Centering with the Oak Tree
Updated: Dec 20, 2020
For this practice I choose the oak tree, it stands at highest point of Montebelli, our family farm in Tuscany, with a 360 degrees view overlooking the valley.
I stand under it and before I start my practice I spend some time simply observing it. I start from the trunk which would be too big to hug, I notice the quality and colour of the wood, the branches, the leaves, I look back down and try to imagine the roots, how far and deep they go, I sense the life that runs through it, I look up to see how far up it goes and how wide it extends and I wonder how old this oak tree might be. Then I ask permission to get closer and touch it, I extend my arm and place one hand on the trunk and adjust it as if I am searching for its emotional centre, an imaginary heart. I find it and stand still. I wait, close my eyes and feel. I release the touch and drop my arm but energetically keep the connection. I am the oak tree, the oak tree is me.
I’m ready to start my standing meditation, eyes open.
I stop thinking and bring my attention to my sensation, I sense the temperature which is cooler at my extremities and warmer around my chest and stomach. A sudden swish brings my attention to movement as I feel the light breeze on my skin and hear the movement of the branches, it invites a gentle rocking of my body as if I, as the tree, could be moved by the wind and in that movement allow the air to bend me slightly, exercising some degree of flexibility, without loosing my stance. I keep my attention to movement and I feel the air coming in and out of my nostrils and the raise and fall of my chest. The gentle wind now seems to have found space in my internal landscape. So that is where I place my attention, my internal landscape. I sense the space that is available as I stand tall, my organs are corresponding and communicating, blood is pumping, oxygen is flowing at every heart beat. I feel space between my vertebras, along my spine all the way down to my feet. My body is resting on my bones, which seem to be partnering with gravity, not fighting it. It feels good to be an oak tree, so much wisdom seems to exist in the way it stands effortless, no matter what.
I keep bringing my attention back to sensations, so I listen. The wind is the background track to all the other sounds. The sound of the branches and leaves moving suggest that there is a rhythm. I hear the birds in the distance and the bark of a dog. The rhythm is lost. I listen carefully but effortlessly waiting for whatever may come. More wind, more birds and the bark of the dog in the distance. I, as the oak tree, standing, listening, feeling.
I bring my attention to my feet, standing at shoulder length, not too wide, not to tight. I sense the roots under the earth, are they mine or of the oak tree. They are mine. Deep and wide, interconnected to the mineral world, alive as the part of me that is above the earth. I sense gratitude for my roots, invisible to the eye bit not to my felt senses which include heart and guts. As I keep feeling my roots I allow the rest of my body to relax, five percent more, dropping deeper in the earth without collapsing, in fact feeling five percent taller.
I, like the oak tree, deeply connected to mother earth, at least for a moment, and with that comes the sudden temptation to move my foot, just as a way of sensing the freedom of movement. I do it, I move my foot a few inches and then back. It comes with some relief. My attention goes back to the roots of the oak tree and with that a sense of admiration, almost awe for the patience that the oak tree must have in its stillness. No matter what weather, what temperature, what sound or sight. The oak tree stands still, it may bend its branches and loose its leaves but it keeps standing still. If only I was able to accept the way the oak tree does.
I suddenly feel so much smaller than the oak tree, I look up and indeed I am so much smaller. As I look up my attention goes to the shades of light and the colour of the sky between the branches. I open my arms and I reach up. I fill my self with a deep breath as I extend up, feet on the ground, knees slightly bent. I stay like this for a while, sensing where my arms end and where the branches begin. As I stay connected to this visual effect I start loosing the sense of proportions, the boarders of my body become somewhat blurry. Where do I end and where does the oak tree start? Once again I am the oak tree and the oak tree is me.
I have lost my sense of time, I don’t know if I have been standing for 5 minutes or 50. I wonder if this is how the oak tree experiences time. It strikes me that the only time that existed as I was standing through this practice was the present moment. Was it my thought or the oak tree whispering back the answer to my question.