Being Still – Learning’s from a tree

Human mind works in a funny way, its basic nature is that of rebellion and the more you try to tame it, the more it gets out of control. Try keeping it fixed at a particular spot for a few minutes and you can experience its nature yourself. There are many times wherein I have simply wanted to be silent. By being silent, I don’t mean draining my mind of all thoughts, for that stage is way high up in one’s spiritual journey. I simply mean being equanimous towards the thoughts/emotions that cross my mind, simply being a observer and not reacting. However, this seemingly simple thing of being still is incredibly tough to get in action.

The understanding dawned onto me one day during a 10-day Vipassana course in Dharamshala, India. I was observing how still a deodar tree was when a crow came and sat on a branch. The stillness of the branch got perturbed due to the crow’s arrival. Moments later the crow flew away leading to yet another round of movement. However, the branch returned to its natural state of being soon after the crow flew away. I could correlate this with my mind’s functioning. Our mind(Chitta) is like the tree, which is still in its normal state. When an idea strikes across it, it produces vibrations(Vrittis) in the mind. However, we start reacting to the Vrittis produced and hence, produce more of them in the mind.

Momentary reaction is still acceptable upto a certain extent. The tree reacted momentarily to the crow’s action & it didn’t try to control the natural occurrence, it just behaved as an observer. We, on the other hand, start reacting and also, want to control the natural occurrences according to our likes and dislikes. We also, don’t keep our reaction limited to a few moments, it continues for longer duration’s. Think of an example of an incident which kept affecting you(i.e to which you kept reacting) long after it happened.ย Thus, we keep producing more and more vibrations(Vritis) in our mind for every idea that strikes it and hence, it is occupied all the time and almost never still.

Secondly, unlike the tree where the number of crows who come and go is limited, our mind is almost at every moment buzzing with a new idea. To understand it better, visualize a crow coming to sit on a branch as soon as another one leaves. Just as the branch would never be still for its always buzzing with crows, so is our mind ever occupied as new thoughts/ideas keep striking across it every moment. No wonder, we find it so tough to focus our attention and energy on one idea and make it our life for each moment we are providing fodder to our mind in form of a new idea or a new reaction.

Thirdly, in those instances when we try to suppress our emotions by ignoring them for the present moment, we are in-fact burying them deep into our sub-conscious and they are bound to come out someday in some form or the other. To understand this, think of a branch which starts shaking 1000 times more violently that what it would normally shake when a crow sits on it, the extra vibrations were a resultant of the expression of all the similar vibration that it had been suppressing for long and as soon as they found a weak spot to come out, they came out. Have you ever noticed that at times, when we get angry, our anger exceeds far above the normal level and for no apparent reason.

To counter all these, we have to learn to be still, to be equanimous to all that happens around us. Being still in no way means being dead, it is simply having an understanding of one’s own mind so as to not lose focus on the idea on which one’s working and to not be distracted and waste energy on all that props up in the mind. All that will continue, new ideas will come and produce vibrations(Vrittis) in one’s mind, only the response of one person would be to Act and not React and also, to be more of an observer, simply smiling and seeing the new ideas come and go while maintaining one’s composure and focus on the task at hand. We should learn from the trees for they embody this so beautifully, they go back to being still once the momentary breeze or disturbance has passed over and even while the disturbance is there, they continue with the work at hand(that of creating food for themselves and reproduction). Of-course, getting this in action is extremely tough for one has to be aware at every moment but then, aren’t the best things in life the toughest to get and that’s what adds so much to the joy of striving for them.


59 thoughts on “Being Still – Learning’s from a tree

  1. I appreciate your wisdom and admire your journey. Trees have taught me a lot too and have been a wonderful metaphor for my spiritual life.

  2. I see myself in this, always reacting, thinking, reacting. The crow lands, causes movement, and after it’s *gone* I keep shaking that branch myself! It is hard to break the cycle, but I try to by questioning myself: Is this important? Is this worth any more of my time (after initial response)? If I was dying, would this matter? (Sometimes considering extremes helps me.)

    • Haha.. Yes, I do exactly the same things and you know, most of the times, once I am done with all the branch shaking, I realize that I didn’t even know from where all that reaction was coming. I don’t even know why I reacted in such magnitude. ๐Ÿ™‚
      Also, I am really happy you could connect with the essence of the piece and see yourself in it. I feel content as a writer if the reader can connect to my writing. Though, I personally felt that I had stretched this article way too much.. What do you think?

      • I saw your other comment, where you wondered if you’d taken the metaphor too far and I looked back at the post then with that in mind – and no, I don’t think so. It worked for me. (I appreciate your humility though, in asking your readers!)

      • Thank you so much for your kind words, my friend. I was confused for I felt I had made the article slightly longer by taking the metaphor slightly far and what better way to resolve that doubt than by asking a reader who felt connected to the piece. Humility is what I have really gained as I have moved further along my spiritual journey for I have realized that what I have has all being given to me. I wouldn’t have been able to gain any of it had the universe not ensured the associated favorable/unfavoruable circumstances.. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I recognize your Journey as mine. Once the Journey has begun, there is no turning back. Yes I too have learned from trees … your analogy in this post is wonderful. Thank you. Love, Amy

    • Thank you so much Amy. I am so happy you could connect to my journey and feel it to be similar to yours. That’s the highest compliment any writer can receive. Please share what your learning’s from the trees has been, I would love to read about it.. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I really enjoyed this post and sorry for the long comment [feel free to edit]. The third example lost me a bit, in that, I don’t think we can “store” an emotion or have it build up. The way that kind of experience is structured in my thinking has more to do with habitual responses from the nervous system as opposed to some kind of suppression followed by release. I mention this because I was sitting here pondering how to describe the way I view the whole stored emotion idea moments before I became aware of this post. Thank you very much for the like, btw. Pretty cool coincidence ;-

    My shorthand reminder to myself for dealing with that third example is – don’t tell a story about it on the way in. Kind of like, “ooh here’s an emotional response, thank you for that information. I wonder what’s going on with that?”. I find it easier to direct myself with questions, I have a curious mind, but I am also quite defiant, so I don’t take orders well from myself or anyone else. Before I understood these things I would frequently find myself justifying, explaining and generally writing a darn good story in my head about every thought that caused an emotional response.

    If the emotion continues to intensify in the moment, I generally ask myself how I am feeling physically. Within moments I find myself addressing the immediate issue, physical balance which brings me straight back to the present. So there is a structure to my view of these things – I see all emotions as having a physical component because we experience them in our physical bodies. Imagining things that would produce an emotion in the physical world, will likely also produce that emotion whilst imagining (from what I understand about how the nervous system functions). Imagining to the point of emotional response every time a thought crosses our mind will require less and less energy to evoke and produce greater and more intense responses with every repetition. Just as if we were training for the emotional olympics. Eventually we run out of energy to remain present in the moment and then we must rest.

    • Hey, firstly thank you so much for taking out time to post such a beautiful comment. I really enjoyed reading it and no, its not long.. ๐Ÿ™‚ Now coming to my thoughts on the queries you have raised: Yes, I totally agree, there is a physical response to each and every emotion/feeling we have both in our sub-conscious mind or unconscious mind. Also, I kinda agree to your point around the heavy emotional response being a habitual response. However, ponder for a moment, as to how we picked up such strong habit patterns in the first place. Also, I will share an example with you and let me know if you get the essence of what I want to convey through it. I used to teach kids, Once a kid was mis-behaving in the class. Now, normally my reaction would have been to give him a small punishment and be done with it. However, that day, I just totally lost my cool and ended up shouting at him really badly. Later, when it was all over, I sat back to reflect and realized that what the kid had done wasn’t big enough to warrant such a heavy response from my end and I just couldn’t understand why/how I ended up reacting so much. It was almost like, along the momentary anger came such heavy rage that I just wasn’t aware of myself/my emotions anymore. Such was the power with which I reacted that I just couldn’t understand from where that strong emotion could have come. Do you connect with what am trying to explain here?

      • Yes, I do connect with what you are trying to explain. Thank you for taking the time to consider my comment. The most useful question I have asked myself thus far about this kind of thing is, “where is this rage stored when it is not being enacted?”. That one put me on a path to laughter. Don’t let me join the dots for you though, there is a definite relationship between how we manage or process emotional responses in every moment and the intensity and likelihood of over-reactions.

        “Zealous security guard trying to keep us safe, best defense is a good offense, now nothing can get through, not even realising small child no threat, thinks immediate danger, pull out all the ammo, this is serious! LOL, no it’s not. Child won that round, hang on why am I battling with a child? Oh the child is setting the agenda”

        — in this way I describe these things to myself. It all happens so quickly I know, but if you break down it’s parts you will see there are points where choice becomes possible, where we can assert our will and choose to return to the centre. It takes practice and a strong affinity with truth and the action to take in the moment is “stop taking actions” in my mind or in actuality because I have left the centre.

        So there is the training that accentuates emotional responses and the training that gives us the ability to interrupt the habitual responses and gradually get to the place of choice in any moment. I’m not completely there yet, it’s a lifelong thing for me. Laughing is often spontaneous so how does it differ from rage? Now I am learning as I type, I had no idea I knew that. I suppose I have used my experience with laughter to model possible responses to rage because it can also be disproportionate and uncontrolled. Where does laughter get stored when it’s not in use?

        Anyhow, this is how I manage things for the time being and I share it with you as an example only. Each person must find their own way and it will likely be unique to them. Being alive is an awesome thing ๐Ÿ™‚

      • I hope you don’t mind me linking to your post – you inspired a little poem from me – and a new understanding of the wisdom within – thus proving it a very inspirational post indeed. Thank you.

      • Hey, no problem at all. I am so glad this connected so much with you and I am happy you wrote a poem.. I would love to read it.. Take Care and be in touch. We both are quite different yet similar. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. So many people follow the others to choose the path of their journey. The status quo is more important than individual thinking. You are on a thoughtful journey and you are creating the path beneath your feet as you walk it.
    It is the individual thinkers that lead the way for all the rest.
    Stay thoughtful, individual and unique.

  6. Hey, I can see that you may find it inappropriate – what I have written – please delete my comment. If I want to explore such things I can do them on my own blog. Sincere apologies. Peace be with you.

    • Hey, no no, not at all.. Infact, I really appreciated your comment. I didn’t respond for I couldn’t come online from my laptop and I wanted to take proper time to answer.. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Thank you for sharing. Right now my own branches are shaking violently, not from anger, but from pain and anticipation. I love what you said about needing to be still and silent. Maybe in my stillness and silence I will be better able to hear the Lord speak and show me his Will. I hope your day is going well and that your branches are calm, still, and peaceful.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your views, my friend. Its really good to be aware of one’s state of mind for only can then one not react/repress it. Also, I believe that true silence/stillness comes only beyond extreme chaos,i.e, when all the chaos has finished, silence automatically follows. And yes, The energy/god/lord does speak through silence. Silence is its language.. P.S: I am really sorry for the late reply. Take Care ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Good afternoon Nakul – I came to thank you for visiting The Vision of Poets and found myself lingering within your words for quite some time now. I love this post and have found much of your writing to be most enlightening. If you should find the time, you might find a post of mine enjoyable concerning the wisdom of the tree. Here is a direct link so you will not have to search for it.
    Thank you again for visiting and a special thank you for introducing me to your site. Very inspiring…
    Have a beautiful day…

    • Thank you for your kind words, Michael. I am extremely sorry for the late response, Was just being lazy. I am really happy you connected with the blog and I will straight away head out to read your article. Looking forward to your views on other posts too.. Namaste.. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Yes, Its mostly because we humans keep on thinking about the issue/event long after it has happened. Out of our desire to control, we simply don’t let things rest. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Pingback: Being Still …. « RJ's Corner

  10. I have visited your blog and look forward to visiting again many times. This post in particular I find myself very sympathetic to because I find trees very strong spiritual symbols. And spending time with a tree – sitting, looking, listening, touching, breathing in…I find very renewing.

  11. I must have read this post before because the Like button was already activated. I guess I was not able to act on any of this knowledge then because my mind has been very “unstill”. I appreciate this post and would love to be able to attain the level of “stillness” and mindfulness that the Buddhist monks speak of, I love to listen to talks on youtube by the Buddhist monk Ajahn Brahm, If you have not heard him before here is a link to one of my favorite talks


    This next link is to one of my very favorite talks and it has a very funny story/riddle which he tells so well and I always have to smile.

    Anyway, I feel the most still when I liten to these and also when i read posts like yours. I wish I could maintain the ability to be still about things in the midst of frustrating life situations
    I wish blessings on you, all of the readers of this post and myself, that we can find the stillness you speak of in this excellent post. Thank you for exploring outside the box and sharing it with all of us.

    • Namaste Annie, Thank you for sharing your views and the links of such beautiful videos with me. I loved the funny story one too.. I totally agree, the whole challenge of living is to be able to remain still amidst all the chaos that surrounds us. Attaining and maintaining stillness is easy in moments of peace. Its the challenging situations that are a real test of our mind’s strength. However, I don’t worry too much. I simply try to remain aware of my reactions/response as and when they happen and I believe, with time I will gain strength to hold my way even amidst utter chaos.. ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. I did not realize until I hit post comment that this would put the actual video. I was only intending to give the link. When you receive the comment for moderation you can check out the videos if you like them and have time. I do not know if you want to post the comment the way it is. It won’t hurt my feelings if you do not post it. I did not know it would take up so much room. I was mainly intending to share the videos with you.
    Namaste ,

    • Haha.. I am grateful that you shared the videos with me Annie. There’s no question of them hurting my feelings whatsoever. Please take all the room you want in the comments. Take Care.. ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Pingback: Premio Dardos Award | Myths of the Mirror

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