Stillness Under the Ancient Oak

The ancient oak tree was fascinating! Locals think the elderly tree is at least 250 years old. It has a huge trunk base from which nine large separate trunks emerged. I kept walking around the tree to make sure I was counting correctly and yes, nine large trunks came out of the base. The towering branches formed an umbrella shape around the spacious lawn and long strands of moss danced in the wind. Two metal chains held an old fashioned, double seater, wood-slat swing from a lower branch. The invitation to sit within the world of this tree was irresistible. Everything else was let go as I sat in the swing and gently swayed myself into stillness.

It was as though the oak tree held a world of its own under its canopy. Two doves sat on a lower branch cooing and surveying their realm, while geckos sunned themselves on large fern fronds at the base of the tree, flashing their red throat flags. A cicada choir ebbed and flowed, sounding like a group of rusty doors. Mockingbirds called to each other while they ignored squirrels energetically running across branches. A variety of butterflies flew by on their way to a nearby bush full of orange blossoms. Two cardinals perched on branches long enough to evaluate the area for breakfast and select a grassy area worth investigating. Ants and insects were busy with their day’s work. A variety of different colored lichen grew along the branches, as well as air plants and blooming wild orchids. This is the kind of abundance in nature that I notice only when I’m still. It’s the beauty of small things that I miss when I’m rushing to my next destination or project.

Often stillness is viewed as being unproductive, but in reality stillness can be our greatest ally. In stillness we renew ourselves and our perspective, so balance is maintained. In stillness new beginnings emerge and clarity is gained. Stillness is where priorities are determined and creativity is birthed. It is where new beginnings emerge, love is understood, and we can come home to our true peaceful selves. Stillness offers us an opportunity for reflection, and provides relief from thoughts of trying to control what could or should be happening. It’s the best therapy for tension and anxiety because it enhances inner peace.

Eckhart Tolle says in his book Stillness Speaks, “The moment you become aware of a plant’s emanation of stillness and peace, that plant becomes your teacher.” My teacher was the ancient oak tree that showed me how many forms of life can live in harmony, how thinking too much about the future can mask the beauty of this moment, how focusing on what I love brings me joy, and how patience with change will clarify the gift it’s bringing. And, like the ancient oak, I can accept whatever comes, acknowledge its presence, and let it pass through me. Tree branches don’t grab and hold onto anything, but let whatever storm is passing travel through and be released. What a healthy way to handle life’s storms. Those of us dealing with serious illness, no matter where we are in our treatment process, need the comfort, serenity, and perspective stillness offers.

Of course, to be still we need to slow down. Author Yo Bronwyn writes, “Please don’t feel guilty about slowing down. Don’t regret a day, a month, or a year in a quiet state of not doing. Doing is not your only purpose. Feeling, opening, receiving, contemplating, listening deeply, seeing deeply – these quiet (non-)acts of stillness also have their purpose.” Stillness nourishes us so more resources are available when action is needed.

While I was under the tree there were several noisy interruptions from groundskeepers. I noticed that with each interruption my focus changed temporarily. That was followed by the opportunity to go right back to stillness, so my choice determined what I focused on, and what I focused on determined my personal nourishment. That’s worth remembering. You don’t need to be under a tree to experience stillness. You can select your own stillness place and experience the gifts that it will bring. If you’re willing to share, let me know your favorite place for stillness.

Until Next Time – Sylvia


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