Dear fellow human beings! We are blessed to be alive in this moment! There are such wonderful opportunities for healing, growth and service here on Earth right now!
A great source of suffering in our lives and our society is the wrong view, the missunderstanding that we are separate selves. This separation leads to discrimination and dualistic views, thoughts, words and actions. This cause the suffering to increase as we experience in so many ways these days. But there is a way out! When we come back to ourselves through mindfulness of breathing or mindful steps, it is clear.
How could I breathe without the intelligence and generosity of plants oxygenating the air I breath?
How could I live my life if the sun did not warm me, the water make up of 70% of my body and the earth lay solid under my feet?
With the teaching of interbeing, of non-self, of co-dependent arising, we are guided to the understanding that we are not alone and cut of from life. We are made up of all of life. We are a gift of life.
In the Buddhist tradition being born a human is a rare och precious gift. As a human we have a body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness. We are a spiritual being, connected to the web of life manitesting through consciousness. We are capable of deep understanding and unlimitless love.
How do I receive this gift? How do I use the time and energy I have?
Restlessness and distractability brought me to meditation when I was studying at the university 30 years ago. Meditation opened me up to experiencing the connectedness and joy of being alive, that I had enjoyed as a child roaming meadows, forests and cliffs. Years later I was confused about the direction of my life… I was living in Stockholm working as a family lawyer. I had so many conditions to be happy and I was to some degree, but once I dared to listen it was clear to me that life has so much more to offer. Happiness, peace and love can be consciously cultivated and shared boundlessly.
In the fall of 2001, after having left Stockholm and work, I attended a Buddhist introductory and meditation retreat at Tushita meditation center in the foothills of the Himalayas. The Buddhas teachings were presented and they offered me a clear and beautiful path to walk. A path of healing and transformation, a path of service, the middle way that does fall into extremes or take side against another.
Much of our modern way of living nurtures our separatness from the natural world, the Earth and thus each other. As a monk in the Plum Village tradition for 18 years (2003-2020) I was blessed to live close to nature. Such a simple thing as cutting my nails and letting them fall to the ground, mineral returning to the soil, brought me such joy. After my return to Sweden and disrobing 2020, I lived in appartments for a couple of years. I am now blessed to live with my wife in a house with a backyard with trees, fruits and space to grow vegetables.
The other day our application to compost our own foodwaste was granted and I love being able to compost again. For me this has been another way of observing the interbeing nature of life, that nothing needs to be discarded, that everything is in a process of change, everything has something to offer. Seeing wilted, molded, discarded so called waste, be transformed to fertile soil is such a tangible experience. It does need some dry leaves, twigs as well as air and time for transformation to take place. To hold a handful of composted soil in my hand it is clear that it is alive. It is not limited matter, it vibrates and is full of tiny microbes contributing to the process.
For us to be happy, healthy and free, we need to reastablish a close and intimate connection to the natural world. With the insight of interbeing it will feel natural for us to offer love and support freely to others. One concrete way for me to cultivate and maintain this connection is by tree hugging!
My current Tree Hugging Buddy is the old Birch in our garden. Ever since childhood I have been fond of birches. Their special bark that is so soft and peels in this layers, combining black and white is a teaching. The sound of the wind through it´s small leaves is so gentle, like a caress of life, helping me to return to the vibration of life.
How to practice tree meditation?
I like to approach a tree in appreciation and respect, like approaching an elder. I try to open my heart, asking to come in touch with the tree. Recently I have started by smelling the bark. I continue with moving my fingers softly on the bark, touching. I hear wind and leaves playing tunes together. I let my body touch the tree as much as possible, feeling the circulation in the tree, the spaciousness and solidity. Best barefoot, I feel into the rootsystem, deeply connected in Earth. Looking upward feeling into the majestic expansion of the tree upward and outward. Just breathing with the tree for some moments.
My appreciation and respect for nature has helped me relate more lovingly and patiently with myself. When this love and care grows it naturally wants to be shared. For me one example of this is when I decided to start writing a Earth Protection Here & Now blog back in 2013. This inspired many like minded friends and the Earth Holder retreats and community started to sprout. Starting to share about my nature based mindfulness practices and it´s connection to the suffering of our time and climate change was an answer to the call of my heart. Recently I wrote an article for the Mindfulness Bell on this topic. You can read this article here!
I will continue to share about tree hugging meditation and share about other tree hugging buddies I come across on social media. Stay connected on Facebook and Instagram #treehuggingbuddy.
At this point in time when so many of us live in cities, are so busy, might not have had families or friends helping us connect to nature, we need to be creative and courageous. A tree growing on the side of the street or in a tiny park is an ambasador for the forest. They can be your tree hugging buddy. Maybe we come across another nature ambassador in the city to connect with. For me it is important to be able to respectfully and tenderly hug a tree in public. This is a gift to those around, even if they do not understand, yet…
A last invitation is a heads up about an online retreat I am leading November 17-19 2023 on the theme The Path Home based in Buddhas teaching of the Noble Eightfold Path, the path of cessation of suffering. More information and registration is avaible here!
In love and gratitude – Jem