Training with Lee Holden in Santa Cruz last year, we went into the local redwood forests and learned a Qigong technique done in partnership with trees. I've never been a treehugger, not that I have anything against treehuggers, it's just I am usually rushing and hustling and don't make the time. So I am in the redwoods having a conversation with a 1,000 year old tree, you know what it says to me? Slow down. I would love to be telling you how transformative that message was and how I jumped right on it and listened. I think you might know where this is heading... It took me a few more months before I took concrete steps towards slowing down, sadly, not because the tree told me to. Life had started shouting so loudly at me, I thought I better not ignore it (I was in no mood for another knock on the head to learn my lesson).
I think of that tree almost daily now, how can I slow down more, how can I do less - better, how can I be more present. It can feel like a dance, a balancing act, as the pushy wood element part of my personality (element of action, doing more, crushing boundaries and creativity) clashes with my reflective water element side (element of power, flexibility and deep reflection). This can be a particular challenge as we move into spring. Spring is the season of the wood element. A time for new growth, strength, flexibility and resiliency. It's a time for action, dusting out the cobwebs from winter and getting cracking with new plans.
As I walk through the park and check in with my new tree friends each morning on my way to work, I am excited to see them bursting back into life. My mind wanders back to the wise message from the ancient redwood in Santa Cruz. At 1,000 years old it's barely middle aged. Did you know that trees literally talk to each other (it's a frequency we can't hear), they can feel, taste and smell, they have little brains at the end of their roots and are super social? They even have their own internet. But it's made from fungi, not silicon.
It matters if you are a good tree neighbour, if you are kind to your family and friends in the forest they look after you, even if you get chopped down. If you are a bit of a dick, though, you are outta luck, left to die. In the book "The Hidden Life of Trees" by Peter Wohlleben there's a story of a 9,000 year old tree that has no trunk, it's still alive though. Its root system is intact, and its neighbours continue to support and nourish the ancient tree.
You would expect that the tallest living things on the planet, the giant redwood trees, would have roots that stretch deep into the earth. Nope. 6 feet. That's it. 6 feet deep, but they do stretch wide, hugging their neighbours and family in the forest around them, depending on each other to survive storms.
I am heading back to Santa Cruz this October to complete the Tier 2 Holden Qigong Teacher Training (500 hours). I might just try to find that wise redwood I spoke to last time and give it an update on how I am going - I will let you know what it says.
Here's a short (free) spring routine, from my teacher Lee Holden. On the same page, you can also sign up for a 3 hour workshop which deep dives more into the philosophy of the wood element, spring, and the swimming dragon style of Qigong.