One day this past winter, as I sat on my mat trying to settle in and bring my focus inside both the room and my practice, I was pulled away by an almost ghostly rattling at the front of the room. The vibrations emanated from large wooden double doors and their glass panels. The wind would not agree to stay outside and rushed all the man-made barriers trying to ambush a weak spot in the meeting of the panes or turn the knobs with icy gusts. The members of my yoga class understandably had the inclination to comment on the brusqueness of the day, but I noticed something else. The large tree just beyond these doors alone on the winter-scoured sidewalk of Main St. stood impossibly solid and motionless. Even its thick branches were unmoved by the violence of the wind. It was only the racket and the severity of the day that earned merit from the group, but I was in awe of this brown/grey sentinel.
How I wanted to be that tree. In the protected inside of the building I felt vulnerable and threatened by the assault on the doors. I still thought the shaking was an invisible hand of a lost spirit insisting that the living let it in to rest or thwart our peace until it could find its own. I wanted to be able to remain still and unmoved when the world buffets my resolve or when my body fails me in health or my practice. Each shake of the door pulled my gaze and awareness back to the tree.
I fell in love with it as if it were a guardian set to hold all invaders until I was done and ready to face the outside world. It was there with me, for me. No siege could shake its resolve. That I could balance in my own tree pose in the stillness of the room as well as this wondrous wood resisted the wind. From its roots to its height, there was strength. I longed for that base, a foundation that would run deep and wide enough to secure me. I thought about its goal, to grow and to thrive. I have set myself so many more goals and they did not all build on each other. They did not have the same seeds nor the same urgency. How does one grow upward when pulled sideways and enduring bouts of drought and flood? This tree’s surety of purpose and ability to hold strong came from its adherence to its goal. Perhaps if I were to narrow my own idea of destiny I would not bend in the wind so much or fear the spirit so violently urging the door open.
In retrospect, I must ask: Is it that the tree was so still and immovable that impressed me or was it that I am not? Did I not see its vulnerability in that moment and let it magnify my doubts? Perhaps the tree’s resistance will be its undoing and a fracturing beyond repair will insinuate itself to the core and transform my diligent protector into shards of splinters. So far, though, so good. The tree stood tall and the wind did not relent, I completed my practice, and the day continued on.
As of today, a brisk and beautiful spring day, the tree still stands. There are no splinters yet. It is still valiant and strong. I am still bent into the wind but on my feet. We will see who lasts the longest. I do hope, though, that we both endure many more years and changes together.