nature of the universe and the existence of God. But then, there are trees. As good, as good can be. As benevolent and beneficial and kind as kind can be, as nurturing to self and others, as love is. Its very existence creates harmony in both its taking and its giving, because look, how easy it is to feel good and light in the giving of self, but life necessitates taking too, and if our taking and our receiving from the environment can be a nurturing and balancing act in itself, not because it is balanced by giving, but in itself, then what wondrous creatures we can be. Self love, self preservation and self care, in a tree, are acts of goodness, not conflict, and do not come at the cost of anything else, but only add to the vitality of life.  If such good can exist in this world's design, then this world must be good. 

Such an interesting way of saying this, that trees are wiser than us only as long as we do not listen to them. There is nothing that I have deeply listened to in nature, that has not ultimately told me to listen to inner self, because I am equally wise, not less, in my own way. I am deeply guilty of this, of finding many people and many beings 'wiser' than myself, almost as if the same design that designed a tree to be so amazing, would make a mistake with me. Almost as if my own existence is less important than a tree. I think it's the same with rivers, and mountains, and true teachers. They are wiser than us until we listen to them. But if we listen to them, they will show us that being ourselves fully is our way to express that wisdom we see in them. 

On Sep 16, 2016 Katrina Sue M. Crittenden wrote:


On Sep 16, 2016 Katrina Sue M. Crittenden wrote:
 Light, Life and Perception Your Eyes are open, your Life listens and your Light shines on us all.

On Sep 18, 2016 david doane wrote:

Trees are wiser than we are in that they are what they are, without wavering or thinking about it.  We are to be like trees, that is, not listen to others and not be distracted by anything but listen to ourselves and become all that we are.  I've become deeply aware of the sacredness of all of nature, and that includes trees.  Trees seem to be better at becoming what they are than we humans are at becoming what we are.  Trees seem to not worry or complain or try.  They are in the present, they unselfconsciously respond to what's happening, they become.  I don't listen to trees nearly as often or as attentively as I could and as would be good for me.  Hesse's essay and this reflection remind me to listen to trees and all of nature more closely. 

On Sep 20, 2016 Nina wrote:

 this was a wonderful morning  expression about trees - most beloved trees.
I have a very large tree outside my bedroom window that I wake up to every morning that gives me comfort  ....
No matter where I am i find myself most attracted to the wonder, beauty ,  strength and magnificence of trees. 

I think i have been trying to learn how to listen to trees my whole life thus I learn how to listen to myself ... 

On Sep 20, 2016 Barbara Keller wrote:

 I was so touched to reread Hermann Hesses observations and reflections. I read them as a youngster. I have been in love with trees since my young years and have played around and with them. Support them when they do grow on a difficult place and go to visit them when the wheather is rough on them. But also for wisom and to be reminded over and over again by their holding and allowing me to come home under their roof of leaves where I feel safe. 
Thank you so much for this sharing! I will remind my tree friends that some are in touch with them. Bless you!

On Sep 20, 2016 PANDU RANGA REDDY KALLEM wrote:

The moment I look at a tree, I am invariably reminded of "a way of being". 
Trees are the best examples of "to be" or "just be" in contrast to "to do" or "be this or that".

On Sep 20, 2016 Kristof wrote:

 Barbara you made me so happy,as long you are there there is hope for humanity.Thank You

On Sep 20, 2016 Matt Perry wrote:

 This is a beautiful piece and very timely as I traveling to the Equadorian Cloud Forest on Thursday. I have always felt an affinity with trees, I love hugging them, I love leaning against them and meditating. I enjoy thinking about the concept of time when I engage with trees, I wonder what a tree would say if you asked it what time it was. Tomorrow is the UN World Peace Day and as part of my celebration I am planting 2 Olive Trees with the children I work with at our NGO I hope you all can share a moment tomorrow to celebrate this day.

On Sep 21, 2016 Kristin Pedemonti wrote:

 Beautiful and necessary reminder in the power in nature. I adore trees and listen and simply watch as they sway in wind, bending not breaking; we can do the same: just be. We dont have to try so hard.

On Sep 21, 2016 Edwina wrote:

I regularly visit a sacred place in the suburbs of Manila.  It's land is sloping and I discovered that the higher slopes have beautiful trees.  One of the trees that inhabit the place is called the "Tibig" tree.  The Tibig tree is an indicator that there is a water source (in Tagalog,water is "tubig"; there is a play of words here)  underneath its roots.  I love these trees because of how it "speaks" to me.  It does not only give off oxygen, and tells something about the water source, but somehow it tells of its love for life and its meaning and purpose.  My spirit feels a certain oneness with trees.  I feel I am accompanied by a spiritual friend.  Trees are sacred, they give us Life! 

On Sep 21, 2016 Jagdish P Dave wrote:

 Life is a tree. rooted in the all embracing, loving,and nurturing soil. The tree of life grows and faces all kinds of weather, losing leaves and re-growing again, going thought the cycle of birthing, growing , withering and re-birthing. This tree of life is eternal. When we get disconnected from it, we go through suffering. When we silently listen to the tree, we get re-juvinated and joyful. It is our deep trust in the goodness of this tree that upholds us and helps us to rebound.

This is my tree of life. As a human being, I have gone through ups and downs and have fallen flat. I have suffered. When I become  still and accept and process my suffering compassionately, I regain my energy and internal strength. I fall and I rise.I have that unshakable faith in the innate goodness and kindness and forgiveness of the eternal tree within me, I rise with gratitude and start walking on the path of my life. I  feel at home in the caring and loving hands of my home where I can be my true self. Life is a blessing and we all are blessed to have the unending support and love coming from within and without.

May we be grateful to the holy Tree of Life birthing us, taking care of us and providing shade to us when we suffer!

Jagdish P Dave

On Sep 25, 2016 Amy wrote:

   Trees are my friend, too!  My favorite book as a child ... "The Giving Tree".  Their worth, right up there!  Amen

On Sep 26, 2016 neeraj k modi wrote:

I have experienced several times while strolling in the morning the feelings of talking with trees and plants. But i don't have as strong expression power to elucidate the feeling as Hermann Hesse has in his writings.His writings makes the matter live and enjoyable to reader.   

On Sep 26, 2016 madhur wrote:

 I have started hosting a small circle for residents of the apartment complex, where I stay. It has been a slow start....
Last Thursday morning, on the day of Awakin, I found fresh flowers in the middle of my path--twice, while walking. I brought them home and kept in a pot. These seemed like a gift from the universe and made me smile :)
Later, we had our most beautiful Awakin so far. There were 3 people in the circle but the discussion went deep. Below are few thoughts from the circle of sharing:
We have so much to learn from plants:
Acceptance and Gratefulness -Trees are always in one place, they cannot go anywhere. They cannot have their way but need to accept whatever is given. However, they seem so calm and cheerful with their colors.  In their shade we find peace. Human beings are becoming greedy and egoistic, in today’s world and these are causing so much pain and sadness. This is such an essential lesson to be on a noble, humane path.
Dedicated contribution without comparison - Trees do their own work with so much dedication - each tree producing its own crop. They interact with the universe and do the task for which they are sent, without comparing with other trees. This is a big lesson for us humans who create competition and dis-satisfaction: ‘Contribute to the best of our ability, with all our assets for supporting the universe positively, without wanting what others may have’.
Go deep - the deeper our roots, the more strength & ability we have to undergo any difficult situation. Going deep also enables one to be in contact with earth and universal powers which strengthen us from within. Nowadays, in a race to go fast we are missing out on the benefits of depth.
Dirt in, Life out - Trees happily take in Carbon Dioxide but give out Oxygen. This teaches us to create goodness and positivity, even when we receive shit, convert it to some good use, if possible. Always give our best even if we receive worst.
Be Non-judgmental and Serve all equally- Trees teach us to nourish every being with our work and presence equally, without any judgement or differentiation. Even while cutting a tree, if wood-cutter sits under it for a while, the tree gives shade and fruits. Be generous to all, forgive others (even those who harm us) and be kind are messages to take from these wise beings.
Selfless giving for others' benefit – allow complete utilization in every possible way of all our possessions and ourselves, we should be useful even after our death. This was also illustrated by the story of a tree who served a boy with all he had; until the boy became an old man and tree had nothing left to give. At this point the old man realizes that tree (with only roots left) was still his best buddy.
Create good seeds - Seeds will yield results in future, which may multiply and serve millions - one never knows the positive ripples possible over centuries. Trees produce their best possible seeds by putting in all they can. A big learning for humans. On the other hand, each destructive thought could be like a seed of negativity; so we need to be aware of our mind. Thoughts are seeds to actions. When thoughts are pure & positive, words and actions are bound to be good.
Importance of community or sangha - During a cyclone it was found that few trees could withstand the most powerful winds, while every other structure fell. The study showed that these are trees have very deep roots, growing down for miles underneath. Their roots spread for large areas and even get connected to other trees. Thus any calamity cannot impact them easily. This could translate to noble connections for human beings which can be our biggest wealth.
Follow ancient teachings - In India people worship trees – ‘Tulasi’, ‘Pipal’, ‘Banyan’ etc. What a wonderful message they left that don’t destroy trees, they are our saviors. If we respect and follow what wealth of messages our ancestors left for us, life could be much more meaningful and beautiful :)

On Apr 2, 2017 Phyllis Wagner wrote:

 I too have long loved trees; I must go home where the trees stand tall and offer so much peace. They are the true survivors of the earth because they are home: peaceful, enduring, strong, patient, and my refuge when I wonder too far from my inner soul. Trees live to serve this earth, unlike many humans who live to take. Ironically, with death, humans will give back to trees and perhaps a tree will again be home for my lost soul.

On Aug 25, 2017 sergio wrote:

 it´s very sad watch to disappear the hood and jungle all over the world ....

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On Oct 7, 2018 OtisVan wrote:

 Trees are sanctuaries for every creature. It produces oxigen and bear the water for the human and animals around.
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